Being in the neurodiverse community has deeply impacted my life in many ways. Whether social, academic, or emotional, there is always a struggle. One of the ways that being neurodiverse impacts my mental health is because things that seem to be so easy for the people around me, such as socializing, concentrating for long periods of time, handwriting, reading, spelling, team sports, keeping eye contact, and multiple other activities can seem impossible for me. After a while of finding tasks that others define as “easy”, you start feeling unintelligent and guilty about finding these tasks impossible. It has subjected me to a lot of bullying because I view things differently than neurotypicals.
People often used to call me “stupid” or “weird”. I can a come across as awkward or even rude sometimes without even knowing it until someone asks me, ”Why are you being rude?” or gives me a weird look. This pushes people away and makes it hard to make friends. Being neurodivergent can be quite isolating and often makes me feel like I’m an outcast everywhere I go.
The start of the year is often the most stressful as I need to explain to my teachers why I need accommodations. I don’t want to sound like I’m trying to control their class, and I have to do it without antagonizing them. No one really understands that neurodivergent people are more than just labels and that we are real people with real emotions. We are intelligent people, and some of us can be just as successful as any neurotypical. While things are slowly getting better for neurodivergent teens, there is still a long way to go. This is a topic that needs to be destigmatized and talked about more.
I’ve developed significant anxiety about school. During my primary and early secondary years, my struggles weren’t due to lack of effort or understanding, but rather the absence of appropriate accommodations. Although I now have the right support and generally achieve good grades, I still harbor anxiety about test outcomes, fearing they might indicate a failure despite knowing logically that my accommodations should be sufficient. Being neurodivergent brings a lot of self-doubt — I used to question my ability to get good grades, graduate, attend university, and grapple with various uncertainties.
Some other challenges that I have faced in my life by being neurodiverse include being bullied a lot throughout primary and early secondary because of the fact that I was different. Peers sometimes don’t understand why I have certain accommodations that they don’t have. A lot of people have speculated that it was because I was less intelligent, since they did not understand that I needed adaptations to reach the same point as others and they continue to judge very quickly. This is why I believe that it is necessary to have discussions surrounding this topic.
There are two ways that you could navigate life being neurodivergent. Firstly, you could keep it a secret, tell no one, and avoid judgment. This approach often leads to a lot of frustration in my experience as people don’t understand why you are acting the why you’re acting, or why you are working differently than others. Secondly, you can be honest about it and explain to people why you are behaving a certain way. In my experience, most people do seem to understand but I did get a lot of judgment, even from my own father. I had people tell me that there is no such thing as being neurodivergent, that I was just not trying hard enough. I had people telling me that I made eye contact so there is no way I could be on the spectrum, and many more comments. Some ways that we can change this is by having more open discussion, learning about this in schools depending on the person’s abilities, asking them what they want help with, how you can help them, and asking them questions while still respecting their boundaries and treating them like a human being.