Neurodiverse people have brains that operate differently from the norm. I’ve noticed that it is common for the traits that come from these operation differences to be split into two categories: beneficial traits and traits that cause struggle. In many cases it is only the traits that cause struggle that are identified as a part of a person’s neurodiversity. I will use myself as an example. The way my mind operates allows me to be capable of finding the connections between things, keeping track of lots of things at once, anticipating many possible outcomes, and analyzing things in depth. These are all awesome skills that are useful anywhere from science to art and writing. At the same time, the way my mind works also means that I am easily overwhelmed (because I am aware of so many things at once), get anxious about minor things (because I think about all of the bad things that can happen), and obsess over small things (because I am so good at analyzing things deeply). These traits can be hard to live with.
Both sets of traits come out of the same mental patterns, but because of the way that neurodiversity is pathologized, the beneficial traits are often ignored while all of the traits that are hard to live with are lumped together into one mental illness. Well, anxiety is hard to live with, but that isn’t just because of me, it is the world I live in. If everyone in the world had anxiety then things would be radically different. Our human social structures would have more reassurance, less intensity, and more forgiveness. A society built for anxious people would be more polite (but not the excessively structured kind of polite because that would be stressful), all TV programs would be like children’s TV, and there would be cell phone aps that could conclusively tell you, “the oven is off, the windows are closed, and the house definitely not on fire.” Unfortunately for me, the world isn’t like that because the way that my brain works is not the norm, so I struggle with some of the ways that my mind interacts with the world around me.
This is the reason I use the term neurodiverse, because I want to think of my mind as a whole and recognize the beneficial aspects of my brain’s unique structure. This structure is a big part of who I am and I’m tired of feeling that it is broken or diseased. I am tired of all the blame for my suffering being put on me, when it is as much our inflexible, punitive, oppressive culture that is causing my problems. Neurodiverse is a word that acknowledges that my mind works in a way that the world around me might not be prepared for, and it reminds me that, even though that is true, there is nothing wrong with me.
[Image description: There is a web of green lines that are suggestive of the network of neurons in the brain. Over top this web is the white outline of a head. The neurons radiate out from the head in a way that suggests their connection to it.]