Let me share my own experience: As a girl diagnosed with ADHD back in college, I have had experienced much difficulties in navigating the world of neurotypicals. From having best friends (and lovers) to keeping a job, I did struggle a lot just to survive this world. Particularly when I haven’t been diagnosed back in high school. I didn’t know my friends were starting to date and have relationships, while I was stuck on anime, dolls, and other childish stuff, thanks to my constant daydreaming. It came even worse when I became a nursing student, when my ADHD symptoms became apparent. I easily forgot nursing procedures (luckily, I did learn them in the long run before graduation), miss class discussions, and always wanders while having a conversation. From there, I was reffered to a psychiatrist and finally was diagnosed. But the symptoms still didn’t disappear even with medication (atomoxetine). Though my meds did control my ADHD symptoms a bit, my hyperfocus never disappeared, and that became a problem after college. I did hop from one job to another, thanks to my ADHD. The worst experience I had with this is the gross discrimination I had from my boss. Upon assessing for ADHD, I was immediately relieved form my nursing job just only because of my ADHD without considering my positive abilities.
Unfortunately, there are no laws in the Philippines that protects neurodivergent (someone with neurodiverse condotions like ADHD, autism, and the like) people against discrimination, so I usually end up jobless (and loveless). Fortunately, I currently have a part-time online job, but I am stay at home. I am also having recurring depression and anxiety.
This experience is really traumatic to the neurodivergent. Now, the question is, how to survive the world if you are neurodivergent like me?
First and foremost, you must know or be aware yourself (or your relative, child, friend, lover, etc.) that you have a neurodiverse condition or at least be diagnosed with it. Imagine how hard it is to live right without knowing what’s wrong with you. When I was finally diagnosed in 2007, I had least a relief about my symptoms (but I do suspect that I have dyspraxia/DCD and/or HFA/Asperger’s). However, if I was diagnosed earlier, I should have never took nursing as a profession due to high demands of concentration with patients and lots of routine activities. Unfortunately, ADHD was not so known in the Philippines during that time.
Without being aware of undiagnosed neurodevelopmental disabilities, a neurodivergent will never understand what’s going on with him or her and thus will have difficulty in making life choices from selecting a career to starting a relationship and/or family and so forth and wil have a high risk.of having depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, or being chronically unemployed or divorced.
After awareness and diagnosis, you have to know your strengths and weaknesses. By being aware of your traits, you will know what type of jobs will be suitable for you and avoid jobs that might jeopardize yourself or other people. For example, an autistic loves long hours of work at computers but cannot hold long conversations, so he or she should not get jobs that require client communication like receptionist, social worker, or teacher. Instead, he or she should get jobs that require minimal to no client exposure like computer programmer, librarian, and the like.
Then, try to observe and study the ‘hidden’ social rules of neurotypicals. The social rules are nonverbal communication like body language, gestures, sarcasm, and figures of speech. Neurodiverse people usually cannot read and comprehend these social rules just like the way dyslexics cannot read letters. How is it done? It sounds like it’s very difficult especially for someone with ADHD like me and also for autistics. Here’s a tip: watch your favorite TV program and observe each character’s communication style and also how he or she acts. Still clueless? Read a psychology or social skills book and study all nonverbal communication and other social graces. I didn’t mean to exactly mimic neurotypicals. Just understand their perspective, and voila, you will be able to adjust a little to their world like a soldier planning a strategy to win a battle.
Get support. Your family and friends (true firends love you as you are no matter what) will understand and support you once they understand or become aware of your condition. Try also to join support groups with the same condition so that you get enough support and also tips on daily living as a neurodivergent.
Finally, believe in yourself that you can survive the neurotypical world. A positive thinking will boost your morale and move on with your life. Try also to pray for believers or try to meditate and/or self-reflect for non-believers to have a better understanding of yourself.
That’s all I can give on advice on survival of a neurodivergent. Lucky are you with enough awareness and support in the developed world. As for me here in PH (Philippines), awareness has begun only a decade ago and is only known in the medical field and the upper class, so I am trying to survive along with my mom (I think she has suspected ADHD, dyspraxia/DCD, and dyscalculia) using these tips above.
The earlier the identification and intervention of the neurodiverse conditions, the better will be the outcome and the potential of becoming successful in life.
P.S. We neurodivergent people have more ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking and may solve the world’s biggest problems given enough support.
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