It’s been a week since I last published a blog here and the moment before I wrote this blog, I was surprised that my blog has been viewed more than a thousand times, and I am really thankful to all who read or viewed my blog! Thank you so much that you had time to read my blog about neurodiversity – the idea that all humans have diverse brain wiring similar to biodiversity of wildlife – and also the different neurodevelopmental disorders that affect human development – from dyslexia to nonverbal learning disorder and so forth.
Why I Wrote the Neurodiversity Blog?
It’s a very long story actually. It’s actually my life story though. I am a former registered nurse with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder inattentive type diagnosed in college and have suspected “autistic-like” traits diagnosed in infancy and toddlerhood.
I can share my life story. It’s a bit long but somehow hope you’ll understand how my life inspired me to write a neurodiversity blog.
I was born in the late 1980s in a town (Bacoor) beside Manila, the Philippines’s capital. I was an only child of a housewife and an overseas Filipino worker (OFW). Since my infancy, my mom already noticed developmental delays in me as I learned to roll over in my 7th month (the average is 4 to 6 months) and that I was a difficult infant – always crying even when fed and needed to be carried and cuddled. When I became a toddler, something odd was seen in me – I don’t respond when mom calls my name; instead I am just hyperfocusing on TV or just having blank stares. That’s when even casserole covers are banged together just to call my attention. Also while other toddlers speak fluently (an average 4-year-old speaks 1000 words and have full sentences) I do only speak in a few words and even just repeating what the other speaker says (that is called echolalia). Also I only tend to focus only on myself and never mind the surroundings, which prompted mom to bring me to a developmental paediatrician where I was initially diagnosed with “autistic-like” traits and seizure disorder. I do also have very weak coordination but that I learned to speak, that’s why I wasn’t given a full diagnosis of autism (during the 1980s I think autism is not yet that known in the Philippines and autism is a curse). From then on I was given speech therapy and I did have improvement in speaking. Also I was a very fast learner; learned to read really fast and always picking up encyclopaedias rather than toy makeup kit that my paediatrician was astonished by my rapid learning. So that’s when she decided to release me from her care. When my developmental paediatrician will plan to discharge me from her care, she gave my mom an instruction to go to undergo psychological test to confirm whether I was a child with special needs or other else. But financially, we cannot afford that test as it was too expensive and it was located in Quezon City (the Philippines’s largest city just beside Manila), which is too far from my town. My mom never brought me there and instead let me live a normal life – and that’s also my paediatrician’s advice. What do we don’t know is that I’ll have a life filled with thunderstorms as I grow up.
What kind of child is Aegyo Kawaii?
I was described as a quiet child who only loved to draw or read encyclopaedias. Though I play Barbie dolls and other toys in childhood, I do prefer books and paper and pencil rather than toy makeup or toy kitchen sets. I even read Redbook before (shhh! don’t tell my mom about it). I was a very curious child – loved science experiments and mesmerising to Disney movie soundtracks. But I was also a very sensitive child. I don’t read teasing or jokes. I cry easily especially when classmates call me ugly or fat. Yeah I know I’m fat (actually, I had a healthy weight and had a built larger than the average Filipino child – my native country is a developing one, meaning most are poor and undernourished and skinny) but I can’t understand that it’s only a joke and not criticism. I was also very brooding (like Eeyore) and pessimistic. I do have friends, but I did struggle in maintaining friendships and having a bestfriend. I did have a grade school bestfriend before but she dumped me for no apparent reason and instead had a new bestfriend. I was also bullied by a fat half-Japanese classmate. I was often called crybaby by her and also made fun of me.
(C) Disney. I am comparable to Eeyore in childhood.
I don’t talk a lot. But I would love to express myself. However, I cannot find the right words to say and it’s frustrating me and my mom both. I was a very stressful child and I can’t understand why. But I have a very, very wide imagination. The problem is that I can’t express it.
The other problem I was struggling with is with skills – sports, dance and crafts. While all my friends can play football, Chinese garter and can dance easily I do struggle with all of them. I can’t dance, always make my sports team lose, and have poor crafts. I can’t play with my friends even though I am trying too hard to learn to play and acquire a skill. I’m clumsy.
Anyway I managed to live as normal as I could in my childhood. What I didn’t know is that I’ll struggle more in my adolescence.
What about Aegyo Kawaii’s Adolescence?
People say being a teenager is the coolest part of their lives. Unfortunately this is not my case. The same problems persisted: weak in motor skills, emotional sensitivity, hyperfocus and poor social skills and emotional regulation. Even though I still achieve high in academics, though I have significant struggles in reading comprehension and skills.
Puberty hit and it’s already a total disaster for me. During that time I was transferred to a nearby Christian school because of financial strains and also to my bully and was in a small class of less than 20. There, I had my menarche (first menstruation) and poof, suffered discrimination because I was the only girl who had puberty until my sixth grade (and also a Catholic, where I was often called a non Christian). I was also larger than most girls (all of them skinny but I have a larger built and though I have on and off weight gain and loss, I didn’t become obese) and they call me fat and it really insulted me so much that I don’t wanted to eat but instead wallowed more in sugar addiction. Some of my classmates even called me stupid. But still I had gained a few friends and even an admirer who I hated so much. But I never had a bestfriend.
My biggest problem is my uptightness. Since I became aware of myself I just don’t know but I am always in need to do the “right thing” instead of taking life as is that my mom branded my as an “uptight” child. I always need to study, listen to teachers, do homework, etc that even I stayed at home during midterm exams while my mom and dad went to Singapore for vacation (but actually that’s when mom and dad had reconciled over my dad’s folly).
Then high school came (PH during that time has no middle or junior high school that’s why older Filipinos finish high school at 16 not 18) and more mixed struggles and blessings came. I had my first love and heartbreak (not a boyfriend but a crush) with my math teacher and also have achievement in the school honour list where I made to the tops 5 to 10 smartest in class (and batch too) but struggled more in sports and dance and socialisation. Though I have high academic achievement, I struggled more with my social world because I cannot make close bondings with my friends. Also it was becoming apparent that they become more mature in many ways – from interests to emotional and social realms – while I was stuck in my childlike interests like kiddie anime like Pokemon (hint: not all anime are for kids, there are for teens and adults too like hentai, etc) to dating and relationships and I was just totally clueless why I am being different. I jumped from one peer group to another and with still struggles which I didn’t understand. But I still have my friends though but with no real bestfriend.
My interests were also way different from my peers. I loved to listen to classical music. I do develop crushes to tenors and theatre actors more than boy bands or RnB stars (while everybody was smitten by Justin Timberlake, I was known to school who’s the only girl mesmerised by Josh Groban). I even enrolled for a basic piano lesson. My teacher told me that I am a fast learner in music. Sadly, I lost interest in piano as I focused more on academics. I loved to brood over history and sciences books that in vacant time at school I would rather read my textbooks from cover to cover rather than talk about sex with peers (I was super prude during that time too thanks to my uptightness).
(C) Crypton Future Media. Classical music + anime (and Jpop culture) that’s my super interests (disregard Hatsune Miku because she isn’t there yet in early 2000s, I just used her as a symbol of anime and Jpop culture plus the violin for classical music)
But still I am totally clueless why I act like that.
College came and it was a total disaster for me. I took up nursing which at that time was the most in demand job both overseas and in my native country as it was easy to get a nursing job then. I should have been a chemist but instead thought to be a nurse instead, disregarding my weakness in skills, as I thought it would be easier for me to leave my country to unite my family. But instead disaster came. Although I still achieve good grades, my nursing skills were so poor that I was called stupid by one of my clinical instructors and not smart by one of my professors. I struggled a lot with hospital duty more so with my socialisation and emotional regulation. I became depressed and lost focus on my studies and became totally lost. I was finally suggested by one of my professors to seek psychiatric help.
While under the care of my psychiatrist, I was finally diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder inattentive type and major depression. I was somehow relieved because it answered part why I am different from the rest. I had short attention span and have hyperfocus instead that I missed the bigger picture. Somehow it made me and my mom relieved. I did able to graduate nursing and even passed the nursing board exams and became a full-pledged registered nurse.
Image courtesy of Psychology Today. ADHD – that’s my diagnosis in college.
But not all of my college life was a struggle. There were many good memories as well. My most favourite music genre, classical music, became my saviour as I accidentally joined the college chorale and met a lot of my friends, including one of my closest friends though I did struggle with the alto vocal type – it was too low for my voice but I can’t be a soprano because my voice is too light like Jpop idols. Nevertheless, being a member of a chorale was a blessing for me.
What about adulthood for Aegyo Kawaii?
But my struggles never ended there. Adulthood became a total hell for me as I struggled more with keeping a job and having a long-term relationship and friendships. Though I was under Strattera (atomoxetine) medication for two years I eventually stopped taking it as I thought my attention has become stronger and longer. Unfortunately, my ADHD diagnosis never addressed my social, emotional, and motor issues. I acquire job skills very slowly, that’s why it took more than 6 months for me to be regularised in my first job – medical transcriptionist – after a year of struggling to find nursing job (during that time it was already hard for nurses in the Philippines to find a stable job thanks to strict competition in jobs). I am also very naive when it comes to relationships as I did finally have a boyfriend then unknowingly that my first boyfriend is a closeted gay and homeless. I was fooled by him as I thought he is a real man because he courted like a gentleman (but the truth was at first I hated him but my friends at work told me to try to date one as I never had a boyfriend before) but when we dated, he distanced himself from me and started to ridicule me and called me names like insecure, fat and childish and left me out of the blue. It was a very heartbreaking relationship that I dumped him and blocked him from my Facebook account.
I was too stressful to my work and life in general that I had irritable bowel syndrome and was rushed to the hospital for two weeks. Sadly my then boyfriend never went to support me. That’s where I proved that he never loved me at all and just used me as a bait to hide his homosexuality.
But I did manage to last for that medical transcriptionist job for a year. But I have to transfer to a location nearer my home because my former workplace was too far from home. When I transferred to a nearer place, more struggles build up as my next work (still a medical transcriptionist) has too high quota (meaning you have to make a number of works done per day in order to meet employer’s requirements) and I failed to maintain that requirement that I was suspended for work. I opted for resignation instead. And that brought more struggles with my life.
Thereafter more struggles with work came. For 3 years I’ve been in three jobs with no regularisation because of my issues. The first one is being a call centre agent in a local HMO for 2 months. That’s a training actually but unfortunately I was not absorbed because of my frankness and also poor communication skills. My social life became low also as my moods predominate me that I pushed potential friends away. I cried hard when I wasn’t absorbed. I was really worried why I am like this. That’s where I was referred to Tomatis, a private company that offers neurological therapy using sound waves from listening to amplified classical music – called the Tomatis method – to rewire neural pathways. It’s way too expensive, but it produced a dramatic effect on my brain wiring. It totally improved my communication skills though not as still perfect as neurotypical people, but my communincation became better than before.
Soon, I trained as a copy editor in a knowledge process outsourcing company for 7 months but like my previous job, I wasn’t absorbed. It’s so surprising because I am very good in English grammar, yet I didn’t pass the training. What made me unqualified is my carelessness in editing grammar even if I tried hard to edit journals. The other thing is, the editing training proper is too short, only 1 month compared to 6 months in the classroom.
I became too tired of working and rested at home for a year and few months. There my motor skills improved. I learned how to cook and maintain the house. I was very clumsy in my childhood and my brain shuts down when it comes to skills but at adulthood did I learn to master at least basic household chore even if very slow. I did it for a year until I finally practised my profession as a nurse. But before that I trained in a musical theatre workshop because I read that it can be a therapy for clumsiness disorder called dyspraxia. But it didn’t. I stil struggled to dance and act. It was a total disaster for me. It’s really hard to accept my flaw. Then, I applied in nursing home company and thank God I finally practised my profession!
I really thought being a nurse in a nursing home is the happiest moment in my life. My coworkers were friendly and I felt like I’m fulfilled especially when I see elderly patients happy. In fact one of them even wanted to introduce me to her grandson which unfortunately didn’t happen for long because I already transferred to the main office. I shouldn’t have worked there; I originally applied as a private nurse but I was offered a nurse case manager job and I accepted it. Before making me a case manager I was assigned as a nurse in a nursing home for 2 months but I was pulled out by my former employer for me to rest and was assigned as a private nurse.
But alas, I became sick with chronic cough and my motor and communication problems still exist. My clumsiness caused one of my patients to fall from her wheelchair. I also struggled with communication with dementia patients which caused me burnout. And also my tactlessness never disappeared (my tactlessness is my another problem) that some of my new trainees told my team leader that I’m too tactless.
Not only I struggled with this. When I was assigned to be a reliever for my head nurse for a very rich patient (the sister of one of the most famous actresses in the Philippines) I became sicker and didn’t really attend for her. But when I attended again, I made an honest mistake that I accidentally told her that I just got her lab results from the caregiver from the doctor (I meant from the caregiver and will give it to the doctor) but what I didn’t know my patient already called her doctor but the results weren’t there. The result? I was branded a liar and I was forced to givecthe lab result to the doctor. I made an apology but she didn’t accept it. She still insists that I lied that I was reported to my boss. Now my foolishness made me like this. And she won’t forgive me as if I’m a demon. Okay. That’s it. I’m a liar.
The worst part was during my very short nurse case manager work. I was not oriented properly and I didn’t know that includes being a telephone operator and a tragedy happened. I received a phone call from an irate doctor and he’s asking where’s my them boss and I told him she’s not here. But he won’t believe me because he was talking to her before (I didn’t know the office phone is connected to my boss’s mobile). But my boss wasn’t around at that time. I repestedly told him that my boss’s not here but instead cursed me and called me rude. What I thought that he’s finished nagging me that I hanged up the phone. To make the story short, I was called a liar again and reported to my boss and told that I was very rude.
Though my coworkers do like me for my diligence, my boss immediately asked me to rest from my work for the time being. My immediate head nurse case manager pleaded her not to discharge me and transfer to another post but my boss was firm in discharging me because I have ADHD and I’m not fit for work. Thanks to my irate clients who mistook me as a liar, my nursing career ended. Thanks to my former boss I felt discriminated from work and never again work as a nurse. Instead for termination, I opted resignation to save my face from humiliation. That happened in January this year.
The Event Where Aegyo Kawaii Prompted to Write Neurodiversity Blog
I admit I’m a plain foolish girl with failed dreams and disillusioned self. But that was because I have unrecognised neurodiversity in me and I wanted to live a normal life and be self sufficient for my mom (we’re actually a broken family with no direct relatives) but that never happened. But it’s not right for any person especially a healthcare professional to just discriminate any person just because his brain waves are different from the rest of humanity.
I sobbed a lot and became more moody. I even wished revenge for those who hurt me. Though my emotions have somewhat been tamed I chose to be very emotional. I scream whenever I do something wrong or if something’s not in my way. I took 10 tablets of sertraline at once. I became a lunatic and hid in my house. But my mom’s sobs and indifference made me realised that I’m a big fool for not accepting responsibility for my own life (my mom’s got undiagnosed ADHD, dyspraxia and dyscalculia and suffered from emotional abuse by my late grandmother, my aunt, and my father and has posttraumatic stress disorder). She’s right. I should have accepted my weaknesses. What I didn’t know is that I have strengths too: writing, comprehending anything scientific or medical, playing violin, having enough knowledge about computers and most of all, enlightenment about my own condition as well as my family’s condition. My writing is what prompted me to write a blog.
At that time I was inspired to write a blog about neurodiversity. Since there’s no law in the Philippines that protect people with learning disabilities, I opted to write about different learning disabilities and the neurodiversity concept in this blog. I even wrote about dyspraxia in one of the most famous Philippine newspapers and I’m glad that it was published right away and gained some readers.
I am now more accepting of myself though I still can’t forgive myself for all my past mistakes. I now know that I am a neurodiverse person. I have diagnosed ADHD and suspected pervasive developmental disorder, dyspraxia, hyerlexia, pragmatic language impairment and nonverbal learning disorder. I also have suspected narcissistic personality disorder though the sensitive type (I won’t discuss personality disorders here as it’s already part of psychology) amd I’m a melancholic person. I’m still ashamed of who I am but I’m currently working on improvement. I’m now back at being a medical transcriptionist recently at my hometown and am hoping it’ll be my long-term job. And I write on this blog.
I’ll still write in this blog about more of neurodiverdity and tips of how to survive with this as I do still experience these. I’m still clumsy, but am currently managing it. I’m still naive and have short attention and hyperfocus
This is the reason why I wrote my blog. I wanted my fellow Filipinos to be educated about neurodevelopmental disabilities and their presentation. I don’t mind if this isn’t readily understood by my fellowmen. I just want to tell the whole world that hidden disabilities and brain wiring varieties exist so that there will be less discrimination to neurodiverse people and accept them as who they are and not of who they become.
To all who read my blog so far, thank you for visiting my blog. Hope you’ll read more blogs that I’ll write sooner.