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“Happily Neurodivergent — at Last”

“This was the catalyst that forced me to confront the fact that my desperation to be neurotypical was not only never going to bear fruit, but it was doing me real harm.”

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I am not neurotypical. I want to be, though. Goodness I want to be neurotypical so, so badly.

I want to be able to see that a school assignment is worth a whole bunch of points and feel motivated to do that assignment. I want to fall asleep at 11 pm and wake up at 6 am. I want to see all those little cues other people see when they interact with their peers. You know, the ones that indicate what the other person is feeling and how they are reacting to you? I am told these cues exist, but I don’t see them.

Sometimes, I want these things so badly, it physically hurts.

I have wanted to be neurotypical ever since I was old enough to realize I wasn’t — and I spent the next two decades of my life trying to mentally and chemically force myself to be as neurotypical as possible. I would sit and stare at a blank document for hours, reminding myself over and over about the assignment’s importance. I would force myself to be friends with people who got angry at me for being unable to read social situations because I was sure I would see those cues someday. And, I would take a sleeping medication every night at 10:50pm so I could fall asleep at 11 pm like everyone else.

Sometime in my early 20s I started to notice that I was getting sleepy during the daytime. It all came to a head one day when I was driving down the highway at around 2pm; traffic was moving at a nice, swift pace when it occurred to me that I was struggling to keep my eyes open. I turned up the music. I still was struggling. I hit myself. No dice. Finally, I pulled over to the side of the highway, took a 20-minute nap, and then immediately drove home.

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That day, I realized that the medication I took to help me sleep each night was negatively affecting my waking hours. This was the catalyst that forced me to confront the fact that my desperation to be neurotypical was not only never going to bear fruit, but it was doing me real harm.

Despite my best efforts, I have always been neurodivergent and I always will be. So, since that day, I have put a lot of effort into being happily neurodivergent rather than miserably neurodivergent. Even though I knew consciously that it was both not my fault and very necessary to abandon my neurotypical mission, it felt awful to give up on something I had pursued my entire life. I felt like a failure.

However, after going off the sleeping medication (with my doctor’s approval), I started to follow my natural sleep cycle and fall asleep naturally at 3 or 4 am and wake up at 11 am, and I cannot describe how much better I felt, both physically and mentally after that single change.

It empowered me to make other changes in my life. I found a new job that allows me to work afternoon to late-evening hours. I switched to online school so that I can take my tests at 2 am if I so please. I stopped trying to see the social cues to which I was blind and just started asking people, “What are you feeling?” My relationships actually improved!

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I ditched the people who got angry at me for what I lack and found people who think I am fun and quirky. Most importantly, I learned to show people who insisted I be neurotypical exactly where to find the door.

It’s taken me years to get to this place where I am happily neurodivergent, and I know that not everyone will be able to get a new job or wake up at 11 am every day. However, to those people who were like me — miserably trying their best to live a neurotypical lifestyle with a neurodivergent brain — I encourage you to find ways, big or small, to embrace who you are as you are.

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