I just didn’t get it. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why all the girls in my class were bullying and excluding me. Wasn’t I playing the same game they were, even if I wanted to lead it and enforce the rules? The rules are important. Without them, this game isn’t fun, right? Chaos isn’t fun. The pain of being left out and ridiculed was even worse. So I started shutting down more often rather than attempt to play the games.
I was in third grade and it seemed, all of a sudden, I could no longer speak the language of my peers. Up until that point, I was outgoing and downright precocious. I thought people were easy because they liked to have a strong leader, and I was good at that. Then my peers sneered and gossiped about me—it was extremely disorienting and painful.
“People were no longer easy.”
This shift is something many (if not all) neurodiverse people experience at some point in their childhoods. We reach a point where the social rules change and we don’t intuitively understand them like our peers do. Usually, one of two things happen: we withdraw more into our rich inner worlds or we develop a special interest involving how people interact.
Like many female neurodiverse people, people and Psychology became one of my strongest special interests. I soaked up every opportunity to learn and was bringing college level textbooks on the subject for leisure reading as early as middle school. Later, choosing my university major was a breeze.
“People, though I experience them differently than the typical person, are utterly fascinating to me.”
Decades of this passion has earned me wealth of knowledge and tools to communicate effectively and enjoy the company of people of all types. My level of dedication to these topics would have been impossible without my neurodiversity.
Even more than that, it’s given my life a purpose. Helping people understand each other and communicate more effectively has been the cornerstone of everything I have done in my life, both personally and professionally. Most recently, I started Neurodiverse Relationships to help coach other neurodiverse folks how to connect more authentically in social interactions and relationships.
The majority of us have struggled deeply with social interactions, and some of us have even been told that we will never be able to have the kind of relationships we dream about. As I’ve gone through the world, I found few neurodiverse voices contributing to the world of dating and relationship coaching. I also found the neurotypical dating coaches inauthentic and difficult to understand. Neurodiverse people deserve better, because we deserve the love we want.
My hope is to bring more meaningful and loving relationships into the lives of people like me using authentic, inclusive and practical methods. It starts with connecting with the person giving the advice, and having someone who is also neurodiverse has proven to be very valuable.
“We have the capacity and the strength to go after the relationships we want, we just need the skills.”
I’m thrilled to be a voice working to make that happen.
A couple decades after being bullied for being different, I still struggle sometimes. I’m definitely still seen as “odd” in some situations. And that’s okay. It can feel difficult and even painful, and it also reminds me to lean into who I am—the more authentic I am, the freer I am to explore more and to help other people who are struggling too. All things can co-exist here. And we can grow and find loving relationships together.
Discussion about this post