What’s it like to have brain functions different from most of your peers?
The differences in mental function that most people don’t need to concern themselves with can leave the neurodivergent feeling useless and full of shame. The neurodivergent may not only be critical of themselves, but the judgement for not being the same can have adverse effects.
With more understanding by all, embracing everyone’s uniqueness and discovering new ways of thinking, the potential to bring great value to the world is increased. It all starts with awareness.
Let’s Consider ADHD
In the work or school environment, the person with ADHD may find themselves being called out on their productivity and work habits. They may be considered to be lazy, irresponsible, slow, or potentially worse, stupid. In essence, they are none of those things.
A person with ADHD typically has trouble with a set of skills called executive function. This is the ‘management system’ of the brain. Reduced norepinephrine alters the way this part of the brain operates as well as emotional regulation (1, 2).
Due to altered executive function, a person with ADHD often struggle with (3):
– Completing tasks
– Attention to detail
– Blocking out distractions
– Feelings of overwhelm
– Remembering things
As you can imagine, this can make life difficult for the ADHD person as these are things that can come easy to many others.
Often, the ADHD person is working harder than others to keep up. The ADHD person may be spending more time doing a task, but they need to work harder to ensure everything else in their life supports them rather than hinders them.
Getting sound sleep, taking rest breaks, exercising and eating well most of the time, are all things the ADHD person needs to consider daily if they are going to be at their best game.
The littlest change or fall in routine can have a more significant cascading effect in other areas of their life compared to the norm.
Systems of work are set up based on standards and norms, and these don’t naturally meet the needs of the neurodivergent. For instance, one person may bounce off the energy of others in an open space workspace. But the neurodivergent may do better wearing headphones to block out the noise and placed in a corner with no outside views. Here the ADHD person may dive in deep into a project far higher than their nondivergent peers.
With ADHD, the prefrontal lobe of the brain, the area that deals with executive function, is chronically under-aroused, meaning the ability to monitor behaviour, thoughts and emotions is impaired.
Difficulties in regulating emotions further add fuel to the issues that may arise in a work or education setting.
ADHDers can be impulsive, blurting out things without thinking of their consequences, leading to friction amongst those at the other end of their words.
The ADHD person may be seen as having a tantrum. It can have enormous consequences costings them their job and their relationships. Being able to step back and consider one’s thoughts before speaking is a skill that can be difficult for all in times of high emotion. It is far tougher when your brain doesn’t naturally function that way.
ADHDers can be more sensitive to criticism. Feeling like you are behind, being judged, can contribute to feelings of worthlessness and shame. No one is ever inspired when in a place of shame. If a person loses hope, any person, why even try? Compassion and understanding go a long way.
Biodiversity Makes The World Better
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
This quote is often credited to Albert Einstein. The meaning behind it is fitting, we can’t judge everyone on the same scale. We must take into account their individual strengths and weaknesses.
It’s essential to remember alterations in brain function are simply that. Judgement and stigma towards the person who doesn’t act as the norm don’t serve anyone. It takes all kinds of people with all types of various talents and skills to create beautiful and life-changing things in the world. Collectively when one person grows, we all can.
Elizabeth Pattalis is a fellow neurodivergent, and clinical nutritionist with a special interest in assisting people holistically with their mental health challenges.
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