Neurodivergence, Intersectionality & Me
Always overthinking and hyper-focusing or overwhelmed and doing nothing
This is where I tell my story.
The stories of ADHD and other neurodivergent conditions are often shared through the lens of the white men and women, who are also the ones that best fit the diagnosis criteria too. The “symptoms” and presentations suggest all the reasons why it is difficult for them to live up to the expectations of society. We started kept running in circles, desperate to do and be what we were told. But, whether it be because of what we look like, our gender, our beliefs, our capabilities... or being neurodivergent it was never quite right. We grew up being told that if we played along with the game, followed the expectations, then we’d be fine. Maybe we’d be allowed to win too!
It just never seemed to work out like that.
We got told off, ignored or gaslighted about our struggles. Our mistakes were turned against us and became ways to describe our “character flaws”. We couldn’t quite reach the expectations set on us no matter how hard we tried. We all have variations of this story when we’re different from societal expectations and we're scrambling to be what they want us to be and suffering inside because we could never measure up without changing core parts of who we are. Yet, we held onto the dream that if we just did exactly what they told us, it would be enough. We found ways to overcompensate for any mistakes and tried not to make any mistakes anyway. Just on the off chance that we’d find the magic formula and we’d get it right too.
Only, it’s not really like that, is it?
Especially, if you’re Black, but also if you’re Indigenous, brown, Asian, Pacific Islander, or any other melanated person. We’re already seen as being not quite enough no matter how hard we try or how much extra we do. We know the possible costs of our mistakes and we hold all those truths too along with being neurodivergent. For all that’s the same in our life narratives, there are also significant parts of our stories that change with the intersecting identities we live in that don’t quite get seen in the mainstream talk about neurodivergence.
We don’t see the other perspectives in the ADHD or neurodivergent narratives that should matter. We don't often hear about the other struggles that need to be validated or other ways that having ADHD (or other neurodivergent conditions), impact our ability to live successfully in our full humanity.
This needs to change.
We can't pretend that the oppressions that we face in society do not have an impact on our presentations anymore. We can’t pretend that our ability to effectively thrive being neurodivergent, isn’t often determined by the ways our presentations are accepted or not by society either.
Intersectionality is the concept that all oppression is linked and the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. It’s a tool that I use to guide all my content creation, my coaching and counselling work with others, and ultimately what made me decide to change the focus of everything I do in order to create Neurodivergent Narratives as you see it here.
It helps me remember that all neurodivergent people come to me with their privileges and oppressions and understand that people’s struggles are valid, no matter who they are. But it also reminds me that not all oppression holds the same weight, so our experiences in society vary wildly.
And many times, so do our needs.
But I also recognise that for as much as I know on these topics, I’m no one’s expert on their life. That’s where Narrative Therapy practice comes in and underpins my creative work and peer support coaching I do. It seeks to be a respectful, non-blaming approach to counselling and community work, which centres people as the experts in their own lives. It views problems as separate from people and assumes people have many skills, competencies, beliefs, values, commitments and abilities that will assist them to reduce the influence of problems in their lives.
I work with multiple marginalised people (predominately, but I'll work with anyone), to access those skills, knowledge, values and beliefs so that they can choose what works best for them. I genuinely believe that people are capable, worth it, enough and that they have many resources in themselves to take giant leaps towards the life they've always seen as possible. So they can stop trying to convince themselves that if they could just change themselves into what everyone else wants that little bit more, they could finally win the game and be enough.
We don’t have to keep convincing ourselves that if we could just change ourselves into what everyone else wants that little bit more, we could finally win the game and be enough. It's time to start deciding when we need to play the game and how we can live within our own rules that work for us and allow us to succeed on our terms.
Until our stories are told, nothing in society about how we understand and support each other with neurodivergent conditions will change. The narratives around neurodivergence change when we start telling the stories that need to be told and listen to stories that are unlike our own. Then we can start to reimagine the kinds of ways we could be supported and support each other too. That’s how we make change.