I’ve been thinking a lot lately. This isn’t unprecedented by any stretch, but life has given me considerably more to ponder recently.
Before I dive too deep here, I suspect this is going to be something I will be writing about more on here in the near future. It is a topic that is feeling a bit like an H.R. Giger Alien at the end of its gestation term and is about to burst out of my chest. If you know me, at least my online persona, there is a good chance you know I went through a similar period about 10 years ago as I was coming to terms with the idea that I live with ADHD.
Recently I’ve been grappling with the idea that on top of the ADHD, I am also dealing with PTSD. Similar to ADHD, when this was presented to me, it felt more like a relief than anything that was bad. I know I’m “different”. I always have been. So, someone presenting a possible reason as to why I’m different is something I embrace. What I need to distill is whether what I’ve been coping with has more to do with PTSD than ADHD.
Now, what complicates this is that I’ve also been exploring the thought I’ve had for a long time that I’m autistic. As in Asperger’s kind of autistic.
At this point, I don’t care to get formally diagnosed for autism. At nearly 50 years old, I don’t feel that having a shrink confirm feelings I’ve had my whole life is necessary. What I do need is to understand what it means to me. There’s a huge amount of internal relief I feel each time I expose another layer of the onion that is my brain.
Also, going in for diagnosis could tell me I’m not autistic, or it could tell me I am. Or it could tell me exactly what I already believe, that I straddle the line. I have one foot firmly in autism, and one firmly in “normal” (I’ll get back to the “normal” in a bit.
I recently took versions of the Autism Spectrum Quotient quiz. The quiz is a series of questions that help you determine if you’re autistic/Asperger’s or not. It provides you with a score between 0 and 50. 0 being you show no signs of autism, and 50 indicating that you’re swimming fully in the deep end of the autism pool.
I scored 25.
So, why am I writing about this? The short answer is “I don’t know”.
The longer answer is that when I started talking publicly about ADHD 10 years ago, it helped me far more than ruminating in private. Talking to a counsellor was helpful also. But for me, there was more reconciliation to be found from commonality amongst friends and peers.
I’ve had this idea running through my head about how this is all tied together. Several life events have brought it all to a head recently.
What is “normal”?
If a conversation with a friend of mine recently is any indication, 90% of the population is coping with some level of mental illness. So, effectively, we’re all fucked up. If one follows that path of bread crumbs, everyone is “normal” because we’re all thoroughly fucked up. I am not sure that really means anything to this discussion, but it felt good to say it anyway.
The path that I’m currently on is the concept of everyone being on a spectrum. It is an idea that nobody is “autistic” or “ADHD”. Those terms are just boxes along a spectrum that a large chunk of the population wants to use for organizing things. And if you have an ADHD mind, you can relate to the idea that I find organizing things in boxes somewhat abhorrent. Not that organizing in boxes itself is a bad thing, but organizing stuff that doesn’t have an obvious box causes me significant anxiety (“ok, you’ve put it in that box…but what if it would be better in a different box”).
Where all of this ruminating brings me is the idea that we’re all big-ass bags of energy. All energy falls on a spectrum. If you need a very quick correlation, think rainbow. Light is energy and it all falls on a very broad spectrum. The leap I’m making is that if we’re a big bag of energy, then everything about being human falls on a spectrum. The same spectrum as light energy. Feel free to laugh at this. It works in my head.
The analogy I’ve been using for a long time that is feeling more-and-more accurate as I go along is that every one of us has the equivalent of a giant sound mixing board (See the photo at the top) that defines our current state. If all of those knobs are dialed to 5, you will read as “normal”.
Now, if you have one knob dialed to 10 and another to 0, you can still read as “normal”, but you will be coping with something that is most definitely not normal. What that something is, could be an internal struggle. So you will still read as “normal” to others. Your knob dialed to 10 could also be something that is outwardly visable to others as being “weird” or annoying. But because the rest of you is dialed to 5, you will still be read as “normal”, albeit maybe a bit weird.
Trauma makes this analogy even stronger in my mind. Let’s take my life as an example. Dealing with my father’s death at 14, on top of the fact that I moved every 2 years before the age of 10 has made it very difficult for me to make friends. I’ve gone my whole life thinking that those who are close to me will be leaving my life soon.
So for me, those traumas twisted several knobs away from 5. I would even argue that some of my knobs have a bit of tape on them preventing anyone from being able to reset those knobs without removing the tape first.
It is an overly simple visual cue, but it has helped me significantly as I work to figure out my brain. I will be talking about it more, and I’d love to hear from anyone that might be coping with similar issues. As I said earlier, I find comfort in these discussions. I have no trouble talking about it openly.
If you need to talk, but would rather do it privately, please feel free to reach out to me. @jonwinebrenner on Instagram would be the easiest way to get ahold of me if we are not already connected. I am also on Facebook and LinkedIn but you would need to request contact with me if you don’t have it already.
I am looking forward to a bit more of this discussion.