By Yamila García
The fact that I didn’t know I was neurodivergent for so long made me an expert in “enduring” whatever I had to live through. It’s hard for me to stop and understand that I deserve free time and fun. I grew up believing that if others could do certain things, I had to be able to too. It didn’t matter how much it cost me, or how many crises I had, I always ended up doing what I had to do because “I had to.” I did not understand why some activities were so difficult for me, but I refused to accept it and thought that they were just silly things in my head and that I was just overthinking. I forced myself for a long time but now I’m learning to listen to myself.
We are officially 4 weeks from the end of the semester and I can already feel my battery is low. All the effort made at the beginning of the semester to adapt, the struggles with classes, assignments, and due dates, and the anxiety of exams, seem to have consumed a good percentage of our energy, and only a little remains. It is not that it happens on a pre-established date. Instead, I realize it because, for everything I do, I need more time and more effort, and I feel that I already carry a good dose of stress. At other times of my life I would have sworn that it only happened to me, but today I know that there are many of us who are going through this. We need to be patient with ourselves, we need to respect our body, our mind, and the time it takes us to do whatever we have to do. We have already done a good part of the semester’s work, we should be proud of it, and although what is coming is important, we will not be able to do it if we do not arrive in a good physical and mental state at the end of the semester. Go for a 10-minute walk, listen to your favorite song several times in a row as many of us like to do, play with your pets for a while… Stopping studying or working for 10 or 15 minutes does not have a great impact on these activities, but it can have it on our mental health, renewing our energy and serving as the push we need to get to December on our feet!
Listening to ourselves is not being weak, but being intelligent. Our body and our mind are what allow us to do what we want to do. How are we supposed to do it without taking care of ourselves? The lower our battery is, the more things we have ahead of us, and the more difficult what is to come… the more we need to give ourselves time and care.
By Yamila García
Despite having noticed at a young age that people perceived the world in a different way than I do, there were many things that I did not know. Every day of my life, when I leave my house in the morning, I feel like a sword pierces my head. It is a deep pain that makes me dizzy and doesn’t let me see for a few seconds. I always thought that this was how everyone feels when they leave their house and see the sunshine. Of course, I was wrong. Also, I thought that people drew in their minds everything they heard or read, but that was not the case either. However, I always did it with such a level of detail that I can remember the smells, sensations, and flavors of what I imagined. In fact, many times I have come across people I wanted to talk to because “I knew them” but in reality, I had imagined them when I read a book, or when someone told me a story. My imagination draws everything in great detail and I think that is why I always need to know more, to get well-structured information and clear instructions. I need to know what I am drawing. If I can’t draw it, it feels like I can’t see or hear. My mental drawings are like maps for me. I also thought that people react to texture like me, that even have dreamed of textures… I couldn’t see anything in my dreams, just felt the sensations from the textures. There are some that calm me, others that give me chills and goosebumps.
Many neurodivergent people have great sensory differences from neurotypical people. Little things that seem unimportant can affect us enormously. For better or for worse… That is why it is important to recognize these differences, accept them and work on them. Knowing ourselves better can often mean being able to use that sensory sensitivity to counteract difficulties. I know what textures calm me down, I know what music lowers my heart rate, and I know what smells take me back to happy moments… And that’s how I deal with the anxiety that so many other things cause me. Simply, I go through life facing the difficulties that come my way, taking advantage of what for some people is a failure. At first glance it may seem like it, but on many occasions, I have been able to use these features to my advantage.
We have been told many times that we do not fit in, that we are “failed,” that we must adapt and that we must hide all those “flaws.” Don’t listen to them! Those are not “flaws,” they are simply a part of you that should be valued and understood. Never did any of these characteristics not give me something good. They just need a little acceptance and work to see how we can make them flourish as gifts.