By Yamila García
It is never an easy task to incorporate something new into my life. That’s why every time I have to do it, I try to smooth the process with the help of “known things.” These things are not just anything, but specific things that make me feel comfortable and safe. It can be my favorite sweater, the most comfortable, old sneakers I own, the softest fabric T-shirt (and without tags of course) that I have, a piece of fabric, a textured keychain that I can scratch, or my favorite candies. I always have some of these things with me, but when I know I have to go through a change or incorporate something new into my life, I try to have them all! Having them gives me a feeling of security, of a “controlled environment” and makes the process I have to go through much easier. I know that everyone has their “favorite things,” but for me, more than wanting them, I need them. Only then can I feel the ground under me and be present in a moment of great pressure and stress.
I know and accept that this helps me a lot, but it wasn’t always like that. For a long time, I tried to ignore this need for comfort in things that I thought were “dumb.” I was embarrassed that I had to so illogically “depend” on a keychain or a particular cloth to get through common situations in my life. That dependency frustrated me a lot because I considered it a weakness. I was wrong, of course! What weakness can there be in knowing yourself? Knowing what works for you, and being able to help yourself is something to be proud of. Taking care of yourself, knowing how to regulate your emotions, and reducing discomfort in stressful situations, do nothing more than ensure your well-being. So, if like me, you also pack your backpack with your “life savers” every time you face a challenge, be proud! It is the most responsible thing you can do for yourself.
By Yamila García
Many of us get used to not fitting in. To be told that we are odd, different, or that we are going the wrong way. Bearing this in mind, it is often difficult to see value in ourselves. We go through life thinking that everything that makes us be seen that way is something negative and in reality it is not. We are valuable! And in many more ways than perhaps we can see today. We are valuable even if others cannot see it. And we should not need the approval of others to feel that we are useful or talented. But I understand, we live in a society and much of what we do or feel depends on the feedback received in interactions with others. It feels good when external approval is received and it is very easy to give it to others. But what about the approval we give ourselves? What about celebrating ourselves and our abilities? Or congratulating ourselves on the challenges we overcome every day? Because the effort that a neurodivergent person has to make to do what everyone does in a world where everyone seems to have an instruction manual that they didn’t give us, is clearly not the same. When I have a hard time seeing the good in me, I try to do a meditation where I get out of my body and see myself as a friend. What would I say? How does thinking of myself as someone else change the way I see myself? Why is it so difficult to see in oneself something that we see so much more easily in others?
Seeing the good in ourselves is an essential part of developing our abilities and building confidence in our potential. No one is totally good or bad, so if you’re not seeing something good in yourself, you should try again. And yes, sometimes it also helps that they tell us how good they see in us. That is why it is a good exercise to say it to others. I guess everyone, in some way, at some moment, has a hard time recognizing their own self-worth.
By Yamila García
Since the moment I learned that I am neurodivergent I found myself in a dilemma. Should I say it or not? Should I fully expose who I am so I can advocate for myself or should I hide it in order to avoid further prejudice and rejection? I believe that most neurodivergents can relate to having been rejected for being different. People are often afraid of what is different and have an automatic rejection reaction. Knowing this but considering our own needs, it becomes difficult to discern when the benefits of standing up for ourselves outweigh the harm and discomfort of rejection or lack of understanding.
Some time ago, in a situation that was too stressful and overwhelming for me, I decided to request accommodations. I needed to get out of that situation as soon as possible. Naively, I thought that since it was a large public service company, people would be prepared to do it. I was asking to avoid a long line so I could get out of the noise and overstimulation I was in. I don’t usually ask for help and just hide everything, but I had been there for many hours. I approached the person who was at the door to ask for help, but every time I tried to explain my situation, they interrupted me, not allowing me to speak. Finally, after many attempts, this person managed to hear me and shouted, “Ohhhhh mental! It’s a mental condition!” This was in front of dozens of people and in the highest tone you can imagine. It was painful for my ears, but even more painful for my heart, as I was trying to learn to ask for help after so many years of “enduring” in silence. It broke my heart just thinking about people who can’t “bear” in silence like me and who have to receive this treatment just out of ignorance. It makes me think how useless any attempt to ask for help is if those who have the power to do so don’t know who we are and what we need. I really hope that this experience I had is not the usual treatment that everyone receives when they ask for help. I hope that even if it is the usual response, we don’t stop trying, because it is our right to ask. The world has been shaped for neurotypicals, but we also live in it.