WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME???
Or is there something wrong with me? Or am I just being this particular and unique version of being a human? I don’t know. I simply don’t know.
I have been thinking a lot lately on how neurodivergence describes or do not describe my struggles in life. I have been told all my problems are due to trauma. And maybe that is so. But what I see is me having the same kind of problems that many neurodivergent people describe they have. With e.g. ADHD, ADD and being on the autism spectrum.
I don’t have any kind of neurodivergent diagnose, and I am not asking for it either. I am just trying to understand how I can be I the world. Help myself. Help others understand where and with what I struggle.
I hear people describe their problems with e.g. ADHD. The inability to focus, take directions, stay at a task (unless it intrigues them), the problem with switching between tasks.
My whole life I have been told about my potential, my talents, to just literally disappoint everyone by never living up to them (getting it together). And having me too doubt if I have anything of value to contribute with, since it only seems to exist like thoughts in my brain, but does not handily come down on a piece of paper, or several, having a red thread. Because I procrastinate too much, I have too much resistance. I lack discipline. I lack structure. I don’t stay on topic (that is so hard! When you see connections, parallels etc all over the place!) I don’t plan. I don’t do the necessary preparations. I get bored and tire when I have to do the same work over and over again (wanting to start with something new and exciting!)… I have a massive amount of half-done texts… but also pictures, drawings… I “see” stuff in my head… but am not a good drawer, but explaining connections is so much easier with pictures…
And then it gets even worse if there seems to be someone telling me to do the work. As soon as it looks like a command, a rule, a something that I “must” do, when there is a smaller space to move around in, when there are fixed ways of doing things and it is not my decision on how it is to be made. Then I feel my brain going into rebel and revolt mode. The parts of me who refuse to follow orders show up and nothing becomes more important than doing it “my way”. Which then, I admit, sometimes purely has to do with doing it the opposite way…
Add time pressure to it – and my brain goes and plays instead…
I wrote the other day – I don’t lack in work ethics. I can – and mostly do – work around the clock. But not on the stuff I am supposed to be working on. I plan each day what I am supposed to be doing, making lists, to check off, but when the evening comes, I have worked hard all day, but mostly on something else. It is like I can’t even follow my own rules and plans. The work I am supposed to write on – is not what is being written… or executed.
All of this can be described in me having ADHD, ADD…. And… Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) (https://autismawarenesscentre.com/an-introduction-to-pathological-demand-avoidance-pda/?fbclid=IwAR3AN6THZDEG6yFbtD243umI_fbNzolsJ0qtE4XAYtQ49DLDvikaVIM9R3I)
But I don’t. I have trauma.
If we add to that my many struggles with understanding social settings, which I sometimes do brilliantly, and other times fail epically when trying to navigate what is the right thing or the wrong thing to do in social interactions. Numerous are the times I have been scolded, upset people for simply “not getting it”. “You (of all people) should know better!” is a commonly delivered phrase… is that because I seem smart? But really am stupid? Have I fooled people into having the impression I can do more than I can? “Should” I downplay parts of me so I am coming through as more even? Since “up-playing” what I don’t get – is not possible… I can’t do what I can’t do. I don’t understand what I don’t understand. No matter how much I wish I could understand.
One way I am upsetting people is my inability to “shut up”. When I get scared in social situations, I keep talking, incessantly. I “forget” to wait for my turn. Oh – I really try to practice that! Telling myself, not my turn to talk, I need to wait… but it explodes out of me. Which often surprises people, since I often also am a very awkward, shy person, who observes more than talk, unless it is a favorite topic… 😊 then I also talk incessantly… I have come to learn I am often “too much”. But at the same time – “not enough”. At least not enough of the “right stuff”, and “too much” of the “wrong stuff”….
… and often… I have been talking on the inside for hours – to prepare… so when I show up in a social setting… I talk as if I am continuing an inside conversation. Not really realizing I must sound like a lunatic… not making any sense at all.
Then add my sensory sensitivities. How I often have a hard time with eye contact. With touch. With all kinds of “overwhelms” – my startle response is huge. I get overwhelmed not only from the outside, but from my inside as well. So it is all this senses form inside that I am not supposed to feel – but do? Like having a hypersensitive interoception, or neuroception + proprioception.
Everything is hyper about me. And when hyper crashes – I am its opposite. I lose my sense of time, direction, space, I lose speech, thought – cognitive abilities of all sorts, worst case – I lose the whole of me – at least, I lose the awareness of me. I become too overwhelming for myself. That is my dissociation. I can’t manage myself, so I split myself up into tiny manageable pieces. That can show up independently of each other. Which of course brings everything to a whole new level of confusion… for me, for people interacting with me.
I for the longest time thought I was autistic. I had all the struggles. But when people met me, they say, no, you are not autistic. Apparently, I have some social skills?
So I started to think about it as some kind of acquired autism.
But it is really just trauma.
I seem to have a lot of neurodivergent traits. Is there something wrong with my brain? Due to my trauma?
And it actually is a very important question for me. Some days I cope so poorly I have no idea what to do. Other days I convince myself it is okay to be me. I know I am doing my best.
But it does not seem to suffice, my best. I keep on disappointing others and myself.
Due to my trauma… attachment wounds… emotional neglect… child sexual abuse… rootlessness…
When we are small children, we learn everything from our primary caretakers. EVERYTHING. That includes how to focus, pay attention, stay on task, stay in shared experiences, digest input, manage troublesome input.
Early intersubjectivity between mother and infant includes the 3 first stages:
It means we practice, over and over, what it is to share affection with someone, how we direct and share attention, and how we understand others and our own intentions.
This is done, not verbally of course, but following and sharing eye gaze (joint attention), by rhythmical movements (learning social interaction, turn-taking, dialogue, and conversation).
I know my background. I experienced early, severe, longstanding abuse and emotional neglect, and to some extent physical neglect (I had a roof over my head, food to eat and a bed to sleep in – but all those things came with attached prices, but we weren’t poor in the sense of lacking the basic material stuff). But I was not cared for physically. I know I did not attach to my mother, but instead to my stepfather who abused me. Or attached… might be a too strong word. I think I attached to what ever human (or being) that showed up, letting me do that. I simply had to. But circumstances weren’t making it easy for me. To attach meant to be scared to death at the same time. What was the choice there? Being scared to death, or die? I was too small to mange on my own (yet I had to do that too, in many ways).
I know I did not experience safety, security, had little meaningful social interactions with people I knew, or who could see me. We kept on moving all the time, so I had problems finding other people to bond to either. We did have animals and I did have a little sister I felt responsible for to protect and take care of. Which is lucky, otherwise I would probably have been more socially “feral” and inept. Or just dead.
But what I am wanting to highlight here, growing up as I did, did not only mess with my social skills and understanding, because those social skills are founded on the early interaction you have with a good enough (or several) caretakers. You also learn about attention, intention, motivation, “dancing with” in social encounters, you learn to turn-take, you learn to reciprocate, to wait for your turn, to wait and not break emotionally out of angst for what is coming… You learn to trust. Yourself. And others. You learn to work “with” – instead of going “against”. Because going with is safe (it is supposed to be safe).
Social skills, social learning, social interaction – but also “inner social interaction” – are all vital component founded early in life. On the really small stuff. Like joint attention. Like the “motherese” talk, the singing, rocking, carrying, sharing time, space, affection. And not having the opposite, of harsh words, no attention, being dragged, have things done to your body, following into a rhythm that is not about rocking and comforting you as an infant, but instead of satisfying an adult’s sexual drives (think about that for a while, everyone who claims feeling the rhythm of a horse is always beneficial to people… giving them warmth and comfort).
Not giving in to social abusive stuff – because hey – they are taking place in social settings too… IS a survival skill. Is a perseverance skill (preserving YOURSELF). Going against others – even parts of yourself – is sometimes what is keeping you from becoming totally brainwashed and losing yourself (going insane).
I like how Colwyn Trevarthen describes it with 2 different attachment systems. One for safety, care, nurture and another for companionship, learning, exploring. Both develop in parallel.
So what I am now thinking – is there a version of ADHD, ADD, PDA, Autism… that can make traumatized people neurodivergent – or is it “just” trauma?
If the neurodivergence is something you are born with, a biological difference, or if it a result of lacking caretaking – the result seems to look very similar?
There is one important difference though. What you did not get (proper care/but abuse), can be, at least, partially repaired. If you are born with a different brain, born neurodivergent, with your brain having a different structure from the beginning – maybe it can’t be changed? And I am not arguing it needs to be changed. People are beautiful in all their differences. I love diversity. But maybe it can, I am not a neurobiologist. I am merely trying to understand myself and the world around me – and I think out loud.
If I have the same struggles as a neurodivergent person has due to being neurodivergent, but due to trauma – it does not make me neurodivergent? Or does it? Or what does it make me?
Most people’s views on trauma does not seem to incorporate the problems I have. The ones that look like neurodivergence…
All this has made me angry. There is not enough understanding of the result of early and severe childhood maltreatment. What is obvious are the children that lives this out all the time. But the ones who don’t (that would usually be girls…)
Have you ever heard of masking? That is an autism phenomenon. It is when you pretend to get it. Pretend to be different than you are, to blend it. It is when you keep on wearing a mask – to be acceptable. It involves a lot of mimicking of other people, who seem to have “their shit together”.
I have done this so much. Looked for templates of how to behave. I have also openly tried to ask for the “rules”, the invisible ones I can’t sense, see or understand. I have asked for people to help me out, guide me – teach me about the codes.
Both mimicking and asking straight out antagonize people. I have, I think, made more enemies than friends this way. But how do I solve that? Always being the new one, with no connections to anyone? Not knowing how things are done “around here” (or there, or there, or there…. )
I am apparently just supposed to know something I don’t know. I am supposed to be able to correct myself, not having any idea of what I did wrong. I have this repeated experience – almost like a déjà vu (attendu) – feeling of “here we go again”… I will be told everything I do is wrong, by someone who is upset with me – for reasons that I cannot understand.
It also makes it hard to not feel stupid and rude. My level of stupid seems so epic it can’t even be explained to me, and my rudeness in saying I don’t understand, or acting out of no mal intent to be part of something – seems likewise of epic proportions.
People say to me, then they are not perhaps your people, if they cannot accept me being me… and I don’t know if to cry or laugh out loud… Maybe it is that simple? It is true that I have friends and colleagues who puts up with me, even like me. And maybe this is just another of these “trauma left-overs” – I try to be accepted by people who will never accept me, like me, want to understand me… (like my parents… why do I keep on trying to get some kind of approval by people who probably will never approve of me – if I am me?)
People tell me to “just be me”. Well. If I just had been me… If I just go with the flow of being me – I end up doing a lot of interesting things, like writing this e.g. I feel I could keep on doing this for days, and I would have so much fun! Discover so much, find new interesting data, research that I could consider… dots to connect, patterns to see (in general, in myself…) weeks could pass by – and if I do not tell myself out loud, or even in my head that there are some expectations that this will become something – it could just accidentally grow into a larger text/work… But then I am not really living “in reality” – am I? I need to make money. Market myself. Do things that are asked for. Says I, who have a hard time understanding the concept of money. Parts of me can’t even count money. Other are having a hard time taking money seriously. Other parts of me resent money (one can buy people with money). Others of us understand more, like it is a societally created reality, that we swop money with each other and use it to get what we need, like pay the rent, buy food and clothing, gas my car up…
I love my flows! I am super happy in them. But they aren’t what I am asked to do. So I will stop now and drag myself back “to reality”. Looking at my “to do list”. Getting tripped up again by my brain that asks for a definition of “discipline”. The need to go outside and disappear into nature. Having a 14-year-old part telling me it is time to “adult”.
PS. I am convinced a lot of this can be worked on, the trauma – if not healed – at least accepted – but also sometimes actually repaired – in equine assisted EXPERIENTIAL work, with a right focus on the relational aspect of it. My mind and brain – are not separate entities. Psychology and cognition, my psychological abilities are coupled with my cognitive abilities. We develop cognition as humans to survive as a social being.
PS.2… I wrote yesterday about the comfort of being given a diagnose. I used to say I am not making sense to others OR myself… But actually… I am making more and more sense to me. In the context of my experiences – I am not so strange. I lack some skills; I have others that are not particularly in demand. I am just a human, with human experiences. Maybe I just have to get used to the diagnose I have been given. Even if it does not explain the problems I try to explain here.
PS 3. And yes. I am angry. I am working on that. To not throw old anger around. Learning to accept that I cannot do anything to change anyone but myself. And I am starting to feel that I don’t want to change me, I want to change some of my behaviors, but not me. I am okay. There is nothing wrong with how I am. Maybe I am not functioning optimally. Maybe I antagonize people. Then that is how it is. I do not intend to walk around being angry about stuff I cannot change. I am working my way through this. And am making the shift of taking in what is here, listening to myself, foremost, and then to the people who are here for me, not needing to change me, but trying to understand me, as I try to understand them back.
PS.4. To summarize… Can ADHD/ADD – other neurodivergent ways of being – be attachment related? Is there a “true” biological ADHD/ADD – and trauma induced versions (or look alikes). Can traumatized brains get “damaged” by what we get (abuse), not get (proper attachment and care)? So it looks like neurodivergence? But then isn’t it neurodivergence? I don’t get this. I understand it is not black and white… and we are our neurobiology, as we are our psychological make-up. They are inseparable.
This is why I am so interested in the horse work. I see how we can work with this there. But as I see it, we need to go beyond traditional psychology and even the newer somatic approaches, there is more here. More understanding to gain. I think we need to ask ourselves how all this is related.
I might be “emotionally stupid” at times. But my brain also loves challenges, loves to look for patterns, connections, zooming in and out for details and overview… I long for great discussions.
I need to figure this out. I am making myself unhappy by trying to be something I am not. I am a multitude. I suck at conforming. I need a lot of stimulation. I love people, but I need to have some safety protocols in place – and one of those would be to stay away from people who cannot accept me the way I am? I am a bit scared that would be the majority of people. Since I repeatedly go wrong in this “how to human” – or socialize. I am being rude and disrespectful over and over – not having a clue of what is causing it.
I am the way I am – perhaps born with a different mind, more likely I became that way by my experiences and my need to protect myself. But I want to live a full life, being me, like this.
There is stuff I need to figure out. About humanity. About me. To me – it is starting to look like one quest… not two different ones.
Is this me running away from “reality”? Or is this me moving towards myself? I don’t know how to know that. I know what is expected of me.
Maybe there is nothing wrong with me, maybe what is wrong with me will always be found in the eye of the perceiver of me. And I can’t do anything about the perceivers. I am here, to have the fullest experience of life that I can have, doing it my way. With full respect for – it is probably not your way.
Still we can be human co-travelers? Meet, learn, have fun? Part? Meet again – perhaps? I want to grow my network of interesting, fun, and special people! I want to fill in the holes of what I did not experience as a child. No matter how much I re-write my childhood, I will probably not be able to call it happy. But it is stupid of me to deny myself a happy adulthood, no one knows how long I will be around (nobody knows that) – so it feels dumb to wait any longer… and then I have to give myself adult experiences, and experience adult relationships, still being me, the whole of me… I know I still have a lot to learn, that is what the experiences are for… But I admit. It makes me scared to get close to people, also for this reason. That I will upset them by not understanding how to "behave". And telling me to "just be me" isn't really working. It is particularly when I am the most me that I upset people the most. Still, I need to stop trying to fit in. Because it does not look like I can.
It sounds like I am getting closer and closer to setting sails? Into the unknown. Of still "just being me" - even if that would antagonize everyone... what choice do I have? I do not any longer wish to not be me, or to hide.
Text and pictures are copyright protected © Katarina Lundgren 2021