No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.Heraclitus
Last year was a year of great personal growth for me. From the confirmation in early January from medical personnel that I was Autistic (a process I wouldn’t engage in personally again due to stigmatisation, and realising how little this profession actually knows about neurodivergence in general).
2020 in Review:
I spent a lot of time introspecting on life. From that I started to ask myself a few key questions:
- How exactly did I get to where I am today?
- Who am I at my core?
- What should I focus on going forward?
How exactly did I get to where I am today?
From that I started to read a lot. I’ve read probably 5000+ hours worth of information on neurodivergence, science around being an AuDHDer (Autistic + ADHD), and general neuroscience, biomedical science, and theories of cognition. Piece by piece I was able to put together an understanding of why my life had turned out as it did. There were a couple of key discoveries:
My Autonomy Was Lost at a Young Age
During the course of my reading, I came across a concept known as autonomy. The definition of this I find to be best by the APA:
the experience of acting from choice, rather than feeling pressured to act. This form of autonomy is considered a fundamental psychological need that predicts well-being.autonomy – APA Dictionary of Psychology
From a young age this was crushed out of me for being neurodivergent, and the loss of my ability to live a life that was self-determined had repercussions that lasted until last year.
One of the ways I describe my pre-identification existence is that I felt like a tourist in my own life. There were elements of who I wanted to be and thought I was throughout my life, but when challenged by another person I would cave to their will. I was a people pleaser through and through. Only expressing my autonomy when reaching breaking point – often with devastating consequences for my self esteem as I tried to uphold a boundary that I should have had a long time ago.
The loss of my autonomy started a chain of thought that left me on uncertain ground – there was a question I had to answer now – Who am I?
Who am I at my core?
Before the full discovery of my being Autistic I had decided to become an ADHD Coach. I had enrolled into a course with ADDCA that I completed in October last year. I am now an ICF Member and very close to having the hours required to qualify for my first Accreditation (Associate Certified Coach).
Making a career change in my late 30’s again for the fourth (or fifth?) time in my life was something I had serious doubts about – I spent six weeks contemplating if this was something I actually wanted to do or just another ADHD impulse. It was, and it was self-determined too.
I expanded my knowledge and I am now also a coach who specialises in Autistic coaching as well. Undergoing training through Kieran Rose’s The Inside of Autism Course in order to upskill on top of what I was researching in science. This is a course I would recommend to any person interested in what it truly means to be Autistic.
I love my job – I do pro-bono work as well as paid coaching – you can find details of my coaching services on my work website – Eudaimonic Coaching.
But this was just my career – this isn’t who I am – no person is their job, as much as the world tries to make us believe that this is the case – we are worth more than our productive value.
In the last year I have finally realised one truth – I am fluid. My personality isn’t fixed. The concept of a self is foreign to me, and through reading Taoist philosophy, I have come to accept that not having a self is perhaps better than trying to strive toward an ideal that I could never understand. I have qualities that I try to express at all times – I have strengths that I cherish, but I am a slightly different person each day.
It’s taken me a long time to get to where I am – I am as close as I can be to self-actualized as an individual as you probably can be when you will probably never have the respect needed to reach that level from this society to truly be myself. I still must deal with the struggles of being neurodivergent in this world, but I am at peace with who I am now.
Now that I have found an inner peace after living decades in turmoil, scrambling to try and be everything to everyone – I am taking a step back from doing that. I am allowing myself to be an imperfect, flawed, and varied person. I am no longer striving to reach levels I have no personal aspiration to reach – I care not for fame, fortune, or glory – in truth I never have, but I questioned why I thought this constantly – now I have answers. I just want to live a peaceful life where I try to endeavour to make the world a better place however I can.
This has lead me to ask one final question:
What should I focus on going forward?
This is tough to answer. There are a few ideals I want to be true to:
- I want to be authentic always – I never want to hide behind a professional facade that is encouraged by this world – I want to give people the what you see is what you get version of me at all times.
- I want to learn and impart knowledge and understanding to anyone willing to listen and listen to everyone who will help teach me (non-judgementally) in return – I exist in a perpetual state of growth. Each day I try and nourish my mind with new information, I try to help those who I can, and I try to listen to new perspectives that help me ask more important questions.
- I want to write in addition to coaching. I have always wanted to write or be creative, or perform. I dreamt of being an actor at one stage, something lost during the loss of my autonomy. I also wanted to be a creative writer – but I have creative scars that make me question my abilities – a block I am working on to move forward. In the mean time I am writing an autoethnography – my life explained through science – and the loss and rediscovery of myself.
I am going to write more purposefully this year on my blog. I am aiming to have a series of blogs each month (with these topics rotated a bit as to not overcommit myself), as well as developing a community around my writing – at the moment I think the series will probably encompass these topics:
- The Recent Science of ADHD
- The Recent Science of Autism
- Musings on Philosophy (with a general focus on what it means to live a good life)
- How I Create Joy in My Life as an AuDHDer
- Random Theory of the Month
These will probably be on a monthly rotation with a lot of work going into each one. Last year I focused on volume of writing, and I developed a lot of skills doing it. The focus this year is going to be on quality of that writing.
Starting this year off right
This is probably the best first week I have ever had of any year in my life. I have been to the beach everyday with my wife and our new dog Simba (pictured below – A Beardy/Smithfield Cross):
I have started eating a low-histamine diet – one of the other recent discoveries is that I most likely have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, and with it a histamine intolerance. I will be doing a blog on this soon for the ‘Random Theory of the Month’. On this diet I have had a massive decrease in both sensory overwhelm, and an increase in short term memory function and a loss of brain fog.
I have spent quality time with my wife – my one New Year’s resolution this year was to spend more quality time with my wife. We were married in January 2020 (we have been together nearly ten years though), and shortly after I went through Autistic Burnout that took me the better part of the last two years to recover from (almost) completely. I want to spend more time with the person who carried me through my worst time, and make it more enjoyable.
I am trying to do less this year in general. I pushed myself far too much for 38 years, and I am going to ease up on myself and try slowing down even more than last year.
Thank you to all who read this blog – and as part of my community I am launching a Ko-fi again – the proceeds of which will be used to fund more pro-bono coaching for clients.
I hope that you can focus on the part of 2022 that you can make good for yourselves – the parts you have control over – because the parts we don’t are going to suck from early indications.
Have a great year and will write again soon!