On the loss of autonomy and the danger of ABA, my family ‘ABA’ & my Father

I can’t stress you cannot undo a loss of autonomy in a child. They won’t understand what it means to think what they want. It took 25+ years to realise mine was gone. At 34 it got restored partially but I still experienced Autistic Burnout that almost ended my life.

They will pretend to know what you mean. They will be trying to please you. They will be unable to say no to people (and that is abused for many of us myself included). Autistic children need their autonomy intact, you have to fight for it, the world will try to crush it anyway.

This is possibly the hardest thing about being Autistic without it, figuring out you have spent decades living someone else’s life. Causing yourself stress, suicide ideation, depression, anxiety and often developing CPTSD. The most common thing I hear is “I don’t know who I am”.

I think half the reason we lose a lot of our memories from childhood is that we keep compartmentalising the parts of the mask that were broken, hiding who we were to try and be the right version of ourselves. It’s like a maze of compartmentalisation.

It was world shattering when I did get my memories back. I had hidden so much pain. My life was near constant hurt. I just kept plowing through, picking up both physical and mental stress symptoms. When my compartmentalisation broke down. I nearly died.

I got to recover. The first thing that you are conditioned into is minimising your pain. But I actually didn’t know who I was, or why I did anything in my life. I realised last year simply this – people told me to. I outsourced my life to other’s expectations.

No one should ever feel like they have been living someone else’s life. No one should have to be ashamed of the parts of themselves they’ve been coerced into hiding. There are elements that were me, but most of it broke down under any sort of external pressure, I’d conform.

Saying “no” to anything is still a radical and painful act. I mean that too. It actually is a physically painful thing to do to say “no” for me to some reasonable boundary I am trying to enforce.

I also want to point out, no one knew how bad I was. I kept up appearances. I would look ‘normal’ and ‘happy’. It was all performance art. Also when I said the “right” version, it should have been in quotes. The right version of me is the one without the mask.

If you understand that saying “no” is painful, you will understand why having anger back now is useful. I couldn’t enforce boundaries until I got my anger back. I don’t use it to be mean when enforcing a boundary, but I need it to understand one has been violated.

I didn’t get official ABA. I had brutal authoritarian caregiving for the same length and frequency from a new addition to my family. It was systematic they controlled me. Their friends would comment to leave me alone. From age 8, this is where I really lost my autonomy.

I didn’t mean to mislead anyone here. ABA is the same principles – extrinsic motivation in a reward and punishment based framework with the intent of ’extinguishing’ behaviour. I also attended authoritarian high school. Everything was about brutally conforming and I was punished.

It was their suggestion to my caregiver to threaten to glue sheep shit to my fingers to stop sucking them. But I could have a toy dog if I didn’t. I had none of my regular activities. I was policed for being me in a way the rest of my caregivers did, but were more absent.

I would wake up ever morning in utter terror because the first trial of the day was “breakfast” and it never really stopped after that. Their eyes were on me always. I had no safe haven. It wasn’t just subtle looking, it was staring like a hawk. I have PTSD from every period.

No matter how hard I tried, they’d find fault. I mean the thing about friends. I heard:
“Leave the poor kid alone”
“Will you give him a break”
“What has he done to deserve this?”

I also got really sick with stomach bugs every holiday.

I have a split in the front of my lip it doesn’t look obvious but I got it from an injury when I was 4 years old. It means I don’t form a perfect seal on glasses. Due to this quite often there was a small bit that ran down the glass. I was repeatedly punished for this every drink

This is the person I justified most as me being unfair to also. I was like “I was a bad kid, I needed discipline, it wasn’t unfair I’m overreacting”

Due to the fact I kept getting sick every time I was in this situation for roughly 10 weeks of each year. I actually thought I was being poisoned. It was stress related illness I know now, but I couldn’t work out any other reason why, and I was the only one sick all the time.

The reason I was targeted? I looked like the other parent from the divorce. I was explicitly told they hated me for that reason.

This was the most complicated part of my life. My Dad was awesome to me. He kept telling me he was going to leave them, every year he told me that. I believed it every time. He made me feel safe, but was at work when this happened most of the time. Divorce sucks.

This person made my father really toxic as a person in the end. My Dad started getting really racist. By the time he died I barely recognised him from the values he used to have I grew up around. My Dad I realised in retrospect was a people pleaser. Stuck in a toxic environment.

He became a cautionary tale for me. I never wanted to end up like him, but I also distanced myself from him. His constant betrayal at both sincerely wanting to leave, and being powerless to actually do this I didn’t understand until after he died. It still hurts.

He also did other things that I now realised are just related to the fact he was abused also. Their relationship was toxic I think for both of them. He ended up cheating on her a lot. I knew this was happening, and he didn’t come see me one time he came up to visit.

I blamed him for that, but he was missing basic human needs. I know you will say this is very forgiving of a flawed man. Understanding what I do now and having been in one relationship where I was similarly controlled and got out of eventually (without infidelity), I understand.

My dad taught me to stick up for the underdog, to never respect authority too much, to stand up for what you believed in. He protested apartheid. He campaigned for gay rights. He was a good man, who did bad actions. All his friends spoke so highly of him, he was loyal to them.

I miss him so much now. I have a bad memory for certain stuff just briefly, so I think to myself “I’ll give Dad a call”, then it hits me again with the full emotional force and no passage of time since it happened.

This quote from Seneca is for a reason:
“Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those who you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: people learn as they teach.”

For those of us with impaired autonomy, we are the company we keep.

Originally tweeted by Rory – ADHD Autistic OCD (@roryreckons) on November 17, 2021.

Rebuilding the citadel

A hypothesis for my life is that I actually listen to people far more than they realise and have internalised a lot of instructions I was given on a core level. I think scarily when autonomy was removed I outsourced control. I also got it back.

Here’s some example evidence:
* When I was told to stop flapping as a kid. My arms were completely motionless. I then got told off for that and I had to learn how to use them in drama.

* When I was told I couldn't go to the bathroom due to a car ride, and during class, I lost the ability to tell when I needed to go to the bathroom until it was utterly urgent.

* When I was told not to be so sensitive frequently I lost the ability to cry for a long time. I also did start becoming really hostile during my teens until clubbing days brought back a lot of empathy (due to reckless behaviour).

* When I was told anger was always awful I basically never expressed it or felt it. It was converted to anxiety instead. It would only be expressed when I completely meltdown from overwhelm and I could also coke can (delay the effect until it was safe). I got it back in Burnout.

* When I was told that I was being ridiculous after breaking my arm when one of my dogs ran through my legs and told to have a cup of soup and a warm bath – I stopped feeling pain as much. I broke my collarbone and it reset without knowing due to no pain.

* When I was told repeatedly by doctors that none of the issues I had were serious, I stopped responding to internal pain. I ended up in hospital despite horrific pain which I thought was mild after my bowel closed due to Crohn's disease because I hadn't digested food in 3 days.

* When I was mocked for laughing with a wheeze, and also laughing inappropriately when I have an intrusive thought about something funny I learned to supress joy, till I could no longer internally generate it. I had anhedonia until just this year.

* When I was repeatedly told that I was naughty as a child I ended up studying everything I could about bad people to ensure that I did not become one and I developed moral OCD due to the belief that I was doomed to become evil.

* If a teacher thought I was a bad kid, I was a bad kid. If they thought I was a good student, I was their near best student. I pushed myself to study really hard for classes I was hated in, but I could study with ease for classes where I was liked.

This all comes back to being conditioned out of being who I was and being forced to be someone else The problem was this caused significant issues with interoception and I was generating internal body stress – Crohn's disease was a manifestation of external stress internally.

My Crohn's disease has dissipated now I have regained control of my life and understand who I am.

One of the things I think was vital was rebuilding my "inner citadel" (a concept from Stoicism). For me this has meant development of a few things.
1. Interoception – reconnecting and asking what my body is currently feeling.

2. Metacognition – working out why I am thinking what I am thinking by thinking about it. Using science to figure out the missing pieces through hypothesis testing and searching.

3. Balancing vitamins and stuff within my body – magnesium, melatonin, vitamin B12, etc…

4. Developing mindfulness meditation and breathing exercises – these allow me to regulate my body and understand it better. It was dangerous at first and I recommend reading my issues with it first.

5. Being myself (actually living authentically) – coming out bi, non-binary, talking about my neurodivergence and CPTSD publicly and shedding shame. Understanding and researching my differences in the experiences of others.

6. Autonomy restoration – this was done unconsciously for me even though I had started to discover it was missing – it took an authority I trusted and respected believing me about my internal motivations – this was a vital component for the rest.

6. Getting back the triad of self – There are three things here:
* Self-determination (based on autonomy, competence and relatedness)
* Self-efficacy (based on self-belief)
* Self-esteem (based on self-value)

7. Reconnecting with my values – actually defining how I wanted to live and choosing five values – Empathy, Ethics, Inclusion, Reciprocal Learning, and Versatility.

8. Discovering my strengths and leaning into them in times of toughness. That I wrote a blog about here:

I have an identity now. I understand who I am and I have reconnected to me. Most of this was done outside of any therapy. I do have therapy to help me with some of the more complicated parts of my trauma which has been beneficial also.

It took nearly a year of constant hard work every day and a stubborn refusal to let myself be defined by my past. I do believe it's never too late to change who you are – we all have neuroplasticity (the ability to change brains). There is hope. My body and mind are connected.

Originally tweeted by Rory – ADHD Autistic OCD (@roryreckons) on November 17, 2021.

What can happen when you eliminate stims

The “I stopped my kid from stimming they appear so neurotypical now” to “my kid is aggressive and depressed” pipeline.

I’ve discovered the science behind stimming. It’s all self soothing stuff that generates the chemical that allows social connection and prevents the one that causes a lot of anxiety. Simplified Oxytocin(love) and Arginine Vasopressin(fear) bind to the same receptors.

If you limit our natural way to produce Oxytocin we get trapped in an anxious, fearful and depressed state.

Simply put. Stimming is joy.

This is why the only solution to helping Autistic people is to increase Autistic acceptance. Not to change us. We are trying to ensure we are regulated properly, you change that, and we are unable to.

Those of us who discovered our Autism later in life have been reverting back to the behaviours we did as children, because they contain the keys to well-being. But the internalised ableism is so hard to undo, and a lot of us have forgotten.

The more destructive stims are usually responses to pain we are feeling but are unable to express in other ways. It’s a external manifestation of internal psychological or physical pain.

I adapted btw. When my parents extinguished my Autistic stims I started turning to other forms of generation. I was lucky in some ways because I had largely absent parents due to divorce, working and poverty.

TW / sexual abuse, suicide, drug use
When they stopped me sucking my fingers, I became hypersexualised. That was an extremely bad outcome for a young child, and it was taken advantage by bad people. I also turned to substances. It was this, or plummet into despair and suicide.

Do you know who tends to be really nice and help you gain access to both those things? People who offer you one for the other.

I was a naive as hell child in many ways socially. This was really really toxic.

I was lucky I was ADHD and Autistic. My impulsive nature allowed me to find alternative forms of regulation. Sure I have PTSD from them, but the alternative would have been death. That I am sure of.

It’s been incredibly helpful to understand why I did such reckless things. I had a lot of shame from doing this stuff. Because some of it was my initiation. I was also a damn child, it wasn’t up to me to know this was wrong. I was doing logical stuff, they were taking advantage.

I didn’t discover hypersexualisation on my own. That first move was made by someone else at my fourth birthday party. When your frame of reference for acceptable behaviour is this broken, it distorts everything else.

Everyone else in my life was infantilising me. These people were not. It’s not hard to see how they took advantage of my need for agency and autonomy by showing me respect, while simultaneously abusing me.

Lonely desperate kid looks for friends in an environment people are looking for something far more dubious but it’s guaranteed to mean social contact.

This is the most obvious outcome. Add in disrespect for authority due to maltreatment and I know why I did this now.

My behaviour is entirely explainable by the intrinsic human motivations of self-determination theory:
Autonomy – I was treated as an adult.
Competence – They told me how mature and intelligent I was, making me feel competent.
Relatedness – I was being offered social connection.

Imagine if I had positive people in my life telling me this stuff from the start?

Parenting 101.

When you have authoritarian parenting which controls every part of your life, you don't know what a good and bad relationship is or what a healthy and unhealthy one is.

Kids with autonomy, competence, and relatedness intact respect themselves to know this is wrong.

You have to understand – I didn't seek help even when I was hurt here, because that was always the expectation – I should be hurt. When you are getting hurt by your parents it can't be they are wrong, it has to be that you are wrong. This means you justify and hide more pain.

Here's a thing I need other kids who look back on their past now with a lot of trauma to know.

YOU WERE A KID. NOTHING THAT WAS DONE TO YOU WAS ACCEPTABLE IF ABUSIVE.

Cry all the time hearing other people saying the same stuff I did for so long:

"I was a bad kid"
"I was trouble"
"I needed discipline"

That is the stuff that broke us. It was a failure of parenting. I know that from seeing healthy parenting now.

I got to repair my relationships with my parents. I understood how intergenerational trauma is transmitted down family lines. My dad died 3 years ago today. He was a flawed man, but he always loved me and was proud of me. I just didn't have him as a parent

Really want to make clear here it’s not survivors of abuse that have to do this and I never want to claim that. I am critiquing the systems we have and the ways we think about others.

People often wonder why we keep having bad parenting. Because I loved my parents, and I still do. They are complicated. They were doing their best. I wanted to get them help but the only help that exists involves taking me away from them. No ‘Justice’ in that. ACAB.

It's really fucked up I had to be the social service that mended my relationship with my parents. I learned all the stuff I could to understand and fix the problems. I had to find out the grey that they existed in because the world was telling me to see them in black and white.

"You aren't responsible for fixing your parents" – therapists.

Cool ? Who is going to do it then? Because cutting people out of my life is some carceral bullshit. I want to develop connection between people always.

Healing these relationships restores my humanity too.

I know people will say this is pathological.

The pathological thing is that we have this expectation, that some people are unsalvageable. It's been hard work – it's taken a lot of introspection, reading, mental fortitude developing, and care. They are more happy now than ever.

All it really took is figuring out how to communicate in the language they had been programmed into thinking about, figuring out what was driving the behaviour that hurt them, and helping them autonomously realise there is always a better way forward.

I also stopped judging them. That was the first thing I had to let go of – if I need unconditional positive regard to fix me… maybe they needed that too.

This takes some epic mastery to develop. I had to control PTSD reactions. It was a slow non-linear process.

Hurt people can hurt people. Generally no one acts negatively unless dealing with some unresolved issue.

No survivor is responsible for rehabilitating their victimzer.

When you realise everyone has the capacity to hurt others – especially those with "good intentions", it actually makes you more connected to other people, not less.

There are no good and bad people. There are good and bad actions and behaviours.

Thank you The Good Place for solidifying my moral code and belief system, and breaking down the good person/bad person dichotomy I had built in my head.

What matters isn't if people are good or bad.

What matters is if they're trying to be better today than they were yesterday.

People ask me a lot what helped most with OCD?

This show. Literally this show – it helped me more than anything else to start conquering my OCD before I even knew I had it.

I have non-cleaning OCD (except in times of extreme stress). I have moral OCD.

This show gave me the guidebook that I needed to actually make a code to live by – you will see that in a lot of what I do. Because now I just make sure I am acting in line with my code – I check to see if I violate a principle. I needed good personal boundaries too though.

Originally tweeted by Rory – ADHD Autistic OCD (@roryreckons) on November 15, 2021.

A living paradox

People often ask me how I tell the difference between ADHD and Autism.

It’s hard – so here are contradictions that make it hard to describe.

In many ways I am a living paradox. This is just my interpretation.

For me it comes down to a key internal feeling:

* I need extreme order
* I thrive in total chaos

This is the battle I deal with every day.

Autistic Behaviour:
* Excruciatingly researching purchase options in a logical fashion.

ADHD Behaviour:
* Impulse buying something that looks cool and instantly regretting it.

Autistic Behaviour:
* Loving eating the same food every day.

ADHD Behaviour:
* Hating when I notice this and needing to eat something completely new.

Autistic Behaviour:
* Living with a routine, and loving it.

ADHD Behaviour:
* Needing a routine to thrive, but hating it.

Autistic Behaviour:
* Preferring a lot of time alone and to be quiet.

ADHD Behaviour:
* Needing to be around people and be social.

Autistic Behaviour:
* Wanting to follow the rules all the time and having respect for order.

ADHD Behaviour:
* Acting illogically in a way that contradicts these rules.

Autistic Behaviour:
* Wanting to become a deep subject matter expert in a few subjects.

ADHD Behaviour:
* Wanting to be a generalist in all subjects.

Autistic Behaviour:
* Enjoying menial tasks that are soothing like sorting LEGO for hours into types.

ADHD Behaviour:
* Hating doing menial repetitive tasks.

Autistic Behaviour:
* Wanting to be quiet during conversations and offer thoughts rarely.

ADHD Behaviour:
* Needing to implicitly interrupt and say everything before losing that information.

Autistic Behaviour:
* Needing low sensory environments to account for high stimulation.

ADHD Behaviour:
* Seeking high stimulation environments for low stimulation.

Autistic Behaviour:
* Being cautious about trying new things

ADHD Behaviour:
* Running headfirst into some exciting new task without consideration.

There are shared traits too (not every either Autistic or ADHD people will have them):

* Hyperfocus
* Strong emotional feelings and empathy
* Divergent thinking
* Good problem solving ability
* Creativity
* Interest in deep thinking
* Needing to know how things work

Also:

* Stimming / Fidgeting
* Over analysing social scenarios
* Strong sense of justice
* Altruistic behaviour
* Tics
* Rumination

I also am not uniformly Autistic / ADHD in the same way.

I seem to have more Autistic days, or more ADHD days. Accounting for this feeling and trying to work out which is more dominant helps me make the best use of my day.

It can change within that day too.

The most uniform quality I have is that I am unpredictable – even to myself.

You'll never guess why I needed to become my own boss.

This is why giving up on expectations about what I should be doing or what should work is probably the thing that has allowed me to be most productive. There's no rule book on how to live when you are often two things at once.
When I developed perfectionism it sabotaged my life.

Also why I think 'structured' therapy is especially awful for us dual diagnosis people who have perfectionism issues.

Because we might be consistent one week, but then meltdown due to becoming impulsive the next.

I call myself the swiss army knife person. Use whatever works. There are no rules – stop thinking of what is right and start thinking in terms of what works.

CAVEAT: I mean in regard to organising life – don't be a hurtful person – that is a fixed rule I try never to break.

I really can't stress enough how much it's important to teach yourself failure and to be ok with it – perfectionism kills self-esteem. It's uncomfortable as all hell to start with, it grated at my soul. I literally started by leaving errors in Tweets – and that was painful.

Originally tweeted by Rory – ADHD Autistic OCD (@roryreckons) on November 15, 2021.

What I knew when I was young – how to regulate…

This kid was a genius.

This is me, Autistic clearly, at age 4 or so with my brother. I am sucking my fingers, and I am also rubbing saliva on my outer ear and making it cold.

Why would I do this? Well… I know now I think.

First lets talk about the sucking the fingers.

There’s evidence that sucking a pacifier generates Oxytocin. Here I was sucking my fingers – it would have had skin contact (you generate more with a mother’s nipple).

This lessens stress.

So the other ways mentioned there that Oxytocin can be generated – sex (everyone knows this one), and hugs.

When this behaviour was stopped for me by threat of having sheep shit put on my fingers. I became hypersexualised – a terrible result – for obvious reasons.

This destroyed a lot of my childhood. 😭

Ok…
The second thing is a bit weird. Why would you put saliva on your ear and make it cold?

Because you are stimulating your vagus nerve – also instrumental in regulating depression/anxiety and inflammation in the body in trials.

This needs two things to explain it – there is a logic leap here. You can stimulate the outer ear with electricity to stimulate the vagus nerve as described here.

Cold water seems to regulate it – sticking your face in ice cold water – here they test it (and the neck region is identified).

Ok but why both at the same time?
Well… The Vagus nerve is responsible for helping oxytocin absorption.

Apparently also my over eating might have been a compensatory technique for this – I am addicted to gummi candy. I like sucking on it. It’s very much like a pacifier, or a nipple.

Turns out – I always knew what to do to regulate my nervous system – but I was being "childish".

Seriously so mad sometimes about how we make people stop doing stuff we don't understand.

Not long after I stopped too I developed Asthma. In rat trials they have found a link between AVP (the stress chemical that takes up the same channel as Oxytocin) and Asthma. Oxytocin mediates the asthmatic effect.

Oh yeah… I got a lot more ODD after this… I was far more aggressive. Guess what Oxytocin seems to do?

REGULATE AGGRESSION.

I fucking knew what to do and I had it crushed out of me.

Wonder why people tend to have passionate sex after massive fights?

My hypothesis – regulating their nervous system.

We are built with a lot of the tools and innate knowledge about how to regulate our nervous systems it seems. We just don't be human in this society. We be whatever the fuck manners are.

One of the ways to generate oxytocin is skin contact… I think without understanding the sensory system of Autistic people you create conditions for things to get worse. I needed deep pressure hugs – my parents both do this. Light ones make me flinch.

It seems a lot of the issues around ADHD and Autism are not innate but generated by not understanding the central role of nervous system regulation for those who tend to have hypersensitivity.

This also explains why massage I think is vital not only for releasing lymphatic fluids in the calf muscles (which causes toe stepping) but to actually generate oxytocin.

Give me a research grant I am begging you.

Originally tweeted by Rory – ADHD Autistic OCD (@roryreckons) on November 14, 2021.

Communication Breakdown

In regard to the sharing a personal anecdote when people tell you something I want to explain a bit why this gets to me so much. There’s a host of reasons, but mainly it comes down to how empathy works for me personally.

There are times in my life where this has gone right, but I realise now that I have been pushed out from friend groups for using this method of communication. I have also heard:
“Why do you make everything about you?”
“OMG shut up”
“Yeah I get it you had a rough life” *snarky*

I have OCD – my biggest fear is that I am a terrible or unmoral person – this came from a lifetime of being referred to as a bad kid from a really young age. I was certain I was going to be doomed to be awful. One of my fears is that I have is that I am these things (Dark Triad) – in fact this is something that I’ve been terrified of for a long time.

A Venn diagram of the intersecting traits of Psychopathy, Narcissism, and Machiavellianism.

Ok so in context here.
Narcissism:
I use 1st person pronouns all the time (I actually do this to not generalise my experience), when I talk to others in conversation I relate things to myself. (focus on self)
By this definition I am narcissistic.

Psychopathy:
I am ADHD – I am impulsive.
I sometimes have flat affect due to either PTSD or being Autistic – ‘Emotionally Cold’
Inappropriate emotional expression – I have to perform emotions in NT ways – I had to learn acting to this.
By this definition I am psychopathic.

Machiavellianism:
I get accused of being manipulative and self-interested, I am sometimes domineering in conversations due to excitement and I like to talk about things.
By this definition I am Machiavellian.
I have the full set of Dark Triad traits.

TW / suicide
Now if I hadn’t discovered through talking to other neurodivergent people that this is a thing – there’s every chance I may have ended my life before this if I discovered this information – I was a total people pleaser and this would have made clear I was “evil”.

Here is the really frustrating part. This is a key area where there is a double empathy problem. Not only do you perceive us not to have empathy for you, you do not have empathy for our way of thinking. You attribute malice where there is none. This is really harmful.

Firstly, I need you to know that every time I have ever shared a story it’s never been a competition for “most traumatic”. I am a cooperative person – that is my default state. I do not like competing with other people. I don’t do it for this reason.

Secondly, I didn’t know that this was ever a “bad” thing, and when I tried to explain that I wasn’t trying to make it about me people got even more mad with me – this would end friendships. I now in retrospect understand why because it’s another fundamental misunderstanding.

Thirdly, there is no act I can do that is more vulnerable to me than sharing some part of my life, it’s an act of pure empathy in my view. It means I understand your experience and I want you to feel less alone. I get where you are coming from, I know this must be hard.

Finally, this is what I needed from other people but I rarely, if ever, got it. Instead people would minimise my pain – “It’s not that bad”, or “At least you are not <some condition that is worse>”, or “You are being too sensitive”. I stopped sharing anything.

For nearly a decade I never opened up to anyone beyond a completely superficial level about myself. The entire time I was breaking down alone and isolated with the things that had happened to me. This actually makes the body physically sick. I needed to release this stuff.

Last year for the first time a dear neurodivergent friend on Twitter let me “trauma dump” some really terrible stuff that had happened to me, they then said – “oh yeah that sucks, I went through… <some similar circumstance>”

I didn’t feel alone – I didn’t feel shame.

So finding out that people dislike this type of sharing seems especially brutal. I believe that for a neurodivergent person to do this it is often as an act of love and pure empathy – it means I don’t want you to walk alone. I will accompany you.

I want conditions and communication to improve. If you just need to vent – now I ask, or you could be proactive and tell me.

I just want us to get along. If you are clear in communication, we can have thriving relationships.

I never intended to take focus off you. ❤️

I want to mention if the neurodivergent person is ADHD with impulsive issues and it’s untreated – there can be extreme difficulties in getting this message through to them. ADHD untreated is like a brain goblin that smashes reasonable actions through the need for instant relief.

If someone is told and they don’t at least make an effort that could be a problematic behavior.

Originally tweeted by Rory – ADHD Autistic OCD (@roryreckons) on November 14, 2021.

What’s something about therapy most people don’t understand?

Most therapists don’t know how to do it.

If you hide behind a professional facade it’s not going to work. If you provide solutions it’s not going to work long term. If you want to affect meaningful change in your clients lives – you must respect autonomy.

Apparently most of you have humanistic client-centred therapy as the core component and you constantly fail to meet any of the conditions defined that makes it work. Read Carl Rogers stuff if you claim to know, so many have not, especially read his critiques of implementation.

If you treat therapy as formulaic or approach it with a stock idea of what you’ll deliver, you are providing the McDonalds of therapy. Short term results for a longer term harm.

If your client says they can’t do something. Your job isn’t to chastise them. It’s to find out the block. If they don’t know. You work to figure that out. You don’t use coercive methodology to get what YOU want. That is some authoritarian bs.

There is good stuff in DBT, CBT and ACT. Trauma informed approaches are the single most important part of being a good therapist. Unconditional positive regard means something, your client comes to release shame, you don’t reinforce it. Bad therapy kills people.

Before offering a tool, or method, or anything, ask if your client wants that. Because if you just ham fist some method in there – there is a massive disconnect between what the client thought the issue was and how they expected it to be handled, and what you did.

Meditation without an awareness of the risks of retraumatization is potentially fatal (speaking from personal experience). It’s not a front line tool. Systemic and social causes of issues need far more consideration.

Stop trying to define human experience in neat categories. Trauma is anything that the person found traumatic. You know trauma when you see it. It doesn’t have to be something defined. I am still traumatised by my first nightmare. I also have clinical PTSD, it’s the same.

It’s an experience or set of experiences that they keep coming back to. It’s unintegrated memory. Some part of the experience hasn’t been processed. It can take a long time to find that stuff out. Your clients can be curious about themselves in their own time too.

Even if they come up with the wildest solution or idea about what caused it, your job is never to correct that. Getting told “no it must be deeper than that” when I finished getting over some stuff made me spend weeks trying to figure out a deeper meaning it’s stuck. Validate.

TW / abuse
Most victims of childhood abuse often don’t know they’ve been abused. I wish more therapists knew that, emotional abuse is as damaging as physical and sexual abuse on life outcomes. This root cause is often not caught.

If you defensively reacted to the stuff I’ve said here or nit picked it. There isn’t really a more glaring way to declare your unsuitability to the role. Legitimately telling me therapy isn’t for me is a huge red flag. I have a good therapist.

I’m not trying to attack therapists FYI. I’m trying to get you to do the thing you want to do better. ❤️

Gonna drop this reference here. Everything I say comes from a researched perspective.

Notably, the findings highlight the importance of studying the impacts of emotional abuse, which seems to be a highly prevalent, understudied, and chronic form of maltreatment that is as toxic as other maltreatment forms.

The invisible scars of emotional abuse: a common and highly harmful form of childhood maltreatment

Originally tweeted by Rory – ADHD Autistic OCD (@roryreckons) on November 11, 2021.

Masking – Forced Incongruence

I want to talk about Masking (also known as camouflaging) – the act of appearing neurotypical.

Quite often the research around this frames it as a good thing or a conscious choice. This is rarely, if ever, the case. It’s an adaptation to extreme stress after a life time of conditioning as we are told that being ourselves is unacceptable and so we start to hide our true selves.

There’s ample research now on the negative effects of this on Autistic people, but this likely applies to any minority group that has to hide elements of their identity. For those with intersectional identities the extreme stress of hiding more and more of yourself takes a toll.

I know from personal experience. For the first 35 years of my life I kept most parts of my identity secret except to a few people. As an ADHD, Autistic, and non-binary bisexual person I was terrified growing up in a toxic masculine environment that if I showed anyone who I was – I would be outcast.

Incongruence

My favourite psychologist – Carl Rogers – talked about the fracturing of the self to create an ideal self that was unattainable.

Rogers identified the “real self” as the aspect of one’s being that is founded in the actualizing tendency, follows organismic values and needs, and receives positive others’ regard and self-regard. It is the “you” that, if all goes well, you will become. On the other hand, to the extent that our society is out of sync with the actualizing tendency, and we are forced to live with conditions of worth that are out of step with organismic valuing, and receive only conditional positive regard and self-regard, we develop instead an “ideal self”. By ideal, Rogers is suggesting something not real, something that is always out of our reach, the standard we cannot meet. This gap between the real self and the ideal self, the “I am” and the “I should” is called incongruity.

Carl Rogers – Wikipedia page

I have lived with a constant identity crisis since I was very young. I never felt like I had a fixed personality and I was terrified a lot of the time that I was a psychopath, or sociopath because of this. Whenever I interacted with people I knew that there was parts of me that I was blatantly hiding.

Simply put I was forced into trying to attain an ideal self that was:

a) Impossible for me to attain
b) Completely at times at odds with my own values

In order to fit in masking I drifted further and further away from how I perceived myself toward the ideal self created by whatever group I was in. This damaged my psyche in ways that are hard to explain. Except that every time I strayed further from my values the higher the level of internal conflict – until finally I entered a life threatening Autistic Burnout.

Phoebe Charn_Power_Tool

The diagram above is what the discovery of my full neurodivergence explained to me. The more I demask and live authentically, and shed the expectations of a society and world that doesn’t align with my own perceptions, the more stable and happy I have become.

There’s no positive benefit to masking innately for neurodivergent people who have to hide their traits. Instead it causes a huge internal hatred. Simply living to appear neurotypical is exhausting.

The way to lessen the load of the damage done to masked neurodivergent people is to allow them to take off the mask – unfortunately this isn’t an easy process. I still do it unconsciously all the time, and then realise I am extremely stressed after doing it. It’s become an instinctive performance whenever I interact with other people.

I often wonder what my life might have been like had I not had this forced incongruence. I am reconnecting with my ability to innately feel joy independent of other people – that was the first price paid for my act of ‘fitting in’. If you encourage neurodivergent people not to be themselves – they will never truly belong.

Brené Brown aptly captured the argument I am making here in her Netflix special.

I truly believe that this is why we tend to thrive in neurodivergent spaces, because we are able to be ourselves – not the broken neurotypical imitation the world forced us to be.

ADHD Acceptance Month – Acceptance means…

ADHD Butterfly Source

Acceptance means…

Acceptance means that ADHD people don’t have to go through what I did, and what so many others have.

Acceptance means that ADHD people get to create an identity rather than having it eroded.

Acceptance means ADHD people will will be able to focus on their strengths, instead of hyperfocusing on their weaknesses.

Acceptance means ADHD people will love themselves for who they are – not who they’ve been made to believe they should be.

Acceptance means ADHD people will put their own needs first, rather than living for the expectations and approval of others.

Acceptance means ADHD people will be treated with unconditional positive regard in all aspects of their lives so that they may grow into the people they want to be.

Acceptance means ADHD people will love this about themselves, rather than viewing it as a curse.

Acceptance means ADHD people won’t have to fight for basic acceptance, we won’t have to deal with uncompromising systems that seek to destroy that which makes us great.

Acceptance means a better world for everyone, a more creative, loving, human embracing society that recognises the value of all people.

Acceptance means doing my part to make this all achievable.

Acceptance means the capacity to feel love and to be loved – no one should ever be denied that.

Daily blog challenge

October is here usually known as ‘ADHD Awareness Month’ – but IMO we ADHDers deserve more than that – we deserve acceptance. We need to be listened to, we need realistic accommodations, and help. We need to start moving toward ADHD Pride Month. People should be able to feel proud of being ADHDers, because the alternative is shame.

For 31 days I will be writing every day on being an ADHDer using this list of prompts:

ADHD Acceptance Month – Hyperfocus

ADHD Butterfly Source

The blessing and the curse

Hyperfocus is incredible, and incredibly frustrating. An extreme amount of time dedicated with a single focus on anything that your mind deems interesting… only it’s whatever your mind deems interesting – spend 3 hours learning about the history of the Venezuelan political system… only that you should have been doing the dishes.

Hyperfocus has got me through some tough times, in fact I think a large part of my survival is due to hyperfocus. During my Bachelor of Software Engineering we had a insurmountable workload – this meant that I had to pull all-nighters – a familiar concept to many ADHD people I am sure. People were always surprised that I wasn’t tired, the truth is that when in hyperfocus state, it takes utter exhaustion for me to finally cease doing the thing – if no one interrupts me.

At the same time, hyperfocus has probably taken a few years off my life due to focusing well past the limits of reasonable expectations. I once was awake 70 hours stuck playing World of Warcraft when it first came out during a holiday. I had also not eaten and barely drunk anything – when I was alone at home, with no one checking on me. I nearly didn’t make it to my bed I was so exhausted.

It’s the single most powerful benefit of ADHD for me personally, but it’s not controllable in the way that would actually make it a superpower most of the time – instead it’s like having laser vision that I waste hours heating up a lake with, rather than anything useful.

Hyperfocus is also what makes rumination intense. It shuts out any response to anything else in my head. I get stuck in a cognitive pattern, intensely experiencing whatever negative emotion or experience I have had on a seemingly infinite loop until something somehow breaks in.

Of all the things I wish I had more control over, this is the one I would want to be able to use like a switch – in this state I don’t really exist, my internal monologue ceases, there’s a single minded intense focus on whatever I am focusing on, I tune out nearly 90% of the world around me with only misophonic sounds bringing me back.

An island get away in my head, to an undefined island – sometimes good, often bad.

Daily blog challenge

October is here usually known as ‘ADHD Awareness Month’ – but IMO we ADHDers deserve more than that – we deserve acceptance. We need to be listened to, we need realistic accommodations, and help. We need to start moving toward ADHD Pride Month. People should be able to feel proud of being ADHDers, because the alternative is shame.

For 31 days I will be writing every day on being an ADHDer using this list of prompts: