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the life and times of a neurodivergent sexagenarian

Love and Chaos - A Lifetime Journey with ADHD

Through the most interesting of events I have found myself in the Spectrum realm joining many brilliant individuals in a neurodivergent world. "Spectrum" and "Neurodivergent," and "Neurotypical are fairly new terms to many of us who had no reason to know! In a nutshell, neurotypical people process life in systematic, reasonable and analytical ways - neurodivergent refers to individuals with not typical brain function and land somewhere on the neurodivergnt "Spectrum" - Autism, OCD, Aspergers, and ADHD, to name more familiar diagnoses - Fascinating developments by neuroscientists provide information as the experts at offer:

Operating under the assumption that different parts of the brain have separate functions, neuroscientists have made remarkable progress toward understanding how the brain works. They have discovered that vision happens at the back of the head, that a tiara of tissue at the top of the brain sends commands to the muscles so that the body can move, and that a small structure beneath the ear has the specific responsibility of recognizing faces. All of these regions are made of gray matter, a type of tissue that contains neuron cell bodies and covers the surface of the brain.

Underneath lies the white matter, which stretches in bundles of fiber between regions of gray matter and carries messages all over the brain. But though figuring out the function of a particular piece of gray matter can be straightforward enough—look for someone with damage to that area and see what they are unable to do—white matter has proven more difficult to pin down. “For a long time, we’ve been ignoring that connectivity because we didn’t know how to talk about it,” says Danielle Bassett, professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

In the past few decades, however, researchers like Bassett have leveraged new brain-imaging technologies and mathematical tools to start probing the mysteries of these connections. Together, they have formed a new discipline known as network neuroscience. Some researchers have demonstrated that disorders from schizophrenia to stroke appear to be dependent not on individual brain regions, but on the circuitry among those regions. Outside the realm of disease, other scientists have used brain networks to gain a better understanding of how our personalities and other traits differ. As the field continues to progress, scientists armed with network neuroscience may be able to predict who will develop a particular disease, understand the brain processes underlying its symptoms, and design better treatments for it. “The overwhelming amount of evidence is saying that if you want to understand brain function, symptoms, brain disease, that the fundamental unit of how the brain operates is not a brain region but a brain circuit,” says Michael Fox, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

Such research will lend much to the conversation around mental illness.. In addition to those mentioned above, other neurodivergent disorders include, dyslexia, dyscalculia, epilepsy, hyperlexia, Dyspraxia, and Tourette syndrome (TS), are collectively referred to under the umbrella term of "Spectrum."

So there is a little background.

Indviduals who are managing one or more of these neurodivergent traits have generally been lost in our social structures - traditional classrooms for example, where ADHD children raise havoc...the opinions have generally been that they are undisciplined, bratty little humans who need a good spanking. As one of those kids, who spent her entire 3rd grade year outside the classroom door for one infraction or another, talking, not staying in my seat, interrupting, blurrting...I can tell you the humiliation of this would have inspired me to behave differently, except, the energy levels associated with ADHD would not have it.

This is my story - and I share it with the hope of educating the skeptical public. If you have not had to personally manage one or more of these disorders, you cannot know the devestating impact on these children - like me, for example.

My parents were desparate to understand why their first born was in trouble all of the time. They had me see a psychiatrist who after testing told them I had a very high IQ - and that I was most likely bored. Well, the administration at my public elementary school had no extra resources for me, so we all had to suffer through my grade school years. I managed to advance through each grade with "just barely passing" grades. My parents were baffled and constantly lecturing, "pay attention!" "try harder" "concentrate more" "...if you would only apply yourself" - "sit effing still!!" (The would never say the "effing" emphasis)

I went on my first date as a freshman in high school with a senior who was taking me to his senior prom. He came with a six pack of beer. I drank 5. The inner rev I lived with my entire life calmed down to a gental roll and my love affair with alcohol was born that day. Without any adult awareness, I drank my way through high school and fortunately, no embarassing episodes of outside classroom sitting. But the self-esteem damage had been done so I was pretty much a fake person walking around trying to fit in and not make a spectacle of myself. Don't worry, I managed to do that, but alcohol dimmed the impact of humiliation and I got by. (Today, 50 years later I meet my high school girlfriend at the beach for a weekend. I relay this to them and they laugh it off. "You were not a spectacle, you were tons of fun and we adored you." I had no idea.

I have much to say about not only the relationship of substance abuse to Spectrum disorders, but medication, tools for parenting, enjoying the magnificent company of quirky humans who bring depth and breadth to loving relationships.

Today, I celebrate the many resources in place for spectrum individuals. And I celebrate the miracle of any neurodivegent human who shows up with love and lessons for all who desire to know and grow.


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