I have autism and ADHD.
I’m 40 years old and I received my diagnosis for both conditions when I was 39 years old.
I won’t pretend to be a guru about either condition. I’m doing my best to furiously sprint up an insanely steep learning curve to understand both conditions.
Both neurodiverse brain types have great advantages (hyper – focus, creativity, etc) but they also come with challenges.
An inability to regulate is a major challenge. I struggle to regulate my focus (ADHD) and I struggle to regulate my emotions and reactions (ADHD and autism).
One of the things that has plagued me has been how to navigate social interactions.
I don’t always understand context or boundaries in conversation. If someone opens up and shares information with me, I do the same. But I don’t understand what I can and can’t share. I can’t figure out what details to include and what details to exclude.
Autism, or at least my experience with my autism, it makes me view things in a binary way.
You get all the details of my life or an anecdote or none.
This is tricky in social interactions because at best, you’ll bore the shit of someone.
Worst case scenario? You’ll upset someone because of details that could be triggering or just plain unnecessary.
I’ve lost friendships this way. Only recently I had a chat where I struggled with context and boundaries. I needed to tell someone the ending of the story. The headline of the story to be more precise. But I gave a bunch of super upsetting details along the way.
They told me to stop. I did.
But they got understandably upset. I started to panic and apologised.
But on the inside, I was having a complete meltdown. I wanted to go into another room and have the kind of meltdown that can be common when you’re autistic and can’t regulate your emotions in a difficult situation.
I didn’t. But I did cry. The other person told me it’s cool. I made a mistake, they set a boundary. They told me they won’t think or obsess about this again. But, they’re aware that I will, because of my autism.
They’re not wrong.
It’s been a day and I’ve obsessed and beat myself up about it and even poured through memories of when I’ve had these experiences with other people in the past and they were not so understanding or forgiving.
Having autism is hard.
Having ADHD is hard.
Having both ADHD and autism?
It makes life incredibly challenging because you will find socialising, navigating a work environment and getting through the education system really difficult.
With regards to my social life, I’ve lost a lot of friends along the way due to my quirks which I now realise were the challenges from ADHD and autism.
What’s changed since then?
I had to advocate for myself and get referrals on the National Health Service (NHS) for ADHD and autism assessments.
Since being diagnosed I’ve done more research on both neurodiverse brain types.
Self awareness is really important.
I’m lucky that I have an incredible partner and great friends. I can be open with them about my autism and ADHD.
They are kind, patient and understanding.
They accept for who I am and let me be me.
In parallel I’m working hard to understand my neurodiversity better so I can make the most of my gifts and be of service to others.
I have autism and ADHD.