Between Labels: Living neuro-confused in a neurotypical world4 min read

Somewhere between the autistic and ADHD worlds is where her exis­tence lies, a flux brought on by gender stereo­types, label stigmas, and a reluc­tance for pat­terns to change. The rules were written long before her birth by those who have never lived in either place.

Knowing for sure would feel like putting the per­fect title on a book– the words were written all along. Hiding allows her to remain safe from all of those who don’t know– they don’t know her truth. 

They don’t know how much she strug­gles with the right words. She is accused of being too blunt after working so hard to get it right. She pushes those feel­ings down. 

She finds respite in nature, often losing track of time, admiring the intri­cate pat­terns of a leaf, watching sand fall loosely through her hands, or absorbing the rhythms of the waves rolling in. They don’t under­stand the beauty that comes with this world- suc­cess, money, and social status are more impor­tant to them. So she keeps it to her­self…

She is begin­ning to find a kin­dred to accept her “quirks.” Would they accept a label? The absence of one? Is she enough? So she stays quiet. 

They don’t know when it gets to be too much, she runs or tries out the latest bourbon. Eventually it will catch up. For now…she pushes it all down. 

She cries her­self to sleep at night wor­rying for her child. They say it’s some­thing that all mothers do. They don’t know the guilt she feels because he is just like her.

His sen­si­tive spirit strug­gles when it is all too much. The world needs to see his true beau­tiful soul — not what others project on to him. So she cries until someone sees her, then she takes a breath and pushes all those tears of guilt down…

They say everyone has trouble with phone calls. They don’t know that she writes down exactly what she needs to say- each and every time. She pushes those feel­ings of inad­e­quacy down. 

She’s grateful to live in a sunny place where she can hide behind dark sun­glasses. They don’t know that she is pro­tecting her eyes from more than just the sun’s rays. 

No one knows that she often won­ders when it’s all going to fall apart. She feels like she’s barely holding her head above water most days. 

As a pro­fes­sional she hides– par­ents would say she is not like their child. Yet their child stares at her eyes and into her soul as if meeting a long lost friend. Their child sees her for what she is. 

She pre­tends she doesn’t like to cook and often makes jokes. In reality, the atten­tion span required is just too much. The old gender stereo­type reveals its ugly head more times than she can count. So she pushes that feeling down.

A stranger at a party said she could be a come­dian– she laughed it off. She’s just overly honest some­times. She pushed those feel­ings down, too. 

They don’t know how she feels like a fraud. Her job is to help others remain calm, but she is unable to do it for her­self. 

They invite her out, but she fre­quently declines. All the parts, pieces, and feel­ings in a large group stick to her body like glue. She’s exhausted and needs to sort out all the pieces. They just don’t know so she pushes the frus­tra­tion down. 

She tunes out more often than she con­nects. The sights, sounds, smells, and even the wind blowing can take over her brain. She feels all the things and it’s usu­ally too much. 

They say everyone strug­gles and her faults are due to being a young working mom. They don’t know it was always like this. 

She doesn’t invite close friends over because she’s ashamed of the dis­or­ga­ni­za­tion. She doesn’t know where to start, and so she hides. 

They don’t know her love of the water. She often dreams of laying in the ocean with the waves flowing past to soothe her soul. 

She’s a person between two neu­ro­di­ver­gent worlds and not sure if she fully belongs in either. It is as if she belongs nowhere and every­where at the same time. She pre­tends in one world and isn’t fully val­i­dated in another. She pushes the doubt and frus­tra­tion down. 

She tries to pour her feel­ings out on paper. The words are inad­e­quate for the visions and feel­ings inside. So she con­tinues to hide…

She can sense the storm brewing inside. The emo­tions spew forth with the fury of a mas­sive thun­der­storm on a hot summer day. The tears and anger cleanse her soul as it flows through her body. Just like wind blown trees are a new begin­ning in the forest, she too will begin again. Until they learn her truth and accept her for who she is, the energy will build like warm humid air on a hot summer day.


  1. I hear you. I, too, am caught between those two worlds. And I sus­pect sev­eral others are, too — we just don’t know how to find each other.

    We have learned our lines, and deliver our sto­ries with the skill of a lauded Oscar winner. Our masks are honed to per­fec­tion; they fit too pre­cisely and no one guesses at the con­stant struggle churning beneath the sur­face.

    We live life under­cover as it appears to be the only safe way to exist in this harsh, unre­lent­ingly crazy world we find our­selves in. But we cannot keep up the pre­tence without paying the price for it in the longer term. And it is a very heavy price to pay. Occasionally we catch glimpses of our fellow kin — and maybe them us? But we are so scarred, so burnt that we shield our­selves fur­ther — because of the inherent danger in reaching out to another masked inbe­tweener, only to find our­selves exposed for who we really are.

    I am glad you have Nature as friend and healer, she is our con­stant ally.

    Just know — you are not alone.

  2. I love this (and it makes me cry) — this is pretty much EXACTLY how I feel! It is beau­tiful, thank you so very much.

  3. This. All of it!

  4. How do you know where you stand? As a child I had selec­tive mutism and as a result I was tested in school. Rather than being delayed I was found highly gifted. I was also diag­nosed with GAD. At 23, adhd. Now my kids are just like me and as I read I find so much cross over between GT, adhd and ASD and feel con­fused as how the cri­teria has changed since I was a child. I just know I am an amazing out of the box problem solver and cannot adult.

  5. I just don’t know. 😢
    Whenever I read things like this I have to shove down a wave of emo­tion & yet if I try to com­pare I’m filled with doubt!
    I feel like my expe­ri­ences are just that little bit less dra­matic than most who are diag­nosed or self-diagnose with cer­tainty.
    Those things I’m pushing down seem so small when I con­sider them objec­tively & yet I feel such emo­tional kin­ship when I read these tes­ti­mo­nials.
    What does it mean to be masking just a little all the time?
    When you don’t always think about it because it seems so normal, but then sud­denly you’re so tired? When many things seem to require just that bit more effort than feels ok, but you don’t tick enough of the boxes with enough quite severity or per­sis­tence to get val­i­da­tion from the required lables for this to be recog­nised.
    What does it mean when your self-censorship extends even when you’re alone? When you can’t remember a time when the ‘other you’ wasn’t watching your back to try to ‘improve’ your­self?
    When you’ve mas­tered low level hyper­fo­cussing & dis­as­so­ci­a­tion to ‘adjust’ your expe­ri­ences to a more com­fort­able level so long ago that it’s almost sub­con­scious. This makes coping easier, but cre­ates doubt, maybe my expe­ri­ences are NT ‘normal’… then why do I struggle?
    When you feel full of oppo­sites that somehow make things look bal­anced & ‘normal’?
    When you can’t tick their damn boxes for one thing because the ‘other’ you wants to tick a seem­ingly oppo­site trait for the other lable, so it seems to sub­jec­tive & you can’t tick either..

    What do you do when you’ve researched so much, read the self help books, the phi­los­ophy, had the CBT & coun­selling for anxiety/depression & finally man­aged to put together enough pieces that you have a mil­lion coping mech­a­nisms & strat­a­gies set up on semi-automatic.
    You manage well — you’re proud of it… like you’re win­ning some kind of absurd game.
    Then some­thing slips & nothing works & you’re sud­denly you’re burnt out & not coping, without really knowing what happened/why it sud­denly fekt so much harder.
    What does it mean when this hap­pens too fre­quently, often with recog­nis­able pat­terns from those lables you can’t quite wear?
    I am not ‘dis­or­dered’. Yet they seem bizarre, even while I can read them & see how to play their games. Why does it not feel quite nat­ural?
    I have known for so long that I seem to think/experience just that bit differently/more intensly. So why is it, when I finally learn enough to recog­nise a greater sense of con­nec­tion & kin­ship with others who aren’t NT, that I can’t feel jus­ti­fied in con­sid­ering myself part of their family either?…

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