Diagnosing My Parents

I’ve spoken often of both my parents in this blog. I spoke about my mom in a tribute to her on Mother’s Day and in my coming out story. My father I have spoken about many times, about his photography lessons, and his own health and diet issues in my ode to fat, which was also an ode to my dad. (That’s not a comment on his physique, he’s very slender now. Mostly because of his high fat diet. It’s a whole thing, just trust me.)

What I’d like to talk about now, is a bit tricky. You see, my relationships with my parents are two of the best and most complicated things in my life.

They are good relationships, let me say that first. I love my parents very much. I know that they did their best in raising me (which was a damn good job, in my opinion. Any trauma that comes from my childhood was always because of societal pressure, not them personally.) I am obnoxiously close to my mother, and still very close to my father as well.

Honestly, I am a complete and total mash up of the two of them. Some kids might have a few traits of each of their parents, and others really favor one or the other. I look and act, exactly like BOTH OF MY PARENTS.

I have a few pictures from their youth that I think really show this off, like the one above, I’m pretty sure that if you morphed their faces together, it would be me. Like one of those facebook future child picture generators. Seriously, just remove the mustache. And then of course, this more informal black and white gem below.

Personally, I think my Dad is rocking those shorts, and my mom very typically has paint on her jeans. She was constantly painting our house when I was a baby. My first memory of her is with paint specs on her glasses. But those crinkly hooded eyes on my Dad- I have those. That pale freckled coloring on my Mom? I have the sunburns to prove it.

Like I said, I am a complete mash up of the two of them. Which begs the question…

If I am autistic, OCD, ADHD, and Bipolar… what are they?

It’s a tough thing to discuss because it is so intensely personal. And what I know is only what I have researched myself. Neither of my parents are formally diagnosed but I think they have come to terms with some of their more neurodiverse traits, or at least copped to them, for me. I do know that whenever I bring it up, each of them gets a bit tense.

That stigma is hard to break. And the self-loathing ableism and shame cycle is the worst of all. I think of this especially when I think of my father. (Mom too, but I will get to her in a second.)

With my father- his mother, my grandmother, was like me, I think. But in a time when mental health was not only misunderstood but often criminalized and institutionalized… well, she obviously wasn’t going to explore that side of herself. But I’ve concluded, from family stories, and her behavior that I recall from my childhood, that she had trouble connecting with people, even my father.

I honestly don’t know enough to say one way or the other. I prefer to think that she was more like me, than say, she just didn’t like us, my family. We are delightful. So it couldn’t be that.

At the start of this year, I was in a pretty terrible fight with my father. I mentioned it in my coming out story. We have since come to understand each other better, in a way because that fight was so much about clashing similarities. Or our inabilities to properly communicate.

A sign of autism.

I am not going to say that my father is autistic. Not officially. He has MANY of the hallmarks of autism, and I know he holds a lot of trauma from living in a society that expects you to communicate in only one way, but calling out someone as autistic, like Babe Ruth pointing out a shot, is not helpful to the person who is coming to terms with their identity. And I don’t know that he will ever really see it until he starts looking for it. But they are definitely there. I see him.

In fact, this is probably what I was most angry about. His inability to see himself, was somehow, a rejection of me. And all the times that his self-loathing showed through by being hard on me about being “overly- sensitive,” or communicating properly, or any of the other traits we shared- that made my blood boil.

In fact, the first breakthrough in our argument was when he admitted to sharing these traits with me. With just that connection, I was able to let go and forgive everything else. And in fairness to my father, I was dealing with a lot of trauma, fixation, and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria during this phase of our relationship. I would not put him “at blame.” Just like me, he was doing his best.

Now, my mother. My mother, because we are so close, I have very rudely told her “You are so ADHD” about a million times. And it wasn’t like some insult. I was letting her know like I might tell her that her shoe was untied. She’s still on the fence, I think.

Why? She’s a special education teacher. More than that, she’s a tenacious person. And somehow, I feel like she thinks that you can’t have ADHD and be tenacious. She once said to me, after I called her out, “I have multiple degrees, you know.” To which of course, I was like, “Grandpa built multiple houses, Walt Disney built multiple worlds. ADHD does not stop you from being successful.”

By the way, my grandfather was definitely ADHD. I will call that one with surety. (Especially because he passed away almost twenty years ago, so I don’t think I will be hurting his feelings or causing any internal struggle.) Anyway, he always had multiple projects going, had a bit of short fuse, and was constantly thinking. He and Walt would have been good friends. Especially, with Walt’s obsession with trains. My grandfather worked for a railway company as an engineer for many years.

Off topic. I know.

My mother has the same kind of tenacity as my grandfather, and Disney too. She never stops. She’s always thinking, always moving forward. And for the most part, this is a super power of hers. BUT she also has time blindness. Hyperfocus can sometimes effect her health when she stays up until all hours of the night to finish a project. And she has trouble with sequencing.

All trademarks of ADHD.

I’ve come to terms with their refusal to see some of these issues within themselves. It’s understandable. But an interesting thing happened on Mother’s Day.

I was chatting with my mom on the phone and some ADHD things came up and she apologized for not having done anything to help in my youth, and I said, “Don’t worry about it too much. They were so focused on boys with ADHD that they probably wouldn’t have even tested me.”

There was a bit of a pause. Then she told me that many of my teachers asked for me to be tested for ADHD. But she thought that I just wasn’t doing things like my homework because I had no interest in them. And I wondered, did she think all the other traits of ADHD I was showing were normal, because she also has ADHD?

I forgave her immediately because that is my nature. And also because I am very close with my mother, and for any wrongs that she did me, she also supported me through a lot of hardships…

But it’s there still. In my mind. That lost time… What would I have done with it? Maybe I would have finished college? Maybe I could have done better in high school instead of regularly flunking out of classes that I daydreamed through? I would at least know that I wasn’t broken.

It certainly explains why, when I started to question my neurotype, in particular, about possibly being autistic, she kept saying, I think you are more ADHD than autistic. Not because ADHD was more socially acceptable than autism, like I thought, it was because people had been telling her I had ADHD for years.

Nonetheless, my path was my path. I know who I am, my identity is secure, and like I said, for every wrong that they did to me, they also supported me and taught me what is truly important.

If you are considering the traits of your own parents, I suggest that you try to forgive them for the wrong calls that they made for you and for themselves. Sure, you can try and help them come to their own realizations with information or subtle suggestions. But you can’t really go further than that, you can’t diagnose them.

As for me? My diagnoses for my parents is that they are human. They have made mistakes, there is no doubt. But they also did their best.

And that best, was still pretty great.

NEURODIVERGENT GLOSSARY Part 1

I have noticed as I go from one Autism support group to another that there is often a lack of understanding in the terminology surrounding Autism and neurodiversity. This is very important for one reason: Fights are constantly starting over miscommunications.

More than that, people are starting to use dog whistle manipulations to start those fights. Meaning that the environment is so charged with tension that a word will SET the page on FIRE. It’s unhealthy and it’s unhelpful. And while, yes, I am on a mission to stop it, I also just want people to be informed. So, you can safely navigate the politics of Mental Health and Autism, both online and in the world, especially when it comes to parents who are trying to provide services for their children.

With that in mind, once it is done, I will be adding this series of Neurodivergent Terms and their explanations to the Neurodivergent Survival Guide under the Me(ntal Health) category on the main menu. And while I will be putting some of my opinion into these definitions I will also be trying to be as unbiased as possible, so that you can make your own decisions.

NOTE: While the majority of these terms are not controversial, the highlighted definitions can be highly controversial and triggering. Use with an abundance of caution and kindness.

Let’s get started, after the jump.

Continue reading “NEURODIVERGENT GLOSSARY Part 1”

The struggle is real

In my quick little “hello” that stays on my main page. You will see the part about “psyching myself up to do the dishes.”

This is not a joke.

Dishes are literally one of the hardest things I do. This comes down to three things- hyperosmia, ADHD, and Executive Dysfunction.

If you remember from previous blog posts, hyperosmia is a sensitive sense of smell. And dishes are one of the worst. Usually it is because it is a very complex smell of food particles, old pipes and garbage disposal. So, to even contemplate doing the dishes, I have to first make sure that there is no draining water from the washing machine or dishwasher itself, because that will cause water to back up the badly managed pipes and the smell will literally slap me in the face.

No, I meant literally, not figuratively. That’s how hyperosmia works. It can be a very physical reaction to scent. Something that is also more ASD related is my very sensitive sense memory. So, just contemplating doing the dishes causes me to get a whiff of those kinetic memories.

I know, I know. It’s just the dishes! Stop being a wuss!

That’s what I said to myself for all those years. It was also what my shittiest therapist said. I’m still a little annoyed at him for this one.

He claimed to “blow my mind” with the particular “revelation” I am about to tell you. (And first of all, if someone says, “I just blew your mind” They didn’t. So don’t be that douce-bag. Let someone tell you that you blew their mind.)

Ok, so I am explaining to him my issues with the smell and the sense memory, and the executive dysfunction (more on that later) and he stops me.

“Have you noticed that all the things that you have described, laundry, dishes, garbage- they are all things that you don’t like doing?” he says. Then he smiled at me like he was the fucking Wizard of Oz, finally giving me my brain.

I was dumbfounded, it’s true, but not because of his “revelation.” But because he fucking didn’t know how ADHD worked.

So I said, “Because that’s how ADHD works….”

He looked confused for a moment. And then my mind truly was blown. I knew more about ADHD than this fucking professional.

For a quick lesson to anyone reading that doesn’t know as much about ADHD (and that’s ok for the average blog reader. If you’re a therapist, I might suggest brushing up before your next session with someone who has ADHD.) Anyway, when you have ADHD you also have low dopamine levels. So you are drawn to things with instant gratification to increase your insufficient dopamine levels. Say like, if you dig video games. You will play hours, and hours, and hours, of video games just to feel like you have the right amount of dopamine. (From my understanding, that’s why things like stimulants work for people like us.) I know, I know, say “dopamine” again.

Dopamine. It’s that important.

Anyway, my point is, the therapist took a legitimate physical problem I have and turned it into a character flaw…

ADHD is not a character flaw.

So, withstanding this ridiculous man, how do I deal with things like dishes with a sensitive ADHD mind? First, I try to not let it pile up. Try and do them as I dirty them. But that’s not always easy. Like when you come down with a once in lifetime pandemic virus and you have to quarantine yourself from your family. (Just an example, of course.)

In that case, things did get piled up. My husband, who’s routine did not involve dishes, and was already being pushed to a breaking point with his own quarantine changes, couldn’t pick up the slack. For part of the time, we honestly just switched to paper plates. (I know they aren’t environmentally friendly. But sometimes you have to put your mental health above everything else.) I understood why he couldn’t do the dishes. His focus needed to be on his job and our son. And honestly, I know a large part of his focus was distracted on whether or not to take me to the hospital a couple of times.

Again, so how do I deal with this?

When it gets piled up like that I do a few things. First I address the scent as much as possible. I light my favorite candle. Pour a little alcohol or baking soda, or something with a very strong scent, down the garbage disposal and run it for a few minutes with hot water. I also have some garbage disposal foaming cleaners if I really need to feel like I have eradicated the irritants. But they kind of make me feel weird. It’s hard to explain, but it’s really gross because often the foam will bring up “old particles.” Uhg, I can’t say more without giving myself some kind of gag reflex.

Then I glove up. Rubber dish gloves are a god sent. I have a minor problem in that my son keeps stealing my gloves but I usually have a pair that have not been absconded with- so I glove up! This gives me a very basic separation from the sensory issues that come with doing the dishes. (I apron up, too. I am an ample bosomed woman, and I don’t like having my own wet t-shirt contest when I am having sensory issues already. Wet clingy shirts may be “sexy” but they make my skin crawl.)

Then I organize. It’s easier to handle the dishes if they are in like piles. (I do the same thing with laundry by the way.) This is just to bring order to something that makes me feel chaotic. That order can overtake the anxiety and lessen the severity of feelings. It’s also just a good distraction.

Then I do the dishes. Sometimes it takes several loads and that can make it a little more difficult, so honestly, I do a load and then hand-wash the rest just to reduce any sensory issues like bad smells for when I eventually come back to put the rest through the dishwasher for sanitizing.

What about the ADHD brain and executive dysfunction?

First, I make sure that I took my meds. Meds won’t fix everything but they will take the edge off of your issues to give you the chance to deal with it yourself.

Then I do my best to appease my dopamine thirst while still doing what I need to do. So I will usually put an interesting audiobook or podcast on my headphones while I do whatever is unpleasant, dishes, laundry, sweeping, chores in general, really.

And then for the executive dysfunction, a common problem for people with ADHD or ASD, I give myself direct instructions. I say to myself, “Collect all the plates and put them here… Do it now.” Then maybe followed by, “Use the scrub brush to get rid of any big particles of food. Do it now.” Do it now, is actually very important. It’s a cognitive impetus, a shove in the right direction. It may feel stupid, but I assure you it’s necessary.

A lot of times when I am dealing with dysfunction I will straight up narrate my actions, out loud. It’s ridiculous. But sometimes you have to embrace the ridiculous to get shit done. At least, when you’re like us.

And you know what is more ridiculous than that? Listening to a medical professional imply that you are lazy for having a condition that you know more about than he does. That’s ridiculous.

So, yeah. Really, what I am getting at… is I have to do the dishes. Sigh.

Ok.

Do it now.

My Un-Finished Zombie Novel

I was speaking with a fellow adult diagnosed autistic writer, in one of my many favorite online support groups, and I told him, “looking back at my unfinished novels, I think I made almost all of my main characters autistic, without even knowing it. I think I was always searching for answers or connections with someone like myself.”

For those that might not understand that, I wanted to share a few excerpts from my “unfinished zombie novel” that I have been writing through my unmedicated ADHD for a good ten years. Writing with ADHD is nearly impossible, FYI. Sure, you get some good spurts with hyperfocus but for the majority of the time you are fighting with yourself to get some legitimate work done. Not easy.

In this untitled work, a young woman who left town due to a trauma at a very young age, returns home just before the zombie apocalypse. I should mention that this is more of a zombie-fantasy novel, with some complex religious themes, because, you know, I don’t do anything simple or easy. The following is from a study I wrote to get a better idea of the character.

She was a rule follower, for sure. The sheep of sheep. Which made her perfect for church. Jesus was a shepherd, was he not? 

But the thing about sheep is they are often frightened. And so was she. Frightened. All the time. Of everything. But most of all, she was frightened by no rules at all. Not anarchy, not a complete lack of rules. No, she was afraid of not-knowing the rules. Not-knowing the right things to say. Not-knowing the right thing to do. Not-knowing what would spare her the stares of those that did know what to do. A room of people where everyone knows the rules but her, like a stage she had casually happened upon during opening night. 

Which is why she avoided the post office. There were just too many rules to follow. Too many rules to know, rigid rules that she would never-ever remember. Air holes, fragile and not fragile, freight versus priority, thirty two cent stamps and those that supposedly lasted forever—  and the lines. Oh, the lines. She never knew which line not to cross. So, she didn’t cross any. She hand delivered her letters instead. 

It’s why she skipped adolescence too. She looked at the beautiful girls that her brother dated, and they were all the same. They all understood something that she didn’t. They all had read the same rule book: on how to dress, how to speak, how to speak to boys, and how not to speak to other girls. Girls like her. They would never tell her how to be, what to do, what to say. She knew that the instant she became a teenager, it would be like walking into a room with no rules to guide her. The post office, all over again. 

So she skipped it. She turned twelve, ran away, and became a teenage mother. The one thing she knew she was not supposed to do.  She simply skipped over adolescence, like a crowd she wanted to avoid. Now… she was the oldest seventeen year old she knew.

Yeah…

That almost makes me emotional to read. It was practically a cry for help. I wrote this particular piece of writing probably six years ago? It shows you that even though I had no idea about my diagnosis, I was still autistic. And severely suffering from that lack of knowledge.

Here’s an interesting bit of dialogue that shows one of my favorite “stims”, the ocean. As a bit of background, my main character is talking to a young man who has also returned home from a failed escape. As to any quality of the writing, like I said, this book has been a ten year process. I’ve matured since some of theses original drafts.

“I wanted out of the Midwest. It’s just so flat,” he gestured at the dark horizon. “I wanted to see something else. So I thought…” 

“You thought, California.” 

“Yes, I thought California. I thought of the ocean. I mean, is there anything more different from the Midwest? But what’s funny is that the ocean is so flat. You wouldn’t think it, but once you get past the waves it’s nothing but flat water. In the right light the ocean looks just like a wheat field. It looks like nothing more than grass for miles. And so much horizon—it goes on and on.”

“Only a boy from the Midwest would think the ocean looks like a wheat field. Were you disappointed?” 

“A little. I left to find sunnier skies but the skies were no different in California, because California is just a place like any other. Just like here. Same sky. But I loved the sound of the ocean. It looked like grass, but the sound—the sound was something else. It was so loud and so visceral. It was biblical—like it was pulling me back into the sea…this… push-pull.. push-pull… push-pull.. It was so…so…”

“Wet,” she blushed.

He grinned. “Yes. It was wet.” 

And again later:

“My whole life I had always worn a tie and stiff, lace up shoes. I was eighteen, and I had never worn sandals. So the difference was liberating. I spent two weeks just listening to the sound of the ocean. This slap, slap, sure,” he clapped his hands together twice and slid them together slowly. “Slap, slap, sure. Sometimes I would fall asleep right there on the sand.” 

I also dealt with a sensory related, Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria meltdown, long before I knew what it was. Again, remember that this is a zombie novel, so I am about to mention said monsters.

Her head was swimming. It was like the church bell had gone off, right beside her. And the wave of it was ringing through her whole body, making her dizzy. Like the first time she heard a church bell chime. Everything faded away, their laughter, her shame, muffled under the vibrations of something so large and resolute. 

She stumbled to the high windows, once so beautiful, now boarded up and hidden away. Through the cracks she could see the sun dropping below the bell tower. Already there were monsters careening across the square, looking for others. Already she could hear their moans, calling to the other people locked safely away, calling to her.       

She felt trapped.

And these are just a few of the examples. There are so, so many more. But I don’t want to dump my entire novel into a blog post. Need to finish it first! But honestly, now that I am properly medicated, that is a legitimate possibility for my future, for the first time. It’s not some far off goal, some “someday.”

And that is a wonderful feeling.


As my lawyer, my husband would like to mention that all writings original to this blog or novel excerpts, complete or otherwise, are copyright to Holly Beardsley, 2020.

So, uh, don’t steal my book.

Right Now

This probably won’t be a very well written post. But it will be honest. That is because I am going through a crisis… right now.

You see, I forgot to take my medication yesterday, because of the general lawless quarantine- no routine- life we are all living at the moment.

And even though I remembered my meds this morning. I am paying for yesterday’s mistake… right now.

I feel like crying and throwing up all at once. My sensory overload is almost unbearable and my ADHD is in overdrive, which means that my Rejections Sensitive Dysphoria is also in overdrive. So all the progress I’ve made in the last few months, has just disappeared.

Fortunately, I have been doing a lot of studying in those properly medicated months. With my counselors, and on my own. I am especially interested in something called Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which deals with regulating emotions and living in the moment. Or you know… right now.

It feels a lot like Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, if any of you are familiar with this hobbit-like genius. (I have always felt that Eckhart looked like either the spirit that helps you find the true meaning of Christmas, or a super villain. Don’t know why. He’s really awesome, so I’m not trying to make fun. Anyway, ADHD, like I said…)

My father went through a Power of Now phase, I think, in the early 2000’s? It was a big deal for us in our house. Unfortunately, my father was a little more in-tuned with his issues than we were at the time, so we were like, “Ok, whatever Dad, I’m gonna go watch the Gilmore Girls, with the power of fast talking.” I wasn’t very enlightened. I was also suffering from severe ADHD, so yeah. Not my fault.

(Okay, as an honest observation here, I think you might be able to see what an un-medicated ADHD mind is like. It jumps, and jumps, and jumps. So even if the person themselves, is not jumping about, that does NOT mean they do not have ADHD. I’m sitting perfectly still as I write this, but my mind is doing somersaults.)

So, honestly, being without my meds is a good reminder that you need more than just pharmaceuticals to get you through the hard times. You need tools. You need methods and tips to reason with the parts of you that are simply unreasonable.

I’m gonna look more into DBT, because I think it might be good for ASD people as well. I know that it works well for people with Borderline Personality Disorder and that’s something of a cousin to Autism Spectrum Disorder. (I think BPD is more trauma-based where ASD is a neurological type. Don’t quote me on that. It’s just my understanding.)

Honestly, this might also be an anxiety hangover.

I was saying to my instagram buddies yesterday, I have severe, SEVERE conflict anxiety. And Autism Awareness Week always puts me in a state. Letting people be wrong, is very hard for me. But having the conflict to tell them they are wrong, is excruciating. This is also hard on my self esteem because I find this part of me to be something like cowardice. And so I am not forgiving in this aspect of my mental illness.

What is cowardice if not being afraid of a fight? But fights- just destroy me.

My Enneagram type is Type 2- The Helper- Or the Caring, Interpersonal Type- Demonstrative, Generous, People-Pleasing, and Possessive. Which means that I literally just want everyone to get along. And for me, that “posessive” quality transfers to a fierce, FIERCE loyalty. Meaning that I am often drawn to fights because of my intense emotions and need to protect what is “mine.” And as deep as my social anxiety is, I will go to WAR over loyalty. Basically, I’m the “Leave Brittany Alone” guy, crying under a blanket. I just don’t film it and upload it. My sensibilities stop that kind of public self destruction, most of the time.

(Disclaimer, I completely agree with “Leave Brittany Alone” guy. She’s bipolar and should not have been photographed in the middle of an episode. Her attacking a car with an umbrella after shaving her head? Duh. That was an episode. An episode that allowed her family to come in and take over all her finances. I’m not saying that they did that to her. I’m hoping that they did it for her. But who knows?)

One of the best portrayals of this feeling I have ever seen came from Silver Linings Playbook. Honestly, that was one of the best portrayals of Bipolar Disorder I have ever seen, anywhere. Especially when he has an episode in the middle of the night looking for his wedding video. I’ve been there. But mostly I am talking about the scene while they are tailgating and someone goes after his therapist and then punches his brother.

The fear and anger is this overpowering wave of “fight or flight” but mostly just “fight.” Like extreme, red eyes, nose flaring “FIGHT.” Because I’m only 5’3″ and very soft, it probably seems laughable that I want to fight people. But I want to DESTROY them. And that kind of uncontrollable anger is scary. Hence, the severe, SEVERE conflict anxiety. Thinking about it now, it’s probably the opposite of cowardice. It’s barely contained restraint. And anything that is “barely contained” is going to be uncomfortable.

And some might say, just get angry! Start that flame war! Tell them off! But I’ve been down that road and it does nothing to help anyone. More than that, they haunt me. Those moments will haunt me forever. So even if it seems simpering, if I offend someone on the internet, or god forbid, in real life, I will apologize almost immediately. Not to admit fault, but as a ritual to spare me the pain later. I have to make peace, or I will never have peace.

Huh, well that was a little bit cathartic. I feel better. That or my Adderall is finally kicking in. (I’m also listening to ASMR as I write this.) Whatever, it is. I’ll take it.

The point is… I started this blog to help. Not because I have it all figured out, but because I am a deeply flawed human being who tries to learn from her mistakes. If you can learn from my mistakes before you make them yourself, then I have accomplished what I set out to do. So, thanks.

Also, don’t forget to take your meds.