Neurodivergent Survival Guide

I’m starting a new aspect of Holly Loves John, with the Neurodivergent Survival Guide. This will be a living document that records my tips and lessons on how to survive in the neurotypical world with a neurodivergent mind. Now, this is my neurodivergent mind, or more specifically, an autistic woman, with ADHD, OCD, RSD, Sensory Processing Issues, Anxiety, Bipolar, and Agoraphobia. There are many other aspects of neurodiversity that I have little to no experience with, so they will not be apart of this guide, just an FYI.

This week, I am starting with sensory issues, including Hyperosmia, Misophonia, and Photophobia.

It will be under the Me(ntal Health) menu option from now on as the “ND Survival Guide.”

Check it out! And happy reading!

Sick While Anxious

DEALING WITH TWO ILLNESSES AT ONCE

In the interest of not burying the lead, I believe that I have COVID-19. I say believe because getting tested is not something I am interested in. My symptoms are still relatively mild; I have a big boot of pressure on my chest, a dry cough, and a mild fever. It’s painful, but I can still get air. So I have no interest in leaving the house to endanger vulnerable people just to get a cotton swab shoved into my brain cavity.

But it’s got me thinking about what it’s like to be physically sick when you have an invisible illness at the same time. You see, whenever I get ill, that RSD inner critic starts to eat at me. It calls me a hypochondriac, a drama queen, it savagely whispers, “No one will believe you. No one will care.”

This is, of course, because I spend the majority of my time trying to convince others about those differences that I live with- those “illnesses” that require some occasional accommodation, i.e. ADHD, agoraphobia, autism, OCD, etc.

Now, you might say, but COVID-19 isn’t invisible. You are coughing, you have a fever. You look like shit. (Thanks for that last one.) And still I find myself on my phone, texting my sister about what else it could be. And then the obvious, irritating, always on the edge of my tongue question- Is this just anxiety?

It should be an honest and innocuous question, and it would be, if it weren’t for the ungodly amount of real life illnesses and complications that I have had that were blamed on my anxiety. And I know I am not the only woman to have this problem. Let’s get real. Female hysteria was a “legitimate diagnosis” for a very, very long time. And not that long ago, unfortunately. Ask me about Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy if you want a real medical horror story. Or do yourself a favor and read all about it.

TRIGGER WARNING: The article I’ve linked to about Rosemary Kennedy discusses an extreme form of ableism, medical assault during her mother’s labor, medical malpractice, and special needs abuse- abuse, in general. Even if you aren’t sensitive, it will effect you. If you have trauma in any of these areas, you might want to research a different source on Rosemary’s story.

A bright, beautiful woman failed by the medical profession from the time of her birth to her death.

Leaving the gender issue behind, people with diagnosed mental health conditions, including autism, are also being under-treated when it comes to physical health problems. (Judging from the information available about Rosemary Kennedy I think she was most likely autistic, if not intellectually disabled from her traumatic birth. So she had two “conditions” going against her.) In my life alone- where I was mostly only recognized as “anxious while female”- gallstones, pancreatitis, allergic reactions, dermatographia, and chronic infections were all vaguely blamed on my “stress.”

In one stunning moment at the ER, someone had the gall to blame my physical symptoms on my son’s autism diagnosis. I’m a very, very polite/timid person, mostly because of my RSD and anxiety, but I believe my direct quote was, “Are you shitting me?”

Maybe I just said that with my eyes. I’m not entirely sure. I was in a lot of pain.

The point is… and this is pretty much my continual, all-consuming, message… is this:

Demand help. If you are sick, take up the space that is necessary to protect yourself and others. Even if someone wants to downplay your symptoms, it’s on you to not only get help for yourself, but in this time of contagion, it’s on you to protect others. (Not just medical help either. Demand it from your family, your friends, your roommate, whomever. I’m not going to the doctor yet but my husband and I took the time to recognize my symptoms and make a plan if it gets worse.) Anxiety may lie to you and call you dramatic, but a virus will still infect your loved ones, whether they are willing to believe you or not.

A virus does not need outside confirmation to be legitimate, it just is. So in this case, just this one time, be like corona. Rear your ugly head (I told you I look like shit) and demand to be noticed.

It’s the only way we can live.


For interesting information on the effects of COVID-19, check out this New York Times article: What Does Coronavirus Do the the Body?

Poor Maureen


This post was originally written in May of 2018. Continue to read to the end for an update from today.

I have been talking a lot about my Avoidant Personality Disorder. Which has made me feel like an ambassador of some kind. But then I started thinking about my diagnosis, which was less than facebook official, and became suddenly wary.  (Which ticked my anxiety into high gear ironically—feelings of inadequacy, “I’m a fraud,” blah, blah, blah)  I don’t want to go into how I was diagnosed and subsequently medicated (boy, that sounds nefarious) but technically, well,  I’ve already mentioned it once before on this very blog so you probably already know… Cutting to the chase, I got my anxiety disorder diagnosed by my general doctor and not a psychiatrist.

Psychiatrist seems more legit, right? That’s what I thought too. So after a confusing series of emails to my doctor, the poor nurse may have thought I was some kind of nut (nothing’s wrong I just need legitimacy. No, I don’t want to hurt myself or others to get it. She wasn’t wrong about the nut part, but that’s not the point) I get an appointment with a counselor. They must deal with worse because she gave me a referral to the same counselor I saw when I first started my meds with very little hubbub. A counselor is like a psychiatrist, right?  I think to myself. Either way I don’t want to be too much trouble, so I take it.

Continue reading “Poor Maureen”

I am not a worm

AVOIDANT PERSONALITY DISORDER OR REJECTION SENSITIVITY DYSPHORIA? OR BOTH?

At the start of this blog, I thought I was suffering from Avoidant Personality Disorder. I had found the diagnostic criteria, brought it to my doctor, not a psychiatrist, and thought I had my answer. Once I finally went to a psychiatrist, he called that a misdiagnosis. I thought, What a big mistake I’d made. Surely, yes, you should bring your ideas and research to your doctor, but bring it to the right kind of doctor. Your gynecologist should not be setting your cast, and your GP should not be diagnosing your mental health issues, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Years later, after much tumult and strife, not only did I find out that I was autistic, I was also diagnosed with Inattentive ADHD. And part of that ADHD was a lovely thing called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria.

So now, that my meds are working, and my diagnoses are hopefully settled, I’ve been looking through old posts with my supposedly 20/20 hindsight. And I couldn’t help but notice just how similar the symptoms for Avoidant Personality Disorder and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria can feel. So this sent me searching for a connection between the two. One of the more interesting ideas I have found is that Avoidant Personality Disorder is the result of untreated childhood ADHD, much like my own. How interesting would that be? If I had been on the right path after all?

So with that idea, I’ve brought up an old post I called “I am not a Worm” where I looked up the definition of Avoidant Personality Disorder and responded to each symptom. Now the fact that I tried to refute any of it may tell you that I was misdiagnosed BUT you also have to understand the power of masking when you are autistic. I fought against these traits because I was “supposed” to… because I was supposed to be offended, not relieved. Anyway, let’s take a look…

Continue reading “I am not a worm”

Fifty feathered headbands

I just finished several months work with a wonderful production. Much Ado about Nothin’, my jukebox musical inspired adaptation of the Shakespeare play had a great run. The kids were adorable. The show, fantastic. The goodbyes, tearful but happy.

So, why am I still crazy? Why am I still anxious? Why am I depressed?

Continue reading “Fifty feathered headbands”

A Little Kindness

So, I’m home on the weekend from my theatre gig. It’s father’s day and because I understand my husband we aren’t really doing anything except some serious fast food abandon (lots of Popeye’s red bean and rice, the big tub not just the little one.) And while we are eating John mentions that he’s going to have some of our friends over to play board games while I’m gone next week…and my stomach drops.

Continue reading “A Little Kindness”

Chronically batshit

It’s a real thing.

That’s what I have to say after discussion of literally any aspect of my mental or physical illness. It’s a real thing, I promise. There are more issues than I’d like to admit but like I’ve said before, this blog is about honesty.

Here is a list of the real things that I battle everyday—

Continue reading “Chronically batshit”

Holly loves fat

The title of this post seems a little illeistic.  Honestly, I did not know the word, illeist, until I looked it up, because I didn’t want to say “the title of this post sounds like a douchebag who talks about himself in the third person.”  Apparently there are a lot of illeists and not all of them douchebags— Elmo, for one. Have you noticed that he only calls himself Elmo? Sure, he’s got a hand up his butt but he’s definitely not a douchebag.  Nixon did this too. Maybe he had the same problem as Elmo.

The point is I love fat.

Continue reading “Holly loves fat”