Open Letter to (Some) Neurotypicals

… Or a shoutout to those Neurodivergents who need to be heard.

By Laly Steel

October 3, 2020

In 1998, Harvey Bloom wrote for The Atlantic, “Neurotypical syndrome is a neurobiological disorder characterized by preoccupation with social concerns, delusions of superiority, and obsession with conformity.” I find this hilarious… and also, as an explanation to all those times I asked my neurotypical mother, “Why do I have to wear makeup, earrings, necklaces? Why do I have to stay quiet when we’re waiting for the bus?”

A manual says I have a disorder and that I lack of attention; whoever wrote it, knows as little as you do. What an outrage! To say I know better than them and you! Well, I continuously learn about neuroscience (neurotransmitters, brain development, pre-blah-tal cortexes) so I could make my brain work for my purpose because, unlike yours, mine should have come with a manual.

Meanwhile, you call me, “lazy; can’t commit; Behave! Why can’t you stay quiet? Just do it! Why can’t you remember what I just told you? Pay attention!” and you say the human head weights eight pounds because you watched Jerry freaking McGuire.

You say so much, and you know so little…

You tell me, “Pay attention!” Well, if you give me something interesting  to focus on, I’ll do it. Hey, I’ll even hyperfocus! I have a super power when it comes to attention.

But, you were talking to me about something important and I stopped paying attention to you? I’m sorry; I am so sorry. There’s an hyperactivity in my brain, which is very difficult to handle; it feels like being in the middle of a crow where scientists, musicians, comedians, a toddler who wants to be an astronaut and an inventor of some weird shit I’ll never use (but it’s awesome!) are talking loud at the same time. It’s hard to shush them… I do my best. I care about you… please know that…

You say I live in the clouds? I’d say I’m a dreamer but I’m an ageless and relentless goal-seeker; I rather have enough money to pay the bills and all the time in the world to do what I love, than working in a box for tons of money and a two-weeks holiday to feel free.

And do you know what? Day dreaming, “mind wondering”, it’s a thing that has been studied by scientists who believe that good thoughts shape a good brain; when I daydream, I’m performing neuroplasticity to figure out a future you tell me it’s impossible but – to me – it’s actually in my hands. Because, you know what else? The things I love, the things I’m truly interesting in, I do finish them.

You think I need “meds to behave…” Yes, those meds you use, you abuse, when you want to feel smarter and do more; haven’t occurred to you that if you feel the need to sleep when you wish you could do more, it’s because “you need to sleep”? I need them because I lack of energy and my dopamine pack needs a fix; my brain needs me to follow a healthy diet; to do sports; to have a strict routine to seize the little energy I have; and when I don’t, my body collapses in an energy shutdown. 

You say, “Why are you so disorganised? Just clean this mess!” I do my best… There is an issue in my prefrontal cortex that turns my executive functions into a challenge. I know what I have to do; I have countless lists for what I need to do; but looking at a schedule, literally revolves my stomach and… sometimes, I freeze…

You tell me, “You’re wasting your life! You’re so smart!” Thank you; I know; but I can’t just do things because my brain doesn’t manage the dopamine the way your brain does, so I need to feel pleasure and reward NOW. And, since you know I’m smart, would you be so kind to not make me feel stupid the next time you see me?

And you add! “Why don’t you make an effort!?” Because I’m telling you there’s shit going on my brain! When I have to remove the sheets and put them in the washer, I do the math on how long it would take because, most certainly, I won’t have energy to put them back on and I’ll sleep over the mattress for a week. I AM effort… and I am exhausted…

You say I’m childish? I see life through the eyes of a child; what’s wrong with that? I work, I pay my bills; I drive with one hand on the wheel and the other one on the shift stick; my cellphone is always in my purse; I’ve never gotten a ticket. Let me be.

This society we’re living in, it’s driven by what’s important; I’m driven by what’s interesting. Why would anyone pay attention to things they’re not interested in? Because society tells us what’s important and most people don’t question it.

You set rules, and more rules, and thus I grow up in a “must do” society when my whole body exudes “but, what if?” … Don’t you wonder? … Wouldn’t you try to step aside from the flock and be your own self? Oh, yes! You have that cool quote, “Think outside the box!” I wonder, What box.

Interest is all I need… Doing something without it, is painful; physically painful; and if I get bored, I’ll be in pain without being able to stay quiet. To me, that is an innate skill to pursue happiness, incessantly; meanwhile, you learn how to do develop it with Instagram quotes on Motivation Monday.

Physically painful… I’m not joking. My senses are at a whole other level; I can hear more than you; the light sometimes hurts my eyes; and your small talk? I hear it like a swarm of bees getting closer and closer to me… so I go to the other room… and you say I’m a weirdo, a loner, that something is wrong with me and I that can’t adapt…. That hurts, you know?

Make no mistake; among my friends, I’m the life of the party; I’m the adventures they can’t wait to listen; I am the smile and the shoulder they’ll search for, and which they know they can always rely on.

And did I cry for that stupid thing, again? What can I say… It’s hard for my brain to regulate emotions… However, I did learn to not yell in your face, “Ugh!” when your bad smell is tearing my nostrils like a bad line of cocaine, because it’s not “polite” (and I hate remembering that fuck up); I did learn to not insult back, after you’ve insulted me because you were angry at the world and I was just …there… I have learned to let the bad impulses go… The good ones, though, I let them flow.

So, don’t come to my house before the sun sets; there’s a new family of birds in my big old tree and the babies are learning to fly… and that makes me cry out of joy

Could you see the beauty I see? Those baby birds jumping from branch to branch and then to the wall, while mama bird flies over me and asks me, “Are you watching your cats?” “Yes madam.” Could you comprehend what and how I can feel? You couldn’t… so, don’t come; I’ll be crying and your emotional low threshold may make you feel uncomfortable, and I care about you… I care more than you could possibly understand.

And since we are at it, your weed? Please, not even in my patio… You say you had a rough day and you need to chill? I say boo-hoo; my seconds are rough days and they feel like … nothing. And “what’s the big deal, it’s natural!” You know what’s more natural? Look at the freaking birds!… Geez…

You know… I see, I touch, I taste, I smell, I listen; further, more and louder; I feel with every single cell of my body and I’m immensely grateful for being so lucky.

So I ask you, who’s got a disorder and a lack of attention? I know I don’t.

Thank you for your time… whatever it means.

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So what do you think?