People are keen on being neuro-diverse right now.
I guess it’s part of an ongoing attempt to define ourselves against the world. My feeling, when I was a teacher, was that most of these diversities are just facets of what makes us us and, sure, you don’t want to be loaded down with a destructive personality disorder or condition, but up to a point they work for us, not against us.
My long-term walking pal, Wilson, is obsessive, and that’s fine, cos we never get lost and he brings all the kit. But to an extreme, it would be debilitating: I had a neighbour who was afflicted with OCD and she could barely function. She was fully sentient, very intelligent, but her condition trapped her in a maze of logic which ensured, for example, she could not take the medication that would have made her life bearable.
As a former teacher, I got to try out all the psychological tests on myself and, I’m happy to report, I’m not psychopathic, nor autistic.
But I do have ADD. And dyslexia.
Before I took those tests I used to just think I was messy and had a butterfly mind. And I always knew that general lack of structure, apart from making my WhatsApp conversations a bit random, is one of main the reasons why I write fiction, my imagination is pretty much unhindered – nothing is off the table: everything is possible*. It’s also why I have about forty unfinished books (despite my Rules of Writing #2 being “finish what you start”).
I can read though, it’s my favourite thing – and if the letters float about, well, I got past that when I was three years old.
Another facet of my own disorderly mind is that I need to write a list of jobs every day, in order to properly function. My good friend Ernie, who did have autism, though we didn’t know it back then, and I think we would have called it Asperger’s, told me he had to organise his life to the most minute degree, because otherwise everything fell to pieces. And when, one day, despite his efforts, his carefully structured life fell apart, so did he.
I’m not like that, I cut myself slack if I don’t tick every box, but I need the list as a scaffold, a guide, to my day.
I began writing this to say that, within reason, being special is not so special, it’s just a facet of being you. But then I listed two people, my next-door neighbour Helen and my good pal Ernie, whose lives were destroyed by their psychological ‘facets’. Maybe I’m being glib. Mental issues can be awful if they assert control, and while some facets of my behaviour can cause me difficulties, they’re part of me, and I embrace them.
*Knowing that everything is possible is why I’m still scared of the dark, because, well, you can never be sure.