Neuroqueer: Authentic embodiment of mental health

This article was Co-Authored by David Gray-Hammond and Katie Munday

Trigger Warning: Discussion of mental health

It is a surprisingly contentious discussion to have, but the neurodiversity paradigm does not just apply to autistic people and ADHD’ers. Neurodivergent is a broad and inclusive term that applies to any bodymind that diverges from the neuronormative standards of a person’s given culture. This includes, but is not limited to;

Cerebral Palsy

Epilepsy

Down Syndrome

Traumatic Brain Injury

Learning Disability

Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

The list could go on for some time.

Something else that needs to be included on this list is the plethora of psychiatric diagnoses that exist, currently standing at over 300 in the DSM 5. It becomes apparent that there are far more than a handful of ways to be neurodivergent. Let’s not forget about the people who are multiply neurodivergent, existing in the overlap between multiple shared experiences.

This is what neurodivergence is, it is shared experience amounting to identity and culture.

Some of this shared experience is wonderful, there is a beauty to be found in neurodivergent communities. However, some of the experience is truly awful; the truth is that we (the authors of this article) would have to think really hard if we were offered a magic pill that would take away our negative mental health experiences. Things such as;

Intrusive Thoughts

Rumination

Paranoia and Anxiety

Incapacitating Depression

There is a balance to be found between “how much of this is me, and how much of this is something that is happening to me?”. There is a lot more to be said for the effect that our environment has on us.

So, how does one authentically embody the entirety of their neuropsychological experience?

We can embody our full-selves by accepting that sometimes, we need to step away, and allow space to exist with whatever we are feeling at the time. Feelings come and go, it is necessary to observe and acknowledge those feelings without judgement of yourself.

One of the main issues with this is that when you have mental health concerns, we have a tendency to judge that part of our lives as a wholly negative experience. Understandably, it can be very difficult to identify positives when the world focuses on perceived deficit and disorder.

Some of the positives we have found are;

Intense creativity

Self-awareness and introspection

Increased empathy

Intense positive experiences to offset the negatives

Greater attitudes of acceptance

In order to authentically embody our entire neurocognition, we first have to learn to co-exist with all of our experiences. This requires a level of acceptance that not everything will be wholly positive or negative. Self-acceptance is a radical notion, not necessarily in the traditional sense, more so in the way it changes our outlook on life. The boundary between neurology and the mind is so obscure that a change in one can alter the other.

Embracing our negative experiences is only a part of this. We are well aware of how harmful toxic positivity can be. Not everything is okay, and nor should it be, especially when experiencing trauma. We have to learn to co-exist with ourselves, that doesn’t mean we have to find enjoyment in every aspect of our inner and outer world. We need to show up for ourselves by giving our inner-self the same grace that we afford others.

Things aren’t always okay, but with a little self-compassion they can be better. It is an aggressively neutral thing, being neurodivergent.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an Autistic consultant and trainer, educating on the topics of Autistic experience, mental health, and drug and alcohol use. He has several years experience in this area as well as personal lived experience. You can find out more about his consultancy services at www.dghneurodivergentconsultancy.co.uk

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