Sometimes the internet sends you just exactly what you needed to hear, you know? This week this fantastic little post came across my facebook feed. It’s about how the little things – the niggles that you mostly ignore, to get on with what you’re doing – can, if you are neurodivergent, be RIGHT IN YOUR FACE. ALL THE TIME, like so many forks. To the point where you cannot get on with what you’re doing. You cannot cope with one more niggle. This is because your neurodivergent wiring brings you all the info turned up to 11, ALL THE TIME.
For some, this is sensory information: noise, smells, light, itchy material, the tag in your shirt. Fork, fork, fork. I got an inkling of this when I first got my hearing aids. I complained to a fellow school mum about all the new NOISE, which my brain had completely forgotten how to filter and had me pretty much ready to claw my brain out. She gave a wry little smile and said, “That’s what it’s always like for me, as an autistic person. No input filter.”
For us – my kids and me – there’s an element of the sensory (as I write, the too-tight waistband of my skirt is forking me, and god help everyone if my daughter can feel the seam in her socks) but it’s not usually what stops us. Usually for us, emotions are the dealbreakers. The pitchforks. We live with a ton of anxiety – not the acute, call an ambulance stuff, thankfully, but the sort that means fight/flight/freeze is often our normal. We are empaths, which means we are highly tuned to everyone else’s emotions. A sharp word will capsize someone and the waves rock everyone’s boats, even if – and this is my favourite bit – that sharp word had nothing to do with the person who heard it. Your pain forks me. And that is just as true whether you are my best friend, a blogger I just came across, the foreign victim of a terrorist attack, the citizen of a country at war.
I can protect myself from some of the forks by avoiding the news. But here’s a kink it’s taken me decades to figure out: I can’t really protect myself from your pain. I might eventually learn how; I mean I was in my late 40s before a friend told me I was an empath and I was like, whadda whuh?? So clearly I’ve a thing or two to learn about this gig. But right now, you know how they say, a problem shared is a problem halved? That’s true for us empaths, too. Not sharing doesn’t save me one iota. You’d think it would, wouldn’t you? NUP. I still have a fork in my heart with your name on it. I still lie awake, wondering and worrying. Feeling the weight. But when you talk to me, I know where you’re at. I’ll still worry for you, but it’s better if I know.
It’s better for everyone if we all know. It’s the only way we’re gonna learn. And god knows, we all need to learn. So don’t keep your cracks to yourself. Your griefs, your forks. Show ’em off proudly. Share ’em far and wide. Don’t hide them where they can fester.
Don’t hide from me.