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Redefining the Chaos of Our Neurodivergent Brains

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Picture this: Our brains are like musical ensembles, and each musician is a different cognitive skill. A neurotypical brain is akin to a classical orchestra, with a professional conductor who keeps the musicians in sync, ensuring a harmonious performance.

Meanwhile, a neurodiverse brain  —  for example, one with ADHD  — resembles a jazz band, with each member improvising and riffing off one another, creating a spontaneous, vibrant, and unpredictable sound. Now, this ADHD jazz band does not have a traditional conductor. Instead, this creative energy drives musicians to explore new melodies and take risks. And though it may seem chaotic sometimes, the result is an innovative, dynamic performance that captivates and surprises.

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The perception of classical music is that it is organized, demure, and intentional, while in comparison, jazz music has the perception of unplanned or disorganized chaos. But true musicians understand and appreciate all types of music and can follow a tune, regardless of genre. Jazz is a vibrant conversation with its own cadence and rhythm, but compared to a completely different genre, its unpredictability might viewed as a detriment.

This is similar for what it feels like to discuss or disclose being neurodivergent. When someone tells you they have ADHD, we’re not sharing our diagnosis to seek sympathy or as an admission of chaos. Instead, it’s an invitation to understand and keep up with our unique rhythm and processing style.

Balancing the Perks and Quirks

When neurotypical folks say, “We’re all a little ADHD” as a way to relate, it’s like a classical music orchestra claiming they’re also an improv jazz band at the same time  —  it’s just not the same. This sentiment inadvertently diminishes the lived experiences of those with ADHD, missing the mark on the true nature of neurodivergent minds.

The key to understanding the neurodivergent mind is recognizing the distinct and interconnected traits that make up these experiences, rather than simplifying them as mere forgetfulness or distraction. And really, everyone’s brains are a complex system of traits and tendencies, each with its unique way of processing information.

To better illustrate the rich complexity of our brains, let’s delve into a list of the perks, quirks, and intricacies of how our ADHD brains work:

Relentless Curiosity

We ask questions to process information and work through ideas/solutions, which can be misconstrued as casting doubt or lacking attention when in reality, it helps us drill down to the root of the problem/solution. Our inquisitive nature keeps us engaged and motivated to learn, even though it can be perceived as challenging or disruptive.

Prioritize Depth Over Breadth

We experience hyperfocus, fostering exceptional creativity, while potentially neglecting other crucial tasks or responsibilities. This intense focus can lead to breakthroughs and accomplishments, but might also mean we lose track of time or forget other priorities.

Unfiltered Truth

We value directness and honesty, promoting open communication, but sometimes we come across as harsh or insensitive. Our candid approach can lead to more efficient and genuine discussions, although it might require some getting used to for those who prefer subtlety.

Lone Wolf Initiative

We tackle tasks independently, boosting productivity while potentially overlooking collaboration or taking on too much. Our self-sufficiency can be empowering, but we must recognize when collaboration or delegation is necessary for success.

Empathy in Overdrive

We possess heightened emotional sensitivity, deepening connections with others and risking emotional exhaustion or overwhelm. Our empathic abilities can create strong bonds, but we must remember to establish boundaries to protect our well-being.

Comfortable in Chaos

We think non-linearly, generating innovative solutions while occasionally causing miscommunication due to our unique thought processes. Our out-of-the-box thinking can lead to groundbreaking ideas, but ensuring others understand our intentions and thoughts is essential.

Connecting Dots Miles Apart

We rely on relational memory, excelling at remembering contextually linked information, but struggle with rote memorization. Our contextual understanding can offer valuable insights and connections, though we must work harder to retain unrelated facts.

Discovery Through Distraction

We find value in distraction, discovering new ideas or hobbies, but potentially struggle with task completion or deadlines. Our wandering minds can lead to unexpected discoveries, yet we must be careful not to let distractions derail us from our goals.

Abstract Communicator

We use alternative communication styles, offering fresh perspectives but possibly creating comprehension challenges for others. Our ability to convey ideas visually or metaphorically can help break down complex concepts, but we must ensure we cater to various communication preferences. On the one hand, puns are a form of wordplay that can make people laugh, show off linguistic skills, and create clever double meanings. On the other hand, puns can be seen as overused, predictable, and even cringe-worthy.

Thought Process Protector

We may dislike being misunderstood and feel frustrated when our unique communication style needs to be understood. In addition, while fostering understanding can help bridge the gap between neurodivergent and neurotypical perspectives, it can be exhausting to explain or justify our thought processes and actions constantly.

Finding Harmony in the Unpredictable

The best musicians understand that music is a language, not just a sound, with meaning and intent. With any language, you can understand the rules and patterns that help you stay in step and tune with any melody. So whether you’re a Mozart, Miles Davis, or anything in between, acquiring an eclectic taste in music helps you understand that music is universal.

While we, the neurodivergent, might not always play in perfect harmony with the neurotypical world, we’re full of improvisational genius and unexpected solos.

Getty image by Khosrork

Originally published: September 18, 2023
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