A Somewhat Happy Update

In August, I went to visit my family. The reasons weren’t the happiest – apart from the fact that I hadn’t seen them since before my trip to Japan in 2019/pre-pandemic, my mom was recently given a cancer diagnosis and I wanted to be able to spend some time with her – but there was a positive outcome.

As I was sitting in the living room looking through old photo albums while my mom sat on the couch reading a book, I was twirling my hair round and round my fingers, over and over, for a substantial amount of time. I do this after I blow dry my hair to reduce the frizzyness and bring out some natural waves. I hadn’t even realized my mom was watching me.

Out of nowhere she said, “I read something about ADHD recently (she actually said ADD but that term is long-outdated) and how it’s different in presentation for girls than it is for boys and one of the things they mentioned was fidgeting, like twirling their hair.” (I am just now remembering that my granny used to call me Miss Fidget and complain that I never sat still…)

She went on to say how my dad had been put on ADHD meds (or what the equivalent would have been in the 1950’s) when he was really young because his mother (the very same Granny I just mentioned) couldn’t handle him. She also said this piece she read mentioned the possibilities of a genetic component.

My immediate instinct was to correct her and defend my reason for twirling my hair – but this was a golden opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I was floored. Here I was, always trying to find a way to brooch the subject of my neurodiversity to my parents for the past 6 years, and she beat me to it!

I laughed and said I knew all about it. And something along the lines of right family of brain differences, wrong specific diagnosis. (Little did I know at the time… But more about the additional possibility of ADHD another time.)

I was vague in a lot of my responses and sharing of my experience, not saying “autism” directly but we talked about my life, how things were for me growing up, how I still struggle with things now, etc. It was a nice few days where I felt this thing was just known about me now, out in the open. And that felt really good. And validating.

The most amusing part of this conversation to me was that she was attributing me being ND exclusively to my dad. She didn’t think SHE had any contribution to it at all! Which… if you know my mother, is kind of hilarious. I’m not saying that she definitely IS autistic herself, but she sure does have a lot of qualities.

I always felt I had inherited most of my traits from my mom. We are a lot alike in many ways. I never really considered my dad as a factor in my neurodiverse make-up. The more I am learning about ADHD and reconciling that with what I know or am uncovering about myself lately, the more I see I am, in fact, quite the blend of the two of them. Go figure.

I also got to spend more time with my sister than I usually do on visits to see my family. That is always a treat. My sister is one of my very favourite human beings! All week, there were tentative mentions of difficulties or differences I experience in life and talk about other family members that display similar things. She was even the one to use the word neurodivergent first. (Again, my family doesn’t seem quite ready to use the word autism freely. It has a lot of stigma and feels very heavy, but…. I am determined that we will all get there at some point.)

We had an especially good conversation when we were out for lunch before she dropped me back off at the airport. While we were talking over sushi, I told her I had suspected autism of myself several years ago and showed her that list of traits that I posted here ages ago. I told her that I suspect neurodiversity runs in our family to varying degrees. Even she has some ADHD traits, although I’m not sure if they would add up to a diagnosis. She read through it and determined that wasn’t her. I agree with that. She’s not autistic. But I think she could see that it could fit me.

Similarly to my husband, I don’t think it matters either way to her. Autistic or not, I am who I am and they love me and will treat me according to the individual that I am.

In the back of my mind, I think I always worried that, once the words were out there, my family would see me or treat me differently. Like I was less than or defective in some way they hadn’t seen before. I felt that they would think of me in an infantilizing way now. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case so far. I think, because we do all share a lot of traits, there is more understanding than I was expecting. And maybe it’s because there actually IS more general knowledge and acceptance of neurodivergent ways of being out there now than there was even just a few years ago. (I mean, if my 74-year-old mother is equipped with up-to-date knowledge, we’re doing pretty good!)

Either way, I’m feeling both grateful and hopeful.

This is an update from this post, where things were looking bleak in regards to ever being able to be open with my family about being autistic/neurodivergent.

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