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The Darkness Within

So much of the literature in relation to autism and other forms of neurodivergence seem to focus on the sensory, behavioural and relational differences. Often the focus is on differences with regards to commonly held beliefs, values and social expectations about what is 'normal' and 'appropriate'. The actual lived experience and the potential reasons behind the externally observed behaviour, oddities and peculiarities are often neglected. And one of the most neglected aspects of this lived experience relates to the emotional experience of the neurodivergent.

In particular, I am speaking of the deep and profound loneliness, the shame, the sense of inadequacy and not being good enough, the sense of not being able to do the things others seem to find easy, and so forth. The difficulties in managing the intensity of the emotions that do arise. And beyond (or perhaps underneath) this, the sadness. Just because the neurodivergent does not share or speak about emotions, and just because they do not show it to the world in their affect or facial expressions, does not mean it is not present. Perhaps that is what makes it so much more of an issue - it is not visible, it is not communicated.

I am speaking of the darkness within, the way that we can become trapped in a very dark place within. And I am intentionally not using the word depression, because in my experience the darkness is directly connected and part of the experience of being neurodivergent. Being neurodivergent often implies a much higher level of social isolation, spending much more time in one's internal world, and finding it more difficult to connect to other. It seems obvious to me that the risk of becoming trapped in this darkness is also greater.

We need to better understand these depths, and acknowledge that, from the perspective of someone who is neurodivergent, this is one of the sources of great pain. I know I am different. I know I have a lot of peculiarities. I know I often to not fit the mold in terms of social expectations. But this is all in relation to the views and experience of others and what is considered normal. Inside of me, what lives in my internal world, that is what matters.


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