Mental Health

  • On April 15, 2024 ·
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Mental Health on Scrabble tiles

I considered titling this one “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Asperger’s Syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)” but that’s a lot to take in all at once and probably why my therapist didn’t lead with it.


I’m by no means an expert on mental health. If you’re dealing with issues, please seek out a professional. And if that professional isn’t a proper fit, seek a second opinion, just as you would with any healthcare provider. This is my own experience looking for answers and what has worked for me.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

I’ve written before about my ADHD. Growing up I went undiagnosed for various reasons. Being a good student didn’t fit the image most people had at the time. Also the stigma against having something “wrong” with you, especially mentally, is very real. My family haven’t had the best experiences with doctors, to say the least, and actively distrusted counselors/therapists. I don’t really hold this against them as the American healthcare system is broken and mental health services are abysmal. It simply made navigating this all as an adult difficult. Especially when so many resources these days are about treating your ADHD child. :V

The CliffsNotes are I have attention regulation and prioritizing issues. If something isn’t engaging I can literally blank it out. (When I was younger I tried several times to watch the movie Batman (1989). I’d get as far as the hoodlums saying “they call him The Bat” and next thing I knew it’d be at the credits rolling.) On the opposite end, if something is engaging and new I can hyper-focus. Meaning I’ll lose track of time, forget to eat, be unable to sleep, completely consumed until the novelty is worn off.

Asperger’s Syndrome/Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Asperger’s Syndrome has actually been phased out in favor of rolling it into Autism Spectrum Disorder. Johann Friedrich Karl “Hans” Asperger, the Austrian physician who first identified the condition in 1944, had problematic ties to Nazi Germany and eugenics. For our intents and purposes, Asperger’s is viewed as less severe symptoms than Autism, with little to no language or cognitive troubles, (some testing even higher than average) but issues with social skills. It’s gotten the nickname Little Professor Syndrome due to those afflicted having intense special interests they can often have one-sided conversations on. This short video by Danny Raede of Asperger Experts is a good introduction:

I also want to share this one he did on the sensory funnel, which addresses issues of overwhelm and getting somebody with Asperger’s out of Defense Mode.

When I originally asked my doctor for help and started seeing a therapist I thought I had an anxiety disorder. I would have panic attacks, an ever-present feeling of stress hung over me like a flickering florescent light. There’s a scene in Man of Steel (2013) where school boy Clark Kent has to process and make sense of the world around him as he becomes overwhelmed by his super powers. He has a meltdown and hides in the classroom closet until his mother helps him focus. I’ve dealt with similar situations, lately when I experience a meltdown I think of Ironside from Kill Bill (2003-4).

Medication helped quiet the internal noise so I could begin to address outside influences more closely. I started journaling, becoming more aware of my environment while also trying to better read and understand my own responses. Mindfulness has become a buzzword these days but it is an actual thing we sometimes have to practice. Raede also has videos on panic attacks and dealing with stress I recommend watching. He mentions realizing he was more comfortable being stressed than being relaxed and working to change that. How stress doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, that we can let sensations and emotions go through our bodies without feeling like we’re going to die.

What It’s Like Having Both

It’s often multiple similar conditions can occur at the same time, i.e. comorbidity. I recently stumbled upon this video by D.S.A. Threads Costuming which really hit close to home in a lot of ways.

The problem I’ve been struggling with most recently, I think, is getting out of Defensive Mode. That’s where I de-stress, listen to myself, and make decisions going forward. I’ve had a lot going on in my life the last couple years. Moving to another country, getting married, sorting out immigration matters, on top of regular daily concerns like household chores and worrying about finances. It can be very difficult for me to switch gears when I’ve been doing something consistently. I’m not renting separate office space to work outside the house anymore so my ability to isolate isn’t what it used to be. Plus I have trouble letting myself enjoy drawing for fear I’ll lose track of things. It’s important to allow myself time to play creatively so the ideas come out.