I just had a really interesting lecture at university today about the prevalence of mental health disorders in people with developmental disorders. These can be Autism, Dyslexia, Developmental coordination disorder and Williams Syndrome, Downs syndrome and any others you can think of.
There was a case study of a girl with Downs syndrome who did really well at school lots of friends very capable but when she left, she couldn’t get a job and enter into a deep depression that eventually led to psychosis – our lecturer asked us to think if the psychosis could have been prevented had the girl been able to access employment and continue the stimulating environment she was used to. As such, does society expectations result in negative clinical outcomes as opposed to the disorder.
I was going to write my lecturer an email but thought it would be too inappropriate so I’ll post it here about my own experiences and how this led to now. Mine are only small problems, and I can hide it a lot, other people aren’t so lucky. I wonder what would happen if we stopped discriminating and valued our differences:
So: This is a look back over my development linking it to own problems with mental health issues.
Interpersonal Problems, Lack of social bonding in sports:
As a child I had allot of problems with social groups and was bullied allot, I was always picked last for team sports and always came last in any sport other than sprinting due to this crazy energy! I had a particualry bad tantrum that I still remember now at someone’s birthday party because I didn’t want to join in. This is because I knew I would be last. Over time I became more of an observer, then a participant, I would make myself last to avoid embarrassment to the point where people forgot I was there. I know this has made it really hard to understand relationships and that’s another story.
Like austic children, I also had and still have overwhelming emotions, sensitivity at night to loud noises. I also used to rock back and forth (we saw it in an old video) I believe it was like having too much energy. I think hand flapping may be more too do with the amount of energy in your body because of anxiety and being excited of similar intense feelings. These days I probably will move about more than typical humans but have suppressed the need to move to the point where my body feels cramped.
Not just a Motor Problem
I feel like its co-ordination problem not just of motor skills but also of emotion and senses. The trouble to integrate sensory information, as well as emotions can lead to anxiety. Anxiety can make this happen more. Even now I can loud sounds can be really harsh on my ears, being in a place oxford street is hard having people too close -or overpowering smells can be very discomforting, this seems to increase when I am stressed. On the other hand, I also have experienced Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) with low-level noise that is deep sense of relaxation and tingles that occur with low sounds or energetically soothing people. This happens library or being close to an artist drawing a picture. I get some tactile discomfort textures of clothes can feel horrible at times.
On the plus side I have the ability to completely switch off my attention if someone is talking to me, like someone with a hearing aid that can turn down the sound. But if there is a conversation somewhere loud say in the pub it is hard to concentrate. I was actually taken to for a hearing test when I was younger because I couldn’t hear my parents shouting something from another room, but it was all fine. I know now I just had a strange attention, and probably I was focusing on something else at the time.
Depression and Anxiety
In respect of depression and anxiety, I definitely felt that from a young age. There was a long period I was without a job at 19 and went into a deep depression, I couldn’t get out of bed. I remember one task vividly where I had to calculate costs from this telephone bill and couldn’t do it. In all jobs, I could never get far and no-one could understand why. I definitely agree that anxiety and depression come from a result of expectations in society. Its impossible to get entry-level jobs with DCD as these require practical skills. I tried housekeeping (I could not make a bed) waitressing (kept messing up orders!). I couldn’t set the tables right. The worst part is people think you are stupid. I know I’m not. Its weird because even from secondary school I was keen to work, I would look into career books and couldn’t wait to find something. I grew very disillusioned with every company I worked in.
I always think that because obsessed with reading that it has made it hard to even stay in those type of jobs as they are extremely understimulating. The only way to keep me happy is constant novel environments as such I’ve changed too many jobs. That’s why the university has been so good. When I’m in lectures it actually feels like someone is feeding my brain with fresh water after a long stint in the desert. It must be so hard for others with ND that don’t have the outlet.
This is the overview that led me to today at university – this occured after I had a breakdown when I was 28 where emotions of dealing with a relationship at the time and a monotonous call centre job sent me into a meltdown. I sought help from the doctor who sent me to CBT. I’m forever grateful as it completely changed my life. Now I am at university I realize that I need help with understanding and managing my relationships. I am going to find a therapist that helps me manage my thoughts there.
I left my call centre job and went travelling which isn’t very pleasant when you are trying to find who you are away from pressures from society. It led me to the university which still has problematic moments but has given me the time to learn and understand myself. I am still scared for the future, whether I can do what I plan to if I am capable enough. In addition, if I can build a healthy relationship and fall in love. I guess these are all things we struggle with but I wanted to share an insight into what its like to have these differences. Most people would argue that neurodevelopmental disorders are not a thing and others have similar struggles but there is a lot of careful research in this area that takes our difficulties seriously and can offer interventions that help us cope with the social world.