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  • Writer's pictureDee Crute

On Neurodiversity & Coaching: a game changer?

But not meant to change you, just help you find your own strengths.


PART 2


Grassland wit red flowers
Sussex Downs by Dee Crute

Part 1 served as us an introduction; now, let us focus on the matter at hand!


Whether to embrace your neurodiversity or start changing things around? Or, in other words, is Autism/ADHD a gift or disability?


I would never demonise my autism and ADHD. Still, I am under no illusion of how much I have struggled - my neurodiversity has affected my life in both positive and negative ways.


Some negative aspects came from within, like emotional dysregulation, rejection sensitivity and body dysmorphia.


If I could, I would take back many hurtful words said during my disproportionate to-situation rage or meltdown, but I can't do that now.


Some feelings of rejection, anger or anxiety were so strong that they were almost visceral, driving me mad.

I could also do without eternal dissatisfaction with my body and face.



Dee Crute's face wearing helmet
Me - Dee

Other traits make me who I am: a big child finding pleasure in the smallest things, a fantastic perception, a strong feeling of justice, and feeling happy on my own...





I would never ever trade those.



Because this is me.



Would you trade being yourself?








So, considering all, do I need coaching?

Do you?


As a former scientist, I cannot help but make a biology analogy to autism/ADHD.


Every organism is a sum of the internal processes and the influence of the environment, with a single aim - to survive.


This survival mechanism is called homeostasis.


I know it is getting very technical, if not boring - but please bear with me as this is crucial in discussing autism/ADHD in the neuro-typical world.


The definition is absolutely spot on when you consider masking and manoeuvring your life as a neurodivergent person.


"Homeostasis, is a self-regulating process by which biological systems maintain stability while adjusting to changing external conditions.
Homeostasis is a dynamic process that can change internal conditions as required to survive external challenges" (George E. Billman, 2020).


Challenges are not bad - they drive adaptation and evolution.

But there is a caveat.


The damages will be irrevocable if unfavourable conditions last longer than the organism can adapt.



It will survive but with 'scaring'. Continue with the hostile environment, and the organism will not be able to survive.


Think now about autism and ADHD.



The neuro-typical world is scary, to say at least - we try to adapt by masking. Most of us can confirm that masking is exhausting for the body, mind and self-esteem.


Now add lack of inclusion - especially bullying - how long can we take it?

What effect will it have on us?


I gave you myself as an example:

General anxiety, social anxiety, impostor syndrome, depression, complex PTSD.


But the list goes further - our minds are inexorably linked with mental health: Fibromyalgia, Hashimoto, EDS, MS...


Fibromyalgia is a condition that usually results from mental or physical trauma. It's an overwhelmed central nervous system firing up like mad when it shouldn't.


Autoimmune conditions can be triggered by constant stress too, for instance, Hashimoto affecting your thyroid, multiple sclerosis damaging your nerves or arthritis and lupus damaging almost everything.


Once you have an autoimmune condition or fibromyalgia, you can't cure it. You can treat it, but it will always be there. Some of those conditions are debilitating and life-changing.


The stakes are high.


Now the question is:

What needs changing or regulating to avoid such a fate?


I won't stipulate what should happen in an ideal world because I pledged to make changes, which will only occur with a realistic and practical approach.


The world will not change overnight. So we need to learn how to navigate the neuro-typical world during those changes.


Should we change ourselves?

Ehm, nope, no, thank you.

No more exhausting, debilitating and self-esteem-destroying masking.


Then what?


Learning yourself.

Dee, heck, what do you mean? I hear you asking.


Before diagnosis, I felt different, lost, and not belonging anywhere, like a square peg, unable to fit in a round hole or being pushed through it. Every time the corners of this square were cut off to fit in - I would lose a part of myself.


Can you relate?


I was also struggling within.

On top of emotional dysregulation, I battled with an appalling short memory, attention span, black&white + all-or-nothing thinking, hyperactivity, meltdowns, and disabling sensory oversensitivity.


Not to mention all the mental health conditions I picked up due to undiagnosed autism, oh, and yes, all that trauma resulted from being vulnerable and taken advantage of.


The diagnosis provided me with answers. Penny dropped. I no longer felt weird or crazy.

I started researching Autism and ADHD online; Dan from The Aspie World (@TheAspieWorld Twitter, YouTube) was like a beacon of hope - explaining symptoms and providing practical advice. I did not feel alone anymore! It was not only me!


But I needed more help. My work was affected, personal life too. I needed to get into trouble at work with my behaviour and absences (you guessed right - burnout!) to get support.


Access to Work assessor suggested coaching - a company specifically working with neurodivergent folk.


I engaged.
It worked.
It saved my life.
Full stop.


What is coaching, then?


Individual or group sessions during which you - guided by a coach - identify areas you struggle with and your... Superpowers!


My coach started by explaining me the spiky profile theory:



line graph depicting cognitive abilities
Spiky Profile


Look at this line chart of different cognitive abilities (time management, thinking outside the box, etc.).


The neurotypical range is depicted in green, and the neurodivergent in yellow.


I want you to place your hand on the diagram just below the blue line hiding the bottom part.


Now tell me, what can you see?

Green lines - average analytical and 3D thinking skills, moderate creativity, attention to detail, and perception. In short, everything is moderate and average.



Yellow lines - fantastic analytical skills, totally above average 3D thinking, super creativity, thinking outside the box, phenomenal long-term memory and attention to detail.




I can feel you want to point out the large troughs hidden underneath your hand...


Yes. These are areas we need some help with. Or better still, learning about our symptoms and receiving guidance on how to help ourselves.




During my coaching, I was taught the pathways of my emotional dysregulation and strategies to tackle it. I was able to recognise what was happening and why, before I yelled at my loved ones or sent an angry email.
I learnt how to recognise the emotions of others as well, which reduced my social anxiety.


Knowing how our psychology works, we can plan for crises - have strategies in place.




No changes to your neurodiversity - you are just learning to steer it in the right direction.



What I loved about my coach was that she treated neurodiversity as something good and positive, at the same time not dismissing its struggles. She was neurodivergent too.




At the time of coaching, I was fixated on Marvel Comics and films. She told me to think about captain Marvel - whose rage and powers were destructive until she acknowledged her pain and learnt to harness her powers - she became invincible!


That's it!


I was told that my traits are superpowers that need harnessing, for instance, hyperfocus.


Not eating, peeing, or sleeping is not good for you!

If you finish a project, fine, but you will be exhausted for the next week or days.

But if you pace yourself, you will save that super rocket fuel for longer.


It works.



Most importantly, knowing why I am like this helped my self-esteem. I no longer felt crazy or lazy.



The Takeaway



Coaching is not a behavioural therapy telling you what is right or wrong. It helps you to understand and accept your differences.


As simple as that.



Cheerio!



PS


I apologise for not mentioning other neurodivergent conditions - I have minimal experience with them but would love to know more. Please let me know in the comments!




 

Resources:


Billman GE. Homeostasis: The Underappreciated and Far Too Often Ignored Central Organizing Principle of Physiology. Front Physiol. 2020 Mar 10;11:200. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2020.00200. PMID: 32210840; PMCID: PMC7076167.



Stojanovich L, Marisavljevich D. Stress as a trigger of autoimmune disease. Autoimmun Rev. 2008 Jan;7(3):209-13. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2007.11.007. Epub 2007 Nov 29. PMID: 18190880.


What is neurodiversity? (2023) Genius Within. Available at: https://geniuswithin.org/what-is-neurodiversity/ (Accessed: March 31, 2023).



Song H, Fang F, Tomasson G, Arnberg FK, Mataix-Cols D, Fernández de la Cruz L, Almqvist C, Fall K, Valdimarsdóttir UA. Association of Stress-Related Disorders With Subsequent Autoimmune Disease. JAMA. 2018 Jun 19;319(23):2388-2400. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.7028. PMID: 29922828; PMCID: PMC6583688.


Zielinski MR, Systrom DM, Rose NR. Fatigue, Sleep, and Autoimmune and Related Disorders. Front Immunol. 2019 Aug 6;10:1827. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2019.01827. PMID: 31447842; PMCID: PMC6691096.

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2 Comments


summersunday
Mar 31, 2023

This is really interesting Dee. I would like to understand the diagram in more detail. The symbols

used, what do they all mean? I‘m trying to understand myself in a positive light too! Accepting the strengths and struggles. I’m enjoying your posts and the beautiful photos really do help! 💚

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Dee Crute
Dee Crute
Apr 05, 2023
Replying to

Thank you so much for your comments :) Always make me happy! I shall write a separate article about the Spiky Profile and executive functions to describe it in more detail :)

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