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There's nothing to be scared of

There's nothing to be scared of

, by Annabel Tannenbaum, 3 min reading time

Lots of things scared me and still do. I am now finally gaining a beautiful understanding of how I view and experience the world as a neurodivergent person.

Looking back and reflecting on my childhood as an adult who was diagnosed as autistic when I was 30 and adhd when I was 31, has emerged very strong and mixed emotions.

I can finally view my life through a different and much clearer lens which has been mind blowing in a brilliant way. With this clearer ‘neurodivergent lens’ though, it has also brought up a lot of pain and hurt that I was unable to see through my ‘failed and foggy neurotypical lens.’

Lately, birthday parties have been on my mind and in particular a few that I went to in primary school. Viewing them through a different perspective now that I have a ‘clearer neurodivergent lens.’ There were party games that I would refuse to participate in because I felt scared and did not understand why. Unfortunately, I was then known by the kids in my class as a ‘scaredy cat, ‘ a baby’ or a ‘spoiled sport.’

For example, in year 5 there was a party that involved being blindfolded and putting your hand in a bowl that was filled with different objects and you had to guess what you thought you were feeling in the bowl. They were mostly slimy things from what I remember like tinned spaghetti haha (even grosses me out thinking about it now.) I refused to do the party game and said ‘No, I don’t want to do it, I feel scared.’ Quite a few of the kids and a parent tried to convince me to do it as ‘it wasn’t scary’ and ‘there wasn’t anything to be scared of.’ I stayed adamant though and just watched the other kids touch all the slimy and weird things while staying pretty close to the only parent who was there. I felt like there was something wrong with me and was upset that I couldn’t just do it like the other kids. I also couldn’t understand why I felt so strongly about not wanting to participate in that game. As if I wasn’t feeling bad enough, when we were back at school the following week, I overheard a girl who went to the party telling a group of kids about how I was so scared and refused to play the party game. Wow! How some comments and events really stick in your mind.

Lots of things scared me and still do. I am now finally gaining a beautiful understanding of how I view and experience the world as a neurodivergent person. I struggle to recognise how I am feeling and as a child I could not identify or express when I was feeling anxious. I would often say I was feeling scared about a situation. I can now see that when I was feeling scared, I was often anxious and did not know.

Going back to the party situation. I expressed I was feeling scared. Now I can see that I was actually feeling anxious because I am sensory avoidant and touching unknown textures with my hands as well as being blindfolded sent my anxiety through the roof! Also the fact I was going to be watched touching these awful things!!! I just couldn’t cope. So many anxiety provoking factors all in one activity.

There are lots of other times as a child and as an adult where I can see that I was feeling anxious because of sensory expectations or the general sensory environment and could only express this to others as feeling scared. I could not accurately identify and express how I was feeling, thinking or processing. I still struggle with this at 32 years old but I am now learning and understanding my ‘triggers’ and finding ways to support my sensory needs and anxiety.

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