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  • Saskia Müller

Challenging the Superpower Narrative

In 2017, I received a dual diagnosis of autism and ADHD. Interestingly, my school and psychologist had suspected these conditions long before I sought formal confirmation. Yet, it took over a year after receiving the diagnosis for me to truly accept it. Reflecting back, I now realise that my initial hesitation stemmed from internalised ableism – a fear of judgment and concerns about not being taken seriously, especially given my strong academic performance.

Upon receiving the diagnosis, my art teacher congratulated me with genuine enthusiasm. At first, I found her reaction somewhat peculiar, but she soon explained that some of the most creative and passionate individuals she knew had ADHD. This statement resonated deeply with me because I consider myself to be a creative and passionate person.

However, in the time that has passed since then, I've encountered what is often referred to as "toxic positivity," primarily from neurotypical individuals discussing neurodiversity's. This perspective can oversimplify the condition, suggesting that having AuDHD (autism snd ADHD) bestows upon us an inherent superpower – making us creative, passionate, and out-of-the-box thinkers. While these attributes may ring true for many with neurodiversity's, the pressure to conform to this narrative often leads to the erasure of the everyday challenges we face.

Yes, there are moments when I undoubtedly exhibit creativity and passion, particularly when I encounter a moral issue or a subject that intensely piques my interest. I'm known for generating unique and captivating ideas. These aspects of my personality are undeniably valuable, but it's equally essential to acknowledge the times when I struggle to act upon my creative thoughts, complete simple tasks, or even send an email, simply because the reward-based action centre in my brain fails to ignite.

These struggles aren't occasional inconveniences; they are daily battles that can lead to a frustrating standstill and significantly impact my self-esteem. Missed deadlines, library fines for overdue books, and recollection of unfinished tasks at the most inconvenient times are part of the routine.

The prevailing culture of "ADHD/autism is my superpower" within the community, influenced by ableism and the "inspirational disabled person" narrative, makes it incredibly challenging to address these daily difficulties and complexities of living with neurodiversity's.

Furthermore, there's the lingering stigma surrounding medication. In 2020, while picking up my ADHD medication from the pharmacy, I encountered an ignorant and unprofessional comment from a pharmacist who expressed unwarranted fear about ADHD medication due to its stimulant-based nature. The misconception that ADHD medication can lead to addiction is regrettably widespread, perpetuated by certain media outlets. In my case, I often forget to take my medication due to executive function and working memory impairments caused by ADHD. Contrary to misconceptions, ADHD medication has been a helpful tool, aiding my focus on daily tasks and quieting the constant stream of anxious energy in my mind.

While I am generally an outspoken advocate for neurodivergent awareness and support, discussing medication remains challenging due to the lingering stigma around it.

As the number of diagnoses continues to rise, it is imperative that we engage in honest discussions about the realities of living with ADHD and autism and the potential benefits of medication in managing its symptoms. We need content that acknowledges the inherent difficulties of living with a neurodivergent brain without further stigmatising the use of medication. For many individuals, including myself, medication is an essential component of managing symptoms.

It's time to dispel the notion of neurodivergence as superhero-like superpowers. We are not superheroes; we are individuals navigating a complex and diverse neurodiverse world, in need of understanding, support, and compassion.


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