CW: mental health
Today is Neurodiversity Pride Day. Big yay to that! But I must admit that pride doesn’t really sum up how I feel today. Let me explain…. Yesterday I discovered that a hacker had stolen $8600 from my credit card. Anyway would struggle with that but for me it was especially traumatic. I have been very anxious about online security for the past year, By anxious I mean the kind of anxiety that results in psychosis and suicide attempts (I speak form unfortunate experience on both of those things). When I realised I had been hacked yesterday I was in a world of stress. I am going to need to contact the bank later today to find out what the person at the bank that I spoke to yesterday actually said because I was so stressed I missed most of it!
So not feeling at all proud – mostly feeling very stressed and depressed and uncertain about anything I used to take for granted in terms of security. But it is Neurodiversity Pride Day and I am not only multiply neurodivergent I am also an advocate. So I am proud within all of that fear and misery.
So what does Neurodiversity Pride Day even mean? Why should I be proud? What does pride do for me as a neurodivergent person who is managing a lot of stress at present?
Well to my mind pride is all about owning your identity and celebrating achievements – and often celebrating our survival in a world that doesn’t always value or support us. I should feel proud to be a neurodivergent survivor, someone who has struggled in life due to ableism and the medical model of disability an discrimination and bullying based on my neurotype. I should celebrate my neurodivergent culture. I should celebrate the fact that there are now so many advocates out there with their message of encouragement, empowerment and activism.
I started doing this in 2005 (cue groan from audience who have heard the ‘Yennski has been an advocate for almost twenty years’ statement many times before….) Anyway when I started there were just a few advocates active in the neurodiversity space, most of them being Autistic people. There were a handful of books written by Autistic authors – including my first book. There was a neurodiversity movement but it was in its early stages. I remember that parents of autistic kids often had some really unhelpful views. Advocacy was very hard and people talking about the strengths of Autistic people was rare. People now call me – and presumably my colleagues who were working alongside me in the early 2000s and those active in the 1990s – a trailblazer in the advocacy community. Flash forward to now and the neurodiversity approach is so frequently taken on board by people who in the past would have been giving me a hard time and telling me that ‘you don’t speak on behalf of my child’ or ‘my child is severely autistic and you are mild’ etc.
On Pride Day I want to celebrate all my fellow advocates – whether they have been active for 20 years or two months, whether they are 70 or 17. They are so many of us now with all our different perspectives and it is a good thing.
Pride is not just about celebrating achievements though. It is about acknowledging the work and contribution of neurodivergent people and the challenges that we have faced and overcome. Pride is about identity – about owning who you are. Pride is about knowing that you have limitations and that life can be challenging but engaging with it anyway. You don’t have to be happy to be proud and often for neurodivergent folks happiness can be a difficult thing to attain.
I am proud to be Autistic and an ADHDer. I am even proud to have a schizophrenia diagnosis – although there isn’t a day for that. (Maybe I should create one…) Pride is such an important thing for members of groups that face disadvantage in society. So today I am sad and stressed but also very proud. I have survived in a would which hasn’t always been very supportive or inclusive and I am still here, still advocating, still fighting for a better world.
I recognise my fellow neurodivergent people on this day,. I see so many people advocating for a better world for neurodivergent folks. We have gone from a handful of people to a huge movement which has rewritten the script about neurodiversity and inclusion. Big yay to that. And happy pride day!