I’m not sure I realized my brain worked differently than most until one day in a meeting when a coworker with ADHD remarked, I think as a source of great pride, about how many things she could think about simultaneously. A bevy of tv screens illuminated in her brain allowing her to focus on multiple independent topics all in a single moment.
Something inside of me flashed with recognition. Of course, it also simultaneously worried I had left my lunch at home, debated the usefulness of meetings that could easily have been an email, wrote a grocery list, bemoaned the intense discomfort caused by the painfully old office chairs, all while writing an observational humor style text complete with an artfully chosen meme to my husband. It may not have been on the big screen, but, somewhere, deep within me something clicked, and it was the beginning of my understanding of a brain whose propensity for next level Scattergories had always plagued me.
I have always been one who spends a good deal of my time internally, untangling my own thought processes often chasing thoughts that flitter so rapidly from one topic to another that I could arrive and have no recollection of the path that got me from Nutella to the need to buy a handgun.* While I wasn’t always aware of my ability to simultaneously focus on multiple topics, I was painfully aware of how quickly, how easily my mind could decide to take an unintended walkabout.
For most of my life, particularly in adulthood, I struggled with the times where my brain could go from the laser focus and intensity that would cause me to sit completely unmoving for hours until the completion of a task to the attention span of an unattended manic toddler in a candy store wreaking havoc with wild abandon.
For years I had punished, chastised and berated myself for not being able to focus as I set behind my desk feeling like a hummingbird bashing against the glass. I couldn’t understand why some aspects of my life flowed so easily and others felt like beating the proverbial square peg with a minuscule hammer, unsuccessful and utterly exasperating.
Finding another brain, who at least on some small level worked like mine, unlocked a place of understanding, of curiosity, and of appreciation for a brain that I was constantly warring against. Unlocking this one small piece made me hungry to understand more and from there I tumbled into the exploration of personality, temperament, ability, and dysfunction.
INFJ, HSP, ADHD, OCD...
The alphabet soup of letters that seemed to scratch the surface and with each layer I understood a little bit more, I fought a little bit less. Taking the Meyers-Briggs with my mother and sister was one of those Oprah-graced Aha moments that suddenly made our relationships, interactions, and history change from murky to crystal. Sitting on the island of the less than 1% of other people who shared my deeply introverted personality type and staring across the vast expanse to my polar opposite flamboyantly extroverted relations made me feel oddly less alone.
I clung to the description as the “uncommon jewel” of the personality spectrum as a raft in the sea of life that had taught me to see, particularly my introversion, as shameful, in need of fixing. Nicknames I had carried from childhood, like Mother Teresa and Captain Safety, no longer felt derisive but something to be held tenderly. I am still pissed that the latter moniker never came with the befitting cape, though finally feeling at peace with a host of qualities that felt, in isolation, like a burden is a worthy consolation.
I have never been one to only see the bright side because sugar coating is the most aggravating form of delusion, but somewhere in the course of coming to recognize these qualities, they were instantly reframed. Aspects of my personality and brain chemistry that plagued me for a lifetime were suddenly revealed to be these nuanced gifts, and I knew I couldn’t allow myself or anyone else to see them as any less.
So often we wear these labels, whether given or self-created, like the only descriptor of who we are. But, they aren’t meant to be our definition or a crutch to lean on instead of effort. They are the pathway to understanding more, struggling less, and revealing the power within. Discovering these truths about myself made me want to stop random people on the street and shout,
“Nothing about you needs to be the detriment the world tries to tell you it is.”
It is time to find what you know to be true. Today, what I know to be true...
My rapid fire brain is beautiful as hell and awash with creativity when I allow it to be.
My high sensitivity allows me to appreciate subtleties others miss, read a room, and function as a human bullshit meter.
My obsessive patterns are a brilliant warning sign to a rise in anxiety or a developing problem that needs my attention.
My introversion has helped me weed out the noise (sorry, Facebook) and make deep & intimate friendships with amazing people.
And, my hyper alertness to danger has made me the coolest safety-related super hero you know.
*1. I wish I lived in a world where I could eat Nutella with no consequence.
2. Dude, in the zombie apocalypse, I am going to eat the hell out of some Nutella.
3. Wait, where you get fresh veggies in an apocalypse?
4. I should totally loot some gummy vitamins for the kids.
5. Oh, my god, the kids! What if a zombie eats the kids in front of me?
6. We should definitely buy a handgun.