AuDHD - The battle of Autism and ADHD to be a functional human [223]

AuDHD. Autism and ADHD. Two sides of my brain that fight often, but work well. How?

AuDHD - The battle of Autism and ADHD to be a functional human [223]

AuDHD - The internal fight between ADHD and Autism

In 2018 I received my autism diagnosis. I was relieved as it explained a lot about my life. By 2021 I noticed gaps. The diagnosis explained much, but not everything. I started to read about ADHD, specifically ADHD-type inattentive. This is ADHD without the H, the hyperactivity. This was me. 2 years later in the autumn of 2023 I received an ADHD diagnosis. I was unofficially, officially, AuDHD. I am Autistic and have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

These two conditions overlap in some ways and fight in others. It is like being, if you’ll forgive the cliched autistic person is an alien metaphor, Spock. Half-human, half-Vulcan with the internal struggle of emotions and logic.

I’ve found that my ADHD side loves to explore new creative and arts-based projects, which is great for my work as a photographer. My autistic side loves playing with cameras, which is also great. However, my autistic side sometimes does not want to leave the house because it can’t account for every possible event in an environment it can’t control. I’ll have loud music on in the car because my ADHD side is excited about a commission only to get stuck in traffic, and my Autistic side will take over and start to overthink. The pressure of a situation can cause my Autistic side to completely nullify the benefits of my ADHD in a split second. It’s impressive, but also very annoying. I was energised. Where’d that energy go?

I love chatting to people and having interesting discussions until the volume in the space just creeps above comfortable and then I’m overloaded and have to leave. My desk has to be tidy to work, but somehow always ends up covered in clutter. I’ll have a whole bunch of creative ideas on a project but get stuck on the fine details of something causing me to become lost in that detail, unable to see the whole again. In the heat of the moment I’ll make impulsive decisions, but only after having spent months researching. Alternatively, I’ll spend months excitedly researching only to never be able to make a decision.

It’s a challenge living this way. A constant internal battle. I can overcome sensory issues if the event overwhelmingly stimulates my ADHD side. But will it? I never know until I’m in the middle of it. The medication I’m taking certainly helps until my anxiety takes over. I can happily be looking forward to something until I need to decide on something against the clock, and then I shut down. Cool. I’ll just avoid those in the future. Easy.

When Autism and ADHD align though, it’s great. Photographing Eurovision was a joy. My ADHD was happy with all the new art to see and my autistic side loved exploring a deep special interest. If the world was a bit too much I could go into my camera and experience it through that. My camera was a stim toy with dials and buttons to play with, and my view of the world was something I could control while still being excited by what I was seeing. Typing this very newsletter allows me to explore ideas while using a nice keyboard sensory toy. Sketching life models against the clock helps prevent me from overthinking, and keeps me focused on a single task. I’ve found ways to make both sides of my brain work for me. A good bit of adrenaline to empower the ADHD side and focus the autistic side helps me work.

My autistic and ADHD traits make me who I am and have given me the life I’ve had. No regrets. At 45 I have a much healthier understanding of how my brain works and what it needs to be productive. I would appreciate less of the infighting between the two conditions as I get older, and that will probably happen. Unfortunately, I think it will take the rest of my career to figure out. An interesting journey, but by the time I retire (die at the camera) I’ll only have just figured out how to operate this bag of mostly water and make money. Until then, I’m going to try and enjoy the benefits of my personality and accept the negatives. Maybe…

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