4 min read

On autism and ADHD

On autism and ADHD
Photo by Sharad Bhat / Unsplash

I used to be weird growing up. It started with me having strict food preferences. I couldn't eat beans or anything in it's family like ezima* (not sure about the spelling) and I absolutely loathed onions. I couldn't also eat a host of native food like Ikoko* (also not sure about the spelling but it's water yam porridge wrapped in leaves), Ugba and a lot more. I stuck with rice, yam, sweet potatoes, garri and different cereals. I have an unhealthy relationship with food and can sometimes starve myself of food for days. It's something I started doing as a child as I would have to forego food sometimes, if what was prepared was not something that I wanted to eat. I had one spell in university where I only had sweets in the morning, popcorn and a drink in the afternoon, and fried yam and potatoes at night.

I used to be considered gifted in primary school. I didn't need to read to pass exams, skipped a class, and did generally well at school. I used to compete for 1st place every term with two other people and generally did well in all my common entrance exams. I got into secondary school where I had to study for exams and I found myself struggling to avoid repeating classes because I couldn't bring myself to focus in that environment. I did find that I did better in more controlled settings but my main school then was hellish. I didn't realize that I had executive dysfunction issues because that's not a thing Nigerians thought about then. You'd just end up being termed lazy.

I remember my first few weeks in secondary school were I would be made to parade myself in front of my seniors because I walked without swinging my arms. It wasn't something I'd noticed about myself prior to that period but I got made fun of for it a lot and earned the nicknames - Robocop, I Robot and other variations of the word, robot. I became conscious of how I walk and it's still something that pops up from time when I'm walking alone on the road.

Ah, OCD. It was always there but it got really bad when I was in SS2. I wasn't feeling too well one day and got on a bus home after getting a sick leave. I didn't have enough money for the fare and avoided paying since I sat at the back. Some days after I started making a clucking sound from trying to get a piece of corn stuck at the back of my throat out.. I couldn't bring myself to stop making the sound and I initially thought it was my punishment for not paying the bus fare. I remember waking up one night to go cry on a staircase because I thought that I would never be able to get past it. I did find out that one of the best ways to beat it is staying active and I tend to get scared when I am idle. This happened in July, 2008 and I always get anxious about it every July. The anxiety isn't as bad now but it remains a fixture in my life. This was also the first mental disorder that I got an official diagnosis for and it's intensity has fluctuated throughout my life, from it's no biggie all the way to I can no longer function for the day.

I am touch sensitive. This was something I discovered late in 2021. I subconsciously flinch when people touch me. My last ex was the first person to point it out, but my current partner and one of my best friends have corroborated it. I tend to be on my own most of the time so it's not something I would have easily noticed but I've been spending more time with partners so it's come up a couple of times. I remember getting a massage sometime last year and it just felt awkward. I didn't feel relaxed afterwards. It also means that I don't derive a lot of physical pleasure from sex. I mean, I like sex but I focus more on giving my partner as much pleasure as possible, as doing that is what gives me pleasure.

I love routines and things staying in a particular order. I've had meltdowns in the past because my routine got disrupted for a long period. This is one area that I've been actively trying to work on as it has the tendency to affect my relationships with people. There's also the fact that I tend to lack directions on days where I don't have routines to follow. This is common with weekends and I end up not accomplishing much on those days.

I've suspected that I was autistic since around 2015 and I keep seeing enough traits in my life to back it up. My social anxiety and awkward dancing getting honorable mentions Same with ADHD, as those symptoms have been with me since secondary school. One example being maladaptive daydreaming, which I've been doing since I was much younger. Why have I not gotten an official diagnosis? Because my therapist is expensive. To be honest, I've been able to adapt to both and would continue to but there are times I do wish that I did not have to. There are parts of me that I hide from others, because it's not behaviour that's acceptable to everyone else. There's still some way to go but I just thought I'd talk about my experiences from being with both growing up. Depression and anxiety both say hi, and now bye.