Celebrating Our Diverse Brains

by Ariela Paulsen
Celebrating Our Diverse Brains

We’ve been exploring this week the concept of neurodiversity — that the world isn’t split between neurotypical and neurodivergent people, but rather we all have gloriously different brains with unique strengths and perspectives to bring to the table.

Read more about neurodiversity here

As a teacher in alternative and special education programs, I only recently discovered this term.  I have no diagnosis of ADHD, autism, or other widely-accepted forms of neurodivergence, but I exhibit many traits of these so-called “disorders.”  I learned recently from medical experts that traits of neurodivergence are extremely common in people with EDS, POTS, and MCAS (the chronic illnesses I live with).  But of course!  My nerves, spine, and brain have all been affected by my conditions.

Whether from my medical conditions, my upbringing, or simply how I am wired, I have a richly complex mind.  I am extremely introverted, so while I get lost in group settings, I feel suddenly brilliant when I’m alone.  I am hypersensitive, so although I get overwhelmed by sensory overload, I notice and feel everything around me.  I have central sensitization from chronic pain; however painful these mixed up messages from my brain and nerves can be, they have made me able to push through discomfort and deeply grateful for silence and stillness. The dysfunction of my autonomic nervous system from POTS (and trauma), can make my brain’s prefrontal cortex shut down at times, but it also makes me deeply empathic…

For the longest time, I felt embarrassed to show my neurodiversity.  I would mask myself, pretending to follow along when I was really staring through thick brain fog, and hold back my ideas when worried they’d be perceived as too “out there.”  As I’ve learned to understand and accept myself and my brain, I have let the mask slip.  And it is wonderful.  Sure, I’m still excluded and stigmatized in some situations, but I am valued for who I am in the circles that really matter.  Being honest has created space to make the changes I need to harness my strengths — often simple changes like putting my feet up and leaning back, so that the blood trapped in my feet can flow freely to my brain.  And what’s more, this has opened the door for others in the circle to let their brains shine as well!

At Mighty Well, we know that it’s our differences that make us incredible.  We love one another because of our disabilities, our chronic illness journeys, and our compassion towards those whose life experiences are different than our own.  That’s why we strive to invite all voices to the conversation.  

This week, we’ve chatted with Friends in the Fight about their brains!  Click below to see their stories, or share your own in our Friends in the Fight facebook group!

Melody Olander

Non-profit CEO / founder, chronic illness advocate, and Mighty Well Ambassador



Click here for Melody’s story!

Claire Lapat

College student, post-concussion syndrome warrior, and Mighty Well ambassador



Click here for Claire’s story!

Rebecca Wexler

Nurse, mother of twins, and chronic illness warrior 

Click here for Rebecca’s story!

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