What is Neurodivergence?

My art therapist once asked me, “How would you describe being neurodivergent to someone?”

My flippant answer was, “I would not because I do not care what other people think.”

This completely did not answer the question. However, I feel my answer reflects some of my own struggles with being neurodivergent. More on that later.

I am eternally grateful to my therapist for introducing me to the term, “neurodivergence,” as well as to the book, Divergent Mind, by Jenara Nerenberg (”A Paradigm-Shifting Study of Neurodivergent Women”).

My goal with this blog post is to finally answer my therapist’s question of how I would describe being neurodivergent.

A collage from art therapy I made about my sovereignty over my own life, especially as a neurodivergent person. Also includes a photo of the book Divergent Mind.
A collage from art therapy I made about my sovereignty over my own life, especially as a neurodivergent person

Having a neurodivergent brain means that your brain works in an unusual way – more specifically, in a way that contrasts with the way that a neurotypical brain works.

There are many causes for being neurodivergent (underlying medical diagnoses or labels). Some of these are as follows: Autism Spectrum, ADHD, Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), Gifted, OCD, Synesthesia, Tourette Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, and Trauma / PTSD.

list of neurodivergence examples

Often, these overlap. It is not unusual for a person to be both Autistic and have ADHD. Or to have both ADHD and Dyslexia.

My whole family is neurodivergent, as far as I can tell. Before I had access to that term, however, I mostly thought about myself and my family as being “freakin’ weird.”

This is part of the reason my answer to my therapist’s question was so flippant. There is one part of me that truly does not care what other people think. But the other part of me has only developed this attitude of cold indifference as a coping mechanism.

Often, being neurodivergent means that you are different from other people, which leads to you being classified as weird, abnormal, and other less-friendly terminology. Approval from others is withheld from you unless you hide who you are. This is called “masking.”

drawing of a girl removing her face as a mask and revealing a skull underneath
“Wearing a Pretty Face” Digital art inspired from my time in art therapy about masking who I really am from others

In her book, Divergent Mind, Jenara Nerenberg defines masking as “an unconscious or conscious effort to hide and cover one’s own self from the world, as an attempt to accommodate others and coexist.”

I was already a quiet, reserved, and cautious child when I entered the school system. But once I relaxed enough to feel safe to talk to my peers, often I found the things I said to be completely unrelatable to them. This reinforced my quiet and cautious ways.

As I got older though, I became a champion masker. I excelled at pretending to be normal. I was friendly. Tried to always appear happy. People liked me because I listened well and gave them space to talk and express themselves. But who was I? When did I ever express myself?

The way my mind works, how it makes connections, organizes thoughts, sees patterns, etc. My bizarreness and obsessiveness over certain topics. These are all the things that make me who I am. But these were also the things that if I did share, I felt would leave me as an ostracized outcast.

collage with tree, sculptures and a horse
“Feeling Confined” Art therapy collage I created about being confined by the expectations of other people

While I did not ever feel so different as to have suicidal thoughts or to be clinically diagnosed with anxiety or depression, I did always have a deep well of sadness within me. A sadness that originated in feeling who I was was not acceptable and that I would never be understood by other people.

It is a universal human need to connect with others. This is why it is so exciting that neurodiversity is now a widely studied topic in neuroscience and widely discussed topic in media today.

So that neurodivergent children and adults all across our world today can begin to understand themselves, why they are so “weird,” and that being weird is ok!

In fact, being weird might just be your super power!

bicycle decorated with many clock faces, resting on a bridge in Amsterdam
Photo from Unsplash – I chose this image because it looks like the bicycle belonging to a neurodivergent person!


If you would like to read essays by my art therapist, Jackie Schuld, on neurodivergence and autism, please check out her website – https://www.jackieschuld.com/blog and also her essays on Medium https://medium.com/@jackieschuld.

To learn more about the book Divergent Mind, visit Jenara Nerenberg’s website – https://www.divergentlit.com/







One response to “What is Neurodivergence?”

  1. Announcing ArmadilloAmore.Blog – The Armadillo Amore Blog Avatar

    […] a recent post on my personal blog, MKWoodCreates.com, I discussed how being neurodivergent has prevented me from sharing my thoughts with others out of fear of being classified as […]


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