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  • mandimartin7

“Coming out” as Neurodiverse

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked if I was “out” as neurodiverse, and it stopped me in my tracks for a moment. Coming out seemed like a term used for sexual orientation, and it never occurred to me to use it when talking about neurodiversity, or any other kind of “otherness”.

I sat and pondered this for a while, and began to wonder if it feels similar, or potentially as stressful, to come out to others as neurodiverse, as it does for many others when coming out as queer, for example. I have had many conversations with people about whether or not they feel comfortable admitting they are neurodiverse, and what their feelings were about this.

Some have described their coming out, no matter which otherness they are coming out with, as feeling pressured to make a big announcement of it, or fear of being judged, dealing with stigma, having the views of others changing, being shamed by those who don’t understand or accept, and many more difficulties. Coming out is very much a personal choice, and whether or not you need some sort of fanfare or an important audience, or whether you just start “being” out, you need to feel comfortable and confident in this. It’s ok to LET it happen rather than MAKE it happen.

When I started letting people know that I am Autistic, with ADHD traits, I had already reached acceptance of this new thing I had discovered about myself. I knew who I was, fully for the first time ever, and I did not feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. This took some work, and a lot of research, but I was finally able to stop feeling apologetic for being me. I recognised many behaviours, thinking patterns, etc which made me different from the majority, and I was ok with that. I will even go as far as to say I was happy about it, as now I understood myself far better.

By the time I actually started telling people, I already “owned” my neurodiversity and felt very comfortable telling people. I did not make a big thing of it but slipped it into the conversation when something relevant came up. For example, if someone was talking about struggling with having no routine, I would casually explain that being Autistic made routines very important to me. This allowed it to come out very naturally, with no fuss, and I felt more able to respond to anything someone else said. Not everyone gave me a positive response, although many did, and many others didn’t even react at all as they already accepted me for who I am. It sometimes feels like I am coming out, just a little bit, every day. This can be as simple as changing the language I use, or not hiding or lying about things I felt uncomfortable or “wrong” for beforehand.

Another difficulty can come from others when they act as though they have a right to your story, and that it is ok for them to ask inappropriate, insensitive, or probing questions. Just because you have shared some information with others, this does not give them the right to expect ALL the information. You choose how much you want to share, and who you want to share it with. It is also not your responsibility to manage their feelings or reactions to your reality, or even to educate them. You don’t owe anyone an explanation! However, if there are parts of you that you want others to understand, or would benefit you and your relationships to explain some of yourself, this is ok too. You are allowed to let others know who you are and what you need.

Often, one of the hardest areas to face could be fear of what other people will say, how they will react, and whether they will treat you differently or even badly because of the new truth. The most important person who needs to be and feel ok with it is YOU. Once you are comfortable with yourself and who you are, the rest is easier to deal with. This doesn’t mean everyone will be happy with, or for, you, but it will impact you less and therefore have less power to hurt you.

The more comfortable you are with who you are, the more confident you will feel within this. You take the power back rather than letting others have it in the strength of their reactions – whether good or bad. When you accept yourself and your otherness, you don’t need validation from others, you will see that a negative reaction is about them and not you, and you can allow yourself to focus more on your wants and feelings than those of others.

However you choose to come out, make that decision for your own sake, look at why you want to, whether it is about your own journey or theirs, and hold your head high when you do it. Remember that whichever shape your otherness comes in, it is not a lifestyle choice, it is not you deciding to be a certain way, this is who you are. Some won’t like it or may refuse to accept it. Others will celebrate with you and be happy to finally know all parts of you; these are your people.

If you, or someone you care about, is struggling with knowing and accepting themselves or coming out with their truths, I would strongly encourage you to seek support from someone who understands what it is like.

Having lived experience is such a valuable resource to support others with, and brings an openness that will hopefully help you talk openly, without shame or fear. Life is hard at times, so why not make things easier where you can?


Don't forget that I provide a non-judgemental safe space for you.

I offer both online and in-person sessions and my therapy room is based in Alton, Hampshire. I'm based just 15 minutes from Basingstoke and Farnham and at the end of a direct train line from London Waterloo.

I'm always happy to talk to you. Talk Helps.


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