This is going to be a vulnerable post, because part of reducing stigmatization involves being vocal and encouraging healthy discussion!
I've struggled with anxiety and intrusive thoughts my whole life. While the earliest memories that I have are from age 7, my mom remembers my symptoms appearing as early as age 2. I had periods of time that were "easy" and periods of time that were… really hard.
I didn't understand that this was obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) until I was 23, and it was even later that I identified as neurodivergent.
The larger neurodiversity movement helped me identify my own neurodivergence (i.e., being on the obsessive compulsive spectrum), and this has brought me more inner peace than I can articulate (but if I were to try, I'd say I finally started to feel seen, validated, affirmed, reassured, and understood).
I never thought I could (or would!) share this information with the public. Over the years, I've felt a lot of shame and masked a lot of my feelings and symptoms because I wanted to appear "normal." At other times, I felt like I wasn’t neurodivergent *enough* to seek the supports/information that would help me thrive. But understanding that my brain is just wired differently, that my caudate nucleus (along with other areas in my orbital cortex) is hyperactive — and that other people experience the same thing!?! — has been life-changing.
I now view my OCD as information (about me and about my brain) and it is something (neutral, neither good nor bad) that I simply have to manage as I move through life. Since it is a part of me, though, it also contributes to who I am as a clinician.
I feel like I can better relate to my clients who have anxiety and sensory preferences. My attention to detail is a strength. I can use my own neurodiversity to help my clients feel empowered by theirs. I can demonstrate how to focus on one's strengths, and to give grace to areas that may need more support. Most importantly, I can create a therapeutic environment that will prevent the internalization of shame.
Because there is nothing shameful about it.
by Halle Demchuk, SLP
Paediatric SLP | GLP-Trained Clinician | Owner of HAEPI SLP
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