Not Your Neurotypical Construct
Why my brain thinks the world is out to get me
My brain thinks my boss is trying to kill me.
Now, comparatively, he’s four feet taller, 200 pounds heavier, a combat veteran, and 23% shrapnel - so he could kill me.
But school boards tend to frown on casual indiscretions such as murder; therefore, I’m somewhat sure he’s probably not - seriously - considering it. So, why is my brain convinced that when I walk into his office it means certain death?
Because I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a Panic Disorder, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Worst Tinder headline ever - right?
My triggers are: Being afraid I’m going to look stupid, not meeting expectations, and pep rallies. My turn-ons are: Staying home. With my cats and my crafts. Forever.
When confronted with said triggers, my brain floods with adrenaline and cortisol and reverts to what I refer to as my “dinosaur brain” which wants to either fight or flee.
It’s like being two people.
One of me is nodding and taking notes and making a plan during a meeting.
The other is sweating through eight layers, trying not to puke, shaking violently, and hoping that my brain isn’t slowly dissolving at the molecular level and leaking out my right ear.
Simmer down, dino brain.
In the five years since my official diagnosis, I’ve learned how to use my tools to keep that dino brain more in check. Like my own, tiny, personal Chris Pratt calming down the herd of raptors in my amygdala - medication and therapy have helped me find my calm.
One of the things that therapy teaches you, is to focus on the physical things outside of your overly dramatic brain. While the dino brain tries to flee, the evolved brain can see that a traffic jam is just a bunch of cars in a parking lot, spilling a cup of coffee is just a puddle on the floor, and while I might remember that awkward thing I said in the meeting, a week from now no one else will.
One way I’ve found to bring my focus back into reality is crafting. The methodical repetition of moving the acrylic ruler and using a rotary cutter to slice 2 ¼” strips of fabric, knitting around and around as the sock grows longer and longer, or sketching sunflowers onto the weekly spread of my bullet journal. There is a meditative beauty to the repetition of cutting and pinning and stitching and sketching.
In December, I started learning how to create my own patterns for a project I wanted to do for my husband. It was spring before the idea of combining my passion for bringing awareness to mental health and creating patterns occurred to me. Now I share my therapy with others. My favorites involve some version of the phrase “Not Your Neurotypical Construct.” Neurodiversity or “not neurotypical” are the terms used to encapsulate those of us who struggle with anxiety and PTSD, but also OCD, autism, depression, or any additional issue that can cause a person’s brain to interpret the world differently - because they were born that way or because their neural pathways shifted due to trauma. It is the spectrum on which we strive to stabilize. I’ve created and stitched a few patterns that encapsulate this idea that, while I might look “normal” on the outside, my brain is frequently running circles and making it difficult for me to process or communicate in this situation. My disability isn’t any less in need of accommodation and understanding than my friend who needs braille to read or an elevator to get from one floor to another.
I want my stitching to help me, and others in the 20% of the population who struggle with mental health and mental disorders, win the ability to stand up and be heard. I want to help create a world where PTSD and OCD and depression and anxiety are no longer feared, are no longer punchlines, but are just one more element that makes me me.
I am not sub-human.
I am not less-than.
I am not weak.
I’m just a crafter trying to control my dinosaur brain in a 21st Century world.