Being Neurodivergent: Work your Strengths. Tame your Struggles
Updated: Nov 19, 2022
Hey QWIL! I am Morgan Attridge, a second-year Sociology student here at Queen’s University. I love fashion and horseback riding. I have been horseback riding for 15 years and while I had to put competition on the back burner during my studies, I have had some wonderful opportunities through my time here at Queen’s that have allowed me to keep this aspect of my life going. I am a co-captain on the Queen’s Equestrian Team and the Vice-President of the OCEA, the provincial organization that assists teams all across the province. Looking at my love for fashion, I have an awesome job at Anthropologie where I am able to express my creativity and share my love for clothes with other people.
These two aspects have proven to be important throughout my life and I have used both of them as an outlet for coping with being neurodivergent (side note: neurodivergent is the broad term I am using. Even though I have a specific diagnosis, this article is for anyone who has these struggles or can relate to them regardless of if you are diagnosed or not). Having any type of neurological interference is difficult. I have been neurodivergent for as long as I can remember and being diagnosed early allowed me to develop skills that taught me how to cope, this is unfortunately not the case with many people.
I have struggled with school since a very young age both academically, and physically. I hated going to school because I never felt “good enough” or “smart enough” to be there. I eventually found that a mixture of being on medication, going to a tutor, and developing learning skills allowed for me to find my ground and bring my confidence back. Recognizing that your neurodivergence is an obstacle is one thing, but letting it overrule you is another. I would always get upset when someone would say I couldn’t do something because of my neurodivergence. I had to work harder to be “normal” (whatever that means *eye roll*) and I hated being “normal” even though at one point in my life that is all I wanted to be. I wanted to make a difference in my peers’ lives and be a leader, and to show initiative and advocate not only for neurodivergent individuals but also for individuals from intersectional backgrounds. My efforts were recognized in Grade 8 when I was awarded the Ontario Principals Council Award for Student Leadership. And 4 years later, in Grade 12, I won the Student Leadership Award representing my entire graduating class.
Being someone who loves to be heavily involved in extracurriculars and is neurodivergent was a huge obstacle for me to overcome. I have had my horse, Westside, since Grade 8. Simultaneously navigating my neurodivergence and the responsibilities that come with owning a horse, in addition to being a student, really set me up well for my future. By the time I got to Grade 12 I was actively showing one of my two horses at the time, while also doing post-secondary applications, maintaining good grades, managing my neurodivergence, and trying to experience my last year of high school. It was all difficult, but I was able to find balance. Now I am learning how to navigate two extracurriculars, a full course load, a social life, being away from my family, and my neurodivergence. So many aspects of my life have changed but my neurodivergence has always been there. I have learned how to do my best using the cards I have been dealt and having these neurological obstacles. As a result, it has made me resilient, and if you are someone who also has experienced this, I hope you feel resilient too.
I never got to do a speech for my awards, but I have some people I would like to thank. Most importantly, I want to thank my parents for never giving up on me even when I would lay flat out on our kitchen counter, crying because my homework was hard. You guys rock, and there’s too many words in my brain right now to get them all down on paper (I’m working on it)... but I love you guys’ pretty much sums it up. Secondly, I want to thank all my teachers and support workers throughout the years who recognized my greatness before I even could. You worked overtime for me, and I will forever appreciate you. Lastly, a huge thank you to all the teachers and peers who saw my struggle and used it against me. You taught me I can do anything I put my mind to and are what motivated me to advocate for my neurodivergence, not stigmatize it.
I hope this article has helped someone appreciate who they are regardless of what other people say. Stay confident, be you, and care less about what other people say. I will insert a LinkTree down below. I am always open to chat (as you can tell) so PLEASE reach out and I will answer any questions or help you along your neurodivergent journey. I will also insert some links to coaches and external sources – they are amazing humans who also have their own struggles and can relate to you. Don’t be afraid to make proactive steps, especially when it comes to your mental wellbeing.