Blog by Nao Mason
Talking to friends, family and work colleagues about neurodiversity can feel uncomfortable. As a condition that you can’t physically “see” and being someone who “did well” at school, I’ve seen how sceptical people can be. And it’s SO frustrating.
But the more TikToks I watch and the more I chat with other neurodivergents, the more wonderful analogies I’ve picked up to help explain to others how my brain works and how I feel. So I thought I’d share my favourite 3 with you for today’s blog, in the hope they help you find a way to communicate a feeling that you’ve been struggling to express. And if you have favourites that help you too, please add them to the comments under this blog and let’s help eachother!
1. The Coke Bottle analogy
This is Ellie’s and I give her full credit, because I’ve used it SO MANY times and it seems to make a lot of sense to people. This one helps to explain the struggle of emotional regulation - because I cry AT EVERYTHING.
Super overwhelmed? Cry.
Really angry and confused at how someone doesn’t see what they’re doing wrong? Cry. Blissfully happy? Cry.
Embarrassed and not sure how to get out of the situation? Cry.
You get the idea…
But the Coke bottle analogy helps explain this:
“Imagine you shake a bottle of coke really aggressively. You open it, it fizzes everywhere. If you had a clumsy moment and dropped it, when you opened it, it would still fizz everywhere. If you give it to an excited toddler and they shake it around - when you open it, it overflows with fizz in the same way. It doesn’t matter what emotion you shake that bottle with, it’s still going to fizz up and explode in the same way. That’s me with my emotions. Whatever feeling, I feel it big and I cry to release that overwhelm of emotion.
2. The spoon jar analogy
This is my slight twist on the spoons analogy - which I’ve found helpful to explain how it feels when I get low on energy. Let's say my energy for the day is equivalent to 10 spoonfuls of sugar in a jar. Some activities might just be a half-spoon's worth of energy. Other things for me are more energy-expensive, and might use up 3 spoonfuls of sugar to complete - like a long video call at work.
That takes 3 spoons out my pot of sugar. And you know those last couple of spoonfuls will take more effort to get out, you have to tip the jar a certain angle and scrape the bottom to get the sugar out and get those horrible scrapey-squeaky sounds? That's how it feels when my energy is running low... I have to force myself to tip a certain way or make more effort to give you that last spoonful. And once its gone, once all 10 spoons of sugar have dissolved away into the mug of tea... I'm done for the day and no matter how much you tip the jar or scrape the bottom, the jar is empty and you'll get nothing except that horrible squeaky scrapy noise of the spoon against the bottom of the empty jar.
I also know that neurotypicals get cranky (squeaky scrapey noise) when they’re tired, so it might help to explain that while we’re operating on our 10 spoonfuls of sugar, they’ve got more of a Costco-sized bag sat in the cupboard.
3. Why stimming is helpful
This one is less of an analogy and more of an explanation, but when I saw this (from @olivialutfallah) on TikTok, I knew it would be handy to note for future conversations.
Did you know neurotypicals stim too? We all do.
If you were to pinch/nip someone in the arm, their reaction would likely be to pull their arm away and rub their arm where you hurt them. Rubbing their arm in that way is actually a stim, its a repetitive self-soothing motion to help them regulate their emotions.
People with ADHD and autism simply tend to stim more frequently and this can look different for everyone and individual circumstances.
(Oh and random addition but my latest favourite fidget while I’m on video calls is BLU TACK! I can roll it around into a little ball, squish it… and I never drop it and cause a clatter mid-conversation.)
Let me know if you found these helpful and please share your own explanations & analogies that have helped those around you understand your experience better.