In painstakingly unravelling the tangle of my head through stripping away acquired neuroses and ongoing exploration of "fits" for my bundle of remainining traits, I have identified a number of "neurostrands" coexisting within my brain, which are (in order of discovery and/or diagnosis):
- Chronic fatigue syndrome*
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome
- Female-pattern autism
None of my neurostrands operate in isolation. Each strand, like cogs in a complex watch mechanism, directly affects every other one.
Starting with autism and female-pattern autism: many autistics claim all autism is one and the same. Female-pattern autism, however, includes the distinctive traits of social mimicry and masking. It was in fact this female autism traits list that prompted me to seek (and receive) my initial autism diagnosis 4.5 years ago. So can I class female-pattern autism as a separate neurostrand from autism? Must I be female-pattern or non-female-pattern? Can I be both? I guess this comes down to interpretation of what "autism" means. If autism is taken to refer to the classicly understood male-pattern, then I don't fit that profile. However, if "autism" is interpretted as representing the entire autistic spectrum, then I undoubtedly do fit that profile, though am I being greedy to claim autism, female-pattern autism and PDA (which is also classed as an autism spectrum condition)?!
PDA, like female-pattern autism, commonly includes social mimicry and masking. Also, as for female and non-female pattern autism, it entails social communication issues and rigidity of thought (which is why it's classed as an autistic spectrum condition). Discussion with PDAers and female-pattern autistics suggests masking is be more hardwired for PDAers.
PDAers also have a cluster of traits including:
- Demand avoidance
- High anxiety
- Word play
- People focus (sometimes obsessively)
- Need for (personal) control
- Proneness to overload and emotional/explosion/meltdown
- Propensity for fantasy/role play
- Sense of justice
ADHDers have a tendency to procrastinate and avoid tasks (as do PDAers). ADHDers may frequently be late... as do PDAers... and dyspraxics/dyslexics... and DSPSers (delayed sleep phase syndrome-ers, who are unable to wake/function early in the day).
DSPS sleep-deprivation can cause extreme fatigue and brain fog (as for CFS). In fact, for many DSPSers, myself included, our brains are foggy for an hour or three after we wake even if we've had enough sleep, because of sleep inertia. Brain fog is also a trait of chronic fatigue syndrome. Autistic people when overloading may experience brain fog also.
The hallmark trait of DSPS is being hardwired to sleep and wake later than society's normal schedule. Recent studies have connected DSPS with ADHD (and I know that many fellow members – though not all – of the Facebook DSPS groups I'm member of have ADHD as well). Sleep delay, however, is also a PDA issue, in that the demands of going to sleep and waking up are frequent triggers we PDAers feel compelled to avoid.
The interplay between these various, co-morbid neurostrands is highly complex. It is, I think, likely that individual strands exacerbate others and, as a result, no one strand can be thought of as isolated and independent: their combined influences are cumulative.