By Cheryl Davies
About three years ago, I found myself at a crossroads in my life. I had been living with depression for over two decades and began to ponder if there was something more to my mental state. My research led me to question whether I might be “neurodiverse,” a term that has become increasingly accepted in describing conditions such as ADHD and Asperger’s. Could my above-average intelligence be camouflaging a more complex landscape of neurodiversity?
My curiosities were further piqued by an advertisement for a Mensa New Zealand IQ test that appeared on my Facebook feed. Intrigued and with no plans for that particular Saturday morning, I decided to sit the test, partially to satiate my geeky leanings and partially in search of a missing puzzle piece to my life. The experience turned out to be more revealing than I could have ever anticipated.
At Mensa, not only did I find a challenging test but also a social club that promised quiz nights and weekend getaways-enticements that appealed to my intellectual cravings. Much to my surprise, a couple of months later, I received an email that not only answered my earlier queries about my IQ but also granted me membership into this exclusive group.
Despite being officially accepted, walking into my first Mensa gathering felt daunting. Was I a fraud? Would the real “geniuses” in the room instantly identify me as an impostor? But the reality was far from my fears; I found a tribe, a collective of individuals who shared not just an intellectual wavelength but also personal challenges. Many, like me, had struggled with mental health issues.
The lesson I took away from this enriching experience was transformative. For years, I had self-imposed unkind labels, wrestling with a sense of difference that I couldn’t define but only describe as negative. Learning that I was gifted, that my brain worked differently than 98% of the population, was not just validating but empowering. The realisation led me to think: perhaps there are many out there who find themselves in a similar quandary, living under the weight of self-imposed or socially-constructed labels.
During this Mental Health Week, my message is simple yet profound: explore your label. In a society where diagnoses like ADHD, Autism, and depression often carry stigmas, acknowledging that you might fall under any of these categories can be daunting. But it’s crucial to understand that difference is not synonymous with deficit. An accurate diagnosis could serve as a liberation from years of self-doubt and mental torment.
So, if you find yourself constantly questioning why you feel “different,” I urge you to take that first step toward understanding what that really means. You might be surprised to find that what you thought was a curse might just be an undiscovered aspect of yourself. And who knows, you might even find your tribe, just like I did. Whether it’s Mensa or another community, there’s a space for everyone to feel accepted and understood.
In the end, it’s not about the labels we carry but how we choose to define them that matters. So go ahead, delve into your idiosyncrasies, and you might just discover that being different could indeed be your greatest gift.
Cheryl Davies is an Application Consultant and an advocate for mental health awareness. She has lived with depression for over twenty years and is a member of Mensa New Zealand. Cheryl believes in the importance of exploring one’s own neurodiversity as a path to better mental health.