Neurodivergence and Thru-Hiking

As more of us are diagnosed every day, the stigma of autism continues to be reimagined. Neurodivergence is a spectrum within which the autism spectrum resides. ADHD also resides in the neurodivergent spectrum.

I Have Both

I focused my introduction post around the primary reason for my pending 2020 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I grew up in trauma and all that jazz. So many of us did. In telling my story all these years, I have found that it is only my willingness to talk about my trauma that makes me anything near special (and I recognize that I’m not special). When you tell your story of trauma, and then truly desire to hear stories in return, you realize that none of us are as alone as our trauma and mental illness would have us believe.

It is, I believe, largely as a result of my autism that I have been able to share my story and hear so many in return. If I had been neurotypical I can imagine the emotions related to my trauma would have been debilitating. As it were, my ability to look at highly traumatizing and emotionally erratic situations with a calm and logical mind has resulted in a lifetime of critically analyzing the various results of trauma in the world around me.

Walking in the Forest = Lily Can Actually Focus and Think Time

A primary problem with this, an ability I refer to as one of my super powers, is that the data continues to collect at all times and prevents me from analyzing internally. In short, I require a substantial amount of alone time because my brain works like a weird computer. If I spend that time at home I get bored and almost immediately and inevitably end up in a nonproductive Netflix binge. Because ADHD.

I require near constant, changing, and interesting stimulation or I kind of feel like I’m going insane at a phenomenal rate. That stimulation can be my own imagination, but not if my environment doesn’t provide enough distraction without being entirely distracting. People with ADHD get it. I honestly don’t know how to explain it to anyone who doesn’t already understand.

I took up hiking as a teenager because the constantly changing, but altogether predictable landscape provided a way for me to keep the ADHD occupied and not have an overabundance of data from external sources.

The Appalachian Trail

Will my neurodivergence make for some anxiety and awkward encounters on the trail? Oh, I don’t doubt it! But I also suspect I will have a very different understanding of myself by the time I reach Katahdin. I mean, as long as I don’t get sticky. Textures suck.

In addition, I am looking forward to testing out and providing reviews of products for my thru-hike for other aspiring hikers with autism-related texture restrictions.

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Comments 10

  • Avatar
    Phill : Dec 9th

    Thanks for your insights and inspiration. Good luck on your journies, though I am sure you won’t need it.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lily Matilda : Dec 10th

      Thank you! I really appreciate that. 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Brad Davis : Dec 9th

    I look forward to following you on your journey in 2020!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lily Matilda : Dec 10th

      I look forward to having you follow my adventure 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Ben Kuchta : Dec 9th

    I want to follow you. How do I do that?

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lily Matilda : Dec 10th

      Hello! If you want to get notified of new posts I believe there’s an email notification on here. Otherwise, my social media should all be linked through my profile. I’m still pretty new to this platform, so let me know if you have trouble finding what you’re looking for. 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Mary Barnhart : Dec 10th

    What a powerful read! I could relate to all of your experiences but have not been diagnosed with ADHD or Autism. Although I certainly show signs of both. My mother’s first name is Matilda. I noticed your name after I shared your link on my fb wall. I live in Maryland and have hiked all the nearby trails. Love being outdoors and the solitude of home to regroup! Hike on, hike on.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lily Matilda : Dec 10th

      I love the name Matilda! Not biased or anything… lol thank you for sharing the link, I really appreciate that! I am glad you get so much joy out of your local trails.

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Zach : Dec 10th

    I relate to a lot of what you write here. I find the trail to be one of the few things that can calm my mind. It usually takes a few days, but I get a profound sense of peace after that threshold. Hoping you find similar benefits. Great piece, Lily!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Lily Matilda : Dec 10th

      I’m so glad people seem to be relating to this! I was so nervous about publishing it! I know what you mean about finding peace. For me, it’s almost instant. Even just knowing I’m going to be hiking or camping makes me slow down and feel calm. I’m a frequent backyard camper because of this! I’m really looking forward to my adventure next year 🙂

      Reply

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