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At FlowArt, we’re all about supporting neurodivergent adults and those with intersecting identities including LGBTQ+, nonmonogamous, and kinky folx. Dive into our inclusive courses, podcast, and newsletter for fresh insights and affirming, culturally competent info that celebrates you!

About Dr. Misty

Dr. Misty Gibson earned her PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision in 2020 (yeah, THAT year). This milestone fueled her dream of teaching, mentoring, and supervising counselors-in-training with a neurodivergent-affirming approach. When she's not shaping future therapists at Antioch University Seattle or The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, she's running her vibrant group practice, FlowArt Therapy.

At FlowArt Therapy, we focus on supporting the mental health needs of neurodivergent and queer folx. And guess what? Dr. Misty is also an AASECT Certified Sex Therapist! She’s passionate about working with people in open relationships, polyamorous networks, and the BDSM community. Dr. Misty is all about breaking boundaries and celebrating diversity in every form. 🌟

About Michell

Michell Brockman is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Washington state, who earned her Master’s in Clinical Counseling in 2022. As a neurodivergent human herself, Michell gets the struggles of navigating a world with neuronormative expectations.

Working alongside Dr. Misty at FlowArt Therapy, Michell is passionate about supporting neurodivergent adults, the LGBTQIA community, kink and BDSM enthusiasts, and those in polyamorous and ENM relationships. A trauma-informed therapist, she loves using EMDR, parts work, and somatic body-focused therapies to help her clients thrive.

Michell always dreamed of being a therapist (and an artist), and now she’s both! Constantly learning and creating, Michell loves sharing her knowledge and unique perspective with the world. 🌟

It all started with an inquiry—Michell reached out to FlowArt Therapy for a clinical internship, when Dr. Misty was just a lone sole provider, and the magic began! Under Dr. Misty's supervision, Michell thrived through her internship and associate licensing, and now, they work side by side as colleagues and professional partners throughout all of FlowArt. With a shared passion for advocating and raising awareness about the awesomeness of being neurodivergent and queer, they’ve grown the FlowArt community from FlowArt Therapy to include FlowArt Academy, and their quirky podcast, Neurosparkly. Together, they're enhancing our world to learn, accept, and support neurodivergent humans through knowledge, courses, and general fun!

At FlowArt, we’re expanding beyond therapy to bring you awesome courses, a fabulous newsletter, and our super fun podcast. Why? Because we want to support neurodivergent folx everywhere—not just in Washington state! Our mission is to build a vibrant community of support, awareness, and inclusion that spans states and countries, connecting people who might never have met otherwise.

As neurodivergent individuals ourselves, we know how tough it can be to make close connections. That’s why we’re creating a space where you can show up as your most authentic self. We want to know you, and we want you to know us. Let’s make this community sparkle together! 🌟

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Late Diagnoses, Grief, and New Beginnings

June 09, 20244 min read

Receiving a neurodivergent diagnosis later in life can be a transformative experience. For many, it brings a mix of emotions—from relief and validation to grief and introspection. As a person with my own experience in discovering my neurodivergence later in life, I've had my fair share of the complexities of late diagnoses, the associated grief, and the opportunities for new beginnings. Since I know this is an area of interest for a lot of folx, I wanted to explore those topics in more depth through this post.

The Complexity of Late Diagnoses

When adults receive a neurodivergence diagnosis, whether it be autism, ADHD, or another condition, it often comes after years of self-doubt, confusion, and feeling different without understanding why. This diagnosis can be a revelation, providing clarity and a framework to understand one's experiences. My experience of realizing my own neurodivergence was eye-opening on so many levels. As I started to reflect back on my childhood and young adult experiences from this new perspective of being neurodivergent, I could understand myself so much more. I found that I gave myself a lot more grace for my mistakes and choices than I had before I discovered that I was neurodivergent.

Research supports the prevalence of late diagnoses. Studies indicate that many neurodivergent individuals, particularly women and those assigned female at birth, are often overlooked during childhood due to gender biases and the subtlety of their symptoms (Gould & Ashton-Smith, 2011). This delay in diagnosis can lead to a lifetime of misunderstandings and misdiagnoses, highlighting the importance of increased awareness and better diagnostic practices.

Grieving the Lost Time

One of the most challenging aspects of a late diagnosis is the grief that accompanies it. This grief is multifaceted, encompassing the loss of what could have been if the diagnosis had come earlier—missed opportunities, misinterpreted behaviors, and the emotional toll of not understanding oneself fully.

Grief in this context is valid and deserves acknowledgment. It’s a process of mourning the past while also coming to terms with the present. A study by Hens & Langenberg (2018) suggests that recognizing and addressing this grief is crucial for mental health and well-being. It’s a necessary step in the journey toward self-acceptance and healing.

My experience of grief came in the way of looking back on my childhood and young adult experiences and of how I was treated by others in a dehumanizing way. When I began reflecting back on those experiences from the lens of being neurodivergent, I had a lot of anger I had to work through. It's important that you give yourself the space to grief in your own way, if you experience difficult emotions when reflecting back on your experiences before you realized you were neurodivergent.

The Relief and Validation

Alongside grief, there is often a profound sense of relief and validation. A late diagnosis can explain long-standing challenges and provide a sense of identity that aligns with one's experiences. It can be empowering to finally have a name for what one has been experiencing.

This validation is not just personal but social as well. Finding a community of others who share similar experiences can be incredibly supportive. Online forums, support groups, and social media communities offer spaces where individuals can share their journeys, gain insights, and find solidarity (Davidson, 2008). My journey towards self-acceptance was highlighted by finding supportive people who could hold space for my emotional process and navigating away from others who I realized were not accepting or supportive of my newfound identity exploration.

New Beginnings and Opportunities

A late diagnosis marks a new beginning. It opens the door to self-discovery and self-acceptance, providing a clearer path forward. With this new understanding, individuals can make informed choices about their lives, seek appropriate supports, and build environments that accommodate their needs.

Embracing a late diagnosis also means embracing neurodivergence as a natural and valuable part of human diversity. The neurodiversity movement advocates for this perspective, emphasizing the strengths and unique contributions of neurodivergent individuals (Singer, 1999). It encourages a shift from seeing neurodivergence as a deficit to recognizing it as a difference.

Moving Forward with Self-Compassion

As individuals navigate their new beginning, self-compassion becomes essential. It’s important to be gentle with oneself, acknowledging both the struggles and the strengths. Seeking therapy or counseling from professionals who understand neurodivergence can provide additional support and guidance.

In conclusion, a late diagnosis is a significant milestone that brings with it a blend of grief and new beginnings. It’s a journey of understanding, acceptance, and empowerment. By acknowledging the past and embracing the future, neurodivergent individuals can find a sense of peace and purpose in their unique experiences.

References:

  • Davidson, J. (2008). Autistic culture online: Virtual communication and cultural expression on the spectrum. Social & Cultural Geography, 9(7), 791-806.

  • Gould, J., & Ashton-Smith, J. (2011). Missed diagnosis or misdiagnosis? Girls and women on the autism spectrum. Good Autism Practice, 12(1), 34-41.

  • Hens, K., & Langenberg, E. (2018). The ethics of autism: Among therapy, empowerment, and care. Ethics and Education, 13(4), 422-434.

  • Singer, J. (1999). 'Why can't you be normal for once in your life?' From a 'problem with no name' to the emergence of a new category of difference. In M. Corker & S. French (Eds.), Disability Discourse (pp. 59-67). Open University Press.

late-diagnosisgriefacceptanceidentityneurodivergence
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Misty Gibson, PhD

Dr. Misty Gibson holds a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision, and LMHC and LCPC as practicing licenses, as well as the certifications of ATR-BC, ATCS, ACS, and CST.

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