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Neurodivergence and intimacy don't always go hand in hand. In my short twenty years, I've learned this the hard way. Through the constant cycle of embarrassment, tears, frustration, anger, and a few more emotions I can't quite define, I think I've gained some wisdom on how I should navigate intimacy. At least, I hope I have.

There are a lot of ways to define neurodivergence, and each neurodivergent person has their own personal definition for their identity. For me, it means I experience social interactions and perceptions differently than someone who is neurotypical, and I often struggle with processing them. But while it comes with its challenges, neurodivergence is, for the most part, a gift. Yes, I find some everyday things that are easy for most difficult, but lately, I've come to embrace my neurodivergence as something that makes me unique and beautiful.

But not everyone always sees that. Sometimes I am one of those people. Just like any given social interaction, intimacy can be confusing, frightening, and downright overwhelming for me, to the point where it has triggered some nasty anxiety attacks and subsequent embarrassment. Both physical and emotional intimacy are very challenging for me.

Believe you are bigger than what other people think of you. You are more than an opinion. You are beautiful.
In the rare cases that I am able to make a romantic connection, communication woes lead to their disintegration. I've been accused of being a terrible communicator more times than I can count. I've gotten everything from bad texter to downright stalker. I don't always know when I'm giving too much or not enough. And it's not always met with understanding. Former intimate partners have told me directly that I'm too emotionally immature to ever carry on a romantic relationship. I've even been told that because of who I am, I'll probably be alone for the rest of my life. For a very long time, I internalized these accusations and believed that they were true. I gave up on intimate relationships because I thought there was nothing there for me. Maybe I really was meant to be permanently alone.

Recently, I've decided to embrace who I am and stop letting other people's opinions consume me. Luckily, I've had a partner or two that's shown me that neurodivergence isn't an ugly burden or a recipe for relationship disaster. They've been patient, calm, and understanding when the intimate moments are too overwhelming. Most of all, they've shown respect and appreciation for me. They too, think neurodivergence is unique and beautiful.

I'm forever grateful for these connections. They prove to me that other people see what I see in myself: a pretty cool (albeit very awkward) person. I used to beat myself up for not being able to maintain a serious relationship. Lately, when things don't work out, I stop heaping all the blame on myself. Sometimes relationships just aren’t meant to work out. Maybe I won't find that person for the next few weeks, or the next few years, or maybe ever. Instead, I'm learning to be okay with who I am.

To quote Rudy Francisco, "I'm still learning to love the parts of myself no one claps for.” Navigating intimacy and partner communication as someone who is neurodivergent is rough. But I no longer feel ashamed. I know there are other people out there who feel the exact same way. So to those people I say: believe you are bigger than what other people think of you. You are more than an opinion. You are beautiful.