Nostalgia and Neurodivergency

What makes you feel nostalgic?

This is a prompt I was hoping never to answer.

I cannot remember a time when I felt Nostalgia in the way everyone else describes. And after speaking with several fellow Neurodivergent people, it became clear that we don’t reminisce in the same way that Neurotypicals do.
A sense can trigger Nostalgia – usually smell or sound – and while Neurotypicals will get a sense of happiness from the experience, a general consensus is that Neurodivergent people don’t.
From personal experience, I’ve had flashbacks that would be classed as Nostalgia, but they riddle me with anxiety rather than happiness, joy, or pleasure.
The only aspect of Nostalgia that I’ve ever experienced is Homesickness.

Autistic people specifically have noted on forums that they don’t feel Euphoric Nostalgia, just Anxious Nostalgia.
While I doubt these terms are coined, they indicate a sudden reminisce of a past event or experience – while one gives joy, the other anxiety.

So, why are we wired this way?
Well, that’s above my pay grade.
All I can say is that I cannot think back on my life without being haunted. And, of course, everyone has experienced something that makes them shudder when they think about it. But the idea that Autistic folk as so instinctively repulsed by their past is worrying. Even happy memories bring back thoughts of disappointment and upset, and I feel it’s most likely due to society’s acceptance of us – or lack thereof.
We’re so regularly ignored, dismissed, and looked down upon that our past experiences are often diminished to failings, no matter how successful.
I was a published author nine times over by the time I was 21; yet, being married and having a family by the same age was often seen as a much bigger success when comparing the two – even though they don’t equate.

And besides the fact we also have issues reacting in the moment, it gives us further trauma knowing that there were horrible events that we maybe didn’t react correctly to.
Like when I laughed after finding out my grandfather died.
Did I love him? Yes.
Was I sad when I found out? Unbelievably.
But the shock of the news sent me into a crisis, and hysterical laughing is part of that for me. I shudder thinking about how I laughed in front of my peers and teachers when they told me; I’m only thankful that as an adult, I’ve somewhat learned to control my shock process.

So, when you begin to reminisce on a past event with an Autistic friend, consider that they might not be able to get it out of their head as quickly.
When we get a flash from the past, we can often obsess over it. It can be helpful sometimes, but more often is destructive for ourselves.
Live in the present, look to the future, and forgive the past.


2 thoughts on “Nostalgia and Neurodivergency

  1. I can say that as someone with ADHD and on and off depression throughout my life, I can confirm that nostalgia and I have a strange relationship. When I’m depressed, ‘happy’ memories devastate me, but when I’m not, I rarely experience any nostalgia. Yes, I remember the past, but it doesn’t stir much emotion in me and it’s usually mild.

    You aren’t alone and you are the best version of you in the world. That’s enough, everything after that is a bonus feature. Just because your stats are different to other players in this grand game we call life, doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

    1. Theodora Rosenberg January 5, 2023 — 07:13

      This is another aspect of “nostalgia” that I despise. Because if we suffer from depression, when nostalgia comes around, it makes it a hundred times worse.
      And, yes, our stats are different to other players; sometimes we have an advantage – just not in the way most neurotypicals think!
      Thanks for the comment, Julia <3
      Have a lovely day!


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