The titular character of Mazey Eddings’ Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake is dealing with some very rom-com-appropriate problems—namely, that her two-night stand with a hot Australian guy resulted in an unexpected pregnancy, and she’s now trying to platonically cohabitate with him. But alongside all the tropey hijinks, Lizzie also gains a better understanding of and more acceptance for her attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. As Eddings explains in this essay, that combination of rom-com fizz and a neurodiverse perspective is central to what she hopes her books can achieve.
Getting my ADHD diagnosis was like receiving a key to a door I’d been trying my whole life to unlock. On the other side was an expansive horizon of endless possibilities. I finally had words and a framework and tools to understand how my brain operates: why my thoughts do loop-the-loops when I’m supposed to be focusing, why my mind deep dives into special interests or makes me avoid certain tasks. It felt so indescribably good to finally understand that I wasn’t lazy or undisciplined or reckless, as neurotypical society so often branded me, but was instead wired in a way that is worth celebrating.
And after seeing myself in this new diagnosis, I was hungry to see myself reflected in fiction too.
Unfortunately, people with neurodivergencies are often represented in stories that focus on their trauma or hardships. We rarely see these characters experiencing unfettered joy or having desires, sex, love; so many amazing human experiences aren’t explored through the unique lens of neurodivergence. ADHD, in particular, is a condition often represented from a male-centric, adolescent point of view. Even in nonfiction, ADHD is often written about by neurotypical people with an undertone of what ADHD-ers can do to conform and make life “easier” for the neurotypicals in their life, as though the ADHD neurotype is something to be ashamed of or is a burden to others.
It’s wonderful and challenging and unique and nuanced, and something we need to talk more about in a positive light to destigmatize it.
Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake, my sophomore novel set in the same world as my debut, A Brush With Love, features a woman in her late 20s dealing with ADHD and the general chaos of adulthood. Lizzy is messy. Impulsive. Clever. Wonderful. I love her deeply. But she’s been raised (as many neurodiverse people are) with the narrative that her disability is a burden to others and something that must be leashed instead of reveled in. She navigates workplaces and relationships and the world at large while being constantly reminded that these systems and places weren’t designed to accommodate the way her brain works.
This isn’t a novel about how Lizzie “overcomes” her disability. It’s a story about how Lizzie accepts her disability, unlearns the internalized ableism attached to it and honors her diagnosis and her beautiful brain, finding comfort in her wonderful bits and her frustrating ones. It’s a story of breaking away from people and systems that tell us we need to reconfigure ourselves to fit. It’s a love letter to neurodiverse people and the found families that not only accommodate us but celebrate us, giving us the support to unabashedly thrive because we all deserve to exist in spaces that are excited to welcome us.
Writing about neurodiverse characters means the story won’t be relatable to every reader. The pacing of neurodiverse love stories won’t always match what we see with neurotypical relationships, and we need to get comfortable with that fact! People who are neurodiverse often experience trust, connection and intimacy at different speeds than neurotypicals, and it’s important to honor that. It’s time to lean into special interests and disorganized thoughts. It’s time to talk about living with sensory issues and varied processing, to put on the page what makes the world more accessible so everyone can thrive.
Every brain is beautiful. Every brain is worthy of profound love and supportive friendships and, above all, the happiest of endings.
Photo of Mazey Eddings by Ben Eisdorfer.