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What if revealing your roots and nourishing new ones offered a key to freedom and flourishing? Would you take it? 

What are the roots holding you back in your life, preventing your tree from blossoming?

It’s not about changing the tree. It’s about changing the conditions and environment it’s planted in. More specifically, the roots need attention and what’s nourishing them. That’s what affects the health of the tree and it’s capability and capacity to flourish!

In this article I’m sharing a collection of thoughts on my own Roots to Freedom from experiencing Cassandra Syndrome in my neurodiverse relationship.

Discovering neurodiversity

Discovering neurodiversity in our relationship revealed new information and whilst it gave us a new way to talk about it, discovering neurodiversity did not solve the issues or challenges we faced.

Cassandra Syndrome (or OTRS – ongoing trauma relationship syndrome) revealed new information about my experience. It’s a collection of symptoms that can develop from:

  • persistent lack of emotional reciprocity,
  • repetitive psychological stress,
  • fixed thinking/behaviour, and
  • social isolation.

It manifests as deteriorating mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing, unconsciously taking on autistic traits, self-doubt and a distorted sense of self.

It was hugely validating to discover Cassandra/OTRS. I didn’t feel mad or alone any more. However, everything I read suggested it would persist as long as I was in the relationship. I noticed that not every neurotypical partner in a neurodiverse relationship developed these symptoms. As I read more non-autism literature I also discovered that elements of Cassandra affect people who are in NT/NT relationships too – neurodiversity was an additional dimension, not the primary cause. That got me curious. What I subsequently discovered and learned was illuminating and enlightening. It also meant I could do something about it, reverse the effects and get back in the driving seat of my life.

Cassandra Syndrome/OTRS does not need to continue once you know about it. It is a reactive disorder. It can be reversed.

With knowledge, insight, awareness, new perspectives, tools and strategies, individuals can unravel the mystery, of the relationship and themselves, restore their wellbeing, begin to live with purpose and flourish.

These are 10 unhealthy habits I discovered in myself that meant I was more likely to develop Cassandra Syndrome:

  • Being a people pleaser
  • Putting my needs last
  • Over-accommodating my partner’s needs
  • Trying to fix or change my partner
  • Expecting my partner to fulfill all your needs
  • Dropping out of the social scene
  • No boundaries
  • Losing my voice
  • Walking on eggshells
  • Parenting my partner

Perhaps you recognise some or all of these in yourself too?

Addressing these can change YOU, your relationship and your life dramatically.

These were my first Roots to Freedom.

Knowing them gave me something to work on and change, scary and uncomfortable as that was. Deeper than this were more roots… the stories, thinking, beliefs, values and expectations that created these habits – those are unique for each of us!

The habits and strategies are like the close to or above ground roots that you’d see, fed by the even bigger hidden, unconscious roots beneath. Digging up and revealing these roots was uncomfortable and painful at times, and yet the most liberating experience too. Composting the old gave birth to the new, just like in nature.

Like others in similar relationships, I cursed neurodiversity in the beginning… now I am grateful. It was the crisis that:

  • led me to take the road less travelled;
  • to recover and discover myself,
  • befriend and make peace with my ego,
  • connect with my soul,
  • restore my sparkle and
  • begin to shine, in my life and in the world, again!

As I began to create a vision for the new year, I was reading back in my journals from 2017 looking for reminders and breadcrumbs to follow. Words shimmered from the page when I read them again and I felt compelled to share them with you, trusting that a word or two may be for YOU too..

If we do not give outward expression to our passions, we will experience self-immolation, the spontaneous combustion of our souls. Life is to be enjoyed!

The words are extreme and yet this feels like the biggest invitation to the freedom party!

2020 was tough and joy seemed harder to find and create but these words have reminded me that the party’s still going and my soul is here to enjoy life and shine! It really isn’t all doom and gloom. It’s my old roots that keep me from joining in with the dance.

Pursue your passions, however you can, in whatever small ways you can right now – BE Joy!

The world needs much much more of it and it begins inside each one of us… however much your internal fire feels like it’s been or being extinguished, there’s at least one ember still glowing…. and that is a place to begin. Noticing the smallest gems of Joy in each day is one of the practices I began with and I’m returning to it for 2021…

I realise that my dance with fear, rather than other people or situations, is the biggest extinguisher of my internal fire.

Too much order, control, steadiness and consideration suffocates and dampens creativity, expansion, growth and collaboration.

I may be in a relationship with someone who prefers those at times, and I may favour those too when I fear uncertainty and rejection but they aren’t my path when I am fearless. Those old habits don’t have to be the roots I draw nourishment from…

When I nourish and lead myself from love, rather than fear, my expression of the best version of myself, the expression which my soul [ME] is encoded with, is a beautiful and precious life.

Passion is the becoming of a person, especially for women. In Sarah ban Breathnach’s words, it is ‘wild, chaotic, unpredictable, permissive, excessive and obsessive’… those are words and an energy that a previous version of me pushed down and away rather than embrace, and our society doesn’t favour them in women either. Instead, I needed to embrace the words, their energy and their associated feelings, as they are the flames to fan, to live on purpose, aligned with my values and passion.

I realised that I needed to be fearless in the endeavour to step into these energies, knowing that I can retreat as needed into nature, into calm, into slow – for rest, restoration and peace.. that is a dance too!

I could no longer live a passive life…. I was made for a passionate life

I began to take up space and lead my own life from my heart, from my intuition, from MY new truths, not those I’d accumulated and that weighed me down along the way.

In the process, I began to fall in love with myself!…. the layers that Kerry described last week began to be peeled away, the masks I’d worn were removed and I step by step, situation by situation, began to show up with courage, vulnerability and authenticity. It was a scary and exciting ripening and unfolding of seasons. I began to shine and sparkle again, in a way I hadn’t since I collected rose petals in the garden to make perfume, wrote my earliest thoughts about life in a polka dot notebook, curled up for hours with a book and roller-booted down the road with a carefree sense of joy!…

..this was ME before I started to create my survival strategies, the ways to bend myself to secure friendships, minimise upset at home, stay safe, feel loved and make people proud

These survival strategies became the way that I thought and understood that love, safety and belonging worked. If anything else came my way, I’d sabotage it because I didn’t recognise it and didn’t have a way to be in it. I had no idea that’s what I was doing, it’s automatic and unconscious. We’re all doing it, playing out the version of love and belonging we saw, knew and learned growing up. We do it in some form with everyone, but most of all in our intimate relationships since that’s where we mostly seek the depth of love and belonging we need and desire.

I realise even now that the child inside me knows the joy of being alive. St Francis challenges us to let our little child out into the sunlight. I think we could all do with more of that right now.

It’s time to live that child’s purpose with all she’s learnt along the way and without the fears and safety barriers she erected that kept her small, quiet and ‘trapped’ for so long.

I don’t have to ‘grow up’ to flourish… I can hold my own hand, face fears, trust and nourish myself, elegantly care for my emotions and be ME!

Little Me doesn’t need to be scared anymore…

…and I have a bunch of incredible companions on life’s road. We all need those so we have more hands to hold, ears to listen and, best of all, playmates! We can cheer each other on, dancing and playing fearlessly under our blossoming boughs.

Embrace the playful and passionate life! That’s my vision for the new year!!

Re-building trust that where we’re headed will be better than the place we’re leaving

The path that uncovers and re-roots your Roots to Freedom is not an easy one…many do not take it, preferring to stay in the familiar, well-trodden and more certain place they already are. I watched Cast Away again at the weekend. There’s a scene where Tom Hanks looks back at ‘his’ island from the DIY raft he made and the unknown of the sea surrounding him. I recognised his look, that threshold moment in my own life between the safe and familiar and the scary, uncomfortable unknown… and yet we keep breathing and set sail, trusting that where we’re headed will be better than the place we’re leaving. That’s the invitation for you…

Your Next Step

The first step, the decision to change paths, may seem the smallest and yet it is actually the biggest of them all and I invite any of you to take it or continue on it knowing that the world needs all of our beautiful souls to be free and shine.

You are a vital part of eternity. We are all precious and vital parts of eternity. We always were. It’s time to be YOU, pursue freedom and joy as if your life depended on it (it does!), take up space in your life and in the unfolding story of this incredible world we inhabit. As you do, you give others permission and inspiration to do the same.

I am passionate about the pursuit of this freedom, gardening our souls so that we have healthy roots and can flourish, individually and collectively, with all of our beautiful differences.

Reach out if there is any way I can help you step on to the path… I’ll be happy to be a hand to hold along the way!

Get Your Free Report On The Top 10 Unhealthy Habits That Hold You Back In Your Neurodiverse Relationship …and Tips For A Happier Life

cover of ebook: The Top 10 Unhealthy Habits Holding You Back in Your Neurodiverse Relationship
Natalie Roberts

Author Natalie Roberts

Natalie Roberts is an award-winning Master Coach and Mentor supporting individuals and couples in neurodiverse relationships in the UK and around the world. She coaches individuals and couples to reverse the impact of unknown neurodiversity and thrive so that they can be true to themselves and feel empowered to make decisions about their present and future that are positive and hopeful.

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