I look out of the bay window to my left. Through the jungle of plants, I see blue sky. The sun casts its rays on the furniture opposite me. What do I feel? In the kitchen a few minutes ago, we were talking about the pleasure at seeing the sun and blue sky. It has been eight days since the last time the sun was visible apparently. But what do I feel? It isn’t pleasure certainly. I am drawn to the heat radiating off the sunlit surfaces but I am also aware of the pain the contrasting light causes me. I feel tired from a busy day yesterday and a busy household today. I feel a bit down. I feel worn and in need of recuperation.
I think the effect the snow had on the country last week really emphasized how I was feeling. The world seemed to close down when we had continuous snow for five days on the trot. The buses stopped running. The schools closed. People were unable to get into work. Supermarkets ran out of basics. The world shrank slowly until just our house was left. The people in it remotely accessing the world for news and being hooked on the latest weather alert. I was aware of how the world around me was being affected but it wasn’t until my partner spoke of her feeling of isolation and my remoteness that I realised that I was closing down too. I was wanting to stay in bed and not get up. I didn’t want to see people, let alone talk. I would stay up ridiculously late playing video games. In my own way I was trying to deal with the world closing around me by going into survival mode and hiding from the world.
It wasn’t just the snow causing my shutdown though. Since I came back from my second ski holiday two weeks ago, there have been a serious of unnerving events:
- That evening I collided with a deer whilst driving. I can still access a still image I have of when I first saw the deer at the side of the road. Then a memory video of me slamming on the breaks and the deer bouncing off the front of the car and rolling down the road lit only by the car’s headlights;
- The next day, travelling by train on an unfamiliar route to Ayr to get my eyes test and see what coloured lenses might do. New place, new people and negotiating Scottish largest city at rush hour;
- Dealing with the car insurance company to report the deer collision and getting the car repaired. This could be a post in itself. So many stages over so much time;
- Finding out a colleague was leaving work after four months. The one person that enjoyed me rambling on about skiing. I know it isn’t personal but being a business owner it feels like it;
- Both our house lodgers stopped work, which meant more unpredictability around the house. I’m never really settled with other people in the house;
- A person was found to fill the job vacancy at work which is good but more complexity at work for me;
- The fireplace is getting enlarged in our sitting/play room. The room had to be emptied. I ended doing it myself because I couldn’t face other people complicating the removal. Most of the stuff went into the room I use for writing and listening to music. It is a little crowded;
- The car went in for repair. It is going to take weeks and our courtesy car is a tiny red Fiat 500. Not my first choice. My wife is afraid to drive it so I am being her chauffeur. The dog is banned from being in it (other users may have allergies). It is also too small to get my skis into;
Like many autistic people, I don’t handle change very well. I will sometimes try to avoid it because it feels too much but these things felt out of my control. I was taken along for the ride whether I wanted it or not and that has a cost to bear. Then the snow fell, and I think my tolerance and ability to escape collapsed because of the quantity of snow and its confining nature.
And you know the show goes on.
I get random texts from the car repair company informing of the progress of the repair. The problem is that they haven’t told me how many stages there are so I have no metric to measure against. The snow also closed the repair facility for a few days so all I know really is that the car won’t be available for at least 3 days past the estimated completion date. That date probably slipped anyway because when they did a proper assessment after taking the covering panels off, they found there was more work to do. Now I see my make and model of car whenever I step out the house and remember my car rather fondly.
The fireplace is the start of the sitting room disruption. There’s redecorating to do which involves woodchip removal (please do yourself a favour to future generations, never use woodchip paper on walls). Some removing of the 1970’s additions to the room and repairing what’s left behind. The radiator needs updating too and the carpet replacing. That sounds bad enough to me but then my wife and I have to agree on paint and carpet colours. Perhaps you find this easy. For this autistic, the variety of colours is mind blowing. Even when we settle on something like a dark red, which shade do we choose? Will it be too much for the whole room? What complimentary colour goes? We can’t stand the thought of compromising on magnolia again. Surely, we can do better than that? We enter the paint shops full of determination, knowing what we want. A half hour later, we leave demoralised, confused and without any paint.
And I wonder what the point of all this moaning is? Well it feels like I’m moaning now but actually I was trying to show that effect that “everyday” incidents have on me. There is a part of me that knows that living a life means living with change, but I believe the level of bearable change depends on the person and the emotional state they are in. I know people who have collided with deer and are now much more nervous drivers. I don’t think it has affected me though. The collision with the deer was a random occurrence that I had no control over. No emotion apart from a sadness that I took a life. Hopefully it wont happen again. It is a very rational response but that is what my autism gives me. It also gives me perhaps more pain and anxiety for getting the car fixed.
None of us can avoid change but I would like to be better aware of how it affects me. Perhaps though the answer to that is having supportive people around me, who are not afraid to tell me how my behaviour is affecting them. In my case, being aware of my world was closing in, wasn’t the same as being aware that I was cutting out and rejecting the people around me. However, I do need to be open to those external voices. Not easy if I am shutdown.
My autism doesn’t just affect me. I interact with the environment around me. Perhaps that is the next stage of my self-acceptance? I not only have to come to an understanding about my own internal world, I need to acknowledge the external connections around me too. It is after all a year since my initial diagnosis, and a year feels like a good time period to start moving outwards.