I could start this post in so many ways:
- The mobile alarm goes off and I put it to snooze. There is time to luxuriate in having the bed to myself. Time to appreciate I slept alone last night. There were no interruptions and a natural awakening. It was a good night’s sleep.
- It is Sunday morning and when I open the curtains, I am surprised to see a beautiful sunny blue-sky scene out my windows. “What a day to go skiing”, knowing at the same time that I won’t. It is a weekend, a bank-holiday weekend for that matter and the slopes will be too busy for comfort.
- I pull into the petrol station. There is a spare space in front of another car and so I do a zig-zag manoeuvre to get between the stationary vehicles and reversion next to the pump. I notice a staff member walking around with “out of use” labels and so I wind down the window and ask her if the unleaded is still okay. She says it is fine and then jumps followed by a smile. My dog is in the boot of the car looking through the middle folded down seat. He sees the attendant and barks a warning.
- I am walking down the diary products aisle of my local supermarket. It is Sunday morning and the place is virtually empty. There is a woman there constantly talking to a support dog, and I am aware I want to avoid her.
- I am driving back from the supermarket when I realise that my plans for today are all wrong. I need to be compassionate with myself.
- As I drive up the hill, I see a car stopped across the roundabout at the top. I know there are road works there and the road the car is trying to go down is closed in one direction. I take the next turning left to avoid the situation. It is a change off my standard route and I don’t know how my decisive action tallies with my autism.
The crux of the matter though is that I forced myself out of my cocoon like bed to take my daughter to the high school. She has left for a week-long music camp and I find that this affects me deeply. There is no-one left in the house except for me and the dog and I feel on the verge of tears. I am alone which is good on a lot of levels but I also don’t like change. I fear being alone will allow my depression back in. I fear that only hearing my inner voice will drive me mad. I am autistic and it is these challenges I suppose that makes me human.
This is the third child that I have dropped off at the pick-up point (interesting counterbalance there) for camps so you would think I am used to it. And I am used to it. I don’t think twice about supporting them because I love the fact that they go away with the other players, share dorms and share experiences. Experiences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Music still plays a part in my two eldest children’s lives and I hope the same will be true for my youngest. It is a good way of making friends. But I think leaving her at the school, seeing her walk along confidently with her luggage towards the parked coach reminds me that she is nearly ready to leave home. And that thought does bring tears to my eyes. It was after all, the children leaving that prompted me to do something about my depression which lead me to an autism diagnosis. The children leaving is a good thing for them, and I suppose for me, but it isn’t easy. It is bloody hard.
Having dropped my daughter off, I decided to go shopping for my meal today. Before ten o’clock is a quiet time to go on a weekend and I suspected I wouldn’t get around to it later. The car indicated it wanted more fuel and so I filled it up before parking in the supermarket bay. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a lamb roast because it is Easter Sunday here but it didn’t really seem right. I felt I should make the most of my alone time and go for comfort food. That means a spicy hot baked-bean and mince meat curry. The food I lived off when I was a university student. As I go down the diary aisle I notice a woman with a black Labrador support dog. She is constantly muttering and I wonder if it is to the dog, herself or the shop assistant packing the shelves nearby that she is talking to. I walk on past. As I go up and down the lanes, I feel that I should be treating myself. Being on my own seems to give me permission to buy things I normally wouldn’t. Now I am wondering if this was because there were expensive which is my standard reason for not buying things, there are unhealthy or is it just that nobody else is around to eat them?
I see the woman with the support dog again and I become aware I want to avoid her. I notice my anxiety levels are quite high which is weird because the supermarket is really quiet. What is going on here? Why so much comfort food? I get distracted by the large number of reductions in the cold section. Normally, deductions of this sort and magnitude don’t happen until late in the day. This is strange. I find some half priced chutney covered pork-pies (it’s a British thing) and put them in the trolley. I am now noticing how noisy this quiet supermarket is. The squeak of the trolley wheels, the whoosh of the air-conditioning, the chatter of the people around me.
Is it strange to say I feel my autism coming out? I know it is always there but I guess what I am saying is that I was feeling my NT mask was slipping away. My behaviour becoming driven by a more basic need to avoid danger. I fight the need to flee though and carry on shopping. Why I wonder now? Because that is what I usually do. The dry goods reductions distract me for a bit. Some of the items are reduced by 90%. Again there is a lot of it and I spend a few minutes trawling through finding things I can justifiably buy rather than things like damaged chocolate Easter eggs which I don’t really like.
The alcohol section is now open and I go down it to get some comfort beer. I look at the shelves and decide against buying anything. I worry about my depression and feel at least culturally, drinking and sadness is frowned on. Besides, I actually still have some bottles of beer at home. At some point I have worked out that I am finding it hard to deal with my daughter leaving. I head for the tills via the freezer section. I am thinking comfort ice-cream but again I reject it. The decisions must be too much for me now, though in my mind I dismiss the ice-cream purchase as unhealthy. At the tills there are two available with no customers on them. I hesitate because there are men on the tills and for some reason that puts me off. I dismiss this as silly and unpack my shopping. The young man is very chatty and I amiably answer his questions and sympathise that he is working all day out of the sun.
Driving home I think about the things I had planned to do this morning. The piece of web development that I have been putting off. I thought about taking the dog for a nice walk in the sun but feel the difficult work needs to be tackled. Then I realise that those plans didn’t take into account the anxiety I am feeling right here, right now. I tell myself that I can be compassionate to myself, it okay to do things I like in the morning. There are road works up ahead so I make a detour. Having parked on the driveway I decide that I need to write. Then I will go walking with the dog. The work can wait for another day.