When I look around me, the word “deplete” could be applied to a number of things. The dead batteries lying on the floor from my video console controller. The empty crisp package left over from yesterday. The green empty beer bottle on the side table. The ink cartridge sitting on the shelf. The beautiful amaryllis flower that is slowing shrivelling and dying over the course of the day. The main thing that feels depleted though is me.
For the last few days I have been waking up to a mixture of depression and nearly overwhelming anxiety. I say a mixture but I can’t actually work out what the feeling is but it has elements of those things and probably a bit of a panic attack too. Whatever this feeling is, it isn’t a great way to start the day. Now for me, a natural stance to take in such a situation is to stay in bed. I am warm, relatively safe and I don’t need to interact with anyone. A natural stance perhaps but not a healthy one. Staying in bed also seems to make me feel worse. The outside world also has a knack for seeping into my sanctuary. A knock at the door, “I need some money”. An overheard conversation, “ask Dad later”. Movement in the rooms overhead that puts me en-garde.
Yesterday I decided to use my organising “to-do” app to encourage me to get up and do something. As usual I added in “simple” things to give myself some momentum but also some more major aims for the day. The morning task was to sort through some emails regarding photos permissions and collate the images to help somebody with creating a social video. This isn’t a hard task, just something that requires peace, quiet and a bit of energy. As predicted, doing one task enabled me to do another and so on until I have done enough to feel justified in taking a break.
But where does this mixture of anxiety and depression come from in the first place? I am fairly certain it is around our lodgers leaving for another cycle tour. The couple have been staying with us for ten months or so now. Since I am autistic, it hasn’t always been easy sharing the house with another two adults. There will always be somethings that I have to accept that others don’t feel the need to do in exactly the same way as I do. The trick is to recognise the positives to offset the minor negatives but also to speak up and communicate the issues and discuss possible compromises. We have done this through bimonthly household meetings which also served as a review place for projects that have been accumulating under my “must do sometime” list.
Our lodgers are very handy people to have around but their personalities also meld well with ours. They remember things that are important to us and ask about them. They are close enough to us to understand our individual personalities but not too close to get caught up in the emotional difficulties that couples often fall into. So for me, it feels like they have a better grasp of what my needs are from my autistic side. They will give me time to think things through. They made sure they give me plenty of space to be on my own. They are able to understand me through recognising autistic-like traits in themselves.
Perhaps what they don’t understand though is how difficult it is for me to see them leave. They probably understand that I don’t like change but I have deliberately kept my recent difficulties to myself because there is literally nothing they can do. They have quite rightly set a date for departure. They have made sure that they have done as much as they can to ensure household projects are finished or left in a state the can be carried onto completion. That completion though will depend on me, unless I can wait six months for them to return. I can wait I suspect but I don’t think my wife can. I suspect the weight of unfinished redecorating and refurbishment of our sitting room doesn’t help my situation.
What is interesting I think, is that once I start doing things, the feeling of anxiety-depression-panic starts to dissipate. On Friday I really struggled to get into work. I find it incredibly difficult to concentrate on any work but I did manage to watch a two and a half hour video on GDPR compliance. This gave me a better understand of what this new data handling standard all about and how the GDPR principals fitted into the life-cycle of personal data held in an organisation. The video gave me a boost to feeling a bit more in control and a stepping stone on how to progress next. I still felt exhausted when I came home from work but at least I have accomplished something and felt more normal.
I have long recognised that change is difficult for me but this feels like the first time that I have a visceral sense of what it really means for me in a major routine reformatting way. I know that I will get used to the change eventually, but I also know that I need to be less harsh on myself for not getting perhaps as much done as I would like. The only problem now is that the departure date has been set back a number of weeks due to mechanical issue with my lodger’s new bikes. So I have a new change to get used to. Hopefully, the depression-anxiety-panic feeling with be delayed for a few weeks too. I wonder if I will react less to the next departure date? Or is that just wishful thinking.