It is Monday morning which means spending fifteen minutes tidying up. This is not my favourite time of the day because it means getting out of bed by a set time when I would normally prefer to stay in. Defined periodic tidying up is a necessity though. My difficulty making decisions combined with an ability to suppress things that disturb me results in an untidy mess at home. It was the east side of the hallway that was targeted today. A quick survey revealed nothing too troubling so I set about the task of picking things up and deciding where to move to. Occasionally this results in things going into recycling. I suppose it is a hallway like any other. There are parcels to unpack, tools to move to their normal storage area, and bags to be hung up.
On a shelf is, amongst other stuff, a power adapter I brought for the Italian sourced coffee machine at work. Mainland Europe uses a different plug socket to the UK though, hence the adapter. So I decide to move the adapter to our guest room upstairs. Whilst trying to decide where to put the adapter, I come across a set of allen keys (hex-wrench in US?) lying on the bedside table. Except it isn’t a set. One is missing and I find that annoying. This disturbs me for two reasons. First there is the case of the missing key, but also this set of keys should be in a particular tool box and not lying here.
Apart from making a mental note about the missing allen key, there is not a lot I can do about the first issue. But I can return the set to its normal place inside the toolbox. I pick the keys up and head downstairs. The toolbox isn’t where it should be, tucked away at the bottom of the stairs. Another annoyance. I pad around the rooms downstairs trying to find the black box and on finding nothing head upstairs again. Nope, not in the study either. My anxiety levels are shifting up the gears. I survey the room upstairs but no luck either. I put the set down on my desk in the study.
This isn’t the first thing today that I have reacted to in this way. The other members of my cycle group are now communicating via WhatsApp rather than sending SMS texts. I find myself reacting in a annoyed manner to this change. The fundamental principal I live by with my smartphone, is to make a charge last as long as possible. This means that I switch off location tracking, WiFi, mobile data and close down all apps after I have used them. In a way these steps insulate me from the immediacy of communication. Yes you can still contact me by ringing me or sending a text SMS but I stay in control. I also like the fact that unless you have access to the mobile mask network locations, people have no idea where I am. I keep Big Brother at bay somewhat.
I am now sitting down in the chair at the desk reflecting on my feelings. My reaction is against being forced into this change. When someone tries to push me in a certain direction without my consent, then my automatic reaction is to do the opposite. I don’t follow the crowd even if I am the one to lose out. I can’t work out if this contrariness is a manifestation of my need to assert externally the difference I have always felt inside, or what it is another fundamental aspect of my autism. The former being changeable because in theory I could decide otherwise, whilst the latter would be part of my DNA and not really up for change. I suspect the difference is mute. If I can be aware that I sometimes (always?) react to “enforced” change by doing the opposite than I still have a choice over whether I harm myself.
In the case of the cycle group communication I understand that if I want to continue cycling with my friends that I must accept that change. In reality I have always switched my mobile out of airport mode in the mornings to receive the text SMS. Adding in the step to connect to the internet really isn’t much harder. Yes it will mean more battery drain, but I think that is worth it for a few friendships.
We all live by making assumptions. I turn the kettle on and it will boil the water. It will be daylight when I wake up. When I go to sleep, I will wake up. These assumptions aren’t always right though. The light doesn’t come on when I flick the switch because the bulb is broken. The allen key wasn’t replaced because the rest of the set was misplaced. The toolbox wasn’t at the bottom of the stairs because someone felt it was in the way. It wasn’t a blue sky when I opened the curtains this morning because for the first time in what feels like a month, there was 100% cloud cover.
It is how we deal with the situations when our assumptions are wrong that marks us out as a person. My reaction marks me as autistic. I can feel overwhelmed when my assumptions are challenged and it can build up to a point when I am unable to function. I need time to process the situation and work out a response. Sometimes I deal with the situation by not acknowledging it. Sometimes this works because the issue disappears through time but often it doesn’t and I am left with lots of things that haven’t been dealt with. I wonder if this is at the root of my depression. Certainly as I move around the house and the garden, I am aware of so many things I have ignored or am ignoring. It begins to feel overwhelming and I force myself to stop. I force myself to write because that helps me. Writing though also gives me space to feel waves of anxiety.
And you know I think that is a positive thing. It feels horrible at the moment but I think that if I am to find my authentic self, I need to go through this pain. I need to use this hurt to identify the issues that hold me back. Becoming aware and keeping that awareness alive then provides me with an opportunity to become the guy hiding inside. A guy I think might be pretty awesome.