I did not have a good start this morning. I stayed up far too late last night because somebody asked me to help them out. In my head I thought because today was not a work day, I could stay up late. I stayed up far later than I intended and I am not really sure why. I think I just wanted the peace and quiet. And being the (autistic) guy I am, I completely forgot about the need to tidy in the morning. My wife woke me up and I did some tidying in the bedroom, half in a daze. I guess I did achieve something though. Because I was tired still, I decided to lie down and try to relax before heading off to recorder playing. I didn’t sleep though and concentrated on being aware of all that was happening to and around me. This mindfulness exercise felt refreshing and I felt less tired when I got up to leave. Unfortunately, it was then that I discovered that there was a reminder on my mobile telling me that I was in a psychotherapy session. Except of course I wasn’t because I had forgotten.
I think it is fairly typical for autistic people to get stuck in a situation or on a point of information and not be able to move on. In my head I liken it to going near black holes whilst travelling through the galaxy. Black holes are so powerful at attracting matter that if you get too close, you will inevitably be pulled in. People talk about going through a black hole but that doesn’t have any meaning in our current understanding. The only thing that escapes a black whole is Hawking radiation so perhaps the trick is to change into that. I digress. The point I am trying to make is that I could have very easily slipped into a black hole of guilt, self-loathing and blame which would spiral into a mental shutdown and inactivity.
I didn’t. Sure, that was a part of me that hated myself for causing the inconvenience to the therapist. There was a part of me that blamed myself for not realising last night. There was a part of me that was angry that I hadn’t set more reminders on my phone. There was a part that was angry that I had forgotten at all. And there was a part that felt helpless in knowing what to do next. All the ingredients were there to have a meltdown but I decided that I was going to try and beat the attraction of self-loathing. I had something that I wanted to do and a strong reason to go and do it. My recorder playing friends were there and would be waiting. I reasoned that by keeping active I could keep from being overwhelmed.
And I guess it worked. I drove to my friend’s house, and met my group. We played several pieces and I switched around my instrument. I achieved what I wanted from the meeting. Was I bolstered by my success? Perhaps. By the time I was back home I had decided that I needed to write down a plan for the rest of the day making sure I hit certain events. I knew I wanted to swim and I needed to cook dinner. These were fix points in time. I also knew I wanted to try to do something about missing the appointment and I wanted to fit some work in. I also felt it important that I ate lunch.
Before lunch, I made an attempt at finding some information on my therapy session. I couldn’t find anything helpful on my phone or in the pile of papers where I am writing now. I then looked in the kitchen in the mound of paper that is important and will be needed at some point. My appointment card was there with a name and number to ring. Taking a deep breath and trusting that I would find the right words to say, I rang the number. In a mixed blessing, there was no-one available so I was asked to leave a message and contact details. This I could do. I knew there would be a follow up call at some point but at least I had done something to rectify my mistake. That eased my angry side.
I had a good lunch of leftovers and then went on the computer so I could look through my work emails and make a list of tasks to complete. It took some concentrated effort but I compiled a list. That was enough for a while. The phone rang at some point. Normally I would let it ring out and allow the answer-machine to take a message but I suspected that the call would be about my appointment. I took a pause to fortify my mind and answered the call. I was right. I had another appointment. This one was later in the day so I had a chance for my mobile reminders to work. I put three reminders in over 24 hours just in case.
The time to go swimming was fast approaching so I collected my things, refilled my water bottle and headed off. I didn’t really want to go but I figured the mental stress I was under was a good reason to go and do something. Again, I wanted to keep busy. Swim training requires motivation and a certain confidence in oneself. My form wasn’t brilliant, but I did my best and felt at the end that I had made the effort worthwhile. Back home though I was so tired. I curled up on the sofa and rested. I awoke two hours later.
I had a choice to make. Do I start cooking tea, or do I tick some work tasks off? I wanted to feel I had done some work and so chose that. An hour later I started tea, though with nobody else in the house, I wondered why I going to the effort. Some cool milk and cereal would have suited me fine. Since then I have shared a meal and done some tidying. I have been told my answers to questions are answered in an angry manner. Did I have to speak like that? I answered that I probably wouldn’t if I wasn’t in my current state.
Looking back I guess this is typical behaviour for an autistic person too. We carry on with normality despite the sensory and emotional challenges we are undergoing. There is a price to pay of course in the expenditure of energy to keep going. My frustration and angry was a by product of keeping going, a sign I needed to stop doing and just be.
Did I handle my day right? Who is to judge? I guess I am the judge. I could have fallen into the black hole and I could see that that would have been appropriate under the circumstances. A darkened room and perhaps some sleep might have given me the ability to sort out my next appointment. I think I might have struggled to do much in the rest of the day due to lack of momentum but who knows? Perhaps I would have been less grumpy tonight. I had options today, and I followed the path that seemed best at the time. Another day will be different, my mistakes might overwhelm me and there will be no choice but to seek the darkness.
I recognise those possibilities. I am okay with them. And I think that is a pretty positive state to be in.