Support comes in many shapes and sizes. Hopefully you have good friends and family around you but I find when it comes to people, only the fellows on the autistic spectrum have any real understanding of what I am going through. Neuro-typicals may be supportive of course, but my thinking can be so foreign to them that they just can’t get it however hard they might try. Can we really accept somebody for what they are without understanding their thinking and their experiences? I think it is probably possible but it seems to me that the person needs to be in touch with their own vulnerabilities and difficult decisions. There is something about really being listened to with empathy and without judgment which opens up possibilities. But I am not sure the possibilities lead anyway without a curious mind on both parts.
I think I am only my genuine self when I am with my autistics friends or when I am away from other people. The difficulty though is that I believe that I can only really live life fully when I share experiences with other people. Yes I can do things by myself but I think it takes on another level when other people get involved. Somehow my thoughts become more real to me when other people read them or listen to them. Another level is gained when people give me feedback, and yet another level is reached when a person gives feedback that shows that they understood what I said. Reality is further improved when all this is done in person. Perhaps all this is linked into self-worth and not feeling lonely.
However, I still have to start by myself. My ideas for what I write here are my own. I still need to get myself ready and out on my bike when I ride. I still pack my bag and refill my water bottle when I go swimming. I collect music and instruments when I play music. There are certain things I need to achieve before the group interaction can take place. One of these is travelling to meet others and it is in this area that I notice how much support having my own car gives me. The car helps me in two ways. It allows me to plan better when I can leave (when I am ready!) and to not worry about the weather. Seriously, it makes a big difference to this autistic person.
I am aware of this because I currently don’t have the car. It is sitting at Edinburgh airport waiting for my family to return from a trip to Denmark. I knew this was going to cause me problems because I know that I tend to find it too difficult to go swimming without the car. It has been done in the past though so I thought it might be okay. I didn’t bargain on the weather changing though. This last week or so, the heatwave Scotland has experienced for the last couple of months broke. It has rained randomly and heavily ever since. With the car I just jump in with my stuff and drive to the pool. There is no problem parking and although there is a cost, it is minimum and the machines give change or even take cards, it is something I find easy enough to handle. The only transport I can control at the moment is walking or travelling by bike and the decision required to decide what to wear just seems too much. I find it hard to accept, but it is my reality.
It is possible of course to ask for help. This is what I did to get to the play on Saturday night. I did spend probably half a day considering whether it was an okay thing to do. I considered riding my bike because it would be good for me, but the unsettled weather make that too complicated. I sent off an enquiry and got a enthusiastic response, a lift wasn’t a problem. I wondered if anybody else might be in the car and worried about whether the driver would find my house. It was a bit stressful when I had no ETA and time was slipping away. I didn’t like the horn hooting to let me know they arrived and I found it strange sitting in the back not being able to see where I was going. There were two other people in the car.
My struggles with transport however doesn’t seem to apply for visiting a friend tomorrow in Dundee. I think this shows how important other people (and dogs in my case) are in life. My friend had an operation last week to delay the damage done to her liver and postpone the need for a transplant. Whilst I did not have the same disease that she has, I am the only person she knows that has had an organ transplant. I have an inkling about what she is going through. She asked if she could see me this week and tomorrow is the only day available before I had off to, appropriately enough, the UK Transplant Games. Normally I would drive over.
There is a part of me that knows that I really should focus my energy on myself tomorrow to be as mentally and physical prepared as possible for the Games. Instead I will walk down to the train station and meet up with my friend in Dundee centre. I haven’t even looked at the weather. I have planned which train I will go over on, but not the one I will get back. My only other tasks tomorrow are to pack for the games (well there’s something to get worked up about) and take my dog around to friend’s house (which I will find distressful afterwards).
I realise the car is just one example of an object that I find supportive. I like to have my coffee in a certain mug. If I buy a treat for myself, I want to know it is there when I fancy eating it (or more likely need it for comfort eating). The familiar reduces my anxiety and allows me to do more. Being motivated to help others can have a similar effect, but the level of anxiety is probably increased and I need to remember that for afterwards.
Perhaps I should do most of my packing tonight.