Things I can’t control

People with autism need and form patterns, plans and routines. I’ve always tried to plan everything to a high degree of detail. I meal plan, I plan my working day, I plan my training and relaxation time. Basically, I’m a logistic dream or nightmare, depending upon ones perspective.

I’m currently waiting on my girlfriend to arrive back in the U.K. from Sweden. She’s had a fun trip, visiting a friend and I’m very much looking forward to spending the weekend together; and, yes I do have meals planned.

However, the fly in the ointment takes the form of Norwegian Air deciding to change her return flight and no one thought to notify her of this change. Not the website she booked through or the Airline themselves. The flight was moved forward, by a matter of five hours. I’ve spoken to the website and been informed that the next direct flight to Manchester is at 07:00 tomorrow! Or she can get a flight tonight and have a nine hour layover in Heathrow airport.

I now can’t get hold of her to find out more information. I hate not being able to do anything more than I have done and feel utterly useless. I write this as a means of trying to avoid the alternative, which is simply to have a meltdown.

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Transport

It’s not really a secret that I detest public transport; when I lived in London most recently, I choose to drive almost everywhere. I caught half a dozen trains during the three years I lived in Switzerland and then, only until I managed to get a car.  I cannot stand the smell that bus emissions give off, it makes me want to claw my own skin off.

I currently don’t have my own car, this leads to some things not being as easy as with one. I can’t often get to races, which leads to my not racing as much as I would like (although I am still out with injury, awaiting surgery at the moment). Also, I don’t get to see my friends, who, by and large are mainly in the South of England, whilst I live in West Yorkshire.

This leads me on to the subject of trains, I took my girlfriend to Manchester Airport on Sunday as she was flying to visit a friend in Sweden. The trains were, unexpectedly far more crowded than I had anticipated. Stuck in a metal tube with hundreds of other sweaty and noisy people, all of which have luggage was not a pleasant journey. Arrival at the airport was actually reasonably straight forward as was helping her check in and after a nice meal, I escorted her to Security and wished her an enjoyable trip.

Now to make my return journey from Manchester to Bradford, which was almost £30 for a single off-peak ticket. The ticket machine would only let me travel on a specific route, via Halifax, which in train times is a little like travelling via the moon. One train cancelled, three changes and being boxed into my seat by sheer force of numbers. The noise and smells of public transport combined with the stresses of having to determine a very convoluted route and cancelled trains all adding to the stress factor. At one point, I was so confused I asked a guard ‘How do I get to Bradford International?’ (which doesn’t exist). I arrived home in the end, just an hour and a half later than planned. Next time, I think that I’ll hire a car.

Boredom

Well, over a week of not being able to train and I’m already climbing the walls.

My GP has got the results back from my X-Rays and I’ve been offered an appointment, next Thursday. Seeing as I’m in not inconsiderable pain, this is ridiculous; I’ve had to take three days off from tutoring now and this obviously affects the lousy amount that I earn. It may also impact upon future plans and that’s incredibly frustrating and may end up costing me a lot of money.

All through no fault of my own. Lawyers are dragging their heels already; so far busy doing nothing.

My anxiety levels are consequently through the roof and I’m tempted to spend several hours sat in A & E to expedite this now. I anticipate that all of these factors are likely to begin affecting my depression in time.

I accept risk as a part of my sport, mountain biking comes with an element of risk, riding a technical trail at race pace with an elevated heart rate in competition with others increases this risk manifold. However, this injury was caused through no fault of my own, simply walking along and a poor maintained surface and me having a moment of simple misfortune.

 

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Obstructions

Like most people on the spectrum, I spend time building a routine. I use various tools to help me with this, including iPhone apps with reminders and a dry wipe magnetic weekly planner on my fridge door.

My normal week involves a mix of tutoring and training as well as spending time with my girlfriend, attempting to socialise on occasion and the more mundane tasks such as cleaning and housework. Some of this, I classify under the heading of ‘adulating’.

Amongst last weeks ‘adulating’ was an interview for a teacher training provider: this process is a lengthy one, understandably so as it is teaching and influencing children and the training providers want to be sure of the right fit. So, a forty minute trip became a two hour journey because of a burst water mains and involved cancelled public transport and me running later than intended. Cue, stress and anxiety levels increasing. This followed by a three hour interview and testing. On the return home, I decided to relax and go for a G&T in my favourite bar in the town. In walking to the site, I discovered that the site was closed because of an overpriced concert the following day. I also then managed to sprain both ankles on damaged paving and broke one of the screws in my ankle.

Having inspected the site of the injury, there is a potential negligence claim and as such, I have instructed a lawyer to act on my behalf. I hate dealing with lawyers as it almost always involves me chasing them constantly and reminding them how to do their job. Stress I don’t really need.

This is no forcing changes to my routine, which compounds my discomfort and stops me training, means loss of out of pocket expenses and hassle as well as making life more difficult. Needless to say, this is causing me further stress. I will, as always, endure but it’s all additional energy required and just gets in the way of a normal routine.

I would be interested in learning what methods of organisation others use.

Meltdown

I’m often stressed or anxious. I sometimes have shutdowns, however, a full blown meltdown is rare for me these days. Let me clarify something, there is a huge difference between a tantrum or sulking and a meltdown. Whilst all of the above may result in challenging behaviour; a tantrum is something conscious, which the person exhibiting the behaviour has a control over. Compare this to a meltdown in a person with autism; this happens when there is too much stimulus or stress and the person literally cannot process.

This happened to me on Thursday night, quite late when the cat decided to trash my wardrobe (one of those canvas affairs). Wardrobe crashed down and clothing everywhere, just as I was about to retire to bed. I then couldn’t find one of the supporting plastic lugs which holds part of the thing together. Cue, overloading and the first major meltdown in a while.

Aside from the mental exhaustion, the physical feeling of incompetence and frustration as well as feeling emotionally and physically wiped out, pretty much meant the anything I did on Friday was impaired by fatigue. In order to combat this, I decided to follow my obsessions and went for a ride but refused to attempt anything technically challenging. Anyone interested can find a link to my Strava account in the links pagep_101237901

Behind the veil and exhaustion

I’ve discussed the concept of ‘masking’ before, this is when a person with autism camouflages their autistic traits in order to attempt to fit into a world, which is predominantly neurotypical. Most high-functioning autistic people have done this at some point or another and many continue to do so, depending upon the circumstances and the environment. Some people fail to identify my autism, because I am both high-functioning and able to mask some aspects of my condition; to others, it’s blatantly obvious. I will state, at this point, that I am very open about my condition and it’s an area I not only enjoy writing about, but discovering more about how it affects both myself and others on the spectrum.

Should we be forced into hiding in, or as I prefer to think of it, ‘hiding in plain sight’? That’s a tricky question. In many situations, the world dictates that we all hide aspects of our personalities.

We are expected to conduct ourselves in an accepted manner in much of life, especially in adulthood. For example, I really don’t like wearing a tie and yet, I have worked in various environments in which a tie is considered the norm. Occasionally, I will make attempts to challenge this norm, but doing something like wearing a cravat or an open collared shirt; I have struggled with the concept of ‘MUFTI’ or ‘dress down’ days. My interpretation of a dress down day is not, generally speaking, a polo shirt and chinos; hell, I don’t own a pair of chinos, nor do I want to. This has lead to discussions about not wearing a Sisters of Mercy T-Shirt and jeans for dress down Friday, when I worked in an office. I responded by either digging in my heels and ultimately,  wearing a suit and not wearing a tie.

Attempting to fit in, without a set of rules is frankly difficult, at least for me. If I’m given rules or guidelines, I’m generally pretty good at following them.

From a legal perspective, there is protection in place to help and protect autistic people, including making reasonable allowances and adaptions within the workplace and so on. However, many os us work in very similar fields, there seems to be a lot of people on the spectrum in the education, I.T. and artistic sectors from my knowledge and I suspect that a lot of professional athletes are on the spectrum. Maybe these areas allow us to still exhibit autistic traits, such as a high level of focus and attention to details and still excel in the workplace.

It can, however, be exhausting. A working day, or one spent in study or even recreation, around others can be hard work. Human interaction comes with a myriad of complexities, potential pitfalls and hidden agendas. The difference is that the NT person is more likely to be able to pick up on the subtexts, whilst we, the autistic community, haven’t a clue: we generally take things at face value. Which means that we spend time an energy trying to read subtext or we simply bumble around.

If anyone is looking for definitive answers to this issue, I’m not able to give them. It is my personal opinion, however, that in being open and honest with people and asking questions and for guidance, it can be easier. That and a lot of patience, tolerance and understanding from those around us. Giving people knowledge is empowering, for them and you. We shouldn’t have to hide. We’re not social lepers, we’re just using a different way to get on the same journey.

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Unique

We’re told that people on the autistic spectrum are unique; I rather suspect that neurotypical people are as well. We’re just differently unique.

I express this because I recently noticed a theme in my wardrobe choices. Basically, I like a colour or a theme, I tend to purchase almost exclusively on that pallet. Now, considering that I am a Goth, it’s unlikely that I am be seen sporting vibrant pinks, yellows and so on. There is, and always has been a dominant amount of black in my wardrobe. I do, however, really like reds and purples; I noticed this on realising that I brought a second polo shirt in exactly the same shade as my favourite polo shirt.

My wardrobe choices colour-wise are eclectic in style; but colour is clearly predictable. If anyone knows of a nice red fitted shirt, I would be interested as I don’t own a shirt in that colour 😉