I had many rambling thoughts immediately after reading Aspergirls. I was looking at my entire life from a completely different perspective and continued journaling about a few *memories that now made infinitely more sense in light of being Autistic:
My favorite number is 3, my second favorite is 6. My favorite multiplication problem is therefore 6×6 and my favorite 2-digit number is 36. When I was in elementary and middle school I had a digital alarm clock that I would read by the light of for hours and hours every single night. That clock solved [all my flashlight-related problems].
Anyhow, while I read half the night away, I also kept track of the time and when the minutes equaled “36” I had to trace my right pointer finger along the “36” until it changed to “37.” I’m not sure what purpose this served, but it was extremely important that I do it and if I missed that time because I got too engrossed in a book then I would get very agitated.
If I missed the correct time, I would also need to stay up until the next :36 so that I could fulfill the ritual once more before going to sleep. Usually this wasn’t a problem, but sometimes I got tired or bored of the book I was reading. It didn’t matter, I still had to stay awake and be certain to catch that next :36!
I didn’t know why I had to do that, but I did. Every night, for over a decade. Looking back, I suspect it had something to do with paying homage to my favorite number and recognizing it in a tangible way, when it passed nearby.
When I was in preschool, I was pushing a friend in a swing hanging from a tree. Somehow the swing got twisted around so that my friend was running into the tree. She told me to stop, but for some reason I thought she was kidding. She had been laughing at first, as she said it, and I never knew where it changed from her laughing to her getting hurt.
I felt horribly about it, but I had thought she was kidding! Nobody believed me, of course, and I got into a lot of trouble, but I truly didn’t understand how it had happened.
I couldn’t tell that my friend had been distressed. I thought she was just playing. I don’t think she ever played with me again after that.
I missed her. I hadn’t meant to hurt her.
That was a memory I could barely revisit before I learned about autism because it was so confusing and painful to recall.
Once, when I was pregnant, we had a good friend of mine come live with us. On a couple of occasions, I would be gone at work all day long and then I’d come home to find out that she’d rearranged several pieces of furniture.
This was extremely upsetting to me even though I had no idea why and couldn’t at all articulate it. If she’d asked beforehand I would’ve probably been fine with it, but coming home to where it should’ve been a sanctuary and finding things different… it was just too much.
It wasn’t actually important to me, in the grand scheme of things, where those pieces of furniture were. It was beyond confusing that I had become so upset that I couldn’t even speak; and over something that mattered so little to me.
Now I know that changes, when they’re abrupt and unexpected are hugely distressing to me. I still don’t completely understand why this is, but it’s happened that way for as long as I can remember. I will picture something going one way: such as coming home from work and the furniture being where it was when I left. Instead, it’ll go a different way and I’ll melt down or shut down or maybe even experience a horrifying combination of the two where I first melt down and then shut down – unable to speak for an unknown amount of time.
This post is a great explanation of how it can be upsetting to experience a change in plans, even when it should be an overwhelmingly positive change – a happy surprise!
Unexpected changes are not usually daily occurrences for me any longer since I became an adult. I try consciously not to have many firm expectations any longer, especially when the unpredictable children are involved. My husband has also gotten better about communicating before changing anything, but I’d say that distressing changes still happen at least weekly.
Likewise, the washer and dryer running late at night made it impossible for me to go to sleep and anyone doing anything in the kitchen when I was in the bedroom (even when I was just trying to read a book or relax) was too much for me to handle.
Sensory issues that I didn’t yet know about. Sensory overload was being added to my already limited ability to cope with working full-time, having a housemate, being married, and being pregnant. I was miserable.
Another thing that I never understood until now was my need to use candlelight when I would come home from work. I was working full-time in a windowless office where there were only fluorescent lights. When I came home I couldn’t handle the regular lights, but candlelight was nice and soothing to me.
Our housemate fought me about this issue. She said outright that she thought I was just being controlling/mean, but after being all day in the florescent lights, I just could not handle any more electric lights. I even explained that to her, but I guess it wasn’t good enough. Nobody knew that I had sensory issues and I didn’t realize that other people didn’t deal with this the way I did.
So many problematic situations that could’ve been avoided had I known then that I even just had sensory issues, let alone if I’d known I was Autistic.
And these were only the first few things I remembered.
*It’s always been my desire to learn the truth about myself – not just what I might wish was the truth – keeping in mind the fact that memories can be fickle and suggestible things. Throughout my researching and journaling, I’ve done my best to be accurate in my thinking/writing and to double-check my remembrances, whenever possible, with at least one other person who was actually present during the incidents I remember.