[image description: blue sky and cloud background. Text reads: “I picture myself running and my distress pursuing close behind. I will run at top speed if I’m around any other people, but eventually I get tired and the distress keeps getting bigger with longer legs until it can easily reach me. I try to ensure that I’m alone when it happens. Tag! I’m it. ~Aria Sky, Mamautistic”]
When I was a child and needed to go anywhere in the morning I would lie in bed for a good 10-15 minutes before getting up. I had to plan what I would wear, visualize where it was in my room, and imagine putting it on.
I remember doing this, especially, as a teenager. I remember because my mother would wake me up and then come back into my room (she did knock) to “make sure I was getting ready” which I was, but she couldn’t see it.
I would get very anxious when she’d come in like that, snapping that “I am getting ready, I’m about to get up!” in response to her “Are you getting ready? Are you about to get up?” Then it would take longer because I’d have to start the entire process all over again after she left.
This is something that I’ve always done. I do it now. I set several alarms so that I’ll have enough time to think about getting up without completely losing track of the time since my mom no longer comes in to remind me. Without an alarm I will lie there thinking about getting up and what needs to be done over and over again until I’m very nearly late for whatever I need to do.
But this specific planning is not something that I’d linked to being Autistic until today and only because I remembered my mom’s apparent inability to understand how I could possibly be getting ready while still lying in bed.
I find it difficult to imagine that other people don’t do this sometimes, but I’m not sure other people need to do it every single time. The detailed imagining reminds me of the other detailed planning I do throughout my day. Lining things up in my mind so that they’re manageable, if not predictable.
Thinking of all the possible alternative outcomes, conversation possibilities, pitfalls, delays, where I’ll sit, alternate routes when driving, the order that I eat my candy or dinner. What will I do if that driver does any of a dozen possible things, how will I react if the other person says a thing I wasn’t expecting?
The utterly overwhelming upset when something happens that I didn’t manage to foresee is something I’m extremely motivated to avoid. As a responsible adult I can often hide my distress, but only for so long. Eventually it all catches up to me.
I picture myself running and my distress pursuing close behind. I will run at top speed if I’m around any other people, but eventually I get tired and the distress keeps getting bigger with longer legs until it can easily reach me. I try to ensure that I’m alone when it happens. Tag! I’m it.
Maybe to some people I’m literally “it” when this happens. Subhuman, unable to express the most basic of things or even understand why I’m upset. But I remain human, just a distressed human, who will eventually be capable of detailed analysis and re-analysis of everything that happened both within and without myself as I try and figure out how to avoid any future similarly distressing situations.
My extreme amount of planning makes me appear fairly flexible to others. I’ve gotten quite good at predicting outcomes and responses over the years, but it’s never gotten any easier as far as energy expenditure goes.
All this planning is still exhausting although now it’s more automatic, which doesn’t really make it easier, even though it seems as though it should. In reality I automatically do this thing that’s exhausting and I don’t know how to practice not doing it without creating even more energy-intensive situations to deal with because it’s still exhausting and also risking a meltdown not to do it.
There will always be unexpected situations, but I do better when they’re minimized or at least somewhat anticipated.