Sometimes I have to… walk around in circles… walk around in circles… walk around in circles..

Sometimes I do.  Destiny has seen fit to allow amusing anecdotes to happen to me more than usual lately in order to give me examples for my new blog.  I am suitably grateful.  In this case it wasn’t much fun while it was happening but it was basically worth the story.

On To the Story Already

It’s Sunday night as I write, Monday technically.  On Wednesday or Thursday evening I don’t remember which I started doing laundry in the laundry room in the basement of my apartment.  I stayed down there and did something productivish in a notebook during the wash as is my custom, but went back up to my room to wait for the dryer, probably because I wanted to get something done on my computer or eat dinner or something, I’m not sure.  Normally, because of executive functioning difficulties I couldn’t do anything but squid around on the internet during this time.  In fact more often than not doing laundry is the only productive thing I do in a given day.  It’s hard enough some days to eat 1-2 meals and do laundry.  But this week has been one of the two or three best executive functioning weeks of the year so I had energy to spare.

In fact I had enough energy to immerse myself fully in a productive activity—either writing the first blog post (see that post for why it counts as productive) or coding a game I’m working on, I’m not sure which—which is such a rare and wonderful miracle that I basically didn’t even plan for it.  I hyperfocused on the activity whatever it was and forgot about the laundry entirely.  At least that is what I assume happened.

I didn’t find out until Friday night when I looked for my clothes.  I had been on such a productivity kick writing and coding that it didn’t seem worth transitioning to showering which tends to kill my momentum.  And I usually don’t change clothes if I don’t either shower or go out, because I figure I’m dirtier than my clothes anyway and I want to save clothes because laundry can kill an entire day.  It was too late at night and I was too tired (don’t ask why I looked for my clothes then; that’s a whole other random thing.), so I waited till Saturday morning after my ritual of slowing sipping tea until I can process the world enough to do anything (early in this process in the most common time I’m nonverbal).

Return to the Laundry Room

I went down to the laundry room, with the following plan.  If my clothes were there I’d bring them up to my room and then go out for breakfast and coffee.  If the clothes were gone as I feared I would just go for breakfast and coffee and worry about it when I had more caffeine and food in my system so that I could deal with the planning and administrative stress better and avoid a meltdown.  When I get down there, my clothes are there but my laundry basket is not.  This was not something I planed for.  There were two other baskets that were definitely not mine, but I was socially stress out about the idea of taking them.

I walk around the area looking for my laundry basket.  Because it’s not there this gets stuck in an endless loop.  I pace back and forth for, I would estimate, 20 minutes, but I’m only estimating by how tired I was after; I have no sense of the passage of time during something like that.  I just kept going faster and faster and was barely stopping to look by the end.  It’s important for me to explain to you what this feels like on the inside.  It’s about as distracting as being dragged through water (and realize being dragged through water may be more distracting for me than a neurotypical) but I manage moments of lucidity in which I know I should stop walking and decide what to do.

But I can’t do that until I’ve decided what to do next and even then its hard to remember the syntax to control my muscles so to speak.  It really feels like I can’t remember how to input commands to my body.  I’m on autopilot and I don’t have the password to turn it off.  I’m feeling frustrated emotionally and desperate for this to be over soon.  By some cruel logic, these emotions translate into motivation to move faster along the endless loop I’m pacing, as if I’m in a hurry to arrive at some destination.  Of course I’m just making the motion and sights more distracting so its harder to think about how to stop.  This easily could have lasted for  an hour and then triggered and meltdown and killed the whole day and maybe the next.  But I did something clever.

Jesus would like totally just say whatever and like borrow the other basket already, sheesh!

I was trying to tell myself to get one of the other baskets, because I was frustrated enough to get over my inhibitions against borrowing somebody’s thing for 5 minutes.  But my planning couldn’t cut through the loop.  What I normally do in this situation if I’m around somebody else is to tell them to tell me to stop doing what I’m doing.  Somehow this works, because listening to somebody telling me to do something is a powerful motivation that operates on a deeper level than I realize that they’re only saying that because I told them to.  My speech faculty isn’t caught in the loop because talking is independent of walking, so I’m using it to get around the connection gaps in my own mind.

This time I was alone though.  Talking to myself doesn’t work as well, but it sometimes can.  What really makes it work is if I can dissociate enough from what I’m saying that I process hearing myself speak like another person.  It helps to be alienated from what I’m saying and it helps to say it in an unnatural accent or register.  I did both here.  I asked “What would Jesus do?”.  Even if I’m a Christian, I’m definitely not the sort in the habit of saying that.  Then I answered myself in a valley girl accent.  “Jesus would like totally just say whatever and like borrow the other basket already, sheesh!”

I listened to what I had to say then and used the basket to bring the clothes to my room and then immediately put it back.  Then I got a much needed breakfast and coffee before going off to buy a new laundry basket.  I managed to do that and also buy another useful item while I was looking, because as I mentioned, this was a good executive functioning week.  I didn’t manage to blog about it last night though.  But I did tonight.

The Point of This

I sound like I’m bragging about how inept I am, I know.  That’s not exactly what I’m doing but I am doing something related.  I’m trying to dramatize as well as explain the sort of difficulties I among other Autistic people have that NTs have a particularly hard time understanding.  This sort of thing is what is referred to by the technical term “uneven skills” or what I like to call “Exotic Skill Deficiencies” a term coined by a close friend for me specifically.  The gist of the “uneven skills” question is when NTs ask somebody like me “You’re smart enough to do advanced mathematics; how come you’re too stupid to do your laundry?”  According to my experience and, judging from other Autism blogs, the experience of many other Autistics, NTs most commonly respond to this sort of thing by not believing us and saying we’re just lazy.  This is a failure of empathy on their part.  (That joke never gets old.)

The answer, I think is to not just to explain things to people, but also to show them, help them get in the head of people like me in this sort of situation.  I want to show them the narrative, the drama, inherent in navigating activities of daily living when you’re wired as funny as I am.  That requires a dramatic tone.  Because it’s a particularly pressing issue for education the public, I’m going to be putting a pretty high priority on this sort of war story.  I hope I manage to come across decently sympathetically without compromising the truth.

Valediction With Out-Stuck Tongue

To any of you readers who believe me about all this but still want to call me high-functioning: huh?  Have you been listening?

“But you live independently.  How do you live independently, Setrain?”

Badly.  I live independently, badly.

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