Subtitle: I have my special place…
Recently I was catching up with Google Alert emails that send me automated links to articles about autism, and one in particular grabbed my attention.
I decided to click on the link and watch the video about a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome that described what had happened to him when his caregiver gave him a new challenge, getting from Point A to Point B by using a map.
When I read the description of the video before watching it what compelled me to watch it were the words “map reading” because that’s one of my escapes when I’m bored, consequently I was hooked.
I thought that maybe I’d learn some new way to engage in that activity and possibly some new trick to further my skill at remembering those tiny obscure places that represent locations of people, places, and things, but that didn’t happen.
What did happen was a view into his world as he sees the external world, a frightening loud mishmash of sights and sounds that causes his brain to nearly shutdown altogether.
His ability to explain his reactions resonated with me deeply and I suspect it would with lots of other autistics when we try and blend into society outside of our own homes.
We’re either told to “suck it up and deal with it” or someone attempts to teach us how to cope with these foreign realities, but most of the time that doesn’t work.
“Loss of control” coupled with “sensory overload” is a common result with many of us autistics, and in order to mitigate the heightened anxiety we use our “STIMs” and have our “safe places”.
And the reason for that is that our brains can’t be molded nor modified to filter out stimuli that is actually quite painful or scary. “We’re wired differently” as most of my tribespeople attest to and that’s a pretty good high level explanation for it.
Often in various autism related Facebook groups, someone will post a question about this asking other members how they navigate the chaos outside of our homes, probably looking for advice or comparing their methods for handling it.
I have several methods but no real advice, I only know what works for me.
I generally avoid large groups such as parties, even though I like to be invited. I have my two hands which often cover my ears when there is a loud noise. I have my anti-anxiety medication which I take as needed. I have my mostly bald head with a crew cut as a tool, and I’ve noticed that I use my left hand to rub that stubble over and over when I’m feeling anxious. I smoke unfortunately, the same as my autistic mother did, and I’m pretty sure that’s one of my STIMs as well. To help me sleep, I always have a comforter over me even in summer, and I sleep with a pillow over my head; I think the weight of those objects make me feel safe.
And finally for a safe place to hang out, I love small quiet spaces where I can feel isolated.
Fortunately I have a small patio at the rear of my house that is almost completely enclosed; I’m in that safe place right now as I’m typing my thoughts.
If you’re autistic like me, how do you cope and do you have a safe place?
The young man in the attached video does a much better job explaining it than I can.
To be continued…
From The Guardian UK: Autism: Getting Lost In London Video