Sitting here with what feels like a heavy blanket draped over my brain. It’s hard to think. I’m sure to the outside world I just look miserable, people do make a habit of telling me so.
This was because someone, through no fault of their own, was fifteen minutes late to a proposed meetup. This is what happens when plans are changed or cancelled, or if a routine is disturbed.
To an Autistic, the simple act of being late can have repercussions that last all day. You can guarantee that when a time is agreed we spent the next ten minutes planning everything up to that point. It takes me twenty minutes to walk there and twenty minutes to get ready. I need to allow five minutes for either of these overrunning, and five minutes for the sake of being early. That means I have ten minutes now to sit and obsessively check the time until I need to move.
After planning and hyping over something like this for even as little as the first ten minutes, we become so fixated on that one time slot that any deference from it is earth shattering. For an hour there we have made our entire existence about one focal point: arriving on time. To not arrive on time, or for someone else to be late, makes me feel sick. I struggle to process my environment, similar to when I’m in shutdown. It actually has a tendency to ruin my entire day.
I’m often not aware I have a routine until it’s disturbed. I had no idea that every morning I showered in exactly the same order, I dried myself in the same order, brushed my teeth; even going to the toilet. That is until one day I was distracted and cleaned my bottom row of teeth before the top, bringing on this deep sense of wrongness.
Routines help us through the day. The world is an ever-changing and confusing place for us, so we need that familiraity to get by. Disrupting routines affects me in the same way as being late; my entire day can be off balance because I couldn’t drive a particular way to work.
To a lot of people our routines are hidden, no one ever really asks me about how I get ready on a morning. But some aren’t, some of us need to do everything a certain way because that’s just how we do it. That’s what makes us comfortable. A lot of people I work with have started to see this in me, even those that don’t know I’m Autistic. Unless it massively impacts you or is detrimental in any way, just humour us and let us go about things our way.
So I’ll end of a bit of advice: don’t be late, kids. You might be impacting on things you’ve never even thought of.