I have spoken a lot in the past about how overload can affect people with autism, including myself. And how important rest days are. But I have to admit, even though I understand in principle how to avoid feeling overloaded, or what I need to do when I am in a state of overload, it has been very hard for me over the past few weeks to put these in to practise. Even just looking at the past week as an example, I feel like I have been in a near-constant state of overload. I have been walking from room to room unable to do anything, simply lacking the focus and motivation to even sit down and watch a film. I have had an outburst, brought on by this stress. Because it is stressful. Imagine being imprisoned in your own home. But one of the terms of your imprisonment is that you can`t use anything in your own house. You are surrounded by the things you like, the things you enjoy doing, and yet you can`t do any of them. The hours must be spent instead doing, well, doing what? Sitting? Standing? Walking from room to room? Going upstairs, looking round and coming back down? And so on, for hours or even days upon end. You can`t go to bed and sleep through it because your mind is far too active to sleep.
So what brought this on? The roots of this overload, and the stress and outbursts that came as a result of it, come from going out at the weekend. Not going out clubbing, just going in to town the same as anybody else would. Not something I would normally do, but still not something I thought would result in eight days of overload. Now that may be a bit of a simplistic way of phrasing it. The past year has been full of stressful events that have of course left a mark, and I did go out again on the Wednesday for something relating to work. But I guess that`s the thing; it`s hard to tell recently where one overload stops and the next one starts. It seems that instead of having an overload every now and then and most days being spent working on my writing, or getting on with whatever I choose to, I am overloaded most days and the days that I can actually work, or function at all, are the rare days. But it is getting to a point where I feel my overloads are starting to incur in to my life more than they ever have before. Let`s take yesterday as an example. What I was supposed to do was to travel to my university via tram and talk with one of my lecturers about help and support for my upcoming second year at university. I got half way to the tram stop before I had to turn around and come back home. I knew that I was too overloaded to be able to function properly or contribute anything useful to this meeting. All that would result from it was yet more sensory overload, and in all likelihood another outburst. In a way it is positive that I was able to recognise that there was nothing to gain from forcing myself to go to something I was too overloaded for. And I certainly wouldn’t be getting any work done today if I had of forced myself to go to the meeting yesterday.
You might have noticed that this isn’t a blog full of tips of how to get out of a situation like this. If I had them I would be using them and there would be no blog to begin with. I am unsure whether this is a positive or a negative blog. On one hand I am telling you that I am finding it hard to function, to get things done and that I am near-constantly overloaded, but on the other hadn`t I was able to recognise the overload yesterday, minimise its effects for the coming week, and avert a probable outburst. It may well be that what I have to do is change the way I think and the way I structure my time., the commitments I take on and the pressures I put on myself. As I have said before, many times on my blog, there is no point in forcing yourself to work, or to try to get more out of yourself once you are overloaded. Perhaps what I need to do is pull back even more than I already have, let myself rest, and build up again slowly. And the note that I would like to end on is that this is ok. Overload is a very real thing, and if you have not experienced one then I don`t think you can ever really understand how it feels. Add to that the issue of delayed overloads, and you can see how difficult it is for me to even go out once or twice, and the impact that this can have on me. I feel like I need to change the way I do things, and try to understand the impact of my overloads more than I already do. And even though the reasons for me having to do so are negative, the impact of doing so on my future will hopefully be positive.
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