When Autistic Routines Bend, then Break | Going to the Mattresses with Stressors

There’s only so much I can manage. And at that point, I can only hope to bend my furthest without breaking.

Unlike everyone else on the planet, I don’t look forward to three day weekends or holidays. And it’s sad, because I genuinely enjoy what I have to look forward to — truly!

But the routine break can be backbreaking.

Lemme explain this autistic trait of routine. Routine and repetition are our R&R — we thrive on predictability, reducing the mental load in adapting, and being able to “opt in” and commit in environments that mostly remain undisturbed.

So when we hit structural changes to this routine, it’s tough sledding.

This weekend, instead of hauling off to church, we instead bought the girls their new bunk beds, grilled outdoors, disassembled beds, stored beds, assembled new ones, bought new mattresses, made up the beds, and then-whew-done.

It doesn’t sound hard. But when all of that runs counter to the rank-and-file Sunday/Monday combo, it becomes hard.

Mind you, I adapt and stretch the best I can — in my mind I chalk out the outline of the day (build beds, make beds, store beds, lift things), but as soon as something falls outside of that outline, yikes.

And that happened :/

I have to draw a line between my autism and my generally-acerbic expressions, and this weekend was more of the latter. Due to my own error, I ended up having to add some extra steps outside that chalk outline and just ended the day incensed, angry, and short-tempered.

So close, H2 — so close to accounting for everything, but just short enough to light off my fuse.

That was the story: what should have been a “yay party omg labordayvibes” weekend became a sweet memory turned sour by my own rigidity and bending just a little too far and breaking.

My advice to my autistic self?

Make that chalk outline bigger.

Give a wider berth to disruptions.

And don’t buy used mattresses.

Hope your three-day weekend went well! I’ll do better on my next one. To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks!

Oh, and if you like words and videos, you’ll LOVE The Life Autistic on YouTube! New episode:

Smiles on the Spectrum: Autism and Facial Expressions

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You can tell I’ve been practicing getting my daughter to “smile back.” It’s been a fun exercise, in some cases, literally.

It got me thinking about expressions in general.

People say you can tell if someone’s autistic by their facial expression or by this autistic look that they have.

That’s not really true. 

I’ve fooled plenty of people because they say I don’t look or seem autistic, but aye, if that ain’t another topic.

But since learning more and doing more with expression, I’ve discovered some strange and wonderful things about them and how they intersect with autism.

Speaking of doing more with expression, you should check out my latest episode of The Life Autistic on YouTube for proof!

For starters, smiles are inexpensive and easy. They’re unnatural for me (enough to where I joke on camera about “stop making me smile, it’s hurting my face”) and others like me, but not impossible. The fact that it’s almost always voluntary makes it powerful.

Chris Voss — one of my faves — showcases this in the concept of mirroring, and it’s been like a secret weapon for exerting a little tension on my side to erode it from the other side. So yes, neurotypicals, I’m using your “facial and emotional normality” against you to make my life easier 😉

We don’t always “face express” normally. Apparently, we can have a “facial” disconnect in emotional conveyance. I’ve had to almost practice a sad look, a disappointed look, or whatever other look (other than ‘dumb’) to consciously project that “this is how I’m feeling.”

Hunter, what kind of person has to do that?

Autistic people have to do that.

And it’s hard, because, well, when I screw up, and I feel bad, I don’t always look like I do. So you know how that goes:

“You don’t LOOK sorry.” 

“You SEEM like you’re OK with this.”

That’s hard.

I wish I knew why this was the case: I really don’t. We often come across in our own language and inflective variant, and that may be true in our unspoken communication too.

If you don’t know how we’re feeling, but you care — don’t try to read: ask.

And for what it’s worth: yes, it is fun to give my cheeks some workout to coax a smile out of a baby.

For a former frowner perpetual, I have a lot to smile about these days, even if I have to tell myself “SMILE.” To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks!

 

 

 

Autism Stories from Autistic People – Why It’s Worth the Exhaustion

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The first things that come up for me when I start typing in “autism stories” to search

  1. autism stories of hope
  2. autism stories from parents

Both are well and good, but we need more autism stories from autistic people.

To that end, I’ve opened up shop on YouTube and launched my first video, where I cover why it’s critical for us to share more from our unique autistic perspectives. I’d love you welcome you as a subscriber there!

That said, I can see why autistic storytelling is in shorter supply.

IT IS EXHAUSTING. 

I think I left that above frame in the video, and I didn’t act that one out. I was spent after sitting in front of a camera for 7 to 9 whole minutes, framing what I wanted to say, and front-loading my most expressive self.

IT IS NOT EASY.

So not only am I “keeping my jets on” for camera, I’m contending with those obsessive, OCD-style things that threaten to disappoint and dissuade me from just opting out of this mess altogether.

Did you notice:

  1. I have a loose hair clinging to my goatee, and I noticed it all too late after I was halfway into editing
  2. I said I cried during all three Toy Story films. There are four. (Thanks a lot, Zach Bowders).
  3. The audio that jumps too high when I read off the numbers to the “five things”
  4. At least three cuts that were a millisecond too quick
  5. How I started reaching for my glasses too early to stage the “expert” scenes

It’s normal to pick at your own imperfections, but when you’re both autistic and hyper-self-aware-critical, it’s enough to keep your story from coming out. And then all the “pre-staging” I’m doing to prep for people who don’t like this content or getting my first thumbs down – it’s like I have to check my anxiety cloak at a door that I keep entering and exiting.

IT IS A LOT.

But it’s necessary.

I’ve been super grateful for the kind words and the feedback and the people who think I’m good at editing (thanks 😛 ). And because it’s worth mentioning, I’ve spent years in front of a camera for virtual work meetings, so it’s something I’ve acclimated to. It still gets to be a bit much, but I can do it a little justice in short bursts.

So what now?

If you’re an ally for autistic causes, support your autistic storytellers. I know it’s hard not to share your proximity and your involvement as a parent or significant relation to an autistic loved one, but their voice matters. 

If you’re autistic, share your story. You deserve to. The platform should be yours, ours. 

It’s exhausting effort, but it’s worthwhile. And I’m going to continue doing so here, in writing (my first love and best skill) and on video.

I hope you’ll do and support the same!

I am glad you’re reading this blog! This is my “easy” medium, and it’s nice to use one of my few skills to do good. Video is my “hard” medium, but I’m giving it an earnest go. To learn more about autism from an autistic person’s perspective, follow & subscribe to The Life Autistic here and on YouTube — or follow the more whimsical, spontaneous, and amusing content on Twitter / Instagram. Thanks!