Just need that alone time…

Yes I need it. Everyone needs it, let’s be totally honest about. We all do in some form or another. Whether we are autistic or allistic, introvert or extrovert there are times that we just need to have that alone time. To recharge, to take stock, to work out what is happening, to get in touch with our emotional responses, or our feelings. It is an essential factor of human nature I think. I imagine way back when we were hunter flood-989081_1920gatherers we got plenty of that time.

The modern world we inhabit now though, the way it runs, the seductive way it is all-encompassing of our time, our thoughts our everything makes that alone time harder to get, harder to carve out of our busy schedules. Even our nothing time is taken up catching up on Facebook, or Twitter, or checking email, or watching Youtube or whatever it is. We sit in restaurants staring not into the eyes of the one we are with but into the brightly lit screen of our smart phone, tablet or laptop.

It is almost as if the technology we have created, much of it to supposedly provide us with more efficiency and therefore more leisure time, demands our every waking moment. Even many of our sleeping moments. How many do you know that sleep with their phone or tablet or laptop next to their beds. I for one am guilty as charged.

So we all just need that alone time…

For some it is more essential than for others. I know for me it is imperative that I get it. If I don’t get that time I struggle more with executive function, socializing, and just getting through the day. Which then snowballs into needing that alone time even more so than I already did. It’s one of those cycle things, or spirals. And for me that spiral does not end with anything good. It ends with shutdown or meltdown, incapacity to function for a period of time. A burden on my family and a failure to fulfil my role adequately as a father and a friend.

I noticed this week a fresh just how much for me sensory input can impact upon me beginning that spiral towards that end. I had a day the other day where I had been exposed to a large amount of time in sound intensive environments. Not so much loud, as loud is not normally a big issue for me from a sensory point of view. It is rather the multiplicity of different sources of noise, particularly similar but slightly different sources. Being in a public space with multiple conversations. Attempting to focus and having conversations going on around me. These are incredibly difficult things for me and impact me greatly.

The impact is not sudden, well it is kind of sudden, I don’t so much notice it until it builds, then suddenly it has built to an almost desperate point before I realise it. A big trigger for me can be particular smells, an absolutely difficult one for me to manage is the smell of mint. In the midst of the rising trigger of noise issues was the smell of mint permeating my consciousness. I knew I had to get out of there. I managed to do it with minimal fuss.

It seemed I had dodged a bullet as it were. Unfortunately on my return home after managing through dinner with a very excitable and noisy 9-year-old, I discovered as I walked into the bathroom an overpowering smell of mint where one of my children had used a minty toothpaste and done a poor job of rinsing the bathroom sink.

I exited that bathroom at a rate of knots with my gut dry retching itself. I escaped to my cave, my bedroom, it was all I could do.

tunnel-445391_1920What a day it had been. The sensory input and impact was huge, I was on the verge. I could feel it, shutdown was coming, it may be unavoidable now.

But, it was a new thing for me to recognise it. Normally I only see it when it is too late, or I am already in the middle of it and all I can do is ride it out. I am thankful that I saw it this time.

I was able to say to my family, shutdown is coming. I just need my alone time, I need to recover, or I am going to be pretty useless to anyone for an unspecified amount of time.

A huge shout out to my family on this one. They were wise enough, loving enough, wonderful enough and compassionate enough to see that I was not joking, this was a real thing here and they left me to it. So off I went. My my room, my weighted blanket.

Yes I just needed my alone time.

Shutdown averted. I feel pretty proud of that fact. Pretty thankful to all that I have learned and the family that surrounds me.

Yes we do all need our alone time, but sometimes for us autistics it is just that much more needed than other times. Perhaps for everyone too.