The plan is always there…
There are times when my life looks like absolute chaos. If you were to look at my personal space looking in it can look chaotic and totally without organisation. If you were to look at my schedule or calendar it would look as though there was no schedule or calendar. My to do list would likely be empty, my inbox overflowing, but, the reality is that there is always a plan involved, there is always organisation happening.
It’s not my ideal to have such mess and what looks like disorganisation. My ideal, my most peaceful, is everything in its place, everything neat and tidy, however it doesn’t always happen. What is true in all this is that the externals do not necessarily match the internals.
What looks like no plan, no structure and no organisation is never actually that. What is inadvertently true is that there is always a plan. It may be unpublished, it may not be articulated but it is always there.
The plan is always there, even though, at times, it is almost subconscious.
This is a reality of my autistic identity. I always have an internal plan, for a task, a day, a week, a project. Whatever it is there is a plan. I may be fully aware of that plan but also I may not be aware of it and may need help to identify it.
This is one of those things that makes living with me a challenge. It’s a huge challenge for my family and friends to cope with and work with in being in relationship with me.
I don’t know, but I suspect there is some commonality in this with other autistic people.
Stereotypically, autistics don’t like change. This is a huge generalisation and is not at all helpful in understanding how an autistic mind works. Just like the diverse nature of all human people, some autistics like change and some do not. Personally, change itself is not an issue for me, but unexpected and diversion from the plan, and being placed in a position where control over the plan is removed is incredibly difficult to deal with.
It’s not change as much as it is feeling out of control…
Whether it be the change of what’s happening during the day or diversion in the route of a trip these things are difficult for me. I find them very hard to just role with them. Certainly this can change dependent on how stressed or busy or how much is going on for me at the time.
It is my feeling that the biggest factor in all this is the feeling of losing control. Losing control of expectations and losing control of actions, and losing control of my place in the world.
As an example, in a situation of being a passenger in a car and the driver making an unplanned side trip can be so incredibly difficult for me that it can, and has at times, triggered a full-blown meltdown.
For those that are not neurodivergent this seems an utterly unfounded and ridiculous thing to allow to happen, how ridiculous to let such a simple thing as a little diversion have such an impact.
But it does.
I have thought a lot about this. I have thought about the why and the how and what it is that impacts so strongly. I don’t know that I have an answer but I am beginning I think to work out the beginnings of one.
I am beginning to believe that it is all about lack of control or perhaps, the anxiety of feeling out of control and controlled by the choices and actions of others. I think this also ties in, at least for me, with a sense of control of physical place in space.
This, I think interacts with breaking from the schedule or plan that I am consciously or subconsciously following for the day, the task the whatever it is.
It all kind of combines together to throw me so far from the expectation that I feel so out of control and it all goes to shit and at some level the only way to reassert control is to explode. It’s not a conscious choice it is something that almost happens to me. It is something in me that I despise, that I hate, that I never want to see, ever.
But it is there, it happens, and all I seem able to do is to manage it, to minimise it.
When it happens it has an aftermath. The aftermath is a deep feeling of disgust in myself. A deep feeling of guilt and shame, a deep sense of failure. An overwhelming state of exhaustion and need to hide away and recover.
What to do about the plan…
The way I see it, is there is always a plan. How to deal with this is a two-way thing. It involves me and it involves others.
For me it is about being aware of the plan, organising the plan outwardly, be it a list or a schedule or some other way, communicating the plan to others.
If I can communicate the plan to myself and to others, and, communicate the difficulties to changes in the plan, then others can be aware that changes to the plan, without the space to re-organise the plan can be devastatingly difficult, then this is a first step to less anxiety and less lack of control.
For the part of others, well that’s for them, but I think, all I can hope for is that they can begin to understand that it is not just rigidity or hatred of change but something much more complex and that by being able to know my plan and work with me when changes are needed that we can in fact move forward together in our relationships.
In the end the plan needs to be honoured but not worshipped. It needs to be given a preference but not an unwavering servitude. The plan is there, it is important, but it is not the king of all things.
That’s what I think might work for me anyway….