The last few weeks have been incredibly busy. Between my niece’s birth, a family reunion, and general craziness at work, I have been pretty overwhelmed. But the busyness itself isn’t what makes things overwhelming. It’s the unexpected busyness that really causes stress and anxiety.
I have heard people say that people with autism can’t handle busy schedules, but that isn’t necessarily true. We can handle busy schedules if we are prepared for them and expect them.
When I was in high school I was involved in nearly every extracurricular activity available. I participated in sports, in our school’s theater program as a stage technician, and in 10 or so clubs (4 of which I either founded or held a leadership position in). However, this busyness was generally not a challenge for me. I knew what I had to do to make everything work and I knew what to expect in each activity. The times that I became stressed during this period of my life was when something unexpected happened in addition to my regularly scheduled activities.
Staying busy can actually have a positive effect on me. It keeps me active and helps prevent me from becoming asocial or apathetic. It also helps me feel a sense of purpose and direction.
Things that come up unexpectedly though throw off my sense of direction. I feel like I’ve been knocked over by a strong wave in the ocean and am caught up in its current. Eventually I become free, but it leaves me exhausted and irritable.
In addition to unexpected things happening to me are the unexpected thoughts that come to me. Sometimes I feel myself flooded with thoughts that I don’t have time to organize and process. I wish that I could have more time to go through my thoughts and attempt to understand and make sense of them, but life doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes unexpected events and unexpected thoughts coincide with each other or one causes the other. This makes it especially difficult to function because my mind becomes crammed with all of the information I am taking in.
Luckily, these types of things usually don’t happen often and I can recover from unexpected busyness to return to my normal state of being. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the time to recover that I need which can sometimes lead to meltdowns. Meltdowns can speed the recovery process in terms of time but are definitely more energy consuming.
Although I don’t blame people for not understanding that I get overwhelmed and therefore more irritable when things don’t go according to plans, I do wish that people could see what I feel sometimes. I think that if people could understand the stress that some things cause, they would be less likely to judge and more likely to validate my feelings.