My whole life I have always been happier when I’m busy. I’ve heard people say that people with autism have a hard time being involved in a lot of different activities. That we get overwhelmed and can’t handle it. The thing is though, the number of activities doesn’t really matter so much. I can get overwhelmed doing one activity whereas I might not get overwhelmed if I did 5 different activities in the same time. The trick is how the activities are arranged and knowing what is expected of me.
When I was in high school, I was involved in nearly every extracurricular activity that was available to me. I was in the student body, played water polo, did backstage and technical theater, participated in church activities and scripture study classes, and was in about 10 service/ academic clubs – some of which I held a leadership position in. The thing is though that this was probably what I consider one of the best times in my life. Although I had a million things going on, they were all planned, calculated, expected. I knew what I had to do to make it work and I did it.
In college, the picture was completely different. I decided that I wanted to take it easy because I didn’t know how hard college would be and I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. This actually had the opposite of the desired effect. Instead of making me less overwhelmed, having less to do made me more overwhelmed. Not having to go from activity to activity caused me to become asocial. I isolated myself because I didn’t feel like I had anything in common with other people. I needed those activities to break the ice so that I could be myself. Without them, I had no idea how to interact with people and that led me to focus on my faults and weaknesses and become lonely and depressed.
Every person with autism is different and I don’t intend for you to take away from this that you should plan out an activity for every minute of every day, but I hope that it leads you to consider whether being more involved and having more social interaction would be more beneficial than harmful. Sometimes in trying not to overwhelm ourselves or overwhelm others, we inadvertently set ourselves up for failure. Sometimes keeping busy is just as important as having time to yourself.