Everyone is Busy

Everyone is busy. Everyone feels sad or alone or overwhelmed sometimes. Everyone is living a hard life; no matter how easy it may seem on the outside, we all have our inner demons, our unseen struggles.

I tell myself that often. When I feel sad and alone and would just like a hug, I remind myself that sometimes I just have to be lonely because everyone has their own life to deal with. When I go out with a stack of candies or a bouquet of flowers to drop off at people’s houses, I remind myself that everyone needs something to help them be a little happier. When I write someone a letter or note or give them a compliment, I remind myself that everyone could think more positively about themselves, that everyone needs more positive thoughts to remember. When I sit next to someone sitting alone, I remind myself that everyone feels alone sometimes.

Life is hard. Doing things to make the world a better place is hard. Reaching out to others is hard. But I keep reminding myself that everyone feels that way. Everyone feels too busy to help someone else. So I must make the conscious effort to not be too busy.

Everyone is busy. Everyone is hurting. Everyone is facing their own demons. I understand. But if you find a little time, if you can spare a moment away from Facebook or studying or cleaning or watching shows (or even while watching a show), try to not be too busy to do something kind. Try to not be too busy to make someone’s day better. Try not to be too busy to love someone. We are all busy, but we could all use the extra kindness as well.

Much to Do

I feel like a new person. Between therapy, everything I’m learning and all my goals for myself- physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional, I am becoming better than I was and it’s been so amazing.

The past couple of weeks I haven’t been able to fall asleep when I go to bed. I keep thinking of all of the things I want to do and then I can’t sleep until I do them. It’s been good though because I’m doing so many more good things. I’m taking time to write letters and send messages and pray for people and just do all the things I was afraid of before.¬†

There is so much to do when you realize you can do anything you want. Luckily, I’m starting to catch up with everything I haven’t done so I’m starting to get enough sleep again!

Scheduled Chaos

A few years ago I overheard a conversation where a teacher said that people with autism cannot handle¬†many different responsibilities at the same time. I wanted to step in and comment, but I didn’t.

At the time, I was in about 15 different extracurricular activities. I had founded a club; I was president of another club; I was in the student body; I was essentially the team captain of our junior varsity water polo team; and I held various other positions of leadership in clubs and at church. Needless to say, I had many different responsibilities, and I thrived on those responsibilities. I loved having something to do all the time and being part of things that were bigger than me.

This week has been similar in the scheduled chaos. It seems that the more I learn the more I can add to my to-do list. And it can be stressful at times, but I thrive on the ability to stay busy and push myself to my limits. The biggest problem I have is going from that productive busyness to a lull of unscheduled free time. It makes me feel uneasy and I contemplate my weaknesses and mistakes.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all of this other than to just say that it depends on the person how much they can handle. Whether you have autism or not, we all have preferences on how much we like to do at one time. Some people can handle a lot of different things at the same time and some people would get overwhelmed with just a few things at the same time.

Autism itself doesn’t affect ability to balance life activities. Autism makes it hard to cope with change and that can make it hard to cope with multiple activities. Autism can make things feel like a barrage of sensory attacks that can make activities hard to handle. Autism can make it hard to understand different activities and therefore makes it nearly impossible to participate in multiple activities at once. But… you can have autism and thrive on being “crazy busy” as long as it is scheduled chaos.

Keeping busy

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.

The Unexpected Busy

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.