A few weekends ago, I had the opportunity to re-ignite some of the special interests that I had from many years ago, but somehow slipped away from being independent. As I am now in a good spot mentally and need something to engage my mind as I am having increasingly more space time, I am learning that I am once again picking up on more of my special interests that I had minimally been engaging since being independent.
The week before getting the call that I would be looking at what would be my first apartment about four years ago, my parents and I were traveling from one end of the region to another looking for campers. They settled on a camper and sealed the deal on a Friday. That following Monday, I got a call inviting me to look at my first apartment. While my parents went through with their plans and eventually went camping once I was settled. I had the independence bug, and while I did pick up some of my own special interests along the way, I was not well mentally and the decline started to unravel, the issues and COVID arose, rock bottom hit, I moved in my current home and finally got back to a good place.
While we have not irradiated the pandemic itself, how we manage it now is vastly different than the stay at home orders that we had in the beginning. I am finally able to have more clear separation of what can be done in the arenas of home, day program and work and to protect my mental health, have set necessary boundaries so that I can get back to what I have missed for four years. It feels good in a way but I had to realize that since that time things have changed greatly over the years since then.
One is that I am responsible for keeping myself mentally engaged. This can be hard to do for newly-independent autistics and was one of the issues in my first independent experience due to not properly caring for myself mentally. This means that I had to re-develop my own routine and while It cannot be perfect, it helps me navigate the day better. I have also learned that there are ways that I can now virtually enjoy my special interests such as YouTube and other forms of Social Media that I had not previously sought out. I also have a couple of streaming services that I pay for along with some of those that are included with the television set themselves. As much as I once had a distaste for wanting to use this as what some call an “electronic babysitter,” I feel for me this, in small doses is what is essential in having me relax along with getting a dose of entertainment or information that I feel I can enjoy.
Experiencing the brief roadtrip on my last birthday had reopened up the opportunity that there is beauty beyond my small home that I can enjoy when the opportunity presents itself. Having a few moments at several stops made me realize that I do not need to be trapped and that when exploring online and YouTube that there is multiple opportunities to enjoy things not only from my living room but in a way that I may have not previously because in the decades that I have truly experienced the things that I used to they have changed significantly and as such could even be better than they were along with provide new opportunities that were not available then.
Sometimes, being autistic can present limits in what we want to do or can do with meeting our objectives of our special interests. For me, I would like to shoot video of places, things and events. However, because I verbally stim in the form of a hum that is noticeable when the video is activated this presents a barrier to having the optimal goal. While I don’t like to admit it sometimes, I have accepted that the videos I create when doing this have to be accompanied by background music and while I do have somewhat of a following to my YouTube Channel where I show my work, I always do not feel as if I do good enough. We are our worst critic and I am no different when it comes to that. But frankly, while I know that my stimming presents barriers, I do provide other content to offset with I can do.
In reality, I am ready to get back some of my special interests that have been lost. It has been a long time and I have had quite the learning experience and settling of being independent and realize what I need to do in order to maintain it and not relapse or lose it. I also know it is just as important to remain engaged in special interests, no matter how unique or different they may seem because it will be what keeps me well in the end.