One common trait of autism is the fact that many thrive off of routine and some can be very rigid to it as they can be to many things in life. While over the years I have been more flexible with my routine in many cases, it is what defines my day and keeps me going.
Growing up, I have always thrived off of a schedule more so in the day to day operations of schooling, programming and work. I was once very rigid and if something didn’t go the way it was supposed to, it could result in negative outcomes. This combined with other challenging factors was a recipe for disaster. Over the years, partly because of many unexpected events, I have loosened up my rigidity and been more flexible to things that may come suddenly in my routine, although if they are something that I do not specifically enjoy, It can send me in a negative spin.
But as I started to live on my own, there is so much more of a presence of free time in my life. This can present a challenge if I allow it to be, especially if there are limited set engagements to entertain myself. I know as an autistic person that I need some sort of guideline in my life to keep me engaged in life. This can prevent me from falling in the cycle of the loop of negative thoughts and entering a trap of not being well. I have accepted the fact that having a guideline is necessary to staying engaged throughout the day, particularly days when I am home.
It is also knowing what I like and don’t like in a schedule and knowing that I do not have to follow societal norms when it comes to setting my schedule. While I do know I have to be respectful and not disturb others when they are not able to meet up with me, it is knowing the fact that I can only handle so much in a given day and there are times I am going to have to call it a night early. This has taken some time for me to accept because I had some childhood thoughts as if I was a bad person because I couldn’t do things that adults my age do such as be a night owl. In reality, I know if I am physically drained and out of energy,then it is best to call it a night because I cannot do what I need to do and I am of no use to anyone.
It is accepting that my body runs a different clock to others and that it can be challenging for others to understand that need. I had to accept the fact that it doesn’t make me different, I am just unique that I need to take care of my need to shut my brain down and although medication helps calm the brain from going in a million directions, that it is not something that is a punishment. I am just an autistic man that has a brain that is overloaded with facts, information and processes. The medication that I have been fighting does not make me sleep, rather it tones my brain down so I can settle into some much needed sleep. There should be no issue about the time I take it, especially if I am checked out and cannot nearly function, particularly if I have an overloaded day. I have to reassure myself that there is nothing wrong with taking care of myself and that while it is not the way the world needs to call it a night, it is the way that I have to in order to be my best self.
It is understanding that I need to set a schedule to best meet my needs and realize that I don’t need to follow the mainstream world. It makes me who I am and is not a defining characteristic of who I am, it is just the way I operate and how I need to live.