Don’t get me wrong: life still feels difficult. But I think it’s also a good idea to reflect on the things that have gone well sometimes. And the really good news is that my strategies still seem to be holding – either to stop sensory overloads & meltdowns or to reduce intensity / improve ‘recovery’ time.
So some specific victories:
1) Surviving a trip to the theatre
Percussive noises before the show? That’s what noise-cancelling headphones and an iPod are for.
Holding hands with strangers? Just say I can’t do it.
Triggering video? Don’t feel I have to watch it. Fine to sit with eyes closed & hands over ears. People may think I’m strange – but that’s ok; I can explain if needed.
2) Getting through a challenging orchestra concert
Restricted space meant I was sitting very near the trumpets. And dancers on stage were adding to the visual input. By the end of the concert I was almost in full blown sensory overload – but muscle memory got me through the playing bit (& the vibrations of my cello against my chest feel comforting – I sometimes use that as a calming strategy anyway). And I’ve become much better at identifying what’s going on, so don’t panic so much. Just a matter of making sure I got away quickly afterwards before anything could trigger a meltdown.
But, I got through it. I recovered quite quickly afterwards. And I don’t think anyone who doesn’t know me well would have guessed.
3) Managing to buy cough medicine
This is actually more complicated than it sounds!
The pharmacy is located in a supermarket, which normally guarantees at least a small sensory overload. I obviously can’t have my headphones in if I need to talk to someone. But – through the wonders of mentally scripting the conversation in advance – I managed to ask an open question, explain why something wasn’t going to work, and walk away with something that is actually useable.
The other thing that really helped was driving there in an automatic car with parking sensors. I hadn’t realised until I got this car quite how overwhelming driving a manual car was for me. And because I have poor spatial perception (not sure whether that’s autism-related for me or just my weird eyesight – also a brain issue…), parking has always been difficult and stressful. So really, although I hadn’t realised, I was always pretty much overwhelmed before I even got into the shop, so no wonder I normally struggle when that last ‘window’ is opened.
Some of these ‘victories’ may just seem like normal life for most people. But for me, they are situations that present genuine difficulties due to my differences. And the fact that I am finding ways to get through, to function and even (in the case of orchestra) to be able to enjoy activities is something that has been a long time coming.
So, yes, they’re small victories. Unimportant in many ways. But at least it’s a start.