One of the most challenging things about working isn’t anything to do with the office environment at all. It’s the daily commute.
It doesn’t help that I need to rely on probably the least reliable train company in the UK. Everyone who uses them seems to be getting annoyed – their unreliability has even made the BBC News website.
But, as with so many things, it is all so much more difficult for someone with autism.
The mass of people crowding me: the noise, visuals and smell of the crowd overwhelm me. I try to focus on whatever’s playing on my iPod. It doesn’t always work.
I’m a hardened commuter. I survived the London rush hour for almost five years. Not quite sure how…
But – ignoring the bit through London – previously, there were always ‘known unknowns’. I had a change of train and it was foreseeable that one train would be delayed and I would miss my connection. So there was an easy plan B, which I had to use almost as much as my plan A (in fact, I think I wrote most of my masters’ dissertation in the Costa Coffee on Guildford station, as if I missed one train there wasn’t another for an hour and a half!).
The difficulty this time is the uncertainty about when – or if – a train is actually going to turn up. I’ve scripted and planned as much as I can to try and manage that. I’ve blocked out time in my work diary to try and avoid getting to the office and going straight into tasks I find more challenging. I’ve stopped planning to do anything in the evenings. I make complicated plans based on both logic and conjecture to try and make the whole thing as painless as possible. For instance, I’ll sometimes get the second train out if two end up running close together, even if it’s slower, just to have a bit of a quieter journey.
But it is still incredibly tough. I’m exhausted when I get into work most days and when I get home again. And by the end of the week all I want to do is sleep.
I’ve also started to notice that my brain occasionally does a really weird thing. I’m genuinely not sure whether this is to do with autism or not. But sometimes when I’m tired, or stressed, or anxious (usually tired) I almost try to overcompensate for this by becoming super-extrovert. It’s almost the opposite of a shutdown, but equally uncontrollable. My brain switches into overdrive and I become almost hyperactive – talking really quickly; becoming excitable; losing any brain-to-mouth filter. And I’m aware it’s happening, but there’s nothing I can do to stop it.
I’m hoping my plans to move will happen. At least that will give me a different mode of transport to hate!