Only the best?
Liebe Grüße aus Hamburg! Currently on a short trip to visit a friend - while she is busy with her 'Masterarbeit' I thought I'd brush together a quick post. I do enjoy writing a good post and also it gives me space to write about something (well, two things which sort of intertwine for me) which I wanted to write about that came out of the conference I went to on Friday: Atwood on Autism, hence why I was in Winchester. Tony Attwood is such an amazing presenter; so lively and animated yet did not pathologise. His fresh approach to autism was also welcomed as we learn so much through journals and books (as the autism modules on my course are distance learning) that seeing someone face to face in a seminar effectively was not only a good change of scenery, but also fitted my learning style well.
One thing that was mentioned in the conference but I have also read in books and journals I have been required to read is the idea of a mono tracked mind: almost like a train will tracks in one direction and one direction only, as described in the conference. This certainly feels like me, particularly on a bad day or a stressful day when I approach my work and the more stressed I become, the narrower and more direct the single track is. It almost feels like when you look through a rolled up tube of newspaper: the tighter the roll of newspaper, the smaller the circumference of your vision and therefore the less you can see. It's almost as if this acute reaction physically and emotionally blinds me: I can only see what I set out to do in the first place and it has to be how I wanted it to be and no less. The sorts of things that would cause such an occurrence would be not quite getting my head around what I am supposed to be doing (with assignments, for example) and I keep going round and round in circles, nasty surprises when I already am at capacity and the feeling very overloaded and struggling to prioritise.
This links in part quite well to my second strand: perfectionism and a fear of failure. This can go hand in hand with the phenomenon described above, as I often find that being mono tracked means I only focus on one thing at a time, especially work wise and this 'thing', whatever I may be focussing on at the time, and this 'thing' has to be perfect. No less. It has to be exactly what is required at that given time. And sometimes I cannot start until I get my head around what I am doing and how exactly I will do or say what I wish to achieve. It's almost like a mental door with a very specific key that you need to unlock it, and you cannot unlock it any other way. Although perfectionism is not always synonymous with autism and you can be a perfectionist without being autistic, these do go hand in hand in my case and can form a pretty vicious circle of panic, anxiety (we are well acquainted) and an inability to escape. It can literally feel like I am drowning. I can find it so hard to change focus or effectively reverse and change direction, that this can eat me up and devour me. Becoming blind to a every growing circumference of vision and the growing pressure of perfectionism is a perfect storm. It feels very confusing, much like the below:
frebrlnblfdjbdvmfkdnvdf v fvf
Yes, I did just randomly hit the keyboard and format it in a completely odd fashion. It also makes so sense, much like that which I have just demonstrated. But as I have got older, I have come to know what this looks like and that this is actually happening and give these phenomena names and descriptions, which makes them much more manageable, or on a good day it does! I think it is fair to say I do get bad days (I did have many at the beginning of my current degree and also in the pre-exam season, much worse than any pre-exam 'nerves' I have ever experienced before) and I accept these happen now. A few years ago, I would have beaten myself up about this and tried to 'airbrush' the situation. This effectively happens to everyone on Facebook: we only show fragments of our lives online and never the complete works: the product of a postmodern world.
Accepting the way my mind works has not instantaneously changed my thinking. I'm not sure if I'll ever be completely free of this and I expect many more bumps in the road. But I do know what is going on, which helps me make sense of this and be able to communicate this in writing now. It is one much more subtle side of autism that is not obvious at a first glance as this is all very internalised and experiential. The internalised nature of it is subject to others judgement and comparison too. I am not alone in this perception and experience, which also gives me great comfort. My only wish is for a HDMI cable I can plug into my head so others can also see these mental barriers and limited vision and how debilitating they can be on a bad day.