Autism: Compulsive List Writer

16 Sep

It is very rare that I write grocery lists. Even when I do, I often forget it at home, or forget that I have put it in my pocket. Then, if I do write the list, remember to bring it, and remember to look at it, I still often don’t buy everything on the list (usually because the prices are too high – as I have mentioned in the past, I struggle with inflation. As far as I am concerned, once I am used to a product and a price, I don’t want it to be changed. Ever!) Grocery lists rarely work for me.


To do lists are frequently overwhelming to me. If I take the time to write them, that is about all I have the energy for. I will then, being overwhelmed and exhausted, look at the list and do nothing! To do lists tend to leave me crashing and perseverating (often on the internet.) When I worked, I often had to use to do lists in order to get everything done – but then, I was nearly always overwhelmed at work, so I still wouldn’t say they were successful.

When I am going away, I will write packing lists. But then I more often than not forget to use them (or pack them away!) when I am trying to pack. It isn’t that I mind writing the list, just… it is enough to pack let alone to follow a list, and try to keep things in order in my head. Packing lists might help in that the writing itself helps me to remember what I need to bring, but I don’t exactly use them properly.

If I come to a list that I have to read (especially out loud) I get frustrated, stumble over the words, accidentally skip parts of it, and will often shut down. I hate lists that other people have written Complicated recipes or instructions are hard (give me pictures, please!) and if other people give me a list of things to do, I fall apart. It doesn’t help that in such situations I already have lists repeating in my head for what I am supposed to be doing to such a degree that having one more thing added will make it quite impossible for me to follow through on any of it.

Despite all of the above I write a lot of lists. I always have. But they aren’t the sort of lists that other people use – to remind them of what to do, or what to buy. In fact, these lists that I write often don’t seem to serve any purpose at all. Yet write them I do, and must. It is another compulsion.

Take this morning for instance. I brought out my clipboard, paper, and pen as I often do when I plan to sit outside with my dog for a while (she became barky, and we had to come in, but that is beside the point.) I had nothing really in mind for what I wanted to write, but this is what came out:

  1. I have autism.
  2. I miss my mom.
  3. I wish my mom could see her grandchildren as much as she wanted.
  4. I wish my mom’s rental place was in good condition (I talked to her yesterday, so she is on my mind.)
  5. I wish I could get my dog spayed and vaccinated inexpensively (they quoted me one price when I got her, and then when I called to book, it was $150 more than the vet had said.)
  6. I wish my dog’s surgery was over, and she was well (I am afraid, as the last two animals I took to the vet for help, died, and it has become traumatic for me to even think of going there again.)
  7. I wish I had a wood stove for the winter. (I don’t handle the cold as well as I used to, but I also can’t breathe well if natural gas or electric heat is much higher than 60 F, or about 15 Celsius, so I really want wood heat.)
  8. I wish all the renovations on my home were done so I could relax here (I see everything that is wrong, and can’t block out any of it – yet also can’t fix it. It is a huge weight for me.)
  9. I wish my yards were professionally landscaped so I didn’t worry about the neighbours (it does no good to say not to care. I do.)
  10. I wish our back deck was covered and screened so I could use it.
  11. I wish we didn’t have spiders. (they are really bad this year, and I can’t go out without having to duck through webs – plus they have taken over one room in the basement, and that entry for the house.)
  12. I wish I had planted the large cherry tree in the front yard.

… as you can see, there really is no use for this list. It doesn’t help anything. I just have a compulsion to write things out like this (and yes, I write them complete with numbers.)

Not only do I write lists like this frequently, but I will also walk around, counting on my fingers, while thinking things such as this. Other than for my blog post, this is not something I usually share. While I may say it out loud, I never do if there are people nearby.

All of my life I have been writing lists, lists, lists of nothing – and I suppose I will spend much of the rest of my life doing much the same.

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Posted by on September 16, 2016 in Experiences of an Autistic


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