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Autism: Time Distorted

03 Mar

A sound interrupts my sleep: a cat meowing, a cupboard being opened, the flushing of a toilet. I turn over, and am instantly pounced by squiggling, wiggling balls of fur. Right up in my face… ‘are you up, Mom?’ Time to get up. Typically it takes an hour for me to properly wake up and get out of bed, no matter how long I have slept. These girls depend on me however. They need to be fed, and they need to go outside, and so up I get.

Rubbing my eyes I go to the washroom and brush my teeth. Despite the rush, my routine must be followed. The cats are waiting for me in the kitchen. I pull out four bowls: two get wet cat food, canned; two get homemade dog food, warmed in the microwave (they aren’t quite thawed from the night before.)

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My girls eat fast, and look longingly at the cat bowls. My feline friends eat slower, daintily. I take the girls outside, and hope the cats are done by the time we come in, for Clara and Molly will not be deterred. They dive for the bowls the moment we come in, before I have a chance to get my boots off.

Grabbing my breakfast, I head towards the living room, turn on my computer, and sit down. The moment I do, two little girls leap into my lap – I have learned to be prepared. They lie down, in their favourite place, and fall back to sleep. Sometimes Ditch joins us, sometimes he doesn’t. While on the Internet, I head to Swagbucks to attempt a survey. I have made about $100 since September (5 months ago.) I used to make that in a day at my old job, and wonder if there are better ways to earn money.

Turning to the news, I quickly check to see what is happening in the world before continuing on to my emails. Several are deleted without opening them, and I am left with maybe 5 or 6 each morning that I am interested in. After reading them, I head towards Facebook, and quickly skim through the feed of ‘nothing’ posts to check that everyone is well. Of course, not everyone shows up in my feed. Instead I get several stories from groups I never asked to follow, and multiple shared posts coming mostly from the same sources.

It takes too long to go through it all, and I start to get irritated by the time I reach the last of the posts I read yesterday. By this time I am feeling overwhelmed, so I play Facebook games (Candy Crush and Farm Heroes Saga) to try and calm down. More often than not the level I am on annoys me further. My son asks me why I keep playing, and I wonder the same myself, but I am compulsive – and I have gotten so far. If only I could just make it to the end, but they keep making more levels.

Often it is already close to 10am by this point, though my girls get me up around 7:30. I realize it is not a great use of time, but when I don’t follow through my routine, I feel it heavily, and it makes the rest of my day harder to get through. Time to go outside again. At this time of year, they don’t stay out long. I guess the routine will change once spring comes.

The next few hours either go to laundry and cleaning, or to my fixations (Pinterest, the Realtor website, online research…) I need to have my days of fixations, or I am unable to function at all on cleaning days, and not able to visit when it comes time to go out. I need many hours free for this on an almost daily basis, or I will fall apart… even with this, I frequently get overwhelmed.

In the middle of my ‘free’ time, I have to get lunch for myself and my girls, and take them out again. It is hard to pull myself away.

Mid-afternoon is time for my girls to get their walk. In the hot days of summer, this will have to change. I think of that constantly. For now, though, it is the best time for us to go. Part way through the walk, they get cold feet, or something scares them. They won’t walk any further, and I have to pick them up and carry them home. Clara frequently asks for ‘up’ by the time we reach the end of our (not particularly long) driveway.

At home again, I go into my exercise routine (twenty minutes on the elliptical machine while watching a documentary on Netflix – cast to my TV on Chromecast) followed by a time practising my keyboard. From there, I check my email again, which reminds me it is time to practise Spanish on Duolingo. I had a really hard time getting back to me after my last visit with my Psychiatrist, when she dismissed the things I do as part of my routine, and told me I should look into work, or volunteering, or going to school… everything I was doing to improve myself became harder after that.

Suddenly it is time to make supper, and feed my girls, followed by an evening watching Netflix videos and writing in my journal. The day has felt really busy. When I have more to do: Go to church or Bible Study, or even go out to a hockey game, or to watch a play – I have to brace myself. One ‘extra’ event (including appointments) can feel overwhelming.

I consider again my Psychiatrist’s advice to find work, or volunteer, or go to school – and it overwhelms me. I become anxious, and shut down, and my routine is broken. How could I possibly find the time? I remember when I was working, though it was only part time, I wasn’t able to accomplish most of the above. My house stayed messy, I didn’t exercise or try to learn anything… any attempt at routine was met with failure. I just couldn’t do it, and I felt anxious, overwhelmed, and irritated just about all the time.

My sense of time is distorted, I think. It seems to take me longer to do just about anything, and I need a lot more time than others seem to in between each activity in order to recuperate. For that reason, though it likely seems to others (who are able to work full time, keep their house, study, research, enjoy a hobby, or otherwise improve themselves – and still find time for church, other activities, and time with friends) that my life is very slow – I actually still feel very busy, and am overwhelmed by that busyness much of the time.

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