We all have days when things do not work out. In fact I would say that something goes wrong almost every single day of our lives. When things do go wrong we can normally brush it aside and carry on; but for someone like me with high functioning autism (Asperger’s) these little things that go wrong can build up over the day and be a trigger for a meltdown.
The biggest meltdowns or negative emotions occur when things just do not seem to be going right and a combination of things go wrong at same time. Like other triggers I am at an age where I can finally feel things building up and can feel like I could explode and because I recognise this and deal with it I can stop myself from doing so. Even so I still do explode sometimes but not often.
For example I have started to teach my son how to swim. He is doing exceptionally well and is very eager to go swimming with me whenever we can. We normally go swimming at least once per week and things normally go to plan. This morning (Saturday) I was busy doing all my morning jobs: making my youngest son’s bottle, my eldest son’s breakfast, mine and my wife’s coffees, my breakfast, emptying the dishwasher, filtering the oil from the chip pan and putting it in the dishwasher, putting my clothes in the washing machine and then pegging the clothes out before putting the next load in and so on. I just sat down and my son asked me if he could go swimming. We had about two and a half hours to do it all and get back (as my wife was at work today so had to leave at 11:30 which meant we had to be back to look after my youngest). Half of me thought, no, we have not prepared for this and we are short on time so we should leave it until tomorrow because of this and it should be an enjoyable and relaxing thing, not rushed. The other half thought, yes lets go and have a good time, take a risk for once and do something unpredictable. In the end I said yes.
We rushed to get ready and were out of the house for 9:20. I drove us to the swimming baths and got there for 9:30. Ace, we would have a good hour and a half to get swimming and get back. This is where things went wrong. We got to the counter but the swimming was not open until 10:00. We thought about going home but decided to stay as we had got ready for it and driven all the way there, so we waited. It got to 9:50 and we joined the queue but it took 15 minutes to get served. Swimming went ok but we come out after 45 minutes as my son wanted us to get back on time – the swimming was worth it, but only just. We went in the shower and my son’s shower gel leaked all over his clothes so I had to wash it out, wring out his clothes (where they were wet) and he had to put wet clothes on (he did not like the alternative of wearing his wet swim shorts). Then I always promise him some chocolate from the vending machine if he does well, which today he did really well and tried very hard. The vending machine was broken so we had to leave without it which caused him to be understandably upset. Then we put the things in my car and I shut the boot but this time the door caught his head as it was closing and hurt him quite a lot (luckily not too bad in the end with no cuts or bruises and just shock mainly). So in the space of ten minutes three things really upset my son which upset me: shower gel leaking on his clothes, no vending machine and then being hit with the car door. We raced back and just got home in time for my wife to go to work and then I sorted out everyone’s lunch and fortunately we had some chocolate in so my son could get the treat he worked for.
On two occasions in all of this I felt like snapping. When my son got shower gel all over his clothes and he was whining and panicking whilst I was trying to think about how to sort it out and then trying to wash the shower gel without getting all of the clothes completely soaked so he could wear them. Then, when after everything else went wrong, I made the mistake of catching my son with the car door. All of this with the added pressure of having to get back to look after my other son. But I managed to keep calm and in control and luckily I did not snap. I now know this is a trigger so try to either keep calm when it happens or try to see the humour in all of the things going wrong at once. I do sometimes laugh or smile when a combination of things go wrong and think here we are it is happening again :-). There was a time when it would have been too much though and I would have had a meltdown but know I am more in control.
Because little things going wrong can have such an impact on my life, and can certainly be the trigger to a meltdown (such as crying, being mute for a while or getting angry), I need to try and prevent these things from happening. Some measures that I use are:
- If I have got a lot of jobs to complete I will write a list of what needs to be done. This helps me to remember everything as I would try my best to keep all the jobs in my mind but forget to do at least one whilst I am busy doing the others. It helps me to decide what the important jobs are, that need to be done first. I can tick these jobs off as I am doing them which motivates me to get the list completed and gives me a sense of accomplishment each time I complete a job.
- When going on holiday I will meticulously plan what I need to take and even decide what I will be wearing for each day and evening of the holiday on this list for all the days I am away. I keep this list on my computer so I can amend it each time I go away. This ensures that I do not forget anything and that I have got enough clothes to wear for the holiday. It is surprising how important this is. For example I never put a belt on my list as I nearly always wear black jeans that need a belt but I went on holiday to Spain once and decided to wear tracksuit bottoms instead of jeans so I forgot to pack a belt. This small mistake took hours to sort out and caused a great deal of stress and disappointment in myself for not packing it.
- I also over think every aspect of my life, as I know that thinking about what could go wrong will often prepare me for the times when things actually do not go to plan.
- If I need to be at an important place on time I will often write all the jobs that need to be done beforehand and the time they need to be completed by and give myself extra time for each tasks in case things do not go to plan (I nearly always need the extra time as having two children means that things often take a lot longer than they should).
- I always use shopping lists and supermarket website to decide the exact items I am going to buy before I go into the shop. This helps with my decision processing as I can literally spend 15 minutes just staring at a shelf with a few similar items on to try and decide which is the best to buy. It ensures that I do not forget an item which could mean that I cannot cook a meal and therefore I would have to go to a shop again to buy the missing item (which would be a nightmare for me) or try and think of an alternative meal (which again means lots of decision making which I find to be very difficult).
To my family I have always seemed to be super organised and they often comment on how much I need to plan my life and often joke about things like spreadsheets I make for organising where I will be for Christmas etc. All I know was before I did this I hardly got anything done as I would often be stuck on simple decisions, things would take longer to complete than I thought in my mind and things went wrong almost all the time. Without these lists, spreadsheets and planners I would be totally disorganised and the opposite to how I actually appear to others. Therefore I need to be super organised and in control to make my life less chaotic and stressful to stop some of the smaller things for going wrong.