The best advice I could ever offer to someone with autism/asperger’s is to write a diary. It has been such a simple and powerful tool in the past few years that it has drastically helped me to succeed in my work and home life. I use my diary the most when I am feeling stressed, worried or have got a lot of things on my mind. If this is the case I will make certain I write in my diary that night or the next morning. If I have a couple of good weeks, where I have not made an entry, I’ll also update it just to offload what is happening at that moment in my life.
Ordering thoughts I keep a diary to put all of my thoughts and worries that swim around in my head onto paper. There are often several problems or worries that I try think about all at once and it is impossible to solve one thing without thinking of something else. I need to focus on one problem at a time and writing this down and putting it into words is the only way of doing it. One of the greatest benefits is that once I order my thoughts and worries in my diary I hardly ever worry or think about each problem anymore. It frees up my mind and helps me to truly relax and stop worrying.
Dealing with worries or problems Because of my autism I often say the wrong thing when I talk to people or I am unintentionally blunt. Because I replay all my social interactions each day in my mind, I realise I made a mistake and this causes me to worry. Sometimes the worrying is justified and other times it is not. So the issue will be completely forgotten about after a day or two. Either way by writing it down it stops me from thinking about it and also helps me to think clearly about ways I can deal with the problem. As I have kept a diary for a few years I can look back at things that were on my mind one or two years ago. I find it truly surprising when I read about all the problems I had in the past are insignificant a year or two afterwards (even some massive problems that I thought would never go away at the time). I believe it is through this realisation that I worry much less about my problems than I used to.
Writing about the good and bad When I first started diary writing I always wrote about the negatives in my life and all the difficulties I faced. I knew that even though this was useful and therapeutic I needed to have some positives in there. As I know that my autism makes me over critical of myself and I naturally focus on everything that is going wrong or areas where I need to improve. To write about the positives I use a table in my diary, with one column for all the good things that have happened recently and one column for the bad. I always find that there are more positives than negatives. When I first started to do it this was a genuine shock as I was certain the opposite was true. By doing this one thing it gives me a more positive outlook on my life. I often look back on these tables to see what was worrying me in the past and what was going right for me. I am certain this improves my confidence as I can see many of the things in the bad column do not apply anymore and it helps me to remember and reminisce on all the good things that have happened in the good column.
What to include and keeping it private When witting in my diary I include everything that is causing me an issue at the time. Some of these things are related to:
- Work (which is what I write about the most)
- Other people
- Money issues
- Things that have upset me
- Health issues
- Plans for the future
- Things I am worried about at that time
I find that writing in the diary works best when I just let my thoughts go onto the page. I just write about everything that I am thinking about at that moment in time. Although I write about everything, I am conscious that the diary could be found or opened one day so I keep this in the back of my mind when writing. I normally use my laptop to write my diary using Word with password/encryption protection. But there have been occasions when things are really playing on my mind and I am not at home, especially at work. When this happens I use my phone and still use password protection. There are many things on my mind that I do not deal with, or forget about, as other things are clouding my memory. When I write about problems in my diary it often jogs my memory about the other things I need to deal with. I then use lists, planners or notes to remember to do these things at a later date.