Right now I should be writing about the sensational Saltaire Festival – an annual event loaded with great food, music and other cultural delights. However, having spent Saturday morning crying loudly in a shallow and cold bath in the dark because I haven’t cracked immersion boilers yet, and tweeting about it (of course), I could barely bring myself to get out of the tub to put a towel round myself, never mind playing Bradford community reporter. I sort of succumbed to a feeling of eternal acute despair about not being able to relax with the precious little time off I have, after a less-than-ideal second week in a 9-till-5 office job. It left me desperate for comfort, the way a kid needs scooping up and stroking after they’ve fallen over and grazed their knee. Perhaps, previously, I would have even called my mum for reassurance but these days I just have me, and my husband within reason to provide that bespoke nurturance that my confusing noodle is in need of.
Following the despair that comes with being overwhelmed as I so frequently am, came a sense of determination to find something to do that would help my mood and also a sense of acceptance that I was in need of looking after myself and that is what I was going to do. Occasionally I got a pang of anxiety when I browsed social media in intervals to see that the festival was in full swing and I could have gone there with my camera and made a really beautiful feature out of it. But it wasn’t to be. And that was okay because I spent time on Skyrim instead which involved a lot of exploring in itself. I did unfortunately got severely lost in Blackreach though having been away from the game for so long, so I ended up creating a new game with myself as a literally cat lady, or Khajit as it’s known on there and doing incredibly childish things like jumping on top of feast tables in halls and knocking all the platters and goblets off, or squatting directly or behind NPC characters, confusing them immensely. Basically I had a right laugh and gave me that sense of fulfillment I felt great pressure for my Saturday to provide.
I suppose what I’m getting at here is that you have to know yourself, and what it is that you need to crawl out of holes if you ever find yourself in them. If you have anxiety as I do, symptomatic of my ASD, you may find yourself allegorically speaking six-feet-under layers and layers of catastrophising and self-loathing. And that doesn’t define us as terrible people or whatever, but neither should we be bound to follow the cookie-cutter advice of magazines, occupational health messages, Wiki-How guides or even friends and family for weaving an emotional rope ladder out of the pit. And by that I mean going outside and doing life-like activities, for pleasure or practical reasons, maintaining a regular sleep schedule sans-naps (the most egregious of tips), and healthy eating as defined by whoever offering the advice.
Granted, it is real graft-work to attain that emotional intelligence if you haven’t already, to give yourself the time to work out how you tick. Also, it can be really stressful not being able to comfortably ‘give it a go’, trying to fit in with how normies cope. It adds a whole new dimension to the aforementioned hole, not only are we to promptly climb out of it so as not to cause a scene and make ourselves homeless by lack of commitment to work, for example, but also we should ideally do it in a way that has a empirically-supported tick-box next to it, or has involved retail therapy in some way, in-line with Western World® standards of being.
Even writing this right now has triggered a crescendoing chorus of little disapproving voices in my head I’ve constructed as ‘dummy critics’ so to problem-solve my way out of any negative feedback (or lack of feedback at all), and steel myself from censure: Oh here we go, drama llama, back at it again with the woe-is-me. Mrs cannot and will not just shut up and read a book or something, little Ms cannot keep it in. In my most strongest Kath Day-Knight inner-voice I have to sternly answer back: Look at me Nathalie, look at m-look at me please, look at me. Now, I’ve got one thing to say to you Nathalie, emotions are dramatic. And you have a lot of them a lot of the time because autism, something you’re still not sure of how to work with at all. Everyone else aside, you’re allowed to take up space, you’re allowed to say how you feel, you mean well and if anyone has a problem with that then that is up to them.
It’s all well and good having these rationalising retorts handy for when meltdowns are imminent but in practice it’s pretty paralysing and sometimes the most that can be managed in a comfy outfit, a cup of tea and hours of video-games or YouTube or whatever can be handled given the amount of remaining energy left for a particular day. And that is okay too. Even if we might feel guilty for not getting the exercise we should be getting, or for eating more biscuits than we probably should have had in one go, or having to let down the people around us in order to prioritise our minds, to reboot and continue trying to navigate life with at least a basic amount of functionality, is definitely worth the initial pangs of iniquity. For now may be the time of napping and being a potato (of loveliness) but eventually and in our own time we’ll be able to cocoon out of our domestic shells and explore with our cups refilled and anxieties quelled for the time-being at least.