You know there’s really no point in having any pride when you’re autistic. I seem to spend half my time feeling dumb because of something foolish I’ve said or done, and the other half looking foolish whilst being totally unaware of it – until sometime later when the penny finally drops. Here’s an example of this joyous facet of autism.
I came back from my walk earlier today and found that my water supply had been cut off – not, I hasten to add, due to any deficit on my part in paying my bill! I’ve had this happen to me on numerous occasions (as it does to most people), and I reacted as I normally do – I panic! I am having to accept that this is my automatic reaction when anything unexpected happens, no matter that the unexpected might actually be a relatively normal occurrence in everyday life. It appears to be a part of the hardwiring in my brain rather than a cognitive thing because I cannot talk myself out of it with logic and into a state of calm, like non-autistics are able to do. In fact, non-autistics don’t even seem to need to resort to having to reason with themselves at all - they just shrug it off (or maybe feel a bit annoyed at the inconvenience), and carry on with their day. How do they do that?!! To me it’s like an apocalyptic event – another one. My whole life has been one long apocalypse. (Yes, I am exaggerating – but only slightly!)
And the thing is I know what to do when this happens. I check with the neighbours to see if theirs is off too (a bit of an ordeal in itself, no matter that most of my neighbours are very nice, because I suffer social anxiety), which eliminates the worry that it’s just happening to me; and then I phone the water supplier to find out if there’s a leak in the area or work being done. In every instance there has been some good reason for it, and they’ve had the water back on within a few hours.
Yet I approach every new incident as if this one is going to have no reason or solution for it, and I am never going to have water again! It doesn’t matter that the evidence is that I have never experienced drought, and that there’s no logical reason why it should suddenly occur now. This I do not find reassuring. My logic is that just because it’s never happened yet doesn’t mean it isn’t going to: in fact it’s almost a guarantee that it is because I’m long overdue! And the thing is I cannot offer any explanation, reasonable or otherwise, as to why I think like this. My friend tells me that this gloomy outlook also appears to be part of the autism, though I’m not certain whether that means that this too is hard-wired, or learnt. Either way it’s a pain in the arse!
Now today, for some reason, I seemed to panic more than usual, because I approached doing everything in the wrong order. I didn’t check with the neighbours first, I phoned the water supplier, who of course asked if I’d checked, and then asked me to do so. Unfortunately what they asked was that I check with my neighbour in the downstairs flat, which I told them I couldn’t do because I don’t talk to him anymore. They finally suggested that I check with some of the other neighbours, which I said I can do.
And I did do. And, do you know, none of them were aware that the water had been switched off until I spoke to them? And none of them reacted like I did – no panic, no worry, no anxiety; no wondering how am I going to cook lunch, and stick to my plan?! Does no-one else use water like I do? Does no-one drink the stuff, or use the toilet, throughout the day? Am I responsible for half the world’s drought?!
I have no idea what impression I left the neighbours with, but by this time the impression I had created in the mind of the person at the other end of the phone does not bear thinking about – dippy, neurotic woman with a brain the size of a pea. Nor was this image improved by my having to call back later and inform them that I thought I might have phoned the wrong water supplier!
As it turned out, this was the case. Oh joy! I spent an hour after I got off the phone to the wrong supplier waiting for them to get back to me with news, only to realise the mistake I’d probably made. The thing is we have two suppliers – one deals with the sewerage (lovely!), and the other actually supplies our water - and people accuse me of complicating everything! So I finally got in touch with the right one, and found out instantly that there was, indeed, a burst water pipe in the village where I live, and that it was being repaired, and would be completed within a couple of hours.
As I write this the water has been back on for over an hour (sooner than they estimated) so I am not composing this whilst in a state of advanced dehydration - parched to death, and suffering from mental confusion due to the lack of fluid to my brain. No: the mental confusion is entirely normal for me, so please don’t all rush at once to come and drown me with fluids! I’ve decided that after I’ve died and am rehydrated (I mean reincarnated, but it’s much the same thing, really!) I want to come back as a camel. I don’t imagine that camels panic about the lack of water in the desert. Or perhaps they do? You never can tell with camels – like you never can tell with autistics!
"Do you believe in Magic?" asked Colin.
"That I do, lad," she answered. "I never knowed it by that name, but what does th' name matter? I warrant they call it a different name i' France an' a different one i' Germany. Th' same thing as set th' seeds swellin' an' th' sun shinin' made thee well lad an' it's th' Good Thing. It isn't like us poor fools as think it matters if us is called out of our names. Th' Big Good Thing doesn't stop to worrit, bless thee. It goes on makin' worlds by th' million - worlds like us. Never thee stop believin' in th' Big Good Thing an' knowin' th' world's full of it - an call it what tha' likes. Eh! lad, lad - what's names to th' Joy Maker."
From 'The Secret Garden', by Frances Hodgson Burnett
"There is no way to happiness - happiness is the way."
The Dalai Lama
"If you don't stand for something you will fall for anything."