I am self employed. Today, my to do list comprised of four items. Write an article, prep for and record a Steven Universe podcast episode, prep and record a Porn review podcast, and guest on the Wonder Woman episode of a movie review podcast.

Two of those to do list items, the SU Podcast and the Porn Podcast, had to be cancelled due to unforseen circumstances with other cast members. Nobody had done anything wrong, but through factors outside of my control I could not do half of my to do list.

This should have given me half of my work day suddenly free to do other things. Instead, I spent half my work day crying, rocking, hitting at my head and getting angry at myself.

Plans had been changed without my ability to control that fact. My to do list was partially incomplete and would not be completable. One of the incompletable jobs, the Steven Universe podcast, was half done in that I had watched the prep material and written notes. That podcast episode will now likely stay partially complete for at least a week, and will be a constant incomplete job taking space in my head until then.

As an adult living with Aspergers, I found myself paralysed. I had planned my day around my to do list. Not being able to complete it was causing me stress. Sitting doing nothing was causing me stress as I wasn’t working on the to do list I told myself I would do. I couldn’t spend the time working on other things, because my to do list was a set list and if I had not finished it I shouldn’t be doing other things because they’re not the things I planned for. They’re not the things I needed to do.

My brain wouldn’t stop stressing about this set of factors, and I lost six hours to crying, rocking, stimming, head hitting and trying to drown out audio sensory information with loud music, a single track played on repeat.

I’m an adult who lost six hours today to a prolonged meltdown because I couldn’t do half of my work to do list, for reasons I couldn’t have possibly controlled.

Routine to me is structure, it’s the glue that holds my day together, it’s the tracks my train runs upon. Not planning ahead is stressful because then there are too many unknown factors to track and control, the possibilities and unknowns buzz in my head like a swarm of angry bees. Planning allows me to be functional until the plan is changed without my ability to have input.

Aspergers for me can be paralysing. I rely on routine, it’s how I create as much every week as I do. I set myself firm goals and I maintain them. Not being able to do the thing I planned to do can cost me work hours, and that knowledge is deeply frustrating when I know people would kill for the job I have.

I wanted to create twice as much as I did today. The fact I didn’t just makes me feel more stressed.

I don’t know I really had an end goal in mind with this article, other than getting my feelings on paper and creating something. Sure it’s something self centred and introspective, but it’s something I can add to my to do list and cross off. Hopefully my to do list now only being 2/5 incomplete rather than 1/2 incomplete helps somehow.

Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. I am fine with reading about your introspections. I don’t understand Aspergers and you can add educating some internet weirdo to the list of things you have done with your time today. I have no clue if that will help but I think it comes out to a positive.

  2. thank you for this. you sure are not alone.

  3. I have to say that even though I’ve only really known about you for the past few months, your posts and articles regarding Aspergers have helped me feel less alone. Less like I’m the only one facing the problems and issues that I face. Thank you for that.

  4. Laura, is it possible to have a back up to do list, a “This is what I will do when my other plans get cancelled” list. I know the exact situation, and when my plans are changed I end up not doing much at all.

    • I wanted to ask the exact same thing, though I also wondered if her brain would be able to differentiate between “primary” and “secondary” goals. In other words, is it the idea of an incomplete task that’s so stressful, or the fact that things didn’t go according to plan? Perhaps both?

  5. Hello friend. I am very sorry to hear about such a stressful experience, and I can empathise to some degree about the complete turmoil that having plans changed can cause. I had originally planned to have a really nice chill day on Sunday with one or two tasks, but because I couldn’t do those tasks because I just wasn’t feeling well I ended up spending almost the entire day (from around 12pm-9pm) feeling completely depressed to the point of not being able to do anything else. I really took it out on myself because I had PLANNED to be productive, and ended up doing nothing. It was a self-perpetuating hate cycle in the end.

    It is a very difficult thing to do deal with and even though I know in my mind that it is perfectly okay to do another task instead, that thought doesn’t seem to resonate with the rest of my brain! Like someone suggested already, I have been slowly working on creating alternate lists as back ups in the event that, for some unknown reason, I can complete a set task. That way I can still continue to be productive in doing another task (which personally makes me feel better).

    I also went through a year working with my mentor at university in creating more adaptable plans (although of course a person’s ability to be adaptable varies wildly and what works me will definitely not work for others!). One of the thing’s she got me to practice was writing my lists and schedules in pencil? A year ago Ii had such severe reactions and distress to not being able to carry out my schedules that it rendered me unable to do anything for the rest of the day. However, we discovered that very slowly I began to feel more okay about changing my plans because they were written in pencil and I had to practice on allowing myself to rub it out and assign it to another day instead. This helped me because the act of writing in pencil made the task, for me, seem much more flexible whereas writing it down in pen made it feel set in concrete and that if I hadn’t completed it I was useless.

    These are things that I have found useful. I thought I would just share in case there is anything that might be helpful to you ❤

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