Part 35: Fit For Purpose

Hello, and welcome back to The Autistic Writer. I’m writing this late on Friday night. I’m usually asleep by this time, but I can feel the insomnia switch has been flicked, and I doubt I’ll get much, if any, sleep. I don’t get a lot of insomnia; it’s pretty rare for me, and I’m particularly surprised at this episode because I should be exhausted. I’ve had my second full week of visiting the gym, and I’ve had a busy week at work. Why am I not ready to sleep? It’s a mystery.

I talked last week about how I felt I was heading into a levelling off period regarding my mental health. It’s probably not a coincidence that this increasing sense of stability has come alongside me having returned to writing, and making some improvements to my physical health. I’ve felt sharp and lively this week. I’m committed to losing some weight, and to that end, I’ve decided to cut alcohol out of my diet for a while. It’s such an easy way to reduce your calorie intake. Normally, I like a couple of bottles of wine over the weekend, but I do tend to get a hangover, which isn’t conducive to writing or exercising, so I’ve knocked it off for a little bit. It’s already having an pleasant effect.

It’s not the first time I’ve cut alcohol out of my diet. I once quit drinking for five whole years, back when I was getting extremely fit. But at that time, fitness wasn’t my reason for quitting – the truth was, I had got into the habit of drinking a lot, and it crossed my mind I might be heading for alcoholism. I made a couple of abortive attempts to reduce my alcohol intake, and when I caved in, it frightened me. So, I just stopped altogether, and stayed dry for five years. That was enough to reassure me I wasn’t an alcoholic. Eventually, I started having the occasional beer again, and then developed a taste for wine. And over recent years, every time I’ve felt I might be drinking too much, I’ve just cut it out for a while. I never want to be on that slippery slope to alcoholism – it’s a nasty addiction.

But I have often wondered what made me so worried about ending up going down that route? Why does a period of regular drinking make me worry about becoming an alcoholic? I know many people who drink regularly, and they probably never give it a second thought. Why does it set alarm bells ringing for me, then? I have a theory.

I think I enjoy alcohol more than most people. Now, I know that’s a hell of a thing to say. How could I even know that? Well, I’m extrapolating a little. It’s to do with being autistic. One of the things I began to understand when I first realised I was autistic, was that my anxieties were different, and more intense, than the anxieties experienced by most people. I’d always assumed that the people I talked with about anxiety triggers, people who said things like, “We all feel like that at times,” and so on, were indeed talking about the same things I was. When someone told me they sometimes found meeting new people awkward, for example, I thought, Okay, it’s not just me… everyone feels a bit like that at times. It took a long time for me to realise that, while I might use the same words as other people to describe my anxieties, they were actually in a different ball park to most other people’s anxieties. When I feel nervous about something, it’s soul-destroying; it’s not the simple nervousness other people feel.

Sober Time is an excellent alcohol tracing app. Tracking your alcohol intake is a great way of keeping control.

I now know that the intensity with which I experience my anxieties is down to me being an autistic person trying to cope in a world largely made by and for neurotypical people. I lived fifty-four years struggling with everything daily, assuming everyone else was feeling the same. So I would work hard to get on with it, and to fit in; masking in other words. The stress and anxiety was debilitating, and at a young age, I found out that drinking alcohol reduced that sense of anxiety. In fact, for a long time, if I got drunk enough, I forgot about all my worries, for a while at least. It is in this anxiety-reducing action of alcohol that my pleasure in drinking resides; this is why I enjoy drinking more than most (IE, neurotypical) people; the relief from such overpowering, intense anxiety. Like masking, self-medicating with alcohol is not a sustainable behaviour; the potential health risks are very real. Which is where my worries about alcoholism step in. As an anxiety med, alcohol is not fit for purpose.

So where does this leave me right now, regarding my mental health? It means that I still find living in the neurotypical world difficult, and anxiety-inducing. I will probably always feel that way. At least these days, though, I understand why I feel like that. On the other side of things, I’m not so depressed any more. It’s about eight months since I underwent the mental health crisis that led to me trying to come to terms with being autistic, and starting up this blog, and it’s been a hell of a slog to get to a place where I can say that I’m not so utterly depressed any more, that I am writing regularly, and I am exercising regularly. Learning that I am autistic; embracing it, feeling it, enjoying it, and being proud of it, has helped get me here. I will always be an alien in the neurotypical world, but I know what I am now, and I feel fit for purpose, even if not the right fit for this world. Being autistic is not a problem – but having to do it in a world which is largely unaccepting of autism is the problem.

Some neurotypical people have real difficulties in accepting that autistic people can be happy to be autistic, proud to be autistic, and even thrive in their autism. The results of their lack of comprehension can be quite funny. As I discovered on Twitter, this week. Let me introduce you to @BronyDestined..

I’m sorry to say that Brony blocked me on Twitter, because he was great fun. I came across him when someone shared one of his tweets (now deleted):

This tweet caused understandable outrage from various autistic people, carrying, as it does, flavours of eugenics and social cleansing. I felt I ought to reply to the chap…

There were some fun interactions of Brony’s timeline… like this, that I had to respond to:

I had to chuckle at Tony Haigh’s garbled language and spelling as he tried to talk us through how autistic people would struggle with an English exam. Actually, I’m not at all sure this tweet wasn’t satire…

Sometimes, certain people seem to be wilfully stupid. I would never criticise anyone for lacking education, nor having having cognitive or mental processing problems. But where Brony is concerned, it does seem to be wilful. Maybe he’s realised that. Maybe that’s why he blocked me.

In next week’s blog, I plan on talking about how Autism Awareness Month has gone. I’d really appreciate hearing your thoughts on April’s autism events before then, so please let me know, either with a comment or private message on here or on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest or BuyMeACoffee.

That’s all for this week. Until next time, stay safe, stay proud.

Why Do I Write This Blog?

When I first found out I was autistic, I was a middle-aged adult and I knew nothing about autism.  I quickly learned that there was a serious shortage of information and resources for adults in my situation.  With this blog, I aim to inform about autism and autism-related issues as I learn, hopefully helping people who are on a similar journey of discovery.  Like anyone who writes a blog, I want to reach as many readers as possible; if you like what I’m doing, please share it with your friends and followers.  I will never hide this blog behind a paywall, but if you want to chip in, feel free to make a small contribution at BuyMeACoffee.Com.

You might also be interested in David Scothern’s blog, Mortgage Advisor on FIRE, which covers a range of topics including mental health issues and financial independence.

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