Part 72: The Eve of Destruction

Hello, and welcome back to The Autistic Writer. Thank you for being here. I hope the New Year’s Eve festivities weren’t too traumatic for you. There were fireworks in my area, but I just watched TV with the sound coming through noise-cancelling headphones so I missed the worst of it. Fortunately, I didn’t get too emotional this New Year’s Eve. I know that it’s just an update of a number on a purely arbitrary calendar when the clock ticks past midnight… but I’m also aware that as human beings with culture, we mark the passage of time with various commemorations, and these have significance for us, whether we like it or not, even if that significance is only that other people find it significant. I’ve tried to think back to times when I have enjoyed New Year’s Eve, and not just been upset by it. I seem to remember the Millenium celebrations were fun, but I only had that fun because I numbed myself by getting very drunk. I remember dancing in the rain, though, in Sheffield’s city centre at the big, open-air party and that was fun. There was one other New Years Eve, and I’m not sure if it was 2007 or 2008, but I remember feeling relaxed and fairly comfortable. Apart from those two, I think I’m right in saying that every New Year’s Eve has left me sad at how horrible that last 12 months have been, and hoping for better to come. This time, I’m full of sadness over some of the things that have happened over the last 12 months, but also relieved to have left behind some of the causes of my unhappiness. I’ve had a tough year, by any measure. One of the toughest yet, I’d say. But looking forward, I’m now probably in a good position to make the coming year better. There is a clean slate in various areas of my life, and best of all, I am completely comfortable and thriving as an autistic person. I’m a little bit frightened of the coming year, partly because covid just will not go away, but also because I know I’m going to have to step out of my comfort zone to rebuild my life. I guess we’ll just have to see how that goes. But there are challenges to overcome…

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There is something in my personality that wants to dwell on the past in a really unhealthy way. I’m not just talking about not being able to let go of historical injustices and wrongs – in fact, it could be argued that holding onto such memories is healthy if it gives you the equipment to protect yourself in future. No, it’s more a case of me looking at the past and wishing I had done so much differently. It’s an utterly futile exercise, of course. While we can use the past to learn, and deploy experience to help plan for the future, simply wishing things had been different helps nothing. Knowing this, however, does not make it any easier to stop my mind going back over the past in this way. I need to get past that if I’m going to have any success in rebuilding my life and creating a future for myself that I can tolerate. Every creative act is also an act of destruction. To create is to change, and change destroys what was there previously. To create my future, I have to find a way of destroying my past. By this, I mean changing my internal narrative of my past. I have to change that internal autobiography from a story about mistakes made and opportunities missed, to a story about growth and learning. This involves bringing my emotional reasoning into sync with my intellectual reasoning. I’m not sure how or if that can be done, so as challenges come, that’s a biggie.

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This internal narrative I’ve created about my life so far has played a part in the way New Year’s Eves tend to make me sad and emotional. I’ve lived a life in which I have experienced very little joy and pleasure. There have been joyful occasions, for sure. One that springs to mind is the memory of seeing my son being born and holding him in my arms just moments later. The vast majority of my recollections of life are unhappy ones. This has often led to me blaming myself for mistakes made. But there is a fault in that narrative, and it’s a fault I’ve only spotted since coming to terms with being autistic. Sure I’ve made mistakes, hasn’t everyone? But the real reason for all the unhappiness in my life is that I lived for so long not knowing I was autistic, and trying to cope in the neurotypical world. Perhaps if I can stop blaming myself for every single bad thing that has ever happened to me, I can go through next New Year’s Eve in a more positive frame of mind. I have to destroy that harmful old narrative. There are other challenges ahead, too…

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How do I rebuild my life during a pandemic? What will the next 12 months look like in terms of social restrictions, lockdowns, and so on? It’s one thing trying to work out how Ito train myself to engage a little more in social situations, but how on earth do I meet people in a pandemic situation? And even if I find a way of forging new relationships in the future, how do I avoid making the same old mistake of putting all my social eggs on one basket, and then finding myself isolated when the basket has gone?

There’s another big challenge ahead of me, regarding my health. All through my life, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with alcohol. My father was an alcoholic, and that has cast a shadow over me, that basically means I worry a bit every time I have a drink. Add to this that I have often found the consumption of alcohol pleasurable (not on my own on that front, I know) and that I have a personality type that likes to repeat pleasurable experiences… and you can see how things can get a little problematic. Alcohol consumption can be a slippery slope, and I feel guilty pretty much every time I have a drink. When I was younger, I actually went teetotal for about five years. Over recent weeks, my alcohol consumption has increased dramatically, almost without me realising. When I experienced a nasty hangover recently, it gave me pause for thought, so I did the questionnaire on drinkaware, and got this:

Yikes. I’m perfectly capable of cutting down my alcohol intake; I’ve done it before. And there lies the problem: I’ve done it before. If I’ve done it before, how come I’m here again? The combination of the addictive nature of alcohol and my personality type isn’t pretty. I’m fifty-six years old, overweight, and with a history of health problems. Is an alcohol problem something I need? I don’t think so. Cutting back will still leave me on the slippery slope, and it would only be a matter of time until I slid again. I’ve flirted with being teetotal a few times since ending my five-year no booze stint all those years ago. I think now is the time to get serious about it, again. I’ll let you know how I get on.

That’s all for this week. Until next time, take care, be good, 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 running the website does incur costs. If you would like to support, 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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