So, within the space of six weeks I had gone from total cluelessness to certain knowledge.
The “autism hypothesis”, as I was calling it at the time, had started to form, tentatively, some time around the middle of August. As the meltdowns became more frequent and severe, and my sensory system started to go into overdrive, it became impossible to ignore the idea that autism might, indeed, be an explanation for what was happening to me and for my inability to cope with the world, particularly when surrounded by people. It also appeared to explain at least 90% of the problems I’ve had throughout my life and I knew I absolutely had to investigate it – very thoroughly and in great detail.
My Amazon account records show that I ordered the book with the list of traits on 23rd August, having read the sample on my Kindle app. That was the day that I started to take the idea really seriously – I was home from the camping trips, back in my normal environment, and now had time to research the whole subject of autism and how it might (or, indeed, might not) apply to me.
Interestingly, 23rd August is also the date still shown on my tear off calendar for 2016. It’s as though time stopped that day. And, as I lie here in the middle of a chilly December night, typing this into my phone, it feels as though time is still stopped. Apparently it is cold outside and will soon be Christmas – I have hardly noticed. I felt slightly surprised when I saw the autumn leaves on the ground a month ago – then realised it was November. Since August my mind has barely acknowledged the passing of the seasons or the world around me. I might as well still be lying in a tent, unable to speak or move, listening to distant dance band music, tears rolling down my face. Much of the past four months still feels like some kind of surreal dream, but however hard I pinch myself, I never seem to wake up.
Part of the reason for this state is that I had some sort of mental breakdown at the end of the summer – at least that was what I initially called it, until I had enough information to realise it was actually something else. Much of my mind has gone into hibernation, unable to deal with everything at once, so entering some sort of unreal stasis. A bit like when someone dies – you just think you’ve started to move on and the grieving process has ended, then it hits you over and over again. Similarly my mind has been processing all this in bits at a time and it is still doing so, which is why many of these early blog posts might seem a little random or uneven at times. Sometimes there might be fluent informative writing, sometimes accounts from my past as my memory tries to process old experiences in the light of new information, sometimes diary-style posts, sometimes poetry-style writing, and who knows what else. Some of it might well be contented and happy, some is likely to be triggering and difficult. I don’t yet know. I don’t have the energy to plan in detail, but I do know that writing will be part of the process of sorting all this out in my head, and I hope that, just maybe, it might help someone else – even if just one person, it will be worth it. My mood is still so erratic that it can plummet or soar within a space of hours or even minutes, and although I’m trying to write each post over a day or so in order that they make some sort of sense and I can balance them out a little, raw emotion might spill out from time to time and I don’t expect I shall be able to sustain a regular and consistent writing style or pattern of posting – maybe there will be days with nothing, maybe multiple posts in a day. Who knows? It will be what it will be, as I try to work through the chaos that currently exists inside my mind. All I can do is try to tell it like it is, in the best way I can, which is what I’ve always done throughout my life.
And while all this is echoing round my head, just like during bereavement, the outside world continues to exist. Bills need paying, clothes need washing, food still has to be bought. And I have had to use every ounce of energy to keep up and to try to maintain as much of the life I have built over the last few years as I can, to decide what to keep, what to drop, how I can function. My husband has been and is still being, utterly extraordinary, propping me up wherever he can, communicating on my behalf, and still going out to work and earning the money that keeps us off the streets since I’ve been unable to work for most of my life. I have said many times over the years that I would not be alive today if it were not for him. Most people think this is some sort of flippant statement. It is not. It is completely serious.
I am operating in some sort of “safe mode” at the moment. Just doing the absolute basics. While the world around me continues its daily routines and its seasonal changes, I feel as though I am held in some sort of suspended animation, while my autistic brain, which was never very good at coping with change (now we know why), tries to come to terms with the biggest change I’ve ever experienced in my life.