7 min read

Changing my views on change

Change can be troubling for autistic people. How am I affected?
Purple dusk sky over Snowdonia mountains viewed from Lake Pardarn.
Purple dusk sky over Snowdonia mountains viewed from Lake Pardarn.

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This week’s photos are from a day trip to North Wales when it snowed heavily back in 2010.

You can get prints of the photos in this weeks newsletter on my print store or you can tip me on Ko-Fi so I can buy film for my camera.

Problems with change

A common autistic trait is having issues with change. Suddenly having to deal with a change in routine can be troubling. That can be anything from an introduction of new food into your weekly diet or having the dentist tell you the appointment time has changed. Change can be troubling. For me? Nah I’m tip top. All good with change. Right?

I remember being asked about how I dealt with change during my Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis in 2018. I said that I felt ok with it. The pressed the issue and asked about work. “What if a client changed the brief during the event?” I was asked. My response was “Happy to work around the client’s needs.” The medical professional said “But how does that make you feel?” I took a minute to think and responded by saying it made me, for the most part, feel ok. I’m there for the client.

A river runs through the town of Llangollen. On the right is the train station. On the left are houses. Snow is on the rocks in the river and the banks.
A river runs through the town of Llangollen. On the right is the train station. On the left are houses. Snow is on the rocks in the river and the banks.

However, I have been on jobs where I’ve gone in stressed because everything leading up to the job was messy and then when I arrived the brief changed. I was left confused, stressed and massively under pressure to do a job I hadn’t planned for. Of course these things can happen in any job to anyone but I’m autistic and it affects me differently. Did I get the job done? Definitely. Even though I’m disabled and autistic I am also a professional. Of course at the time I was only a professional as this job was before my diagnosis so I had no idea that I was on edge more than perhaps a neurotypical person may have been.

It’s been 3 years since my diagnosis. Would I say I am ok with change? I would. Am I actually ok with change? I don’t think so. I think view change as big dramatic events. A change of plans is what normally comes to mind. The little changes are perhaps the ones I overlook and the ones that get me.

For example. While cooking my wife can tell me not to do something that way and instead another way. It is the equivalent of telling me I’ve ran into a mine field and not to take another step. “But but but but what now? I’m in the middle of a thing. What do I do? Quick pause time!” It’s a tiny little change but I was unprepared for it in that moment and it has introduced confusion and pressure. Food is cooking and requires precise timing. I am currently processing information and food isn’t cooking. It should be cooking. Pressure! Ahhhhhhhh! ”We are experiencing technical difficulties - please stand by.” Change while under pressure that creates confusion can properly break me. Yay?

Snowy hills. There are telegraph poles leading down the hills.
Snowy hills. There are telegraph poles leading down the hills.

I realised recently that this occurs in another way. A change in perception. I ordered a microphone, an expensive one, last week because it was the “right” choice. I needed a microphone and lots of people I respected said it was the best budget buy. I bought it. Set it up. A red light is always on. Always. “Maybe I can live with that.” I thought to myself. Maybe. Upon testing the microphone I found it to be incredibly sensitive requiring me to spend another £100 to buy a heavy duty microphone arm. This isn’t what I wanted. I wanted a replacement for my old microphone that worked. I didn’t want to spend £200. I didn’t want to change my desk setup to include a red light. I wanted the change I had prepared myself for and I didn’t get it. Instead I was forced to change my idea of the change I wanted which involved me changing this microphone for another so I could be OK with change. Change! I wanna live for ever. I wanna just be ok. Change!

In the same week I ordered an Amazon Echo Show as it came with a free Ring Doorbell. (Not a paid advert. Just a good deal.) It arrived. I excitedly set it up. I broke. “The transition is fade to black not cross fade like the Google display”, I thought. I was not prepared for this change in picture fade ideology. The Echo Show was meant to be an upgrade. I had prepared myself for change based upon things I knew. Turns out there was a lot I didn’t know and I wasn’t prepared for that change. Currently we have the Echo Show at the other end of the room to the Google display because they both serve different purposes and I can’t change my idea of what I want enough to be OK with just one. Blergh

Snowy trees by the side of a road in North Wales.
Snowy trees by the side of a road in North Wales.

It’s been a week since I installed the Echo Show and I’m OK with it. To me that suggests this was more of an issue of being unprepared for change than it being a bad product. I needed to come to terms with this unexpected change to my plan for change. (Think I’m over using the word change this week) The same could be said about the microphone. The first I ordered was great but I wasn’t ready for it to be different to my expectations so I ordered a cheaper one. By the time the cheaper one arrived I was used to the expensive one and wanted to keep it. I’m not because it still requires a £100 mic arm.

Was I my idea of what I “knew” to be “right” challenged creating stress and anxiety? When forced to change my understanding of what the device actually did compared to what I believed it to, I didn’t have the capacity to do so. I needed what I “knew” to be “right” to actually be right because of the financial strain I was placing on myself. I tried to change an issue with a microphone into an issue with money. Instead I created an issue with a different microphone and an issue with money. Twice as much anxiety filling up my brain making it even harder to accept change. Just like the Echo Show I’ve now spent time with the microphone and it is doing exactly what I actually wanted to. At the time it was all hazy and I couldn’t deal with the situation.

Dusk light falls over Lake Pardarn with Snowdonian mountains behind.
Dusk light falls over Lake Pardarn with Snowdonian mountains behind.

Clearly I have an issue with change. It’s not the issue I thought it was but there is an issue. Couple this with an inability to make decisions, analysis paralysis, and autistic me becomes useless. I end up getting so stressed over something that when I make a decision I can’t tell if it’s the right one or not. The idea of what is “right” in my brain is a mess and when pushed to change that idea it can trigger autistic shutdown. I cease to function.

There’s a law in physics. The first law of thermodynamics also known as the law of conservation of energy.

Nothing can be created or destroyed only changed.

Change is a fundamental aspect of nature. Am I wasting energy by trying to fight nature? Possibly. Is there a way in future stressful situations to remember that change is a natural occurrence and can happen at any moment? Possibly but in a stressful moment will I be accepting of that knowledge? Possibly… not.

Snowy hills in North Wales. Two people stand at the edge of a frozen lake enjoying the view.
Snowy hills in North Wales. Two people stand at the edge of a frozen lake enjoying the view.

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