Making the choice to do something that I know is going to cause me pain and trouble isn't always difficult. There are times when it's incredibly simple because I know that the short term issues from my autism and sensory issues are massively outweighed by how much I would regret NOT taking up the opportunity on offer.
This was completely true on Tuesday when, despite a work day from hell, I travelled into London to meet a friend for dinner. Keeping this arrangement was more important to me than the issues I was struggling with at the time for many reasons but mostly because it was a one-off experience we had booked to do. Nandos isn't often a good place for me to go as it's generally a veritable smorgasbord of sensory overload; most places with open kitchens are!
But getting to experience the Saracens 'Nandos Takeover' fundraising event was something I'd been excited about for a while and getting to catch up face to face with a friend I hadn't seen since my birthday in February was very important to me!
When it comes to trying to live a 'normal' life as an autistic person it can be really hard to get others to understand just why I'm apprehensive about a proposed activity or plan; NT folk don't have to think about the multitude of things I do to assess whether something is going to be worth while or not. A NT person doesn't have to consider whether having the discussion in the first place will be constructive or just an exercise in frustration.
My workplace is a classic example of this difficulty and how people just keep getting it wrong with me. They seem determined to "protect" me by not letting me be involved in the more 'fun' side of things like big events - wanting to make sure I'm not stressed because I "have a lot of work to get on with" (even though during those big loud events there's not a cats chance in hell I'll be able to concentrate on my work!) And yet the things I need them to think about they seem to stubbornly cling to this idea that if they just tell me to be ok that I will be!
I'm writing this from the passenger seat of the car I'm hiding out in. The staff team have come to a Falconry Centre for the day as part of some end of year wellbeing nonsense; a day of birds of prey and sporting activities. Lovely.
No consideration was given for how I might handle this scenario; in fact when I was first told just last week of the plan (having already got fairly wound up about not knowing what was going to be happening on the last day as it was being kept a secret) my gut reaction was absolute horror.
Now don't get me wrong, I love birds of prey, watching them soar above in the skies, listening to Sir David Attenborough or someone tell me all about their habits and rituals is fascinating to me, they are truly magnificent creatures that deserve a lot of respect.
They also make sounds that are like a spike being plunged through the front of my brain.
I warned my boss about this but still she insisted that I come along and "give it a go" - a typical response from a former PE teacher.
I could hear the screechy chattering sounds building in intensity as we approached, it didn't take long for me to turn tail and run for safety. Maybe I could have coped better had I not just spent close to an hour crammed into a cafe hut thing with 50 odd colleagues most of whom are naturally loud people.
So now I'm sat in a car for 90 minutes while my half of the staff team do the bird experience. Then my group will have their turn at the sporting activities; shooting, archery and laser clay pigeon shooting. In the middle of a farm. Lovely. More stuff I can't cope with. I suppose at least my main reason for not wanting to take part in those activities is more obvious to people; the bright blue muscle tape running up my neck from my shoulders is pretty conspicuous!
At least I had some warning about what today involved so I could prepare some what; my ear plugs are near by in case I need them, I have my ipod on and playing calming music, I have recovery snacks with me if needed, my stress aids are in my bag and I didn't drive myself here so I don't have to worry about being safe to drive home later!
I'm isolated, with a building headache and feeling a bit fed up with the situation. Sums up the whole bloody academic year quite frankly! Thank crunchie that the holidays begin tomorrow and I can get on with my work in peace over the next few weeks!