Today was awful. Just awful. Working out why is harder.
I spent the whole day at work feeling terribly depleted. Lately I have been checking 150 or so records a day, but today I only managed about 110 and had to tell my boss I would finish the rest tomorrow as I was feeling ill (I will now probably have to explain about my mental health, at least a bit, which I was hoping to avoid on this short contract). I was feeling depleted, my eyes felt strained, I was having trouble ‘gear shifting’ from one aspect of a task to the next, things I associate with stress. I kept wanting to shout at people to “SHUT THE **** UP!!!”
I don’t know why I was so bad. I think it was very noisy in the office (although not necessarily more so than usual) and I just couldn’t cope with it. I listened to classical music on my iPod, but that’s the lesser of two evils as I prefer silence when working on something that requires concentration. This way I wasn’t being forced to pay attention to the words of the conversation (I can’t easily tune out of words I can hear, at least not at will rather than from my mind wandering when someone is talking to me about something I’m not interested in), but there was the noise of the music, and the muffled noise of the talking in the background.
I don’t normally think of myself as being so sensitive to noise, but maybe I’m used to being in quiet environments (at home, in the library). I recall that at university I preferred to work in my room to working in the libraries, as I found them all too noisy. At the time I thought finding libraries noisy a little eccentric, but now it seems downright autistic. It does make me wonder if I have panic attacks at shuls (synagogues) because of the noise rather than the people and social anxiety – it would explain why I don’t generally have them in my quiet shul, but did in other, noisier, ones – my shul has a strict ‘no speaking during davening (prayer)’ rule.
I’m not going to my shiur (class) now. I could have just about made it, if I wolfed down my dinner, but I’m really tense and in need of relaxation if I’m to have any chance of doing a decent amount of work tomorrow. I’ve been irritable with my parents, which I feel bad about, even if some of it is justified.
I’ve been thinking a lot about autism today. The book I ordered on autism turned up today and apparently it has various diagnostic criteria. I intend to go through it and write notes on my symptoms (I’ve already started – I had a lot of ideas today) and why I think I’m autistic and intend to type them up before I have an assessment – if I can have another assessment, of course. I think a lot was overlooked in my previous assessments and that was perhaps partly my fault for not mentioning certain things, but I didn’t know that some things were so relevant and I probably felt ashamed of some things. Plus, as I understand it the assessment criteria have been revised and widened in recent years. At the very least, if I’m not autistic, I would like some psychiatrist to explain what the flip is wrong with me that means I can’t function in society. I can’t hold down a job, I can’t have a relationship, I’m continually accumulating more mental illness diagnoses. If there isn’t something wrong with me, then I’m either lazy or incompetent and, much as I hate myself, I can’t in all honesty see myself as either of those, at least not to the extent that would be needed to explain my problems. There’s just too much evidence of my ability to produce quality work in the right circumstances, even against difficult odds (doing two degrees while very depressed) for me to seem lazy or stupid. It’s a question of finding out how to find the right environment to thrive in.
A lot of autistic people get annoyed when neurotypical people talk about “curing” autism. I guess I can see their point, but I don’t always feel it the same way. I’m not particularly proud of who I am. OK, I am a bit, and I like trying to have a more individual and intellectual life than some people, but I feel that I would at least consider sacrificing it to be “normal,” to have a normal life with love and happiness and companionship and community and normal, bearable, human sadness, not this terrible constant misery, loneliness and despair. I envy the men who have normal frum lives of yeshiva, a career in law or accountancy, a wife and a few kids, evenings “learning” Gemarah, drinking whisky with their cronies at kiddush on Shabbat, and following the football and cricket for innocent relaxation. I feel like a monstrous, crazy geek-freak who doesn’t fully fit in to any of the sub-cultures I try to belong to (frum, geeky, cultured or now autistic) and who can’t function in ordinary environments.
I spoke to my parents a bit about this. They said they’re willing to support me in looking for re-diagnosis if I think it will lead to practical benefits. They agreed that I’m right to ask for some kind of reappraisal when I see the psychiatrist (which I’ve now discovered is in early November, I think 8 November, although I don’t know the exact time or how it will fit with work yet) as they agree with me that there must be something that’s been overlooked to explain why I’m the way I am. So that’s all positive. Until then, I just need to try to think of all the reasons why I think I’m autistic and type them out for the psychiatrist.