I’m not quite sure how coherent this is going to be, so bear with me. Perhaps I will come back tomorrow and add more. I’m feeling exhausted from a massively draining day; it would have been draining for anyone, but even more so with autism and depression. But I need to set things down so that I can sleep; as usual, I’m writing for myself as much as anyone else.
I struggled to sleep last night after helping with post-Pesach (Passover) tidying. I think I fell asleep around 4.00am. After five hours of sleep, I was up again to go to Oxford for the thirtieth anniversary party for the Doctor Who Society. When I was there it was the Oxford University Doctor Who Society, but I think it lost the university bit a few years ago when the proportion of students in the society dropped below the critical threshold. A lot of what happened to me at Oxford was fairly miserable and a previous trip back to the city a number of years ago left me upset, but the Doc Soc (as we called it then) was one of the few places I felt comfortable and accepted, so I wanted to make the effort to go and show my support. Plus I am a former president. I know I only did a term, but I still count!
When I arrived in Oxford I spiralled down quite quickly into depression. It doesn’t help that the bus station is right by my old college. My college was not the site of good times. I actually spent much of the day trying to avoid being anywhere I could see it and only consented to have it in my sight (from a distance) at the end of the day when I was feeling better. Wandering around the town, killing time before the party, I was just feeling that I didn’t belong in Oxford, that I messed up my time there, that the city was full of undergraduates having fun and I was lonely and miserable the whole time I was a student. I think I even wondered vaguely if should just turn around and go home.
I killed time for a bit until 2pm, when the party was due to start and eventually found the confidence to go in. The room was packed with people and, again, I started to wonder if I had made the right decision, immediately feeling rather overwhelmed and anxious.
I won’t give a blow by blow account of what happened, mainly because I can’t. Everything blurs together. I know I must have stayed feeling awkward and depressed for a bit, but gradually I loosened up and was able to speak to some friends from my Oxford days. After a while, I was able to get the confidence to speak to one or two people who I recognised from blogs I follow, which led on to being introduced to people who I knew from commenting on those blogs, even though I didn’t know that they were Oxford people too. I’m not quite sure how I managed to do that, but somehow I did. I actually managed to speak to quite a few people over the afternoon and mostly didn’t shake, although I was careful when pouring drinks. It helped that I was aware that this was an environment where people who are neurodivergent, eccentric or just plain different were more likely to be present and accepted than in other environments that I find myself in (work, shul (synagogue), dates). Someone said she saw me in the street on the way there and thought that I looked that I might be the type of person who would be going to the Doctor Who Society which amused me. I obviously look geeky even when not wearing my Doctor Who scarf (I decided that the ‘smart casual’ clothing instructions precluded both cosplay and Doctor Who t-shirts, although few other people felt the same way).
There were various events during the afternoon, including a talk on the history of the society by my friend M., a quiz (which my team did reasonably well at although I was inexplicably stricken by social anxiety when the time came to call out results and stayed silent) and various visual presentations that I should probably not go into too much detail about here.
It was a very enjoyable afternoon, but I was thoroughly exhausted by the end, especially as I stood for four hours as there weren’t enough chairs for the number of people. I managed to get back to London where my Dad picked me up from the station, but I found the journey home painful, as he was making small talk, which I find challenging at the best of times, but I was too ‘peopled out’ to really deal with it. I read the blog of a carer for a child with more severe autism than I have, and he (the child) apparently tries to stop people talking to him on the way home from school; I could see his point. I don’t have extreme sensory sensitivities, but sometimes light or noise can be really irritating, and when I need to crash and have ‘alone time’ it is painful to be dragged into conversation, especially small talk.
Then, when I got home, there was some post-Pesach religious OCD anxiety. I won’t go into details, but I still don’t know if I did the right thing about that. I was caught (as I usually am with these things) between what I felt was right in the abstract and what I felt I should do to avoid upsetting my parents. It does underline to me that even though my relationship with my parents is reasonably good at the moment (although it could/should be better and that it is at least partly my fault), there are just gulfs of understanding between us, usually neurotypical brain vs. autistic brain or mentally healthier brain vs. more mentally ill brain, but also sometimes religious gulfs. My parents are fairly religious, but sometimes there are just gaps in understanding or attitude to Judaism and halakhah (Jewish law). I don’t want to give examples and probably I shouldn’t really say any more. I suppose most people are not clones of their parents, even if they have a lot in common. It’s just hard to bridge the gaps sometimes.
So that was the most social day I’ve had in a very long time. People are probably expecting me to say I came home and crashed in front of Doctor Who, but I actually watched Blake’s 7 (Blake’s 7, I should probably say for those who don’t know, was Doctor Who‘s unofficial sister show in the late 70s and early 80s. There were no direct crossovers, but they shared a lot of actors, writers, directors, props, costumes etc.).
Tomorrow is my date with L. (arranged via the values-based dating agency), so I ought to go to bed and get some rest.