I feel awful just now. Got that tight feeling in my head that warns of imminent headache and meltdown. My whole body aches and I’m exhausted. Sitting here on sofa, wrapped in a blanket, with a glass of cold juice, trying not to cry. I feel like I’ve had a horrendous day. When in fact, all I did was walk into town, with my family, buy a few snacks, and walk home. Sounds so simple. Yet was anything but. Let me break it down…
First of all, I didn’t sleep too well. My son woke me at least six times, with nightmares and vague feelings of being unwell. I then woke up with a mild headache.
I’d wanted to go into town to buy certain snacks my son likes. But it was raining. So we waited for the rain to stop. By the time we realised it wasn’t going to stop, it was four o’clock. So we decided to head out anyway, armed with umbrellas. Now, I normally don’t use umbrellas as I hate having to hold them, I have one less free hand, and because I’m so short it’s hard to walk by people without fearing poking their eyes out. But it was raining so much that I decided to risk it. Plus I didn’t want to be the odd one out.
Then we walked into town a slightly different route to normal. Only a tiny deviation but enough to put me off-kilter. I have my routes planned out very carefully, for example to minimize number of roads crossed etc. When we got back onto the normal path, I realised that the road had a huge puddle in it, the way it normally does when it rains. And because I was walking with others, I was unable to dictate the pace we walked at. On my own, I’d race past that section before a car came and splashed me. Luckily no such car came, but it did leave me a little on edge.
Next, we had decided to stop off at the market to get some food at one of the stalls. I was so happy to see the stall still there as I know he closes up around five. But my joy changed to upset when he told us he was sold out. The only good thing was the kids took it well. But there went our food plans and I was starting to get cranky.
So we headed on to the supermarket to buy the snacks and maybe food for dinner. As soon as we set foot inside the door, I realised that I was too tired to deal with all the brightness. But I marched on. I nearly freaked out when I thought they’d changed the layout, but then realised I was simply in the wrong aisle. So I found the snacks (a certain brand of pretzel sticks) and got a few more things. And went to the till. Luckily not much of a queue. Unluckily there was a bag-packer, who started filling my bag without even asking. But it was for a homeless charity so I had to smile and give her some change. I really hate when someone else packs my bags for me.
Then I realised the bag was actually a bit heavy. And because I had the umbrella, I could only hold it with one hand. I remembered we were out of coffee so went to the one place that I buy coffee beans. And because they don’t have the beans I buy on display, as they are the special blend they have in the cafe, they had to go to the store room to get it. I normally am fine with this, but again it added to my stress, with the extra waiting required. They then put it into a paper bag. Which added to my distress because of what happens to paper bags in the rain.
So we walked home in the rain. My husband had gone to get a haircut so it was only me and the kids at this stage. Trudging home in the rain, two bags in one hand, an umbrella in the other. And my feet started aching around the stage where they always ache. When we’re nearly home but still have over five minutes to go. And every step is agony. And I started feeling dizzy.
And when we got home, I fumbled with the keys. I dropped the paper bag. I nearly forgot the code for the alarm. I was done.
So, here I am, needing to get up and start cooking dinner. It’s getting late. I should light the fire too. But instead I’m fighting a meltdown. I’ll be playing catch-up for the rest of the evening. All from just a quick trip into town for about an hour.
So, next time you wonder why an autistic person, or someone with a chronic illness (or both) may have a meltdown from something that’s “easy” for you, just remember that they may be coping with a lot of stuff under the surface. And that each “little” thing that goes wrong in their day can really add up.