Lists are an autistic thing, but they’re not an impairment

So, after the success of my huge list of things that I think make me autistic, I figured I’d give it another go. My childhood interview was pretty much a fail (more about that later), so I knew I needed some way to show the diagnostic therapist the impact that the autistic stuff has on my life. Which goes against every instinct I have. Because I hide my vulnerabilities and I concentrate on my strengths. Which is a healthy thing to do. Except when a diagnosis is completely dependent on having a significant impairment. “Needing some acknowledgment and validation” is not a diagnostic criterion yet, unfortunately.

Writing this list took me countless drafts, different set-ups (Word or Excel document? Order by categories or severity?), innumerable tears, and 11 days. It was a really hard thing to do. But it was necessary. I also toyed with the idea of making it funnier by listing examples, but then decided against that because I need this to be as bleak and depressing as possible. I might have to cheer myself up with writing a list of things I’m awesome at. Anyway, without further ado, the list of things I suck at!

FINANCES

I have no overview of my bank account balance.
I don’t pay bills regularly.
I have no idea which bills have been paid and which haven’t.
I have difficulty prioritising payments.
I have no idea of the amount needed to cover my monthly expenses.
I have difficulty assigning budgets.
I sometimes buy things I can’t afford.
I’m unable to save up money for big expenses.
I forget to open letters and bills.
I have problems organising important documents.
I forget to do important things like apply for unemployment.
I forget to return important forms.
I have difficulty replying to important emails.
I have difficulty writing job application letters.
I get upset about making phone calls to companies and organisations.

PERSONAL CARE

I don’t take regular showers.
I don’t brush my teeth regularly.
I have difficulty remembering to put on deodorant.
I wear the same underwear for several days in a row.
I sometimes forget to shave my armpits even when I’m wearing something sleeveless.
I bite my nails and nail beds, sometimes until they bleed.
I pull out my hair.
I pick my nose even in public.
I sometimes forget to go to the toilet and end up wetting myself.
I forget to eat breakfast.
I usually have no energy to make dinner.
I postpone making appointments for the dentist, the doctor, and the hairdresser.

HOUSEHOLD

I don’t do my dishes regularly.
I don’t clean my kitchen work area regularly.
I don’t vacuum and clean my floors regularly.
I don’t clean my toilet and bathroom regularly.
I don’t do laundry regularly.
I don’t maintain my garden.
I don’t tidy up after myself.
I leave my dirty clothes in a pile on the floor.
I forget to throw food out when it’s gone bad.
I often use knives and plates from the day before.
I forget to bring empty bottles to the recycling bin.
I don’t change my sheets regularly.
I sometimes forget to take out the garbage.
I have problems keeping my clothes and shoes organised.
I forget to water my plants.
I don’t clean the cat’s litter box daily.
I have problems throwing away things I have no use for.

WORK

I’m often late.
I call in sick too often.
I don’t know how to pick my battles or agree on small things even when privately disagreeing.
I don’t know how to voice my opinion in an empathetic, non-confrontational way.
I get very upset when my own priority list gets changed by my manager.
I have difficulty handling criticism that I think is unfounded.
I don’t know how to handle tasks I have no knowledge of.
I have difficulty asking for help.
I try to postpone phone calls to customers as long as possible.
I have difficulty answering emails when I don’t have a real answer yet.
I always follow unimportant rules (like no private internet use at work, or wash up your own coffee cups).
I get upset when other people don’t follow those rules.
I get confused when there are implicit rules that nobody says out loud.
I have problems with lying to customers to protect the company’s interests.
I have difficulty handling unscheduled meetings.
I get upset when people are talking close by or when the radio is on while I’m trying to work.
I get upset when a ceiling light malfunctions.
I don’t like company outings that involve more than just having a couple of drinks.
I have difficulty joining coworkers for lunch unless explicitly invited.

FAMILY AND RELATIONSHIPS

I forget to congratulate people on their birthday.
I forget to plan a visit or send a card when someone has just had a baby.
I don’t often take initiative to meet up with family or friends.
I don’t call family or friends to ask how they are.
I forget to give small compliments.
I need to be explicitly told that information is private and not meant to be told to others.
I have difficulty not focusing on solutions when someone tells me about their problems.
I have problems in the early stages of a relationship because I get obsessed with the person.
I don’t know how to keep a conversation going when I’m not interested in the subject.
I rehearse conversations in advance.
I get upset when someone is late.
I don’t know how to talk to others about my own emotions.
I feel more connected to my cat and my books than to most people.
I often have trouble thinking about what someone else likes to do, unless they tell me.
I don’t know how to introduce myself to strangers.
I often say inappropriate things.
I often take things too seriously.
I have problems not interrupting people when I think of something interesting to say.
I get very upset when I think people are not listening to me.
I am too trusting of strangers.

FEELINGS

I have problems coping with changes in plans.
I always order the same things in fast food places.
I have irrational food dislikes that I disguise as allergies.
I get upset when I’m in a crowd.
I get very upset from loud or ongoing noise.
I get upset in brightly lit environments.
I don’t like having the TV on.
I have problems personalising my environment (like hanging up pictures).
I have problems disconnecting from dreams on waking up.
I have problems watching thriller or horror movies and knowing it’s not real.
I don’t get anything done when I’m sick or in pain.
I get angry when being complimented on something that I think is undeserved.
I get stuck on things needing to be perfect.
I hide in my bedroom for weeks when I feel unable to cope with things.
I hate myself when looking at this list.
I want to be perfect.
I don’t want to be normal.

Advertisements

Cleaning in progress

About a week ago, I aired out my dirty laundry for all to see. (Sorry, there are so many phrases and expressions involving clean and dirty, I’m having a field day! Yes, I love language).

I thought you might like to know that I’ve made some progress.

The picture of the kitchen cabinets isn’t so obvious (bad photography), but the drawers on the right are honestly downright grubby. The door on the left has already been cleaned. I’ve also unearthed the bedroom floor from the strata of accumulated laundry and crisp bags. Still need to vacuum but I’m getting there. Lastly, the attic, because that’s where all the dirty laundry from my bedroom ended up. At least I know what needs to be done there.

I’ve been using a couple of methods to get this far. One method I got off Snakedancing and is called productive procrastination. This doesn’t really work with executive function fail, but for dreaded chores it works wonders (for me anyway). Whenever I ran into something that made me feel anxious about doing it, I procrastinated by picking up some clothes and bringing them to the attic. I did have to remind myself to only do small bits of procrastination.

Some of the other methods are from the comments section on Procrastination or Executive Function Fail? on Musings of an Aspie, which is a recommended read by the way. But the comments contain some very interesting observations as well.

Kathryn:

I find little bursts of doing cleaning stuff works best, and I mean “little” like spraying the counters with a water-vinegar mix while I’m nuking my coffee. By the time I’ve had my coffee, the water’s had time to loosen any gunk, plus there’s visual reminders (the counter’s wet, the spray bottle is out). Then it feels logical or part of a pattern to wipe the counters clean, in an “if-then” way.

That’s how I managed to clean the kitchen cabinets today. And the fridge door yesterday, by the way. While waiting for the tea kettle to boil. This helped a lot with pacing myself, I identified ONE thing that I could do on the spot and stopped as soon as it was done.

Lucy:

can’t have anyone over syndrome (spells out c h a o s )

Quoted that one because it’s hilariously spot-on. 🙂

waggermama:

for anyone with an android phone, I can really recommend an app called Regularly. I set household tasks and rather than set a date I can say the task needs to be done weekly/fortnightly/monthly/yearly and then it *gently* reminds me to do it.

I immediately downloaded Regularly from the Google Play store and so far it looks really promising. I did have a fairly large anxiety attack on Sunday evening after I started to add all the chores that needed doing, because THE LIST WAS JUST SO INCREDIBLY LONG. Granted, I did add things like “brush teeth daily” because I tend to forget that sort of thing.


Where I got stuck at first is due date, which is always a problem for me, because I have this feeling everything was due yesterday. And then I panic. But as it turns out, in every task there’s also a thing called “Log”. And when you click that, you can say when (you think) you’ve done this task last. Which is far more convenient for me than to start guessing when I need to get it done. Based on the last time I did something, and how regularly I want to do it, the app gives a nice gradual colour scheme to each task. Which brings me to the second reason why I like this app: RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAINBOWS. I really like colours sorted by rainbow. 🙂

Edit: the default colour setting goes from red to green. To get the red to blue rainbow colours, go to Settings > Color Range > Extended.

I’ve been using Regularly for two days now, and it gives me good clues on what my top productive procrastination should be, and lets me tick off random items from my “little bursts” cleaning list. So all in all, it seems to be working.

In closing, Nattily’s blog has a really awesome article that offers an in-depth analysis of procrastination vs. executive dysfunction vs. ability to do things “that are duller than, I don’t know, dull things” (with photos and coloured highlighters!). And Neurodivergent K’s blog has some very useful tips on how to “autistify” your surroundings to make things like cleaning easier to remember and execute. Also with photos!

A healthy mind in a tidy house

Time to come clean.

I can’t.

I’m rubbish at keeping my own house clean. That was an unintentional pun, by the way. Coming clean was intentional. Rubbish wasn’t.

I hide my rubbish. I hide this.

The funny thing is, I took these pictures after I’d already vacuumed and mopped the ground floor. I’ve sort of ordered them by progressive messiness. I hadn’t cleaned the ground floor in over two months. Had to do it now, because my dad is coming over to pick up some stuff this Wednesday. Can’t let him see how bad it is. I’m showing it to the internet. Can’t show it to my dad.

(The picture of the cat hair? My entire living room was like that. Upstairs is still like that.)

Another funny thing is that I’m actually pretty good at the physical act of cleaning. I know what to do and how to do it. I was a professional cleaner for two years. Old ladies with a life’s experience of housekeeping gave me compliments on how well I kept their house clean. I’m good at it. And very thorough.

Which is where the autism comes in, I suppose.

Not only do I have problems with executive function, actually getting to the point where I can start cleaning and not overanalysing all the things I need to do and becoming completely paralysed from all the choices involved, I also have a problem with doing a half-arsed job. I look at a household chore and picture what the end result needs to be. And then I want to make that happen. I focus too much on the end result. And with housekeeping that means I usually end up feeling either overwhelmed or like I haven’t accomplished enough.

Because housekeeping is far more about doing a little bit each day and not worrying about getting it “done”.

And I can’t do that. Once I start, I need to finish it. I need to reach that end goal in order to get my dopamine hit. My happy buzz. My sense of achievement. My reward.

So instead, everything about household chores seems designed to make me feel like even more of a failure than I already feel I am.

And that’s when you get those pictures.

There’s two reasons why I can finally be honest about this. Firstly, I hope this will make someone else on the spectrum feel a bit better about their own mess. You’re not the only one. There are many of us who struggle. When you’re struggling, it’s no good beating yourself up about it: you need to find other ways to cope. I’m still working on it, but I think that admitting to myself that I won’t get that satisfaction from cleaning, that I won’t need to do it perfectly because there’s no reward anyway, will help me in that.

Secondly, this is not the worst it’s ever been. The worst would need a trigger warning for contamination OCDs and probably a hazmat suit.

The title “A healthy mind in a tidy house” is a play on the Latin Mens sana in corpore sano, which means a healthy mind in a healthy body. This is taken to mean that a person is only healthy when he is occupied both intellectually and physically.

Update: I’ve managed to make some progress!