Welcome to my new blog ‘Sensing the Simple Life’. I shall begin by introducing myself and what I am all about.
But first, why ‘Sensing the Simple Life’? Simple (excuse the unintentional pun), my second book published last year was ‘Sensing the City: An Autistic Perspective’. It made sense (sorry, another unintentional pun) and I liked the sound of it.
For readers of my previous blog, ‘the autistic voice’, the literalism of an autistic writer is more obvious. To the uninitiated, I shall explain a little more about autism (in part taken from my aforementioned book).
You might have days when everything seems to go wrong? The alarm doesn’t go off, you are late for work, the train breaks down, your sandwich has gone soggy, it rains and your hair goes wild… well an autistic day can affect you in the same way but it might take just one thing to cause it. It might be as small as the post being five minutes later than usual, or the teabags running out just as you need to make a cup of tea. Just one small thing can turn the day into a complete disaster; a diversion on your normal route to work or someone arriving a few minutes late for an appointment. These simple occurrences might spark the most disastrous and stressful day you could ever imagine. There will possibly be one or likely most of the following: anger, tears, feelings of depression, anxiety, shouting, screaming, throwing things, overeating or not eating at all… The list is endless and quite extreme but when you are caught up in one of these days, it just goes on forever and makes you feel like nothing will help.
The filters in our brains are filled with ‘holes’ which let far too much information in. This overload means that we are unable to select what we actually need or what is relevant and we progress quickly to sensory meltdown that is widespread panic causing diverse emotions and physical actions. Meltdowns can be devastating both inwardly and in the way the individual lashes out. Meltdowns can be angry, depressive, verbally or physically aggressive, and mostly distressing. We often blank out what we do or say, it is not personal to anyone other than us, and we have usually been building up to it over hours, days, or even weeks. Just one trigger can set it in motion and sensory overload is a substantial trigger.
Even though I may not always progress to full overload, often if there are too many sensory triggers around me, I may just ‘blank out’. This happens to me often when I am with other people; I can be chatting away one minute, and the next I just go completely silent and chatter or noise around me goes over my head and I lose all focus. Outwardly it looks as though I am ignoring people, or look bored or am being rude. I just switch out. My internal system seems to just suddenly kick back in when my brain has caught up with everything it has digested. Not every autistic individual will react like this; we are a heterogeneous community of people and all have our way of reacting or dealing with what goes on to or around us.
Sometimes the effects of an ‘autistic’ day can last for several days afterwards. Autistic individuals do not want sympathy though; we also have spectacular days when our sensory differences, unique characteristics and abilities are put to good use and light us up inside.
One of the diagnostic differences for autistic individuals is that we are likely to have sensory impairments in one or more of our senses. These impairments are more about perception than biological in nature such as blindness or deafness. An added complexity is that no two autistic individuals are likely to have the same sensory perceptual pattern. While I might be affected by strong aromas, another might not even notice them at all. Some individuals perceive visually in small fragments rather than looking at a whole picture. My autistic husband often points out images in wallpaper, or on floor tiles for example (apparently we have a duck on our kitchen floor and Oliver Cromwell’s face in our living room), whereas I can only see the overall differences in the natural slate and flowers on the wall.
We can have other traits including social and communication differences: the need for literal language is common. I am also terrible at ‘getting’ jokes!
‘Sensing the Simple Life’ is not all about autism, although as an autistic writer and human being, my perspective is always bound to be flavoured with a little autistic spice. I have also discovered over the years that a more simple life is helpful in dealing with some of the more frustrating aspects of autism… for me and my family at least.
The last few years have been busy, emotional and exhausting; I will elaborate more as time goes on. I have been striving to simplify our lives to meet the needs of these challenges and since I love to write, the marriage of the two seemed rational.
For now I shall leave you with a quotation from one of my all-time favourite books ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. This has been pivotal in my writing and each of my doctoral papers including my final thesis included a quotation from the wonderful Harper Lee who co-incidentally published in 1960, the year my fabulous husband was born. Another coincidence was that one of the characters Boo Radley has been said to be autistic. I love co-incidences.
In the words of Atticus Finch (character in TKAM), ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it’.
Well readers, I hope you enjoy metaphorically ‘climbing into my skin and walking around in it’. I shall endeavour to inspire, entertain and journal my foray into a more simple life.
Until we meet again…
PS. Check out my website: https://sensingthesimplelife.com where you will find links to my professional sites and books for purchase, should you choose to explore further.
‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it’. (Lee, 1960)