Fall is a season of change. The leaves morph in color. Gradually the trees shed their cover leaving barren branches to stick from the fiery skyline. The weather shifts constantly from winter cold to summer warm. This autumn, I am also experiencing a great deal of life change. Most prominently, at the moment, is that I will be moving this weekend.
I’m moving into an adorable stone cottage with a huge yard and woods (which will be a wonderful upgrade from our small apartment). I’m super excited to be moved in. I love the idea of the house and have so many wonderful ideas about what to do with the space. However, right now, I’m stressed out and scared.
Change is not something I have ever coped with well (yet in all my readings about autism in the past, I never put the pieces together…). Even when I know a change will be good, my very being seems to fight against it. As a big change approaches, a knot grows inside my chest. It’s as if some hornets decide to move in and form a buzzing nest at my core that continues to grow. My sensory threshold drops lower and lower until it’s almost nonexistent.
As I’ve worked more to analyze my reactions to life, I’ve started to notice some patterns in how I react to change and I think I have some ideas as to why change is so hard. My mind constantly races through possibilities. Whenever I am presented with new or different information, I analyze it from as many angles as I can. When I am presented with a major change, like moving to a new place, I start to plan and analyze. I have a high need for control and want to plan as much as possible to make sure I am prepared for whatever happens. As a result of this, my mind starts to run scenarios in the background. With the move, I’ve analyzed different ways to set up the house, ways to organize our stuff, how best to use the driveway, and, most recently, my morning routine. However, this is where I’ve gotten stuck. Before we started the moving process, I had a morning routine that worked well for me. Most morning, I managed to make it out of the house without having a meltdown and made it to work with everything I needed for the day. However, since beginning the moving process, my routine has been thrown off because our apartment has been in a constant state of chaos. As a result, I have had a meltdown before leaving the house almost every day for the past two weeks. When we move in, I’ve realized I’m going to have to come up with a whole new routine and that is terrifying.
Right now, I live in a pretty small apartment. While at many times a source of annoyance, the smaller space is wonderful in the mornings because everything I need to do to get ready is close together. My old routine kept me bouncing between the bedroom, the bathroom, and the kitchen as I got ready. However, the house is two stories. My bedroom and the bathroom are both upstairs, but further apart than I am currently used to (no more stumbling to the bathroom without my glasses on….). The kitchen and everything else are down stairs. This change of layout is going to require a much different order of events to prevent having to go up and down the stairs repeatedly. Not only am I particularly clumsy in the mornings (I tend to drop at least ten things before leaving as well as bumping into a few stationary objects), but my endometriosis pain tends to be pretty bad when I wake up. This is where I have been getting stuck, however. I keep trying to plan a routine, but get stuck on the different possibilities and factors that could come into play.
Throughout this moving process, I’ve found that a lot of my difficulties with change come down to control. In a familiar environment, I build ways to manage my sensory issues and other triggers without even really thinking about it. Over time, I have made our apartment somewhere I can truly rest and relax by altering the space. Our bedroom has a variety of light settings (through a combination of multiple light sources) as well as light blocking curtains that allows me to control the brightness at any time. We have found bedding that is soft and comfortable. I have space to pace and move around if I need to stim. All of the décor is visually pleasing for me and I’m familiar with squeaky floor boards and little intricacies of the space. Everything has a proper place to be. When we move, I’m going to have a brand new space to work with, and right now that is frightening. I know that once we move in and get settled, I’ll make myself another safe space, a space that may even be better than what I had before. However, for right now, my safe space is in chaos and I have nowhere to go to truly calm down.
Looking back at other moments of big change in my life, though I didn’t understand my sensory sensitives at the time, I can see the same base fears at play that made those changes difficult for me. When I changed jobs most recently, I was leaving a job that had become highly volatile and potentially dangerous. I needed to leave, and I knew this, but I was terrified to change. While my old job had become increasingly difficult, I knew how to interact with people. I had developed coping mechanisms for that space. It was familiar and under my control. Looking at the possibilities of a new space was terrifying because I would have to learn all new people, figure out the appropriate ways to interact in a new environment. What if the new job was absolutely awful (not a terrible fear as this job turned out to be pretty awful)? What if I couldn’t adjust? What if I messed up with people and ended up the outcast? While my old job was bad at the time I was leaving, at least it was a familiar bad. Similarly, while I am so excited to have a living space that better aligns with what I want, I’m scared that I won’t be able to adjust or that it will end up being awful. While there are many things aspects of my current residence I will be happy to leave behind, at least it is familiar and within my control.
Right now, I just need to make it through the rest of this moving process without a safe space. I know it’s only a few more days, but the absolute chaos inside my home is proving very difficult for me to cope with. I’m having difficulty finding things, which is made all the more difficult by my tendency to misplace objects (this is particularly awful when it’s my e-cig which leads to frustration over not being able to find it combined with nicotine cravings). There are boxes and piles of things everywhere which has led to bumping into way more things than usual and a few mystery bruises. With the mess everywhere (which I know is just a part of the process), my bedroom is no longer the calming sanctuary it once was.
I know I’ll make it through and that soon enough I’ll have a new safe space that will hopefully be better than ever. Now I just have to wait…