Good news, at least from my vantage point: I’m back! Now that the internet is again fully functional in my home, I can explain why I was gone for so long. The main reason is due to the atomic holocaust that is an aspie moving house.
I’ll explain my moving situation for a real world example, then I will give some suggestions on making a move easier for children and adults with an ASD.
My brother and I share habitation, and our lease at the first apartment we ever lived in on our own was just about up. So it was time to either renew, or move somewhere more affordable. Being individuals decidedly lacking in wealth, we opted to move. We found a nice trailer park,(No, not your typical couch-on-the-front-lawn-rusted-pickup-on-blocks-in-the-driveway trailer park. It’s well kept.) with a combination of fees significantly lower than those we had been paying before. All in all, it was a logical choice to make living more manageable, and a good one.
However, for some reason, I had not been mentally prepared for the shock of moving. I suppose it was because less than one year prior, I had moved halfway across the country away from the place I’d lived most of my life, as well as my family, and didn’t seem to feel too many ill effects.
What I failed to consider was the subconscious standard I had set. Obviously, people with Asperger’s love routine and certainty. Sometimes these develop in idiosyncratic ways within the mind of the individual themselves, while other times it seems that once a blank slate is filled with a routine, whether the routine was invented by the aspie or someone else, that routine then becomes THE routine to be followed in that set of circumstances every time.
For example, the first time at a new restaurant, I might sit anywhere or order anything. But the second time, and every time after that, I will feel a strong compulsion to sit in the same spot and order the same thing I did the first time.
Or, in the case of my first home away from parents, completely under my control, it didn’t matter to me for the most part how things got set up. (Though I did do things like obsess over perfectly spacing a set of shelves near a window with a tape measure and pen to ensure they were perfectly centered with regard to the floor,ceiling, and window.) It was a blank slate full of possibility.
But then, after many months of living in that place, it had imprinted on me. The position of every single thing from the kitchen sink and dishwasher to the couches and TV, to my bed, desk, and decorative city-skyline themed throw rug and all of these relative to each other had become cemented as home.
Home. My peaceful retreat from the noisy, chaotic world and all its bills and deadlines and paperwork. I felt as comfortable moving around in it as I do moving my thoughts through my own brain or as I imagine my blood would feel moving through my circulatory system, if blood had feelings.
Then we moved.
At first I had thought nothing of it. But during the entire process I could feel parts of me resisting, becoming confused, disoriented. The place where my mind could relax was disappearing and the place it was moving to was being filled with boxes of stuff that needed organizing and unpacking and cleaning up. Such a mess!
In efforts to make the new space feel more “mine”,I had painted an accent wall of my new room a delightfully bright color green, my favorite. (It is called Lazy Lizard on the label, which made me love it more.) I kept all my furniture and my rug from before. I got everything set up as best as it would fit in the new room.
But I instantly felt entirely out of place. Like I was a guest staying in someone else’s spare room. The room is MUCH smaller than my old one. The window faces east, not west. the foot of the bed faces north, instead of west. there’s no room for the bedside table to actually be by the bed, so it is by the door. My desk is in the right place, but everything relative to it is not. My reading chair has to sit on top of part of my city rug, blocking much of the image which I used to enjoy looking at. The closet has sliding doors that stick terribly. And the sun spends a good deal of time making that little room the warmest in the trailer, which is not my cup of tea, as I like the coldest and darkest rooms.
My mind automatically made these sorts of observations with every item and room in the new place. This was not home. This was a beast that needed taming, and I was too tired to do anything about it. Besides, it wasn’t MY beast, and I didn’t want to tame it. I wanted my room back. I wanted my home.
I found myself lacking motivation. I would lie motionless for extended periods. getting up in the morning was a struggle. The humor I use to interface with the world was faded to a shadow of its normal self. I must have been more dreary than I realized, because even a coworker (a category of people among the least involved in my personal life) asked if I was alright. He said I didn’t seem my normal self, and he noticed this trend stretching through the days.
I dreaded every task that had to be accomplished, and only forced myself to do them when they simply could wait no longer. I realized after reading this article from the blog Aspie Strategy, that this can be what depression looks like in a person with Asperger’s.
Depressed. Me! This is rather uncharacteristic of me. It is not often that I feel so down. Now if I, a fully functional (I guess that depends on what you take “fully” to mean.) adult can feel this out of sorts over a move, how must an autistic child feel? Even allistic kids are apprehensive about moving, leaving everything they’ve known for their entire little lives. To an aspie, the world may as well be ending, because in a sense more real than it may seem, their world IS.
What can be done to alleviate this?
The National Autistic Society in the UK has an article entitled “Moving House” that’s full of many great ideas. It’s designed primarily with children in mind, but the principles apply to adults as well. They focus on keeping the AS person in loop about the move from as early on as possible, highlighting all the positive reasons for a move, explaining the process, such as the packing away of toys or other prized possessions and how this is only temporary, and allowing them a measure of control by having them help pick colors for their room, having them box up some things and help move them, etc. Of course, an adult can go over these things in their own mind, and a kind friend or family member can help them to focus on the positive aspects of their move.
Once the move is over, I’ve found that the only way to overcome that “just visiting” feeling is to make the space your own. Like I said, I painted my room my color, and arranged my furniture in the best layout possible. But the real relief started coming when I began unpacking my boxes of “nonessential” items- that is, things that aren’t food or clothes- and arranging them how I wanted. This includes my books, of which I have plenty.
I started doing this after reading about how the author of “Life With Asperger’s” felt an improvement upon organizing HIS books. It helped him calm down and feel less of the “crowded” feeling that comes from moving with all those boxes and people milling about. I felt the same effects. It also helped when I unpacked my glass chess set and put all the pieces back into the positions they had been in during the game I’ve been playing with myself for months, and proceeded to play a few turns.
These things rebuilt pieces of the landscape I had become accustomed to, and playing the chess game moved a few of the pieces into new positions, blending the familiar with the new in an interesting and soothing way.
So those are some tips on managing a move with autism or Asperger’s. Hopefully they can help to make the situation less of a struggle. I say less because it will still be difficult. It’s still a big change, and no one resists change like the ASD crowd. The above steps are very helpful, but you’ve also got to allow time for adjustment. Don’t force your aspie (Or your aspie self.) to move forward too quickly. For the first week, they may want more time alone, or be prone to sleeping in a little later. Without allowing them to slip into a dangerous downward spiral of depression, give them this time.
That’s what the Impossible Girl did for me. While laying prone on my new bedroom floor and texting her about my stresses with regard to the new place, I said,”This doesn’t bother normal people so much.” I was wishing those unpleasant feelings would go away and that for once, I could just be like everyone else. But she replied,”You’re autistic. You have to give yourself time.” She allowed me my feelings. I wasn’t being unreasonable. This was a major source of discomfort to me, and that’s just a part of who I am. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Thanks, Impossible Girl. (:
The Aspiring Aspergian