The gym classes I go to have a nice predictable routine. There are set exercises to work your way through each week, for a six week stretch. At the beginning of the next term there’s a new routine to learn, but it’s an expected change and there’s support to ease you into the new exercises.
Yesterday was the last of a six-week stretch. The last predictable class before I had to adjust to change. And THEY CHANGED THE ROUTINE!!
It was no big deal. Where we usually do 50 minutes strength and 10 minutes conditioning, suddenly we were doing 25 strength, 5 conditioning, 25 strength, 5 conditioning. Not too hard. But it threw me a loop. To me it was a big deal. My brain was angry and panicking, and I couldn’t focus on the exercises. I had severe trouble transitioning from one set to another, even though I understood and remembered how the new session was supposed to go. I felt irrationally angry. I found myself stimming (which I usually clamp down on when in public ‘cos it was trained into me not to do it when I was young).
I’ve been learning how to deal with all my mental health stuff, so I stepped aside and sat down and covered my ears to reduce the external stimuli and started doing some calming techniques. It worked pretty well. It wasn’t a major meltdown by any means.
Anyway, the instructor notices what I’m doing and comes over to check on me.
The conversation goes as follows:
“Are you okay? Do you need some sugar?”
“No thanks, it’s an autism thing.”
“Ah, because we changed the routine? Take as long as you need.”
And that was it.
I was stunned.
I can understand if you don’t see why this was amazing to me, but I, like many others, have gone through life not knowing what was going wrong. We’ve been seen as “acting out” or “being rude” when situations overwhelm us beyond our ability to cope. I’ve never had the words to say “this is what’s wrong with me” and when I’ve tried to explain people often think I’m making excuses. Even if they do eventually understand it takes a lot of talking at a time when I’m not particularly up to talking. Dealing with meltdowns is hard. Dealing with people’s reactions to meltdowns is super-hard. And yesterday it was dealt with in four words.
This post is a celebration of the fact that people seem to be becoming more and more accepting and understanding of neurodiversity. This post is also a celebration of my diagnosis; without that I wouldn’t have had the words I needed.
‘Cos sometimes it’s not a big deal. Sometimes it’s just an autism thing.