Autism & living simply

Life is often loud, overwhelming and fast-paced. We almost become robotic in the way we exist. We do things automatically, without thinking and often without caring. We end up locked into routines that exhaust us instead of enriching our lives, and engage in an endless, consumerist lifestyle that does nothing but damage, both to us and to those around us. Being autistic in this world can be suffocating at times. I’ve often found myself being dragged into this very lifestyle as a type of masking. Part of me doesn’t understand the need to follow suit and conform to societal expectations, but another part of me holds onto that for fear of appearing too different, not fitting in and never finding my place in this world.

I’ve recently started to respect myself for who I am and embrace my own quirky personality and unique style and interests. In doing this, I’ve come to realise that one of my main challenges is existing in a constant state of over-stimulation. I seem to always be surrounded by things and ‘noise’: colours, textures, sounds, decisions, options… and it crowds my already brimming mind. Even the simplest of tasks – such as getting dressed for work – was a challenge.  Having to choose what to wear and make decisions often led to anxiety and overwhelm, which would last for the rest of the day. After discussing potential solutions with my partner, we came to realise that the problem was the overwhelm and the number of options. We slowly began to whittle them down and put away clothes and items I hadn’t worn or used in a while. We worked our way through everything until I was left with a small array of trousers, dungarees, T-shirts and shirts. In removing all the excess clothes and endless options, it had suddenly made everything ‘quieter’ and easier to manage. Everything felt easier to control, and decisions became either A or B, as opposed to being an array of what seemed like endless combinations and options to choose from. I’ve now translated this to the rest of my life, keeping only the essentials.

No clutter.

No overstimulation.

Minimal options to choose from and decisions to be made.

I’d never really stopped to think about how much easier life could be with less. It had never occurred to me that living simply could help significantly reduce my anxiety and mental clutter. It took me a while to process the idea that I didn’t actually need a lot of the items I chose to donate or recycle. I’d held onto them ‘just in case’ or because I couldn’t face sorting through what I had. The task overwhelmed me and often ended with my stress and anxiety levels through the roof. Since taking these steps my mind feels calmer. The whirring thoughts and worries are somewhat quieter, and everything feels more under control. It has made me think about my values and what I want from life. Many questions have arisen, but lots of answers, too. In many ways this feels like the start of a journey.

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