Routine Is Important When You’re Neurodivergent

Does it make for boring days? Maybe. But I’ve had enough ADHD excitement to last me a fucking lifetime

Today, I’m talking about how routine is important when you’re neurodivergent. I’m going to start with a story and you might find yourself wondering what the hell it has to do with routine. It does but you’ll have to bear with me for a few minutes.

A few weeks ago, I had a slight scare. And, by “slight scare”, I mean “practically shit my pants.” It was Sunday, around lunchtime–I remember this because I was eating lunch–and my son was taking a shower. In the middle of it all, I heard a “thud” from the bathroom. I waited for a second to see if he said anything. When all I got was silence, I called out to him. No answer. I called again. No answer. I got up and went to the bathroom door before calling again. Still no answer. I tried to open the door but there was pressure on it. When I finally got it open, I saw my son lying on the floor, the shower curtain over his face, having a full-on tonic-clonic seizure.  And that is when I almost shit my pants.

Your Kid is Always Your Kid. Always

If you’re a parent, you understand that whole “shit my pants” thing. It doesn’t matter that my son is 27 and as tall as I am. It doesn’t matter that he’s smarter than I am. Or that’s he’s way more responsible than me–to be fair, though, that last one isn’t hard to pull off. Your kid is always your kid, no matter how old they are. So, when something like this happens, it scares the shit out of you. The only thing that kept me from completely fucking losing it was the fact that, as a retired firefighter and EMT, I knew what was going on and what to do. My training kicked in and I immediately slipped back into “emergency operations” mode even though it’s been 10 years since I did any of that shit. Otherwise, I have no idea what the fuck I would’ve done.

A Good Ending to a Shitty Situation

Eventually, the seizure ended and he moved into what’s called the “postictal state” (think of it as the brain rebooting). This stage is characterized by confusion and he was no exception. The confusion led to some fucking funny exchanges (I probably told him he had a seizure 10 times and every time, he responded, “What!?”) as things settled down and he returned to his normal. The first order of business was making sure he was okay. Once that was done, we began figuring out where he should be seen: regular doc, urgent care, or emergency room. I was pretty sure what the answer would be but did not want to spend multiple goddamn hours at the ER if we didn’t have to. A call to our doctor’s walk-in clinic sank that hope, though, and we headed to the ER. Side note: I can’t say enough great shit about the folks at ConeHealth ED at Drawbridge. They were magnificent, taking excellent care of my son while respecting his chosen name and pronouns. And, it was a really slow day so we were out of there in a couple of hours. It was about as good an ending to a shitty situation as we could’ve hoped for.

Not to Be Repetitive, but Routine Is Important When You’re Neurodivergent

So, now we finally get to the meat of this post: the importance of routine. I’ve written about how crucial routine is to me as someone who’s neurodivergent. But that really hit home with me in the aftermath of this incident. My son and I talked things over when we got home from the ED and agreed the next day would be dedicated to finding some fucking normalcy. When life takes this kind of long wet shart on me, finding “normalcy” takes the form of routines. There are a lot of things I could’ve done, sleep in, make it a lazy day, stay away from people, etc. Instead, I got up the next morning at 6 AM, my usual time. There was a part of me that wanted nothing more than to hibernate and avoid people after so much enforced fucking socializing the day before, but it was a Monday, and Mondays are gym days. So I went to the gym. I ate lunch at the same time I always do. I watched the same television programs that I always do. Between 10 AM and 2 PM, I worked on my writing because that’s what I always do. Writing it out that way makes it sound like the most boring day ever. And, sometimes, that might be true. But on that particular day, it was an absolute fucking balm and helped me feel a tiny bit of control over my life again.

How It Works

And, that is probably the biggest selling point of routines. For me, at least. They’re a centering practice, relieving stress and anxiety and allow me to pull back from the edge when life is too fucking much, which makes them an integral coping strategy. They can also be a touchstone of normalcy when things are anything but fucking normal. They’ve been a major help this week while I was at the beach with my family. I don’t really handle travel all that well (not being in “my place” where things are familiar is so not my fucking jam), I was in almost constant contact with other people (the fact that they were people I love is the only way I could handle it), and I just went back to work after having the summer off (throwing off the timeline of establishing my fall semester routine). That’s a lot. But there’s more.

It’s All Routine

On top of all that, I’ve been dealing with website issues (a bad plug-in blew up my site) and my car broke down and no one in that area could fix in the time available, meaning I had to have it towed back to Greensboro (which was a  whole fucking thing on its own). But I found bits and pieces of my routines that I could maintain and hang on to what little goddamn sanity I have. I got up early, before anyone else, and stole a bit of quiet time. Then, I got out and exercised. I ate breakfast when I was done, which was followed by my morning coffee. I tried to spend a few minutes working on various writing projects (I am more than just a sweary blogger, you know). All of this is accomplished in snatches between enjoying moments with my grandkids. Was it “optimal”? No, but it was enough.  Rest assured, however, that next week the routines are coming back. Hard. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way.