Scratching The Itch: Routines and Holidays

If only they were “everywhere”

I know I’ve written about routines and the holidays before–like last year–but this is my fucking spot and I think it’s important to talk about this shit. So yeah, this wasn’t the best holiday season for me. It’s a time of year that’s always tough because it requires me to do a lot of things I struggle with, like socializing, dealing with crowds, and an over-fucking-abundance of sensory issues. It’s also a major (but generally welcome) upset of my routine and I fucking live and die by my routine. Because routines allow me to put certain shit on autopilot so I can focus on the harder parts of navigating this dystopian hellscape that neurotypicals have created. This season, though. This season has seemed exponentially fucking worse than usual. I won’t say the whole season has been one long “fuck my life” moment, but significant portions of it have.

Fucking Bomb Cyclone Wrecked Me

Part of the “FML” piece was that goddamn bomb cyclone that rolled through right before Christmas. Because on top of all the normal stuff, there was the added element of really shitty weather. Like “teens and single digit temperatures” and “waking up Christmas Eve to frozen pipes” shitty. I called a plumber but they turned out to be fucking useless. Not so useless that they had any goddamn problem charging me $150, though. I mean, yeah, it was a weekend and a holiday and all. But still. If that wasn’t enough, my heat couldn’t keep up, since I was in and out all day trying to thaw the pipes and have water. And, to make things even more fun, I couldn’t access my usual coping skills due to having no time/too busy surviving/too fucking cold. Like I said, it wasn’t the best holiday season for me.

Coping Skills Are Key To Surviving This Shit

Coping skills are, indeed, key for me to survive shit like the holidays. And, my routines are one of my most important coping mechanisms. Not having them means that I’ve spent the past two weeks recovering. And by “recovering”, I mean trying to make my days as mundane and routine as is humanly fucking possible. Yes, I know that sounds so goddamn boring. Hell, there’s even a part of me that, every time I say something like this, thinks, “How the fuck can we stand this? Don’t we need stimulation? Like, fucking constantly?” That’s my ADHD talking and he’s not entirely wrong. But I also know that we have had quite enough stimulation lately, thank you. I am in dire need of a goddamn break.

Re-establishing Some Fucking Normalcy

As I said in the intro, I’ve talked about this before, but whenever I have a stressful period–especially one where my routines aren’t accessible–one of my go-to responses is aggressively re-establishing those routines. And, doing so can feel like scratching an itch. Sometimes, it’s an itch I didn’t even fucking know I had. Take last Monday, for example, when I un-decorated for Christmas. I distinctly remember a feeling of relief once everything was down and packed away, and the boxes were back in their proper place. Things just felt right, you know? Then, later that evening, I told Parker that it felt weird without the tree and the other stuff around. Not bad, just… weird. The next day, as I was cooking dinner, he said, “I figured it out. Why it feels off in here.” I was intrigued and said, “Why is that?” He responded that the old butter churn that belonged to my grandmother hadn’t made it back to its proper place. “But I fixed it,” he said. “Now the vibes are right.” I walked into the room and immediately knew he was correct. Is that weird? Probably. But the effect was so calming, I don’t give a fuck.

How Does It Work?

Basically, routines let me put certain parts of my life–generally the more repetitive, every day, semi-bullshit parts–on autopilot so I can focus on the shit that I can’t do that with. But, as you can see from the above example, it’s more than that. The Autism Wiki site, quoting the National Autistic Society (the leading UK charity for autistic people) says,

“Reality to an autistic person is a confusing, interacting mass of events, people, places, sounds and sights… Set routines, times, particular routes and rituals all help to get order into an unbearably chaotic life. Trying to keep everything the same reduces some of the terrible fear.”

Routines, for NDs, bring normalcy. They are a tool that allows us to put the unrelenting shitshow of life into some sort of coherent order, one that we can navigate. This is why upsetting a neurodivergent person’s routine can trigger a goddamn meltdown. If you’ve ever been in the vicinity of one, then you know they are not a fun fucking time.

So, the Itch Is Scratched. What’s Next?

Well, what’s next is continuing to live within the system I’ve built for myself so I can function like a fucking adult. Well, almost like an adult. I mean, I’m still me after all. But isn’t easy. Between all the bullshit society throws at me as a neurodivergent individual and the utter goddamn vagary of daily life, my routines can be upset without notice. For someone who deals with change as poorly as I do (it’s about as much fun as getting tasered in the balls), that’s not a great thing. But it is what passes for adult life, so I’m gonna have to deal with it. Which, also, is about as much fun as getting tasered in the balls. Fuck.

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