The older I get, the more I try to create a calm space for myself. Stress isn’t good for anyone, but particularly for autistics. The world generally causes us massive amounts of stress just being the way it is.
Home is my safe zone. And I’ve gone out of my way to try to create an environment that causes me the least amount of stress. My spouse has been really helpful and supportive in my need for calm and quiet.
Here’s what makes up my happy space on particularly stressful days:
Noise-cancelling headphones (a new addition that has done wonders for my stress).
Fleece blankets – we have six in our bedroom.
A scent I enjoy. Two of my absolute favourites are black cherry and strawberry lemonade.
A TV show. It’s usually As Time Goes By or Bake Off. Both are shows that I find incredibly relaxing.
Those are all things that help me cope on rough days.
I tried to write a definition for executive dysfunction from my perspective but the words kept getting all bungled up. So I’m including a video below by one of my favourite autistic YouTubers that does a better job than I could.
A brilliant YouTube video that goes into what executive dysfunction.
For me executive dysfunction is something that makes my life incredibly difficult. It makes meeting deadlines tough. The older I get, the more I’ve had to find ways to work around it/with it.
So, here are a few of my personal life hacks for dealing with days when executive dysfunction is being particularly difficult.
I think about the first 3 tasks I need to accomplish at the start of a day the night before (and also when I wake up. For example, I need to walk the dog, clean the downstairs bathroom, and have breakfast. If nothing else, I find it helps me focus on three things I can get done early.
Cooking. Keep it simple. I pick recipes that don’t have a million steps. If a recipe has too many steps or too many words, I get lost and don’t want to do it.
Accepting that some days I just can’t. It doesn’t make me lazy. It doesn’t mean I’m worthless. I’m just having a rough day. I can try again the next day.
Have a cleaning routine. I used to try to accomplish everything on the weekend. It often failed miserably. Now? I have a list of ‘daily tasks,’ I do one each day. I also have a list of more in-depth cleaning that I do across three months in autumn and again in spring. Even on rough days, I can usually manage one cleaning tasks (or one room.)
Finding the right level of distraction. I need white noise to accomplish stuff, otherwise the silence is too loud and distracting. I usually put on music or a TV show/movie that I’ve seen before.
What about you?
Do you deal with executive dysfunction? What are ways you’ve learned to help yourself?
I’ll be perfectly honest. April is my least favourite month because of the ableist nonsense surrounding autistic acceptance month. I spend a lot of April sharing my thoughts on Twitter. And frankly, a lot of it is negative.
One of the things that causes me great irritation in April is how autistic voices don’t LEAD the conversation on autism. So, this year, I decided to celebrate autistics. This week, I’m sharing a small selection of my favourites to follow on twitter :
As an autistic author, I’ve always prized inclusivity, diversity and unique own voices.
Talking openly about being an autistic author, my experiences, my journey is just one way to hopefully educate and prevent the many misconceptions that can be damaging and insulting. Sometimes, it’s necessary to put it bluntly and plainly in a list of does and don’ts.
Not an all-encompassing list, of course. And my experiences as an autistic may differ from another.
If you’ve met one autistic, you’ve met one autistic.
Tell them they don’t seem autistic.
Tell them it’s ‘person with autism.’
Suggest a cure. Don’t. By suggesting a cure, suggests to us that you wish we weren’t alive.
Treat them like they’re a child and can’t understand what you’re saying.
Tell them their autistic characters aren’t realistic because they’re not like your child/relative/friend.
Insist they’re ‘so brave.’ Seriously. Don’t.
Email them with your expertise on autism despite the fact that you’re not actually autistic.
Ask them if they’ve tried a gluten-free diet.
Suggest yoga might make everything better.
For a point of reference, these are all things I’ve been personally told either by friends, family, authors, or readers. Some have been emailed directly to me. Others were said in person. Some have been directed to me on social media.
What can you do?
A quick search on Google will find Autistic bloggers and Autistic-led organisations with loads of resources. Here’s one of my favourites: https://autisticadvocacy.org/
Be patient in conversation with us. Auditory processing disorder is something a lot of autistics deal with, we may need you to repeat yourself for us to catch up.
Meet us halfway. We’re doing our best in a non-autistic world, educating yourself can help bridge the gap.
Extend invitations to us. We might not always say yes but no one enjoys being excluded.
**Thanks to my beloved friend and publisher for giving me a hand with the wording of this post**
What secondary characters do I wish I could explore?
(Me to my muse.)
This is a dangerous topic to discuss. My muse has a habit of running away with me when I’m supposed to be focus on a specific story. But, I thought it would be fun to talk about the various secondary characters in all of my books that I wish I could’ve explored further or written something for.
I picked just three either individuals or couples. There were a few others but if I give my muse too much temptation, I might get myself into trouble.
The first one who came to mind was Silus and Zeb from The Sin Bin. Remi’s cousin and Scottie’s little brother who develop a romance in The Lion Tamer. I’ve always wanted to write their romance, but things just didn’t work out there. Maybe one day.
The second person who came to mind was Jesse from Found You.
Here’s the intro you get to Jesse in the book:
Jesse had lived in Key West for almost twenty-three years. He’d arrived on Dusk’s seventh birthday, having drifted ashore in a banged-up life raft, looking like a cross between Santa Claus and a starved pirate. The man had claimed to have no memory of where or when his boat had sunk or what his last name was. No one knew his true age or name, though he appeared now to be in his late sixties. A jack of all trades who had done stayed on the island, doing odd jobs to make ends meet.
I have ALWAYS wanted to delve deeply into the mysterious past of Jesse and what led up to him getting shipwrecked in Key West. Maybe one day.
A couple we see in The Sin Bin books. I’ve written a flash fiction for them at one point. But I think it would be brilliant to dip into their backgrounds. Remi and Sara both have some interesting family dramas to cope with. We only get the slightly hint about them in the series and again in Forged in Flood.
Honorable Mentions: Ahmed from The Misguided Confession, Dr. Gen from The Caretaker, and Bishan’s siblings in The Grasmere Trilogy.