When planning doesn't work




Today is a difficult day and the rest of the week isn't looking much better. And not difficult in an aspie sense either, just plain old, anybody's-business difficult.

The problems this week revolve around Jeffrey, one of my cats. He's been ill on and off for weeks and we never seem to get very far. Yesterday it looked as if he might be on his way out, then he rallied again and now I'm waiting to see if I can save him or if I have to make the decision every pet owner dreads.

Considering how hard it can be to get through a normal day, the harder ones are a real kick in the teeth. I don't know if being aspie is sometimes a blessing on these occasions though.

I was thinking about this at 5am, having dragged myself out of bed again to check on Jeffrey. I found myself veering away from obsessing over Jeffrey and onto other things. It was like a force-field was bouncing me off the Jeffers problems and back out into the ether.

I'm sure it was a protective mechanism so that I didn't worry myself down but it made planning anything very difficult. I was trying to sort out in my mind what I would do if...then filling in various scenarios.

It's a coping mechanism to arrange problems this way in my mind and although it means I worry more, it also helps to me to worry less, when the time comes. I dread not doing this, only to find I've then blundered into a situation and made decisions based on the moment which I'll regret afterwards.

It was no good, though. I couldn't think about Jeffrey and ended up going back to sleep - no bad thing. I woke looking like a horror show and dragged myself around the house, getting the teens ready for college.

I tried again to plan ahead and just couldn't. Bounced right off it, just like before, leaving me wondering what on earth I was meant to do now. How does an obsessive planner function when their planning lever is stuck in the Off position?

Well, what this planner did was muddle on. I took the teens to college, called at the shop for Jeffrey-enticing foods and sat in the car park, trying to work out what to say to the vet when she rang.

More bouncing. It wasn't that I was avoiding the subject of Jeffrey. I knew the conversation might end up with her recommending he be put to sleep. Goodness knows, I suffered enough yesterday going over this very point.

I knew she would want to take him into the office to be tested but he was so seriously stressed yesterday I was afraid that it would be the final straw if I took him out again.

I worked my way around the problem and tried to sneak up on planning what I would say to her but it saw me coming and I didn't get close. As soon as I was anywhere near thinking about what I would say, it shoved me off into the street and ran down a side alley.

Funnily enough, I had no problems thinking what the vet would say - that didn't mind being part of the planning. It was when I tried to fill in my responses that I came up blank.

Was it just stress? (Just stress, oh how we could laugh). Was I reacting by shying away from the problem, even though I thought I was trying to resolve it?

I'm not sure, but what I did instead was drive home and offer Jeffrey stinky fish (No) then strips of pork (Yes). I sat there, unable to plan and at a loss as to how the day would go, watching as he worked his way, very slowly, through the pork strips. It was only when he was on the last piece that I realised he had eaten his first proper meal for days.

While I was worrying and anti-planning, he had got on with what he needed to do and eaten. He also had something to drink. We are now at the stage where both these things are blessings. What I am left with is the root concern, that his few steps forward always seem to end in even more coming back.

So, the problem is not resolved. I still sit here with Jeffrey on the floor nearby, looking sad and quiet. But he ate more pork strips for elevenses and will hopefully eat more for a mid-afternoon snack.

Perhaps, by the time I finally talk to the vet (I'm still waiting) and by the end of today, my planning lever will have creaked back into action. I might be able to look again at the whole situation and be clear, in my own mind, of what I need to do next.

Eventually, it may be the same decision I dreaded making when this all came to a head yesterday but at least, with this break in the thinking-planning-worrying, my brain has had a chance to step back and take a breath to steady itself.

I do feel that not being able to plan has meant that future decisions will be made with a better frame of mind, which means I can trust them more. We all know what I'll probably end up having to do, but making a final decision will be easier if I am confident in myself.

So, readers, we sometimes have days which are difficult, which are hard for aspies and non-aspies alike. Like anyone under stress, aspies have to find their own way through and today has shown me that all my usual coping mechanisms can be switched off at what seem like vital moments. However, as this day has gone on, I can now say that I needed them to be switched off, to cope with the rest of the day and the ones to come.

In the end, we don't always have to be empowered or de-stressed. We can simple be ourselves and go on as well as we can, until we get a handle on the situation and are able to respond. It may take more time than we'd like but sometimes things do take their own time and there's nothing we can do about it.

In future, I'll still try to plan and see what comes before it arrives, but I won't panic if that doesn't happen. It shows that even a control freak like me can let things be once in a while and come out the better for it.

Amanda

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