How do you cope when everything seems to happen at once and you feel overwhelmed? How do you keep yourself going when you face real and complex issues? If a 'normal' problem sends you catapulting from the path then being overwhelmed by problems, challenges, difficulties is not going to be a simple fix.

The Aspergers mould already leaves little space for extra problems - being aspie-shaped is usually enough to bring stresses where other people see none. So how is an aspie meant to cope when life head-butts you and leaves you reeling from events which the most placid person would find stressful?

I'm talking about the big events - not necessarily marriage, divorce, moving house, bereavement and so on, but the other big events where problems come to a head and angst-ridden times carry you on the crest of sharp, glittering waves towards an unknown shore. Those moments in life when you find yourself in the eye of the storm with nowhere to turn.

In other words, those times when anyone would be stressed and when aspie-stress goes off the scale.

I was lying in bed a couple of weeks ago, relaying all the sudden and tremendous stresses I was facing. Events had come to a head and I was there, right at the forefront of it all with absolutely no way of avoiding any of my problems. Although there was one, big central issue, the process was a huge mass of smaller, sharp, nasty little problems which vexed me on their own, let alone with a load more to deal with.

I realised I was not just overwhelmed in the usual sense, I had gone past this to a whole other level of strain. I looked at what faced me and could see nothing to be done, no way to affect things for the better and, somehow worse than these, no way of fully understanding the situation.

It feels me to that understanding problems is the key to coping with them because knowledge helps you to realise what and why and where, meaning if you find yourself unable to change a situation, you can at least say why it happened. It matters to have this understanding, it makes life liveable on so many levels.

I looked at the dark ceiling in my bedroom and visualised the issues facing me. I felt like they were an enormous heap of separate problems which had been dumped together and were heaving in a giant mass right ahead of me. They were a living thing, stinking and moving under their own weight. They blocked the road and rose up before me with only a small patch of sky visible past them.

I saw myself as this tiny person stood before the heap, one hand raised to touch it so that I could work it out. But how could I work out such an enormous mess? What sense could I make of it? It was just too much, there was no way I could sort it out. And I also knew I wasn't making too much of it or enlarging the problem - it was as it appeared, a heaving, frightening pile of emotional garbage.

Readers, I let my hand reach out and touch one small part of it which I could understand and then I stepped back. I looked at the mass and knew I could not hope to work through it, definitely not that night and perhaps never. I saw that there are some things we are not able to understand.

This is letting go of the control which usually helps me cope with problems - not the type of control which means I can direct events but the sort which means I can say, 'I see this and I know what it is so I can walk with it,'. To completely let go of this control is a massive step, possibly a step bigger than the pile of problems I am facing.

I realised that it was healthy to tell myself to leave things alone. I should understand only what I could and not bother the rest. If understanding was to come then let it come of its own accord and not through my own pushing. I stepped back and let it be, let the mass of problems lie in my path, undisturbed and unconquered.

Now I wait. I step through the days and keep my eye on the quiet, close horizon of the next hour. I go on as well as I can and don't force myself to see the whole of it. I'm not avoiding my problems, I am letting them exist with me until I can look at them again.

So much of life is knowledge and control, but this time is a place of reflection, of waiting for things to become clear. Sometimes what we need instead of clarity and deep understanding is a sense of where we are and what we need, without words. I needed quiet and peace, so I took it.

In the whole of life we are faced with situations where we know a certain path must be taken or is likely to be the best way: just sometimes we need to sit by the road and wait for it to become clear, without any expectation of what we should or should not be doing.

Understanding the whole of it or part of it is essential to me. Waiting is anathema to my normal way of working. Now I set aside understanding and take up patience, relying on instinct to guide me through.

Sometimes the very best we can do is step back and let it all be until it is the right time to face the next step. Sometimes the next step is all we can take.


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