When I Step Outside My Door as an Autistic Adult
The world is a scary place for me as an autistic 40-year-old. When I step outside of the door of my house and walk to the bus stop, there are many scary things I have to be aware of.
- The dog with the bass woof that strains on his leash just close enough for me to smell his dinner on his breath and see his jagged teeth inside his dripping maw while I walk past. He’s also the size of a pony.
- The fear that the bus will reroute today and I will not know where I am. I have dyscalculia, which means I’m not able to read maps like everyone else, or even orientate myself on a map, if I had one. Google Maps only helps me so far; telling left from right takes me a long time. This causes me great anxiety whenever I leave my house. I can’t even tell you how to get back to my house if I do get lost; I just know my address and the intersection.
- The fear that the pants I’m wearing because it’s too cold to wear a skirt will fall down and I’ll be exposed (this has happened before). The fear that my skirt will lift because of the wind and I’ll be exposed (this has also happened before).
- The fear someone I don’t know will start talking to me, and they will ask me questions I can’t answer. “How do I get to the mall?” “Where is the nearest book store?” “I have not seen you on the bus before, are you new?” “That’s a pretty shirt, where did you get it?”
- If I do have to wait for the bus, I don’t want to anger the squirrel at the giant tree, so I have to wait on the other side of the path. This means I end up angering some of the people walking their dogs as they assume I should move. I don’t. I stay still until the bus comes.
- I also have to be careful of things with wheels. They think they own the sidewalk and they run over me or knock me over if I don’t move fast enough.
- I don’t have to cross any streets, but sometimes I freeze in the middle of intersections if there’s too many things. I can’t process them all, especially if there’s a car moving ahead slowly towards me so they can be the first when the light changes. I cannot be doing anything when I cross roads. I can’t use my phone, I can’t talk to people, I can’t even look at the other person. There’s too many things and I need to concentrate on not getting hit by a car or falling when I step off the curb.
- This is in addition to all the usual ambient sounds I hear outside. I also have to pay attention to the birds, the people, the cars, the squirrels, the lights, the traffic, the children playing, the vibration of my phone, the sound of the bus arriving.
- If I brought something to eat, I need to make sure it’s portable and not messy. I don’t have the resources to clean myself if it’s messy in transit. That means something that doesn’t drip or leave crumbs. I can consume it before the bus though, and it would be OK. I cannot take liquid on the bus with me; it always spills.
- I have to make sure I took all the things I need with me: the bus pass, the list of things to get at the mall, the things I might need to mail, the forms for the doctor, coupons, things I need to return, etc. I pack them all the night before, so I know I will not forget.
- I make sure I do not step on anyone. Everyone forgets the world of the very small. I do not, as I am of the world of very small too.
Yes, the world is a very scary place at 40 and this is just walking to my bus stop. It’s less than five minutes away from my house.
Getty photo by Monkey Business Images.