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Finding Balance Between Routines and Novelty When You Live With Autism and ADHD

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As someone with autism, ADHD, anxiety, and other conditions, I’m not usually the most concerned with routines. But I’m recently realizing that in some ways and at some times how I do actually prefer routines.

While I do often seek out and look forward to new things/changes and most of my routines and habits don’t follow a schedule nor are always consistent, many of them still take place daily or nightly, follow a certain order, or otherwise have to take place in a certain way.

Some parts of my neurodivergence (like my autism and mental illnesses) and my personality make it hard to cope with changes at times, while other parts of my neurodivergence (like my ADHD or, again, my autism and mental illnesses) and personality can make it hard for things to stay the same for too long. It’s often a struggle between being fine with the way things are and wanting something new, like a change of scenery, even if just in my own home. So a big part of my life is trying to find a compromise between the two, with both positive and negative results.

I spend most of my time at home in my corner, a part of our combined living room/kitchen where I have especially “made a home” for myself. It’s made up of the right side and middle of our couch, which I spend most of my time on, lying on it like a bed, often under a blanket or two or with a pillow under my arm, a couple of desks with a bunch of my stuff on them, and about half of the wall next to the right side of the couch that also has a bunch of my stuff on it.

I also have a mini trampoline across from our couch and next to that wall, which is the main thing I work out on and the main thing I get exercise with.

There’s a place for everything and, usually, everything is in its place. Which can vary, but generally stays the same for a while, if not always. But when it’s not, I’ll put it back or kindly ask someone to put it back.

Every now and then, I’ll buy (or find) some more stickers, more knickknacks, or more of some other thing that strikes my fancy to put on the wall, my desk, or somewhere else of mine to make it look nicer, prettier, or more “mine” and, many times, to add to a collection. I’ll still keep a lot of the stuff I already have where it was or in that general vicinity, just find somewhere in between it or on top of it where the new thing can go, but sometimes, I’ll put some of the old stuff in another area altogether or replace some of it with the new stuff. (Note: for me, it can, does, and has not only become a habit, but addictive/an addiction and has led to hoarding-style behaviors, which I’m recovering from, so you could call me a “recovering shopaholic.” And while I don’t hoard, I have shopped a lot, and have found it and still find it hard to let a lot of things go.)

I’ll also go on my favorite site and/or app, eat my favorite food, look at memes, listen to music, and generally pursue my special interest, hyperfixation, or other interests or things that grab my attention (like watching my favorite show) every day or night for a while, and even go back to interests I haven’t had for years sometimes. It often depends on what my mind and body want me to think about, do, and focus on.

I’ve hardly ever gone out for ages unless it’s been for an appointment and even some I’ve had to cancel because of sickness and/or anxiety. I get homesick pretty easily too and, while I do hope to move out once I get married, I still have reservations about it.

I’ve had some pretty specific bedtime routines as well, and can usually only sleep when there’s someone I know, love, and trust right next to me (like one of my parents, one of my very good friends who used to be my support worker, or my dog); if I sleep on my side, usually my left side, with my arm under the pillow, my clothes away from my neck, and my blankets on me in a particular way; and if there’s a consistent white noise going on the whole time (like the fan above our stove, the fan in my corner, and/or our air purifier, all of which I currently need on to sleep properly).

I feel a bit uncomfortable with weekends, because some things are different about them than on weekdays.

When I was a kid, my life had a lot more structure in a lot of ways — I got up at a certain general time, watched TV at a certain time, and spent a certain amount of time at school, for instance — but since I left my first school in the middle of grade 6, became homeschooled, went to my second school in grade 8, and went back to being homeschooled, I got a lot more used to life not being as regimented.

When our first dog passed away and we got our current dog, Jam, as a puppy, my life became even more “unscheduled” in some ways.

Before we got Jam, I had a job that was on a schedule, but a flexible one, although I wasn’t able to continue because of issues with my health (i.e. chronic fatigue, mobility issues, and an iron deficiency). Even though I was sad at first, it was in many ways a blessing. Eventually, I stopped being able to work, but have been on disability for a few years now.

The lack of a schedule can get chaotic at times — my sleep schedule’s pretty “wonky,” and I’m still working on going back to brushing my teeth at least once a day — but I feel a lot more free now that I don’t have to work or go to school.

I often daydream about going back to school and have a lot of ideas about what job I would like (right now, my dream jobs are writer, singer-songwriter, blogger, vlogger, model, inventor, or something in the medical or linguistic fields). But even if I never go to college or get another job, I hope what I learn will eventually help somebody and make a positive impact on the world.

I also hope to look after myself better and become a better person/better Christian, including reading the Bible more, going to church and young adults’ meetings whenever I can, and watching sermons online whenever I can, such as on the Sundays that I’m not able to go to church in person.

My journey might look a bit different from a neurotypical person’s at times, but the most important thing is that I grow in my walk with God, whether it means that some things take place at a certain time or for a certain duration or not.

Originally published: April 12, 2024
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