Why I Plan for Every Potential Problem as an Autistic Person
“Why is everything always a problem?”
I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that phrase over the years, especially when I was younger.
I think about logistics a lot. The hows and the wheres are important to me, I need to know them. My brain thinks at a rapid rate to see if something will work, and it looks forward in time at all the potential pitfalls and problems that may be encountered in a situation. Because I often spoke about these potential problems before an event or journey happened, I was labeled a negative person. A worrier.
To some extent I guess the worrier part is true, but the negative label always bothered me. I didn’t feel negative about things, I just felt that if there was an opportunity for something to run smoothly and you saw a possibility where there might be a problem, surely you’d fix it, right? Apparently not.
Friends and family have always been able to just dive into days out, parties and trips away without really thinking about them. I sometimes wish my brain could do that too. Yes, I have anxiety, and being in control somewhat reduces that anxiety, but this isn’t about being a worrier. This is about my logical brain thinking ahead in steps and planning what we might need to make the experience all the more pleasant.
“Why are you worrying about that?”
“Just relax, we will work it out later.”
“Stop taking the fun out of it.”
I’ve heard these comments all my life, but to me, I’m not worrying. I am relaxed. I didn’t realize I was taking the fun out of it. It’s just the way my brain works. I’m not actively looking for problems, my brain just automatically detects these things before I have time to stop it. Why I would want to stop it is beyond me, yet everyone tells me to “relax and chill out.” So I shut my brain’s processes down and instantly become stressed.
A neurotypical person’s version of relaxed is my worst nightmare. My version of relaxed can be incredibly stressful for a neurotypical. Just because my thought processes make you feel anxious doesn’t mean I’m making problems. It just means that the way my mind works can on occasion make problems for you. I’m quite happy with planning things this way.
I learnt pretty quickly not to talk to people about my thoughts on a day out or event. I quietly let my brain work on it and prepare for every eventuality. I now count the number of times a problem never arose because I had planned for it and had stopped it in its tracks before it even happened. “See, I told you it would be fine.” Yep, you did, and it was fine because I stopped all the problems in their tracks before you even became aware of them.
I try not to verbalize my thoughts; they often lead to incorrect assumptions about me. I quietly take the small victories and praise myself when I know a day could have gone so differently. It’s been like this for years. I vividly remember this through my teens on occasions with family and friends. It still happens today.
So if I forget myself and start talking about the logistics in my head, please don’t tell me I’m creating problems or only seeing the negative side. What I’m actually doing is making the day so much more positive for you. You just don’t know it.
Getty photo by thank you for your assistant.