Bad Days

(Non-Fiction)

Today is a bad day. To explain better, I am autistic. There are many websites with a lot of information on Autism Spectrum Disorder, if you want to know more about it. Briefly though, symptoms include withdrawal, lack of interest in interacting with others, dislike of change, over-sensitivity to touch, sounds, and smell, and impairment in non-verbal communication.

So today is a bad day. Today I am scared by the idea of speaking to people on the telephone. This often occurs, and has been a problem of mine from very young. I am quite capable of answering a ringing telephone, and in fact have a tendency to answer within three rings, but I am afraid of picking up the phone to actually make a call.

Today I am also scared by the idea of work. I fear responsibility. I would prefer to sit in a closed room and get on with my work, with no formal managerial responsibility, such as dealing with people. That would mean interactions with other people, including picking up the telephone and calling them. This is why I prefer email. Email is my saviour as far as work is concerned. I have signed deals and performed many feats of management and business via email. Some of my customers do not know what I look like or what my voice sounds like. I prefer this.

Being a bad day, I am going to be sensitive to any perceived personal attack. I am going to perceive almost any comment as a personal attack, which doesn’t help. Then I have to pretend that nothing is wrong in a work environment, because “autistic” means “retarded” and I know that I am able to complete the Mensa exam without actually understanding it (twice). I consider myself to be above the average intelligence level. This is not bragging. This is not a blessing. This is a curse. It is a curse because I’m always thinking so hard about how and why the universe works, that I forget to eat. I forget to sleep. I forget to buy groceries. I forget to go home after work. I forget to wake up (this is true). I forget that I have already showered and I do it again. I forget to remind myself about certain things which are critical to the company I work for and hold a senior position in – not to mention my own company which I run. I forget that I’ve made reminders. I forget what day of the week it is.

I really do live in my own world. Think of my life being a train, and every so often, usually at regular intervals, I get off the train to interact with real life. Sometimes I miss a couple of stations and look at real life from my window. The latter happens more often than you probably think. But I have learnt how to pretend that I’m off the train, and make people think I’m almost normal. It’s painful to pretend. It kills my spirit. I want it to be real but it’s not. I prefer being on my train. Only one person has been on the train with me. He is my boyfriend. Sometimes I throw him off the train when I’m having a bad day, but I don’t mean to. It’s not intentional.

I am very lucky. I work as a senior manager for a respected company in Johannesburg. I am not yet 27, and I earn a good salary. I own my car, I rent an apartment and I have no debt. In the grand scheme of haves and have-nots, I’m right up there with the haves. But lucky does not mean happy. I do not know what to do with my life. I can do anything I set my mind to, so I have too much to choose from, and I cannot make a decision. I can’t even decide what to eat for dinner. I cannot decide what movie to watch. I like coming up with ideas, but I’m not good at putting them into practise unless I really believe in them, and that I can do them in a short amount of time, before the next idea hits.

Today is a bad day because I can feel in my bones that something big is about to happen. This means that I am concentrating on trying to figure out what this big thing is, and I am neglecting my responsibilities. I accept this and know that it is wrong, but often I cannot control this. I have to force myself to perform daily activities like eating and sleeping. Driving to work is a chore because I don’t feel like getting into my car. I do not like moving out of my comfort zone. Once I am in my car though, I am committed to driving to work, and I drive well, if a little fast. I was even complimented several years ago by the driving instructor at the BMW Advanced Driving School for my quick reflexes and calm and steady nerves. I smile with an ironic twist at this, because driving is easy. Once I understand how a vehicle handles, I can do amazing things with it. You just have to know the limits, and then you can push it to just before the limits.

It took me four attempts to get my driver’s licence, though.

Once I concentrate on anything, I do it well. But I have to concentrate on concentrating. Otherwise I will be distracted by the slightest thing. Last night I made dinner and forgot to eat it because I noticed that the floor was dirty and needed cleaning. So I cleaned it. Then as I was tidying up (I am fastidious about keeping things in patterns and orders), I noticed my food, but only because the plate was not in the right place. Not because I was hungry. I eat because I know I have to. I have low blood sugar levels so I am obliged to eat, otherwise I will pass out. Passing out is not a bad thing in my opinion. It’s better than sex. Everything slides away and you fall into a comfortable and free place. But I must eat. Sometimes I feel light-headed. Then I know I am hungry, but I don’t feel it. I have only felt hungry a few times in my life. Probably less than ten. It is of no consequence, because usually I will find food somewhere.

Bad days like this can last up to a month. I get a lot of bad days close to the end of the year. It is probably because my birthday is at the end of the year, and I am scared of getting older. This morning I restarted my exercise regimen so that I can be healthier. I do this because I know it’s the right thing to do and I will look and feel better. But it’s like knowing that wine is good for you in moderation, or knowing that black is the opposite of white. It is of no consequence.

Perhaps you can understand me better now. Bad days are difficult to spot in the beginning. Only after I have had a massive fight with someone (my boyfriend usually), do I realise that I am having a bad day. Other times I can feel it when I wake up. The optimal solution is for me to stay in bed when I have a bad day. I should keep to myself and not leave my house. I know this, but it’s not possible to explain this to an employer. Only my boyfriend understands. Not even my mother understands. This is probably sad. I don’t look at it that way. My purpose in life is not to pity my mother or myself. I know I am close to finding that purpose, and grasping at whatever straws I can to find it. It is close.

But today is a bad day. I will not find my purpose today. I want to be alone. No one in the world except for my boyfriend understands this. But last night we had a massive fight.