Aspergers Syndrome & Anxiety Over Changeby Stephanie Marsh - 17th September, 2015
Like most people with Aspergers Syndrome, I have an aversion to change. This has got better over the years – when I was a child, I could not cope with change at all whereas, now, if I have enough warning that the change is coming, I adapt to it fairly well.
Now, having this dislike of change, you may think that the most sensible thing to do would be to make any changes slowly. It worked differently for me. In the past couple of months, I have found a new job, a new flat for my fiancé and I to move into and gotten engaged. Three huge lifestyle changes all happening at once. How does this make me feel? Mostly excited as it means that my life is moving on and I am about to enter a new stage in my life-that of complete independence rather than living in staff accommodation at work and experiencing a new workplace and all the policies and procedures that go with it. However, it is also extremely nerve wracking. It would be nerve wracking for anyone, whether they have Aspergers or not, but, to me, it’s the type of thoughts that my anxiety leads me into that makes the nervousness different than it may be for other people. When I become anxious, which is my default state a lot of the time in all honesty, my mind plays back over all of the mistakes I have ever made and I start to convince myself that I will make these mistakes again even when I know that I have learned from them. Simple things like making phone calls fill me with dread-I have been known to take an hour building up the courage to dial an unfamiliar number to order a takeaway or book a taxi. The unpredictability of life fills me with fear and, of course, change, by its very nature, is unpredictable. It’s a constant battle in my mind between being controlled by the anxiety and wanting to experience more in life.
In what is an extremely vicious circle, anxiety makes me more likely to make mistakes which then makes me even more anxious, particularly in new environments where I haven’t committed everything to memory yet. I have a fantastic memory and, once I have learned something, I retain it for life but my Aspergers means I compartmentalise so something I have learned in one setting won’t necessarily transfer to another which means, that in every new home or workplace, I have to commit the rules and routines to memory.
With all that said, I am looking forward to starting my new job and moving into our new flat and am full of anticipation about how both the workplace and the home will be. Aspergers can lead to difficulty tolerating and accepting changes but, if you learn how to adapt to these changes, you will find that many of them change your life for the better. Ironically, I am better at accepting big changes, like the ones mentioned in this article, than small changes, like changing what’s on the menu for dinner. I think it’s because I use these everyday routines as a comfort to provide stability when the big changes are occurring. If you are struggling with accepting change in your life at the moment, remember that adapting to change, depending on whether it is a positive change or not, can hugely improve your life. I would have been stuck in a job I no longer felt happy in if I hadn’t been willing to embrace change – it’s always worth a thought.