This week has felt really hectic and scattered and I’m craving my usual routine. I’ve had appointments every day and stressful regressions on our home projects. I feel a bit behind at work and I’ve been sleeping so poorly that I lack the energy and sustained ability to focus that I need to put in extra work; it’s hard enough to even concentrate for a few hours a day. I hate the feeling and the slew of appointments is throwing my schedule off to an unworkable degree. I recognize that it’s abnormal, and unhealthy, to be so comforted by routine, but this strict schedule-adhering tendency is partially attributable to being autistic. The rest is my own neuroticism I guess. I know that many people like routine, but I wouldn’t characterize my penchant for it to be “liking” it; it’s a mandatory condition that must be satisfied in order for me to feel mentally and physically well. Spontaneity and extensive or significant schedule changes invariably bother my stomach, alter my sleep, upset my digestion, and make me exhausted. It’s no wonder I then feel irritable and unhappy. Who wants to feel so sick?
Of course I still try to be as flexible as possible, but truthfully, I never feel any better. It’s not like I improve in my ability to gracefully to handle unusual activities in a day or major schedule disruptions. There’s no progress, and that’s ok. It’s how I am (for now at least and up until this point in my life!) so what’s the use in criticizing myself or being disappointed that I’m not different. We all have weaknesses and it’s sometimes unproductive and self-esteem defeating to expect a reversal of one. I’m wired in a certain way and disruptions in my day to my brain is like improperly aligned gears that enmesh in a grating way. It jams the system and leads to significant performance decline. I know plenty of people that thrive on spontaneity and adventure and feel depressed and unhappy with monotony and routine. For these people, life becomes a chore when it’s the same. No one is forcing them to find joy in the sameness and give up their penchant for variety. My point is there’s no right or wrong. It would be helpful and pleasant in some circumstances to enjoy random schedule changes and a lack of routine and navigate them seamlessly, but I’m starting to realize it’s just damaging to force the issue. I live in a place where I don’t typically feel good about myself, any aspect of myself. My abysmally low self-esteem is, in fact, a lifelong contributor to my post-age-10 chronic, unrelenting depression. Anything that works to further injure this tiny, fragile whisper of a workable self-esteem needs to be extinguished at all costs. Thus, I’m trying to put an end to berating myself for my inability to change certain “imperfect” aspects of myself and the guilt and shame that comes with both possessing these imperfections and my unsuccessful work at correcting them. It makes far more sense to focus on supporting my strengths, and improving those things that are noticeably modifiable. I’m learning that making this distinction and routing my attention accordingly is much more productive and sustainable for me. What I’ve discovered so far is that improving self-esteem is not easy, especially when you’re not accomplishing much of anything. I guess I missed out on my golden years of building it up when I was succeeding at nearly everything I tried. These days, I seem to struggle and perform poorly in most domains of my life, so it’s no wonder I don’t find many opportunities to readily improve my self-esteem. Instead, I think I have to work harder to look for areas where the strength of my character impresses me or aspects of my personality prove to be admirable. Rather than accomplishing tangible goals and amassing clear accolades, “wins” these days look like triumphs over obstacles, integrity in the face of moral dilemmas, resilience and endurance in tough times, and compassion and generosity towards others, even when they don’t treat me well. Rising above circumstances and always being the best human I can be are very respectable and honorable achievements, even if much less flashy than breaking records, winning trophies, and getting perfect grades.