January swelled and fell with a clash of cymbals. I started the year with the flu. It was my own fault for waxing lyrical (I’ve never been able to work out a pattern for that particular saying, but I love the sound of it) about not getting ill at Christmas since my diagnosis.
I invited Irony to slam me down, and slam me down it did. Ten long days of fever left me weak and frustrated. All my post-Christmas plans slipped away one by one; my walk on the beach was crushed by my quavering legs, my plans to make things were thrown by my shaky hands, my need to carry on, fell through the window as my vertigo violently tilted the room.
It was just bad luck, but the exhaustion followed me for several weeks, sapping the strength from my muscles and leaving me breathless, where previously I’d been bounding.
I realised something this year. With enforced time to think, it suddenly occurred to me that I am not actually one of those autistic people who copes well with the changes at Christmas. I had been living on low-level anxiety for the whole of December, I had just reclassified it as excitement.
Excitement is a good thing. It energises and drives. It makes the heart beat faster and gives you that rush. The only real difference between that and anxiety is the direction you find yourself running in. Excitement pulls you, anxiety pushes you, but both are equally exhausting when they hold you in their thrall for any length of time.
January was a difficult month. My energy reserves were low and I had lots to do. I had been invited to speak about autism and mental health, I had a writing deadline that I had discovered late, and desperately wanted to hit, and I was still recovering from the lingering virus in my system.
February is here and, just as I don’t need it, my energy levels are soaring. I suspect Irony is still having fun at my expense, but I don’t mind.
January saw me push through, it saw migraines and my first shutdown for years, but it also saw me share my experiences with those who need to hear them, and write and edit thirty thousand words. If I can do those things with low energy, then nothing can stop me.
My autism is a continuing journey. I still find out new things about myself and my limits, I am still irritated by it, and thankful for it. I am still utterly bewildered by the rest of the world. You make no sense at all, but if you did I wouldn’t get to watch the beautiful patterns you make.
It has just started snowing here. My autism will notice the change in the intonation of sound as it settles. It will bask in the warmth of a sound-proofed world. It will use my excitement to draw me to the world, just as it sometimes uses my anxiety to push me away. It will connect me beyond social connections.
Today the fire will crackle and I will bask in my belonging. I will go outside and feel the texture of the snow as it crunches and compacts in the tread of my boots. I will feel the cold on my skin and use it to place my limbs in space. This body of mine has healed and mended, and the year is just beginning.
Today I am glad.