The Tyranny of Choice

[Trigger warning: sorry, it’s that EU Referendum thing again.]

This November just gone, with money given to me for my thirty-sixth birthday, I bought my first pair of Doctor Martens boots in quite some years. Metallic purple treated leather. Classic eight-eyelet, ankle-length style. By golly gosh, they’re comfortable, beautiful, and I love them.

I’d got rid of a previous pair of well-loved bottle green ones I’d had throughout my entire teenage years because they were leather, and in my early 20s I was going through an extreme, all-or-nothing vegan phase (obsessively thinking about something means never doing things by halves – veganism had plenty of rules for me to follow, and I needed that control). Leather was an animal product, therefore it was forbidden. Never mind I’d already owned the things for many years.I gave veganism up after five years of strict adherence, but it’s taken me over a decade to buy another pair of beloved Docs. Why now?

I certainly don’t yearn for my teenage years (I’m sure this blog will touch upon these experiences in due course – as a probable Aspie with oodles of memories of teenage angst, social anxiety and confusion, and so on, there’s plenty of material for me to draw upon and write about). Yes, DMs are fashionable right now, and that means there are more of them about. But that wasn’t it.

I guess, at the age of 36, as a parent and a woman with the figure of someone who’s gestated, given birth to and breastfed two children, and as a person with limited time to exercise and limited opportunity to just be myself, I’ve decided I’m sick of pandering to assumptions about how I should look or act.

I’ve also recently started wearing eyeliner again after years of no-makeup-except-on-special-occasions (you’ll never see me with full face makeup, though – the very thought of all that cloying, heavy, suffocating foundation covering my skin makes me shudder); I’m reverting back to the slightly more ‘alternative’ looks of my youth (hurrah for a 90s fashion revival!), albeit without the sweaty, scratchy, vintage polyesters shirts of yore (oh, the discomfort I suffered to look like an ‘individual’).

As for the Docs, I was yearning for an item of footwear that I’d always remembered as comfortable, durable, and very much me, transcending whatever fads or phases I might have been going through. And the way they fit, the pleasant surprise at how well they accommodate the orthotics I wear these days to correct my wayward biomechanics, the way they’ve creased along virtually identical ‘fault lines’ to my original pair, moulding themselves to my feet, and my gait – all of this made me seriously think I might just buy nothing but DM boots and shoes from now on, and forever more. Narrowing down the number of decisions I have to make – or at the very least making the decision-making process simpler – is something I find myself having to do more and more as time goes on.

Why is it I find decision-making so stressful? For me, it seems to be about information, and the very fact of there being too damned much of it. If I’m required to choose between two or more options, my brain is often overwhelmed by the need to consider and carefully appraise all the available information pertaining both to the pros and cons of each alternative.

I’m finding that my ability to manage the more challenging aspects of my autism has reduced considerably in recent years, and I think it’s simply down to having too much to think about, and minimal downtime, mentally, physically, or emotionally. Because of this, I really don’t want to have to spend unnecessary energy on choice.

And so we come back to that bloody referendum again. I said in my last post (the first for this blog) that I wouldn’t be dwelling on politics much on here.  But at a time when I was already overwhelmed – by the onslaught of stimuli both at work and at home, by too many decisions to make, by lack of sleep – I was somehow required to make a decision, like the rest of the UK electorate, on the future direction of our country. This necessitated agonising thought, analysis and internal mental debating (not to mention the overload of debate on social media) that left me exhausted. I, an educated, well-informed person with two postgraduate qualifications and an ability to think critically, did not feel qualified to make this decision. And so I was angry.

And I still am.

Angry at the energy it has cost me to weigh up the arguments for or against remaining in the EU (for what it’s worth, I voted to Remain, but I’m grown up enough to respect differences of opinion and see that these aren’t the be-all and end-all of a person).

Angry at the overload of blanket media coverage.

Angry at the energy I have spent on trying to construct meaningful, calm persuasive words on Facebook to encourage those on either side to continue to respect each other regardless.

And angry that we were ever even given the responsibility to make such a momentous decision.

All at a time when I am already overwhelmed.

Hey ho. At least my Docs are comfortable.

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And in I jump…

Well, hello there. My name’s Anna, and I’ve been grappling for quite some time with the decision over whether to start a blog or not. I love writing, and am pretty darned wordy, being a graduate of both English Lang/Lit and Information Management an’ all. You could say that language is one of my special interests.

But I’ve been wrestling with issues of authenticity and legitimacy. I have suffered a lifetime of ‘impostor syndrome’ – never quite knowing why I’ve felt like I’m always pretending to be something I’m not. I’ve done this academically, professionally, and socially. All. My. Life. Only now, I feel a bit of an impostor wanting to write about autism when as yet, I’m not formally diagnosed with it. I mean, I wrote an extensive essay matching up my traits with the DSM-V criteria to give to my GP in support of a referral, but I kind of like being ‘bona fide’.

But recently it all got a little bit too much.

It was the bloody referendum that did it. Now, UK politics is not a subject I intend delving into much on here. It saps too much of my energy to even consider it, and whilst I like being reasonably informed, the political structure of my country is not a subject I enjoy spending hours delving into, poring over articles, columns, blogs, academic papers, and so on. Unlike, say, feminism, or words and language. Or (my most recent obsession), neurology.

Because of the EU referendum, however, I’ve been unable to escape it. And only last weekend, the whole damned shebang left me so upset that I couldn’t stop crying. And then I realised, that the referendum result was merely a manifestation of a deeper feeling of complete, erm, overwhelmed-ness. Being the sole breadwinner for my family, with a beautiful, intelligent, brilliant four-year-old daughter struggling to negotiate the world as a (probably) autistic child;  a very mobile almost-ten-month-old-boy getting everywhere and keeping me up at night; the financial worries of supporting a family of four on one income; a job I love that nevertheless exhausts me mentally and emotionally at times (and recently one which as had me surrounded by earsplitting, nerve-jangling construction noise); no bloody down-time. My poor, exhausted brain could no longer cope. Last weekend I burnt myself out. I saw my GP, got signed off work for a fortnight, and am now doing by best to rest. But my mind is not still.

For a long time, I’ve used Facebook as an outlet to express my feelings, and also to call for peace, love and understanding amongst my online friends. Many people tell me they enjoy reading my status updates and shares or worthy pictures, articles and stories. But the vitriol on both sides of the EU referendum debate, particularly that which I see on Facebook, has left me feeling downhearted and depressed, and I can’t take any more of it.

But I still need my outlet.

And now I feel ready to write about my autistic experiences; however legitimate – or not – I feel about them. I can’t ignore the overload any longer. I need to get it out there. Who knows, perhaps this might help me sleep better at night?

And so I jump in.

Who knows, with time, this blog might become a source of information, insight, even comfort to others. I hope one day to advocate openly for myself, my daughter and other autistic people. But right now, I’m just getting stuff down.

We’ll see where this takes me…