One of the toughest things with Asperger’s is being faced with something that is new to you. Most people will have heightened stress levels when trying something new but with Asperger’s the stress level is far higher and even minor changes to your routine will send your stress levels “sky rocketing”. An example of this happened recently to me. A key part of my life is being able to drive. A necessary evil is filling the car up with petrol. This is not normally stressful as I always use the same petrol station. Occasionally I am forced to use another, if I am away from home but the process of filling the car and buying the fuel is the same. Not the most comfortable of experiences but I keep enduring it.
My experience I want to share with you took me way outside my comfort zone. We were having a couple of days in Somerset driving around all different parts. This in itself is a strain for me but we had no set agenda of times to work to so I was enjoying the experience. If I felt my stress levels going up I would put a mini set of worry beads in my hand and hold them over the steering wheel. Although I could not play with them merely holding them takes me to a relaxed place in my mind. We decided that it would be best to fill up with petrol that evening so we had fuel for the next day. Next to our hotel was a large supermarket with its own petrol station so everything pointed towards that being the best place to fill up. I got out of the car, I was driving, and pardon me for being a gentleman but I think if you are with a lady you should always offer to fill the car up. I was OK until I looked at the petrol pump. It did not have the usual screen but the option to pay at the pump or go to the kiosk. In the past, and I am talking the last 40 years of driving, when faced with this I will opt to pay at the kiosk. For a few seconds I wrestled with my conscience, do I risk using, “pay at the pump”. Before I could finish the decision process I looked down at my hands. The Asperger’s had sent my stress levels to a dangerous place and my hands were shaking uncontrollably.
This would normally mean I would go for the safe option but……. I could feel my worry beads in my shirt pocket pressing into my chest as my body tensed up. It was then that I remembered why I use worry beads. I took a deep breath and told myself to take things slowly. I patted my pocket as an acknowledgement that I had support and was going to get through this. I pressed the button for paying at the pump and got out my wallet. I slowly read the screens, although my stress levels were not ideal, and made my way through until the pump would let me have fuel. I filled up and got back in the car.
I looked over at my wife and she was smiling at me. She had noticed my hands shaking and the fact that I had patted my pocket a couple of times. I told her it was my first time paying at the pump and she congratulated me. If you are anyone who does not have Asperger’s Syndrome you may be thinking what was all the fuss about but I hope if you do suffer, you can take solace in the fact that you can push your boundaries with the help of worry beads. If you have been in a similar situation and got through it, please drop me an email.
The English Worry Bead Co