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Jackie Schuld Art Therapy Blog

I Need to Lessen the Pressure on my Autistic Self

Last night I dreamt that I was sitting at a table with other people. I was aware there was limited time, and so I made a to-do list of items I wanted us to accomplish. As I tried to make my way through the list, more and more people started showing up. They were sharing their creative projects and bringing joy to the table. Except I didn’t feel joy. I was annoyed that they were getting in the way of my to-do list.

When I woke up, my hands were sore from being held in clenched fists.

My dream was a call from my subconscious to my waking world that I am clingy too tightly to my to-do list. That I am foregoing joy and presence with others due to the pressure of some arbitrary list.

My mind does this from time to time. It speaks to me through my dreams. Sometimes, when I have a problem, I dream of the solution. Sometimes my dreams alert me to people I need to check on. Sometimes, like last night, they notify me that I am out of alignment.

As an autistic person, it is easy to come up with new projects and ideas. When I couple this with harmful neurotypical norms like hustle culture, sometimes I can feel like I need to accomplish all of those projects and ideas. I need to do more. Create more. Make more money. Impact more people.

Autistic Art Therapist Jackie Schuld shares a picture of a person grasping at their eyes
"Feeling It's Too Much" Illustration by Jackie Schuld

I can quickly overload my schedule with too many “to do’s.” Even though everything on that list is a creative idea, it is simply impossible to accomplish all of my creative ideas. Furthermore, a state of relentless productivity leaves little room for future creativity.

I find I do best when I let my energy guide me and I let my mental overhead (the list of things I “must” do) low. It grates against every neurotypical norm, but it’s ok to move in and out of creative projects. It’s ok to not finish things. It’s ok to stop doing something that no longer interests you.

For example, I was really fascinated with cooking boxes, where they send you all the food and a recipe for how to make it. I even wrote an essay about how much I enjoyed it at the time. And then my interest for it began to fall. The food began to pile up in my fridge. I just didn’t feel like it. I could have “forced” myself to accomplish the goal or learning to cook and cooking for myself every day, but it was grating against my energy.

So I honored it. And it feels much better. That energetic resistance has been freed up.

Recently, I’ve been working on a project that is leaving little room for anything else and it’s no good. My dreams are even telling me it’s no good. I don’t want an endlessly productive life. I want a joyful PRESENT. I want to enjoy the life I have and that even means letting go of some of the future.


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