Sometimes it takes uncomfortable experiences to learn new autism strategies.
Today was one of those days for me.
I woke up unhappy about my day. I couldn’t figure it out. I had my typical day (3 clients), followed by a meeting in the evening with my tax accountant.
This is not a bad day. As the owner of my own private practice, I can tailor my schedule to my autistic needs. I know that I cannot see more than three clients a day without feeling energetically and mentally drained. It took a lot of experimenting to find that number,
Therapy takes a lot of emotional and mental energy. I am fully present for an hour. I am listening to some of the most challenging aspects of others’ lives. It’s no wonder my nervous system feels tasked if I do too much of that in a day (you can read more about that in my essay Being a Therapist is Emotionally Demanding).
Now that I know my limit is three clients, I hold that boundary.
So why was I feeling grumpy about my normal schedule? I chalked it up to other life factors (like that I’m in the middle of a move) and went on with my day.
Then, between my second and third client, I received an email from my accountant that she needed to reschedule our meeting.
I felt a flood of relief. I suddenly felt like the whole day was mine again.
And there it was - right in front of my face. An extra event on the calendar was the source of my malaise.
It seems like such a minor thing. One singular event. And yet, I hear this from my clients all of the time. When there is an event on the calendar, we anticipate it. We think about it. We plan for it. We strategize about it. We rehearse potential conversations. Even if we aren’t consciously doing these things, they’re happening in the back of our minds. It’s why even a positive, happy event on the calendar can feel draining.
It’s why it’s so important to have “no plan” days (you can see my essay on No Plan Days as an Autistic Tool).
It’s why I need to remember that new, irregular events on my calendar will impact my energy. I therefore need to limit them as much as possible (by limiting the number of “new” events in a week), as well as limit what days they occur. I will not make the mistake again of scheduling a meeting like this after clients.
I’m currently experimenting with having a “leftover” day. I’m setting aside 3 hours on one day for any superfluous meetings like this. If there are more than three, then I know my week is full and I have to schedule them for another week.
Who knows if it will work or not, but this is how the development of my autistic strategies works. I get an idea and then I experiment with it.
Regardless, I know the weight of a scheduled event and I’m determined to minimize it.