Autism can come with intense bursts of energy and a desire to do something. Sometimes it manifests as hyperactivity, sometimes several hours, days or weeks of intense focus in an activity. It can also come with periods of low energy, tiredness and depression. It’s hard to get out of bed, hard to focus on a task, your whole body feels heavy.
For me, these excesses and deficits of energy aren’t mutually exclusive. I can feel the intense desire to be working on something whilst simultaneously feel so exhausted that I can’t move myself from the sofa.
Self care at these times is incredibly difficult. Many bloggers have written on the topic of guilt as a barrier to self care. We often feel like we aren’t entitled to self care. Tiredness, anxiety, sensory sensitivity, they’re all cast by society as weaknesses. We’re fed criticism dressed as self-help, and it leaves us with an uncomfortable conflict between our needs and what society perceives as our deficits.
This all leaves me with an uncomfortable dissonance that makes self care even harder than it would be was I just tired.
We need to be understanding of variable disability.
We need to be accepting of the people who have varying needs.
Take, for example, the use of a wheelchair. A wheelchair user might not need their wheelchair every day, they might not need it to go a short distance. They also don’t need to feel judged for using it when they need to, either because they’re having a rough day, or because they have to go a long way that particular day. They don’t need to be made to feel like they’re lazy or undeserving of accommodation. They don’t need to be compared to other people, they don’t need to have their disabilities ranked along a scale of worthiness.
We in the autistic community come up against this ranking system frequently in the way the autistic spectrum is perceived. Autism is incorrectly imagined as a sliding scale, with Neurotypical in the middle, Low Functioning at one end and High Functioning at the other. I’ve written previously about how this affects access to opportunities. We’re often made to feel like we don’t deserve our accommodations, even the ones we afford to ourselves in private. This guilt, driven by society’s narrative of disability, is perhaps the biggest barrier between disabled people and self care.
There’s not much to be done for Spoon Conflict beyond good self care and not beating ourselves up about not being able to do the things we want to be able to do right now. That second point becomes much easier when the rest of society isn’t beating us up for not being able to do things.
You are not being lazy.
You are not being selfish.
You are not being weak.
You’re attending to your needs.
You are planning for tomorrow.
You are conserving your strength.