An idle Aspie can be a recipe for catastrophe

by maximusaurus

One of the paradoxes of the spectrum, at least in my experience, is that while over-stimulation is a constant threat, looming overhead like a flying elephant that’s recently drunk prune juice, under-stimulation can be just as dangerous.

When I’m busy, I can focus on the task at hand to distract myself from negative thoughts. But when my mind is unoccupied, things like anxiety and frustration tend to bubble to the surface.

When I finished University, I spent six months unemployed before I started doing volunteer work. I had all the spare time in the world, and very little in the way of stressful obligations. And yet, I was miserable. Day after day I sat on my computer doing nothing, marinating in a seething broth of self-loathing, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy.

When I did start working, doing meals on wheels for the local council, I found that a small amount of external stress was actually a very effective antidote to the overwhelming internal stress I’d been experiencing when I had nothing to do. To this day, I hate it when I have more than a few days in a row without work, and I actually look forward to days when I’m busy.

Currently, unemployment levels in the autistic community are tragically high, and in my opinion, one of the reasons this is so damaging is because it means so many of us are left with no diversions from our inner demons. We’re not getting that healthy mild dose of external stress to inoculate us against the turmoil within.

A good short term solution can be volunteer work; not only did this work wonders for my mental health, but it also helped me to transition into paid employment. In the meantime, it’s also good to just be aware that an absence of external stressors is not necessarily a good thing. An idle mind can be a breeding ground for anxiety and depression, and sometimes it’s better to push ourselves than to suffocate in our comfort zone.