The Hidden Village of Aspergers

September 19, 2010

My brain is a small cupboard

Filed under: routine — kankurette @ 8:05 pm
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In my living room, where I am typing this, there is a piano. It belonged to my mum and has been handed down through her family, and as I was always playing it whenever I went over to see her, she passed it on to me. As well as being my favourite instrument out of all of the ones I own (a trumpet, a flute, a bass guitar that used to belong to one of my cousins, a Squier guitar, a keyboard, and assorted bits of drumkit), it also serves as a handy surface on which to put things, as does my kitchen table. As well as various music books, there is also a pile of paperwork on there that varies in size. There’s a similar one on my kitchen table. It is comprised of everything from bank statements and bills to bumf from Manchester City Council about the cute little green bins for kitchen waste and a ticket for the High Holy Days from my synagogue.

I surprise myself at how messy I am. You’d think a woman with Aspergers would be extremely houseproud and tidy, a place for everything and everything in its place, etc. This one isn’t. My mum has some kind of weird compulsive habit of tidying my house whenever she comes over. I don’t think she realises she’s doing it. At least she doesn’t move the furniture, she just tries to make some order out of the chaos. Maybe it’s a genetic thing – my dad was messy as well and you could always tell which side of the bedroom was his, i.e. not the tidy one. My brother is even worse than I am. I have my books in vague alphabetical order and categorised, but that’s it. I can’t be arsed re-sorting my CDs.

I have a problem with paperwork. When I put my mind to it, ticking off things on a virtual to-do list, I can sort stuff out. I make sure my bills are paid on time, I set up direct debits and standing orders so that the Council or whoever won’t have to keep sending me arsey letters going “GIVE US YOUR MONEY OR WE TAKE YOU TO COURT, BITCH” (or words to that effect), but when it comes to other bits of paperwork and mundane tasks, I forget. It took me weeks to get my garden sorted out, as I don’t have the energy to maintain it myself, to donate to the synagogue Yom Kippur appeal, to take over the freehold for my flat, to write back to someone who’d found info on my family tree. I am admittedly terrible about getting back to people. It’s a good thing I’m only a legal secretary and not a lawyer.

I think the problem is that I cannot concentrate on too many things at once. I tend to do the mental equivalent of shoving bits of paper into a to-do tray and then ignoring it as the pile builds up. Forget what people say about women and multi-tasking; this one is crap at it. I can Google stuff or type when I’m talking to a client or a colleague or a barrister or whatever, as I have to take attendance notes on important phone calls, but when it comes to dealing with all the paperwork, or indeed, the housework, I forget. My mum was not happy with the state of my last house, as I nearly always forgot to hoover, dust, wipe surfaces etc. It wasn’t laziness or sluttiness so much as the fact that it just didn’t occur to me to do these things. I’d be so preoccupied with my dissertation or my research for uni or whatever that housework would be pushed out of my mind. If my brain was a storage space, it would be a small cupboard. There is only so much crap that you can fit in a small cupboard before things start to fall out.

I don’t know whether this is an Aspergers thing or not, but it’s a frustrating one. My mum has offered to pay for a cleaner in the past, but I feel far too ashamed to hire one. I guess I just don’t like admitting I need help. I hate being made to feel like a dirty slut who can’t take care of herself, but maybe this is what I am. I guess Mum sees things I don’t see. The dirt does not register on my radar. The last place had a damp problem and the amount of cleaning it needed was ridiculous, so at least the new place is easier to look after, but it’s still messy. Apparently it’s also depression related. Indeed, when I was at my lowest, I was dependent on my family for everything, including contacting the NHS for a referral for therapy, which I could not do as I was in too much of a mess.

I try and keep up with housework these days – at the very least, I wash up, I do at least one wash per week, I clean the toilet and change my bed, which I only did once a month back in the old place (sorry), but I don’t always hoover, wash windows, dust or clean the kitchen and bathroom floors, although now it’s because I don’t have the fucking energy to do housework most of the time. Even though I only work four hours a day, and in a desk job at that, I spend most of the rest of the day resting up and recovering. Probably due to the nature of my job, I am getting better at organising stuff and prioritising what needs to be done, even when it’s not flashing on my screen in red type marked ‘URGENT’, but it’s a pain in the arse trying to fit everything in the cupboard. Housework, job, synagogue, bills, sink, floor, bathroom, exercise when I have the energy, blog, return library books, transfer direct debits to new account, and so on, and so on…but the paperwork isn’t letting up any time soon.

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