We all have ways of coping. One of the ways I cope is with my special interests—only, I never knew they were “special interests.” My whole life, I have always had obsessions. For me, they come in waves. Most of the time it is something artsy or crafty. Origami, watercolors, drawing, graphic design, coloring, knitting, quilting, crochet. But it’s also been super girly things like make-up, hair products, nail polish, or nail art. Recently, my special interest was succulents, but since my stress levels have increased at catastrophic levels, I’ve turned back towards art.
It started with puffy paint because I wanted to make myself a button to wear at work, so people know I am immuno-compromised. Once I had the puffy paint, I wanted to paint other things too, so I just started creating. I found it helped me relax because it took all of my focus, so my brain could have a little bit of quiet. Somehow, the puffy paint obsession turned into a gel pen obsession. Now I am interested in learning how to create gel pen art—specifically bright, colorful mandalas.
When I have a special interest, I pursue it to the exclusion of everything else. It is all I want to do. It impacts my self-care, my eating, my sleeping, everything. Now that I know a little bit more about myself, I am able to look at my special interests through a different lens. I am able to enjoy them as intensely as I always do, but I don’t have to let them consume me. In fact, this blog post is a perfect example of that. I managed to pry myself away from my gel pens and compass long enough to pull out my laptop and write this.
I know I have to get up for work tomorrow very early, and I am well-aware how much I am struggling to function. As soon as my fiancé left for work this evening, I took my night medicine. I am usually one to put bedtime off as long as possible, and it is especially hard to make myself go to bed when I am in the middle of exploring a brand-new special interest. Having my diagnosis doesn’t change who I am, but it does allow me to see things a little clearer. I have always been a very logical thinker. The added clarity gives me the space to view my special interests a little more logically, and (so far, at least) I am able to moderate myself a little more.
Part of that increased moderation comes from feeling far freer (how’s that for unintentional alliteration?) to obsess. I used to judge myself and wonder why I couldn’t have hobbies like “normal” people. To me, “normal” people had one or two hobbies they pursued regularly—and I mean that regularly as in an average amount of time spent and regularly as in on a regular basis over a prolonged period of time. My hobbies have never been regular. They fade in and out and burn with a ferocity that consumes all. My list of hobbies is as long as my arm.
What I love about my arm-length list is that not only am I always adding new things, but I cycle back around to almost each and every one. Not only do I have the joy of finding new interests that I love, but I also get to experience the joy of rediscovering the old interests I set aside for a while. There are many challenges I face in this neuro-typical world, but there are also gifts. My undulating hobbies or special interests is just one of the gifts my Autism has given me, and for the first time, I can truly appreciate that.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to draw a few more circles and squiggly lines before bed.