Timetables or lists?

Well, I panicked when school finished for the summer holidays, worried that I would drive myself insane with the amount of free time I would have. It was suggested to me by a support worker that I create a timetable of activities for each day. That way, I would have a certain amount of structure and routine. As a teacher, I should embrace the idea of timetables; however, something didn’t feel quite right about making one. I decided to try it for a few days and here is what I found:

I arranged my timetable so that it contained practical things such as food, vacuuming the living room, watch an episode on TV and so on. Unfortunately, the day didn’t even start according to how I had planned: I got out of bed later than I had scheduled on my timetable which therefore meant I wasn’t working to the correct times straight away. This itself causes me anxiety. Anyway, I tried the timetable for several days, blocking off each hour to suggest when I would carry out an activity.

The next step was thinking of a way to organise myself in a way which wasn’t quite as restrictive. Thus came about the idea of writing my jobs/activities in a list which I could tick off. This seemed to work much better for me as it meant that all of the same activities were there but it wasn’t as demanding: I could choose to do each activity as and when I felt able to. I wonder if it worked better because I felt more in control and was able to adapt according to how I was feeling at the time. For example, the fact that I no longer had to walk my dog at a particular time meant that if it was raining or I just didn’t feel as though I were in the right headspace, I could simply choose another item from the list to do first. Equally, I got up one morning feeling raring to go and actually ended up walking the dog much earlier than usual.

All this has lead me to reflect on routine: I thought I felt comforted by routine but now I am wondering whether it is more the control that is the bigger factor? 

I have started writing lists for work now, too. Although I am a teacher and there is a certain amount of timetabling that has to occur (for example, the times of assemblies simply cannot be altered to suit me), I am finding that if I work through a list of lessons rather than a rigid structure of times, I actually feel less stressed. At the moment, the school I am at allows for this; however, I am well aware that many others insist on certain lessons be taught at particular times.

I wonder if anyone else has similar thoughts, finding timetables difficult to create and follow?

Super Sunday?

School holidays can be tough…

Normally, on a Sunday I would be starting to get butterflies in my stomach at the thought of going back to work tomorrow. However, being a teacher, I am currently taking advantage of one of the perks of the job – the summer break. At least, that is what I should be doing. Instead, I am wondering how to survive the coming weeks, knowing that the lack of structure and routine means I will have to become a 'proper adult' and make decisions. Yes, I hate going to work, but when I am teaching I know how to act; I take on a role that I have learned to play (and can do so rather well).

Behind closed doors, I am anything but the confident, animated character most people see during the day. That is the time when my normal self can appear, the inner child who needs to be given direction and reassurance. What's strange is that I never realised this about myself until recently. I struggled for years to act normal, get a degree, secure a job, manage friendships, desperately wondering why I seemed to find normal aspects of life so difficult compared to other people.

I am still processing my diagnosis of autism. There are some times when I think there must be a mistake with the diagnosis. How can I possibly be autistic? I have friends and absolutely love to be sarcastic! (Something I wrongly thought all people with autism struggled with). I think years of being a female on the spectrum mean I have pulled the wool over my own eyes, as well as the eyes of everyone else around me. I was able to 'learn' how to act in many situations to the point that I'm not even sure where my own identity actually begins!

I am hoping that being able to write things down will not only help during this unstructured time but will also help me on my journey of self-discovery. What does it actually mean to be me?


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by Tania Marshall, M.Sc. (App. Psych.), B.A. (Psych.), Award-winning and Best-Selling Author, Clinical Psychotherapist, and Forensic Consultant & Analyst

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