Aspie-superpower days – why autists may be on an ‘autistic spectrum within a spectrum’? We look at the different ‘autistic’ days…
When you are diagnosed with autism, it takes a while to process everything, if you were not aware previously that you were autistic. What I’ve come to believe is that, just as all autists are on an autism spectrum, we autists are also all on a ‘spectrum within a spectrum’.
What I have discovered in my case is that there are three main facets or divisions of my autism, which I liken to the red, amber and green colours of a traffic light; my ‘green’ days are my ‘neutral’ days, and the closest I get to being neurotypical. (For me, I am ‘green’ most days, thanks to good self-care, and management of my social and sensory challenges.) My ‘red’ days are what I would call my ‘slow brain’ days, when everything is a little more challenging, and sensory overload is abundant. And my ‘amber’ days are my ‘fast brain’ days; not necessarily a cause for concern as they’re soooo productive, but something of a red flag that I need to take care of myself; but let me explain further!
On my green days I feel fairly normal and as neurotypical as I get; I’m not too tired, I don’t feel especially antisocial, I am reasonably happy to see people and hold conversations and engage socially, and I get quite a lot of pleasure out of life. (There’s a sub-type of the green days that I would call ‘neutral-slow’ when I am feeling pretty good but with a slight edge of irritation from shrieky noises, excess stimulation, etc.)
On my amber days, which happen once or twice a week, e.g. my fast brain days, in some ways I am at my most autistic – these are my aspie-superpower days. In actual fact, I quite like them; it feels like my brain is supercharged; I’m multitasking on a massive level! I will write an article in my head (to be typed out later) whilst I am doing other things, for example getting my son ready for school, and it feels as if I have lots of metaphorical PC browser windows open in my head, all busily working; conversations, lists, plans, music etc.
On amber/fast brain days, I am super-efficient, planning things, thinking of things, coming up with business ideas, and remembering things (which I need to write down or add to the ‘to do’ list!); and there is always a song on loop, or more usually, part of the song like the chorus, going round and round and round… I’m only now seeing this ‘stuck record’ as a little bit of a warning sign, a sign that stress is building. Invariably I have to find the song and listen to it later, to ‘let it out’.
On my aspie-superpower days, other people (of any neurological persuasion!) very often seem to be going so s-l-o-w-l-y. Their brain-to-speech processing speed is often agonisingly and irritatingly slow. It annoys me when they want to focus or pontificate on something that my head processed and filed moments ago! This undoubtedly leads to me appearing bossy and maybe short-fused! It’s like telling someone you’re taking the M25 to somewhere, and your friend wants to s-l-o-w-l-y talk about every possible junction number and A-road, en route. “MOVE ON! My brain has covered that…” I fume, internally.
I hadn’t realised that these superpower days often precede my slow (red) brain days; it seems you can’t have one without the other – when my brain is quite worn out. These are the days I find it harder to communicate, and forget every-day words, mid-conversation; I am tired and often crave solitude; too much sensory input is massively annoying and even painful, to a degree. Touch can be super-charged. Some sounds, e.g. the rustling of a packet, seem to be deafening.
Some self-care is needed…
And why are these slow brain days categorised red? Because this is a big warning that some self-care is needed. Now’s not the time to book a series of intensive work meetings, or socialise in large groups. This is a time when some quietitude, some favourite music on the headphones, and plenty of sleep are in order. Generally these slow brain days only last a day (or maybe two, if I wasn’t able to look after myself and reduce sensory/social input on the first day).
And what’s next, if a person on the autistic spectrum on a ‘slow brain day’ can’t administer self-care – or if you continue to push yourself (or have to push yourself because of work) over the course of a few of these ‘slow brain’ days? It’s the dreaded shutdown.
An average week
Having noted how I feel for the purpose of this article, an average week for me may look like this –
Day 1 – Fast brain (amber).
Day 2 – Slow brain (red).
Day 3 – Neutral/slow (green).
Day 4 – Neutral (green).
Day 5 – Neutral (green).
Day 6 – Neutral/slow (green).
Day 7 – Neutral (green).
Thereafter, I am pretty sure a fast brain day is due!
I’d love to hear from other Aspies/Auties about whether they’ve noticed any patterns like this! (Find out about the author HERE).
Edited to add – re-reading this post, I am intrigued by the amount of green days I experienced when I wrote it – in a different week, I would see lots more amber and red days. This just shows that every day and every week is different for us autists! Also, I have noted that fast brain or amber days usually signal poor sleep hat night. If others can also identify such patterns, they may be able to pre-empt ‘poor sleep’ nights, perhaps by meditations, herbal sleep remedies, quiet evenings etc.
A little disclaimer – here at Spectra.blog we don’t claim to be experts about Autism; the information we post here is based purely on our own exposure and experiences.
Also published on Medium.