Updated: Aug 26, 2021
Getting obsessed with things is kind of just part of the territory when you sit somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum, so I guess I’m used to it. But the older I get, the more of an issue it becomes; and I don’t even get really bad obsessions with really random things, like I know some people can. It feels debilitating to get obsessed with something and then have it fall from you like a rock. There are some things which are important, and we all have to do them, but I’ll go through phases of being obsessed with it, and then the phases of not being obsessed with it. Cooking for example; it has to be done, and I’m the one that has to do it. Sometimes I love it and I’ll do it every night like I should, and enjoy it – I’ll even bake cakes in the day and at the weekends. Great, everyone’s happy…and full. But then it starts to become difficult because I don’t feel obsessed with it anymore and I start cutting corners, buying easy to cook food, and then I stop cooking altogether and end up eating takeout’s 3 nights of the week.
The problem is when I’m obsessed with something, there’s not really a lot that will stop me doing it, and I’ll put everything else off until the absolute last minute that I could possibly leave it but still manage to get it done, just so I can carry on with my obsession. But when I’m not obsessed? It’s completely the opposite, and there’s barely anything that will make me do it. The gym seems to be the worst one. I shift monthly between loving it and hating it, which, because it’s more of a ‘normal’ thing, people usually say things like ‘Oh well no one likes the gym’, as if it’s supposed to make me feel better about not going so often. But it’s really upsetting because some of these obsessions are things that I know I need to keep up with, for health reasons or otherwise. I hate doing something I love to do but feeling guilty the whole time because I know it’s just an obsession and soon I won’t care, which makes it seem pointless, especially when I’m doing it instead of cleaning or something else important and necessary.
People don’t seem to understand, and they say that I have to be stricter with myself etc. so that I do get the important things done, but it’s just not that simple. Right now I’m in the middle of watching some stupid TV show which I’ve become obsessed with; I know it’s a rubbish show and yet I can’t stop myself from watching it. I should be ironing and cleaning and getting dressed, but I’m not. Partly because I’m really tired and my other huge problem is napping, and so I fuel my awake-ness with my obsessions so that I don’t nap. It’s such a vicious circle. Anyway, I’m trying to be semi-productive by writing this and then watching a bit of the show and then writing another paragraph etc.
Being obsessed with a TV show for me is the equivalent of chaining a person to the sofa and leaving the TV show on: they can’t stop it, it’s beyond their control. No amount of being strict with themselves will unlock the chains so they can do the ironing. Likewise, an obsession falling out of my favour is the equivalent of locking the TV with the show on in a room, throwing away the key and telling the person to watch it on that specific TV; they can’t, it’s impossible and once again: out of their control. But, tell that to a non-Aspie and you’re being melodramatic.
I want to feel regular about regular things all the time, rather than feeling like I could never do something or could never stop doing something and only flicking between the two. It’s exhausting and it means I can’t commit to anything. I can’t say I will do something and stick at it because I know it’s probably just an obsession. And whilst, when my obsession involves learning something, I probably learn twice as much or more as someone else might, because it’s all consuming, I then go off the idea for a while and learn nothing, by which time someone else will have caught up anyway. It’s no faster; it’s just difficult to live with. It makes me unreliable. It makes me useless. And it makes me snappy when I get distracted from an obsession.
Going through so many phases and dealing with them as I’ve grown up has made me more aware of what is important (and there’s way more responsibilities as a 21 year old obsessed with a TV show, than a 10 year old obsessed with drawing), and I am trying to become stricter. I do more of what I’m doing now, flicking between an obsession and an important thing. Sometimes that will mean going to the gym and checking the forum when I get home, as a treat for managing to go to the gym and other times it will mean checking the forum and then going to the gym as a treat for taking care of the important things on the forum. I’m unpredictable and unreliable, but at least I know that I am and am trying to change.