Just to refresh your memory, in case you forgot, I work in a grocery store photo lab. Sometimes, I don't do anything for 2 or 3 hours straight. However, I sit under fluorescent lights with music playing in the background, which means that my sensory system does a whole heck of a lot, the whole time I'm there. No rest for the weary, eh?
For the past 6 weeks, I have been working 4 days a week in 4-hour shifts. That makes 16 hours. It was tough at first, and I struggled, but it was manageable. Just this past week, I started to realize that I could almost tolerate being away from home for those 4 hours. That's still a stretch, but as long as I did nothing else that day, as long as I didn't have to be social when I got home, I could do it. No, I haven't visited my friend Dee with her dogs in several week. No, my blood sugars aren't in any sort of decent control. No, I don't even stay on the same floor of the house, let alone the same room, as my parents in the evenings anymore. But I could do it. I was getting by, and slowly, I was adjusting.
Then I got scheduled for 20 hours this week, including an 8.5 hour shift today. I knew it would be rough. Did I mention that I had my bi-weekly psych appointment (with the only clinician in my life who seems to have the remotest understanding of autism, so I hate to break those appointments) this morning as well? Right. Well, I did. And did I mention that I've worked 4-hour shifts the past 3 days in a row and was therefore already worn out? Right. Well, I was. So I got up, and I went to my appointment, and I went to work.
I honestly don't know how I made it through. Well, prayer is how I made it through, because I wasn't going to. That music and those lights, they just get the best of me. My hands itch when I get stressed, and oh, I scratch them to pieces. I was scratching my hands, through trying so hard not to, stimming like crazy, and trying not to, spinning my chair, and trying to stay still. Nobody had better come up to the counter, because I can't guarantee that anything close to the right words will come out of my mouth. Get. Me. Out. Of. Here.
I can't contain my autism any longer.
You see, I can "pass for Asperger's" for very limited amounts of time. That's what I do at work. I pass. I force it all down as hard as I can and I get by for as long as I have to. I can do it for 4 hours. I can do it for 16 hours each week. But I can't do it for 8, and I can't do it for 20.
I need to talk to my boss and tell her that I can't do 8 hour shifts, only 4. I had the same problem with classes in college. As soon as I went over 16 credits, I started skipping classes so that I was only in class about 16 hours a week. Something about 16... it seems to be the magic number of what I can handle being out of the house. My boss is a really nice lady, I'm just scared to talk to her. I know that I can't be fired because I can't work an 8 hour shift (it would be discrimination, right?), but... but I'm scared.