“Simply getting older is probably the best cure for anxiety,” CJ Chilvers declares. “You learn how to deal with triggers better.” Then again, if your diagnoses came in midlife, and part of what anecdotally happens with late-diagnosed autistics is that several psychological dams that have been holding back for decades suddenly let loose, Chilvers’ model, if true, will take until I’m in my eighties.
Just today, on my usual Sunday breakfast outing (itself something of a source of stress now that it’s limited to twice a month and I had to decide whether to start today or next week), the cafe was in a Please Seat Yourself phase instead of the usual Please Sign In phrase, but both of the tables I wait for were occupied. They are the only tables where I don’t feel anxiously “on display”, because they are neither in the middle of the room nor tables-for-four.
Waiting in line when there’s a sign-in list is one thing, and in fact the staff knows I’m waiting for one table or the other, and they even know it’s for anxiety reasons; waiting in line when there are plenty of other open tables, well, that itself would be “on display”.
So I went for a walk. Several times in different directions, around the block, back past the cafe, glancing sidelong through the windows to see if either table had yet opened up. I stood up the street, keeping an eye on the door of the cafe. I came very close to having a sobbing fit. It didn’t help that it was cold (I also have a sensitivity to immoderate temperatures.)
Once a table was freed up, things were fine. I didn’t miss out or lose it to someone else, but I’m stuck with a fraught unknown: is it more ludicrous to walk around in circles in the cold, furtively looking to see if my table is free, or more ludicrous to sit in the waiting area when there’s no sign-in sheet?
Is that even a valid question? Is neither of these ludicrous? Are both of them? Is it going to take me until I’m in my eighties just to find an answer?