Spotlight: Comfort/Insistence on Sameness –Breakfast style
In my mind there are two types of people in this world: those who love breakfast and those who don’t. I’m not so sure about those who don’t. . .
Personally, I love breakfast and could eat it for every meal of the day, every day. Not only do I need to eat breakfast in order to calm the ravenous beast that is my belly upon waking, but I just really struggle to function if I don’t have it first-off. And forget about just grabbing some left-overs from the night before, I have to have breakfast food or nothing is right–especially not my stomach.
Of course it can’t stop there, oh no–we must take it a step further because it can’t be just any breakfast food, really.. It must be avocado toast.
Side-bar: I’ve always been very particular. Very. When I was a kid I would have meltdowns at the dinner table if my “special spoon” was not available for me to use. I insisted upon it day after day, meal after meal; breakfast, lunch, dinner–if it required a utensil it had to be my special spoon. (I can still remember the beautiful curve of the cursive ‘W’, the elegant twist of the floral etching along the gently crenulated sides. I miss that spoon…) Not much has changed since then except that spoon is long gone (taken and discarded in my parents’ effort to rid me of my “bratiness”, aka insistence on sameness).
Instead these days I just insist on eating the same meal(s) again and again, like ‘cado toast. I am capable of eating other meals for breakfast but nothing feels right in my world if I start my day with anything other than that satisfying and delicious avocado crunch. If I can’t eat the toast until 1pm and had to eat something else to ease the morning hunger, it isn’t until 1pm that I feel like I’m not either ill (scattered, agitated, drained) or frantic if my stress levels are already high. Because of this it’s important to start my day the same–it sets me up for success, it makes me dance-level happy, it lets my body know it’s taken care of and lets my mind know its needs will be met.
Day 1 to Day 1 million: Two pieces of gluten free toast topped with two slices of tomato each, lightly salt & peppered, with 1/4 of a large avocado spread over the toast and also peppered, topped with a handful of basil leaves. And if I’ll be doing some muscle training that day I’ll add an egg or two on the side–sunnyside-up. Hey, don’t knock predictability, it’s the best comfort food.
Avocado toast? But isn’t that basic AF?
Look, I’m a lot of things but basic ain’t one. However this blog post isn’t about defending my choice in breakfast foods or railing against the idea of “basic-ness”, it’s about me taking a moment to honestly address a trait that can sometimes be disabling but is, truthfully, a trait I like to laugh at myself for and take lightly when I can: insistence on sameness. So in the spirit of humor–yes, my brain just insists that I be a “basic bitch” every day and eat my avocado toast. If it means I get to start my day with the confidence that success is in the cards for me, so be it.
So about that insistence…
What happens when I don’t get to have my avocado toast? Probably not the same thing that happens to your average neurotypical adult and it varies based on how well I’m functioning that day:
Higher-functioning days = I can cope, with mindfulness practice, and I can find a suitable alternative and lean on a different sameness for comfort (such as morning coffee). Heaven forbid I’m out of coffee, too, or so much for “higher functioning” in that case. 😖
Lower-functioning days = Cope? BAHAHA! 😭 Melt. Down. You’d think the world was ending or something; sobbing, shouting, throwing stuff, slamming doors, frantic stimming/pacing, hyperventilating, often followed by a period of dissociation (shut down). In other words, explosion followed by implosion and unintended nutrient depletion because it’s harder to force myself to eat something different than it is to just not eat anything at all.
Clearly it isn’t just avocado toast. It must be magical. Or drugged. Or this girl has crazy OCD.
Or…perhaps this is just what it can look like to be neurodivergent; specifically, to be on the autism spectrum. It doesn’t look like this for everyone on the spectrum, but this is a facet of how it is expressed in me. I’m not going to get philosophical, psychological, or too terribly thoughtful at all here because this post isn’t about diving deep, but rather dusting off the surface so that the picture is a little clearer. For example, in this picture one might see how females on the spectrum can sometimes be misdiagnosed with anorexia and struggle with proper nutrition for years because their doctors don’t understand it’s autism and not self image issues or anxiety. 🤔 (Being particular, having sensory sensitivities triggered by textures and smells, and insisting upon sameness can be a daily challenge when it comes to getting proper nutrition (not to mention the whole gamut of digestion issues that come with ASD) but all that’s for another blog entry!)
If my executive functioning was consistently at its lowest I would starve. The more stress I am under, the lower my executive functioning; the more I insist upon sameness, the more susceptible I am to meltdowns and shutdowns from changes in routine, the harder it is for me to make decisions and take action, and the longer my periods of dissociation can last (this is where I really struggle to get my needs met because I struggle to communicate them when/if I can even recognize what they are). Eating becomes stressful, almost burdensome and anxiety-inducing, and the double-edged sword that is predictability is either my savior or destroyer because I can either find comfort in the reliability of that same breakfast every day, or I can find turmoil in its absence.
It’s a little thing, this desire for avocado toast for breakfast. In an autistic world, however, it is literally everything: a detail that, if bypassed, can collapse the entire structure of a day, week, or longer depending on my overall stress load and level of functioning at the time. Today I might get excited at the idea of my partner making me gluten-free blueberry waffles and eggs just how I like them, and I can negotiate the acceptance of this different breakfast with myself, but tomorrow even the suggestion of a different breakfast might spin me out.
Solutions make challenges fun.
Needless to say, when I travel out of town I take my own panini press (the whole gluten thing, yo) and fixings for ‘cado toast so that I can set myself up for success every day (some genius I owe to my husband). In this way I feel kind of spoiled when I travel because I know my breakfast will be my (current) idea of the best ever. This is how I adapt when adapting itself is a challenge–by setting myself up for success in being who I am, because trying to force myself to be neurotypical–as I have done for 34 years–has done nothing but destroy my psyche, self-esteem, and hold me back from being the best version of myself. And yep, the best version is my authentic autistic version despite how “dysfunctional” that might sometimes look. By spending the time to work with my challenges rather than constantly battling them and demanding that I be “more normal”, I have come to finally love something more than I love avocado toast (that isn’t also my husband):