It’s a Jolly Holiday With Autism

by dpreyde

I am not a vacation person. I require order. I demand routine. I need continuity. Vacations are mess and chaos and noise. Some people find this fun. These are sick, strange people, and I do not understand them.

Maybe I’m missing out on something. I mean, there must be a way to do vacations right. But I haven’t found it yet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had fun on vacations, but I’ve also taken a beating every single time. Several somethings always happen.

Here is a list of some of those things.

1. I went on my first vacation when I was three-years-old. I cried for approximately seven hours straight. My mother wanted to murder me. My grandmother intervened.

2. Continental breakfasts. Whoever invented them should be fucked in the nose. I demand more from a meal than a miniature box of cereal, a piece of toast, or a shitty bagel.

3. On my last camping trip I had a little mental breakdown. I thought the woods were closing in on us and that if we didn’t leave immediately, something bad was going to happen. Scared the shit out of my parents and sister. Scared the shit out of me. I’m not a camping person.

4. I don’t know what’s worse: being trapped in a car for hours at a time, or only getting to experience the outside world through an endless series of fast food restaurants and gas stations. Often when I go on vacations I’m so fucking sad, and this is a big reason why.

5. Derealization. This happens to me quite a lot when I’m on vacations. Nothing around me feels real, I feel disconnected from my surroundings, and it’s almost like walking through a dream. According to Wikipedia, derealization usually occurs as a result of horrific trauma. Yeah, that sounds about right.

6. I don’t want to complain about the fact that I was inconvenienced by the wildfires in Colorado two summers ago, because people’s lives got ruined, so I’ll just note that my family was driving nearby when the fires broke out. And then my family’s car stopped working.

7. I went to an academic conference in north Philadelphia which was largely attended by disabled people. I don’t know whose idea it was to plop down about a hundred people with mobility issues in the middle of one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in the United States, but it happened.

8. Mood swings. Euphoria to anxiety to sadness to irritability, sometimes all within the span of an hour.

9. Unwanted, intrusive, and uncontrollable thoughts and images, some of which were intensely disturbing. All of these thoughts and images have been surrogates for real fears I was experiencing which I was having difficulty coping with.

10. A good example of that is the intrusive thought that, while on vacation, I was going to become sick. It was improbable that this would happen, so it gave me something “safe” to focus on instead of focusing on the fact that I was far from home and far from my routines in an unsafe environment in which anything could happen to me. However, worrying about the possibility of illness doesn’t feel safe, and I often become so worried that my immune system crashes while I’m on vacation.

And yet, there have been good things. There have moments of pleasure- or even days of pleasure- which have made some vacations worthwhile.

1. I’ve gotten a lot of excellent reading done while on vacation. Everything from Chocolate Fever when I was six to Paul Feig’s memoirs when I was twenty-five.

2. Mackinac Island is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Especially the public library.

3. I loved the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I went twice in one day.

4. I want to live in a Steak ‘n Shake.

5. American junk food in general is an awe-inspiring monument to excess. It is perhaps the ultimate irony that the country with the most glorious array of junk food is also one of the only countries without universal healthcare.

It is one of my life goals to figure out how to do vacations properly, without the stress and the strain and the anxiety.

Next month Hannah and I will be traveling to Montreal together. It is the first vacation we’ll be taking as a couple.

If she ends up murdering me, please keep in mind that she probably had a very good reason.

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