• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”
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Success: Counting the Costs

I am successful, or am I?

What makes me most productive also gets in the way. Some see me and say that I am successful, “look what you have accomplished,” but what they don’t realize is the cost of those “accomplishments.” They cost me, I suspect, more or differently than other people. Yes, I am able to accomplish, through pinpoint focus and determination, what many cannot.

I can learn what I want to learn; I can write many thousands of words sometimes per day; I can maintain straight A’s in college. But–the flip side is that it is at the expense of everything else that needs to get done. First, yes—I can learn anything my mind decides to learn. The problem is that I have to focus strictly on one subject, and I cannot learn what does not captivate and feed my special interests. If my interests waver, or wonder off in another direction, it takes my brain power with it.

Damn Obsessions get in the way of production.

For example, I wanted to write several articles early this month. Due to the craziness of the past few months I keep finding myself struggling to squeeze all my work into the last few days of the month just prior to deadline. It is stressful and I wanted to get on top of the work. The problem is that I began to redo my kitchen, a project that seems to be taking over my mind, and every time I sat to write an article I couldn’t do it. I needed to get up, grab a paint brush, or a tile and some grout and get to work in the kitchen.

The kitchen is coming out nicely, but everything suffers. Same goes for when I do get my work done—laundry piles up, dinner doesn’t get made, and forget about helping the boys with their homework! I cannot do ANYTHING else but what I need to focus on, and being interrupted (as I often am in my house) is an irritant that drives me completely insane. Once interrupted I cannot easily go back to what I was doing.

I have had a degree of success, but what is often unseen is the stress, the pain, the tears, the panic attacks, the frustration, and the fact that each “success” costs my complete attention, every thought, every hour of my day, every breathe—and that is a very large cost.

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.