Everyone struggles with change. It is an innate characteristic of human beings.
We are creatures of habit and routines whether we realise it or not.
Being on the Autistic Spectrum means that, as is the case with most things, our inability to cope with change is heightened. Change to routine can be a big disturbance for those with ASD. This disturbance can lead to meltdowns, acting-out or even feelings of depression.
Recently, I had to deal with a BIG change in my life. My partner and I purchased a house of our own. This meant I would be moving out of my childhood home of the past 15 years, moving out from my parents, my brother, my dogs and all the familiar routines I had in place there. To say it made me feel anxious during the lead-up and the period afterwards would be an understatement.
Whilst I was excited to have purchased our own house and achieved such a milestone I did not want to move. Moving would mean I’d have to create a new morning and evening routine. It would mean I couldn’t sit and speak with my parents when I wanted and it would mean my daily cuddles with my dogs would be no more.
We decided to renovate our house prior to moving in and I think this helped make the transition easier for me, it meant I could spend my days there working on the house and getting myself used to its smell and feel. But, in the evenings I got to go back to the safe space of my family home and bedroom.
We officially moved into our new house on the 30th October 2020 and I can thankfully say I have coped much better than I originally thought. The first few weeks were very strange for me and I was scared I would be unable to settle. However, with perseverance I am now feeling much more comfortable and relaxed about being in our new home.
Here’s some advice which helped me process the move:
1.) Take it slow
I moved my belongings 1 box at a time. This way I could slowly get used to my bedroom at my family home becoming empty and changing in its appearance. I could also begin to get my things organised at my new home and find new places for everything to live. Giving myself time and not rushing made the world of difference, it was a calmer approach and didn’t feel quite so scary.
2.) One day at a time
Don’t pressure yourself to ‘stay in your home’ once you have moved. I regularly went back to my parents when I finished work those first few weeks. It helped to go and see my family and my dogs. It added that bit of normality back into my life and it helped to relax me before leaving for my new home. It reassured me that I wasn’t, ‘missing out’ on anything at my family home and that nothing would change in my absence; should I ever need it my safe space was still there and waiting for me.
3.) Make it your own
I have found so much enjoyment in making the house how I want it. I have filled my walls with family photos, Doctor Who memorabilia and painted the walls my favourite colour. Decorating to my taste added some excitement to the process and helped numb my anxious feelings. I love that I am surrounded by all my meaningful pictures and ornaments, I also treated myself to my dream bookcase, (Beauty and the Beast style). Finally having somewhere to store and admire all my books makes me so happy every time I look at it. Try and find enjoyment in the house move wherever you can, this will help to make things easier for you.
After two months of living in my own home I am beginning to settle and enjoy having my own space. I think I struggled most with how quiet it was, I’m used to there being four of us in the house alongside two Springer Spaniels. To help ease that quiet feeling my partner and I have recently adopted a rabbit whom we have named Theo. He is being raised as a free-roaming house rabbit and he has played the biggest role in helping me settle into my new home. I now look forward to going home after work so that I can play with him and receive his cuddles He makes the house feel like a home and he has given me a purpose for being there which has eased my anxiety and helped everything feel a little more organised.
A new home is one of the biggest changes we can undertake as human beings, let alone as somebody on the Autistic Spectrum. We must remember to go easy on ourselves, giving time to process and work through our unsettling feelings; these things must not be rushed. Feel assured that the new house will become your home. It will feel like you have always been there, this may take a few weeks or months, maybe even years, but it will happen and you’ll wonder why you ever felt out of place there at all.
Theo and I, enjoying a cuddle on the sofa in our new living room: