October 30, 2018

My brain has two settings: Flexible Mode and Safe Mode. I can usually choose which one I want to be in, though it takes some time to switch back and forth. Both have pros and cons.

Flexible Mode means I’m prepared for surprises and interruptions. I know they can come at any moment, so I stay alert. And when they happen, I can handle them.

Safe Mode means I’m able to focus, without fear of interruption. I feel protected, because I know that if I begin a complex thought process, it won’t get cut off.

The problem with Flexible Mode is that it doesn’t allow me to think very deeply, or do the kind of work I find most meaningful. It also takes a lot of energy, and creates physical tension in my body.

The problem with Safe Mode is that it makes me more vulnerable. If something breaks my concentration, it’s extra upsetting, and it makes me lose my ability to think and speak clearly.

I feel calmest and happiest in Safe Mode, but most of the time it isn’t worth the risk. Even though Flexible Mode is harder, it isn’t nearly as hard as suddenly being thrust out of Safe Mode.

Everything feels easier if I’m ready for it. The hard part is remaining ready.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.