Unmasking My Office Part 1 – This Isn’t Overthinking

Here's the first part of a story of what started as a small change led to a big Autistic unmasking journey around how I work and set up my office.
This Isn't Overthinking - Unmasking My Office Part 1

Getting a mouse…

Even though I’ve been unmasking, and sorting out my internalized ableism and internalized capitalism, and other unhealthy cultural messaging, for around eight years now, I still routinely find new aspects to unpack. I found another big cluster recently and would like to share that with you. 

This quite neatly happened in three stages, and for each I had to wrestle with a different unhealthy belief, and so I’m going to address each in a separate video. So this is part one of three. On overthinking.

Autistics are often accused of overthinking – turning very small situations into gigantic situations, and to be fair, we can do that. So can allistics. So can anyone who is acting out of a sense of anxiety. But sometimes it’s not overthinking. 

Autistics are often accused of overthinking – turning very small situations into gigantic situations, we can do that, but sometimes it’s not overthinking.

Sometimes it’s problem solving. I’d like to illustrate the difference by relating a situation that happened to me recently.

It all started when I was complaining to a friend about the pain in my arms and wrists and shoulders from computer use. Repetitive stress injury, or RSI, is common among heavy computer users, and mine has been exacerbated in the last few years by shoulder injuries in both shoulders, and my Ehlers Danlos, which makes all soft tissue issues worse.

I do as much as possible through dictation, but I still use the keyboard and trackpad on my laptop for at least some things – a short note or a quick email, or correcting the dictation. 

My friend suggested that the trackpad might be exacerbating some of my pain and suggested a vertical mouse and let me try hers, and I did like it, so I went online and found one that I was willing to try, but it’s not as simple as as buying a mouse, because my desk setup is highly unusual. 

I’ve customized my workspace to do exactly what I want but my desk is the exact is the size of my laptop, so there isn’t anywhere to put a mouse on.

So I needed to figure out where I would use this mouse. I looked at various mouse pads most of them are floppy. There are some hard ones and I thought maybe I could balance it on my lap or on the arm of my chair. I looked into extensions that could attach to the legs of my desk but the reviews on those were mixed and I didn’t want it to move around much.

None of those options seemed particularly likely would result in me being actually happy with the solution. 

So I started looking into whether I might get a different desk. An actual desk with space on it for other things. 

My chair is much lower than normal, since I took the legs off, so it was quite hard to find a desk that was the right height and I ended up with a side table that I modified slightly to get it to be just the right height for me, but it took months to find something that was close enough to what I wanted that it would work for this.

Before this, I was putting my laptop on a music stand.

If I wanted to get a regular desk, they all come at approximately the same height and it’s much too high for my chair. 

I could put the legs back on the chair, I do have them, but that would lift the chair up so that my background would show a much lighter area of the blue stripes than I wanted. When I painted the wall I thought the blue was going to show up darker than it does on camera, and the lighter blue is barely visible as blue at all. And I like the blue! And I also like sitting further down closer to the ground, because getting up and down many times a day more builds movement into my life without extra exercise.

So a desk at this chair’s height would probably have to be custom made or modified, but that’s a lot of work. 

But even if I did find the right desk at whatever height of desk and chair, the room I use as my office is long and narrow and putting a desk in here would fill up most of the rest of the room, which I use frequently to lay down on the floor to relieve muscle fatigue from my Ehlers Danlos.

So then, what if I rearranged the room? With the narrow layout, and where the windows are, there aren’t other arrangements that would have good lighting, which is why I put my chair here, facing a window, in the first place. Putting a desk in this room would require a massive rearrangement, and adding more artificial lights, that give me headaches to look at.

We have one other room in the house that I could switch with, but that has hard flooring which echoes sounds more, whereas my office has carpet. Plus, I lay on the floor a lot, and that’s much more comfortable on carpet.

And I don’t even want to think about what it would cost to switch the flooring, and repaint my blue stripes in that room, and there’s no way we could afford any of that. That’s just out of the question.

This isn’t overthinking

And this is where I pulled back and shivered, because all this started with buying a mouse and now I’m thinking about moving my office and hiring imaginary contractors to redo the flooring, etc.

An outside observer might watch and, not unreasonably, assume that I’m overthinking. However, in fact, I’m not. And here’s why not. 

First of all, each step in that process was a logical step. It’s was trying to solve the problem the last step brought up. 

An outside observer might watch and, not unreasonably, assume that I’m overthinking. However, in fact, I’m not.

And second, I’m not coming at this from a place of anxiety. It is absolutely possible to turn a small thing into a big thing out of anxiety, I’ve done that plenty, but the difference here is that in anxiety and overthinking, you get stuck in a loop, with no way out. 

You focus on how it’s this gigantic thing. It’s big, it’s horrible, and you’re stuck in that mode of this is why it won’t work. Finding all the problems with it but never troubleshooting. 

When it’s problem solving, all I’m doing is going through a completely logical chain of identifying a problem, and figuring out what it would take to fix it. What’s the problem with that? Here’s a solution, and on and on.

The third difference is, that when I got to, I’d have to move my office, a couple of things happened. One, I laughed at myself for going from, I’d like to buy a mouse, to, I want to move my office.

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Heather Cook

Heather Cook

Hi, I’m Heather. I’m an Autistic writer, advocate, and life coach, and I'm building a life I love. I help other Autistics to build their own autism-positive life. I love reading, jigsaw puzzles, just about every -ology, and Star Trek!

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