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Illustration of a ladies silhouette with an outline of her brain on show. She is surrounded by clock faces and three lightbulbs to represent thinking.


Each and every one of us lives life in our own individual way, with our own individual experiences. Yet there is one thing in particular about life that is the same for every person, which is that life is (purely and simply) unpredictable in the vast majority of situations. Not a day goes by when a person doesn’t receive at least fifty surprises. These surprises (experiences and/or actions that we don’t expect) are of various kinds, and in truth, most people typically don’t react to them in an extreme way. Though exceptions occur when it is particularly upsetting, or if a person has a disorder that affects their ability to cope with uncertainty/unpredictability. In my own case, I have diagnoses of severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and autism, which make me feel extremely distressed if things don’t go to plan.

Since the very beginning of my life, I have always experienced anxiety about unpredictability. These episodes aren’t just mere moments of daily stress either. On the contrary, whenever an unexpected change happens my natural reaction is to completely lose control, and have intense meltdowns where I’m uncontrollably yelling as well as thrashing around on the floor. Now I have learned mindfulness exercises (which I’ll soon discuss) that enable me to gradually pull my mind out of the terror. But at least two times a month I experience moments when it’s not possible to take myself away to ground my mind, and therefore I quickly go into an involuntary meltdown. Also, once I am at the point of yelling and thrashing around, I’m unable to pull myself out of the meltdown until it is over (typically this is for a duration of one hour).

Blue image of a man wearing glasses is sitting, writing. Behind him in the background are clock faces, one with the words deadline

Meltdowns almost always occur if an unexpected change occurs (which puts my daily timetable made prior to getting up each morning out of routine), if I’m faced with a problem with no certain answer/solution, or if a person unexpectedly talks to me whilst I am in the middle of doing an activity. My extreme reactions in those situations are so much that throughout my life I have desperately hoped to find a way of somehow predicting the future, just so I don’t have to experience embarrassing meltdowns. Yet as far as science is currently aware, this is unfortunately impossible. That scares me a lot because it gives me the exact same sensation as walking into an unknown (and potentially dangerous) situation without any sort of plan, in order to protect myself.

However, despite the future being impossible to predict (as far as current science knows), it is on the other hand possible to come up with strategies that enable us to cope with this aspect of life in a better way. There are a few strategies that have been introduced to me over the years from lifelong therapy, and even though these techniques don’t work 100% of the time, they still help me most of the time.

Firstly, I always need to plan out my days as a timetable, prior to getting out of bed each and every morning. I cannot at all live a day spontaneously. But I’ve learned to create a “plan B and C” for each of the day’s activities, just in case something unexpected happens that forces me to change my schedule for that particular time slot. It is true that this requires me to have to ask people in advance (of whom I would be seeing on particular days/times) to give me all of the details, that explain what is likely to happen during the time when I would be with them. These could be classes, meetups, visits to see family or even about what we would be having for dinner that night. Yet at the very least, I’m able to create three different plans for each future time slot, and this gives me the comforting reassurance that there is far less danger of living a section of my life without preparation. At this moment I’m also learning a few other possible “remedies” that could aid my fears of uncertainty.

There are a fair few family members, friends and carers who have queried me as to why it’s so important for me to spend an immense amount of time working on these exercises. Various times I’m even queried about why it is always so challenging for me to make decisions simultaneously. But I firmly believe that there’s only one way for me to tackle this life challenge that I have. Living spontaneously is not a possibility, nor is spending my whole life finding a method of accurately predicting the future. The best option I have is to follow the advice given to me by my therapists, and for me to do my work by finding the exact methods which work for my own individual case.