You might have noticed the word demand used a lot in this blog. But what exactly is a demand?
For most people a demand is something they have to do, something that takes time and energy to complete that might be better spent elsewhere. For these people a demand can be anything from having to get up early in the morning and having to go to work to having to make dinner for their family and having to complete extra work for their boss.
In most people’s lives the demands of family and work and sometimes even friends can be seen as added work, extra stress or simply something they just have to get on with.
Not everyone perceives the same things as demands though. For some, making dinner for a large family can be a fun activity if they like cooking. For others they may love their job and find the concept of extra work exciting. Still others may find enjoyment in everything to do with their families life including the constant nappy changes.
What might be seen as a demand to one may be seen as something enjoyable to another.
So what constitutes a demand for PDA people?
Due to the added anxiety that comes with PDA, PDA people will feel that nearly everything is a demand. Work, family, friends, school, housework etc may be at the top of the demand pile for these people, with other things coming in as lesser demands underneath. When you hear a PDA person or their family saying that everything is a demand, they are not far wrong. Throughout my life I’ve found that we have a much, much larger number of things which are perceived as demands. Everything from having to say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to being in the same room as strangers. From having to eat a meal to going to the toilet. Even breathing can be seen as a demand. Things that come naturally to most people, that they often do without even thinking about them, are a constant struggle to PDA people.
One of the main differences is that for most people a demand is something annoying that they have to do, but for PDA people they are something unpleasant that they have to avoid doing at all costs.
You might hear some parents of PDA people saying ‘if they put as much energy and time into doing the activity instead of avoiding it then they’d get so much more done’. Yes, this is true. The same could be said for people with a phobia of flying. If they just got on a plane and enjoyed the journey instead of planning to travel by car, then boat, then car, taking more than double the time and cost, then they’d get their much faster and with less hassle and cost. But it doesn’t work like that. If it did then there’d be no such thing as a phobia or anxiety. The PDA person would be just like other Autistic people (maybe) and they wouldn’t put up such a fight over something as simple as eating a sandwich (because their parent had told them to as opposed to any sensory reasons).
I know it sounds silly. It does to me. When you’re trying not to breath because it’s turned into a demand. When you start to have a panic attack because you can’t stop breathing, there’s no way to avoid it. When you start to hyperventilate because you can’t control your breathing but that also makes you lose control and the whole thing snowballs and inside you’re screaming with frustration at yourself that the whole thing is stupid and ‘why can’t I just breath like a normal person?’ When you want to go out and enjoy the lovely sunny day but the thought of having to stand up and put shoes on and go out that door makes you feel so ill that you just can’t do it. So you stay inside hating yourself because even the things you want to do are too much of a demand. Where it’s easier to wait until you’re ready to clean the bathroom and then you do it without may issues as opposed to trying to force yourself to clean it immediately and end up avoiding even going into the room for weeks on end because you feel too ill to even walk through that door, never mind clean anything.
For most people, certain things are demands. Those things are the things that are hard work for them and are often things they don’t want to do.
For PDA people, anything and everything can be a demand, regardless of whether it’s hard work or easy, unpleasant or fun, whether they want to do it or not, whether they’ve been asked/told to do it or have decided themselves that it would be a good idea to do. It doesn’t matter what it is, chances are it’s going to be seen as a demand, whether we want it to be or not.