At around 4am on Saturday morning, a very dark, overcast, and rather drizzly night, I was approximately here (link to Bing Maps); somewhere near the "X" formed where the zig-zaggy footpaths cross that descend the steep valley side. I was somewhat wobbly from several bottles of my favourite ales. I don't always walk home this way from my regular Friday night trip to hang out with my little crew of friends at one of their houses, but the time, location, and inebriation are pretty representative of what I would consider a perfectly normal 3-4 mile walk home. The other walking options are similarly cross-country, or involve long stretches of road with no pedestrian footpath. Very heavy rain or snow might make me think twice, but don't normally put me off. On particularly beautiful nights, I have even had an unplanned snooze after sitting down to admire the stars or the dawn-chorus.
My usual trip to the supermarket is somewhat shorter, but similar; there are stretches of road with no pedestrian pavement, and they involve crossing countryside on muddy, unpaved public footpaths, carrying as many supplied as I can on my back.
The commute to my last place of work took in a two and half mile walk along an old railway line (you can see this on the linked map if you switch to Ordinance Survey view), and a 400ft climb to the top of a very exposed hill (over 1000 ft at the summit). That was just to get the bus to Halifax, after which I walked another mile or so to the office. I did this in both directions every work day, in the dark in winter, and in all weathers. I even astonished the boss when I turned up having battled through waist deep snowdrifts; of course, most of my colleagues who lived in Halifax itself had phoned in to say they couldn't make it!
So what's my point? That I'm super-fit and smug that I'm so much hardier than everyone else? Hmm, I'm certainly not all that fit, just very stubborn. There is a certain pride I take in it, but I recognise it as being a rather perverse and masochistic kind of pride. So here are my main reasons why I do this (some might say post-hoc rationalisations, and I would not disagree.)
Reactions to this "lifestyle choice" from friends are very varied. The friends that I visit at our Friday night gatherings don't bat an eyelid, and some of them have quite similar habits (at least a couple of them are almost certainly also autistic; the others don't lead particularly "conventional" lifestyles, either). Other friends react with complete horror, and implore me not to take the risks which they perceive I'm taking. I have only realised very recently that my reaction to their concerns probably seems flippant and ungrateful; but I know what the risks are (years of hiking, caving, etc.), and I accept them as a reasonable compromise so that I can work, shop, and socialise. In the decades that I've lived this way, I have never come to serious physical harm, have never been in trouble with law enforcement (I stick to footpaths and never trespass), and the only time I've been mugged or attacked was in broad daylight in a city-centre park. The fact that I will almost certainly not be able to continue like this as I get older frightens the hell out of me, quite frankly.
So I thought I would throw this open to comments from people here. There are no right answers, and I'm not looking for pity. I've just realised how little I question it and how much I've underestimated how bizarre it can seem to other people. What does anyone think? Am I completely crazy to do this? Are my justifications just perverse rationalisations? Do you do these things too?
Nice long read. Before I started I got the wrong end of the stick.
For me 4am means..... I almost always wake up and cannot get back to sleep.
I go to sleep at 11pm. I wake at 4am.
I go to sleep at midnight I wake at 4am.
I go to sleep at 1am. I wake at 4am.
I go to sleep at 2am. I wake at 4am.
I am a mess.
Coming from a person who went for a 1.5hr walk around their local neighbourhood at 2.30am this morning because they couldn’t sleep and were distressed, no, this doesn’t sound crazy to me!
I can relate to all of your points, but particularly in relation to the walking being therapeutic for the mind and not asking for help from others. I also find I can walk a terribly long way (12 miles has been known), even when I am tired or upset, but I usually put this down to the adrenaline in my system from anxiety.
I confess that I hadn’t been aware how disturbing my behaviour of late night walking was to others until very recently when the Police became involved and promptly warned me of my ‘anti social behaviour’ - unbeknownst to me I was causing ‘alarm and distress’ to people who saw me as they thought something was wrong and I looked under 18 to them. I felt absolutely terrible for this as I hadn’t thought there was anything harmful of me taking a walk to clear my mind or to help me settle to sleep. How wrong was I?! So that got me slapped with an ‘Acceptable Behaviour Contract’ as though I am some criminal, and now I’m even more cautious about my actions in public than ever before (basically, the whole thing did nothing for my social anxiety). So be cautious, but do as you have to in order to live your best life, no matter what others think of it.
I do this too... I'd rather get soaking wet and cold to the bone from walking or cycling than take the bus. Or the car, because that really knocks me out.
But for me it also has to do with wearing myself out physically. Especially in the morning I need to get rid of my energy.
I used to walk my dog for at least an hour, then cycle 35 - 40 minutes to work. At night - same thing in the other direction.
I guess in my case it is also an obsession. These days I start the day by walking an hour and 15 minutes at a brisk pace. If I only walk an hour, I feel dissatisfied and annoyed. I don't care too much about the weather and
Getting rid of my energy and exercising in this way also meant that I could sort of function and socialise and work among others.
But I just always thought I was off and weird really :-D Other people have said I am tough by the way :-)
Oh, and I forgot to say I'd rather get into trouble than ask for help. I loathe asking for help.
And if I do I feel indebted to that other person for ever.
NAS36609 said:when the Police became involved
I'm sorry to hear that.
I have to be honest, this is the only part of it that gives me any great anxiety, and my heart is in my throat whenever I see a police car go past. I'm never doing anything which I would consider anti-social, I'm always as quiet as I can be, I don't break the law in any way, and the only things I'd be carrying are my keys, wallet, phone, and cigarettes. I have been stopped several times, but thankfully have always been allowed on my way with advice to be careful, and maybe a later drive past to check that I've been honest. In fact, I'm rather shocked just how few times I do see the police, especially considering how often I notice people who are doing things which are reckless and anti-social in the early hours (e.g. "boy racers" literally racing, parties you can hear from two blocks away, domestic arguments, etc.) Despite my aversion to dealing with authority figures and hatred of telephones, I have performed my civic duty by reporting a few of the things that I've seen, albeit anonymously.
I've never been reported to the authorities that I know of, but that is my biggest fear, especially knowing that it would likely be gossiped about. It's not just that I might be restricted in my walking by some sort of order, but not wanting to expose myself to people who feel that way about me; exactly the social anxiety that you mentioned.
NAS36609 said:So be cautious, but do as you have to in order to live your best life, no matter what others think of it.
Thanks. Likewise to you too.
Blank (NAS38983) said:I'd rather get soaking wet and cold to the bone from walking
I'm well known for it too. Even if I'm just out for a recreational walk, really inclement weather won't put me off, if walking is what I'm in the mood to do. It's not even as if I'm particularly well kitted out; my normal dress is somewhat outdoorsy but I've never spent hundreds of pounds on high-performance hiking gear, and I wear whatever footwear is comfortable on my feet and stops them from overheating, even if it means getting my socks and feet wet. I get some odd looks sometimes from groups of expensively kitted-up hikers when they see me coming past in my cheap overcoat from the market and favourite comfy footwear (I very rarely feel truly at home in a pair of shoes until they're beginning to fall apart! The constant talking to myself under my breath probably doesn't help much, either!)
I understand what you mean by burning energy off; and anxiety too. I'm not as routine as you with when I walk, but very much so with where I walk. I will go for an exploratory ramble quite often, but if I'm walking to burn off energy and anxiety, I tend to have a small selection of very rigid routes that I take. They can become so ingrained that if there's been something eating at my mind, I can get home with no memory of the walk itself, nor even which one I did. My late night walks home can be a bit like that; some kind of "autopilot" kicks in, and my conscious awareness doesn't seem to register it unless something's obviously out of place. It took me quite a while to feel comfortable with the local walks when I moved to a new area a year or so ago, even though I have no problem with map-reading or sense of direction (well, unless I'm experiencing sensory overload, in which case I don't know my *** from my elbow!)
Blank (NAS38983) said:
Yes, the same. To tell the truth, this is a deeper problem than anything to do with the walking; even if I overcame this, I'd probably still walk a lot, just by preference. The weird thing is, I'll happily do anything for anyone else (so long as they make it clear what they want, of course), But I feel compelled to try to meet my own needs as independently as possible, and the struggle to ask brings anxiety of its own, whether it's a friend, relative, doctor, or just the supermarket delivery man. It can be so paradoxical too; for want of asking for a few simple favours, which I'd gladly return, crises happen which end up requiring far more help, or help which is far more invasive (if you can get it, of course!)
The whole situation has really knocked my confidence (not that I had any to begin with...). I too thought I wasn’t doing anything antisocial - if I passed anyone I’d smile, I walked in lit places and on paths and I was careful to walk in very quiet places - but apparently this issue stemmed from individuals calling the Police ‘concerned for a young girl wandering around alone late at night’. In hindsight I can see why it might have troubled some people, especially as it was mentioned to me that they thought I was a minor (which surprised me as I’m in my mid twenties), but I meant no harm to anyone. I don’t think those reporting me meant anything bad at least, but it has impacted on me dramatically.
I’ve spotted those late night boy racers too and I think they require much more Police attention than I or you!
Pretty much the exact opposite for me.
I go to bed at 11pm. Lie awake until 4am before finally nodding off.
I go to bed at midnight. Lie awake until 4am before finally nodding off.
I go to bed at 1pm. Lie awake until 4am before finally nodding off.
I go to bed at 2pm. Lie awake until 4am before finally nodding off.
That's on typical nights. If there's something stressful on my mind, it can have the same effect on my sleep as anyone else. Once it gets past about 6-7ish, I generally don't bother to go to bed at all, in the hope of a better sleep the next night (it rarely works, but then nor has anything else I've ever tried or been prescribed.) My body clock thinks I live in the US Mid-West somewhere for some reason, and always has; I was no different as a child.
Autistica recently emailed me with preliminary results from research I'd helped with regarding autism and sleep. They reckon that up to 60% of autistic people have a sleep condition of one kind or another. Late-onset insomnia, like mine, seems to be most common, but there's a huge variety.
This is such an interesting thread. It brought back memories of when I was young and lived with a boyfriend. We walked long distances regularly - to go shopping, to meet up with our few friends, and tomgo to the local Folk Festival, carrying all our camping equipment in the pouring rain! We really enjoyed the freedom and independence.
I was sorry to see that constraints can be placed on the freedom to walk these days - his seems like a real infringement of civil liberties.
I always hated getting the bus to school, so I would walk instead. That meant I could save up my unspent pocket money and spend it on second hand books. I also used to buy random things that caught my eye - once a huge shiny green marrow, which my mother then stuffed for supper.
I got woken at 4am by my anxious rescue dog. I thought she needed to go outside but it turns out she just wanted a cuddle. I often wake up around 4am in any case - bizarrely when I look at my digital clock it is usually around 4:42 which it is right now!
Agree with you about asking for help. I've got an ankle injury currently so I'm off work and pretty much immobilised. A couple of my work colleagues want to 'pop in' or get me shopping and this is causing me a great deal of stress. When I say it is not convenient or necessary, because the thought of them coming round is too overwhelming, I worry that it looks as if I am not really injured and stuck at home.