Covid-19: Mental Health

I know most people have probably already done a blog post on this pandemic but I haven’t yet, so here goes.

Before Covid-19, I left my house maybe once or twice a week; I napped daily, due to a combination of factors, and I didn’t have a lot going for me. It’s not as hard for me to cope with this change as it would be for someone regularly going to a job or uni — simply because I didn’t have a lot going on. I don’t think I’ll have a lot going on for a long time. I am depressed, anxious, and autistic. This is how my life has been, since a young age. I could never concentrate at school when it got into the afternoon, so I’m glad I am now able to take this time for myself.

Simply put, this gives me a reason to stay in my house, a reason to not leave, a reason to continue being depressed. Whilst on the front, because I didn’t leave the house a lot anyway, it looks like there isn’t much change, there is. I now have an excuse to stay inside for weeks at a time and get out of the routine of leaving the house. This is affecting my mental health, and it’s probably affecting other people’s mental health too.

I’m here to tell you that, even if you don’t feel like it, have a bath or shower. Brush your hair. At least have the motivation to do that, because if you don’t — you might end up forgetting how to look after yourself. I’ve been trying my best to have baths when I can’t be bothered because it’s the one thing I can do right now. Also, even introverts need friends. Reach out to people; even those that you haven’t talked to for a while. You might find you relate to them more because of this crisis. Try, when it’s sunny, to go out into the garden for a few minutes each day. These past few days, the weather has been great so I’ve gone into the garden and enjoyed it. Even if I don’t have any plans, even if I can’t see the future, I can see today and I can accept it, whatever happens.

This year was going to be a good year. I literally wrote a tweet in January about all the plans I was looking forward to; my cousin’s wedding, my 21st, etc. Now, it’s going to be a bit different. It won’t be how I envisioned it but it will still happen and, to be frank, changes happen all the time. When I was going to college, I’d get freaked out if there were changes to the train times. Now, there’s a massive change that is going to affect everybody, and somehow, I feel more calm than I did then. I am worried about the financial future of my family, I am worried about the health of everybody, but I have accepted that whatever is going to happen will happen and I can’t change it. However, I can help myself and others by washing my hands regularly and not going outside, so I’m going to do that. I did get sick a few weeks ago but I have no way of knowing if that was Covid-19 or not, so I’m going to say that I haven’t had it and continue washing my hands regularly because it’s better to be safe, even if you think you’ve had it. Yes, there’s a chance you’ll be immune, but you don’t know for certain, and unless you had a test done, you won’t know for certain that you had it. So keep washing your hands and keeping yourself mentally-prepared.

I also wanted to add a note at the end of my mid-night ramblings. A good friend of mine, MyMindSpeaksAloud has started a weekly well-being challenge which you can sign up to here. She’s amazing and it really has helped me focus on something. Even if some weeks I haven’t managed to complete the challenges, just reading the emails from her made me smile and think of something in my mind. When it started, I was unwell so wasn’t able to complete it, but now I’m in a better mindset and enjoying reading her emails and hopefully completing the challenges. It really does help if you need a little boost. Thank you a lot, Alice.

i exist

I wish someone said to me
existing is enough.
You do not need to become
anything more than an atom,
because when you’re down,
to know you can be who you are
without becoming anything
is worth your life.
To tell someone that existing
isn’t what we should achieve,
perhaps, I am of such doubt
that I cannot believe
I will become anyone,
so just let me know
that I can exist
and that’s okay too.

How To Be A Person (Not)

It’s hard living with autism on top of mental health problems. They all work against you in every possible way. My autism leaves me without a filter on what I say, so I often blurt out exactly what I’m thinking. My anxiety then comes in and tells me that, because of this lack of filter, everyone must hate me because I say all the wrong things. Then, depression calls out and tells me that I should stop leaving the house because nothing works out. It’s really hard to get the motivation to leave the house because I have the trio of anxiety, depression and autism that want me to stay inside forever. It takes all of my energy to leave the house.

After I leave the house, I am put out into the unpredictable world. Things happen that can affect my autism because it wasn’t as I expected my day to go. I’m put into social situations that make me question why I can’t just be more like non-autistic people, because I will say stupid things over and over again. It’s really hard to not say stupid things, or at least things I think are stupid. I guess this is why I’ve always struggled with friendship. Most people don’t like me. I maybe have one or two friends but, then again, anxiety will tell me that they don’t really like me. How could anyone like me?

It’s easy to tell if a dog or cat likes me. They’re very easy to read. People, however, are more difficult as they aren’t always honest and I can’t tell if they truly like me or not. Also, being around people exhausts me. I tend to nap in the afternoons to deal with this. I am not like other people. The name of my blog is derived from the fact that I relate more to pandas than people. I struggle to relate to most people. I guess I think life would be easier if I weren’t a person.

I also find it hard to think about my future. I can see other people’s futures; I get quite happy when I think about their plans, but when I think about my own future, I can’t see a lot happening. I don’t feel like much is going to happen in my life. Being autistic, it’s hard to see a lot happening because I struggle with communication. I’m too awkward for life.

Expressing myself is quite easy when I’m writing it down. A poem or a blog post, either way, I am able to express how I feel about my mental health and my autism. That’s why I do it. It’s easier to be me if I have an outlet for my emotions. It’s still quite tricky though, figuring out how to be a person.

Lia

First Post of Year, I Guess

I think I’ve been a bit overwhelmed lately which was why I haven’t posted yet this year. I’ve been sad and anxious and also ill physically so I didn’t really have a chance to, though I have posted one or two poems on my Instagram (@bamboochewer) and some pet and food photos during that time.

I guess I would say that I feel a bit like an alien. I do have friends but I don’t feel like I relate to humans, as such, because I’m so odd. I feel like I’d probably relate better to someone who doesn’t live on this planet but has recently come across it. Everyone there is a stranger to them and they look different and they act different. That’s how I’d describe how I feel.

I recently met up with a friend I’ve known since birth; however we haven’t seen each other for several years, since we were at school really. It was nice seeing her but I’m terrible at social interaction and immediately felt overwhelmed when she wanted to see me the second week. I like her a lot and I think she’s awesome but I always worry that I say the wrong things. I think I have said many wrong things across the years. I just blurt out things and most people end up hating me, which is why I don’t like meeting up with people regularly. I feel like… the more I see someone, the more they’ll realise that I’m a weirdo and the less they’ll want to see of me.

Also, most people don’t think about the world as I think of it, and I struggle to relate to people because of that. I think I have maybe one friend that has the exact same mindset as me; everyone else doesn’t understand, truly, how painful life is for me. I’d consider myself to be pretty empathetic and this empathy goes for all living beings, but it comes with great sadness. I see animals suffering and I want to help them so bad but I can’t. My autism prevents me from doing what I’ve always wanted to do; help animals! I love writing but I think, spiritually, I am that girl who talks to a butterfly and asks how it’s doing but then realises it will be dead soon and has a little funeral inside my head. I don’t talk to most people about these thoughts I have because they wouldn’t get it but I do feel like an alien for having them.

I think I’m going to do some things in my life, but I won’t do them until I’m a lot older. At least, that’s what my numerology says (I’ve become interested in it recently and my friend told me what it means for me). So maybe I’ll be like Greta Thunberg, just a granny version of her.

I like people a lot but there’s certain traits of people that I don’t understand. I think because I’m autistic, I like to see things in two ways. You either are something or you’re not, so when people say they’re in the middle of a way of thinking, I get a little confused.

We all have a purpose and I think I’m discovering my purpose as I move along in life. Your purpose can change over time too. Existing is a worthwhile purpose, if you can’t think of anything else. Existing is hard enough, so don’t worry about needing a greater purpose. Just being here is a challenge enough, sometimes.

And that concludes today’s random depressed and anxious musings.

Lia

Small Change, Big Emotions

As an autistic person, routines are highly important to me. If a routine changes, I get stressed and it kind of sets my mood for the rest of the day. Even if the change is small, it still makes me distressed. I can be having a wonderful day but then one thing can happen to change that.

The worst changes are unpredictable ones, changes that I haven’t been warned about. These changes cause high levels of stress to me and I feel pretty depressed. If I’m told about the change, at least I can prepare myself, but when the change comes out of nowhere, I feel like crying.

I thought my day would go a certain way today; I had a picture in my head of what would happen — but that isn’t how it went. A small change caused me to basically feel like the world was ending. I know that sounds dramatic but that’s autism. We love routine and, when our routine is altered, we panic.

There are a few ways you can help someone with autism deal with change, but sometimes that doesn’t work either. The most important way to help an autistic person deal with change is to warn them about it long before it happens; this way we can digest the change and adjust to it. Of course, unpredictable events will still happen. Let us have a meltdown, if this occurs, because holding in our emotions is far worst. I had a meltdown today but I tried to hide it from public view; I had to sleep as soon as I came home because I was so damn tired. I’m often tired but I was even more tired than usual, having immediately had an anxiety attack as soon as I got away from the public. My mum got the wrath of it. I told her everyone hates me, that I’m stupid, that I don’t want to do this anymore; I was so anxious and it was all because of one change.

I just wanted the day to go smoothly but it didn’t and that’s to be expected, when living in a world with unpredictability. I wish I was a robot, sometimes, programmed to behave in a certain manner; that way I would not feel so unsettled. The thing that upset me the most was that I was never told this change would happen; it just did. It was sprung upon me and I felt defeated.

I’d really like to thank my mum for dealing with me when I’m so anxious. She is always there and it’s useful to have someone on your side who really knows you. That way, you can meltdown in front of them and they’ll still love you.

Lia

Opportunities and Anxiety

I was so terrified, when I got told of this opportunity, that it wouldn’t happen because not many opportunities have ever amounted to anything. However, last week I met up with a woman who told me she wanted to write for her.

Today, I wrote for them for the first time. I have bad anxiety so every time anything good happens, I always question a lot of things afterwards. Was I annoying? Did my writing suck? Do they hate me? My mind always goes to the negative side of things, rather than admitting that I managed to do a few tasks today that were out of my comfort zone.

For one, I ordered lunch, which is something my mum told me to do. I was so terrified of doing it; I never order for myself because of my anxiety. My mum also wants me to go on public transport alone soon.

I also wrote from prompts that weren’t my usual writing, but I enjoyed it. I love it when I’m given a prompt that makes me write something unexpected. However, I still worry that perhaps it was not good. Perhaps, they will wonder why they wanted me to write for them in the first place. This is my anxiety.

I get so excited about opportunities, yet I also get so anxious. I think this opportunity is good though and that I might become a better writer by doing it. I just have to let myself win, not the anxiety. Before, the anxiety has won, and I have given up trying. But I am going to try my best to let myself have a chance.

Lia, you can do this!

Fire (Flash Fiction)

It’s that moment where you sit too close to a fire and it starts to burn. You want to pull back but at the same time, this is the warmest you’ve ever felt. It’s that not knowing whether you’re in the fire or not; that pacing from the heat to the cold. You don’t want to be cold. You can’t be cold again. So you sit by the fire, for hours, just next to it, but every so often you get too close again and the heat is too intense. The first thought in your mind is that you want to leap into the fire, not away from it. So you sit close, waiting to see if there’s any reason why you should leave the fire and go back to the cold, but there never is. There’s never a reason to jump into the fire either. You’re stuck, between being on fire and being cold and neither of those options sound good to you, so you are waiting until a better option comes forward. It doesn’t, so for years, the fire is your neighbour. The fire is your friend. The fire is not you though.

Worries

I worry every day. I can’t stop the flooding in my brain. I worry about the fact that only 16% of autistic adults are in full time paid employment, and that only 32% are in any kind of paid work. I worry about the fact that I don’t look autistic and most people don’t realise just how autistic I am. They think I can fix my autistic traits if they keep telling me how to improve myself, but you can’t fix autism. It stays with you forever. I worry about the fact I may lose all my friends one day through my lack of understanding social communication. I say the wrong things often and I don’t understand why it was the wrong thing. I don’t understand other people’s social signals, either. I think I’m losing friends already.

I worry about the fact that 1 in 3 autistic adults are experiencing severe mental health problems and I think I’m one of them because I can’t see properly most days. All I see in front of me are traps. I think about all the ways I could fail in life frequently, and it isn’t enough to just think positive. I try, but then I think about all the negatives of that positive.

I worry about the fact that I want to do something big with my life but that I will never get the chance to. Don’t say I can if I try. Then, I’ll feel worse about not doing it. My autism looks like it doesn’t affect me much so people encourage me to do things that they would never encourage someone with a more visible disability to do. Just because mine is invisible, people think I can do things. I’ve tried to do more with my life and it ended in terrible situations each time, because of my autism. Each time, I remember back to those scenarios, and I think they will happen again. That is why I cannot do what I want with my life. I cannot experience the opportunities many are lucky to grab. It will end badly.

I cannot see any future for myself, personally. I see the future of everyone else around me — but not me. I have no future. One day, I might be all alone and not know how to cope with the world I’ll be all alone in, and that frightens me the most. I fear that I will be stationary, like a statue, for my entire life. I once had dreams and aspirations that burned down before me when I realised I can never complete those.

I’m depressed. I’m anxious. I’m autistic. No one wants to deal with someone like me. I’m too complicated for them. I’m a mess. I lie to people most of the time with simple texts and funny pictures. I don’t want to be remembered for being a fraud. I want to be remembered for being an author who volunteered with animals regularly, but that is not going to happen. I have had far too many set-backs already. My autism is literally stopping me from getting opportunities (I was turned down by a volunteer agency when they found out I was autistic, despite the fact I could do whatever tasks they wanted me to). I have tried more than once to fit in with society and it did not work out.

The truth is that I’m tired. I feel like an alien. No one understands me. I will not speak this aloud but I will write it in a blog post because that’s what my blog is about. Expressing myself.

Honestly, my pets are what keep me going. Seeing them each day gives me something to smile about, but there’s not much more for me to smile at anymore. I feel alone and frightened about my future. I have my family but they won’t be here forever, so what happens then?

I don’t know.

Lia

 

I exist

Another day.

The birds are singing, the cats are howling, the dogs are yapping. Everyone is up but you. You lie in bed, stiffened by the thoughts that tighten the ropes around you. You’re still, motionless, yet completely awake. You want to get up, to have a life, to just say hi to someone, but you can’t. Your body is paralyzed by the cuffs of sadness. You find no meaning, no reason, to exist but you also find no meaning, no reason, not to exist. It is as if you are caught between the two. This feeling means that you do not want to die but you do not want to live either. You are caught in a bind that strangles you with every breath.

Every day that goes by, you feel the knots tightening, until you’re almost completely wrapped up in them. You can speak, you can move, you can live, but you don’t. You become just another blade of grass. Your presence is not acknowledged, not anymore. You don’t exist… but you do. You know that you exist and you want to scream it from the rooftops but, again, you don’t. You won’t.

“Help…” you utter, still tied up in bed.
And with that, the ropes burn, leaving scars on your arms. The scars will never leave your arms but they will fade overtime. You realise now that you are finally free to speak, to move, to live.

You get up, you go outside, and you scream.

“I exist!”

You can breathe again.