I am happy. Considering there was a 12 year period where being happy was exceptionally difficult, being able to say that on a near daily basis is awesome. There are lots of things that make me happy.
I like penguins. Seeing penguins makes me smile- it’s very difficult for me to be sad or upset for long when I am around and aware of penguins. When I was depressed I wasn’t able to be properly aware of penguins, so they couldn’t make me as happy as they do now. My living room is covered in penguins, and everytime I spot one I get a rush of happiness in my brain.
I like the colour purple. Purple is nice and calming and reassuring. I also have quite a lot of purple, as it’s my favourite colour. I covered my wheelchair in purple fabric. When we move house my bedroom is going to be purple (and possibly the living room as well).
I have some amazing friends. Most of them are online- I talk to them on Twitter, Facebook and AYME. These are people who make me feel good about myself, which in turn makes me feel happy. I have reduced my contact with people who get me down, which has also helped. Funnily enough, a lot of my friends have depression or other mental health problems, but because they are so nice and kind even with their illnesses they are a positive part of my life rather than a negative.
Reading blogs and being in touch with people on Facebook and Twitter helped me recover from my depression. Being able to read about other people’s experiences and seeing that I wasn’t alone made it so much easier to get out of the hell I was in. Blogging myself (on my old blog) also helped a lot, as it let me get some of my thoughts and feelings into a way that I could understand them. Being on the right medication also helped, as did having doctors (GP and psychiatrist) who listened to me, accepted me as I was, and stopped trying to force me into boxes that I don’t fit into.
Being diagnosed with autism was also a major step in the right direction for me. I had an explanation for why I was different to other people. I came across autistic adults on the internet who were able to teach me mostly through example that being autistic is okay. Accepting my autism made my life so much easier. I’d especially like to thank Kassiane S., Amanda B., Laura T., Laura R. and those who used to go to the Autistic Liberation Front meetings in Second Life for chatting to me and helping me through the period before and during diagnosis, and while my life was turned upside down.
My old social worker Balamory was also a massive help in my quest to recover from depression. She noticed my autistic traits and badgered lots of people on my behalf, helped me find acceptable housing when I needed it, and also found and helped me attend Interface, the autism unit I used to go to. I wish I had a way of letting you know how far I’ve come since I first met you.
Interface was a massive help. It was my first experience of specialist education, and it allowed me to be successful at college for the first time. There were lots of skills I learnt there that I needed to know to help my independence, both taught on the curriculum and learnt just by being there and with the help of the staff, especially my keyworker Louise. Being able to attend such a brilliant facility just after receiving my diagnosis and having a safe space to just be myself made college doable, even while I was still very mentally ill. Without Louise I don’t think I’d be where I am now.
Learning to be myself again was probably the biggest thing that has made me happy. I spent many years trying to fit in with everyone else, and not quite succeeding. Learning that I was autistic, that being autistic is okay, that being different is okay was one of the best lessons I could have learnt. Once I stopped surpressing my need to move (rocking, flapping, pacing, bouncing) in safe places (at home and in Interface) and then gradually becoming less concerned about doing some of the less extreme movements when out in public meant that I could control my anxiety and actually manage with stuff without it becoming overwhelming. Listening to music, wearing ear defenders, wearing tinted glasses, carrying a pen, my stones and a penguin of some kind with me everywhere are all things that don’t affect anyone but help me to deal with things. Rocking and flapping may look a bit odd, but they don’t hurt anyone and are much better than biting myself or melting down (which sometimes results in head banging).
At home I’m free to not do anything to try and fit in. I play with language- making up words, messing with grammar, talk about random things when they pop into my head. Colin, Vicky and Johan know this very well 🙂 I also do some of the stuff that people are less understanding about, such as having something in my mouth a lot of the time (sucking on things reduces my anxiety and helps me concentrate), humming and random singing, making noises with hands and fingers, wrapping myself tightly in my quilt, piling pillows on top of myself. I also ignore “age appropriateness” when at home, so can go from discussing politics or science or other “grown up” topics to talking in very simplified language about wanting penguins or jelly within seconds. I also play with my wooden blocks, and can spend hours just looking at my colour changing lights or sparkly things. One of the things I want is a sensory room or area with soft flooring and nice lighting and reflective sparkly things where I can spend time just to be myself and not have to worry about things like bills or food shopping or anything else that is difficult for my brain. I was originally going to use the space behind the top of the stairs in our flat (maisonette), but since I can’t walk or manage stairs now and we’ll be moving, it’s been put on hold until we move so I can figure it out when there.
Sammie also makes me happy. As much as I wish I could have her living with me and that I could look after her myself, accepting that I wasn’t in the right place for that (before with my mental health problems, now with my M.E.) and that she is doing so well with her grandparents and is happy herself is enough to make me very happy. I have been terrible at keeping in contact with her, but I’m trying to fix that as I love her more than anyone else in the world.
Johan is just amazing. I am so lucky to have found someone who accepts me for who I am, who has similar interests, and who I love being with and spending time with. That he voluntarily took on the role of carer, both with my mental health problems and now with my physical health problems, while he was struggling himself makes him my hero. I does help that he seems to love me as much as I love him, and I would quite happily spend the rest of my life with him.
Colin and Vicky also took on the carer role for me, going way beyond what was needed as a friend. Both of them helped me to become more independent, and that also meant it was easier to learn to be happy. I will be eternally grateful to both of them for this.
All of this- learning who I was and accepting me for me, learning I wasn’t alone and that there were other people who had similar experiences or similar ways of thinking to me, making some amazing friends who help me feel good about myself, some great support from some brilliant people, having a happy daughter, being in a loving relationship, feeling safe and secure and able to be me, means I was able to recover from depression and be happy. And I like it.