This week I want to share my mental health story during the COVID Pandemic. I feel this is important to the wellness of everyone in the autistic community both individuals and those serving them. Remember, there is no health without mental health. Click Here for Mental Health Resources globally.
As a 36-year-old Autistic man for the longest time I’ve felt down and out about myself. Having to leave my first apartment combined with the unknowns of COVID with a twist of flirting with disaster about taking my medicine was a recipe for destruction.
Then was the nothing. No day program. No social groups. Work and day program from home. For almost three months I was besides myself.
Things opened up and I started to plan to get back on my feet. Got on lists for a fresh start. It wasn’t long, I got my second house. Then COVID got hard, but the day program was there, the mobile supports, the therapists. The endless texts phone calls and again working remotely over Christmas for the second time in 11 years not having the fancy holiday get together I longed for much. No Thanksgiving or Christmas meals with the family for the first time ever in my life. We opened gifts on video chat Christmas afternoon. Thankfully holiday meals were provided by the community, mobile supports and my day program.
2021 we slowly got the vaccine in the arms of those who wanted, thus lessening the risk of getting sick and understanding what a new normal is for this year. I understood I need to take All my medicine to have the best life possible and I got help with making the process easier from the pharmacy that I am extremely grateful for beyond words. I know it a small thing, but to me struggling to remember to place them into the planner and the fumbling of hands each weekend, and the assurance of whether or not I have taken a dose is now remedied because the next dose to be taken is always in front of the box and the time is on it so I know if it has passed or not.
As I got back to weight loss support group. I had gained 40 pounds in a year and with my mom retired and a different schedule now we began walking more than we ever did. As time went on, the weight came off and is an ongoing process, something I needed to learn 15 years ago so I didn’t let my weight get out of control like it has. You live and you learn, the latter I discovered that I need both exercise and Healthy eating to lose weight. I have wasted over two decades of my life not being active to the amount I need to and being mindful of what I was putting in my body. I own the fact that I needed to take action all along, however I didn’t have a care until each time I had to get groceries became an argument because how my physical health declined as a result of being sedentary over the first year of COVID.
I am so thankful that my mother is now retired and we have both realized that nothing will progress unless you put some sweat equity (literally) in your health. Yes, it can be hard to go walking sometimes, but once you do it, you feel so much better. It pays off. We have also done two 5K walks this year and are planning to do two more in September. Additionally, I will be walking on the trail virtually in August because I am always up for something new. 2021 has also been a new endeavor in our county government realizing the heath of its citizens and the need to start a change. We also go those walks whenever the are scheduled and they are a blast also.
When doing these things, getting started is always the hardest part and until four weeks ago a mobile worker suggested that I begin having a gratitude and thought journal. I usually have started each day with three things to be thankful for in my life along with pondering some thoughts I have been experiencing the day before or that day. It has helped me immensely because it gives me a place to process my thoughts and give them action and realize that I am really thinking them. I also have been working with my therapist on challenging my negative behaviors, specifically with my parents as I have produced a plethora of negativity in the past few years towards them and expecting things and just taking everything for granted. It was a hard behavior to break, but I finally see it making a turn on both sides of the coin and the years of turmoil that always had some sort of negativity in it is slowly seeing less and less.
I was never one to want to take selfies outside of my home or even want to see myself as if I had this dysphoria. I have struggled with it all my life and finally am feeling so awesome about myself to the point that I feel comfortable talking a selfie now and then. I am starting to love myself more and more and am realizing that I can’t be a people pleaser and whether or not you want to believe this, you are not promised tomorrow. So, whatever I am doing, I want to make the best of it by feeling good about myself, the things I do, the help I am provided, the advice I am given and the things I learn. I do it for me and to show others (and sometimes others tell me) that life as gloomy and bleak as it seems to be, and without a doubt there is some bleakness there, we can’t let our inner voice get to us and destroy what positivity we have left.
As my one close friend says, “live a little!” we can’t let the small things get to us and that includes our mental health. For the past two years, I was letting my mental health win. I am now turning the corner and seeing by doing what all the peers and professionals have been telling me all along, I can finally do as my friend says. Remember there is no health without mental health. Check in on those in need or if you yourself may be in need, seek the help, its out there for you!