I have not blogged much over the last few years, and most of my posts in the past year have been along the lines of “Here is why I have not been writing”. In those posts I have talked about my plans to write more and projects I wished to work on, and yet as you can tell by looking at the recent posts on this blog, that has not happened. Why is that? There are a few reasons. As I have written about these issues before I debated whether I should write about them again, but I believe it’s still worth talking about due to those blogs having been written sometime ago, and things having moved on from where I was at that time.
Around four years ago – not long before my first book was published – my family went through some personal issues: bereavement, illness etc. I had struggled with depression for a while before this, and always had the issues that come with autism to deal with, for example sensory overload and anxiety. But after this point my depression became worse and worse until it reached a point where it was hard to even get a shower or watch a film. I believe I also went though an autistic crash around this time (for those of you who do not know an autistic crash is when you become so overloaded from having to do the things you need to do to get through each day, e.g. mask, deal with sensory overload, that you crash. You just stop being able to do those things.) What I mean by this is that I stopped being able to cope with the overload and anxiety. Once I was overloaded I could not do anything to bring myself out of it. Between 2015 and 2019 there were periods of weeks on end where I could not go out, write, read, or even pick something to watch. Days when I would do nothing at all, just pace around the house getting more and more stressed due to how bad I felt, and my inability to do anything about it until the stress would erupt in an outburst. I stopped working out and began to eat more. I began to see the impact of that; not only did I put on weight, I lost a lot of my strength, my skin got worse and I began to feel more and more ill day to day. Part of how bad I was feeling physically was also down to how little I was getting out. I hardly left the house at all. Everything I used to do: uni, volunteering part time in a shop, or going to the cinema fell by the wayside. Sometimes weeks would go by without me leaving the house. I hardly even went in my garden for four years. This took its toll on my physical health in the form of constant colds, headaches, and general feeling of sickness and lethargy. I found myself at times feeling as if I was under house arrest; unable to go out, and unable to take my mind off things by doing anything within the house. What made this all the more frustrating was knowing it was not something anyone was doing to me, it was something within my own mind that was putting me in the situation I was in. The days seemed to drag on; when you’re home all day, every day with no work to do it’s hard to fill the time even if you’re still capable of feeling enthusiastic for the things you normally enjoy. If not the time seems to stretch on forever with no end in sight. You would think that I would have been sleeping a lot, but in fact that was not the case. For about three years I hardly once got to bed before two in the morning. Not that I was doing much at night, but by that time of day I had got so much in to the swing of trying to pass the time that I just kind of carried on doing it without thinking “You could go to bed now”. Needless to say this did not help matters. I got bags under my eyes, could not stop yawning, and found it hard to focus on films/books even when I was able to try watching or reading them. Plus I was almost constantly grumpy, as you would be if you had been getting to bed at that time for months on end.
I say “was” not because I am fine now, but because this year so far has been better than the ones that came before. It’s not been perfect, not by a long shot, but it’s been better. I have still got to bed late more often than I would like, but I have also got to bed early on more nights in the past two and a half months than I have in all of 2017/18. I am on track to read more books and watch more films than I have in any of the past three years. For the past few weeks I have been going for a small walk twice a day; it’s not a lot, but it’s me out in the fresh air, and helps to stop my mood slipping back down to where it was. I have not been on a strict diet, but I have been eating much less unhealthy food than I was last year, or the year before. In short things are not where they need to be yet, but they are better than they have been in a long time.
So what now? Well it might be a cliché but its one step at a time. I have learnt now that you can’t always change things over night. Things take time, and even though you want everything fixed right away and one slip up can feel like all your hard work was for nothing, that’s not how the real world works. Things take time. They change slowly, but they do change. The first three months of this year have not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I can safely say they have been better, more productive, and more healthy than any three months out of 2016/17/ or 18.
That’s a positive way to look at things and what’s more it’s the right way, but it’s not always easy to keep that outlook. Sometimes I will start to think about the years I have wasted, being in the house, the weeks, months and years of doing nothing, and begin to feel low all over again. I think of all I could have read, learned or written in that time. Could I have had another book or two published? If I had been working-out that whole time what kind of shape would I be in? What could I have done with this blog in that time? Could I have sold more books, or done more talks?The answer to all those questions is yes, of course I would have done a lot more. When I start to dwell on that it can make me feel as if I have not just wasted a few years, but wasted my life; as if somehow the time to do those things has been and gone. When I begin to feel like that I have to remind myself I have only just turned 24. You never know how long you have left of course, we could all die at anytime, but you can’t account for that. In theory I could have another sixty years of life left. That’s a long time, a lot longer than the four years I have wasted. I can’t say, and nor would I want to, that I am going to throw myself in to my work, write three books by the end of the year, get in to film-making, and never waste another second of my life. That won’t happen. But what I can say is that for the first time in quite a few years things are starting to slowly get better rather than stagnating, or actively getting worse. Yes I might not have done much for the last four years, but I have still read some great novels, watched some classic films, found new music to love, and learnt a lot more about depression and autism. While I might still feel sad about the time I have wasted it’s important to keep in mind that even in another four years I will have only just turned 28. I can honestly say that I do not think the next four years will be anything like the last four. The mere fact that I got the urge to write this blog, wrote it in one go, and put it out there is a sign of that!
You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html
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