This really does not feel like my story to tell, but my sister has been struggling with pain over the last few days. After the night in the hospital, she was told to manage the pain with medicine and wait for it to get better. Yesterday, she had a friend come over “to help out” but ended up watching movies instead. Our dishes were piling up and needed to be done soon, but she was in no condition to do them. I planned to do the dishes when I got home from work, but another friend came by to bring my sister lunch and helped with our dishes before she left. I cannot express how grateful I am for the people that care for us, check in with us, and express their love and concern. It definitely means a lot, especially when we are struggling.
Our new renters needed some last minute help getting their old apartment cleaned out today. They had contracted with someone to get their place cleaned, but the person had a family emergency and had to cancel. The husband asked if either my sister or I would be willing to help for what he would have paid the other cleaners. I told my sister that I would split the money with her if she cleaned my house while I went to help clean the apartment. It was a lot of work to get the apartment in good condition, but it was nice to come back to a clean house. Then, we decided to use some of the money to buy food so we did not have to cook after cleaning all afternoon.
I gave my coworker a ride home last night. We had a good conversation along the way. Just before he got out of the car, he said to let him know if I need anything and that he and his wife would be happy to help out anytime. I love when people genuinely offer to help. Whether or not you ask for the help later, it is always nice to know that people care.
You can’t do life alone. No matter how much you want to be independent from everything and everyone, you need something bigger than yourself. Whether that something is God or friends or Google, we all need things outside of ourselves to keep us going, to help us in hard times, and to inspire us to be better.
I take an antidepressant. I have been taking this same medication for approximately a year and a half, and in general, I have been doing really well emotionally during that time. Sometimes though, I think that I am doing “well enough” to stop taking my medicine. I have never really liked medicine or doctors, and I am usually defiantly independent, so every few months or so, I try to lower my dose of medication or only take it every other day to see what happens. And honestly, it’s not a good experience. I might keep doing well for a few days, but slowly, I find myself drowning again. It becomes harder to see the light. A heaviness overwhelms me and I hurt for no explicable reason.
This last time of trying to get by on a lower dose of medicine has convinced me that it is not worth it. I would rather pay the money every month to buy my medicine than find myself contemplating suicide or wanting to give up on life. At one point I thought that accepting the possibility that I may need to take medication for the rest of my life was giving in to depression. If I have to keep taking medicine to avoid being depressed, then obviously the depression is still there, right? But I am coming to realize that taking antidepressants is the opposite of giving in to depression. As long as I am doing things to keep myself safe, to fight my depression, to keep on going, I am not giving in to anything (accept maybe happiness).
The truth is that we all need something to help us keep going. For some people, that something is running or doing some other form of sport or exercise. For others, that something is eating chocolate or avoiding sugar or doing something else that helps them feel good. I am coming to accept that medicine is what helps me to keep going. I also need friends and exercise and good food and sunshine and moments of silence offset by moments of crazy fun, but I can’t enjoy all those other things if my mental illness is keeping me from being able to be myself.
So, I am calling today a victory. I am deciding today to use the resources of modern medicine to help myself find peace. And I am encouraging you to do the same thing. Do not allow yourself to feel embarrassed or weak or less capable because you need something. Taking care of yourself is the strongest thing you can do, and no matter how you do that, if it works for you, it is the right thing to do.
It is amazing to me how much things can change in a year. With everything that has happened this year, I feel like much more time has passed. I look back at who I was 10 years ago and laugh at my selfishness and childish thoughts. I wonder how anyone put up with my whining and shortsighted views. I look back 5 years ago and am amazed at how much I have grown since then. I look back at two years ago and can hardly believe the healing and help and hope that has come into my life since then.
Two years ago, I posted about how I wanted to experience friendship like the love I had for others. I wanted to learn to love better and to love myself. I had grown to be strong and intelligent, resilient to the trials life would bring, but I was haunted by loneliness. Loneliness was a familiar friend, and many nights were spent in the deepest despair of want for human interaction.
I am not lonely anymore. That is the most beautiful statement in the world. I do not feel lonely anymore. I never thought this was possible for me. For so many years, I longed for a single person to see me and want to be more than a situational friend. It wasn’t until college that I felt like I had friends outside of church or school or activities. At that time, I was still getting used to the idea of having friends, and I messed up more times than I care to relate. But a little over two years ago, I started to really feel wanted. I started to have people I could call friends. I started to believe in hope.
I feel so blessed. I have felt love beyond my capacity to comprehend. I feel wanted, needed, important, and safe- most of all, safe. Two years ago, I was terrified of everything I was doing. I was stepping out of my comfort zone and talking to people that I had no idea how to communicate with and doing things for others that scared me almost to death. Every day felt like walking around with my heart in my hands, hoping that it wouldn’t get crushed along the way.
But those sleepless nights and silent tears and debilitating anxiety led to the most wonderful friends a person could imagine. All my loneliness, all my pain and suffering, seem like nothing now compared to the love and protection I feel. I feel overflowing gratitude for my friends and for all that I have learned. I feel healed, whole, loved.
I can text someone when I want to talk. I can say hello to someone I recognize when I see them in a store or on the street. I can ask for help. I can tell people how I feel without feeling awkward or out of place. I can hug people or let someone give me a massage. I can relax. I can be myself.
No one knows how far I have come, but it is impossible for anyone to miss the progress I have made. Everyone who knew me before can see how I have changed. We talk about milestones in autism- being able to talk, looking someone in the eye, communicating a need, but the most important milestones are the ones that make you want to be you.
I learned how to do everything I was supposed to do at an early age. I analyzed people to the point where I knew how to appear normal. No one would guess that I have autism, unless it was one of those rare moments when I made a mistake. But despite my capacity to fit in, I could never find the capability to belong.
My milestones are hope, love, and belonging. If there is a “cure” for autism, this is it- hope, love, and belonging. All I ever wanted was to feel like I have a place in this world. I wanted to feel like I belong, that I am wanted here. I wanted to feel like autism wasn’t a wall that kept out love. You want to find the cure for autism? This is it- love, accept, embrace, help. After that, everything else will just fall into place.
People who are thinking clearly do not want to die. Even those who consistently think about dying do not really want to die; they just want the pain to be over.
I think about suicide a lot- nearly every day, usually multiple times a day. However, it is just a thought. It comes and goes like a wave on the shore. And as long as I have moments of peace in between, I’m okay and I won’t hurt myself. But every once in a while, the tides are high and the waves don’t really leave and you drown in it.
Last night was one of those times. I had done everything to feel okay. I had read scriptures and prayed and read positive notes from friends and colored and ate chocolate. I did everything I could think of to save myself, but at the end of the night, it was not enough. I looked up the suicide hotline and wrestled with the thought of calling for half an hour. But when you can’t call the suicide prevention line because you’re crying too much before you even dial the number, you know things are bad.
I kept telling myself I don’t normally feel like this. It’s just a night. It’s just a moment. Maybe I should call to get me through… But once I finally pushed the button and saw the call going through, I panicked.
“I can’t really be calling the suicide hotline… That means these thoughts are real. That means I’m actually considering acting on how I feel.” That means that I’m not as well as I think I should be.
These were the thoughts going through my head.
But I have made promises to stay safe. I have made promises that if I am ever in danger or think I might be in danger, I will let someone know. So I did. I didn’t know if they could help or how they could help, but I knew that if something happened and I didn’t at least tell them, they would be hurt.
It took another half hour of talking with them before I felt okay again. I kept hearing in my head that I had a friend and that things were going to be okay until the darkness dispersed. I felt the thickness and weight of a dark fog lift off me. I still hurt beyond belief, but I no longer felt like I was drowning.
I know you can’t completely understand unless you’ve been through this, but I want you to know that we try. Anyone who has depression and attempts to end their life or contemplates suicide tries to be okay. We try to find ways out of the darkness. We try to get help. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work, or we don’t know what resources to turn to, or we can’t seem to find the capacity to use the resources.
They say that suicide is selfish, and maybe it is, but I want you to know that getting to that point doesn’t just come. It’s a struggle. It’s a fight for your life. And if you know someone that loses that fight, I hope you also know that they probably tried everything to be okay. They just didn’t know what else they could do.
They say that people who eat chocolate every day are happier. I am starting to believe it. I have never been a chocoholic. In fact, I have never really liked eating a ton of junk food or sugary food. I splurge every once in a while, but then I get sick of it and just want to eat fruits and vegetables for a few weeks. But I have discovered that a little bit of chocolate can really help offset a depressed mood.
There are times when I just feel heavy. Nothing bad happened that day. There are no reasons for me to feel down, but I do. I feel so heavy that I don’t want to go on. I don’t want to do anything or try anything. I don’t want to go outside or go to work or eat food or read a book or draw a picture or anything. I just want to curl up on the floor and forget about everything and pretend like the world doesn’t exist for a while.
Recently when I had an anxiety attack, I ate some chocolate and it seemed to help calm me down a bit. I remembered that today when the heaviness returned and life seemed almost unbearable. So I had a piece of chocolate, and it helped. I mean, I wasn’t jumping up and down or smiling or laughing or anything, but the heaviness eased up. I felt a little lighter, a little more able to bear the weight of life, a little less isolated from the world.
Depression is such a difficult illness. There are things that help, and you get better, and you have hope, but sometimes it just doesn’t go away. I have chronic depression. I don’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t depressed. The longest I went without long periods of depression was one year, and I still had moments of depression within that year. I described depression to a friend once as pain that grips you, and some days it grips you so tightly that you can barely breathe, and you feel so weak and heavy for no describable reason.
So, no, chocolate won’t cure your depression. But maybe it will help. And when every day is a battle for your life and you feel like you don’t want to fight anymore, anything that relieves the burden in the slightest is a blessing. So eat chocolate, eat ice cream, eat pizza, do whatever makes you happy, because life is too short to not feel better.
At the beginning of 2009, I tried to take my life. Something happened that made me stay.
I was thinking today about all the things I would have missed out on if I had died that day.
I never would have made my current best friend or my best friend before her.
I never would have met any of my nieces or my nephew, or had the chance to play with any of them or love them.
I never would have graduated from college.
I never would have gone to work at the humanitarian center, where I influenced hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people.
I never would have seen my siblings and friends get married.
I never would have done so many things and taught so many people and made so many friends. I never would have been able to be such an influence for good.
For some of us, it doesn’t get better.
Some of us have had depression for as long as we can remember and it may never go away.
But… just because it doesn’t get easier, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not worth it.
Sometimes life is hell. It feels like torture and every breath is agony and you desperately long for relief. But… between the agonizing moments, between the gasping for air, between the uncontrollable crying bouts, there are beautiful, amazing, remarkable moments of pure bliss. There are moments that take your breath away and make you cry or leap for joy.
No, it may not get easier, but… it is worth it.
I have no idea how Beth and I became best friends. We are complete opposites in almost everything. She is a country girl who grew up mostly in trailer homes. I am a city girl who grew up 15 minutes from 3 major malls, 2 giant amusement parks, countless beaches, and pretty much anything you would want to do in southern California. She enjoys cuddling, saying I love you, and watching romance movies. I don’t usually hug people, much less cuddle with them, have a hard time saying I love you, and would rather watch an action film than a romance. She struggles in school and doesn’t generally enjoy learning about random stuff. I love learning and hardly ever study because it comes so naturally to me.
Almost every time we talk, one of us will say, how did we ever become friends? But the fact remains that we are best friends and plan on remaining so until we’re old and senial and forget each other’s names. Then, we’ll be new best friends.
I could say more about our friendship, but this story is about Beth. How did she get here and why is she struggling?
Beth grew up in an abusive household. Her mother was an addict when she was pregnant and it didn’t change after Beth was born. Beth’s older siblings took advantage of her, experimenting their perceptions of life on Beth and taking out their frustrations on her. Living in abuse led to not knowing how to prevent it in other places. So school wasn’t much better than home.
I won’t go into details, but by the time I met Beth, she had been through a lot. She was a freshman in high school and I was a sophomore in college. We’re only 3 years apart in age, but miles apart in life circumstances. After 2 years of friendship, I made the decision that would change both of our lives forever by bringing Beth to California.
It has been 3 years since then and we’re still best friends, but changing Beth’s circumstances didn’t change her past. She still has PTSD from everything that happened to her as well as health problems and depression. It did change everything for me though. Being friends with Beth gave me freedom from depression for the first time in my life and changed how I view the world and myself.
I know it’s not as easy to change effects of abuse as it is to change effects of loneliness, but I want the same thing for my best friend as she has given me. That can’t happen until she gets the help she needs. I contribute all I can to help her, even signing as a cosigner so she could get an apartment after being homeless for 9 months. But if anyone else can help too, it would mean she may be able to get the help she needs to become whole like she has helped me become.
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Lately my limitations have really been getting to me. I know that I have more to give than I have the capacity for right now. But if things stay as they are, I will never be able to do all that I want to do. Autism will never go away. People say that there are cures or that they’ve seen people be cured, but it’s a fallacy. We simply learn to blend in better.
And so… I need your help. I need your help to blend in better. I need your help because I can’t do this alone. I can’t teach myself what I don’t understand and what I can’t learn from observing the world I am currently living in. There are a lot of things that I don’t know how to do or can’t do right now because of autism. But maybe if I had some help I could learn how to do those things. Maybe if someone could show me in a way I can understand, I can improve on skills I’ve craved to learn since kindergarten.
I have heard a lot of good things about video modeling and I would like to try it. I would like to do a little self-experiment to see if video modeling can help me get past some of my current limitations.
So… here’s what I need from you:
Take a video of yourself or a friend or even a stranger (make sure you get their permission first) saying hi to someone. It can be anywhere- the grocery store, the mall, work, church, etc. Try to make it as realistic and natural as possible.
Then send me the video or post it on your youtube page or blog and send me the link. If you would like to email me with it, leave me a comment and I’ll send you my contact info.
I would also appreciate any other videos you are willing to share with me that have to do with everyday social interactions- small talk, meeting someone new, asking someone on a date, etc.
Thanks in advance for anything you can help me with. I can’t do this alone and I really need help to become better so I really appreciate anything you can do to help.