The Disconnect

You can be in a room by yourself and not feel lonely. You can be in a room full of people, sitting by yourself and not feel lonely. What makes you feel lonely is not being alone, it’s feeling disconnected from the people around you.

I don’t know what I have in common with people. I don’t think like other people. I have been through things that a lot of people my age don’t understand. I’m not super involved with my appearance like most girls my age. I don’t obsess about boys. I haven’t even really been on many dates.

Sometimes I just don’t see what I have in common with the people around me. And it makes me feel like an outsider. I wonder how I’m going to find a way to be part of the world around me when I don’t seem to be like anyone else. Where do I fit? Where am I meant to be? How do I find my place? And will I always feel as lonely and separated as I do now?

I don’t know. I know I don’t want to be like everyone else. I know I’m not really meant to be. But I want to feel more like everyone around me. I want to feel like I belong. I want to feel connected.

Why I Quit My Job

I commute an hour to work and an hour back home five days a week. I got in a car accident about a month ago. After the accident, this commute has become incredibly stressful and anxiety provoking. But… That is not why I quit my job.

No, I could have moved closer to work. I could take public transportation or try to carpool with someone, even though either of those would likely mean I’d leave home an hour earlier and get back an hour later. The real reason I’m quitting my job is that I can’t handle it emotionally and mentally.

I can’t trust myself to be alone. I had to come back from my vacation early because I don’t have any more time off. The rest of my family won’t be back for a week and a half. But I can’t go that long by myself. So I’m planning on visiting my friend and my sister and trying to keep busy as much as I can.

It is hard being scared of yourself. I have things somewhat figured out with medications. I’m no longer as anxious as I used to be. I got off a medication that made me super depressed. I just don’t do well with being alone though. The last time I was alone for a week or so, I attempted suicide. The darkness just closes in so fast when you’re alone. There’s no one to stop it from eating you.

So… In the simplest terms, I quit my job so that I can live, and more importantly, so that I can live without so much fear. If I could be a hermit and live without any connection to anyone or anything, I would. But as long as I am connected to someone else, it’s like I can’t live by myself.

Faith to Not Be Healed

Depression takes everything from you. It takes away your friends because they can’t handle it all. It distances you from your family because you become too sick to know how to reach out. It affects you physically, emotionally, and mentally. You lose yourself and you lose your support. And all you know is the pain and loneliness. When this happens, what do you cling to? What is left when depression strips you down to your core?

For me, it is faith. A few years ago, I heard a story about a man with cancer seeking a cure. He talked to everyone from doctors to religious leaders, but the cure did not come. Finally, one of his leaders asked, “do you have the faith to not be healed?”

This story has always stuck with me. I know that for me, depression will not go away soon. My journey with it is not over yet. I still have a long way to go. But as I have watched depression strip me down to my core, I have found that faith to not be healed. I have found the faith to hold on even when things don’t get better.

Maybe one day this will be better. Maybe one day I won’t struggle with depression. Maybe one day I will be healed. Until then, I cling to faith. I cling to hope because when all else fails, that’s what I choose to hold on to.

 

How Autism Contributes to Depression

I have been lonely for as long as I can remember. I didn’t know how to communicate with people that I wanted to spend time with them, and I didn’t know how to just go and talk to someone. Most of my conversations with my parents were on car rides because that was the only way I knew how to initiate a conversation, when I knew I would be with someone for a designated amount of time and they wouldn’t have anywhere else to go or anything else to do. One of my best friends was probably made because of that exact situation. I would give her rides from work and we would talk on the car ride. We would also talk at my desk when we finished our work and didn’t have anything else to do.

Thinking about it, I still don’t know how to initiate conversations with people outside of those parameters- a defined period of time, a setting where we are required to be in the same general area during that time, and a specific task or event that requires our focus on the moment. People are often surprised by how naturally I start and continue conversations in these situations, but they are just about the only situations where this is possible.

Here is where depression comes in. I used to think that my depression was a direct result of my loneliness. I felt that if I could make friends and be able to spend time with them, I would no longer be depressed. I have now realized that my depression is not just from loneliness. I am prone to thoughts of depression. I am vulnerable to thoughts of suicide and self hatred even when I am not lonely. However, my lack of communication skills always contributes to the severity of my depression.

I have two best friends. They are both completely amazing and I would do anything in the world for them. They help me through my depression on a daily basis. However, my need for their love and approval, and my lack of the adequate skills I need to interpret their actions and communicate my needs, often contributes to thoughts of suicide, depression, and self harm. One of my best friends has been my friend for about 7 years. I don’t worry about losing her because I know that she will always need me at least as much as I need her. I have a problem communicating my needs with her though. I do not know how to tell her that situations are too overwhelming for me and that I need an escape. The biggest issue I have with my other friend is that I do not know how to read her signals. I do not know how to tell if she enjoys being friends with me, or if she wants to talk or wants some space, or if I am too much for her at a particular moment or not enough at another moment.

This is where depression and autism entwine and run away with each other. Depression tells me that since I can’t read someone’s signals, that must mean that they think the worst of me. Autism tells me that I lack communication skills to remedy the situation so I might as well consign myself to a state of depression because this will never get better. Depression tells me that since I cannot adequately communicate, I am a worthless human being and no one would ever really want to be my friend unless I do amazing things for them all the time. And since I suffer with major depression, there are times when I cannot do anything for other people because I am struggling so much myself. And these thoughts all cycle in my head. Depression feeds off of lack of communication skills, which I don’t feel I can improve because autism makes communicating harder, and then depression feeds off of my hopelessness, which leads to increases thoughts of worthlessness, which leads to greater isolation and self doubt, which increases my desires to die, which deepens my depression.

I know that the only way to reconcile these thoughts is to untangle depression from autism, to look at each one separately and see how they contribute to each other. The only way to sort out my thoughts is by communicating them with people to find what is true and what is only a reality in my head because I’m looking at things through the lens of depression. It really is okay that I can’t be in crowds for very long without needing to have a break at some point. It is okay that I carry ear plugs around with me everywhere I go. It is okay that I’m not sure how to communicate my feelings and I stumble on my words when I try to speak without taking the time to construct the conversation in my head first. Depression wants me to see these things as unforgivable faults that can never be understood by others.

The truth is, that my friends already see it. They know that when I walk quickly through a crowd, it is not because I don’t want to walk with them. It is because I need a break from the sensory input that has been too much for me for longer than I was able to express. They know that I try to do more than I’m capable of because I care too much to let autism stop me from trying. They know that when I lash out at them, it is because I have been trying to stay calm on my own for too long and I finally reached my breaking point. But most of all, they know I love them more than I am capable of expressing. And that is the one thing that depression can’t touch. That love, that amazing, wonderful love that I have for them and they have for me, will always get me past the thoughts of depression and inadequacy. And I know that despite the autism, despite the depression, despite how hard things get, I will always have a reason to keep on trying and keep on living and keep on keeping on.

They Know

It is always a little scary to add a new friend on Facebook because it means that they can know. They can know that I have autism and depression and anxiety. They can know that I have attempted suicide and that I have recurring thoughts of suicide. I don’t usually add people to my Facebook because of this. Every once in a while though, someone adds me and I accept because it would be rude not to.

I used to hide everything from my friends, but it got to the point where I decided that I needed to be open with people because I couldn’t afford to not tell people how I feel. The problem is letting new people in. I always have this thought when someone likes or comments on one of my posts that they now know. They know I have autism or depression or anxiety. They know about my struggles.

I am a very intimidating person. I come across as strong and smart and confident. In a way, I am all of those things. But I do struggle. I have things that I can’t do or that are more difficult for me than the average person. Sometimes we don’t want people to know those things about us. Actually, most of the time we don’t want people to know those things about us. We trust very few with our struggles. At some point though, we have to decide to trust. We have to decide to let people in.

I can’t say that it is easy to let people in. I panic every time a new person adds me on Facebook. I get nervous when I know that someone is likely to read my blog posts or to know my story. But in the end, we all just want to be accepted. We want to be loved for who we are. We want to be able to trust others. It is hard, but this is my way of trusting. This is my way of letting people in because I don’t have the words to say the hard things in any other way.

Hello Darkness my Old Friend

To say I have been depressed for the last few months would be an understatement. To say I have been overwhelmed and stressed to the point of exhaustion would clarify a little more, but would still not give a full picture of how much I have been struggling. The fact is I have been drowning. You forget what it is like to breathe sometimes when life is so crazy that you don’t have time to focus on anything. I have been in a whirlwind of demands and emotions. I have been spinning in a sea of anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, desires for self harm, and overall stress. The loneliness surrounding me has felt like walking around in a plastic bag, trying to gasp for air that wasn’t there.

I have checked out of life.

Before the last couple months, I never understood people who said that when they were depressed, they just stayed in bed. I am an expectation follower. I do what people expect no matter how hard it is, how uncomfortable, how much it hurts me, or how much I despise it. I cannot just not go to work because that is what is expected of me. I cannot just stop doing what I am expected to do, no matter how much I am struggling or how much I am hurting. The last month was a little different though. I realized that people don’t expect much from single people. You can pretty much just go to work or school and that is all people expect of you. I usually enjoy doing other things, but this time I did not care to do anything. I did not do any of the things I usually do. I avoided home and my family. I stayed out late and did absolutely nothing most of the time. I left church as soon as possible and arrived as late as possible. I did not go to activities or talk to most of my friends. I did not try to cook or buy groceries. I don’t even remember half of the last month because I was so out of it.

Suicide seemed so enticing. I thought about self harm nearly every day and succumbed to the thoughts more than once.  The darkness won out more often than it ever has before. And for once, I was not scared of suicide because I just figured it was a matter of time, and if it came down to it, I would not be opposed to embracing the darkness for one final time. I felt like a zombie going through the motions of life, and it didn’t matter if I lived or died because I felt like I was emotionally dead already.

The good news is that I’m getting better. I feel like I can breathe again. I feel like I can talk again. I feel like I may have more of a grip on life. It is a slow process. You don’t just come out of depression like that and simply go on with life. But slowly, steadily, I am working towards recovery. I am learning to breathe again. I am learning to see again. I am learning to be myself again. And it will get better. It always does.

Questioning

My biggest questions in life are: Am I good? Am I enough? Am I too much?

I feel so disconnected from the world. I know I don’t fit in. I never will. Sometimes I hate it. I hate this not fitting in. I want to so badly. On the one hand, I know I was never meant to fit in, but on the other hand, I wonder how life would be if I was more like other people.

It seems that it all comes down to feeling loved. Over and over again, I just wonder why I have certain thoughts, why I want to do things I do. I wonder if I do too much and it makes people uncomfortable. I think too much. I know I do. It’s hard to rationalize my actions as okay though when I don’t have much to base things on.

How do I know if people appreciate things I do if they don’t do those things? Do people like the way I show love? It’s all so messed up and complicated. I keep hoping one day it’ll make sense but instead it feels that it’s making less and less sense as time goes on.

Can someone love one as different as me? Will I ever know when to stop? Will I ever be free to show myself? I hope so. I really hope so.

Where Do I Fit In?

I will always be different. There are a dozen reasons why this is the case, but the simple fact remains that I do not fit the established norms of society. I am not talking about everyone being unique and the fact that everyone is different. I am talking about the boxes that we put people in. I am talking about the labels that we all use to make sense of this world we live in. The truth is that I do not fit the boxes.

Whether we talk about gender or religion or personality or even autism, I tend to defy the stereotypes rather than connect with them. I guess some people might say this is a good thing, but it makes it hard to feel like you belong. The symbol for autism is a puzzle piece. People say the phrase “until all the pieces fit”. What if you are a piece that cannot fit? What if you were never made for the puzzle that is this world and your piece will never fit because it was never meant to?

I do not know what I am trying to say with all of this. I guess I just wish I did fit sometimes. I wish I was a little less different. I wish I could find my box, my place in the world. I wish I felt like I belonged. But maybe I was just never meant to belong in the first place.

I Am Loved

As I was lying in bed in that dazed state of half asleep and half awake, these thoughts came to my mind.

Do you know how loved you are, Chewie? Do you know how much you do? You aren’t just a little loved. You aren’t just sometimes needed. You are incredibly loved and always needed.

I feel very blessed to be so loved and needed. I know that people appreciate me. At work, I have a stack of thank you and recognition cards for all the things I have done (and those are just the ones that are written down). My phone has dozens of saved messages from people thanking me for kind things I have done or simply for being their friend. My Facebook is filled with gratitude from people whose lives I have saved or changed for the better. My desk is filled with letters from friends. My life is filled with love.

I am loved and appreciated everywhere I go. People notice the good I do and they recognize my efforts and goodness and dedication. It is almost strange to think that someone who is so loved, so appreciated, so valuable, considers themselves to be so lonely, so desolate, and so worthless.

I ask myself, why do you not see what everyone else does? You are obviously loved. Look at the evidence. The cruelest person in your life is yourself. Everyone else sees goodness in you, and they love you for it.

Why do I want to die when I am so loved? Why do I want to hurt myself when I have done so much good?

The answer comes down to a simple fact. Mental illness is just what the name says, illness. This sickness of the mind doesn’t just make me sad as some people may believe about depression. Mental illness is sickness because it literally changes your healthy thoughts into unhealthy thoughts. I don’t just push away good thoughts. I desperately cling to good thoughts as my mind warps all thoughts into things that hurt me.

I am loved. I am wanted. I am needed. I am appreciated. I am not alone.

I don’t think these thoughts very often, but this morning as I lie in bed, I feel the truth of these words. Maybe tonight I will feel sick again and like the flu that won’t go away, I will feel the heaviness of my body and the inability to do all that is required of me, but right now, I see the truth. I am loved. I am not alone.

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I am grateful to truly believe that this morning.

2 Truths and a Lie

Truth- I sat in a class where we talked about substance abuse and drugs and alcohol and tobacco, and for the first time in my life, I thought maybe I should try that.

Truth- I posted on Facebook that I have been struggling with an eating disorder and drowning in depression, posting more and more about suicide because it sounds so good sometimes.

Lie- My friend asked how I was and I said okay, over and over again.

Why is it so hard to say the truth and easy to buy into the lies?