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Mental Health Awareness Week

Friday 07 May 2021

Mental health, autism and me

I wish this blog could be a story of how I’ve overcome my health issues but it’s not. I have anxiety, which varies in severity, along with a diagnosis of autism which I’ve had since childhood. It gets better and worse, more manageable and less manageable, but doesn’t go.

I avoid a lot of things that would cause me to have a high level of anxiety, even if they would help me to get on in life. I avoid driving by myself, going on holiday by myself or even something as simple as taking a phone call, when I don’t know who is calling and I haven’t had time to prepare for it. A coping mechanism I use for this is to try and schedule calls for a certain time so I know who I’ll be speaking to and when.


Feeling out of control

I remember a time this year where my anxiety got to the stage where I didn’t feel in control and felt like something bad was going to happen. Being autistic, I find it hard to manage and recognise my emotions. I also find it hard to know if how I’m feeling is down to my anxiety or to me not being able to keep up with processing everything in my busy life, so it can be hard to know what the most appropriate type of support is.

It takes me time to feel comfortable with someone and start to delve into the issues that I need support with, so while useful, I feel I am very constricted by counselling services that offer six one hour sessions.


Signs of burnout

In March this year, I worked myself into burnout as my autism stops me picking up signs of overworking. At the time I was working a 30-hour job, studying my postgraduate, working to promote a couple of social action campaigns I’m passionate about, renovating my new home and completing my virtual cooking class.

I knew it was to be too much to handle, but I felt like there was no way to break from it. Each minute of my working day I was on a video call, which left me to squeeze what I could of my tasks into the evenings and weekends. While doing tasks, I was easily distracted and struggled with executive functioning (where autistic people find it physically difficult to start or complete a task). 

The only solace I saw was some annual leave I booked at the start of April. I feel if I didn’t have this, I would have gone off sick anyway. Long story short, I didn’t go back to my place of employment after my leave. Being autistic, I can have a good work ethic but this can get too much without the support I need.

When this was happening I had the highest level of anxiety I had experienced in years. Due to the erratic nature of my work, I was already having unstable eating and sleeping patterns. I know that eating and sleeping routines are the cornerstone to having any resemblance of structure but I just didn’t do this. 


Acknowledging my feelings

This all got too much for me but at least it pushed for me to finally reach out to family to let them know I was struggling and they were able to support me through things. I’m still managing to work out how best to deal with everything and I’m still trying out techniques. I think I am getting better and I’m hoping that things I’m doing now will pay off in the long term.

I hope this has given you an insight into me, some of the challenges I’ve faced on my journey so far relating to my autism and mental health, and how I plan to deal with these in the future. Hopefully there’s something from this that you take for yourself or for someone you support.


About the author

Ieuan is a Member of the Ambitious Youth Network and a postgraduate completing his Master of Business Administration. To chill, he enjoys unwinding in nature and tasting new cuisines.