365 days of my mental health
**Trigger warning for depression and suicide**
On the weekend of May 21st 2011, I became so depressed I couldn’t get out of bed. It was the culmination of something that had come and gone for years beforehand, but I had never thought it to be an illness before. After all, I had no reason to be depressed. Other people experienced far more hardship, and subsequently felt far more depressed. I was just feeling sad.
Somehow I convinced myself that this was normal when I was sitting on the floor of my bathroom at university drinking whiskey. But now I knew something was wrong. Now my body was physically refusing to function, and this had never happened before. I made the decision to make a doctor’s appointment, and I went there with the intention of getting antidepressants. I was dissociated beyond belief.
I walked to the campus health centre in a complete haze, frequently walking out in front of cars. Though I’d been having suicidal thoughts for some time, it was mostly my lack of grip on reality that caused this. But I figured that if I did get hit by a car, it wouldn’t be so bad. Perhaps the pain would break me out of the dream my reality had become.
The summer was incredibly difficult. I wasn’t really capable of positive experiences, only ones that were less extremely negative. I went back to university with the intention of doing my best, but I quickly fell behind. I stopped attending my practical module, and my tutor suggested I take another one in the second term. This didn’t help, and it wasn’t long before I had to tell my group about my mental health issues in order to justify my absence.
In January 2012 I experienced my first major highs since the previous May. In fact, they were the biggest highs of my life. This is what convinced me I was bipolar, and my doctor believed me. In late March I started to think about the Autism Spectrum. Tests, research and conversations with autistic people confirmed my suspicions, and managed to explain so much more than any of my previous diagnoses.
Tomorrow I am being assessed for autism by an educational psychologist. One year after I realised I was neuroatypical, I may be about to have concrete proof. My theory is that my depression was caused by extreme amounts of anxiety, as I forced myself into the stress of university life. My elevated moods, on the other hand, were caused by hyper-focusing on an autistic obsession.
I’m about to have an explanation for everything that has happened in the past year. When I know the reasons I’ve been depressed at various points in my life, I can prevent it happening in the future. A year ago I did tests to see if I was autistic, but I over-scored in social measures because I answered with how I wished I was.
The same tests now reveal a fairly unambiguous picture of autism.
Everything has come full circle. I always felt like I was in control, but then I totally lost it. Now I can feel when I’m becoming anxious or over-stimulated, and I know not to push myself any further. I’ve found myself back at the place I thought I was to begin with, with the diagnosis I had suspected all along.
Real control doesn’t lie in pretending you’re invincible, but in taking good care of yourself and knowing when to quit.
I guess that’s the lesson for this year!