Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Autism & Depression II

So, as we talked  about in a recent post, Autism and Depression are tightly united in the unhappiest of all matrimonies.
(I'm speaking about Depression in parents here, not in our autistic kids).

Depression hangs around in sullen shadows, kicking its heels, until Autism feels sorry for it and gives it a bit of attention... before you know it, Depression has moved in, claimed your sock drawer and redecorated your William Morris prints with scenes of primal anguish and existential terror.

"I was grand til this morning"

Sometimes Depression is relatively fleeting, and only exists for as long as it takes you to dance a devastatingly unsexy tango with the grieving process.
Sometimes, though, not only does it redecorate your living space, but it punches holes in the ceiling and burrows deep beneath your foundations, fracturing your belief in security and exposing you to the cold winds of uncertainty.
Sometimes Depression moves in for the long haul, and takes it's undisciplined wrecking ball with it.

Our primal reflex, in the face of pain, is to flip into full panic mode and to do everything in our power to oust this cuckoo from our nest.  Anything with such immense power to destroy and undermine must be inherently evil, right?
But Depression is a surprising teacher, and often it's worth listening to what it has to say before taming it with medication, exercise and talk therapy.

Depression, and my autistic son, are patient and persistent teachers.... but eventually their team work paid off and I experienced a light bulb moment that can only be called an epiphany.

It took a long time of being unwell, and a long time of trying to get to grips with my son's sunny disposition, to finally realise that living in the moment, without boiling in the vinegar of the past and torturing myself with future possible Maybe-Nevers, is where some semblance of peace lies.
Depression taught me that little in life is certain, and that there's a very thin veil holding together what we perceive as security.  
Everything can change utterly in an instant.  
But it also taught me that we are capable of navigating seismic upheavals, with the possibility of becoming wiser, more compassionate people because of it.  
So, life is punctured with insecurities, but it's entirely possible to not only cope with these, but to become a better person because of them.

Worrying about countless future possibilities is like trying to count the stars in the sky... there's no end or beginning, and even though its hypnotic and attention-devouring, it's a meaningless waste of time and energy.  
I'm not suggesting that we all become irresponsible and feckless, and don't bother planning for the years that lie ahead... but what I'm saying is that the future doesn't belong to us, and plan as we might, there is nothing certain about it.  
When we are aware of this, and accept it, our fear of all the 'what-ifs' diminish and lose their power.

It's important to visit our past experiences to help figure out who we are and what motivates us, but to remain there is a dangerous adventure.  There's a certain kind of sick security that comes with the familiarity of experience, but unless the bad stuff is acknowledged, learned from and filed away, it has a real risk of becoming a compulsive groundhog day of existing in bitterness and pain. 
I know you can't snap your fingers and decide that your tough times no longer cause you pain, but you can mitigate the damage by learning from them and by using your knowledge to make your current world a better place.

My son Fin has a thousand watt smile that lights up from his backbone and radiates like an aura around him.  When he smiles, there are no creases of worry dragging down the corners of mouth; there is no shadow of 3am night-frets dimming his light.  He feels pure joy in the present that is not contaminated with past sourness or future imaginings.
He embodies living in the present.

"Got that sunshine in my pocket"

Fin and Depression chained me to my school desk until I saw that consciously living in the present moment as much as possible is the best long-term way to manage my mental health.  Mindfulness, far from being new-age psychobabble, is a simple (if surprisingly hard to maintain) way of trying to live in each moment as it arises rather than being overwhelmed by what was, and what may never be... and missing our lives in the process.

Even though the notion of living in the present is a simple one, it challenges our default position of thinking ahead of, and behind, ourselves.  
This is a book I can't recommend highly enough, and my own copy is well-worn at this stage.

Depression and Autism don't have to be a negative experience, for all their hardships.

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