Life update ramblings (and a YouTube video): mental health, travel, coming out, COVID-19-related staying in, the general uncertainty of everything…

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A nice calming Costa Rican sunset for these turbulent times…

 

This is me just brain spilling about my life, covering topics like travel, mental health, coming out, covid-19, self-isolation, social/dating life, dealing with uncertainty and trying to shifting mindsets.

I don’t really feel in the right frame of mind to write a huge amount, or to try that hard with how I am writing. My mind is feeling rather diverted and increasingly consumed by everything around coronavirus, the uncertainty it is bringing, how fast things are changing.

The YouTube video (link here) covers most of what I wanted to say (and tbh rather more). So what I end up writing below is more like a note-form summary, not  that polished nor necessarily in proper sentences etc!

Travel update:

It seems pretty clear that, for me, travel really appears to help in terms of emotional health. This recent trip to Central/South America (which i failed to journal or blog about, but that’s alright) definitely facilitated an upward trajectory in terms of my mood and general functioning abilities. It is still a huge relief to be home, given all the stresses involved in autistic travel. But the positives of the travelling life outweigh all that (for me at least), making it well worth the effort. Not that I ever want to or could become a travel junkie. I need balance, as I discussed in my previous travel blog post. But I know now that I at least want to be doing a moderate amount of travel – say, two trips a year. And that i do have the ability and motivation and confidence to do this (within certain limits).

What went down last year MH-wise:

I would describe 2019 (and the start of 2020) as the most emotionally turbulent and intense year of my life, and by a very long shot. No other year or period in my life has even come close.

A brief timeline of my moods/functionings:

  • Things started back in June of 2019, lasting most of the summer
  • Going travelling to Central Asia in September was a significant help
  • Things were better though still not normal Oct-Nov
  • Dec and a bit of Jan I had an experience which was awesome and novel and exactly what I wanted, but also quite emotionally intense and anxiety provoking
  • That experience ended in January and I had a couple of weeks of being super down (almost on a par with the summer) as a result
  • I was forced to shake it off, perhaps sooner than otherwise, by going travelling to Costa Rica and Colombia. I felt pretty good whilst I was out there. I feel it helped me move along with the moving on process quite nicely.
  • Back home, I had some mild post-travel blues for a week or so. Now, though, I feel better than I have in months. Almost back to my normal self before everything started last June.
  • I hope things will keep this way… because if I’ve learnt anything it’s about how fickle moods can be (and that I have big issues with emotional permanence), and i don’t want to jinx things by proclaiming all this to now be over…

So what happened to cause my mental health issues of the last few months?

  • Coming out as gay did. In hindsight this was the trigger and the driving force behind everything. However, throughout the actual experience I sort of weirdly trivialised and dismissed it as being the main cause. I think because it made me question a lot of stuff about my past and future. So it had a cascade effect in terms of bringing up emotions about a whole bunch of things not just related to coming out. And all these emotions made me feel like everything in my life was somehow ‘wrong’ and required worrying about, even though nothing in my life had actually changed (although the new sticking point now was that I wanted it to change.)
  • On top of that there were also a couple of other unfortunately timed things that made me feel worse: Losing what I thought would be a lifelong special interest/passion/source of work and connection in autism… Which also changed how I felt about my autistic identity – in that I sort of lost touch with it (at least compared to how in touch with it and the community I’d been beforehand). Also, struggling in terms of friendships and social life was another big one.

My post-trip intentions:

Back home in late February, I finally felt like I had the time, energy, motivation and ability to start making progress on my intentions, which were mainly around re-starting dating and also going out to meet more people generally, especially within the autistic and queer communities.

I’d also regained significant amounts of interest and motivation and excitement feels about life and doing stuff in general. In particular, I’m getting new SpIn vibes in relation to LGBTQ+ things, particularly queer content on YouTube and series and films with queer representation. So that’s cool. Although it does further confirm the fact that I’ve moved beyond my autism intense interest. I still watch the occasional autistic Youtube video or read the odd thing shared on social media. And I still feel somewhat connected to the community because I chat online with a few autistic people most days. But everything else that I’d been doing beforehand – the research, writing, posting, talking, obsessing – has faded away. 

I still want to have a blog, though. And to write, and create and to share and connect. However, I’ve just updated the ‘about section’ of this blog ‘ to ‘having an identity crisis’ which sums things up pretty neatly. And i guess the name ‘autism sense’ is no longer so relevant either…(To be clear, it’s not me having the identity crisis. I feel pretty at home having discovered two of my key identities in the recent past. But I’m not sure if/how/why to write and share about certain stuff, so my writing/‘work’/interests/personal projects are undergoing a crisis)

COVID-19 related changes:

So I’d just recently started up with the dating apps again and with trying to organise the first meeting for an autistic social group I’m setting up. Then… the new coronavirus strikes.

I won’t go into it all here as I already feel so saturated by news and conversations around it all (as does probably almost everyone else in the world). I’m in quite a lucky situation in so far as my household are able to self isolate without too much disruption to our lives. We’re able to stay at home pretty easily and thus hugely reduce our chances of becoming infected. So I’m not so worried about the virus itself (for now at least). Speaking at the individual level (the society-wide health impact is a whole other thing), my anxiety is more around the impact of self isolation and of not seeing people outside of the household for weeks, if not months.

And then there is the uncertainty around it all. That felt more destabilising a couple weeks ago, when it was still unknown what the risk was, what the impact might be, what the government would recommend, what everyone would start doing. Now, it’s pretty clear what needs to happen, or at least what we as a family will be doing for the foreseeable future. So, as scary as it is, I can at least stop trying to balance and flit between various possibilities, living with that disorienting feeling of not knowing whether stuff is going ahead, being postponed or being cancelled and how to prepare and act accordingly.

I’ve also finally been able to shift mindsets from that of thinking about going out into the world, facing my anxieties, being excited to meet new people and to date. To the complete opposite: telling myself it’s risky and irresponsible to go out, and good to stay inside and to indulge my super introverted tendencies, essentially. It was hard at first. But now I’ve accepted this is how things are, it’s actually been pretty alright (I say this now, though – I’m only a couple weeks in).

What made a big difference, is the feeling that we (as a family/local/national/global community) are all in this together. Whereas before, prior to reaching this current state of affairs, I felt like I was being forced to self-isolate when most others around me and in the world (excepting China) were not.

Now, I actually feel this abstract sense of collectivity and relatability from simply knowing that everyone in the world has this one thing occupying their minds and lives. It’s such a rare thing for so many people on such a grand scale to be connected by and talking about this one thing. So I feel this sense of community, even if it’s just in a largely abstract and imagined way. It’s just a shame it is in relation to something so negative. And it’s also a shame that this positive feeling of togetherness at a grand scale is a feeling which is not usually there.

 

What’s next for this blog/YouTube channel?

  • I hope to be doing more videos during this coronavirus crisis, and beyond. But I have doubts about whether I will be doing much blogging. Vlogging somehow feels more appealing and exciting to me right now. 
  • I’m not entirely sure what I might talk about – probably just more life updates, and perhaps some thoughts about autistic stuff and queer stuff.  The intention is that I will talk about whatever is on my mind, and hopefully I will become interested enough in things and have the energy and motivation to share that interest.
  • More specifically, one thing I hope to do is some book reviews. I’ve almost finished ‘Lost Connections’, a fantastic book about mental health. Then I will (finally!!) be starting on re-reading Yergeau’s ‘Authoring Autism’ and hopefully writing/talking about that too.
  • I’m also aware that I left my last blog post – on SpIn death – hanging on a loose end.. In that I meant to make a follow-up post laying out some ideas and intentions around what i might write about and where i might find new sparks of interest. I may get round to that at some point…

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