The New Year's Resolutions of a Person With Asperger's Syndrome
I don’t celebrate the new year, partly because I tend to look towards the forthcoming year with trepidation. My Asperger’s is uncomfortable with not knowing what lies ahead, and my anxiety is sparked by uncertainty. My depression and the agoraphobia is worsened by anxiety. It’s an un-festive merry-go-round.
What I do enjoy about this time of year is the fact that going out is more optional. I don’t accept invitations to parties and there are no school-runs in the holidays. The cold weather means I can settle down indoors with my children and pets to watch films and drink lots of tea and wine.
The new year does naturally lend itself to some introspection and thoughts of the future, and I believe it can be helpful to consider ways in which I can “improve” and how I will meet these un-foretold challenges in order to best survive without worsening my fragile mental health.
Therefore I had a go at coming up with some resolutions. I wanted there to be 10, but I have 11, so I must refer myself to resolution number six and try not to get in a flap about it.
1. Firstly, I will try to leave the house for a walk daily. I know this will be difficult on all days, very challenging on some days and impossible on others. (On “impossible” days I will refer to my final resolution, number 11, so please read on to the end!) I will walk with the aim of pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, and to boost my endorphins with a bit of exercise that will hopefully benefit both body and mind.
2. I will plan small rewards for myself when I have done something challenging. For example, going out somewhere or even doing the school-run. A reward could be food-related, a glass or wine or promising myself I can watch a favorite TV program later on. It will be a way of giving myself an incentive beforehand, or a “pat on the back” after having achieved something.
3. When feeling low, I will try to lighten myself up by reading or watching something humorous, or by considering all the blessings I have in my life, all the things that are good. I will also try to consider my good qualities.
4. I will try to allow myself to feel inspired on a daily basis. I will allow myself to follow my heart and break out of routine, to read or watch something inspirational, or create art or write whatever inspires me. I have realized that feeling inspired makes me feel happy to be alive, brings meaning to my life and helps me to feel more energized.
5. I will try to stop myself from panicking about something by breaking the “cause” down into baby steps. If, for example, I must go to the shop, I will tell myself I only have to leave the house and get in the car first. Then I will drive to the shop. Then, when I have achieved that, I will pop in to the shop. I will of course be remembering point number two, the “reward” that will await me when I get back home!
6. I will not be a perfectionist. I will remind myself that I am human and that no one is perfect, even if it may seem as though they are. I will forgive myself and remind myself it is not possible to do everything perfectly or be a perfect person.
7. I will try to get enough sleep. Being tired makes everything seem more challenging. For me, being tired causes my mood to drop further and my energy levels to plummet.
8. I will stay on my medication this year. I know I need to be taking my medication to function. Last summer, trying to come off my medication caused me to spiral downwards over the course of a few months to the point where I was not sure if I wanted to live anymore. It made me realize how I currently need the scaffolding that my medication provides me in order to try to function. My family needs me to be able to function and not feel suicidal and I owe this to them as well as myself.
9. I will try to feel comfortable with “grey.” I feel most comfortable with seeing everything in black and white. Maybe this is part of my Asperger’s nature, but I like everything to be a yes or a no, a right or a wrong, a good or a bad, a definite or a definitely not. I feel safer operating in black and white clear-cut situations. However, I am learning life is not like this in pretty much every respect. I don’t like this but I must come to terms with acknowledging the “grey,” seeing that it is present in all situations and listening to what it tells me about the situation. I feel this will help me to improve my understanding of people and flexibility in life.
10. Accept myself for who I am and do not compare myself to the “presented” selves of other people. I am not supposed to be anyone other than myself, I am entitled to be me. No one is perfect, we are all a mixture of good and bad traits and doing the best we can. I must not get frustrated with myself when I struggle to do things that many other people can, such as leaving the house, going out with groups of friends, shopping, etc. I must try to be kind to myself and focus on finding my strengths rather than beating myself up. Children flourish with encouragement, not beatings, and I am no different!
11. Finally, if (or rather, when) I fail at any or all of these resolutions, I must let it go. I must remind myself that these are supposed to be helpful guidelines to support my condition of Asperger’s and my mental health. They should not be making me feel worse. There is a lifetime of tomorrows to try again.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
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