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How I Manage My Multiple Disabilities and Mental Health Conditions

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Editor's Note

If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.

I have autism along with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). I also have had depression in the past. When I was younger, I was diagnosed with learning disabilities that were not characterized as autism. I had interventions to give me tools to cope, and I had a supportive mom.

I was in my 20s when I was diagnosed with autism. At first, I had no idea what to do or how to treat myself. I am glad I found the support of a therapist and psychiatrist because I had forgotten the coping skills I had been taught when I was younger. Working with a therapist was not new to me — I had been to a therapist as a child. When I was a child, my therapist thought I had all sorts of conditions, like learning disorders, mood disorders, and oppositional defiant disorder.

When I had depression, I felt like I was in a black hole, and I didn’t want to do anything. I would just lie in bed and talk to myself, which was not healthy for me. I was treated with medication, but it took a long time to settle on a treatment that worked for me. Part of the reason I struggled was that I had stopped taking my medication. Fortunately, I came to my senses and started to take it again. The breakthrough with effective medication and my work with my therapist helped get me through that period.

I would not listen to my father, and I would get really angry at him. I really wanted to hurt him. However, I am glad I did not follow through on those dark thoughts because he was trying to help me. My mom was everything to me. One day, I fell down the stairs and wanted to hurt somebody. I wanted to hurt her, but fortunately, I was able to control myself. I loved her so much.

Sometimes I will talk back to my boss, which is a big no-no. My attitude is a continual work in progress. I keep talking to my therapist about this too. My long-time therapist retired not too long ago, and one of my recent challenges was finding a new therapist who was able to continue to help me.

When I was a child I was diagnosed with learning disabilities. I especially struggled with math and using logic to solve problems. I also struggled with speech. Fortunately, I had help in school, and I met with special education teachers in the resource room. I was allowed to take my math tests in the resource room too. My mom worked with me to improve my math skills. The supportive environment with my mom and my teachers provided me with skills that allowed me to use math effectively at my current job. It still surprises me that I can do the math necessary for my job.

I had trouble pronouncing words, so my parents enrolled me in the speech therapy clinic at Kansas State University. I remember having to work hard — I had to read aloud, and I would miss words. At the time, I thought the sentences were written “wrong” or the book was “messed up.” It took a while, but the exercises were able to help me.

I have anxiety too, which I treat with medication. I sometimes get negative thoughts going through my head. There are times when I believe these negative thoughts until I talk to my friends or my therapist. I also do writing exercises that let me see my reality. I work to not let the anxiety I have get in the way of everyday tasks. I find talking to my friends helps me a lot, even though sometimes I feel like I rely on them too much. Therefore, I have a goal to talk to my therapist or do my anxiety exercises instead. This is so I can become stronger on my own just in case my friends move or my older friends pass away. I find that I get along with older people, but one of my current goals is to make friends that are younger than I am.

Throughout my life, I have been shy. I was told that I would talk to people, but I would hang my head and just stare at the floor and talk. Today, I still have this habit, and I have difficulty with making eye contact, which I am always working on. I also have a problem with leaving in the middle of conversations, but fortunately, that has gotten better. Also, when I am talking to some of my friends, I talk and talk — to the point where I take up the whole conversation. I want to learn to have better conversations that let my friends and I have a balanced give-and-take. I hope that by working on these things and working with Toastmasters International, I can reach that goal. I’m hoping that these challenges become easier as my confidence grows.

I have disclosed the challenges I have faced and talked about addressing those challenges with the people in my support system. Understanding my struggles, talking about them, and constantly working on them is how I manage my co-occurring conditions.

Getty image by Ridofranz.

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