I took a break from writing for a couple months. I’d love to say that I’ve been too busy, or my computer was broken, or some other excuse. But the truth is this – my head has been in a fog and it’s been tough to concentrate. It would be nice to point to one thing in particular that was causing the fog, but I think it’s a culmination of things. I wouldn’t even put autism very high on the list, to be honest. It’s just been a season of a lot of things wearing me down.
Prolonged stress leads to exhaustion. Exhaustion, if not properly managed, can lead to depression. Depression puts your mind in the middle of a maze where you have no idea how you got in, and there’s no viable way of getting out. And on top of that, there’s no feeling. And for a guy like me who loves to feel things deeply, the depression maze is a living hell.
It’s not hard to find the trail of bread crumbs I’ve left behind. Posts like Intense Mental Hack reveals the lengths in which I was going to not to succumb to depression. Other posts like The Chains That Bind unveil the ways in which depression can be a slow, silent killer. But even knowing what I was fighting in the background doesn’t stop the freight train. When depression hits, it just hits. And it’s gnarly.
I told a close friend of mine that I was struggling. His response? “Depression is a motherf***er.” I try not to use profanity in a forum like this, but there really is no better way to describe it. If you live with depression on any level, you or a loved one, you know what I mean.
So here I am, just a dude that’s being overly transparent about his personal life. I have no recipe for healing. I rely heavily on God through meditation and prayer. I exercise a ton to keep the endorphins activated and the blood flowing. My awesome wife Jamie and my close friends are there when I need someone to talk to. On top of all that, we’re seeing a counselor that has helped me/us establish some life changes that have already pushed me toward healing.
Today, I feel good enough to write. For the last couple months, I’ve been thinking about this blog, what I would say, how it relates to autism, etc. I took to the internet to do a little research on depression as it relates to being a parent of an autistic child. My hunch was correct. Depression is widespread in parents like Jamie and me. It turns out that those chains that bind are every mom’s and dad’s struggle, and the weight of them are many times so heavy to bear, that it leads to this dark place we call depression.
I don’t have an answer on how to handle it yet. I’m not educated in this arena, and it’s unfamiliar territory. It bugs me that I don’t have a lot of sound advice to other parents, since that is the very purpose of Shock and Autism. And yet here I am, writing about it.
If you’re a parent of an autistic child, I guess my biggest piece of advice would be this… Just be aware of your surroundings and know the statistics on this. Do whatever preventative maintenance you can. There are tons of aspects you can control and just a few that you cannot. Do well at the ones you have control over. Here is a list of everything my uneducated brain can think of to stay mentally healthy.
- – Fix stuff that’s broken. I took inventory on my life, and with the help of our counselor, made some lifestyle changes that are healthier. This could be screen time, engagement with your spouse or partner, involvement in things that infuse positivity into your life, getting rid of stressful things you can control, etc.
- -Do what you can to get good sleep. Shut your device off early. Go to bed early so you can get up early and start your day off right.
- -Eat clean and drink tons of water. It’s your body that’s going through depression with your mind. Do everything you can to feed it properly. Your mind will work way better if your body is feeling healthy. I know. It’s a pain in the butt to eat clean and drink a half to a full gallon of water each day. I don’t care. Do it.
- -Exercise 3-5 times per week. It doesn’t have to be crazy. Just get your heart rate up for 20-30 minutes. Do it outside of the weather allows. It’ll help you sleep better too.
- -Meditate. Be thankful. Pray. I have even gone to the extent of hitting the voice recorder on my phone and recorded myself in the car running down the list of things I’m thankful for. Have an attitude of gratitude.
- -Stretch. Do yoga. Work on your mobility. If your body is relaxed, it’ll be easier for you mind to be as well.
- -Set goals. Get excited about achieving them. Do some things you’ve never done before. It can be as basic as running an organized 10k event or volunteer at a food bank. Just set a goal to do something new and make a plan to achieve it. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you take your mind off your circumstances and think about some future activity or event.
- -Seek professional help. I’m trying to overcome this without the help of anti-depressants. But I would in no way ever recommend that for anyone else. That is between you and your doctors. Medication might be an answer for you. If you can get by without medication, I would still highly suggest talking through this with a mental health professional on an ongoing basis.
- -Pay close attention to your autistic child along with your own mental health. It’s highly likely that they will also have to face depression’s challenges one day too, as evidenced by this article.
Well, that’s about it. I hope you gained something from this post. I hope it made sense. If you’re struggling with depression, you’re not alone. You’re not inferior. You’re not invisible. There are plenty of healthy ways out of this. Most of which you can start this very minute.