May is Mental Health Awareness Month
By Margaux Wosk
It’s no secret: mental illness is still stigmatized. The discrimination is emotionally overwhelming. In my case, it piles on top of me like a ton of bricks I can’t carry.
Being an Autistic person, I already struggle with understanding social cues. It’s hard for me to make friends and I tend to say the wrong things.
I have recurring flashbacks that force me to relive a number of traumatic events. Childhood bullying was something that felt like a very personal curse. I would go home to a parent who would grill me about my day at school – which was something i didn’t want to recount. My consequences for not wanting to talk about it? Verbal abuse and lots of it.
It made me feel like it was something i deserved. It was constant. The tightness in my chest always lingered. The entire house shook from the intense volume of all the yelling.
The tightness in my chest? It still present.
I cried so much during my childhood. My eyes were so red and puffy, they would even sting.
My peers would often ask me why I was so weird, strange or different. At this point, I only had a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder and sensitivity to sound. Everything but an Autism diagnosis. I didn’t get diagnosed until I was 28 and i’m going to be 31 this year.
I often wonder if things would have been different if I knew that I was Autistic. Maybe I would have been able to access other resources, maybe i would have been treated differently during all my years in the education system. Who knows.
The emotional scars never fade. I still get in to episodes of very deep emotional pain. I don’t know how to deal with it, for the most part “I fake it til I make it”.
I tried antidepressants. I was seeing a psychiatrist. He was so dismissive. He would see me for 5 minutes and ask me irrelevant questions—small talk, if you will- WHICH I HATE!
“How are your parents?” he asked. “Well, my Mom is fine..I don’t really talk to my Dad”, I reluctantly responded to him.
I felt confused. This had nothing to do with my current medication. I am not quite sure how many different antidepressants I tried. Each one either made me feel worse or I didn’t experience any changes. It got to the point of not even tapering off the final one I took, I just stopped.
I felt so physically sick. I wondered if the feeling was like “dope sick”, the sickness addicts feel when they stop taking drugs. I was profusely sweating, nauseous and vomiting. It was terrible.
I don’t want anyone to think that i am speaking out against taking antidepressants. Each person is different and has their own unique plan to wellness.
I try very hard to partake in self care and engage in self expression. Bubble baths, face masks, writing and making art work are just some of the ways I try to help myself.
I will admit that there are times i don’t want to go outside and be in public. Emotionally, it’s very draining. I write about it on my blog: Navigating Life, My Unique Journey.
I am very candid. Just the other day I got publicly shamed for my anxiety sweat. That was very embarrassing. The same evening I ended up at the emergency because of elevated blood pressure.
Some days are better than others, some days are terrible and some days are amazing. Life is all about learning, growing and dealing with what’s thrown at you. I think sometimes what’s thrown at you are opportunities and room for growth. It’s not all bad and I’m still figuring it out.
Visit Margaux’s website. Follow her on Instagram.
Header art work by Retrophiliac (Margaux’s art name).
You are not alone Margaux! I am sure you feel alone much of the time but I found your story so relatable. I have been married for 10 years and didn’t realize my husband was on the spectrum until halfway through. I thought he was rude and inconsiderate. Quite the opposite. I just had to learn to speak “his” language. It is a lot of work but I love him and find it rewarding. He has a great sense of humor about “the things he does/says”. We laugh about it all the time. I hope you find people, in your life, who can relate and laugh “with” you some day. If I could give you one tip….. know yourself to the point where you can teach the people, around you, your communication style. Talk about it! It helps. Thank you for sharing your story.
Congratulations, your heroic frankness and openness will open doors for you as you travel your own path to sovereignty. We know it takes daily doses of courage to face the harsh realities that we have taken on willingly, or that have been imposed on us.
I won’t offer my own messy history, but unfortunately, many of us who were diagnosed earlier in life, feel we did not really get meaningful, or effective treatments as a result of early interventions. It’s still very much a work in progress.
Anti-depressants and other noxious chemicals didn’t work for me either, but I discovered a little strategy that works most of the time, when the old familiar darkness seems to close in around me. It usually happens when my needs are high, and my life energy is low. I’ve found a quick rescue technique, not unlike those used in some churches to raise one’s spiritual energy …spiritual music.
However, my spiritual musicians are non-religious. They’re natural spiritual pioneers like (Yosuf) Cat Stevens, John Denver, and Andrea Bocchelli. They produced secular spirituals, not tied to any religion. Powerfully spiritual songs like: “Morning has broken”, “Peace Train”, “Sweet Surrender,” “Rocky Mountain High” , and “We Believe”, that will lift my heart out of heavy darkness, and into the sweet warming light of my own divinity.
Sometimes, we forget who we really are, and the right music can remind us, by moving us directly into the divine part of us that is waiting there. Ahhh…that’s the spot! Once I get there, I practice “holding it” for as long as I can.
I am a fellow Autistic artist in Canada. I am based in Toronto.
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