Why Christmas time can be a challenge for someone with Autism (and some tips to help)

Christmas can be a difficult time of year for a lot of people, despite the general feeling that you’re ‘supposed’ to be happy. For me, as excited as I get and as much as I do enjoy it, Christmas involves a lot of anxiety- just like it does for a lot of autistic people. This year will be the first Christmas I have ever had knowing that I’m autistic, so it’s easier to understand why that might be and work out ways to enjoy it more without getting too overwhelmed.

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Despite not being diagnosed until recently, I do have a few Christmases under my belt, and I’ve learnt a few things that help keep the stress under control and make it more enjoyable. So, I thought it might be a good topic for a blog post- and an excuse to have another go at it. This is by no means a full-proof list, I have a lot to learn still, but I hope it will be helpful to someone, or at least help someone who needs it to understand all of this a little bit better.

So, what makes Christmas so hard?

  1. There’s no routine

Well, the most obvious thing is probably that Christmas is a huge break of routine. School stops, mealtimes go out the window and each day is either packed to the brim with different people and experiences or spent floating around completely void of any direction.

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For a lot of us on the autism spectrum, routine is pretty important. According to the National Autistic Society, routine is especially important at times of change and higher stress, which (despite all the good things) often includes Christmas. Even something that might seem small- like not having a certain meal or snack that would usually be available, or doing things at a slightly different time than usual- can cause a lot of confusion, anxiety and upset. So when everything is different, it can all get too much.

2) Things change

On top of that, traditions don’t always stay the same- people get older, circumstances change, and the way you celebrate one year might not be the same the next. For me, and people like me, that can be pretty hard to process. For instance, it was a pretty big deal for me when my parents announced that we weren’t getting real trees anymore in favour of a permanent plastic one. Where will we get the Christmas smell now?

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Is nothing sacred?!

For most people, it’s natural for things to change over time. The way you celebrated last year might not suit your lifestyle this year, or your family’s lifestyle and needs. Maybe you’re with different people this year, or having Christmas in a different place. But for those of us with autism, even small changes can add anxiety if you weren’t expecting it.

3) It’s a landmark

Being such a big event, Christmas often acts as a landmark for a lot of people; most people use this time and the new year to look back at where they were last year and where they want to be in the future. This presents an opportunity for comparison; what have I been doing for the past year? Why haven’t I progressed?

Well, the thing is that I have progressed, but when all I’m looking at to compare with is the Christmas period, I completely miss out all the little landmarks and victories in between. There’s so much happening at Christmas time- so many expectations and stimulations- that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and emotional and jump to the worst case scenario.

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So, what can we do about it? How do we stay calm and enjoy ourselves when all of that is going on? Well, although I don’t by any means have it worked, there are a few things that I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Make a timetable

Things can be pretty hectic this time of year, so it’s not always easy to know what you’ll be doing each day. But, for what you do know about, it’s a good idea to lay it all out in a timetable. In my house, we usually have a 2- week planner sheet with everything that’s going on, including things like rest days and homework days (courtesy of my ever organised mum!) At the beginning of the break, we sat down together and worked out what I was doing each day, who we were seeing, and scheduled days when I wouldn’t see anyone at all.

2) Reboot if you need to

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Leading on from that, I’m learning that it’s a good idea when you are planning to meet someone to leave time either side to prepare and recover- think a day before and after if you think you’ll need it- for how exhausting just spending time with others can be. No matter how much you like them or might enjoy it, it’ll probably still be tiring. If you’ve planned out your time, at least roughly (don’t get too stressed about this- it doesn’t have to be perfect, and things will change!) you’ll be able to set these days aside.

Remember, this is your holiday. It’s ok to sleep in sometimes and do things that help you ‘reboot’, whatever those things are to you (I find video games and drawing helpful). You don’t have to be productive all the time

3) Try to be flexible

Although it might be difficult, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself for the fact that your family, friends or whoever you are with may not always be able to stick to the plans that you had in mind. Likewise, if you’re spending Christmas with someone who might be struggling with it, try to remember that the festive season itself can be overwhelming and they made need a little extra patience and understanding from you. Be prepared for things not to to exactly as you planned, but just remember to keep communicating with each other if you can and that you can still enjoy spending time together, even if it’s not in the way you expected.

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4) Don’t compare yourself- have your own Christmas

In my experience, finding fun in the small things is something that autism can make us particularly good at. We don’t always need to go out to parties, trek across London or do anything particularly ‘big’ to enjoy ourselves when something as small as spotting Christmas lights in the neighbourhood, having a seasonal drink or even just watching a festive movie can be just as exciting. There isn’t really a ‘wrong’ way to celebrate, so don’t worry if what you’re doing doesn’t line up with what you’re seeing on instagram or hearing about from others. (And you can’t ‘turn on’ happiness either, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not brimming with joy like you might feel expected to be.)

This goes for family members and friends, too- just because your child, sibling, or friend means that you can’t celebrate in the way you ‘should’ and doesn’t match up with the pictures you see on Christmas cards from distant relatives, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with it. And although they may struggle, you making their Christmas accessible for them will mean the world.

So I guess that’s enough points for now, considering it’s Christmas Eve and I haven’t posted this yet! Thanks for visiting my newly revived blog, and if you want to find out more about what autism and ADHD are like for me, feel free to check out my YouTube (LilBlueRobin).

Merry Christmas (whatever that means to you!)

Lily

 

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What’s your superpower?

I’ve been trying to write this post for two days (which feels like a really long time for me) but it’s been basically impossible because thanks to the H in my ADHD I can’t seem to slow down and think straight for long enough. Basically, it feels kind of like this, only with a lot more fidgeting, restlessness and general confusion. This is close enough though:

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But then I realised that this was probably as good a time as any to talk about what the Hyperactive part of ADHD feels like– at least for me- so I’m going to give it a shot. I’d been meaning to write about characters with ADHD anyway, so I may as well use my most hyperactive example. Hopefully writing about comics will keep me on track, because if I can’t concentrate on that then there’s no hope. Here we go.

Recently, one of my favourite comic book characters has been Bart Allen. I didn’t really know why, but I felt like I could relate to him, and even though I couldn’t put my finger on how exactly he reminded me of myself. Or at least how I feel, especially when I’m hyperactive. 

In case you’re not a comic book nerd like me (don’t worry- you’ll get there)

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and you don’t know who I’m talking about, Bart Allen is the name of a teen superhero from DC comics.

He’s also pretty much the comic book embodiment of teen ADHD.

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Up until very recently, I didn’t realise how much of an impact ADHD, and the hyperactivity part of it, had on my life. At school, I worked out pretty quickly that I was different from everyone else, but I didn’t know how or why.

I didn’t understand why I found things that others found so easy almost impossible, like actually listening to the teacher for longer than 10 minutes at time or remembering instructions. But at the same time I seemed to find other things, like finding hidden patterns and connections or working out the answer to a question before it’s even been asked, too easy. So I spent most of my time permanently confused, either about why I was so far behind and how the heck anyone else understood it, or how I was so far ahead of everyone else when it seemed really obvious to me. Or basically just everything.

 

 

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I didn’t know that I was functioning at a faster speed than my classmates. I know now that there was nothing ‘wrong’ with me (something I should probably talk about on here, since I’m sure others have experienced this), I just function a little differently. But back then (I say then, I literally only left education- a few months ago? Last year? Yeah, December. What the heck have I been doing? Man, my mind is going so fast.) this part of me was made to seem like a bad thing.

I could never get anything ‘right’ (whatever that means). Everything I did was ‘too’ something. I worked too fast and got too far ahead, or I spaced out too much or got distracted by a million other things and worked too slow. I got told off for going overboard and doing way too much work or being too spaced and not doing any.

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I talked too fast, or I fidgeted too much. I daydreamed too much. I drew too much. I was either too loud and ‘disruptive’, or too quiet and zoned out. I was too weird or too boring; too hyper or too ’emo’. Basically, I was just too different. And being different- being myself- wasn’t good enough.

So I did what a lot of people do; I turned to stories. My attention span had gotten so bad I couldn’t read normal books anymore, but as it turned out, comics were perfect. In the comic book world, it was the opposite. I found characters who were about as different and ‘quirky’ as possible. I found characters who, despite some obvious differences like having superpowers (but not always- go Nightwing) and running around on rooftops in brightly coloured costumes, I felt I could relate to on some level. No, I can’t shapeshift, and with my co-ordination I definitely wouldn’t be in the running for the next Robin (shiny, potentially dangerous gadgets are probably best kept far away from me). But I still recognised parts of myself in them, and in things that I had struggled with– and still do.

Being different, feeling like outsider, being made to feel (even accidentally, and sometimes by yourself) like there’s something wrong with youI knew how it felt, and I loved reading about characters who did too. 

It was also nice to know that someone understood enough to have written them, and that somewhere someone like me was probably reading it and feeling the same. Plus, the outsider characters get the best adventures.  

And even though they’re not real, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve learnt a lot from these characters and the people who wrote them. Like learning to accept that you’re ‘quirky’ in ways that no one will ever really understand, but that it’s ok because it makes you who you are and equips you to help others. In their world, different isn’t just good- it’s incredible. 

They’re outsiders, and life isn’t always easy for them, but the things about them that other people say were ‘weird’ or not ‘right’ are usually the same things that make them who they are. Unique, talented, inspirational and, oh yeah, superheroes.

So, without rambling any more, it’s probably time to actually use the example I was talking about.

Like I said before, Bart is pretty much the definition of adolescent ADHD. Being a speedster, it’s pretty obvious that he functions faster than most people, but even when he’s not using his powers he still has a personality that you might find familiar- I know I do.

Just like a lot of people with ADHD (especially children and teenagers) Bart doesn’t do things in a way that seems ‘right’ to other people. He seems to be stuck between being too childish and too mature, and doesn’t always get taken seriously because of it.

Everything he does it ‘too’ something: whether it’s too fast (duh); too impulsive, too spontaneous… you can probably guess the rest. Remind you of yourself? On days like today, that’s definitely true for me.

One of the things I like so much about Bart, a.k.a Impulse (yes, he is that impulsive) in the comics I’m reading right now  is that his character,  his superpowers, even his name (before it changed) show ADHD  from all angles: the negatives are definitely there and they’re not glossed over, but so are the positives.

For me, an Impulse (or Kid Flash) day might not mean that I run or jump around a lot (not that I haven’t been known to) it could just mean that I have so much energy and impulsiveness (is that a word?) built up inside me that I can’t breathe properly. If you didn’t know me, you wouldn’t be able to see it.

I think that it’s probably different for everyone, but I like that in Impulse’s case, you can see clearly the difficulty that comes with his hyperactivity (and the way he can get treated because of it), but that also means that you can see how amazing it makes him.  

He might be easily distracted 

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and act without stopping to think it through, but he’s still great at what he does because for him, acting on impulse usually means being there the second someone needs help (if not before). It does get him into trouble on a pretty regular basis, but we’ve all been there, right?

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He talks at inhuman speed, comes out with some pretty unique words and doesn’t have much of a verbal filter,IMG_6931but that just means that he speaks his mind, tells the truth and spends most of his time making jokes and cheering up those around him. He may have also let some information slip about the future that he probably shouldn’t have- you know, because space time continuum or whatever- but hey, it happens to everyone 😉

Despite having the ability to read at super- speed and so, in theory, to learn whatever he wants in a matter of seconds (probably less), he’s also kind of a space cadet and his memory isn’t really good enough to hold onto any of the information (a lot like me). Still, he’s got a great memory for random facts (wow, we really are similar) and can think his way out of a difficult situation on the spot.

So maybe he can’t tell the difference between the Berlin wall and the Great Wall of China

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he makes up for it by working out how to “vibrate a cushion of air so folks just float to the ground” and, you know, other helpful superhero stuff. It’s not that he isn’t intelligent; he just thinks differently, just like anyone with ADHD (or pretty much any kind of ‘disorder’) does. 

Like a lot of us at times, ‘tuning in’ to the rest of the world and listening to others doesn’t come naturally for him, but when he does listen he really listens  and often empathises better than most people expect him to

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So there you go. ( Phew, I can’t believe I’ve actually managed to write all that- and I only had to get up like seven times! So productive)

Superheroes aren’t supposed to fit in. If they were like everyone else, they wouldn’t be able to help anyone. 

They’re definitely not perfect, because even in a fictional world that’s not possible.

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But they’re ‘quirky’, and we love them for it.

It isn’t always easy for them. They struggle too, and (in the comics I’ve got at least) it’s not hidden, because it’s nothing to be ashamed of. They have times when they talk- or shout, or cry- about how much they wish they were normal, or that their life was normal, or that they didn’t have to go through so much– well, crap. And that’s ok, just like it is in real life. No one’s invincible.

But they keep going and learn to rock their quirks;  not just for themselves, but to make a difference in other people’s lives too. I hope that I can learn to do that too, however it might look for me, and that this encourages you if you’re going through something similar that your quirks/differences/whatever you want to call them can be superpowers too (yes I’m fully aware of how cheesy that was, but I couldn’t resist. And I do mean it). You’re one of a kind, so why not use it?

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If you’ve gained nothing else from reading this post, you’re probably geekier now than you were going into it 🙂 and hopefully, if you can relate to any of this, you know that you’re not alone.

Sometimes as a reader I can’t help but think that it’s kind of crazy when a character says that they don’t like being different, because don’t they realise that their ‘differences’ are the best things about them? To me, their ‘quirks’– the things that might make them feel like a freak at times- and the way they deal with them are what makes them so kick- ass. You never know, maybe someone thinks the same about you.

So, what’s your superpower?

 

 

 

Annie: It’s ok to have bad days

Annie Sawyer: Being Human

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Apparently, Annie’s character in Being Human was originally going to suffer from agoraphobia; when it was decided that the show would have a more supernatural theme she was written as a ghost instead.

Although that’s obviously pretty different, the series was designed to be grounded in real life issues. So Annie still struggles with some similar problems, and throughout the series we see her work through them and grow as a character.

A lot of Annie’s problems are similar to those faced by many agoraphobia and/ or anxiety sufferers. She doesn’t feel safe travelling long distances without her ‘family’ (usually George or Mitchell), and she definitely has a dependence on them to an extent, since she relies on them to stay anchored in the living world. She also has a fear of being too far from her safe space (her home to begin with). Her inability to be seen by anyone other than her closest friends could also be a parallel to someone suffering with a mental illness or self esteem issues- or it could just be part of being a ghost.

Either way, Annie still fights through all of this. She’s tough, intelligent, funny, often puts her own problems aside to be there for her friends, and basically just makes people feel better by being around them.

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She’s a perfect example of someone who’s differences don’t stop them from being the best they can be- in fact, she often says that she’s lived more as a ghost than she did when she was alive- while still showing that it’s ok to have bad days. She’s not perfect, but that’s ok (her awkwardness if actually one of the best things about her).
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She’s flawed and damaged – heck she’s technically dead- but she learns not to let it define her, and by being herself manages to find people who accept and love her anyway. She proves that it’s ok to be sad and that there’s nothing wrong with crying, but picks herself up off the floor and comes back better than before. Even though things haven’t exactly worked out the way she planned, she’s still kind, and is always the first to welcome someone new into the household. Oh, and she saved the world. Go Annie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to survive a down day (in my experience)

Everything about how a feel today is basically just:

BUT I did say that I wanted to write honestly and give a real representation of what life can be like for me and others like me, which means not just talking about the good days. So, wait- what was I going to talk about? Ughhh why won’t my thoughts load properly today? Maybe there are too many tabs open. And the connection is slow. Like the wifi in my house right now. Did I just use a computer metaphor? That’s it. I’m definitely not myself today. And that wasn’t even that accurate. Ok, maybe it’s more like trying to read a comic with music playing in the background (except you can’t really hear it properly) while finding your through a labyrinth, except every now and then you lose your page and you get totally lost and you’re really tired so you just sit down and try to decide whether you have the energy to work out which way you should go next or just go to sleep- although you can’t because the music’s too loud. Is that better? I don’t know. I’m not really working today.

There should probably be a point to this post. Ok, time to write something useful.

Nope. Just zoned out again.

Let’s try again. I’m not really surprised that this is the kind of day I’m having– I’m not particularly psyched about it either, but still- because bad days are just a part of ADHD and mental illness, just like they’re a part of life. Even though a day like today- oh gosh I spaced out again and forgot was I was going to say. My mind keeps going blank, but at the same time I can’t stop thinking about the episode of Being Human that I watched last night. Not that it wasn’t a good episode. I do love that show. Why did they have to cancel it?

Maybe I should just try some bullet points. What was this post about? Oh yeah. Ok, so days like today– as I’m sure anyone whose experienced anything similar would agree- can be hell on earth. You can’t think straight (as I’ve probably already made pretty obvious). It feels as though all of the energy and motivation has been sucked out of you, except instead of feeling lighter it gets so much heavier. You feel like you might cry, but you can’t remember what you’re upset about. There might be a million things that you want to do, but accomplishing them feels almost impossible. Or you might want to do absolutely nothing. Or both, which is just confusing.

But as much as it might feel like the end of the world, it doesn’t have to be. Believe it or not, there will be a tomorrow. And you will get there.

Today hit me after a couple of really good days. Better than I’ve been in a long time; part of why I managed to start this blog! I knew that I was probably heading for a dip, but it was still kind of crushing after feeling like I might be getting better. Still, I realised that if yesterday was better, then tomorrow might be. Or if not tomorrow, then the day after that. Because if it goes in ups and downs and I’m in a dip right now, I must be headed for something good, right?

A few weeks ago on a day like this, I couldn’t think straight enough or find the motivation to do anything other than curl up on the sofa and watch something. Only I couldn’t even manage that, because deciding what to watch and putting it on- let alone watching it- took too much effort, concentration and energy.

Today has somehow been different. I’m up, dressed, I’ve had two meals, I’ve baked cookies (which turned out pretty good considering I lost focus towards the end and just started throwing in random amounts of ingredients) and I’m writing my blog. I guess I must actually have learned something about how to deal with days like this?

Given all of that, today is probably the perfect time to write about how I deal with days like this. Obviously there are days when I feel like this and I don’t manage to do all of these things, but today went surprisingly well so I’m going to use it as an example.

So here are a few tactics I’ve picked up so far that have helped me get through today and days like it, and will hopefully help me get some stuff done so I can go to bed feeling like I’ve achieved something 🙂

So here it is, I hope you find it helpful! How I deal with an ughh day

  1. I get out of bed

I didn’t want to do this at all today, but I knew that if I did I could take my medication which would hopefully help me feel a little more together. I told myself that if I needed to I could come back up again, but I needed to know that I’d tried. Plus, I find that things always seem worse first thing in the morning. And before I’ve had something to eat.

2. I have breakfast

I didn’t want to do this either, since I seem to spend most of my time feeling sick at the moment. But I find that if I don’t eat something first thing it just gets worse. Something is better than nothing. When I’m feeling really sick, I try to go for something plain like a bowl of porridge or plain cereal (like cheerios or shreddies) or a couple of oat cookies with some cocoa.

3. I have a hot drink

For me at the moment, hot cocoa is basically the water of life. At the moment I have a flask on the go every day from when I get up so I can just have a small sip whenever I need one.

4. I make a list

I’ve never really been a big fan of lists until recently, but I’ve found that they really help declutter my thoughts a bit. I find it helpful to set some goals for the day, however small, so that I feel like I have something to aim for and I don’t lose momentum and get anxious. It’s important to be careful that your list doesn’t make you more stressed though, it’s just a guideline. So don’t beat yourself up if you can’t do it all!

Here’s the one I made this morning (ha I sound like I’m on Art Attack) To try and make it as stress- free as possible I added colours for how important each thing that I wanted to do was, so I wouldn’t get worried if I couldn’t do it all. After all, there’s always tomorrow

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6. I get dressed

I’ve learned that although there’s nothing I want to be in more when I’m feeling down than my pyjamas, it’s important to get changed (even if only into a clean pair) or else I’ll just feel even more tired and disappointed with myself for not getting ready. If that’s all you manage on an off day, that still counts as an achievement and you should be pleased with yourself 🙂

7. I do something that I enjoy that keeps me busy, but doesn’t stress me out 

Today I put that down on my list as two things: baking and drawing, but it could be anything that works for you. If I’m not very focused drawing isn’t always a good idea as it tends to go wrong and if I’m feeling low already I get easily upset about it, so I haven’t done that yet today. It’s still on my list though, so I might try it later if I feel up to it

8. I plan something to look forward to in the evening 

For me, this is usually something like a TV show that I want to watch with someone in particular- like an anime with my brothers or Once Upon A Time with my mum. Or I set aside some time in a quiet space to do some drawing or read some comics with a hot drink and some good music. Whatever it is, think of it as a reward for getting through the day, or something to motivate you during it. Recently, Being Human has been the go- to for me and my dad at the end of a rubbish day. I can’t believe we’re on the last series…

So there you go. I hope that was helpful to you in some way 🙂

And if you’re reading this and you’re living with a mental illness or ADHD (or both) I hope you know that you’re not alone. Just keep going- you’ve got this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 tips to help you be a better friend

 

… to someone fighting mental illness

Sooo although this blog will probably mainly be about my ADHD, I’m still going to try to post some stuff about anxiety and depression, since those things tend to overlap with ADHD (as they do with me and well, this is my blog). In fact, a lot of symptoms are the same– like difficulty concentrating or getting up in the morning- which is part of why it’s so difficult to diagnose!

I won’t try to romanticise mental illness- it totally sucks. BUT it did help me connect with the closest friend I have ever had who, despite having literally been to hell and back, is still the toughest, sassiest and most supportive person I know. Silver linings I guess 🙂 Ooh, I should do a blog post about that, there are definitely more… ahh focus!

While a small part of what we deal with may come under the same medical label (although much of it doesn’t) it’s still very different for both of us, and although we understand each other, we still have very different things going on in our lives and heads. Just like everyone does! That doesn’t mean we can’t still support each other and be there to make like just a little bit brighter for each other.

So without rambling anymore here are 10 tips for supporting a friend who has a lot going on in their head. This is based on our experience, but like I said everyone experiences this stuff differently so it may not be for you. I hope it helps though!

  1. Don’t be a jerk.

This sounds fairly obvious, but it needs to be said. Because to you, it might be something small– like nagging them about texting you back- but picture that on top of an already crushing weight of anxiety, pressure, low self esteem and about a million other things that you probably can’t begin to understand because you’re not inside their head (no one can, maybe not even them at times).

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Chances are they may already be drowning in it, they don’t need you to make it deeper. Whatever’s going on, they probably have enough to deal with already without you adding more, even if it is an accident.

So go easy on them. If they don’t get back right away, know that it probably isn’t about you, and try not to be offended. They’ll get round to it when they’re ready. Which may be never. But that’s ok, because you love them anyway 🙂 (Of course you do, you’re looking up how to support them!). Sometimes the best messages are the ones that include ‘you don’t need to reply’. Let them know that you’re thinking of them, but that there’s no pressure to respond if they don’t feel up to it.

If you’re worried that your friend isn’t replying and want to know that they’re ok, try asking them to just send a single letter, emoji or codeword– we have a list that uses colours, with meanings like ‘I can’t message right now but I’m ok’,’I need you to call me’ and my personal favourite ‘PJs and anime night’. Find ones that work for you 🙂

2. Know their triggers

Seriously, it’s ok to ask them (as long as it’s done respectfully of course). It’s not ok to trigger them. It’s not fun for them, not fun for you- so yeah, asking them is better. Just be gentle about it. Still, accidents do happen, and they may not want to talk about it when you ask them, but at least you both know that you cared enough to ask. That alone might mean more to them than you think.

Sometimes you can just use common sense. For example if your friend has an eating disorder, you probably shouldn’t go buying them a double chocolate cake any time soon. However, triggers can be anything. They may not make sense to you, but you can still be supportive and respect that some things need to be avoided, however ‘odd’ it might seem to you. There’s still plenty of stuff you can talk about, right?

3. Stay in touch

This doesn’t mean you have to be joined at the hip; everyone needs their space. But for us, it’s unusual to go more than a few days without messaging, at least just to check up on how the other is doing. If organisation isn’t your strong suit, you could try things like setting a reminder on your phone to check in regularly, or setting a special text alert for their contact.

Personally, if I don’t message someone back the second I see their message and without getting distracted, they’re probably never going to hear from me again. Oops. So when I know that she might be having a difficult day, or is going somewhere that could be stressful, I make sure that my phone is on, close by and the alert is turned up as loud as it goes with a suitably annoying sound effect. Usually, it’s enough to get even my attention.

Think outside the box a bit. What’s nicer than getting a letter, right?

4. Be honest.

It’s definitely the best policy. Especially if they have an anxiety disorder or some form of paranoia which may make them feel like they are being plotted against, not taken seriously or talked about behind their back. In any case, life is usually more than a little confusing for someone with a mental illness (or ADHD, or both! Yay! ;P) and few things are more refreshing than a friend who is up-front with you, and who in return you can be yourself with without having to put on an act.

Don’t do it in a negative way though. Just be, well, honest. Don’t just yell at them and tell them that their new girl/boyfriend is ruining their life, or get mad at them for doing something that you don’t entirely approve of. And be respectful if they disagree. There’s no point arguing about them and upsetting them. The best you can do is be there for them and be constant, whatever they choose.

Be honest about the good things. This is important! If they look great, tell them. If you’re proud of them for dealing with something that you know was really though for them, tell them. If you love hanging out with them and generally just having them in your life- you guessed it- tell them! 

What number am I on again? Ahh, Beethoven get your tail off the screen I can’t see! Sorry, cat trouble. Why does he only like hanging out with me when I’m busy? Nope, now you’ve just moved it onto the keyboard. Where did the return key go? Ok, that’s better. Stay over there, ok? Where was I? 4 or 5? This is longer than I was expecting it to be. I guess that’s what happens when I try to write as I think

5.Don’t be easily offended 

Honesty is important, but that also means that you need to be able to take it too. They should be able to tell you that they need you to leave/ need some time alone, and know that you won’t be annoyed. Because at the end of the day, it’s about you, not them. If you’re making it about you, then you’re not really looking out for them, and you’re making things harder for them even if they don’t realise it.

The last thing they need is your insecurities as well as their own.

So take every day, moment, second with them as it comes. Sit in silence with them if that’s what they need. Cry with them. Laugh with them. Don’t push them around or try to make them feel something they don’t- just roll with it. That’s part of life anyway, it’s just a little more intense with a mental illness. But that doesn’t make it impossible, especially with good friends around you. And that’s where you come in.

Yesterday, my friend was feeling pretty drained, and when we were in her room she just lay down on the rug and we held hands for a while. She needed to rest; I was hyper and needed to wind down. It worked for both of us. Situations like these happen a lot for us, and they happen because we’ve made sure that each of knows that we can be ourselves around each other; whether it be emotionally exhausted or hyper as hell. Things can be stressful enough the rest of the time without them having to act around you, too, so make an environment that they can relax in without worrying about hurting your feelings. 

6. (Right? Yeah, 6. Ok. Beethoven stop making that face you’re really distracting me. You look like you just heard some really deep cat gossip. IMG_6868Ok, focus. Sorry, my Ritalin’s worn off. But I feel like getting this down, so I’m just gonna sort of muddle my way through this until I can take some more in like half an hour. Ok, let’s do number 6!)

Take 2: 6. Make gifts! 

One of my favourite points! I’m a big fan of little gifts that don’t necessarily have an occasion, but are just more of a reminder that you’re thinking of and rooting for them. It doesn’t have to be big, expensive- or even cost anything at all. I should probably do some examples. Ok, so a while ago I had kind of a big dip and was struggling quite a lot. I messaged her one night pretty upset about something (thanks to my ADHD I can’t really remember what it was ha) and the next time we met up, she gave me envelopes with notes in them to help me through stuff that I might struggle with. Amazing, right? Things like, ‘open me you don’t want to try’ and inside a beautiful letter with loads of encouragement and steps inside for what to do, for example 1) have a drink of water, 2)do something you enjoy, 3) have a wash etc. I know, she totally rocks 🙂

So yeah, it doesn’t have to be expensive– just something that will make them smile and give them a boost when they need one. A painting, a funny picture, something handmade– if that’s your thing- like a bracelet. Even a little card with ‘you got this’ on it. You don’t need to spend money for the sake of it, because that’s not the point. If you’re going to though, I’d suggest aiming for something that has meaning to them, or preferably to both of you so that it can be an inside joke 😉 Just make sure it’s positive! large

I recently bought her Natsu’s scarf from the anime/ manga Fairy Tail. She can wear it out and it looks like a regular scarf, but we both know that she’s actually supporting her guild ;P

7. Celebrate the small victories (and the big ones!)

This doesn’t mean patronise them or treat them like a child. 

Instead, when they accomplish things that they find difficult, however small, just find small ways to let them know that you noticed and are proud of them. You might hang out with them on a difficult day, then afterwards send them a card or a message to let them know that you’re really proud of the way that they pulled themselves back together, fought through it and came out the other side. Because trust me, that takes guts. And courage. And ridiculous amounts of energy. And so much more.

Or it might be something that seems small to you that could be a huge effort for them, like they manage to put makeup on or get changed out of their pyjamas, or maybe even BOTH. So when you see them, you make a point to tell them that they look gorgeous, or you love the way they did their eyeliner, or that those are really cool jeans.

You might see them out somewhere that they find difficult, like school/college, a party, a concert ( or basically just anywhere out of the house 😉 ) and make a point to tell them how good it is to see them, because you’re genuinely happy to get to hang out with them.

Side note/ example: The other day, I managed to go somewhere that I hadn’t been to for weeks. I had missed it, but the environment was completely wrong and pretty challenging for me, and I didn’t feel like I fitted in. After managing- with effort- to put on a smile for a few people I hadn’t seen in a while and tell them that ‘honestly, I’m fine, I saw friend who I hadn’t seen in months.

Sometimes, people don’t know what to do. Well, most times, really. When this happens, sadly they usually pick one of two options. They either a) do nothing (which I’ll get into in the next point*) or b) change the way they see you and treat you. Neither is helpful.

But anyway, more than a few people at this point– those who knew why I hadn’t been around much- had run up to me, hugged me, and then proceeded to stare at me like they couldn’t believe I was actually alive and functioning like a normal human, and were worried I might off myself at any minute if they didn’t ask me five or six times how I was. But this friend was different.

He saw me, and as he came over to hug me I could see in his face that he was genuinely happy to see me because of, well, me. Because he liked me for who I was– not what was wrong with me or the drama around me. So thank you, if you’re reading this. You lit up my day. Even if you didn’t realise it, getting there was a victory for me, so thank you for recognising it.

8. Nearly there. Phew, I’ve got a lot to say today. Maybe I’m overtired and a little hyper after wandering the house looking for cats and wanting to bake cookies at 3 am (don’t worry, there is still a small sensible voice somewhere in the far corners of my mind that stopped me. Just ;P )

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Me last night (drawing by Caroline Kee)

Oh- medication time. Please hold.

Yay productivity here I come. Ok, time to finish this post with the help of the medication that I almost didn’t take because I assumed that I was drinking water I must also have taken the tablet but hey, at least I remembered.

Definitely 8 this time. Alright, this is an important one. Just as well I have two helpers with me now

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*8. If you don’t know what to do: for the love of all that is holy, DON’T DO NOTHING. Please.

Dropping off the face of the earth because you don’t know how to deal with your friend going through a rough patch isn’t acceptable if you’ve committed to being there for them as their friend. If you really have no idea, the best think you can possibly do is ASK THEM. It’s really pretty simple.

Just saying ‘I don’t know what to do but I’m here and I’ll do whatever I can to make things easier’ or ‘tell me how I can help’ or even just simply ‘I’m here’ (but, you know, actually meaning it) means everything. And is about a bazillion percent (yep, it’s scientific. Or mathematical. Whatever) better than doing nothing. Trust me.

9. Learn what they struggle with so you can help.

Be relaxed about it if they mess up. Thanks to my amazing ADHD time keeping skills, I’ve been late almost every time the two us have met up, and the times I wasn’t was because she came to my house so being late then would be stretching it a bit even for me. And having anxiety, I’ve freaked out a little about it. But she’s never been annoyed at me or even mentioned it aside from telling me to get over it because it’s not a big deal to her every time I try to apologise.

Work out how you can ease up some of the pressure and make things more manageable for them. For a while, we would get together around dinner time every other week, and we would eat exactly the same food in pretty much the same portions, because it made it easier for her and her battle with an eating disorder (which she is totally kicking ass at, by the way). Now, it’s easier for her if we make sure that we’re not together during meal times so that I don’t see her eat, and that’s ok too. Because I want to do whatever I can to make things just a little easier for her, just like I know she does for me.

And we’re one cat down but we’ve finally made it- number 10!

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(Yes, I made the mistake of buying sheets at christmas. It’s festive all the time in here)

10. Share stuff! 

Friendship is a two- way thing! So talk about things! Good things, bad things, great things, terrible things- thoughts, hopes, fears, jokes, cheesy stuff like that 😉

So there you go, my first official (and hopefully longest, but probably not) post on this online journal thing! If you’ve stuck with it this long, thanks a lot. If you haven’t, I can’t say I blame you. Hopefully you picked up some helpful tips on how to support your friend, or maybe at least gained an insight into things they might find difficult and how you can help.

And if you’re reading this and you’re fighting a mental illness, if you take away nothing else from this post at least know that you’re not alone 🙂

Apologies to any ADHDers on the length of this and general randomness- I really need to work on that.

Oh, and one more thing, but it is pretty important. If you’ve come to this post, you probably care about the person you’re here for like crazy and want the best for them. That’s amazing. It’s fantastic. And hopefully some of the stuff you read here will help you show them that.

But it’s important that you remember that they’re not your responsibility. You’re their friend. Not their guardian. You can’t reach in and take their pain away, as much as you might want to, any more than you can live their lives for them.

Their actions are their own, and you can’t fight their battle for them. So don’t beat yourself up or blame yourself. No, being a ‘better’ friend would not have stopped them from cutting themselves that time. If anything, they probably would have done it sooner and/or worse if not for you. No, texting them one more time would not have stopped them from having that anxiety attack. But it probably did make their day.

  • Lily, Tayto and Beethoven

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Obligatory intro post!

Wow, my kitten is so photogenic.

If you’re reading this and you are like me, then you’re probably not reading so much as skimming because, let’s face it, concentration isn’t really our thing 

(we make up for it in multitasking ability. And, you know, being awesome)

It’s taken me forever just to write this sentence because, you know- distractions. What was I talking about? Damn you, goldfish memory. Do goldfish actually have short memories? I’m pretty sure I saw one on youtube who can do tricks… Ughh, focus!

Right, so- oh yeah, concentration.

So what I was trying to say is that I’m going to try to keep this short and vaguely organised so that it’s easier to get through if reading is difficult for you like it is for me, but I’m kind of just  typing whatever comes into my head (not everything, because that would be a lot and probably wouldn’t make any sense) without editing to try and keep this honest and also kind of because editing takes too much focus. Although I’ll probably go back after and add some colours. And maybe a picture of a goldfish.


Sorry. This is so random. Just follow the bold stuff I guess

SO anyway in the spirit of trying to be brief and write something that actually makes sense, I’m going to use bullet points and colours. Because organisation. Let’s do this

Some stuff about me, because apparently you’re supposed to do that when you start one of these blog things. And because I’m the one writing it so its probably a good idea…

I’d been thinking about blogging for a while, and I’m not entirely sure why (there’s a lot going on in my head, and it’s a little awkward to sort out what’s what) but I think part of why I decided to start a blog was because

 I was getting really sick of everyone around me starting blogs about how ‘perfect’ and charming their lives are.

Not that that isn’t good for them, but it kind of annoys me when someone labels their blog as ‘lifestyle’ advice and then goes on about their wonderful life filled with flowers, pretty clothes,  and perfectly brewed tea in customised cups.


It doesn’t annoy me that they’re happy- great for them- but it does annoy me that they’re probably not being honest. Because for most people, life isn’t perfect. It sucks sometimes. And that’s ok. It’s normal. And it shouldn’t be taboo. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t still be amazing, even if your life isn’t always.

Am I jumping on the band wagon? I prefer to think of it more as de-railing the wagon. Anyways

Life has never really made sense to me. 

Not in a poetic, emo kind of a way. More in a my brain functions differently kind of way. The media makes being an outsider look attractive, but this isn’t a movie, and not fitting in didn’t earn me an indie soundtrack and a group of equally quirky yet different in their own way friends to go on adventures with or fight crime or whatever. It mostly just sucked. But you probably know that. So I guess we’re not totally alone, right? And I guess that was my point-

Skimming through these blogs, looking at all the pretty, well- lit pictures, I realised that I just really wanted someone to be honest

To tell me that it’s ok to have bad days. And worse days. 

It’s ok not to know what you’re doing all the time, and it’s ok to be scared, because it happens to everyone, even people whose heads aren’t as busy and confusing as yours, and it definitely doesn’t make you weak.

It’s ok not to have perfect makeup, or even to have the will to want to put it on, or to have fifteen fashionable friends with equally perfect makeup to pose with in blog pictures. So as well as using this as a place to try to declutter my thoughts and actually get some of this noise sorted out, I hope that I can create for someone else what I wish had been there for me.

Although it sometimes feels like a curse (yes, I’ve been watching a lot of fantasy TV recently) I’m starting to realise that being different can actually be pretty cool.

For one thing, it makes us unique- I’ll need to look up the statistics again because I forgot them, but they did say that we’re a very small group. On top of that, everyone who suffers from a mental illness, or who has some kind of disorder, experiences it in a different way (because we’re all different anyway) so that makes even more unique. And if you both, then go you- you’re as special as they come 🙂 As the name is supposed to suggest, I wanted to show that, yes, we’ve got quirks– we’re as different as it’s possible to be- but they’re also what makes us amazing. Because given all that, you can scientifically say that no one else is like you. People can say they’re different and edgy, but you’re the real deal. Go you!

Yes, that can also make you feel isolated- I know I do a lot- but that’s also what this is for. Even if only one person going through something similar reads this and realises they’re not alone, it will be worth it.

Also my dad thought it would be a good idea 🙂 Yay for my dad

Having just started new medication (which I need to go take now- I can feel myself zoning out!) I felt like this would be a good time to start.

So, yeah. Hopefully you made it through that, sorry it was a little long! But stay tuned, I guess. And for now, know that for all your quirks, and the trouble they give you, they also make you who you are. You’re tough, individual, and you experience the world in a way that no one else does– personally I don’t always feel like I’m even in the same world- and if that’s not amazing I don’t know what is. As my dad says, you see the world through different eyes. So go explore it. Write. Draw. Sleep. Cry. Watch stuff that makes you laugh. Hug a cat. Have fun, don’t have fun- it’s not a crime. And you’re not alone.

Peace and cats and stuff,

Lily

P.s in case you wanted to see a fish do tricks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3JFmrlgWAk