When Everything is Difficult – World Mental Health Day


It seems appropriate, on this World Mental Health Day, to admit that I’m struggling.

It’s not because of one simple explanation – I can’t pin the trunk of my depression and anxiety to one single root. I’ve run a gamut of different factors to get to this point, hitting many speed-bumps and slightly deflating my tyres along the way. Now, we just need to look at exactly what the damage is, and whether we can reinflate, tape or replace the damaged rubber.

For starters, winter is coming (and no, I don’t watch Game of Thrones, but I am painfully aware of the pop culture reference I’ve just made). This brings with it an array of difficulties for me – whether it be the lack of sunlight (I suspect I have a touch of SAD), the greater difficulty in waking up in the grey, the ever-encroaching cold that definitely bothers me anyway (see this blog post about that), and the fact that I have, right on time, contracted the much beloved autumnal virus and am coughing, hacking, sneezing, shivering and snuffling over everything and everyone.

Not only is it that time of year where I am faced with all of the above, but it it is also that time of year when my best friends make an epic adventure to a fan convention in North America without me. This is not the first time that my friends have gone on this trip – I actually think this is third year, plus a spring trip to Rome for a similar convention – but it does not get any easier with time.

Logically, I know that my relationship with my friends is good – although we see each other less than we used to, we talk online on a regular basis (this was how we met, after all) and we make fabulous memories when we organise to meet. However, my heart aches a little whenever I see the experiences and journeys that don’t include me. Particularly as I see them meeting new people along these paths, people that I don’t have a connection with, and I feel the anxiety rising that I am moving further away from them. And I can’t help but feel that it’s my fault, my fault for not going with them, for not considering the trip, for not having the energy or the funds to do so and for being the sad, frugal one who misses out.

In fact, was the one that introduced them all to the show they are now travelling the world as fans of. Perhaps that makes it more galling, and more painful, to know that I was the one who started this, yet I am the one who is not with them for various factors (mainly: I have fallen out of love with the show, and I cannot justify the financial challenge of such trips for a show I’m not even following any more). It can almost, when I’m feeling vulnerable (and I am right now), feel as though I am being slapped in the face. How dare you do this without me when you would know nothing about this show without me? But then I pull myself back, and I know I’m being silly.

My friends will probably (maybe) read this. I make it public on my social media, and I know that many ‘real life’ friends read this blog. I’m sure they have some idea of my raging jealousy, or that I struggle with these feelings, and I want to reassure them that it is solely from me, and my insecurities, anxieties and terrors, that this has arisen. Although it is difficult and painful at the time, it would be even more difficult and painful if their adventures were to stop and I was the reason for them to miss out.

Because, although I’m a selfish cow sometimes, they are my friends, I adore them, and they deserve to fill their lives with the things that make them happy.

As do I.

But then, couple these seasonal and physical changes, and these long, rambling, illogical emotions, with the stress of a full time job (which is stressful, no matter how much I enjoy it – especially when we’ve just rolled out something new and massive that I’m taking the wheel on), and the feeling that maybe I don’t quite have the time to do some of the things that do make me happy (such as blog), and you reach a point where the kettle is full but the boiling keeps happening.

I reached that point today.

It was a community event for work. It was different from my normal routine. I was nervous. I had my route meticulously well planned but then, horror of horrors, there was no space in the station car park due to the shift in times. And then there was another car park, but it took cash upfront, and my mum had taken my only cash the night before to use in an emergency corner-shop stop. So then I had to drive back to the station, park up, get out money, drive away, pay, park, walk back to the station again, and all this before I had even bought my ticket.

I missed my train. Which meant I missed my second and third connections.

Cue an embarrassing, tearful, shaking, gulping meltdown in the middle of a very public station platform, with part-concerned part-amused gazes if fellow commuters on me as I wailed down the phone to my mum (I was so hysterical, in fact, that my mum had to leave her class – she’s a teacher – for a few minutes in order to continue the call and make sure I didn’t do anything stupid).

I got through that meltdown. I had a good day – even though I had decidedly less energy than I would have had if I could have avoided that situation.

But the overall ‘struggling’ sentiment still applies.

I am feeling more lethargic than normal, I feel like I’m achieving less, I’m running late no matter what I do, everything feels slightly heavier than it normally does, and it seems to take a lot more thought and mental agility to carry out basic tasks. Thought and mental energy that I don’t have – thus, I don’t achieve anywhere near the level of basic tasks that I would like – thus I feel worse, and those same tasks require even more thought and mental energy – the great spoon whirlpool of doom.

I know that I have strategies in place to deal with this; I have support around me to get me through it; I’ve been through these feelings before, and through a much harsher and dangerous iteration of those feelings, and I’ve come out the other side. It takes some time, and there are no quick fixes – but history tells me that I will get through it, and I can only learn from my history.

I’m lucky in that respect.

So, as well as admitting that I’m struggling, I want to take every single person who recognises these things, who sees them in themselves, and who struggles through every day by the hand and pull you into the biggest hug you can tolerate.

Because all that ‘you can do it’ and ‘I believe in you’ and ‘it’s worth fighting for’ bullshit does nothing when you are in that moment. I know. I do. I’ve been there. I’m skirting around the edge as we speak. But you can. I managed, and I’m nothing particularly special. I’m not superhumanly strong. But I did it. Somehow. And it’s going to be hard, and it’s going to be shit, and people are not going to understand because mental health understanding is worse than awful.

But let me just hug you and let you know that you are worth fighting for – stuff everyone else for a moment, they’ll get their attention later. You are absolutely, totally worth fighting and surviving for – you deserve to be here, and you deserve to be happy.

Trust me. You don’t want to argue with me when I’m in this kind of mood.


Author: QueerlyAutistic
Erin Ekins is a queer autistic writer, speaker and attempter of activism. She has an interest in all areas of autistic social justice, but has a particular passion for improving understanding and acceptance of the intersection of autism and queerness. She runs the blog queerlyautistic.com and is the author of the upcoming book 'Queerly Autistic: The Ultimate Guide for LGBTQIA+ Teens on the Spectrum'. By day, she works in campaigning and influencing at a disability related charity, but, by night, she is inhabits a busy space between angry internet person and overly-excited fangirl.

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