A hidden battle

TW: Suicide and Mental Health

It's been a very long time since I wrote here, probably a symptom of the way I've been feeling. I've been avoiding some things and trying to distract myself.

Last week, I wrote the following after everything just sort of bubbled up - it was a bit too much. I've been contemplating whether to share this or not. It's not exactly light reading and will likely change your perception of me, especially if you know me personally. Friendships, relationships, potential jobs could all become somewhat awkward. I can't help but worry about coming across as a liability or an emotional time-bomb. I don't want sympathy, and I certainly don't want to make people anxious. I don't want anyone thinking they need to rush in and save the day. However, I'm starting to take steps to deal with it all.

I think I'm ready to share now, though. I'd rather just put it out there for me and for anyone else who might be feeling the same. So if you know me and reading this comes as a bit of a shock, please tell me. You can talk to me about it. One of my greatest fears is pushing people away, making them feel alienated or as if they don't know me anymore. I just appreciate your understanding and patience while I get it off my chest.

So if you've read any of the previous posts here, you know I found out I'm autistic. This discovery came about this time last year. In that time, my perception of the world and its perception of me has changed significantly. It's been an extremely challenging year - the hardest yet for me. So much has come to the surface that I've had to confront. I also previously wrote about how valuable therapy was for me before I found this out, but I haven't used it to deal with this new discovery for various reasons.

Mainly I've been putting it off due to money. I was fortunate enough last year to be in a position where I could take time out and pick up small freelance projects here and there. I had some savings which meant I didn't really have to work. It's meant I've had less disposable income for things like therapy, and I believe this hasn't helped my situation. As each month passes, a chunk of my savings go with it. I still have "runway" so to speak, but it's definitely been a worry for me. When I was working full time, I never really had to think about it. However when I quit last year, my safety net of regular income was sort of gone, and it added a lot of anxiety. I needed money to live, and I needed a break from full-time work. Two things that opposed each other.

Also not having a set routine of work has actually been hard to adjust to. I've wanted freedom away from full-time work, but I've also felt the need for the simplicity of it. Not having to deal with government obligations and taxes and getting paid on time and following up on leads and doing the actual work and blah blah blah. It was so much easier when I would just clock in, do my work, and get paid. No headaches. But that lifestyle no longer works for me either, and the idea of going back to full-time, even temporarily to relieve some of the stress, just fills me with dread. I'd love something truly part-time where I don't have to deal with the additional burdens.

So that's one thing. The other issues are related to my identity and struggling to come to terms with how my brain functions. I've been trying to set new boundaries with myself and to be kinder to myself, while still being conscious of others and their expectations of me, especially if they don't know my situation.

There's a lot of relearning happening. I feel like I've forgotten how to function in basic ways. I struggle to keep the house tidy, my office is a mess, I'm eating like shit, I constantly have a backlog of laundry, my todo list just keeps growing. I honestly don't know how I used to do it before. General life stuff has always been oddly difficult for me, but it's just got worse. There's a term for it called Autistic Regression that usually happens after a period of burnout. You learn skills by building pathways in your brain. If these pathways are built while you're masking, when you begin to unmask, the pathways are essentially blocked. The skills are still there, just the way you access them is now different. You have to learn new ways to access those skills again. I think that's why I'm so shit at design now. My whole professional life was kind of like an "act". I learnt it all while masking. Now I'm trying to be more myself, I can't access those skills in the same way, but I'm also getting better at new skills like programming.

I just wish I could keep on top of things. It's like I'm drowning in the mundane.

I've also been trying to show more of my authentic self outwardly but honestly it's been hard. I previously wrote about a term for being autistic and trying to be more authentic. I called it "Authentistic". Since writing that, and about discovering I'm autistic, I've noticed people somewhat distance themselves which is understandable given how awkward the subject can be. I'm conscious of not making being autistic my whole personality as I don't see that as authentic either, but I feel like I need to talk about it as I'm figuring this "new life" out. It means I'm more visible as an autistic person instead of just as Sam.

It's honestly reminded me of being at school again. I'm noticing how all my interactions are very surface level because anything deeper is a little weird for others. It feels like I get on peoples nerves if I try and be more myself, so I end up indexing the other way and masking more socially than I initially did before I found out, or I just retreat and let friendships fade away. I'm tired.

All of these factors have led to more frequent suicidal thoughts. It's difficult to admit this, honestly. Like I said, I don't want sympathy or empty words. It's fine. I'm writing about it for myself really.

I've always had these thoughts for as long as I can remember, even as a young child. Particularly in times of stress where it's easy to think it would just be better for everyone else if I wasn't around. Who would notice, right? When I'm in that state, everything seems so pointless. It sounds silly when I say it because I know people would be upset if I went through with it, especially because I don't think many people would even truly understand why and maybe they would feel some guilt, like they could have stopped it. I just think it would be this sad thing for people close to me and that feels shitty.

Last week was the worst it's ever been. I was in the shower, thinking "I wonder what the tax implications would be if I left my partner some money and then disappeared? What passwords do I need to leave her? How would I say goodbye?". It was only once I got out of the shower that I realised what I was even saying to myself. The thoughts came up way too easy. I wasn't even thinking about whether I should or shouldn't, I was thinking about the practicalities of it like it was nothing. I was so scared by that. I went into the bedroom while my partner Annesah was getting ready for work, and I sat on the edge of the bed. She knew I'd been dealing with a lot more than usual lately, but had no idea it was that bad. When she asked if I was okay, I sort of blurted it out. It was the first time I'd told anyone about it and it all came out. She obviously handled it really well (or that's how I felt anyway) and supported me.

It kind of highlighted how much I've been struggling in secret.

The usual advice is talk to someone, bring it up with people you care about, don't let it eat you up. It's impossible. It's so scary to even think about, let alone bring it up to someone. Sure it's nice to have someone there, and I don't know what I would have done without Annesah, but when you're in it, you can't see out. Even now it's hard for me to know what to do. I've just tried to carry on as usual, get a coffee like my usual routine, do some work, eat the same food. The thoughts are still present.

I don't want these thoughts to be a thing anymore. I want to have a positive outlook on life, not just present like I have one. I actually want to have one.

I've not slept that well since then, and I've been up late at night going down rabbit holes of the connection between autism and suicidal thoughts. A lot of what I found is quite scary. There have been studies that found ~60% of autistic adults have thought about taking their own life, 35% have attempted it. You're 11x more likely to die by suicide if you're autistic than if you're not, and it's the second leading cause of death among autistic individuals, just behind epilepsy.

There's a real lack of support for autistic individuals with regards to suicide. It's understandable as it's only 1% of the population, and it's still not very well understood in terms of why it happens, especially in those without learning disabilities like myself. The support needs are very different to non-autistic people. I think part of it is that it's hard for others to even relate in any way.

There is progress however. There's more research being done, and new tools being developed like a new Suicidal Behaviours Questionanaire specifically catered to autistic individuals to help in screening and assessment processes. I'm glad there are people out there who care enough to do this research, and it makes me hopeful that people like myself will have better tools to deal with this in the future.

Anyway, if you've made it to the end of this, I want you to know that I appreciate your time. If you're going through something similar and want to talk about it, you can always reach out to me; my contact information is available on my main site (samking.co). I might not be in the best state to help right now, but I'll do my best because I genuinely want to be there for others.

I know I'll be fine in the end. I know I'll get over this. The thoughts will likely come back throughout my life and that's okay too. I have good support. Annesah has offered to help take some of this off my plate so to speak, and sort out a bunch of the doctor and therapy stuff which I'm immensely grateful for.

I've also found comfort in building refrakt.app, learning new things, and finding joy in pottery. It's these small things that make everything more bearable, and they remind me that it's okay to be where I am, and it's okay to take time for healing.

Thank you, once again, for taking the time to read this. Your support, in any form, means more than you know.