2019 – A year of change

I’m bringing the blog out of cold storage for a one-off post. Why? Well, it’s Christmas and what’s more festive than a blog about mental health and depression?!

It’s been a pretty eventful year for me and I thought it’d be a good idea to reflect on my journey. I’ve discovered a huge amount about myself, I’ve done things I never imagined I’d do and I’ve finished the year in a very different position to how I started it.

photo of lighted christmas tree at night

Way back in late 2018, I was deeply unhappy.  I was doing a moribund, soul-destroying job, I was having regular bouts of depression and I was feeling utterly useless and directionless. I wasn’t much fun to be around and my relationships were suffering. Then I had a lightbulb moment.  Then lots of things changed (see my other posts).  Now I’m in a different place.

I’m getting there

Having the knowledge that I’ve got autism hasn’t solved all the problems of my world, but it has helped matters considerably.  In some ways it’s helped with major issues – I’m slowly establishing how to optimize the productivity, quality and enjoyment of my working life – see below. I’m also getting a better understanding of my depression and how to cope with bad periods. It’s also useful knowledge for people who know me and helps them understand how my brain works.

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On a more trivial level, it’s helped me understand plenty of the small things in my life. Last week I was in the supermarket and (unbeknown to me) it was one of those ‘quiet hours’ designed to help people with dementia, autism and other health issues. I usually find shops stressful, chaotic and unnerving experiences. But the lack of checkout noise, the absence of muzak and a general lowering of the chatter levels made it a far more palatable trip for me. I commented as much to my wife, who THEN informed me it was quiet hour! It’s seemingly little changes like that, that can make a big difference to my well-being.

I’ve also developed a better understanding of what helps me ‘switch off’ from my anxiety and depression. My family and friends are fantastic in helping me forget myself and just enjoy the good times. Seeing my daughter start school, love it and learn so much has been the best bit of 2019. I think I’m getting better at being ‘in the moment’ and enjoying the many great things in my life, but I’ve still got a long way to go.

As ever, I find sport a great way of switching off. Watching NFL, cricket, football, snooker etc really helps me to (largely) forget my troubles for a while. I still need lots of time on my own to help me feel more relaxed and not have anything to distract me. I also find writing great for my mental health, which leads on nicely to…

 

I’ve started my own business

A short while ago, this would have seemed an utterly bonkers sentence for me to write, but here we are. I’m the proud owner of Simon Day Content – copywriting and blogging.

I’m not going to lie, it’s a seriously hard thing to do and my mental health isn’t always conducive to making it a success. I’m getting there, I’ve got a few clients and I’m slowly ‘learning my trade’. I’m still some way short of being comfortable financially and I still need to improve the scope and quality of my work. But overall, it’s really helped me feel better mentally and happier in my working life. I can take breaks when I need to and I can structure my day in a way that considerably helps my output.

I seem to have found myself pigeon-holed into writing business to business content, whereas I’d love to expand myself a bit more. If you are one of the few people who used to read my NFL blog, you’ll hopefully agree that I’m good at writing fun, friendly, passionate and even funny content.

It’d be remiss of me not to use this blog to make a sales pitch…if you or anyone you know would like somebody to help them with website writing, blog writing, email marketing or anything else listed HERE, then please put them in touch with me. You’d not only be doing them a favour, but you’d also be helping me immensely.

 

I’ve got a long way to go

Having said all that, I still find many aspects of life difficult. Anxiety, stress and depression are never far away. I have up days and down days. I have days when I just want to stay in bed or watch Netflix, and I have days when I feel pretty much fine. Talking about my problems is still something I find incredibly difficult and painful, getting it all down in writing is far easier.

I’m still attending counselling and I still take anti-depressants every day. I’m OK with that, and the fact they are long term elements of my life doesn’t bother me unduly.

I’m pretty sure that bouts of depression and constant anxiety will be a part of my life forever, but having coping strategies and circumstances in place will hopefully help minimise their negative impact.

 

Society has a long way to go

We’ve all seen social media posts aimed at raising awareness of mental health. We’ve all given ourselves pats on the back for retweeting them. You’ve probably been to a training course or two on mental health. You’ve no doubt read a few stories about minor celebs ‘opening up’ on their mental health problems. You may even have made a donation to a relevant charity.

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That’s all great and it’s undeniable that mental health awareness is better than ever. But, I still think we’re a long long way away from where we need to be. I still think it’s treated differently to physical problems and I still think public understanding is not where it needs to be.

Consider this: think about anyone you know who has depression, anxiety, or any other mental health problems. How often do you ask them how they are feeling? How often do you proactively help them? Do you fully understand their condition? 

Now consider the same questions but apply them to anyone you know who has a broken bone, a heavy cold or some other physical illness or problem. Do you treat both situations in the same way?

By the way, I am writing this as a complete hypocrite. I know people who have mental health problems and I do nowhere near enough very little to help them. My only (feeble) mitigating circumstances are that my autism make it hard for me to emotionally engage in some situations. I get flustered and uncomfortable very easily and that makes it very tricky to be ‘there’ for someone. But I need to improve on that and will try my best to do so.

 

2020 is going to be good

Being positive really isn’t my forte. However, I need to try my utmost to be positive as being in the right mindset is a huge part of the solution. I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions, but I do think it’s important to have targets and goals. With that in mind, my goals for 2020 include:

  • Growing my business – I want to get more clients, improve the quality of my work and establish myself as a respected writer of content for charities and small businesses.
  • Being a better person – I don’t think I’m terrible, but I can be better. As mentioned above, my autism can get in the way, but I need to work at that because ultimately that’s good not just for me, but for everyone else in my life.
  • Do more exercise – playing sport and keeping fit makes me feel better. The boring reason is that it releases endorphins that help your mood, but personally, I just love doing anything that’s competitive. I play rounders once a week, it’adventure athlete athletic daylights not exactly Test Match cricket, but it is competitive, fun and the team I play for is very good. I need to do more of that and play a couple of other sports, as well as keeping myself fit by having more gym visits and going for runs and walks.

 

Do all of that and I can carry on moving in the right direction! I might even write the odd blog post…

 

 

 

 

The Finishing Line

This is my final blog post for the foreseeable future.

That excellent hook is also a statement of fact. I will probably return at some point with some updates on my ‘journey’, but in terms of my general posts on autism and mental health that’s it for now.

I’d love to carry on writing this blog.  I’ve really enjoyed it, it’s been superb therapy and some of the comments and messages I’ve had have been really heart-warming. But I need to stop writing for now. And I need to explain why…

Over the last few months I’ve come to a few conclusions about myself and where I’ve been going wrong in life, why I suffer from depression and anxiety, and why my working life hasn’t been as successful as it can be. The good news is that it’s enabled me to realise what I can do to improve, be comfortable with who I am and thrive in the future.

The blog has played an important and unexpected role in that. I started it to just get a few thoughts out there, open up about what’s going on and pass on a few hopefully interesting nuggets of information. One of the most important things that has happened is that I’ve rediscovered my love of writing.  I’m not bad at it, it’s good for my mental health and it really suits the way my brain is wired.

I recently wrote about how my brain focuses intently on a few things, but struggles to concentrate on others.  Well, it turns out that writing, and in particular blog writing, is one of those things I do concentrate on and thrive at.  I’ve kind of suspected that for a while, and my jobs have always contained an element of writing blogs, copy and/or articles, but this ‘journey of self-discovery’ (apologies for the absurdly pretentious phrase that makes me sound like a reality TV contestant) has really hammered home that fact and help me understand why.

 

What am I going to do with this knowledge?

text on shelfClearly I’ve thought long and hard about this.  My life situation and responsibilities are the fundamental non-health related drivers, so quitting work to write a free WordPress blog about adult autism isn’t really a viable option!

What is a viable option is looking at ways I can earn a bit of additional money from writing and take it from there.  I’ve been looking at guest blogging options, and a few of you may have seen my speculative email pitch offering my services.

That’s all a bit low key though, and low key doesn’t often achieve much.  So I’ve decided to try and take it to the next level. I want to be a blogger and copywriter, either freelance or in-house, either where I currently work or elsewhere.  It’s the best option for my well-being and mental health, as far as work goes.

The end game is do it full time, but I’m sensible and realistic enough to know that may take some time, or indeed never happen.  I’ve signed up for a business start-up training course to further explore that side of it.  I’m in the process of putting business, marketing and budgeting plans together and I’m drafting up a website. I’m also looking at courses to improve my skills.

Initially I just want to get a few hours work per week to build up my skills, my network and my portfolio.  I need to nail down specifically what I want to offer and I need to spread the word.  As it stands, I’d love to write copy, blogs and run social media accounts for local businesses and charities.  That way I can see the impact my work is having and I’ll be helping my local area and/or worthy causes.

 

Why can’t I carry on with this blog?

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Everything I’ve mentioned above will involve plenty of work and effort.  Having a full time day job and a family means free time is at a premium and finding enough minutes to write this blog now is tricky enough. Throw in jobs like creating a new website and writing plans will only further diminish my windows of opportunity. Plus…

I need to start writing more diverse articles, completely separate to this. To show that I can write on topics other than autism and mental health. I also need to write blogs that will connect with my desired audience and engage them.

It’s something I really want and need to focus on in order to make it work. I completely believe it can and it will make me happier, massively improve my well-being and allow me to thrive.

Now it’s just a case of doing it!

 

Epilogue

As I mentioned at the start, I will occasionally post stuff on here to let you know about my Adult Autism Adventure. I’m currently still awaiting the follow up appointment following my initial assessment.  I’ve no idea how long it will take or what it will involve, but I’ve become OK with that. I’ve accepted that regardless of a formal diagnosis I’ve got more than enough autistic traits to consider myself autistic.  I need to live and prosper with that knowledge.

Whilst it’s a big deal it’s not something that I want to hold me back. Indeed, it’s something that I can use to my advantage (No, I don’t mean I want to park closer to Morrisons!) and help improve my future and that of the people close to me.

There may also be the occasional post on her about my new work venture.  File those under ‘shameless self-promotion’, but only AFTER you’ve helped spread the word, visited my new site and had a think about potential clients for me!

So thank you for reading this blog and hopefully you’ll be reading a lot more of my content in the future.

thank you text on black and brown board

The Neverending Story

So there’s this 12-year-old kid, and he’s doing his homework in his bedroom one night.  Suddenly he notices that there’s a light on in the house opposite.  But that’s impossible, the couple who live there are on holiday.  He runs downstairs to tell his parents. They are good friends with the couple and have the spare key.  They go over to the house and discover that the doors are all locked.  The light is now off and there’s no trace of anybody or any disturbance.

Sorry, I better explain that bizarre into.  That paragraph is the beginning of a story I formed in my head a few years ago.  When I, as is frequently the case, have trouble getting to sleep or are daydreaming, my mind turns to it. Over time I’ve gradually added more and more to it.  I’ve almost reached a point when I’ve got the outline of a pretty solid story.

On a few occasions I’ve started to jot down my idea, I’ve got character and setting descriptions and my desired plot structure.  But I’ve never taken it further. ‘Why not?’ you might think, I clearly enjoy writing and have a modicum of ability.

There are three answers to that question; two of them merit a lengthy explanation.  The one that doesn’t is the simple fact that perhaps it’s not a great idea! But that’s pretty irrelevant to a blog about adult autism, so we’ll concentrate on the other two factors:

Confidence

It might be a preference to the habitual voyeur of what is known as Parklife, but it’s not something I’m blessed with.  I’ve touched on this issue before, when talking about my sporting ‘career’ and my working life, but I’ll now try and explain it more succinctly…

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It’s all to do with having a brain that is ‘wired differently’.  A neurotypical person with a bit of writing ability and a half-decent concept would do everything they could to run with their idea. I’m pretty sure JK Rowling didn’t know she’d be swimming in bottomless pits of money when she penned the first paragraph of Harry Potter. But she committed to the idea, followed it through and now lives like Scrooge McDuck.

My neurodiverse brain constantly overthinks everything.  And when you overthink, you end up focussing on the negatives.  Look hard enough for a problem and you’ll find one.  I don’t see the glass as being half empty, I think the glass is half full, but almost certainly poisonous, so I’m not going to drink it.

I’m not for a second suggesting that my idea would make a great book.  It serves as an example of an issue that applies to the majority of my life.  Deep down I know I’m not stupid and I know I’ve got a lot to offer, but having the confidence to make that leap of faith deserts me.

Concentration

The ‘mystery light’ idea is by no means my only half-baked writing concept.  Over the years I’ve had ideas and started writing about (amongst other things) the history of the NFL in the UK, an NFL guide for beginners, a mystery about a couple finding a dead body in their walk-in wardrobe and a diary about completely changing the football team you support. I could talk at great length about any of those topics, but I’ve never fully developed any of them.

Aside from the confidence issue, my main problem is that I often struggle to concentrate for long periods. As I’ve mentioned before, if I’m passionate about a topic then I can concentrate for hours on end.  But if I’m not, or I don’t feel like I’m being listened to, or I don’t see it as being important, then my mind wanders and I can’t focus.

That’s by no means an issue exclusive to my writing ideas. Ask my wife about my efforts at cleaning a room or doing the shopping. I’ll have the best intentions in the world, but more often than not my brain will wander off and I’ll end up doing half a job.

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I don’t know for certain whether I’ve got ADHD, but when the doctors eventually get round to diagnosing me, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to discover that I have. ADHD is extremely common among people on the autistic spectrum and I display plenty of the symptoms. I have problems focussing, I have a low frustration tolerance, my boredom threshold is very low and I am often restless.

 

In conclusion

The biggest takeaway from this is that whilst I haven’t invested enough effort or had confidence in the ideas I’ve mentioned in this post, I HAVE fully committed to this blog. Churning out a post every week hasn’t been a problem at all, it’s a pleasure.  I often write more than that, but don’t want to bombard people with too many posts.  Instead, I’ve stockpiled a fair few for times when I’m too busy to write something new.  The best conclusion I can draw is that this blog is a far better and more interesting concept than any of the others I’ve mentioned.

Through writing this blog, doing my day job and discovering more and more about my brain and disability, I’ve concluded that the best way of improving my mental well-being, happiness and working life is to concentrate more and more on writing. I’ve loved writing this blog and my favourite elements of my working life involve writing. It’s great for my mental health and acts as a kind of therapy when I’m not feeling great.

What’s more, it’s what I’m best at.  I know that, so what I’d love to do is to ‘take the plunge’ and commit to writing for a living.  Either as an employee or self-employed,  but just writing blogs, books and web content and copy.  Maybe part-time at first, but eventually I’d love to work full time helping small businesses and/or charities with their content (web, social media etc).

I know I could be great at it and I know I’d enjoy it and be passionate.  The problem is having the confidence and faith to make the leap, instead of just seeing the potential hurdles such as money and time.  But I have at least got a goal now and something I can focus on.

And maybe one day everyone will find out why the light was on in the house across the street!