“You’re so hard on yourself. But remember, everybody has a chapter they don’t read out loud. Take a few moments. Take a moment. Marvel at yourself; the mistakes which have given you wisdom, the sufferings that have given you strength. Despite all the obstacles, you continue to move forward. Be proud of that. Continue to endure. Continue to endure. And remember, no matter how dark it gets, the sun will rise again.” ~Unknown
All my life, I have known that I am different. If I didn’t look so much like my mom, I would have believed the jokes my brother told me about how I was adopted. I just couldn’t relate to everyone else in my family—or the rest of my world.
You can imagine that I was a black little girl who got called oreo a lot.
I didn’t talk a lot, spent a lot of time writing, and a lot of time alone. Attending parties caused me to get headaches and I wanted to hide.
Although I didn’t know it had a name for it, I was introverted even as a child.
As I grew up, those things didn’t change much. Life was hard for me. Exhausting even.
No one has ever said life is easy. I kept this thought in the forefront of mind and continued to push on, just like everyone else.
I did as everyone else did
Not only did I find pregnancy challenging, but parenting was also. Moved out of my parents’ house and was met with more challenges. After getting married, I felt like I was losing my mind.
All the responsibility was too much. There was just too much.
Everybody else made it appear so easy. Why was it so difficult for me? My mind wouldn’t let me rest.
I was never suicidal, but I was waking up wishing I hadn’t. I needed help. Not just comforting words or prayers.
I needed help from a professional. I needed professional help now.
So I went to the doctor and scheduled an appointment. I found out I had anxiety and depression.
This explains quite a bit. Now, everything made more sense.
I altered my lifestyle by journaling, exercising, and eating healthier to support my mental well-being. I took all the prescribed medication.
But something still wasn’t quite adding up. It was hard, but I dismissed it as anxiety and went on with my day.
It wasn’t until my baby, who was now twelve years old, confided his own life struggles to me that I had to revisit the whole mental health issue.
After finding him a psychologist, she suggested some testing to determine what was actually going on.
Those tests revealed different things, such as depression and anxiety. Autism spectrum disorder is also a possibility.
I hurt for my child. And honestly, I didn’t know how to relate to him anymore with this whole autism thing. It made me do extensive research to find out how I could help him.
That’s how I found my missing piece.
The way that I was able to identify with the autism characteristics was shocking. The relatability of the book was incredible. I got such a high score on an online test that I knew I needed to share it with a physician.
The results came back and I was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
I thought that I was like everyone else for thirty-seven and nine months. I thought life was supposed to be so hard.
Turns out there was a reason I couldn’t relate to how everyone else was getting on.
I felt great knowing that there was a good reason why I thought it was harder on myself than others.
I was so relieved to discover that I wasn’t a bad mother because of the times I would have preferred to be working on my ‘special interests,’ like jewelry-making and crocheting, rather than parenting. I was surprised to learn that my executive function skills were the reason behind what had previously appeared as laziness or a lack motivation. I was thrilled to know that I wasn’t the only one with conversational issues.
My son and I have grown closer because of what I learned. And we’re learning how to get through life with this newfound knowledge. I’ve also learned some valuable life lessons.
1. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.
Everyone has a unique purpose in life. You can’t spend your life trying to copy someone else because their life seems so great.
I didn’t want to be like anybody else. But because the world has a way of making you feel like you’re not enough as you are, I tried to be like everybody else.
I went to school even though it was not my interest. I took jobs that destroyed my soul. I was married before I knew what marriage meant.
I did this because people who were successful in their careers, had high social status, and had a happy home dismissed my dreams.
But what I didn’t know then is that we weren’t made the same. Just because it worked for them, doesn’t mean it was supposed to work for me.
The fact that they have talent and skills makes it easy for them appear to be effortlessly awesome in what they do.
But they also have struggles behind the scenes that I didn’t see.
It is not necessary to follow traditions or trends. Do what’s best and easiest for you and you will create a life worth living.
2. Listen to your feelings
Your feelings are valid. If there is something going on with you, don’t dismiss it right away. Lean into those feelings and ask yourself why you’re feeling that way so that you can figure out what you need to do to feel better.
Just because the people around you don’t understand how you feel, it doesn’t mean what you feel is wrong.
3. Don’t be hard on yourself.
It’s so easy to be rude and disrespectful to ourselves, often without even realizing it.
I used to beat myself up because I couldn’t keep a job. I would get depressed because I didn’t know how to be social with other people. I was always putting myself down, because I thought I was a slob.
But now I know that each of us has to be with the same person all day long, every single day. We can’t just cut ourselves out of our lives.
Treat yourself as you would a friend. Even when you make mistakes, be kind to yourself. Honesty is important, but so is gentleness.
Treat yourself. Take care of yourself. And don’t let anyone else treat you poorly.
4. Know that you aren’t the only one going through difficult times.
The life is not without its hardships. Even though you have your own things that you’re going through, there is someone out there rocking a big ole smile every day that is going through something too.
If my son had not been open about his emotions, it would have taken him much longer to survive.
Attention to those you love. Observe the changes. And ask others how they’re doing.
5. When you need help, get it.
Pride can prevent you from receiving the help you require. So can denial and believing you’re unworthy. Mental health is as important to your physical well-being as it is your mental one.
When you know what’s going on, you can better address the situation.
Finding out that I have anxiety, depression, and autism led me to discover the differences in my own brain. Because of that, I’ve been able to find ways to get things done that work for me so that life isn’t quite as hard as it’s been.
6. Know who you are
Get to know yourself. The more you know about who you are, the better prepared you’ll be for whatever comes your way.
You will be less likely to pursue things that you don’t want. Knowing what you don’t stand for will keep people from running over you and make it easier to see when you need to remove yourself from certain situations.
This will give you the courage to believe in your own dreams and pursue them.
7. Know your limitations.
Some things are hard to do just because they’re uncomfortable. Other things are hard because of mental or physical limitations that can have serious consequences.
I find socializing difficult. Even the most simple conversations are difficult for me. And sometimes, I physically and mentally freeze and simply can’t do it.
As an example, I bring my son to a weekly therapy session. He goes in with the therapists without me and comes out with the last therapist he’s seen, and it’s her job to inform me of how the sessions went.
It’s the most stressful two minutes of my week. Other moms appear to have everything figured out. The moms are always chatting, laughing, and using other body language.
But when it comes to me, my eye contact is sporadic, I’m full of one-word answers, and I typically have no follow-up questions. I’m sure I do more head-nodding than speaking.
I used walk away from the store feeling defeated and lame. The truth is, I still feel defeated at times because I’d like to be able to socialize successfully, but I’ve accepted that it’s just not for me. I’m okay with that. I definitely don’t feel lame because of it anymore.
Know how far you’re willing to step outside of your comfort zone. If you want to try new things, find out what you can do to work around your limitations, but know that it’s okay to stay comfortable as long as you’re in a good place for you.
The truth is life isn’t easy. It’s full of uncertainty, trials, and craziness. So much craziness.
Even though life may deal you a hand that doesn’t seem fair, there is always a way to get through even the darkest moments. You can find a way through if you keep the hope alive.
Lashonda Cooper Blackman
Shon has autism and is a mental health advocate. She loves to write and help others. She also blogs at Puzzle Me Shon where she discusses topics such as self-improvement and spirituality. She also covers mental health issues, autism, and how to make money for neurodivergent minds. Sign up for her newsletter at puzzlemeshon.com or visit her website to learn more.
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