A Student of Life

In this thread I will attempt to describe a very simple summary of my understanding of life and how it changed during my #ActuallyAutistic #Mentalillness journey. It’s not complete as I would probably need a book to do that.Though knowledge of major influences may be of interest.

As an undiagnosed Autistic young man I often wondered what the point of life was. I never had much of an interest in women or reproducing, so assumed the point was to work, make as much money as possible and find love. My Mother taught me respect was important.

I wasn’t naturally a people person and my anxiety meant I fell into studying Computer Science at university. Computers made perfect sense to me as they were little boxes of pure mathematical logic. People on the other hand didn’t make sense to me and I never knew where I stood.

What I did find fascinating about people was Economics. I almost chose to study it at university. The subject for the most part tries to underpin rational logic to why people behave the way they do. I also saw knowledge of it as important to my survival.

Neoliberal economics is the dominant paradigm today that postulates that the reduction of state interventions in economic and social activities and the deregulation of labour and financial markets. I continued to read many books on it after college, well into my IT career.

In 2010, aged 26, I had a breakdown. To some degree I was depressed by the way the world lived. At that point I had plenty of money living in Australia, a loving partner and a good standard of living. Manly beach in Sydney was a train and ferry ride away.

In hindsight I think a large part of it I was undiagnosed autistic and wasn’t capable of sustaining the 9 to 5 grind anymore. I had left survival mode as a child. I didn’t fit in socially and without a strong philosophy and/or religion to lean on – I crumbled.

In my recovery I was very much determined to fix myself. Since psychiatry claimed to have the answers I studied the Diagnostic and Statical Manual (DSM) and tried many medications. I tried to feedback as best I could but I think sometimes my anxiety overstated the issues.

At the same time I studied psychology to find solutions. I experienced much private therapy and when my relationship ended and I moved back to the UK I tried many courses on the NHS. I read books on CBT, ACT, Mindfulness and even Freud. I learnt many skills over a long time.

By around 2018 I was still a psychiatric patient for many years. Although I had learnt much skills and knowledge I wasn’t the ideal full time employee. I sometime did part time jobs in roles not suited to me but hadn’t “recovered” in my eyes or most others.

It became more clear to me that society had issues and it wasn’t just me. This one size fits all approach in economics and healthcare wasn’t working for me. I was different but many in society wouldn’t accept that.

For whatever reason I seemed to develop new symptoms beyond depression over the years. I don’t know why. The depression largely finished in 2015 after ECT, I seemed to experience mania and psychosis instead. Being diagnosed with Autism in 2019 explained my social challenges.

Learning to run from losing 35kg in 2016 to running a marathon in 2019 opened up new areas of interest and research.Practising Mindfulness during my runs made me read about Buddhism as that where it originated from. I also found verses of the Bible inspiring in long distance run.

I did a PGCert online in mental health in 2019-20. I developed research skills to question the status quo more deeply. I found the ideas from many of the great philosophers interesting. Although I had previously began following Stoic philosophy in training for a marathon.

A particular area of interest for me was the Social Contract (I wrote a short blog here) developed during the Age of Enlightenment and concepts of liberty pioneered by Isaiah Berlin. Discovering Friedrich Nietzsche was a key person who changed everything for me.

The particular quote of his below totally changed my thinking. It made psychiatry, psychology and Neoliberalism less truthful in my mind. These specialities have much power and influence. Nietzsche said there is no objective order or structure in the world except what we give it.

According to Nietzsche, in a state of nihilism there is an idea that life has no meaning or value. My question to find meaning ultimately pushed me to find Christ. Learning to read the Bible gave me meaning and a faith that I hadn’t experienced before.

Much of my time recently had been reading the Bible and studying Christian Theology. Christian Theologists have different views and contributions much like the great philosophers I studied. I’m not seeking to be fixed anymore as I believe I was made in God’s image.

I still have my challenges in fitting in to the demands of society. I have a disability. Though I believe it’s fair to say I have experienced persecution as well. I gain much strength from those persecuted and healed in the Bible. I wait for my life beyond this one today.

I’ll finish with a Bible verse that had a profound impact on me. I respect and appreciate not everyone believes what I do. This is my journey. Thank you for reading.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7-8