Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 18-24 May 2020
Please see below our fourth article by Mental Health Awareness Week by Angus Baskerville who performed at AGT and our other charity events
I am now twenty four years old but was diagnosed at the age of fifteen with Aspergers and ADHD. I first had the pleasure of meeting Anna Kennedy and her team back in 2016 when I was lucky enough to take part in the amazing Autism’s Got Talent showcase as a young magician. I am beyond grateful to AKO for the opportunity I was given that day 4 years ago this month. Fast forward 5 years, and I have now been accepted as a member of the prestigious Magic Circle!
Before COVID19 hit us all, I thought I was fairly stressed as I had a lot of gigs booked in for the summer – weddings and birthday parties and also keeping up with my part time job at the local supermarket. This was what I would now call “good stress” in retrospect. I had booked to perform at Ventnor Fringe festival, and was also about to go on my first holiday abroad with my girlfriend on our own.
As I’m sure everyone will agree, I took so much for granted until that fateful day on 23 March when lockdown was announced. I need to know where I am at the best of times, but not knowing when it was all going to end was a big problem for me. I am sensitive to what’s going on around me anyway, and I could really feel the mass hysteria out there with everyone going mad buying toilet rolls. What was all that about really? It wasn’t a tummy bug virus after all??
It gradually started to sink in when it got to the weekend and I always go to the local pub to perform. What do you mean, the pubs are closed? This can’t be!! Then the calls started coming in from my clients to cancel their charity balls, birthday parties, weddings. Non-refundable deposits were expected to be returned. Did I qualify for government handouts for small businesses?
Apparently not. If my parents hadn’t stepped in to support me, I don’t know what I would have done. I needed much more than financial support as I really was battling to come to terms with the whole COVID thing. It was a slow burner…at first it was the inconvenience of it and it ruining my magic business, then it was the realisation that my holiday was cancelled. Then, it was the worry of catching it or one of my family having it. I can’t imagine not being able to hug my mum. (As long as it’s on my terms, yes – I love hugs!).
Magic is my passion, but also a necessity for me, as it is my special interest and my way of communicating with people. Online quizzes will never work for me. My processing is delayed and I get frustrated very quickly and switch off.
Thankfully, I can still run which is my best tool to de stress, but I literally wear a balaclava, to avoid giving any germs out or taking any in! I make sure I wash all equipment such as headphones and phone when I get home.
So how have I learnt to cope? Well, in stages really – and sometimes I don’t! First of all, I have blocked out all the news on social media and avoid the television when the news is on. This works to a point, but people talk and moan about COVID constantly and at work, when I am dealing with customers on the checkout, they love to update me and it is hard to be civil sometimes, as I can feel the panic rising inside.
I have made a pact with myself after one of my vital walk and talk sessions with my mum, to turn every conversation to a positive if I can, so I will say “and aren’t we lucky to have such lovely weather while people can enjoy it?”.
My lock-down learning; I was finding myself very anxious going into work, especially as initially we were not provided with any PPE. I am now behind a screen which helps, but we are not allowed water bottles at our desks for hygiene reasons.
This seems ridiculous as I was told to drink warm liquids regularly to help keep the virus at bay so I end up worrying about that, waiting for my break to come. I would rather be at home, furloughed, but it’s not allowed as I am a key worker. Once again, I have to see my job as important and as my contribution during the pandemic to help feed the nation!
The truth is, though, this pandemic isn’t going to disappear over night, so we all need to work together to help stay positive. All we can do is focus on being kind to ourselves, each other and to notice all the good things.
I have learnt to cook better, to iron, perfected new magic tricks…I have even resurrected my book that I started in 2014 about my life. It is now ready to be edited and I hope it will provide some useful insights for families beginning their journey with autism. I did my first online gig last night and hope to do more. I have had time all together with my family which was just not possible before, with my sister away at university.
My advice to anyone out there struggling is to try journalism. Get the stresses onto paper and then count your blessings.
Acceptance is key. The only thing I can control is myself. Rules are there to protect us.
B r e a t h e…when we are anxious, we forget to breathe properly and it really helps to close your eyes and count slowly as you breathe in and out. Even for a minute!
Pivot the thought- ie. if I pick a bad thought, I have the choice to change it. A powerful analogy that works for me is to imagine that in every moment I am sowing a seed. Is it a good seed? If not, change it because if I keep planting the same rotten seeds I will get the same rotten plants!
I feel that when things finally go back to normal, it will be a new normal and we will appreciate life more; people will be kinder and more patient. Next time we find ourselves moaning about something small, we’ll stop and think, is this really the worst thing that could be happening to me?