Anna Kennedy Online – Autism Awareness Charity

Mental Health Awareness Week takes place from 18-24 May 2020

Please see below our sixth article by Calvin Glen who is an AGT Performer

I am Calvin, a 19 year old boy, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome at age seven, alongside associated mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

For many of my formative years I struggled with social interaction, attending school and my mental health, eventually leading me to a full mental breakdown. As I was coming out of my mental breakdown, I made decisions to change my life such as to stop trying to fit in and always be myself, and to help support others who struggle with their mental health.

There were very two important pinnacle moments that helped me to achieve this, the first was my mum writing to the Anna Kennedy Online Charity and sending them a little video of me singing. That year I was invited to perform at Autism’s Got Talent at The Mermaid Theatre in Blackfriars, for the first time I met other people like me, who had struggled with the same issues.

Through the opportunities Anna Kennedy gave me, I found new confidence and built friendships for the first time, most of those people from that first show I am still in touch with today.

The second was being approached by the CEO of Dorset Mind, local mental health charity to become their ambassador. This gave me a platform, to raise awareness of mental health and support others, but more than that Dorset Mind believed in me and helped me build the confidence to believe in myself.

When the Covid-19 pandemic initially hit the news, and lock-down was imposed, I felt really nervous and anxious. It is such a significant change to routine and things felt very overwhelming.

Every day we were hearing lots of new terms, such as ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ and Government advice was also changing frequently.

Health anxiety, too much uncertainty and feeling like there are more questions than answers can be really difficult for anyone, but I found it especially hard, as have many other people on the spectrum that I know. Especially if we rely on facts, truths and clarity. At the moment it can feel difficult to bring normality back into daily life – whether that’s in my education, work or hobbies. I was also upset and saddened because I had spent months working towards several theatre shows, which due to Covid-19 were all cancelled, as much as I understood the reasons why, I still felt angry and that this was unfair on me.

With my mum being in a vulnerable category, this has meant I can not interact with people, even though some restrictions are lifted, I can’t risk it, I can’t even go meet some friends in the park. This has caused me to feel very isolated and lonely.

For me the only way to cope, was to create a new focus and a new routine, and to find joy in the simpler things in life. Music has always been my go to and positive influence, so I have used that as a focus, writing new songs, performing online streams for various local charities and improving my skills.

Additionally I have found that exercise and walking helps keep me present, in the moment and physically and mentally fit.

Furthermore Covid-19 has been a chance for me to embrace new online technologies and social media platforms to communicate with and stay in touch with friends and family, just chatting with my friends on messenger when I am feeling down can really brighten my day.

Finally, I have used my other love (of food!) to try out many new and exciting meals, as well as ordering the occasional cheeky takeout pizza!

As much as I am still anxious both about the virus itself and what happens post Covid-19, by keeping myself busy and focused on positive outlets, I have managed to cope on a day to day basis. My advice to anyone else, is to find the things that bring you joy and use them to create your own positive covid-19 experience. After all we may be locked down, but we are still alive and creating memories for the future.

There were very two important pinnacle moments that helped me to achieve this, the first was my mum writing to the Anna Kennedy Online Charity and sending them a little video of me singing.

That year I was invited to perform at Autism’s Got Talent at The Mermaid Theatre in Blackfriars, for the first time I met other people like me, who had struggled with the same issues.

Through the opportunities Anna Kennedy gave me, I found new confidence and built friendships for the first time, most of those people from that first show I am still in touch with today.

The second was being approached by the CEO of Dorset Mind, local mental health charity to become their ambassador. This gave me a platform, to raise awareness of mental health and support others, but more than that Dorset Mind believed in me and helped me build the confidence to believe in myself.

When the Covid-19 pandemic initially hit the news, and lock-down was imposed, I felt really nervous and anxious. It is such a significant change to routine and things felt very overwhelming.

Every day we were hearing lots of new terms, such as ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ and Government advice was also changing frequently.

Health anxiety, too much uncertainty and feeling like there are more questions than answers can be really difficult for anyone, but I found it especially hard, as have many other people on the spectrum that I know. Especially if we rely on facts, truths and clarity.

At the moment it can feel difficult to bring normality back into daily life – whether that’s in my education, work or hobbies. I was also upset and saddened because I had spent months working towards several theatre shows, which due to Covid-19 were all cancelled, as much as I understood the reasons why, I still felt angry and that this was unfair on me.

With my mum being in a vulnerable category, this has meant I can not interact with people, even though some restrictions are lifted, I can’t risk it, I can’t even go meet some friends in the park. This has caused me to feel very isolated and lonely.

For me the only way to cope, was to create a new focus and a new routine, and to find joy in the simpler things in life. Music has always been my go to and positive influence, so I have used that as a focus, writing new songs, performing online streams for various local charities and improving my skills.

Additionally I have found that exercise and walking helps keep me present, in the moment and physically and mentally fit.

Furthermore Covid-19 has been a chance for me to embrace new online technologies and social media platforms to communicate with and stay in touch with friends and family, just chatting with my friends on messenger when I am feeling down can really brighten my day.

Finally, I have used my other love (of food!) to try out many new and exciting meals, as well as ordering the occasional cheeky takeout pizza!

As much as I am still anxious both about the virus itself and what happens post Covid-19, by keeping myself busy and focused on positive outlets, I have managed to cope on a day to day basis. My advice to anyone else, is to find the things that bring you joy and use them to create your own positive covid-19 experience. After all we may be locked down, but we are still alive and creating memories for the future.

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News Mental Health Awareness Week – article sixth by Calvin Glen