Anna Kennedy Online – Autism Awareness Charity

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

Please see below our second article by Tess Swan who was an AGT Performer in 2019

An autistic view of Covid, lock-down and life. Mental health, melt downs, tools of coping, nettles and dogs. Covid brought lock down to the UK. People are struggling with the isolation. I love it. It is my normal.

What I cannot cope with are all the people I haven’t seen before and who don’t respect my space. Melt downs and some pretty strong South London swear words that a few had hurled at them, reminding me of life before diagnosis. That was a scary time, many times.

My melt downs were furious as I did not understand what i was experiencing. Now in this lock down time, joggers and cyclists, shoppers and dog walkers, were triggering me I had to tell people in no uncertain terms to back off. It was making me angry and I don’t like to be angry, I don’t like melt downs. I don’t like people. This was not good. I don’t want to slip down that slope again. Luckily I have managed to work out what I can do to avoid this decline and descent into anger. My mental health matters. I matter.

It is those “covidiots” who are at fault for not understanding social distancing, and being so selfish. I am not taking that onboard. And breathe. Swear inside my head, walk away. Get to my car, get in and breathe.. look at my beautiful dogs.. and let go of the stress that’s rampaging around inside of me. Work in progress but that was helping. Looking at my amazing dogs always helps.

My dogs. My lifeline. My reason for getting up and being here. Especially Kratu who is my assistance dog. What about their well-being during lock down? It is affecting their mental health with unusual and additional attention and its going to plummet into serious issues when life returns to normal.

What can you do? Spend time away from your dog. Don’t have your dog with you in every room. Separation anxiety is a hard thing to train out of a dog out of once its set in. Have time with your dog, and then let it settle, teaching it to settle is so important.

You can find a free video here to do just that. Its invaluable, click here to watch. That’s my friends free video library, enjoy learning more about dog behaviour, teach a new trick, or behaviour. Some of the tricks Kratu performed at Autism’s Got Talent were learnt from Naturally Happy Dogs.

You might be able to audition for next year if you learn enough! Kratu was the first dog ever to have appeared on stage for AGT. We loved it, it was such an amazing experience and we met some wonderful people we are now friends with. Back to lock down and dogs.

One of the most unlikely tools of coping when people have annoyed me, and this was done for the dogs to have more space to run in, is pulling nettles.

I love it! It is quite an amazing feeling of satisfaction when you dig deep and pull out a huge root that keeps coming out, pulling loads of attached nettles with it! It is joyous! It is so satisfying!

Spending time outside with the dogs is good for both of us. Fresh air, and activity. My dogs know to settle when I have things to do. One of the best things I have taught them and I also like my space, even from them at times.

When my head hurts with not understanding myself, life, family.. intrusive thoughts, unknown emotions, I take myself away from my dogs. I don’t want to transfer my pain and confusion to them. I go back to them when I have let go of my angst. I think it’s important not to dump heavy emotional things on dogs and it’s important for me to deal with that, is my responsibility. I want to enjoy them, love them, care for them and not pressure them, create stress with my stuff. Mental Health again. I find writing daily posts making people smile helps me.

When I read comments and thanks, I know I have reached a lot of people who needed that contact, and reason to smile and that support. So that is what I do. I share Kratu and his antics, making a lot of people laugh, smile and raising awareness for mental health, as I always take about choices, positivism and being responsible for what we do. When we take responsibility for our actions and don’t blame people..

Oh joggers and cyclists! Yes I did take responsibility for that behaviour and I stay away from them. I make the effort to go to other places where they are not present. And that was so empowering to do, as I am back to being the much calmer and happier colourful autistic woman I like being.

This is an occurrence that has escalated since lock down and I am finding it hard to accept that my 92 year old mother is giving all of her pension to my son who spends the money on heroin. I have been to the Police, social services, I tried my best to help her. I can’t help her or him as neither want it.

To keep myself safe and my mental health healthy, I stepped back. I cannot take onboard someone else’s actions. You cannot help someone who doesn’t want help. Instead I go to the garden, pull nettles, hear the birds sing, smile at my dogs.. this is what I can do, do something I love to do, be in the good company of my dogs and most important of all be kind to myself.

That’s something I still struggle with at times. I have relapsed with my eating disorder. I did so well for such a long time. The triggers stacked up, I couldn’t cope with the huge stack of triggers and its back. I am working on getting into that wonderful state of fighting it and winning again. I do love to win. I will. I won’t give up.

My issues, my battles, my victories, my failures, my life path, it’s all mine, my choices, my decisions, my dogs. The best I can do for my dogs is to give them a great diet, mental stimulation, physical exercise, family times, rules and boundaries, fun and happy play times, a comfortable bed, love, good medical care and what I apply to them, my balanced, happy well-adjusted dogs, I am learning to apply to myself too.

It’s a wonderful formula you just have to see or meet my dogs. I have all the tools of coping. But unless you use them they are useless.

Each day, small steps sometimes at great speeds, sometimes tortoise pace but it doesn’t matter, what matters is the moving forward, keeping going, the determination, that’s what brings me the most peace.

Never giving up. You got this. I got this.. we can do it. I think it’s time to go and get the fork, do some digging and nettle pulling. I wish you all peace, calm and happiness within. Take care of yourselves, stay home, stay safe. We all are a work in progress.
Keep on working at it, and winning.

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News Mental Health Awareness Week – Article two by Tess Eagle Swan