I’m an analytical sort, so writing about what makes me healthy and balanced needed some consideration. What is health? What is balance? What is it that I actually want out of life? Who am I? Where do I want to be? Where have I come from? Why did I start asking these questions? Is anyone eating that cake?
I have a mind that likes to wander as much as my body does, but it also likes to rest and recuperate. I have a mind that wants to take all the detail it can and make sense of it, but I have a body that lives in a world of randomness.
Am I being ‘well’ when I’m happy? Am I healthy when I’m content? Which bits of me apply to what? Why is this important? Are you really not eating that cake?
For me, health and wellbeing means a certain level of contentedness and a certain lack of physical pains and mental stresses. I feel healthy when I feel in control of what I’m doing. It’s never just about one aspect of me, it’s always about a multitude, because that’s who I am; multifaceted.
I was thirty-five when I was diagnosed with autism. I had tried really hard to be healthy and happy before then, but I’d only ever caught it in snatches. I was happy head-banging in a nightclub in my early twenties, I was happy gazing at my newborn children, I was happy in moments of laughter and moments of stillness, but there was too much of the bad-stuff in my life and I never found that balance that I desperately wanted.
“You know your problem?” Someone once asked me after one too many glasses of awful wine, “You’re not built to be happy.”
I hadn’t asked for their opinion, but as is so often the case, I got it anyway. That was how I appeared to the rest of the world; as someone incapable of being content with my lot.
It wasn’t the kindest thing for someone to say, but at that point in my life they weren’t really wrong. When you don’t know how you work you end up comparing yourself to the wrong people, you end up pushing yourself past your limits and berating yourself for not being better. When you don’t know who you are you will get things wrong, you will follow advice that isn’t tailored to you and then you’ll feel even worse when that doesn’t work either.
Even suspecting I was autistic wasn’t enough for me (black and white thinking? Never!). I couldn’t begin to be kind to myself until I had an official confirmation. This is not true for everyone, but it was for me. Now I live in the countryside, far from my neighbours. I have space to be outside and alone, I have soil to grow things and a connection to my world. I am finally treating myself with the respect I never could muster when I didn’t have the answers.
What is health and wellbeing? It’s balance, it’s finding your space in the world, and it’s being who you are and not pretending to be something you’re not. Nobody is built to be happy, but nobody is built to be unhappy either. There is a balance to everything, and that comes with a gentler approach to life, but most of all a kindness to yourself.
Along with Flo, Rhi Lloyd-Williams is a co-founder of Autism HWB. She is also a writer, poet, parent, playwright, blogger and all round good egg. She writes about autism on her website AutistRhi.com and you can find out more about her play, The Duck, at Autact.co.uk