2020: Reflecting on the year from my autistic perspective

Perhaps I am a little early on this, after all, we still have around 6 weeks left of this year, but it felt right at this point to reflect on the year from my autistic viewpoint.

December 31st 2019, I had my usual gathering with my friends, but this time I didn’t make my usual speech about how the next year was going to be the year that my life took off, I had given up hope of a better future and resigned myself to the present, more so, my past. How wrong I was.

Within a month I had found a house, and by February 1st I was able to say that (after years of living back with my mother following my addiction and psychosis) I was living independently again. Over the following months my advocacy work would start to pick up momentum (thanks in no small part to my role at NeuroClastic) and my writing would start to build a real following.

Still, this has all be undercut by a really dark year.

None of us could have foreseen the pandemic that was coming for us, save perhaps for our politicians and scientists, but now is not the time to get into that. Our lives have been changed so drastically from what we are used to. In the UK, we spent (what felt like) endless months in lockdown during the first wave, and are currently in a second lockdown.

Many of us have lost the things we took for granted, things that until now, we didn’t know how vital they were to our wellbeing. The vulnerabilities of our society have been made obvious, but this is where my pride steps in. I have seen autistic people step up and do amazing things to support each other and society at large. Even in my own home city, I have seen autistic people staff foodbanks, and set up online peer to peer support for isolated friends.

Autistic people, who supposedly have no empathy, have gone above and beyond to care for others this year. THAT is why I am proud to be autistic. Not everyone in our community is a ray of sunshine, but so many have shone light into the dark places this year. People who have felt alone for a long time now know that they have allies around the world.

This year has also been big for our US friends, with the results of the election amazing people around the world. Whether you were happy or unhappy with the results, you can’t deny that this was a historic election.

I have noticed this year that Brexit has largely exited the zeitgeist, despite the fact that this is definitely still ongoing. I guess we will see what happens in 2021.

I have had to learn a lot about myself as an autistic person this year. Some of it good, some of it bad. If nothing else, this year has been an opportunity for personal growth, although I am sure I will be processing some of the more painful parts over the next few years.

Autistic people need to be proud that they survived this year, and keep the flames alight for all those who have not survived this year. 2020 has upturned our cherished routines, and we have come out the other side. I am determined to remain optimistic that life will be looking better by the end of 2021.

Finally, I want to give a shout out to all my fellow autistic addicts out there. Recovery is a mountain of a task all the time, but this year has been especially difficult, with some estimates suggesting that 25% of addicts have experienced a lapse of a relapse during lockdown in the UK. Never give up, you deserve sobriety, even when you don’t feel like it.

I hope you have a good holiday season, and enter 2021 with a renewed resolve.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an autistic mental health and addiction advocate living in the South East of England. He is in recovery from addiction and psychosis, as well as other complex mental health conditions. He was diagnosed as autistic seven months after achieving sobriety, and is resolved to share his experiences with the world in the hopes of being the person that he needed when he was younger.

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