Erin Clemens is a self-advocate with autism. In this post, which was originally posted on The Mighty, Erin talks about the benefits of an official autism diagnosis; she also writes about how depression affects her, specifically about the difficulties of being diagnosed with both autism and depression.
Being on the autism spectrum affects my life in many ways. Having the official diagnosis has helped many people understand me better. They are more patient with me when I’m feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated, and they realize I may struggle with communication.
The diagnosis has also allowed me to better understand myself. I know I tend to need more breaks, and that if I push myself too hard, I will have a meltdown. I can trust that I will remember most things with my nearly photographic memory, but I understand I can’t expect others to remember the same things and must be patient with them. Plus, I realize that while I’m a social butterfly, I still have a lot to learn about social skills, and sometimes I need a break from people.
However, I am also dealing with depression, and as someone on the autism spectrum, depression can be debilitating for me. Yet it’s really difficult to separate the symptoms. It can be hard to tell whether my inability to do work is coming from being overstimulated due to the autism, or if it’s the start of the next wave of depression. When I’m feeling frustrated with a task, is it simply because I’m not understanding it properly? Or perhaps I am just too tired to concentrate because of my mood. Sometimes I need a break from people, but is it because I’m overwhelmed? Because if I’m depressed, I feel I should push myself to be social. I try to take breaks when I need them, but when I’m getting depressed, a meltdown is nearly unavoidable.
Depression is difficult for me as someone on the autism spectrum. It manifests itself in unique ways, and it can become confusing and exhausting. The important thing I have to remember is to be kind to myself. Each time, I eventually realize I’m struggling with an episode of depression. I hope others can remember this too.
Erin Clemens is a woman on the autism spectrum. When she is not in school or working, she likes to spend her time volunteering and watching “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” She is also the author of the book “I Have Asperger’s.”