The whole nature of being autistic/asperger’s means we don’t fit in with the rest of the world. In a sense, that is our disability (if you see it as a disability of course) or difference. We struggle with social interaction, communication and sensory issues, so everyday living can be a struggle for us. Fitting into society, and being a productive member of that society, is not a natural thing and requires an intensive amount of continuous effort and determination. When we set our minds to achieving a goal we are focused and driven to achieve that goal; but so honed in, other aspects of our lives are neglected. All of this affects our well-being and happiness.
Autism/Asperger’s and depression are clearly linked and it is not too difficult to see why. But that does not mean we should give in and let depression and sadness wash over us. Far from it. There are many things we can do to fight, and live a happy life with autism. I am writing the next category of this website to share what I have learnt about how to be happy over the years.
If you have ever trained to be a teacher one of the key things that you learn is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This is a simple diagram that highlights what a human needs in order to be content or happy in life. It has been critiqued over the years, and in my opinion rightly so, but it is still a perfect foundation which highlights the basic things we need in life. If you are missing one of the basic requirements, then your focus should be on putting this right, the best you can, before trying to do the other suggestions that will appear on this website. Without these core needs, happiness is very difficult. An adaption of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is below:
The bottom of the pyramid shows the physiological things that we require and these needs are by far the most important. Only when they have been achieved can you move up onto the next level of the pyramid. It can sound a bit complicated when you first come across it. But basically the physiological things we need are: food, water, air, shelter, clothing, warmth, sleep, restand sexin order to fulfil our basic happiness levels. These sound so basic that you would think that everyone gets them automatically; but many of the things can easily be neglected such as not eating enough nutritious food, going without proper sleep, not having a stable home or not resting enough.
The next level of the pyramid is also vitally important which is safety. This means making sure you yourself are safe from danger, your family are safe, your belongings and property are safe, you are in a stable jobthat keeps you financially secureand you are in good physical health and fitness. Many of these things, especially for us, can be difficult to come by. I myself am in a fairly stable job but it is low hours and low pay, so this is constantly on my mind as I need to put it right. This impacts two needs which is: to ensure my family is safe and that we are financially secure. In this day in age it is also easy to neglect your own physical fitness levels, so exercising and eating the right foods is especially important for your well-being and happiness levels. You don’t need to be ironman fit or eat a calorie counted organic diet, but you could eat a reasonably good balanced diet and exercise at least once a week but preferably a bit more. Again it is important to strive to get these aspects of your life sorted in order to be happy.
The third level up is love and belonging, which includes: friendship, familyand being in a loving intimate relationship. This is where many of us with autism/asperger’s fall really short. Because of our difficulties with social interaction we find it very difficult to make new friends. Then just as difficult to maintain and keep those friends. In addition, finding a lifelong partner can also be hard due to the same reasons. But hard does not mean impossible and many of us, myself included, have been lucky enough to form good friendships and are in long term stable relationships and even married with kids. So it definitely can be achieved.
After this, you have the esteem part of the pyramid which means you have self-respect, other people respect you, you have a social status andyou have recognition from other members of society. Then at the top of the pyramid is self-actualisation, which on a basic level means achieving your full potential in life. All of these things in this paragraph are ideal but not completely necessary to live a happy and fulfilled life.
As you can see, there are many things that are required to live a fulfilled and happy life. I am certain that for you, like me, there will be areas that need to be worked on. But the good thing is that this should give you a basis on what areas in life you need (or should want) to accomplish on your path to succeed in a happy life with autism. Some things do take time though, so don’t rush out and hope to fix the missing things in a few weeks or months. But often taking the first step will be enough to lead you onto the right path. Then with each additional small step, in the right direction, you will achieve the greater accomplishments and happiness in life.