"The depression for me was actually quite confusing because I didn’t obviously know what was going on and didn’t have a way to ask anyone or communicate it."
Gabrielle talks about keeping herself well by having routine and structure in her daily life. When Gabrielle experienced depression, she reached out for help and now supports other autistic people through advocacy.
I've learnt that it’s okay to be different. You know, autism is just a different way of thinking. It’s okay to experience a different way of being.
During primary school and high school, going to mainstream education was actually quite difficult for me. Mainly because there was a late diagnosis of autism, and that particularly happens in women and girls with ASD because we present differently to boys.
The depression for me was actually quite confusing because I didn’t obviously know what was going on and didn’t have a way to ask anyone or communicate it.
Depression for myself looked like when I was not happy in my room and more sad, and so, for myself with my autism, usually generally I’m happy in my room when I am left to my own devices and by myself because I can do whatever I want.
When I was sad, I was just sad all the time no matter where I went. Even if I was in my room by myself, I was still sad.
When it comes to anxiety, it’s kind of like an overwhelming feeling, but to me, it’s interconnected with sensory issues as well. So if I know I’m going to go to a particular environment, I can become quite anxious before going to that environment because I know I’m going to potentially have a sensory overload there.
Other triggers are just being able to communicate my feelings like other people. That is a big trigger as well because I’ve been told all my life of what was going wrong with me all the time, and no one was encouraging me or telling me what the good parts were in my life. Like, you know, “Well done you today. You managed to do this today.” It was always pointing out what I couldn’t do.
So I would cry quite a lot and I started to self-harm, and then obviously I admitted myself to the psychiatric unit with the help of a friend of myself from church. She helped me out.
Because I don’t have any outside sources of help other than my family and my family were busy with their own lives, which is understandable, so I was just kind of left to manage on my own. And when there’s unstructured support for an individual with autism, you know, no predictability, and that was when I started to feel a lot of depression and a lot of anxiety come on more.
So having a structured routine is really good as well, so it keeps the stress levels down. It helps me to predict what's going to happen. So having all those routines and writing down exactly what I’m doing, when stuff is due, especially for a university student. And so I'd take on … I don’t do full-time studies just to keep everything stress-free as much as possible, but having a structure and knowing what I’m doing every day is fantastic.
It fluctuates on a daily basis. You’ve just got to learn to deal with it, and I do have a speech app that I can use as well, so basically I can type in what I want and it speaks for me.
At the moment, I get disability funded support from our government, and they’re there to help me with all my personal cares and cooking and all that sort of stuff like that. Making sure I keep up with all my fluids and eat and stuff like that, because nutrition is very important to keeping everything in check. And having that daily support is really good – it keeps a lot of the stress levels down for me. And including exercise and my daily activities, which is why I like the beach – I like swimming and all that sort of stuff like that – it just really helps.
You know, it took a while to get everything under control again but there’s a good end result at the end of it, which now I can help other people with it as well.
I started getting myself involved in advocacy groups. So getting myself into all these organisations helps us to like – we get together and we solve problems together, and it gives me a focus.
I may not be able to work or work full-time, but having something like that every day, having something to get up to do, is one of the best parts for recovery from a mental health issue.