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My Story :)

I was recently asked to speak about my story. A five minute video to help and inspire other women and girls with their mental health journeys. I didn't want to share my story in the literal sense, I feel that is firstly triggering and honestly unnecessary. However I hope this version may resonate with some of you out there. I thought I would share it on here to hopefully reach more people and show that there is hope even in the darkest of places.

Hi my name is Hannah and I am autistic and ADHD. Through my experiences I have become a passionate advocate for mental health and neurodiversity. Being autistic I struggled to fit in and understand the world- I felt I was not given the handbook everyone else had to society and the rules to exist. In finding myself I have found what truly makes me happy and what I love. I am a keen dancer and performer. I love musical theatre, art and being creative. I also love writing and I have my own blog. Through my passions I have been lucky to be a part of so many amazing charities; being part of youth voice groups, being a young ambassador, public speaking and so much more. Charities have given me a voice and empowered me to be a part of much needed change.

Being undiagnosed autistic/ADHD played a massive part in my mental health story. Not being able to understand why everything was so hard for me, why I felt so weird and isolated, why I just didn't get it. My struggles went undetected for so long bubbling under the surface until eventually they all exploded. The system never seemed to help and often made things worse making me feel untreatable and like a lost cause.

Finding out I was autistic wasn't a magic cure and things didn't change overnight however it was the start of me learning about myself, being kinder and ultimately allowing me to be my true authentic self. Knowing I am autistic and have ADHD doesn't mean things are less hard but they mean I understand why, I have strategies to cope and am much kinder to myself when things do inevitably get too much.

I was and still am in a way a complete perfectionist. I put so much pressure on myself to succeed and had such a narrow idea of what success looked like. I heralded my worth to these societal measures and allowed my individuality and mental well-being to decline in the pursuit of what I perceived as perfection. Society had made me believe there was only one version of success and that happiness came through that. I truly thought of myself as a failure, a burden and completely incapable of living a life without mental illness.

When I was first diagnosed as autistic, I will be honest I didn't agree. I had my own preconceived misconceptions and also having a brother on the spectrum I could not relate on that level. However my own research and self-discovery led me on a journey of self-acceptance and ultimately saved me. I have been in such dark places, I believed it could never get better, a revolving door patient with no hope of a future. I say this now, it does not come over night, there isn't necessarily some big moment where you suddenly see the light- at least that never happened to me. But through my understanding and acceptance of my neurodiversity, my willingness to challenge societal norms and my true contentment with being me regardless of what others thought I broke down barriers which seemed stood in the way of my happiness and hope for a successful future.

I have rebuilt my life into a manageable and happy existence. If you asked my 11 year old self where I would want to be at 22 - it would not be where I am today however the richness of what I have experienced, the opportunities I am opened to but most importantly I have allowed the real Hannah out, no longer masked behind what she felt she had or should have been. There was no one person, organisation or professional who supported me to recover. Many played their role along my journey both good and bad but the best advice I have ever recieved is that from those who have been there. Those who are neurodiverse, who through there own battles have showed that being authentically you is enough. Find your purpose in this world. That is what saved me- having a purpose bigger than just myself. That allowed me to realise I am enough, just as I am. There is no written way to live your life, be brave, push yourself out of your comfort zone but all the while be gentle to yourself. On my path of self-discovery I found blogs so invaluable. Reading others experiences were so relatable and comforting to know I wasn't alone. Finding things I enjoyed - I mean truly enjoyed. Hobbies that become an escapism from the chaotic nature of life. I find myself lost in song and music, calmed by creating my own stories and worlds through art and writing.

There will continue to be ups and downs in my life, my journey and my wellbeing. As Nelson Mandela often said it is not the falling down that matters but getting back up and keeping going. Being autistic there is no cure- in my opinion there is no need. My brain is meant to be this way- yes different to some but just as amazing and valuable as anyone else. There will never be a change- I will forever struggle and have difficulties, but I will not fight against them but ride with them. Don't fight your differences but embrace the joy of your uniqueness. No one's life is perfect and should never be. The excellence of life comes not with the highs but the appreciation of all aspects of life both the joyous and the challenging. Life is a wild ride, it is so many feelings, thoughts, emotions and experiences. Quoting Nelson again " live life as though nobody is watching and express yourself as though everyone is listening".

Lots of love

Hannah <3 xx


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