I looked at a letter I wrote to my future self today. It was written 7 months ago in December and kept in safe keeping by a friend. I had completely forgotten about it. In the letter I wrote about how difficult he impact of getting an official autism diagnosis had been but that after a year of seeing what it meant for me, perhaps it was time to look outwards again. The group I attended today is part of my outward facing network. The writer’s support group was the first group outside my immediate family that I shared about my depression. It was the first group I talked about my autism and it was probably the first group where I spoke about looking outside myself again.
There are two ways I have fulfilled that ambition. First I enquired about joining the Edinburgh Transplant Sport Group, the second was going along to the Late Diagnosis Autism Group (LDG). Both have been fruitful if challenging. My entry into Transplant Sport has landed me up at the UK Transplant Games next week. This has provided a focus for me to get back into regular swimming. I’ve got fitter and I’ve lost a bit of weight (according to two folks today). I’ve also taken confidence from my training for the games but also I think there is something to do with respecting the life I have given through the death of another person. By taking part in the games and continuing my efforts at exercise there is a sense that I honour the memory of my donor.
My LDG continues to meet after the ten week course we attended has finished. We are bound together by a different view of the world which we share and find support in. I find myself making suggestions to this group as to how we can move forward to help each other. We take tiny steps with a lot of reflection time but I think we can form a deep friendship that will nourish us long term. I have always liked helping people and I think I have the skills to challenge and support the others but what I think it just as important is that they challenge and support me too.
Yesterday at the LDG we continued looking at what we could do together in the sense of what experiences could we share as a team. I am hoping to arrange a concert trip though I am currently being thwarted by the lack of an autumn programme for our local concert hall. It is hard to see me planning a group outing so far ahead but that is exactly what I am doing because the group gives me a reason to do it. We are also thinking about creating music together. It is a seed that I have planted that I have hope will grow into something one day. It is small steps right now but that seems perfectly fine to me. I don’t need any major changes right now.
And thinking about it, music is fast becoming my main access point into external groups. I realised at my orchestra’s last concert how much I missed making more regular music with others. Absence makes the heart grow fonder it is said, but what I noticed is how difficult and stressful I found it switching between different recorders in the concert. This is something I used to do automatically when I played weekly in a local group. The weekly playing supported me in the larger less frequent group and because I am aware of the level of anxiety I have nowadays, I need all the support I can muster.
And I have found myself playing more music. I have helped start up another music group 30 miles away from where I live. I have returned to my old local group and I might even join another group 30 miles away in the opposite direction. Maybe this will all be too much but there is only one way of finding out. Maybe I need to be careful about the balance of different activities, I shall see.
I think there are two things that stand out for me. Firstly, music, writing and sport are all things that I can achieve by myself. I write my blog. I can sing. I can cycle. All these things I can do by myself. But they also open up opportunities for collaboration. The writer’s support group is a community effort. I can belong to the Edinburgh Transplant Team. I can play music with others. I can, and I do share within these fields.
The other important thing to me, is that I have been instrumental in setting up these group. These are groups that I have found through my own endeavours and I have reached out and helped form them (okay not the Transplant Sport group but I did go to them). That’s a pretty amazing achievement for somebody that lacks self-confidence and love. It may be an horrendous challenge to push those boundaries (looking at you Transplant Games) but there is an awful lot to be gained by being with other people. I hope I can find the balance to continue to do so.