My autism makes things quite hard for me as I don’t like busy, loud places, and change can cause quite a few issues. I like to have a plan and stick to it! With my anxiety, I can sometimes find it hard to focus. I also find social interaction to be a struggle.
You may think that my faith, my anxiety and my autism don’t fit together. However, all three describe who I am: an autistic Christian with a side serving of anxiety.
So, in what ways do these elements of my life conflict and in what ways do they complement one another? I’ve found that my faith has helped me in three ways in particular:
Support and compassion
Sometimes, I struggle to leave the house or I find it really difficult to socialise. This means I can find it difficult at church, as everyone is so welcoming and wants to hug, kiss and speak to you. Or so I thought! What I have actually found in the church I attend is heap loads of love, compassion and understanding. People know to keep their distance!
An activity to focus on
Also, the sort of church I am in is called a Pentecostal church. This means that the services can be a bit loud, slightly spontaneous and may go off the order of service (well, I don’t think we even have an order of service)! However, I have some ear defenders which I wear to cope with the noise. I am also part of a number of teams at church (sign language, media etc.) and so I have a focus.
It is so beneficial to get out the house. Due to the severity of my anxiety, I had to stop going to school (I’m learning from home now instead) and so did not go out much. Church provided a safe sanctuary to get out to and have a sense of purpose in.
Hope when I'm struggling
When I was really struggling, I feel my faith has helped me to not slip too much. There is a story in the Bible of Peter walking on the water to Jesus and that really resonated with me, as it showed me that I may feel like I am sinking but I have something to fix my eyes on - an anchor.
Top tips if you are struggling with your mental health and have a faith
Talk to the person who runs your local faith group (speak to the Imam, Pastor, Elder, Priest, Granthi etc.) about how you’re feeling. Find out what support they can offer you and whether there are things that they can do to make you feel more comfortable attending gatherings.
Implement strategies to help you cope - a time-out plan, a safe space, headphones etc.
Get involved - find a purpose in the setting and something to focus on.
Where to get help
If you are struggling with your mental health, have a look at our find help guide for information and advice on ways to get help.