Settling, disturbance and acceptance. The continuing journey of a young autistic naturalist

Moving house is disturbingly stressful, all the advice goes out to adults and it’s about practical things…labelling, organising and packing a ‘survival kit’ to keep you sane. I love labelling and organising but no amount of this, can comfort a sad state of being. My anxiety has been spiralling out of control and I’ve been fighting hard to resolve this unsettling. Moving house, counties and most devastatingly, changing landscapes has been difficult for me. But, it is beautifully sunny as I write this and House Martins are bubbling overhead. So, as far as things go, in the grander scheme of things, it will be okay – I have that on repeat. So have my parents. It will? Things will settle. In the last week or so, not only have we been been busily packing but I was also invited, along with other young naturalists and conservationists, to film a young presenter piece for Chris Packham’s #WeWantWildlife BioBlitz. I really found the filming breathtakingly easy: – I was myself and acted as I would in real life when seeing wildlife – I get very excited! I love Murlough, it’s an astoundingly beautiful place. It was also wonderful to see Chris and Ruth Peacey again; and meet some really great people. You can watch the video here You can support the campaign here Afterwards though, the doubt crept in. In the moment I was fine, I wasn’t nervous – because I wasn’t processing. When the whirring started, my anxiety grew out of control. I also realised that I sought validation – which was something I actually hadn’t experienced before. I do things naturally that appeal to me and I’m normally ‘isolated’ – as in, just doing them for and by myself. Suddenly, I found myself obsessively comparing my words, my actions, my face…with others and it greatly disturbed me. Social media was exacerbating my palpitations. I have decided therefore to no longer post or remain active on Twitter. I have always enjoyed posting on Twitter but my enthusiasm and excitement now feels sullied and somehow, out of place. I sought refuge in the dunes and surf of Murlough Nature Reserve and as the sun set on my tumultuous mind it brought peace and acceptance. I wandered along the well trodden paths alongside Linnet call, Skylark song and Cackling Gull. It felt so good. Balance was slightly more restored. This landscape will shape the rest of my teenage years and teach me so much about coastal habitat and landscapes. I felt excitement bubbling up. I accepted that being in nature and writing about it, without any expectation or need for validation is enough. My relationship with nature and wildlife is one of the most important I have. I want to concentrate on that, nourish it further and work out more ways I can help wildlife- that is my ultimate goal! That’s how it all started. I’m autistic. I’m a perfectionist and always looking for ways to prove I’m actually an imposter…a failure. It didn’t take me long to realise that there are many more people who ‘fit the bill’, more than I do. I’m happy for them. I feel a release. I will make my own way. I’m writing a book and working with a publisher. I’m connecting with local wildlife recorders and getting involved with local events. It’s enough. I don’t have to broadcast everything, anymore. I want to quietly beaver away, write and explore. I will update my blog and occasionally share it on Twitter if I feel brave enough – I won’t be logging in for comments though. I need to realise my limitations and adapt accordingly. Like most species must do at some point in their evolutionary journey. I will leave the ‘spotlight’ to those who are better at that sort of thing. Those who are more social, more able at connecting with people and making an impression. I fail miserably at that. It’s very difficult for me. I stop and realise the Devils-bit Scabious is now coming into flower. I sit awhile and watch Six-spot Burnet Moths land and feed. Gothic colours, royal colours – wildlife shone against the overcast sky. Thanks for reading.

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29 Responses

  1. You are also a very beautiful and descriptive writer. So talented . When I read your posts , I feel so peaceful and am reminded of the beauty around us. My son has Aspergers also and is now 12. I love to share your writings and videos with him. I am so happy to be able to read and see what you choose to share.
    Very best wishes and hope you settle in to your new Home very soon.

  2. This is a heartfelt and very brave post, and one that is important for people to read. I am in the throes of packing myself and finding bits and pieces from my life before now has been, in some cases, painful. The loss of places and people are the ineveitable results of moving and moving on. Your new home will give you opportunities you cannot have imagined to interact with the natural world and the creatures you share it with and have such passion for, as mine will for me. I trust you will settle in and find your feet gently and with joy.

  3. What a beautiful blog from the heart Dara. You have had so much going all at once and it would be hard for anyone to cope with it all so you are doing brilliantly. It will be sad to see you go from Twitter but you have to do whats right for you. You’ll be missed though. I don’t like change much but I tell myself that change is apart of life and without it we would not have any adventures or learn anything new. Hope you all feel settled in your new home soon. Good luck and have fun on your new adventure Dara 🙂

  4. Dara, I will miss you,. Your challenges, your enthusiasm, have been more inspirational to me than you’ll ever know. The joy and your ability to pass on detail have put pictures in my mind. I struggle desperately with anxiety and self doubt, your honesty about day to day highs and lows have kept so many of us going when our ‘black dog’ moments surface.
    I wish you happiness, I wish you joy and I know that your life will be one that you will be proud of. Good luck with everything you do Dara, I know you will find peace and tranquillity in nature when life gets a little tough.
    Lizzie x
    Henlake Bats

  5. Others may well be more social but I hope you see the great impression you have had on many people. Moving home is incredibly stressful. Hope everything settles down and you continue to see the wonders in your new area. All the best with the book. How exciting for you. I applaud you for being able to take a break and wish you well, Dara.

  6. Other comments have expressed my thought far better than I can, Dara. I am full of respect for how you have coped with everything life has shown you through your teenage years ( those years which can be such a challenge for every young person!). You have never failed at anything, simply learning what things you like best, and the right way for you to express them. You can never say, in years to come, ‘ I wish I had …..’ because you did! Memories are special; go on to make loads more, in your own time and your own way.

  7. Fantastic piece, young man. So much to sift through in that busy, beautiful head of yours but reads like you are doing a great job. So good you have a passion to follow and help you with your anxieties. We all have those

  8. I will miss seeing your twitter posts, but I understand why. You write beautifully so that great news about the book!

  9. I just read RISING by Elizabeth Rush and you might find it fascinating since you are fortunately on the coast now. Though it was unnerving, it is beautifully written. I will miss you on twitter but it causes me profound anxiety also. I have to dip in and out of it.

  10. As a mother of an 8 1/2 year-old lad with an autistically-wired brain, I reckon you’re doing an amazing job – not just on the wildlife front but with managing your difficulties. As part of my son’s home ed we’re trying to help him with self-awareness, self-regulation and self-advocacy – identifying what was contributing to your anxiety and doing something positive about it are brilliant steps forward.
    You have a huge amount to give. There is no rush.
    Best of luck with the book!

  11. So raw and bare that it almost hurts to read it. That counts for something! For everything – in time! We all go through that doubting phase to varying extents in youth and at different times in later life! You will before long find acceptance and peace, with yourself and with others. I’ve been there — self-doubt, depression, self-scrutiny. You can work through it and use it to your advantage — like you say, it’s evolutionary, a step in a long line of steps n’ stepping stones in your development. It will be apparent in time that these moments, these emotions, the highs, the lows, the mixed moods, are transformative, that you are metamorphosing, and the good always has to be taken with the bad and integrated much the same. It’s just a fact of life, a natural process. Sometimes it’s difficult to accept that. But be reassured in the knowledge that we all feel it, all go through it, and oftentimes on our own. After all, no one can directly intervene in the heart or soul of man or woman. But we can all make it easier for each other (and ourselves) in different ways and really uphold and revere and amplify the good times and our individual experiences, the shared experiences and our collective oneness. Someday I recommend you look into the work of Carl Jung, I think you would appreciate his writings and insights 🙂

    “Fate will have it – and this has always been the case with me – that all the ‘outer’ aspects of my life should be accidental. Only what is interior has proved to have substance and a determining value. As a result, all memory of outer events has faded, and perhaps these ‘outer’ experiences were never so very essential anyhow, or were so only in that they coincided with phases of my inner development.”
    – Carl Jung from the (biographical/semi-autobiographical) book ‘Memories, Dreams and Reflections’

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