Occasionally, people ask me how I recovered from the depression and anxiety I suffered up until last year.

 

Perhaps I’ll write a full article about it one day. (Edit- since writing this, I actually did.) (Edit again- oh, and I wrote one for dealing with low self-esteem as well.) But the short answer was two very important things:

  • Knowing that even if my own life sucked a bit, life itself was still beautiful.
  • Finding a ton of tiny but beautiful things about life I appreciated, and clinging onto them.

And, well… the second one had a slightly bigger impact than I planned.

 

These days the depression is gone, and I’m managing the anxiety surprisingly well. But on top of that, I still have the same appreciation for the tiny, beautiful things in life. It wasn’t just a coping strategy: it turned into something that shaped my view of life and the world.

For once this isn’t specifically an autism-related article, although you will get a little insight into how my mind works by which things I chose to write down. And, given our kind’s higher susceptibility to anxiety, I thought it would be appropriate to share. Here are two hundred of the things I clung onto.

 

200 beautiful things to love about life.

  1. Bad jokes.
  2. Climbing trees.
  3. Building someone up.
  4. Colours. Just actually stop and look at them.
  5. The body’s ability to mend itself after a wound.
  6. The way dull countryside suddenly lights up when the sun comes out.
  7. How you can’t look at a word without reading it.
  8. Finding that one strawberry that’s absolutely loaded with flavour.
  9. A movie where you genuinely care what happens.
  10. Eyes.
  11. Non family members basically being family members.
  12. Just about any NASA image.
  13. Kids who can make entertainment out of absolutely nothing.
  14. The feeling when you walk into somewhere really warm.
  15. The G-force of a plane on takeoff.
  16. Proving the doubters wrong.
  17. Trying to say the word “bubbles” in your angriest voice.
  18. Music while driving.
  19. Laughing for the sake of laughing.
  20. Guitar riffs.
  21. Perfectly clear starlit skies.
  22. That moment you realise that you are a conscious being with the ability to think, and that in itself is indescribably amazing.
  23. Someone holding your hand.
  24. The way your tongue goes blue after a slushy.
  25. Talking in real time to someone on the other side of the Earth.
  26. Rock music that uses pianos.
  27. The view of that winding river on the hill five minutes from my house.
Yep, this.

Yep, this one.

  1. Having teeth. They’re amazing, aren’t they?
  2. Someone getting it when you explain it to them.
  3. Looking forward to something awesome tomorrow.
  4. A fictional character that’s so well-written you know them like a real person.
  5. Totally free evenings when you’re wondering whether to have the ice cream before the wine or the wine before the ice cream.
  6. Waterfights.
  7. The occasional innuendo.
  8. Top twenty lists. Because ten usually doesn’t quite cover it.
  9. People being there for you.
  10. Being there for other people.
  11. Annular eclipses- where the moon is just far enough away to make the sun look like a ring in the sky.
  12. Finding a toilet when you really really need it.
  13. Bumping into kids you used to know once they become teenagers… and them not actually ignoring you!
  14. Shooting stars.
  15. Realising that something’s not worth worrying about after all.
  16. Shapes that tessellate.
  17. The way people band together to help vulnerable strangers.
  18. Monty Python sketches that are funny because they make no sense.
  19. Walking in the rain.
  20. Kayaking in the rain.
  21. Logic problems.
  22. German steak.
  23. Days when you realise you didn’t earn any money, didn’t advance your career, didn’t strike anything off your to-do list, but had a load of fun… and that was all that the day needed to be.
  24. Elderly couples still in love.
  25. A series finale that truly works.
  26. People recognising your strengths.
  27. Chickens acting silly whilst having a perfectly serious look on their face.
  28. Knowing I was once in therapy for depression… but then kicked its arse back to the stone age.
  29. The touch of animal fur.
  30. Blasting away at the drum kit.
  31. Getting your internet connection back.
  32. Having a lie-in for more than an hour.
  33. The beauty of mathematics and logic.
  34. Music which connects to a precious memory.
  35. Sunsets. That one had to appear somewhere.
  36. Being accepted into a new group or community.
  37. A child’s ideas about the world.
  38. Remembering old Simpsons quotes.
This was harder than I thought.

This was harder than I thought.

  1. Earworm- getting a song stuck in your head.
  2. That feeling when you’re a minute away from meeting an old friend for the first time in ages.
  3. Outsmarting kids (I’m childish, I know).
  4. Sense of smell.
  5. Sense of taste.
  6. Photos of me with people I love.
  7. Film nights with friends.
  8. Non-romantic love.
  9. Campfires.
  10. Still being able to run up the stairs after a day at work.
  11. A well-organised tournament bracket.
  12. Trees. We walk past them all the time without realising how amazing they are.
  13. Old-school video game music you grew up with.
  14. Dreams you want to just go on and on.
  15. Looking at something and wondering how it was made.
  16. Great big thunderstorms that you can watch from your window.
  17. Looking back on really embarrassing moments and being able to laugh.
  18. A movie adaptation that doesn’t suck.
  19. Realising you’re more patient than before.
  20. Working with children from a completely different culture, and finding out that they’re exactly the same as children back home.
  21. That rare prayer that gets answered before/immediately after you finish praying.
  22. Trying to comprehend the sheer size of an ocean.
  23. Being fine with the emotional cost of rooting for someone.
  24. Writing a story you’re pleased with.
  25. Hugs, especially long ones.
  26. Photos taken at exactly the right moment.
I can't look at this and not laugh.

I can’t look at this and not laugh.

  1. The crunch of autumn leaves under your feet.
  2. Finding an article, picture or Facebook post that really hits you.
  3. The fact that every language has its own artistic style.
  4. Pulling nice surprises on children and watching their stunned faces when they find out.
  5. Being in a big group of friends, not saying a word, and loving every minute of it.
  6. The feeling of learning something new and useful.
  7. Sitting down after miles of walking.
  8. Inside jokes.
  9. Realising it was worth the wait.
  10. The smell of bacon.
  11. The kindness of strangers.
  12. A song that sounds exactly like the inside of your head.
  13. The elaborate design of the human body.
  14. Watching a distinct curtain of rainfall approaching you at high speed.
  15. The fact that everyone has their own personality.
  16. That mathematical concept finally making absolute sense.
  17. Trust.
  18. Talking about days gone by with an old friend.
  19. Finding funny anagrams. e.g. “mother in law” = “woman Hitler”.
  20. Children reminding you of how you were at their age.
  21. Learning new life lessons.
  22. Letting out a huge fart in private. Let’s face it.
  23. Medieval artwork that’s survived for centuries.
  24. Playing an old video game for the first time since you were a kid.
  25. Tigers.
And penguins. And the fact that those two are so different to each other, yet still linked.

And penguins.
And the fact that tigers and penguins are so different to each other, yet still linked.

  1. Dreams where you know you’re dreaming.
  2. Reading- or more specifically, staring at an oddly-shaped page of ink splatters until someone else’s thoughts appear in your head.
  3. Walking by a river.
  4. Writing a good fight scene.
  5. Globes and maps.
  6. Puns and one-liners at just the right moment.
  7. People close to you achieving what they never thought they would achieve.
  8. Eating your socks when you run out of cereal.
  9. Ha! Just checking you were paying attention.
  10. Chinese food when I’m really hungry.
  11. Double rainbows.
  12. Knowing that even if you never see someone again, you’ve still had a positive influence in their life somehow.
  13. Daydreaming.
  14. Calling someone “du” in German, in the full knowledge that you’re not calling them “sie”. (I think it’s the same for “tu” and “vous” in French.)
  15. Being under a warm blanket.
  16. Seeing a live fox.
  17. Knowing that the children you work with will probably grow up to be great people.
  18. Crepuscular rays- sunbeams that break through the clouds like fingers.
Like this.

Like this.

  1. Remembering you have the day off.
  2. Randomly catching a smell that reminds you of a certain place or time.
  3. The countryside suddenly coming back to life in the spring.
  4. Having ambition.
  5. This song. (Opens in new window.)
  6. And this one too, after the first thirteen seconds.
  7. A crackling fireplace.
  8. Birdsong.
  9. Memories that are so funny you crack a smile when walking down the street.
  10. 90s dance music, for a reason I don’t quite know.
  11. Sitting next to a window and soaking up the sunshine that pours through it.
  12. Thinking about how much humans have achieved over the years to reach the standard of living we have now.
  13. All-you-can-eats.
  14. The way plants grow, as if they know what they’re doing.
  15. Remembering something after the memory has lain dormant for ten years.
  16. Rollercoasters.
  17. Hearing about the good effect you’ve had on children after you’ve stopped working with them, when you had no idea you were valued that much.
  18. Lying in the grass.
  19. Affection that animals show to humans.
  20. Shedding tears from laughing too much.
  21. Looking through old photos.
Me at 11, seeing my cousin for the first time. ...Hes now 18.

Me at 11, seeing my cousin for the first time.
…He’s now 18.

  1. Plot twists that you never saw coming.
  2. Knowing that there’s a purpose to what you’re doing.
  3. Brie and bacon in the hot sun.
  4. Knowing that in a few years’ time, you’ll be looking back on these days and smiling.
  5. A good sense of community.
  6. Using the phrase “trust me” and meaning it.
  7. A cloudless blue sky.
  8. Swans.
  9. Looking at history as one long story.
  10. Being believed in.
  11. Getting away with socially inappropriate things.
  12. The light in people’s eyes when they smile genuinely.
  13. Stories, events and people from thousands of years ago still being relevant and understandable today.
  14. Music that makes you dance in your seat.
  15. Finally solving that difficult equation!
  16. Having ‘islands’- places in the world where you can pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist.
  17. Avatar: The Last Airbender (or, how even a ‘children’s cartoon’ can be loaded with beautiful character development, a compelling storyline and striking plot twists that would impress any adult who took the time to watch it.)
  18. Knowing that you really mean something to someone.
  19. People telling you that you really mean something to them.
  20. Realising that even the tiniest insects have a fully functioning digestive, circulatory and nervous systems.
  21. Sun beams feeling like liquid on your face.
  22. The fact that, no matter how bad things get, each one of us can refer back to a moment when we were happy, and nothing in the universe can change that moment now.
  23. A village festival when you know half the people there.
  24. Going to great lengths for children.
  25. Building up a ‘thundercannon’ in chess (my own nickname for two adjacent bishops on a long diagonal backed up by a queen- pointed straight towards the enemy king’s hiding place. Oh they are so screwed.)
  26. The appearance of a 360 degree sunset during a total eclipse.
  27. Seeing familiar landscapes covered in snow for the first time in years.
  28. Seeing grass again after a long snowfall.
Remember that winding river photo from earlier? Exactly the same shot, later in the year.

Remember that winding river photo from earlier?
Exactly the same shot, later in the year.

  1. Finding an old friend online.
  2. Sprinting really, really fast.
  3. The sudden realisation of how much you’ve grown.
  4. Making other people lose The Game.
  5. Talking about songs we used to sing at school and other people your age knowing them too- which means you share a childhood memory even though you never met before adulthood.
  6. The relief when something hasn’t gone horribly wrong after all.
  7. Quoting a funny film in the middle of a conversation.
  8. Getting goosebumps.
  9. Really overt answers to prayer.
  10. Organising a long chess tournament for a load of kids, and saying to yourself “let the games begin!”
  11. A cool breeze on a boiling day
  12. Hearing a song for the first time and knowing from that moment that it’s going to mean something to you.
  13. The human hand.
  14. Knowing they’re going to be ok.
  15. Actually having a memory at all.
  16. Reconciling with someone.
  17. Remembering once in a while how awesome it is to actually be alive.

 

For those who really needed this, I hope you got something you can use.

For those who just read out of curiosity, I hope you found something new to love.

 

Feel free to post your own below in the comments. There’ll be literally hundreds of things I missed.

Chris

-  

Are you tired of characters with special needs being tokenised and based on stereotypes, or being the victims rather than the heroes? This novel may interest you!

Underdogs, a near-future dystopia novel where the heroes are teenagers with special needs, is soon to be released through Unbound Publishing. A character-driven war story which pitches twelve people against an army of millions, it balances intense action with a deeply developed neurodiverse cast.

Amazon.co.uk link for British readers
Book Depository link for overseas readers
Pre-order link for the already-commissioned sequel!


Chris Bonnello is a national and international autism speaker, available to lead talks and training sessions from the perspective of an autistic former teacher. For further information please click here (opens in new window).
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33 Responses

  1. Dawn

    No. 46 Walking in the rain I enjoy but dancing in the rain is magical.
    No. 15 frightens the life out of me and makes me cry.
    No. 124 & 125 yes I was reading it in full…. ha ha
    No. 167 This has to be one of the most beautiful observations I’ve ever read 🙂

    Reply
    • CaptainQuirk

      Thanks a lot for the comment. 🙂 And for reading closely enough to spot 124/125! 😉

      Reply
  2. Cate

    What an amazing list… some tears and some laughs with this. One thing that I would add (if I made such a list, and I probably will now) would be the magic and wonder of new life, the intensity of joy of holding your newborn babe, watching them grow and just be so wonderful in so many ways. Also, having friends that you have known for so long that you meet up after years and it is just like yesterday. Except maybe for the grey hairs!

    Reply
    • CaptainQuirk

      Depends a lot on the song, I’ll admit. 😉 Today I had the annoying theme tune to some kids’ TV show stuck in my head for half the day!
      Still, beautiful that we CAN have songs in our heads. 😉

      Reply
  3. Sean Murphy

    Here’s my reaction to some of yours:
    7. Although it is possible to hear a word and not understand it.
    22. And then realizing that the only reason you were able to realize that is because you are a conscious being, and then your brain starts swirling chaotically and going off on weird tangents and generally being awesome.
    31. Sometimes I create characters like that. I like it when I can create characters like that.
    74. All of my yes! Everything about campfires is amazing: the warmth, the lighting, the fact that it’s both a literal and symbolic gathering place, even putting them out is amazing.
    84. Or just realizing you’re a better person than before, in general. Or that the world is a better place because of you. Or even that the world is a better place, period.
    89. Or an essay, or an editorial, or a blog post. I’ll take what I can get.
    96. That is my social life.
    103. It took me a second to realize you were being figurative. Which I find funny.
    113. That’s one of those things that I didn’t realize was socially unacceptable until it was WAY too late.
    120. It’s harder than it looks.
    122. Ba-dum-tsh!
    124/125. I see what you did there.
    126. Or just REALLY good Chinese food, even when you’re just kinda hungry.
    127. Making the obvious joke.
    141. All of my yes, on the same principle as #74. I would have made this either 174 or 148, because it would have been really cool if I had been reading and noticed that.
    170. I’m not even a math person and I know exactly what you mean.
    180. I refer you to number 34.
    182. It always strikes me just how white snow is, and how white it continues to be even if you see it through some kind of filter, like, say, sunglasses.
    190. Princess Bride quote-off, go! (Not really)
    200. Something we all need to do once in a while.

    And here’s some of mine:
    Words that I don’t realize how funny they sound until I say them out of context (the only one I can think of right now is “weird”.)

    NOT switching between first and second person.

    Trying something new, and being pleasantly surprised.

    Reading two numbers that share an upper digit as one compound number (e.g. “124/125” being read as a hundred twenty-four and twenty-five). Am I the only one who does that?

    When I notice something in a book that I didn’t notice before.

    The word gorgeous. Not enough people use that word.

    The tiny patterns that I have to be a centimeter away from to see.

    Balancing on the very edge of the sidewalk, or taking extra care not to step on any of the sidewalk cracks. It’s childish, maybe, but man, is it fun.

    A social interaction in which I actually hold my own.

    Reply
    • CaptainQuirk

      Woah, it’s rare I get such a detailed comment! 😀 And it sounds like we have a lot in common!

      …I’m going to have to ask what the obvious joke about double rainbows is though. XD

      Reply
  4. whateverleila

    Hello, I just read this because someone posted a link to it on a facebook group I’m in. I love your list. I write grateful lists regularly, and usually in the morning as a way to start the day. I like this though. Things to love about life. I’d like to add some of my own in no order of importance:

    1. dishwashers
    2. French accents
    3. duvets
    4. free streaming TV
    5. bloggers
    6. salt air at the sea side
    7. pancakes
    8. grandparents with handy skills like knitting and fixing stuff
    9. knowing that you don’t look great but not caring about appearances anymore because you’ve got more important things to think about
    10. the miracle of childbirth

    Leila

    Reply
    • CaptainQuirk

      Thanks! 🙂 Love your additions- just seen your own article and left a comment there too.

      Reply
  5. tahrey

    OK, I was feeling funky and cynical when I opened this page, and I really wanted to hate it… but [angry voice] “BUBBLES!!!” [/angry voice] still got me smiling. You sod. 🙂

    Reply
    • tahrey

      Also, if I could borrow from the gospel of Hibbett for a moment…

      * Buying a pint of milk on the way home from work, and thinking “I bought that with the money I earned, working all week long in a job I like”. (not directly relevant to me right now, but it has been before)
      * The friends I’ve got (somehow)
      * The flat I have
      * The fact that I am acting like a full grown man (…sorta)
      * Best of all, that “I” built this babylon from a pint of milk, and the daily string of epiphanies such a philosophy gives rise to
      * A posh cup of coffee with a plastic spout
      * The ease of navigation of the London Underground
      * Remington strimmers for a hairy noses
      * The futuristic possibilities of mobile phones (NB. written sometime in the early noughties)
      * E-Mail
      * Dinosaurs
      * Washing Machines!
      * The trams of Sheffield
      * Vegetarian cheese

      (Interlude:
      “Oi, [singer]” … How may I help you?
      “You don’t -really- mean that…” … Well, I’m afraid that I do
      You see, given the chance to choose, or pick
      Between despairing of life, or taking delight in it
      I’ll take the latter… because it makes me *happy*
      And surely that’s what it’s all about?)

      * The wonders of the world
      * Mountains
      * Taking a taxi
      * Childbirth
      * Real draught bitter in a can
      * Love
      * Microwave popcorn

      Relinquish your high standards
      Commit to being Easily Impressed
      Improve your quality of life

      Reply
      • tahrey

        (With thanks to Whateverleila for reminding me of the song with her(?) list)

      • tahrey

        Sod it, if everyone else is sharing videos…
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJxyxuZbmcY

        Add to that list, intimate gigs by amazing bands that somehow hardly anyone else has heard of, in tiny venues, with much better atmosphere than your average stadium.
        (In more recent years, chiptune micro-festivals embodying much the same spirit… you and a couple dozen other weirdos freaking out to low-fi techno in the upstairs room of a pub, with the performers joining the crowd for all the other sets when not on stage themselves…)

    • CaptainQuirk

      Haha, really glad it helped! 🙂 Thanks for your additions too- those are all beautiful things.
      Thanks too for all of your comments across the site! I’m glad you’ve read so much of my stuff in so much depth, and have had so much to contribute to the discussion!!
      Chris
      PS- apologies for making you lose The Game. 😉

      Reply
    • tahrey

      Also I should let you know that 139 is a dead link now (copyright strike) 🙁
      But 140 is still magnificent 🙂

      Reply
    • tahrey

      #172 … finally finding the time to actually get hold of the two Avatar series and watch them is possibly one of the things actually keeping me alive. I would say that if you enjoyed that, then it would probably not be too bad a use of your leisure hours getting into quite a number of different supposedly-for-kids shows from the last ten years or so, as there are many which are similarly extremely enjoyable as an adult (again, I’ve only personally watched through about one and a half of them, but the snatches seen of others mean they’re on the mental to-play list). I dunno whether that’s more an ASD-trait thing or not…

      Maybe I’m just a big kid but I find them more life affirming than a lot of the horrendously depressing drudge-like supposedly-for-adults shows that are marketed towards us nominal grown-ups. Why do I want to spend my free time escaping into a world that’s just going to make me feel bad – and needs the investment of the better part of an hour per episode – when I can slam in an Avatar one, or two Adventure Times or Steven Universes or Gravity Falls or Infinity Trains or Star vs Evils (or, OK, for those who’ll complain if I don’t make mention, though I don’t watch it myself: MLP-FIMs)… etc, and feel much better (or at least, be rather more entertained, even if it’s still a sad part of the ongoing story) whilst still having another 30+ minutes free?

      Educational as well, in some ways. Even if more socially or psychologically, than academically. Like there’s literally an SU episode based around using mindfulness and CBT techniques to combat social anxiety and panic issues… packaged neatly into a ten minute segment. What’s not to like?

      Reply
      • tahrey

        Oops, forgot my Gumballs and Regular Shows (and She-Ras, probably) … and and and…

        Plus if you’re by yourself, or have the excuse of looking after a toddler (which is how I ran across them), Hey Duggee is an absolute riot, and its mirror image can be found in the pure relaxant of Sarah & Duck. Though they have rather less of an ongoing story, if you discount the gradual introduction of additional characters. The Clangers and Dangermouse have also been brought back, apparently, which could be worth adding to the chillout and shameless-giggle lists respectively.

      • tahrey

        …also that most of “our” childhood equivalents (I’m painting with a fairly broad brush from about 1980 to 2000, here) have now made it to DVD and/or streaming services. It was nice to catch back up with Mysterious Cities of Gold and Dogtanian (and the rest) and finally fill in the gaps from the episodes I missed as a kid. Good quality storytelling stands the test of time, even if the animation and sound quality is a bit scratchy.

  6. tahrey

    #61, 78 and 144 are probably all related. On the one hand, those two particular types of music probably count as precious memories by themselves – the first time you heard that type of music and were opened to an entirely new form and its compositional possibilities. But also, they likely came along at a pivotal, and somewhat cherished time in your life, and are intimately connected with it. Even if you were having a shit time generally, you could fire up a game, or get home and put your stereo on (possibly the first one you were ever allowed to own, and use independently, as a kid) and escape from it all into happier feelings.

    Another part of it is that VGM / Chiptune and at least certain types of dance music are, essentially, the modern evolution of classical-instrumental, and tweak a wholly different part of the brain than yer typical vocal-led pop. 90s dance probably stands out to the over-30s because it was pretty new and fresh when it broke into the charts, then it eventually became staid and samey, and had a particular creative lull in the early to mid noughties.

    Happily the form has had a bit of a resurgence since … the CDs doing rotation in my car right now are a cheap triple-album compilation of “100% Clubland EDM Bangers” which seems to cover mostly a) more recent stuff and b) 90s classics or reasonable covers of them, and largely ignores all but the choicest outliers from the intervening malaise period. I feel rather like I’m driving like a hooligan when I play it, even though I’m generally just pottering along in traffic, because it connects me to my earliest driving experiences when I’d actually be driving like a boy racer (in a poky little Punto, or even slower Polo) with a tape of early 90s chart dance, mid 90s happy hardcore, or peri-millennial Ministry of Sound mixes on the stereo. But even before I picked up that disc at the start of this summer (needed something to feed a charity scheme minibus deck with), the car system was being regularly subjected to endless chiptune and what decent dancey stuff I’d picked up here and there off the internet (as well as plenty of deeply indie stuff, and a fair measure of heavy rock).

    Plus, and I don’t know how valid this is, but it’s relevant if so (…I just need to find what I did with the tab that has the news article in it before I can attach a link…): some recent study or other implies that neurodivergent people, especially with an autistic or dyslexic spectrum disorder, respond better to and better appreciate well-composed instrumental music, moreso than other, more vocally-led but less musically sophisticated forms, and moreso than their neurotypical peers. Given the absurdly strong representation of ND folk in the chiptune, synthpop, etc scenes, along with the other minority demographics your 2018 survey suggests are heavily correlated with AS brain-types, I’d say there’s probably a fair bit of validity to it. Living in the “mild” / aspergers realm, I do still enjoy a good bit of vocal house or classic style heavy metal and the like, but I’m much more likely to be carried fully away on and become emotionally involved with the intricate structure of a disgustingly clever bit of high energy chip or a soaring piece of classic dance… It tweaks something deep in the cortex that other forms just don’t reach, and only some top flight classical pieces come close to emulating (maybe they simply lack the right instrumentation, and would have done the business if they used synthetic waveforms?).

    Reply

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