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.
Building someone up.
Colours. Just actually stop and look at them.
The body’s ability to mend itself after a wound.
The way dull countryside suddenly lights up when the sun comes out.
How you can’t look at a word without reading it.
Finding that one strawberry that’s absolutely loaded with flavour.
A movie where you genuinely care what happens.
Non family members basically being family members.
Just about any NASA image.
Kids who can make entertainment out of absolutely nothing.
The feeling when you walk into somewhere really warm.
The G-force of a plane on takeoff.
Proving the doubters wrong.
Trying to say the word “bubbles” in your angriest voice.
Music while driving.
Laughing for the sake of laughing.
Perfectly clear starlit skies.
That moment you realise that you are a conscious being with the ability to think, and that in itself is indescribably amazing.
Someone holding your hand.
The way your tongue goes blue after a slushy.
Talking in real time to someone on the other side of the Earth.
Rock music that uses pianos.
The view of that winding river on the hill five minutes from my house.
Having teeth. They’re amazing, aren’t they?
Someone getting it when you explain it to them.
Looking forward to something awesome tomorrow.
A fictional character that’s so well-written you know them like a real person.
Totally free evenings when you’re wondering whether to have the ice cream before the wine or the wine before the ice cream.
The occasional innuendo.
Top twenty lists. Because ten usually doesn’t quite cover it.
People being there for you.
Being there for other people.
Annular eclipses- where the moon is just far enough away to make the sun look like a ring in the sky.
Finding a toilet when you really really need it.
Bumping into kids you used to know once they become teenagers… and them not actually ignoring you!
Realising that something’s not worth worrying about after all.
Shapes that tessellate.
The way people band together to help vulnerable strangers.
Monty Python sketches that are funny because they make no sense.
Walking in the rain.
Kayaking in the rain.
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.
Elderly couples still in love.
A series finale that truly works.
People recognising your strengths.
Chickens acting silly whilst having a perfectly serious look on their face.
Knowing I was once in therapy for depression… but then kicked its arse back to the stone age.
The touch of animal fur.
Blasting away at the drum kit.
Getting your internet connection back.
Having a lie-in for more than an hour.
The beauty of mathematics and logic.
Music which connects to a precious memory.
Sunsets. That one had to appear somewhere.
Being accepted into a new group or community.
A child’s ideas about the world.
Remembering old Simpsons quotes.
Earworm- getting a song stuck in your head.
That feeling when you’re a minute away from meeting an old friend for the first time in ages.
Outsmarting kids (I’m childish, I know).
Sense of smell.
Sense of taste.
Photos of me with people I love.
Film nights with friends.
Still being able to run up the stairs after a day at work.
A well-organised tournament bracket.
Trees. We walk past them all the time without realising how amazing they are.
Old-school video game music you grew up with.
Dreams you want to just go on and on.
Looking at something and wondering how it was made.
Great big thunderstorms that you can watch from your window.
Looking back on really embarrassing moments and being able to laugh.
A movie adaptation that doesn’t suck.
Realising you’re more patient than before.
Working with children from a completely different culture, and finding out that they’re exactly the same as children back home.
That rare prayer that gets answered before/immediately after you finish praying.
Trying to comprehend the sheer size of an ocean.
Being fine with the emotional cost of rooting for someone.
Writing a story you’re pleased with.
Hugs, especially long ones.
Photos taken at exactly the right moment.
The crunch of autumn leaves under your feet.
Finding an article, picture or Facebook post that really hits you.
The fact that every language has its own artistic style.
Pulling nice surprises on children and watching their stunned faces when they find out.
Being in a big group of friends, not saying a word, and loving every minute of it.
The feeling of learning something new and useful.
Sitting down after miles of walking.
Realising it was worth the wait.
The smell of bacon.
The kindness of strangers.
A song that sounds exactly like the inside of your head.
The elaborate design of the human body.
Watching a distinct curtain of rainfall approaching you at high speed.
The fact that everyone has their own personality.
That mathematical concept finally making absolute sense.
Talking about days gone by with an old friend.
Finding funny anagrams. e.g. “mother in law” = “woman Hitler”.
Children reminding you of how you were at their age.
Learning new life lessons.
Letting out a huge fart in private. Let’s face it.
Medieval artwork that’s survived for centuries.
Playing an old video game for the first time since you were a kid.
Dreams where you know you’re dreaming.
Reading- or more specifically, staring at an oddly-shaped page of ink splatters until someone else’s thoughts appear in your head.
Walking by a river.
Writing a good fight scene.
Globes and maps.
Puns and one-liners at just the right moment.
People close to you achieving what they never thought they would achieve.
Eating your socks when you run out of cereal.
Ha! Just checking you were paying attention.
Chinese food when I’m really hungry.
Knowing that even if you never see someone again, you’ve still had a positive influence in their life somehow.
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.)
Being under a warm blanket.
Seeing a live fox.
Knowing that the children you work with will probably grow up to be great people.
Crepuscular rays- sunbeams that break through the clouds like fingers.
Remembering you have the day off.
Randomly catching a smell that reminds you of a certain place or time.
The countryside suddenly coming back to life in the spring.
Memories that are so funny you crack a smile when walking down the street.
90s dance music, for a reason I don’t quite know.
Sitting next to a window and soaking up the sunshine that pours through it.
Thinking about how much humans have achieved over the years to reach the standard of living we have now.
The way plants grow, as if they know what they’re doing.
Remembering something after the memory has lain dormant for ten years.
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.
Lying in the grass.
Affection that animals show to humans.
Shedding tears from laughing too much.
Looking through old photos.
Plot twists that you never saw coming.
Knowing that there’s a purpose to what you’re doing.
Brie and bacon in the hot sun.
Knowing that in a few years’ time, you’ll be looking back on these days and smiling.
A good sense of community.
Using the phrase “trust me” and meaning it.
A cloudless blue sky.
Looking at history as one long story.
Being believed in.
Getting away with socially inappropriate things.
The light in people’s eyes when they smile genuinely.
Stories, events and people from thousands of years ago still being relevant and understandable today.
Music that makes you dance in your seat.
Finally solving that difficult equation!
Having ‘islands’- places in the world where you can pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist.
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.)
Knowing that you really mean something to someone.
People telling you that you really mean something to them.
Realising that even the tiniest insects have a fully functioning digestive, circulatory and nervous systems.
Sun beams feeling like liquid on your face.
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.
A village festival when you know half the people there.
Going to great lengths for children.
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.)
The appearance of a 360 degree sunset during a total eclipse.
Seeing familiar landscapes covered in snow for the first time in years.
Seeing grass again after a long snowfall.
Finding an old friend online.
Sprinting really, really fast.
The sudden realisation of how much you’ve grown.
Making other people lose The Game.
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.
The relief when something hasn’t gone horribly wrong after all.
Quoting a funny film in the middle of a conversation.
Really overt answers to prayer.
Organising a long chess tournament for a load of kids, and saying to yourself “let the games begin!”
A cool breeze on a boiling day
Hearing a song for the first time and knowing from that moment that it’s going to mean something to you.
The human hand.
Knowing they’re going to be ok.
Actually having a memory at all.
Reconciling with someone.
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. (Also, anyone reading this is more than welcome to join Autistic Not Weird on Facebook, where there’s a lovely and supportive community.)
Oh and, PS:
I wrote another hundred of these!
In the time since I first wrote this article, writing for Autistic Not Weird has literally become my job. The amount of hours I can commit to autism advocacy is largely thanks to my Patreon supporters, who pledge from as little as $1 per month in exchange for various rewards.
Underdogs, a near-future dystopia series where the heroes are teenagers with special needs, is a character-driven war story which pitches twelve people against an army of millions, balancing intense action with a deeply developed neurodiverse cast.
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). Autistic Not Weird on Facebook