• J.R. Reed

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

It’s Saturday morning and I woke up happy for the first time in a long time.

The coffee is flowing. My Gettin’ Happy playlist is jamming—currently I Don’t Know by Dionne Ferris ( a 90’s unknown classic) is on way too loud. Tye the occasionally flatulent autism service dog is laying near my feet and life seems better than it has the past few weeks.

My depression has been ramping up for the past few months and it had gotten to the point where I was not motivated. No motivation to go outside. No motivation to stay inside. No motivation to write. No motivation to read. No motivation to wash the dishes, no motivation to cook. No motivation to watch TV and no motivation to sleep.

In short, I was in the funk of all funks. I was as funky as I had ever been and that says a lot considering I’ve been sporting a funky purple goatee the past five years. And to be clear, when I say I’m funky, that does NOT mean that I’ve avoided the shower. I take one daily and smell nice and fresh. Trust me, I just did a pit check.

For the past two months I’ve pretty much locked myself up in my log cabin in the Ozarks, a far cry from where I was in Southern California three years ago, but that’s another blog post for another day. The only time I’ve left the house before this past week is to go to see the hand surgeon—I get to have surgery on two very arthritic fingers—the pharmacy drive thru, Walmart grocery pickup and Sonic for the occasional cherry limeade.

Over the past few days, I’ve tried to reach out to a few friends and say hi. It took a LOT of work and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but it ended up being worth it. The friends I reached out to were varied and an eclectic mix, but hey, I’m an eclectic dude, so it’s all good.

There were no heavy conversations; simply basic catching up. You know, “Wassup?” “Word to your mother,” and things like that.

With a nice cocktail of autism, depression, low self-esteem, and severe social anxiety disorder coursing through my brain it was a really difficult task to reach out to the first person. That encounter went well, so I tried a second person. Then like the shampoo commercial from the 80s, “they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on.” Although full disclosure, I stopped at five.

The week started when I had lunch with a friend and fellow author, C, who has his second YA Fantasy book coming out in the fall. We had a good time catching up, discussing my second book on dating with Asperger’s/autism and eating some of the best onion rings in Springfield, MO.

Next came J, who I correspond with on Facebook from time to time. Our parents were friends from business, and we lived halfway across the country from each other. We met in 1982 at a conference in Disney World and became very close. She even flew out for my senior prom in 1984. How cool is that? She’s been sending me video clips and other things to help me get over my depression because that’s what friends of 38 years do for each other.

Then there was C, a friend from high school who I’ve also known for 38 years. We don’t Facebook chat often, but when we do, the conversations are meaningful, and I can tell that she cares about me as a person. She always seems to have my best interest in mind, and even though I saw myself as a loser and a bit of an outcast in high school (maybe it was because I was a full blown penny loafer wearing, argyle vest sporting and skinny tie wearing preppy) she didn’t see me as a loser. I’m sure she has no idea how much that means to me.

Friday, I got a phone call that I received a technology grant from MODDC (Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council) for equipment I need to restart the Not Weird Just Autistic podcast. I have a great friend and one who is very connected in the Missouri disability community, a person I like to call The Notorious KSW (she’s a huge Ruth Bader Ginsburg fan). She’s the one who told me about the grant and she’s also the one who suggested I apply to be in the Missouri Partners in Policymaking class of 2019.

KSW has also gotten me on the board of a non-profit, nudged me to apply for a position on the Governor’s Council on Disability (still waiting for an answer) and when we chatted this week she also suggested that I apply to be on the MODDC Board of Directors. She’s a great friend who always has my back and is always looking out for me.

Finally, there is S. S is Forty-three and I’ve known him since he was eight when his dad and I coached soccer against each other. For the record, my team whupped them so often that his dad asked to coach with me two years later! S (and his entire family) are some of those very special friends that are like family. Leaving their family n California three years ago was one of the hardest parts of leaving the sensory overload behind and moving to the Ozarks.

We don’t talk nearly as often as we should, but whether six months goes by or maybe a year, we can pick up the conversation like we had just talked an hour ago. I love this guy and would take a bullet for him. Probably not in the torso, but definitely in an arm or leg. That conversation last night lifted my spirits like you can’t believe.

Friends. True friends. Are awesome!

Since I was feeling better after coming out of my self-imposed exile/hibernation, yesterday when I woke up I did something so unexpected that even as I was cruising down the winding road and past the Hollister scenic overlook, I still couldn’t believe I was doing it. I was going to leave my house and go out to breakfast at a little joint near my house that for three years I said I was going to try but never had.

I’m glad I did.

My server, K, was amazing. I ordered a short stack of pancakes and got two cakes each larger than my head. Seriously. Somewhere between my third cup of coffee and trying to figure out how much of the pancakes I was going to try and eat in the restaurant and how much I was going to take home, the conversation somehow turned to Asperger’s,

K told me that her son has Asperger’s and that as soon as I walked in the door she could tell that I was too. I’m not sure how. Do I give off an Aspie vibe? Maybe we (or parents of those with Asperger’s) just recognize our own kind. Either way, it was like it was meant to be. We chatted for a few and I boxed up more than half my breakfast and headed back to my home office to read comic books and write my comic book column.

Nerd power!

Yeah, life has been better the past few days and I attribute it to taking a risk, stepping out of my comfort zone and reaching out to my friends, rather than retreating and hiding because my self-esteem is so low I have nothing good to share, so I just hide and say nothing.

Now that I’m feeling better, I’m ready to get out of my house for a bit. There’s an event in Arkansas going on right now called That Geeky Gala. It’s an outdoor event for nerds such as myself, so I’m going to finish writing this, stick my t-shirt with Deadpool riding a cat unicorn and shooting cupid arrows in the dryer to freshen up and get the wrinkles out, and go get my nerd jam on before coming back to edit this.

Stay strong my friends and know you can overcome these bouts of depression. Maybe not forever, but for periods of time. I was convinced that I would never get out of it and was sure that I would remain alone and isolated for years. But that was a lie that I told to keep myself down.

You can’t do this alone. You need help, whether it’s from a professional or from a friend/family member. As alone as you think you are, someone out there loves you and they hate seeing you this way. They want to help you feel better. You only have to reach out and let them help.

We’re all in this together. If you have no one you feel you can reach out to or no one you think will understand you, talk to me in the comments below. We take care of our own and just as I would want someone to be there to throw me a rope when I was drowning, I’m here to help you keep your head above water.

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