“Lucky” – the difference an attitude can make

I am lucky.

I went through school as an undiagnosed autistic person. I was bullied a lot. I hated myself and wanted to be someone else. I left home at 17 and got involved with dangerous people. I found myself in trouble with the law and ended up in jail. The experience was so traumatic that I self medicated with illicit drugs. The resulted in me becoming homeless. I also had a psychotic episode which morphed into a schizophrenia diagnosis which I still have 26 years later. I was abused and manipulated repeatedly. I spent twelve years in poverty. I lived in public housing where my neighbours were mostly alcoholics. I developed an alcohol problem due to my friendship with my neighbours. I had a neighbour who was a stalker and was fixated on me and was violent and controlling. I have been unwell with psychosis on multiple occasions. It has threatened to take my job – and my life. I have to take medication which impacts on my long-term physical health, If I don’t take the meds I get extremely unwell.

I am lucky,

I am quite intelligent, allowing me to make sense of a difficult world. I have motivation and willpower beyond imagination. I met an amazing mentor in 2004. She supported me to write my life story. My life story was published by the first publisher I sent it to. Despite my criminal history I landed a prestigious public service graduate job. It tuned out that I was a great employee. I got promoted twice in the space of thee years. After years of trying different ones I now have medication which helps me to manage my mental illness. I have worked on my relationship with family members and now have a great relationship with my parents. I like and value myself. I am proud of who I am. I have used my willpower to give up smoking, illicit drugs, problem drinking and other self-destructive behaviour. I like who I am. I don’t mask or camouflage my autistic traits. I have a big following online and get to write books, blogs and give talks most weeks, which I love.

Yes, I am lucky. I am not lucky due to fate or chance or destiny. I am lucky because I think I am lucky. Many people with my story would focus on the first list above but I (usually) choose to focus on the second one. Luck is something we make for ourselves not something that just happens. The way we view our life, the decisions we take and our attitudes to life are what determines whether we are lucky or not. 

I consider myself lucky mostly because I have a very positive approach to life. I am an optimist. I know this may seem irritating to some people but in my life at least it has meant the difference between giving up and keeping going.

These things are quite subjective. I am not always positive or optimistic. Sometimes life gets the better of me and I get very stressed and overwhelmed but thankfully my baseline is a positive one. If I lose hope it usually returns and makes things easier to manage. Some people think I must have had no hardships to have my outlook but that is far from the case. I have true horrors in my life – past and present. The thing for me is to reflect on my value and the work I do. I know that my mental illness can destroy my life in a short space of time but I also know I have lived independently for many years and that I have worked in government administration for almost 15 years. In this time I have had many episodes of severe illness but I am still employed. Autistic people often struggle with positivity and focus on or relive difficult situations. This is probably because we can face a range of challenges and are  often the victim to predatory people. It is certainly not a reason to judge a person but life is much easier I find if you approach it form the perspective of optimism where possible.  

I also know that my attitude impacts on my life and on how I interact with people. Staff in mental health clinical settings often tell me how easy it is to work with me, as do my managers at work. I know it can be hard to have a positive attitude and that feeling lucky is not always possible but I also know that it makes it a lot easier for me to navigate life. I have not always felt lucky, for from it. I spent years believing I was cursed. My ‘luck’ is something I have made for myself. It is possible to change a set of attitudes but it can take some time and effort.

Luck is a very subjective thing. For me feeling lucky helps scaffold positive and optimistic attitudes but it isn’t necessarily easy. So yes, I am lucky but it is mostly an attitude and it is not a constant or consistent thing. An attitude of optimism needs to be maintained and cultivated like a garden. Hopefully the ‘garden’ is full of beautiful flowers and visited by kitties.  

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