“This is where Caesar lives,” explains Alex, pointing to his pet hamster’s cage. “He keeps me company.”
Alex has autism and lives in accommodation at our Intensive Housing Management Service in Bradford.
“I also suffer with ADHD and Depression. There is a lot of anxiety in that as well, because a lot of the time I am thinking ‘how do I do things?’ and then thinking of the steps I need to take can be overwhelming. If I put things off they can quickly become like a snowball where as soon as I start to let go in some aspects, they keep on building and building.
“When I get overwhelmed and shut down, my friend is very understanding. I try to stay to myself even more to try and recharge. It’s like being stood near the edge of a cliff. It is okay until you go too far and then it’s dangerous! I try to manage that very carefully.”
Alex graduated from university in 2018, but found himself without somewhere to live after months of unsuccessful job searching. Thanks to his close friend in Leeds, he had somewhere to stay until he found a suitable property, but admits he was possibly too quick to move into his new home.
“I ended up in accommodation that wasn’t very nice in the centre of Bradford. I was there for six months at which time I was working with Bradford council to find another place. There were issues with the contract and then I was given an eviction notice. The local council put me up with Horton Housing who assessed my housing needs and within a week I had moved out of the accommodation I was in.”
Living with autism whilst battling with mental health challenges has meant that Alex has a range of support around him, including Horton staff to help with utilities and bills, and a support worker who helps with planning days, as well as other coping mechanisms he has developed.
“Following routines is very important for autistic people. I try to stay organised and keep everything tidy. I made a rota with a previous therapist to help me concentrate and so I know what I need to do.
“People in general are stressful. If I am interacting with someone for a few hours, I make sure that I am not doing anything beforehand or afterwards. This leaves me with enough space so that I don’t find myself going towards that cliff edge and shutting down. These are my preventative measures, I guess, to keep myself in a good place.”
There has been a noticeable change in Alex’s confidence and mental health according to Floating Support Worker Bhavna.
“I have been with Alex since April. When I came, Alex wasn’t speaking to anyone and hadn’t done for two years. We then moved on to having conversations over text messages and gradually Alex began to talk. There has been such a big improvement! We are often in touch with the doctors and I help Alex with his mail. He is a lot more organised now.
“Two weeks ago, we made chicken and egg fried rice! Alex has been waiting for a personal assistant through social services for many months to help him cook, wash and things like that, so he is hoping to enrol onto some Specialist Autism Services workshops.”
Alex is aiming to attend either a cooking skills class in Bradford or a life skills class in Leeds, and believes the exciting sessions will benefit both his physical and mental health.
“This will be another good way to get out of the house and it will also be helpful. The socialising aspect of the workshops will also be really good for me!”
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If you live in Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale or Craven, you can also call the First Response Team on 0800 952 1181. The service offers support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to people of all ages.
If you are worried about someone’s mental health, or your own, you can call Samaritans on 116 123.
The Mind website offers a wide range of help and advice about managing your mental health: https://www.mind.org.uk/ There is also advice on this website if you are caring for someone with a mental health problem or condition.
[Cover image via Shutterstock]