For many years I was very depressed. What this looked like is whilst I would sound passionate, I would struggle to find the motivation, energy and headspace to do anything.

By Robyn Steward

I did try anti-depressants but they didn’t work for me. Depression was like a huge weight I carried and it gradually got heavier. I had heard antidepressants described as ” happy pills” and I thought they controlled your mood so much that you didn’t have the usual peaks and troughs of emotion.

So for many years, I bounced between periods of being ok (in physical health terms that’s like being run down and having a viral infection for months) to being really ill (like a migraine.) I’d describe the experience as constant mental suffering. It wasn’t that I didn’t function I just didn’t enjoy things much. Everything felt overwhelming, I mean everything, even seemingly mundane, easy tasks like loading the dishwasher felt too much.

I went between being ok and really ill, taking sleeping pills every couple of months. But then by chance I was at a conference and heard of an anti-depressant that worked well for many Autistic people. 18 months later I added another anti-depressant at bedtime as well as starting the pill. Taking the pill meant I didn’t have PMS which triggers my depression. I now feel the usual range of emotions but at the appropriate times – having a silent brain instead of a noisy weighted head. I have more executive functioning now, deciding what to do, when and how.

Having researched I found 6% of the general population have attempted suicide vs 43 % of ESA claimants and people applying*. My point is that there are treatments out there which can help to free up headspace, making it a bit easier to find the help and support you need with a benefit claim. I’ve found to be a really good source of information.

*Please find the reference for Robyn’s Statistics here:

About Robyn Steward

Robyn was born at 28 weeks and has ten disabilities, including Asperger’s syndrome. At secondary school she felt overwhelmed and was bullied frequently. After being kicked out of school Robyn went to a college where she met other autistic young people, and they suggested training college staff on how to support them. After one session a tutor told Robyn: “You’re really good at this. This could be your career.”

Robyn began volunteering with the National Autistic Society to improve media awareness. For the past 14 years she’s worked as a mentor, consultant and trainer with people at all levels of the education system, in social work and parent groups. She runs workshops on topics like anxiety with neurotypical and autistic children and adults.

Robyn has a particular passion for championing the diversity within autism and she creates online surveys on topics like stimming and safety. Her first book, The Independent Woman’s Handbook for Super Safe Living on the Autistic Spectrum was based on survey results and Robyn’s experience of developing strategies for others. Her second book, The Autism Friendly Guide to Periods, comes out next year.

Robyn says: “I thought I was thick until I wrote my first book. I learned I just do things differently so I have deliberately focused on building skills that can earn me money and to get unique results so people will want to use my skills, and I’ll have maximum flexibility in how I use my time.”

Robyn is a visiting research associate at the Centre for Research in Autism and Education, and was joint awardee of the 2015 NAS Professional Awards for Outstanding Achievement by an Autistic Individual for her work on rape and sexual abuse against autistic people.

Robyn is also a trumpet player, and has spoken on a panel at South by Southwest festival and conference.