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How Do You Transition Into Adulthood With A Mental Illness?

Hey. I know I’ve been MIA lately. I’ve been pretty depressed. I don’t know who I am or what I want.

Autistic people have trouble with transitions. I’ve only noticed that in shorter-term situations, like while trying to complete tasks at work. But my mom says I’m always upset during life changes. After graduating college I was depressed. And now with actual adulthood looming, like…career and family-level adulthood, I feel thrown off even more.

I used to think I’d get less autistic in time to live a regular life as a young person. I wanted to be out all night, meeting random-ass people and talking about the nature of reality. I wanted to have grand love affairs & travel to the ends of the earth. Above all, I wanted to be deeply connected with other people. I wanted us to be absorbed in each other in a way you only can if you have no responsibilities.

I’ve been a little luckier than many of us in that regard. For a few years in college I was emotionally tied up with some people, mostly other people with problems. But for the most part I’ve spent so much time being rejected that I didn’t let myself open up to people who wanted me around. I became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Mental disorders don’t always feel like the life-changing things that they are. If you have a mood or anxiety disorder you might not realize it right away either. Plenty of people have rough spots and get past them. But real depression, even if it’s temporary, can throw you way off course. There’s plenty of people who just fell off the bus at some point and never got back on.

If you’re autistic it’s a bit different. You always knew you were set apart. You just might not have known how much. What seemed like a quirk when you were growing up is now a very real barrier. I know some of us can be successful. But the reality is that most of us can’t do everything other people do. Or at least not on their timeline. You might look back at your life and realize that most of your friends were different too. You might look at your goals and realize that you may never actually run a business or be a fashion designer. It’s too much. I’m always wondering what I would have been capable of if I were neurotypical. But we have to let that go.

People with any disability have to adjust our expectations. We may not take on adult responsibilities as quickly. But that doesn’t mean we’re not adults. We’re still experiencing the most important part of grown-up mentality: long-term thinking.

I don’t have any idea what the future holds. I like reading and writing. I like my awkward friends. I doubt I’m ever going to have a traditional job. And having kids doesn’t seem like a great idea for me. I’m not saying no autistic people should have kids: if anything, a well-adjusted autistic person would be the best parent in the world for an autistic kid. But I’ve never been well-adjusted. And I doubt I’ll be able to get my mental health on track and accomplish my goals in time to have a family.

If work & family are the hallmarks of adulthood, what do you do if you don’t have those things? Is sitting around reading books until you die a sufficient life goal? I’d love to party myself into oblivion but I’m too self-conscious to throw myself into that lifestyle. Maybe I’ll open a cat colony or something when I  grow up, I dunno.

So yeah. I’m not excited about this blog right now because I’m having an existential crisis. If you’re a crazy too, you might be feeling the same way.


*I googled “ennui” and found this picture from this broken link.

How Do You Transition Into Adulthood With A Mental Illness?

Gwendolyn Kansen

Gwen Kansen is a mental health writer in New York. She likes food, karaoke, and smart-but-campy books & TV. She's hoping to capture a little sliver of life on here that might not be the first thing you'd see.

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APA Reference
Kansen, G. (2019). How Do You Transition Into Adulthood With A Mental Illness?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 28 Mar 2019
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