Sam is a 23year old from a Waikato-based Pakeha family. He is the oldest of 2 brothers, and was born and raised in Hamilton. He lives with Aspergers, works in hospitality, and is studying towards a Bachelor of Social Sciences at the University of Waikato.

I experienced a lot of changes in both lifestyle and health between my time as a university student in Dunedin and Hamilton, where I currently live and study. The lifestyle I live now is much more healthy, and I think the goodness I’ve managed to build into my life now has a lot to do with those changes.

Definitely one of the most important tools for me is exercise. My two favourite forms of exercise are lifting weights and going for long walks. Sometimes the exercise helps by providing good feelings of physical accomplishment. Other times, it simply provides an excuse for some alone time in nature to clear my head. In any case, I find it really good to do.

I’ve got my exercise routine pretty down pat these days. I set myself a new years resolution of being able to lift my bodyweight, which gives me good purpose in the gym. And as far as walking goes, there’s my favourite route - along the river trail in Hamilton - which I do a few times a week and requires about 40min to finish. This is usually enough time to clear my head of the events of the day. I love to take my walkman on a walk and listen to really thought-provoking podcasts.

They will typically be on the topic of current affairs or politics. I am, unashamedly, a bit of a culture geek, so I do also enjoy podcasts on film, music, art, theatre, or literature. I find the river trail is nice because there are trees and bird life. If I’ve had a tough day and am feeling a bit overwhelmed, my standard approach is to go for a walk. By the time I get back, I usually have a pretty good, clear head-space and feel re-energised to take on whatever it is I have to do next.

A big thing for me is my support network of close people. I’m lucky to have a couple of people close to me whom I can bounce things off and talk to. Being able to really share how I’m feeling after a hard day - or a good day for that matter - makes me feel connected and calm. The idea that some of the people around me are receptive to my sharing of thoughts and feelings is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt as far as my wellness goes. And, obviously, it’s a reciprocal thing - I get to be there to support them, to listen to their thoughts and feelings. My support network is pretty simple. It comprises my best friend and my family.

Managing my Aspergers is a constant thing I have to do, but I’m intent that it’s not going to inhibit me from living a full life. I find a lot of the tools that helped me build wellness after I experienced depression also help in my managing Aspergers.

I find something incredibly relaxing about preparing a home-cooked meal. Whether that’s because the nutritional value of the food is higher, or because of the love that goes into making it, I don’t know. All I know is that it has a really grounding effect on me. I make a point of cooking dinner for my flatmates every so often, and to do so with real intent. I like making it for them. I like putting my time into preparing something really nutritional (or at least, more-so than takeaways) and being able to give it to others to enjoy.

It may be a bit odd, but every now and then, if I’ve had a tough day or I feel like I’ve got some pent up energy, I’ll dance around really energetically inside the living room. I usually do it when no-one is home because, as a 6ft 6”, 120kg guy, it is, I imagine, quite a sight. It’s an incredibly effective catharsis though. One of the best I know. Whatever feelings I have inside seem to get released through moving my body. I might put on some music that reflects how I’m feeling, then turn it up loud and just express myself. I do have one flatmate I don’t mind doing that in front of, but I try not to subject him to it too often. That said, I think it’s really cool, and pretty important, to have people I can be that comfortable around.

For me, letting out energy through dancing isn’t a structured activity in my day. I do it only when I feel I need to. It’s awesome in that I can use it to express happy emotions, as well as things like frustration or annoyance. As a result, the choice of music can be pretty varied. But it’s just a reflection of what I’m feeling.

Mornings are a really important time of the day for me. My routine gives the morning some structure and gets the day off to a good start. It’s pretty simple: a morning coffee and chat with my flat-mate while listening to the day’s current events, an interesting podcast, or some cool music. It’s a good moment at the start of the day to connect before we dive into everything the day has to offer.

If you could send a note back to yourself when you needed the most help, what would it say?

Sam experienced depression between the ages of 19 and 20 while coming to grips with living away from home, at university in Dunedin.

How did it make you feel?
Despite feeling lonely, didn’t want to see other people.

Did you take prescribed medication?
Yes, for one month. I was initially prescribed medication, but after a month the doctor decided I didn’t need to continue. I was happy to trust the professionals opinion either way.

Were there any triggers that exacerbated your feelings?
Alcohol is a bad trigger of those feelings for me.

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