You may wonder why my blog title has been ‘AWEgust′ for a while. The reason for this is that I’m undertaking a challenge to raise money to train more mentors for the I CAN Network. I will be writing a blog post every day between now and the 31 August. So far some good people have donated $18.50 and I’ve had a promise of $93, which is good but I am hoping the raise a little more than that. Here is the link for donations if you feel the need.
This will be my last AWEgust blog, so if you feel the need, dig deep and help support the good people at the I CAN Network doing great things to help young people on the spectrum. I often reflect on how great it would have been had they been around when I was a teenager,
I want to talk about our Autism community and about some things which trouble me. Firstly I should say that compared to most large groups of humanity, I think we’re doing pretty well. There is not a lot of hatred and trolling and vindictiveness between individual Autistic people. Soemtimes there is and it is frowned upon by most. Most of the unpleasantness and hate seems to come from outside of our community, which is unfortunately nothing new – Autistic folks have been hated and discriminated against for a very long time. It is my hope and aim that this will decrease with the application of advocacy but it is a tough battle.
What has been concerning me of late is some of the shaming that is done to people who don’t fit within others’ expectation of what an advocate should do. I found myself on the receiving end of this kind of thing a few weeks ago. I see myself as a pretty strong Autistic self-advocate. I love and value myself complete with all my Autie attributes. I see and promote strengths and not deficits within myself and my Autistic peers and promote this. I spend around 30 unpaid hours each week trying to make the world a more understanding and respectful place for Autistic adults and children. So when somebody suggested I was essentially letting the side down for speaking at an event which they did not like and cast aspersions on my advocacy credentials, I was more than a little bit annoyed. I am very tough and was more irritated than upset at this person’s comments but what about advocates and speakers who are just starting out? Seriously, don’t we have enough to contend with without turning on one another. There we go. End of rant 🙂
I spoke at a mental health conference today which I really enjoyed. As you may have noticed from my earlier posts, I have been a bit unwell lately with my mental illness. In fact a week ago I was so anxious I was worried I wouldn’t be able to attend the conference today. Despite having improved during the week, I was still quite anxious today when I got to the convention centre. I worried that I wouldn’t know anyone at the conference or that most of the delegates would be arrogant psychiatrist types, but thankfully I knew lots of people (y’know, because I have been involved in mental illness advocacy in Canberra for some time. I guess I forgot). I was speaking in a panel session and I have a wonderful time. Of course I am rarely nervous when I get up on stage. Looking at the empty lecture theatre slowly fill with people who have chosen to listen to what I have to say is alway enjoyable. My talk was well-received. People afterwards said I speak effortlessly. I had them laughing, I got them thinking and at the end of the session I had a long line of eager people buying books and getting Jeanette business cards. It was a perfect entrée to the next conference I am speaking at, the Aisa Pacific Autism Conference in two weeks time. Goodbye nerves, hello confidence!
Today was a lovely day for me. At 1:40 am I got up to feed the insistent Kitty and checked my emails. There was one from the mental health editor of disability and mental health advocacy organisation The Mighty. I have been in correspondence with her for the past couple of weeks as I submitted a story to them about my own mental health journey and the actions of a very lovely manager at my work who was very supportive when I was realy unwell with psychosis a few years ago. When I submitted the story, it was more to challenge myself to write to their specifications than to have it published. I thought there was no way an international organisation would want anything from a small-time writer like me. Despite this, I did my best – I have such a strong work ethic that I do everything to the highest standard I can. Three days later there was an email from the emtnal health editor at The Mighty saying that she would ‘love to publish your story’. Then came a week or so of anxious email-checking whenever I woke up. And today at 1:40 the email was there. I read the story and saw that they had edited it for length so it was not quite ‘mine’ but it flowed nicely anyway. I feel so proud and honoured to be featured in this forum. I am also excited to announce my ‘other’ diagnosis – atypical schizophrenia – more publicly. I have always struggled to accept that particular label but I am getting much more comfortable with it. Here is my story if you want to read it:
I had a relaxing day today. That might sound usual for a weekend but for the past eighteen months I have not stopped. Life has been full and challenging and exciting. But today – apart from practising a couple of talks – I had a day off. And it was lovely. I’m about to pour a glass of wine and watch television. Ahhhhh
This is my last AWEgust post. I haven’t raised a lot of money yet but I have enjoyed the process of writing these blogs. Since I started out on 1 August I have:
- Written 31 blog posts
- Had a story published in The Mighty
- Spoken at a mental health conference
- Had two movie nights and one women’s group
- Finished my part of a collaborative book on Autism and mental health
- Written some poems
- Painted some paintings
- Been approved for an ACT working with vulnerable people card
- Laughed at cranky picture of me on said working with vulnerable people card
- Had dinners with lots of good people in the Autism world
- Worked full-time
- Been invited to deliver a keynote speech at one conference and speak at another
- Cuddled Mr Kitty
- Cuddled Mr Kitty some more
- Talked to my Mum
- Talked to my Dad
- Talked to some other good people
- Had a guest blog on my higher education journey published in Tasmania
- Eaten 31 dinners, 31 breakfasts and 31 lunches (and some snacks)
- Listened to a lot of folk music
- Celebrated my dad’s 70th birthday
- Interviewed Professor Tony Attwood, Emma Dalmayne, Geraldine Robertson and Anita Lesko and Abraham Nielsen for Jeanette’s Autism (radio) Show
- Sent out four ‘Jeanette’s Weekly Emails’
- Had church at the Mawson Club (twice)
- Prepared for the following talks:
- Employment presentation at Asia Pacific Autism Conference
- Resilience presentation at Asia Pacific Autism Conference
- Creativity and recovery talk for The Mental Health Services Conference
- Presentation with Professor Temple Grandin and Time Sharp in November
- Mental Health and Autism talk for expo in November
- Education and Autism talk for the Autism Teaching Institute (have been giving a talk there each year since 2006)
- Been interviewed for the ABC Radio 666 Sunday Brunch programme
- Lots of other things….
Thank you for reading these blogs. Please feel free to donate some money to the I Can Netowrk. They are doing some great things.
What more fitting way to bid my AWEgust challenge farewell than to post an image of me speaking about Autism and resilience for TEDx Canberra.