Yes it is that time again – self-reflection and contemplation and that sort of thing. Hopefully my reflection will include some relatable and useful nuggets for readers to consider.
My 2016 has been an amazing year in many ways. If you look at my social media posts there are all sorts of tangible achievements I have had – awards, public speaking opportunities, books being published and contracts for more books. The sorts of things which make my parents very happy to introduce me to their friends. These days I have a lot of ‘parental pride points’. That may sound a little trite and self-indulgent so I will qualify it with the ‘that was then, this is now’ story (briefly). This time twenty years ago I was incredibly unwell with mental illness. I was socially disadvantaged and excluded. I had every desire to ruin my life. I hated myself. I was a prisoner and would be a prisoner, homeless person, drug addicts and alcoholic for some years to come. I was apparently without hope. I am ashamed to say I turned my parents into the couple sitting up the back of the Autism support group feeling and and not wanting to share what their child was doing,
Somewhere between then and now I changed my attitudes to life and started on a much more positive journey. I won’t list these accomplishments but suffice to say I am a largely very happy, insightful, fulfilled, respected person who has pride in what I do and is passionate abut driving positive change for Autistic people and those who love us.
In the eleven years of my advocacy journey I have learned a lot about myself and the world. So while on paper 2016 was the most eventful, exciting and fulfilled year of my life, all that excitement was paired with some changes and realisation which I don’t put on Facebook so much. These include:
- A loyal friend is a beautiful and highly valuable person. Reciprocate and respect that person.
- I have a mental illness. It results in lots of suffering. I used to worry I would go to hospital and have to miss a bunch of presentations and things. I don’t worry about that future at the moment – or I try not to at least. When I am unwell I seek the required assistance and support and remind myself that everyone suffers. Where it leads to is largely up to how I approach that suffering. If I catastrophise and worry, the worst usually occurs. If I remind myself that suffering is part of existence and I will get through it, it actually makes it a lot more manageable and less likely to result in hospital or other nasties.
- Lacking assertiveness is not an option for me. I am available to pretty much anyone in the world who wants to talk to me. This is a choice but it does sadly involve occasionally having to set a limit or stand up to someone. I am constantly surprised how I have taken on this skill. in short space of time. Necessity is the mother of invention as they say. I’m very proud of my ability to be assertive in a firm but respectful way.
- There are people in the world who want to hurt and abuse people from minority or disadvantaged groups. As I belong to a fair number of those groups,I feel I have a reasonability to support others being victimised and take a stand in what I say. I really don’t ever want to stand idly by and watch when evil and discrimination and hate occur.
- I have finally learned to not be competitive against other people. Someone succeeding is not ‘stealing’ my success. This has been an ingrained attitude with me for years. I hated it as I felt really guilty about being jealous. It saddens me that I had to have a bunch of success in order to overcome my jealousy but it is how it is I guess.
- I am less ashamed of my ego. Someone once told the that I wouldn’t be able to put myself into the world without confidence and a fair whack of ego. So I guess as long as my ego is kept on a leash and that I am only competing against myself, it can actually be a positive attribute.
- I learned that other people are anxious about putting writing and thoughts into the world in case anyone says mean things. I don’t think like that very often. Finding out that others do this made me more self conscious about posting blogs but thankfully my social media family are almost all very lovely and supportive.
- I learned that disagreement from others can drive learning and growth. Providing the disagreement is from place of respect – on both sides – it can actually be very useful.
- I also realised that I learn something from every conversation I have around Autism.
- I had so ay people telling me that my work has made a difference in their life. I also learned that taking this gratitude on board can be a bit overwhelming, so I just tend to say ‘thank you’ to them and not get into a discussion about my apparently excellent work.
- I learned that I do not need everyone to like me.
- I learned through friends that Mr Kitty loves me as much – or possibly more – than I love him. I am eternally grateful for the gift of Mr Kitty. expel who don;t strongly relate to animals may not understand this, but being given Mr Kitty was the single most influential event in me recovering form three years of mental ill health.
People are gelling me ‘onwards and upwards’ for next year. I”m not sure how this works. The last three years of my life have been incrementally more and more amazing and presumably this can’t happen each year or by 2026 I will be the supreme leader of the universe (and I don’t want that!!!!) I think each year has different challenges and learnings. I have applied to start a PhD next year so that will be another adventure. I have all I need right now. Consolidation and supporting the careers of others will be my goals for next year.
Thank you for your support, kind words and contribution to my understanding of life. I am privileged to be here, privileged to get to do all the things I do and grateful for every moment. I look forward to doing my thing next year.
OK, this one is an accomplishment. I am actually very proud of this. It was the ceremony where I received my 2016 ACT Volunteer of the Year award
4 thoughts on “Reflections on a helpful year”
Thanks, Ms JP. A really warming post. I am struggling this week, so you sharing this has helped me feel not so alone.
I wish you a safe and enjoyable holiday season. It will be exciting to see what is in store for you this next year!
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Jeannette good on you; but once you put mental illness into the autism mix you are not helping autistic people but mentally ill people yes. Autism is not mental illness & combining the two only caused greater confusion & discrimination.
Fallon, I am an Autistic woman with schizophrenia. I write my experience. There are a lot of other people on the autism spectrum with an a mental illness too. I co-wrote a book aiming to support people with dual diagnosis of Autism and mental illness and also help clinicians treating us understand better. It is called The Guide to Good Mental Health on the Autism spectrum. I have NEVER in my life stated that Autism and mental illness are the same thing because they aren’t. I happen to have both. That is me. I write from my experience. Leaving one or other condition out would be sort of dishonest
Also, I have devoted thousands of hours of unpaid work to Autism advocacy. I work the equivalent of an additional largely unpaid full-time job on top of my actual full-time job to support Autistic people and those that love us, and promote neurodiversity. So saying I am ‘not helping autistic people’ seems a bit rude and not really a reflection of what I do. I could cite hundreds of autistic people who have thanked me for my work and a lot of what I do is not public knowledge.