Saving Walden

In a few day’s time, I would be travelling to Australia and embarrass myself to attend a mental health conference. Not only will I be attending, I am actually going to embarrass myself make a presentation. My first ever public presentation! I can’t believe this is really happening. This could be the longest 30 minutes of my life and I’ve been thinking if I should pull myself out from the event and save myself from public humiliation while there’s still time! But first of all, allow me to explain how this actually happen. Your comments are greatly appreciated at the end.

For the past few months, I have submitted abstracts to a few mental health related conferences that will be taking place in Australia. There were two reasons that prompted this idea. First, although I’ve only worked in the field of mental health related research for less than a year, it was long enough to spark me to challenge and rethink the way we deal with mental health issues in the community, specifically, the way in which diverse needs are addressed (or not addressed) and how the medical model of mental health increases the stigma of autism. Second, I’m on the point of giving up and this could be the breakthrough I need to keep my dream alive. I don’t know exactly how giving a public presentation is going to help, all I know is I need a breakthrough, move out of my comfort zone, do something audacious, even silly. I need help, save myself, save Walden. As the saying goes, desperate circumstances call for desperate measures.

The topic of my abstract and presentation is reducing the stigma associated with autism, in particular, I wish to highlight the role of mental health professionals and researchers in reducing the stigma surrounding autism. My concerns stem from my interactions with colleagues at work, the projects I’m working on (eg. this 1 and this 2) and the academic papers I’ve read on autism and sue-side-the-li-ty (you guess what I mean, I’m purposely spelling it this way to increase the challenges of the machine learning process should anyone be thinking of using AI to detect relevant words). The incident involving the university’s misleading article was another precursor. Studies have found a higher rate of sue-side amongst the autistic populations. Researchers claimed to be ‘concerned’ and they are asking why. This is something statistics are not going to explain, so they did what quantitative researchers do and speculate, but why aren’t they asking the autistic people themselves, why don’t they listen to us and see what we write? So much for being ‘concerned’. This triggered my social justice instincts, we really need to raise the awareness of diversity.

The first abstract I sent out was to a sue-side peevention conference. My original idea was to do a qualitative research but I would need ethics approval for that before I could engage with human participants, which is not possible given that I’m using my personal time to do this as I don’t have the support of my employer. After that, I revised my abstract to put more focus on my lived experience, but I’d still need to engage with the academic literature, and it is here that I worry I won’t be able to prepare and cover all the materials. I have yet to think about the points I’d like to cover and I’ve got only just a week left. In the meantime, I have other deadlines to meet for my work. This is what I lament about when I write that I don’t have other capacity left to work on my personal stuff after work. Is it my excuse for being lazy? I don’t know. I do know however the struggle with fatigue is real, as well as the struggle with executive functioning.

So what do you think? Should I drop out of the program now? The only thing with that is I’ll be back to square one. Yes, I fear I would embarrass myself. I worry I won’t deliver a good presentation. I’m getting butterflies in my stomach as I’m writing this. But let me tell you what I fear even more right now. I fear that things have remained unchanged for so long, it will always remain unchanged. I fear putting life on hold. I fear a life with no purpose. I dread the feeling of waking up each morning, just to go to work and survive. If I’m dying, I want to face my execution now, not later. I feel unsettled by the unexpected but right now, I fear the expected more than anything else. I suppose from the way I just described, dropping out is not an option, in which case, is it too much to ask for your blessing? I’m aware I don’t deserve one for my laziness but in my defence, I’m doing all of this on my own, without a support. I often wish to have a mentor who can offer me advice and guide me through, but since I don’t have one, I’m finding my own way, doing it my way. I don’t know how this is going to help, since the conference is organized by a university, maybe I can get some feedback from interested parties on whether or not I have a promising research proposal, or maybe after all I’ve done, I’ll still be back to square one, but I guess in life, we don’t always do things knowing how it would turn out. Should I mention and publicise my blog (assuming anonymity is not a concern)? I’ll be interested to hear your suggestions, or if there’s anything you would like to share about your experiences as an autistic dealing with stigma and the mental health profession (including crisis services), you’re welcome to leave a note.

(On a separate note, here’s a little more about the first abstract I sent to another conference, which is not the one I’m attending next week. It was not accepted for oral presentation but was accepted for a 3-minute thesis presentation contest. I am dropping this out, partly because this might exceed my budget as I’m paying for everything out of my own pocket. It is also probably a good idea to drop out of this because I just got an email yesterday, notifying that the original keynote speaker they have invited for this conference is now unable to attend and they have now invited someone else…who erm…is my employer! Actually, this might be a great opportunity to have a face-to-face dialogue with my employer on an important issue but I don’t think I’m up for this challenge yet, it could become a scandal.)

Do I know what I’m doing? Hell no. I don’t have any answers. Wish me luck.

We don’t know, The Strumbellas
Well I know it gets harder every single day
And I know my darkness might never go away
It’s hard when you’re living and you don’t feel much
And you’re down and you’re hoping that things are gonna change
Oh we don’t know the roads that we’re heading down
We don’t know if we’re lost, that we’ll find a way
We don’t know if we leave, will we make it home
We don’t know, there’s hope, then we’ll be okay
And some say it gets brighter
We just have to wait
Mother mother, I can feel your heart break
Burning through me every single day
It’s hard when you’re living and you don’t feel much
And you’re down and you’re hurting ’cause you don’t feel loved
It’s hard when you’re living and you don’t feel much
And you’re down and you’re hoping that things are gonna change
Oh we don’t know the roads that we’re heading down
We don’t know if we’re lost, that we’ll find a way
We don’t know if we leave, will we make it home
We don’t know, there’s hope, then we’ll be okay
Oh there’s something in my mind that’s killing me
There’s something that this life’s not giving me
Would you say
Oh we don’t know the roads that we’re heading down
We don’t know if we’re lost, that we’ll find a way
We don’t know if we leave, will we make it home
We don’t know, there’s hope, then we’ll be okay

Featured image of a lizard (not sure of what kind) taken at the Jenolan Caves in Australia, NSW. I choose this image to symbolise facing my fear because I fear lizards.

22 thoughts on “Saving Walden

  1. I was thinking how courageous you are to do this and yes, to go for it. Then it all turned about face when your employer is to be the keynote speaker. I really don’t know now. If it wasn’t your first one I think my thought would be to do it. As it is your first… I really don’t know what you should do. I apologise that I’m absolutely no help at all but I couldn’t leave without commenting.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh no, the one I’m going is a different conference, not the one where my employer is the keynote speaker. Let me go back and clarify in case others misunderstood as well. I’ll come back to your comment.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. Thanks Tracey! I hope I have made it clearer 🙂
      I do appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. In fact, you’ve been missed. But I’m also glad to know that you are spending more time on your craft projects and making videos, essentially, doing what you love. That’s all that matters. Thanks again and looking forward to see more of your lovely creations ❤

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh my dear, I’m so excited for you! ✊💪💃👏👏 This is EXACTLY what you need. I just know it. Yes, it’s scary, but you don’t give yourself nearly enough credit.
    This could lead to that fork in the road. You just had a great example of hope and perseverance with the lady and her lost pupper. I, personally, would take that as a positive sign.
    Speak from your heart! This is an issue you’re passionate about and it will come through.

    Do you follow Jeanette Purkis’s blog? She’s autistic and has mental health issues and does teaching and presentations in Australia. Maybe you can contact her for advice.

    I’m jumping up and down in excitement for you!! Big hugs my Kookaburra friend! You’ll do awesome!!💌💌💌💌💌

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Yes, I follow her blog. You’ve always been so supportive, I can’t thank you enough!💜
      I can hear the kookaburra is laughing at me lol😆 It is exciting, I'll send you a postcard there 💕🐨💌

      Liked by 4 people

  3. I think this is wonderful! What an amazing opportunity. I can understand the apprehension, even fear. The lion’s share of the impression people come away with lies in the delivery. You don’t necessarily need to have every fact completely straight 😉; just get up there and deliver the info you have like you own it 😁💪🏼. You can insert a statement something along the lines of “there’s a huge body of information on this topic that it’s difficult to sift through all of it” (or, conversely, “there’s little research on this topic, so not much is known”) in order to manage the audience’s expectations, if you need to 😉 I agree with the others who are excited for you and I share that excitement 💓💓. You can totally do this. You’re ready. You’re prepared. You’re strong. You’re you 😍💗👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼🍀🍀💟🌷

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks my luv, you’ve got great advice and thanks for the tips, really useful! 👏 I am so grateful, I don’t know what to do without my lovely, dearest friends here. I love ya ❤️💗 💛 💚 💙 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Of course you should go! First of all it’s in your very favorite place…Australia! Then, you have something very good to offer the world in your thoughts. No one can do that except you. We don’t have to do everything in this world. We only have to do the one thing that’s in front of us. Some days that one thing is to sit still and love our cat and it makes a difference. Blessings?! You deserve all the blessings we can send you…and more. Take great care, suzanne 😊❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your wise words.😘 I have to do this for myself.💪 I still have the weekend to prepare for the trip.✈️ But I’m also starting to miss my cat now.😹 Thanks for making me feel better, have a nice weekend! 💗

      Liked by 2 people

  5. What a brilliant opportunity for you Dream, l admire you for what you are about to do. Sometimes in order to break the Top Gun Moments we must face our biggest fears.

    You are a lovely autism advocate and l feel sure that you will perform superbly with this – if you want a hint – don’t focus on anyone’s face, look above the sea of faces or look fixedly at one face right at the back. I used to be a trainer and although l loved creating the modules l hated giving live performances to trainees. I would sweat, sometimes cry, throw up, but someone told me to only think of the end path, deliver the module and for goodness sake don’t look at anyone in the front part of the audience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t intend to look at anyone, I’m autistic, I’m supposed to be bad at eye contact! lol 😂 On a serious note, thanks for the tips, if you haven’t said it, I was thinking of looking at the front audience, probably not a good idea. Thanks for the advice! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Pleasure – the reason for not looking at the front part of the audience is that they are 1] too close and you will see them and 2] if you make an eye contact you can lose focus on what you must deliver 🙂

        I used to pick a face right at the back and or an imaginary spot above one’s face at the back, and occasionally planning three spots so right, centre and left on that spot so it made me look like l was a0 animated and b0 was addressing the actual audience when in fact all l did was simply present my module and had actually switched off to the audience lol 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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