It's been an interesting month, and it's been a while since I updated. But I'm up late, can't sleep, and my back pain is particularly brutal at the moment, so I figured I'd take the time to let everyone know what's going on.
Autistics Speaking Day was November 1st. It was our second annual ASDay, and more successful than the last. The permanent ASDay page got more likes, and although we had fewer people who clicked "attending" on the event page this year, we had a significant increase in the number of people who created videos, blog posts, pictures, poems, and other works for ASDay. Last year we had 80; this year we had over 100. Corina and I are very pleased with the results. I wish I'd had more time to devote to promoting it, but as I'll explain in more depth later I've been ridiculously busy this year and I let it go more than I should have. We have links to all of the posts on our blog, including an article in the Guardian. I even made my brother jealous when I found out Stephen Fry tweeted about ASDay, which led to several more people becoming interested in it and me basically freezing for several minutes going, "Stephen Fry knows who I am. Stephen Fry knows who I am," and talking about it to anyone who would listen.
All in all, was a good day, but after it was over I had a drink to calm my nerves and slept for 14 hours. I'm sure I mentioned this before, but it's extremely stressful running an event like ASDay, and the "YES, I DID SOMETHING AWESOME" feeling comes along with feeling overwhelmed and overworked. I think it will be easier for me next year when I'm out of school. I'm really glad I had the opportunity to work with Corina and with all of the people who participated in ASDay. I know it meant a lot to a lot of people, and I think we all deserve a huge round of applause for our work. It will never cease to amaze me what happened last year, and now that I'm here looking back at Kathryn Bjornstad in 2010 I see that ASDay changed my life for the better. It was the first time I really participated in the autistic community, and it was a launching point for me to begin working with ASAN on their communication team, which has put me more in touch with the needs of our community. I feel like I'm making a difference in the world, and I'm doing things I never thought were possible before. I went from seeing myself as an unemployed student with an inferiority complex to seeing myself as an activist. I'm not famous, I'm not all that impressive, I'm not charismatic or anything like that, but I'm still capable of having some kind of an effect on the world.
Corina and I have seen our work pay off. Most of you have probably already heard, but ASAN is having an anniversary fundraiser later this week. When I heard about it I wanted to go but did not think I would be able to. Then I found out that Corina and I were receiving an award for our work on ASDay and I would get to go to the fundraiser in Washington, D.C. to receive it. I am both shocked and extremely excited about this, and I'm grateful to Ari and the others at ASAN for giving me this opportunity. This will be my first time meeting Corina, who changed my life when she first typed out the phrase "Autistics Speaking Day." We work really well together and I consider her a friend, but I've never spoken to her before. I've never met any of my other advocate friends in person before, and I'll be meeting a lot of them this week, including Ari Ne'eman, Melody Latimer, Lydia Brown, Emily Titon, Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone, and possibly others I haven't heard from yet. (Please let me know in the comments if you'll be in D.C. for the fundraiser--I'd love to meet you.)
Trying to attend the fundraiser has created even more work for me, including something you all will hopefully see at the event itself. It's been hard trying to plan the trip while I'm so busy myself. We had to arrange our flights and find a hotel room for both myself and Sean, who I would not be able to travel without since I will melt into a ball of oversensitive mush as soon as the plane's engines start making noise, and I rely on Sean's help a lot, especially in stressful situations. I also had to find clothes suitable for a formal event when I realized the dress I had planned to wear doesn't fit.
It's just been a stressful semester in general for me. I'm taking 16 credit hours at the moment, when I've only been able to survive taking 12 at a time before. At the end of this semester I will be done with school and I'll get the degree I was going through all this pressure for. I'm writing my senior thesis on the history of the autism rights and neurodiversity movements while trying to keep up with work and the rest of my course work. I don't have much time to myself anymore. I normally need to relax for as much time as I spend working in order to retain my sanity, and it has been sadly impossible to do that between everything that's been going on. I've been experiencing more meltdowns and more panic attacks and started taking medication for my anxiety. The stress is causing my muscles to tense, and tense muscles make my back more likely to hurt, and the pain creates an even lower tolerance for stress. I turned 23 a few days ago, and my only wish for my birthday was that I could spend the whole evening letting my back unclench and watching Sean play Fallout: New Vegas. I'm thinking about my upcoming wedding that's only three months away. I'm thinking about the student loans I'll have to start paying off and the terrifying amount of money I spent on my education. I'm thinking about the fact that my house is in desperate need of a cleaning and that it's been a while since my last cortisone injection and I can feel it. I have two papers due while I'm in Washington D.C., one of which is 30 pages and I haven't had time to start on either.
I'm really lucky to be working with people as understanding as the folks at ASAN, who are working with me to make my work load easier. A great deal of my stress is my own fault for not letting them know earlier that I was struggling. I hope once I'm less stressed out that I'll be of more use to them.
I hope I don't sound too depressed or negative. I know everything is going to turn out okay. The thing I want everyone to understand is that my life is a heterogeneous mix of happiness and stress right now. I'm extremely happy with the way my life is going. A year ago I had no idea what my future was going to look like, but now a huge part of the image is clear and the future is very nearly my present. In a few months I will be a college graduate, be married, my resume will have an impressive-looking award and an actual degree to make it prettier, and hopefully I'll be increasing my work at ASAN. But what that means is that my life is changing extremely rapidly, and sometimes that makes things look a little ugly. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but what I need right now is more sleep, a good massage, and a soak in a hot tub. Well, at the very least I can work on the first one as soon as I post this, and I'll wait until the others become possible. I'm looking forward to the event in D.C. and hopefully it will be a nice little vacation for me. Wish me luck!