I've known about this for a couple months, and I think I made reference to it a couple times, but I finally have seen it on the internet so I know it's true! Well, I did know it was true before seeing that, but I wanted to be able to show it before I broke the news. What am I talking about? This link has the news that I am one of the three "2012 Mental health champions of Missouri."
Going back a couple months when I got the phone call, then e-mail telling me I was receiving this award I didn't know what to say or how to take it. I mean, I didn't start writing to get an award (and to be honest, I never intended it becoming a book) and I didn't become a speaker on the matter to receive any type of award either. Because of this I read and reread the e-mail trying to make sense of it.
I have a hard time, and always have, putting stock in what I can do. I don't think anything I've done is special because I simply do it. I began to write as a way of expressing myself on the emotional level because doing so with spoken words was impossible. When I started writing in 2005 I couldn't simply say, "This is difficult because..." or "I need sameness in my life because..." I think I always knew the answers to those questions but I didn't have the words to say it. After finding writing as my voice I could finally express myself. But who was I writing too? Because, as I said, I never intended on being an author.
To put simply, I just wanted to tell my dad who I was and why I was. I knew on this blog I've said this many times, but for those that are new it is important to know this; I'm an author by accident. Maybe that's a good thing because there were no thoughts such as, "Oh, people are going to love this line!" All of my writing was/is a straightforward honest look at myself. So with that being the case it is hard for me, edging on the border of impossible, to be able to understand how it is special in any way. I say the same thing about my presentations. Almost 10,000 people total have attended my presentations over the course of two years and in it I talk about the concepts put forth in my book and usually the reception is very warm. Again, I'm always confused on this because public speaking is something I NEVER THOUGHT I COULD DO. Yet, when I was given the chance I felt I had to because society needs to know. Why? I believe "understanding is the foundation for hope" and if society has a better understanding then I firmly believe that our potential, for those of us on the autism spectrum, will be better realized. Also, after I was diagnosed, the first thing I read about my diagnosis said that, "People with Asperger Syndrome will never have a job, never have friends, and will never be happy."
That was a mean, cruel, and perhaps the worst introduction to a diagnosis. Sadly, I believed those words and for so long I remained in a deep abyss and the word "depressed" didn't even begin to say how I felt. Perhaps the word "hopeless" is the best word to use because that's how I felt. So, as I said, when I was given the chance to speak publicly on the matter I put the fears aside because I hoped that through my words, perhaps, another person or family could avoid the pit of despair I was in for all those months after being diagnosed.
So does all this make me a champion? I still look at that e-mail, and that press release I linked to at the start and I wonder if I deserve the accolade of it. I see myself as just a small part of raising awareness and understanding. I didn't start out with any grand scheme of being published or being noticed for what I am doing. My passion is, quite simply, to raise awareness, understanding, and acceptance for the autism spectrum.
I've never done well receiving praise and this is the highest praise or honor I think I have ever received. Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled to receive this honor, but at the same time when it is hard for me to understand that what I am doing has a high merit it all seems so confusing. In any case though I know it's a big honor and all the way until the banquet in June I will be wondering what, exactly, I have done to deserve the title of a, "Mental health champion of Missouri."