I feel like for years I held my breath excitedly for Autism Awareness Month.
I got excited for April 2nd every year. I could barely contain my excitement. I wanted to find some way to be a part of Autism Awareness Month. I did TV interviews or blog posts. It didn’t matter as long as it was to inspire hope for others, like me, on the Autism Spectrum so that they didn’t feel alone.
Then, life got even harder than usual.
My divorce happened. Homelessness happened. Life didn’t seem so hopeful. But I didn’t give up completely. Despite sleeping on a friend’s couch after losing my apartment and my job, I continued to work on my book, The Quiet Bear, gave a talk at the college library in Tomball Texas, and did a TV interview with Fox 26 in Houston.
When I moved back to Massachusetts in 2016, I put my focus on getting my own life back on track. We can only give when we fill our own cup. I quit smoking and started working on self-love and self-care. I needed to find my own voice again. It took some time. But I rose back up again like a phoenix; stronger this time for having faced such adversity.
I became brave enough to breathe.
Amidst the smaller brave things I’ve done lately, I decided to do something bigger and that was to finally start advocating again for others. More recently, I started the Breathe Boston Autism Project which provides sensory care packages for children at Boston Children’s Hospital Autism Center and adults with ASD at AANE and The ARC of the South Shore.
The Rotary Club in Needham has partnered with my project to provide care packages once a month to Boston Children’s Hospital Autism Center, Boston Medical Center’s Autism Program, as well as helping me put together a some care packages for clients of AANE and a classroom donation to The Walker School. My reach continues to expand as I have made more connections with other hospitals as well. It’s so exciting to step out of my comfort zone with this because it feels more than worth the bravery.
I took this a step further and filed to make this an actual non-profit which has been a dream of mine. I’m dreaming again and I’m not waiting for April to make a difference anymore. I believe in good things again. I’m brave enough to stop holding my breath and speak again.
I had lost my voice in the Autism community.
I didn’t feel connected anymore. But I feel like it’s coming back. While I can only ever speak from my own experience, I know there are so many times I’ve wished for a reminder I wasn’t alone. I wished for tools to help me calm down. I want to be a part of making sure others in the Autism community never feel alone.
Speaking of unity and support, I could never have even truly started this without the support of everyone around me! This includes The Rotary Club of Needham for its extraordinary support in helping me with boxes, to Geek Club Books and Zoom Autism Magazine for helping me find my voice in the community again, The Needham Times for sharing my story and the following for their contributions to the “Dear Friend” letters project and/or items for the care packages: Needham Florist, Franklin TV, Warby Parker, Broadway in Boston, LuluLemon, Breathe Cambridge, Pinestraw, Sounds Like Autism, TLC Eyewear, Little Words Project, Bed Bath & Beyond, Blenders Eyewear, Sensory Goods, Erin Cole, Katrina Araujo, Libby Pero, her family, and Capron Lighting and Sound Co Inc., Ernest Steeves, Wendi Dial, Jane Frances Giordano, Kim Silverman, Erin Clemens, Rachel Barcellona, Haley Moss, Sue Abramowski, Dani Bowman, Darrin Dickie, Per Ardua Photography, and ASN Life Coaches LLC. This list just keeps growing which is incredible.
It all started with an idea at lunch with a friend and it has grown into something beautiful.
This April I want to challenge you to plant a seed of bravery. What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do to help others or to grow to become the best version of you? What’s one thing you can do this month to take one brave step in that direction? With discernment, go for it. I believe in you. Together we can make a difference.
If you liked this post, you may also like:
- More “Being Brave” essays by Gretchen Leary
- Self-Care ideas by Autistics FOR Autistics
- Hear Our Spectrum of Voices Comic
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