Warning, I am going to start this article by showing off!
I am a capable person. I make a positive difference in the world. I help people. I do good.
I am a published author, nine times over. Nine books, that is, and I have been published in nearly two hundred magazines, journals, blogs and so on—in all kinds of print and online media. I speak at a national level, influencing professional practice and policy in the fields of education, care and therapy. I contribute to creating a more inclusive society. I have won awards. I have met celebrities. I have done a TED talk. I’ve been on television. I’ve been interviewed by radio stations around the world. I’ve seen myself referenced on inspirational posters in entrance halls, I’ve even been called an ‘influencer’ which for someone in their forties without an Instagram account feels like quite an achievement, and there is even a classroom named after me somewhere with children in attendance who belong to the Joanna Grace class at that school!
That is the end of the showing off.
I was not always a capable person. There were times when I struggled to make a difference to my own life let alone to the lives of other people. I did not help myself, in fact, I hurt myself…and my body still carries the scars.
I was a cause of worry, a cause of fears. I hurt those who loved me. I was the root of misunderstandings. At home and at work relationships failed. At work developing my social skills was listed as a target for me to work on.
I was bullied. I was abused. I was mentally broken. I felt defeated by life.
I wonder if the people who knew me when I could not speak, or the people who knew me when I burnt out at work, or those who witnessed my mental health decline… I wonder if those people think I have changed.
Did I learn new skills?
Was I put on medication?
Did I go to therapy?
Did I get fixed?
What is the difference between the me who was capable and the me who was not? What is the difference between the me who suffered and caused others to suffer, and the me who helps others? What is the difference between the me who could not speak and the me who speaks on National platforms? What is the difference between the me deemed to not relate well to others, and the me who spends her evenings quietly messaging people in distress acting as a guide in their storms?
What is the difference?
Nothing about me changed.
Nothing about me is different.
So, what changed?
The answer is simple: The environment changed. My context changed. When I tried to work in an environment that did not suit my neurotype I failed and struggled; I crashed and burned. When I occupy a space that matches with who I am, I thrive.
I have worked for myself for 10-years now. I have been in control of who I talk to, how I organise my day, how much I go out, how much I stay in. For 10 years I have been able, I have been capable. For 10-years I have made a difference.
Last month I began to work for someone else again…
Now I am remembering what it is like to be disabled.
And I hope I will survive. I hope it is worth it. I hope I can still be capable and useful. But I know that in order to survive, in order to continue to make a difference, I must first try to make a difference to the place where I work. If they are willing to adapt to me, they will employ me and all of my capabilities. If they cannot….then I am not sure how long I will last.
Thank you to all those workplaces already making adaptations to accommodate my neurokin, and thank you to all of those people who have gone before me and who have spoken up and asked for change. You might have thought you were doing it for yourself, but you helped make the world more accessible for all of us. Thank you.
To see my books please visit www.TheSensoryProjects.co.uk/books
To read the articles I have written scroll down my LinkedIn profile to the publications section www.LinkedIn.com/In/JoannaGraceTheSensoryProjects .
To see what I get up to find me on twitter @Jo3Grace and facebook www.Facebook.com/JoannaGraceTSP