Currently my biggest interest is public speaking. I get a lot of satisfaction out of raising awareness of autism by telling people about my experiences growing up without a diagnosis, and my current life now that I have a diagnosis. I like the fact that I am hopefully helping people to think about autism in a better way, and to see beyond the stereotypes. I am very non-stereotypical: female, hopelessly bad at maths and puzzles, no interest in gadgets or mechanical machines, interested in people, very passionate and expressive, and I have no special abilities. Telling people about my life with autism is cathartic and healing. It helps me to clear up old wounds because I can feel part of a wider movement that is seeking to change societal attitudes around neurological difference.
However, public speaking is very anxiety provoking. I get a lot of anxiety in the run up to talks. I have to battle against my introverted nature by getting up and talking to people. My school years severely eroded my confidence, and I still often feel insecure when around people. Public speaking helps me to re-gain some confidence, and it is lovely when people tell me that I did a good job. Public speaking is one of the few social situations where I am in control, and this makes me feel good. Public speaking also provides me with a sense of self, albeit a fragile one. I am someone who gives talks, this is now part of my identity. However, I worry that something will stop me from delivering a talk. Maybe I will get ill, or I will miss a train. Maybe a scheduled event will be cancelled. If this happened I would be devastated because nothing would tell me who I am anymore, and nothing else in my life carries as much meaning or significance. So this interest is positive on the one hand, because it gets me out of the house, and motivates me to travel to new locations and to be around people. But on the negative side, it is anxiety provoking to have such an intense interest. I have had intense interests all my life. I don’t seem to be able to avoid extreme interest, and this is a bittersweet blessing.
Postnote: I did a talk today on dealing with change. I am pleased to report that everything went to plan. Last night I only slept for 4 hours, so I was very tired, but despite feeling anxious, I kept a calm exterior. After the event I am now feeling extremely tired.