Autistic Minds put on one of the most important events in the calendar for the neurodiverse. The charity is, without hyperbole, one of the most welcoming events I have ever attended. But – today, I didn’t walk away feeling like I’d done my best.
Let’s get a few things out of the way;
- Wales is amazing. So many epic stories in my life have come from here.
- Autistic Minds may be the nicest convention team in the UK.
- The audience they pull in are fabulous, kind, invested and safe.
So why am I walking away from the event feeling I failed in one key part of my purpose for being there? It goes back to my talk. There was a part where an audience member was open about their mental health and spoke about the pull of intrusive thoughts. An incredibly brave statement and one I didn’t want to unpack to an audience. While I applaud the courage – it wasn’t my place to Dr Phil that.
Instead, I asked him to catch up with me afterwards. I’d planned to drive their attention to a stand in the upper part of the event, where the perfect people were there to address this. In that, I failed – because I went for coffee and cake almost immediately after getting off stage. Having just gone for 45 minutes, my brain was a bit fried and I needed a minute.
Unfortunately, despite making many laps of the event, I never saw the audience member again – and it has stuck with me. Most of my talk was talking about ‘sliding door’ moments, and I feel I may have operated the doors on one here. So, if by some chance they see this – here’s a quick slice of pie for how I handle intrusive thoughts.
For me, I de-escalate, disarm and and deconstruct with a simple word; kumquat.
In my experience, intrusive and armed feelings and thoughts have a different identity and can be almost picked out of a lineup from regular feelings and thoughts. My method for making them feel immediately less threatening was to attach a moniker to them, turning them into unserious and almost comical ones.
Kumquat is a ridiculous word. It just is – say it to yourself and try remain serious. You can’t, it tickles your own mind and you have to crack a smile. Nothing can be taken seriously when it’s a Kumquat.
As I made laps of Cardiff City Stadium trying to locate the audience member, I hoped they had access to a support network. Being able to speak about the issue in a forum, to a guy they had never met before, made me feel they might.
For anyone reading this who wants to put intrusive thoughts and feelings right into the ridiculous category – disarm them with a foolish word like Kumquat. It’s not the ultimate answer, nor am I qualified to give one. In my experience, however, just disarming them long enough to open up to a professional can make all the difference.
Be kind to each other, reach out to your people and just let them know you’re around. If blue shirt person ever sees this – I am sorry we didn’t catch up. I tried to find you. You are seen!