Congrats to Don Q, who very nearly guessed the system used to create this outline, which is a vague guide to what's happening on the blog this year. He suggested the tarot, which is very close because it actually comes from Lenormand cards, another divination system which uses 36 symbol cards. The meanings are broader and more fluid than tarot cards, and I find they make great prompts for writing. So without further ado...
The Rider stirs things up and brings news, new messages, contacts or channels of communication, and generally gets things moving. It breaks down stalemates and communication failures and gets things flowing again, so I think it's an ideal time to talk about reaching out.
Sometimes, we need help. This doesn't just apply to autistic folk, but to everyone. There isn't a single person in the world who hasn't needed someone else's help at some stage.
But we live in a society where our worth as a human being is measured by the size of our bank accounts (and, for women, the size of our bodies) and anyone who needs more than the most basic help is labelled a burden and a drain on resources. A lot of guilt has been attached to the concept of needing help. It's been twisted to mean you're weak, you're pitiful, you're a failure, you're a burden.
This. Is. All. Lies.
A human being is a human being, not something quantifiable by bankroll, IQ or BMI alone. As the amount of help we need changes over time - babies need a fair bit, for instance - so does our ability to give back. This is especially true for autistic people, because we often take longer to develop than our neurotypical peers and that means we're less likely to be ready to flutter out of the nest at 18 as society has decided we should.
So, if you need help, you need help. You deserve that help. You're not just looking for attention, or lazy, or have self esteem problems, or need to think more magical happy rainbow unicorn thoughts, or any of the other lies we're told to shut us up when we ask for help.
So, where does one look for help?
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and it's Australia-centric because that's where I am, but here are some of my experiences over the years:
Autism-specific organisations: These, sadly, can be hit and miss. You might get a good one who can put you in touch with the information you need or you might, like me, be asked repeatedly about "your child" and then sent some pamphlets about socialising written for 13 year olds. Also I've found many support groups tend to be for parents of small children with ASD rather than actual autistic individuals. Suss out what sort of group it is before you decide whether to go along because some of the former are very welcoming of autistic folk, others actively hostile against them.
Your GP: A good GP can organise referrals to counsellors, psychologists, or other medical services you might need - say an occupational therapist to help with sensory or motor skills issues. If you're the sort of person who gets flustered or goes blank when talking to strangers or advocating for yourself, write out a list of things you want addressed to take in and refer to. If money's an issue (and when isn't it?) a bulk billing doctor will save you a bundle in medical expenses.
Counsellors: I've written before about choosing a counsellor, which is different from a psychologist or psychiatrist, for which you'll usually need referrals from your GP. Counsellors are available through Lifeline, various church-run bodies like Centacare, sometimes work out of doctor's surgeries or can be found in private practice. The first two options will be a lot cheaper - many places like those have either free counsellors, or ones that work on a sliding scale so you pay only what you can afford. If you're an atheist or follow a non-mainstream religion you may feel squicky about using a church-run service. Sometimes those concerns will be valid (like the counsellor who suddenly came over all God on me and tried to tell me not to meditate or do yoga, both things which have been shown to benefit people with depression!) but if there's no other choice sometimes you have to either keep quiet about your beliefs, or say 'look, I believe X which is different from your Y, but can we just not go there and focus on the actual problem?'
Community Centres: Don't knock it til you've tried it - these can be surprisingly useful. Most decent sized towns will have some sort of facility, often connected to the local council, where you can ring up or wander in and say 'hey, I'm feeling isolated/need help with this thing/am feeling pretty low, can you point me in the right direction for help?' It might be also be called a neighbourhood centre, community information centre, community outreach centre, or something along those lines. In particularly old-school places it might be called the Citizens' Advice Bureau. Some actually have counsellors or support workers based at the centre, others are more a referral agency to help you find those services which don't necessarily advertise and might be hard to find.
Online resources: Autism-specific forums or Facebook groups can be a chance to connect with other people in the same situation and ask where they've found help. Especially if you can find a group for your general area, you can ask if anyone can recommend a good GP/counsellor/physio/employment service. They're also great for just general fellowship and talking to people who 'get' you. While we're talking online resources, the #actuallyautistic tag on Tumblr is also worth checking out for advice and activism stuff.
Think laterally about what other services you might be eligible for: so, there's no autism-specific support in your area, or what there is only caters to small children. Are there any other categories you might fit into that have their own services? For instance, if you belong to an ethnic or cultural minority, are a youth or an older person, have another disability or health issue, come from a non-English speaking background or are a woman trying to return to work after having children, suss out those avenues to see if there's anything that can help. It's not cheating, it's being creative about getting what you deserve.
Your job/school/uni: If you're studying, your school or uni should have some sort of assistance available, although depending on the particular institution it can range from free access to full medical facilities to one creepy counsellor. If you're working, some employers have an Employee Assistance Scheme which can help, even if it's just emergency help to tide you over until something more long-term can be found. If something like this exists, take advantage of it while you can.
Emergency help: If you're feeling really bad right now, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 to talk to someone.
Photo: Havasupai Campground, Coconino county, Arizona, from the US National Archives collection, now in the public domain. Via Flickr