Avalanches, Beyond Blue and Laughter Yoga

Laugh. I love making people laugh.

Yet I have not laughed much myself for near on two years.  The decision to move to Melbourne after living remote for a long time has been hard.

It has taken a monumental mental health crash to realise this. My social anxiety has been debilitating since a workplace injury.  But I am working really hard to recover.  But I need to sleep a lot, and I have had to ask for help and get help like I haven’t had to since my 20’s (when I was recovering from a temporary brain injury).

Part of that is doing the things I love that are light years away from Community Services. In fact, it looks like I can no longer work in community services and I have had to grieve that.  One burn out too many.

I do have two comedy performances coming up (a creativity workshop and a small run of four shows in March) – but I was hoping that this year I would be performing more, not less. This mental health crash means I still need to perform, I just don’t have the spoons to do it much and I have to get lots of support to be able to. Self-care has been a struggle, but friends have rallied around and I am immensely grateful to them.

Yesterday I did the washing six times, the same washing. Because I would forget and go to sleep and…yep…rinse cycle.

Some might think that the definition of irony for someone who loves writing, producing and performing comedy is to experience the mental health challenges as I do.

Or is it? Oh dear, there is that dreaded stereotype about comedians and mental health.  But it isn’t just comedians.  It’s everyone that is at risk.

I repeat. EVERYONE.

I started this blog a long time ago when I was about to trek the Annapurna circuit in the Himalayas and this blog was to raise funds for Beyond Blue. And to talk about happiness, of all things. Since then it morphed into my comedy website.

The fact is that trip to Nepal was life changing, the evolution of this blog reflects that fact.  I was trekking with a partner and during the trek we just missed being caught in the October 2014 avalanche and freak storm that killed 39.  Our next two days of trekking were very scary indeed.

Things unravelled. My partner and I split two days later and when I returned to Australia I moved out two days after we landed.  The stress of these things brings truth to the fore.

For me that truth was, bisexual me was forcing a relationship that was making me miserable.  Playing house.  Those who know me well know that this is plainly ridiculous.  Even more ridiculous is that since then I have realised I am also grey asexual, meaning real attractions for me are rarer than for most. I was bullying myself to conform.

Today I felt like, for the first time since an awful period of suicidality in November/December 2019 – like I could be aware enough to count my blessings.  Whilst I practice gratitude, when you are facing intense mental health challenges you can be practicing but not really practicing.

Some things I have shed from my 45th year (the beginning of this blog) to my 50th year:

  • Gender binary conformity
  • Giving a shit about what other people think about me
  • Denial of my neurodiversity – being okay with both the strengths and impairment of being autistic and having chronic illness
  • The desire to conform to ideas of monetary success (money stress still sucks though)
  •  Throwing in the bin any remaining concerns about the expectations of my family to be CISHET, regular job, non-artistic or any of there discrimination of the basis of neurodivergence.

Some things I am embracing:

  • Family isn’t biological.  My friends are my family.
  • Love is love and everyone deserves it.
  • It’s okay to need help.
  • I like me for the first time ever.
  • The status quo is not for me, so an arts career is probably where I should be!
  • I don’t have to be all things to all people.
  • Don’t read the comments.
  • Fuck shame.  It can piss off.
  • ENBY BI GREY-A intersectionality.
  • Block trolls.
  • Stay political.

So now, at the beginning of my 50th year I think it’s time to laugh more.  Very soon I will be a laughter yoga leader and delivering this will make sure I am laughing with others, regularly.

I am going to laughter yoga, comedy write and rest myself back to better health.  I am very limited in the time I can spend on any task at the moment and I am aware this is long path yet.  But I will persist. To quote Joe Cocker, “I’ll get by with a little help from my friends”.

Picture of me laughing for attention.


Being okay with not being okay

People who know me really well are fully aware I struggle with feelings of social isolation, even when surrounded by people who care. I’m currently trying really hard not to give into feelings I don’t belong anywhere and each day is a monumental exercise of survival. I’m trying not to give up because I still believe I have something to offer, now matter how minuscule.

With a Royal Commission into abuse and violence of disabled people (I’m exercising my right to use identity first language here) coming up – I have lots of stories to share. Mainly about trying to get help in the so-called health system and being told similar to the 17 year old in this story.


Some of the stories from my 20’s include violence, restraint and abuse from healthcare professionals and family members. All as I grappled to come to terms with what I now know to be AS meltdowns and an escalation of issues after a significant and life threatening injury.

Because of regular experiences like that I’ve got to the point where I don’t believe that I deserve a family or partner and for the last 7 years I’ve avoided new close relationships – because I can’t handle anymore violence. When it comes to close personal relationships I can’t tell when someone is trying to take advantage of me and people have done exactly that.

I’m also going to talk publicly about what happens to us when we go to emergency rooms, when we are told that we need to be sedated and go home and sleep (as a GP recently told me) because of other people’s violence against us. How we are dismissed and abused further when we start to crack because we’ve been trying to express things in our own way after months or years of trying to get help. When we are told we are mental or crazy for not wanting to be assaulted or verbally abused.

Fuck “Are you okay?” campaigns. Cause when we are okay with not being okay we are dismissed, ignored or told we are burdens.

Not sure why we need to spend millions on campaigns to justify asking for help when you ask for help to be told to suck it and see. Makes not much sense.

Most of my wage is now spent on just trying to keep well in the hope things will get better. I’m resigned to the fact I have a short shelf life and I’m determined to do what I can so that others don’t go through what I have. It’s not about me. I don’t care enough about myself for it to be about me.

In the 80’s and 90’s I could access services without it costing $180+ an hour (yes, after the Medicare rebate and no, private insurance is not helpful), now I’m pushed from pillar to post trying to get a therapy that has worked for over the last 25 years.

I can’t turn off what I experience. I can manage it, but there are times when I need more help and I’m asking for help only to not be able to get the right help because it’s $250 an hour. I get 10 visits a year at $180 and I need 30. Plus I need OT I can’t afford.

Then people try and offer essential fucking oils like people say “the only disability is a bad attitude”. To cite Stella Young no amount of smiling at the system is going to change it.

I want to work. I don’t want months off and homelessness and long periods of financial difficulty. I’ve done that three times now. Next time I won’t come back from it, I know this.

I get that for some, I fit a “burden of disease argument” and for many “tax payers” I don’t deserve help, that’s the message loud and clear. But for the moment, I’m still here and still trying.

Recipe for A Romantic Gaslight

A poem about gaslighting.

Whilst it’s not currently present in my life it sure has been in the past. Something I don’t wish to repeat. Aspie women are especially susceptible to “gaslighting” as I’m sure some men also are.

Gaslighting is a common form of manipulation (that anyone can experience), particularly when someone wants sexual access to someone but has no intention of that being respectful.

I hope it also highlights that gaslighting is sometimes seen as socially acceptable as part of “courtship” or flirtation (“treat em mean to keep em keen” rubbish) and thus harder to identify/deal with. However it is also a well recognised form of psychological abuse. I hope this poem helps describe that experience:

Start with a Queen of hearts and dry ingredients of care,

Make sure you prepare her when her emotion is laid bare,

Add compliments which she might be in of thorough need,

Combine her insecurities with sentiments, she’ll heed.


Then slowly tip her back into the objectification pot,

Gradually turn up the sexual commentary to “hot”,

Flip over her hesitations, say “But I like you for your brain”,

Withholding your feelings until she simmers in confused pain.


When you’ve tasted her sweetness but turned her bitter,

Turn up the gaslight again, pretend you’re not hitting on her,

If to expectation she does not quite seem to want to rise,

Add a good splash of ghosting and well picked lies.


Add salt to wounds and slowly reduce her down,

Slowly separate her from her previously held crown,

Pretend to listen and give her an occasional gentle stir,

Recite over the pot “But I’m not really sexualizing her”.


You’ve got her to boiling emotion but you’ve not listened,

Now her anger, like shining glaze, is starting to glisten,

Now you can say her crazy recipe is starting to go off,

Add a pinch of blame to her feelings, use lies to top.


Serve her broken heart up as proof of your skill,

Move to the next vulnerable woman at your will,

Season her with tales of how her before was madness complete,

Butter her wisely, the recipe takes best if you keep it to reheat.

A Story of People and Dogs

A story of people and dogs.

Dogs. Some are dangerous. Some are not. But you don’t go up and attempt to cuddle them all without making a thorough assessment, do you? Do they look like they might bite? Showing whites of eyes? Ears back? Growling? Please note they may still wag their tail when feeling aggressive and can still be dangerous – so stay away when they exhibit all or many of these behaviours.

People. Some are dangerous. Some are not. But you don’t go up and attempt to cuddle them all without making a thorough assessment, do you? Do they persistently breach your boundaries even when you make them clear? Do they insist on behaviours you have asked them to stop? Do they get angry with you for asserting your personal right to feel comfortable and safe? Please note people can smile and look presentable and still be assholes I want nothing to fucking do with and I will exercise that right…and I’ll be happier for it (true story – you don’t end up lonely – you end up loved!).

End. Of. Fucking. Story.

Autistic Employment Collateral #1

This is the first of a series of posts about the aspects of something I call “Autistic Employment Collateral” and its impact. I hope it’s useful and that the parents of AS young people and AS young people find it validating. I will examine three traits each post through my own experiences and offer the practical strategies I have learned to use.  *nb: all Autistic people are different, but hopefully some of my experience might help others with may have experienced similar.

The last five years I have shifted from denial to acceptance of who I am – and moved beyond the “collateral” that the world claimed from me. I have stress related illness (including blood pressure) from masking myself to make the world feel more comfortable with my autism and I am done with it.  I will do my best not to mask anymore, unless of course I don’t feel safe, and then it may come back up.

I have also recovered from a trauma and associated brain injury that means I have a complex set of challenges I manage daily. I am tired of not talking about it and the world bullying me into a being just a commodity and not a human being first.

Happy to be a human being and a commodity, but on my own terms.

I also need to say these are Autistic (AS) traits. They can’t be turned off but can be harnessed into skills, but they are not deficits.

Many AS people are tired of being “normalised” as though the “unicorn” of normal is what we are meant to be modelled against.  Unicorns are cute, but I don’t want to be one. I would wear unicorn slippers. Probably to work too. But I digress.

I am Jacqueline (Jacci or Jacqui), depending on what context you know me in.

I am autistic. Here’s an example of some the collaterals that the world has taken from me that I have tried to mask and now refuse to mask –

1. Eye contact drains me, and prolonged eye contact distresses me. Yet the western cultural world tells me to look people in the eyes. If I don’t use eye contact, people think I am being dishonest or shifty, when my senses are just overwhelmed and drained by looking at you in the eyes.

When I studied Anthropology, I was delighted to learn that not all cultures think eye contact is a good thing. I ended up being quite comfortable with working with Aboriginal Australians and having awesome conversations where little eye contact was had.  Without the aggression of forced eye contact, the conversations were so meaningful and rich. I dropped the eye contact mask and I now tell people that I am not good with eye contact.

What I say to people now is, “I may look at the floor, or over your shoulder when we talk. But I am listening to you. In fact this is how I listen to you best”.

2. I see the world and process information visually (in pictures), in 3D detail in my mind’s eye first, then I convert them into words. Yet people think my drawing and doodling is distraction or that I am being rude. In recent years my career has become about helping organisations to represent complex systems and charts and visual representations. That is my autistic superpower.

In the past I was given minute taking roles because people thought I was good with words.  There are people who are great at minutes, but I need to record the meeting and do it later.  I am good with words, words are my passion, but it doesn’t start with words. It starts by images and a lot of them. I sort them out using words, arrows, shapes and I process the relationships between the images and through the words I hear or read visually.

But the words don’t come first and often I have frustrated employers who don’t understand that I need to understand the relationships of things before I write and that I am not just a “scribbling monkey” for their own personal use. I need to walk, move, draw, map the ideas before I can write them.

I once was bullied by an employer because I needed to walk the hall and draw the work before I wrote. They thought I was wasting their time and that I didn’t want to work or that I was “slacking off”. When they forced me to stay in my office and “just write”, I nearly ended up hospitalised with mental health issues.

In recent years I have learned to say to employers and even at interview; “I am a visual thinker. I can break down systems into images and representations and words for you, like you have seen in my previous work, but in that order, not the other way around. I need to walk and draw and mind map before I write and design”.

3. I do amazingly well at detail and logic and can focus on tasks for long periods, but people think I am being harsh or critical or nit-picky or, in the extreme example, they “diagnose” me with depression or anxiety. I see the world in complex ways. This is not a problem. I can relax. I know how to relax. I just don’t need somebody who isn’t autistic telling me how to fit in with their way of seeing the world.

In fact, let me distil this down. When you try and force me to lose the detail, you are telling me I am less. You are turning me into a problem. I do then start to develop mental health problems – panic attacks primarily. These are such that I must withdraw from the world and take time off, which can put me at a financial disadvantage and have long term negative health impacts.

The other issue is like the one at #2 in that I get shoved into an office and get too much detail thrown at me, because I am good at it. But it takes its toll and I need to walk, draw and talk to people to stem the constant flow of information in my head – unless it gets too tiring. Think of the matrix, yet you can’t unplug without conscious effort and to seek quiet or nature or meditate or engage in a mind stilling exercise that best works for the individual concerned.

But my mental health problems are caused by the world insisting I should “dumb it down” and that my expression of detail is unwanted. It is a rejection of my very person, my very humanity. When I employed for my detailed analysis and supported, these mental health issues abate, and I operate far more efficiently.

Now, I have learned to say to employers, “I can process a lot of detail for long periods. I can then analyse and distill it down for various audiences very quickly. However it takes a toll on me and I need to break up my duties so it doesn’t exhaust me.  If I am allowed to do this, you will get large amounts of clear and precise work from me. So I am not ‘slacking off’, I am processing.”

Illustration of an isolated line art comic balloon with  a broken shieldFinally, let me conclude with this.

The mask is off. Women with autism have exemplary masking ability. That is because the world expects different standards of us as women to begin with and we are therefore better at it.

The mask is not a lie. The mask is a way of coping with a world that turns us into medical problems rather than see that our “issues” are superpowers when harnessed and valued correctly.

I will not put my mask back on. I have smashed it. It is gone.

Wee Chemical Beastie – Day one of recovery

It’s been a long time since I have felt this bad for as long as I have (eight+ weeks now). A good six years since I was this depressed.

But I guess it’s accumulative. I think the sleeping ugly beast has woken angrier and hungrier than ever.

It wants to devour me whole. I need to say this now. I am not a victim (I am very much a survivor) and I am not crying poor bugger me. I am merely trying to make sense of the journey to date and writing about and sharing my experience helps.

Life hasn’t been entirely fun since 2012. It’s been a series of recoveries and traumas, but in fact that could be argued for my entire life (and it is the same for many of us humans).

In 2013 I was raped. It wasn’t the first time that had happened to me and I was too afraid of him to report it. Sexual assaults within relationships were not foreign to me either (on two other occasions).

I got on with things. I have so normalised sexualised violence in my life that I don’t allow myself to process it properly.

I just opened an internet browser before publishing this – and the article said “Why Fifi Box went public about sexual assault”.

Why do we need a reason? Because we are ashamed of what someone else did to us? I am sick of this and feeling empowered by the current wave of women speaking up.  I am not ashamed, it was not my fault.

My relationship with my then 16-year-old fell apart and he went to live with my mother. What had been a great relationship flew into emotional stand-offs and seething resentment. I was so damaged I couldn’t be there for him and I didn’t want to damage him more in the process – his life has been tough enough.

It took a good two years to recover emotionally and in the middle of that I had a relatively healthy (compared to my past) relationship that failed. I think I, at least subconsciously, decided I couldn’t love again.

I finished the book I have been writing in 2016 after returning to Alice Springs via China (teaching English) and Darwin.  I’ve still got edits to do, it won a publishing mentorship with Hachette.  I should be so proud of that, but the woken ugly beast consumes me.

I am exceeding frustrated with community service work (my day job) where I find myself trapped. It isn’t that I dislike the work, it’s the politics that frustrate me. Neo-liberal clap trap that means a small percentage get rich and the rest battle. I need to do something else.

Earlier this year I was assaulted trying to lock a gate at work by a drunken, exceptionally sleazy man off the street. It was a “low level” assault, but it was creepily sexual in intent (words spoken, parts of me grabbed).  I managed to use the gate as a weapon and he took off.

I have not quite been the same since.

It resulted in a simmering sadness, that when my job wasn’t refunded (it was a temporary contract) recently, became a crescendo of pain. If you can’t find love (and perhaps I have replaced love with work), but all you can find is violence – there isn’t much in the way of hope, at least that is how I feel now.

There has been a brief hospitalisation and I am on day five of anti-depressants. There is no way I can keep pushing myself.

As for strategies; I’ve read, I’ve studied, I’ve exercised, I’ve meditated, had a perfect diet, lived like a machine, then lived like an artist. All in different combinations and intensities and had long periods of peace and long periods of darkness. I’ve always refused the self-medication of alcohol or drugs but have dabbled very occasionally – it doesn’t feel better, it just makes me numb and makes me push myself more.

I will continue to do combinations of the above approaches, but I know I need more help at the moment.   I have severe hypertension that is linked to old traumas and injuries and it is responding accordingly, with massive blood pressure that I struggle to control, even with the right BP medication.  I also know it will come back to more manageable when I start becoming well again.

As an artist, primarily a writer and storyteller is where I am most happy. But it is a never-ending fight with “day jobs” and I can’t yet seem to get the right writing job. I will eventually.

Whilst I am not a fan of pharmaceuticals, I know what happens to Cheetahs when they can’t run. They die. Now I feel like a wounded animal waiting for death. But I am also very much wanting to keep living, so at the psychiatrist’s command (and my request) I committed to the wee chemical beastie.

I still feel I have something to offer the world, however my mind tears to shreds everything I do now and sends me mountains of negative feedback. This woken beast hasn’t killed off my self-love yet and I am hanging onto that little bit of something I have left.

So now I let the internal battle be waged between the woken ugly beast and the wee chemical beastie.

So, I’m wishing the wee chemical beastie luck because the ugly beast is large and fearsome. I’ll hand it the tools and weapons that usually work for me to assist as best I can. It’s all I can do now.

Relapses are places for learning, for healing, and a redirection of sorts.

I declare today day one of recovery.

The Art of Peculiarity

This is my art of peculiarity. The word “peculiar” is my own label for myself. I’ve been called many things in my lifetime.

Strange. Weird. Nutty. Crazy. Mad. Out-there. Eccentric. Dork.  I’ve learned to deal with this labelling in some interesting ways.

words about me 1

But I’d like to think I practice a compassionate default position – that is, I don’t resort to name calling in retaliation.

It took me until my mid-thirties to the have the language to talk about this experience. My late 40’s have become about talking about this experience through the medium of comedy.

I used to embrace the word “eccentric”, but it was still someone else’s word for me. Recently, I decided that, given I still get these labels applied to me by people who should know better – I would embrace “peculiar” as my descriptor of choice.

Peculiar has appealed to me for a long time, but I’ll talk more about that later.

“Dork” was a high school label applied to me because of my love of English literature. I hated high school. Every day was a living nightmare of neuro-typical people telling me to be more like them, in the most cruel and unthinking ways.

It was as if this was there a sacred right to put someone down (because that other person somehow saw the world differently), placed under some mythical unicorn-like concept of “normal”.


I learned to say in response, “You know a dork is a whale’s penis?”

I would then go on to describe a Blue Whale’s penis, in detail.  I often get laughs on stage when I say “You want to know how to get rid of a bully? BORE them to death!”

The reality was, in the pre-Google days, they wouldn’t have been able to confirm that it’s not just a whale’s penis – but any penis in nature generally.  But they left me alone and that was the intention. To get them to leave me the hell alone.

This “topic de-centring” became part of my “art of peculiarity” list of coping techniques:

  1. De-centring. That is, putting them off their mean-spirited topic by either boring them with linguistics or further information about the name they are trying to use as a weapon. It would generally mean I would swamp them information and they would have nowhere to go with the abuse. I would take away the abuses power. The name caller would get bored and wander off.
  2. Laughter.  I learned to take the label and act it out to make those calling me the name laugh. In almost Monty Python style. Ministry of Silly Walks (thank you John Cleese). That sort of thing. I didn’t understand other people. I had no idea about emotions or facial expressions and still struggle with subtle non-verbal clues when people talk to me. It generally takes me a while to figure out when they are being cruel. So, I choose to make fun of myself and make them laugh. While I am making others laugh, I am figuring out their intentions. Then I make choices about if I want to be around them.
  3. Avoidance (walking away). This works for me when #1 and #2 fail. It means if I think someone is negative to neurodiversity and only looking through the one-way mirror of their own way of seeing the world, I choose to avoid them. For me, simplistic name calling is something we should all grow out of at 8 years old. But sadly, some people continue generalist name calling until they die and often it’s a reflection of how they feel about themselves. A commitment to developing self-love is a long-term investment within themselves that takes considerable work to shift. If I haven’t broken the ice with them and are not on more equal and compassionate communication footing with them after a good dose of information and laughter; then I figure it’s not my battle, but their own. I wish them well, encourage them by talking about their strengths and walk away.  This includes being comfortable if they decide to walk away from me or avoid me – it goes both ways.

Name calling can destroy young people’s sense of security and self-esteem so easily. It’s an act of violence that society does not take seriously enough. You only have to look at recent suicides from cyber-bullying to see this is in heartbreaking detail

My advice for those of you experiencing cyber bullying – block, ban, delete! This is a #3 situation.

I talk about this in my public speaking gigs and in my comedy. As many say in comedy circles, “punch up – not down”.

None of my comedy makes fun of the disadvantaged. I dislike comedy that mocks the experience of violence, difference or disability. I make fun of myself and my relationships with others. I make fun of the abuses of power that adults sometimes inflict on children as illustrated through my own story.

I haven’t made friends in the comedy world with that approach. But that’s okay because I am not doing comedy to make friends. There is still a view that comedy can do whatever it likes and because it’s a joke, mockery is okay. I disagree.

Many an abuser has justified abuse with “I was only joking”. I think when I get on stage I want people to walk out feeling better – not angry because of a joke about their culture, disability or experience because it was somehow the right of the comedian to mock their experience (when it’s obviously not the comedians own experience). That’s a bullshit excuse and I don’t accept it.

TOP SECRETSo, I’ll continue to be peculiar, de-centre, educate and make people laugh and walk-away in different combinations. One aspect of that is a pilot radio show I am currently writing.  Centred on developing self-care strategies for remote life, it’s called “The Misfits” and will be developed with the help of my community radio station here in Alice Springs 8CCC.

So back to the work of the word peculiar. From Merriam Webster:

Peculiar comes from Latin peculiaris, an adjective meaning “privately owned” or “special” that is derived from the word for “property,” peculium. Those words are cognate with pecu, a word for “cattle” that is also etymologically linked to a few English words related to money. Among these are pecuniary (“of or relating to money”), peculate (“to embezzle”), and impecunious (“having very little or no money”). Peculiar borrowed the Latin meanings of peculiaris, but it eventually came to refer to qualities possessed only by a particular individual, group, or thing.

All of the above relates to me rather personally (I’m always broke!) but this is my interpretation of this:

I choose to call myself peculiar. I choose to own this label as my private and sacred cow of labels for myself. It is my commodity. My linguistic currency of choice, that I carry with pride.
This is my art of peculiarity.

P.S. I am starting to think the title of this piece should have been “A whale’s penis”!

Life. Oh. Life. Get off that straight ol’ line.

You know that scale that you measure life on? No, not sure?  Here are some:

The bathroom scale.  labelledpromoofftheleash

The work performance scale.

The pain scale.

The romance scale.

In my comedy show “Labelled” I discuss that straight line we imagine…about where we “should” be…and put it away…

Check out this 19 seconds of my show – Little Glimpse of Labelled – about the continuum of life explained by a neuro-divergent comedian.

What if I said that straight line between where you are and where you think you should be doesn’t exist? What if it all is bit in-between? What do you think it would it feel like to be okay with being in-between?  Liberating is one word I would use.

What if it was all just twists and turns that lead us to where…well where we are now?

If you are having a “should of”, “could of” kind of day – 

Give yourself permission to just take yourself off that old straight line…

You are enough.