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Chapter 8: The Pain of Waiting

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I'm employed in the behavioral health sector. During my one-year recovery milestone, I stumbled upon online literature regarding substance use disorder and the so-called "Quit Lit" in the recovery community. It didn't take long for me to realize that addiction and recovery were far more complex than what was presented in Alcoholics Anonymous.

In March 2020, when COVID hit, I began dating James. I'll share more about our story later, but one thing that stood out was his recognition of my passion for learning. He encouraged and supported me in pursuing a psychology degree, specifically in the field of addictions. I took on the challenge and completed the degree in just 16 months, while also earning my certified alcohol and drug counselor credentials through a separate local institution.

Through my academic experiences, I developed a deep interest in lesser-known areas of psychology, including transpersonal psychology, existential psychology, and liberation psychology, as well as theoretical frameworks such as integral theory, decolonization, and meta modernism. I became so passionate about these topics that I now spend most of my free time reading and writing about evolutionary models of systems change. My passion for this work motivated me to apply for and accept the role of senior project manager for Systems Transformation and Alignment in the Behavioral Health Unit at the Oregon Health Authority.

Today while participating in a learning collaboration, I am leading for work, I'm struck by the innovative ideas and open-minded thinking being shared by colleagues in states like Oklahoma and Missouri. I find it particularly intriguing that a project I submitted, which bears many similarities to one implemented in Oklahoma, was not funded as a Measure 110 grant application for a recovery continuum app and virtual peer service support for all Oregonians. It would be valuable to understand how our application was scored and why it wasn't funded, especially in light of the success of similar efforts in other states. By examining the selection process more closely, I may gain insights into ways to improve my proposal and increase my chances of success in the future.

As a gifted autist, my mind is a veritable quandary of profound and intricate ideas. My computer's virtual ecosystem is teeming with a cornucopia of business plans and project concepts, each one serving as a unique and meaningful expression of my creative visions. I have a meticulously crafted business plan for a non-alcoholic bottle shop, which seeks to cater to those who seek to unwind without imbibing. I have also created a website, which is nearly complete, that serves as a hub for a healing collective. My presentations, which express the intersection of theoretical frameworks for truly inclusive and transformational business operations, are my testament to my abiding commitment to fostering authentic social change.

But my contribution to the betterment of our world doesn't stop there. I also developed a detailed forty-five-page evaluation report and strategic plan for the transformation of the Oregon Health Authority's Behavioral Health Unit. Through this work, I have harnessed my intellect to catalyze meaningful and positive change for those who need it most. Yet, I am keenly aware that the mere existence of these plans and ideas is not enough; they must be brought to fruition in order to realize their full potential. The challenge lies in balancing the grandiosity of my visions with the practical considerations required to bring them to life. Nevertheless, I am undaunted by the daunting task before me. Armed with my integral perspective and the fire of my creative passion, I remain committed to pursuing my dreams with unwavering determination and dedication.

It's been a humbling realization that I possess an exceptional ability to complete work at a rapid pace, which took me some time and introspection to comprehend. However, in bureaucratic systems, this often translates to waiting for others to catch up, leaving me feeling frustrated and confined. To accommodate neurotypical individuals, I am learning how to present my innovative ideas in small and digestible portions. Despite my efforts, the slow pace of progress can still be agonizing for me.

On the positive side, my speedy work pace allows me to have ample time to pursue activities that bring me fulfillment, like writing. In my prior roles, I tended to work at a swift pace, but it only led to an increased workload without additional compensation. I often ended up handling tasks meant for two or three people and even took had dual positions. Thankfully, in my current position, I'm compensated for the work of one person, which just so happens to be a fraction of the time it would take me to finish it.

There are moments when I struggle with feelings of guilt as I spend my time indulging in activities that bring me immense pleasure, such as reading, writing, and reflecting. I observe my colleagues being bogged down by back-to-back meetings with hardly any time to pause for a moment. It's a common lament that I hear from my coworkers, that the incessant meetings leave little room for processing, reflecting, building meaningful connections with colleagues, let alone producing high-quality work.

Drawing from both personal experience and feedback from my friends and colleagues, I am motivated to challenge the prevailing culture of workplaces that prioritize productivity and maintaining the status quo over the wellbeing of employees. This drive to advocate for change is fueled by a desire to create a better and more supportive environment for all individuals in the behavioral health workforce. To me, it's clear that treating the workforce with respect and dignity is a fundamental prerequisite for delivering top-notch services to the communities they serve.

During my short seven months working for the Oregon Health Authority, I have made numerous mistakes most of which are wrapped in respectability politics. Looking back, I believe that several factors contributed to these perceived errors. Firstly, I failed to fully embrace my own unique differences, which include being neurodivergent and having an autistic neurotype. As a result, I struggled with certain social tasks that were more challenging for me, which impacted my work performance.

Additionally, I was not fully aware of my neurodivergent identity, which resulted in a lack of self-understanding and self-advocacy. This hindered my ability to communicate my needs and seek the necessary accommodations in the workplace. I now understand the importance of embracing my differences and utilizing my strengths to excel in my work. Furthermore, I believe that the lack of inclusive practices and processes in our work systems also contributed to my perceived mistakes. When a workplace is not designed to accommodate different types of neurodivergent individuals, it can result in exclusion and marginalization. Unfortunately, through my own experience of isolation in the workplace I now recognize the importance of creating a more inclusive and welcoming work environment that values the diverse experiences and perspectives of all employees.

I acknowledge and take full responsibility for the mistakes I have made in my work for which I recognize there were multiple factors at play. Going forward, I am committed to actively embracing and celebrating my unique differences and advocating for myself in order to foster a more inclusive and equitable work environment for all. Although I must admit that patience is not my strong suit, I understand the importance of taking measured steps in order to provide a platform for the voices and experiences of myself and others to be valued and understood. By doing so, we can work towards creating a workplace culture that is truly inclusive, where every employee feels seen, heard, and valued for who they are.

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