I have a problem. Maybe you can help me fix it. I am sincerely asking for your feedback on this one. Often times I work myself to the brink of a nervous breakdown to accomplish something. Whether that be training for a marathon, organizing a fundraising event or simply taking care of Keyan (my son who has severe autism). When I accomplish what I set out to do I can’t fully immerse myself in the achievement. It’s like I hold back from all the feelings that the accomplishment should bring. It’s as though at a deeper level I don’t deserve the accolades for anything I do. I think it’s called imposters syndrome.
impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud". Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be. While early research focused on the prevalence among high-achieving women, impostor syndrome has been recognized to affect both men and women equally.
This past week I received the highest honor ever bestowed to me. I was invited to the nation’s capital to partake in the Canada’s Volunteer Awards. I received the award for Community Leader, Quebec (there was a total of five recipients in this category). Overall, there were 266 applicants for this award category for which I took home top honor. When I set out to bring autism awareness to my community as a means to help my family, my precious little boy, I never thought beyond the immediate. I set out to make a place for my son in this world and look where it has brought me. I could never have imagined how my life would turn out.
As I sit here tears are streaming down my face. This blog created to give you insight into my life as a mom to a boy with autism. How it really is and how it feels. This blog is my therapy because it forces me to sit, process and share my life. It is cathartic for me. It helps make me feel less alone. It also helps others to see the inside makings of a family struggling to find its way in the world of autism.
What I really want to share with you is how it felt to be part of this ceremonious occasion. To be in a room with like minded people from across the country. People who selflessly give of their time for others. What I felt is the pride we all have in being Canadian. As I listened to everyone tell their stories I was filled with pride for each individual’s life and accomplishments. How often do we get to take stock of what you have done with our life? Not only to rewind but to share with others.
Before the ceremony held on the evening of December 5th, 2018 we had 2 days of sharing. On day one all 21 recipients had 5 minutes to present who they are and the work they do or have done – in essence why we were there. So many amazing stories – so many hours given – so many people inspired – so many lives changed – so many people helped. We started with 80 year Harold who has been volunteering since 1945 the “Lifelong achievement Award recipient”, moved to Kaleb an “emerging leader” helping kids who have type 1 diabetes (who was sadly involved in the Humboldt Broncos accident), to Oswald who shared his story of childhood abuse but came out the other side to help others took home “Community leader- Prairies”. So many stories of life, love and heartbreak that led to lives dedicated to helping others. On day one we also met the lovely organizers and reviewers who voted our stories worthy of such honor. I immediately fell in love with Tina Walter, a gorgeous Jamaican woman with a smile that lite up the room. She had nothing but praise for the work I do. To have someone that could clearly see the sacrifices I have made for the work I do felt like a gift in itself. Those who bear witness to my story as it unfolds seem to be tired of the things I have to say. To have a captivated audience who wanted to hear more of what I have to say was refreshing. It made me feel good – worthy of attention. I don’t know if that makes sense to you?
On day two we convened for a meeting of the minds. It was a day for round table discussions about the value of volunteering. We talked about the added value volunteering brings to a community. We agreed that often times volunteering is a catalyst for change within communities. It is essential to the well being to any community we belong to – that can mean where we live physically or the type of community we belong to ie: autism community. Recently I have decided to call myself a “nugget collector”. Every opportunity I get I collect nuggets of information in hopes that it will mount giving me the proper information to bring S.Au.S. next level. During these two days I collected so many nuggets. The nuggets that were most valuable to me as an individual was that the work I am doing is important and that I, Audrey Burt am making a difference in the lives of others. I often lose sight of that because I am so hyper-focused on the organization and what needs to be done. I sacrifice my experience for the good of S.Au.S.
At the end of day two I felt levels of personal satisfaction beyond comprehension. I had met so many wonderful people. Shared so many stories. For the first time in a long time I was in a place I belonged. Throughout it all I felt awash with gratitude. Now the end of day two was the moment we were summoned for. The ceremony was regal. Everyone was dressed for the occasion and buzzing with excitement. The handing out of the pins was done intimately amongst the recipients alone. A photo-opt included a Canadian Mountie at our side. The ceremony was opened with a precession of recipients walking a red carpet to their respective seats. The anticipation made me feel like a school child as we were lined up and shushed. The master of ceremonies was Catherine Clark (daughter of our former Prime Minister) who was masterful with her words. Davis Dewan sang the Canadian National anthem unlike any version I have heard before. Tears filled my eyes but I held back. Next was an Algonquin prayer performed by First nations cultural spiritual leader, Irene Compton (elder). The welcoming remarks and awards were given by the Honorable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of families, Children and Social Development.
We sit listening to each one’s accomplishments read aloud for all to hear. I am 10thto receive my award and all I can think about is first not to trip on my own feet and secondly not to cry. As I stand on the stage I want to take it all in. I engage with the guests by scanning the room to meet as many eyes and smiles as possible. I am in disbelief that this is really me standing on this stage in front of all of these people being honored by my country. What an honor! It is all so surreal. I feel that I am not myself. They must be talking about someone else. I muster up the courage to allow myself to feel but in a controlled manner – guarding against getting too emotional. I want them to see me as the professional I am (also because I have a strong desire to redeem myself in their eyes. I shamelessly admit that when I presented myself on day one I cried – talking about my son sometimes gets the best of me. It is all because of my son Keyan that I stand before you today – as a mother to a boy with severe autism. My angel – my reason – my life – it is sometimes too hard to talk about).
I stand by Minister Duclos as Catherine Clark reads:
Driven by her commitment to creating a better life for her son and for children like him, Audrey Burt left her career as a substitute teacher in a local high school in order to dedicate herself to autism. Audrey built Soutien Autism(e) Support (S.Au.S.) from the ground up and has made an immeasurable impact on her community. S.Au.S. is a pioneer organization offering services where there previously were none. It operates in Candiac (Québec), a region that needs accessible services adapted to the needs of individuals on the autism spectrum. It was created by Audrey, but made possible by the community she brought together through the first Autism Awareness Run, followed by years of time and effort.
Audrey increased her impact on the community by creating a summer camp for adolescents on the autism spectrum. Knowing that children on the spectrum need a camp with programs and activities designed with them in mind, Audrey opened Camp Oasis in 2015, and has been welcoming children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) ever since. By holding many fundraising events and having regular volunteering positions in her programs, Audrey has provided many students from local high schools with the opportunity to contribute within their community.
Audrey’s huge heart and philanthropy are now the driving force behind the plan to build a day centre for low functioning adults with ASD over the age of 21 who have no services available for them. It will welcome the maturing participants of S.Au.S. programs. Through all of her initiatives, Audrey effectively serves the participants of this growing community throughout their childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
Through her years as a dedicated volunteer, Audrey has inspired many people and contributed endlessly to her community. Her story and her vision have touched many young minds.
Before I walk off stage I scan the audience one more time. My eyes register a man holding up an iPhone busy capturing every moment. Underneath the screen is a person smiling from ear to ear. That man is my husband, filled with pride. Feeling as I do – how incredibly special this moment is for both of us – for all we have given – all we have sacrificed and all we do for our son and children just like him. I say “we” because without the love and support of my husband and daughter I cannot do what I do.
All week I have held back from allowing the tears to flow but now they flow as I share with you. Never could I have imagined anyone other than my family, friends and local community recognizing what has become my life’s work. I couldn’t have imagined where these last 10 years have brought me and I can’t imagine the next. The one thing I know for sure is that I will continue to ensure my son has place in this world. It might kill me but I won’t stop (despite the surmounting challenges).
I want to thank you for encouraging me to share my journey. Having the opportunity to write gives me an outlet for the challenges I face. It helps me feel less alone. Your words often fuel me to continue on this journey. Writing this BLOG entry has helped me get closer to feeling all the emotions attached to receiving such an honor. A sincere thank you – xox