Allow Me to Re-Introduce Myself

From societal recluse to international speaker.
From societal recluse to international speaker.

My name is Russell Lehmann, and I am a motivational speaker and poet who happens to have autism along with some mental health diagnoses.

I don't relate to the autism community's "group think" mentality. I don't have "autistic pride", but rather human pride. I am not sensitive to the word "disability" and do not placate myself by stating that I'm "differently-abled" in order to cover up an insecurity. I am proud to say that I have many disabilities, because it validates how much I have to overcome every day just to function.

Some reach out to me calling themselves a "fellow autistic" and I honestly don't know what the hell that means. How you identify yourself means nothing to me compared to your character and how you conduct yourself, in real life AND online.

I do not relate to many people, perhaps 2 in my entire existence. I am indeed the last of a dying breed.

I have lived a very unusual life. I dropped out of public school in the 5th grade due to horrible treatment by my teachers. I was that kid in the corner of the room, sucking his thumb, with his hood on and never making eye contact. Exiting school and staying home to do my work lead to prevalent isolation and solitude that continues to this day (aside from my speaking engagements). I have been inpatient 3 times in my life, each stay leaving worse off than when I had entered due to lack of understanding and compassion by the hospital staff.

I never lived out my teenage years or had a college experience. I say that life has taken from me everything I have ever wanted, but in turn has given me everything I ever needed. I can excel at the extraordinary (keynoting conferences with 1,000+ attendees, traveling the world by myself, etc.) but struggle with the simple (getting out of bed in the morning, running simple errands, forming relationships, "fitting in" [whatever the hell that means], etc.) I am very inexperienced socially, yet have amassed an enormous amount of experience existentially. Every day I fight off my OCD, depression, panic attacks, body dysmorphia, an anorexia relapse, and thoughts telling me an easier life will always be just out of reach. However I am bigger than what my thoughts say I am, and so are you.

I am very much a tortured soul who has a lot of experience with suffering. They say that those who know how to suffer, suffer less. Lately, however, with each dark day I am beginning to see more light. I am coming to terms with my true intrinsic nature, and am very excited for not just the future, but for the now.

We oftentimes put off what we can do today in hopes of achieving it tomorrow. Yet as tomorrow never arrives, we trap ourselves into the state of mind that tells us "Some day, when this or that happens, I will be happy". We live with this perspective for our entire lives, until one day we realize we won't be here much longer, and all we have ever had was this moment right now.

Be kind to yourself, cherish the "normal" days (for how much you will want them back during the dark days!) and remember that you are always in control of your life. We at times cannot control our circumstances, but we can always control how we live through them. Cut ties with everything that is holding you back, for when you prioritize yourself, you can give more to those you love.

It’s easy to get caught up in our modern day rat race , but in the end, there are only 2 things that matter in life: the connections we make and the experiences we have. Love a little stronger, listen a little better and always follow your heart, for the biggest regret anyone can have is not staying true to themselves.

How Finding Poetry Helped Me Cope with My Autism Diagnosis

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Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.           
When speaker, poet, and advocate, Russell Lehmann, was 12 years old, he spent five weeks in a psychiatric hospital, plagued with troubling symptoms like crippling anxiety and such sensitivity to sounds that he was nearly nonverbal. Even after his prolonged hospital stay, doctors remained puzzled and he was discharged without a diagnosis.Later that year however, he was diagnosed with autism, a life-long neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a person’s social skills, communication, and behavior.

Living with autism rattles your social and emotional world and Lehmann has spent much of his adult life learning how to navigate these challenges.

“People living with autism often struggle with anxiety and depression. For me, they’re intertwined. Some days, it’s difficult to get out of bed,” says Lehmann.

He also struggles with OCD and severe depression. “In 2012, I didn’t shower, leave my bedroom, or change my clothes for 56 straight days. After those 56 straight days, I took one step outside of my bedroom, and I went back inside,” he tells Healthline. But by the end of the week, he made it to the end of the hall, and has continued to persevere.

Instead of letting his disorder control him, Lehmann uses his creativity to cope with these emotional difficulties. In 2011, he wrote his first book, “Inside Out: Stories and Poems from an Autistic Mind,” which won a literary award at the 2013 International Autistic People’s Awards in Vancouver, Canada.

Lehmann's second book came out in 2019.

“I’m a very philosophical person. When I met all of these struggles, I found it my moral obligation to live the life I want to live and not to let my disability control my actions,” he says.

My mom has always had my back. She fought for me when I was too weak to fight for myself.

Despite his optimistic outlook, living with autism can be a lonely world. In fact, for the first 22 years of Lehmann’s life, he felt utterly alone. “I can’t tell you how agonizing it was,” he says.

But two years ago, Lehmann pushed through his loneliness and gave his first speech. “I was a social recluse. I just wanted to be known and to let others know that it’s okay to let your feelings show,” he says.

Now, through his speeches, poetry, and writing, Lehmann turns his struggles into wisdom, spreading hope to those facing similar challenges. While public speaking is a newer endeavor, he began writing poetry in high school. “In high school, I wrote a poem about a hurricane. It was one of the first times when I felt proud of something I did,” he says.

For Lehmann, poetry is a form of therapy that allows him to write down his feelings and visually process them by reading his words. “When I read a poem out loud, it adds a third dimension, allowing me to dissect and process my emotions. It reminds me that vulnerability can make us stronger,” he explains.

Lehmann is sharing his prose with you in a new poem about perseverance and how pushing through difficult times can make us stronger:

  • You wake up, wishing to stay in bed
  • Your head is clouded, you dread the day ahead
  • Yet you still shed the bedspread, all the while wanting to be dead
  • You get up! You fight! You focus on life instead
  • You move throughout each and every day
  • With a hardened look of apathy
  • Passersby not able to see
  • You’re on the precipice of self-catastrophe
  • It hurts to be misunderstood, on top of barely surviving
  • You’re taken at face-value, instead of the price your heart brings
  • Yet you somehow cast that all aside, in order to simply do the right thing
  • The epitome of a broken soul, housing a fire that is ever igniting
  • You let the world know, that it’s okay to let the pain show
  • To fail, to cry, to be in woe; Plant the seeds that in turn proceed to grow
  • A fervid force within you, that you would never know
  • Has the power to bring this world together; Bonding in sorrow for a better tomorrow

Encouraging parents to be the rock his mother was for him

While creativity and expressive arts help Lehmann heal, the 29 year old still faces social and psychological obstacles.

“Last week I felt very anxious. My heart was racing, and I couldn’t open my computer to look at my emails,” he says. But instead of playing tug-of-war with his depression and anxiety, Lehmann tries to coexist with his emotions, especially when he can’t overcome them.

Lehmann also relies on the support of his loving mother. “My mom has always had my back. We have an honest relationship, and she fought for me when I was too weak to fight for myself,” he says.

It’s his mother’s unending love and support that’s given him the courage to advocate for himself, as well as for others who are living with autism.

And Lehmann’s words inspire parents, too.

“Parents often ask me if they’re on the right track and I say belief is contagious. If they believe in their kid, their kid will believe in themselves.” He also reminds parents that if they “do it out of love, they can never go wrong.”

Lehmann says that when their autistic child is having a meltdown, parents often want to “fix, fix, fix.” However, during those times, Lehmann was most comforted by having his mother by his side.

“Really simple things mean a lot to kids who are on the spectrum,” he says.


Russell Lehmann is an award-winning and internationally recognized motivational speaker, poet, author, and advocate who happens to have autism. Russell sits on multiple councils and boards and he currently travels the country spreading hope and inspiration. His passion is to be a voice for the unheard, for he knows how difficult and frustrating it is to go unnoticed. Visit Russell at www.TheAutisticPoet.com, or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

You Matter

Russell Lehmann - You Matte and You Are Loved

 

“Do you ever wake up, wishing to stay in bed?

Your head is clouded, you dread the day ahead?”

©Lehmann

I often do, and the best thing I can do for myself is to get up, look in the mirror and say “Russell, you matter”.

Of course, this phrase is much more powerful coming from somebody other than ourselves. So today I just want to simply tell you:

YOU MATTER, YOU ARE LOVED and YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE WITH EACH BREATH YOU TAKE

We don’t hear these words enough. When we have a challenging day, society has conditioned us to wear a mask, and cover up our struggle. We fight through the day in silence, wishing for someone to take our mask off for us and to simply let us know that we’re not alone.

And so I say to you again, no matter who you are, what you’ve been through or what you are going through:

YOU MATTER, YOU ARE LOVED and YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE WITH EACH BREATH YOU TAKE

“It’s okay to let the pain show, to fail…to cry…to be in woe

These plant the seeds that in turn proceed to grow

A fervid force within you, that you would never know

Has the power to bring this world together, bonding in sorrow for a better tomorrow”

©Lehmann

On May 11th I'm heading out to Cambridge to take part in LEAD20 @ MIT (https://lead20mit2019.rudermanfoundation.org) then I’m heading straight to London to present for King’s College.

As always, thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for supporting me and following my journey as I use the lessons learned and insights gained from my painful experiences to help make this world just a little bit better.

If you haven’t checked out my new book yet, find it on Amazon here, and if you have enjoyed reading it, I would greatly appreciate an Amazon review!

Sending Strength & Love,

Russell

 

 

Autism and Mental Health Advocate Releases New Book

Russell Lehmann releases second book chronicling a life with Autism

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Reno author and autism activist, Rusell Lehmann, debuts his second book about life on the autism spectrum.

 

(RENO, Nev.) – Author and internationally recognized speaker Russell Lehmann debuted his newest book, “On the Outside Looking In: My Life on the Autism Spectrum,” (Lucky Bat Books, 2019) on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at Lark & Owl Booksellers in Georgetown, Texas, an Austin suburb.

The event began at 7 p.m. and featured Lehmann reading excerpts from the new book as well as a group conversation about Autism in our society. In addition to purchase availability for the book at Lark & Owl, copies may be purchased on Amazon or at local independent book sellers.

“On the Outside Looking In” is Lehmann’s story of overcoming the odds and achieving immense personal growth. Exposing his vulnerabilities, naiveties and painful personal experiences, Lehmann relays the many lessons learned and insights gained throughout the circumstances in his life. Emotionally powerful stories and intense poetry give a raw and transparent insight into Lehmann’s life on the autism spectrum.

This is Lehmann’s second book. His first book is entitled “Inside Out” and features his gripping and personal poetry.

About Mr. Lehmann:
Russell Lehmann was named a 2018 “Most Outstanding Young Professional” in Reno-Tahoe and has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, NPR, USA Today and numerous other national publications. He is a globally recognized motivational speaker, poet and advocate who happens to have Autism. He is a member of the Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities and an ambassador for several national Autism programs. He speaks to organizations around the world.