My ‘mood board’ idea is about generating stress-free conversations that help me calm anxiety attacks or combat loneliness. The board is a laminated sheet of paper that tells people that I live with Autism and panic attacks and prompts them to talk to me about any topic listed on the sheet. I came up with the idea in December 2020, when I was feeling lonely.
Because of my Autism I get more stressed than other people about problems like climate change, loneliness, Covid-19, people cancelling arrangements at the last minute, traffic and transport delays. These things can really play on my mind and my anxiety can build up until it becomes a panic attack. To make things worse, I can also feel very cut off from other people when I am out and about and this makes me feel lonely and even more stressed out. I feel particularly uneasy on the tube, in queues, at pubs on Friday or Saturday evenings and at parks, art shows, gigs, festivals, parties and waiting rooms. It’s like, you know, I’m anxious and there are all these people around and none of them are talking to me – it can be too much to bear.
I first tried to use my mood board in December 2020 in a café on England’s Lane. I didn’t get a good response; people didn’t understand what it was and weren’t willing to talk to me. After that, it took me a while to regain my confidence, but I did try it again two more times in July this year (2021).
The first time I was on a street in the Belsize Park area and I used the Lanyard Sunflower autism card as well as the mood board. It went better than the previous time and one woman talked to me. I told her I was feeling stressed and asked if she could help me out. She was in a hurry, she said. But then I showed her my Lanyard card and she softened up and showed some empathy. We chatted for a while; it was just small talk, but it made a big difference.
The next time was on the street in the Swiss Cottage area. That time a lady looked a bit scared and told me it was a strange idea.
In a way, it’s not surprising that some people didn’t respond well to my mood board idea. London’s not a particularly friendly city in the first place and also people still don’t really understand people with Autism or mental health problems either.
But I’m not giving up yet. I think in the future I might combine the mood board with my paintings to start conversations. I could also do the boards in A5 size and sell them. I already have a business selling my artwork so I know this is something I can do. Perhaps my paintings could persuade people to talk to me in a way that my words sometimes can’t.