8. Finding Strength in Adversity, with Russell Lehmann

Discover what’s possible when someone chooses to break down walls with vulnerability.

Russell Lehmann is a motivational speaker, poet, author and autism self-advocate. In 2018, Russell was awarded Reno-Tahoe’s “Most Outstanding Young Professional Under 40.” He has already published two books. The first is called Inside Out: Stories and Poems from an Autistic Mind, and the second is On the Outside Looking In. Russell leans on writing as an outlet for his pain. Stay tuned until the end of the conversation to hear him recite one of his poems. 

Growing up as a social recluse with no one to trust, Russell decided to use the stories of his struggles to connect with an audience and initiate vulnerable dialogue. Public speaking gave him a purpose to be a voice for the unheard. 

Russell travels the world spreading hope, awareness, and compassion, while also striving to erase the stigma and stereotypes associated with having a disability. Individuals diagnosed with autism are at a higher risk of developing comorbid mental health disorders. Russell aims to shift society’s perspective on invisible disabilities. 

In this conversation, Russell and I touch on the topic of ableism and the complexities around using labels to identify people. We discuss what he’s learned about himself through public speaking and the ways he feels misunderstood by others around him. 

Russell lets us into his world and describes the extent to which his obsessive-compulsive disorder impacted his life as a child. He explains how he copes with his symptoms today and also gives us a glimpse of the stressful thought process that takes over him during social interactions. 

You can learn more about Russell and his work here: The Autistic Poet.

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