A little over a year ago I found myself in need of a job, and more importantly a purpose. I had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome a few years before and last year during Autism awareness month I decided to go public with that information.
The amount of support I received was great. From comments from good friends of “that explains it!” to people thanking me because they too were in the same situation I found it encouraging to know that I had done what the right thing, despite the fact that I was terrified it would mean the end of my career as an executive.
What does someone on the spectrum do when faced with that kind of fear?
To be honest, a huge part of me wanted to just give up, move in to my parent’s basement and play video games. I have to fight that guy off quite frequently.
Plus, it’s hard to do that with a wife and kids. Another part of me wanted to face the fear by going out and finding a job and proving that you can still be successful and open about your differences. That part lost. Instead, I decided to do something even more difficult, and the hardest part is still ahead.
An idea is formed:
I’ve been seeing a psychiatrist off and on since I was diagnosed, and during a session I realized that some of the way that industry works doesn’t make a lot of sense. For example, why would someone be asked to keep a mood journal, or a log of their feelings in a paper notebook of all things? Everyone has a smart device on them that is far better qualified for the job.
For that matter how can one even understand their feelings when they don’t have any data? Coming from the business world we have dashboards, charts, and ways to filter data in order to come to evidence based conclusions.
How difficult must it be for professionals in the mental health care industry do their jobs as effectively as possible when they don’t have technology to give them insight? A doctor can use an EKG, MRI, CT scan, or even a good old x-ray to get more data about their patient, and from that make far more accurate and helpful plans of treatment.
Why don’t we have that in mental health care?
The question of course triggered an obsession with solving the problem. Next thing you know it’s been a year of 60-80 hour weeks, learning to program (which I’ve never done professionally before) to create cloud based storage systems, synchronization routines, dashboards, and mobile apps to address the issue. Being autistic may have its drawbacks, but when that obsession turns to something useful there’s really nothing we can’t do.
With the help of my amazing, supportive, and creative wife Kim, we’ve created WeFeel, a service that allows a therapist to actually have data to facilitate treatment through emotion tracking, journaling, and data visualization. And a great side effect is it helps me better understand my better half because it was built to allow you to share that data with a loved one or a care provider. If you want to know more about it check us out.
Step one: create first revision of a service that can completely revolutionize mental health care…Check!
But like I said at the beginning of this, the hardest part is yet to come. You’d think creating the WeFeel service would have been the hard part. Now we’ve got to get people using it, and that means selling. And selling means talking to people.
Technology is easy. Talking to people…not so much.
Selling is something I’ve been good at, but as you can imagine it causes huge amounts of stress. I have to put on my I’m just a normal person like you outfit, and it chafes. But without it (selling that is not the chafing) we don’t get to eat…and I need chocolate in my life.
I’m not sure if the past year has been a way of avoiding a fear, or facing a new fear of can I build a company versus just helping someone else build theirs. But either way, the time for burying my head in computers has come to an end and now it’s time to put myself out there again.
I’m glad I don’t have to do it alone.
Wish us luck.