I want to let you know a little bit about what’s been happening in my life, what will be happening with the channel and why, as well as tell you something about myself that I’ve never shared publicly.
I’ve been debating whether or not to make this video for quite some time and kept pushing it back so I that could at least post one more solid educational video first. But I feel it’s come to a point where it’s necessary.
I want to let you know a little bit about what’s been happening in my life, what will be happening with the channel and why, as well as tell you something about myself that I’ve never shared publicly. As those of you who’ve been watching my channel awhile know, I’ve gone from releasing 2-3 videos a week consistently for about two years without fail—even down to the exact publishing time—to announcing that starting August 2016, I would be reducing to one video most weeks, to the past few months wherein I’ve posted hours or even days later than ever before.
As I said within the announcement video I published in July, the reduction in posting frequency wasn’t a vacation, but rather a strategic—albeit painful—decision arising from the mounting unmanageability of an ever-increasing workload and ever-decreasing sleep.
Having long ago reached the point of being unable to answer every comment, message and email—which I abhor more than I can possibly explain, and wish so desperately I could reply fully to each and every one of you—recently I’ve been increasingly more behind, overloaded and decidedly absent from social platforms.
I greatly value accountability and have always been someone who makes good on my word, even when the other party has no expectation. The first time I was five minutes late posting a video, I thought I was going to have a heart attack. But after having uploaded a few videos recently explaining and apologizing for why a video was not ready, I’ve found that what I perceive as an unacceptable failure to keep my word, is by and large not that big of a deal to those of you who have commented.
Still, I’ve felt the need to try and explain why I’ve been failing to keep up.
One of the primary reasons I mentioned for shifting to one video a week was to dedicate more time to building the necessary foundation for a functioning team, upon which the long-term sustainability of Bite Size Vegan and expansion of resources depends.
Yet I’ve continually run into the Catch22 that in order to take on the help needed to realistically continue this work, I must put in more time and more energy than ever before, at a point when my body and mind are refusing to be pushed any further and I’ve literally run out of hours in the day, averaging 0-4 hours of sleep the last two plus years.
Precisely because time is so limited, it’s all the more vital I use it as wisely and effectively as possible. Part of this entails re-evaluating the priorities and structure of Bite Size Vegan. Taking the time to move forward with forethought will accomplish far more than maintaining a semblance of regular video output while driving myself into the ground.
Perhaps this will mean a shift in focus from YouTube videos to speaking in Universities and schools, like the incredible opportunity I had to speak in a New Jersey high school class recently, part of which you can see in this video.
Regardless of the direction Bite Size Vegan takes from here, I cannot continue to do everything on my own all at once.
I’m trying to fit too much in this video. To stay somewhat focused but still offer more information for those interested, I published an additional video in a public post on Patreon, which anyone can access. It goes into more detail about team building, why I’ve not simply issued an open call for volunteers, how and why I started a Patreon page, and more about the financial end of things.
UPDATE: In response to your questions about the logistical details I crammed in towards the very end of this video and the financial and team-building aspects in the additional video, I’ve now released the video from Patreon directly to the channel with an additional introduction and ending. You can click the title below to watch!
In striving for transparency and accountability regarding the requirements and demands of Bite Size Vegan’s expanding workload, I feel I’ve yet to find a balance between making an excessively boring multi-hour tutorial and another overly abbreviated task list, or indecipherable mess, which always fail to convey anything comprehensive.
That’s not what this video is really about. Today I want to try and communicate something very important about who I am—though it has been infinitely more challenging to put into words.
I’ve never shared this publicly and I want to be clear that in talking about my experience, I am not and cannot speak for other Autistics; nor is this video intended to be an in-depth educational overview of autism.
For anyone unfamiliar, I highly recommend referencing autistic activists and self-advocates, not Autism Speaks, which, like so many of the organizations I’ve covered in my videos, harms and misrepresents the very individuals for whom it purports to advocate.
I’ve provided links to several resources below, including Autistic activist Lydia X. Z. Brown of the blog Autistic Hoya, who effectively introduces autism:
“Autism is a neurological, pervasive developmental condition. It is a disability. It is usually considered a disorder. It is not a disease. It is a lifelong condition that spans from infancy to adulthood. Autistic people usually share a variety of characteristics, including significant differences in information processing, sensory processing, communication abilities or styles, social skills, and learning styles.”
– Lydia X. Z. Brown (Autistic Hoya), Autism FAQ
[definition from 2012 document: see note]
Despite prevalent stereotypes, there aren’t any visible markers for autism and no two Autistics are the same. An incredibly concise yet surprisingly helpful analogy I’ve come across is that:
“autism is not a processing error. It’s a different operating system.”
I’ve spent my whole life trying to understand and operate in a world that seems completely foreign. I’m only now even barely beginning to understand how I’m “wired,” so to speak, and slowly learning how to work with instead of against my brain.
Despite having worked with autistic individuals and people with varying abilities for over a decade, and passionately vocal regarding issues surrounding disabilities as well as mental health, I’ve had a huge blind spot for myself, believing and being told my whole life that aspects of who I am were wrong or bad—and that I just needed to try harder, do better, stop being so difficult, and for the love of god, stop asking so many questions.
There are two main reasons I’ve never shared this about myself. First, I was only diagnosed just over a year ago haven’t really had a spare moment to take the time to process everything, and second—as I’ve said many times—Bite Size Vegan isn’t about me.
There are a lot of things in my life that I don’t include on the channel. Not because I’m ashamed or trying to hide anything—in fact, I actually tend to grossly over-share by societal standards—but because that’s not what Bite Size Vegan is for.
I’m sharing this with you now for a few reasons, the most pressing being that I’ve reached a point of what’s called autistic burnout. I’ve included to several resources on this topic at the base of this post, including a very helpful video by Autistic blogger, public speaker, advocate, and activist Amythest Schaber. It’s part of their fantastic video series “Ask An Autistic,” and really speaks to where I am right now with a clarity I can’t express at the moment. It’s taken me over two weeks of writing, editing and re-writing, to finish this video.
Another reason I decided to try and communicate my experiences in such a public manner was the hope that doing so might—even in the smallest way—help break through the misinformation, disinformation, and stigmatizing of autism, as well as let any of you out there facing similar challenges know that:
You are not bad. And you are not broken.
It’s okay to be yourself fully and find what tools and help you need to be healthy.
I for one have always had to reach a place of extreme over-exertion to even consider dialing anything back. And with the animals being my central focus every day the last few years as a full time activist, it’s taken me pushing myself even further beyond exhaustion than ever before.
But I have to start listening to what I’ve said in to all of you in many videos: in order to help others, you must first help yourself. If there is to be any hope for me to continue with the work I desperately want to keep doing every minute of the day, I have to step back from certain aspects for the time being in order to learn and put into place the necessary supports for myself.
I’ve driven myself to a point where my ability to be an effective advocate for the animals is progressively decreasing. Yet I keep stubbornly forcing myself onward, when even so many of you have told me to please take time off.
To be honest, time off, relaxation and self-care are very foreign to me. In fact, the one time in my life I really made a concentrated effort to relax, I ended up getting sick from the stress of trying to relax. I’m that good.
My brain has never been a quite place. Even when I try, I can’t disconnect any single element from its myriad of connections and contexts. I seem to lack any inherent filter for prioritization, so essentially every new concept, variable, thought, change or sensory input adds to the existing chaos—everything all at once all the time.
You can kind of hear this in my unscripted Q&A’s, where I’ll take the scenic route to an answer, speaking somewhat rapidly in an effort to keep up with my brain.
Communication has always been demanding. The challenge is navigating through the shifting chaos and deepening complexities while attempting to harness them long enough to translate them into a linear, simplified progression of thought, designed to help others make the connections for themselves.
Throughout my life, my art, and my activism, I’ve made decisions based on what would be most effective for the message or purpose of my work, regardless of my own comfort. Almost every aspect of Bite Size Vegan involves the very things in life I find most difficult—even terrifying: learning and utilizing technology, using social media…at all…reaching out to people for interviews, asking people to share my videos (or trying to even though they’re a free resource), asking for anything from anyone in any capacity, dealing with unexpected change, dealing with expected change, making business decisions, networking, traveling, structuring and organizing, anything regarding schedules—especially when out of my control—navigating basic human interactions, and—most absurd of all and the very purpose of Bite Size Vegan: simplifying complex issues into clear, linear, easily-accessed and understood educational resources.
But the truth is, if my mind didn’t work the way it does, and I hadn’t been through what I have, I wouldn’t be the person I am. As utterly exhausting and taxing it is to go through this process with the way my mind operates, every comment or message of change from new and existing vegans makes every ounce of effort more than worth it.
Being autistic is not a tragedy. Looking back, I believe it’s been an integral factor in my connecting with non-human animals from such an early age. I’m far from the first autistic person to draw this connection. In a perfect example of no two Autistics being the same, take Temple Grandin, the most well-known autistic woman in the world. Dr. Grandin has written how autism allowed her to really put herself in the place of the animals and understand how they think, what scares them, what makes them feel safe. And she used that profound connection to design “better” and “friendlier” ways to systematically murder them.
I, on the other hand, arrived at a different conclusion. From an early age, the experience of give everything I have in an effort to communicate clearly or to ask for help, only to be dismissed, ignored, or misinterpreted, made me all the more passionate about and determined to fight for the animals who are also screaming at the top of their lungs but are not just denied their voices and their freedom, but also their very individuality—living every moment in a hell infinitely worse than I could ever imagine.
I will never not be autistic. And wouldn’t want to be if I could. As I’ve said many times in my videos, we need as many varied and unique voices speaking about veganism as possible. You will reach people I never could, just as I may reach people others have not.
I’ve heard from so many of you that you don’t feel qualified, smart, or well-spoken enough to get active, or don’t look how you think you should. That’s a major reason I make sure to share what I perceive as my total incompetence, and the fear I feel every step of the way. Because we all have a tendency to compare our insides to other people’s outsides.
I think if we could all see what was going on behind the scenes in each other’s lives, we may find that the people we think have it “all figured out” are—in a lot of ways—just as lost and scared as we are. I for one intend to keep fighting through the fear, imperfect as ever, learning with every fall, and wearing my scars with pride.
Before wrapping up, I of course want to spell out what all this means logistically for Bite Size Vegan and the channel right now?
Well, I’m not going to drop off the face of the earth and I’m still not going on vacation. Honestly, I’d likely go insane were I to stop working entirely or even have a stereotypical “day off.”
I still have upcoming speeches—two already confirmed are VegMichigan and Cleveland Vegfest—as well as slaughterhouse vigil trips and volunteer time at farmed animal sanctuaries, among other things.
I will post any events open to the public on the “About” page of bitesizevegan.org, where you can also sign up for my newsletter to be informed of announcements and updates. Plus you get a free ebook to boot.
I’ll also be focusing intently on building the team structure and figuring out what changes and supports need to be in place for the long-term maintenance and growth of Bite Size Vegan. Again, please see the video on Patreon linked below for more details.
There’s an insane amount of backlog to be addressed on many fronts, not the least of which is the email inbox disaster. And of course finally sleeping!
At least for the time being, I will not be posting regularly on YouTube, and will be far less present on social media in general, though I will likely still post on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, so feel free to follow me on those if you like.
Also, given YouTube’s ongoing shenanigans, it’s always a good idea to click that bell and choose to enable notifications for the channel, so you’ll know when I do happen to bust something out.
As always, I’ll be the most present on Patreon checking in with and running things by my Nugget Army family, without whom there’d be no future to plan for Bite Size Vegan.
Though this may seem like a retreat or surrender, it is anything but. I’ll never stop fighting. And this is the time to do so from a place of grounded strength, no longer a crumpled mass, bruised and broken and swinging at shadows in blind desperation.
I hope you will continue to learn about and help promote veganism by perusing the 350+ videos on my channel. Please share them far and wide, in conversations with friends, families, on social media. Both my channel and website have a search feature and I have an excessive amount of playlists grouped by topics and themes. I bet there are some you’ve never seen before! …and some you never care to see again.
It would mean the world to me to know they are still being utilized for spreading the truth through education. I cannot overemphasize the power of sharing—its impact should never be discounted
Last but by far not least, I want to say that my supporters are unbelievable. You have sustained me, made my life livable through the sleepless nights of overworking my complicated mind. Thank you for standing by me. And thank you for accepting me as I am long before I could begin to start accepting myself.
Now go live vegan, and I’ll see you soon.
— Emily Moran Barwick