I am a very hard working person. I will keep going with the determination of a Honey Badger (but with fear) until I get what I want making me reach my goals and have a great work ethic, however, I am unable to work for anyone …
I really struggled at school. I can remember back to nursery and how I felt, I just wanted to hide in the tent and eat the biscuits that they freshly baked. They smelt so good and I would always chose the biggest one hoping it would go on forever. I hated the milk that we were given as it had these gloopy bits on it that looked like boggies so I would refuse to drink it.
Junior school was tough for me to. I enjoyed running around outside at play time, the feeling of being free, and loved the donkeys that were behind the school – I would pretend they were mine. I didn’t enjoy learning I found concepts too hard. I also had chronic eczema meaning I was not able to go swimming with the others kids – this to me was a blessing in disguise as I hate swimming, I cant swim, my body temperature can not adjust from being that cold to then warm, I can not stand the feeling of having to get dry, I still don’t now even after having a bath, and don’t even go there with showers! So instead of going with the others I was allowed to stay behind and spent the lovely quite time alone and had access to the arts and crafts cupboard – this is where my creative side really excelled. I would make things out of felt material, I would sew bags, teddies you name it. All to the amazement of the teachers when they returned. They could not believe I had made them In that short space of time.
Senior school was just horrendous, and I do wonder how I got through that at all. I hated everything about it. The noise, the smell, the unpredictability of everyone. I lived in fear every day and would spend most of my time in the sick room. I even had to sit on a chair at the back of the hall for assemble as I could not cope with being where every was. The only good thing about that time period was the art and drama lessons. I loved art and really loved drama as I was great at acting and being someone else. So much so that I even went to drama classes but remember every time I went I would have feelings of panic. I wanted to do it, but couldn’t because of fear. I would hide how I felt in an attempt to get through, as like I said, I really wanted to do it.
Claim to fame!
I did, however manage to get a supporting artist role on Grange Hill through the drama school, this was good as It meant time away from school. The issues I had at school were then transferred to the BBC studios instead as I would spend much of the time between filming in the toilet. Fixing my face – I was obsessed with making sure I had correct make up on, and talking to myself in my hand held mirror I kept in my bag along with touch-up make up. Having eczema just made me even more self conscious and really didn’t help with my confidence.
I had managed to avoid school by getting into acting and taking that role but the feelings of dread , anxiety and fear were ever present.
It may seem like I never enjoyed anything, and I did but it was always over shadowed by anxiety, which even at a younger age was so tiring.
The filming for Grange Hill went on for around 12 months meaning by the time I had finished I was 15 and so nearer to the end of the schooling days. I did take GCSE’s but only got, and no surprise here, Art and Drama. I got an A in art and B in drama, which I was disappointed in, the B I mean.
My art teacher was responsible for what happened next in my life. He presented the class with a golden opportunity, and that was to go for an interview at a studio in Whetstone called Hambledon Studios. At the time they were the leads in greeting card designs and sales and I was therefore so intrigued as to what this position would mean and the potential there was. I loved art as I said and would of only dreamt to do this and be able to earn money. Anyway, my parents encouraged me to go for the role, my Father especially as he is very dynamic creating his own business and creative being a designer for scaffolding. And so I did go for it. Anxiety ridden I went for the interview and surprisingly got the position so by the time I had just turned 16 I was a trainee freelance self employed greeting card artist.
I remember so clearly being really proud of myself but everyday getting the two buses I needed to, feeling anxious the whole time. The job came with a great deal of pressure as deadlines were needing to be met. I had a great career ahead of me, however this was cut short when I fell pregnant at the age of just 17. My vulnerable self had gotten involved in a relationship of which I knew no boundaries.
This was then the beginning of the end. I had finally started to earn good money, but didn’t really get a chance to fulfil the role. I did however return to work after having my beautiful daughter, but the pressure of the relationship I was in and feelings being a new mum that totally over whelmed my entire being, and the pressure of the job itself meant I had a total break down. This story is for another post.
After I had recovered, which took around 18 months, I wanted to get back on my feet. I was only 20 and knew I needed money to survive. My then partner – later to be husband was not supportive and never gave me a penny. I was living partly at my parents and his flat but knew that I would soon be totally alone. I tried to work at the local Pharmacy and really tried to fit in there, but found understanding others motivations hard, especially the women I worked with and was so anxious the whole time, I couldn’t even take a break to have a cup of tea like the others or eat as the anxiety was too much, so eventually I left.
Directly after my recovery I had applied for a job at Tie Rack, I liked the idea of this role as the silky ties all lined up neatly satisfied my OCD and sensory seeking behaviour. But, as much as that part was attractive to me, and the small wage, I could not stand having to deal with the customers and when placed on the till would literally freeze. I couldn’t stand the unpredictability again of people, what they were to expect of me, and one day it all got too much and I literally ran out of the shop and all the way home around 2 miles away.
My eldest Son was later born, and I did end up alone as I thought when he was just 3 months old …
Being a single mum was then a new challenge and some how it gave me more confidence as I then became this protective mummy tiger, determined to give my kids the best life they could have – not sure how without money, but In my mind that is what I wanted for them.
It was at this point in my life when my vulnerability again became apparent as I was taken full advantage of by my family – within another post I will share more about this troubled time. To cut that story short, I left my parents home to set up as a single mum, all thanks to my only life long friend who encouraged me to do it, and go on housing benefit.
Being a single mum, as many others will know isn’t easy. I was unable to work as my children started to have specific needs, particularly my eldest son, who now in reflection was showing signs of PDA but I had no clue what it was. My children needed me, and I needed them, how could I possible work?
I remember at one stage trying to fit in again and had made friends with a mum at the school who had a successful career and was a full time single mum. I then wanted to be like her and do the same. Looking back, I think I tried to mirror her and even forced myself to apply for jobs that in reality In knew I could not do. I particularly remember applying to an estate agents near where I lived. I thought I had tried really hard, even riddled with anxiety on the interview, but over confident at the same time as I was then playing the role of an estate agent ( I took on this persona), only to be told that I could not be accepted because I had children and in their opinion would not be able to make the commitment they required!
Can you imagine saying that now! Direct discrimination! This was around 19 years ago, so thankfully much has changed in that respect.
After that knock back to my confidence, I didn’t try any more and just accepted my fate as a poor single mum. My mental health then began to decline and I turned heavily to alcohol. I was, at this point going through some much else with so called family members which will be shared in future posts.
Starting to learn
At the age of 29 I met my current partner, we have been together for over 16 years. He is now my Husband – only recently getting Wed on the 4th of December 2021.
Being with him helped me to begin to heal from my past and I started to feel like I wanted to learn. I hadn’t had the ability too up until that point in my life.
And so, I set about taking home study courses. Over a span of 7 years I worked my way from my two GCSE’S to starting with level 3 diploma’s to two foundation degrees – my intention being to set up as a private counsellor/coach as I felt I was naturally gifted at being able to understand other peoples emotions – contrary to what people think about autistics. We are more Intune with others and their feelings then they realise, hence why many autistic people keep away from “people” and avoid relationships – they can be far too intense to deal with.
I again started to believe whole heartedly that I was a counsellor/coach- having the qualifications to back me up I then decided to seek work experience, after all if I were to see real clients I would need to see actual people.
I managed to get a voluntary role at a local mental health care home. As I was only a volunteer the expectation was not fully placed upon me but as much as I so wanted to be there, every single time I went off to volunteer I had such severe anxiety. I did however manage to continue for around a year as like I said I am determined, even to over come my own barriers. I seemed to impress the wonderful people there, and so was offered the chance of a job role as an activities co ordinater. I wanted so much to earn money , as our family had very little so I wanted to be able to contribute too. I was successful with the application and started working but with 1 month I left as I was having panic attacks every time I went there, which I masked from everyone – even my own family.
It was after this that I tried so hard to set up something from home, which did start to work and I saw many clients, one for almost 3 years. He said that I really helped him as he had been suicidal at the time – obviously I can not disclose any more information other then the fact that he moved on well and truly with his life much to my delight.
It seemed I could help others but never myself. I had learnt so many techniques and ways to try and retrain your brain but to no effect on myself – remember at this point I had no idea I was autistic. The private work then came to a complete holt when our youngest son was going through his traumas and autism diagnosis.
It was only from my partner then- husband now’s research about autism that we managed to get our Son’s diagnosis, and my 8 page report that I had written and given to the psychiatrist really helped too. We soon realised the very little support there was out there for parents and with a passion burning within me to do something about it all we started the organisation which is the charity we have today – Zebras Children and Adults Charity.
It has taken us 7 years to be able to have small wages from the charity – the charities development story is one of its own. But in short again, I unconsciously have created the only job that I can, and feel I will ever be able to do.
Everything that is happening now, even the connections I have made and who may even be reading this blog are thanks to the creation of the charity, that we made.
If that had not have happened, I would for sure of not used the internet – especially social media, and would still be thinking of ways to try and earn some money to survive some how, and possibly never got my own diagnosis.
Its clear to say that I find it really difficult to work for someone else other then myself due to my condition. Maybe if things were different and my employer knew of my condition there could be a chance for me, after all I have only just got my diagnosis back in November 2021. There is hope for other people though, especially in this day and age where there are so many opportunities and ways that people like myself can be a part of the world without feeling discriminated and judged, and have the control we need, it just takes a bit of creative thinking, patience and most of all compassion, so who knows what the future may bring …
Thank you for reading this long one, much , much more to follow 🙂