I’m a person first: a poem about finding my identity

Born on a council estate, couldn’t relate,

Not special, not wild – just council house child;

Feeling awry, not knowing why.

Migration across the world, senses unfurled,

becoming a Pom – caught in maelstrom;

Feeling awry, not knowing why.

Learned language: the twang, idiom and slang,

Then back to Britain – new script unwritten

Foreigner once more, strangeness I wore, nerves stripped raw;

Dumped in a Secondary Mod – wrong place – odd-bod,

Loving school, never cool, acted the fool

Being awry, not knowing why.

A change of school at seventeen,

New people – boys – didn’t want to be seen,

Felt so strange, too much change

Mind didn’t fit, dug into a pit

Imploded in rage, refuge and cage,

Tears and screams, mind’s means,

Behaviour awry, not knowing why.

Medication upped, hospital tried,

ECT thrown in, I knew they lied;

Alcohol solace, body traded for love,

Wrong foot wrong shoe wrong hand wrong glove

escape through soulless days and nights,

hating loving fighting flights

Needing to die, not knowing why.

Optimism burst, self-image worst, but a person first.

On being unique

For decades I’ve wanted to fit in.

But, despite the numerous masks I carefully constructed, I never did.

At school I was either near the top of the class – or at the bottom. My schoolbooks show pages and pages of carefully researched and presented work alongside blank pages and incomplete work because I just wasn’t interested in the topic. I was bullied by teachers.

At work I was the perfect employee, efficient – punctual – reliable, but as a colleague I could be silent – aloof – strange. And so I was bullied.

As for college, I hated it. The noise, competitiveness, cliques, back-biting. I couldn’t understand why people who had signed up for a course (a B.Ed Hons) made no bones about criticising everything and everyone who didn’t conform to their own stereotypes. But most of all it was the hypocrisy. I used to think, does no-one else see through them?  The only time I was happy was on teaching practice. And I was bullied.

Since my ASD diagnosis in October 2018 I have allowed myself to live without my masks. It’s been my main survival technique for so long that it can be difficult not to slip into this default mode. But I’m letting myself stim more openly and take time out if I’m going into shutdown or meltdown. Six months on, it seems to be working.

Mostly I accept that I don’t need to fit in and I certainly don’t deserve to live in a false construct I’ve created for myself in order to do so.

And neither does anyone else. You are unique.

My journey towards taking off the masks

It has been such a long journey just to get here.

I believe I’m worth it.

I know I could have set up my blog site within a time-frame much closer to that which was suggested – but it’s actually taken two days to be ready to write my first post.

Why? Basically, because I’m autistic. Well not precisely because I’m autistic per se, but because:

  • I find it difficult to follow instructions, written or verbal, and had to keep going back to see where I was supposed to be headed. I went through the online guides, printed some out (I now have a specific folder set up), and at one point had so many tabs open that I ‘couldn’t see the woods for the trees’.
  • I have a short-term memory problem so that within minutes of finding out how to do something to my site I’d forgotten and had to trawl through all my options again. My long-term memory is very good (photographic, some people have commented) but that’s not much use when I’m attempting something within a short space of time.
  • I’m also extremely easily distracted – by sounds, movement, smells, light, change in temperature – all of which can send me ‘off task’. Added to this I may suddenly remember something that has to be done. I may be able to make a note of it (I’ve got 3 pieces of paper and a notebook on my desk right now, all with lists or ideas) but other times I just have to do it.

So, now I’m ready to go with it. And I hope that you’ll enjoy what I share and want to follow my posts and join me as my journey continues.