Publishing some of the happy memories has helped to bring my memory back.
So I guess I had better go back through some things.
I am always ashamed of my story, my stuggle, my dependency because I didn’t know how to be an adult or manage finances or adult life, full stop.
Adult life started with difficulties, because I didn’t know what was wrong, nor did anyone else, I hadn’t seen a doctor or psychologist or been to school because my parents didn’t believe in such things, and thus my problems went both undiagnozed, untreated and unrecognized, and from my student days onwards I was not understood and it was and always has been thought that I am just being awkward.
And even until last year, when I was finally able to access psychological assessment and also found out about attachment theory, I had no way of understanding or explaining myself and so I was condemned.
It is ironic, that, too late, with a record that will cripple me for life, I now understand myself better and am able to access help, when I can afford it, to improve my interpersonal skills and relationships with myself and others.
This is a statement in parts, fully written in 2011 edited for this blog, ie names of alleged abusers and serious wrongdoers or vulnerable people removed.
This was written from a libary in the early days of my homelessness, when I was still pleading my case to a cold and angry diocese who did not want to know.
Because of my autistic background I think I absorbed what other people used to say sometimes and believed things I heard too readily, I grew up thinking I wasn’t going to live to be 16, my sister had said she didn’t believe she was going to live to be 16, and when she was 16 she said she didn’t know why she was still alive, she was suicidally depressed and she was my role model, so this impacted on me, I think I was suffering depression by the time I was 11, my mother also used to say some very odd things when I was young, she said the world was going to end in 2006, and I believed her and couldn’t see any point in planning for the future of imagining a career or marriage, because there wasn’t enough time in the world, I felt scared and helpless, but I plodded on with my education and college, carrying this fearful secret that the world was going to end and so there was no point in all the things that people do and take for granted.
My mother also told me that there weren’t going to be any good men left to marry by the time I was old enough, and that the Bible had said that we were to emigrate to Israel one day, (a country that would be far too hot for me and a very unsettled unsafe place to live), but my mum said maybe we would be the lucky ones who would be picking up the bodies on the battlefield; so I entered adult life with little hope and many problems. Someone on the autistic spectrum needs settledness, peacefulness and a low arousal environment with as little change as possible, I have never known such an environment, in fact my life could not be further from these requirements, so it was a difficult task to try and learn to be ‘normal’ and to educate myself and learn to interact. I have learned that the ‘poverty trap’ doesn’t mean lack of money alone.
The Poverty Trap means being stuck in circumstances beyond your control no matter how hard you try, and having to depend on other people, and suffering for it, suffering abuse and suffering shame and being shamed, because you are slated for not doing better, for relying on others in your poverty and the only people who do understand that it is not about being a sponger, a scrounger, an opportunist, are the other people who have also been down this well, and know the shame of it, and who know that you can try your very hardest to climb the well and you get to a point when you fall down again, poor background, disability and no access to essential educational and medical services are something it takes a lifetime to overcome sometimes.
People often remain in poverty unlessthey work themselves out of it, marry or partner someone with a better background, unless they have fairytale lucky breaks, and everything turns out right, sadly I tried very very hard to overcome things, educate myself and get the help I needed, but in the end traumatised and breaking down, I was condemned, by the very church where I suffered both abuse ignorant handling and was left broken, there is no way out of the trap now, I am lower than those who can get a council house in ***** or ******* and call it home and subsist on benefits, they couldn’t aspire to live like the people of ******, **********or Wolvsley, but in main they are content to have a home and sit in the library of daycentre and chat about life, I cannot sit and chat, I am alone and condemned, so I thought I would share the second chapter of my life, my efforts to grow into an adult and heal myself and gain some quality of life. Because no one had heard any of my story until recently and I had never been able to verbalise it.
I arrived at college in a muddle, and hardly believing that it was possible for me to have escaped from my family and be in Hampshire and be starting such a wonderful course, I had very little money, so I didn’t know how I was going to get through the year, I also was terrified that something would go wrong and I would be forced to return to my family, that is a fear that stayed with me.
My mother hadn’t even bothered to say goodbye to me when I left home, she was more interested in getting to the car boot sale. (very typical, she was more interested in getting to the market than calling an ambulance for my dad when he collapsed, and it hurt at the time but now I know it is because she is ill)
My brother took me to Winchester in his car, I was relieved that he arrived to take me to Winchester, and relieved that we got to Winchester, I was very apprehensive indeed about going to my new lodgings in Winchester, how on earth would I explain myself to these new people in this new home that must be a real normal home?
(I knew I wasn’t ‘normal’ and neither was my life, but did not know how to explain myself or fit in with ‘normality).
We arrived at the lodgings, my brother chatted away with my new landlady, while I surprised them by chatting to the dog. I could hardly say a word to them.
I was very anxious indeed, and when I was anxious my nose used to run like a tap, making me more embarrassed, my landlady just calmly handed out tissues and got me to take the dog for a walk to help me settle down,
it was amazing for me to be in such nice surroundings, and with a dog, I had always loved dogs, but my dad didn’t, so I never had a dog, Winchester was green and calm and peaceful, no gangs, no fights, nothing frightening,
my room was bright and clean, I had my own shower and washbasin and television, this was all luxury to me, and I was not used to the peace and quiet.
my landlady offered a nice cooked evening meal for a bit of extra money, and I bought my own food for breakfast and lunch, I got two paper rounds at two different shops and applied for several grants towards my upkeep, and had some success, my brother also gave me a small amount of money towards my upkeep, my dad expected him to do this every term, which caused him some embarrassment when I asked about that as he really did not have much money to spare.
At college I was a misfit, and was teased, bullied and tormented, because I couldn’t join in all the student activities as I had no money, because I was awkward and autistic (undiagnosed), because I was shabby, though because the course merited old clothes most of the time, that was not too much of a problem, but my reactions to the teasing were a bit too extreme because I was used to more serious quarrelling, teasing and fighting. (I was also severely traumatised and maladjusted but I didn’t understand that).
College got better though, the ringleader of the bullies was causing so much trouble aside from winding me up, that he was kicked out, and some of the others left too, a small group of other students with learning difficulties befriended me, and the tutors went to great lengths to help me.
Though I was vastly relieved to be away from my family and afraid of having to go back to them, I was still very much emotionally caught up in my family and unable to escape their way of doing things and thinking, so at half term I decided to go back to them for half term.
It was a mistake, the stress was too much for me, and I got into a fight, I ended up with some bruises, and my mother who knew nothing about the circumstances of the fight telling me it was my fault. She said I should not have come back at all, I agreed, my mother was actually quite ill since the baby had been born, and was just not very nice to me sometimes.
(Since I wrote this, I have been told by my younger sister that mum treated her in the same way, she doesn’t seem to like the females in the family, and my sister hates her).
(regarding the fight, the ghettos were not a good place for white females and I suffered years of attacks previous to leaving my family, especially as I persisted with delivering newspapers).
I came back to Winchester bruised and wishing that I didn’t have a family, I felt more at home in my landlady’s house than I ever had done with my family,
but I also suffered great anxiety, when my landlady and her husband were out, I was so anxious that I would go and sit on the railway station or go to the Samaritans, as I wasn’t used to being alone in a house, and the recent fight when I had gone back for half term made me scared and anxious.
My landlady was worried and she phoned the college to ask why I was having problems, why I was so silent and could hardly say thank you when she gave me something, I was horrified that I seemed rude and tried so hard to speak after that, it was not that I deliberately didn’t speak, it was that the dysphasia caused too much delay often, and I was tongue tied and couldn’t get the words out. I am not sure what the college said, only that they weren’t sure what was wrong, but that I had had problems at home, if they had got an educational psychologist to see me then that may have brought the autism and dysphasia and other minor learning problems to light, but they didn’t.
College progressed, and I got used to being in Winchester and liked it. It is a beautiful city, and compared to what I came from, it was heaven.
At Christmas I returned to my family again, as my lodgings were term time only, this time I was ok-ish, but not really happy, two or three weeks with my family, with my Mum who didn’t like me and my brother who made lewd and suggestive comments about me once and used to bring underaged girls home and violently fight with my parents, I was lost there in the big noisy house after finally getting used to my landlady’s house.
But unexpectedly I ended up with a boyfriend, my parents had several ‘hangers-on’ who joined in with their religious beliefs and discussions, and one of these was Mark, he was older than me by a few years, but the age gap was not as dramatic as the age gap between my sister who was a year older than me and had a boyfriend in his 50s? who my parents approved of.
Anyway, a relationship was the last thing on my mind, but one evening Mark ended up with his arm around me while we sat on the sofa watching television, my parents were opposed to television, but my younger twin brothers had a television because they tended to get what they wanted any way they could, so they had cigarettes, alcohol and young girls in their room as well, so Mark put his arm around my shoulders, I had had no interest in him or even thought about him before that, he was friend of my parents, he talked philosophy and religion with them, he played chess with my dad.
but I allowed him to put his arm round me, and this seemed to seal the deal, well, everyone my age had a boyfriend, my parents approved of Mark and thought I would marry him and that was what my mother wanted, but though I went along with this relationship I did not really feel love for this man, he kissed me, and I felt nothing, it reminded me of the film ‘Rainman’, where the autistic man was kissed and asked how it felt, and he said ‘wet’, and that describes it for me. My brothers tried to get me smoking as well, which didn’t work because I am allergic to cigarettes so they called me a wimp and jeered at me in the street about it ith the neighbours.
But Mark wanted more than kisses, and my dad was happy to leave my sister and her boyfriend making love in her room, but he did not like to leave mark and me alone together, and would constantly be outside the door listening to our conversation or coming in checking on us.
But despite this, Mark wanted to touch me and play with me, I didn’t really like this, but I thought that this was what people did, this is what my brothers and sisters did, it didn’t bring me any pleasure and the beliefs of my parents that sex outside of marriage was wrong stayed with me. (I simply was not and am not mature enough for adult relationships).
After 3 weeks of Christmas holidays I returned to Winchester, relieved to have the space and quiet back. My Mum didn’t even bother to say goodbye to me again.
Me and Mark kept in touch by phone, and he often came down at the weekends to see me.
At college my grades were good but my interaction with the other students remained poor, I made friends with a girl called *** (*******), who I still see now sometimes, (2011) and was able to communicate in a limited way with some of my fellow students, I found college deeply stressful, I couldn’t talk about myself or my background properly and was from such a different world than these socialised Schooled students that I was just unable to be like them and I was unaware of my noise sensitivity, and college was noisy, I was also unaware of exactly what my problems with people were, but was aware that I had problems, I know now that my problems range from autistic interaction problems to trauma problems, mild dysphasia which has improved over the years, problems in crowded places because of impaired depth perception and inability to know how close or far away people are and fear of them being too close or touching me, and noise sensitivity and various other mild problems, all manageable in the right circumstances.
I also used to stay close to the college staff building because of agoraphobia and fear of the other students.
My other problem at college was mathematics, and for the first time in my life I was told that this was a recognised learning difficulty, another student in my class had it, and with kind help from tutors and learning support, I was able to get through the maths aspect of the course and also gain a maths certificate.
For the first time in my life I also got to have fun, going on college days out to fairs and events, going on college practicals in the new forest, sitting round camp fires and eating picnic lunches, though for a while that turned grim because there was a thief in our group and we all came under suspicion, but the tutor set a trap, and the thief was caught. (This reminded me that life wasn’t all good away from the ghettos).
The other fun was living with a real family in a real home, dog walking with them at weekends and going out for meals and on outings, it was all new and amazing for me, and also made me anxious, with my nose running and my need for the toilet all the time. ( I had come to the point where I didn’t believe I deserved or would have good things in my life by the time I left my family).
I was cutting my own hair, and it had stopped having that horrible bowl shape that my mother made it into, it did look terrible and chopped about though and the gruff tutor laughed about it, so one day I went to a hairdressers some miles away because I could not afford anywhere in Winchester, and I confessed to them that I had never been to a hairdresser and that I had no idea what having a proper haircut entailed, they put me at my ease and did their best to tidy up the mess, and I felt amazing.
I completed my work experience and then it was Easter holiday time, back then I didn’t know what Easter was, apart from being something that my parents disapproved of, I did not know it as a time of chocolate eggs or bunnies or daffodils, I did not know it as Christ’s death and resurrection, I knew better than to even enquire of those things for fear of wrath and lectures, the only thing they had said to me was that Easter was the worship of the fertility God Eostra and that is why people had Easter eggs, , and at this point I was still very much entrenched in my parents’ beliefs and was anti-Easter. The good thing about that Easter holiday was that I arranged unpaid work experience for myself in a country park a few miles from my parents’ home, my tutors were surprised and delighted.
So Easter saw me back at my parents’ house, Mark was pestering me more and more for sexuality, I was not interested but he persisted, I am not going to go into details, but it was not good, then I told him we were through, but I wavered, it was tough to dump my parents’ favourite adoptive son, but in the meantime he had sex with an underage girl at an orgy, the girl was one of my brother’s various girlfriends, and while drunk, as he often was, he also told my brothers intimate details of his relationship with me, which they jeered back at me. (just as with GP and the child abuse some years later, my parents were oblivious of all this).
I broke up with him permanently after breaking up temporarily and getting back together and he continued to treat me with lack of respect and care, my last words to him were not very nice, and my older brother who disliked Mark, was delighted to hear that I had dumped him, I was surprised, I had not known that my brother knew that Mark was not a very nice person, I had simply been blinded by my Parents’ attitude to him and thought he was a ‘good’ and ‘safe’ person. I shouldn’t have been so blind, I saw the way he looked at my sisters, I knew how he boasted, I knew he claimed to be able to light fires by looking at them and have other powers, and I knew that he and I shared no interests and that he expected me to go back to living in the ghetto when I had finished college, even though the prospect of that filled me with dread and horror and there was nothing for me to live for there. I dumped him initially and then ended up back with him, we were actually together for a year or two before I saw sense and completely dumping him, I gather that he may have ‘got together’ with my younger sister who he showed an interest in while he was with me. I know no details, if anything did happen it was not openly.
During spring term I was delighted to be able to help out with Open day at the college, I was simply litter picking and things, but I was just happy to take part, it seemed like naturally the right thing to do, unfortunately the eccentric college counsellor thought for some reason that I was following him about during open day, as I made my way round and round the site collecting litter, he also thought I was upset with him, in reality I didn’t notice him, the time he referred to me being upset was when I was watching some agricultural students herding sheep and I was kicking myself for not being on the agricultural course and feeling so sad and left out that even though I helped out on the college farm in my spare time, I was only litter picking and not helping out with the sheep at open day, I was jealous of the DA students, the counsellor was irrelevant and a damn nuisance .
By now this counsellor was REALLY getting on my nerves with his assumptions and his attitude to me, the counselling relationship was not working, I could not talk to him and he was jumping to too many conclusions about what had gone on in my life and so he was building a story of me that was incorrect including jumping to a conclusion about me being used by a sadist, he was messing up appointment times and generally driving me mad and nothing positive was coming out of me seeing him, I was furious at his assumption that I was following him, and had no way of dealing with it, how could I be following him when I was litter picking all over the site? I had several breaks from seeing the eccentric counsellor, including after this nonsense.
(In hindsight, he was having to assume about my life story because I could not verbalize anyting to him, and my condition was undiagnozed and my past so complex, so he, rather unprofessionally, assumed a lot. since then a number of attempts at counselling have not worked and I know I can only work with a specialist therapist or with a counsellor through artwork, but it was an embarrassing time with this rather eccentric counsellor/tutor, who was too busy and not very professional).
The other good thing about litter picking was that I got paid and got a free lunch, which helped me as I was not at all well off, despite news rounds and grants, and some of the staff were really nice to me for volunteering to litter pick, which felt amazing, I was still not so used to nice.
Anyway, Summer term flew by, and I feared for my future, thankfully I got a job at the college for during the holidays, I would be cleaning the hostels, which would be inhabited by holiday makers and language students, I would spend my spare time once again helping on the college farm, as I had spent all my spare time on the college farm since doing my work experience there before Easter.
I was worried about leaving my landlady and her home, I had got used to being there, I trusted them, they were probably the best people I could have gone from my family to live with, as they were transparently honest and with no malice, no violence and no hidden motives, calm, most of the time, and with senses of humour, and this helped me a great deal.
I remember going to visit some of my landlady’s friends with her, it was a luxury for me to be in a car, a secret luxury that they did not know was a luxury for me, as my parents never drove, I loved the speed and smoothness of driving, her friends lived near Romsey, and I remember having a piece of Birthday cake as it was one of the children’s Birthdays, when it was time for the little child to go to bed, the lady held him up to kiss my landlady goodnight and then held him up to kiss me goodnight, I was baffled by this, I was still so unused to affection apart from that from Mark, who had wrong motives, I had never been hugged or kissed by my parents or anyone, so I was a bit embarrassed by the boy’s kiss goodnight, he was obviously used to kissing people goodnight, I remain baffled, embarrassed and confused by affection, especially kisses, to this day.
On the way back from Romsey, my landlady asked what I was going to do at the end of term, I told her I was going to live at the college for summer and work there, and return to college in the autumn as a National Diploma in Agriculture student. How I was going to afford it I did not know, as I was not eligible for LEA grants and was barely making ends meet on the First Diploma.
I moved to the college, my landlady drove me and my too many possessions to the college, (back then I was obsessively unable to get rid of anything I was given and my siblings used to get me to ‘keep things for them’, so I had far too much stuff), my landlady asked if she could give me a hug, and was surprised that I was able to let her, so was I, I was so nervous of touch and so unwilling to let anyone touch my arms then, she told me I could always pop round and see them on my days off.
I moved into staff accommodation at the college, I had a small square room with tiled floor and a bedside cabinet and that was it, my housemates were David, an eccentric college porter, Amanda, a seasonal cleaner the same as me, and a tough looking girl who was actually very nice, though I was terrified of her at first, but she had just been diagnosed with cancer, and was leaving.
As time went on, a few more seasonal workers joined us, they were more disruptive and liked loud late parties which made my head scream, sometimes living there was stressful.
David and his friend Rob were quite lively and mischievous and played a few tricks on me and laughed at me and the others, they enjoyed life, and had no cares in the world, good company, we had lovely BBQs behind the house, and would sit out on the front lawn chatting, so despite being in a stressful mixed house there were good times,
I would get up early, help on the farm, have breakfast and go to my main job cleaning hostels, the pay wasn’t good, but at least there was accommodation provided, which is what I needed, my fear of being forced to return to my family if anything went wrong remained.
I injured my bad ankle for the first time, I fell down the bank behind the house, David saw me and laughed, but I ended up with a bruised bandaged ankle that was always a bit odd after that.
I took my MO1 Tractor driving test during this summer, I found it very very stressful, it is only more recently that I realised that it is being under instruction that causes a lot of the stress when I am trying to learn something, because on my own if I have to learn something I can actually learn quite well, but under instruction, especially with practical things, I panic and get too nervous to take things in. I was also overheating and getting sick; I didn’t know how to help myself then and didn’t know about heat sensitivity.
My M01 was quite a triumph, the instructors were patient, and so was the examiner, but unfortunately the examiner was a bit old and deaf and took my middle name to be my surname and wrote it so on the certificate, and it never got corrected, that has always made that certificate less valid.
But I remember afterwards how one of the tutors who was onsite came out of his office as I walked past and bellowed his congratulations to me, he was a nice man, John, my sister had told me that he was a male chauvinist pig and back then I believed everything I was told, so I found it hard to warm to him, but I couldn’t help liking him, my sister was mistaken, he was a nice guy, he left the college one day, I never knew why or what happened, and I never stopped wondering, he was my woodwork teacher for evening classes that I took voluntarily during my first diploma, and those classes were fun once I had put a stop to one of my bullying classmates ruining them for me. My sister lived in Dorset at the time and came to the college for block NVQs, she would share her lunch with me sometimes, which helped if I had no lunch, her colleague from work would be there too and it was good for me to have their company. But when my sister got divorced, she left her job and college and I lost contact with her.
Anyway, back to the summer,
It was hard working in the hostels, working with the other students who did not understand my silence and eccentricity, I did not understand myself, I felt heavy and anxious, I did not know why I was so very different and I thought it was my background but I couldn’t explain this to them, I tried, but I couldn’t, I couldn’t make enough sense of it myself, one of my fellow seasonal workers who cleaned the hostels was an equine student, she seemed to understand me somewhat, her dad had been blown up by an IRA bomb in front of her and her mother and sister when she was very young, she struggled sometimes just as I did, and she was angry with the college doctor just as I was, in her case he had tried to put her on tranquillizers when she was depressed and it hadn’t worked out. She did the same as me in that she worked in the hostels and also on the equine unit, in my case, in case I haven’t explained, I was so jumpy with students running and shouting outside the doctor’s room and having never seen a doctor before that he asked if I was hearing voices- ha, only students’ voices! But I was angry and scared because I believed what my parents said about doctors and mental health, and I was scared of being locked up.
(my parents said that doctors could be warlocks and that the mental health services were evil and that if they got you, you were locked up, you stopped being human, now there is an elemtent of truth to the stopping being human when you lose your rights, and I am terrified of that, but I was not hearing voices, I was scared of real noise and was undiagosed autism and PTSD, my parents had had to avoid my Mum being locked up, and I think it is shocking how distinctions between serious mental illness, autism and trauma are still not made, and that doctor and othe people over the years have made assumptions about me’.
There were a lot of people on site, holidaymakers, language students, us students who worked there for the holidays, and given the layout of the grounds and the very nature of this ‘holiday camp’ setup, I have no doubt now that it made me flashback to my childhood time at the university halls of residence, the layout of the grounds there was so similar, even the lampposts were identical, and even consciously it reminded me of the time where we were hounded by the press, attacked, sent hate mail and all that.
One of the people who worked with the language students was called Mike, he was very bossy and loud, and I ran away from him first time I met him, and he bet me a fiver he could get me to talk to him, he won and gave me a fiver whether I wanted it or not, I saw him again over the next few summers, and he told me he was amazed how my communication and confidence was developing in those following summers.
I suffered constant severe headaches, autistic heat sensitivity and the stress of the working environment were undoubtedly the cause, and worry, I worried all the time, never relaxed, didn’t know how. Trying to manage money was also difficult for me, I wasn’t earning a great deal and it was soon gone every week even though I didn’t go out drinking like my colleagues.
The college library was open most days during the summer, so I made full use of it, I was going to be doing the National Diploma in Agriculture, the other students on the course would be experienced farmers children or students who had done really well on the First Diploma in Agriculture, me coming from the First Diploma in Forestry and Countryside would be at a disadvantage, even with my farm work experience, so I studied as hard as I could in my spare time, the librarians were kind and let me take out lots of books,
The farm work experience was proving more of a struggle though, the new Vice-Principle’s son had decided that he wanted to work on the college farm, he was not friendly, he wanted to be a vet and his father had been a farmer before becoming vice-principle, so this boy was a farmer’s son, and his dad being vice-principle and also overall manager of the college farm meant that he got all the quality work experience, even when the farm supervisor lined up good jobs for me to help with, they got taken away for this boy to do, as a result I resented him and the vice-principle, I also continued to have communication difficulties and undiagnosed depression, which I was slated for by the farm supervisor and the pig man, one day I was making errors, autistic style, when helping, and one of them lost their temper and yelled at me, totally misunderstanding me, I collapsed in tears, this was close to the end of summer, and later on the air was cleared somewhat and the farm supervisor said they were buying me a nice coat as a thank you for my work on the farm, they did, it was a big green farm worker coat, which I never wore as it was huge, heavy and too warm for me.
I got a letter from my former landlady asking me if I would like to go back and live with them for the next academic year, ‘yes please’ I answered shyly. I was overjoyed, I was amazed, and someone wanted me around!
I went and had dinner with them and discussed moving back.