let’s go back 19, aged 23+

So during this time the employment officer helped me to find another job, but he was misleading me and messing other people about and I didn’t know it, he told me that the new job was also with a supported employment gardening team, but that I would be promoted, that I wouldn’t just be a gardener but that my title would be ‘assistant supervisory mentor’ and that I would be a role model to the other gardeners on the team.

 I accepted the job, believing what he said, but it turned out to be rubbish, I was not even a gardener, I was a ‘client’ on their occupational therapy list, we did act as a gardening team, we went round doing very low level gardening, mainly for sheltered houses, there was no one on that team with any real horticultural skill or knowledge, the two supervisors were well to do men who played golf together and were ‘doing their bit for society’ by supervising us, the manager of the operation was a psychological bully who had worked in a women’s prison, he was a nasty case, he had a notice on his desk saying ‘Be nice or leave’ and I wondered why he didn’t do as his notice asked.

Despite being no good at gardening, the team was very sexist, talking about and treating women as objects and making dirty jokes all day and passing round the daily sport or star, including the supervisors, they had never had a woman on their team, and they did not like it, and made that clear.

 I put them in their place a bit by telling them they could make their comments and degrade me when they could do the work to the standard that I could and when they knew what was a plant and what was a weed, also they could not shock me with their jokes, if they persisted I would outrude them and even made the supervisor blush. I may not be mature relationship-wise, but, especially back then, my uninhibited manner and my catalogue of disgusting things I had learned growing up in hostels and on sink estates meant I could outrude any silly lads easily.

 There was no-one on the team with a serious handicap, and I worked out that the team was actually a bin for people who were ‘troublesome’ , couldn’t fit in a category or go mainstream, the boss’s policy was to brutally smash the ‘trouble’ out of people, the team consisted of a paedophile who had had a sexual relationship with a 12 year old girl and was proud of it, a boy with severe asbergers syndrome and a bad anger problem, a brain damaged man who was obsessed with sex, and an a boy from whichever country in Africa was at war and throwing the white people out, and a man who only spoke to swear at the supervisors, so I was out of the frying pan into the hot hot hell. Believe me this place had a permanent and serious bad effect on me.

(I remain horrified that I was placed on a team with a peadophile who was proud of himself for it and not only was I too vulnerable but I was outraged, which made life difficult)

Me being a girl got a variety of reactions from the team apart from the rude jokes and sexism, the Asbergers lad made it clear he fancied me and was jealous of G, he talked about me and G. a lot, as he knew G. and had been on a course with him, but this lad had a girlfriend, and he told us about his sex with her as well, graphically.

 The man who had had sex with a 12 year old was probably the most stable of the team, he was ‘the top of the pack’, with the most skills and intelligence, I really struggled with what he had done and been convicted of, to the point of fighting with him, but in the end and all in all we got on well, he got engaged and married while I knew him, to a Down’s Syndrome girl from one of the homes we worked for, which also increased my respect for him.
Although he was not adequately supervised, considering that we were all vulnerable and worked for vulnerable people and families with children.
Looking back, he was not branded or restricted by his convictions, not even excluded from essential services as I am by the diocese and being on the run from them.
Again, I am branded worse than a peadophile.

The Brain damaged man really had a problem with me, he had been a popular man, a babe magnet who had had everything including girls and more girls when he was younger, then he had crashed his motorbike at speed, and hated the restricted life he was left with, and being alone and basically unwanted, he talked about sex and sexual things all the time; and he was very sexist, to extremes, he was angry at being unable to shock me and the way I bounced back from his cutting comments, but he did hurt me, no matter how I bounced back, his names and slurs were nasty, and it got worse, he got more and more bitter because I was put on skilled duties such as strimming, which he could not do, and he didn’t like my speed and skill, just as he didn’t like the sex offender’s speed and skill, he would sulk and bang about and get nasty.
On a good day he would tell us of his sexual exploits, including the favourite story about a girl who he and the team called ‘the ginger dollop’ who apparently used a vibrator, for some reason the team thought this was henious that she slept with him and then used a vibrator. I don’t really understand.

He hit me on the arm one day and I had to tell the supervisor and the boss, and he also threatened a very sick sexual assault on me, but I am pretty sure I never reported it, I would not sit in the back of the van with him, despite being strong I was scared of him, I told JM about him and she said ‘Oh it sounds like he is really unhappy and what he needs is a good cry’, which is bizarre.
JM’s reaction to abusers and angry men was always in sympathy to them.

As for the other two, they just didn’t like work or life, they were no great problem to me.
This is the first time I have really thought about all this, and I am shocked to remember it.
The boss of this team was a brute, trying to punish the anger and aggression out of the Asbergers Boy, unsuccessfully, leaving him confused, depressed and unhappy, punishing him, you cannot bring an Autistic spectrum person ‘under control’ with aggression and harsh punishment, in autism, anger means fear and distress, it means things need working though and the root of the ‘anger’ found and resolved.

The boss banned my employment officer coming up to see me, so I had to meet him after work, the boss said that the employment officer had been coming up interfering and poncing about in his office, thinking he could change the rules.

The employment officer had heard of JM through me, and heard that she was my mentor and priest, and he wanted to meet her, so I agreed that and arranged a meeting, I would rather having JM working with my life within my eyesight than doing it underground, so to speak. So JM came to my bedsit, she seemed surprised by my cosy little bedsit where I was so happy, I had a pot of tea and a plate of biscuits waiting, and JM and I sat and chatted while we waited for this employment officer to turn up.

The employment officer came in and he told JM that he wanted to help me and make sure I had more support, but he needed to work with us to find out what support I needed, I accepted this, he told JM he also wanted to work with me without anyone getting the wrong idea, and that is why he had asked to meet her and that he wanted me to have supper with him and his wife in order that I felt safe and trusted him, this was all very kind of correct and unusual, he also found out that I knew a pub where hash could be bought and he was joking about that with me and wanting the ‘codeword’ so he could get some for his wife. It was a nice meeting, a hopeful meeting, I was not denying that I knew I had unnamed problems and still needed therapy, in fact I would have given my eye teeth, whatever they are, for insight, diagnosis and therapy, and here was a man who was trying to help. I also remember a comment he made to me about JM ‘The Vicar has faith in you’. Which is funny.

But he got too involved and made too many promises, he kept saying he would do things, get me on courses, arrange therapy, and he did nothing, kept missing appointments, I got cross, kept texting him to nag, which is a bad autistic habit, get something on the brain and keep on and on about it, as anyone who is reading this will know. Autistic loop or fixation, causes a lot of problems, especially when I get angry with someone.

 Boss at the workplace said ‘why waste time with that ponce and the cobblers he talks? I will be your employment officer and you can cut ties with that organisation and just be under our umbrella’ (he had a green and white umbrella but I do not like umbrellas), I wasn’t sure, so the boss said, ‘keep it in mind’, JM spoke to him, but this was a time where JM’s opinion and intervention was not to my benefit, then the employment officer was being transferred, he tried to refer me to another employment man who I instantly disliked, he was the sort of man you could look at in the street and know he was extremely gay, but that wasn’t the problem, I like gay men normally, but this guy just gave me the creeps. It was not his sexuality that gave me the creeps exactly, it was something about him.

 During the transfer time I had an interview for a job elsewhere, I had been searching again for a job since not long after coming to the current ‘job’, and the old employment officer adamantly said he would go with me to the interview despite the transfer, and then shortly before the interview I was contacted by the new guy who said he was going with me, I said no, he said yes, and said I was to meet him somewhere to go with him, he was ORDERING ME TO MEET HIM, I was not going to a scary job interview with this domineering stranger, so I did not go, and so I was in his black books, and lost my interview, the boss at the job again said that he would be my employment officer, looking back I know that the two supported employment organizations were rivals and at loggerheads and not just over me. They clashed about other clients caught between them, including the Asperger lad.

But then along came my original employment officer, he was normally working in a different area but came back to help me, I remember funnily enough having a dream that he would come back not long before he did. He started looking at moving me from that stressful team who were making me sick with stress. But then he was promoted, I jokingly told him he was promoted because he was the only employment officer who could work with me but he didn’t understand my joke, then he was gone and the grim boss became my employment officer as well as my boss, but I was afraid of him.

He was only briefly my employment officer, because after threats from my team mates and being hit, he told me I was the one at fault, even though I had not caused the threats and jealousy and being hit, the brain damaged man and the angry autistic man had been building up to this and had also damaged my motorbike by moving it, which I complained about, because they shouldn’t have touched it, but the boss thought he would squash me when I fought back, so he tried to squash me, I had a breakdown and was off work for some time, I ended up on anti-depressants that affected my concentration and memory and made my muscles twitch, but didn’t make me better, I became severely depressed and considered suicide but did nothing about it.
Again the anti-depressants left me ill.

I voluntarily and out of curiosity joined MIND and started going to social groups there, I met some lovely people, I made a friend who was very like my old friend from college and who also got me hyperactive with her, but we came to no harm.

 I liked Mind but my autism meant I could be in a whole roomful of people there and still feel and be alone, I would get a cuppa and disappear into the quiet room, but if one or two people got me to join them for pool, I was happy, there was awonderful support worker, who as well as getting me to play pool would get me to draw cartoons and play noughts and crosses with him, and in the end other people would join in with this and I got quite socialised, but sadly the structure and funding at mind changed and no one told me

 Suddenly there was nothing to join in with and one of the two support workers who had worked with me had gone back to Scotland, and I don’t know if the other stayed on, he was a rock singer with long hair and piercings, a most unusual support worker, he and the other support worker, helped me tremendously, and I was very disappointed in Mind for the way they took that support away in the new structure and did not explain anything to me.

 The other support I received  was from the youth service, which also restructured in a way that left me without help, and the youth worker who helped me also moved away to return to university, she was a traveller and understood my background.

 The Youth Service worked very hard towards getting me assessed for Autism as well as helping me look for new jobs after hearing what I was suffering in the ‘job’ I was in. And Mind provided me with many activities and day trips which enriched my life a lot.

The work placement described in this post did me lasting psychological damage. 


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