A few years ago I became depressed and suicidal due to workplace discrimination. I had thought for many years that I might have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) but didn’t like the idea of having a label, I had seen so many people get labelled and then act and be treated as if they were the label. I had always been told I was very good at my job – which was helping families turn their lives around, but in my latest role things had shifted. On courses I was being told that if I didn’t feel strongly for the families I was in the wrong job, in group clinical supervisions the supervisor would say “let’s hear what everyone has to say, then we will come to Dan because he’s going to have a different opinion” and I would be singled out in the supervisions as being different, and when I wouldn’t speak because I had nothing to say this would get picked up as well “one of you hasn’t spoken much today, I want to know what you all think about that and how it makes you all feel” and then when I try to answer – because I know the answer as to why I haven’t spoken much, I get told “you had your chance to speak, I don’t want to hear from you now, I want to hear what the others think.”
In work I was sat in a location which was ideal for helping me do my job, it was a low sensory area that helped me to be able to focus and shut out distractions, and I was being told I would have to move to an open-plan area that I couldn’t work in. When I raised that I wouldn’t be able to work effectively being moved, and wanted to remain where I was I was told I get treated the same as anyone else and will be moved. I was asked by senior staff whether I had mental problems because of my reactions to things, I was told I wasn’t taking the job seriously and had obviously just rushed my work and not taken any time over it, when I had submitted some work I had spent many hours doing. I was told I had written all the wrong information, yet I had written the answers to the questions asked.
These may not sound that serious to some people, but this type of thing was going on every day. I was fighting panic attacks just to sit at my new open-plan desk, I was feeling like I was obviously in the wrong job when I was being told I shouldn’t be in the job if I don’t think a certain way, I was constantly feeling like I was in the wrong just for being myself. I felt helpless, trapped in my job, I felt that I had lost the status I once had, I no longer felt like I had a purpose, or felt like I was making a contribution, I felt it was no longer acceptable to be creative and ‘different’. My work situation was impacting on my home life, my wife was getting upset at feeling helpless that she couldn’t help me, I was always angry and upset at my situation, when I wasn’t in work I was anxious about going into work, and the anxiety increased the closer I got to work, then I would be anxious while I was in work. Eventually I decided that seeking an ASD diagnosis could help me get support at work. It took about a year from seeing the GP to receiving a diagnosis. Following the diagnosis I felt that I was able to be myself again, I was able to be open with people about who I am and how I perceive things differently, and because this was linked to a label people accepted it. I was able to share my experiences with others as a professional and as someone with ASD which has given me a sense of status, I felt like I had purpose and was making a contribution again, and started to feel back in control of my life, and because I have control in my life again, and feel less angry and anxious my wife is no longer feeling upset or helpless, I wrote a book, Look Into My Eyes, and people were asking me to give talks about my experiences, parents and others who work with people with ASD, and those with ASD, so receiving an autism diagnosis has given me my life back, and I am happier with my life than I have been in many years.
Dan Jones is author of Look Into My Eyes, described as ‘an autobiography through the lens of Asperger’s Syndrome’ which takes the reader through from early childhood to adulthood, explaining challenges experienced at different ages and how he was as someone with Asperger’s at different ages, and strengths of having Asperger’s, what Dan has found helpful at the different points in his life, and what hasn’t been helpful, and tips, ideas and advice relating to different issues through the life stages. There is also an extensive chapter of tips and strategies for parents/carers, teachers, friends, employers, and those with autism spectrum disorder, and a chapter written by Dan’s wife about her experiences being in a relationship with someone with Asperger’s, what the positives are, what challenges there are, and what she does to cope and support him.
Look Into My Eyes: http://apn.to/prod/1542551196 (Link directs to your local Amazon website. The book is also available from other retailers as an ebook and paperback (retail paperback edition ISBN: 978-1326917340)