At fifteen years old, I left school midway through Year Nine and went into the workforce.
I vehemently expressed that I would not return to school and with that, my mother said if I was not returning, I needed to get a job.
I worked in the local bakery, something I was so proud of. I'd grown up seeing the bakery in our small country town and couldn't wait to get started.
The first day, I was asked to sweep the path outside the shop. I knew how to do that because I'd forever seen shop owners doing it as we drove past the streets early in the morning. What I overlooked was that they were, indeed, shop OWNERS.
I was a young employee on my first day and despite thinking so, I couldn't spend as long as I liked leisurely sweeping, watching the patterns in the dirt swirls on the path.
Within ten minutes of starting, I was hauled in and told I was too slow; reprimanded for not being efficient enough.
I was gutted but pushed on.
That was the beginning of many, many incidents of not doing things right or just not knowing better.
"Shit for brains", "Maybe you need to wash your face to wake up before you come to work", "You're just not listening", "How many times have I told you about this?", "How do you not know how to do this? It's basic"...on and on it went.
I wish they had let me go sooner than they had.
It was humiliating. Devastating.
That milestone, oh the cringe.
My employer would take me on trips with him, lecturing me the entire way... "We're really hoping you'll endeavour to be better"…
I was terrified and just nodded, said thank you and yes and okay.
The truth is, I was already trying my hardest.
I was terrified, riddled with anxiety about going in to work.
I really didn't know what I was doing wrong, and I really had no clue what I was supposed to be doing better or differently.
And then came the day that ended it all.
Asked to clean out the cool room, filled with baked goods.
OH, my heart rate increases even now and I feel the red hot embarrassment.
I removed all the food; the pies, the sausage rolls, the cakes, all of it. Out onto the concrete in containers, it all went while I wiped out the chiller.
When another employee came to tell me it was time to go to lunch, I went to lunch.
After my lunch hour, I returned and began another job.
I had completely forgotten about the chill room and the goods. So, I left them there, in the containers with the chiller door completely open.
When my employer called me in to tell me I had two weeks left as it just wasn't working out, I asked to be excused at the end of the day.
I just couldn't take it anymore. I also couldn't remember walking off and leaving the fridge open and felt so humiliated.
I apologised and apologised and it wasn't enough.
I also understood.
27 years later, I have that incident written into a report.
It's a report attached to a diagnosis of ADHD combined type, inattentive and hyperactive.
It's filed away with the other reports attached to diagnoses (identification) of autism, PDA and PTSD.
Today, I haven't "overcome" any of those same challenges. I have worked harder than hard to live a life that is aligned with a neurodiversity affirming lifestyle and business.
Life is not easy. And life is not awful.
I am constantly learning about who I am: my strengths and my challenges.
My understanding and relationship with my neurodivergent identity are always evolving and changing.
Are you afraid of your child being told they're autistic? Or are you afraid of them being discriminated against due to stereotypes and stigma?
There's a huge difference.
Before I and others knew that I am autistic, ADHD and PDA, I have been judged, disapproved of, rejected.
I've been called shit for brains, lazy, attention-seeking, selfish and self-centred, dramatic, intense, ridiculous, over the top, stupid, dense, and far worse.
I remember every single name. Every single incident. Every single humiliation. Every single judgement. Every single misunderstanding.
Every single neurodivergent person that is able to stand up and share our experience = less stigma, less discrimination.
I'll take autistic, ADHD, PDA over abuse, judgement and misunderstanding.
We hate spam and promise not to do this to you. We will also never share your details with anyone.