Most people don;t know this, but ‘Reflections of a reformed character’ was the provisional title for my autobiography, ‘Finding a Different Kind of Normal’, which I have been reading recently. For those who have not yet come across it, the book looks at my life up until age 30 – moving through a fundamentalist Christian childhood, to a socialist adolescence, then a criminal and drug-infused early twenties and finally to a happy student who accepts her Asperger diagnosis. I haven’t read it in years – I mean who would? It’s my autobiography after all. I should know what’s in it!
Reading the book has put me in rather a reflective frame of mind. I thought I might share my musings with you good inhabitants of blog-land.
I basically made every possible mistake imaginable in my teens and twenties. I was negatively focussed and as such did negative things. I identified with the dark, the evil and the malevolent, but mostly I think this was related to my own negative self-image and hatred of who I was. When I was given my Apserger diagnosis (i was in prison – long story), I rejected it almost instantly. I refused to be a strange, nerdy, book-loving person – which was what I thought the diagnosis entailed. I was cool. I was bad and I was not someone’s strange oddity and target of bullies! Desptie the fact that the diagnosis could have led to me accepting and loving myself and joining the Autie community, instead I chose to embrace the druggie and criminal community. I spent years doing dangerous, self-destructive and self-defeating things, I chose the life of a prisoner over the life of a loved Autistic daughter.
By the time I had left prison for the final time, I was homeless, institutionalised and sad. I had no friends. For over twelve months, the only people I spook to regularly were my parents and my brother. I wonder now how on Earth I accomplished what I did. I left prison in February 2000. By late 2003 I had a Bachelors degree, by 2004, an Honours degree, by 2006 I had a Masters degree and a published autobiography. By 2007 I was a graduate officer in the Australian Public Service. By 2007 (a bit later), I had been promoted. By 2008 I owned a flat, by 2009 I had been promoted again. It goes on. I don’t think I can even remember all the things I am doing now to put them on this list. I somehow went from less than zero to Aspie super-hero in a few years.
I do not take the credit for a lot of this. Certainly I have some good qualities which enabled me to rise above the negative and foul and carve out this amazing, perfect life of mine. But I didn’t choose those attributes – they’re simply part of me. I inherited them rather than making them. I credit a few things other than any skill on my part for the changes in my life. I’ve heard people working in criminal justice or drug programs say that people who overcome those lifestyles always have someone that loves and trusts them. I have always had the love and support of my family. Not just my parents, but my brother, his wife (and more recently my lovely nieces and nephew), my extended family in the UK, my grandmother who wrote to me every week when I was in prison. I have the letters – every single one. She died at 100 and saw me last when I was in 3rd year of my Bachelor degree. My extended family in Australia were also supportive. Another thing which kept me going was my faith in the divine – I”m not going to preach but that has got me through a lot of sticky spots and I carry it with me everywhere.
I suppose the lesson from all of this is to never lose hope. You do not know what is around the corner. In 2000 when I was a homeless, friendless, mentally ill ex-prisoner, life probably didn’t seem all that appealing. It would have been easy to give up. But through the support I received and my own resolve and determination, I became a happier and rather fulfilled me. You really never know what’s around the corner.
Here’s the link to my autobiography, if you are interested to check it out:
Little me. She does’t know what;s in the future…