Tell me a little about yourself
I work in the IT industry as an analyst. I love green woodworking and Badgers. I am fifty years old. I have a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome, which I was given when I was forty-eight.
I have a wonderful partner, and we have an awesome son of four years, who is a source of perpetual delight, and occasional extreme frustration! We have a Beagle cross called Buddy, who is…well very similar to my son in many respects! We live in rural Suffolk, and I work on the outskirts of Cambridge.
I read obsessively and have a very close relationship with my books, of which I have thousands. I love books. The feel and the smell of the paper, the sound made when you gently flick through the pages. My heroes and my role models have always been authors and characters from their books.
What led you to seek a diagnosis
I’ve never fitted in; but that’s just what everyone thinks isn’t it? It would be egotistical and self-important to think my ‘not fitting in’, was in any way more significant than anyone else’s self-pitying ‘poor me’ delusion of being an outcast!
I just got on with life as best I could. I have many attributes and experiences that in hindsight mark me out as autistic – it’s pretty-clear. But how much do any of us really know about how others experience the world? Just like us of course! It can’t really be that different can it?
My job is important to me – I worked hard to get to a point where I could be involved in interesting and challenging work – and doing what I do is part of my identity. The money is nice and pays bills and allows me to buy books – but I do it because it’s challenging and involves solving complex problems, to help people.
A very nasty and protracted political situation at a previous employer, made doing my job very difficult and in some cases impossible. It introduced some very negative social dynamics into the workplace. People were excluded from meetings, some people were told things, others were not. People chose sides. People actively worked to sabotage others projects, for their own gain. This went on for eighteen months.
Not being able to do my job, whilst also attempting to navigate a dark and dis-functional social minefield, resulted in a long period of severe anxiety and depression. I’d never had a panic attack before. It terrified me. Which of course just made things worse.
The observation that led to me seeking a diagnosis; was that for many of my colleagues, this situation was fine. Most people didn’t like it, but they just came in, went home, no major impact. And some people loved it – they thrived. Why were most people OK? Why did I have such problems?
What did the diagnosis process involve for you
I did some extensive research. Read a lot of academic papers, found and did the ADQ, watched a lot of YouTube videos – I think it was a speech by Temple Grandin that clinched it for me.
I am very lucky. We have a local autism diagnosis service. I took details of this service, along with some examples of how I thought my behavior and experiences matched those of someone on the spectrum, to my GP. He was… well he didn’t think I was autistic! Autistic people don’t speak, they are severely impaired. They don’t hold down jobs. However, I had seen him repeatedly to discuss my anxiety and depression, so I think more to get rid of me than anything else, he referred me.
The diagnosis process took nearly a year and was done in a very kind and thoughtful way.
A series of phone call discussions, a meeting with two of the staff to discuss my experiences, and then a two-hour discussion with a clinical psychologist, at the end of which, and to my complete surprise, he told me I have Aspergers Syndrome.
What was life like before you were diagnosed
Frightening. Confusing. Tiring. Lonely. Full of sickness and anxiety
What, if anything, has changed since you were diagnosed
I’m not so tired, I’m not so lonely, I don’t get sick as much!
What changes have you made in your life and at work as a result of your diagnosis
In my life I now make time for a hobby. I am more aware of the impact highly social and busy environments have on me, so I am more selective, avoid some, and try to plan in rest time after those I do attend. I focus on making time for my son and wife, and for those that have a positive impact on our life and happiness.
At work, I no longer work in a very busy and loud open plan environment – this has made a significant and very positive difference. I also work from home on a regular basis, which gives me quiet time to recover and to focus on my work. I also no longer feel I must attend work social events, so don’t.
The downside is I miss working with my colleagues, and I am not visible in the workplace, which I’m certain isn’t great in terms of career progression, or longevity.
What is the biggest realisation that you have had, in relation to being autistic
I can be kind to myself – I no longer force myself to do things I find intolerable, and I can take some time to do things I love. I’m no longer alone.
What does neurodiversity mean to you
Actively – and that’s the key word here – acknowledging difference and making significant changes to allow the neurodivergent to reach their full potential
What do you think employers need to know about neurodiversity
Your open plan work places exclude or make life very difficult for the neurodivergent. Your working practices favor self-promoting extroverts. You are building companies that exclude the neurodivergent and that exclude the quiet, the thoughtful, the introverted. I really don’t think you want to do that. Productivity in the UK has flatlined. Self-promoting extroverts are great at being extroverted and at self-promotion. You desperately need people to do some actual work! We are ready and waiting.
note: all views shared are Ed's personal views, and are not on behalf of the company he works for.
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