With a little help from my friends

This post starts off in 1987, when the world was a different place to what it is today. This is when I was born into it. My family were pretty normal but I was born slightly different in the way I think and see the world: I was born with autism. So let me take you on a journey and, if you remember a little bit of history, you may want to sit comfortably!

So, as I said, I was born in 1987 in the June just before Michael Fish the BBC weather presenter got the great storm all wrong. My mum and dad had only been two years married and I was their first child. Everything seemed normal, my sister came along, and in 1989 I went to the local nursery. I didn’t see anything wrong there, and as far as I could see I transitioned perfectly well to the local primary school – but you don’t look at transition status when you’re that young!

It must have been about Primary Three when I noticed things were different, as I started getting pupil support. I went into Primary Four not noticing anything, but Primary Five was when it all totally fell apart! I started getting bullied because people noticed I was different. People noticed they push my buttons and I would react. They also noticed the fact that I was sitting at the back of the room and not doing the same work as them. Although it didn’t bother me then, the bullying continued throughout primary school.

I then transitioned to secondary school and then it got worse – a lot worse. So how did it get worse? Well, I was in pupil support base doing basic work but attending some of my normal classes. They would pick on me because I wasn’t doing football or any sport. They use to bully me because I was not like any of them. Then, when I was 14 I was then formally diagnosed with autism, dyslexia, and other health conditions.

Not long after I was diagnosed, the bullies found out and then the bullying got a lot, lot worse: they used to call me names like “freak.” They would also call me “Rain Man,” “Forest Gump,” “thick,” or worst of all, “spastic.” It happened outside school as well: when I got off the bus they would spit on me; they would make me eat things off the floor like dog shit; hold me down and make me eat mud and drink anything they could get in cup. I even remember one of them saying that I could be fixed with bleach, as that’s what they had been told by their parents. They kicked me, punched me, really hurt me.

I was happy the day I left school. I went on to do some college courses but again I was bullied: some of the other people in the class would make me angry to the point that I kicked off. They would hit me with bottles, and all of them enjoyed winding me up. I thought this was how life was.

I also have been through quite a number of losses over the last few years: the loss of my mum, my dad, pretty much all of my family. I even thought about ending my own life. But recently I have found people who accept me for me! The first group of people are “Celebrate Aberdeen.” Celebrate Aberdeen is a group of people who come together on a voluntary basis to help organise a weekend to celebrate the third sector and charities in and around Aberdeen City. As well as coming together we also are about to celebrate our second “Celebrate Aberdeen Awards.” Here is a photo of some of us at my birthday recently.

I’ve also found someone else and that is one of my good friends Karen Finch. She also just accepts me for me, helps me build all my furniture, looks after my cat when I’m not here. She generally kicks me up the arse and literally pulls me back on my feet when I need it. Shhhh! Don’t tell her I said this, but I think she’s a crazy cat lady!

Then, in November 2018 I started a course called Partners in Policy-Making, from which I graduated in June of this year. It’s a course that empowers individuals with a disability and also families of children with a disability. Partners in Policy-Making is run by In Control Scotland and delivered by Jaynie Mitchell and Karen McIntyre. The two of them are absolutely amazing and I would like to say to them, thank you for everything you taught me. But it’s also the people on the course that are amazing people who accept me for me and don’t see any of my labels. Let me tell you about them…

Elaine MacTaggart (don’t get her mixed up with Taggart from the telly, I don’t think there’s any relation there; anyway I don’t think she could say “It’s been a murder,” with a straight face!). She taught me and everyone on the course that all the labels about me, apart from my name, belong only in the DWP. She was one of the speakers I liked most – although I liked everyone! Everyone else participating on the course were people with a disability – known as “self-advocates” – as well as some parents. Most if not all of them were pretty cool. I loved hearing their stories and learning from them, and it taught me that it’s okay to be me; that the bullies were wrong, and in fact they accept me for me. Let me tell you about some of them.

The first person I’m going to tell you about is Fiona: she only was just down the road in Montrose so I would hop on the train on each Friday of partners and get off at Montrose where she would stop off and pick up me, and someone else I’m going to tell you about, called Ruth, who is mum to three amazing children. The next person we would pick up in Fiona’s red car would be Heather. Heather is absolutely amazing! Then we would head to The Horn for bacon rolls. Talk about bacon rolls, there was more bacon than roll!

Then we would head to Stirling where we would meet up with everyone else including my little brother Jordan (I don’t mean age wise I mean height wise! I suppose all good things come in small packages – including arsenic! Sorry Jordan hope you can forgive me… In fact I hope that makes you laugh). There was Patricia: she is an amazing little baker, I will miss her baking. There was Natalie who had come from my home town but moved to Glasgow. There was my incredible Auntie Bee (even though her real name is Brenda and, in her words, “Who calls their child Brenda?!”). There were so many Fionas! I think one plays the piano and is a doctor but not in the medical sense. There were a number of Karens who all had some interesting things to say, to say the least! There was also Lizanne, Julie and Logan from Shetland, Eileen from the Borders, Joanne from East Lothian, also Jennifer from Bridge of Allan, close to Stirling, who is hoping to get an accessible roundabout in the new playpark – it will be better than the Magic Roundabout!

There was a Wendy who happened to be from Unite union but was there in her own right – but both of us could bang the union’s heads together! There was Lisa from Glasgow, and many more people. There was also someone who became my gin buddy, who wrapped me up in the education weekend like a precious gift, who jokes about the fact that I followed her everywhere like a shadow but she became like a sister. After losing all my family I never thought I would find a sister again! Thank you Alex. She really restored my faith in people.

Everyone at Partners the even made an address book for my birthday so that I would never lose touch with them again! You know I’ve made 35+ new friends that don’t feel sorry for me because of my labels, that won’t be nice just because we were on a course together, but genuinely want to be my friends. I know for some of them I give them hope for the future too. I’m so glad I’ve done that. At the end of this post I have added some photos from the weekend. I know they are going to kill me for some of the photos I’ve used! Thank you everyone at Partners for teaching me that not everyone fights like the people who bullied me at school, and that there are genuinely nice people out there who care; who love me just simply for being me. Here are photos of them all.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and look at the photos. I would just like to say that if you are one of the people who bullied me: who is laughing now? I think it could be me. I don’t give you a second thought any more.

4 thoughts on “With a little help from my friends

  1. Very well written piece William. I to experienced horrendous bullying all through school and into adulthood. I was always different but thankfully all makes sense now having my autism diagnosis. You are an amazing person doing amazing things and I’m proud to be your friend. Love and hugs 🤗

    Like

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