Just over two years after learning that I’m autistic I am still on a journey, one which feels like it’s going to continue for the foreseeable future. Having that awareness and having learnt a lot about myself – some welcome, some not! – is currently a mixed blessing.
About a year ago I had my second interview for some NHS temporary work as an Administrator. After a significantly stressful and unpleasant experience with the first interview, the second was marginally better. Contributing to my angst was that I was still constantly processing my diagnosis, had lost most of my self confidence and felt that “just” an admin job didn’t really fit with my sense of myself – having spent many, many years as a manager – but it was all I felt up to at that moment. By the way, there is nothing wrong with admin roles. I’ve always valued my admin colleagues and team members for the vital role they play in making things work. But whilst feeling pretty diminished already, that change in my working role seemed like an additional failure to some degree. Although, to be fair, it also felt pretty remarkable that I got the job after a dismal interview experience!
Starting my working life again, post diagnosis, was a struggle in ways I hadn’t particularly anticipated. Having spent a year immersed in my autism fog it was hard work making space in my head for all the new knowledge about the role I was taking on, which at that time was anticipated to be a 3 months placement.
There were no written procedures, everything was given to me verbally with me attempting to write notes that were as detailed as I could make them. No mean feat when information is coming at you for hours at a time, you’re shown shown a wide variety of tasks in a short timeframe, there are constant interruptions and everything and everyone is new.
A year in to the 3 month placement the role was advertised – yes, things really can move that slowly! Cue massive anxiety around the recruitment process once again. People seemed confident that I would get it but how could they be? I know how badly I interview. I thought I was doing an OK job but how can you tell for sure when you don’t get any feedback from your boss? To cut a long story short, I did get the job, which felt like some acknowledgement on the boss’s part that I’d done ok so far.
After the relief of getting the job came the reality of Occupational Health needing to pass me ‘fit’ for the job. After being passed by person 1 and having formally started the job, I was surprised to be told I’d have to have an appointment with the doctor – seemed a bit unnecessary. By now we were in lockdown so it was a phone appointment, oh dear! After a thoroughly demeaning conversation (talking about autism, what are my symptoms? FFS!) apparently I was deemed fit to appoint. This was followed by his letter to HR confirming that my ‘problem’ wouldn’t affect my work – I mean, do some doctors never stop to think about the impact their words have on fellow human beings?
So, a few months in to being a permanent employee fortunately the personal experience has somewhat dimmed. However, I would like to find a way to try and help ensure that sort of experience doesn’t continue for other people. When I find the time and energy I’ll see what I can do. It would certainly mean there was some point to a pretty shoddy experience!