All my life I have struggled with social situations. Whether it was making and keeping friends, or navigating the expectations in education, or work environments. Somehow things always went wrong, and I ended up confused and excluded.
I always tried to adapt to the new situations, and behave in a way that people expected me to, but eventually I would run out of steam and be unable to continue the charade.
This led to a serious decline in my mental health, then a total breakdown. I was medically retired from my job, and told I would likely never be able to hold down a full time job again.
Over the next few years I held down a series of part time jobs, all of which still held their challenges for me. I became a mother, which was, and still is one of the most joyful things in my life, and I moved with my family to Devon.
When my daughter started nursery we noticed that she had some developmental differences and began the assessment process. During this time, as for so many other autistic women, I realised that I too was autistic. This knowledge, and my embracing of my unique neurology freed me. No longer was I a failure unable to behave in a way that society expected me to, I was an autistic woman, acting, reacting, and experiencing the world in exactly the way that 'I' was supposed to.
Looking back at my life with this new perspective allowed me to forgive myself. For so long I had felt like a misfit and a screw-up, but by allowing myself to approach situations differently, or avoid potentially damaging situations altogether, by giving myself the time I needed to recover after social engagements, or changes in routine, I began to thrive for the first time. My mental health improved in leaps and bounds, and I became a much better mother.
I returned to my love of creating, and with my ability to hyper-focus, I immersed myself in learning about polymer clay. I loved everything about creating with this medium, from its texture to the way it sounds when being sliced. The process of creating new beads and pieces of jewellery was so joyous, it became like therapy for me. Its my happy place and I can't imagine spending my time doing anything other than creating things that I find beautiful.
I believe that my differing neurology, and ability to entirely focus my energy on one thing for long periods of time, is what makes my work so unique. Each piece I create is an expression of joy, and a sliver of my sanctuary, and I hope that some of that serenity and passion is felt by those who find value enough in my work to buy it.
I very much hope that people with differing neurology are fully accepted and accommodated in society one day, until then I hope to serve as a stereotype-breaking example for my community. I am an artist, a mother and a proudly autistic woman.