Oh the bullies…

I cannot believe how therapeutic writing is being. Things are coming clearer to me now I’m allowing myself to self-express.

Singing has certainly helped me to stand up for myself somewhat, but I think it may be writing that helps me to shine a light on where I have been and where I have come to in my life, and possibly why.

I’m reading a book called “The Wonderful World of Work – a workbook for Asperteens” by Jeanette Purkis. Work is the final big frontier for me to conquer. I haven’t had a job since 2010 and here on the Sunshine Coast competition is high for any available positions. I am very fortunate that I am on a government pension as I am a single parent but I am very aware that it reduces in four years time and that I, therefore, need to pull my finger out and work out how I can make money in this world.

I thought it was only circumstances that have prevented me from working for so long, but insights are coming to me, as I read more about Aspies and their differences, that I may have a lot of fear that is preventing me from returning to the workplace.

In 2009 I graduated from Vet School in the UK and wanted to come straight out to Australia as I had previously fallen in love with the place and was pretty sure I wanted to make it my home.

In my final years of Vet School, I had my doubts as to whether I really wanted to be a Vet. I had found earlier years pretty straightforward with all the scientific theory of Veterinary Medicine, but the later years became a lot more practical, my marks reduced somewhat and I very much disliked attending practical sessions and practical exams. I did inform my Mum at the time, in whom I had confided everything my whole life, she advised me to finish the course and then I can do anything I want with it after that. So I dutifully did. However on graduating there was not much other option than to try to work as a Vet, so I did.

After a previous volunteer placement at a horse hospital in Australia, I had been offered a position there as a short-term intern, for 6 months. However, this was not to begin until 5 months after I graduated so I wrote to a centre in the Cook Islands, where a classmate had previously volunteered. They accepted me and I flew there after graduating.

I don’t want this to sound all doom and gloom and like I am a victim but I do think I had a bad run of luck, well and a large contributing factor was me of course and an unawareness of my condition.

In the Cook Islands, there was a couple of other newly graduated vets, one a pretty blonde, took a dislike to me and seemed to want to make my life quite hard. The friend she had with her from Uni was lovely but was made to be her side-kick and so the blonde was empowered in her mean ways. I felt that I was not much good as a Vet at this point, I did have one wonderful case of a dog coming in unable to walk and through steroids and hydrotherapy in the sea it was able to walk again. I had a tear in my eye as the owners (all twelve of them approximately) came to collect the well-loved dog in their Ute. Of course, the blonde tried to steal the show with this, and with a TV crew that had been out filming us at the time. I just slipped into the shadows again, relieved to not be too much of a target for her unkind ways.

After the Cook Islands, I headed to the horse hospital in Australia. Here, unfortunately, as well, it was not a happy time. Me being me I fell for one of the other interns, however, one of the senior Vets, again a pretty blonde who had taken a dislike to me, had also fallen for him so she enjoyed trying to make my life difficult. In the end, I was let go three months early for not having my tasks done on night duty one night. This particular night there was a party for the Vets and interns and I had been rostered on to work funnily enough! The male intern I liked had already made his pass at me and been successful and, of course, I had fallen for him even more because of this. But when I went up to the party on my breaks the female senior Vet was obviously all over him and so my mind was so full and confused when I had to go back to my duties. At one stage I had to go up to the party to ask him to come help me try to finish the duties as I couldn’t focus, my mind was all a mess by what was going on. To his credit he did come help me, but then an emergency came in and we got into big trouble for all the checks not being done. There was a meeting with my bosses the next day and I didn’t blame him, or her, or tell the truth, I can’t remember what I said but I was relieved to get out of that place.

He wasn’t the only issue there, there was a lot of male chauvinistic attitude and very few female interns. One of the other females, a lovely girl with a heart of gold, was the target of bullying and criticism when I first arrived and for my first month or so, but when she left I became that. I had also reconnected with an abusive ex-partner in the UK via the internet and since he said he missed me, I wanted to return to see him and rekindle our ‘love’ in time for Christmas and New Year, so I was happy to leave the hospital for that too. I wasn’t happy to leave Melbourne. An old Uni friend (I was at Melbourne Uni for 2 years before I did the five-year Vet degree in the UK) had lent me his Volkswagen 1972 beetle for the duration of my internship. I had so loved driving around the small town where my Vet internship had been and driving to and from Melbourne to see friends. I loved that car and Melbourne. But my heart was calling me back to the UK for some unfinished business. I returned to the UK to visit him for New Years.

I returned to the UK to visit my ex for New Years, we had been talking all throughout my time in the Cook Islands and my equine internship. However, on arriving in the UK, so looking forward to familiarity, he informed that his sister didn;t want me at her New Years Eve party that he was going to, as we caused too much drama when we were together. So that did it for me, I finally got it. His drugs, parties and music in the band would always come above me. In fact, i didn’t even care about that, I could finally see that I cared about Australia more than anything in the world.

So after travelling 10,000 miles from the other side of the world to spend New Years Eve with him, and being cold-shouldered at the last minute, and being mindful of how much I gave up to be there, and how happy I had been to be pottering around Melbourne in my mates VW bug, it finally hit me, the message finally got through, that this abusive guy that I had been smitten with for the previous 5 years, was actually no good for me. Australia was where my heart was, and I would get back there. It was a wonderful wake-up call. That I really needed to sever all ties with him. I was really lucky that life gave me that opportunity to feel so profoundly and for it to finally be so obvious to me.

So after working in a bar/cafe for a few months, I got offered another Vet job in Townsville, in far north Queensland and once the visas were sorted I flew back out again.

This was a job with small animals and I remember looking out of the practice window wishing to be outside and not really enjoying the job itself. Unfortunately, my mentor has taken quite a quick dislike to me too, funnily enough again another pretty blonde! I guess it is my Aspergers traits that cause these reactions in people. I am unaware of how I rub them up the wrong way, but I certainly feel the consequences. The first time I met my mentor I learnt that she had been at Melbourne Vet School the year below me. I asked her if she knew Downsy and Rob, Rob has been my partner for a year and Downsy was his best mate. She said yes she was dating Downsy. “Ah, he was so funny!” I remarked. “He was a knob!” she said disapprovingly and that was the end of that. I don’t know if it was that connection about me that stirred her or just everything, but she wasn’t much of a mentor. When I went to her with a question, she would say “you can go look that up yourself, don’t you do any reading at night?”. I was hurt and shamed each time this happened but in my head, I knew I was doing my best trying to fit into Townsville, find a place to live and have a healthy work-life balance. There was another more senior Vet who was the mentor to another young Vet, she was lovely and I started to go to her for questions instead. As an Aspie I know I learn really slowly and I like to listen to people to learn, that’s how I ‘get’ things. And once I get things, I really get them! I asked the practice manager if I could swap mentors as my original arrangement was not going well. My manager said sorry but that wasn’t possible as there was no one else available.

One morning I was driving my scooter to work, on the way to a staff meeting (that I was dreading), I was hit by a car turning slowly in front of me. I put my leg down to hold up my scooter but it was too heavy and fell on me and snapped my ACL ligament. As I was lying on the ground I looked up to the sky and thanked God or whatever it is that had put a stop to my life the way it was. The ambulance took me away and the doctors told me I’d need a surgery, I was even more elated at this news as I could stay away from that workplace for even longer. I guess, looking back, I didn’t know how to stand up for myself and make things the way I wanted them without divine intervention.

The first surgeon screwed up my knee so I had to fight against ‘work cover’ to get it re-operated on another two times. I was very fortunate that work cover covered accidents on the way to work at that time. Quite soon after my case, they changed the rules to no longer do that. I was very lucky.

I was not lucky in so many other ways, with the people I had come across on my work journey, and that the first surgeon screwed things up (he put the ligament in not quite the right angle and then augmented it with polyester since it wasn’t doing a great job of providing the stability, then my knee reacted to the polyester so I was limping far worse post-surgery then pre-, and I had to use a cane). So that mess had to be removed. Luckily I found a very friendly, kind and sensitive senior surgeon who had just come out of retirement and was able to do the surgery. Many other surgeons that I had consulted said that they had never removed a polyester graft and therefore couldn’t do it. But I was persistent and finally found my surgeon and he did a great job. Of course, now it gets hot and sore and it’ll never be the same again but at least I wasn’t left with the first surgeon’s attempt, I’d probably still be walking on a cane now if I was, or worse!

After being made redundant from that vet job, since I was still unable to return to full duties after one year, I didn’t go back to Veterinary work again. I guess with my three attempts at it, I didn’t have much joy. I can start to understand my reluctance to go back into it now as I think back over the details of my experiences. If only I had found a mentor sensitive to my condition – in fact if only I’d known about my condition back then! – then maybe, just maybe – I could have found a way to make that career work. I certainly enjoyed surgery and found I was very neat with that, I suppose that could be a strength of Aspergers – an eye for detail and precision. But I don’t know if its worth the stress of trying to get to be a surgeon. I cannot do Veterinary Medicine as there is too much to think about, too much unknown, too much mystery. Whereas surgery is better for me as it has strict instructions and protocols and I can stick to those. Unless I get a bleeding vessel or the anaesthetic starts to play up or something, then I might panic and not even know the correct thing to do either. I think that I am not good under stress or panic, or under the watchful gaze of others. I like a calm, quiet environment, and I suppose that Veterinary is unlikely to be that. I remember finding the smells of urine, faeces, vomit, disinfectants and even general dog smell to be offensive too. So many inputs, such a busy environment, lots of people with other vets, vet nurses and clients, it didn’t feel like a safe environment for me to work in, and probably never will be.

I have been contemplating going back or trying to go back so many times over the years. Maybe I have to bite the bullet and try as a volunteer at a few local vets just to make sure. Perhaps while I study journalism, photography and music over the next four years. I guess it only takes one Vet, who is nice and sensitive and open to supporting my Aspie diagnosis and then I could perhaps slowly get back into it. Of course, I can’t expect to be babysat, I am very aware of that, and I don’t want to get in the way, as they have their own work to do and money to earn, but I think I would need a very patient and tolerant mentor. Perhaps someone who is interested in having a surgery specialist, if they don’t already have one.

So we’ll see. I will keep grappling with the idea and perhaps put my feelers out locally.

Thanks for listening/reading…

Have a wonderful day!