for Alison Hale
A very brief history of time...
- In the beginning... I have vivid memories of the senseless confusion of preschool, I was bewildered by the incomprehensible mishmash of sounds [spoken language] and the multi-coloured blurs [children].
- At Primary school... I very often contemplated, "When reading are we supposed to read the black bits or the white bits?" Neither the black bits [letters] nor the white bits [spaces] made any sense to me. I perceived everything in terms of patterns and struggled throughout every waking moment to discern which ones represented' reality' and which were just a figment of my imagination.
- At secondary school... I did not want to be bullied on a daily basis but this was almost inevitable given I was barely literate, unable to conform, and could not pursue 'normal' teenage activities. Locked in, unable to effectively express myself using language, my mental health collapsed into severe depression and anxiety; ashamed I masked it so well nobody realised the depth of my anguish.
- Late teenage years... I struggled through an Electronic Engineering Apprenticeship trying to hide my Dyslexia (incl. severe literacy difficulties) but refusing to give in to it. In spite of all my continuing struggles I managed to achieve extremely high marks in BTEC Higher National exams and excelled at the practical side of engineering; I could very easily fix electronic circuits that colleagues considered unfixable! I had at last found something that I could do well!
- Early twenties... Still masking the extent of severe mental health problems I had lost the ability to cope with everyday life. I was socially, emotionally and physically disconnected. I was long-term unemployed, lived with my parents and lost sight of my aspirations.
- Mid twenties... I began to make real sense of my surroundings, other people and importantly myself. I was diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Disorder; specifically Asperger Syndrome. Understanding what was wrong enabled me, with the help of good friends, to find ways of coping; this diagnosis was the key to unlocking a much brighter future. Now able to communicate effectively using English I was no longer locked-in, the isolation had diminished.
- Late twenties... Armed with a better understanding of myself I was handed the opportunity of a job in IT, eventually becoming a Senior Systems Analyst and without effort becoming an extreme multi-lingual programmer; 15+ languages! My party trick was to quickly fix IT problems which my colleagues really could not solve! I had a reason to get out of bed in the morning and my mental health improved beyond recognition.
- Early thirties... An irresistible opportunity arose to attend university. I completed the 4 year course in only 3 years(!) easily graduating with a First Class Honours Masters Degree in Physics; final degree mark 85%! It was everyday life which I found very tough, the physics was comparatively easy.
- Mid thirties... I enjoyed my PhD research, although writing up was a pain! Life was not easy as Dyslexia, Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, and Autism Spectrum Disorder presented many challenges which I needed to overcome on a daily basis.
- Today... I thoroughly enjoy myself working as a Researcher applying advanced mathematical and computational techniques/modelling to a verity of science problems. When I am not working the thing I most enjoy doing is simply talking with my friends!
For more see extracts from the second edition of my autobiography.