I can’t even begin to tell you how much has happened in a year. Today is the day (21st July) that my work world fell apart and I found out I was being made redundant. After 5 years of learning how to be ‘autism focused’ which I felt was my absolute strength, I was being told it was my weakness and I was now ‘too autism focused’ to stay within the revised structure of the local authority SEND department.
Now I can look back and see the phases I have been through and the pattern they follow is probably true of many trauma based events.
Absolute devastation. I remember it very clearly but it is like it happened to someone else, certain words and phrases are logged in my brain and still niggle me a year on, mainly when I have personal doubt. This was a blow that can not have been softened in any way, shape or form. I cried. A lot. And the next day, I attended 2 annual reviews and pretended that nothing had happened…..
Panic. That is how I am going to describe it. What am I going to do? What am I good for now? Do I want to go back into class teaching? I am probably too expensive … no one will want me. How will I pay my mortgage? How am I going to tell people? Can I talk to someone without crying? The feeling of no hope.
Come up with a plan. This is me all over, I have to have a plan and I have to feel as if I am moving forward. I suppose if I look at it objectively, it’s the instinct of fight, flight and freeze. I am in the mode to ‘fight back’ by moving forward, fighting no one really but myself in an attempt keep going. And I did come up with a plan over the period of the 6 weeks holiday; it changed frequently and took a while for autism act to evolve out of it. At first, I decided I would go for a position within the local authority as some had not been filled. Looking back now, my reason for doing this was only financial security and the need for some familiarity. But autism act started to emerge as a thought and after a lovely holiday to Majorca, my mind was set. This was the path I was going to take.
Was hard! I had all these ideas for the new business which I had to keep to evenings and weekends , whilst juggling 4 months of working out a redundancy. I was not able to promote my new business idea and school visits were difficult as many people I had worked with over a period of time were also upset that I had lost my job. My role had become very dead end and futile feeling with no real chance of the impact I had been used to and proud of. The honest truth, I suffered with my mental health in Phase 4 and had to take some time off. I missed the end of the term, didn’t manage goodbyes (my choice) as ‘freeze’ instinct had now kicked in; I had hit a wall and needed time out.
The launch! On 1st January at 12 01am, we toasted the beginning of autism act. A teacher I had worked with in my previous role, who was also a parent , messaged me with my first autism act booking! That support will NEVER be forgotten. Phase 5 ended up being better than I could have imagined; a website, the facebook page really took off and I was beginning to get bookings, some regular which was very encouraging. I had 3 months with a good trajectory and I began to think I had made the right decision. Schools who no longer had autism support from the local authority were engaging with me. I was writing my new material, unique to autism act, as I knew I was unable to use local authority material. Confidence in myself and my decision to start autism act was building, I began to feel like myself again.
Time to reinvent my services! Yes, Covid 19 hit and within a few days, I lost all my school based and venue based work. Postponed to goodness knows when. Having got this far, I was not prepared to let a global panic stop me providing a service! I think ‘fight back’ instinct kicked in again and I began to think about the service I could offer. It meant face to face training needed to be tweaked to meet a virtual audience, I had to embrace zoom and how to deliver consultations using that media. I focused on a huge amount of self promotion and pushing myself out of my comfort zone to reach a new group of customers. This has been successful and I have met some lovely people, who want to know more about autism, from Scotland to Cornwall and everywhere you can think of in between. It has been a lifeline for the business and leads to Phase 7 ….
To be said in ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ manner, of course! The virtual support programme has to continue, and even when face to face work can resume, this will remain an important part of my service. This week it will be added to the website as well as being promoted on facebook. In my mind, it will look more professional and help me reach a wider audience. A new parent programme will be announced next month, again using zoom. If you don’t live in Essex, this does not limit you to using my services. A full Tuesday evening zoom workshop will also be announced in August; September to November, with some repeats and a lot of new workshops. I have another idea bubbling for a child programme – early days.
I have realised quickly, I have to keep moving forward, evolving, looking at what people using my services want, whilst being prepared for face to face work possibly being restricted again in the future.
What have I needed to keep going?
A re-evaluation of WHAT is important.
A re-evaluation of WHO is important.
Secure relationships with people I can trust and rely on.
A bucket full of self belief … that comes when the 3 things above are addressed.
You can do it, take some time out and believe ….