I left boarding school aged 15 with very little awareness of the world, society, or knowledge of how to take care of myself. I had c-PTSD from my experiences there and developed not only a distrust of people, but a deep fear of them.
It was a school for children with special needs. I was given 4 exams, Art, Maths, English and Science, I did alright at Art. This severely limited my options when it came to work. I remember my career advisor at school. I said that I wanted a creative career. The suggestion was a baker. An environment full of negative sensory impact. From the noise and people to the heat and it being a risky environment if you can’t think clearly.
I followed the path I was set on, but let go of every job I got. Getting jobs that were often taken away without warning meant that I soon ended up in debt. I was adjusting all the time to other people and sensory issues that I wasn’t consciously aware of. So there was no way to find more suitable work when at the time I didn’t know what I was reacting to. I was masked too so often seen as lazy or let go because of a personality clash. Apparently I clashed with a lot of personalities.
I left school and went into a job. When I had the accident in 2007 (a 14 year period), I had been out of work for three weeks. I had ended up with a C.V. that looked like a page from a phone book.
I tried to juggle outgoings but felt like I was rubbish with money. The problem was I didn’t know how to budget when a pay packet was conditional. Plus my money was going on alcohol (used as a mild sedative to be able to be in work without constant panic attacks) and taxis because public transport was deeply uncomfortable and loud. As well as movies, games etc so I could hide away after work. Try to calm down and relax so that sleep was possible. It cost more to work in the jobs I was getting than I was getting, I was hounded by debt collectors. The hurtful thing about my life is the assumption was that I didn’t try.
I literally gave everything I had, but the message I was sent over and over was that I’m just not good enough. Not fast enough, smart enough, trustworthy enough.
... I felt like I had no value because I kept being told that I wasn’t worth people’s time, effort or a job.
Having a strong work ethic, I kept trying. Despite the PTSD episodes, meltdowns, burnout and panic attacks, that I had sometimes daily behind closed doors. When in my room and trying to settle, day after day after day.
The image is just some of the environments I worked in. An airport, bakery, kitchen and Blockbuster Video stores. Knowing about my own sensory processing now, I wouldn’t have chosen to be in any of those environments because it isn’t places I can cope in. Each one was too overwhelming, but I still went, until they let me go and I had to find a new job.
All our best and love
Ross Fraser and Jeni Curtis
Words – Ross Fraser
Graphic Design App – Canva