It all began, back in the sixties. I was born before humans landed on the moon but after JFK was shot. It was a crazy time for my family. A few years after we got evicted due to overcrowding, and had to move. We had a choice of Wimbledon or Dagenham from Stepney. To save 15 minutes on his commute to work (Trinty House, Tower Hill), he chose Dagenham!
This would be a turning point in my family. At the time my family consisted of Mum, Dad, Brother and two Sisters.
This would be a turning point in my family. At the time my family consisted of Mum, Dad, Brother and two Sisterss.
All mostly happy, on the outside. My mum was, apparently the glue that held it all together, even after I was diagnosed with Epilepsy at the age of three. This was to become more evident a few years later.
At the age of 38, my mum died. She suffered a major bleed in the brain, and was diagnosed with cancer. Needless to say, this was a major shock to my dad. He was a well paid engineer on an above average wage. He was at the time on Beachy Head lighthouse when he heard, and was rushed home. I knew nothing of this, apart from when I was picked up from five elms junior school, it was not by my mum (who had dropped me off a couple of hours earlier). It was by “Aunt” Rose ( Rose Luxton, a friend of my mum’s).
I was briskly walked down the short road to home, where the curtains were drawn, although it was still light out at 15:45. Rose sat on an old dining chair in the living room, and my brother and sisters were there already. We stayed in that room in silence until after 19:00 when my dad arrived home. Eventually, at bedtime, my dad told me mum “had left us and will not be returning”. Of course, I asked “why?”. Dad just said, “she will be on holiday, but will not be coming back”. This confused me, which was made even worse a few decades later I was to discover.
What actually happened, I later found out, was that my mum suffered a haemorrhage just after 1pm, when she had dropped me off to school, outside the school itself. The school called for an ambulance, and was rushed to Oldchurch hospital. This is where the stories from my family diverge, but in summary, she could not be saved and died at the hospital.
After the first day, things sort of went on as normal. My dad was written to by the DHSS instructing him to place his younger children into care, as he “would not be able to cope”. My dad obviously wrote back to them, asking to be paid half of what the foster carers would be paid, then he could look after his own kids himself. DHSS refused the request and even refused him widows allowance on the grounds that he was not a woman. This was eventually overturned in 2009 by the European Court Of Human Rights ruling in the CASE OF SHIREBY v. THE UNITED KINGDOM. Despite this, as my dad died in 1993, no reciprocal payment was ever made to his estate by the crown. Despite the fact that he would have been due nearly 20 years of payments.
Due to my diagnosis, my dad was overly protective of myself. I did not make friends easily, even back then. I was very shy and had to have extra speech therapy lessons. I seem to recall the instructor was a largish white woman, probably in her thirties, who had bushy hair, and a slight lisp. This went on for a long time. A later diagnosis in life would explain this also.
I never really went out, mainly because I never got invited out by my school mates. I believe this was mainly due to the fact we did not have a phone, as the first day at school, everyone swapped phone numbers. They then arranged going out via the phone. I therefore only remember going out twice. Once when I was 5, to a birthday party. Another when I was 12, to a “friend” who lived 30 yards away.
I did get invited to an end of sixth form party, at Parsloes Manor Comp, but when I asked why I had been invited, but hadn’t been invited to any other parties, I was told because we felt we had to. I told them to shove it!
Belligerent? Yes, I would say so. Honest too, but this is not appreciated by most people I encounter. This too would be explained, when in my forties, I was diagnosed with Autism, specifically, Asperger’s or Higher Functioning Autism. This explains all the confusion I had when I was a child, and why my dad kept beating me with a 3 foot length of cane, because I was asking too many questions or being rude. It also explains why I had speech therapy, which would be an early sign of autism nowadays. Back then, autistic children like myself were simply labelled as naughty or outspoken. Thankfully, due partly to the work of the National Autistic Society and Mind , things are slowly improving.
After school, my dad died at the age of 60. This was due to a Dr Ashraaf, in Dagenham, being incompetent, as he did not diagnose a duodenal ulcer until he died, and even advised my dad to keep taking the aspiring for his stomach pains “if it helped”.
After his death, I rushed into marriage with a woman from a pen pal site. Due, I feel to my terrified state, as I had never been on my own until then. The marriage was a 7 year abuse course. Threats ranged from verbal to being attacked with knives and having things thrown at me. Eventually, I managed to escape with my life, just. She attacked me for the last time on 8th Feb 2001, when she jumped at me at 1:10 with a dagger shaped pair of scissors.
I eventually was prompted to get an autism assessment by an ex girlfriend and former school friend. It took my GP over 14 months from the first consultation to request a referral, and then only because Dawn came with me to my GP and stood over him until he submitted the request on the computer. This then led to a 4 week consultation to assess me for autism, or madness.
I say madness because on the initial session, I was greeted to a Psychologist and a Psychiatrist. I also attended the sessions with Gill, my cousin. I asked her to be there to cover any questions about my childhood, as my memory of my early life is non existent, apart from what I have learned since. After thirty minutes, my Psychiatrist turned to me and said, ” Mr. Gibbons, you may think you are mad, but you’re not.”. He then bid good bye to all in the room and left! That, at least, was reassuring.
After my eventual diagnosis, the whole world suddenly became clearer. I know understood exactly why life was so confusing. It helped me, but not others, who I suddenly discovered, did not care or respect mental health issues. Life continued as was normal with myself, with short relationship after relationship. Then, one day in 2017, I was fired from my job with Strictly Education. I was not given a right to give my side of the story and was told that various complaints had been received from most of my sites about my behaviour. This was from a manager who just a few weeks beforehand asked me to be “less autistic” when I was at my sites. It was also 6 days after the same manager praised me for doing an excellent job and actually advised me that no complaints were received and that several sites had complimented me on my work.
After this, I had a severe mental breakdown. That first weekend, If my friend Mary Priddice had not been there supporting me, I would be in jail, or even Psychiatric hospital now. She took over my life and organised everything for me. I was not in a fit state to make reasonable decisions at all, and kept breaking into tears all the time. It was at this point that she realised that I would not be in a fit state to work again, which was devastating to me, as I lived for work. It was all that I had.
And that brings me up to now. I am now campaigning to mental health issues to be taken seriously, and the rights of people with Autism, which is protected under the Equality Act 2010, to be respected. We are as human as everyone else, in fact I would say we are probably the next stage of evolution of the human species. Over my life, I have suffered physical and mental abuse. I have had threats from neighbours about parking outside “their” road and even had racial abuse on occasions, which the police refused to action, despite having witnesses. Even today, I have had to raise several complaints against the police for not investigating hate crime attacks against me.