Since I was 18 years old, I have had many jobs. Unfortunately, none of these jobs ever lasted very long, usually a few months at the most. Some of this is due to my anxieties becoming out of control, some of it is down to my depression spiking in various stages of my adulthood, but mostly, I now understand, it is down to my autism.
Many people on the autistic spectrum find it incredibly difficult to maintain a job. This is often due to lacking the social skills required to pass an interview, never mind actually working with other people.
I have personally found that the most difficult work positions are those that are customer facing. To an autistic person like me, to have the responsibility of dealing with potentially confrontational unhappy customers is my idea of hell. On top of that, to be responsible for handling money or scanning items correctly on a till counter is very far out of my comfort zone. This would cause my anxiety to go through the roof and I’d keep making mistakes and so then the queues would get longer, and I’d panic more and more, much to the annoyance of the waiting customers. I know this because I have briefly worked on a till counter before and I hated every second of it.
I have also worked in factories before. Let’s just say the “friendly banter” that goes on in them isn’t exactly an autism-friendly environment. My paranoia would go through the roof and I’d end up standing out from the other people more than ever when I don’t know how to respond to their ideas of humour and conversation.
Lastly, there’s the office job. Boring, mundane, repetitive. Full of back patters and some of the laziest people I’ve ever met. It wasn’t really the right place for my creative mind to thrive. On top of that, the strict time restrictions and high expectations of work were very pressurising and caused my anxiety to heighten yet again. I also had to deal with a manager who was a cocky and horrible kind of bully who would happily take all of the credit for any work I did. The stresses of this job caused me to have my first real mental breakdown and that ultimately put me on the path to look into an autism assessment, so I have that to thank the job for I suppose.
Working is hard for autistic people. We have so much to give but we need handling with extreme care and caution. The kind of care that most employers would likely see as a burden and waste of valuable time.
I truly wish I could work somewhere and earn some money to call my own, but it needs to be somewhere I can live up to my strengths and show people just what it is I can do with the skills I possess, not just some repetitive shop, factory or office job (not that there’s anything wrong with those jobs, they’re just not for me).
Once again, I wish I was normal, but alas, I am not. I have autism, for better or for worse.