[This blog is just giving you a quick overview of my younger years, in one of my other blogs I’ll piece together all of my work experiences I had during my lifetime, rather than mentioning my work experience during younger years now. Furthermore, I shan’t mention about my travels during my younger years. I’ll discuss my travels in a travel blog.] Alongside these dot-connecting blogs, I will also mention about my sporting life, as this is something that I had experienced throughout my time at school, college, etc.
I’ve done quite a few blogs before, discussing topics relevant to my present life – however I haven’t delved into my early years, perhaps out of fear of what people might think of me if they knew what I was like. But, as its said “Never be a prisoner of your past. It was just a lesson, not a life sentence”, if I hadn’t experienced the things I did – I probably wouldn’t be who I am today. People emphasise to me that I don’t give myself enough credit for the “struggle” I’ve been through to get me to where I am today.
It would be quite helpful to refer to psychologist reports when writing this, as they can give me a more in-depth analysis of my very young years. As such, I’m gonna include direct quotes throughout this blog, if you have any questions about anything – just throw me a message.
Let us begin…
“Joshua was born with no abnormalities; however the circumference of his head was larger than an average baby (according to a comment made by the doctor to Joshua’s mother”. Furthermore, “Joshua did not like being picked up, and would begin crying if he were touched. This initial issue for his mother caused some worry, and made her anxious”. My mum was desperate to connect with her new-born son, and sought for any help to understand why physical touch upset me. Everything else at this stage appeared somewhat normal, however, according to my mother – my eyes would constantly be looking away from the central view. (My pupils would constantly look towards my upper eyelid). This is when my mother decided that she wanted to begin taking me to a doctor to assess the issues. At around 8 months old, I was in fact dropped, by my father*, and broke both my wrists – he wanted to enjoy his life and my mother believed that he wasn’t prepared to settle down and look after me. This resorted in my mother moving back in with my amazing grandparents, who from that day worked closely with my mum to ensure that I was brought up well.
*My biological father
When I was 18 months old, for whatever reason (unknown), he passed away. Stories of him, by family members – say that he was smart, but cunning and narcissistic. (Potentially Autistic).
From the age of three, my behaviour began to deteriorate – I had very limited control of my actions, I didn’t make nursery and infants school pleasant for myself. I was uncontrollable and found myself in trouble for silly things that I had done, without thought. This was when it caused my mother to worry about what she should do with me. Upon seeing a psychologist – the diagnosis was Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, it was believed that I was just very hyper and lacked the ability to hold my attention to one activity at a time. Further to this, it appeared, to the psychologist and school – that I was always wanting to be the centre of attention. It was when I was four, that my step-father came into my life, and began to help my mum to cope with me, with the help of my grandparents where possible. Due to my issues – my mother was unable to realistically find a job where she could put her experiences to effective use. My step-father was a partner as this point in his father’s company and constantly worked to ensure we were stable and lived a more than comfortable life.
At the age of five, my parent’s had my little sister and caused a somewhat rift in the family unit. My step-father (who I believed was my real father), instantly took sides with his newly born daughter and would from them on always side with her. My mother always saw me as her little boy, who she would do anything to protect.
Right, lets cut the story short – or you’ll be reading forever! There’s so much to tell, but I think it’s better to just hit the main points now.
This was the most disruptive part of my life, due to my inability to socially interact properly with the children at school throughout my very younger years – I failed to establish a competent mode of communication. This lead to an instant dislike by others around me – which would have caused, as the psychologist stated: “A negative sense of self”. My self-esteem was rather low, and that wasn’t helped by the fact that I was being bullied left, right and centre by the kids who didn’t understand me. This trend continued from year 3 (school year) until pretty much year 13 of my life. The bullying was affecting me worse than most people could imagine, it caused me to have only one real friend in my life, and that was my dog. I became quite a recluse when I went home from school and would sit silently most of the time. I was always desperate to attend social events at school, in the hope that people might like me – but as I tried, people just found me really weird. That’s when I started getting angry, and lashing out at people – I began to dislike everyone. As things began to get worse in each school – I moved, again and again. My parents moved up the property ladder, and as that happened – I moved schools. My parents hoped that each new school would give me a fresh start, and a chance to create my future and find some friends. Psychologists by the age of 11, believed that I suffered from Emotional Behavioural Difficulty. Then, at the age of 13, when I had been bullied ridiculously at my first secondary school (mostly because of jealousy of the other kids) – I left the school. My mother attempted to seek help from someone who was a professional tutor, and straight away after meeting me – she spoke quietly in the doorway to my mother about me. (I’m autistic, there’s very little I can’t hear). But in that moment, she mentioned to my mum that my mannerisms, lack of eye contact, ability to structure sentences, but was very articulate with my speech when I did speak and had good grades at school – that I may, in fact, have Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.
This was the answer my mother had spent the past 13 years looking for, the answer to all her problems, all her deepest worries – and the reason for everything. She immediately took my home and contacted the Child & Adolescent psychology clinic at Bath RUH. After a few sessions with Dr. Helen Rainer, the leading professional in the field of Autism in the South West – she diagnosed me with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome.
You might ask how I can have both, as Asperger’s is on the Spectrum (Google Autistic Spectrum), well its because I had traits from other parts of the spectrum, some more severe traits, which I will discuss in one of the later blogs.
The diagnosis didn’t help me stay in Mainstream education – I ended up in a specialist unit called Lansdown Tuition Centre. This unit was merely a stop gap between schools, and pupils tend to stay here between 2 and 4 months. I was there a year, I was their longest ever pupil – they were so limited in what they could teach me, so I ended up constantly repeating the work. I watched new kids coming in nearly every month, and I used to watch them leave to go to a new school. They would talk about what school options they had. The funny thing about the tuition centre, is that it gave me my first insight into the life of some of the tougher kids in the Bath and Bristol area, in fact, it made me a little tougher and less weird, not completely normal, however. I hadn’t experienced the sort of life they had, and in a way, coming from my little bubble at home where I was pretty much only allowed within our pillars to our house (Literally 20 metres from the front garden) – it was exciting to hear about them. In fact, their lives opened up a bit of a rebel in me (we will discuss later). My parent’s finally got word after a year – that Farleigh college, a specialist school for teens with autism had offered me a place. This place was rated as the best school in England to go if you were autistic, it was a manor house in the middle of the countryside, and had acres of land for us to spend time in a sort of rehab, which taught us how to deal with our Autism.
(Disclaimer: The tuition centre accepted some of the worst behaved kids who had been expelled from school, they were rough, rude, violent and bullies).
From Farleigh College to Arboleas, Spain.
After spending a year in the Tuition centre with those kids, my adaptability took over and I sort of became the sort of person they were. I was suddenly quite sure of myself, I believed I was bigger than I was and I felt somewhat different to my family. Farleigh soon knocked that out of me though. Farleigh made me feel ill, it made me believe that I was diseased – to me Autism was completely negative, and I wanted to be rid of it. I searched through the diagnosis Dr. Rainer gave me, which my mum had hidden in the cupboard under the stairs – and I wrote down all the symptoms/traits of the condition that I exhibited. I started desperately trying to prove that I wasn’t Autistic, and this was the beginning of me establishing my coping mechanisms for the condition. It was my desperation not to have Autism, that caused me to seek normality. I began watching people obsessively, understanding their walk, their mannerisms, the way they spoke, the way they exhibited body language as they spoke (Which of course I didn’t understand). You could say that my ability to do this, was genius. I put two and two together, I watched people’s reactions to different conversations. I can’t even explain how crazy it was, I was taking a piece of each person I met, and adapting it to me. I guess you could say it’s the way that a child learns, much like Bandura attempted to establish how children replicate actions of adults – but instead I replicated entire personalities. You could question – Do you know who you are? And I would probably answer that I do, however, I am a mix of many different interactions I came across, replicating their responses, and different personalities. The problem with being able to be so adaptable is that I became a different person based on each environment, so I wasn’t particularly ever consistent with who I was.
When I was 14, my parents decided that they wanted to move to the house we owned in Arboleas, Spain. This saddened me, I didn’t want to lose the support of the family around me, and I strongly objected to them having me board at Farleigh. During my time in Spain, my parents paid for a private tutor to keep me topped up on Maths and English, but it was of no benefit to me. Instead, I was obsessed with computing, something I had always had a passion for. I decided to set up my own little business, which I will discuss later in other blogs, I mean I could just write one long bloody story, but perhaps its more beneficial to you as the reader – for me to break them down.
This is starting to get long now… Let’s avoid a story… So let me get to the main points…
When I was 16, I decided that after living in Spain for over a year and a half – I was done. I moved back to England, to live with my grandparents. I had no GCSE’s. My initial plan was to join the Army, and I spent time in Spain waking up at 6am daily, going for a 3-mile run, coming home and working out. I was very fit at this stage. Unfortunately, however, after passing the fitness tests for the Army, there was a request for medical records. Just to let you know – if you have Autism – you’re permanently excluded from joining the Army… So they instantly rejected me. I had no clue whatsoever about what I was going to do. So I rebelled, ended up living in a rough part of Bath, with one of my friends, and their family… I started hanging out with one of the guys who I attended the Tuition Centre with because of course, that was the only sort of person I knew and was in close contact with as a kid. I had no idea what I was doing, I didn’t understand what he and his mates were doing. But they certainly gave me a whole new life experience, that most people would never have the opportunity to experience, and why would they, it was rough!
Lets for a second imagine this: Your parents are ashamed of you, your grandparents don’t want to know you anymore, the kids you hang out with are part of what would seem a gang of thugs, and you live in a bedroom with your friend’s younger brothers, on a mattress… The only food you can afford is Sainsburys’ Basics range or Iceland food. Your parents refuse to help you, but can’t see you without money, so pay the person you live with £30 a week to live.
(In fact, I am utterly grateful for their family for taking me in, had they not have done that – I quite possibly would have ended up in a youth hostel or worse. I have obscene amounts of respect for them).
This experience showed me much of the reality of the some of the people in our country. People genuinely live their life like this! No longer was I in the bubble my parents had formed for me. No longer did I have whatever I wanted, when I wanted. I actually had to save every penny I had, because there would be no support for me if I didn’t have it. Heck, I even had to go to those charity places – where they’d hand out food to support you through the winter. It was then that I decided, after only a month of being in the country – that I needed a job. The closest place I thought that would take me, without GCSE’s, was McDonald’s. Why would I be picky? I had nothing, and no one had any faith in me, I was on my own. I attended that interview for McDonald’s, and promised the manager that I wouldn’t let him down, that I’d work as many hours as he needed, regardless of being paid £4.25ph. So there I was, working 40 hours a week, at McDonald’s. That job gave me my first taste of how to deal with people. Of course, we can’t forget I was still suffering from my Autism, and I still hadn’t effectively learned how to deal with people very well. Even within my “friend group”, I was being bullied by the harder, bigger kids… I needed to toughen up, and understand how to react to situations. Obviously, they used to take the piss out of me for working at McDonald’s, they always used to try and get free food from me and it was frustrating. I didn’t quite understand how to deal with them, I didn’t want to get punched or picked on.
A few times I found myself in very difficult situations, where they would be drunk or on drugs, and I just didn’t understand it. I refused to touch alcohol or drugs and found myself having to stop people violently attacking me. One day a 27-year-old approached me, and for no reason hit me, this was the first time that I stood up for myself, and in one swing, hit him back, knocking him to the floor. It hurt soo much! But it felt so good, to finally stand up for myself. In fact, it was from that moment that my whole life changed. I was 17 at this point, athletic build, and 6ft 1 – I wasn’t going to take any more crap. After this event, I decided to attend Off the Record to get myself some help, to understand myself better. Here, they recommended that I contact Mentoring Plus… The service provided young troubled people the chance to meet up with volunteers who had their life together and wanted to help others. My mentor, Pete, was super cool and massively beneficial to my life. He was a successful man who worked very hard in Bristol, he spent time with me when he could, to help me understand why I do the weird things I did and gave me life advice. He actually made inspired me to be a better person, and aspire for more in life.
During my time attending Mentoring plus, I was enrolled on a youth programme with a really great mentor named Daniel. Daniel worked hard with youths like me, who struggled to have an idea of what to do with life. During my time with Daniel, I learnt a whole range of skills and how to understand myself better, to be a better person. We used to go on trips where we would learn to work as a team, and I remember a few awesome trips where we went kayaking and caving. The experience helped me to come to terms with my strengths and directed me even more towards my future potential goals. Without Daniel, I don’t think I could have decided that I wanted to go to college and persue a successful future.
I decided that I wanted to go to college and get GCSES. I applied to the local college, with the thought that I was going to get a better job in life, I wasn’t going to be an idiot anymore. It was at this stage, that I was offered another mattress on the floor, at someone’s house, but in my own room. I took the opportunity, however at a cost, the money my parents gave me would go towards the fee for living there – but wouldn’t cover food. I no longer worked at McDonalds, but now worked at Dominoes, as someone who answered the phones. I also received Education Maintenance Allowance, due to my attendance at college. This attendance didn’t last very long though, due to the conditions I was in, due to several issues with friendships and in general my health – I dropped out of college. I was gutted, I was becoming very good at the subjects I did, in particular – history. However, I just wasn’t ready for education, still. My grandfather heard from customers of his pub, that I was ill and that I had dropped out of college. I knew that people had constantly updated him on my whereabouts and what I was doing in my life. One day, my mother contacted me, to inform me that one of my grandfather’s house share rentals, had a small spare room that I could move into. It wasn’t long after this, that my grandfather turned up at my house, in his old AF Land Rover, ready to collect whatever stuff I had. Jeez, now I remember what my wardrobe (A Pile of clothes on the floor) looked like… I’m utterly embarrassed. Let’s just say Sports Direct was all I could afford… Don’t judge me guys! So anyway, I moved into an odd house-share in one of the nicer parts of Bath and that’s when my life began to change. I had constantly attended Connexions, which was a service to help young people who couldn’t get a job and couldn’t remain in college. They enrolled me on an Entry to Employment course. The course was there to help young adults achieve level 2 qualifications, in all different subjects, including Literacy, Maths, Computing, Job Seeking and interview techniques. That’s where I met one of my greatest mentors, Rod. Rod was a ‘take no shit’ sorta guy. If you come to E2E and you don’t wanna be there, you won’t be there long. Rod was a fulltime legend, and in fact, he didn’t take my shit at all. At this point, I was still confused in my life, torn between conflicting personalities and completely polarised personalities at that. In a way, Rod knocked me down a peg or two, and helped me to achieve the best I could of the course. He would call me, and talk to me about how I’m feeling, and ensure that I’m always doing the best for myself. After a successful 6 months there, Rod helped me apply to St. Brendan’s Sixth Form College, one of the finer colleges in the local area. Upon a successful interview, and some IQ tests – the head of the college let me do something he had never allowed before… He let me take A level equivalents, having never taken any exams, GCSES, or any sort of relevant prior qualifications before. The IQ tests came back remarkably positive, emphasising my ability to analyse information, quickly and my logical thought processes’ – which impressed the head. This is where I take you to the next blog…
Thank you for reading.
Next Blog – When my life really started…