My life journey so far, by Leon Jordan
October is Black History Month – a time for not only acknowledging the bad things, but also for celebrating and giving thanks.
Leon, who we support in London, has written a blog about growing up as a black person living with autism.
Sweet and sour
Sweet and sour is the right word to use for my experience growing up as a black male living with autism. I had mixed memories, some really good ones and some not too good.
I remember one of the Saturdays when I visited Dad, he took me to a snooker hall which I enjoyed greatly as I felt on top of the world. My primary school days was great fun. I had a particular friend, we played together most times and it was just fun. Things were good for me.
Secondary experience was a bit different. I went to special school. At first, I didn’t understand why I was sent there but the reason later became a bit clear to me as I was informed my diagnosis. I cannot exactly remember what age I was then, but I struggled to deal with it. I felt isolated and completely cut off. This was further made worse by the suffering and humiliation of being bullied virtually every day. I didn’t quite understand why I was bullied but Mum told me told me I was just an easy target to them. That hurt me more. I remembered I joined the football team at school because I love football but throughout the 90 minutes on the pitch playing, football no one will pass me the ball. I was totally ignored as if I was not on the pitch, after a while I was benched. I then decided to quit football.
No one seems to understand me apart from Mum, Dad, and my sister. I was quite open to Mum about being bullied but not able to express the effect of the bullying to her. So, I bottled so much in. It came to the point of me thinking of harming myself, yet I couldn’t really express it to anyone. One day as I sat with my sister at the living room in our house, I suddenly boiled over my emotions and thought aloud. I remembered my sister ran to the kitchen and called Mum’s attention. I just felt I had enough.
Then came a period of school tours. We went to Derbyshire and for the first time, I did rock climbing and cave tour which I really enjoyed. It helped move my mind away from the bad memories. My experience of the school tour was very intriguing. I have seen caves being explored on TV but never thought what it would be like to actually explore one and to see what a real cave looked like. I started to find ways to make myself feel better by engaging with things that makes me happy and takes bad memories away from me. Things started to get better.
Once I left secondary school, my next chapter was college. Unlike secondary school, I felt I was respected and treated as equal. I had tutors who seemed to understand me and supported me. I enjoyed attending classes. I made few friends at college and we normally hang out together. Life was better again.
After leaving college, was a period of uncertainty for me because I was not sure what I wanted to do. There was a long absence for me trying to figure out what next to do. Then I started receiving support from Generate, called Rathbone then. I became a trainee at Platform One at Clapham Junction. I wasn’t enjoying my time at Platform One. One day, while working at Platform One I noticed some flyers for jobs at the council. I took one home and told Mum that I was interested in the job.
Mum supported me to complete the form and I was called for interview I realised that my confident is getting better. While out with a friend, I received a phone call that I got the job. I remembered it was celebration in our house that day. I was so excited, at the same time anxious, as I have never worked before and was not sure what to do. I finally started my new job, and it was fun. I felt relieved as people at work supported me and treated me with respect. Things started to get more better.
My big turning point was when I attended the Gay Pride. Back in my secondary school days, I was called gay a lot. It played in my mind so much, but I bottled it up which proved to be fatal and costly decision. At the process of discovering myself, I questioned myself whether what I was called at secondary school was the case. I sought help from a family friend. It soon became evident and I went to my first Gay Pride. Even though I have missed previous years Gay Pride, I was very happy I attended that one. Looking back on it now, I will say I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Another major turning point was when I moved out from the family house to live independently as I knew I couldn’t live with Mum as I was getting older. It wasn’t an easy decision to make as I wasn’t sure if I would be able to cope on my own. I had conversation with Mum about it, even though both of us knew it would be good for my independence, it was so hard to take in. Looking back now, I will say it was one of the best decisions I have made. Living in a supported living house has helped improved my confidence, skills, independence, and I’m more comfortable being who I want to be. Things are getting better and better each day.
However, this pandemic has affected me so much. At first, I did not quite understand the seriousness of it, but staff continued to explain it to me until gradually I started to understand it better. It was so annoying to me because it prevented me from going out. Then it got so bad that I was furloughed at work for a long time. To make things worse, I was newly appointed as godfather to my friend’s little girl. So not being able to see them as much I wanted to, hit me hard. It was the same as not being able to see my family.
Just staying at home affected my wellbeing. Staff supported me to make timetable for indoor activities which I will say helped me. I was constantly reminded of the safety guidelines as much as I don’t like them, I have to do them because I’m scared of getting infected or infecting others. The restrictions are difficult for me, but I try as much as possible to keep going. I will say this is one of the challenging times of my life but I’m dealing with it as best as I can.
Relating my journey with Black History Month, I’m of the opinion that everyone should be treated equally with respect, without discrimination or being judged. No one should be treated the way I was treated when I was in secondary school.
So, that’s my journey so far.
Written by Leon Jordan, age 36
If Leon's story has sparked your interest, visit the Black History Month website for more information and personal perspectives.