Andy – Incorporated Engineer

About me

I’m an Incorporated Engineer, working in a niche sector.  I’m also mum to an amazing teenage boy.  I have high functioning autism and extreme sensory sensitivities. People I work with tend to use words like diligent and thorough to describe me. 

I’ve always been a high achiever, even at school, but I have also spent 30 years silently struggling with anxiety and a crippling fear of failure

On my strengths

My work ethic and diligence are probably my biggest strengths.  I also have great attention to detail and I’m able to concentrate on something for very long periods of time.  I’m innately able to absorb large amounts of information and retain it.  I’m very logical and objective, direct and straight forward; honest to a fault.  Putting all of these attributes together enables me to excel in my field.  Apparently, many engineers are autistic.

On my challenges

Earlier in my career, I worked in large offices with lots of people, often with a long commute to get there.  I found travelling on public transport and working in open plan offices exhausting and I couldn’t understand why others didn’t feel the same.  I now know that my sensitivities to lighting, glare, noise, temperature, clothing and even smells aren’t something that most other people have to deal with.  But these things deplete my energy levels rapidly, to the point where I can’t think straight. 

Growing up, I also learnt that being myself wasn’t socially acceptable – I was viewed as odd, aloof or stuck up, although in reality I was bemused and confused.  I could see that naturally I didn’t act and appear like those around me, although I didn’t know why.  My solution was to suppress and mask, both at work and at home – I tried to hide my social interaction difficulties by copying how others behaved in an attempt to fit in. 

Without understanding my difficulties or having any coping mechanisms, I became permanently overwhelmed and lived in survival mode for more than 25 years

The mental and physical exhaustion left me with burnout and I regularly had meltdowns in the confines of my home, which lead to my marriage break up in 2007.   At my lowest point, I was labelled by my work colleagues and my family as emotional, highly strung and mentally unstable.

Although I knew that I was very ill, I didn’t seek professional help because I firmly believed that I’d be institutionalised in secure accommodation if I admitted my issues to healthcare professionals. I knew that being treated like this was not going to help me so I didn’t seek help.