Today was meltdown day. Then shut down. All in the space of a few hours, actually, so rightly it should be meltdown arvo. Nevertheless, today has been hard, and work mates knew it.
I am an apprentice truck mechanic. Yeah, I know. I’m middle aged, single mum, completely inexperienced, mild haemophiliac, female and autistic. The holy number of ‘things against me’, I guess. Let’s not go into why I decided to do this; that is another post. I did silently ask myself repeatedly why I am doing this many times after lunch.
My energy is at a low. The hot days, new poly-cotton work shirts, overalls and rush pace has left me at 5% of energy. I went into the red after lunch. Then I got asked to return to a job to finish off small things I hadn’t noticed during the service. One of those was to grease a rose joint under the cabin of a Kenworth. For you lay persons, that means contorting myself into a small space with a grease gun to give a tine squirt of grease to an area the size of a 20c piece. Not fun. It requires coordination. Which I donot have unless I am at 50% energy. I began to cry in frustration.
I don’t let the 25 odd men see me cry. I spill out on days like today, and they just assume I’m a cranky menopausal woman. That suits me. But I nearly let it destroy me today. It overwhelmed me. A supervisor helped me out and the job got done. A happy customer and a frazzled, fragile me, lying on the floor of the ladies’ loo crying my heart out.
I never cry. Ok…rarely. It takes a lot to reduce me to tears. I can count on two hands the number of times tears have fallen. Just never in front of people. I’d rather eat worms than let anyone see me with tears. I don’t know why.
I truly tried to contain it all within, but it got too much. The job got out of my control due to my lack of experience. I don’t like that. And time constraints on jobs forces me to work at a pace that I cannot maintain without cutting corners, which I will not do.
My job is central to who I am. I fix things that have no emotions, are governed by logic and keep people providing for their own families. I love what I do. I just don’t love my lack of coordination (propriocentrism issues affecting eye-hand coordination), my need to understand a job before I can just do as I am told, and my inability to control my energy and emotions.
Back to the cranky woman identity. I can no longer hide my quirks/disabilities. I have told a manager and a supervisor about my diagnosis. They are curious, but accepting. They cut me no slack, which I approve of, yet I know they are quietly supportive of me, as I am keen to do my job well. They just don’t quite get how my autism affects me. I think they kind of forget I have it. I can no longer hide behind the cranky woman. I drop tools, have mood changes and do not respond well to people pointing out my ample imperfections. I also HATE it when people assume I am not trying hard enough.
Let me tell you – I AM trying super hard. I have to eat well, assure myself a decent 8 hrs sleep, be coordinated, upbeat and physically fit to do the job to the same capacity as the testosterone filled mid 20yo men with no children. It may sound like excuses, but I am literally selling my soul to the gods to do my job to the very, continual, best of MY ability; which translates to a normal day for these guys. It is hard work; physically and mentally. So much has to be remembered and skills transfered. Being a truck mechanic is not for the hyper energetic dumb boys of yr 10, like the stereotype has lead us to believe!
I come home mute most nights. My eldest looks at me and wonders why working for a wage is worth what I appear to be giving. He sees it as a very unfair exchange and he is not very keen to work in such a system. I get it. Alas, this job fulfils a lot within me. The challenges, the ever expanding repertoire of skills I am gaining and I get to work on very cool vehicles.
My disabilities cause silent and invisible problems to me. I hide them at work to not let them affect my work. I carry the frustration, anger and clumsiness home with me. Unleashed away from my boys. I tried to justify my issues in so many ways prior to diagnosis. I am just klutzy, I am more a brain than a labourer, mechanical work is so sub par, I cannot learn to write neatly, men are just a**holes to work with…it has all been me. That is a hard pill to swallow. All…me. That sucks. And all I can do is admit it and stay working at my deficits in the hope they will slowly improve. And try not to melt down at work.
I sincerely wish I had a go-to person; a friend, I think they are called. To hash out the emotion, to make sense of it all. To help calm me quickly, so I can stay at my job in a constantly calm manner. I know I can be a pretty darn good mechanic, but a few tweaks to how I am handled would help.
How on earth do I explain autism to a bunch of young men who don’t even know who they are yet? Without me being pugeon holed as incompetent or asking for slack? It is obvious I cannot continue as I have because it has not served me well in the past. I do not want to lose my job. Other than my boys, it is my soul. Yes, ok…part of me. A huge part.
Autusm just sucks on days like today. I wish I wasn’t me. Messy, slow, unco and an emotional ship in a stormy sea. No amount of crying, logic or kindness will change a thing. But working towards listening to me will.