I’ve joined Spaghetti Agencies ‘Summer Camp’, absolutely brilliant, I’ve learnt so much from it, so a huge thanks to Todd and Jo! One of the things Todd has pointed out (and he’s so right to do so!) is that people buy from people, therefore, people are interested to know how it all started, what was it that set you on your road in business or whatever your life’s mission is.
Summer Camp! Read my blog ‘5 Reasons for loving the gift of social media!’.
This set me thinking, I write a huge amount about all sorts of things but I’ve never actually written about how I came to be walking the path I’m currently on. Tracing the beginnings of something can be tricky, you can think it’s one thing and then realise that something actually came before that, if you really get your thinking cap on you can often trace something right back to your childhood and one single defining moment!
Sadly I can’t go back that far but it’s pretty cool if you can! No, my journey began with a tragedy, followed by a sickening scenario that left my, already traumatised children, reeling from its impact. I will explain.
Pippa was 6 and Jamie 16 when Paul died
My husband committed suicide, and in these circumstances there is a post-mortem and an inquest to establish cause of death. An inquest can take many months to be heard, as was the case with Paul’s, it was five months after the event when I found myself at the Town Hall in Leamington with a room full of people, some of whom I didn’t know. The Coroner decided that Paul’s death was, indeed, suicide, but not before he’d gone through the pathologists report in great detail, talking about some of the things I had decided, at that time, the children didn’t need to know. They were all still very young and the gorier details could wait until they were old enough to handle them, if ever.
In happier times…..
An inquest is always a harrowing experience, opening up wounds that have barely started to heal anyway and making everything feel as raw as the day it happened. But, it had been hanging over me for months, so, at least I could heave a sign of relief that it was finally over and done with, or so I thought.
A week or so later a friend rang me to ask if I had read the local paper, I responded no and she suggested I buy a copy as the inquest had been covered by reporters who had attended (the unknown people) and she was concerned at the content. When I read the reports, the way it was written reduced me to tears of despair, frustration, anger and anxiety about how it would affect the children. The journalists had seen fit to report the findings in the minutest detail and in the most sensational way.
I was devastated but also galvanised into action when the children found themselves on the receiving end of a stream of bullying at their various schools as the story spread like ‘wildfire’ throughout the community. But, almost worse than that, they had been exposed to traumatic details of the event that caused them even more pain and left them asking me why I had withheld the truth (the autistic mind needs to know all of the facts and excluding certain details had left them doubting me, however good my intentions), all this at a time when I was the only person they had in the world and I needed them to trust that I would be their rock.
Anxious, raw and angry I contacted the Press Association with a complaint about the way the inquest had been reported and, to cut a long story short, they agreed with my complaint. The relevant papers had to print an apology and I got to choose where in the paper it should be. A small victory, and not helpful to us, but maybe, just maybe, they would think twice before covering such a traumatic event in the same way, maybe someone else would be spared the pain we’d been subjected to.
That piece in the local paper and the subsequent apology was picked up by the national press and several newspaper and magazine pieces followed, I wanted to raise awareness of how that report had affected the children and why people need to be so much more aware of how different people are affected in different ways by such events.
This led to my Literary Agent finding my story online and him asking me to write the book which led to another person finding me through an agency website called ‘Find a TV Expert’ and the idea of the film was born. As time has gone on I’ve done many TV, radio and press pieces all aimed at the same outcome, better awareness of Autism and mental health issues and I now speak at conferences and events far and wide.
For the first time in my life I’m actually doing what I want to do and really enjoying it, so, from tragedy sprang a purpose and a cause that needs to be fought by all, if I can spread the word a little faster and to a wider audience through everything I do, that’s great!
My favourite saying is ‘SCARS REMIND US WHERE WE’VE BEEN, THEY DON’T HAVE TO DICTATE WHERE WE’RE GOING’, and this is the philosophy I’ve tried to bring my children up with. Life will leave you with plenty of scars, both physically and mentally, but they can be used to hold you back or propel you forward….let it be the latter.
My TED Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xts1F-PoUNA