In her own words, Juliet describes what it is like to live with autism and how she expresses herself through her art
I was about 50 (I am 53 now) when my autism was diagnosed and it came as a huge relief. To be finally recognised as the individual I am, instead of the many claustrophobic boxes people had tried to fit me into throughout my life.
I always knew I was different. I was born with it, not like a disease, you can’t catch it.
Huge sensory overload became apparent very early to me, crashing like cars on a busy highway all going in different directions. I mean everything, the noise the world around me was making and it was like pure chaos, no way to find the end of the thread to untangle the strangling web, which I could find no escape from, I was penned in, in what felt like a world which was foreign and to which we did not belong.
Because all the noise was so much, I felt stuck in various rings of which I was at the core of the smallest Russian doll, and each doll ring seemed to have its own agenda and timings. These rings were our own personal rings or galaxies which did not match and were not in synch with what was coming towards us constantly from the outside; people, voices, tones, actions. To me it was all a foreign language.
I had and still have my own language and when I speak it I am in my home and everything can synch up and flow around me. This is like a comfort blanket to me, a mother’s blanket, natural. The clatter stops, it is silent and I am in my own time zone, which is different to your day to day time ways.
Each day, I have to arrive into a world that I do not belong to. I am a visitor in an alien world. Over the years I have created an ‘earthling manual’, which I use to operate through the day as to what society wants me to do. Because I arrive, new, every day, I need to look up ‘events’ in the manual, hoping I can find the right page, to then understand what is required of me.
I have found ways to create a river flow from my world to the ‘earthling world’, through art. My art has always happened to me and has its own agenda and style. It is my expression of reaching out from my world, to communicate how I process the world and how I see and experience it.
My art collections are like ‘life’s palette’ and I communicate through colour and may use fractional tonal changes to depict the relevant moment, emotion or sound.
My world is in colours and sounds, I don’t see like you do. Sounds form colours, shapes and movements which have no boundaries. They can merge and morph.
When I am making art, it is like we are making a letter and delivering it to earth, for the viewers to read, contemplate and interpret.
Huge sensory overload became apparent very early to me, crashing like cars on a busy highway all going in different directions
I see autism as a gift, not a hindrance. Autism is individual, this I really want you to understand, no two people are the same. There are no set patterns.
I want to ask you to go beyond what you see with your eyes and look inside the person, where you will get the ‘golden oysters’. It is what is inside a person which counts.
Being open, patient, respectful, not judging is reassuring for me and is like being given a hug by your very presence without the need for physical touch.
Sometimes I have a meltdown, which happens when I cannot process all the information quickly enough. They are not a child tantrum, they are as they are. For me a meltdown is crumpling up and withdrawing, shutting down, like the plug has been pulled out of me, the juice has gone. Or I may run away, to try and find my own world, for safety.
In meltdowns I don’t want to feel abandoned. I like non-contact, (touch is like an electric shock, or lightning) voice reassurance helps me. The voice filters in and eventually I can follow that back to you. I may not be able to answer for a while.
Sometimes I have experienced feeling ignored like a piece of sh**, trampled over, judged and a piece of waste paper cluttering up your world.
I now have support with Autism Jersey, which enables some of my dreams to become more achievable. Before having support it felt very dark here and unliveable. With the support, there is hope.
To go about my day with a member of my team enables me to not feel a freak, to feel a sense of pride in myself as I slowly learn to believe that I am worth it.
With support I now feel that I have ‘oysters’ in my life. Each of my team or people I know and trust at AJ’s brings their own ‘golden oyster’ of who they are, into my life and with such tenderness and real stuff from the gut. They meet me on my own level, in whichever time slot I am in! They have to think on their feet, out of the textbook box.
My support is like a life buffer and communicator, that has no expiry date. It makes me feel safe and a sort of human because with their assistance and understanding, I can receive the same respect and service that you as a consumer and valid member of society would expect.
My dream is to get my art exhibited and into mainstream, I want to travel with and through my art. It’s not easy for me to have a ‘normal’ job but I want to earn a living through my artwork.
Through my art I am inviting the viewer to come for a cuppa in my world, hoping that I can give them a gift, to take back into their world.