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When I first went there I was very low and didn’t think a lot of myself. I chatted to her about what I wanted to get out of life. I wanted to do things in the community.

“Since I’ve been diagnosed with autism, my life has started again”

I started receiving support from Southdown after I met an East Sussex Community Links worker at an Asperger’s support group I go to. I approached her because I was having trouble. I’d been struggling for 53 years. It was only in 2018 I was diagnosed with autism.

I struggled with social communication and being in crowds and I’m highly dyslexic. School was horrible – I just got left in the back because it wasn’t picked up. I got bullied a lot. My home life wasn’t good either – my dad died when I was 14. I was told I wouldn’t amount to anything and so that affected me quite badly.

I found it difficult to keep jobs. It was hard. I just soldiered on. Up to now it’s been a horrible life. Most people thought I was daft. I just had to muddle through and find stuff to keep me calm.

I found ways to help myself. I would take myself away for breaks from work – Ground Mapping (finding new football grounds), seeing steam trains, and pursuing my interest in Roman archaeology. Music and earphones are my saviour – they help me go to town and onto trips and trains. They make me feel safe. Other things that help are photography and yoga on the beach with a group.

Since I’ve been diagnosed with autism, my life has started again.

Before I met my Community Links Worker, I hadn’t been to the doctor for three years because my old doctor retired and facing strangers is my worst nightmare. I get very anxious. I would meet my Community Links Worker in cafes and she helped me go to appointments because new and unfamiliar things are difficult for me.

I went to some recovery courses for my mental health and I’ve been going to the Wellbeing Centre for drop-in sessions and activities for a year now. It took me a long time to go but I’m alright there now – I feel comfortable. I have a Key Worker there.

When my Community Links Worker left to have her baby it was hard because I’d known her for a year. There was no-one I felt I could talk to about good stuff and bad stuff. But I plucked up the courage to go to Community Connectors.

I met my Community Navigator from there every three weeks. It’s been good for me. The support has helped me. When I first went there I was very low and didn’t think a lot of myself. I chatted to her about what I wanted to get out of life. I wanted to do things in the community.

I’ve found I’m really good at art. It’s wonderful. It’s very relaxing. Because I thought I was rubbish at it when I was younger, I do it all the time now that I know I have a talent. If I’ve had a bad day, I do art.

One of the people at the Asperger’s group told me about Compass Arts. The art helps me cos now I have confidence in myself. I’ve had one of my pictures displayed for Compass Arts in a little gallery in Hove and had a picture hanging in a church.

I also go to Langney Priory a lot. It’s important for me to be part of the community there. It’s so lovely. That helps a lot. I chill there, do gardening there, spin wool there. I’ve been taught these skills and they’ve said I could help out.

Since going to the Asperger’s support group I’ve made a few friends there. I’m a lot more confident now – I’m going to be in a play! Drama helps a lot too. Community Connectors has helped me with my confidence. Before, I wouldn’t go anywhere new. Now it feels easier.

I am no longer with Community Connectors cos I’m doing so well but my Community Navigator suggested I could be a Community Connectors Buddy Volunteer! Because I’ve had a lot of bad experiences in my life, I think I’d be good at helping people.

A year ago I wouldn’t have been able to do any of this. But through Community Links, Community Connectors and going to the Asperger’s group, I’ve become so much more confident.

Community Connectors is a free service for people with issues impacting on their mental health and where they or their GP have identified that a ‘social prescription’ would be of benefit. Social Prescribing helps clients find practical solutions to everyday issues and supports them to link in with specialist agencies and activities in their local community that can help improve their mental and emotional wellbeing.