5th April 2022
Voices of VodABILITY: Bronwyn’s Story
I have a distinct memory from my childhood that has followed me throughout my life. It is unshakeable. It wasn’t an event. It was more of a moment, a realisation. I couldn’t have been more than about seven. I know this because I remember walking to school, holding my bookbag, when the thought came. I remember thinking, “I have a lovely life. My parents love me. I have a good brother. I love my pets. I like learning. But, I know that somehow there is something really wrong with me.”
For as long as I can remember, I have felt that I am not like other people. It was just something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The world just didn’t seem like it was made for me.
University is Hard
At University, I think this is where this sense of unease really crystalised. On an academic level, I loved University. It was the place where I could finally delve very deeply into my favourite subjects and learn as much as I could. However, on a social level, moving to university was very hard. I didn’t seem to be able to get on board with the Fresher experience. Why couldn’t I enjoy university like everyone else? Why was I suddenly so scared about going out on my own? Why couldn’t I be like the seemingly brave people all around me? Outside of my learning, the fear of being at university was intense. At many points, I just didn’t know how I would manage to finish my degree.
However, things moved forward and I did manage to find friends! My second year at university was filled with a feeling of belonging that I had never experienced before. I couldn’t believe it. I felt at home. We had game nights, we shared cooking, we listened to music and we talked and talked and talked. I’ve never been more confident or more happy. Everyone was a little odd and no-one minded. We had a YouTuber, a writer, a footballer, a future politician, an engineer and a Dungeons and Dragons expert. And we had me.
University continued to be difficult and this only intensified during my year abroad. Once again, I had to face up to the fact that I couldn’t do things just like everyone else. While I loved the language that I was there to learn, I struggled with travelling, I found the changes so difficult to keep up with and, once more, I felt very alone. Every day felt like a battle when I was abroad. At that time, I didn’t understand why I felt so vulnerable. I just thought I was failing and wasn’t good enough at being a ‘person’ to ever succeed.
Discovering Who I Might Be
My final year at university was 2020 - and we all know what that means. When lockdown was announced, I went home, I stayed indoors and it gave me time.
I realised that, like in my second year, it is only when I have been with others like me that I have felt a sense of home. When I have had to negotiate the world without this support, I just didn’t seem capable. It was during this time that things started to add up. My childhood thought pushed back into my mind once more. What is wrong with me? I just wanted to know.
It was by chance really that, when I was scrolling through Instagram, I found a post describing autistic traits. I almost swiped by but, I read. And this was where my research started. Finding this clue to who I was sparked months of searching, finding and listening to other late-diagnosed autistic women on the internet and talking to family members. Finally, I plucked up the courage to call the doctors and I was referred.
While it would be wonderful to be able to tell you that I finally know, I can’t do that. I’ve been on the waiting list now for two years. I can only say that, since leaving university, starting at Vodafone and joining VodABILITY, I have found some wonderful people who share my goal of working towards creating a truly accepting place for all. By being on Vodafone’s HR Discover Graduate scheme, I am learning a lot about my strengths and challenges in the workplace. At every stage, I have been encouraged to keep learning and work towards my goals. I have come to have a better sense of self-compassion and to realise that there wasn’t anything ‘wrong’ with me all this time.
I am just me – I have challenges that I must face but, that doesn’t make me ‘wrong’. I would have benefited from some further support at University but, I am proud that I made it through. My graduation days last year felt like a celebration of everything I achieved, despite the difficulties that I had faced. I am looking forward to learning more about myself as time goes on and finding ways to make sure I can thrive in whatever I choose to do! If I could go back and speak to my seven-year-old self, I would tell them that there was never anything wrong – I’m just wired a little differently and that’s okay.