I have Asperger (a lighter form of high functioning autism) och prefer, like many others with the same condition, to keep to myself. Sometimes by choice, sometimes not.
I moved late from home to my own apartment. That meant my small social network became even smaller. Which was a paradox since i wanted to liberate myself and stand on my own feet, but at the same time i lost the only social contact i had with people.
I tried desperately to break the loneliness with studies and other activities, but without any real success.
It was like a evil catch 22 and i started to think there was something wrong with me. Every attempt to break the isolation ended badly. And for each time it became harder to try. Eventually i quit and day and night started to blend in a scary way.
At the same time there is something desperate and revolting about people who try to hard to make friends. Almost like there is something wrong with someone who cant make friends naturally.
There is nothing wrong about wanting to be alone. Who hasn’t felt like being alone sometimes? The problem is that you can end up in a situation when you dont have any choice. I think everyone who has ever been depressed know what i am talking about.
It was during this time, when i worked with different internet projects, i came in contact with the Swedish Drug Users Union thru their webpage. I decided to go to their very first conference, which was both fun and intresting.
A bit later chairman Berne Stålenkrantz contacted me a couple of times, but i didn’t feel like meeting personally, but we kept in contact thru e-mail.
Eventually i reached a point in my life when i realized i needed a big change. I decided to start challenge myself. Berne contacted me again and i decided to meet him in their office. After that i started to update their webpage, writing articles and help with technical stuff.
When Berne offererd me to come work for SDUU i was a little hesitant at first, but remembered the promise to myself. I accepted and started to work at their ofice on Kammakargatan 47 during a trial period the summer/autumn of 2010.
The test period went very well and SDUU decided to hire me as a full employee thru a government work program organized under the employment services. After a lot of discussions and doctors appointments i got approved and became a fulltime employee.
Initially the idea was to start out small and i should only work half time, but soon it escaladed to many fun tasks and challenging assignments. From here on there was no going back. I had to roll up my sleeves and do the best i could. It was my saving.
At SDUU i am allowed responsibility, try different things and do stuff i like. The contrast with my previous jobs and work traing programs, where i wasn’t allowed any responsibility, the tasks were monotonous and predictable, is incredible. It is the responsibility factor that make it so much fun to work for the Swedish Drug Users Union.
Here people dont emphasize my weaknesses, but my strenghts. I am being treated, not like someone who need special treatment, but like all other employees. As a result my confidence is a hell of a lot better than before.
I agree that SDUU is a pretty unique work place, but i am sure that if a lot more employers just could see beyond the diagnosis and labels, a lot more people, that today are considered hopelessly outside the workplace, could find a way back.
Attitudes toward people who are seen as less capable are dangerous. Both because how society treats them, but also how it makes you feel and your own self-worth.
I am a living testimony to that.
Webmaster / Coordinator
The Swedish Drug Users Union