I am Gemma, 36 and I’ve been married to Tim for 15 years and have five children, three of them have a diagnosis on the autistic spectrum and ADHD. I also have a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder which I didn’t receive the diagnosis until the age of 27, and didn’t open up and talk about it until recently.
I was asked by Anna to join her on her radio show on 27th May. My anxieties were all over the place, and my head felt like I had a thousand things going through it. I met up for a coffee with Anna and we went through things. She always has a way of making you feel calm – When we arrived at the studio we were welcomed by a lovely lady Melis who looks after the technical side of the show. The show ‘All Things Autism’ went really quick. I wanted to say a lot more in my interview but my anxieties got the best of me.
Anna was amazing and could see I was struggling at certain times and jumped in to support me. I opened up about my diagnosis only a few weeks ago, and only a selected few knew.
I struggled growing up trying to cope with the different hurdles and not really knowing why my body was feeling the way it was, having meltdowns and when I came around would feel exhausted and weak. I would run away from school since I couldn’t cope with the confined space in the classroom and the noise of people talking, noises, sound of the chairs moving across the floor, the work on the whiteboard writing while the teacher was talking, my brain wanted to explode.
I struggled with my teenage years: I self-harmed and I took a number of overdoses, at the time I was numb, I hated myself and felt I was making my family’s life miserable. I had a lot of hospital stays and counselling while I was there. My early adult years was a big learning curve. I met Tim at the age of 17, I struggled with our relationship, and at times I would push away or shut down which could last from a day to weeks. Tim always stuck by me.
Motherhood has been a rollercoaster of emotions, not sleeping, not eating or wanting to keep eating, crying, not hitting there milestones. I was upset, angry and deflated with myself when my three kids were diagnosed. Tim also struggled to accept, but also felt relieved to try and get the support.
Everyday is always a challenge and a learning curve from fighting for the education, coping with day-to-day life, puberty and coping with body changing, relationships, taking medication. I worry a lot about my children, especially for the eldest of the three, when I’m gone and it scares me so much with how the world is and I know they won’t be able to defend or speak out for themselves.
Sophia sent a video audition to Anna Kennedy online, they were looking to give a child a scholarship at Pineapple Performing Arts. Tim had an email a couple months later to say Sophia had been chosen, we were so excited and Sophia’s little face lit up and she danced, jump and sang around the room.
It has been a life-changing experience for Sophia and she loves her Sundays at Pineapple Performing Arts. She is just in her comfort zone because she is doing what she loves and everyone has accepted her and doesn’t bat an eyelid. She loves performing at her end of term shows.
We have both made wonderful friends and now lifelong. When we took part in Autism’s got talent, I didn’t know what to expect. When I watched the first show last year, all i can say was ‘Wow!’. I was blown away by all the acts. I have never cried so much with happiness the courage and determination to even get up on stage and with the lights and sounds to add was incredible.
Watching our scholarship winners blew me away and again this year the bond they have just makes me forget at that moment in time how the world is to see them enjoying and feeling happy and being accepted for who they are.
Editor’s note: If you missed Gemma’s interview it’s available at 1pm today on Womens Radio Station.
Gemma Owen is a mother of five who is passionate about autism and ADHD.
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