The Big Secret
Most of you will know that my brother has been going through some amazing changes since having a diagnosis of Autism and Schizophrenia nearly two years ago. If you are new to this blog, read about it here. We always knew he was different, but could never get him assessed, as he was always falling through the net and never bad enough to be taken seriously. Until he became very unwell and was taken in to hospital under the mental health act.
Since then we have been able to secure him a place in a new flat, with care through Mencap. He has improved so much as the schizophrenia is under control and the autism easier to work with. In fact it’s been a fascinating process, although sometimes quite testing! A strong dose of patience and mindfulness is often needed, while other times it’s a delightful experience, taking him out and watching him evolve in to someone who can have a more enjoyable life.
Adam has never been abroad.
He has never been away in a hotel, or bed and breakfast. His only holiday memories are childhood ones of school holidays in a tent or caravan. Our mother and step father live in France, and have always hoped he would visit them, but he was never really on board with the idea. Until his diagnosis, we were unable to understand why he would find this such a big deal.
Firstly, he thought that as soon as you arrived in France, everyone spoke French. He worried about the food, and the different bed he would sleep in. He worried that it would be like it was when he lived at home as a teenager. Lots of friction and arguments. Adam is stuck in the past and can’t see how things are different now.
So, as he has been so much clearer with his thoughts, I approached the idea again last summer. I didn’t say anything to our parents, so they wouldn’t get their hopes up, but I gradually sowed the seed to Adam, and he slowly came round to the idea. It was going to be a long process, but worth it if it came to fruition. A huge secret.
The first hurdle – The PASSPORT!
We had the small issue of a passport. Or rather the lack of one. From encouraging him to go to the post office and ask for the form, to the photo, and then the interview, it took about three months! We filled in the form for him, he signed it, and the photo was a breeze thanks to Snappy Snaps in Taunton – no squeezing into a booth and trying to get the height of the stool correct!
Then a letter arrived – he needed to attend an interview!
Anyone over the age of sixteen who has never had a passport, must attend an interview. Who knew? At least we got a choice of office. We chose Yeovil, but there was another hurdle – it was a Skype interview! That was going to be interesting.
What if he doesn’t wake up?
On the way, he asked what would happen if he didn’t wake up on the ferry. First thoughts were that he was worried about dying! Then I realised, as he doesn’t have an alarm clock, and the staff where he lives check he is awake in the morning, he was concerned that he may not be woken up!
I said that that music is piped through when it’s time to get up. A bit like in Hi-de-hi – Remember he is stuck in the 80s! I would then knock on his door, as we have booked cabins close together, and I’d make him a cup of tea.
How do you do that?’ He asked.
I explain there’s a kettle and tea bags, and biscuits. A light dawns…. he has never been to a hotel, so how would he know about tea making facilities? We take so much for granted.
He did really well with the interview, and was more interested in the fact he could see himself at the bottom of the screen than the importance of the questions! I think the interviewer just needed to see that he was a real person.
About 20 minutes into the drive back, he asked, quite out of the blue, ‘What happens to the cups?’
Pondering on this very random question, I realise that he means the cups on the ferry from the morning tea. What happens to them?
How would he know?
I explained that people come round with a big trolley and change the bedding, clean the shower and take the cups away to be washed. He was astounded, and then wanted to know how long that takes. He thought it was one lady with one trolley!
So, you see, although I need patience and understanding, sometimes things pop up that really make you think. We often take so much for granted, that we are unaware of how others view the world.
The secret is out.
My mother now knows about this planned trip. It seemed best to tell her so she can also plan ahead, and I can write about it! We did the big reveal last weekend. He was so anxious with the original plan of just arriving in France on a pre-planned trip, with him in the car as a gift, that we binned that idea. Adam felt that as a surprise only lasts 30 seconds, it was silly giving her a passport wrapped in a box. Funny how his mind works. There were tears, although he was more worried if she was upset about it and not happy! A minefield of emotion.
We are now in the process of working out the size of his overnight bag and if it will fit in the car. Yes, I think one pair of jeans and three tee shirts, a wash bag and a pair of slippers, will easily fit in the back of an X5. He will obviously need proof of this, and then he will be AMAZED!
We have another eight weeks to prepare. It’s three steps forward and two steps back, but eventually we will get there. More patience into the mix and a few mindful moments should help.