12 years

12 years ago after the birth of my second son I had a breakdown. It was the worst experience of my life. I had severe post natal depression and peri-natal OCD. Peri-natal OCD is possibly the cruelest form of a mental health problem I’ve come across. This isn’t lining baby bottles up or being tidy. This is trying to make a bottle and convince yourself that you haven’t filled it with salt (obvs haven’t but you check, you check again, one more check, you throw away – just in case, you start again). It’s exhausting. You have this teeny human to care for and all you can think about is the harm that they could come to (obsession) and spend your life making sure that doesn’t happen (compulsions).

This is not a combination I would wish upon anyone, not my worst enemy. I couldn’t travel alone on a bus into Newcastle, couldn’t nip to the shops or take my oldest to school. On the rare occasions I did venture outside I wouldn’t/couldn’t speak to anyone. It was the darkest place I’ve ever been to. I ended up moving home with my parents, only they knew the true extent to how bad I actually was, taking sleeping tablets 6 nights a week for some respite from my inner turmoil while anti depressants settles themselves in as my new sidekicks (still with me, couldn’t live without them). I could no longer work in finance and found myself with no job for the first time in my life. I felt I was a failure and the world would be a better place without me.

If you’d said to me then Christine hang on in there. You are going to make a difference. You’ll play a part in saving lives through the charity. You’ll produce theatre shows and a film. I’d have christened you barmier than I was. But look what’s happened! Granted I still take meds – no shame in that, I practise mindfulness and really try to keep on top of my mental health.

When I talk about being driven you have no idea how much I’m driven. I see these opportunities as second chances. I see them as my way to cover up some of the cracks in my own walls. Being driven fuelled with anxiety on most days is bloody hard. I hate anxiety, sometimes I want to get the kids off to school and then hide but I don’t I sometimes need some encouragement to keep it moving and I do my absolute best.

The Life of Reilly is cathartic for me. I love writing when I get the chance. I love to share our experiences and feel I’ve evolved over the last 3 years of writing. I hadn’t a clue when I wrote my first blog that it would be viewed all over the world. I get thanks from countries I’ve never heard of because they feel like they aren’t the only ones ballsing this parenting lark. I get it wrong. We all do but I do my best.

I will do everything in my power to ensure that the stage play travels. I will work my nuts off to make this film. Wherever possible it will include autistic people. Acting, crew, runners. Everything in my power to make it happen. There are important issues to raise and millions to educate but I need your help to do it.

If you can help with any aspect of the film be it donation of time, sponsorship, product placement, locations, expertise then please shout. We have some great fundraisers coming your way including a Midsummer Nights Dream Ball!!

Moral to this one is no matter how shitty you feel there is hope on the horizon. Keep your chin up, seek help, take the meds, speak to the counsellors just do what you’ve got to do when times are blue. Never be afraid to speak up.

Great things could be just around the corner xx

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-life-of-reilly-film

Advertisements

The Life of Reilly – Missed it? You missed out!

Yesterday was one of the best days I’ve ever had. You don’t hear that from me very often. The Life of Reilly play was on at The Northern Stage one of my favourite theatres. It was sold out completely and in hindsight we should have booked 2 nights.

Alison picked me up at 9am to take the props to the theatre. It’s not a big grand set, it’s actually an eclectic mix of household items pulled together to look like a well lived in family home with its assortment of discarded toys, washing and the odd bra.

I loved lurking around behind the scenes.  I did NOT love having to play Reilly’s part in the tech and rehearsals.  Standing under the spotlight reading out these lines to an empty theatre in my usual squeaky, irritating tone.  How do they do it?  Give me tonsilitus any day over acting.  I sat on a marshmallow teacake ready for the party scene, stood on another and trailed it around the perfectly painted pitch black floor. Page 28 of the script stuck to said marshmallow on shoe and followed us.  Awful.  I’ll stick to being bossy and irritating.  I did serve my purpose though and it was quite exciting despite epic cringe levels.

It’s old hat for Alison. Her last play Bedsock’s and Secrets about dementia was outstanding. It had a spell at the Edinburgh fringe as well as many theatre’s and was eventually snapped up by the NHS trust to be used as a training tool. She’s super-talented and has done an exceptional job here with The Life of Reilly – writing, producing and acting.  You know from the opening seconds that it’s been written by someone in the know and that just continues to gather substance throughout.  Real scenarios experienced by real people.  I have to admit I love the numerous ‘meetings’ between myself, Kelly and Alison discussing funny, heartbreaking, sad, happy; incredible things that have happened between us over a traditional breakfast (I’m sometimes Farmhouse because I’m greedy).  Autism Mama’s who get it, who live it and want you to get it too.

I love sitting in the audience watching peoples reactions to the play.  There is always tears, there is always some swearing (just a little bit), there is always laughter and there is always a standing ovation (I know it’s just the second time it’s been done shhhhhh).  The tech guys even had a tear at the back of the house.

Now i’m not being biased.  If I had seen this produced by any other company I would give it the best review and the highest star rating simply because the acting is brilliant, it is an accurate portrayal of many of our lives (see ‘Joanne’ politely discussing the school transport issue with the Council)  We’ve all done it.  The characters are lovable even the old bag Granny Mary and it educates most importantly.

Between acts 1 & 2 I talked to people to gather their thoughts.  They were blown away.  I talked to a lady sat on her own at the back who had bought the last ticket.  That lady was a GP on the Northern Stage’s mailing list and on seeing the content thought she SHOULD see it and I agree.  Every GP, teacher, police officer, nurse, therapist, social worker, teaching assistant, sibling, grandparent – you see where i’m going with this.

It’s a small cast and it works perfectly.

We have Kris Roberts who plays Reilly.  

Kris plays it so well you can feel his struggle and vulnerability as a child but his humour shines through in just the right places.

Alison Stanley plays Joanne Reilly’s Mam.  

Fierce, reads everything, challenges everyone and takes no shit.  Joanne is me, Joanne is every Mam that knows what an EHCP is, Joanne is every Mam that lies awake at night wondering what happens when she dies.

Steve Woods from Act2Cam plays Ged Reilly’s Dad.

Ex military turned doorman who fears he isn’t good enough and keeps his fears and emotions bottled in.  His parts break my heart in two.  If you know Steve you know why.

Marce Gaygaskell plays Granny Mary.  

Sarcastic, blunt without an ounce of empathy.  I find her parts hilarious and she has some of my favourite one liners.

Warren Simpson plays Clarkey Geds best friend and fellow doorman.

Tries his best and puts his foot in it everytime its open.  Prone to the odd swear word, a can of red stripe and a pizza.

and then there is Scott Ritchie.  

We auditioned for an actually autistic actor to play Reilly’s friend Craig, we did that because it makes sense and because well we scream for inclusion yet hadn’t included ourselves, the cast have learned from him and his opinion has been invaluable.  He did an amazing job of which he should be extremely proud.  I would not, could not have the courage to stand on that stage and lay bare how being autistic makes him feel.  How he feels it through the fibres in his clothes, on his skin, to the bones.  Scott even had some amazing video messages of encouragement from amazing actors Morven Christie, Richard Mylan, and Kacey Ainsworth.

I know Alison will be looking to work on more projects with actually autistic people – there’s some incredible talent there.

Their characters progress throughout the performance with understanding and acceptance that their lives are the same but different and you will love them all, including Granny Mary.

When the play ended there was a standing ovation which was truly deserved.  I feel like the audience really feel like they’ve been on the same journey.  To be fair a lot of the audience already have or are going through it now.

So we love it, the audience loves it, the guys at the Northern Stage loved it so it would be only fair that it happens all over again.  Please watch this space for the next date.  You will not be disappointed and I will guarantee you will learn something.

Autism isn’t going anywhere.  Why should autistic people have to take years to learn to adapt to fit in what is perceived to be typical. To surpress how they want to express for fear of  persecution because it’s not ‘normal’.  WTF is ‘normal’ anyway.  Understand it and be more accommodating as humans.

Proud to be a part of it all and thankful I have these people in my life.  xx

 

 

 

 

The Life of Reilly audition

I forgot there was a teacher training day today.  I opened Reilly’s diary on Thursday to the words enjoy your long weekend, eh? what? NO I NEED him in school. I have been looking forward to this day for weeks.  

Today was audition day for the play The Life of Reilly.  A new character will join the cast playing the part of Reilly’s friend.  We decided immediately after the last show that we should be looking to cast actually autistic actors. It just makes sense, a no brainer.

After seeing Ellis out the door this morning on a trip to High Borrans I managed to get into Newcastle with seconds to spare while grandad Ken took Reilly on a bus trip to Whitley Bay (only 2 meltdowns but epic ones 😩).

The actors were asked to read Reilly’s initial monologue.  Not easy as he’s talking to a pretend therapist at the back of the auditorium.   They were awesome.  Obviously I can’t say too much as there are still people to audition but I was genuinely blown away.

There is some amazing talent out there, I’d be nervous as hell to walk out in front of strangers and perform, in fact I don’t think I could do it.  To see these people transform with booming voices, accents and gestures is outstanding.   Let’s not forget some autistic people often walk hand in hand with anxiety daily, this was no small task. 

I felt really proud today.  I loved listening to everyone’s stories about how and why they became interested in acting  and can see Alphabetically Autistic and Red Diamond Theatre working on some amazing projects in the future.  More opportunities for these amazing people xx

You can buy tickets for The Life of Reilly at Northern Stage. 21st September. 

Please come along and support this amazing production.  

Sunshine & Richard and Jaco

Yesterday I decided to just spend some quality time with Reilly letting him lead the way and seeing where it took us.  It took us to the skate park on a beautiful sunny day.  My mind was still buzzing from watching The Life of Reilly the night before so a welcome bit of time out to process it all.  The feedback we have received from autistic people, families of autistic people, teachers, SENCOs, theatre goers in general is outstanding so there WILL be more showings of The Life of Reilly and I think it could be groundbreaking for public understanding. Let’s hope so.

IMG_1487

I always take my camera along on sunny days and this morning I sat down to edit my photographs while watching Richard & Jaco – Life with autism.  I stopped editing photos and became engrossed after 2 minutes.  Richards fears resonated with me as a parent of an autistic child, my biggest fear is what if I die closely followed by how will he cope as an adult. I think one of my most popular posts was Grim. It still keeps me awake at night and I can’t imagine it will stop anytime soon.  Please give it a watch – education, stimming, employment, independence, fears and love.  It’s fantastic.   Richard & Jaco – Life with autism (will be available to watch again soon will post the link). 

Love this boy and how he comes at life with this fierce yet vulnerable nature.  Not so much love for piggy back home with scooter, shopping, camera bag a bottle of pop and two chip butties ;).

#samebutdifferent

IMG_1492

Theatre of Education

There is a status currently doing the rounds on Facebook about teaching your children to be more understanding of those who are different.  This is the post:

I would just like to put this out there! If your kids are not around special needs kids at school and have never been taught that not everyone is the same then maybe you could take 10 min tonight to explain this to them because even though they may not be around these kids at school they will encounter them in their lives, as it should be.

In the light of recent events on the exclusion of a child who has autism from participating in a school trip and a child with Downs Syndrome being kicked out of dance class because she couldn’t keep up, I feel the need to share this. There are boys and girls that nobody invites to birthday parties. There are special kids who want to belong to a team but don’t get selected because it is more important to win than include these children. Children with special needs are not rare or strange, they only want what everyone else wants: to be accepted !!
For all the wonderful children out there.
Can I ask a question? Is there anyone willing to copy and paste this post to their wall without sharing it, like I did for those special children out there

Now I’m not one for copying and pasting statuses usually but this just encapsulates everything that we are trying to achieve with the Theatre of Education via Alphabetically Autistic. So go that one step further help us make it happen.  I see numerous times everyday how heartbroken people are at videos and stories of children with special needs being bullied.  Imagine being the parent of one of those children, we know the stats are way higher for it happening to our children and it makes me incredibly sad and fiercely protective.

Education as with everything in life is the key.

Putting Really Reilly on in schools or in theatre’s for public showing will really help children understand.  I cannot stand to see these children being mocked and believe me I have witnessed it on too many occasions.

Please help get Really Reilly to your child’s school and help us promote inclusion and acceptance for these kids, they deserve it.  Email alphaautistic@gmail.com for more information and booking.

Use your voice to make us heard.  Share this brilliant initiative.

rr.png

We need you!

I’m really excited this week as the plans move forward for Alphabetically Autistic.  We are now an official social enterprise.  A lot of people have asked me what a social enterprise is and for me the easiest way to describe it is ‘we work – society benefits’.  Simple as that.  It’s like getting paid to do good deeds.  It’s a place to channel energy into your passion for change. So for the first time in my life i’m a director! and it’s not director of hideous luck or director of cheap shoes.

Have you ever bought the Big Issue? Read it over a bar of Divine chocolate with a cup of Cafe Direct coffee? Watched Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen? Visited the Eden Project? Shopped at the Co-op? 

Well, then you already know a bit about social enterprises: businesses that are changing the world for the better. Social enterprises are in our communities and on our high streets – from coffee shops and cinemas, to pubs and leisure centres, banks and bus companies.

Social enterprises trade to tackle social problems, improve communities, people’s life chances, or the environment. They make their money from selling goods and services in the open market, but they reinvest their profits back into the business or the local community. And so when they profit, society profits.  www.socialenterprise.org.uk

We will educate in schools via our Theatre of Education and short films, hold practical autism awareness sessions with guest speakers from the autistic community, The Life of Reilly stage play, counseling for people on the spectrum and their families,  business awareness sessions and also sell some great products.  We are developing ideas constantly to generally raise the bar with acceptance and understanding of autism.

Why a social enterprise?  Holding and keeping a job is so difficult with an autistic child.  Reilly has only just been full time in the last year but no morning is ever the same. If I had to clock in at 8.30am every morning I can guarantee it wouldn’t happen and  I need a job, really really need a job. Why not channel all the ideas that fly around in my wide awake head at 4am and make a difference with the added bonus of paying the mortgage and profits reinvested to further our cause.  I know my fellow directors  feel the same.  I give a lot of my time (unpaid) to mine and Kelly’s charity North East Hearts with Goals and I have 3 children one of which you know really well, the human whirlwind that is Reilly.  Future plans do I think Reilly will ever work and live independently?  I really don’t know and that’s why I need to work now and try and have everything in place for him.

To make Alphabetically Autistic work we need your help.  As a social enterprise we can fundraise to carry out these activities we can also apply for grants.  To make this dream a reality we must raise enough funds to actually start up for practical things.  Marketing materials etc.

That’s where you come in.

Crowdfunding for Really Reilly is a platform for community projects to achieve their aims.  We have a page to get Really Reilly into schools as soon as possible.  These performances will enable knowledge to flow naturally outside of school to local parks etc where autistic children are often mocked.

If you live locally and want to support us come along to our Rocking the Spectrum night.  Guaranteed to be a great night and help us get kickstarted.

tickets available here

rts jpg.jpg

Please get behind us and make this happen. Come to our events, book into our sessions when we release them and share our work  xx

The Life of Reilly by Alison Stanley

1.png

OK i’m excited! really really excited.  From what started as a blog for the autism awareness month in April we are nearly on 20k views from all over the world, some fantastic comments and lots of thank you’s for sharing what has become our very chaotic life with Reilly.

The Life of Reilly the play is happening!  Who wouldn’t want to see a play about an autistic adult looking back over his life with those quirky neuro-typicals (not  autistics).

The play will be based around The Life of Reilly our super cute, nearly 5 year old non verbal gerbil and as many of you will know from reading my prior posts there are laughs, there is heartbreak, there is despair but most importantly there is love.

I was extra excited when I found out yesterday that Reilly’s Dad will be played by the fabulous Glenn McCrory!  Obviously I knew who Glenn was but I didn’t know his story, I do now and I’m in awe.  I lost my brother too in 2003 and it leaves a black hole in your life that you teeter on the edge of everyday and try desperately not to be pulled in.  Anyone who overcomes and fights has my upmost respect because it’s hard!  Can’t wait to get cracking.

God I feel emotional!

Alison’s last play with her company The Red Diamond Theatre called  Bedsocks & Secrets all about dementia has received so much praise I know this will be a huge success.

Let’s keep autism at the forefront of the public eye, its  not going anywhere after all.

Tickets will be available to buy online soon.  You can register  interest for the play at alphaautistic@gmail.com or Red Diamond Theatre.

I hope you will all support us with The Life of Reilly and come along and see it.  I can guarantee a bittersweet experience and hopefully a new perspective on these awesome families struggling  every single day for acceptance.

Be kind as always you never know how much sleep they had last night.

x