The 3rd in my series, 'The Warrior Project', this time we meet the gorgeous Poppy, 13 years old with a recent diagnosis of Autism, Poppy wanted to share her story with the world in the hopes it would help and inspire other young teens faced with a similar diagnosis. We did two sets, one beautiful set of studio portraits and one with an Anime twist as she is a huge fan! Shes an amazing young lady and I am so honoured and humbled to play a part, however small, in her story. Shes also one of my favourite humans too <3
In her own words, Poppy's story:
"My name is Poppy. I am 13 years old and I am Autistic. I live in Colne, Lancashire with my Mum, Dad, big brother Joe, Nana, my dog Alfie and my cats Margaret and Friday. I am also very close to my Grandma and Grandad. I love to draw and have done since being really young.
I have always felt a little different from other children and when I was at primary school it started to make me feel confused, sad and worried as I did not understand why I did not fit in. I talked to my mum about it and we both decided to try and find some answers to my questions. After a while my mum said that she thought that I might be autistic. We decided to go to see the doctor to see if she could help. We asked to see a specialist doctor that knew all about autism but my appointment to see her was not for another year and a half. During that time things became more and more confusing and I had no idea why I was finding things like friendships and social situations really difficult and why being around people caused me to feel so uncomfortable. I really tried to be as ’normal” as I could around people, especially at school but this just made me very tired and worried. When I came home I was able to just be “Poppy” which felt a lot more relaxing and I didn’t feel as worried when I was alone or just with my family. When it was time to see the specialist doctor I was feeling very nervous as I did not know what was going to happen. I had to go through a lot of tests and see all different kinds of people. It was about another 6 months before we finally got an appointment to find out what all these things meant. When the doctor told me that I was Autistic I felt like a lot of things made sense now. It gave me an explanation of why life felt so confusing and scary.
Friendships are extremely difficult for me. I find it hard to make a deep conection with anyone as I’m constantly worrying that I’ll say the wrong thing or they will do or say something that I don’t understand so they will think bad of me. The only social situation that I feel comfortable at is a youth club that is especially for young people on the spectrum and I call it Awkward Club. All of us there are socially very awkward and this makes me relax as I know they won’t expect anything from me. I can just be me.
Autistics do something called masking. It’s different for everyone but my way of masking is to play different characters in my head. This gives me confidence to go into school, go to the theatre, go swimming and meet other people. In my mind it kind of puts a cloak over Poppy which protects me.
Me and my mum have a theory called ‘my spoons’ if I’m feeling really good and full of energy and I feel I can go out of the house and do stuff then I tell her I’ve got 10 spoons. But there are times, a lot of times, when the amount of spoons I have are around 3 or sometimes none. A day can begin with 10 but by the end of the day, usually when school is over my spoons have decreased dramatically and I can hardly function or talk to anyone. I just want to be in my own space and maybe draw or listen to music. This helps me to recharge my energy and hopefully I can then begin to interact with people again.
In my future I want to gain more confidence so I can do more things. I really want to go to college and university to study art but at the moment this makes me scared. I hope that as I grow up I get to develop coping mechanisms to help me make sense of life and the world a little better. At the moment I am not attending school as it’s just too much for me to cope with emotionally. At the moment my mental health is very poor. I have developed some coping strategies that are not good for me so my parents decided to take me out of school altogether. There is no school in our area that caters for a High Functioning Autistic girl like me. This makes me feel sad and vulnerable. There is no where that I seem to fit and it just makes me feel even more weird and once again confirms that I’m an outcast.
To other Autistic girls in my situation or who are going through being diagnosed, I want to say that it’s ok to be you. Us weirdos have to stick together. I know that I will find my tribe who will love me for who I am and not expect anything from me that I cannot give them. I cannot wait for that day. Maybe we will be destined to be in each other’s tribe. If you can, keep talking to your Mum and Dad or someone that you think gets you.
It was really difficult for me to let anyone take photos of me as i really find being in the spot light uncomfortable. Donna is one of my favourite humans though and she makes me feel ok to be me. She made me feel comfortable and accepted which is something I don’t feel very often.
I can't express enough how happy Poppy enjoyed her experience with me at my studio, and to know I am one of this amazing young lady's favourite humans brought a lump to my throat. Thank you so much Poppy for trusting me enough to take your photographs, I hope to capture you again and again in the future, you are beautiful, brave and inspiring. Thank you.