Throughout my life, certainly my early life, I would appear to be a typical Cancerian. I was extremely sensitive, certainly in the company of others, not making conversation and where ever possible to try to blend into the background, so as not to be noticed. When introduced to someone new, I was always unsure as to what to say and in most cases said very little, except to acknowledge them by saying hello to them. But to then engage in any form of conversation, I would do my best to shy away from it, leaving it hopefully to others. This meant, as I found out later in life, gave the impression that I was rude, not interested and indifferent to people. But nothing could have been further from the truth, I just did not have the confidence to talk to people.
During my school years I was not fully aware of my sensitivity, although I did easily become embarrassed in company, often to the point of blushing profusely. This made me feel even more uncomfortable in company.
When I left school and took up employment, my sensitivity did not appear be part of my every day existence, as with the training provided, I knew my subject material and had the confidence to use this knowledge when dealing with people in the profession I was in, which was dealing with Life Assurance and Pensions. I knew that I would never be able to gain the confidence to go and sell the products to others and therefore concentrated in dealing with the administration. During my 25 years in the insurance industry at Scottish Widows, I did progress throughout the company, albeit only in the Sheffield Branch, but did eventually succeed to become the Administration Manager of the Sheffield Branch. With the continuing promotion, I was becoming more aware of how my sensitivity was affecting myself in my professional role, especially when becoming the Administration Manager. When this only involved dealing with the subject relating to the various contracts, I could easily be involved in meetings and meeting people.
When it came down to social occasions, this was when I had major problems, as Administration Manager I had to attend certain events and functions and I was always ill at ease when I had to enter into ‘small talk’ with others. Because of my lack of confidence I would not know what to say and was always afraid, I would say the wrong thing and cause offense. I did what I always tried to do and try to be on the outside of any groups, not too far away to be noticed I was not partaking, but not too close to have to partake.
While in the Insurance industry, I met the lady who is still my wife. This was when I was in my mid thirties and while we did not have any children together, I did have the pleasure in helping her to care for her own 3 children. I have now also had the pleasure in helping my wife and her elder and youngest children to look after their own children, which is 2 sons and 1 son respectively. My wife’s middle child has, from birth, had severe learning difficulties and multiple physical disabilities and my wife and myself currently look after her 24/7. Although for the last few years, we have had help from carers coming into the home to help with the care for a small number of hours during the day. Also for the last 25 years or so we have taken advantage of a respite facility for a few weeks spread over the year. This allows some time for some of the day-to-day care to be taken on by others, but you do still have the continued worry of, is the care they are providing to a standard which is acceptable to ourselves. So we do keep a very close watchful eye on the care being given.
When I left the Insurance industry, I became an Assistant Manager of a Day Service for adults with Learning Disabilities Rotherham Day Service, which at first I thought would I be qualified for. But as the organisation, which employed me stated, although I did not have any professional care qualifications, I did have, more importantly, life qualifications in undertaking helping my wife care for our disabled daughter.
Due to my own health reasons, I took early retirement from paid employment, which was made possible by the starting of my private pension from my Insurance career at the age of 60 years. I then commenced my other pensions, being government and a private pension from my time at the day service, on attaining age 65 years.
My day is now dealing with helping my wife in the day-to-day running of our home and dealing with all the administration required to employ the carers for our daughter. A task to which my experiences of administration and management in my professional careers in the Insurance and Care industries is greatly beneficial.
As some of the care for our daughter is under took by carers accessing our home environment, this is creating some personal time for myself to engage in the community which I do by volunteering with Healthwatch Sheffield as an Enter and View rep , a member of the Test Bed Advisory Group and under take PLACE visits to wards and other medical facilities for Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. In addition I am a Carers representative, on Sheffield LD Partnership Board and a Carers representative on Sheffield Carers Service Improvement Forum. I also attend Sheffield Adults Safeguarding Customer Forum and various other meetings with regards to disability and carers related services in Sheffield involving Sheffield City Council and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.
Since 2014 I have been a Trustee of Sheffield Mencap & Gateway and in mid-2015 took on the responsibilities of The Treasurer.
Going back to myself being a typical Cancerian, I feel that the sensitivity is still there to a degree, but when my life experiences are taking into account, I certainly have more confidence in dealing with people and situations now, than I did in my early years. In fact these days, I appear to be too eager to express my views on a vast range of subjects. This of course is the reason I started blogging and also attending meetings related to a range of disability issues, not all relating to my daughter.
Whether my apparent change of feeling or reactivity was gradual or not, I do not know, as I can not place when any change did occur. I myself, feel much better in myself and welcome the change, from whenever it did occur.
I certainly feel more at home with myself and hopefully will do so for many more years to come.