It’s like it makes your brain itch and there’s nothing you can do about it

2nd April 2024

After a decade of denial, Sue has finally accepted she is autistic and, with it, she has gained an understanding that her artwork doesn’t need to fit in with someone else’s ideals.

Sue Morgan was 65 when she accepted a self-diagnosis of autism – nearly a decade after a close autistic friend first mentioned it as a possibility.

Sue explained: “I had been dismissing it for quite some time. I have a friend who works at Autism Hampshire who’d been advising me that I am likely to be autistic.

“I’d dismissed it because of my previous view of what autism was. I thought of it as being a disability and linked with severe meltdowns. I recognised my eldest grandson is autistic as he has meltdowns and has a need for order and routine.

“I also associated autism with superior intelligence or lack of. Looking at all of this, I didn’t think that it was me.”

Since accepting her autism, she has found that her artwork has discovered new meaning.

“For me, it was the experience of having the freedom to experiment. You can do it your own way,” explained Sue. “I drew a sunset in crayon years ago. My husband didn’t understand it. But more recently I showed it to someone else and they got the point.

A drawing of Bambi by Sue Morgan

“When I drew it, I just knew what it had to look like and what I had to produce. That’s the point. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit in with someone else’s idea of what art is meant to look like.

“I felt constricted by the need to draw something that people recognised. What’s more important is that I like it and that I have expressed myself. Now, art is about expressing myself in colour and feeling. It’s very good for releasing stress.”

Before her self-diagnosis, she used to describe her autistic characteristics as ‘foibles’. For Sue, the elements that significantly affect her life are sensitivity to sound, an elevated focus on the English language, and social challenges with large groups of people.

“I have auditory issues as there are a lot of sounds that I can’t bear,” said Sue. “For example, when I am cooking in the kitchen, we have a large extractor fan and after about 20 minutes, I just can’t do anything. I can’t think. The sound is all I hear and all I can process.

“With the English language, I can’t bear to hear people not speaking properly. TV is the worst. It’s like it makes your brain itch and there’s nothing you can do about it.

“I have also been known to walk into a shop and walk straight back out again. You’re trying to do your weekly shop but, if you can’t cope, then you can’t cope.

Paintings by Sue Morgan - a sunrise and a lighthouse

“I just thought they were things I had to live with. But they aren’t foibles. They are part of who I am.”

Sue currently works at Autism Hampshire and says it has been a relief to work in an environment where you are asked ‘what do you need to make the workplace a comfortable place to work in’.

Sue explained: “To accept it is to free yourself. It’s freed me and given me more confidence than I have ever had. Even when I used to look confident, inside I was in constant anxiety, constantly worried about people judging me.

“I have accepted who I am. I’m not hurting anyone. It doesn’t have to have any impact on anyone else’s life. If you feel you have got certain issues, don’t shy away from the idea. That’s what it is about, the acceptance.”

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