Sometimes it’s worth not accepting an issue… not often, but in this case it was okay.

I’ve had an update from my advocate regarding the De Montfort University’s student finance bill which I was sure was a debt I didn’t owe due to the circumstances regarding my tuition. I was right to dispute it. The university should have returned the money to student finance because the funds were put into their accounts in April 2015. I had been withdrawn completely. I wasn’t even on suspension at that point. They had previously returned my loan to student finance when I was suspended for the year but then I ended up withdrawn by April. They shouldn’t have been given it back in any case because it was suspended for a year, which meant the finance too. I don’t know why or how it got given back to the university but it shouldn’t have been. I was 99% sure that I was right. I was told by many people that I shouldn’t dispute it. I’m glad that in this case I didn’t listen, because I was right.

I have also made an attempt to get an agreement for letterbox contact with my son and his adoptive parents. I’m hoping that I can get an informal agreement but his adoptive parents need to agree. I can’t make that happen but all I can do is to be decent towards them every time I approach them via the post room. I’ve had something passed on previously when I tried a few years ago. I sent Jonny a little keepsake card in this letter because I feel that as it he gets older it is important that he knows his birth mother still thinks about him despite the time that has passed. I can’t believe that he is 7 years old already. I can’t imagine what he would look like today. He will always be a blond toddler in my head because that is what he looked like last time I saw him. I really want some form of connection with him when he’s old enough to make his own decisions. I may have to wait a few more years depending on what the other parties feel in regard to my informal letterbox contact arrangement proposal. The best parts of life are worth the wait, though. I may even have to wait until he turns 18 if the adoptive parents aren’t comfortable with my proposed idea. I only have limited rights as a birth parent. I cannot push them. I can only make an effort hoping that they realise I’m not a threat to them and I don’t have any ulterior motives. 

A year ago today… I was waking up somewhere frightening.

I looked at the date earlier realising where I was exactly a year ago today. I don’t mind talking about it. I deserved what happened because I wasn’t prepared to listen to anyone else. I tried to force what I wanted on someone else when they didn’t want to agree with me. I didn’t realise what a cow I was being for a long time. I was an awful person who needed to be taught a lesson. A year ago today I was about to start my first day of a six month sentence, which would typically mean three months in prison and the remainder “on licence”. Walking into that environment changed me: I saw things that were upsetting. I met people there who had really long sentences; some were there for life. Others were in and out constantly as if prison had a revolving door. The first morning, I was completely distressed. I remember not being able to settle the night that I arrived there. It had been the hottest day of the year and the prison van was extremely unpleasant. It was like travelling to hell in that heat and that was made more hellish by the red tinted windows. I didn’t know how I was going to be able to last 12 weeks in that environment. In the end I only spent 27 days in there because I got out on appeal due to legal representation submitting an appeal on the basis that, due to my autism, prison was the wrong sentence option.

I didn’t know the effects that the experience would have on me back then. I wasn’t feeling affected after being released due to being so glad to be free. The world outside those four walls seems completely new when you come out of there. I could notice small things I previously didn’t see in familiar locations I had regularly visited. Everything just seemed so big and overwhelming when I first set foot out of the court that granted my release. I was more sociable inside because I had to be as we didn’t have the internet to communicate. There was no access to any of those luxuries. I don’t know where outsiders get the idea that prisoners have loads of privileges such as games consoles and so on. That isn’t true. We had a television but we had to pay 20p a day from the money we got for either work or completing some form of educational course. We had a gym but very limited usage. We could only go there if the guards were available to take us. That was rare because the male side of the prison was allocated more gym time than us due to kicking off if they didn’t get things.

I’m not ashamed of having done some time. I am tougher than I was before I went in there. That doesn’t mean I’m in any ways hard. I couldn’t physically fight but I have a thicker skin in some respects.