I have been a police officer for more than 14 years, however – as we all do – I also have a life outside my job.
I am also a wife and mother of two children, aged nine and six, with my oldest son diagnosed with autism at the age of seven. His support needs started as young as two though.
Being a parent of a child with a disability brings with it an extraordinary amount of additional work.
Between meetings with authorities to adapting my everyday life, along with the constant strive to get the right support for my son, it can be extremely tough and challenging at times.
To begin with, I found it very hard to maintain my role as a front line officer due to the structure and routine that my son required.
‘At times I felt very alone’
Being emotionally exhausted and physically exhausted was hard, but I really enjoyed my job and giving up just wasn’t an option for me.
I also faced a lot of stigma from various people.
Authorities would assume I was coping because I am a police officer and that I must deal with worse at work all the time, while other parents and members of public would approach me and ask me to keep my son away from their children due to his aggressive outbursts.
At times I felt very alone, as if I was the only person going through this struggle.
I felt like I was a bad mum and, because I was a police officer, I put pressure on myself to have well-behaved children.
A huge support to me and my family
I was very lucky that within the police I was supported into the role as Group Coordinator for the Police Scotland Youth Volunteers, which has allowed me flexibility to work around the needs of my son.
An added bonus was that I instantly fell in love with the job.
Within Police Scotland we have the Scottish Police Disability and Carers Association (DACA) which ensures that police officers, staff members or Special Constables who are carers for people with disabilities can be assured of a working environment which is inclusive and supportive of their needs.
Recently, I also became aware that I am classed as an unpaid carer for my son.
Having this knowledge has helped me to access support from the Disability & Carers Association for Police Scotland and other local organisations like Quarriers, Wee Too!, Child Development Support Group Grampian, the Ellon & District Family Support Group, and Autism and other Conditions Aberdeen to name just a few.
Being able to meet people from all walks of life dealing with the same struggles I have has been a huge support to me and my family, and it has helped me in my role as a mother, carer and Police officer.
It has also helped me to be more confident and supported me to make sure I take time to look after myself too.
Last week marked National Carers Week and I wanted to take this chance to reach out to others who have found themselves in a similar position to me.
I know it can be hard but be sure to look after yourself and reach out for support that is in your community – if it is not something that is automatically provided, or readily available, seek it out.