Read more from Your Autism Magazine's interview with Anne Hegerty about her school days and what helps when she feels stressed or anxious. 

Anne Hegerty, The Governess in ITV's The Chase

More about Anne’s school days…

I could never understand why at breaktimes there was this rule that children had to go out in the playground. Even if they were just standing there, in their coats, in the cold, they couldn’t just stay in the library and read a book. Nowadays I think it’s much more common for children to stay in and read. I think it was simply that it made life easier for the teachers but they kept saying “it’s good for you to go outside, in the cold air!”

How does your Asperger syndrome affect you now?

I can’t multi-task, I can’t juggle things. If I’ve got something looming ahead of me, it’s very difficult to get anything done before then. I’m like, let’s get this out the way and I tend to sit around in this heap. Looking around me right now, there are plates that want washing up, there’s shopping to put away. This is not just normal slobbery. This is extreme, what they call executive dysfunction. Sometimes, even when I’ve got time, I just sit there staring at it, thinking I can’t make my brain understand what I have to do right now. 

You’ve talked about the importance of planning for you. Are there other things that help when you’re feeling stressed or anxious?

Comfort eating is brilliant! There are times when you’ve been out for ages, you had to talk to people and you’re not making eye contact with anyone, and you come back and eat some ice-cream and think, yes, that’s me, welcome back! 

Just surfing around on Facebook without having intense one-to-one conversations with anyone. Unless it’s someone I know very well, and/or I know what we’re going to be talking about. For example, I’m always having conversations with the other chasers on Facebook Messenger, the phone or face to face and that’s different. They’re practically like my family and we all get each other so I don’t find that stressful. And even so, sometimes you just want a little time with absolutely no one speaking to you. 

You’ve only just begun to talk about your diagnosis publicly – did anything specific prompt this?

Well, actually I’ve been talking about it for some time but nobody listened! The thing about The Chase, it first started in 2009, I joined in 2010. By 2011 it was starting to put up those big ratings figures, we’d been getting about three million viewers a day ever since. The public have known who we are for years. But the press have only cottoned on to our existence in the last two years. So that’s when people think I’ve not been talking because I’ve just not been talking to anyone who would listen. But it’s not something I’ve made a secret of.

Do you have any advice for autistic job seekers?

I used to go to a place called Aspire. I’m not sure how much concrete help they were but I just used to go there and it was nice to be able to chat to someone about autism. I would also suggest being in touch with the NAS because I found them useful and it’s just good to know that you’re not alone. I wish I had more advice, but I do not know where I’d be if The Chase hadn’t suddenly happened. 

Who came up with the name and persona of the Governess?

Originally, I was going to be the headmistress. During rehearsals, Bradley started calling me the Governess and I realised that was a great honour because his nickname is the Governor. I just thought I’d prefer to be the Governess. A headmistress is a bit circumscribed. She’s got a lot of rules that she has to follow. The Governess can make it up as she goes along.

As well as quizzing, what are your hobbies and interests?

I don’t have any others because I’ve tried to avoid acquiring any or I will not be able to trust myself to drag myself away from them. There are books that I buy and they stack up and I just think, I daren’t or I won’t able to stop. I do online quizzing as well, so I spend most of my time sitting comfortably in front of a computer screen.