Throughout this blog I have aimed to raise awareness of Dyspraxia and create a sense of understanding for other people- namely my friends and family but I am aware that this blog has travelled much further than I had ever anticipated. However I haven’t yet talked about how I have come to understand myself, without this understanding of myself, it would be difficult to expect others to understand or even to help others in similar situations. Throughout this post I would like to talk about the understanding that I have very recently developed of myself. I wish I’d understood this sooner because then maybe I’d have felt ready to access the support that I probably needed at the time. I have gone through my whole 26 years of life being pretty confused and not really understanding myself or why I’d spent the majority of my childhood visiting hospital seeing specialist after specialist. I realised that I was a bit different from other children at a very young age and that has had a detrimental effect on my self esteem, confidence and ability to believe in myself. I had virtually no self belief, I was treated as stupid at school and that I’d never really amount to much. Special Educational needs provision at my secondary school seemed to be centred around exaggerating these feelings of despair, isolation and loneliness. I don’t recall anyone ever asking me what I wanted, if they had maybe I’d be telling a different story. I work with young people now and I am passionate about doing what they want and not what professionals think is the best thing to do. I lacked a voice at school, a voice to stand up and say this is me, this is how I work and this is what I want to do. Having the opportunity to ask why I’m like I am, would have given me the confidence to be proud of being me, to confront the misunderstandings and talk about the very personal experiences that have made me who I am today.
Over the years there has always been people who have inspired me and I’ve looked up to. People who’ve been there and most of all cared. They saw beyond my labels and encouraged me to come out of my shell, to do things people thought were beyond my capabilities and were at the other end of the phone when life at school seemed to be falling apart. I am talking about a few youth workers who supported me during my teenage years, when everyone else had failed to give me a voice. Through accessing the local youth service I felt respected and valued. They also inspired me to pursue my current career. I used music to escape a world I didn’t quite understand and the support off the youth workers as a way to focus away from the misunderstandings and injustice I felt at school.
A few years later I ‘secretly’ as I was still ashamed and embarrassed about who I was, brought a book called ‘Caged in chaos- a dyspraxic guide to breaking free’ by Victoria Biggs. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand more about Dyspraxia, it is detailed, personable, emotive and captivates the real struggles of hidden conditions. I read this book quicker than I have ever read a book before, for the first time in my life I realised that there are others who share the feelings that I had been trying to deal with for years. It is important to remember that as well as being very physical by manifesting itself in problems with coordination, Dyspraxia can also be a very emotional condition. Recent research has found that 95% of teenagers with Dyspraxia feel anxious and 40% feel anxious all of the time. I am no exception to this statistic, growing up I have dealt with the confusing and scary feelings of anxiety and depression, that has only recently been recognised and diagnosed. This shows how important it is to raise awareness of this very serious invisible impact of hidden disabilities, if the emotional effects aren’t taken into account as early as the physical challenges, without adequate support many young people will face uncertain and confusing early adulthoods.
After reading this book I started reading online forums, I would never post anything because I didn’t feel confident about talking about my condition and effects it has had on me to people I have never met before. I just read and took in the information and advice from other Dyspraxics on the forum. I related to much of the discussion, and somehow felt part of a community, even without actively participating myself- a community that understood. This eventually helped me to get it, to actually make sense of all the years that had felt very cloudy and dark. Eventually I disclosed and opened up to a few close friends, once they knew, nothing had changed, they didn’t treat me any differently but respected me for being me. I was empowered that talking about Dyspraxia could be a good thing. Although I didn’t for a long time, I wasn’t ready to admit that I have a hidden condition and explain how it affects me to the world. I spent more time on the Dyspraxia foundation website, trying to really develop a sense of understanding and I read over my old hospital reports. I realised that what was written about me as a child, will effect me differently as an adult. I then started to write a novel, basically about my life as a young child and how the world was through my eyes. Writing really helped me put my thoughts and feelings down and to comprehend the complexities of my condition that I had never really confronted or understood, until I saw it staring back at me on my computer screen in black and white. I then came to the conclusion that I had to write this blog, not only to help myself but to reach out to others and explain things that I have wanted to explain for years and years. It felt like I’d finally found the missing piece of the jigsaw, after 26 years of looking.
Throughout this last year I have finally reached the stage where I understand myself, at least enough to discuss my abilities but also my difficulties. I can confidently challenge the odd negative remarks I get from time to time and be proud that I am where I am today, educated to masters level, in a career I love and with an amazing supportive group of friends. Understanding myself has enabled me to write this blog and convey the feelings associated with Dyspraxia, to raise awareness of hidden conditions. I don’t think Dyspraxia will ever define me but it has certainly been the making of me.