As we move towards another year, it is a time for reflection, evaluation and making plans for the future (or new years resolutions that we very rarely keep.) My 2014 ended and 2015 began with this Facebook status:
“So 2014 hasn’t been great all of the time (but what year ever is) In January I graduated from Durham with my Masters-one of the best moments of my life. I didn’t go to South Africa in the end and was supported with the outcome and moved forward away from [insert terrible organisation here]. I’ve learned who my friends really are and realised that I don’t see enough of them. Sadly a friend from my time at folkworks summer school passed away in June this year, I never thought I’d have to go to a friends funeral- but it made me realise that life is for living and to make the most of every day. This year I’ve also seen my little sister Maddy blossom into a beautiful young woman, I’ve never been more proud of her. In 2015 I hope to make more of an effort to see my friends more often and to find that full time job that I know is out there somewhere. Happy new year everyone. I hope you’re having a good time.x”
2015 has not been as difficult as some of the previous years, but it has been one of many lessons- good and bad, but most importantly it has been the year when I really started to understand myself for the first time. Having this understanding made this blog possible. At the start of 2015 I was unemployed, still going through a bereavement, drained from allowing bad people into my life and suffering from crippling anxiety. At the start of the year I wanted a job more than anything, to have some normality and to feel like an adult- it sounds bizarre but I decided that having the responsibility of a full time job gives you those adult like qualities. I also wanted to properly deal with the anxiety, as it had started to affect my friendships and interests- I virtually stopped playing my fiddle- something that I had really enjoyed in previous years.
So what were the big moments of 2015?
- I started a full time job. It was only short term from February-April, but it gave me my first experience of working full time (and an idea of things to avoid.) I have concluded that working in a school isn’t for me, for many reasons; as I outlined in this previous article.
- I started writing this blog and a book. Writing has been a valuable way to develop myself as a person. The blog has defied all of my expectations- and has taken off in ways that I would have never imagined. I really achieved my goal of creating a little more understanding.
- I got proper therapy. I finally found a form of CBT and a therapist on the NHS, who understood me and the things going on in my head. It’s been a while getting there, but has made a world of difference. I’ve become more relaxed and accepting of who I am. I recently read this very thoughtful article that explains the benefits of therapy. After previously being told that my feelings of anxiety ‘weren’t real’, finding someone who understood was a breath of fresh air.
- I got more hours of work as a youth worker: using my degree that I worked so hard for is always a good feeling.
- I started volunteering on the helpline of a leading mental health charity.
- I dragged my younger sister along with me to see my childhood idols- S Club 7. As much as I try to avoid 90’s pop music now, this band will always have a special place in my heart.
- I joined the Dyspraxia Foundation and set up a local support group.
- I joined twitter: despite my doubts, I think I’m starting to like it- there is definitely potential.
- My little sister turned 16 and achieved some amazing GCSE results. I will always be very proud of her.
- I turned 27- I reflected on this, but have since concluded that it is the start of me defining who I am, and not being defined by my labels.
- I did a speech about my Dyspraxia and my support group at my old secondary school, despite being in a place that is tainted with many bad memories- public speaking seemed to come natural to me.
- I have finally met and talked to people who understand, others who are Dyspraxic and ‘get it’ because they have been there too. Particularly other Dyspraxic young women who have been through similar experiences to me- it has been an amazing journey. This year I have been to two conferences, that I have taken so much from. I’ve documented just how important this has been to me here. I’ve realised that others with Dyspraxia. are some of the most accepting and understanding people around.
Any new years resolutions that I have kept?
- I had hoped to take up swimming or Pilates more regularly. They are both recommended for people with Dyspraxia and a good way to keep fit. Pilates is particularly good for Dyspraxics as is explained in an article I recently read here. I also hoped that it’d help me to become less self concious about exercising in public- something that has always been an issue since the traumatic days of PE at school. I kept up the swimming for a few months, but then gradually started to do more and more writing, and less swimming. Maybe in 2016 I’ll eventually get the balance right.
- As I mentioned in my first Facebook status of the year, I aspired to become employed full time. I wanted this achievement more than anything, my mental health was going down hill and I had hoped that a job would help to resolve that. I achieved this- for three months I became employed full time, working a term and a half at a school. This experience taught me many things, I was exhausted to start with due the amount of travelling I had to do to get there, I learned how to deal with different characters and it made me realise that working in a school isn’t where I want to spend the rest of my life (pretty pleased that I trained as a youth worker and not as a teacher.)
- I wanted to see my friends more often- unfortunately I haven’t really kept this one- sorry guys. Anxiety has stopped me doing many of the social things, I wanted to do this year.
New years resolutions for this year…
- To make a go of it as a freelance writer and to finish the book. There is a writing competition, that seems like a good start to make all of the above begin to happen. Writing seems to be one of the very few places I feel I can belong.
- Actually stick to a routine of exercise and to overcome my fear of exercising in public.
- To make more of an effort (than I have ever done in previous years) to see my friends.
- To develop this blog further so that I can raise more awareness and understanding of Dyspraxia and other specific learning difficulties. Coupling this with more public speaking would be a good way forward. (As I have recently discovered that I am just as good at speaking about these issues as I am at writing about them.)
- Continue to grow as many hours with the work situation (but as we all know, this will be a long term goal)
- Find out if I will ever be able to drive.
- To be happy.
This year has been a year of learning, a year of understanding and a year of shouting at the government. A lesson I learned in 2014 that has carried forward to 2015, is to enjoy what you have, who you have around you and achievements you’ve gained- as you don’t know how quickly life can change. I have always described myself growing up as ‘an outsider looking in on the crowd’- I didn’t understand why I was different and found it very difficult to accept who I am. I can now say that I understand myself, I’ve found the missing piece of the jigsaw and I can fit in. I’m Alice and at 27, I’m finally proud to be me.
Thank you to everyone who’s read this blog throughout the year, I couldn’t have got here without you. As I write, I am getting ready to spend the evening at a reunion with some of the people who made my teenage years bearable, who gave me the sanctuary I needed, when I was often misunderstood and lost in a sea of confusion. I owe everything to the youth assembly- I literally wouldn’t be here without the input they had on those crucial teenage years. So far getting ready hasn’t been met with the usual pre social gathering anxiety that I often feel- I hope this continues.
This photo, taken on Christmas Eve, really sums up my year:
Happy new year to you all X