I was a closet Dyspraxic for some years (before I saw the light and disclosed), you would only know about my diagnosis, if you either taught me, were my family or I trusted you with my life (and during my younger years, few people fell into that category.) I was able to keep it a secret for so long, because my disability is hidden, just like most Neurodiverse conditions, of Dyslexia, ADHD and Autism, you can’t see it, there is no white stick or wheelchair to act as clues. Having an invisible disability also had it’s downsides as well, as I was in many ways treated as ‘normal’ so my Dyspraxic tendencies were often labelled as me being ‘odd’ or ‘awkward.’ I could also read and write not just well but very well, this academic ability and being statemented, confused many who taught me. I remember being given a reader in one of my exams, this frustrated me as well as my parents- I could read perfectly well, I just needed extra time to process the questions. This isn’t the start of an ‘I’m Dyspraxic and here’s my story’ blog post, you can read further back through previous articles to find blogs on that vein. Here I wanted to pose questions, probably more questions than I have answers to- but I feel the questions need to be addressed.
The questions I’ve been asking myself on repeat is, who to tell? Who actually needs to know and does it really matter? Do you tell your friends, your boss, work colleagues or Joe blogs on the street? I certainly wouldn’t disclose to anyone without good reason to but it has posed the question as to just how visible hidden disabilities are. They are visible in some parts of the media, where high powered celebrities have disclosed, but how far do we have to go to raise the profile of our difficulties- the difficulties that don’t define us but form part of who we are. I have so much respect for those in positions of power who choose to disclose, it gives hope and reassurance to the rest of us, and for those who lack the ability, vision and empowerment. A while ago I wrote a piece on disclosure, sharing some of my experiences of ‘coming out’ as Dyspraxic and some strategies I’ve used to disclose. My decision to talk about being Dyspraxic, wasn’t something that came to me easily, but was the right thing to do for me. Talking to others with dyspraxia about similar difficulties, helps so many people (me included) to understand themselves and to empathise with shared frustrations and feelings that are often dismissed by society: a theme that came up on twitter recently was being unable to drive, something that has greater implications than people realise (I have a whole blog post planned on driving, because I clearly have so much to say on the subject… )
So disclosure. Does it matter? In some ways it does, but who you choose to tell is your own personal choice. I know that so many people, from reading posts on social media experience frustrations when dealing with people that are made more difficult because of a Dyspraxic trait. Do we explain to the lady at the checkout and all of the customers behind you that you need more time to put your change in your purse because you struggle with fine motor skills? Do you tell the lady behind you at the escalator that you can’t judge distances so are taking longer? Do you tell the bus driver why you don’t want him to drive of before you take your seat? Do you explain to everyone at work that you may struggle with remembering names of new people in meetings because of problems with short term memory? Do you mention to your friends that you sometimes struggle with social situations and may miss important occasions or events because of anxiety? Of course if all of the above people did know it may change the way they react towards you and it could raise more awareness, maybe we’d even begin to become more visible but it could also be counter productive. Does it matter that they know or don’t know? I guess one of the solutions is more training in the workplace to give people an increased understanding and acceptance of hidden disabilities. Although this doesn’t help us deal with those we come into contact with in our day to day life- saying ‘I do this because I’m Dyspraxic’ to a complete stranger can cause mixed reactions, and I don’t think many of us are ready for those reactions.
on a personal note disclosure for me has lead to one of the following; ‘oh really! I would never have known’ or ‘ah ok.. ‘ followed by an awkward silence because they don’t quite know what to say next and ‘That’s me too! I do that/have those feelings as well..’ They then go onto tell me how they’ve struggled with certain things throughout their life and that they think they might be undiagnosed. Any mention of Dyspraxia’s links with mental health and my own challenges with anxiety, almost always leads to them exploiting my natural empathy and me becoming a convenient counsellor or people belittling my feelings by saying things similar to;’I get lost all of the time too, it happens to all of us.’ My experience of disclosing has been very frustrating as well as incredibly positive. We are all going to have those difficult encounters but it’s the positive affect disclosing has had on me that I hold onto. I do wonder what the difference would be if all the people I’ve disclosed to didn’t know, would it matter?
I know that the awareness work I do and this blog wouldn’t be possible without my friends knowing, but beyond that I don’t know. I do know that I have just asked myself too many questions that I will probably never find answers for and that if we want hidden disabilities to become visible, we need disclosure. I guess that is the answer- it does matter.
I will be very interested to hear anyone’s views/experiences on this issue.