Dyspraxia – the next stage of the journey
It’s never easy to admit to yourself that you’re unable to do something because your brain is incompatible with the task. But it’s an admission I must make to myself multiple times a week. It’s horrible to feel like you have no control over your progression and even worse to know that in some areas there is a ceiling to your ability. But that’s how I feel about my Dyspraxia. Was diagnosed with this little-known condition at the age of 7 and have been struggling with it since then.
Dyspraxia or developmental coordination disorder (DCD) is a developmental disorder that causes difficulty in activities requiring coordination and movement. Most people will associate this condition with the clumsiness that people with the disorder often outwardly present, but there is so much more to it. The best way to describe what’s going on inside my head is to ask you to read a very complex science or maths textbook – the individual words make sense, but the whole picture doesn’t quite materialise. It kind of feels like when you have something on the tip of your tongue, but for everything: Spontaneous conversation is often impossible without stammering and the brain locking up, often times leaving the conversation to move on before you can gather what you wanted to say. Equally explaining processes to someone can become laborious since you have to break it down to its minutia just to understand it yourself.
In my own life, these and other effects of my condition cause me to present myself as a person I am not. I can often come across as shy and introverted or uninterested and sometimes stupid or uninformed. I often take the role of the wallflower in meetings because I know I will be unable to articulate what I think and will hesitate to proffer an opinion in public because of the ease with which I can internally confuse subjects. All these things along with the physical challenges have made the working world a difficult one to navigate. When I left school, I trained to be a chef and worked in the industry for nearly seven years. In that time, I struggled with heavy and unrelenting workloads and with beating myself up over making mistakes, it took a long time for me to realise that these environments were working to trigger the Dyspraxia and oftentimes kicked off a cycle of worsening symptoms that led to premature burnout.
Under these circumstances it I easy to fall into depression and develop a low self-image or belief in oneself, and for a while I did. It was only when I went to uni that I discovered the strengths of the condition I had loathed for nearly twenty years.
It turns out that those who suffer from Dyspraxia excel in creative and academic fields (turns out quite a few celebrities have the condition ) – I soon found this to be true in myself. I discovered that I had writing skills and a skill for the academic study of the discipline. I also discovered that I had a knack for leadership and teaching as well as being a creative thinker. I also discovered that I had a level of empathy and understanding of people that has been developed by years of sitting, listening and watching. And most importantly I discovered that those glass ceilings that come with DCD can be somewhat lifted and success achieved.
In my current job I am quickly learning that the chances of success in any task can be vastly improved by changing the environment around you. Parts of my job include a lot of fiddly spreadsheet and number work that confuse the hell out of me, and that after a day’s work leave me emotionally and mentally drained. It is a fast-paced environment where asking for information to presented in a different way is not practical, and at the start I made a lot of mistakes and entered a period of very low mood. It was only when I started to restructure the information given to me to suit my own needs that I began to see a massive decrease in mistakes and an uptake in productivity. I still make some mistakes, but I am slowly learning to not hate on myself too much for each one, the struggle is knowing which one’s normal ones and which ones are Dyspraxia ones. It is coming to me slowly and progress can be hindered somewhat by the relatively unknown nature of the condition – sometimes co-workers and managers just don’t get it; sometimes the reasonable adjustments you require will be looked down on as you are being “soft”. Sometimes it is impossible to be listened too and sometimes it's all in your head.
And this is the next lesson I am going to have to learn, I understand now that mistakes are unavoidable and that sometimes they are caused by being put in a situation the increases their likelihood, and in these situations I need to stand firm, make people understand the difficulties I have and how we can work together to overcome them – I need to learn how to make people listen and understand.