Dyspraxia and Mental Health

It is dyspraxia awareness week. Many of you might not know this as dyspraxia isn’t as widely known about as other conditions like dyslexia, but it is pretty common. When dyspraxia is no longer underlined red when I type it, I will be happy.  It is also mental health awareness day, so I decided to do a joint post.

Many people think of dyspraxia as being clumsy, but it is so much more than that, and often it can affect our mental health. I know that my self-esteem was pretty low as a child because I couldn’t do things that other kids could do. I often compared myself to my older brother and saw ways that I lacked in comparison to him. However, he probably had his own challenges too, but I didn’t see that. I saw what he was good at and I saw what I wasn’t good at which led to my low-self esteem. It also didn’t help that I was quite badly bullied at school. These bullies fed into that self-doubt and I still have trouble, years later, finding my self worth.

I was diagnosed with dyspraxia when I was 10, shortly after my mum had been diagnosed, in her 40s! An educational psychologist would take me out of lessons to work on skills. I remember she made me cut up a sandwich and it was the hardest task I had ever been assigned. Cutting up a sandwich! She then let me eat it, which I found cool, as I got to eat during lesson time. She also made me navigate around the school library. This was when I first learned about the trick to help with directions. If you can form your thumb and finger into an ‘L’ shape then that is left.

Although I had some help with my dyspraxia at school, it wasn’t enough to make my struggles easier. To this day, I cannot ride a bike, tie up shoelaces, or do other tasks that others find easy. We recently bought some shoes for me and we thought I wouldn’t have to tie up the laces as they come with a zip but I do, so my parents have the fun job of doing that when I want to wear those shoes.

I felt like a failure for my entire childhood. I was at a time in my life when I really didn’t see the point of exams because I would fail anyway, my mind told me, so why even bother? An incident happened during one exam. It was a practical science exam so talking was allowed. The exam was easy for me, actually. The exam was not the hard part. Putting my hair into a bun was! As it was science, I had to tie my hair into a bun. I had only just figured out how to put it into a ponytail, let alone a bun. I started crying as the teacher pressured me. How could I explain that I didn’t know how? By some miracle, I managed to put my hair into a bun by twisting my hands around in a way I had never done before, but my mental state had deteriorated for the exam. I could only think about how much of a failure I was for the rest of the exam and didn’t do as well as I had done the previous year because of that. I still did quite well though.

A lot of people with dyspraxia have average or above average IQs, but they don’t feel like they do, simply because they struggle with the most simple of tasks. It’s important, if you know someone dyspraxic, to let them know their strengths. They will be thinking and thinking about how they can’t make a bed or dress properly; remind them that they have great qualities. My mum, with dyspraxia, is an artist. She makes amazing paintings — but she often trips up. You can be successful if you’re dyspraxic. You just have to navigate life a slightly different route to everyone else, and that’s okay. You might be slow to learn life skills, but you have other qualities. For instance, I struggle so much with every day tasks. I still, at 20 years old, cannot figure out how to make my body not trip up over itself daily. I guarantee I will trip up at least once a day. When I was 12, I tripped up and broke my toe! I’m too dyspraxic for many jobs. I cannot be an athlete, nor can I be an artist like my mum (fine motor skills are more of a challenge for me) but one thing I’ve always loved doing is writing. So I will write. I won’t write for very long because my hands get tired easily, but I will continue writing for as long as I can. I am a writer and I love it.

Dyspraxia complicates things, but I can now (badly) cut up food. I will probably never learn some skills but others might come to me over time. Dyspraxia makes things hard but focus on what you love and what you’re good at. We think in different ways, but that isn’t necessarily a bad things. In fact, some times, my dyspraxia can help me rather than hinder me. Dyspraxia can cause bluntness, which some can see as a bad thing, but I see it as a positive. There’s no secrets with me or my mum; we say what’s on our mind! Dyspraxia is part of neurodiversity and I embrace it now. I needed a little help at school with my handwriting and other skills but that doesn’t hold me back anymore because I use a computer to write everything. All these traits make me who I am so I accept dyspraxia as a part of me.

If you want to go check out a dyspraxic blog, to find out how one awesome person manages to adult with dyspraxia, try Dyspraxia Diaries 101

I often talk about autism and mental health because they affect me a lot too, but Dyspraxia Diaries 101 focuses on how Dyspraxia affects her and it’s one of my favourite blogs because I can relate to it a lot. Some of you might have dyspraxia and not know it; it’s under-diagnosed. If you relate to my story, or hers, you might have dyspraxia! You’re not alone in your struggles and a dyspraxia diagnosis can lead to a lot of realisations and help. You are not a failure.

Thanks for reading,

Lia

 

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Fairy Mail (250 Word Story)

I wrote this for the NYC Midnight Microfiction contest.  We had to write a 250 word story in 24 hours using the prompts given.

My prompts were:

Genre: Fairy tale or fantasy

Action: Delivering a letter

Word (to be included in story): Parched

Felicity had been travelling for weeks. She was parched but knew that she was near her destination. She was small, even for a fairy, and this journey had taken her to places she had never been. She didn’t often see humans; she spent most of her life in the woodlands, attending to the needs of elves. Here she was, in a city full of people. It was overwhelming, especially considering how humans walked. Their giant, undignified feet stomped around, without a single care as to what they might step on. The elves were much more elegant; their feet danced to the ground. In the city of Alsmel, it was chaos.

161 Farryn Street was the address embedded on the scroll that Felicity was to deliver. It was a human-sized scroll and weighed down like a bag of woodchips. She often carried woodchips for the elves, so they could make beautiful accessories out of them.

Felicity was just a courier and knew nothing of the letter she was delivering. She only knew that delivering it was of the utmost importance. Felicity found the address and used some magic to sound the bell.

A man with a beard opened the door. Judging from his staff, he was a wizard.

“You have a letter?” He asked.

“Yes,” Felicity replied, taking off the scroll wrapped around her. The man knelt down and picked it up.

“Thank you.”

Felicity could relax, at last – or so she thought. For then, the wizard read the letter.

Places to Eat in Worthing

I live in a seaside town called Worthing. I have lived here my entire life and have seen many businesses come and go through the years. When I was fifteen, I went vegan, and this meant that some of the places that I had considered my favourites became disappointing and lacking options. I live quite near Brighton so it can be annoying being that close to such a huge vegan community yet not have many options in my own town. Eventually, that changed and now there are a lot of places to eat in Worthing. This post is a shout-out to the places that really deserve it because they give great options for everyone.

I will first start off with a fully-vegan business. Cactus Kitchen Gals. They’re all about vegan junk food. Their notzarella sticks are so delicious that I am disappointed when I try supermarket’s attempts at it. Gooey and cheesey, even my non-vegan mum is impressed! They do delicious milkshakes and waffles and I’m honestly in love. They’re also largely gluten-free.

The next business is mostly vegan but has some non-vegan cheese, if I remember correctly. Wine & Reason. I don’t drink so, although many love them for their good wine, I’m all about the food. They have a small menu but it has such good options that you won’t feel like you’re missing out. When I was there, I had banana blossom fish and chips, and then they did a trio of desserts so me and my mum shared that! The Egremont also do banana blossom fish and chips which is delicious.

The third business is not just a cafe but also a great place to go if you’re on the run. The Artisan’s Pantry & Sandwich Bar. They have a lot of vegan options, as well as some non-vegan options. You can take out or sit in. I would suggest this place if you’re after a quiet cafe, also.

Next, we have The Orchard. A non-vegan business with vegan pancakes on offer. They’re quite busy and bustling so get there early! I love their pancakes.

I have to say, the next business is possibly my favourite. Street’s cafe. They have such a large vegan menu, I never know what I’m going to order! Do I want vegan fish and chips or perhaps a burger? It’s a great place to eat with family and is child-friendly. They also sell a few things.

The final business isn’t a cafe at all, but rather a shop. TEBA are always expanding their vegan range in the shop and the vegans of Worthing are very happy. I always want to go in and see what new goods they have to offer. From vegan cheese to fake meat, they will likely have what you want. And if they don’t – just ask them! They often take requests. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, they might have made something delicious too, like baklava. I love their baklava. My favourite shop in Worthing; they are also very nice in there!

If you want places that cater to everyone, when you’re next in Worthing check out the above places! I think you’ll be very happy.

Lia

Worries

I worry every day. I can’t stop the flooding in my brain. I worry about the fact that only 16% of autistic adults are in full time paid employment, and that only 32% are in any kind of paid work. I worry about the fact that I don’t look autistic and most people don’t realise just how autistic I am. They think I can fix my autistic traits if they keep telling me how to improve myself, but you can’t fix autism. It stays with you forever. I worry about the fact I may lose all my friends one day through my lack of understanding social communication. I say the wrong things often and I don’t understand why it was the wrong thing. I don’t understand other people’s social signals, either. I think I’m losing friends already.

I worry about the fact that 1 in 3 autistic adults are experiencing severe mental health problems and I think I’m one of them because I can’t see properly most days. All I see in front of me are traps. I think about all the ways I could fail in life frequently, and it isn’t enough to just think positive. I try, but then I think about all the negatives of that positive.

I worry about the fact that I want to do something big with my life but that I will never get the chance to. Don’t say I can if I try. Then, I’ll feel worse about not doing it. My autism looks like it doesn’t affect me much so people encourage me to do things that they would never encourage someone with a more visible disability to do. Just because mine is invisible, people think I can do things. I’ve tried to do more with my life and it ended in terrible situations each time, because of my autism. Each time, I remember back to those scenarios, and I think they will happen again. That is why I cannot do what I want with my life. I cannot experience the opportunities many are lucky to grab. It will end badly.

I cannot see any future for myself, personally. I see the future of everyone else around me — but not me. I have no future. One day, I might be all alone and not know how to cope with the world I’ll be all alone in, and that frightens me the most. I fear that I will be stationary, like a statue, for my entire life. I once had dreams and aspirations that burned down before me when I realised I can never complete those.

I’m depressed. I’m anxious. I’m autistic. No one wants to deal with someone like me. I’m too complicated for them. I’m a mess. I lie to people most of the time with simple texts and funny pictures. I don’t want to be remembered for being a fraud. I want to be remembered for being an author who volunteered with animals regularly, but that is not going to happen. I have had far too many set-backs already. My autism is literally stopping me from getting opportunities (I was turned down by a volunteer agency when they found out I was autistic, despite the fact I could do whatever tasks they wanted me to). I have tried more than once to fit in with society and it did not work out.

The truth is that I’m tired. I feel like an alien. No one understands me. I will not speak this aloud but I will write it in a blog post because that’s what my blog is about. Expressing myself.

Honestly, my pets are what keep me going. Seeing them each day gives me something to smile about, but there’s not much more for me to smile at anymore. I feel alone and frightened about my future. I have my family but they won’t be here forever, so what happens then?

I don’t know.

Lia

 

Shapes

I have lines on my arms. They resemble a check-list. One, two, three, four. I guess I haven’t reached five yet. If I get to five, will it have to go diagonal like in those check-lists? I don’t want to think about what will happen if I get to five.

My friend has circles on her arms. Big, round circles. I wonder why she has circles and not lines. Sometimes they overlap, like in a venn diagram. I often think about what connects the circles together and why they intersect.

Today is a good day. I have not been cut by any triangles yet. Triangles have sharp edges. They are at their worst when they are equilateral. This means all points are as sharp as each other.

My friend is not having a good day. She has a new circle but it is not on her arm. It is over her eye. I wonder why it is there. Venn diagrams connect circles, so why should it be there? Is she starting a new one?

Just as I open my mouth to ask her, I realise that a triangle is lodged in her brain. If I talk to her, she might well throw it at me, and I don’t want that. I don’t say a thing.

A new line appears on my arm. It isn’t diagonal after all.

Potato and Leek Soup

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I made potato and leek soup!

This was a really challenging task as I have never made it before and am often prone to meltdowns when making new things. Luckily, despite the meltdowns, I eventually made it mostly by myself. My mum did help with one or two things but I did most of it.

The taste test was the best part as it tasted just like potato and leek soup! I was scared it wouldn’t taste how I wanted it to.

As a vegan, potato and leek soup is something that we rarely find is vegan, so it’s useful to know how to make it. The only potato and leek soup I’ve had since becoming vegan was from my aunt, so I’m glad that I was able to make this.

I was very surprised at how creamy it was, considering the only creamy ingredient was margarine and I didn’t even use that much. It was delicious though and I’m so glad I made it.

Here’s to more ventures in the kitchen!

Lia

Meeting People

One of the most terrifying things for me is meeting new people. I don’t know what they’ll think of me and whether they’ll accept me. I’ve struggled with trying to fit in for my entire life but recently I decided I’ll never fit in, so why try? I am always scared that when I meet someone new, I will be awkward. I am a very awkward person and I end up talking about weird things. Sometimes, I don’t talk at all. This often happens when I’m at a doctor’s office; my mum will speak for me because I’m unable to. I don’t know when these bouts of silence will happen (it’s usually when someone is authoritative or scary) but I always hope that I’ll be able to speak when it matters. However, sometimes I’m scared that if I speak, I’ll say the wrong thing.

On Monday, I met new people and it was very scary for me because it’s not something I do a lot. Afterwards, I was depressed and anxious because I worried a lot about every single thing I had done. This always happens to me but, after a few days, I get over it and am much happier. I begin to think clearly and realise that I wasn’t so bad after all. I talked to them, quite a bit, and, whilst I might have said some weird things, they didn’t seem to mind. I think so much about myself. Someone pointed out to me that the other people are probably thinking about themselves too so will not judge me. I think this is a good point. I think about myself, so they will think about themselves. We all worry about what we say or do but, in the end, no one else cares.

I think meeting new people is an important part of life and we all do it. I don’t do it very often due to mainly spending time with my mum, as I’m autistic. However, I think that I should try to do more things that are out of my comfort zone. I need to be brave. One day soon, I think I will make a recipe by myself. I usually ask my mum for help but I think I will try and do it all by myself.  That’s one thing. Little things can help me gradually become more independent.

Lia

Straws Aren’t That Bad

I’ve been a vegan for five years and, in that time, I’ve learned about many advantages of being vegan that I didn’t know when I started. The truth of why 15-year-old me went vegan is because I love animals and I didn’t want to be responsible for their suffering anymore. It’s that simple. However, I have come to learn that there are other benefits too. Health is one; I’m just less at risk of heart problems and certain cancers because I’m vegan. The second biggest benefit to animal welfare, however, has to be that I’m doing a lot for the environment.

I see a lot of eco-friendly people around, saying how they have swapped straws. The truth is that straws are not the threat. They make up around 0.03% of all the plastic in the ocean and, whilst you may help the environment very slightly, the difference isn’t really all that significant just by changing straws. If you really want to help the environment, then remember that at least 46% of all plastic in the ocean comes from fishing nets. They are the single biggest threat to fish. It’s time to stop supporting the fishermen that put them there, if you want to keep the entire eco-system safe. I’m not suggesting you go vegan because I know that many people have different excuses for not becoming vegan but I am suggesting that you think more carefully about how to save the environment, if that’s your goal.

I see lots of disabled people struggling with plastic straws being swapped out for paper or metal ones and I can’t help but think that the companies swapping straws should instead be saving the environment in other, much more significant ways. They say every little bit helps but for such little impact, I do not think disabled people should have to suffer.

Cutting out fish from your diet is the first step you can make to a more environmentally secure future. Plus, you can get so many fish alternatives these days! My personal favourite is Sophie’s Kitchen fishless Smoked Salmon.  I love it on a bagel with vegan cream cheese and watercress or salad leaves. I also love Gardein fishless fillets. Vbites and Quorn also have fishless alternatives which are delicious. You can get Gardein and Sophie’s Kitchen from Sainsburys. Quorn can be found in most supermarkets. I get Vbites from Holland and Barrett though I’m sure other places do it too.

I hope this post made you think a little about the fish in the sea.

Lia

I exist

Another day.

The birds are singing, the cats are howling, the dogs are yapping. Everyone is up but you. You lie in bed, stiffened by the thoughts that tighten the ropes around you. You’re still, motionless, yet completely awake. You want to get up, to have a life, to just say hi to someone, but you can’t. Your body is paralyzed by the cuffs of sadness. You find no meaning, no reason, to exist but you also find no meaning, no reason, not to exist. It is as if you are caught between the two. This feeling means that you do not want to die but you do not want to live either. You are caught in a bind that strangles you with every breath.

Every day that goes by, you feel the knots tightening, until you’re almost completely wrapped up in them. You can speak, you can move, you can live, but you don’t. You become just another blade of grass. Your presence is not acknowledged, not anymore. You don’t exist… but you do. You know that you exist and you want to scream it from the rooftops but, again, you don’t. You won’t.

“Help…” you utter, still tied up in bed.
And with that, the ropes burn, leaving scars on your arms. The scars will never leave your arms but they will fade overtime. You realise now that you are finally free to speak, to move, to live.

You get up, you go outside, and you scream.

“I exist!”

You can breathe again.