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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Why I Love Writing Poetry

Poetry is the main thing in life that keeps me going. I’ve been through hard times and just getting it out onto paper helps. I can’t tell people about the hardest of times because they won’t understand but I can write about it. I can write about all the things that keep me up at night. Sometimes I lock away the poems, for my eyes only, and other times I share them with the world.

My mum is an artist. I always found that to be such an awesome job (even if you don’t get paid much mostly) because you can express who you are in art. I tried to do art but it just wasn’t for me. At one point, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an actress. I loved acting! But then I lost my confidence due to events and gave up on that. At one stage, I wanted to be vet. I’ve always been writing, since I was young, but never thought it was something that could become more meaningful than just a hobby. I started out writing picture books and soon turned to short stories. Now poetry is my domain.

Writing has saved me a lot, I’d say. It has helped with my depression and anxiety. It hasn’t cured them but getting words out onto paper has really helped me. I do wish I could tell people my true feelings but I fear loneliness. Once you place your burdens on people, they might leave you. It’s happened before. So I place my burdens on writing now. The paper absorbs my soul and breathes my air.

Poetry is art too; it’s just a different form of art. No one sees the world the way I see it. Especially due to me being autistic. I often find myself holding back thorns in my mouth because I want to tell people how I see the world. But they will not approve because it’s not how you’re supposed to see the world. At least poetry will always be my friend, and it will always accept me, even though I’m different. Poetry doesn’t give me bad advice or tell me things I don’t need to know; it just listens and that’s why I love it.

Thank you poetry.

Resolutions? I Don’t Think So!

Every year, we have resolutions and a lot of us break them. I’ve decided not to have any resolutions this year because they’re really bad for my mental health and they make me want to better myself, rather than accepting myself the way I am. I think it’s okay for people to have resolutions, as long as they don’t push themselves beyond their limit. When you’re like me, resolutions can mean serious emotional torment. I usually fail them anyway.

There’s so much that I could do, but I don’t want to get unhealthy habits by obsessing over things I could improve about myself.

I’ve got a lot of flaws so there are a lot of things I could say about what I want to improve. But I don’t want to. I’ve stopped wanting to better myself. I’ve learned that if others don’t love you for how you are now, then they aren’t worth it. And everything has always been about other people for me. What will they think? That’s such an unhealthy thought process and, due to anxiety, I don’t think I can ever fully eliminate that thought from my mind — but I can start caring about my life again.

Obviously, if I happen to change when doing other things, then that will happen, but I won’t focus my entire being on trying to change myself. I’ve always wanted to change myself and I’m just done with that now.

So here’s to 2019 and another year of being me.

Lia 🙂

Christmas!

This year, for Christmas, I got my brother an anime t-shirt. He loved it as the anime is his favourite. I got my mum the soundtrack to ‘A Star is Born’ and I also got her a Frida Kahlo Barbie doll. She’s so excited about the doll especially. I got my dad a massager for his back. I got my brother’s girlfriend a mousepad. I also got my cousins’ a few things each (me and my brother bought them together). I’m so happy everyone liked what I got them.

For my roast, I had a Tofurkey, stuffing, cabbage, brussel sprouts, parsnips, roast potatoes, mash, and gravy! It was such an amazing vegan roast and was very filling. My mum had the same as me but without the brussel sprouts (she hates them) and with Yorkshire puddings as she’s not vegan. My dad, being the only meat eater around the table, had some turkey instead of Tofurkey. My brother was at his girlfriend’s for Christmas, for the first time.

For boxing day, we went to my aunt’s and had an amazing buffet! I was so happy with all the vegan food she provided! She always puts in 110%. She even had some vegan cream cheese for crackers.

I got some nice presents myself. I don’t have a particularly big family, especially considering we don’t see most of my mum’s side of the family, but I still got quite a few presents which I’m excited about. My aunt got me a lava lamp! One of my cousins’ got me a unicorn pencil case full of nice things, including some cute miniature notebooks. My parents got me a really nice pen which I am going to use a lot! I got this thing called a Squeezamal which is basically half squishie and half stuffed animal! It’s amazing! I also got a microwavable panda bear which will be great for the winter! My mum is obsessed with crystals at the moment so got me a rose quartz bracelet. Apparently it helps with anxiety and stress. I also got quite a few books I’m excited to read!

I love Christmas because it is a time for family. I get to see my aunt and her family who I don’t see that often. They live quite far away. I also get to watch Christmas films (The Muppet’s Christmas Carol is the best) and play games! It’s such a fun time of year and I’m sad it’s over. I’m looking forward to it for next year.

What do you like most about Christmas?

Lia

Invalidated Feelings

Someone recently invalidated my feelings and it really hurt. I’ve been feeling like rubbish ever since because it was someone close to me. I just feel like I can’t talk to them about anything I might feel in the future. I’m depressed and I’ve been depressed for a long time. So, to get my feelings completely disregarded, by someone who knows my mental health and knows me very well, isn’t nice. Ever since they did it, I’ve been down more than usual. I feel like we would argue if I brought it up with them so I’m just going to have to keep my feelings to myself around them, I guess? Even though they’re someone I shouldn’t have trouble expressing myself to. I’m in a really low place right now and it hurts. It hurts that I can’t talk to them. It hurts that they’re such an important person in my life. It just hurts.

Dyspraxia To Me

It’s dyspraxia awareness week, so I thought I’d do a post on it. Some of you might have watched the recent ‘Doctor Who’ episode and noticed that a new main character – Ryan – has the condition. I was extremely impressed by this stance as dyspraxia is almost never portrayed in fictional characters. You often have clumsy characters, but it is never said that they have dyspraxia. However, it was made very clear that Ryan does have it. His struggle with learning to ride a bike was something all too real for me as I too suffer with dyspraxia and have never learned to ride a bike. I tried, but I could never get off the stabilisers. This is a problem for many dyspraxic people – though not all. My mum is dyspraxic and can ride a bike. Each person has their own weaknesses and strengths.

People often think that dyspraxia is just a medical term for being clumsy but it is more than just physically bumping into things a lot. It can sometimes give problems with speaking. For me, I get words muddled up and I end up saying the completely wrong word or phrase or pronouncing it wrong. People always correct me and it makes me really angry sometimes because it’s not that I’m stupid. It’s not that I don’t know how to say it. It’s that my mouth doesn’t work with my brain. It can also affect handwriting, making it hard to read. At school, I had terrible handwriting, so they tried to make me join it up — this, however, just made it impossible to read. Thanks school.

I don’t know how to do up a bra. A simple task that lots of girls my age can do is impossible for me. I remember, for years, I’d get my mum to do it up. Now I wear sports bras. I also used to have to wear ties at school, which I could not tie. PE was a nightmare. I can’t tie my hair into a bun. I remember, once, for science (and this was our practical exam so it was important) I had to tie my hair up into a bun. I knew how to do it into a ponytail, so I did. The teacher, in a very angry voice, told me to do it into a bun. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Remember, I’m also autistic, so I couldn’t exactly express this to her. I felt embarrassed and ashamed because every other girl could. She repeated herself, even more angry. I kept fiddling with my hair until finally – as if by a miracle – it became something that resembled a bun. I then burst into tears. Luckily, goggles were covering my eyes so my teacher didn’t notice. She called me over to check my bun. It was fine. I was safe. I could continue with the practical exam. I think, if I hadn’t have done my bun up in that moment, I might have walked out of the classroom and jeopardised my grade. I still can’t do up a bun; that was just a moment of madness where my hands managed to do it. I haven’t been able to repeat it since.

I’m terrible with organisation, and time management, and directions. Don’t ask me to read a map for you. I also can’t do up shoelaces. There’s a lot of things that dyspraxia stops me from doing. It is a disability, yet it is in the shadow of other conditions, and I just don’t know why. For instance, if I were to tell someone I was autistic and dyspraxic, they would immediately start thinking about my autism and how that must affect me. My autism is what everyone talks about, but my dyspraxia is also very challenging to deal with, and it really isn’t recognised that much. Most kids are told they’re clumsy or stupid when they might have dyspraxia. I think it’s seriously under-diagnosed.

That’s what awareness is about. Getting people to recognise the symptoms so they wonder whether they have it or someone they know has it. Remember: it plays out differently in everyone.

A lot of dyspraxic people struggle with sports; catching and throwing a ball can be a real challenge. I’ve struggled with sports and was often told that I just wasn’t good at anything. I have terrible posture, also a result of my dyspraxia. This posture issue causes me pain when I stand up for too long but I can’t say to people that, because I’m disabled, I deserve to sit in that disabled seat on the train. They’d look at me and think I was a liar. I don’t look like I have a disability. The ignorance is astounding.

I have autism and dyspraxia, which are actually quite often found together. Dyspraxia can be found alone, as with my mum, but is usually accompanied by something else. It is also said to be much more common in men than women but you don’t really know how many people truly have it, due to the fact it is under-diagnosed, and whether the statistics are as true as they seem.

Dyspraxia isn’t just clumsiness. It’s much more than that. I hope this post helped you understand some of the difficulties we face and begin to recognise the signs that someone has dyspraxia. Remember that we are all different and this is just my story of dyspraxia. Somebody else’s story might be very different.

Lia

Dear Eve: Secrets

Dear Eve,

I have a secret. It’s a secret I can’t even tell you, Eve, because I know you would disapprove. I don’t think anyone would approve but my secret involves a decision I made. I am sick of other people making decisions for me so I made my own decision for once. I want to be my own person. I didn’t want to do this but I felt like I was backed into a corner, Eve, and now the decision is done. The decision I will not tell anyone about. We all have secrets, skeletons; mine doesn’t affect anyone else, just me, and that’s why it should be my decision and my decision alone. How many secrets do you have, Eve?

My family think they know what’s best for me. Sometimes they do but sometimes they don’t and sometimes I need to decide what’s best for me myself. I just want to be able to be myself again. I haven’t been myself for a while because I haven’t been able to write whatever I wanted. My mind has been riddled with nothing and that’s the scary thing. I’m a writer, so when my mind is empty, where does that put me? Without a purpose, or a goal, or anything to pass the time.

I feel scared of the future. I can’t talk to many people about my worries but I can talk to you because you’re imaginary. When I talk to real people, the vast majority of them give me the advice that I really don’t need. They try to help but they don’t and it’s always been that way… so eventually you stop going to them. Eventually you close yourself off and don’t tell them, because you know they’ll say “if you try, it will work” or “you can do it!” — and that’s people who actually try to help. Sometimes, I’m pushed to the side because people (particularly my family) aren’t in the mood. They’re never in the mood to just talk to me and they’re the people that I want to talk to the most. They’re who I really want to talk to about my problems.

When you can’t talk to people, or when they tell you to wait, eventually you want to take matters into your own hands. I am sick of people telling me happiness is a choice. Not for me, it isn’t. It has never been a choice for me. For people with depression, that’s going to make them feel worse. It’s going to make them think: “if happiness is a choice, why can’t I make myself happy?”

I have decided a lot of things recently, personal things, and I have told no one about them. They’re my secrets. If I told a single soul about them, I know that I wouldn’t get what I’m after. The point of telling people used to be just to get it off my chest, to have someone know; it was a relief. Now I feel like there is no point. No matter how close I am to the person, however much they mean to me, I am worried about their response. That’s why I’m silent.

Thank you for reading, Eve. I know this letter might seem confusing or strange, but it meant that I could at least get something off my chest, even if I couldn’t tell you the full story.

Love,

Lia

Dear Eve: Meltdowns

Dear Eve,

Thank you for reading my first letter. It means a lot that someone, however fictitious you are, is reading these. So, my fictitious friend, here is my second letter.

I have meltdowns a lot. When I have a meltdown, it’s because everything gets too much for me. These show in various ways, depending on who I’m with. If I’m with my family, I generally have more active signs. I’ll start talking loads at first, basically saying why something’s not how it’s supposed to be, and eventually I’ll cry if it isn’t resolved immediately.

My meltdowns with other people aren’t so obvious, however. People won’t really notice that I’m having a meltdown. I go subdued and quiet, and I kind of try to think about nothing at all because if I think about something, I’m worried my meltdown will become visible. On occasion, I do have more visible signs, but I try to postpone them for as long as possible. I’ll go on my phone a lot if I’m feeling really worried and I will probably text my mum. My mum usually answers quickly and she always distracts me with updates on the pets. I find talking about my pets calms me down instantly.

I’m terrified that someone will notice I’m having a meltdown and think that I’m being ridiculous or that I’m a bad person. I heard a story of someone buying all the apple pies in McDonalds because they heard a kid ‘being bratty about wanting one and having a tantrum’. It made me think: this person judged this kid without even knowing the kid. Perhaps the kid, like me, was autistic or had another problem? How do you know? You don’t. So I always worry that people will think terribly of me because I look so ordinary. I don’t want to be thought of like that.

I wonder if you’ve ever had meltdowns, Eve. A lot of people have them; it’s just that they’re more common in autistic people. My mum has them herself quite often but she isn’t autistic. She is dyspraxic however, so isn’t exactly ‘neurotypical’.

It’s nice discussing these things with you because I know you’ll never reply with advice on how to fix my problems. The truth is, Eve, I can’t fix my problems. I will live with them for my entire life. I can figure out ways of dealing with them, but that isn’t fixing them. I don’t like it when people, especially people without autism, tell me ways I can improve myself. They don’t know how tough it is for me and how terrible that advice makes me feel, Eve. I feel constantly like everyone is trying to see me as a person with potential, someone who can become something. That pressure to be what they want me to be sits inside me always. My IQ means nothing. It’s not about how clever you are, it’s about how suited you are to the world, and I’m a cat in a dog food factory. Basically, the world is wrong for me. I try to fit in but I never will.

I’ve accepted that I won’t fit in, but some people still try to see me as someone who needs to fit in with society. I need to work hard to get somewhere (where am I going? I don’t know), I need to not have meltdowns, and I need to respond when people talk to me. I like how you don’t expect these things of me, Eve.

People think these things are simple, but there are a million reasons why, for me, they’re not simple. I could go over the list but I don’t think you would finish this letter, Eve. So I’m just going to say one thing: this isn’t me. I’m not steady, I’m not calm, I’m not social. None of that is me. I sometimes feel like no one really knows me but I guess you’ll know me, Eve. These letters will help you know me. Thank you, again, for reading.

Love,

Lia

Dear Eve: A New Idea

Before I start, I want to say thank you to Kel for inspiring me and allowing me to do this. He recently started a letter series addressed to someone called Joe, whom is made up, and I thought it was a really good idea. It helps you to get your thoughts out there. I’ve done a few letters in the past, but never directed towards a fictitious person, so I think it’s a really great idea. You can say exactly what’s on your mind, but also feel like you’re expressing it to someone, even if they’re imaginary. I hope this series works out for me too, and please go check out his blog!

Dear Eve,

I know you don’t know me yet but you will know me. You aren’t real and yet I feel like I’m talking to someone. This is my first letter to you and I hope there will be many more.

Do you like cats, Eve? Back in August I visited a cat cafe for the first time in my life, in London. My anxiety was high about going to London as it’s such a big city but it turned out okay I think. The cats were cute anyway. I wonder, would you be a cat person or a dog person? I have both cats and a dog but I’d consider myself a cat person. I do the ‘would I have one if I lived by myself?’ test. As I live with my family, it is easier for me to have a dog, but I don’t think I would be able to deal with one if I lived by myself. The training and walkies would be too much for me, I think. Cats, however, would definitely be there. That’s why I’m a cat person. Cats also don’t bark whenever the bell rings, unlike a certain pomchi.

I guess you could call me an anxious person, Eve. I think a lot. Too much. Even when I know a solid plan, I think about the many, many ways in which it could go wrong. For instance, I am going to a board game club (yay social life) and I am going to take a game that I quite like — Catopoly (I told you I’m a cat person) which is basically cat monopoly. However, I am extremely worried that no one else will like the game and it will be boring for them. I know some of them for sure like cats but I don’t know if they’ll like this game.

About the social life thing: I might go to a couple of clubs, but I’m not a very social person. Outside of that, there isn’t much I do. I do sometimes have a social life outside of these clubs but it is infrequent. The reason I started going to these clubs was because I wasn’t going out at all. I just didn’t want you to get the wrong impression of me, Eve. I wouldn’t want to lie to you about being a high-flying social butterfly.

Our house has been on the market for over a year and it still hasn’t sold. It did sell for a bit but then the buyer decided she actually couldn’t afford it so it’s been back on for a while now. It’s stressing me out, the viewings. Often, there is little warning of them and I love notice. So when there’s hardly any notice that I have to leave the house for the viewing, it stresses me out. I’m stressed a lot lately. There’s another viewing soon but I was given an acceptable amount of warning for it. It’s still stressful but less so than if I had been given less warning. We always have to take the dog out as he isn’t the friendliest to ‘intruders of our house’ (basically people he deems to be in his territory). We have a good guard dog. If someone ever attempts to break in, we will know before they get in the door.

I’m feeling quite tired now, Eve. Did you like my first letter? I hope it was okay for you. I really want to talk to you more in future letters. I write this in my bed, at half-past midnight, because I always find my thoughts most cluttered in the night. Thanks for helping me decluttering them, Eve, by letting me write you this letter.

Love,

Lia

Say What You Mean!

Something I struggle with a lot is people saying one thing but meaning another. I automatically assume that they mean exactly what they said, but this often isn’t the case and it’s very confusing deciding whether or not they meant what they said.

Sometimes, this makes me feel betrayed when they didn’t adhere to what they said, but it can be because they never really meant it in the first place. They were just making conversation.

For instance, someone says ‘oh we should do that sometime’ or ‘we should meet up’ but they didn’t really mean it. It’s something that a lot of people seem to say but not mean. It’s kinda suffocating trying to differentiate between a legit promise and a fake one. I just wish people would say exactly what they mean. It would make life a lot easier.

If people told me exactly what they thought of me, life would be easier too. I can differentiate between people who like me for who I am and people who want me to become something I’m not — and stick with the friends that accept me.

I just don’t understand why people always say the opposite of what they mean. It means that I get my hopes up for something that’s never going to happen. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of failed promises, but I still seem to get my hopes up because I never know when one is real.

Sometimes, promises are real, and I am so thankful for the people that say what they mean. For instance, when MyMindSpeaksAloud said that she’d love to go to a cat cafe with me, I was wondering whether we were really going to do it. Now it’s booked and ready for August! I am very excited about it, and it’s really happening, unless a cat-astrophic event happens that prevents it. I love puns.

If people just told everyone what they meant, we would all have a much easier time, in my opinion.

Do you find people confusing?

Lia