Written by Rosemary Richings
Having a diagnosis early on in my life didn’t solve everything. The biggest advantage of all though is that it gave me peace of mind about why I responded to my environment in such a distinct way. That part really matters, and it’s why having a diagnosis shouldn’t be a luxury or a privilege.
1. Self-awareness is tough to find, but you need it to tell people what you need + increase your chances of positive results.
For the first decade and a half of my life, I relied very heavily on adult authority figures in my life. I was convinced they knew better than I did in terms of what was best for me. The internet wasn’t a widely available thing yet, so I couldn’t just ask Google. I was way too young and naive, and low confidence and self-esteem clouded my judgment.
Once I got old enough for authority figures to let go of the reigns a bit, I realized that I was way too reliant on the authority figures I trusted. Yes, their hearts were in the right place, but my overdependence on others made me poorly equipped to speak up and tell people exactly what I need.
But writing and reflecting on my experiences made a huge difference…
When I first started to write my debut novel, I reread decades’ worth of my old diary entries, which I found in my parent’s closet. Here’s the cool part though: every single entry included textbook examples of dyspraxia as a person ages.
For such a long time, I made mistakes that I regret in school, jobs that I had, and in my relationships with people to find out what I needed other people to do for me to thrive. Those diary entries, on the surface, resembled all the things you would typically find in a school kid’s diary.
My entire entires focused on humiliating experiences with fitness with large groups of people, or how misunderstood I felt in certain social situations, workplaces, and classroom environments. Keeping a diary record of what my dyspraxia actually looked like on an average day helped me absorb information about how it affects me.
2. Community really, really matters
I was always very shy, and introverted, and the additional layer of being very neurodiverse made me not that great at reading social cues all the time. Although I have always had friends, I’m at my most comfortable when I’m vulnerable and real with small groups of people.
When I’m with large groups of people or it’s too noisy, I struggle to keep track of what people said two seconds ago. You would probably not guess that immediately though. I am an extremely charismatic person who has done YouTube and podcast appearances, live streams, theatre, and spoken word in the past.
So let me just clarify something important: the difference between social interaction, and popular media is that social interaction does not come with a script or set of expectations. When you’re in someone’s video or performance, you at least have some idea of what’s coming next and can plan around it.
For years, I took comfort in being around people who didn’t fit in perfectly either
I didn’t go out of my way to find people like that, I just quickly realized that was who I spent the most time with. I was eager to find a community where I could share my complex thoughts about my brain’s wiring without experiencing a sense of fear.
So I just kept spending time with people who challenged societal norms, until I found people with mutual experiences. That took a really long time for me, and until I found what I was searching for, I was lonely no matter how many people I surrounded myself with. My overwhelming sense of loneliness messed up my self-confidence and self-esteem, which I didn’t overcome until quite recently.
To me, that’s why I continue to gravitate towards writing, and creating meaningful communities online. It’s never easy being disabled because support isn’t easy to find either.
It’s also why I am always trying so hard to bring people together. I want to decrease the number of people experiencing the harsh loneliness of getting a chronic medical diagnosis.
3. “I can’t do this” does not always mean I permanently can’t do something
My mom has listened to me cry for years about the frustration of wanting to do pretty much…anything my dyspraxia makes challenging. Every time I got upset about it she would always say:
“It’s not that you can’t do that, it’s that you have to keep trying (and actually want to try it). You’re the most determined person I have met. You may not have it figured out now, but you will.”
For so many years I thought that was something she made up to make me feel better. The more I tried to learn new things, the more I realized she was right.
I have constantly just gotten too fed up to keep trying, been in an environment that doesn’t give me enough time or space to learn, or I am able to take my time and get it eventually.
Everyone who loves me and knows about my dyspraxia has always been very protective of where I work, learn, live, and socialize. Although this has motivated me to be a thrill-seeking person who has always wanted to challenge expectations.
I didn’t just learn to read and write, I mastered it enough for people to pay me money to write and not regret their investment. I didn’t just get really good at long-distance running, I competed in and trained for multiple races. I didn’t just go to university, I went to a bilingual university. I didn’t just decide to live abroad for a while, I picked a country with a different culture and first language than my own.
I have never gravitated towards anything easy to pursue, but being born with a disability with a global awareness problem made my entire existence never easy anyways. I think the same goes for other dyspraxics as well. Getting from point A to B often requires so much concentration to not lose track of what you’re doing or where you’re going.
However, characteristics like creativity, outside-the-box thinking, and being a really good strategic thinker are often the payoff of having a dyspraxic brain. That part, to me, makes being wired in a distinct way worthy of pride and celebration.