Back at primary school when like many children I was asked to constantly copy from the board or out of text books, like many other dyspraxics hand written work was a laborious painful chore, my handwriting resembled (and still does) the Egyptian hieroglyphics and I was often told to re do it, how much of a mess it looked and why couldn't I just take more care. It was very frustrating for me as dyspraxia/dyslexia meant I struggled to get the words from my brain down to paper, I could never write fast enough, and prove what I was capable of I thought therefore that my ideas must be rubbish and stupid so used to shy away from sharing them, but they were still there bubbling away.
Whilst developing study skills in education has more public awareness associated with dyslexia/dyspraxia. The use of my laptop and assistive technology (Inspiration mind mapping and Read Write Gold) has really helped me get those ideas make more sense. The social side to dyspraxia especially social anxiety issues which are often misunderstood has been more of a challenge for me and for many other dyspraxics. Social anxiety is simply so much more than just feeling a bit shy and can really affect how someone has the confidence express themselves. I hope whether you're dyspraxic or not and struggle with social anxiety this might help you or or a loved one.
Before I started writing this blog if you had asked me to describe what dyspraxia was and how it affected me I would have avoided the subject completely and if asked would only tell people that I was clumsy whilst stuttering the words, hands shaking and sweating. I just didn't know how to and was scared that people would run a mile if I disclosed to them, it was my little secret. But after awful bullying and ignorance in the work place which left me too anxious to speak and in a dark place I couldn't let it happen to others and took a step of courage and began to blog.
A common theme for many dyspraxics socially is feeling different and struggling to make and maintain friendships. Alongside bullying and ignorance which can crush any confidence and self worth you have. I've always found it a lot easier to socialise with people older than me and younger than me as I find older people less judgmental and younger people I can offer advice. I have since found out that is common with dyspraxic folk. Over the years I've beat myself up a lot and wondered why I couldn't be as socially confident as others, which is an ongoing challenge. I've also spent a lot of my life hiding. Hiding from situations or environments which either triggered my anxiety or I've felt uncomfortable in. I know a lot of people with anxiety can struggle with avoidance.
Social anxiety for some people is the constant worry that you're going to embarrass yourself, or make an idiot out of yourself, or say something and nobody will "get it" and everyone will laugh at you. Then there's the post socialising feedback: the constant worry that you've done something to upset someone and that people hate you and are simply putting up with you. When you're anxious your whole body can tense up, you can start feeling unwell and you can struggle to give eye contact, which dyspraxics can find difficult as it is. I describe it sometimes as having everything you want to say in your head but a block about trying to get it all out, as a result you can come across as very quiet and shy when you just want to be able to get it out. All this over analysis can lead to low mood and depression, which can make you feel like nobody would ever want to have anything to do with me because I was an awful person and not someone you'd want to be around, hard as it is I know that's the irrational thinking.
I've always found group social situations a challenge especially new and unpredictable ones, which is something I went into more depth in a recent blog: Dyspraxia, anxiety and the unknown. My interests have been slightly different to my peers and the sensory environment of being in a noisy bar or club, with too many people having conversations and added background noise muffled together can be overwhelming, and I find it a lot easier to be myself in a quieter cocktail bar or pub in smaller groups I feel more calm.
At times I've been perceived as someone who sees the good in everyone which has been one of my biggest strengths but also have struggled over the years to find the confidence or assertiveness to stand up for myself or say no. Assertiveness is something which comes alongside confidence and self worth and can be something which can take time to develop as not everyone is naturally assertive or finds it easy. If you know someone who struggles with this please remember to be kind. It can feel like you're constantly trapped which is not only exhausting but so frustrating too.
I decided to take the step and began to blog, anxiety had silenced me for far too long. Blogging has helped me accept my dyspraxia, which I had struggled to do so and the courage to seek help for my anxiety, set myself small challenges and meet and talk to others who have gone through similar.
On Saturday I attended Dyspraxia Foundation conference in Oldham, I met up with the lovely Alice and Amy for the weekend and met some of the other dyspraxia youth members. On the day I wasn't feeling myself at all and getting out of bed had been a challenge but thanks to the hugs, encouragement and understanding of others I got out of the car and made it inside. An environment where I didn't feel scared talking in a group as there was that empathy there and where people kindly approached me to tell me that my blogs have helped them. I was also able to listen to concerns others had in the workplace, which I hope helped a little, which made the day worthwhile. Throughout this blogging journey that's what I'm most grateful for is the empathy and encouragement from others, it means a lot, it gives me the confidence to keep going, and makes me determined to keep challenging my anxiety and building my confidence little step by step.
We live in a world and an education system where difference isn't understood and often dismissed. So often I was told I would never get anywhere in life or achieve and in a lot of social situations I was never given the chance. But in the right environment and support with a little bit of empathy and encouragement people who learn differently can achieve, this blog reaching so many views shows just that.
It's also made me very patient and understanding with others who may struggle to express who they are as I know how important giving someone a little bit of time and patience is, I may never be the most confident talker but I can offer a listening ear, which is sometimes just what people need. It's so important as hard as it is to not compare yourself to others, we all have something to offer in a social situation no matter how loud or quiet you are as a person. Rosie is no longer hiding away from the world and blog by blog slowly coming out of my shell showing the world who I am, stepping out of the shadows and make my voice, the voice I had to fight so hard for heard.
My friend Hannah once told me be the shepherd not the sheep. Wouldn't the world be a boring place if we were were all the same, you never know what you might find out when you take the time to get to know someone and see things from a different perspective and let them come out of their shell. Thank you again, it means the world to me. It's been an emotional journey.