Dyspraxia: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Mostly, I try to ignore, even hide, being dyspraxic. Being a ‘high functioning’ dyspraxic, it’s a side to myself that I usually view as an irritant and embarrassment; in fact, I like to pretend it’s just irrelevant! It’s not a label I want. But, if I stand back and take a good, hard look at myself, I know it shapes a lot of who I am and what I do.

I just got anxious and frustrated by someone changing a planned event – something that often has this effect on me. So, this time I wondered if it was a particularly dyspraxic response and googled it… looks like it is. Came across this blog, which is absolutely fantastic in explaining what it’s like to live with dyspraxia, and attributes to it lots of things (e.g. not liking crowds, sensory overload) that I hadn’t thought to associate with my SpLD before: http://thinkoutsideofthecardboardbox.blogspot.co.uk/2015/03/dyspraxiadyslexia-and-anxiety.html

And so, I decided to try setting out on this blog a snapshot of what it’s like – at least for me – living with dyspraxia.

THE GOOD

There are good things about living with dyspraxia? 😉 Well… maybe…!

  • Time doesn’t pass in a linear fashion. I don’t have a clear sense of how long ago something was, or how long it will be until something. There’s very, very soon; then, there’s middle distance; and then, something’s too distant to be worth worrying about. So, basically, there’s tomorrow, or sometime in the next week, or just distant! Why is this good? Well, it means I don’t often miss people achingly, which is usually good. I love my family and my boyfriend, and I’m very fond of my close friends; but, I hardly ever miss them. I don’t have a clear sense of how long it was since I last saw them, and I don’t feel like two or three weeks is a long time until I see them again. I just live in the present. So, although my boyfriend lives hours away, and I only see him once a fortnight, I don’t have a vivid sense of that: it doesn’t feel long since I last saw him, and I know I will see him again soon, but right now is today and I’m caught up in it!
  • I forget things, including the bad things. I forget how much I dislike things, especially food, which can be good because it means I’ll try them again. I tend to think “I know I didn’t like this, but I don’t really remember why, I’m sure I do quite like it really,” and so I’ll do/buy/eat it! And sometime, because our tastes and perceptions change over time, I find I really do like it now. And sometimes I don’t – but that’s fine, because I soon forget how unpleasant the experience was! Likewise, most bad memories fade, so I can be persuaded to do again things that otherwise I might be frightened to re-try. Of course, that’s not always true. I do have vivid bad memories, and also fears and dislikes that are ingrained by repetition. But, generally, I don’t think I remember average-level bad experiences very clearly.
  • It can help me not to be judgemental. I can be a bit judgemental, and I’m sorry for that. But I think I’d be a lot worse if I wasn’t dyspraxic! I’m a very high achiever academically, with very good musical abilities too, and I’m creative, quick-thinking, eloquent, fairly emotionally intelligent and well-liked. But I also constantly forget things, have an abysmal sense of direction, fall over my own feet, walk into things, drop things, embarrass myself at basic practical tasks, struggle with visual processing, and sometimes don’t know my age or which day of the week or which month it is or what my address or phone number is – let alone what the date is today or when other people’s birthdays are. So how on earth can I judge other people’s lack of talent in particular areas? How can I expect them to have patience with such incredible failings on my part, if I don’t treat them with the same patience I’d like them to have with me?

THE BAD

  • I don’t like change to my planned schedule. I find it difficult to remember things and sometimes find the logistics of organising things confusing, tiring or annoying. Once I have a planned schedule and things are in my diary, that’s those things sorted and I can stop wasting memory and mental processing energy on them. So, when someone changes something… argh!
  • Noise-claustrophobia. That’s the best way I can describe it. I just can’t block out noises. The worst is people speaking! I can’t cope with holding a conversation with someone when someone else is having a different conversation near me. So chatting to someone in the back of the car if the people in the front seats are talking about something else is excruciating! Equally, I can’t read or write properly if people are having a conversation I can hear. Even low-level ‘noise-pollution’ is almost physically painful – ambulance sirens, car alarms, lawn-mowers, heavy vehicles, airplanes, motorbikes (these are particularly bad!), loud car engines, construction work, etc.!
  • Getting lost, or not remembering the route or where places are. All the time. And it’s so embarrassing, as well as potentially making me late and thus stressed.
  • Memory blanks. Usually names (I can also accidentally call people by the wrong name a lot!), even of people I know well. Sometimes places, or words, … or can be anything, really. It happens more when I’m tired. I’m a seminar tutor for undergraduates, and it feels like it happens once or twice every seminar, which can be annoying – my students must get used to me pressing my forehead and saying “I was going to say something, but I’ve forgotten it… never mind, I’ll return to it when it comes back to me!”
  • Clumsy-ness. Girls are supposed to be graceful and elegant. I’m sometimes emphatically not. It’s humiliating.

THE UGLY

  • When it strains my relationships with other people. Like when I kept forgetting to call my parents for a chat every three or four days, and they said they felt low on my list of priorities. Eventually I explained to my mum that it wasn’t that at all, it was just that I often don’t easily remember when I’ve last seen/spoken to particular people and I don’t have a sense of time passing by in days in the same way other people do. Sometimes it looks like I don’t love people or I don’t care, when actually I do, but we’re just not understanding each other and communicating properly, because I’m seeing things through a dyspraxic lens and they don’t know what that looks like.
  • When it makes me unreliable in important things. Like if I’m supposed to be taking medicine and I keep forgetting to do so! Or I forget to do an important task and it comes back to bite me. I do have to-do lists, but my life is busy and they’re long, so sometimes I forget to do the things on my list almost as soon as I’ve read it!
  • When it makes me ashamed and under-confident, so I don’t want to try things in case I humiliate myself, or embarrass or upset other people. I have become much braver at trying new things, particularly sporty things – and usually I’m not actually outstandingly bad! But I can still get a bit anxious and nervous about things where I think I won’t be co-ordinated enough to do them well.

There must be more things under each category, but I can’t remember them now 😉 , and that’s probably quite enough of a “snap-shot” anyway! So, there you have it: the crazy world of dyspraxia 🙂

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