Before the year ends, I need to declare and claim this!!!
2020 is the year that I have come to the realisation that I am dyslexic — its only taken forever to get here, a lifetime!
Thanks to BT and their internal neurodiversity events the latter part of 2020, at the ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ and ‘Accessibility’ Guilds, that had me really thinking about my life struggles from childhood to present and why I am a certain way — the neurodivergent differences resonated with me and it all makes sense now — felt like I was missing the whole base of the puzzle but now I have categorised it, pigeon-holed it.
I am going to make this pigeon-hole a chocolate biscuit tin, to underpin the sweet ground-breaking discovery that has held me back for so long…
The. Time. Is. Now. Time to protect my mental health. Time to grow…
I’ve never spoken about this, until now, as I just thought I was not smart enough, and certainly did not want to be stereotyped in any way.
I internalise everything, so you only see a fragment of the real me. People think I am a happy-go-lucky person but quite the contrary — I have grown this quirky personality to compensate my hidden flaws, my vulnerability, my weaknesses, my personal life… but never once did I think it was dyslexia, maybe just depression that slowed my capacity to speak and learn.
Dyslexia — Facts and figures:
The word Dyslexia means ‘difficulty with words’.
Dyslexia is a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD).
1/10 people in the UK has some degree of dyslexia, some statistic suggest 1/5.
According to Dyslexia Action, it is likely 16% of the UK population, or 11.5 million people have dyslexia.
Sources suggests, over 700 million people have dyslexia world-wide.
My speaking, reading, writing, and memory struggles:
- Not able to pronounce some words.
- I lack ‘Declarative Memory’, I find it hard to recall the right words, names, information, so a long pause may occur. People with autism also have a hard time remembering events. Check out types of memories.
- Not able to articulate myself when I know what I have done with a piece of work, explaining something or an experience in detail and unable to answer competency-based interview questions!
- I cannot relay or remember full instructions. If two questions were asked, I forget the first or the second question in the process of trying to remember the other one.
- Not able to cohesively speak fluently sometimes.
- For the above reasons, I would cut myself short, not elaborate or say the wrong things, which is really frustrating — I beat myself up for it, a lot.
- I skip words / lines when reading, and sometimes miss out words when writing. Sometimes I don’t remember or can explain what I’ve just read.
- I cannot pronounce Vs and get mixed up with my Ws in pronunciations — try reading this:
‘Vicky updated her wiki page and went viral on Wednesday.’
Life events all piece together now:
- I was convinced something was wrong with me so booked an MRI brain scan in 2016.
- I spend ages at eye tests— I can see it, however, my left eye is a bit weaker with making out the smaller alphanumeric characters. Even Specsavers get annoyed with me that I could not see what they wanted me to see — feels so undermining. In 2017, I was referred to an ophthalmologist due to Glaucoma / Ocular Hypertension. Now I am thinking it was dyslexia.
- I find teletext really useful — helps me catch up and process what was said. Also helps with vocabulary and learning new words.
- I remember copying my friends work in school, my friend told me years later— teachers did not pick this up. All I needed was extra time to work out what to do.
- I struggled with maths since childhood, known as Dyscalculia.
- I was late at reading and talking properly — I remember once reading to the class, and thought I did well, now thinking about it I was aged about 13/14 — very late — neurotypical people learn to read a good 5 years before that.
- I spend ages writing emails to ensure there are no spelling or grammar issues— I over iterate, just like this article.
- I changed my Uni course from ‘Business and Finance’ to Digital Art with Multiple-Media Computing. Read about my analogue childhood.
- Over the years, I have taken numerous speaking and presenting workshops as well as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) sessions.
- I learn to drive on a manual car but when I drive my father’s automatic car, I just cannot remember how to start it so have written instructions even though I have driven it lots of times. I sometimes have difficulty with my left and right, if someone is giving me directions.
- I always take a notebook to meetings. Richard Branson is dyslexic too and habitually takes a notebook for that reason — the notes are so useful later on to trigger what was said, otherwise some of that data is lost forever.
- I bailed out of a live company-wide internal BT event in December 2020, due to nerves, insecurities, not being able to control what I say or pronounce words, looking silly, fear of making mistakes and people judging me.
- Low-self esteem
- Imposter syndrome
- Bipolar / Depression
- Sensitive to people’s remarks
- Pessimistic about everything
- Comparing myself to others
- Constantly beat myself up
- Not getting my point across
- Work harder to validate my self-worth, just to be on par and match neurotypical people / colleagues.
- I over analyse to make sense of things and end up finding errors.
- I have layout and equal spacing complexes so get particular about it.
- I like content to be simple, short and broken down. Colours need to have good contrast to focus. This helps with my current content design role, maybe that’s why I have such an affinity to web accessibility.
- I think with the right side of the brain more, so can find different solutions.
- Not good at arguing / debating. You win! ;)
- I enjoy problem-solving, but sometimes takes time to understand it first.
- I have Obsessive–Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I am super organised — clutter or extra information feels like noise and my mind cannot focus.
- I organise email and desktop folders, my iPhone is categorised on one screen, my room is orderly to provide an aesthetically pleasing ambiance.
- Good way for me to remember something is to associate meaning to the memory. For example, to remember whose who when it comes to Ant and Dec — I have memorised that ‘Ant is not the little one’. Strange way to remember but it works.
Indian / Asian culture
Being an Indian female, I feel I have to work even harder to prove myself with all my insecurities, so I go that extra mile to feel worthy and useful in society, to grow that belief in my abilities. At the same time I have conflicting thoughts of ‘have you seen my work’, ‘my experience’, ‘what I have done’… but then go back to my pessimistic mind. Hey ho!
Being Indian, we don’t talk about these kind of subjects or mental health.
Bipolar / Depression
Being Bipola, means sometimes getting out of bed is too much, where the dopamine (motivation/pleasure) and serotonin (wellbeing/happiness) neurotransmitters levels tend to be low.
I am not the most outgoing person in the weekend — I prefer solitude but can guarantee my friends and work colleagues won’t see me this way. I do love banter, sometimes live for it but I have this other side to my personality, self-doubt, craving to be liked / loved… like The Joker! I am peculiar!
Even if I am sad, I am so use to hiding it and nobody will be none the wiser. I rather help someone else feel better. I have a good radar for emotional inteligence.
Neurotypical people make everything look easy — they have the ‘gift of the gab’ which really helps in any situation and to move up in their careers — it seems they don’t need to try hard at all and still get everything they want!
I was quiet, introvert and shy as a child — I thought this is why I cannot pronounce my words properly or speak cohesively. I am unable to elaborate and articulate myself fully — this is really frustrating — leads to depression, self-sabotaging thoughts, feeling sorry for myself and the common imposter syndrome is all consuming. That emotional chimp really hurts me sometimes.
Growing up, my grandad use to tell me: “Say something, tell a story, speak!”
I struggled with maths for sure, I took GSCE maths a couple of times with not much avail of a higher grade. I remember my dad trying to teach me at home.
On the flip side, my sister was amazing at maths and very chatty — such a user, a left-brain user!
But now in hindsite it was my dyslexia that was blocking me and maybe not the ‘introvert’, ‘shy’ ‘middle child syndrome’ me!
Breakthrough, 2020 vision!
The left brain is the logical, mathematical and language skills side.
It’s the creative right brain that’s more active for me, therefore, as I mentioned trying to retrieve information, solve maths calculations, and pronouncing words properly seems to hinder access in the left brain areas.
I love art, photography and nature, dyslexic people tend be wired to use the right side of the brain more, the creative brain. The right brain! ;)
Checkout my art and mind website.
I just think differently, takes me longer to recall memory, I cannot articulate myself or pronounce my word properly, thats all.
Neurotypical people tend to be amazing at art too, they really do have the best of both worlds! Full brain power!
Learning/admitting something is halfway to recovery, right?
Well, I’m going to openly claim my struggles. I am done with feeling inadequate, and feeling like an anomaly among neurotypical people!
I have always had an affinity to neuroscience and psychological films.
“Facing unemployment and his girlfriend’s rejection, writer Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is sure that he has no future. That all changes when an old friend gives him a drug that produces enhanced mental acuity…”
— watch the Limitless trailer.
Love these quotes from the film Limitless, makes sense why now:
“Somehow my unconscious had served that up, a memory I had never even recorded. Or was it there the whole time and all I needed was the access?”
“Everything I had ever read, heard, seen was now organised and available.”
Sometimes I could really do with the Limitless drug — I just want immediate access to my data!
Another film I was gripped with is Gattaca —such an underrated film, one of my best sci-fi cerebral films ever.
“A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.” IMDb
The film’s title is based on the letters G, A, T, and C, which stand for guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine, the four nucleobases of DNA.
Inferior man was discriminated for flaws in his DNA, which was invalid in the system but he is more determined — he used a genetically engineered man who was valid in the system and had the right genetic code, so he can realise his dreams going to space. The inferior man’s younger brother was genetically engineered by his parents so he had the perfect DNA.
Quotes from the film Gattaca that really stayed with me:
‘For the genetically superior, success is easier to attain but is by no means guaranteed. After all there is no gene for faith.”
“Each stroke to the horizon is one we have to make to the shore.”
“It was the one moment in our lives that my brother was not as strong he believed, and I was not as weak. It was the moment that made everything else possible.’
The weaker/inferior brother finally swims further than his stronger ‘perfect DNA’ brother in a swim off, he then looks up to sky and feels like his getting closer to his dream.
This scene captured me as I was compared to my smart neurotypical sister, I did not understand at the time what was wrong with me.
When the stronger brother asked how did you do it, the weaker brother states:
“I never saved anything for the swim back.”
Don’t focus on the flaws — focus on your strengths!
I leave you with a Queen song, We Are The Champions!
The song is about triumph — acknowledging the struggles and overcoming adversity, emerging victorious from trials and tribulations.
Having FAITH, GRIT and a GROWTH MINDSET really does help!