The Dyslexic Indian Bipolar
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 — it's only taken forever to get here, a lifetime!
Thanks to BT for holding internal neurodiversity events in the latter part of 2020, at the ‘Diversity & Inclusion Guild’ and ‘Accessibility Community’, 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 my experiences 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 have nurtured this quirky personality to compensate for my hidden flaws, my vulnerability, my sadness, my weaknesses, my personal life… but never did I think it was dyslexia, maybe just depression and introversion that slowed my capacity to learn and speak properly.
Dyslexia — Facts and figures:
The word Dyslexia means ‘difficulty with words’.
Dyslexia is a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD).
1/10 people in the UK have some degree of dyslexia, some statistics suggest 1/5.
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, and information, so a long pause may occur or I just cut myself short. 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 on the spot.
- 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 and then would go blank.
- 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 I tend to miss out words when writing. Sometimes I cannot remember or 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 that I could not see what they wanted me to see. In 2017, I was referred to an ophthalmologist due to Glaucoma / Ocular Hypertension. Now I am thinking maybe dyslexia was part of it.
- I find Teletext really useful — helps me catch up and process what was said. Also helps with expanding vocabulary.
- I remember copying my friend's work in school — 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, 13/14 — very late — neurotypical people learn to read significant years before that.
- I spend ages writing emails to ensure there are no spelling or grammar issues— I over iterate, just like this article (so many revisions), and I also write more than I speak as I know my speech will fail me sometimes.
- 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 in 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 many times. I sometimes get my left and right mixed up when driving with guidance.
- 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, due to nerves, insecurities, not being able to control what I say or pronounce words, looking silly, fear of making mistakes and people judging my flaws.
My Dyslexia Cons:
- 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
- Have to work so much harder to validate my self-worth, just to be on par and match neurotypical people/colleagues.
My Dyslexia Pros:
- I over analyse to make sense of things and end up finding errors.
- I have layout, symmetry and spacing complexes.
- I like content to be simple, short and broken down. Colours need to have good contrast to focus. Don’t like bright colours on the website as it takes away my focus on the actual text. This helps with my current content design role, maybe that’s why I have such an affinity for digital accessibility.
- I think with the right side of the brain more, so tend to find different solutions.
- Not good at arguing with valid points or debating. You win!
- I enjoy problem-solving but sometimes it takes time to understand it first.
- I have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I am super organised — physical clutter or too much information feels like noise and my mind cannot focus.
- I organise email and desktop folders diligently, my iPhone apps are grouped and categorised on one screen.
- A good way for me to remember something is to associate meaning to the memory or associate visuals with it. For example, to remember who's 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 for me.
Indian Female / Asian culture
Being an Indian female, I feel I have to work even harder to prove myself with all my insecurities and mental flaws so I go that extra mile to feel worthy and useful in society and 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. Ambition vs pessimism is definitely a conflict of interest — I am constantly fighting it.
Indian cultures don’t really talk about these kinds of subjects or mental health so here I am opening up about it in a public forum.
Bipolar / Depression
Being depressed can mean sometimes getting out of bed is too much or thoughts are ‘what's the point of doing anything, I’m still going to feel the same’. This occurs when the dopamine (motivation/pleasure) and serotonin (wellbeing/happiness) neurotransmitters levels tend to be lower.
I prefer solitude to calm the noise and reflect on life. I do love banter, sometimes live for it — people have known to call me mad, quirky, even been called the font ‘Wingdings (not sure what character they are going to get next haha) but I have this other side to my personality, self-doubt, pessimistic, worrier, craving to be loved… like The Joker! I am peculiar!
Even if I’m sad, I’m so used to hiding it and nobody’s none the wiser — Tricks of the trade! I rather help someone else feel better or help them out in some way. I have a good radar for emotional intelligence.
Neurotypical people make everything look easy — they have the ‘gift of the gab’ which really helps in any situation, helps moving up in their career, finding love… it just seems they don’t need to try that hard at all and still get everything they want! Grrr
I was quiet, introverted 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 does not help either.
Growing up, my grandfather used 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 father trying to teach me at home.
On the flip side, my sister was amazing at maths and super chatty — such a user, a left-brain user! We use to get compared a lot.
My self-sabotaging thoughts, Indian Female complex, my upbringing of never being good enough and now the categorised Dyslexia ephinany are all part of the algorithm and contributing factors that holds me back.
But maybe now in hindsight, it was my Dyslexia that was blocking me and maybe not so much 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 speaking properly seems to hinder access to the left brain areas.
I love art, photography and nature, dyslexic people tend to be wired to use the right side of the brain more, the creative brain. The right brain! ;)
Check out my art and mind website.
I just think differently, takes me longer to process information and recall the memory, I cannot fluently articulate myself, or pronounce my words properly sometimes, that is all.
Neurotypical people tend to be amazing at art too, they really do have the best of both worlds! Full brainpower!
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’m not going to let this hold me back! Not anymore!
I have a penchant for 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…”
— from the Limitless trailer.
Love these quotes from the film Limitless, it all 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 as I just want immediate access to my data!
Another film I was gripped with is Gattaca —so underrated, 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 stands for guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine, the four nucleobases of DNA.
The inferior man was discriminated for flaws in his DNA, which was invalid in the system but this made him 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 resonated 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.”
“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 the sky and feels like he's getting closer to his dream.
“Each stroke to the horizon is one we have to make to the shore.”
This scene captured me as I was compared to my smart neurotypical sister a lot when I was younger, and 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.”
So 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.
“But it’s been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise…
We are the champions, my friends
And we’ll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions”
This Is Me from The Greatest Showman is another song.
“I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum”
Having FAITH, GRIT and a GROWTH MINDSET really does help but we also need others to understand our neurodiversity and adapt accordingly.