02 August 2013

Taking the Long Way Round

I want to write this post today, partly to make sense of stuff for myself (because this is how I process things) and partly to let you all in on the way things are.

"Taking the long way round" is a phrase my counsellor used to describe my processing, weeks before I did the cognitive testing which revealed I am dyslexic.

She was helping me come to terms with some of my struggles and gave me a "Truth" phrase to write on a card: "I might take the long way round, but I get there in the end".

A little sob rose up inside me as she said it. It resonated deeply, this knowledge that all my life I've been taking the long way round but somehow "getting there" eventually.

Weeks later when the surprising diagnosis came back, it all made perfect sense.

This feeling of constantly treading water, of working hard beneath the surface to do things that "should be easy".
Wanting a medal at the end of each day, just for getting through it.
Constantly feeling anxious and uncertain.
My baffling forgetfulness and daily struggle to complete tasks and get where I need to be.
My losing battle with organisation and timeliness.
The way words freeze in my head and my mouth zips shut and I don't know how to get the words out to start a conversation (often mistaken for shyness).
How I walk around with unspoken sentences sealed up inside me, how sometimes it's just too hard to find a way to talk about things (and how this drives my husband batty).

It was a relief to know that the feeling I've always had of being different, and somehow outside of things, was in fact real.

But then the confusion set set in. Dyslexia, really?
But I'm a writer! I'm an avid reader! I am Mrs Readalot for gosh sakes! I was reading before I even went to school. Writing is how I express myself when words fail. So how does that stack up with dyslexia?
Aren't dyslexics all meant to struggle with spelling, reading and writing? I'm a great speller!

All these questions I threw at my lovely counsellor, Jane (who just happens to be doing her Masters on how Dyslexia affects marriages and families - amazing huh?).

Jane pulled out my test and talked me through it.
I have a giftedness in the area of vocabulary and comprehension, she explained. This has masked the dyslexia and enabled me to learn ways of compensating. I have learned how to take the long way round so successfully that my dyslexia was not even hinted at for 43 years.

I remember my dad teaching me to read. He used a game called Teachatot which has hundreds of jigsaw letters. I remember rolling on the floor giggling at the nonsense rhyming words my dad would make up.
He was teaching me to read phonically, breaking down the rules and word patterns and setting me up for life, without even realising it.
Apparently this is now the way "they" teach dyslexics to read. My dear old Dad had no idea that he was performing a miracle by playing Teachatot with me.
But all the praise doesn't just go to Dad.
Mum played a big part too.
Hours and hours I spent sitting on her lap while she read Little Golden Books to me - to the point that when I was three years old I had all the neighbour kids thinking I could read, because I knew the books off by heart. Word perfect.

My mum planted the seed of a love for books and reading.
My Dad watered that seed and nourished it.
Before I turned five I was reading. Before I was six I has read Enid Blyton's Folk of the Faraway Tree through in one night.

Giftedness plus parental input set me up to succeed in school. I was in the top classes in High School, getting good marks in English and Art, doing OK in the other subjects.

Funny though.  I had no idea my parents thought I was a bit lazy and unmotivated.
They knew I was bright but thought I could do better. Wondered why I wouldn't apply myself.

Little did they know how hard I must have been working beneath the surface. It looked like laziness but it wasn't.

[Standard One at Pt Chev Primary - I went to 10 different schools]

What I have - giftedness plus dyslexia - is called "Twice Exceptional" (2e) or "Stealth Dyslexia".

"Unfortunately a lack of parents’ and teachers’ knowledge and understanding can mean that neither the child’s giftedness nor special need is identified, or one aspect of the child is identified while the other is not. If it is only the giftedness which is recognised the child may be labelled lazy, oppositional or unmotivated. In the longer term a misunderstood twice exceptional child may be at risk of being placed in a unit for emotionally and behaviourally disturbed children, or of dropping out of school completely." - PEGY.org

This was me. I was identified as "gifted" (or at least considered "bright") but also seen as lazy.
I left school after 5th form to go to Canada for a year, but came home after three months and returned to school. I had to work my butt off to catch up - the hardest I had ever worked (which my Dad thought was the saving of me).

At the end of that year I'd had enough. I quit school and went and did an art course at the local Polytech.
I never went to University or gained any formal qualifications. Everything I've done and achieved has been learnt on the hop. I've kept on taking the long way round.

[Form One at Tokoroa Intermediate - the year I was bullied]

Now I am learning why I ended up with Depression.
Dyslexics are more prone to "emotional problems".
Self esteem is effected, anxiety is constant and there is always a feeling of never quite fitting in. (there's a great article here which explains it)
Square peg in round hole.
Plus it's exhausting. Constant tiredness from always having to take the long way round... and headaches. Lots and lots of headaches.

[6th Form - newly returned from Canada and working extra extra hard to catch up]

This is how I ended up with depression and why I couldn't kick it.
But now I know! I understand what lies at the root of my struggles.
And now for the first time I reckon I've got a really good chance of finally beating the depression.
With my new found understanding, I can start to live out of my strengths instead of constantly beating myself up over my "failings". I can start to feel better about myself, and be proud of what I have achieved... especially since I had to take the long way round!

Dyslexia has it's strengths (I see the big picture, I can find answers others might not, I am creative, I think outside the box) but it comes with its struggles too.

Every day, as I move through the world, cleaning my house, caring for my family, I take the long way round. It's tiring, I feel like I need a medal... but I get there in the end.
I will ALWAYS get there in the end.


Any other dyslexics out there? Any other 2e's? I'd love to hear from you...

P.S. Can you spot me in all the school photos. Bonus points for getting them right!

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