Friday, 5 September 2014

A neurodiverse guide to travelling

My next blog which has been prompted by a video log which was done by me and my friend Kerry Pace of Diverse Learners when she suggested another topic which I could blog about. 

As many people know me and my boyfriend Matt get around quite a lot we have many random adventures around the UK and people often wonder where we will get to next? what City will we visit? and which pop concert we go to next? We definitely travel the length and breadth of the UK on trains and also my mum's  red Polo has clocked some mileage over the years. 
Dyspraxia will never hold me back on where I want to go and who I want to see and am determined to not let anything phase me although travelling can be very difficult sometimes and various circumstances have popped up over the years. I  know travelling for anyone can be filled with anxiety for a lot of people especially those with a hidden condition, it's nothing to be embarrassed and ashamed about and I hope this blog helps those who may struggle and also help open other peoples eyes to what those around them may be struggling with or may need an extra pair of eyes or hands.

It's Friday evening and I'm about to descend down to London to spend the weekend with Matt, first things first have I got everything erm let's go back inside and get a bag I've forgotten whilst my mum is frantically panicking that it's rush hour and the motorway is going to be packed and she's scared she's going to go through a red light or I'm going to miss my train. With minutes to spare I sit down on my train and my heart rate can get back to normal speed. As the train approaches Preston train station I awkwardly try and get all my bags continuously apologising for nearly whacking someone on the head with my bag, the gap between the train and the platform can seem daunting to me as I struggle to judge distances and how much of a gap there is, there's always a queue of people waiting to get of board and I can hear a few tuts and hurry ups as I have to take my time getting off the train. To get over to the platform for Euston you have to go over 2 bridges my balance isn't great so I hold onto the rail whilst trying to balance my heavy bags, going down can be tricky and I often go at granny speed. Fast forward a few hours and after texting my boyfriend numerous times asking what time do I get in? And normally walking down the train looking like I've had far too much to drink bumping into carriers and don't get me started on the automatic doors Iain arriving into Euston. A quick panic to check I have everything and now to try and find my boyfriend amongst the crowds of people there's so much noise and sensory overload. 

There is just one example of what a journey can be like for me sounds pretty chaotic doesn't it?  The journey I've just described would be a good day many more journeys are a lot more chaotic often not injury free and often involve a lot more anxiety and panic attacks. The result in this can mean I can be  incredibly tired and anxious and sleep very well afterwards. If you're reading this and thinking this is me!!! Fear not I'm going to try and now give some strategies and coping tips how to ease the stress and make life a little bit easier getting around places. 

1. Planning ahead can save you and your loved ones a lot of stress and anxiety, pack your bag the night before, keep essentials like your purse or wallet and train tickets in the same place and even in a zipped part. Put any information like train times etc in the notes section on your phone and any codes CHARGE YOUR PHONE the night before and maybe buy a portable charger to keep you topped up.

2. Take your time it's not a race so make sure you leave plenty of time so you can go at your own pace don't be embarrassed if you need to go slower than everyone else around you, it's not The Olympics and your safety matters and is important.

3. Asking for help can seem quite daunting especially if you're an adult you don't want people thinking you're childish and can't do things, but making people aware can help them understand why you might be finding them difficult and why certain situations can make you anxious. A helpful pair of hands and eyes can be so needed sometimes. I'm very lucky to have an incredibly supportive boyfriend who is a star at making sure I get to places safely. My mum also has got me out of many pickles over the years and I'm forever grateful.

4. Make sure you take time the next day to recover and restore your energies as your body and muscles will be feeling the strain of travelling enjoy a lie in.

5. I picked up a dyspraxia alert card at the dyspraxia foundation conference I've never needed it yet but it has the peace of mind should I get myself into a situation in danger or real struggle I can ask for help and people will understand or try to understand dyspraxia. I'm sure they do these for a lot of other conditions so don't be embarrassed to get one.

6. This may sound silly but I often have in my head something I'm really looking forward to be doing that weekend maybe it's a concert maybe I'm meeting a certain blonde pop star beginning with the letter M. Or maybe me and my boyfriend just have a meal or drinks planned looking forward to things can help me control my anxiety and make me determined to do things which might be tricky. 

7. Don't judge others who may need more time or may not find things as easy as you do shoe a bit of understanding and empathy and try as had as it is not to get frustrated if a situation or pickle arrises your friend will probably be feeling very embarrassed this has happened maybe a bit tearful hugs work wonders as does fresh air and a listening ear.

8. Laugh and see the funny side and don't take it too seriously smile and hold your head up. 

I hope these tips and advice has helped. I best get to sleep I have a train to catch tomorrow I wonder what tomorrow's journey will bring? Now what time is my train again I'm sure I have it written down somewhere. 

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