Saturday, 4 April 2015

Disclosing about hidden differences- helping others understand

I put out a request on the Dyspraxia Foundation adult Facebook page the other week if anyone had any requests for blogs for me to write to help people the most, and one which became very popular was that a lot of people felt that there needs to be more help about disclosing to other people about dyspraxia and other hidden differences which cannot be seen by the eye. It really got me thinking as it's been such a big personal issue to me throughout my life.

This week I did something which even few months ago would have filled me with terror and physically made me shaky, that was to disclose about my personal journey in employment and open up about dyspraxia, dyslexia, the emotional impact it's had on me, my family and my relationship and how I'm thanks to an incredible boss in a lot better job and place. It wasn't just to talk about it to one person it was to the local press to help support the Dyspraxia Foundation workshops and raise awareness, overwhelming is the word to use describe how I've felt from the response I've got, it really has meant so so much to me and I feel really proud of myself.

Disclosure has always something which I've found really difficult, as a child and throughout my life I've faced a lot of bullying and ignorance which has had a marked impact on my confidence and how I've perceived myself, and had a knock on consequence on my mental health. I became so scared of opening up it became a social anxiety issue. Some people who may know me well may remember me phoning Mollie King up on radio one asking for advice on this matter, I was physically shaking doing this, sweaty palms, my voice terrified. One of the reasons I've always been inspired by Mollie is because she was open about her dyslexia before she was famous and it made me feel ok about being open. It made me think that opening up about hidden differences whether they be physical, mental health, a learning difference should not be a taboo subject and something which it's ok to talk about without stigma. I used to get so scared that people would think I was a freak, wouldn't want to know me more or would want to run a mile and not understand me. Thinking more rationally now I know that was the anxiety talking.

Dyspraxia is still poorly understood and many people don't know much about it, but the dyspraxia foundation do a lot of amazing work to help more people understand. A lot of people still see it as just clumsiness, and can make assumptions that we are just careless or lazy. But once you find out more you realise what a positive way of seeing the world it is and at the same time how people can struggle with the things on a daily in life many people would take for granted such as crossing the road, fine motor skills, being able to navigate yourself in a busy crowd. The same can be said for dyslexia for many people it's so much more than just reading for spelling, but at the same time an amazing creative way of thinking.

Even though I still struggle with being open and anxiety sometimes can effect me seeing myelf and have confidence in myself in a positive light. I've realised how by speaking up it can help other people who may be going through the same thing. I've realised there's so many people who have said "me too" in conversation or may know of someone and how common hidden differences and mental health are. I have had so many people say my blogs have helped them, their children, or helped them understand people who they know and that means the world to me. Knowing I've helped others has made everything worth it. Mollie herself has said some lovely words to me too which has been incredibly motivating for me. I've started to realise that there always will be people who don't take the time to understand, but it's their problem not mine. I'm now really proud of my brain being wired in a different way and all the positives in my life and opportunities which have arisen.

To anyone reading this who is thinking "nobody will ever understand me" I hope this blog can be a little bit of hope, there will be people who understand, you may have to look hard for them and they may not come easy to you. But the more we talk about differences hopefully more eyes will be open and difference won't be something which people are scared of. I no longer live behind a mask scared of being Rosie.

Some advice which might help other people feel more confident disclosing

  • The little things matter, ask people how they are with a cup of tea or drink, these little things can mean the most.
  • Find people who you can talk to
  • Practice before disclosing so you know what to say beforehand
  • It's your own personal decision to disclose
  • Never be ashamed of who you are or how your brain is wired
  • The more we talk the more people will hoepfully get it, never let an ignorant experience silence you.
  • There are so many people going through what you are in the world - you're not alone
  • Most importantly: By opening up you could help someone else have the confidence to open up, and how many people might be able to relate or even be inspired by your story
  • If I can do it so can you and I was once a quivering wreck!

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