The world we live in is is a very unpredictable, with changes to day to day life from routines, to circumstances to the unknown it is a very chaotic place to live at times. For people who think and have brains wired in a different way, this unpredictability can be overwhelming and anxiety inducing. As with all of my blogs no two people with dyspraxia are the same and everyone will have their own different challenges and weaknesses. I thought it was also important to mention when I discuss some of the social difficulties dyspraxics may struggle with some people may ask if dyspraxia is on the autistic spectrum, it isn't but some people do have some overlapping difficulties. Even if you aren't dyspraxic I know for anyone who struggles with anxiety the unknown and "what ifs" can be a real challenge so I hope it helps people feel less alone.
In this blog I'm going to talk about three areas which can be a real struggle with dyspraxics: new environments, transport and social situations. In life people always say first impressions count, which they do but I think it's important to remember that some people take a little bit more time to feel comfortable and relaxed and may need a little bit more time for you to get to know them. If you're one of those people then it's ok. If you're reading this and the anxiety issues mentioned seem familiar whether you're dyspraxic or not there is help out there. There's amazing charities out there like Anxiety UK and your GP who can point you in the direction of help such as: CBT, everyone is different and different techniques for managing anxiety are different for everyone.
Before encountering a new environment it will inevitably involve transport, transport can be a real struggle for dyspraxics for a number of reasons. Making sure you know what time you have to get on a bus/train and often the mad rush and panic when you realise you might miss the bus/train you want. Then the anxiety of trying to judge the distance between the platform or ground to the bus/train and trying to tell yourself that you won't fall, likewise unpredictable automatic doors and not knowing how long you have before the doors or the fear that the doors will close on you and trap you in. Then comes the difficulty of trying to find a seat and managing being around lots of crowds of people can lead to anxiety attacks and/or sensory overload. Then of course is when something goes wrong and there's either delays, cancellations or changes of route which can be a challenge. I can find travelling a bit of a nightmare, but have recently discovered distraction techniques and trying to sit or stand by a door so if I need to get off or out I can do more easily.
New environments can just seem a complete jumble of confusion, the thought of orienting yourself around a new place which has so much new in it when you struggle with spatial awareness and where your body needs to be in time distance and place. It will always take a while for me to get my bearings and feel less disoriented, I've been known to get lost in towns I've known all my life, so new places can be even more of a struggle. Since moving to London I've discovered find my friends app so if my boyfriend isn't with me he can still help to direct me around. Going on holiday is something I've always found a challenge whether it be in the UK for a break away or abroad. Often my brain will catastrophise situations and think of everything which might go wrong, when your brain thinks outside of the box and sees the bigger picture it can see everything and every situation which can be exhausting.
Managing my emotion in new and uncertain environments is something which I always found hard. For a long time if I felt overwhelmed I would try and run away or escape in floods of tears, which can also be described as flight or fight and I was defiantly flying. Over time I've managed to control this slightly more but it's still a struggle. If you see someone whether it be young or old visibly upset or overwhelmed in a public place please don't pass judgement and see past face value.
The social side of dyspraxia is something which many struggle with all in different ways, often people can struggle with making and maintaining friendships. This can be for many reasons feeling different to peers, being able to follow a conversation with background noise and social anxiety. I experience a lot of social anxiety especially in situations which I don't know people well or it's the first time meeting, I can go very quiet and not speak very much and it can take a while for me to come out of my shell and feel comfortable and relaxed. Or I do the complete opposite and waffle on about random topics. I find I constantly rehearse conversations I might be having and unless it's my mum, boyfriend or someone very close to me would struggle meeting and socialising with people randomly.
Everyone gets upset if changes to plan happen and if you struggle with anxiety it can be easy to get into a negative spiral and to think everything might be going wrong and be ruined. Challenging those negative thoughts can be difficult and something to take little steps with.
To help mange some of my social anxieties I have routines not everyone with dyspraxia will have these, but to me they give me familiarity and predictability. I'm not going to discuss what they are here as they are personal to me but I thought it would be important to mention. Also a lot comes down to confidence and worrying that I might make mistakes and that people would be upset or I would be making an idiot of myself. Background noise and group social size can be a real challenge for some dyspraxic's too. If you give someone a chance and a chance to come out of their shell in an environment they feel comfortable in you never know what you might gain.
This blog has been quite an important blog for me to write, I recently attended a meeting with the Dyspraxia Foundation Youth board where were discussing dyspraxia and mental health at the recent Birmingham conference and its something which I know myself and a few others are quite passionate about raising awareness about. I've also very kindly been nominated for positive role model for disability at the National Diversity awards. If my blogs have helped at all would mean a lot if you voted for me so I can keep raising the profile of dyspraxia and getting the word out.