Thursday, 24 March 2016

Dyspraxia and body confidence



No matter who you are who is reading this blog you will all have your little insecurities about your body. In this blog I want to talk about how being dyspraxic can cause people to have real insecurities and confidence issues about their body. It can be really hard at times to love your body when it doesn't decide to work how you want it to, or the messages from the brain to various parts of the body get confused. As with all my blogs no two people with dyspraxia are the same and everyone is different and will have different insecurities and struggles.

When people think of dyspraxia they might see it as someone being a bit clumsy, having messy handwriting or not enjoying P.E lessons at school. Some might think all it needs is for someone to have use of a laptop or assistive technology which can help especially with academic studies. When people think of dyspraxia they often assume it's the same as dyslexia and the support needed is the same, but there's a lot of differences. Dyspraxia is so much more than just that, it is something which affects your day to day life and day to day tasks many people take for granted.

From a very young age I've always been very aware how I moved differently to everyone else around me, from the way I walk with a clumsy gait, to being very heavy footed and the world knowing it is  coming, to gripping on for dear life to the banister whilst going up and down stairs to simply walking in a straight line and that's just walking.  As a child I was always late reaching my milestones and the way I moved always made me stand out. Being dyspraxic means I struggle with the motor skills to complete day to day tasks, accurately and neatly, without injuring myself or trying not to bump into other people.

Day to day tasks which can be around the house such as: cooking, cleaning, maintaining a tidy space, self care tasks which all require a lot of co-ordination and fine motor control. Which are also physical skills needed in the workplace. This can lead to a lot of frustration and self doubt. Anxiety can also make you catastrophise situations so you might think everything is going to go wrong, but in reality all ends up ok. But it also gives a sense of determination to keep going and find other ways round completing tasks.

The impact of tiredness, time restrictions, stress and anxiety and sensory processing difficulties (sometimes altogether) can have a huge impact on a dyspraxics day, they all make you so much more wary of making mistakes. The outside world can be a very exposing and overwhelming place for us dyspraxics from transport, shopping, getting from one place to another, socialising, to exercising. There still is quite a lot of ignorance surrounding hidden difficulties and disabilities, and often lack of general awareness to what dyspraxia is which can cause anxieties to rise.

It can be very easy to compare yourself to others something which I know I can be really bad for doing, When you can see these tasks taking you so much longer than everyone else, or not being able to do them after lots of tries and lots of mess it can be very frustrating, and often you can beat yourself up a lot about it too, and wonder "why on earth have I done that?" But I think it's important to remember everyone is on their own unique journey.


Exercise is a very sensitive area for many dyspraxics as it can remind people of bad experiences of P.E at school, being left out and bullying. Like many dyspraxics I hated P.E at school and used to dread the thought of running round a field whilst flapping like an un-coordinated duck or trying not to knock myself out with a hockey stick. I probably spent more time going to retrieve dropped balls than catching them or hitting them. I think it's important to find something which you enjoy and do it in your own pace, and choose the time you do it so you feel the most comfortable. I've always enjoyed swimming I may not be the most co-ordinated of swimmers but enjoy having a relaxing swim in an empty pool after a busy week at work at my own pace.

One of my biggest anxiety issues related to my dyspraxia is a fear of falling, or over balancing. Due to weak muscle tone in my ankles I've experienced quite a few torn ligaments over the years, leading to my right ankle being broken. At one point I was going over on my ankle very regularly, and it made me and still does very wary. Scared that if I fall the first thing that will go will be my ankle. Some people may say I'm too cautious, and I remember once being told I go down the stairs like a grandma, but it will be something I'm always very wary of. I'm hoping although to manage the anxiety which comes with it and hopefully feel more confident in my body and movements.

My lovely friend Hannah blogged about Hypermobility Joint Syndrome and as a lot of dyspraxics also struggle with it I thought I would share one of the blogs she has written about her own experiences: https://hannanarscrawls.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/hyper-mobility-joint-syndrome-all-pain-is-real/

I think it's really important for people who might know a dyspraxic (and any other hidden difficulty or disability)  whether it be a friend, family member, or someone you might work with or know to understand that there is no on and off switch, you never know when someone is going to have a bad day, week or month it's not a choice. You can't decide to not be dyspraxic for the night if you're off for an evening out. Understanding someone's coping strategies is just as important as understanding their dyspraxia, they may do tasks in different ways, go from a different approach and take a lot longer and need more tries to attempt them or even some help, but please don't judge just because they are invisible struggles, a little patience and empathy can go a long way. Subtle positive encouragement and reassurance can really boost someone's confidence too, especially if you know it's been a tough day or you know a task might be a challenge.

My own struggles have defiantly brought me some strengths though and I think when you feel down or having a bad day it's important to remember what you're good at and what you enjoy. Remember when you beat yourself up, you deserve to be kinder to yourself.  Being dyspraxic has made me very non judgmental and have a lot of patience and empathy for others. It has made me very determined and resilient and give me a sense of appreciation in life, when you struggle with day to day tasks, and find ways round them it really makes you appreciate those little achievements in life and appreciate the little achievements others make too. Also the ability to laugh at myself as there's never a dull moment living with dyspraxia.

Being kind to myself and learning self love is something I've never found easy, I can often be my worst enemy, it's so easy to be hard on yourself than use compassion, but it's something I'm trying to work on. How do you help yourself feeling positive about yourself? Why not leave a comment below to help others who might be feeling the same. But always remember when you're having a bad day that you're trying your best and that's enough. Taking care of yourself is never being selfish.

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