Monday, 24 October 2016

Reassurance and confidence

Being dyspraxic a lot tends to happen in your life, if I was to list every scrape or situation I've got myself into over the years I would be here for hours. From broken bones and trips to A&E, to loosing objects and myself, numerous bruises where I have no idea where they've come from, to using far to struggling making friends and finding social situations a challenge and experiencing bullying . You name it it's probably happened. Aside from sore and bruised limbs and a sore purse from replacing things which I've lost, it's made me think the worst possible outcome in a lot of situations and do quite a bit of avoidance and hiding. Anxiety is something which I talk quite a bit in my blogs.  When you're dyspraxic you face quite a few challenges, the world can be an unpredictable, overwhelming place and I've got myself into so many pickles, alongside that comes a lot of anticipatory anxiety, social anxiety and the fear of fear and those horrible physical symptoms anxiety can bring.

Something which can really help is reassurance, now the anxious brain can at times seem like you want constant reassurance that you haven't messed something up, people don't dislike you and you're not as bad as your mind tells you. I think if you've experienced bullying or other awful experiences it can have such an impact on how you see yourself. Then there's the feelings you're going to die or have something life threatening when experiencing anxiety attacks or the physical side to anxiety. For loved ones this can get quite repetitive at times. But a little bit of reassurance can mean a lot to someone when they are going through a challenging time in life. The little things can mean the world, often people with anxiety don't want a lot of fuss, but even simply listening to someone can mean a lot and that they will be ok and the anxiety won't harm them can help ease the storm a little. 
For a lot of dyspraxics and people who struggle with anxiety, having confidence and self belief in yourself is something which is so much more of a challenge. I've often been told that I need to have more confidence in myself and to think more positively about myself. It's so easy to compare yourself to others and not feel good enough and over analyse every tiny mistake and failure you make. But it's so important to remember that we're all facing some sort of battle or challenge in day to day life. Challenging and changing those negative thought processes into more positive ones is something so much harder, it's not easy and can take a lot of time. It's something I'm still working on and hope CBT may help me with, but everyone is different it's about finding what works for you. I recently got given some advice is to when something positive happens or you face a fear, try and remember it and hold onto it when you next have a challenging situation come up. This is all easier said than done, it takes time, and something I'm still learning. But you're more than your struggles and your labels, everyone has something that they are good at inside them even if your mind tries to convince you otherwise.

The last few months have been quite a challenge for me anxiety wise, and I just wanted to say a little thank you for the little bits of reassurance, it means so much. I recently faced quite a challenging situation applying for a new job and although my social anxiety was in overdrive, both thoughts and physically I found out last week I got the job and they want to use my empathy for others in a positive way and I will finally have access to help and support.

I may have quite a way to go managing my anxiety, but I'm looking forward to but still understandably terrified about a new chapter in my life.  My own experiences have fuelled these blogs and I hope if you're reading this it gives you a little bit of reassurance that you're not alone. As I sit here writing this, with a bruised chin and knee after a fall over the weekend, if you as prone to accidents it's not just you.  One thing I hope from these blogs is people get is a sense of realness, sometimes they might not be the most positive of blogs but that's a reflection to the world we live in. Life can be a struggle, it's not all all rainbows and sunshines, you  just have to hold onto that little bit of hope, and that things will end up ok and this too shall pass.

Here's a little bit of reassurance which I got written for me recently, I thought it might help others to share it.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Dyspraxia and anxiety in the workplace

From a young age I've always loved helping people, when I was at primary school I would always rush over if I saw someone who had fallen over in the playground or who was upset. I remember lining up my cuddly toys (all named) in a big circle and pretending to be a teacher, I even made my own register. I've also loved animals of all kinds from having pet dogs all my life, to Elvis and Lucky the hamsters (who was named after the Britney Spears song- blame my dad!) I also loved horse riding. I always knew I wanted to do something which involved helping someone or something. It's important to remember that no two dyspraxics see the same and will decide to go into the same field of work.

But when I got into the world of work there was a problem,whilst I have empathy and understanding for others for miles. I also struggle a lot with day to day tasks in day to day life which many take for granted. Simple tasks which require fine motor skills, co-ordination, memory and organisation. My brain takes a lot longer to process information. When I'm tired or under pressure it makes me prone to mistakes, mistakes I often have no idea why they happened. Then you add anxiety into the mix and beating yourself up and it becomes a vicious circle.

Anxiety over new and the unknown has always been a struggle for me. It always takes me that bit longer to get my bearings and to feel comfortable both in my environment and with other people and to come out of my shell. When I get anxious I can become quite shaky and panicky, which when you already struggle with fine motor skills isn't the best of combinations.

When you become an adult there isn't a magic wand, your differences, disability or condition don't  simply disappear or you grow out of them.  People need support and empathy as they go through life. To the outside world dyspraxia can make you come across like you don't care, not trying hard enough, slow, messy and in a complete state of chaos. Or socially someone who appears very nervous or doesn't speak very much. Alongside the lack of dyspraxia awareness and understanding which is out there. This ignorance, bullying and general complete lack of understanding, it made my anxiety 10x worse, become too anxious to speak and in a really dark place. Being told you will never get anywhere in life can really crush your confidence, when you already don't have much of that as it is. After realising anxiety was controlling my life I made the step to go to my doctors where I got given a diagnosis of anxiety and the relief of that it wasn't just me being a worrier, it's something I wish I'd done sooner in life.

It's important however to find something you enjoy or are good at, and despite my experiences having an impact on my mental health they have shaped me into the person I am and my values. I'm able to show so much empathy for the students I support in my job as a learning supporting various students with difficulties, disabilities and mental health conditions. My experiences have made me patient, encouraging and I'll never give up on someone who struggles either a student or a friend. I can also think outside the box and see the bigger picture meaning I see different solutions to problems and a unique perspective on tasks. My border collie Toby is also a huge part of my life and well being and don't struggle in silence if you are struggling with your mental health if you're dyspraxic or not there is help and support out there it's about finding what works for you and hopefully through therapy it will help me learn  to control my anxiety and not let it control me.

With time and a little bit of understanding and empathy many people
With dyspraxia/anxiety can achieve. For me I just need little reasonable adjustments which can make a huge difference to me. It will always take me just that bit longer than others to get there which  has been frustrating alongside often high levels of anxiety. It's made it more difficult to feel proud of myself when I achieve something,  but rationally  I need to have more confidence in myself and it shows resilience and determination something I know I should be prouder of and I hope if you're reading this now and you can empathise I hope you feel proud of yourself.

Life isn't a race, it's a journey, we all process information differently, in our own ways at our own paces. We all have mental health just as we all have physical health, and we all have different personality types. The world we live in needs diversity and difference to thrive, and we can all do a little bit to be kind and help someone come out of their shell. You never know what you or your business might gain from simply seeing things from a different perspective. The little things really can make such a huge difference to someones confidence.

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Monday, 10 October 2016

World Mental Health Day #WMHD16

Today is World Mental Health day, we all have mental health and well being just as much as we all have physical health. There's a good chance that you reading this blog, will know someone who has struggled with their mental health at some point in their lifetime, either you yourself, a relative or a loved one. Mental health affects up to 1 in 4 of us at some point, so it's so important that as much awareness is raised to help remove stigma and discrimination.

This week also comes to the year when it is dyspraxia awareness week and the theme is dyspraxia in the workplace, in my blogs I regularly talk about the links between dyspraxia and mental health. I don't want to repeat myself and say what I have in previous blogs but as it is something very close to my heart it is something which needs to be taken more seriously and something I previously blogged about for Time to Change.

 With many dyspraxics struggling with mental health issues it's so important that there is access to emotional support and not just the physical side of things. Little reasonable adjustments can mean a lot and often free to support someone with their mental health in the workplace, little things such as: giving someone a little bit of structure to help with unpredictability and the unknown, giving someone time to adjust into an environment and letting someone go at their own speed, understanding the need for taking time out to get a little bit of space or fresh air if someone struggles with anxiety attacks or being overwhelmed. Everyone is different and different things work or help people differently. Most importantly I think is to remember someone is a person, and focus on what someone is good at we can all do our best to help build someone up and give them a confidence boost.

I think that is something which is really important when it comes to mental health that everyone is different, when I tell people I struggle with bad anxiety and can go through periods where it can be quite crippling and lead to low mood, I often get a look of shock that I don't look like someone who could have anxiety, mainly given by the amount of awareness work I do to help others and from a young age I've always been a determined soul. But helping others who are struggling and making a difference, gives you that little bit of reassurance to  be determined to step out of your comfort zone as you hope it will educate others.

In quite a few of my blogs I talk about how social anxiety has made me a very good hider, it takes me a long time to come out of my shell and have the confidence to talk to people. I remember at school having the most hacking awful cough and trying to swallow my coughs so that it wouldn't draw any attention to myself.  When you experience bullying and/or ignorance it can make you retreat into your shell and find it difficult to trust others, and my experiences of bullying especially in the workplace have had quite a negative impact on my mental health.

 But when I'm going through a difficult time with my mental health speaking to people who can empathise, reassure and understand means so much to me. Anxiety can something very scary to get your head around, understanding unpleasant physical symptoms, different triggers and feel like you have an anchor holding you down sucking everything out of you on top of not being very kind to yourself. When you add dyspraxia into the mix, the chaos can make you feel like your head is full of tangled spaghetti.

It can make you feel isolated and alone, but there are people who understand, for many years I hid how much I struggled with anxiety, and hid my dyspraxia, I was scared opening up would lead to further bullying and people would run a mile from me, but hiding made me feel lower, this is something which I have written more about in a blog for Scope for their #endtheawkward appeal this year which will hopefully be out soon. But by speaking to others it's given me the courage to seek help and I'm so grateful to those who have been there for me.  You never know who might be affected by mental health, always remember to be kind, but most importantly be kind to yourself.

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Sunday, 2 October 2016

Dyslexia Awareness Week 2016-Identifying Dyslexia

It's come round to that time of year again where it's dyslexia awareness week each year there is a theme, this years is  Identifying dyslexia. Some of you reading this blog will be thinking "But I'm not dyslexic, why should it matter to me?"

 Dyslexia matters to you, me, everyone out there, everyone at some point in their lifetime across all walks of life whether it be school, college, university, work will meet people who have dyslexia, when you watch your favourite TV show or listen to your favourite artist, there is a good chance one of them might be dyslexic too. As it is a hidden difference you never know who you might walk past in the street might be dyslexic or of course have any other hidden condition or struggle. At some point in life a dyslexic might help you for support in some shape or form maybe not just with reading or spelling but maybe with remembering instructions, directions, time keeping, general organisation of day to day life. You never know who is dyslexic so it's so important to have an open mind and show a little bit of understanding and empathy. Understanding is a common theme of my blogs and I think it's so vital. A little bit of understanding goes a long long way and can give someone a bit of a confidence boost no matter who they are.

There are so many people out there who are dyslexic and simply have no idea they are, they may feel like they are stupid, useless, that they have nothing to offer this world, crushed confidence and no self belief in themselves. Getting assessed and actually knowing if you are might be dyslexic is a huge issue at any stage of any individual's personal dyslexic journey. It can also be a catalyst for change and give a sense of acceptance and understanding as to why your brain might be wired in a different way and you might approach tasks and life in general in a different way. It also allows someone to see what strengths that they can give and offer the world. Such as thinking outside of the box, empathy, determination,  seeing a different perspective at problem solving. 

Neurodiversity is such a wide umbrella of various differences and difficulties, often co-occuring and overlapping. For me even though I was identified as dyspraxic at a young age, I always knew there was something else there, why I found my studies so hard, why reading all the course information took me 10x longer than anyone else and why my spelling well we won't even go there. After being made to drop qualified teacher status at university and experiencing ignorance, lack of understanding and bullying. It made my anxiety sky high, I felt depressed, stupid and hopeless and that I would never achieve anything and fell into a very negative cycle about myself.

I came across a member of a girl group who has been mentioned a few times over the years in this blog I read her story about dyslexia, I empathised and it gave me the courage to do something about it and in turn accept myself and the way my brain is wired more and I now help other students who learn differently as a learning support as a college. I still have a way to go managing my anxiety and feeling positive about myself but  I will always be so grateful to Mollie for speaking out in the media and raising dyslexia awareness and inspiring me in life. It's so important that different ways of thinking and processing are talked about more, not just in education but in day to day life. By talking we help people not feel isolated, alone and that it's not just them being them. We help people feel like they are a valuable member of society and can give something back. Wouldn't the world be a boring place if we all saw the world in the same way. Make sure you come back to my blog next week for dyspraxia awareness week, let's get the world knowing more about dyspraxia! Until then be kind to yourself and always remember you are never alone and you most defiantly are not stupid, nobody is perfect we all make mistakes don't be so hard on yourself. Something I defiantly need to remind myself more of.

For more information about dyslexia and getting identified please check out Dyslexia Action British Dyslexia Association  or Helen Arkell 

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Monday, 22 August 2016

Turning dyspraxic passion and anxiety into a purpose

Ever since I was little I've always been an emotionally sensitive soul, and a visibly emotional soul at that. I was always so self conscious about how deeply I felt when I could see everyone else just getting on with it and how passionate I was about the causes and the interests I liked.

Over the last few years I've been to many Dyspraxia Foundation conferences and what always stands out is the passion and empathy and it's been very refreshing for me to see. I had no idea growing up my reasons for being so sensitive, emotional or passionate had anything to do with being dyspraxic or having an anxiety disorder or low mood. I remember going into school and being visibly enthusiastic about the music, flapping my arms around in true un coordinated style, and using a very loud tone of voice about the music I loved and being teased, sniggered at and judged. It made me feel like I needed to retreat into my shell and not show it to all of the world and I hid it away only letting those I trusted in. Managing and expressing my emotions has been always something really difficult for me. 

  I recently met the lovely Phoebe meet her idol Dyspraxia Foundation patron Jamie Lambert  from Collabro at their event at their beautiful local church in Hitchin, seeing her emotion and passion reminded me of a younger version as me. Also seeing Jamie up on stage, filming his video for the appeal and on stage and the passion which he gave off in his performances was lovely to see. Like Pheobe I also have someone who I look up to Mollie King, to read more why she inspires me see an earlier blog the impact of music. She recently released her debut single  Back to you (links at the bottom of my blog) and I've been lucky enough to meet her recently as her launch week progressed into a radio tour.

On her single launch day she was talking about how she found the writing process of the single therapeutic of her own experiences and hoped people might be able to relate to her experiences. This is what I've always hoped for from these blogs if one person can relate to it all it's been worthwhile. I also have found blogging very therapeutic. She's also one of the most calming, reassuring people I've met in life, whenever I meet her my anxieties go, as she's taken the time to get to know Rosie and that empathy means a lot. She also showed a lot of empathy to the charity's appeal, which is very kind of her and means so much that people are willing to even just listen and find out more, and hopefully get the word out.

Being a passionate person doesn't mean that you're a really confident person, what you see isn't often what someone might be experiencing and it's important to look beyond face value. On the outside you can't tell how someones brain is hard wired and how they process the world and see it differently nor if they might  struggle with any mental health issues too.

 I've been able to talk and talk about things which I love, or get very involved in the causes I like or support on social media as that passion and empathy to help others and make a difference will always be there. But by nature I've always been shy and never been a socially confident person I can be my hardest enemy at times and beat myself up a lot when it comes to day to day socialising.
 I can go completely into myself in new and unpredictable situations, struggle with social anxiety  and making eye contact. I will go over conversations and events constantly and worry about what I might have done wrong or any mistakes I might have made.

I can be a perfectionist and if something isn't done right I get very anxious over making mistakes, getting things in a muddle, and being messy and clumsy and get very conscientious about trying to do a good job, even if dyspraxia makes it looks otherwise. It's made me stand out, be different to my peers be difficult to understand at times and misunderstood. But it has made me a lot more determined and something I'm awaiting support for so hopefully fingers crossed this will help me keep moving forward and be more socially confident.
For such a long time in my life I didn't think I had a purpose, bullying and a bad experience in a previous relationship (details not for the blog) left me feeling not good enough and that I didn't anything to offer this world. My emotions were all over the place, I was trying to manage them in self destructive ways and I saw no hope in this world.

 I lost who Rosie was but then at my lowest point I realised I didn't want others to go through what I had and then I realised I had to try and manage my anxiety and frustrations in a more positive way. This is very much an ongoing journey and I still struggle with bouts of bad anxiety and struggle managing my emotions. But I've realised my purpose in life is to help others, the responses I get from writing these blogs and through my awareness work will always mean so much to me and boost my confidence on days when I'm struggling and I've found swimming helps calm me down.

The social, emotional and  links with mental health side to dyspraxia is something which isn't discussed a lot, even though it really should be more as there is more awareness of the physical side. It's why I decided to get involved in the Dyspraxia Foundation Call to Action appeal and step out of my comfort zone and do a video it was a difficult task for me to even make eye contact  and my social anxiety wanted me to run a mile away and it took a good 20 takes. But this charity help people make sense of themselves, meet others who "get it" and help people feel lost and alone like the Rosie I talked about at the beginning of this blog.

But I hope it will help raise awareness, help the misunderstandings which surround dyspraxia and how it can also link with mental health and raise vital funds for a charity very struggling at the moment. Also help others understand that everyone is different, and sees life from a different perspective and makes sense of the world differently and manage emotions differently.  Just because someone processes the world differently doesn't mean that it is better, nor is it less it is simply different.

To check out Mollie King's debut single Back to You:
Available to Stream on Spotify Stream on Apple Music Download on iTunes

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