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

Keep up-to-date on Social Media, please like my Facebook page for more dyspraxia awareness :)

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Heat sensitivity and anxiety

I've been planning on writing this blog for the last week or so but in short have been far too hot to process very much but I thought this is a very important to write about in hope which it might help someone else out there. From a very young age I've always been sensitive to the environment around me, whether it be in the UK or abroad. I find lights, people, noise and heat to be very overwhelming and can struggle with sensory overload and anxiety attacks. It can make day to day environments which many take for granted a challenge such as: shopping centres, public transport, and going out for a meal or drink, even just simply walking down the street. How I feel towards these can vary from day to day, sometimes hour by hour, and how much I can face or avoid in a day is unpredictable.

For me the thought of being trapped in an uncomfortable, sticky environment where I can't breathe or the heat is making me feel faint and unwell is one of my biggest triggers. It can also affect my sleep, and I find it hard to regulate my own heat, I've been told it's like sleeping next to a furnace in the summer. Now this isn't just a dyspraxic issue, although many dyspraxics do struggle with sensory processing issues and anxiety, but something which many people can find a challenge.

As a child I remember going on a family holiday to Portugal and hiding between tree to tree in floods of tears if I spent too much time in the sticky heat, on another holiday abroad the heat made me unwell and I experienced nose bleeds and I spent the holiday avoiding anything which could make me worse. In my late teens I remember going to a music festival in the heat of summer with friends and experiencing a huge anxiety attack due to the sensory environment and feeling like I couldn't get out of the crowd. At the time I had no idea what I was experiencing was sensory overload and that I was having an anxiety attack, I was terrified, miles away from home and thought I wouldn't end up being back home and thought I was going to die. I'm still here to live the tale but to me it was why it is so important for me to write this blog, as for years throughout my childhood and young adult life I spent terrified in tears and simply overwhelmed and didn't have a clue why.  Being the overly conciencious person I am and not wanting to draw any attention to myself or cause a huge fuss  I never said anything, I either went along with it to please others or bottled it all up and let it all out behind closed doors.

As an adult I've become a lot more self aware of the environments which can trigger me, for such a long time I avoided these environments as I thought similar experiences would happen or would only go in the company of my boyfriend. Which can be difficult as some of these are day to day tasks such as even to facing  going to the supermarket or walk down the street can be a huge ordeal for me and I will build a fortress up not wanting to face it all. The world is simply too overwhelming for me. I still have a long way to go with that, but accepting the anxiety and understanding that it is anxiety and finding the courage to seek help has been beneficial to me.I'm lucky to have some supportive people in my life especially my boyfriend Matt and if I need to physically remove myself often at great speed and with no spatial awareness or if I have a panic attack they understand.  As someone who struggles with social anxiety I've always hated drawing attention to myself so how visibly I can show my emotion at times, and there can be a lot of tears it can make me feel very self conscious and I've been known to run away and hide so I don't expose that side to me in front of others. When people experience sensory overload or anxiety their behaviour may seem a little different to others, they aren't having a tantrum or being un-coperative they are simply overwhelmed and trying to cope best they can.

 It can especially be difficult when the things which you enjoy are in environments which feel uncomfortable in. I've often struggled with my self worth and to allow myself that I deserve self care, treat myself and that I deserve to do things which I enjoy and make me happy. I love pop concerts and I also love going for a cocktail, but feeling not trapped in these environments can be hard and a lot of planning involved, such as finding an easy exit or finding a bar with a small amount of people in where I don't feel constantly on edge in. Last week I went to meet the girl group Little Mix (who put on an incredible show) the thought of queuing to meet them in a busy shopping centre was making me feel quite queasy and at times I wanted to remove myself from the queue but I stuck at it.

 If you have a friend who struggles with this you might think that they're just being a baby or hard work, but the anxiety and feeling  overwhelmed and uncomfortable is very real. Please remember to be kind you never know how much hard work and effort getting into a situation has been for someone.  I still have a way to go managing my anxiety but I've found talking to others both at Dyspraxia Foundation conferences and just in general having a chat (or a waffle in my case) and on a platform like this blog has helped me a lot, please don't struggle in silence like I did.

Some tips which I've come across but everyone is different:

  • Plan ahead and find as much information about where you are going to and book a time or place to suit you.
  • Break challenges into smaller more manageable chunks so it's not too overtaking and go at your own pace.
  • Have something with you to distract yourself and the anxious thought.
  • This blog from Blurt talks about some helpful anxiety/panic attack strategies
  • Find safe spaces and a place where you can feel relaxed in.
  • Remind yourself you deserve self care
  • Wear clothes which make you feel comfortable in the heat.
  • Keep hydrated.
  • Find ways which help cool you down such as buying a fan, having no duvet on the bed, and wearing sunglasses.
  • Don't take on too much at once and remember to rest after.
  • If it impacts your day to day quality of life don't be scared of asking for help.
  • Don't compare yourselves to others, life isn't a race we all have our own challenges which we find more difficult in life.
  • Remember when you feel overwhelmed this too shall pass!

Here's my safe space which makes me feel calm, being beside the sea. Where is your safe space? 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Looking deeper to understand dyspraxia and anxiety

On Sunday I walked the British 10k for with fellow dyspraxic blogger Natalie who has blogged about our very dyspraxic weekend and my boyfriend Matt. On the day we saw the streets leading up to Buckingham Palace lined up with thousands of people all with different charitable causes on their vests ready to take part in the run or walk in our case. Some of the causes were ones very well known, some less well known and some I'd never heard of. It really got me thinking of in life what so many people and their families go through often behind closed doors.

 So many people face struggles which are private and unknown to the world, whether is be difference, disability, mental illness, physical illness, bereavement, ignorance or bullying to name a few. Everyone is different in how or how much they choose to share with others and that's ok, but you're never alone.

The previous day  Matt got elected as social media trustee and ended up winning the Mary Colley award.  Which was on the day of the AGM and we all met with the youth focus group on creative ideas for a film to raise awareness which will be coming up. Over the weekend I felt like I was accepted as simply me, and through spending the weekend with Alice, who has blogged about the weekend meeting other dyspraxic young women like Maxine  I felt like I had a sense of belonging, and hadn't laughed so much in months.

From coming along to Dyspraxia Foundation conferences, it has given Matt a chance come out of his shell, and be given a chance to show what he's good at. He's always been someone who keeps himself to himself, and before we met never had the courage to leave his house apart from work, was too shy and anxious to speak to anyone. He always saw himself as a bit of a pessimist in life and never thought anything positive would happen to him. But for what he lacks in social skills he makes up for it in logic and ICT skills, someone also with passion and can enthusiastically rhyme off about Arsenal football club and Britney Spears tours.

The last few years haven't been easy but they have made us a lot stronger as a result of it all. He's seen the day to day struggles of  me being dyspraxic and living with severe anxiety and low mood, seeing me experience horrific ignorance and being being bullied leaving me in a dark place using coping strategies I wasn't proud of and experience a lot of misunderstanding in day to day life, which has affected my confidence and anxiety levels. But this is why there needs more awareness.

But also us turning a negative into a positive by this blog, achieving an award and masters degree and helping others along the way. Sometimes just getting us out of the house to face the day can be a huge task, never mind a 10k, so I'm always very grateful for all he does.

Matt gives me the confidence to share the strengths (creative ideas, determination , thinking out of the box,  and empathy and compassion for others) with others and use in a platform in my awareness work. From being at rock bottom it made us determined as a couple that nobody should feel or go through what we have alone, but hopefully educating others by the awareness work we do at the same time. It is also why as social media trustee Matt wants to link with mental health charities so dyspraxics have access that support.

Dyspraxia awareness has come a long way but still  has a long way to go so many people don't know what it is and awareness is so much lower than the more well known hidden differences, from that comes a lot of misunderstanding especially understanding the strengths and being socially misunderstood, the amount of times my social anxiety and shyness has been misinterpreted as being quiet passive or in my own world, or even rude when in reality my brain is working harder to process the information or worrying about making it mistakes and making an idiot out of myself which makes me go into myself even more. All it takes is people taking the time to get to know me so I can find the courage and trust to break down the walls I often put up to protect myself and come out from hiding, sometimes literally and let people in.

 It can be incredibly isolating and lonely at times feeling different to your peers, especially with familiarity of the people you know being dotted around the country. Which is why events like these are so important, they're simply more than just a conference or just about dyspraxia. When you struggle with social anxiety  or meeting new people it can be made so much harder, which I thought in this blog about anxiety and loneliness covered very well. But by having that acceptance it helps give someone the confidence that they can achieve something in life and have something to offer this world.

One thing is though is hidden differences, disabilities and illnesses need to be spoken about, people encounter ignorance, judgement, and lack of understanding on a daily basis. The more issues are talked about the less misunderstanding and stigma there will be and people feel less alone. On the day of the walk someone came up to us and asked about what dyspraxia was, we also had many shoutouts  from the main speakers. I would like to thank Natalie for agreeing to walk with me and help encourage me round with our many chats, Natalie's dad for following us round and taking all of the photos, the ladies at Dyspraxia Foundation, Alice and my mum for all their encouragement  and reassurance and cheering at 9k.

As someone who always says I do it for the causes and charities behind it without having much confidence in myself,  I felt a sense of achievement and I can say I'm proud of myself, which has taken years to be able to say. I was close to pulling out due to my anxiety and I was thinking every worse possible situation. It was completely out of our comfort zones, very nerve wracking but our determination got us round. Sometimes anxiety can lie to you it can make you believe you're useless and you won't get anywhere but sometimes everything ends up ok. I would also like to thank Mollie King for tweeting both myself and Natalie very randomly, it was a lovely surprise and thank you for taking the time to spread awareness of dyspraxia,  your empathy and putting yourself in someone else's shoes, it gave me such a confidence boost.

Everyone you meet in life is facing something in life, social media only gives a snapshot to what people experience or who they are, before you roll your eyes or pass judgement put yourself in someone else's shoes, have a little bit of empathy, find the courage to ask questions but most importantly be kind.

Keep up-to-date on Social Media, please like my Facebook page for more dyspraxia awareness :)

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Dyspraxia, anxiety and inclusion

Inclusion is something which has always been at the core of my awareness work and when writing these blogs, as nobody deserves to feel alone and isolated. Inclusion seems such a wide topic, but the little things to make someone feel included can mean the world to not just them but their loved ones too.

I see inclusion coming up time and time again when it comes to dyspraxia either feeling included or people knowing what dyspraxia is. Whether it be learning inside the classroom, P.E or sport or making friendships. The amount of tears of confusion which came from me to my mum growing up, questioning why I never got invited to any parties, why I was always last being chosen for P.E and why nobody wanted to sit next to me at lunchtime. I would always question if I must have done something wrong or if it was my fault. Which as a parent must have been awful for my mum to hear.

 I've always been a very quirky person socially. Growing up the social side of dyspraxia was always something I was very self concious of, but it's something there needs to be awareness of as dyspraxia doesn't just affect people physically.  I've been told I have a very quirky dress sense- my arms can often be found with many bracelets.I have a love of butterfly prints, bows or floral especially in dresses and my fingers can be found with (often badly painted) brightly coloured nail varnish. Social anxiety can often mean I find it takes me a while to come out of my shell and not go into hiding, especially in new and unpredictable situations, and anxiety in general make controlling my emotions tricky,but once I feel comfortable in a situation, I tend to find it easier to relax with those older or younger than me, I've been told I have a very quirky sense of humour (got my dad to thank for that- very easily amused.)

My quirkiness, is something which makes me a unique person,which I see as a strength, it's also made me have a natural empathy for those who may be struggling, but over the years took me a long time to accept, growing up I would do anything to fit in. It has also lead to exclusion, when I was university I remember being ran away from as I was perceived as a weirdo and a freak, I've also faced awful exclusion and bullying
in the workplace. I've spent a lot of my time growing up feeling lonely and by myself, wondering why people were to scared to get to know Rosie. 

 People simply become frightened of things which they don't understand. A lot of people still don't know or aren't aware of what dyspraxia is and how it affects people. It is less known than other neurodiverse differences and difficulties, or if people have heard of it they just see it as clumsiness.
But dyspraxia is something which the general public needs educated on, the more awareness is generated, hopefully in time there will be more understanding. Once you take the time to understand dyspraxia and how it affects someone, ask questions not assumptions, as with any other hidden difference or disability or mental health condition it becomes not so scary. You don't have to have a difference or disability yourself to to take the time to understand. One of the biggest misunderstandings about difference and disability is that people assume that if they invite someone to something. they'll have to spend the evening parenting them or looking after them, for the vast majority of people, far from the case. Sometimes when you struggle with anxiety you might have to cancel plans or leave early, but that understanding and inclusion can help someone take those tiny steps forward. This was something which is echoed in my wonderful friend Alice's most recent blog about inclusion. In it she talks about the the little things people can do and by not making assumptions can make a real difference, to someones mental well being, confidence and how they go about day to day life. Whether as a child, young person or adult.

Behind someone's struggles and of course their strengths, is a person, someone who has thoughts, views, interests and opinions, people with differences and disabilities have the right to have their voice heard and listened to. Sometimes you have to simply dig a little bit deeper when getting to know someone, give them time to come out of their shell, take the time to get to understand things which might be seen as different, and remember that everyone has a different perspective of seeing the world we live in. The world we live in is rich with technology which is incredible, but sometimes we have to put the phone down, the laptop or i pad away open our eyes and appreciate the diversity which is around us.

 As an adult dyspraxic I still find some social situations tricky and will never find it the easiest coming out of my shell. But I am lucky to know some wonderful people who include me for who I am and value having employers who have a lot of empathy towards my dyspraxia and anxiety. Through my work with the Dyspraxia Foundation, I've never felt so included, I've met obviously Alice and also the wonderful Natalie another fellow dyspraxic blogger who has agreed to walk round the British 10k with me next month. Now as someone who felt completely excluded in P.E lessons, came last at everything and has the running style of a dyspraxic duck about to take off  the thought of being surrounded by professional runners, is something which makes me clammy just typing this. Despite it being one massive challenge for me anxiety wise as well as physically, that inclusion and resilience is something which will be getting me round, hopefully raising awareness helping others with dyspraxia feel included too, as I would hate for anyone to go through what I have. Even though the last few months have been a real struggle for me anxiety wise, I hope it shows to others determination.

Myself and my mum have been asked to come to answer questions at Dyspraxia Westminster: Dyspraxia London event and answer any questions parents may have about growing up with dyspraxia, some of the coping strategies I've developed over the years. If you're interested in attending the link is:  I put a lot of my achievements over the last few years down partly to feeling included and I hope my inclusive nature for helping others. As I know from my own experiences that encouragement can give you the courage to ask for help and the strength to keep going when times are tough.

With nominations closing for the National Diversity awards closing on Wednesday. (It seems like this has been going on for ages.) Many of the wonderful people who advocate for dyspraxia awareness have been nominated, it would be wonderful for society to see the what dyspraxics can offer this world, please get behind them over the next few days.
I am grateful to everyone who has nominated me so far, for the kind comments, and the fact that this blog has helped others. If anything has helped at all and you still want to nominate me the link to do so is:

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Celebrating small accomplishments

Sometimes life can feel overwhelming, like one huge storm or huge bowl of tangled up spaghetti, we feel trapped or caught up in it all and don't know how to move forward.

When you think in a different way, have a disability or a mental health condition whether
you're an child, young person or adult it can be very easy to compare yourself to others and see others progressing a lot faster than you or find tasks which others find easy either terrifying, time consuming or in short just really hard. It can affect your self esteem, motivation and confidence.

It can be very hard and simply overwhelming knowing where to start tasks especially if you struggle with anxiety or being organised and easy to avoid doing the task completely. My boyfriend always says I'm the worst procrastinator he's ever met, when I feel overwhelmed it's safe to say time literally flies by and I wonder where all the hours have gone. Whilst avoidance can initially make you feel better, once you start overcoming those little hurdles and break down the big things into more manageable chunks they can seem a lot less overwhelming. If we are proud of the little things we can achieve it can give us the confidence to take the next steps and the next piece in the jigsaw.

I think it's important to remember, and also any of the parents who read my blogs, you or your child will have your/their unique milestones, your/their own victories no matter how small they may seem.
Dyspraxia affects day to day tasks many take for granted so, it could be making a sandwich, being able to put your socks on, being able to give someone eye contact or manage to clean the house. As you go through life the challenges which approach us change over time, location and situation, so what might challenge us as a  dyspraxic child might change slightly over time as to as a dyspraxic adult. There are also other factors to consider such as: late identification and other differences or mental health issues.

In my last blog I discussed the impact anxiety has on my self doubt and confidence. For me even though I have many coping strategies for my dyspraxia, I have quite a way to go anxiety, but the more anxious I get the more my dyspraxic coping strategies seem to When trapped in that cycle of self doubt it can make everything seem never ending. As someone who if there is something to worry about, I worry about, and knowing where to begin and what to face when sometimes even leaving the front door is a challenge is terrifying in itself can be terrifying, but sometimes you have to go back to basics. When you’re beating yourself up over everything, it’s really hard to be patient and kind with yourself, but you can’t just flick a switch to for these anxious feelings or to feel more confident. Take small steps, and congratulate yourself when you do.

How you go about celebrating these is personal to the person, some people may keep it private, others share on social media, some in facebook groups where people know others will "get it." Children may find things like stickers or certificates helpful, for young people and adults doing something you enjoy or treating yourself. I think it's really important to remember everyone is different and as hard as it is, not to compare yourself or your journey to others.

One thing which might help to write down (or type into a phone or laptop) the good things that happen to you or your child or put together a memory scrapbook or box. It can be things you’ve enjoyed doing, nice things people have said to you. Breaking challenges and tasks into more manageable chunks or lists either written or pictorially and the feel good factor when you tick or cross something off once you've achieved it. Memory can be a huge issue for dyspraxics/dyslexics and having things written down can help give a structure. They don't to be a major achievement – jot down or stick down the tiny things so when you're struggling or feel low you have things to look back on. They can also be a lovely way for you/your child to see how far you have come and how those pieces of the jigsaw I talked about earlier in the blog slowly start to piece together to form the bigger picture.

If you can’t find anything positive to say about yourself, maybe someone else can do it for you. Now I've always been awful at accepting compliments and think people are just being nice but asking a loved one to write down what they see as your positive qualities might give you a boost, maybe you could think of doing the same for someone else. A little bit of kindness and encouragement can go such a long way. I'm so grateful for the kindness in the words of those who have nominated me for a National Diversity Award, when voting finishes (in less than 2 weeks) I plan on printing them off to look at when I don't feel so wonderful. If any of these blogs have helped at all, it would mean a lot if you considered nominating me.

Confidence isn't something which grows on trees, and you might not have much of it right now, but you can start planting some seeds. With the right self-care, your confidence can slowly start to grow again. If nobody has told you this today, I'm proud of you!

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