One word, Dyspraxia. Now, hands up if you know what that is? If you don’t then here is a link to an excellent resource all about it. It is a disability, ranging in severity from life debilitating to virtually unseen. It affects the motor functions, it affects perception, it affects balance, but most of all, it affects the self esteem of the person.
I am dyspraxic, and I don’t declare it, I don’t tell most people, I don’t allow it to overcome me but there are days when it is all I can do to just get through a day without allowing it to effect me. If I am tired, if I am upset, if I am stressed out then it starts to show. My speech is the first thing to go, my lisp gets worse and I start to stutter. Then I start to become more clumsy than normal, I fall over, I drop things. Then my spatial awareness goes out the window, parking the car becomes the worlds biggest mission, trying to do up buttons on my tops is a chore by itself, tying my laces is a complete no-no. Through all of this my self esteem goes down the drain and I usually end up in a teary, tired and stressed out heap. This week is one of those weeks.
This week I have fallen down the (concrete) stairs at work, smashed a glass, spilt paint on furniture, walked into the bed so often I’ve stopped counting (but I have the bruises to show for them!), gave up parking in a space more than twice and I’ve had to repeat what I said on numerous occasions. My confidence and self esteem has taken a battering the past week, but not just because of these incidents, because the people around me don’t understand why.
They don’t understand that I’m not “just being careless”. They don’t understand that telling me “I’m not paying enough attention ” isn’t going to help me. They don’t understand that saying “at 25 I should know better” just makes me feel worse. I phoned my Mum in tears because I knew that she would understand, as a kid I used to spill/break everything, plastic cups and plates were the way forward. She understands that when things are getting like this that I just need some timeout to calm down and re-group myself. She understands that telling me off will only make it worse. She understands because she’s been through it, by my side every step of the way with my disability, through the broken bones, through the tears, through the spilt gravy on a cream carpet, through the speech therapy, through the highs and the lows.
I have a disability yes, but it is not a visible disability. People don’t know about it, and that’s not their fault. I want to educate people, not to judge and berate someone when things don’t appear to be going how they should. Don’t tell them off, don’t put them down. Ask them if they are OK, ask them if there is something that you can do to help them. If they chose to tell you something then don’t just brush it off, it’s a big deal. People have all kind of hidden and invisible disabilities, just because you cant see it it doesn’t make it any less difficult to deal with, it doesn’t make it any easier to have to explain. Ask questions (gently and with grace and understanding), educate yourself, educate others so that people can ask for help when they need it.
Note: I wrote this a couple of months ago and I wasn’t going to post it but some things have been happening lately and I feel that this is the right time to post it.