I do think of it as my dyslexia, for it is a part of who I am.
As one or two of you may have noticed, when I write, it doesn’t always sound right. It’s because I’m heavily dyslexic, to the extent where such a simple act of writing a Facebook post is an arduous task for me. When it comes to my blogs, I write down my thoughts and my daughter edits them together for me (hi everyone!).
I wanted to explain my story around my dyslexia because whilst it creates a barrier in many ways and is especially difficult in this modern world where we’re constantly typing rather than talking, I think my dyslexia also shapes who I am as a therapist in an extremely positive way.
Made by Dyslexia, a global charity, say the following:
‘4 out of 5 dyslexic people attribute their success to their dyslexic thinking. There are a large percentage of dyslexics in fields like Entrepreneurship, Engineering, Creative and Tech industries, and organisations like the British Intelligence agency (GCHQ) actively recruit dyslexics for their reasoning skills.
Now neuroscience is giving extraordinary insight into the physical differences in dyslexic brains that lead to these enhanced thinking skills. 9 out of 10 dyslexics describe their thinking as “seeing past detail to gain a strategic (big picture) view of a subject/problem”. Dr. Manuel Casanova (University of Kentucky School of Medicine) has found that dyslexics have longer connections in certain parts of the brain, which explain this big-picture processing skill.’
The latter half of this quote is especially pertinent to me. It’s one of the reasons I think I am able to help so many people who can’t be helped elsewhere – a unique ability to see the bigger picture.
It’s been a long journey to get here though. Some of my first memories of learning to read actually hurt my brain. I did wonder if everyone else’s brain hurt when learning to read.
I remember watching my parent’s panic that they had in their words, a ‘retarded child’. I was always sat with children who never felt like me, I had a huge curiosity about the world, and was super interested in most things. I did get sad, as I always felt like there was a super sports person inside me and would always be surprised when I couldn’t run fast or hit a rounder’s ball.
It left me feeling quite isolated at school. But I enjoyed making things and I was even very good at it. I remember when I was 8 years old we had to make a sewing bags, and it had to be embroidered, with your name on in various styles of stitches. Mine was hailed as the best in class and it was the first time I was used as an example for something being achievable, the teacher stating that ‘even Susan Middleton understands this’. It did lead me to believe that maybe I just hadn’t been taught right! Maybe I could fix this myself, as grownups around me seemed at a loss.
I taught myself to read, finally found a way to pin down the moving letters, as they jiggled on the page. I began to realise that most new skills were going to take 3 attempts, like in all the best fairy tales. However it was hard work, and I also began to grow a desire to make a difference in the world. My parents and school told me that shop work was my best option – but I didn’t think that would meet my growing need to help others.
I talked my way into Bradford College, where I was assessed and told I was very clever, however profoundly dyslexic. For me this was the green light for having a more than ordinary life.
I learnt to be patient with myself, accepted that it would take me 3 times longer to understand any new concept, be it learning to drive, learning to write essays for my women’s studies diploma or writing reports in social work. My self-esteem was very low and even though I had a growing knowledge that I was clever, I never really could buy in to it. I knew I understood most pieces of new knowledge, but then would find it hard to articulate.
Even now my every day vocabulary is small, I can forget names – especially frustrating when leading a class and needing to refer to a muscle – and I can confuse opposites: internal or external, left or right. I can get so frustrated, which leads to feeling stressed – I even sometimes think I can sing along to songs, but then get the words mixed up (Arethra Franklin’s Respect.
But the amazing thing about dyslexia is that those who have it are often very good with their hands. So choosing to change my career at 30 to become a massage therapist was the best thing I ever could have done. I have a unique touch and listening fingers that are my gift. I went on to gain my Physiotherapist title, become UK’s only Hendrickson Method teacher, and qualify as a Polestar Pilates Mat teacher. I could have been swallowed up in self-pity. But I wanted a less than ordinary life, so I dug in and became brave. Bravery often comes when you are at your most vulnerable.
I now see dyslexia as a gift. It might cause me problems, but equally has given me so much. I just see the world differently than most folk. It’s take some time to manage, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.