“You’re away the fairies” a woman chimed at me in the changing area of a spa I visited recently.
Her tone may have been unpleasant but she was probably right too because at any one moment I have tens of tabs of webpages up when working at the screen which represents what’s going on in my head. This is quite common for many ‘neurodiverse’ people I meet.
For me, my lateral thinking brain is officially diagnosed with Dyslexia and Dyspraxia. This enables me to acquire a range of skills and juggle a number of diverse creative projects.
When it comes to logical processing, housework, and jigsaws, however, I am lacking.
But I have learned to love and harness my busy mind, career, and life. I learn to focus on my ‘genius’ skills where I can drill down and nail complex projects and tasks, providing I am in the right environment to do this.
With more people working from home and having spent time isolated, we may have become ‘hyper-aware,’ of ourselves which can be beneficial. It is the perfect time to start navigating our own journey.
I may not think in the box but I can always think out of it.
I am from a family of many neurodiverse people as well as working with some of the top entrepreneurs and business brains who also happen to be neurodivergent.
Even a family road trip to Wales to ZipWorld and climb Snowden is an achievement in its own right that we got there. The latter challenges of us swinging along Europe’s highest zip wire and climbing a huge mountain are easy for us in comparison with our navigation skills to get ourselves to the right country.
In one moment you would have seen an entrepreneur, a journalist, a runner, and an artist in our family car listening to BBC Radio 4, in another second you’d see a dyspraxic spilling her Greggs coffee on her crotch screaming, a young man with autism using the lid of the said coffee cup to play within his fingertips, a dyslexic man trying to navigate and a creative woman musing over some pink elephant artwork as my family and I arrive into Wales for our mini adventure. Meet my step-dad, mum and step-brother and me.
We have achieved great feats, won awards and yet the so-called simplest of tasks are a challenge. It makes life a lot more of a fun adventure because I can see the positives nowadays due to developing coping mechanisms to harness my ‘genius mode’ and to be more patient with daily tasks that take longer.
With Dyslexia you tend to have a spiked profile so whilst my logical processing is not strong, I am told that my lateral thinking brain is, which is why some recruiters now look for neurodiverse people.
Dyspraxia, a developmental co-ordination disorder doesn’t have the same spiked profile. Fitting together simple child-friendly jigsaws may be too challenging for me or navigating post-pandemic signage but I am definitely more relatable to people. Adopting these coping mechanisms has helped me to thrive in work and life even when the world is largely inaccessible at times:
Whatever your background or brain, jot down your strengths and briefly journal when you felt in your ‘genius mode’ vs when you felt overwhelmed. Then try and incorporate more space in your schedule to accommodate your genius moments. The more we focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t, the more you will appreciate your strengths and unique qualities rather than feeling ‘friction.’
This is the start of being kinder to ourselves. This is so important to improve your self-esteem because I know how much I used to beat myself up as a youngster struggling to process information and getting lost.
I over-compensated by making myself ill when revising for exams, and even avoiding certain situations or not saying when I didn’t understand something. It used to knock my confidence at school, university and I must have done a decade of work experience in the media because I didn’t feel ‘good enough’ to demand pay like my colleagues.
The biggest help for me was getting an official diagnosis report to understand what conditions I have. This empowered me personally, to discover more, join peer groups online and find out positive self-thrive tools. One of those was to get support to adapt my work environment with assistive technology and most of all funding to get a tutor to help me use the software and learn specific study skills for my personal needs. That said, I was fortunate to get a free test when doing an MA in Journalism whereas I had avoided paying the heavy fee in the past, which in itself can be an unfair barrier for many who simply can’t afford it.
Whatever your Neurodivergence, ‘officially diagnosed’ or not, a lot of us are on the spectrum so it is important to assert your own needs in staying well at home, work, and in the world.
Just like my exams would allow for ‘extra time,’ I too have had to adjust my life to allow myself the extra time or the space to create because the more I have tried to fit in the keyhole of the ‘norm,’ the more I have knocked my own self-esteem.
I have now harnessed my creative brain by setting up my own magazines, enterprises and I have adapted my home and life to reduce the tension I can often feel in the world. But most of all, to focus on those genius streaks whether that’s the enthusiasm to climb huge mountains despite not being able to complete a Duke Of Edinburgh Award at school or my ability to communicate care-free to millions of people through my blogs and vlogs online yet, not being able to navigate my way to a coffee date around the corner or even out of the cafe toilets.
I can kindly laugh at myself and my self-proclaimed ‘dizzy moments,’ but also to feel grateful for my brain.
If I had continued to follow the crowd as I used to try to, but often get lost, I wouldn’t be where I am today having created my own exciting path from the mountains of opportunities available now I have discovered my peak. I invite you to navigate your own way too.