My Inner Struggles with Dyslexia

dyslexia girl bookI have often battled the inner struggles and feelings that accompany Dyslexia. One such a feeling was that I felt completely stupid and intelligent at the same time. Ok, I know that sounds a little crazy, but let me explain:

I’m sitting in class and my teacher announces that we are going to do an unprepared reading. Suddenly my stomach starts turning and my palms become sweaty. I know I have problems with reading. Especially in front of other people. My anxiety builds and it feels like the whole Sahara desert is in my mouth.

I quickly start to count how many kids are in front of me. If each pupil reads a paragraph and  Susan, who is three seats away from me, is reading at the moment; then I will probably have to read from this paragraph. Feverishly I start reading it to myself. Practising it again and again. By now I’m so stressed, that I don’t even hear the teacher calling my name. Jackson, the boy sitting behind me, taps me on the shoulder and says: “It is your turn to read”.

I push my chair out slowly and pray that the bell would ring. But no such luck. I start to read. My heart is racing like a thousand horses and I suddenly have difficulty seeing the words properly. I rub my eyes thinking that it would help. I get through the first few words but then I’m confronted by the dreaded feeling of confusion as I get to a word that does not make sense. There are too many letters in this word and I do not know how to pronounce it. Panic sets in and all my senses start failing on me. My ears are ringing, my head is spinning and it looks like the whole room is becoming black with darkness, making it even more difficult to see the words on the page.  

Why did I have to get the paragraph with the most difficult words!

I hear how some of the students start giggling. The teacher helps me with the word and I survive the sentence. Until I hit a wall again. I brave up and attempt to say the word. It is wrong. All the kids burst out laughing. The teacher tells me to sit down and as I sit, I hear Alison in the back saying “She does not even know how to read”. She must be retarded”.

I hate school, I hate reading and I hate feeling stupid

Sitting in my chair, staring completely ashamed at my hands in my lap, I softly whisper to myself, I hate school, I hate reading and I hate feeling stupid”. The shame is too much to bear. At last, the bell rings and with my head hanging low, and my pride nowhere to be found, I leave my English class.

The next class is Science, a subject I love. Mr Barns is a good teacher and I love sitting in front of the class so I can see all the experiments up close. Mr Barns asks: “Who can tell me what condensation is?”

I quickly raise my hand and Mr Barns picks me.Condensation is the process of a substance in a gaseous state transforming into a liquid state. This change is caused by a change in pressure and temperature of the substance. Water vapour in the air is changed into liquid water. In other words, the water in the air, a gas is known as water vapour, from your hot shower cooled when it met the surface of the cold mirror. This caused the water vapour to condense, or turn into its liquid form. You notice it as moisture or beads of water and fog that has formed on the mirror”. Mr Barns smiles and says: “That’s correct”.

Now, why can I answer this scientific question correctly but I cannot get through one little paragraph of unprepared reading?

You now understand my dilemma?

Well, it took me all of 39 years to figure this one out. It turns out I have a reading problem called Dyslexia.

I studied hours for exams and managed to find a few coping mechanisms to help me through the sea of complicated words.

Every day at school was a living nightmare. I had to work so hard just to keep up. It took so much out of me that I needed to take an hour nap every afternoon after school. And then I would diligently sit and do my homework. I studied hours for exams and managed to find a few coping mechanisms to help me through the sea of complicated words. I colour coded each section of work and made little rhymes or acronyms to remember facts. I also drew little pictures so I did not have to read so much. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

For me, studying was a tedious and laborious exercise. I would read a paragraph only to come to the end of it not knowing what I just read. So I decided to write everything out. If I could see it, create it by writing it and hear it by reading out loud, then I could get it into my head.

It worked but the energy it took to get through the load was exhausting.

This was more or less how I managed to navigate my way through a very difficult school career.

If only I had a teacher who recognised these symptoms in me when I was younger. If only I had the guts to say that I was struggling. If only I had a support system that could help me cope with the workload. If only…

Today we are lucky to have better diagnostic tools, better-trained teachers and very importantly, a better understanding of what Dyslexia is. It is not just a matter of not being able to read, write or spell. In fact, there are about 37 common traits of dyslexia. Furthermore, we are all created differently and each dyslexic has his/her own challenges.

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