A few weeks ago I visited my GP to speak about some problems that I have been having primarily with my hands. The main issue is that I’ve been unable to hold a pencil properly in order to physically write for well over a decade. My handwriting has become a bit of a withered scrawl, as anyone who’s received a card or note from me will have noticed. I’m always leaving a footnote at the bottom of letters to apologise for it. If I were to describe what it is I struggle with when writing, it’s not just the inability to grip a pen or pencil, but it’s like my hand wants to write a lot faster than it physically can. I can’t get the rhythm right. Almost as if the process of thought when writing is broken and by the time it reaches the muscles in my hands it all goes wrong. I used to have really nice handwriting, and even though I’d lean so heavily into the paper when doing it, I was able to manage it somehow. My teachers described the appearance of it as ‘hypnotising’ and many of them used to make a joke about what it was like reading my essays. Besides just writing, my motor functioning in general seems to have always been a problem for me, causing me to be clumsy and accident prone. Currently I’m sporting bruises on both of my hands from hitting them on the dinner table when eating, and off of cupboards and drawers. I thought that this sort of clumsiness was just something I’d inherited from my Dad who was equally susceptible to accidents (a standout story would be when he managed to catch his arm in a cement mixer not once but twice, resulting in a broken arm the second time that it happened). So I guess that haven’t been that worried about it because I’ve simply always been heavy-handed and nervous, and other than being shouted at for breaking things, no-one seemed to pick me up on it. It wasn’t until I started learning new processes for my photography where a steady hand is needed, did I think that hey it’s probably time to go speak to someone about this.
I had a sort of vague idea of what’s been going on to cause these problems, due to the fact that one of my nephews has the same condition, but admittedly it’s not something I knew a great deal about other than that he used to break his toys a lot. As it turns out I have Dyspraxia, which is a neurological condition very similar to autism in its traits (the two can be misdiagnosed due to their similarities, but they do overlap so people can have both). It’s also aptly known as ‘clumsy child syndrome’. My GP provided me with some literature to read on it, and I bought some books of my own to learn more, and I have to say the number of lightbulb moments that I’ve had since then have been immense. A lot of the symptoms are things that I had no idea weren’t common to everyone else and others have given me a huge feeling of relief. For example I now know that I’m not an idiot just because I can’t read maps and get lost a lot. My speech problems, and the odd stuttering I have when I feel like everyone is listening to me speak. I have removed the light bulbs from ceiling lights in rooms from a very early age, and I wear sunglasses outside even in the winter. Sensitivity to noise is the thing that causes me most problems when going outside, coupled with the same problem with light. Inability to read people and specifically for me, tone. Terrible balance, yes. Repeating myself, YES. The list just goes on and on. Here are some handy little diagrams that will explain the condition better than I can.
Obviously, I’m at the very beginning stages of processing this and what it means. It’s a lifelong condition without a cure, but like a lot of the other conditions I have I think it’s just a matter of learning coping methods for me. If I can find a way of getting around the writing thing, that would be great. I’ve already ordered some hand grips online, to see if this will help. I don’t know if occupational therapy would be something I am applicable for since I’m a grown adult. I’m lucky in that I don’t work a normal job, so I’m in an environment where these issues don’t have me under a microscope that make me feel self-conscious. It takes me longer to sit down and focus on things sometimes, but with film developing and printing, which I do myself, routines and repetition are involved and so I’ve always managed to do it easily. Apparently people with dyspraxia function a lot better in conditions that involve repeating things. Maybe even my OCD has helped, although I know it’s not healthy to look at it that way, I can’t help but think I’d have struggled a lot more academically if it weren’t for my need for routine. It also makes me wonder if perhaps my body dysmorphia is related to the dyspraxia too, because that has always revolved around the balance of my body. When I was a very small child I was convinced that one side of my brain was heavier than the other. It’s weird and curious how things can be related, and feed off each other, but I find that understanding really helps with my coping. Like for example, I try to visualise a circle in my head when I have an anxiety attack and how the cycle works; how each stage moves around and all it takes is to remain with the anxiety in order to stop the vicious cycle from revolving. It’s doing things like cleaning my flat or my body, or pulling my hair out (which is what I used to do in order to comfort myself) that just makes me move onto the next stage of guilt and shame, and then the vicious cycle starts all over again. I try really hard to remember that all I have to do is stay with the anxiety and not distract myself from it, because when I do that it doesn’t really last that long. Obviously this is a bit easier to do when I’m at home, whereas when I have an anxiety attack outdoors, all bets are off.
Anyways, I digress. I wanted to write this blog about my dyspraxia diagnosis because really, if someone as clumsy and mentally afflicted as me can stumble their way through film photography, then anyone can. Everything I’ve learned, I’ve learned on my own and I have a determination to stick with things even when I don’t get any results that would be worth showing. That’s the bit in the neuro diversity chart that really struck a chord with me, I have always been creative and determined. For the best part of of this year I have been learning how to hand-tint prints, which has obviously been extremely hard for me due to the intricacy and need to be steady with your hands. I have countless failed go’s at this around my flat, but I finally created one image using a self-portrait shot on expired Polaroid 679 film that made me feel hopeful that I will be able to conquer this technique. And so I’ll post it below and hopefully have much better results to share when my hand grips arrive in the post, and I find out whether or not they help! 🙂