By The Roaring Girls' Sarah - she's fabulous, she's fashionable, and she sometimes falls over...
Seeing as October is #ADHDAwarenessMonth and saw #DyspraxiaAwarenessWeek take place, as The Roaring Girls’ resident ADHD and dyspraxic representative, I felt it was my duty to bring it up in our weekly blogs and educate the masses! (Or, you know, the three people that might read this. Hi, thanks for coming. You ok? How’s your mam? Well? Good.) `
ADHD and dyspraxia are neurological conditions, which affect the way the brain engages with the environment around it and any tasks at hand. Dyspraxia can also be physical too, but we’ll get to that. Both are often categorised as children’s disorders, but those children grow and that’s where 27-year-old me comes in.
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled to walk around without falling over and bumping into things. As a child, I constantly tripped, grazing knees and tear-staining my cheeks. My family nicknamed me the Catherine Wheel at age four because I’d come tumbling down the stairs like spinning sparklers, cartwheeling and whacking my head against the hallway table. No matter how careful I tried to be, no matter how much effort I’d put into going slowly and taking my time, I’d always manage to find myself falling arse over head, ballerina jewellery box smashed to pieces at the bottom of the stairs and another plaster for my troubles. My dad to this day still calls me ‘the klutz!’
Alongside the tumbling and the stair-sliding, I’ve always been forgetful too, forever losing shoes, bags and money, never to be discovered. I’d try to recall where I’d put something, retrace my steps and close my eyes wishing for it to appear back in front of me, but it never did. In hindsight, this seemed to come from an inability to focus, or complete tasks without getting distracted or starting another job before I’d finished the last one. I was well behaved, polite, courteous and intelligent, but there was something going on. That something, I came to realise, was that I happened to be neurodivergent.
As an adult, my duo of mildly irritating conditions seems to have continued the theme of my childhood - forgetful, clumsy and scatterbrained. A lot of people that I have spoken to over the past few years consider ADHD to mean you shout about squirrels every five minutes, can’t sit still, are badly behaved or just “naughty.” Most of the people I’ve spoken to have never even heard of dyspraxia, but the two conditions often go hand in hand.
So, what are they? You know, like from a science-y, explanation-y, “shit I better Google this” kind of perspective?
Put simply: “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects people’s behaviour. People with ADHD can seem restless, may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse. They may also have additional problems, such as sleep and anxiety disorders. Dyspraxia is a brain-based motor disorder. It affects fine and gross motor skills, motor planning, and coordination. It’s not related to intelligence, but it can sometimes affect cognitive skills.”
I’d like to tell you what it is from my perspective now, if that’s ok.
It’s forgetting your anniversary even though it’s marked in every calendar you have in capital letters.
It’s sometimes having to head back home after you’ve made it halfway through your journey, because you can’t remember if you’ve left your straighteners on.
It’s having people get frustrated with you because you’ve accidentally started thinking about something else halfway through a conversation and stopped listening.
It’s having days where noise can be hugely overwhelming and having to leave the pub because too many people are shouting and you can’t think straight.
It’s embarrassing yourself because you fell over in public after tripping over a cigarette butt in the street.
It’s having 100 unfinished projects.
It’s struggling to pick up the dance moves from the show that you’re working on and getting frustrated because you’re getting it wrong for the tenth time in a row.
But, you know what? It’s also…
Having lots of energy for people and projects.
It’s having lots of creative ideas.
It’s making people feel better about their own dance skills.
It’s learning better ways to understand what works for you.
It’s paying attention to detail.
It’s realising that having to do things a little differently is ok.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Hopefully you have learned a little something new, and if you’ve read this, and think it might be you too, reach out.
Let’s be neurodiverse together.
Photo by Tom Arran
Find Sarah on Twitter - @sarpenney, or reach out to us and we’ll put you in touch!