A few weeks before my 21st birthday, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. I sat opposite my assessor and he was in shock. He couldn’t understand how I could have such a dyslexic profile and it hadn’t been picked up on. How my comprehension, short term memory, spelling and grammar etc could be so poor, yet I’d gotten to 3rd year without any help. I didn’t even know what dyslexia was really, but as I sat there, I’d never felt so much relief and happiness about something I didn’t fully understand yet.
The earliest memories I have of school are not being able to understand simple things that everyone else seemed to pick up quickly. Of falling behind and never being able to get to my full potential. I fell through the gaps in the school system I guess. My bad spelling, poor grammar and difficulty to understand was called ‘laziness’. I was sent out of class for asking questions that the teachers perceived to be silly, making others laugh. It was unintentional. I’ll never forget the moment I tried to read Shakespeare aloud, was told to stop because I was mixing up half the words and pronouncing everything wrong. I’d never felt so humiliated. So low and stupid.
From that moment on I pretended. I hid my lack of understanding in school, went home and practised. Practised simple words that I still couldn’t spell. Practised my grammar, wrote stories to build up my confidence in my own work. I remember the day my teacher chased me down and accused me of handing in someone else’s work because I’d improved. Of the look of disbelief on my friends face in sixth form when I turned around and asked what a comma was for. I’d just been throwing it around, hoping I got it right in sentences for years. I was never going to be the girl who got A’s, and that was hard for me to accept because that’s who I wanted to be. I knew the potential I had, I just couldn’t get it out. My frustration was the worst part. Of not knowing what was wrong with me. Of thinking there was something wrong with me. That I was stupid.
It was in University, when I was relying on my sweet and fabulous friends for help, for explanations about what we’d just learned that I decided to get tested. It was third year, work was getting harder and I didn’t want to burden them any longer with constant questions for help. I went for an assessment, and I’m so happy I did. Learning I had dyslexia filled me with relief but at the same time anger. All the help I’d missed out on, all the extreme effort I had to put in to just get average grades. All the essays I poured my heart into, stayed up till ridiculous am to get right and I only ever got a C or D. There was a barrier I could never get past. A wall that no matter how much I tried to catch up I’d never get through.
Now? Now that I’ve let it all sink in? I feel like that wall has just come crashing down. Yes, my spelling is still poor, spell checker is literally my best friend. I still struggle with everything I used to struggle with, I still throw comma’s about and hope for the best. I don’t know left from right, but I’ll never stop trying to get it. I have a degree, I’ve worked so hard for, I got a 2:1 and I did it all on my own. That’s on me. That’s on my ability to find another way around. I love my dyslexia because that word, that definition for all the things I struggle to do, allows me freedom. I don’t get frustrated with myself anymore, or shy away from writing or reading. I don’t let anything hold me back. I still try and struggle at times but I know it’s not me being lazy or stupid. I just have to find another way around. My brain works differently and I’m fine with that. School was a nightmare for me, but it’s a relief knowing it’s officially over. It wasn’t my fault, and that feels fabulous.