Dyslexia - From the Inside Out

Jennifer Day (On Twitter: Jennifer Day)
Living with: 
- Dyslexia
Dyslexia - From the Inside Out

First of all I would like to thank Frank for giving me the opportunity to write about a subject I rarely talk about.

Dyslexia to me is not a discussion point, it is simply a way to describe how my brain is wired. I do not see it as a disability, it appears that way because of the 'Reality' created by people without dyslexia. If dyslexics had formed the educational system, they would be considered the 'Norm' by which mental ability is measured, and non-dyslexics would be being diagnosed with a learning disability.

I was identified as being dyslexic at a very early age. I say identified rather than diagnosed because it was my mother who recognised the signs. I gave my parents a painting I made, with a written dedication upon the canvas. The dedication was written backwards. I remember being very upset about this because I had thought long and hard before writing the dedication, trying to figure out which way the words went. Since my grasp of left and right has always been very tenuous, though I could recall that the words were supposed to flow from left to right, I chose the wrong left from which to begin writing.

School helped me with learning how to write correctly, but it posed many new problems. Dyslexics are prone to being easily distracted. A busy, noisy classroom is not conducive to concentration. Zoning out chaos is a necessary tactic, but this means that everything is zoned out, including the teacher. I remember once being kicked out of class by a very angry teacher because she had asked me to do something and I had not heard her, in exasperation she sent me out into the corridor to study the text she had been asking me to read. I was very upset, this teacher was a very good, caring and patient woman, and to have incurred her wrath meant that I had been very bad. This event was a blessing in disguise, in the quiet of the corridor, I was able to focus my attention on the work at hand, when I was allowed back in to the classroom I had memorised the text and my teacher was pleased and relieved, she was also apologetic.

I suffer from excruciating shyness, part of that is due to my dyslexia. Communicating with other people is very difficult. It takes an extraordinary amount of effort. Sometimes I don't have the energy or the will to make the effort. I think mostly in images and impressions. A picture holds more information for me than a pile of words. A smell, sound, or flavour has more meaning than the description of the smell, sound, or flavour. A shiver is more expressive than the word itself. An example of this is, if I smell a rose, an image forms in my mind of a sunset, a warm glow, and a hint in the air of the night to come. That is how my mind creates an idea of the rose and its scent. If a person were to ask me, as I was smelling the rose, what the rose smells like, I would have to translate my idea of it into words. First I would have to assemble words together, then I would need to edit them, distributing them in the correct order, and, once I felt that I had a suitable verbal description, I would have to speak the words out loud. The process takes time, and usually, by the time I am ready, the person has moved on, both mentally and often physically too. They have also probably formed a bad opinion of me, I have been accused of being rude, of having a superiority complex, and any other affront that the person may feel that I inflicted upon them. This is hurtful to me, I do not like to cause distress in others, as I am well aware of how painful it is, but hurrying up my mental process has equally disastrous consequences. When I rush myself, I blurt out a bunch of nonsensical words, and people on the receiving end think I am crazy, delirious, and a nuisance. The pain of constantly being shunned by others who do not understand me has led me to create a file in my mind of stock answers to call upon when dealing with impatient people. So now, if someone asks how a rose smells, I simply say 'delicious' or something to that effect, it makes life easier and more pleasant because I have responded in the way that was expected of me, thus pleasing the person. It can be frustrating doing this because I feel it is a dishonest interaction, I have so much more I want to say, but I am hiding behind a platitude.

I do not suffer too baldy from my dyslexia where reading is concerned, which is a blessing, I adore reading, escaping into the fantasy world held within the pages. However, I do read very slowly, letters have a tendency to dance around on a page, swapping places with each other, and I often have to read and reread a sentence many times over before I actually understand the words and what is being said. My attention wanders, especially when a writer uses too many adjectives to describe an object, room, character etc. I have already formed an image in my mind of the thing involved and the extra information clogs up my thinking. My solution is to skim, stopping here and there to read more thoroughly if I see something that needs the extra effort. This is fine where books, magazines, and the like are concerned, but it becomes a gargantuan task with contracts, forms, and other legal documents. People who don't have dyslexia find legal jargon hard to fathom, so for a dyslexic it becomes utter gobbledygook… perhaps that is a good way for a non-dyslexic to experience dyslexia and gain some understanding of the condition.

Writing is something I do with relative ease. I enjoy it because it allows me to express all the things which are going on inside of me, which I would never be able to express through speech. Spelling is often an issue, but with Spellcheck this becomes less of an issue - although when UK English meets US English my brain does wobble a bit on the brink of meltdown. Then I remind myself that the spelling does not matter as long as I know what I am saying, and anyone who happens upon my written words can also catch the gist of them. One thing you will find in my writing is a lot of repetition. Of words and ideas. There are two reasons for this. The first is that I form friendly bonds with certain words, their meaning takes on imagery, for feelings and ideas, they express a panoply of things to me, so I use them frequently. 'Lovely' is one of those words. My friends are probably tired of hearing the word because I use it so often, but they are all very lovely people and forgive me my quirks. Sometimes too, the sound of a word will intrigue me and it will get lodged in my brain, repeated over and over like a mantra. Those are the times when I am certain that I am trying to drive myself completely insane. The second reason is that I developed a very irritating habit of repeating something I have said three times, sometimes more, to be certain that the person I was talking to had heard me and understood. I try to stop myself from doing this now, but it is so ingrained that I do it without knowing I am doing it.

The area where my dyslexia is at its worst is with numbers. They are a nightmare to deal with on so many levels. They never stay still. They like to shape shift. '3's become 'E's. '9's & '6's are the same number, and they both regularly become 'g's, 'b's, 'd's, and 'p's. I have this problem with letters too, 'M' & 'W' are interchangeable, but with numbers it reaches critical level. It is important to work with numbers to manage finances, to communicate via the telephone, I cannot count the amount of times I have messed up a phone number, and to make measurement calculations amongst other things. As soon as someone uses a measurement to describe something to me, my mind goes blank. They could be speaking Elvish as far as I am concerned. When I do my finances, it takes a long time, and I usually have a horrific migraine at the end of it, which can only be cured by darkness, sleep, and incredibly strong medication.

Time is another dyslexic mystery. It is an abstract concept, and holds no sway whatsoever over the dyslexic mind. Wearing a watch makes me panic, so I only use one when I have to be at an appointment. My entire day will be devoted to the appointment, as the slightest distraction will cause me to forget about it and miss it. Timed tests are torture. I took a timed IQ test once. Needless to say I did not finish it, and was not highly graded for it. I was average, which is good, but curiosity pushed me to take an untimed IQ test. Not one with the same questions, that would have been cheating, and very boring. My score was elevated from my previous one. I am not a genius. I know that. Though many geniuses have been identified as being dyslexic, it is not necessarily the case with everyone with dyslexia. The problem with timed tests is that the questions need to be read and answered very quickly. With dyslexia, reading quickly leads to errors of perception. Answering quickly can lead to mistakes, which would not happen in a timeless scenario.

Recently I met a man who had just taken a test for dyslexia, and had been diagnosed as a sufferer. I used that word because he described it that way. He saw the diagnosis as an excuse for never having to make an effort at anything anymore because he had a socially recognised disability. That annoyed me. I wanted to punch him. Dyslexia is a challenge, but within the challenge lie many gifts. The best resource for information about the positive side of dyslexia is The Gift of Dyslexia - Why Some of the Smartest People Can't Read and How They Can Learn by Ronald D. Davis. It is written by a person with dyslexia for people with dyslexia. He also has a website with enough information to cover all your questions and needs concerning the matter… although the website could be a bit more friendly to dyslexic eyes. I will forgive him that because his book was tremendously useful to me in helping me to feel less awkward and more confident about having dyslexia.

There is so much more I could say about a subject which is such an intricate part of my life, and which I have great affection for, but if you, like me, have dyslexia and are reading this, then your mind has already wandered many times, and the effort to keep it focused to get to the end has been Herculean. I appreciate it. Thank you. The End.

Jennifer Day

The Artist Known as The Minx, She's Chronically At Home

Nadine (On Twitter: @TheOnlyMinx)
Living with:
- Depression
- Fibromyalgia
- Chronic fatigue
- Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS)

 The Artist Known as The Minx, She's Chronically At Home

I have an alarm clock by my bed, even though I can count the number of times I've needed to use it on one hand in the last seven years. Many people may consider this to be a luxury, being able to sleep until my spirit or my cat awakens me, I don't think of it this way. In fact, it has taken me a long time to accept that I most likely will never work as a librarian again, even though I still have to pay off $13,000 in student loans for my Master's Degree in Library and Information Science. I'm one of many people with a chronic illness, mine is a combined mix of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS), who can not work; so we adapt our lives to be the fullest possible while we are chronically at home.

My day starts slowly, as I urge my stiffened and achy body to get out of bed and eat breakfast. The temptation to stay in bed is strong-- as many nights are spent restless, or the muscle relaxers that stop the spasms in my neck and shoulders leave me very tired and mentally slow. I am lucky, my husband has already fed my cat, Zoe Luna, so she does not need to stand on my head to demand her breakfast. I stretch for a bit, then shuffle into the kitchen to make my "Super Extra Doctored Up Oatmeal". I also take my morning medications and vitamins, along with a can of Red Bull. The caffeine is a very much needed thing for me, otherwise I may fall asleep right into my oatmeal bowl.

I move along with my routine, cleaning up the kitchen and cleaning up myself. I dress very comfortably, generally keeping my clothes loose. Many days the feel of clothing on my sensitivity-heightened skin is torturous, so no itchy fabrics or items that are too tight for me. I'd prefer to be naked (maybe I can talk my husband into moving into a Nudist Colony, at least for the warm weather months), but then I tend to forget that I'm not wearing clothes and have had way too many close calls with Jehovah's Witnesses almost catching me "au natural".

Before I do anything further, I generally check-in with friends on Twitter. Social Media has been an amazing lifeline for me. I've been able to become friends, close friends, with so many Chronically Awesome people, and this has become so important. I can explain what fibromyalgia and CFIDS is to non-Chronically Awesome friends, using the usual "Imagine that you have the flu, with all of the tiredness and add to that shoulder pain so severe that you want to cry" metaphors, but there is truly no substitute for someone who really understand what you are going through. I then clean out my e-mail and check on various blogs. I also use this time to do some stretching and gentle yoga so my muscles loosen up a bit for the day. If the weather is good, I go outside for a walk. It's so important for me to get out of the apartment, see the world outside and catch up with my neighbors.

After that, I continue my work on organizing the apartment. This is in addition to the usual jobs of laundry, dishes, sweeping and so on. I am the biggest offender with regards to clutter, I will admit it. The main challenge is that I love to create art, all kinds of art, from jewelry making to mixed-media collage to ArtJournaling. All of this creativity requires a TON of supplies, with the collage being the worst offender. Just about anything can be used in a mixed-media collage piece, so I save lots of rather strange items like aluminum foil, old hardware, fabric, trim, paper of all kinds, magazines for pictures. I try to spend at least an hour or so each day, with breaks, in weeding and organizing my art supplies. Of course, there is also clothing to be tried on and sorted, since I have lost some weight over the winter (it wasn't by choice, I've called it The Doom and Depression Diet). Again, I try to do some work on these projects as well. With all of this stuff to try to get done, the temptation to go beyond the limits of what my body can do is very real. My saving grace has been an ordinary kitchen timer. By using this handy item, I have an audible reminder to STOP so I don't have to spend the next day in bed.

My afternoons are simple, I generally nap for 2-3 hours with Zoe. I try not to go longer than that, otherwise I won't be able to sleep that night. Dinner is generally simple, my husband and I dance around our tiny kitchen to make dinner together. On the nights that he has to work, I grab a frozen dinner, add some veggies to the entree and make a salad. I'm not a huge snacker, but I adore any kind of ice cream that has chocolate and cherries.

By the time dinner is done, I'm generally done too. I may watch some TV or play with the art applications on my iPad. To end my day, I do some reading. If the book is excellent, I will stay up to finish it, so I try to keep the really good page-turners for daytime enjoyment. Then it's time for to curl up with Zoe in the bend of my knees and hope for a good night's rest.

I vowed to myself, when I was forced to retire, to make the best out of my life; and I've discovered that it is a day-to-day work of art. I need to be in intimate communication with my body so I know what I can do with my day and when I need to rest. Keeping in touch with friends, both on-line and in real life protects me from the isolation that can be more debilitating than my pain.

Being Chronically at Home has been a learning process for me. I've had to find my limits, know when I can try to push them a bit and when I should pull back and rest. But by far, the best thing that I have learned is to be content with my own company. That is a lesson that would have taken far longer to learn if I wasn't Chronically at Home, and it was one that I never anticipated, but it's the one that I cherish the most.

[Original Post Location: http://whatthejules.com/index.php/chronically-at-home/chronicallyathome/57-homeblogs/298-the-artist-known-as-the-minx-shes-chronically-at-home]

Upcoming Mental Health Month

We are now looking for stories to be posted in time for May 2012 Mental Health Awareness Month.
If you have a blog, or a story to share, please let us know!

We can post it right here on this blog OR we can add your blog to the Big Blog Hub.

Also check out the Mental Health Month Blog Party, we plan to be part of the even scheduled for the 16th of May, hosted by the American Psychological Association.


This is a new venture, to help those around the world share their stories, their lives, and in doing so help others.

Why did we decide to do this?

We have found through our own blog and writing that we have helped people understand our particular mental health issue, some have contacted us to let us know that what we write helps them understand a friend, or family member, dealing with similar issues. Some tell us that our words have helped them get through another day. Simply by sharing our lives we have inadvertently helped people. We want to do more.

We want more people to come together and share their stories, their art, and their writing. A place where people can come anonymously, or publicly.

If you struggle with mental health and have something you'd like to share, let us know. It can be poetry, a story, artwork. We want to form a collective of people to both share and help create this website.

Our planned launch date is May 2012. We realize this might not happen the way we want, but we can hope.