Opinion Self-identity


When I first realised I was Dyspraxic it was a huge eye opener to me, I began to view the things I found a daily challenge in a whole new light, the self-blame is attached to my struggle almost evaporated. For much of my life I lived it with a sense of victimhood. I felt every inch the victim, life did cruel things to me and it was a mindset I seemed to hold a lot of stock in.

Since self-diagnosing my Dyspraxia a little over 6 months ago I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make sense of it all and make sense of myself and the wider Dyspraxic community who I have engaged with online. Does my Dyspraxia make me a victim? Am I a ‘victim’ of Dyspraxia? My answer is no. Hopefully the metaphor that follows will explain why.

Let’s look at the Olympics. More specifically, let’s look at ‘running’.

Within running there a lot of different disciplines, 100m sprints which you may know well you’ve ever seen Usain Bolt run. If you’ve seen marathon runner Mo Farah run you’ll know the distance he runs is much, much further than Usain bolt – 27 miles in fact!

Next, you get a race called the hurdles where laid out in front of each runner are hurdles each participant has to jump before the final dash to the finish line.

We can all see that these three events are very different. One can sprint the whole race is around 10 seconds, the other takes literally hours due the the distance they have to run and the hurdler has to overcome obstacles laid out in their path.

Yet we never say, that Mo Farah is more of a victim than Usain Bolt because he has to run so much further. Ok, so the mataphor isn’t perfect as Usain and Mo choose to run in those types of races but I’m beginning to view my Dyspraxia as a type of race that is different to what most people run.

Let’s look at it this way, all runners no matter what type of race they run start the race, move forwards and then cross the finish line BUT what they have to do in between are fundamentally different. A 100m runner doesn’t have to worry about timing jumps of overcome hurdles like the hurdler does. As I say, fundamentally different.

Now you may be reading this and thinking, yes but it’s so unfair I’m Dyspraxic, well, if Dyspraxia is akin to a different type of race because it works different, let add to the picture – ‘society’ or the ‘outside world’.

To run with the metaphor, let’s pretend ‘society’ is a ‘fake news’ journalist who publishes a list of the race results but all that’s in the table is the name of the runner and their time. Absolutely nothing beside each name and time to show which type of race each runner did. You’ll have Usain Bolt with 10 seconds besides his name in the results table directly above Mo Farah with 2 hours.

The fake news journalist would have you believe that Usain Bolt was an amazing runner yet the two hour marathon runner was extremely slow. No acknowledgment that what the two runners were doing were entirely different races. We’d have the 200m hurdler’s race time on the list to but no mention that it was the hurdles that he ran – just that he ran.

The fake new journo tweets this ‘Runner’s race results league table’ and someone tweets back saying “errrm didn’t you realise that the hurdler had to jump over 12 hurdlers – of course he’s going to be slower than the 100m sprinters”. The journo tweets back with “what hurdles?? I didn’t see no hurdles??”. A random stranger tweets and says – “yeah, what hurdles??”, then another and another.

This is what it is like to be neurodivergent when no one will acknowledge that your brain works differently. The challenge is the same and a challenge you will succeed at, crossing the finish line, but what you have to do whether that be run a longer distance or jump over hurdles is different.

Society is like that journalist and like those tweeters, denying the existence of our hurdles and failing to acknowledge our differences. Judging us as poor runners when what we do is fundamentally different.

Every ‘race we run’ we can give 100% and achieve our personal best and pass the finish line. We have wonderful positives that come out of the way we experience life much like runners. A hurdler has to think and consider things that a 100m sprinter just doesn’t even have to consider, like jumping.

As a Dyspraxic I am not a victim, i can run my race , I can cross the finish line and I can achieve things and ‘finish times’ I never thought possible. Why it’s easy to feel like a victim is when that ‘journalist’ that is society is out in force denying our hurdles are real and viewing us as inferior when simply we are just different. Our hurdles are all different, some we can overcome through our own ingenuity, others we may require support to help us with.

No one goes up to a hurdler and says “what do you mean you want to learn how to jump?? Haha you need to jump! That 100m sprinter who does his run quicker than you and doesn’t need to learn to jump. He’s so much better than you.”No one says that. No one refuses to teach a hurdler how to jump knowing, they’ll need to jump for the type of race they are going to run.

Right now there are too many ‘hurdles’ out there who aren’t being taught how to jump and too many tweeters claiming they can’t even see those hurdles.

We are different, we are set up differently like the rules of a different race. We can run our race in record time and overcome massive hurdles. We can be brilliant at what we do but we need our hurdles acknowledged, we need people to accept that we didn’t choose to face the challenges we face everyday. We didn’t choose to be a hurdler and we didn’t choose to have to need to learn how to jump when others don’t need to.

We aren’t inferior. Just different. Dyspraxia doesn’t make us victims but in a world where our challenges aren’t acknowledged and existence of our hurdles are denied and the rules of our ‘race’ simply aren’t ‘public knowledge’, running our ‘race’ can be a unique experience.

This is my metaphor and I’m running with it.

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  1. Loved this article, found it to be really inspirational. Yet I must confess to still being angry in the brain life has served me out. And the fact that if I work hard and achieve extraordinary, too everyone else it would just be normal – as most people aren’t bothered to see all the things we had to go through along the way.

  2. Just advised on my dyspaxia, in my 60s, which is truly an eye opener yet doesn’t resolve the problems. I align with the reactions of understanding why in handsome, my lifelong struggles.
    How did I study for two degrees and can’t achieve the Monster’s as my dysplasia gets worse undiagnosed, unsupported to date. All those failures and time wasting and self hate.
    Can’t hold down jobs and everything in life falls apart despite accolades of brilliance.

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Pete Guest
Pete launched Dyspraxia & Life in October 2018 after discovering a community of people online just like him with voices to be heard and stories to be told. He was born premature with his twin and weighed 1.5lbs after his placenta stopped working and began starving in the womb. Despite his parents' best efforts to get him assessed for Dyspraxia in primary school, no one would listen and was told he would 'catch up'. Pete remains un-assessed. Pete is 32 and lives in Essex, recently wed and lives with wife and his very mischievous but ever-so cute dog Ted.
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