I am not sure how I learn. This is probably a weird thing to say. I failed school a lot – especially traditional school. I didn’t do well at University either. When I was made to apply what I knew in some way with clear instructions I was able to do it and to help others to do it – I was a social learner stuck in a system where I was expected never to help. One thing I am certain of now is that I learn by teaching. I am also someone who needs novelty constantly. I need to be doing new things, or figuring out a way to make things new because nothing tunes me out more than repeating myself.
There is no doubt in my mind now that if I had been tested as my mother was told to do when I was young and at school – I would have been ‘intellectually disabled’. I have dysgraphia, dyscalculia and I am fairly certain that I have dyslexia as well. I am uncoordinated – I have dyspraxia.
I had myopia (near-sightedness) and astigmatism (I got this through blunt force trauma to the eye by my bullies – it was always the right eye they punched – I am nearly unable to wear contacts). These issues were not diagnosed until I was fourteen.
I have aphantasia (no mind’s eye) but I am not sure if this has always been the case. Do you know what it’s like having to remember people who you can’t visualise – and yet I don’t have prosopagnosia. I have figured out a way to identify people – I can’t see them in my mind – but I implicitly know their faces… somehow – and usually with better accuracy than other people I know.
I have cobbled together so many coping mechanisms for all these drawbacks. I had a speech impediment that meant I couldn’t say my own name properly. Honestly my name is a phonetic nightmare for a little kid.
There’s no doubt in my mind that I am not traditionally “smart”. I have spikey as hell skillsets. One thing is true about me – I am voracious in the pursuit of what is interesting to me.
A monotropic mind is one that focuses its attention on a small number of interests at any time, tending to miss things outside of this attention tunnel.
I live in the now – more than I realised. My attention span is limited by ADHD making me want to do everything all the time. Sensory sensitivity flooding some neural channels. Over time I’ve trained my brain out of doing certain things. But they were still doing them – I just ignored my perception.
I had the wrong instruction manual for life. I have TOO MUCH attention – bottlenecked by my capacity to process this amount of input. I can train my brain in ways that seem incredible to me. If I talked about my capacity to alter my reality to most people they would lock me up, but I can just experience things differently.
The one thing I thought I lacked in my life appears to be one of my greatest strengths – persistence. Tenacity. A never ending drive to make up for all the things that were not made for me. I have overcome every challenge that life has thrown at me.
Do you know what it’s like finding out that your life is completely different to everyone else around you? While I share traits with people – I doubt there are many people on this planet who have the same experience as me.
Here’s a list of my challenges.
Cognitive (Thinking / Processing):
- Dyspraxia – motor coordination issues (issues of coordination of movement), speech issues
- Dysgraphia – issues with fine motor control and writing, grammar
- Dyslexia – issues with reading and writing – specifically spelling, word order. I learn by spatial formation rather than distinct lettering.
- Dyscalculia – issues with math acquisition, mental math is near impossible.
- Aphantasia – no visual memory, no mental imagery
- Time Agnosia – inability to perceive time
- Myopia/Astigmatism (Undiagnosed till 13 or 14) – near sightedness and lens distortion
- Photophobia – light sensitivity
- Eye contact issues – looking at peoples eyes is like staring into the sun
- Hypersensitivity to touch – clothing tags frustrate me, light touch causes my skin to crawl.
- Hyposensitivity to pain – I don’t feel things that really hurt at all.
- Crohn’s disease – a gut condition that causes inflammation
- Food textures are extremely sensitive.
- Hyperacusis – extreme sensitivity to sound
- Misophonia – emotional reaction to certain sounds
- Tinnitus – ringing in the ears
- Audio delay – intermittent amount of time, can often perceive it instantly – often it can be delayed hours.
- Hyperosmia – sensitive smelling
- Supertaster – extremely strong sense of taste
- Cold insensitivity
- Heat extreme sensitivity
- Bad at detecting need to urinate
- Hyperempathy – feel other people’s emotions at a physical level even if not interacting with them.
- Anhedonia – inability to feel joy (I can feel it from other people due to hyper empathy but I cannot do it on my own)
- Intermittent Alexithymia – sometimes when I am in extremely stressful situations I just shut down my ability to process emotion so I can do stuff. I go from feeling everything to feeling nothing – the best description I’ve seen of this is the ‘humanity switch’ from Vampire Diaries. When my emotions reboot – I have to feel all the emotions that were delayed intensely and at the same time – it’s exhausting.
So… how did I learn? Mimicry and just brute force, teaching others, training myself to learn new ways to do things.
At some stage I will pick these all apart, but for now I am just taking a moment to celebrate me. I did so much. I fought against so much.
I could die now “happy” because I at least know why life was so hard for me. I finally have peace… some peace in a mind of endless thoughts.