Trying Hard Enough | Lily Hood BA MSc - UK
Revisiting My Dyspraxia Through the Lens of an Adult Diagnosis
As a child, I was acutely aware that there was something wrong with me; I just didn’t seem to “get” things the way other children would. I couldn’t ride a bike, my dancing was clunky and unrhythmic, and even my walk was referred to as “strange”. My handwriting was illegible, and I had to attend extra sessions just to be able to write clearly. I would trip over my own feet on a regular basis, much to the amusement of those around me. It was little wonder that I thought no one took me seriously, and this proved to be a great source of my self-consciousness. Worse than any of these faults was my lack of explanation for them; I genuinely believed that they were a reflection of my character, that I was lazy, that I wasn’t trying hard enough, that I was simply worse than everyone else.
Of course, in retrospect, I know that that is all nonsense. When I first heard about dyspraxia at the age of seventeen, it was as though a veil had lifted inside my mind, and my consistent physical inaptitude suddenly made sense. It took six more years to receive a formal diagnosis, and for the first time in my life, I felt validated and understood. It did, however, leave the overarching question: how did this get missed during my childhood?
How was such an obvious case of dyspraxia, to the point where I had to receive additional fine motor support, not even considered? I can’t help but feel that if I knew I was dyspraxic from an earlier age, much of my self-consciousness and inward frustration would have been relieved.
I do wonder whether my educators thought that they were doing me a favour by not referring me for a diagnosis. There is a school of thought where diagnoses are considered as detrimental to an individual as it places restrictive labels on them instead of seeing them as a complex and multi-faceted human being. Although I can understand this approach, for many of us, a lack of diagnosis equates to a lack of reassurance, and the only way to feel validated for our life-long struggles is with a label such as dyspraxia. Without my diagnosis, I felt confused, insecure and frustrated, but now I feel validated and empowered, and I can be kind and forgiving to myself instead of holding myself accountable for every one of my defects.
It is hard to look back at my childhood and not recognise the vast impact that dyspraxia had on me. I think of being shouted at by PE teachers to stop being lazy and try harder. I think of getting picked last for every sports team, and being booed by my teammates after missing every single shot. I think of breaking down in tears in the middle of a netball court because I couldn’t catch the ball and everyone laughed at me. I think of losing every single race in sports day, and my best friend giving me one of her medals to cheer me up. I think of my friend’s dad teaching me how to ride a bike around her big, green garden, and I think of my parents coming to my terrible dance shows, camcorder in hand and smiles on their faces.
And then, I am reminded of how loved I really was, and how those around me supported me through all my hardships. Although I might have been an outcast in some places and situations, and although I had many considerable and noticeable physical deficits, I was wholeheartedly loved and accepted for who I was. It is now my responsibility to do the same for myself, to stop holding my childhood self to neurotypical standards and appreciate how much I achieved with an undiagnosed disorder. And despite always being told to try harder, even telling myself to try harder, I now understand that I was always trying as hard as I possibly could. I don’t hold any grudges for my lack of childhood diagnosis, and I most certainly don’t hold any grudges towards my younger self. Being able to acknowledge that I was doing my best with the neurological tools I had available has allowed me to make peace with my past, and with myself.