Broadcasting the Word

*raps* Guess who’s back, back again…

Yes, she’s back, she’s still alive (just about), and she’s having some pony therapy with her extended family down south. Just got back from a brief but lovely hack around the local farm; for those wondering, Josh is fine, but currently sporting the World’s Worst Haircut. Picture will not be forthcoming (yet, muahahaha…)

I’m still busy as hell, but I have got some good stuff stewing for when I have some more spare brain-space. So, what can we expect from the next few weeks? Well, I recently finished a book called “A Boy Made of Blocks,” about a boy with autism who learns to communicate with his family through playing Minecraft. As a borderline Aspie and a fellow player of Minecraft, I would highly recommend it, full review to come, probably later in the week. Still chipping away at that ‘Theory of Knowledge’ essay – I should not be complaining, I chose the title, I have nobody to blame but myself. Like I said in my last post, I’m not so good at abstract concepts, so there’ll be a bit on that, and why it’s so important for me to be able to fit things into boxes.

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But first things first – my stepmother listens to Radio 2 a lot, and I happened to catch the lunchtime’ Jeremy Vine’ show today while I was doing some work in the kitchen. It’s a show which covers relevant issues in the headlines, and invites both professional and viewer discussion, and it caught my ear this week because Paddy O’Connell (covering for Mr Vine) announced a special medical section on ‘dyspraxia.’

BBC iPlayer link (begins at 1:08:05)

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Paddy was talking to a medical professional, Dr Sarah Jarvis, and a woman called Charlotte who has dyspraxia herself (for the first section). On the whole, it was really lovely and quite respectful (aside from some unfortunate language use…’This dreadful condition of dyspraxia.’ Honestly, Paddy). I did also think Dr Jarvis took a bit of a patronising tone at times, but I’m looking at this from an informed insider’s perspective rather than a layperson who might know absolutely nothing, and she’s actually doing a very good job of explaining it in terms of someone who might never have heard of such a diagnosis. Let’s be fair here.

They focus a lot on the motor aspects of the condition, but I was very pleased that they included a section on how tough exams can be for us, because we have so much trouble organising our thoughts as well as ourselves. Charlotte told quite a humorous story about not being allowed to climb ladders because she couldn’t get down them again; I hate climbing on stepladders, I simply do not feel I can balance. Eating soup as well; Good Lord, it can be a struggle. Bread is such a saving grace when it comes to mopping up spills. She also spoke at length about always being picked last for sports teams. I never really cared all that much about sports, but I always thought that was because everyone thought I was weird, and it was quite distressing, on a personal level.

It’s so nice, so so nice, to know that these experiences are basically universal. We are a small but interesting community.

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We’re still focusing on the negative though; plenty of the people calling in were talking about losing jobs, being considered weird, never learning to drive a car or ride a bike. What happened to the rest of it? The differences in how we see people, and the world, the creativity and diversity of our voices? The doctor, the presenter, even some of the guest callers took a very negative view of the condition, focusing on its limitations and the negative impact it can have on children and adults, how hard it can be for us.

This isn’t to do down the people who do find it very difficult – there are people out there who are more profoundly affected than I am. I was lucky in that I was a very physical child and did a lot of physical activities including bike-riding and horse-riding, which let me practice co-ordination. Horse-riding is used as a therapy technique for children with conditions such as cerebral palsy, it’s amazing for co-ordination skills. But I recall saying to someone, long before I even knew dyspraxia was a word, that while I could balance perfectly on a horse (I have a very good seat and I’m very hard to dislodge, even when the horse is corkscrew-bucking), I could not do the same on the ground. Slow, careful, and fumbling on the ground, absolutely unstoppable in the saddle. Funny, that.

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 I suppose the point Dr Jarvis is trying to make is, it’s a lot easier with a diagnosis. Dyspraxia is one of the most underdiagnosed developmental conditions there is, and being teased for just being ‘clumsy,’ or ‘weird’ or ‘disorganised’ or ‘stupid’ (I heard that one a lot) can make it a very negative experience. As a young and confused child, it is very distressing and can very much colour your view of your condition. I was diagnosed at 21, some people aren’t diagnosed until 35, some get lucky and are diagnosed at 5. With a diagnosis, one has a new awareness of why this is happening, and we can start developing coping strategies for dealing with these difficulties, no matter what age we are. And this is true of any condition; dyslexia, autism, dyscalculia, even things like depression and anxiety as well.

Of course, if we don’t have an awareness, we can’t give the diagnosis.

“Aren’t I lucky that I don’t [have dyspraxia]?” is also a really unhelpful phrase, doctor. Let’s try and promote understanding, rather than creating an ‘us and them’ mentality, yeah?

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So, we’ll finish with a word from Mr O’Connell himself:

“Dyspraxia; learn what it is, and stop taking the mickey!”

Stay awesome, Internet!

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Horse and rider

 

Meet Josh

Meet Josh.

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In the end, it came down to a choice between my mental health and the love of my life.

Those who know me will know that 2011 was a Bad year all around for me. I fell in love for the first time…and then was unceremoniously thrown out of it. My parents finally admitted that they needed to separate, ending a 30-year marriage. Exam results the previous year which had been a lot worse than anticipated meant I was in danger of not passing my A-Levels; not to the standard required for uni anyway. My depression kicked itself into high gear, partly as a result of this but also partly because it had been stewing for two years; eventually that sort of thing boils over and sticks the pan to the stovetop. It’s not pretty.

In the end, had it not been for Josh, that attempt on my own life might have been successful.

A lot of people mistake Josh for my boyfriend when I first tell them about him. He isn’t – he’s my horse. Specifically, a bay hunter-type, 17.1hh mountain of pure attitude. I’ve had him since I was 15. After we lost one horse to early retirement and another to a jumping accident, I wasn’t sure I was ready; a month with Josh and I was positive I was!

In the end it was a simple leap of faith.

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The thing about owning a horse is the routine; horses love it. We give them an ultimately unnatural life. We keep them in a stable or a field with a finite amount of grazing and no way of travelling on to another when the grass gets too low. We ask them to do things with themselves that would never occur to a horse living and running wild. We ask them to trust us totally and as a result they are fairly dependent on us. The horse is a magnificent creature of more brain than you might think. But giving them a routine helps them to relax in this life that we give them, which means we, as their owners and carers, must stick to this routine. Having this responsibility means that I couldn’t simply give up and curl up into a ball under my covers and stay there for ever, as I wanted to. It meant I couldn’t kill myself when I wanted to. When there was nothing left, there was Josh; my responsibility. My anchor to the real world.

In the end, Josh saved my life.

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When I first went to university back in 2011, I wanted to take Josh with me. A quick check of my finances showed this to be impossible. Keeping a horse with a full time job is difficult enough, let alone at university with no car, no money and even less time.

I almost didn’t leave.

Sheffield is a long way from where I grew up. But where I grew up was now a toxic environment for me. And the only thing to do in a toxic environment is; get out. (I can see some people reading this and rolling their eyes, saying ‘it’s not that simple.’ No, it’s not, but that doesn’t mean you should stay regardless).

In the end, my mental health came first.

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I missed Josh like someone had physically taken one of my ribs, shoved it into my heart and left it there. For years, I felt guilty about that choice. Questioning if it was the right one. Abandoning my responsibilities is not something I’m ever comfortable with. But I knew I could no longer live at home, not safely. By the point I moved away I was in therapy, but entering therapy does not mean automatically all your problems are solved. And really, there was no future for me in Essex. So I left him, and I hated myself for it. I was scared; so scared he’d forget me, or hate me for leaving, or suffer missing me.

Five years on, there is not one iota of me that regrets the decision.

In the end, it was the right choice.

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Josh is still around; he’s happy. My Dad and his new partner (who is as horse-mad as I am, if not more so) do a marvellous job of taking care of him – and their three other horses. He’ll never be alone or unhappy. He has his ‘herd.’ He has a routine, a relaxing life in his old age. I see him every time I have the chance to go down. He’s never forgotten me; everyone from my father to the lady who runs the livery yard tells me when I’m around he acts like a completely different horse (yes, ego boost alert, hush). Simply because I have my own life now doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about him. Even my partner has met him, and had a ride.

(He confessed afterwards he was more nervous about meeting Josh than meeting my parents. Mad children that we are).

Some things change as we grow. I am not the person I was in 2011 when I first left home, and whoever is up there looking after me, I thank you every day for it. My connection to Josh, and a love of horses in general, however, is something that will always be a part of me.

In the end, I found myself, and never lost him in the process.

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And in the words of Taylor Swift; “Somehow that was everything”