Friday 12 January 2018

Dyslexia Blog - Anger issues - Coming to terms with dyslexia

Dyslexic musings from a 9 year  old Rog T
For those of you who haven't read my dyslexia blogs before, here is a little preamble and introduction, so you know who I am and what I do and why I write this stuff. For those of you who know the story, skip to the end of the paragraph for todays installment. Let me give you a bit of Background so you know who I am and what I do. I was born in 1962. I didn't start talking until I was 4 years old (at all, not a single word). My parents thought I was deaf. My reading age at eleven was 5. When I was fifteen I started a rock and roll band called the False Dots, the band is still going strong. When I was 16 I started a business called Mill Hill Music Complex(although then it was simply called the studio), a rehearsal studio, as we had nowhere to rehearse. The business has grown into a very successful enterprise, one of Londons biggest and most well respected independent studios. We now have 16 studios and a music shop and also have a photography/video studio and a dance studio. I also have done IT work, mostly on a freelance basis since 1983. In 2012 I also moved into film production, producing two highly acclaimed documentary films, both of which had screenings at the House of Commons. When I was 31, a friend suggested I had a dyslexia test. To my surprise I was told I was moderately dyslexic. This made me interested in the subject. To my amazement, what I have learned over the years is that my lack of educational aptitude, my feelings of anger and injustice and the core of my personality have been formed by the fact I cannot read words in a linear fashion. In 2013, I have set one of my objectives to use this blog to let dyslexics know they are not alone, to suggest that people who think they may be dyslexic to get an assessment and to get people who have dyslexic children or siblings to understand the issues that they face.

I have a question for you (assuming you are dyslexic). Do you have anger issues? Dyslexia has thrown many challenges at me, but perhaps the most difficult are the issues around anger. Let me explain. Until I was in my 30's I did not actually know I was dyslexic. It should have been obvious to any vaguely qualified English teacher reviewing my schoolwork, but for reasons I can't quite fathom no one noticed or bothered to tell me. Actually, that's not quite true. I can remember my mother telling my father that she thought I may be dyslexic, when I was about ten. she said "He writes letters the wrong way round and his homework is awful". My Father said "He's just lazy". To me that made more sense. I wasn't really keen on being labelled as dyslexic. I thought this may involve being carted off to a special classroom at playtime for extra work. In some ways they were both right. I was probably both dyslexic and lazy. But apart from that, I had no clue.

In fact, the truth didn't emerge until the mid 1990's. I had realised that I have anger issues. This was affecting both my working and private life. Most of the time the anger was very internalised. I am not a violent person, but I could get very riled. A couple of events made me realise that I needed to talk this through. The worst was playing football. I was playing centre half and the opposing centre forward spent half of the game trying to rile me. At a corner, he trod on my foot and headbutted me as a ball came over. I realised that he'd it was a very sly action. I was extremely riled. A term we call red mist. I decided that the next time he got the ball I'd "do him". Shortly after, the ball broke between the two of us. We were both ten yards from it. I launched myself at the ball and the player as hard as I could. Being hit, studs first by fourteen stone of fat lump at 20mph is not good. As I had got the ball first, it was deemed a fair challenge. Sadly for the other player, he was carried off. A couple of months later, we played the same team, and the player was on the side on crutches. After the game in the clubhouse, I apologised. The guy said "no problem mate, the ball was there to be won, these things happen".  We shared a beer. He told me he was self employed and had been unable to work for two months, so was signing on. I felt absolutely awful. Up until that point, I'd felt highly pleased to have got the better in a physical battle. It dawned on me that such violent action had consequences. Because I had got the ball, everyone thought it was OK, but it really wasn't.

I also had an argument at work, with a colleague. The person in question had a very condescending tone and at the end of a meeting, I went to the pub and drank four pints to calm down. I had also split up with my partner (now wife) after a series of big rows about nothing. I always feel I am completely right, and somehow felt that this gave me cart blanch to be horrible. I realised I had to do something about this, as it was making me physically sick at times. I went and sought counselling for anger. I sat down with the counsellor and she asked me a few questions. The subject of school came up. I'd never discussed my real feelings about school. After about ten minutes she said "are you dyslexic?". I was quite surprised. What did this have to do with anything. She explained that many of the people my age, who had the same sort of feelings and experiences had turned out to be dyslexic. She explained that often dyslexics are quite bright and hard working, but are labelled lazy and thick. As a result, they end up with an ingrained sense of injustice. Anger is a fairly natural response to being put in a difficult situation. Being stuck in a class, where you do your best and the person in authority continually belittles you, and makes you feel inferior is a classic way to breed resentment and anger. I asked "How can that translate to trying to break someones leg on a football field?" She explained "You are conditioned to thinking that no matter what you do, you will not be treated fairly, therefore your brain has been programmed to react highly defensively. The referee did not give you the protection you felt you deserved, so your self preservation instinct said 'raise your adrenalin level and deal with the threat'".

I had three sessions. I then got assessed for dyslexia, and was found to be moderately dyslexic. I decided that I needed to learn more about the subject before I tried to address any issues. I was horrified to find that there really was very little on the subject. There are all sorts of theories on how to address the learning issues, but nothing at all on how to deal with the damage and baggage that people in their mid fifties carry around with them from the years of mental anguish and abuse that we endured at school. I googled "people damaged by dyslexia" and there is nothing offering help to deal with this.

There are websites that give adults pointers to the fact that they may be dyslexic. One I saw gave six tell tale signs

1. Avoid Reading

In order to hide their disability, those with dyslexia will often avoid any activities that involve reading—such as reading to themselves or aloud to others—as their struggles are a source of shame and embarrassment.

2. Slow Reading and Writing

If required to do tasks that involve reading or writing, those with dyslexia may take an unusually long time to complete them. When reading, this is often because a person will have to re-read sentences several times to fully understand. They may become tired or bored very quickly.

3. Poor Spelling

Dyslexia makes it challenging for a person to associate letters with the specific sounds they make, which can lead to poor spelling. This may cause tasks like taking notes and copying content to be difficult and frustrating.

4. Difficulty Planning and Organizing

Struggling to estimate the time required to complete a task makes planning very challenging for those with dyslexia. As a result, they may have issues meeting deadlines.

5. Difficulty Memorizing

Although people with dyslexia tend to have excellent long-term memory for experiences, locations and faces, they tend to struggle with memorizing sequences, facts or things they were not personally involved in.

6. Speaking Challenges

When speaking, someone with dyslexia may experience several challenges, such as struggling to retrieve the proper words. This may lead to frequent pauses in a conversation—where gaps are often filled with plenty of “ums”—or the use of words like “stuff” or “things” if proper names cannot be recalled.
I was quite intrigued by these tell tale signs. I have four out of six. I am good at planning and organising things. As a business owner and a member of various festival organising committees, I was actually quite surprised to see this on the list. It is something I have had to teach myself to do. I think I was lousy at this as a child. I'd never plan anything, but as an adult, I have to.

I also do not avoid reading. I quite enjoy it, truth be told. As I am moderately dyslexic, I guess I've overcome many of the challengers around this, although I am a slow reader.

My family would recognise some of these challenges as classic me. The speaking challenges. I didn't learn to speak until I was four years old. I often use "replacement words". If I say to my wife "is there any splongy in the fridge" she will know I mean pomegranite juice.

As for difficulty memorising, this is a classic. Perhaps the best example is that I even forget prayers such as The Lords Prayer, that as someone born and raised a Catholic, I've said thousands of times. At primary school, a teacher once asked me to recite it and called me evil when I couldn't.

The worst thing for me is public speaking. I cannot memorise speeches. I have learned that I simply have a crib sheet of words and prompts, to ensure I don't miss anything and I simply busk the rest. When my best friend died, I was asked to give the Eulogy. It was the most stressful thing I've ever done, as I was scared I'd simply crack up. It went Ok, but on a level of one to ten, stress wise it was a ten

As for poor spelling, autocorrect is a blessing for blogging.

I would add a seventh category to these. I would say "Do you get irrationally angry at random things?". I've spoken to several dyslexic adults my age and it seems to me to be as common as the six tell tale symptoms above. There are several things that are especially likely to trigger an irrationally angry response from me.

These are

A) Unexpected Loud noises - If I am somewhere quiet and relaxed and someone suddenly, deliberately makes a loud noise, I often feel incenses.  When I flat shared, I once punched a flatmate who thought it was funny to wake me up by blowing up a paper bag and making it go bang. I was incensed and I really couldn't see why everyone thought I was being a bit psychotic about it.

B) People not being respectful -  I may be a tad hypocritical here. I can wind people up, but if I see someone acting in a disrespectful manner to me or to anyone else, and they have a sense of smug supercilliousness thinking they can get away with it, I can see red mist. The worst case of this was when I was walking home and I noticed my elderly (now dearly departed) disabled elderly mother crossing the road on Mill Hill Broadway. She was walking using a stick. A young Jack The Lad character was frustrated because he was being held up. He wound down the window and barked at her "Hurry up, you should be in a home". I absolutely lost it, ran to the car, dragged him out and made him apologise. In hindsight, I may have been guilty of an assault. Several other bystanders saw what happened and were supportive of me, but I was so incensed I felt like killing the person. It is fair to say that I do not regret making the person apologise, but my anger scared me. I am not entirely sure that the affirmation that the bystanders gave me was entirely helpful. This isn't the only time I've reacted badly to such things, but it was clearly the one where I was most angry.

C) People blatantly lying. When people blatantly lie to me, I find it simply impossible to not get angry. I am sure that no one likes people telling them porkies, but I do react badly. Generally I will simply respond with a volley of abuse. Sometimes this has degenerated into very difficult situations and there are several friends I've fallen out with permanently when they have told pretty minor porkies.

I am sure that most people would react badly to most or all of the above. I do however feel that my experiences as a dyslexic at school in the 1960's and 70's made me have difficulty dealing with anger. What the anger management helped me do was deal with situations better. Where it works less well is where situations happen in a sudden and unexpected manner. The situation with my mother was one such incident. When there is a situation where anger is built up, I can now generally deal with it. Where there is a sudden explosion, it is far harder.

The reason I wrote this blog, is I am intrigued to know whether this is a common issue. The person I saw in the 1990's suggested that many people who'd seen her with anger issues were dyslexic, often undiagnosed. There are several behaviours that dyslexics display, such as liking to sit near exits and on the margins of public gatherings, not putting hands up to ask questions, not liking to stand out in a crowd, that don't seem to be widely recognised. Can anger issues be added to that list?

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