Reading and writing are a great passion for me, and if I had $ 10 for every time other accomplished or aspiring writers have said “I always wanted to write”, I'd be laughing all the way to the bank. Voracious readers, they'll have many happy childhood hours creating stories. So how come I avoided reading whenever I could and I never wrote anything down without I absolutely had to? Despite the fact that I have a fertile imagination and have always loved a good story, all my life reading and writing have been associated with feelings of guilt, shame, confusion and humiliation. But all this changed when I discovered something that made me feel like I was walking into the light from a long tunnel for the very first time. I was euphoric as I realized I'm not lazy, I'm not dim or stupid … I'm dyslexic! I was 46 and the weight of the world began lifting from my shoulders. A crucial piece of life's puzzle puzzle fell gently into place as my brain freed itself to feel the passion. But how could it have taken so long?
As a child at school, my parents were told I was vivid and intelligent but had poor concentration. I was slow in learning to read and in number work but teachers never raised concerns about my ability. They said I was lazy – so I believed them. As I grew older, my parents' frustration with my lack of academic progress was palpable. My school reports used the same old clichés: “Jacqui must try harder”; “… not concentrating on her work,” invoking the same old cold, clammy feeling down my back.
Pages that should have contained my writing remained steadfastly empty and I found it difficult to express myself, verbally, without emotional outbursts of unintelligible nonsense. I could not find the words to explain that I had tried my hardest but for some reason I simply could not take in what my teachers wanted me to learn.
I left school and went to train as a dance teacher. I married and spent many happy years bringing up my children; but although I always encouraged my children to read, I felt a fraud. The house was full of books but I could not bring myself to read them. I was conditioned to think of this as laziness and told myself that I was just too busy to read.
I discovered I had a flair for management but as I took on jobs with more and more responsibility, I had a monkey on my back as my constant companion. If anyone passed me something to read I would mumble something about looking at it later. My embarrassment and humiliation were so powerful, I was simply incapacitated of reading anything when someone was watching me.
It was not long before I encountered the proverbial glass ceiling and realized that I would have to get an academic qualification, so I took a deep breath and started a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). Because of the excessive work load and time commitment needed, we were advised that everything else in our lives should be stable. No changing jobs or moving house. Me? Oh, I went through a divorce and remarriage, two changes of job and moved house three times. But, I managed to scrape through, got my Masters and basked in the glory of having finally done something with my brain.
MBA under my belt, I resumed my rise through management; but I still felt that monkey on my back. I could not expose myself to the ridicule of admitting I had problems understanding written texts or dealing with numbers; and the elaborate masquerade continued. Until, that is, I came across a book titled “The Gift of Dyslexia”. I was intrigued because I had always thought of dyslexia as a learning disability but as I began to read, I discovered a complete and accurate description of … me. Lights were flicking on in my brain as the realization dawned. I no longer had to search for excuses because I had an explanation. Not only was I not stupid, I was a genius for getting this far. I had developed complex and effective coping strategies that had allowed me to function. I had positively thrived, against all the odds. There's nothing wrong with my brain, it's just wired differently. Information has to be reprocessed into a form that I can understand.
This exciting and liberating moment heralded a change in my whole outlook. I heaved the monkey off my back and began the slow climb out of the world of guilt and shame. I discovered that Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill had been dyslexic. I discovered that many successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, such as Richard Branson, are dyslexic. They tend to be maverick. They do not conform.
So, why is dyslexia a gift? Because a person with dyslexia is strong, resilient, resourceful, insightful, empathic, intuitive, perceptive and creative. We see the world from a different perspective to most, and that makes us more rounded and better able to cope with life. I have succeeded, against all the odds but can see why it causes behavioral problems. As a child I was shouting in the wind. I simply did not understand information because of the way it was presented. Charged with passion and emotion, but unable to express it in a way others could understand. It's a simple step from there for a child, or an adult, to vent their frustration.
Now, I no longer feel the need to prove myself to anyone, least of all, myself. I understand why I do not understand. I have discovered the joy of writing. Finally, I am able to express myself, creatively and without fear of humiliation. I have written my story for others to discover, share and dispel myths and misinformation about this all too common condition. Life has given me a gift and now I feel the freedom to express myself … and am doing so.