What Do You Mean?

My whole life I thought I was dumb, then, two months before my 21st birthday, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Happy birthday to me! It was probably one of the most confusing times of my life, not only because spelling dyslexia in itself was a massive challenge, but because of how long it took to come to terms with it.

I had never been a good speller, and almost failed Grade 4 because I didn’t know my timetables. I never got my pen licence, and to this day I still spell ‘because’ by saying “big elephants amble under small elephants”. I guess which ‘their’, ‘there’ or ‘they’re’ to use every time, and have no idea when you are actually meant to use commas. I have lost marks on every assignment I have ever done for spelling and grammar, and have a massive fear of libraries because the Dewey Decimal System scares me. I have to Google most hard words – for example, I didn’t know how to refer to the Dewey Decimal System, so I searched “the book order in libraries duodecimal” on Google, and found the term from there. I went on exchange to an American international school in India in Year 11 and was almost put in the English as a second language class because the struggle was real. I got into ANU feeling like an absolute fraud and somehow got through to second year university without anyone even questioning it.

Sure, I had teachers tell me that my spelling was wrong, but that was normally followed by, “If you stopped talking in class I’m sure you would be fine.” I would spend days proof reading assignments, only to get them back with red writing all over them and a comment along the line of, “this would have been great if you had proof read.” When I started Uni I would spend hours doing a single reading and not really getting it, but thought that was normal. I managed by avoiding doing any classes that had exams, and made sure to drop any classes that had lots of dates and names involved. Everyone I knew was aware I was a bad speller so it wasn’t really a big deal, at least until I started to venture into the big wide world of Canberra and it become more and more of an issue, and I become more and more self conscious. I always joked about being dumb, but the thought of people actually knowing I was dumb was daunting.

I don’t even really remember why now, but one night I Googled ‘dyslexia’ and it was like reading about my life, except for the fact that most people get diagnosed when they are kids. Months later, I mentioned it to my Dad, who kind of laughed about it and mentioned that he might have been diagnosed with dyslexia as a kid but he couldn’t really remember. DENNIS, DYSLEXIA IS HEREDITARY YOU DUMB DUMB. Anyway, it turns out I was dyslexic too.

To begin with I thought it was hilarious. I struggled to find an adult dyslexic specialist that could officially diagnose me, so I had to go to kids psychologist, which come on, is pretty funny. I also got given a book called “dyslexia; a gift” – firstly, who gives a book to dyslexic person, and secondly, dyslexia has got to be the worst gift ever.

So you can see how it was kind of funny to begin with. Then I got really mad. What sort of school doesn’t pick up on a kid having a learning difficulty? I had people that didn’t really believe me because I had gotten so far with my education. Mostly I was angry that nobody could help me. I did not want to have a disability.

Then I got really sad. I had spent all that time trying to hide that I was dumb just for it to be proven in an IQ test. I was so tired of trying and really just felt like giving up. I didn’t want it to be a big deal, but it was.

I now know that I am actually dyslexic, and now have to figure out what it really means. I’ve learnt that my brain has to work a lot harder than a normal person’s just to be able to read words from a sheet of paper. I found out my love of the colour yellow has to do with how my brain works.

Supposedly I am meant to be good at problem solving and big picture thinking. Most importantly, I’ve learnt that people don’t think I’m dumb just because I’m dyslexic. My friends have been amazingly supportive, classmates have helped me, and teachers have gone out of their way to give me assistance.

We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and emerging. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.