Where Do I Start?
By Knat Miller| Published on May 10, 2021 | 7 Minute Read
So, over the last month I’ve started out on a journey to learn about myself. After a year of living in Covid-19 lockdown on my own, I finally felt ready. Ready to self-reflect and ready for self-discovery. The recent part of my journey isn’t going to be the subject matter discussed here. That part of my journey is still so new, I don’t fully understand it yet.
This is going to explain where my journey started-the foundation which led me to the point where I can use the techniques which were (unknown to myself) distilled into me throughout my journey, allowing me to navigate my recent paths.
I grew up in a small town in the North East of England, in a working-class family. It was a happy home. I went to my local school and did regular kid things. However, something in my behavior raised some question for my mum. Now I wish I could ask her what these signs were, but it didn’t feel like an important question until recently and now it’s not a question I can ask.
These questions my mum raised triggered a process. It’s a process I don’t really have any memory of, but I do have distinct memories of the actions the results led to.
In my final years of Primary School, so in the UK that’s age 10/11, three times a week I would be picked up in a taxi and taken to a school a few towns away. Here, along with a small group of other kids my age, we’d be taught different ways to tackle learning. We all had something in common to some degree, we had all been diagnosed with dyslexia.
All in all, this was a great experience. I’d be lying if I said I could recall the things we did, but my one outstanding memory is meeting my first kindred spirit, Dan. We connected and helped each other through the minefield that is school.
To continue my support for dyslexia, my mum lied to a small school in a nearby town. This was the school Dan attended when we weren’t in our special classes together. But, more importantly, it was the feeder school for the smallest secondary school in the area. The smallest secondary school with the best dyslexia support structure.
This was a great move by my mum! It meant I had a very happy school experience. If I was at a different school, I feel my school experience may have been an entirely different state of affairs, with my ‘quirky’ nature.
Now here comes the curve ball. In our final years at secondary school, Dan and I both asked to be removed from any special support system. We found it disrupted our daily school routine and made life harder. I guess, in reflection, I didn’t like the spotlight being thrown on me when I had to leave certain classes early or miss them completely.
With lots of hard work, Dan and I graduated school with good grades and went onto college. This is where things took a turn for me.
Sooooooo college. With college I went from high grades and sense of belonging, to struggling to even understand what I was meant to do on a daily basis.
The assignments were ambiguous and lacked obvious instruction. I just didn’t know what I was doing or what was expected of me. I felt every class was like decoding a matrix with no obvious start pattern.
I followed conformity and scraped through enough points to be accepted to university via Clearing (Clearing matches applicants to university places that are yet to be filled. It's available to anyone who has made a UCAS Undergraduate application and doesn't hold any offers) to a Multimedia Design and Digital Animation course on the other side of the country.
It was 3 years of misery. I felt alone and continued to struggle to understand what was asked of me for my course. This was even more frustrating as I understood the art of Digital Animation and especially Multimedia Design. Why is it that institutions and big corporations feel the need to speak in an ambiguous manner????
So, with a 2nd rate degree under my belt, what did I do? I decided to go back to college. This time I chose a more vocational course. It was like a door unlocking and bright light came shining through. Suddenly, education made sense again.
I excelled! I even got my first job, which was huge for me. Employment was something I was so scared of, but I did it. In reflection, like so many things, the job made sense for how my brain works. It was super logical. I worked in a Video, well DVD store, where I inputted numbers of DVD’s going out and DVD’s coming in, did weekly checks on the stock to make sure nothing had gone missing and matched up new DVDs to the renting system. In a lot of ways, it was like therapy… minus the customer interaction, but you have to take the rough with the smooth.
I graduated my AVCE in Art and Design top of the class and this time I had my pick of the litter when it came to my do-over of university. This time I stuck close to home and applied for both Graphic Design and Fine Art at the local University. I got unconditional offers for both courses, but I didn’t know which to choose. Graphic Design has a more stable financial future but Fine Art, that’s 3 years of hard work with a large undertone of therapy.
I assessed it for the whole summer, but eventually, the morning of the first day of school, I got up and reported to where my heart told me to go. It was the first day of my Fine Art Degree.
In my 2nd year came the dreaded dissertation talk. This time I decided I was going to take any help on offer for someone with a history of dyslexia. Now, because I had stopped all help in secondary school, any evidence of my diagnosis of dyslexia was out of date and not applicable. So, for the second time in my life, I entered the assessment process.
This time I remember everything, from the online assessment, to the all-day classroom testing and especially being pulled to one side at the end of the day and asked back for a secondary test, this time for dyspraxia. I often wonder what the guy saw that day to suggest that secondary test, but he was right. That secondary assessment told me I am dyspraxic and it had never been picked up on. This was a major light bulb moment-the lack of co-ordination and poor spatial awareness all made sense all of a sudden. I just thought I was a bit clumsy and did things in my own unique way… nope, it turns out my brain’s a bit upside down.
Taking those assessments and accepting the help led to a much better University experience. I’m glad I finally swallowed my pride and let myself do that.
The Beginning of The End:
So, after I graduated uni, I moved into my working life. I opted, like so many others in my area , for a job in a Call Centre. Some might look at this choice and think ‘why?’ especially after so many years in education and getting 2 art based degrees. It wasn’t an easy choice, but it was an important step of my journey.
I started off working for a catalogue ordering company, basically number inputting. It was easy, and my brain liked it. I felt self-conscious and shy talking to customers, but the phone gave me a mask to hide behind.
I moved on from my original Call Centre to a bigger company, where I worked in Advanced Mobile Phone tech support. I enjoyed this, as it was logical technical mysteries that I got to solve. As the business expanded, the focus was put more on achieving statistics, and I began to struggle.
My manager at the time knew me and knew I was more than just a statistic on a page. That I cared about helping customers and I was an asset to the team. He pushed me to go down the route of needing more leeway to do my job, because of my dyspraxia and dyslexia. The job did have a large amount of form filing and reading, so it was justified.
At first, the business was hesitant and said they couldn’t take my existing assessment, so they would need to conduct their own assessment-which would be quite the cost to the company. We stood our ground and pushed for this, and it finally happened. I had to travel over an hour to the assessment facility and the assessment was the most intense I had ever had. Once it concluded, the woman conducting the assessment told me it was normal to feel exhausted after such testing and I should go home and rest.
It took a long time for the results come back and when they did it told me mostly what I already knew- that I had dyslexia and dyspraxia. Then, there were lots of other words that all together told me I was also autistic.
I was 36 years old at this point and was stunned this had never been picked up before. At the time, I remember being angry and scared, but slowly when I started to reflect it made so much sense. My sensitivity to sounds, smells and touch. Noticing the smallest movement or detail in something visually and becoming obsessed with it. The pulling and pushing of the skin on the heel of my hand when I start to feel uncomfortable, to calm myself down….. the list could go on.
Once these pieces fell into place, it actually made me feel more comfortable being me.
My mindset changed and I began to see my over sensory issues as a gift, instead of a burden. With my ‘Spidey Senses’ as I call them, I can pick up and see things others don’t and I like that. I often have to remind myself that not everyone is gifted with this and I have to be understanding of that.
I try to use my powers for good. I mean, trust me, things can still get very stressful and frustrating, but I know why now! It’s because I am who I am, and what I am makes me, well...me! I am 100% ok with this so you should be too!
About the Author
My names Knat *waves*
I was late in life diagnosed with Autism. I am still working out how to navigating life. I find Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Lego to be the best therapy and keeps my mind on track.
I'm usually the quite one in the room taking everything in.
I love being creative and hope to always inspire.