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Discovering Your Dyslexia as an Adult

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You’d think as an adult who has a hard time remembering what he read, I would have gravitated to audiobooks long ago. I haven’t. Instead, I keep a stash of highlighters for books nearby at all times. This way, I can come back to the parts that matter to me the most.

In September, I listened to my first audiobook. The author mentioned ways dyslexia made it challenging for him to run his business. By the fifth mention, a thought began to simmer. Was it possible that I had spent 49 years on the planet without knowing I too was dyslexic? Dyslexia, or so I’d thought, meant reversing letters and bad spelling. It turns out, there’s a lot more to it.

Truth Bombs

So, I started researching. Many of the attributes were like what I’d experienced my whole life or at least as far back as I remembered. How could I have missed all this? My inner cynic, whose priority is to call out bullshit, questioned the surreality. Was I looking for a connection to dyslexia as a cop out for my inability to perform certain functions? Did I need a scape goat for my ineptitude? Or, was I faking a disability so people could feel sorry for me or love me more? Since I’ve recognized my mind’s propensity for subterfuge, I question my motivations, even if it means getting mocked by my own thoughts.

. . .

I harkened back to my shaky relationship with education. The visceral anxiousness around tests and presentations was still on the surface. If it wasn’t for the art classes raising my GPA, I don’t know how I would’ve graduated. Next up on my dyslexic detective list were my grades. I found my university’s registrar’s office. Within three hours I had my transcripts from 26 years ago. It added up. My grades were as bad as I remembered.

Self, Meet Thyself

I continued searching for clues. That’s how I came across doctors Brock and Fernette Eide — dyslexia specialists. I read their book, then took their online assessment for good measure. And there it was. A 35 page report outlining my dyslexic profile, weaknesses and strengths. It was dead-on and akin to meeting a part of me for the first time.

. . .

I’m now rediscovering times where dyslexia kicked me down to size. There are too many incidents to count, since dyslexia doesn’t take days off. At the same time, I have no interest in litigating the past or running my life through a sliding doors exercise. My strengths, based on the report, sway towards interconnected, narrative rather than dynamic reasoning. Among the occupations under narrative reasoning are sales, marketing, coaching and litigation attorney. It’s coincidence, kismet or dumb luck. Why? Because, I sell and market antitrust solutions to litigation attorneys for a living. This is where the anonymous quote “I did it because I didn’t know I couldn’t” is so fitting.

Feeling is Believing

As an invisible disability, dyslexia isn’t your classic homewrecker. Yet, it can shred someone’s life without them realizing why. Many face the same issues: Low self-esteem, lack of confidence, poor self image, shame, suicidal ideation, embarrassment, anger, inexplicable fear, constant anxiety, panic attacks, bullying, bad memory, lack of focus, inability to build relationships, depression, difficulty adjusting to change, perpetual confusion, lack of self-awareness, isolation and PTSD.

One could argue that these feelings are not exclusive to the dyslexic community. True. The difference being, undiagnosed dyslexics face these emotions without context. We don’t know that a correlation between dyslexia and these issues even exists. So, we internalize the pain and live with it. Some of us become hardened by the learning challenges and find ways to cope, while others aren’t so lucky.

  • 2000 study of Texas prisoners found that about half were likely dyslexic, and about two-thirds struggled with reading comprehension.
  • 2014 study by the Education Department found that about a third of incarcerated people surveyed at 98 prisons struggled to pick out basic information while reading simple texts.
  • Dyslexics are more prone to underemployment/ unemployment with this 2018 study in the UK showing four out of 10 dyslexics as unemployed.
  • Adults with learning disabilities (including dyslexia) have 46% higher odds of attempted suicide than their peers without learning problems.

“We can see that dyslexia isn’t just an issue of education, it’s a societal issue, and without a change in society’s attitude towards dyslexia, we are at risk of an ever-increasing epidemic of mental health problems, self-harm, and even suicide” (Dyslexia Bytes).

Dyslexia may seem invisible, but it is very real.

Originally published: February 2, 2020
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