This post is a follow-up to Katie’s first blog post.
As I come back to read these words one year later, I’m very glad to say that some elements have changed. I noticed changes even at the time it was posted, as the words were written before that, (and included a reflection that I’d worded even further before that), so no instantaneous, quick-fix solutions to report. But it’s true that time, patience and more awareness on my part, has eased how harshly NVLD seemed to limit my ability to function. A lot of the foundational struggles remain a constant. The main one being that I seem unable to focus and organize how, and when I want to. Though, as I read those words on avoiding what I love, and being unable to pursue what I am passionate about, I realize that these days, I try my hardest to do the opposite. I attempt to fill my time with people and community based projects that allow me to exist with a bit less fear.
I have noticed, through this change, signs of added challenges brought about by NVLD. Because I struggle to control my time in regards to independent work, I rely on collaborational work to structure purpose into my life. Personally, I have found this through theatre. Theatre has always been crucial to all aspects of my life, but after my NVLD diagnosis, I can understand why. Theatre allows me to focus on spoken word, and allows me to connect and work together in a way my brain understands and can rely upon. Being in a rehearsal room and living within the dynamic flow of the creative process gives me hope and motivation in a way that nothing else can. It is an atmosphere that takes away all of my many layers of self-doubt, and allows me to find myself again. I also strongly believe that theatre sets the stage for empathy and understanding that the world needs today. I feel that if anyone understands the importance of open connection and vulnerability, it is those who work in theatre. For me, this past year has been about learning to accept that things will always be a little different for me, and that’s okay. By surrounding myself with people who support and encourage the expression of difference, I’ve been able to find gradual confidence in myself. This is a confidence that embraces NVLD instead of attempting to work around or against the parts of myself that I used to see as setbacks.
I entered university knowing that the challenges of my past still exist as challenges I re-encounter everyday. I understood that independent work with deadlines is something I’ve never been able to succeed at. I realized that I likely wouldn’t be able to stay in University or get a degree, but for my personal stability, I needed the community, which I hoped to find through the theatre opportunities I hoped to find there.
For me, NVLD means that I have to learn to work with an odd collection of strengths and difficulties. Being very strong in one area, but struggling severely in another makes consistent and predictable work seem impossible. I’ve come to terms with the fact that a traditional path is not possible. Although my experience with mental illness may change over time, I will always live with NVLD, and I’ll have to pursue areas that give me the space and flexibility that life with this disability requires.
Some days, the list of labels that I’ve been diagnosed with makes it seem like no matter how hard I try, I’ll always begin each day behind the starting line that most people consider average. Through the day, I fight hard to catch up, just to reach that line of regular balance. Becoming aware of the NVLD community has been extremely important for me, as it’s reminded me that this is common for those with invisible disabilities. It’s helped me begin to find patience and some calm within myself, in place of past chaos and unrest that my constant frustration and confusion had caused.
I hope that as NVLD becomes more understood, we can work to find strategies that help us cope with two different speeds of thinking. Until then, I know we’ll keep finding our own weird ways to tackle the added difficulties that our brains throw at us.