I’ve held a shameful secret for my life – a secret that if disclosed might get me in trouble and reveal I really am ‘less than’, perhaps even that I am dumb. And as is the nature of secrets, the necessity of concealment spawned management strategies that in themselves formed an addiction, feeding the shame, anxiety and fear of being discovered.
I became an addict and like all addicts I dreaded being found out and I became such an expert at deception that I even convinced myself. The whole fear/anxiety/shame show had spread like a cancer through my identity but it was invisible to me … almost.
I had completed a science degree, been a science journalist, become a mother of three children, completed a secondary science graduate diploma, been a science/maths tutor and teacher, experienced the physical and mental decline of Multiple Sclerosis, yoga-ed and meditated my way out of an electrical wheelchair, wrote and published a book about my journey, established a business teaching yoga and meditation to adults and children with special needs and spoken about my journey…all flying off the seat of my pants.
I had achieved all this with a Loch Ness Fear lurking in the depths of my consciousness. ‘What if I get discovered?’
The Loch Ness Fear not only spawned behaviours that resulted in chronic under achieving but also prevented me from acknowledging what I was doing, the talents I did/do have. I couldn’t live my achievements because underneath I thought I was dumb and I was afraid I would be exposed as a fraud. I was constantly being undermined not only by my secret but also the meaning I had attached to my secret and the behaviour that it had generated.
Then a few months ago (only a few?), an innocent sharing about Irlens Syndrome from one of my students triggered a recognition within me and I Googled, Irlens Syndrome and saw myself on the screen. A deep recognition dawned that I have experienced reading and concentration difficulties, seemingly forever, and worsened by MS.
As I reflected on my secret, I journeyed through the forest of my strategies, strategies that included but were not restricted to: avoidance of reading; feigned disinterest and laziness; feigned slackness – including but not restricted to not reading emails, procrastination of filling in forms; skimming and flicking to the end of chapters and whole books; boasting about cramming or not studying; and preferring “intuition” rather than research.
The results of my forest of survival strategies was a set of beliefs about my capacity as a learner, procrastination, chronic underachieving and frustration. Oh, not to mention anxiety and shame. I had been so successful that I had come to believe my own publicity, publicity that I created to protect myself from getting in trouble.
So after spending some time quietly reflecting then researching (yep, you read correctly, I researched), I disclosed my secret to my partner. It was the first time I had verbalised my reading difficulties aloud to anyone, including myself and I felt completely liberated. My concealment had been so successful that he had had no idea but as I explained he could see and made comments like, “so that’s why you hate filling out forms”, and many other similar comments as he reconciled seemingly odd behaviours with the underlying reasons.
This surprise followed by realisation has been repeated several times since this first disclosure and each time I have felt a little more liberated. Why? Because I was becoming known, to myself and the people around me… and I wasn’t getting into trouble.
Irlens Syndrome, has been confirmed and I have my blue glasses, but that is almost irrelevant now. The value has been in the double Ds - discovery and disclosure.
I have been walking around with fear, shame and anxiety, and now light has been shed into the darkness. It was not the difficulties that were the problem but the meaning I made of them and the stories I created from that meaning. The difficulties themselves may or may not be fixable but there are other ways to learn and now that I am willing to acknowledge them I can explore these other learning strategies and the gifts I already have.
You see, because I have acknowledging my fears, I can also acknowledge my gifts; the talents I used to use to compensate for what I perceived were my deficits.
It is what I teach my yoga students, what I give in yoga therapy and what I have written in my book – you find peace in your circumstances and live your life to maximum of your capacity. Alternatively, “take life by the balls and run with it, with everything you have”.
Yes, there remains a lifetime of behavioural habits to untangle and messes to clean up but fear has been enveloped in love and understanding, and this compassion has released me - I can speak my truth and I am not in trouble…and I am not dumb.
Lynnette Dickinson is the author of A Journey to Peace through Yoga, and teaches yoga, relaxation and meditation in Canberra and via Skype or phone. Classes, personalised programs and yoga therapy. Visit www.splendouryoga.com. Listen to Lynnette telling her story click on www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8pNE2Qpul0 for Part 1 and www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SatGo9hV6I for Part 2, and be inspired.