I never enjoyed school. I remember lying in bed as a little 5 year old, before my mum would come in to wake us to get up for school and feeling sick to my stomach thinking about the day ahead. I remember pulling the "I feel sick" from that age right through to when I finished high school. It was always true too. The anxiety and pure dread came from a real place and I didn't know how to communicate it, which made it worse.
One of the things about growing up is that you don't know what "normal" is. I remember sitting in a doctors office once and talking about details of my reproductive system and all of a sudden feeling scared that what happened to me every month was not normal, that it didn't happen to any other woman. That was me as an adult and I was still scared. What the heck is "normal"?!
As a child I had serious problems with numbers. I still do. I never spoke about it because I didn't know it wasn't normal until much later when it was too late. I remember sitting in my Primary 2 classroom with two sticks of linking cubes on the desk in front of me. We were learning our 2 times tables. I had to count every cube every single time. The numbers never stuck in my head. The 3 and 4 times table don't even exist to me. 5 I can do on my fingers. The six times table though was my biggest achievement for about 18 hours.
The day we were assigned to learn our 6 times tables I started right away on the way home from school. By bed time I had run it through my head so much that I actually remembered it. I knew we were going to stand in front of the class the next day and the teacher was going to ask us a sum. I was going to do it, for the first time I wouldn't have to go to the nurse or out for fresh air because of feeling sick right then.
As I stood with my class the anxiety came and the 6 times table went. I was in front of the class and had no answers any more.
The more I think back and remember these situations the more I recognise that this really wasn't normal. I'd lash out in ways that were not normal to me. One time at a school sports day my mum was talking to my teacher. They wanted a moment without me so my mum handed me some coins and told me to go to the tuck shop and get some drinks. Handing money to me like that and expecting me to remember a number and to handle coins like that scared me to death. I barked at my mum, "Get it yourself! I don't want one!" My teacher looked at me and then said "I would never have expected that from you, Laura."
No, that wasn't me. That was a cry for help that went unanswered. Like the time I was doing my maths workbook and got so frustrated I decided to take a break and scribble over the page number in the top right corner of my booklet. I scribbled so hard you couldn't see the number any more. No more numbers. That'd be perfect. I handed it in to be marked and it came back with a note in the corner from my teacher telling me to clean it up. I wrote "NO". My parents were called in to talk about it.
Another time, when I was 11 my class was raising money by doing a sponsored times tables. I came fully prepared to cheat through it but got so sick I had to leave the class. That was the same year I had homework that was taking me hours to do. My mum thought my teacher was some kind of bully and went in to talk about why I was sitting doing 2 hours of homework multiple times a week. My homework was taking other kids 20 minutes to complete.
As a 18 year old I decided to be an Avon Girl. I had to take my dad with me to count change. He came with me after I explained a calculator could only do so much for me. I can't read the number on it AND I certainly couldn't physically count the change into a customers hand. I didn't last long as an Avon Girl.
I've been thinking about writing this post for a while now but have dreaded reliving those humiliating and uncomfortable experiences. When it comes down to it though, I know what normal is now, and this is normal for me. Everyone is normal in their own ways.
Just don't ask me the time or to tell you my phone number. Social security, forget about it! I don't even know how many letters are in the alphabet! And I'd rather you didn't ask me over to play games, or to join the choir... It's normal for my brain not to know how to do these things and I'm ok with it now.
If you want to learn more about Dyscalculia you can read a bit about symptoms here and what is in general here.