Dyspraxia and Fatigue
Although dyspraxia is a hidden difference, there are certain aspects of it that can be seen. For example, you may notice that a dyspraxic holds their cutlery differently, or grips their pen in a different way. Tiredness, however, you can’t see. It’s a hidden aspect of a hidden difference.
Being dyspraxic means our brains are wired in a different way and it takes us 10x the amount of effort to do things than it does for other people. We have to think more about the way we carry out certain tasks, including the things which come naturally to others. It takes us so much longer than others to do things too. Whether it’s processing a conversation, trying to navigate our way through a crowd without bumping into anyone, or trying to concentrate on a lecture or lesson, our brain always has to work so much harder. This means that we may get tired much more easily than other people would, without necessarily having had what people would consider to be a ‘busy day’ (it’s busy for our brains though!) A lot of dyspraxics also have hypermobility. I don’t know a lot about it, but I can imagine that this would further contribute to tiredness due to the effect that it has on your joints.
When I was younger I used to get tired very quickly when walking. I used a buggy up until the age of six/seven if we were going somewhere where there was a lot of walking involved. During my first year of secondary school I started taking part in disability athletics. Although no amount of sport can magically make dyspraxia disappear, doing athletics did help in terms of getting used to doing more exercise. So added to the fact that you get used to doing more walking as you get older anyway, this meant that I didn’t get as tired as I used to when walking.
Something I’ve always struggled with due to tiredness is carrying things. At school I’d have quite a lot to carry: my laptop in my rucksack, my books, my P.E. kit. Sixth form was the worst for that though, with all of those folders full of paper. For this reason my dad would give me a lift to and from school. My school also put arrangements in place too. I didn’t have a locker so I had permission to leave my P.E. kit in the Pastoral Office during the day when I didn’t need it. In sixth form luckily I had a locker though – I needed it with all those folders! The teachers provided me with an extra copy of the textbooks so I could leave one set in my locker and one set at home to save carrying them around so much. At uni I have a taxi provided through DSA between home and the train station and the train station and uni. It’s not so much due to the tiredness itself, it’s more to do with the impact of it. Tiredness makes it extremely difficult for me to concentrate, which would mean if I was to walk I’d be making concentrating in lectures even more difficult than it already is (due to my dyspraxia affecting concentration).
If I had nothing to take with me to uni though, I’d probably be fine. I seem to find that when I’m carrying things it makes me so much more tired than I would be if I was walking the same distance without having anything to carry. It’s weird because I wouldn’t have thought it would make that much of a difference, but that’s dyspraxia for you! Or is that more a CP thing? I can never tell…
Something I’ve noticed more as I’ve got older is not only the physical side of tiredness but also mental tiredness, particularly during sixth form. The increased workload meant that I was getting extremely tired and this impacted on my concentration too. I remember at one point hearing someone at school say “I’m so tired!” and then they turned around and carried on typing their essay. Yes, they probably were tired. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who got tired from sixth form, even if to a bigger extent than others. But I was sat there thinking: “How on earth are they able to concentrate when they’re tired? I wish I could do that!” It’s not something I would just say to procrastinate either, I genuinely cannot concentrate at all when I’m tired. I remember coming home from school attempting to complete the pile of homework or revision and there were often days where I just had to leave it as I couldn’t concentrate. The frustrating thing was that I couldn’t just reduce the amount of revision I did, because due to my dyspraxia it would take me so much longer to do it. But then due to that increased amount of time spent doing it, I’d become tired – you can’t win! I then started to get really early nights because I was just shattered. For a couple of months I was going to bed between 8:30 and 9:00!
I also had a similar thing again more recently during uni. Suddenly over the Easter holidays I was getting extremely tired. The most frustrating thing was that I had assignments and so much revision to do too. I had planned on getting so much revision done during the Easter Holidays, and during the first week I got barely anything done at all. I tried all sorts of things: taking more breaks, listening to music, but nothing seemed to work. I then realised that maybe I’d have to start getting to bed early again. So I was getting to bed around 9:00 and then reading for a bit, which meant that I got 10 hours sleep. That seemed to work, as if I got any less sleep than that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate the next day. It was really annoying to have to keep getting to bed early, but it was the only way I was going to be able to get revision done. By this point I was very far behind on my revision timetable! Luckily when I was back at uni after Easter I was able to concentrate okay without getting to bed ridiculously early…well, most of the time! So I eventually managed to catch up with my revision timetable…somehow!
I think one of the things that can be frustrating about getting tired easily is that unlike other aspects of dyspraxia you can’t just do it differently. For example, if you spill drinks easily you can just use a lid and a straw. Although saying that, you can to some extent plan things around it. For example, for two out of three days I was in uni I would finish at 2:00. I knew that this meant technically I should go home and get on with revision. But I knew that by the time I’d got home I’d be tired and revision wasn’t going to happen. So I decided to stay at uni in the library for a couple of hours and do revision. I preferred it that way too because it meant that when I got home I could just relax.
Another example is a weekend in July. There’s the Dyspraxia Foundation AGM and conference on the Saturday and I’m taking part in a 10k walk on the Sunday. Yes, I’m blogging about how I get tired easily and then telling you I’m walking 10k… It will certainly be a challenge! But I’m looking forward to the opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the Dyspraxia Foundation (if you would like to donate, here is the link to my Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Natalie-Williams24) Anyway, back to what I was explaining. So I’d already signed up to do the 10k on the Sunday but I really wanted to go to the conference on the Saturday, but at the same time I didn’t want to get too tired from the Saturday before I’d even done the 10k on the Sunday! I haven’t completely made my mind up yet but what I think I’m going to do is go on the Saturday for the morning so I’ll be back by early afternoon. That way I shouldn’t be as tired as I would be if I was to get back later on.
From speaking to others with dyspraxia, one effect that tiredness can have is making our dyspraxia seem ‘worse’. We can be more clumsy than usual (yes, that’s possible!), forget things more etc.
Another difficulty we can have being dyspraxic is getting to sleep. There was one time (I think this was also during the Easter holidays at one point) where I was really tired but then took ages to get to sleep. Not the best combination! I have absolutely no idea why it’s made such a big difference, but the only thing that worked is switching to decaf tea. Now the majority of nights I get to sleep quite quickly. I do always read in bed first though as I find that helps me sleep too.
Although I don’t personally take naps, I was told that lots of dyspraxic and dyslexic people find that naps are helpful. So if any of you are struggling with tiredness, that’s something you might find helpful.
Tiredness is experienced by lots of us with dyspraxia but I don’t think it’s the first thing people would think of to associate with dyspraxia. Interestingly, though, last year I saw something about a study that was being carried out to compare fatigue in people with dyspraxia and people with chronic fatigue syndrome. It would be interesting to find out what the results of that study were.
It’s always nice to get more than one perspective on a particular topic so here’s a couple of other posts on dyspraxia and tiredness: https://thinkoutsideofthecardboardbox.blogspot.co.uk/2015/05/fatigue-overthinking-and-sleep.html and http://starsbythedoor.tumblr.com/post/60453187123/dyspraxic-problem-122-the-great-tiredness.