Writing my own story

Writing-the-story

I did my first live media interview this week with CBC Ottawa Morning–the most listened to morning show in our city. I was nervous, and all of my dyslexia gremlins came out to play. Anxiety, lack of confidence, shame. This thought kept me up the night before: What will people think if I stumble over my words? Make a mistake? Will they pity me or mock me? That’s a feeling I’ve felt a million times before.

I have long been hesitant to go public with my story. Issues of privacy, fear of harassment, discrimination, and being perceived negatively others (and worst of all, by potential employers).

Another concern: This is my daughter’s story too, and I have always been careful to protect her privacy.

This particular interview presented other challenges: it was live so there were no “do overs” or edits, and no time to think about my responses. An interesting challenge for someone with dyslexia.

All of these are valid concerns, but someone wise once asked me, “What are you really worried about? What is the worst thing that could happen?”

The truth is that I almost declined the interview because I wanted it to be perfect.

I wanted to be perfect.

I always tell my daughter “there is no perfect” and yet I was holding myself to this impossible standard.

When my daughter said, “Do it mom. It’s important!” I realized that I was holding myself back, and actually preventing myself from becoming who I want to be (an idea that comes from Michelle Obama’s book Becoming). Do I want to be that kid who hides in class for fear of reprisal forever?

That thought propelled me into a different headspace, and I agreed to do the interview. I’m glad I did. And here’s why.

Most dyslexics have their stories written by other people: teachers, parents, employers, media, and even strangers who judge without even knowing you. Lowered expectations, un/underemployment, bullying and discrimination are real–so many of us are rightfully afraid to go public.

Thanks to the Right To Read inquiry here in Ontario, many of us are finding our comfort zone. We’re stepping out of the shadows and writing (or rewriting) our own stories. I’m more than the kid who struggled with math and reading, that nice but unteachable, underachieving girl. I think Vicki says it best in her statement to the inquiry:

“I will never give up on myself again just because I was told I was not capable. All I need are the proper tools, opportunities and support to meet my educational goals.” ~Vicki

Collectively, I feel like we are rewriting the story of dyslexia: it gave me the chance to tell people that children (and adults) with dyslexia can be readers, and can succeed in life, we just need a bit more help getting there.

How I prepared

I knew from experience that preparation was the key:

  • I did a pre-interview with the show’s producer to get a sense of the questions
  • I worked with my daughter to share our story without revealing too many private details–not my daughter’s name, her school, details of her “diagnosis” & how it impacts her today (as a teenager). We discussed it beforehand, and decided what she would be comfortable sharing, and what not
  • I spent all weekend researching stats, writing out my key messages and practicing with anyone who would listen
  • I brought a photo of my daughter into the studio with me; she gave me courage

During the interview, I made sure not to use my usual preambles: “I’m not an expert,” “Not sure this will make sense” or “I’m just a mom” (actually, I have a Master’s degree in Social Science and many years experience as a communications professional).  In a media training workshop taught by Shari Graydon, I learned that many women lack confidence to speak to the media. By preambling everything with unnecessary disclaimers, we actually hurt our credibility and obscure our message. I tried hard not to do this during the interview, and it really helped me get my main points across.

When I got off track, or wasn’t sure how to answer a question, I kept coming back to the key messages I had prepared before hand.

The response has been 100% supportive. The most important feedback I got was from my daughter:

“That was amazing!! You’re so good 🥰 you sounded awesome like you’ve done it a million times.”

I’m the luckiest mom in the world.

Hear my interview with CBC Ottawa Morning


How to practice “Realistic Thinking” from Anxiety Canada

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