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It is #WorldBookDay so I want to say a few words about how one book changed my life. The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.
I am painfully dyslexic. And when I say painfully, I mean physically. When I read physical books I get splitting headaches after 4 pages. If you don't have dyslexia then the gif below sums up what happens a page 2 for me. By page 4 words will seem to drop off the page.
Up to the age of 14 I only ever read comics (The Beano was a favorite), and even then very slowly. It would take around a week to read only two. That was less than 40 pages a week.
I didn't know I was dyslexic until I was around 14. During primary school I was the "slow learner". Always last to copy notes off the board or finish exercises. The "extra support" provided was a nun shouting "NO!" every time I read a word wrong out loud.
When I went to secondary school, one of the teachers sent me to what would now be known as a SENCO. Where, while not diagnosed with dyslexia, I received some proper support, at least for the 1st term. After that I was testing new techniques that the school wanted to introduce.
But I still knew I was stupid. I couldn't read. I couldn't keep up with the reading material, I always one of the lowest scorers in the bottom sets. I had all the empirical evidence I needed to know I was stupid. A feeling I have never escaped.
It would haunt me at night, knowing how worthless I am. How mindlessly stupid I am. My inability to do anything right.
Started GCSEs at 14. I am not sure if it is the case now, but at the time the teacher had allot of leeway on choosing which book we would read for English Lit. Mine chose HHGTTG. A book written by an ex-school boy, Douglas Adams. I fell in love with it.
Letters and numbers dancing, a pain in my head that felt like my skull was cracking open, and physical exhaustion trying to round up words to make sense. None of it stopped me. I kept pushing myself.
My parents bought me the audio book (on Cassette!). I used to read a page, then listen to Douglas Adams read that same page. I would then rewind and track him word for word. I ended up reading all 5 books like this.
I had never felt such joy at reading. The book is hilarious and full of such wonderful ideas. It directly inspired a love of STEM. And indirectly lead to a love of history, politics, psychology, economics, maths, and a general love of learning.
When I was 15, I had a day long assessment for dyslexia. Part of the day involved an IQ test. Scary horrible things. I found I had a number span of 3 (average is 4 or 5) and a written IQ 20 percentile points lower than my verbal IQ.
My verbal IQ was scored around the 99.6th percentile range of the population (MENSA is 98 percentile or top 2%). The physical pain comes from my brain not being able to slow down enough to process my reading.
So what effect did this book have on me? Well I am now doing a Computer Science PhD [in December I was confirmed for the PhD path], something I highly doubt would have happened if I had never read HHGTTG. I am a member of MENSA.
And yet... I still know I am the stupidest person in the University. I still know I am the stupidest person I have ever or will ever meet. I still know that I can't do anything right and that I shouldn't be here. I still struggle to sleep at night because of this.
But without HHGTTG, I would have never studied for my GCSEs. Let alone A-levels, my BSc or MSc. I wish I had had the chance to thank DA for what he did for me. He died in 2001, before I could get the courage to write to him. After all, who am I?
Quick tags to say thank you to @Moudhy @digi_hammurabi and @thgirlwpinkhair as I am opening up a little more thanks to conversations they've had publicly. Yes there isn't much here atm, but it is part of the story of my mental health.
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