Tuesday 6 March 2012

Finding a Sanctuary

I recently encountered a girl in her late teens during an event for a common cause we had to do with. She wasn't exactly open to being in my company and was closed off and derogatory to me after only speaking to me for a couple of hours the day before when we first met.

I was told that I had annoyed her for things that I think most people wouldn't have batted an eyelid at, but I put it down to experience, because I didn't fully know if she had a hidden disability like me. The next day however I found myself being accused of lies and found slanderous comments on my facebook account.
It was interesting speaking to her about it though, the way she explained her actions. Ironically the reason she was getting recognition was for campaigning on anti-bullying. It goes to show that some people aren't as aware of how they come across as they think they are. I guess she was young and I'm certainly old and ugly enough to let if brush over me. I'm sure she will mature and go on to prosper in her own life.

Despite my Epilepsy not being a factor in this particular case, it made me think in hindsight, what a freeing place spending time in the Epilepsy community is. One of the major issues with Epilepsy is bullying, because your seizures don't look normal, because you may have less energy than other people because of medication, or even that actually the lack in concentration that people with Epilepsy suffer has an effect on how they pick up information. In a lot of cases this is a verbal issue simply resulting in social cues being missed.

I have learnt over a number of years to adapt to the issues I've had with remembering information about people. Even something as simple as not recalling a previous conversation means that it used to be a lot harder for me to form bonds with people socially. I'm not totally perfect now, but thankfully being self aware about the fact I have a weakness in a certain area has helped a lot in more recent years.

The great thing about two of my best friends is that because the three of us have Epilepsy, we understand each other's quirks and forgive each other for wittering on about things, or tend to laugh about they way we are instead of worrying about it. It's incredibly freeing to have your friends that you can be completely yourself around and not have to compensate for your Epilepsy, or any other trait or impairment you might have. It's a sanctuary of sorts that I can go to whenever I need support too.

Every cloud has a silver lining however, for me it was a rather positive effect on my life in work and in particular in business development. I found because I spent so much time studying how social cues worked and how peoples behaviour changed in different social scenarios, I was able to work out quickly who was influential in a room, who was worth speaking to and who wasn't.

Curiously I found that actually speaking to a deputy, a husband or wife or a close colleague of a CEO or Director for example, rather than those individuals themselves was far more powerful. It worked because everyone flocked to one individual, so he or she had been given so much information they couldn't digest it. Speaking to those around them however allowed me more time to build a rapport, their guard wasn't up unlike their partner or colleague. As a result after all the information overload immediately experienced by the more obviously influential individual got lost, they would converse about an event or evening with their partner or colleague later, under calmer circumstances and my message got across.

Like me they behaved differently in certain social situations and had a sanctuary where they were totally open with certain individuals in their lives.

It just shows too, that actually disability can sometimes result in ability, even if it's by accident.

I think if you understand someone you can forgive particular traits they have. If you experience those traits too, you develop a bond that frees you from normal daily life and it's restrictions, it becomes a place where you can let your guard down and be yourself.

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