Asma’s journey

This is my story. It’s a story of challenges, but also strength. It’s the reason I’m passionate about helping others achieve their dreams

I was born in Sierra Leone and grew up speaking Creole, or pidgin English. I was six when I first went to school but my first day wasn’t a happy one. I still have vivid memories of the teacher calling me to the front of the class and asking me to write my name on the board in Arabic. I just froze: I didn’t speak or understand Arabic, only Creole. I told her but she shouted and slapped me. As I stood there crying with the class laughing in the background, her bellowing words, ‘big girls don’t cry’ made me feel so ashamed. And from that moment on, whenever a teacher asked me to spell something or asked me a question in Arabic, I just crumbled.

Seven years later, we fled Sierra Leone because of war and moved to Lebanon. It took time to settle into this new country and for the first year I was home taught maths, English and basic Arabic.

When I did go to school, my mother made it clear that whilst I could speak and understand a little Arabic, I couldn’t read or write it. I certainly wasn’t advanced enough to sit exams. Despite this, one particular teacher insisted on asking me questions in Arabic – she thought that because I lived in Lebanon, I should know the language even though I’d never been taught it. She would make me stand in front of the class and ask me questions I didn’t understand. She would make me sit tests I was unable to complete and then mark the front of the paper with a big fat zero.

This happened over and over again. Eventually, I developed a coping mechanism for this constant humiliation by interrupting the teacher as she was asking me questions and say, ‘Here we go again! Zero marks!’ I would joke and misbehave just to be sent out of the class.

After 18 months in Lebanon, we moved to the UK. I started school but struggled with the English language. I received extra tuition, but this only led to bullying and chants of ‘teacher’s pet.’

I quickly developed the belief it was safer to stay silent and not ask questions. I believed I was a failure. I felt stupid and undeserving. A total waste of space. I didn’t see the point of anything. I was anxious and scared but because I didn’t know how to express or control my emotions, it led to outbursts of anger and frustration.

I somehow got myself through school but because of my grades was unable to pursue my dream of studying either medicine or acting. Yet another blow to my self-esteem.

So, I opted to study Health & Social Care and during my time as a student, volunteered at Mencap. This is where I discovered my passion for working with children. It was also when my dyslexia was diagnosed.

I graduated from college, but a number of bereavements saw me hit rock bottom. I didn’t like the person I’d become: I was miserable, negative, and embarrassed about my dyslexia. I was an emotional ticking bomb.

But it was in my lowest moments that I found my strength. I found a steely determination to push myself forward and developed my own positive coping strategies. I worked on myself and my limiting beliefs and over time reframed my internal voice.

After a year of volunteering at Mencap I was offered an employed role. I still work there today, after 20 years.

Somebody once said that I could never work with children because I was dyslexic, but I now have qualifications in NLP, EFT, hypnotherapy, draw and talk therapy, and positive behaviour consulting, and work with children and adults with learning difficulties. I guess I showed them!

NLP, EFT and hypnotherapy have helped me enormously and given me the confidence to start my own business, Achievable Journey. My passion is working with SEN children and adults and I now get to do that every day. I love being able to make a difference to people’s lives.

Yes, I still struggle with spelling and knowing my left and right, but because I have that self-belief, I’m not embarrassed to ask for help. I don’t let my dyslexia define, embarrass, or limit me. First and foremost, I’m me! I come first, my dyslexia comes second.

Because of my own personal struggles, I’m passionate about helping others overcome theirs. I became a therapist to help my clients have a voice, feel heard and understood, and achieve their goals. I come from a position of personal experience and professional qualification: Empathy and authority. I want to empower others to live the life they deserve.

Life’s challenges can affect your self-esteem and what you believe to be true about yourself. They can lead to feelings of shame, isolation, and self-judgement. You feel a failure and because of this you find that even your friends and family withdraw from you. You find yourself being picked on and bullied. You worry every second of every minute of every day.

I hear you. I understand you. I’m here for you.

Shall we talk?