I'm 23, what do you mean I can't read?!?
Sometimes, when I would get in trouble when I was growing up I would not be able to check out books from the library. Now, I am sure kids today do not understand the excitement you can feel by holding a book in between your fingers and how the smell of the pages put you in a happy place. But, me and the library were best friends. I loved books. I could and would go through them fast. I would create journals full of the new words I had looked up in the dictionary. (Yes, I loved words that much.) I was loquacious. The way authors were able to paint a picture only with words--which I later would find out that was called imagery--was enchanting. And to this day, I walk through bookstores for self-therapy and I do not buy a thing. Just the smell of new books is refreshing. All these stories waiting to be read.
But my reading of novels was replaced with academic articles in graduate school. This reading was different. A twenty-five-page article would take me a minimum 4 hours to read. I would get frustrated! I could read 25 pages in a novel in 30 minutes, Why was it taking me so long? I thought that this was normal! I knew graduate school reading was going to be different; so I just thought graduate school wasn't for me.
My anxiety began to come back. Then my depression showed up knocking. And depression brought its best friend: self-doubt. I wanted to "drop out" from graduate school. I had a bad case of imposter's syndrome.
So fast forward to now, May 2017 and finally I have some answers. Just last month, I found out that I have three different learning disabilities. One which was genetic and the two others developed during my childhood and went unnoticed.
I have nonverbal learning disability, reading disability, and a visual processing disorder. Three learning disabilities that all have been shadowing me since I was little and no one believed me when I told them things were too hard. I should not even be in graduate school, I should not have even graduated college. But I did, but all along the way I had begun to internalize all the things I was not good at. I thought something was wrong with me. I thought that I was destined to be another statistic.
Only 8% of people process information worse than me. I am borderline impaired when it comes to reading comprehension. And my ability to pick up on complex social cues and complex concepts in class is at the extreme impaired range.
After about six hours of diagnostic testing, I finally found out answers. And you mean to tell me I am 23 years old and I cannot read?!!?? The hell have I been doing all of these years?!?
I went home and I just kept going over and over through my head. I should have felt like a heavy burden was lifted off my shoulders, but it didn't. I felt betrayed by my own self-resiliency. Had I not been the Strong Black Woman by powering through, this may have gotten noticed earlier. Maybe when I didn't do well on a homework assignment it could have been viewed as a struggle instead of me not trying hard enough.
But thats exactly how it was viewed: that I did not try hard enough. That I never did my best. That I became distracted or wasn't focused. For the majority of my life that was the narrative that I believed because that was what was told to me. The majority of my life was shadowed by self-doubt and even at times that self-doubt made me believe I had no self-worth.
So here I am sifting through all of this information and still going to class. Still being required to read hunderes of pages a week. I had answers on how I had landed on academic probation. But due to the severity of my learning disabilities, I was able to get a retroactive medical withdrawal. This took a long fight and I had learned to be my own advocate because I was a student of color, but now I had to be my own advocate because I had disabilities. I want you to know that I was already tired before and this extra fight just made me exhausted. Do not forget, I was still in classe, so I was responsible for all course work and tests. I got overwhelmed and my anxiety decided to take over and it crippled me. I only could sit on the courch watching the Trolls movie over and over again.
Mid-semester, I had to figure out how to adjust so I could succeed. And at every turn, there were road blocks trying to make this not happen. I was mentally drained and my demeanor showed it.
I was trying to grasp that I could have gotten help for this a long ass time ago, but the Black community does not believe in learning disabilites. My father even told me it would take some time for him to fully understand because he use to bleive things like this were used as a crutch for students to be mediocre. I am thankful for his honesty; however, this is a view that the majority o fblack parents have. Learning disabilities are viewed as a weakness. We do nto want to give white people another reason to doubt our abilities. (There will be a post on this soon.) We already have targest on our backs and by admitting you may have a disability will just add another one.
Even though I knew coming forward would be beneficial I still was hesitant becasue I knew this was another label that people would attach to me.
I still do not have it all figured out, but I am trying. I checked out every book I could from the library regarding the disabilities I have. (You see my love affair for the library has not dimished,) I accommodations from Student Disability Services. I reached out to parents I know who have children with disabilities. I have searched the internet. But the most important thing I am doing is claiming it. I am owning these new diagnoses and I am not letting them own me. I am voicing my story in hopes to get ohters to the office of someone who could help them.
This is just another thing that makes me who I am. I am brillant, I got this far without knowing and I can only go further now that I know and can get help.