When you’re told that your defective or unable to do something over and over again, the idea takes root. For quite a while, that’s exactly what happened to me.
|Reading, writing and research – three of my favorite things.|
It began early. I was sent to a special ed program for part of the day throughout elementary and middle school, which was a cue to the other kids that I was somehow broken, and to some teachers that I wasn’t worth the effort.
The incident that stands out in my mind most prominently happened in my fifth grade year. I was offered the chance to take Spanish class, so I did. Not long after it started, I was pulled out, and was told I wasn’t able to pass the class because I’m dyslexic. Apparently, my dyslexia meant I couldn’t learn a second language. It just wasn’t possible. I wasn’t smart enough.
I ended up feeling an odd mix of determination to prove them wrong, a resignation to the idea that I’d never be any good and a strong desire to become invisible. Between incidences like that, bullying and issues at home, what good was I?
Fortunately, that indignant determination won out. With the help of certain amazing teachers, the school counselor and my family, I ended up being mainstreamed in high school. Although there were a couple of good years, by the time I’d graduated, the honors diploma I’d earned did nothing to quell the sense of terror and depression that had set in during Junior year.
I was set to go to massage school the next year, despite the fact I had absolutely no idea of what I really wanted to do. I was supposed to go, so I went. A four year college was off the table. Not smart enough. Not rich enough. Not worthy enough.
At the time, I was already writing. Sure, it was just fanfiction, but it was still writing. I was even getting positive reinforcement from the people I’d allowed to read my stories. It wasn’t important, at the time. Who can make a living writing? Better to concentrate on what I should be doing.
Still, my old enemies, Failure and Despair, hounded every step as I trudged along that path of obligation.
I’d failed myology by a single point during the massage program. The school wanted me to take the entire program again, instead of just the class. They wouldn’t accept credit from another institute, either. Oddly enough, they wanted full tuition for it again.
Although I didn’t realize at the time a huge part of why I’d failed was because the school had no idea how to address my needs, I did know what they were trying to do was wrong. I didn’t want to give them any more support than I already had. So, I didn’t go back, and left the state for a new start.
The majority of my teens and twenties were spent in a deep depression and an eternity of dead end jobs sprinkled with classes that lead nowhere. I wasn’t smart enough to land a “real job”, school was a bust and I was doomed to live a life of mediocrity.
Through it all, however, I kept writing. I kept sucking up knowledge, and did whatever I could to get
|My husband and I on our wedding
day. This August will mark 11 years.
to a better head space. I married a wonderful man, and while our life together hasn’t been story book by a long shot, we’ve done a good job of keeping each other going.
By some miracle, I’d managed to land a job with a drug company after my husband lost his job and went on disability for a while. I was miserable, but it paid well enough to save our home, get us out of debt and even let us save a bit of money.
It was during that job I discovered The Dyslexic Advantage, by Brock and Fernette Eid. Up until that point, I’d just viewed my dyslexia as something that made it difficult for me to do certain things. It was nothing but a hindrance, a shameful part of my life and something not to be talked about.
That book helped turn that around. There was quite a lot in it that resonated strongly with me. I already knew all about the weaknesses in reading, spelling and math, but I hadn’t known that memorization was just as hard for other dyslexics as it is for me. My issues with keeping procedural things in order was also explained.
I wasn’t stupid for being unable to remember set in stone steps each and every time I needed to follow them. I wasn’t lazy for falling behind so-called normal people in some every day tasks. I wasn’t unfocused because I lost my place every time I got interrupted during a task.
I’m dyslexic, that’s all.
Why hadn’t anyone told me there was more to it? Why hadn’t anyone given me the suggestions I’d found in subsequent research? If I’d have had those tools earlier on, would my life have turned out any better?
The book, however, didn’t concentrate on the weaknesses, like so many do. Its concentration was on the unique strengths that many dyslexics share.
Suddenly, my love of stories, writing and research made sense. All of those things were held together by patterns and relationships. I naturally saw and enjoyed those connections, as people like Stephen Spielberg and Anne Rice do.
My funny way of thinking in pictures was also explained. I wasn’t alone.
Despite the fact I had such a hard time memorizing the names of muscles, nerves, bones and that fun stuff, I can still see exactly how the layers of muscles fit on the human skeleton. I can visualize exactly how they contract in order to move and how one injury effects the entire body.
As I massage someone, I can translate the feel of muscles loosening under my fingers or hands to the other groups those relaxing fibers affect. I can see it all in my mind’s eye.
Up until I learned more about how and why those natural talents were connected to my strange wiring, I’d just thought they were valueless quirks.
What good were they if I couldn’t do calculations in my head, read quickly or come up with the right words at the drop of a hat?
Our culture seems to prize speed and profit above all else. Despite the lip service many companies give to prizing innovation or creativity, when many professionals are faced with someone different, their first impulse is to quash those qualities.
Those of us who operate at a slower pace or dare to think differently are left twisting in the wind. Unless we’re lucky, stubborn and strong enough to force our own way in the world, we’re stuck on the lowest rung society has to offer.
The more I studied, the more this sank in, and the angrier I got. That anger turned into a raging hunger for change. It made me want to change the world.
Before I could reach out, though, I had to change my life.
While I was still at that last job, I took a few days off to clean up the spare room that had been mostly
|My office shortly after I cleaned it up for the first time. It’s
a lot messier now, but basically the same. (I love this desk.)
for storage, ordered office furniture and started finding alternatives that work for me. Not long after, I left the job.
I didn’t have much of an income then, but we had saved quite a bit up, and my husband had found a job. Finances weren’t a problem, though I did cut back on our spending by quite a bit. The longer I can stretch a buck, the better.
I haven’t looked back since, either. I’ve dabbled in copywriting, continue to blog and write content for various web pages, now. I’ve ghost-written for a few people, am currently working on getting my original fiction published and am working on a series of novels. I’m always on the look out for new opportunities, too.
It’s not easy, but nothing of real value ever is.
By the way, I took three years of Latin in high school, and passed every one of them. I also took a year and a half of Japanese after I moved, and still remember some American Sign Language from when I was a kid. I’m not fluent in any of them, but I’m still determined to get to that point in a second, third or even fourth language one day.
Dyslexics can’t follow their dreams my gluteus maximus.