They called me dumb, stupid, and retarded because I had a learning disability. It started in elementary with my first grade teacher and followed me into high school. I was supposed to be the retard who would never be able to do anything with her life when she grew up and the dummy my teachers pushed through elementary and assigned students to give me answers on tests. Teachers said I would grow up to be on welfare and unable to obtain a job. This bullying is part of what led me into mental illness and has left scars on my soul. They were wrong about me and I have proven it over and over again.
In high school I gave up fun time to study endless hours to prove I was intelligent. I became obsessed with getting good grades and making perfect attendance. I thought if I couldn’t get any awards at the end of the year for my accomplishments, at least I could get perfect attendance. In ways it paid off and in some ways it hurt me. I had no social life and I became mean when my family members got sick.
First I made it on the merit roll then the honor roll. My junior year of high school I was inducted into the National Honors Society. I was told I was the first student in my school with a learning disability to be inducted. As an inductee, I was given the assignment to go to the classroom of my fourth grade teacher, who had said I couldn’t read, to tutor one of her students in reading. When I graduated from high school, I received five scholarships and the principal gave a hidden hero speech about me. I proved everyone wrong, yet I was deeply depressed.
I went off to a community college. I got good grades, but I was deeply depressed and suicidal. I took time off from college to work through my mental illness and did return to graduate in 1999. I had a period of recovery and was able to receive my associate degree and once again proved them wrong.
After I graduated I continued to work at a grocery store where I started working during my year off. My plans changed. I had planned to go on to a four year college and become a reporter, but with my learning disability and mental health, I was unable to continue on with my collage path. Instead I stayed at the grocery store, feeling like I had failed. I became sick again. I felt like my life was a hopeless mess. I had no purpose.
I struggled to reach recovery from mental illness and reached it, yet I still felt like I failed. There had to be more to my life then to just be a cashier. Recently, thanks to Alexander Kovarovic, I have found my purpose. Alex invited me to write blogs for the National Youth Internet Safety and Cyberbullying Taskforce and then made me assistant to the director. I began a whole new adventure.
I started to step out of my comfort zone to call places to set up events and ask businesses for donations. This led to many opportunities. In March I was interviewed for a local news channel for my achievements and for being published in Alexander Kovarovic’s book Change Your Life. Then in April Alex came to Erie PA to award me and others the “Saving Lives” award. I was once again interviewed for the nightly news right before the ceremony. At the ceremony I gave a speech of acceptance and told my story of being bullied in school. Afterwards I was complimented on what a wonderful speech I gave and I realized I wanted to do more speaking.
Then my good friend Amy Bovaird asked me to speak at her Disability inSights seminar. I was excited and began to prepare. I practiced on my husband and on Marco Polo to a long distance friend. Amy invited me to go on the Insider, a local news show, to help promote the event. For the third time in one year I was on television.
A person who once said I would never be able to do anything stopped me at work. “I saw you on TV again. You are becoming a success.”
I smiled with pride and thought, I have always been a success and you just couldn’t see it. You once called me dumb; what do you call me now?
I overcame mental illness, I rose above bullying, I worked past relationship abuse, and I kicked breast cancer in the butt, and so much more. I had made many victories when I thought I had failed.
This past Friday I gave my speech at the seminar, about my journey through bullying, mental illness, and the steps I took towards recovery form mental illness. I spoke from my heart and shared my pain and my triumph with a room of about thirty people. Afterwards a person in the audience asked for my information to contact me for future speaking engagements. Someone asked me how long I had been speaking and another wanted her picture taken with me. Others gave me hugs and told me, “You’re an inspiration.”
I felt uplifted. Not only uplifted by the wonderful response I got from my speech, but also by the others who spoke. The common theme I heard in the speeches was you can overcome whatever challenges and disability that lie before you. My new goal in my life is to help others through my writing and through speaking. I finally found my purpose.
God gives all of us purposes to our lives. Sometimes we can’t see it and we think our lives are going nowhere, but if we keep looking we’ll find it. We all have talents and abilities that could be used to change the world. We are not failures unless we choose to be. The fights we conquered are badges of success. Success is not being rich and famous. It’s facing life and all its ups and downs with strength and courage. It’s pushing against all odds to stand tall in the light. Find your talent and celebrate each of your successes no matter how small they are.
I am on a high. I am no longer stuck with that constant worry that I failed. I have been succeeding for years even when I thought I was a failure. I am standing in the light of triumph.