Many don’t understand what a learning disability is. It means a person has a difficult time comprehending and processing information. A person with this disability must find different ways to learn. Those with this disability have high intelligence; they just learn differently. Many mistakenly think of a person with a learning disability as being intellectually challenged. Intellectually challenged people have sereve impairments that make social, intellectual, and self-care difficult. They have lower than normal intelligence. They are two different kinds of disabilities that are often mistaken as one.
I have a learning disability. I read at a slower pace than normal, I have a hard time with basic math, I struggle with memorizing things, and sometimes I don’t remember what I read. This disability made school very difficult for me. My teachers and classmates thought it meant I was dumb. Teachers pushed me through elementary, but when I got to high school, I had to discover ways around my disability to pass my classes.
I couldn’t keep up with notes the teachers put on the chalk board, so I spent hours reading through my textbooks, writing out my own notes. When it came to studying for tests, I wrote a question on the front of an index card and the answer on the back. I spent hours reading over those index cards until I could repeat the answers out loud without looking. I stressed before my tests. Passing was everything to me. So many said I couldn’t pass school on my own, and I had to prove them wrong. This laid a big burden on my shoulders. Just barely passing wasn’t good enough for me. I had to pass with high grades even if it meant giving up fun time to study.
I fought mental illness and struggled with my learning disability to succeed in school. I pushed through endless nights of studying and struggling to understand homework. They told me in elementary I couldn’t do anything on my own and it became my determination to prove them wrong. When I graduated from school, I made the honor roll, was inducted in the Honors Society, graduated with five scholarships, and had a hidden hero speech given about me. I was also hitting the bottom of the dark hole of depression.
In college I couldn’t keep up with the reading assignments because I couldn’t read fast enough. I enrolled in recording for the blind and they put my textbooks on tape. Listening to them helped me complete my assignments and made it easier for me to remember what was read. I was at the bottom of the hole of my mental illness. Getting out of bed, keeping food down, sleeping, and concentrating were hard. That coupled with my learning disability, made college seem impossible, but I managed to push through and pass my classes with high grades.
When I took a year off from college, I started working at a grocery store. I first worked in the bakery, then moved to the front end as a bagger, and then became a cashier. Back then we had to remember produce codes. A fellow employee put the codes on index cards for me. Each day I took the cards to work with me, and at home I read over them. In time I began to remember them. The registers add up the groceries, but when I accidently entered the wrong amount of money I was given, I had to figure out the correct change to give out. I can’t add or subtract in my head. I started carrying a calculator with me to work for situations like this.
I’ve worked hard to rise above my learning disability while fighting mental illness. I struggled with self-doubt and hopelessness, and I mentally punished myself when I made a simple mistake. At work and I rarely spoke to anyone. I drowned in my negative thoughts. My co-workers encouraged me to talk. Before long I had friends and a social life. I rose above my mental illness and learning disability to be a cashier.
August will mark twenty-seven years at the grocery store. I have regular customers who wait in long lines to see me. One customer teases me that I’m cheating on him with my husband. I have trained several cashiers, and I mentor a friend who has vision loss who is working at the same grocery chain but in a different location.
The girl who others said couldn’t read and was dumb has an associate degree and is about to get a book published. The person who thought her life was hopeless and planned her death is happy and filled with hope. Determination helped me find away around my learning disability and helped me reach recovery from mental illness. It has also given me the ability to assist others. Through it all I have grown into a stronger person who doesn’t take the word “can’t” as meaning “unable to do something,” but as meaning I can do anything I put my mind too.
We all need this type of determination in our lives. It’s time to stop saying, “I can’t beat this disability,” or “I can’t recover from my mental illness,” and just give up. It’s time to say, “I can.” I can work around my disability, I can reach recovery from mental illness, and I can be happy. Rise up against the odds and push forward.
My determination has gotten me far in my life and will continue to push me further into a bright future. In August I will be holding my published book saying, “I can, and I did succeed.” I rise above my learning disability and mental illness to stand in a bright light of determination and strength.