I still vividly remember the time I realized I wasn’t like everyone else. I was in Kindergarten. At that age, I didn’t understand the concept of school. I liked Kindergarten, I was happy, and I had a lot of friends until I had to do Kindergarten again. My old classmates, who were in first grade, reminded me that I wasn’t with the rest of them. They’d ask me why. I would say I didn’t know or make up a lie and say, "I am in first grade. I’m just not in your class." I tried to pretend that I was with them.
As time progressed, so did my mind and so did theirs. I came to the realization that I’m not with them and I never will be. They were moving on, but I was going backwards. I started noticing how much I was struggling. My mind worked, but not like it was supposed to.
My feelings, on the other hand, definitely worked. I would hear people whisper and I saw the way people looked at me. It hurt. I lost people who I thought were my friends and the person I thought I was: outgoing and popular. I quit talking as much and got consumed with an image I was trying to project and perfect.
I was diagnosed with Dyscalculia, ADHD, and anxiety disorder. I didn’t know what those meant, but what I did know is the way they made me feel. I felt suffocated, embarrassed, disappointed, negative, and weird. It’s not that I don’t want to succeed, it’s that despite how hard I try, I can’t bring myself to succeed. I’m stuck in a paradox. I don’t want anyone to know my struggles, but I also don’t want to suffer in silence. I need help, but I don’t want it because I should be able to do these things on my own. I don’t like seeing myself fall into a hole of confusion, frustration, and loathing, but I’m afraid to put my guard down in fear of being judged for something I can’t control, so I stay quiet and distract myself from the harsh reality.
We live in a society where stigmas matter. If they don’t accept you, then who will? If you can’t explain what goes on in your brain, then how are you going to explain it to others? Something people forget, is how hard it is to relate to somebody despite your best efforts to try. You can show empathy, give them your patience, give them your insight. Maybe your story is similar but even if you think it is, it isn’t.
It’s not easy to help someone when you’re not them and you don’t have all the right answers. In fact, you’ll probably fail if you try to help somebody, but you tried, and anyone would rather have someone try for them then judge them.
We all have a disability, and being judged for that disability doesn’t feel good and it’s not right, but it will happen. The only person that has the right answer is you; it won’t be the same as everyone else’s, but the one thing we all have in common is an answer and the ability to respect other people’s answers because we’re all just trying to find our answer.
- Kendal, age 16, January 28, 2018, Seattle, Washington