I am not my disability. Here is my raw truth.
For me, it goes back to the fifth grade. Okay, rewind a few years before that and the time spent being analyzed and picked apart from the inside-out. It seemed to be a merry go round of tests, tests, and more tests with a discouraging, “no there is nothing wrong” with her each time. “She may just be a little slow.” Eventually, I was diagnosed with ADP (Auditory Processing Disorder) and several other irrelevant learning disabilities to give us ease.
In the fifth grade, my self-esteem had reached rock bottom. Sure, I felt pretty but not pretty smart. Around this same time, my mom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. I was 10 years old. My mom was my confidence, my rock. I spent the next three years by her side, loving on her as best as I could before she was moved to a memory care home when I was in the eighth grade. And as my story goes, my grades declined. School became a second priority to me. My mom battled Alzheimer’s for 10 more years. I would say that I silently battled with her for those 10 years too. I hurt for her and myself. What girl doesn’t need their mom? Though I felt an abundance of support from friends, family, and teachers I inevitably struggled for years.
The voices I still hear today are those of middle school and high school boys “Yeah Tate, she’s the dumbest girl I know, but at least she’s hot.” At least I had that going for me, right? No. just no. At some points, I truly believed that maybe if people never got a chance to get to know me, they would never know my weakness. How can you allow another individual to measure your worth like that? It is up to us to show the world our inner beauty that lies within the exterior.
In every dark hole, there is a light waiting for you, shining so brightly. Find that light and don’t let it go.
Though it took years to build up confidence, I discovered that these people laughing at me were my own demons. I was my worst enemy here, hating on myself rather than lifting myself up. My low grades affected me in ways that I will never get back from education to sports, college acceptance, even sorority recruitment. All of these things so minuscule compared to the most important, my own self-worth. Rather than loving myself, I spent my days searching for affirmation from others for far too long. My happiness was based off of a friend or a boy letting me know I looked pretty. But this was never good enough. When my mom passed away, I went through my darkest of times. I gained several pounds and failed several classes. During this time, I no longer felt pretty on the outside. I knew that it was time to search for the pretty on the inside. I craved balance and had the desire to do well. I reached out and received the help so direly needed.
Today, I would be lying to you if I told you I no longer struggle. I do, and so does everyone. But I do know what I need to do now. My trials have taught me to prove the world differently, to be proactive and to focus on my strengths. And you know what? I do this each day. I do know that I am persistent and use my experiences to encourage and bring others up. Today I can say that I feel more beautiful than ever and that is not because of my physical appearance, but my inner self. Your happiness is not rooted from a partner, from a job, or even a grade on your paper. It does not come from the number of likes you receive on a post or whether you’re single or in a relationship. Your happiness comes from within. When you CHOOSE to be happy, the rest happens on its own. I promise. If I could tell my ten year old self this, I would. I am not my disability and I am not that dumb girl. Though at times, we may doubt ourselves- choose to smile at the old girl or guy inside of you and remember the person that you have become. I choose to be happy, why can’t you?
Ps. You should be so proud of Tate- she graduated college and made the dean’s list her last 4 semesters! What an example of conquering your mountains and coming out even stronger than you were before. Thank you for being such a light to the world Tate, I am honored to call you a lifelong best friend.
Sending lots of love to you for being so brave,