“I want to say when I was little, like Maleficent, I was told I was different. And I felt out of place and too loud, too full of fire, never good at sitting still, never good at fitting in. And then one day, I realized something – something I hope you all realize. Different is good. When someone tells you that you are different, smile and hold your head up and be proud.”
For the past year while I wrote in this blog, I have been harping about mental health awareness and mental health as a whole. I’ve talked about “voices in our heads”; I’ve discussed anxiety; I have discussed depression; and I’ve even shared some of my personal experiences with you. What I haven’t done is talk about the most important thing.
Being happy with yourself. Being different. Being unique. Being you.
Let me tell you a story.
I am usually quite wordy, and verbose; sometimes in an attempt to give someone positivity, I go overboard and spout Gandhi-like rhetorics at them. In my attempt to make someone feel better about something, I come off sounding like a preacher pounding his gavel on the podium stand while spouting gibberish and quotations from a dusty old book. I mean well; the heart is there, but sometimes I don’t think I’m getting across to some people.
So let’s try blunt.
I wasn’t happy with myself. Sometimes, somedays, I’m still not happy with myself. I was born with a hearing loss, a defect that was generally considered along the same lines as mental retardation. I had petite mal epilepsy, which, on it’s own, is no big thing, but together with the hearing loss, it prevented me from doing what most kids would do as they grow up into the fine adults they are – Being sociable.
I was told I wasn’t going to live. It was generally thought that I wouldn’t make it through all 13 grades of school. It was believed that I would need special help with special teachers taking special ed classes. I wore this big ole clunky hearing aid that was strapped around my chest all the way up to junior high, and then I had a strap on tellex that I wore on the edge of my pants. Both devices had long wires that snaked their way up to my ears, where a mold would sit in my ears to aid me in the loss of my hearing. The teachers would wear a microphone strapped around their neck, and sat upon their chests. What I do remember is some of those same teachers objected to it, but in the end, they all wore it.
When I started working at 16, my mother objected quite strenuously. Back then, I saw it as an affront to my ability to work; now I know she was merely protecting me from the rigors of the real world, which I soon realized to my dismay that she was right. At the age of between 18 to 22, the exact age I still do not remember, I tried to commit suicide. Why? Because I was shut in a freezer just for being different.
Years later, after working for 25 years in food service, I finally had enough. A mental breakdown or a seizure so severe, it hospitalized me. It was only one day, a few hours at the most, but it was long enough for me to realize that I needed to make changes. Some major, life changing changes. Against my better judgement, I applied for SSDI, and within a few short months, I received the single most important thing that could ever have happened in my life.
Disclaimer : I will not, and do not, endorse Social Security Disability. For those who truly need it, yes, get it! It may not be what you thought you would be doing for the rest of your life, but it will help you. Believe me. For those who can still work, work until you can’t. You’ll thank me for it later.
For me, it was a life changing decision. No longer shackled by the rigors of an 8-5 job, I set out to discover myself and make the changes necessary to achieve a better life. One of the first major things to have happened to me was receiving help from various sources, and one of those helping me realized that I did not have epilepsy. It was my anxiety posing as the culprit, imitating what an actual seizure would do.
Thank you, Michelle.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that I hated myself, but I hated the fact that I had a hearing loss. However, one of my mottos in life was “Prove thyself” and so I did. In point of fact, my father, may he rest in peace, told me I was put on Earth for a reason. That only God saved me for a reason.
Who knows what that is, exactly, but I think I know the answer to that.
I set out to prove everyone wrong, that I could do the exact opposite of what everyone thought I could do. In the end, the only person I was trying to prove was myself.
I survived an RH factor disease, and lived to be healthy, wealthy and robust. Maybe not so much wealthy, but certainly robust.
I made it through all 13 grades of school, and with a few awards in my file to boot. I graduated with honors at my school, and even attended some college before I foolishly quit. Oh, to be young again.
I worked 25 years in the food service field. I was a hard worker; reliable, except for the times when my anxiety would fail me. I was likable enough, but I still failed to move up the corporate ladder because of my issues with hearing and speech. My anxiety didn’t help either, to be frankly honest. But still, my record speaks for itself. 15 yrs at one facility, another 5 at another facility, and roughly 10 years at the last hospital before I bowed out.
Respectable enough to earn me a decent paycheck, respectable enough to get me situated with SSDI.
But every step of the way, it was a fight. I was miserable for the most part. Don’t get me wrong, I had many a happy moment, but overall, I think things that happened up until now all happened for a reason.
If only I had accepted myself as being different, I think I would have accomplished things differently. But again, everything happens for a reason.
My first step was to recognize my mental health for what it truly is; a part of who I am, a part of my identity, and something I shouldn’t be ashamed of.
My hearing, or lack thereof. While it closed quite a few doors for me, there are other doors that it has opened for me. At one time, I regarded it as something I had to live with, something I needed to live with, something that was always going to be a pain in the ass to live with.
But now, I recognize it for what it is. It’s uniquely me. I no longer see it as a disability; technically, it is, and always will be, a disability, but is it a disability if it’s the only thing I know?
Acceptance was the first step towards making a healthy recovery.
And recognizing that I am different.
And humble. Well, sometimes.
While each of us are different, we are all alike in our differences.
The year 2020 will always be the year to remember. It marked a time of great loss and great sorrow. It marked a time when people of color rose up as one and fought back against the white majority. Unfortunately, some innocent people were targeted as well.
2020 was the year a world-wide pandemic literally tore a country apart while politics raged on in the United States Government. Friends and families broke and fell apart as differences of opinion split them in half.
But in the ensuing conflagration, people from all walks of life came forth, and I am beginning to see a change. A massive change, one that is vastly different then one I saw growing up. Voices are being heard, and no longer are the minorities being oppressed.
Don’t get me wrong, we still have a long ways to go. And it all starts within ourselves.
Point in fact – Joe Biden elected a Native American to his cabinet; he selected Kamala Harris, a black woman of mixed racial heritage, as his Vice-President; and an openly gay man sits on his panel of advisors.
Meanwhile, the POTUS is being targeted for assassination. While I disapprove of any loss of life in any form, no man or woman should be killed that way, it just shows what kind of year we were having and are having.
It’s okay if you are Black.
It’s okay if you are gay, or transgendered, or a lesbian.
It’s perfectly fine if you have a mental health issue.
You have a disability? That doesn’t make you any less human.
Are you a woman? You should get the same rights as everyone else does, regardless of gender.
Native American? Heck, you were the first person on this great land of ours. I admire and respect you.
It’s okay to be different. Different is good.
Be proud of being different.
We all are.