“Miracles are unexpected joys, surprising coincidences, unexplainable experiences, astonishing beauties... absolutely anything that happens in the course of my day, except that at this moment I’m able to recognize its special value.” - Judith M. Knowlton
People of all walks have their own set of challenges to face. This is an unspoken truth we all come to understand as we grow older. While some could be considered more important than others, abundance in daily media along the lines of “privileged viewpoints” is hard to ignore.
Inch by inch progress is made to include more dialogs. By hearing from underrepresented populations admitting our differences, uncovering discrimination, and breaking past stereotypes, we build perspective. This contrast gives us a starting point from which we begin to understand one another and create more initiatives that work towards inclusion.
So, in celebration of adding an inch towards the fight for our best, most unified lives, I spoke with a woman who identifies as an individual with a learning disability. These are the highlights of what she would like you to understand about life with short term memory loss and epilepsy.
1. She is not less capable than you simply because of laziness or a lack of motivation.
“Growing up, I was bullied a lot by people I thought were my friends”. This, she goes on to explain, affected her self-esteem. “It takes me a lot longer to grasp certain things. I have to keep repeating a lesson over and over. Sometimes I felt really left behind, but I didn’t stop trying.” Those same negative experiences also gave her an advantage she didn’t realize until much later on. “It gives me patience with myself and others. I consider myself more empathetic because I know what it’s like to be in a tough situation”.
2. Her inability to grasp concepts right away has no bearing what so ever on abilities to excel in other areas.
“It does set me back though. Especially when I have periods where I get many seizures back to back.” She does not choose to define herself by what she has no say in. Because of how rare the type of seizures she experiences, there is no cut and paste solutions. “I take many medications but still can’t find one solution. So I learned to live with it.” She laughs lightheartedly, “What else can I do? It is what it is.” Despite the pain she deals with which she describes as “The feeling of your brain being electrocuted,” moving forward is most important to her. She stresses “There is so much more to who I am that is more important to focus on.”
3. Life does not stop moving or cut her half as many breaks as she deserves.
“More opportunities are open to me than in the past, but not nearly as many as I would like.” Medication, she says, is extremely expensive and finding adequate coverage has been difficult. “There was one job in particular where I had gotten employee of the month three times in a row. I was really well-liked, very good at my job”. She goes on to detail how her manager discovered her seizures and quickly began treating her like a liability. “They [at one point] accused me of stealing money out of the tills as an excuse to fire me.” Security footage captured no evidence, but she decided to move on and look for a different job. “I didn’t want to fight, I just wanted a chance to work. I’m so grateful for [every] job I get.”
4. More than anything, she just wants to be secure so her family won’t have to worry.
“The hardest part for me is knowing how it affects my parents. I know they try to be strong and support me through it, but behind closed doors, I’ve caught them crying a few times.” Though the ride has been very long, she is happy to have ended up where she has. “I love my job now. [My new manager] is really kind and understanding of my seizures and my coworkers are great”. And most noteworthy of all, she does not take a single thing in life for granted.
“I don’t want to live my life unhappily” she admits, peering out the window glossy-eyed. “I work hard every day and look for the good in everything. Life is short. I just want to be happy.”
I couldn’t agree more.