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To My 6th Grade Self Who Lied About Having a Learning Disability

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Hey you. Yes, you in all your awkward, sixth grade, glasses-wearing, “brace face” tubbiness. Other people may have it better or worse, but when it’s yours it feels like the worst ever, I know. You, who just spent the last 10 minutes sputtering and turning tomato red when someone asked why you were in the “special class.” You lied and said you were there because of poor organization skills and because you wanted to get out of orchestra. That’s not true and you know it. You’re there because of a learning disability that you were born with and the learning disability will never go away.

You didn’t know when it first started, this feeling of shame, this feeling of needing to guard your disability like a terrible secret. Maybe it was when you first came to see the lunchroom as survival hour and started dreading those 30 minutes with every fiber of your being. Maybe it was when you heard some called the R-word and when you Googled the definition you realized that person was making fun of people like you. So you internalized the shame and whenever people asked you, it was one lie after another. You turned it into this massive deal. It was your own personal Area 51.

I wish I could tell you it’s going to get easier or that it goes away, but it doesn’t. Sorry about that. The learning disability is a permanent hitchhiker through life. I will tell you this though: After the umpteenth time of lying about it, you’ll realize something important.

Really, it’s not that big of a deal. Your brain is different! You aren’t like all those other people, you were made unique to you! The first time you explain to someone that you just have a learning disability so you need more time on tests, a huge weight will lift from your shoulders. Once you accept yourself, the feeling is phenomenal. So phenomenal that you will have to resist the feeling of screaming out the window, “I’m learning disabled!” Sure, you need more time to do stuff and no, you probably aren’t going to ever be a perfect socializer, but so what? When you denied the learning disability, you denied a huge part of yourself. Oh, the years wasted over feeling shame about something you couldn’t control. There are so many other aspects of you, but the disability was like a massive shadow covering that, because you perseverated forever!

Guess what, the people who matter won’t care.

Guess what, the people who do care don’t matter.

Turns out, it’s just one little part of you.

Turns, out it does not inhibit you from being great.

You will have good friends.

You are loved.

Soon those bullies won’t matter.

Soon you’ll feel strange for being so secretive for so long.

Your life will have purpose and meaning.

I love you.

Originally published: September 17, 2016
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