Most of the time its hard to really pinpoint when my disability is an obstacle.

It’s only when I catch an obvious mistake in a resume I’m about to send out and then I second guess every other word after that. Is this really how you spell this word? Which then sends me into a puffed up and frustrated person with each misspelled word I type for that day.

That’s when my disability is exhausting.

There is a lack of confidence my disability has cultivated and I haven’t been able to shake it off yet. It’s hard to shake it when you spend most of your energy hiding the fact there is something different about you. How could anyone go into work confident.

How could anyone go into work confident when you’re freaked out someone is going to notice you’re a bit off.

 

Disabled Writers

I’ve read over this article on the Poetry Foundation website numerous times, mostly trying to give myself a jolt in my personal statement and also it’s rare to find an article on disabled writers (which is ironic because that’s half their arugment…the lack thereof).

Recently, I was setting up a few submissions and it crossed my mind, what if I submitted a non-disabled poem to a journal that’s focus was the disability community? Would they want it? If I wrote a poem about falling in love, wouldn’t it still be on a technical level about a woman with a disability, falling in love? Wouldn’t every aspect of one’s words have an underlining acknowledgment of the disability? If a poet of color wrote a poem about love, you wouldn’t strip away their race because the poem is about love and not skin color. I think it’s interesting that disabled poetry becomes a one-sided publishing endeavor but with gender, race, or class journals are merely there to support the authors.
I enjoyed what each writer pointed out, but I only wished they had more regarding other disabilities, besides the physical and deafness. (Funny the disability community ignoring its own community and leaving a chunk of us out.) Because I have my own set of problems and issues I deal with daily, along with the notion of hiding in plain sight. I don’t have a wheelchair or a missing leg to account for my daily struggle. People don’t see me as disabled right off the bat, but I go into panic mode when trying to count coins or trying to spell the word, “especially.” I fear cashier jobs and publishing jobs worried they will find out and think less of me. Teaching a tiring job of showing up an hour early to fix my spelling errors on the board, practice saying each word in the lesson plan, to hide my disability.
That’s where I disagree with some of the writers in the article. I do wish to protest, to talk about the pity moments because sitting down to write is a battle itself for me sometimes, because I will spend 20 minutes trying to remember how to spell a word, or going back and changing every “now” to a “know.” Same with “see” and “she.” So I’m sure the poet in a wheelchair, the deaf fiction writer and I all have a different set of struggles.
I guess I’m simply trying to say is, though the disability community has become a larger part of the writing community, I still believe most readers imagine only wheelchairs, sign language, and failing bodies when they see “disabled” across the page. When voices of the community also are writing about torn identities, hidden self and trying to make do with missing tools.
Plus how can I really make someone understand what it’s like not understanding language? It would be like trying to write a poem about taking one’s breath away, which is more an expression of feeling than a literal idea.

Exhaustion is an unrecognizable word

My first year at a four-year university (after a few years of junior college) I was sitting in the office with one of the coordinators for the “learning assistance center.” This center was not only for students with disabilities but was also a part of the entire campus tutoring center needs. I’m not sure if the school was too cheap to spring for a center solely for disabilities or the state my university was located just has some shitty education regulations when it comes to private universities and the disabled students that attend. I’m guessing it’s a bit of both. One of the coordinators sat me down and told me I should create an action plan when speaking with each of my professors. She told me to find an image or a description of my disability and how it makes me feel.

For those who are still unaware, I have a learning disability (Authority process disorder) this disability stems into an umbrella of other problems, such as dyslexia, the spectrum and other speech crippling issues. But my main diagnosis, “Auditory Processing Disorder.” This learning disability encompasses a range of speech problems. Especially involving hearing and speaking.

I told her and a select few professors (the ones I felt safe approaching) that it’s like I’m chained to a rock, a really heavy rock. It’s always slowing me down, dragging behind me. My little painful reminder.

This didn’t feel right to me though. I knew there was something else I was and another way to explain my disability.

I never really write about my disability. It’s hard to write about something so familiar to me, but that’s so strange and unfamiliar to many. It’s like if I walked around reading poetry about having gills, “you know what it’s like to breath underwater right?” And I would get that weird look and they wouldn’t say yes or no, just walk away.

The start of fall 2014 I really dove into visual poetry. Just a glimpse of “From the history of grade school” by Bob Hicok was enough to give that little kick into try something new. Visual poetry became an eye-opening vehicle to show a reader what the page looks like to me. Visual poetry was a different voice, a different language than English.

And this made me realize exactly what it felt like to deal with this disability. (Mind you it’s taken a few months to really lay out this idea and feeling).

Now I want you to remember what it was like when you tried to learn a new language. Think back to high school when you took French or Spanish. Or think back to a time when you traveled to another country or place where you barely spoke the language. Now think about how relieving it felt to know you could retreat back into your first language (whatever it may be). You never really think twice about your 1st language right?

Growing up with authority processing disorder made learning English feel like a second language but when I retreated at the end of the day I didn’t have a “first language” to fall back on. So my thoughts just sat in my head. It was crippling as a child to feel this and it’s still crippling in many ways. Sometimes I go home at the end of the day exhausted from trying to keep up with language, spelling, writing, communication. Not only trying to lay out complex ideas and examples but trying to hide my disability. Trying not to show the little glimmers that remain. There is nothing more exhausting than being trapped in your own mind. This is what it must feel like for people who cannot move their legs. You sit there, you see your legs, you see others using their legs but your body doesn’t work that way.

Or for me it’s: I see the word in my mind, I can hear it in my mind, but my tongue won’t slide across my mouth. When someone gives me a set of directions I forget a few steps, I’ll process a word incorrectly, you’ll struggle to remember how to spell “completely.” Most of my life has been spent sitting back, listening, watching and developing opinions.


At my four-year university, they gave me a laminated card (it’s important to make note of this) the need to laminate anything before handing it over to their students with disabilities. Like in first grade when I was handed safety scissors or the easy to read picture book. I decided to keep the laminated card and it sits in the top drawer of the side table by my bed. it’s a reminder of how much I hated the learning assistance center and how unhelpful they were. A card I handed over to countless professors, the apology to my lack of participation or the overall odd spelling and grammar errors I made.

It’s my little reminder but how even coordinators of a disabilities center can know so little about what it’s really like day to day. It’s my reminder Whenever a friend tells me I don’t have a disability anymore like I’m fixed now. Like my college degree fixed me. Because for the majority of conversations with me you don’t notice anything wrong.

These people don’t live my day to day. The moments I forget the differences between “now” and “know” or the moments I’m so exhausted I just break down in the car driving. The memories when I young and I prayed to God to “make me like everyone else, make me normal.”

There is no overcoming one’s own disability. It’s building resilience to deal with a society that insults us by expecting us to overcome a part of ourselves that we were born with.

Through Lungs

Are there certain thoughts you don’t talk to anyone about? Do most people go through their day without so much as a word about how they’re really feeling? I know at least I do.

I know at least this describes myself.

Most my friends would be shocked to hear me utter ” I’m a really shy person.”  I was a really shy kid in a very large family. Both my parents have four siblings, which adds up a lot of cousins and large dinner events. I was the kid in the family that needed to warm up before I would start chatting. Actually this still rings true a bit. I’ve had many professors ask me, “what are thinking about?” Always noticing my wheels turning but saying nothing. Also, many acquaintances have taken my silence and shy behaviour as rude behaviour on my part. When they themselves lack the proper understanding: that I’m shy, that I struggle with a learning disability and social cues haven’t always been a natural development. I’m a more watch and learn kind of a person. So I’ve always kept to myself more.

I’ve had numerous ex’s (at the time boyfriends) inform me I’m more the “fun girl” the “happy go lucky lady” and I lack a certain level of depth. Which I know is not true but I do carry the trait of keeping feelings hidden from even the closest of friends. Hiding who I was started young. Not telling which level of math I was in. Not wanting to example where I was for half the day. Hiding the fact that I felt stupid and didn’t feel normal. I think on some level I still hid parts of myself.

I mean here I am, writing through anonymous blog.

Here I am letting past ex’s justify the reasons why I’m not worth their time.

So back to my question: Are their certain thoughts you never share with anyone? Do you go days, months, even years feeling a certain way and never expressing it?

I do. Has this to do with my relationship with language. Absolutely. Has writing poetry and being involved in speech and Debate helped? Without a doubt in my mind. But I still spend a good chunk of my day stewing in my thoughts.

Maybe one of these I’ll take that deep breathe in and speak my mind aloud.