depression

A Tale of Two Kitties: Part Four

So, the thing of it is…over a month has passed.  Life has once again gotten away from me.  And here I sit, two days away from Monkey’s Gotcha Day…and a for real deadline that I should probably actually stick to.  There’s another post here in the middle that needs to be written…so here goes…  Full disclosure, most of this is pulled from the Notes section on my phone from over a year ago.  I had every intention of putting this all to “paper” then, but as the saying goes, better late than never.

As a reminder, Puppy died on a Thursday morning.  The Sunday before was his last really good, normal day.  I was home with him, the weather was perfect, and we just chilled together on the screened-in porch.  He slept in his chair out there a lot and I just kind of enjoyed his sweet company.  I freaking love/loved/love that guy.  He was my best friend…he was always there.

That Sunday, Puppy was passed out and chilling on that chair when the (not so) little gray and white dude showed up.  I always hated petting other animals when Puppy was around, especially towards the end.  I never wanted him to feel like I was cheating on him.  Call me weird, I don’t care.  Maybe I just love differently and harder than some.  Maybe I AM just weird, but whatever.

But the gray and white dude was so sweet and chatty; I didn’t want to ignore him either.  I thought it wouldn’t hurt to pet him for a bit, while Puppy slept, so I slipped out onto the deck.  I crouched down and dude was head-butting the crap out of me…just purring and head-butting.  He was super sweet.  I let it happen for less than 5 minutes and then I went back in with my boy.

Later that day, I saw my gray and white friend fighting another gray and white cat in the backyard.  I went out and yelled and the fight dispersed pretty quickly.

The Thursday that Puppy died was one of the worst days of my life.  I fled to Florida to get away and be with my parents for a bit.  It killed.  It still kills.  You either get it or you don’t.  And there’s no point in trying to convince you if you don’t.

We went to our favorite breakfast place while I was in Florida.  It’s right on a pier on the beach and, aside from the pigeons that prowl the grounds…ready to ferociously attack, it just has an awesome atmosphere.  It’s one of my favorite places in the world.  There’s a bar side table that looks right out on the ocean.  That’s where my mom, dad, and I were sitting this particular morning.  All of the sudden, I noticed my mom’s face do a thing.  I knew something was up.  “I just saw a cat,” she said.  Knowing I was vulnerable, she followed with, “I didn’t know if I should tell you.”

I jumped up to see it.  It was a little guy who looked so much like Puppy…his markings were a little darker, but the pattern was very much the same…aside from this half mustache thing he had going on.  I fell in love.  He crawled into the bushes right in front of us.  We ordered a side of bacon and brought it to him when we finished brunch.  He took the bacon happily.  We noticed an empty cat food can in the back and knew somebody was taking care of him.

I took a few pictures and felt very bittersweet over the whole thing.  Then we went and put our toes in the sand for a while.  It’s hard for me to sit still on a good day, so it’s even worse on a bad day.  Despite the assistance of a few mimosas, I couldn’t just sit there.  My mom and I got up to walk the pier.  As we passed where the cat had been, we looked down.  I was hoping he would be there.  Somehow I felt connected.  I mean, he really looked a lot like Puppy.  He WAS there!  (Should this have been titled A Tale of Three Kitties?)

Puppy meets Monkey in the underbrush     Rainbow Bridge Kitty

As soon as I spotted him, Iz’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” started playing overhead.  I nearly lost it.  It made me think Puppy had made it to the Rainbow Bridge and that this little guy was sent to tell me he made it okay…or something.  I’m not really sure.  I found comfort and gut-wrenching pain in it, but mostly I tried to take peace from it.  We caught our breath and wiped our tears and we continued down the pier…

Even in your darkest moments, there is light, there is hope…if only you are willing to see it.  Hard as it is sometimes, life goes on.  The sun still shines.

Sun through the clouds

Anyway, my mom and I flew back that Sunday night.  Flights got all kinds of screwed up (shocking, I know), so we didn’t get in until late.

The next day I got up to go to work.  Being back home was hard.  My routine was hollow and empty without my little guy.  No meds had to be given.  No food had to be put out.  No litter had to be scooped.  Who knew that not having to clean up cat crap could be so heart breaking?  But mostly, no little dude following my every move.

I struggled through the morning, trying to keep living, trying to get back to it.  I got in my car and immediately backed right into my dad’s Explorer.  It took a minute to realize what had happened.  Once I realized it, I began to shake and all the tears I’d been fighting came pouring out in a torrential downpour.  I got out of the car and realized there was only damage to my car, so that was good.  I sucked it up and carried on.  It’s what we do.  I’d deal with my car’s damage later.

I went to work and did my best to get through the day.  Everybody was super supportive.  All of my friends had written ridiculously sweet things in a card for me.  Tears flowed and I fought them constantly, but I survived.

As I drove home that day, I felt the empty reality hit me hard.  There would be no little goober greeting me when I got home.  My life was forever changed.  Even now, I still look for him.  Sometimes I still miss him like it just happened.

Anyway, when I was pulling in my driveway, I saw my gray and white friend crossing over from our neighbors’ and going into our backyard.

I walked into the kitchen and he showed up right at the back door, just staring at me…like he’d been waiting all day.  He did this every day.  I missed my little Puppy so much, but this guy gave me something to look forward to.  I didn’t really know who he was and he could never replace my Puppy, but he certainly made me smile and feel some kind of love when all I could feel was shattered and alone.

You can’t tell it in this picture, but this furry little guy has a half mustache.  The little guy we’d seen at the beach was, what at least appeared to be, a combination of Puppy and this other amazing little dude.  I was only beginning to get it at the time, but none of this was coincidence.  God works in mysterious ways, my friends.  There are times when it seems like the universe is failing you, but there are times when the universe seemingly rallies for you.  This little dude standing at my door was exactly that…and the universe was rallying damn hard.

Monkey at the door

 

Tale of Two Kitties: Part One

Tale of Two Kitties: Part Two

Tale of Two Kitties: Part Three

 

A Tale of Two Kitties: Part Three

I rambled a bit leading up to the actual meat of this post.  I feel badly dragging you all through it.  If you’d like just the gist, scroll on down to where everything becomes italicized.

So, I kind of dropped the ball.  I meant for it all to unravel here, as it did in real life this time last year.  But, as it tends to do, life got in the way. Hell, my feelings got in the way. There’s a fine line between allowing yourself to feel grief and allowing yourself to be swallowed whole by it.  There’s another fine line between honoring a memory and allowing yourself to make new ones.

I had every intention of telling this part of the story on January 19th, the anniversary of the day my little dude passed away.  Life is busy, crazy, and chaotic.  And, if I’m being honest, not stellar at the moment.  On January 19th, schedules allowed and one of my best friends was actually able to hang out with me.  I thought, I could wallow in my own grief…or distract myself by spending time with someone I rarely get to see.  I chose to focus on the good and I hung out with my friend instead of completely indulging in the grief and sadness that the day forced on me.

After all, when I set out to share all of this with you guys, it wasn’t so much about the grief and the gut-wrenching sadness of losing someone you love…though, that would inevitably be part of it…it was, believe it or not, supposed to be about gratitude and hope, mostly hope.

I’ve been living my day-to-day life since my last post, but the “blank pages” have been plaguing me.  The ADHD / OCD war has been alive and (un)well.  Part of me knows I procrastinated this, part of me wants to just let it go unfinished, and the OCD part of me is berating itself for having not stayed on task and not completed everything on time.

I digress.  Imagine.

So, I kept trying to do the math for all the things.  Since I missed the actual anniversary, what day would make sense to post all of this?  Should I backdate it all?  Honestly, I’m still on the fence.  There’s a timeline I committed to in my head and I’ve failed to maintain it.

But isn’t the whole point of all of this to be real?  To be human?  To share my failures, not just my successes?  Aren’t you proud I haven’t even addressed the fact that it’s probably been over a year since my last post before these Tale of Two Kitties ones?  Ha…and there it is.

Anyway, now I’ve written an entire post leading up to the whole point of the post.  Le sigh.  I guess if you’ve made it this far, I commend you.  There’s a bit more to go; there’s always more.

So, like I said, I’ve been living my day-to-day life trying to decide when to post all of this. And today, Facebook hit me like a ton of bricks…one that I knew was coming, but still. On This Day last year, I finally put it all out there.  I told the world (my world, anyway) that my favorite guy was gone.  It took me a week and a half to compose a post, to say the words, to, perhaps, admit the reality of my loss.

Puppy was such an amazing dude.  He had a following.  And had I been more diligent (or had he been more active on social media himself…slacker), he could have had a real following on social media.  His personality made an impression and, if only because of the joy he brought to me, most of the people I love, loved him as well.

I could sit here and relive it all, as…let’s be real, I’ve been doing for about a month in my own head.  Or I could just share what I put on Facebook.  I think I’ll do that.  I’m not sure when I’ll follow up because now I’ve screwed up the timeline, actual dates anyway…but I promise the story gets happier.  I still lose my dear, sweet (insane) Puppy, but there’s a light, a hope.  Some rough patches still to come, but if you see it through, you’ll feel the good…I think…I hope.
Here are the words I shared on this day last year.  (I guess in some ways, I’m right on track with the timing thing.):

I have been absolutely dreading this post. On Thursday, January 19th, I had to say goodbye to my best friend, my Puppy.
As you all know, he was my favorite thing in the world. And I know so many of you grew to love him and his quirky ways, too.

He was thrown from a truck 14 years ago and our apartment security officer, who saw it happen, knew Stacie, Carrie, and I were suckers. I ultimately got custody of him after graduation. Rather…I took him and I think everybody just knew we were meant for each other. I like to think we saved each other’s lives. I know there were plenty of times that he saved mine. We were just crazy enough to make sense of each other.

My world is ridiculously empty without him. He was everything that got me out of bed for so long, especially towards the end when his actual survival depended pretty much on me. His signature, “Pa-pow,” greeted me every time I walked in the door, even until the very last time.

He made me laugh so much. He was such a goober.

He stopped consistently sleeping with me over the past year or so; he took to sleeping on the massive pile of clothes on my dresser instead. Occasionally he’d grace me with his presence and sleep draped across my chest…for just a few minutes. Those were the best moments, even when they were extremely brief. He slept next to me in bed that last night. I think he was throwing me a bone, letting me know that he loved me, too…but I think he knew it was almost his time.

That little guy infiltrated my life. I am so grateful for the time we got to share, for the laughs, the love, the companionship. As crazy as he was, he was truly a gift. Perhaps only a weirdo like me could love a weirdo like him the way he deserved to be loved.

The past week and a half-ish have been heart wrenching. His last vet visit in early January showed improved blood work. So, while we knew he wasn’t 100% healthy, it seemed he was getting better. He wasn’t.

I am grateful that I was here with him, that I was so in tuned with him that I heard his strained breathing as soon as it began…at least I think I did. I’m grateful I had the strength to not prolong his pain. Though, in some ways, it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I’m grateful that my brother could be there with me, so I didn’t have to be alone as I said goodbye to the little dude who had become my life.

I’m sorry this is so long…and that I’ve attached so many pictures. It’s not like you couldn’t find them on your own if you wanted to go looking on my page or his. For as many times as this moment crossed my mind over the years, I had somehow convinced myself I’d never have to face it. Yet, here it is.

For all the things I’m grateful for, second, only to him not having to leave this world alone, is the amazing amount of love and support I have received from everybody in my life. My family and friends are beyond amazing and they remind me that, no matter how much it feels like it, I’m not alone. Their thoughtfulness and kindness has blown me away and given me hope.

My world will never be the same. My little dude is gone. And I am crushed. Even in these moments of intense sadness, I’d do it all over again. He brought so much to my life. His absence kills me, but my life would have been far worse had I never been able to love him. And love him hard, I did…for that is the only way I know how to love.

So, there it is, guys.  The shortened version of one of the absolute worst moments of my life.  Pets are people, too.  Pets are better than people.  I still miss him every single day.  I think that’s the sign of a good run.  I was lucky as hell to have a little dude I loved so much and who…well, who tolerated me.  I mostly smile at the reminders.  When you’re a crazy cat lady, they’re everywhere.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  I’m glad there are constant reminders.  Sometimes they hurt like hell, but they mostly make me smile…

Tale of Two Kitties: Part One

Tale of Two Kitties: Part Two

A Tale of Two Kitties: Part Two

This time last year, I was supposed to be hanging out with some lifelong friends, including one who was in town only for a minute.  I was supposed to be out, having dinner…maybe a few drinks, having fun with some of my favorite people in the world.  But something was off about Puppy.  Maybe it was “mother’s intuition.”  Maybe it was that sixth sense that’s so common with us ADHDers.  Whatever.  I just knew.  I battled between joining my friends for dinner and staying home with my cat, who didn’t really show any signs that he was failing…but somehow was telling me something was wrong.

Dude was fussy as hell, always.  And weird. Weird beyond weird.  These are some of the reasons I loved him so much.  But these things made it hard to tell, on the surface of it all, that things were failing.

These are the last pics I took of my little dude.

Puppy cat staring at wall
These were not out of character.  My parents were out of town, so he had every right to be pissed (and to stare at a wall, ignoring my every attempt at love).  He didn’t like change.  And the buffet of food?  He was the pickiest cat I’ve ever met…and we all know cats are known for their pickiness.  But I have many pics of this buffet on many a good day.  Puppy not eating the food in front of him didn’t mean he wasn’t eating.  It usually just meant I hadn’t given him his food of choice for the night.

Still, I sensed something, even if there wasn’t a red flag blowing in my face.  Something told me something was off.  I am eternally grateful for my instinct.  I felt like crap blowing off my friends that night, but I will never regret that choice.  I can’t imagine how I would have felt had I left my Pupster alone that night.  I am glad (to put it super lightly) that I trusted my instinct and stayed home with him.

It was a normal night otherwise.  Puppy hadn’t been snuggling with me for a while and I don’t think that he did that evening either.

But…that night, he slept with me.  He slept right up near my head.  He was throwing me a bone.  He hadn’t done that in a while.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but come 4AM, I would get it.

The Epiphany and Self-Evaluation of a Diagnosis

My first newspaper appearanceI have literally saved everything I’ve ever purchased, every gift I’ve ever received and every word I’ve ever written.  A quote from my post Colored File Folders and the Organization of Life kind of sums it up nicely:

Many times I’ve been here, among the crap that is my life, trying
desperately to climb out of it…to understand it…to let it go.
I’ve held onto so many things as reminders of what once was, what
could’ve been, and what never was.  Other things I held onto with
the hope that one day I would get to them, to read them, to finish
them, to become whole.  These things represent my infamous “to-do”
list that never seems to get done.”

I wrote that post in 2006 just after being diagnosed with ADHD.  Here I am, nearly ten years later, in a similar self-excavation phase.  Things have changed greatly since my Xanga days.  I’m a successful social media professional for a global company, I have my own car…that I’ve already paid off, I’m an aunt to two amazing little people, I enrolled myself in a Social Media for Business certification program and I completed it…and, perhaps most importantly, I get out of the house on a daily basis.

That said, there’s still a lot left for me to sort out…and I think the recent self-excavation (of my last self-excavation) has made me realize things that I had kind of forgotten.  Life kind of happens and spins you in all directions and, in all the fighting to keep up, it’s easy to lose sight of what it all really means.  Anyway, I’m trying to sort it all out, uncovering pieces of myself and remembering all that I’ve overcome.

It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I have certainly come a long way.  The other night I sat with a friend, reading short stories and unfinished scripts that I had written as a child.  I was a happy child, but always very aware and sensitive to the world around me.  In my stories, there was a persistent theme of struggling…and overcoming…the main character always faced a huge obstacle (literally, like having cancer or AIDS…or being homeless), but there was always hope.  I laughed a little bit at myself and my friend asked me why I was laughing.  I said, “It makes me sad for my former self.”  Later, I realized that that wasn’t the case at all.  My former self was so full of life, struggling in her own ways, but striving to be more and to bring hope to those around her.  I think I really laughed because I was embarrassed to realize that I’ve lost sight of some of that, that I don’t believe as much as I once did, that I’ve sort of given in to the day-to-day grind…out of necessity, sure, but at what cost?

Without going on and on, I wanted to share another one of my Xanga posts.  I wrote this one shortly after being diagnosed with ADHD (and Depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder), too.  I think a lot of people go through these kinds of emotions as they start to accept and understand their own diagnosis…whether it’s ADHD or something completely unrelated.  A diagnosis can be a difficult thing to process, but I really do believe it can help you understand yourself better…and ultimately be happier for it.

The original post was long enough, so I won’t add more to it now, but the thoughts and emotions are flooding me.  It’s a strange feeling to be inspired by a former version of yourself.

“Why can’t I just be normal? I know I come on here and I can rave about how great we all are because of our differences…how without them we’d be boring, life would be boring. But sometimes I just get tired of it all.

I feel like everybody’s always overlooked these issues or dealt with them for the time being and then assumed they’d never be back to haunt me. But, I look back now as an adult and I can see the things that have weakened me. It’s not that I ever forgot about these things, I just never put them together. But, as a child, I wasn’t exactly aware of the connection of things…I was not educated enough to be. Not only that, I was too naive to think that all these things could be connected…no one ever spoke of them too much…and I think it was pretty much assumed that they no longer existed.

Seeing the connection of it all pisses me off. All these red flags popping up all over the damn place and nobody looked a little further. It’s a lot to take in at once and I have honestly tried to pace myself as not to drive myself completely insane…but, in this moment, I cannot hold back. No, I was not labeled as a child, but perhaps we made such an effort to not label me that we missed the importance of the things I was going through.

Depression…ah, yes, the label has suited me for nearly a decade now…no, I take that back, more than a decade. Sure, give me a checklist, and I’ll pretty much check ‘em all. But, I always knew there was something more.

I did remember a life before the depression, though I always struggled with things that I knew other people didn’t. I longed for that life and I imagined I could will myself out of the darkness. But, hard as I tried, I, of course, could not.

As I tried everything I possibly could to save myself, it was to no avail. I began to wonder if I would ever be whole again. I tried St. John’s Wort and the depression subsided for a while. I was thrilled with the idea of being able to focus again…to be able to read…participate…learn…live. But then I couldn’t still. I crumbled with that realization. Something bigger than me was making it impossible for me to function normally.

And maybe those of you who know me never saw this…the struggle. I thought it was my fault, so why would I put out my wounds for all of you to see. Sure, I’m doing that here, but this is a virtual world for just such purposes. I am free to rant, free to expose myself. I know who reads this for the most part…the two people…and I don’t care what you read…you pretty much know it all anyway. And for the rest of you, I don’t really care. This is a rant. I’m here to keep typing until I understand it all. I write to clear my head, to formulate ideas and to get them out. But, in real life, I wore a smile…it was my protection against the world. If I could pretend to be happy, maybe one day it would take me over and it wouldn’t be just pretending anymore…but, no, that didn’t happen either.

As I faced the “real world,” everything collapsed. Without structure or purpose beyond myself, it all fell apart. I tried the website thing, but it was not enough to sustain me-financially or emotionally. I could not fix the things that were broken within the site, and I could not fix the things that were broken within myself.

And then a friend suggested it, Attention Deficit Disorder…one of the more recent labels…one of the more important labels that has helped me regain some control over my life. I researched on my own for a while…websites, books, songs, anything I could get my hands on. The first time I read a list of symptoms, I saw my life reflected in those pages. Everything I was and had been came to the surface. It explained so much…most of it…or at least a big chunk of it. And then I went to a shrink…to find out for sure. It took a long time to make that step…cause, I guess in some ways I was afraid he would tell me I was wrong and I’d be back at square one wondering what the hell was wrong with me.

But, no, he did not tell me that I was wrong. He said, “I don’t usually recommend medication on the first visit, but you definitely seem like the perfect candidate.” One more visit and a trip to the psychologist (or psychiatrist…can’t keep ‘em straight-whoever gives the meds) and I went home with a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, a prescription for Adderall and the hope that my life would finally get better.

And it did…in some ways. But, as with any kind of self reflection, things tend to get harder before they get easier. It is painful to reflect upon my life and to see the countless times ADD/ADHD defined my situation. I see the countless hours spent in the UGA library trying desperately to read my film books while the rest of the school sat knocking a few back at happy hour. I see the relationships gone to crap as I impulsively changed my mind about what I wanted…pushed and pulled, loved and hated…, “He never stood a chance,” and no, no, he didn’t. I regret that, for him…although, I think we’ve both ended up better for it. It was not meant to be, as things that do not happen are not meant to be…and that is all I can put my faith in. Yet, somehow, seeing how much of that was my fault hurts. I see myself forgetting 3 pages of a poem I had memorized and could recite honestly (though I don’t remember how I did it) backwards…and not even realizing I forgot them. I see myself signing up for classes I had already taken and sleeping through my first exam at UGA. I see myself almost failing out of math my senior year and rewriting my entire research paper in English my junior year because the teacher could not find a point anywhere within the 10 pages I turned in. There are hundreds of other examples I could pour out on this page, but it would not be productive.

Being diagnosed with ADD/ADHD did label me, but it explained my life in a way that nothing else possibly could. It gave a name to the thing that had prevented me from living a successful life. I don’t care what anybody says either…I have a college degree from UGA, so some say that’s a success…but to me, my college career was a failure. If you try hard as hell to read a book and cannot, then you have failed. If you try hard as hell to study and you cannot, then you have failed. Sure, I made it through, but I did not reach my potential. Had I been able to read or study or pay attention, I would have been able to do a lot better and perhaps have been able to explore other opportunities or life paths.

So what…ADD/ADHD explains a crap load about how I got to where I am today, so what now? Is it an excuse to continue living a half-ass life? No, it’s not. With the knowledge of how my mind works and the understanding that yeah, I can ask for the student notes if I feel I need them, I have the ability to change things for the better.

It does take time…and I am trying. Rome wasn’t built in a day and restructuring your entire life cannot happen in a month. I make strides; I fall down…I get back up and try again. There are good days and there are bad days…good moments…bad moments. It changes, sometimes without reason. There’s a lot going on inside my mind right now and I know a lot of people can’t see or understand that.

But I am trying my hardest.  Trying hard has never been the problem. I expect greatness, if not perfection and with my brainstyle, things tend to get very complicated there. I don’t spend a single waking moment free from thought, assessment, or problem solving. I spend every moment trying to figure out how in the hell to get my life back on track. But, you spend a lifetime trying as hard as you can and not being able to do and you start to lose the motivation to try and the confidence to put yourself out there.

As independent as I have tried to be or as independent as my thoughts may be, I cannot function on my own. In compensating for things I could not do on my own, I have come to rely on others in my life. I’m not a patient person and I frustrate myself daily. But the diagnosis alone cannot fix the issue…the medication alone cannot restructure the life.

I keep going…as I hear it in my head, “Pick yourself up and dust yourself off.”

But there’s more. Generalized Anxiety Disorder…yeah, that’s a surprise there. I mean big freaking shocker…I’m terrified of life and everything in it? No way. And what to do with this one, I’m not so sure. I’ve tried willing myself out of it. So many have said, “Just do it…it’s that easy;” they don’t understand. Or my favorite, “Everybody gets nervous about that.” Sure, but all the rest of you can do it in spite of the fear…the fear does not shut you down or make you completely avoid life. There are things that frighten all of us throughout life…first day of school, first dates, trips to the doctor…or the like…but we go and we move past the fear…and I know it’s a spectrum…like everything else in life. There are some people who are so consumed by anxiety that they cannot face their first day of school or they cannot face their first date…perhaps it varies throughout life as people evolve within themselves…but I’m stuck here in this freaking moment and I don’t know what the hell to do.

And I wonder how I got here. “Not all who wander are lost,” I can bs my way through that statement all I want, but we all know I’m freaking lost as hell…either forgot the atlas or can’t find it under the pile of crap that resides, permanently, on my the floorboard of my car.

I can; however, look back at the roads that led me here and it becomes more clear each step I take.

Denial simply postpones the inevitable.

I spoke with a lisp as a child. My “g’s” were “q’s” and my “d’s” were “b’s.” They thought they were going to have to put tubes in my ears. I couldn’t tie my shoes. I couldn’t tell time.

They put ME in gifted classes.

It’s ironic how the one label I received as a child has harmed me more than any I have found in the recent years. They put me in gifted classes, which meant I was smart…or, at the very least, expected to perform as such. I was a year behind where I was supposed to be, which always sort of cancelled out the “gifted” label to me. It came so easily to everyone else around me…everything did. I didn’t really care. I tried. I came into this world fighting for my life and I will always be a fighter. But somewhere between the shocking tone of, “You can’t tie your own shoes yet?” and yet another September with unread summer reading (the same summer reading that intrigued me beyond explanation in all my complete nerdy style when I received the list of books the previous June), I realized that I am not like everybody else…that perhaps I want things more than most people, that I can see the benefit in education, that I long for it, but, hard as I try, I cannot grasp it.

And all the while, you know it must be you, you must not be trying hard enough…even though, somehow, you know that can’t be true because you couldn’t possibly try any harder. You’ve tried sleeping with the book under your pillow (to learn by osmosis), you’ve tried reading the book aloud and sleeping with the tape-recorded version under your pillow, you’ve tried underlining the entire book, you’ve tried retyping the entire book, you’ve tried highlighting the important stuff (but isn’t it all important if it’s included in the book?), you’ve tried referring to the book only for the parts that align with your class notes…and your class notes-they were a whole ‘nother hopeless struggle. The money you spent on Student Notes (even when you actually had your own) should’ve been spent on beer with the rest of those slackers as that would’ve done you just as much good.

I kept on, having nothing to blame my failures on but myself. After all, I was gifted, so my brain was capable of digesting the information…if I could only discipline myself enough to get it there.

The self-loathing increased over the years…how could it not? Each year built on the previous year and I got farther and farther behind. I could pull my weight (between all-nighters and creative study techniques) until 5th grade…from there, it was all downhill.

I sat at the back of that lecture hall, blending in with the hundreds of students around me. It was a new semester, a new chance to make it. The professor offered it up, “If any of you need the assistance of a student note-taker, please see me after class.” I listened, hopeful for a second. I thought, “Maybe I should get one. Then I could pay attention to the professor instead of trying to write down everything he says with the intentions of figuring it all out later.” I had long since realized I could not keep up with the professor or focus enough between the thoughts in my head and the sounds of tapping feet, running air conditioners, and students walking by outside. I always intended to learn the information later, but found I couldn’t read the information or process it, even in the most solitude of places. After a lifetime of education, I knew what I was capable of, or what I wasn’t capable of, rather…but I also knew what I was expected to be capable of. “I will just have to try harder. Asking for a student note-taker would be just taking the easy way out. That’s for people who really have a problem, not for people who are just lazy like me.”

And I could spend forever looking back at all the times I should’ve asked for help or should’ve heard the cries of helplessness within my heart. But that wouldn’t fix the problem.

There are labels to come, some of which I am expecting…some of which I fear. But, if nothing else, I have learned that as detrimental as labels may be (if incorrect or incomplete), they can also be that missing piece that completes your puzzle.

We ARE all different. We ALL have our own set of weaknesses and our set of strengths. It does us no good to pretend that we do not have weaknesses. It does a person no good to run from who they really are; deep down we know we can only save ourselves.”