I’m disabled…… what?

It’s official… I’m registered with the University’s Disability Resources and Services Center…



That’s the face some of my friends from high school are making as they read that…. then again some are probably saying DUHHHHH your common sense is non-existant…

But ok let’s get to the meat of why I’m even posting this… Why did I need to registers with the Disability Center?  Why would a grad student like me who seems completely “normal” (which is a bad word to use by the way) need to do such a thing… well lets lay it out there…

I got through high school just fine… graduated top 5% in my class of 500+ students… made it through college ok… had a 3.85 GPA out of my undergrad program and I’ve gotten accepted to a pretty good graduate school I think… all without any consideration for any type of disability or condition… why now?

Firstly… let’s be honest… when we hear disability or learning disabled what comes to our mind?

  • dyslexia
  • ADHD
  • mental handicap / low IQ
  • Autism/Aspergers

or physical disabilities such as

  • hard of hearing
  • blind
  • paralysis

As a social worker by education I like to think that I don’t hold on to the stereotypes that society can’t seem to let go of… but as I was faced with my own dilemma of whether I wanted to register my “condition” – which we’ll get to in a minute, I was shocked to find myself going “but I’m not disabled”.  Oh my lord did I just want to smack myself after I realized what I was thinking.  Seriously, was I that egotistical that I thought I was better than other people because I was deemed a “normal” – there’s that word again – person by societies standards?

Here we are in this hush-hush society about learning disabilities and even non-learning disabilities that can in effect actually impact our learning in the long run.  What are we teaching our next generations about what is acceptable and what they should feel comfortable with?  Are we breeding underlying discrimination by saying ‘oh you have ADHD, that’s ok we’ll tell your teachers, but don’t tell the other students’?

So what led me to this whole epiphany…

from living with migraine (http://migraine.co.nz/)

 yes…… migraines…. they make my face and head feel like they are blowing up and tearing apart and I just want to put a drill through my face to diffuse the pressure…. I’ve had them since I was 16 and nothing has ever really worked to treat them that was affordable…

Finally in May they got to be too much to handle… They were lasting for 3-4 days at a time and then after one would finally end within a couple of days it would be back again… it truly was debilitating… So at that point I saw a neurologist… She put me on a cocktail of medications, both preventative and reactive… the preventative is working… the reactive one not so much but I hardly need it given that the twice daily dose of Topamax is keeping those migraines at bay…

The only problem…. with all medications there are side effects…  The one I had hoped for was weight loss… I have lost my appetite a bit but eh…..

Here’s the big issue…  a known side effect of Topamax is problems with word recall, short-term memory and confusion… well guess who hit the lottery with those suckers???? your’s truly….

I’ve never been the best public speaker to begin with and now lets add in when I’m in the middle of talking and my whole brain literally just wipes completely blank… I’m lucky I can remember my name and the last thing I just said… I usually end up repeating myself or what the person before me just stated and then after a minute I can get my speech and brain jump started again and I’m back on track…

However it makes me come across as unprepared or even stupid at times… wonderful first year of grad school with oral presentations out my tukkas and I can’t even put a full sentence together half of the time without a stutter…

So I went to my advisor and my boss who is also a professor in the school and asked for advice… My boss refered me to the Disability Resources and Services Center.  It took me two weeks to suck it up and go.  I didn’t want to be stigmatized.

After speaking with one of the counselors over the last two weeks, I’m not the only person with migraines that needs a little bit of help.  Apparently severe migraines are a covered chronic medical condition… WHO KNEW?! and who would classify that as a freaking disability… most people tell you to take some Advil and suck it up…

Bottom line is I’m not asking to be excused from any of my projects or any tests…  I’m not asking for anyone to go easy on me or not call on me during class… I’m just asking my professors to understand if it takes me an extra minute to put my thoughts together that there’s a chemical reason why… or if I’ve had to miss a class it may be because I really cannot be in bright lights because I’m in the midst of a full on migraine…

Most of all, after this entire process I don’t want to be quiet about my migraines or about the medication I take and the side effects it causes… I want to tell everyone to stand up for themselves and to say hey I deserve to be treated just like you no matter what my situation… I still think I’m normal even though my newly registered status at DRS may define me differently… because honestly, more of the population is suffering from some type of disabling condition then we’d like to admit… and if we’d all just open up and talk about it maybe we’d end up being a healthier community in the end…

Think about it…

I urge everyone to look into their local disability centers in their communities, schools, or work places and see just really what they offer because I guarantee there might be something there that you find you or someone you care about may actually find beneficial… forget the stigma… RISE ABOVE IT….


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