You Can’t Buy A Learning Disability

This picture is from an article I wrote for my high school newspaper about how incredibly hard the college admissions process was for me. So knowing now that people were out there totally cheating the system really angers me.

By now you’ve probably heard about the high-profile college admissions scandal that came out recently, in which parents paid to get their children into universities through bribing faculty, hefty donations or arranging for their children to cheat on the SATs. Paying off a college to get your kid in is obviously terrible. But the fact that some of the parents “bought” their kids a learning disability to get SAT accommodations makes me absolutely furious.

My learning disabilities have affected me in almost every class I’ve ever taken. They often force me to work much harder than my peers to get the same results. They have been a constant source of anger and frustration for years because I can’t do things that come easily to other students. My accommodations are what helps bridge this gap and without them, I would have completely floundered in school. To think of someone taking advantage of the resources I need to overcome a genuine significant struggle is incredibly upsetting.

Thankfully, I have become very good at advocating for myself and my needs in the classroom. But before I developed the confidence to stand up for myself, there were teachers who completely blew me off. Some called me a distraction to the rest of the class and some said it wasn’t fair to give me “special treatment.” Freshman year, one teacher even blatantly denied me my university mandated accommodations and I was felt too embarrassed and ashamed to fight back.

So what makes me so angry about this whole college admissions scheme is that the kind of people involved in it are the reason that teachers don’t always take me seriously. They are why a teacher once told me that I was “obviously trying to take advantage of the system” so his goal would be “to accommodate me as little as possible.”

It is important for the world to understand that learning disabilities are a huge burden for those who really suffer from them. They are not a sneaky way to get extra time on tests or use of a laptop in class. They are the only way to level the playing field so that I can thrive alongside my peers.

This scandal is unfortunate, frustrating and disappointing. But I hope it creates an opportunity for dialogue on these issues so that people can better understand how hard a learning disability really is.

Has anyone ever questioned your learning disability? Let me know in the comments or send me an email.

5 Ways To Practice Self-Care In A Stressful Time

Today I realized something terrifying. In eight weeks, I will graduate from college.

So from the minute I woke up, I was filled with sudden panic about the huge unknown that’s in front of me. Unfortunately, there’s no way for me to ease the stress by getting the perfect job overnight. Instead, I am going to have to make my final days in school about self-care to combat the anxiety.

I’ll admit that I’ve never been great about self-care. Sometimes it makes me feel selfish, or like I’m wasting valuable time that I could be spending getting work done. But I have also seen its value time and time again when I need to reset and collect myself.

So here’s what I’ll be doing to take care of myself during this stressful season.

  1. Taking walks and spending time outside.

Even thought it’s cold, I always find that just half an hour walking outside can help me settle back into a place of calm. If I start to lose focus, getting some fresh air and moving around is always a good way to recharge.

  1. Do something creative.

When I have restless energy, it helps me to feel like I’ve at least created something with my time spend decompressing. So try journaling, painting or writing a song.

  1. Paint my nails (or even spring for a manicure!)

It’s the simplest luxury, but I always feel more confident when my nails look nice. And sometimes the little bit of pampering we get at a manicure is just the extra care we need.

  1. Spend less time on social media.

I’ve heard that comparison is the thief of joy and, especially in a time of so much change, it can be hard not to compare myself to those who seem to have it all figured out, according to social media. But I need to remember that I am exactly where I need to be and that nobody has all the answers, even if it looks like it on Instagram.

5. Try to stay present.

While it’s important for me to engage in the new phase my life is entering, I also need to remember not to get so caught up in planning that I lose sight of my two months as a student. I should most of all be enjoying the days I have left as a student, not panicking about what I will do when they end.

What do you do for self-care? Let me know in the comments!

I Can’t Focus: Now What?

I knew I needed to post something today so I tried to start writing last night. But as per usual, I got distracted in minutes and ended up getting nothing done. So I planned to get writing today after a morning meeting. Instead, I stayed to socialize and then went shopping for things I didn’t need.

When I finally got home, the day was almost over and I had nothing written. I felt too scattered to even come up with an idea and any kind of advice blog I thought of felt insincere since I was struggling so much with my own ADD today.

To be honest, even when I feel or look like I am thriving, my ADD never goes away. It’s not something I will ever cure (and I wouldn’t want to) — it’s something I sometimes can embrace and sometimes have to really fight and work around.

Today is one of those days where my ADD makes it feels like a challenge to do normal things like homework, cleaning and keeping up with my schedule. And I think it is crucial that those of us with ADD can admit that when it happens and ask for help when we need it.

I try to remember that it’s important not to shame myself on days like today, but I always feel really defeated if I realize at the end of the day that I got nothing done. So here are some things I’ve found to do when I really can’t focus on the task at hand.

  1. Get out of bed. The longer you lie there, the more time you really will waste, which can leave you feeling guilty and ashamed.
  2. Go for a walk and clear your head.
  3. Try a guided meditation for focus.
  4. Run errands. Even if you’re not doing the most important thing on your to-do list, it will feel good to get something done.
  5. Clean and declutter your workspace as much as you can. Set a tone of positivity and efficiency.
  6. Call a friend for a pep talk.
  7. Take a shower.
  8. Avoid falling down the social media rabbit hole.
  9. Read an interesting book if you can focus on that.
  10. Cook or bake something.
  11. Write a letter to a friend.
  12. Go to a park.
  13. Use an energizing essential oil if you’re into that.
  14. Go to a coffee shop to get your work done. The change of scenery may be what you need.
  15. Have a little grace with yourself. You are enough and you’re doing your best.

Yes, in some capacity all of these are just distractions to put off what you need to do. But sometimes, we need a little time doing something else before we can settle down to do what’s important. And if nothing else, you will feel a little better at the end of the day knowing you at least used your time to achieve or create in some way.

What do you do when you can’t focus? Let me know in the comments!

Taking Time To Breathe: A Work In Progress

Breathing exercises have been a part of my toolkit since high school when I first began dealing with severe anxiety. If nothing else worked, my last resort was to close my eyes and just try to breathe through my panic until I felt normal again. Some days it worked better than others but if I didn’t have a panic medication on hand, breathing was really all I had. One exercise in particular really helped carry me through high school – breathe in for 4 counts, hold it for 7 counts and breathe out for 8 counts. (I later learned that tapping your leg along with the count in your head can really help as well!) But as I got older and my problems seemed to get bigger I began to minimize the value of breathing exercises to combat anxiety. They were so simple that it started to feel like using a glass of water to put out a forest fire. But in the last few months, I’ve tried to reconnect with the power of breathing exercises and meditation and it’s been a game changer.

I have a hard time remembering to carve out time to breathe and sometimes my brain feels so busy I can’t will myself to slow down for a few minutes. But I learned from my doctor last year that, in order for breathing exercises to really work when I am in the middle of panicking, I have to practice them when I am feeling more neutral. So one easy way I implement this without having to carve out time is using my commute as a time to breathe. I’m not trying to talk to or impress anyone in the car, so I can easily sit at traffic lights and focus on breathing – typically breathing in for 4 counts and out for 6 until I reach my destination or feel a bit of release. When I lived in New York, I even did this on the subway to pass the time.

Making time to meditate is a little trickier but try to get in the habit of avoiding excuses. It’s okay to forget sometimes when the idea of sitting outside and resting your brain feels impossible. I definitely struggle with remembering and making time for meditating, but when I remember to include it in my day, I always notice a difference. My focus is improved and I feel more centered, which can really make a big difference when my ADD feels out of control.

Do you take time to breathe? Have you found value in meditating? Let me know in the comments!