Life update

It has been such a long time since I have written an update. I am sorry, my advocacy on social media takes up so much of my energy. I have connected with hundreds of people in so many positive ways, I am amazed actually.  I have been doing Facebook lives and I created a mental health group on there and it is flourishing. I am now flooded with messages and comments and it so difficult to keep up and I just haven’t had time to blog but very good things are happening.

I wrote earlier about trying to get a substitution for the required math class which was the only class I had left. I fought the school and pushed for them to either waive the class or give me a substation, I wasn’t optimistic I’d get either. I have a learning disability in math and I failed the course three times even with accommodations, I was hopeless and thought I’d never get my degree. But low and behold, after several meetings, I got a notice that they were going to substitute my math class with Astronomy, no equations or multiplication, heck yeah.  It was a miracle and a prayer answered. And not only did they substitute my class, but I also have the scholarship to help me finish school, my books and tuition are paid for, by the grace of God.

 

So today was my first class and I was anxious because I have had such difficulties the last few semesters, but I went and got through it. The teacher seemed really nice and the classroom is small plus I was able to get the accommodations I need from disability services. I just know I am going to have to really focus and study this semester, this is it, the last hurray and I really want this degree, I don’t want to piss it away, so I have to be determined and I’m going to study my ass off, that’s what I’ll do.  I am just so proud that I have come this far, I never thought in a million years that I’d be this close to a college degree but here I am, a goal realized.

Like I stated earlier, my advocacy has really grown by leaps and bounds, I am reaching more people than I could have ever imagined. I am connected with therapists. Authors, therapists, advocates, entrepreneurs and through networking, my mental health advocacy is growing every day and I feel I am making a huge difference. I have hundreds of people tell me how my words have resonated with them and I am so humbled.  I even am going to be on a mental health podcast and possibly volunteer for a mental health radio show including being a guest, I mean it’s crazy, this wasn’t even possible 4 or 5 months and here I am., I couldn’t be more optimistic.

My volunteer work has also been going well but I won’t be able to help as much because I have school on those days but I will see them at church and will visit when I can, I am so incredibly grateful for all the wonderful things happening in my life at the moment, I pray it continues. And I am going to make more of an effort to update my blog. Thank you as always for listening.

 

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Getting my college degree

Things are so good right now; I can’t believe it.  Well earlier, I had made a post about how I was struggling with my math class at college, it was the only class keeping me from graduating.  I have a learning disability in math, which doesn’t mean I am stupid or that I don’t try hard enough ( For those who judge me), it means that my brain is not wired to understand math concepts. It’s similar to someone who has dyslexia and struggles with reading the most basic things. In fact, I am not ashamed of my disabilities, they make me who I am and I use my experience to help others.

 

Anyways earlier I had to drop out of my developmental math class, I just didn’t get it despite my best efforts. I had actually taken the course multiple times and it caused so much emotional distress that I couldn’t sleep at night, I was having angry outbursts and anxiety attacks, I was in bad shape. I assume a lot of people with learning disabilities deal with frustration. People without learning disabilities fail to understand that we try really hard and the issue is not that we are lazy or dumb, it’s just that we learn differently and the traditional way of the classroom doesn’t work for us. We need to find our own system of learning; we all have our own learning styles and learn at our own pace.

 

So, we require accommodations, which can include longer tests times, testing in a quieter space, extra tutoring, frequent breaks. I had talked to a disability counselor prior and I had all my documentation, which had al long history of learning disabilities and emotional issues that impeded my learning, including the trauma of losing my brother to suicide when I was 14.  So, I was given the accommodations and even with that in place and putting all my energy into studying, I failed my midterm even though it was an open book quiz, I was so frustrated.

 

I was also fortunate  to volunteer with a disabled ministry at church and the lady who created the group offered to find me a tutor and some other people looked at my math with me. I am so blessed to have so many people who support and care about me, people who take a vested interest in my life. I don’t know where I would be without this support

 

My mom and I decided to have a meeting with the disability counselor, we brought all the documentation and discussed the issues I had with math particularly the fact that I went to 5 or 6 alternative schools while dealing with the death of my brother.  The meeting went well I asked for them to either waive the class or give me a substitution but she is insinuated that a substitution was very rare, so I wasn’t very optimistic when I left the meeting.

 

I was told that I would be contacted about the school’s decision. I waited and waited and heard nothing. So, a week later I emailed the counselor and she told me she had sent everything to her boss and I would receive a call or email. Again, I waited 2 weeks and heard nothing so I was losing hope. I mean, all of that hard work and it was a brick wall.  I felt like my dreams were crumbling. It just seems like there are so many obstacles and its hard not to want to give up sometimes.

My mom who is my best advocate wrote a letter on my behalf, asking what the hold up was.  And before anyone makes a judgement, I am so grateful that my mom advocates for me. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to confront people or seem pushy and she is really good at fighting for me and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.  She was able to get their attention when I couldn’t.

 

Almost immediately, we got a response saying that the substitution had been approved, I couldn’t believe it, I was  so excited because I thought it would never happen. I wasn’t expecting for them to approve it. I am going to take astronomy and that is much easier for me than math. It will require studying but I know I can pass this. It also means I will finally have a college degree, a life long dream of mine. I couldn’t have imagined this 10 years ago when I was struggling so much.

 

The lesson I learned from all of this was preservice, never giving up, and to have faith.  I thought about God an how he is always working in my life and always answers my prayers.  It’s funny because I am assisting a special needs Sunday school and the theme this week was perservance and not giving up, I mean how much clearer could God’s message  to me be?

 

I also find it interesting that at this time, I would get a troll, saying that I was stupid and lazy and couldn’t even pass a math course and this miracle happened immediately after. Like the devil trying to trip you up or something.  Things happen for a reason and this troll attempt only gave me confidence and got me more connected with others and propelled me to write even further. So, I am grateful for the troll comments, gives me motivation.

 

So, I wanted to share the wonderful news with you and to thank you for all of your support. I will keep everyone updated

 

 

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My meeting with the disability counselor at school

So I had my meeting with the disability counseler today and I had my mom there for support. It went surprisingly well, the counselor was really friendly and I told her about the issues with my learning disabilities and the history pf not being taught math because I bounced around from one alternative school to another. I also told her about the trauma of losing my brother at 14 and how that impacted my learning. I made sure to point out that I am an honor student and my struggles in math were not due to lack of trying, since I have taken these courses several times. I told her about the accommodations that I needed. Apparently I was entitled to one on one tutoring but I assumed that meant the tutoring class with multiple students, not individual instruction. I again asked about using a calculator and she again stated that it was part of the curriculum, nothing she could do. I noted I was disappointed that the class was not adaptive to my needs and she said a lot students struggle with how the class is set up and that the course was designed by state level. I asked if could substitute the math course and she told me that she’d talk to the person higher up and then talk to the woman who heads the department of my degree program ( She headed the internship class and I was not fond of her) but it doesn’t usually happen. The counselor was friendly but she basically said her hands were tied when it came to getting some of help I need. I’m still frustrated but the meeting went as well as it could be, it wasn’t tense and I was calm and managed my anxiety. I felt I got my point across and I was understood and I realize there is only so much she can do from her end. I will continue to kep everyone updated and to stay positive. Thank you for all the wonderful support, friends, it means the world to me

 

People who care

I made a blog earlier about the difficulties I was having in school with my math course, I didn’t get the support I need and now I am so far behind that I can’t possible pass this course. I have no choice at the moment to withdraw; a part of me feels like failure even though everyone around me says that I did the best I could, a part of me feels stupid because I really wanted to pass this course. So I was volunteering the other day and during my lunch break, I was talking to some of the staff of the disabled ministry, I was telling them about my situation and they were appalled that I couldn’t receive the help I needed and how I just need to one class to pass and I’m being held back, and it’s important to note that I’m an honor student, so I am highly capable of making it through college.  The people I were talking asked me to bring my math notebook, so they can see the kind of math problems I’m dealing with. They offered to tutor me a little and get me up to speed for my next class, I was amazed. I was amazed that people would take the time to help me, someone they’ve only known for a few months.  I am going to take them up on their offer because I need all the help I can get.  I have been hurt so much by people in the past, it’s easy to forget that there are good people out there, people who care.   And tonight, I went to a dinner with the same disabled ministry and I saw the leader of the group who had been out town, she asked me about school and I told her how frustrated I was and how I am going to drop out. I told her I was going to school to speak with the disability counselor and she offered to go with me and advocate and I really think that would be a good idea. She Is known in the community, she’s a pretty tough lady in the sense that she would hold them accountable for not giving me the proper accommodations, she also cares about me and sees how passionate I am about helping the disabled, she knows how much I want this degree and how I will use to make a difference in people’s lives.  I am just so blessed because I know God is working in my life through this group and I know I’ll be ok

 

So, on another note I am also getting a lot of online support. I added a bunch of writers and mental health advocates to my Facebook page, I have over 3,000 friends on there. And since I use my social media for advocacy and network (in fact I have managed to give my link of my blog to several people and they loved it), it makes no difference whether I know them personally or not.  So since I have added all these people, I have had an influx of messages and comments and reactions, so much so that I can barely keep up, all of it positive, a lot of people are inspired by my writing which is really heartwarming to me that they are positively affected by it and I can tell how many people said that my writing has made a difference in their lives; that is an honor. On top the comments about my writing, I also talk a lot about mental health and gotten so much support, it’s overwhelming. I have several people who are life coaches’ message me, one woman offered to do a Facebook video call and I will do that very soon, another person invited to participate in mental health workshop online.

So, all these wonderful things are happening and it feels like mental health advocacy is a big part of my life and I am connecting with thousands of people and getting my message across, it is a feeling that indescribable to me.  Only about 1 year and half ago I felt totally isolated, I wasn’t writing or connected with anyone, I wasn’t open about my struggles and kept my feelings to myself.  I still can’t believe the responses I get, 50 ,60 comments a day, hundreds of likes, I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging, I just am amazed.  I like metaphors, it’s like a poor guy all of sudden winning the lottery. I was totally alone one minute and now I have all this attention and it’s hard to handle. I mean, I wanted it but I’m not used to it.   But like I said earlier, people care, for the first time in my life I feel like people are listening to what I have to say. As if my all pent-up feelings are being validated by so many people who feel the same way I do and can relate. I felt like I was the only one for all my life and now I realize I am not. I was put down all my life and now I receive more praise than I can handle.  How does one deal with all that sudden change? I don’t know. But that’s for this blog, I am happy to have a place to express all of their feelings. I thank all my followers for being so supportive and will keep everyone updated.

 

Thanks for listening

Dave

 

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I’m back in school

I want to make a quick update. Today was a new semester of college for me and I only have a few classes until I can get my degree in human service disabilities and finally graduate. I have finished all of my classes including internships and now all that I have left are these math courses.  All my life I have had learning disabilities in math and every time I see a math problem; I automatically feel dumb and I feel myself get frustrated. When I got to class; we had to take knowledge check and I didn’t know anything.  Out of 20 questions, I got 1 right; again, I felt stupid.  Luckily, it didn’t affect my grade but it shows how far behind I am; I’m not bad at math; I simple can’t do it. I said a little prayer and told myself not to get frustrated because that only makes it worse. On a positive note; I am determined this time around; I am going to make this class successful. Late last year; I got in touch with a disability counselor and she said she could give me some accommodations; which hopefully will help. I’m going to email her tomorrow and see how she can help me. There is also a tutoring class available and I am going to go to that tomorrow; I really intend on making the effort. I pray that God will see me through and I am fortunate to have a lot of support and I am blessed.  Thank you, friends, for all your kind words and understanding; it really makes a difference in my life.

 

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Sad news about my job

Well, the day before Christmas; one of my my supervisors ( the one gave me the review) at work called me in to talk to him. He informed me that they would no longer need me after the Christmas season and that I would be leaving at the end of the week. I kinda of expected it but I was a little upset that they chose the day after Christmas to tell me; it hurt.   But I did tell him that I had learning disabilities and I gave it my all because I really wanted to work there. He said he didn’t know that ( I am not sure if he couldn’t tell how much I struggled)  But he said I did a good job and I may get a call back to work there in March when there are more openings; so fingers crossed on that one.  I told a few co-workers about how I was being let go and they all said I was such a good worker and they were surprised.  One lady who was really kind hugged me and said “I’ll miss you sweetheart; I enjoyed working with you”; it felt nice to be appreciated. So I kind of was of moping to myself; feeling I was singled out and wondered what I was going to after this. I am trying to look at the bright side; this means I can go back to school and finish my degree and I can also spend more time with the disabled ministry.  I also planning on other volunteer opportunities while I look for another job. I also realized that I can write more and maybe attend some writing workshops that I could never make due to work. So yes, I’ll be alright; if I keep a positive attitude.  So while I was moping to myself one of my other co-workers who came in with me said she was also cut and then all of a sudden about 5 or 6 people said to me they were cut as well. I realized I wasn’t the only one and I felt less bad because they pretty much had cut everyone and  you know what, they all seemed to have a calm attitude about it.   I realized that everything was ok and not to worry.   Just wanted to update you guys; thank you for all support regarding the job; it means a lot

Dave

Learning to advocate for myself

I want to start off this post with a little bit of gratitude; I am so grateful to  even  have this seasonal job; the pay is great; I’m getting better hours; I am not dealing with same kinds of frustration at my old job; I don’t have be in 10 places at once and that reduces my stress. Even if they decide to let me go; the bright side that I made a nice amount of money for the holidays and it will help me while I look another job in a few weeks; so that’s good. That being said; I am so exhausted; today was another long day at the bakery; very busy and frustrating at times. Working in the bakery drains me completely; I get overstimulated by everything I need to do and all the noise around me; it’s hard to communicate with others because I can barely hear myself think and having ADHD really doesn’t help.  I also found yesterday that they are sending me back to assist the cashiers after Christmas; which has lead me to think I have done something wrong; when maybe I am overthinking things too much.  I really am self conscious about the job I’m done and I feel anxious a lot of time; although I try my best to hide it. I also want to point out that I didn’t tell them I have any kind of learning disability because there is so much stigma and ignorance regarding learning disabled people that I didn’t think it would make a difference; and it might mean they’d give me less hours or single me out; so usually unless it becomes a major issue; I keep it to myself and I hope my followers understand that logic; it’s a very tricky situation for me

I try to get along well with people at work; I try to be friendly and smile and say hello to everyone I see; partially because I really am happy to be there and proud I work there; sometimes someone  will greet me back with a smile and some ( mostly dudes) don’t even bother to acknowledge my presence ( and that’s never a good feeling).  I get the sense that the people in the bakery are frustrated with me at times; it takes me longer to learn things or I may ask a question that seems like common sense and they me give that look. You know that look that says ” You should already know the answer”.  Most of what I get from is a sense of frustration or they realize I’m a little slow but they aren’t rude or disrespectful; with the exception of one person. She’s an older lady from Russia and I can barely understand her; so right there it creates a communication issue.  She’ll try to tell me something; I can’t understand her and she gets annoyed when I ask her to repeat it.  But this woman just criticizes me at every turn: “you’re too slow”  “you’re not doing it right”  “You don’t listen”  It goes on and on and on. She isn’t training me or directing me; she is bullying me and trying to make me feel stupid. I’ve been there 5 days straight and that is all she has done. I have reacted at times and have been really trying to keep calm and not create issues.  I pray; I do self talk; I try breathe in and out; every tool at my disposal; but I always have a knee jerk reaction to bullies and it’s hard not to react.

Finally at some point; she refused to let me use the machine to print out labels; she said “You can’t use it; you’ll break it” At that point I couldn’t take it anymore so I immediately turned to the other woman that had been training me and I told her ” Can you please tell her to leave me alone; she has been criticizing me non stop and I am getting really frustrated”   She said “Ok, I’ll talk to her, for now just try to ignore her” and that is exactly what I did from that point on.  And a few of the ladies who were making cakes talked to me and let me know I was doing a great job and she had a bad attitude and she was like that with everyone; I felt much better.  I vented a little bit because I needed to get that out; she has been treating me unfairly and I shouldn’t have to put with that. Within 10 minutes or so I was putting some bread away and she started criticizing me again and I sort of nodded to one of the other ladies in the bakery and she was like ” Let him work and leave him alone”; it was nice someone stood up for me. Eventually the supervisor of the bakery talked me as well and I told her what was happening and she said that was unacceptable and that they’d talk to her. Luckily I only have one more day in the bakery but at least they know what was happening.  It was much better than me losing my cool; insulting the lady and getting fired; I opted for standing up for myself and now I feel better.

I share this story because I know so many who have learning disabilities or  those who are on the autistic spectrum experience this daily; whether it’s a child in school or an adult trying to make a living at their job; there is just so much damn ignorance about those who are developmentally disabled and that ignorance can lead to cruel behavior. We as the disabled have to stand up ( myself included) and say ” No, this isn’t right, I don’t deserve to be treated this way”  I don’t like to create problems or go to supervisors about these things but if I don’t say anything; the abuse will continue and they’ll get away with it. To be honest I don’t trust management to really take care of the problem but at least they are aware of it.   I think a lot disabled people are fearful and there is shame attached to our disabilities and it keeps us from advocating for ourselves.  We have to attack that shame and get our needs meet in the workplace. For me yes, I am disabled and maybe I’m a little slower but  I work 10x harder than anyone else; I have to in order to keep up and yes, despite my disabilities I want to work as much as the next guy; don’t give  me a day or two a week. I don’t want to be treated any different; I just want the same opportunities as a non disabled person has and of course the same respect as well.

Whether they keep me as permanent employee or not; I will tell them about my learning disabilities; how hard I worked and how much I want to be a part of the company. This isn’t only for me but for future employees that may have learning disabilities; there are so many of us.  I find it so interesting that as I am writing I realized that I was talking to another employee in the breakroom about social media and how addicted people are with their phones and I jokingly said ” no wonder we all have adhd”   And then he started telling me he had adhd and just saw his doctor etc; I was huh, I am definitly not alone in this. So I hope that this post inspires anyone who has been through what I have in the workplace.  It does get better; don’t give up and don’t let anyone put you down because you are disabled; be bigger than them; don’t stoop to the their level and if you finally reach your breaking point; report it to someone and let management handle it. You shouldn’t have to face it alone.  That being said I am going to enjoy the rest of my holiday season and take a few deep breaths…. calming down

 

Thanks for listening,

Dave

Job update

I have not written a full blog post in quite awhile; I have been focusing on making videos; and it seems that the more I see myself on video; the more confident I become being on camera; I am learning how to speak clearer and slower and just be calmer while I am making the video and I appreciate all the likes on comments on the videos because I am pretty self conscious and making videos for me creates anxiety; so those videos are me facing my fears. I also lost the internet for 3 days either due to the snow storm or the fact that Spectrum has terrible customer service and doesn’t care enough about their customers to promptly fix their internet; but that’s off the subject.  I didn’t have the chance to write much but my wifi is back and I wanted to update everyone on how my new job  is going. Oh yes, and having a new hectic schedule has kept me from updating my blog as much as I’d like but hey this job is more important at the end of the day.

Anyways, how is my job going.   Well it’s been a bit bumpy; like I think more new jobs are but I am improving and feeling more confident.  I work in the front end; assisting the cashiers by loading carts and putting back go backs; I also gather carts; pick up trash etc; I like my job; actually.  There are moments when I get frustrated or anxious but my stomach isn’t in knots and I don’t feel like pulling out my hair. I get along well with all of my supervisors and most of my coworkers; I try to be friendly; I say hi to everyone and smile and ask them how their day is going and a lot of people seem genuinely nice; which is something I rarely have experienced in my previous job. I also enjoy talking with the customers and most of them are also nice.  I try to work hard and at a fast pace and just be the best worker I can be.

About a week ago I was asked if I was comfortable moving to the bakery; I was a little concerned because I thought they were transferring me because I was doing a bad job at front end but then I found out another guy; who was with me in orientation was also moving there and I felt a little better about it. A lot of people told me how hard the bakery is and how tough  they are. I have worked 2 or 3 days and so far I actually prefer it. I like to be away from the crowds and being watched the whole time; it just makes me nervous; even if I’m doing good. I am in my own space and I am not bombarded by noise from people; although the machinery is really loud; we have ovens that beep really loud and huge fans that go the whole shift and a big washing machine; just a different kind of noise.  I will mostly be setting up for the next day and cleaning.  Set up is pretty simple; you take the frozen premade goods; place them on a rack and you throw it in the oven; pretty simple. After that we take the dirty pans; throw them into the washer and the rest is like washing dishes and cleaning and drying the floor.  I also degreased a huge walk in oven yesterday; which was pretty cool.  And so far I like the people in the bakery; they seem chill.  The bakery  manager seems easy going and the guy who was training me yesterday seemed nice and was patient. Although I sort of felt he was talking to me as if I was stupid but maybe I am just hyper sensitive about those things.  Today I mostly worked with this young girl and she was pretty nice too; we did some huge cookie orders. And I found the more I did the task; the more confident I became and I can work quicker. I was actually end of the break room towards the end of my shift and I was talk to one of the cashiers and told her they moved me to the bakery.  She sort of chuckled; like she knew how rough it was. But she told that moving me there was a good thing. If I show them how hard of a worker I am; they might keep me ( because I am seasonal) and that was exciting news; I am determined to the best I can because I really want this job.

The main problem I have is that I am just slower than others and learning disabled; I process things differently and it takes me longer to learn. I also get more mentally exhausted than most; due to all of the noise and activity of Costco; it is a very busy place; I have never worked in a place like this. The one thing I noticed is that is non-stop at Costco; from the moment I walk in until I punch out; I am constantly on the go; I don’t slack and I never see anyone slacking; which again is a first.  Right now I am so tired but also proud of myself; I am doing really well overall

Yesterday I had a 30 day review and they had some good things to say and noted some ways of improving.   They said that they could see that I was a really hard worker and I maintained the outside well, got along with my co-workers and customers. I come in on time and haven’t called out and I act professional; good things.  They noticed that I wasn’t moving quick enough and part of that is that I was sick for quite awhile and I am just getting over my cold but I am slower and I am going to work on just having a “sense of urgency; as they call it.  They also said I engaged in idle chit-chat; which means I have conversations just standing there; which is not something I noticed. Maybe I did that and didn’t realize it; like talking to the cashier and not engaging with the customer; which is surprising to me because  I am always chatting with customers and asking if they need help.  I had a review with two supervisors and one of them said they had no problem with me; and even though I thought that was good; I also said to myself ” does that mean other supervisors DO have a problem with me”  That old anxiety.   But they also said that everyday I was improving. At the end one of the supervisors said that there was a new store opening and there would be some vacant spots at the Costco I am; they might call me in March; which is semi optimistic; I guess. I just knew that they wouldn’t keep me at the point but you never know.

I just pray to God that whatever happens; he’ll protect me. I am fortunate that I have family and friends who are real supportive and are rooting for me; that makes a huge difference.  I am just a real determined person and I refuse to give up or let my anxiety get the best of me.   I am blessed to be at this job right now and out of Sears and getting paid so much; I have nothing but gratitude. And whatever happens happens; it’s all in God’s plan at this point. With that I bid you a good night.

Thanks for listening

Dave