When I was in grade school, a teacher drew a sad face on my paper and turned from me to my mom and said to her that I was ‘not teachable.’ Soon after, I was diagnosed with Severe Dyslexia and told I would never amount to anything.
I wrote letters and words backwards and one day I was ridiculed in front of my entire class. My teacher walked by to see that I had filled an entire page with backward notes written completely from right to left unbeknownst to me. I spoke fast and was told my brain was processing too slowly to keep up with everyone else. Each semester, I was recommended by an advisor to drop a class or two, be part of less curricular activities, and apply for more time during test-taking. However, despite being a middle child and craving to be special, in this case I did not want to be different from my classmates. I made my parents swear to never tell anyone about my disability and by middle school, I took my C report cards with pride, because I was still with my friends in regular classes and no one knew my secret.
In fact, I had discovered different ways to keep people from learning of my secret, such as being a big flirt with the boys, earning my class clown title and shining wherever I could outside the classroom via theater, chorus or soccer.
Then something happened in high school. I became interested in what I was learning. I actually wanted to learn how to solve math problems. I loved getting lost in literature and the class discussions on all the possible ways to interpret a novel. While I must admit the names and dates of people in history never managed to tickle my fancy, I found that the teachers who could color my imagination had me wanting to spend an extra 3 hours on homework each night. I knew I would need to spend 2-3 hours more on study compared to my friends in order to get the grades I wanted and by tenth grade, I really desired those B’s. I stayed up later to do what I had to for my success. I would wake up an hour earlier to make sure I knew the material before my exams. And sure enough, those B’s were mine, as well as a sprinkling of A’s.
In college, I would sneak off into the library after classes while my friends watched afternoon talk shows. When I came back for dinner, they would groan about their homework and I would go along knowing mine was more than half-way completed. On weekends, I woke up early and snuck in a few hours of studying while everyone else slept-in and by junior year I had gotten my first 4.0.
Close to my college graduation, I began second guessing all my non-supporters. I developed a theory that maybe everything I thought was “wrong” with me, was actually strong about me. It wasn’t that I was processing in my brain slowly, but rather I was processing too quickly and when the information went from my brain to my mouth or pen, it was a jumbled mess. I found that I actually had to teach myself to slow down when doing math and how to speak slowly through metaphors in English class; my physical body could not keep up with my mind and either could my teachers or classmates.
I discovered that It wasn’t just a coincidence that I was a great friend to those who put their trust in me, but that my “disability” was actually an ‘Ability,’ allowing me to solve my friend’s problems in record time. Please understand that this is not an easy thing for me to explain with words, but I am going to try to paint a picture here: Once a challenge is put before me, I create a situational matrix thing in my head. I see every possible conversation and outcome like little comic strip speech bubbles and one would happen to light up as if to show me the path to take. In my mind, it occurs in slow motion, but in real time micro seconds. For instance, if my friend says this to her boyfriend, he will respond like that… and they will break-up. If she tried this….then…and so forth. I have this strange knowing about how any conversation could go and in real time say something that would create clarity for the person seeking my advice. It came in handy in college when I became a resident Advisor and of course now as a Psychiatrist. Needless to say, I didn’t always follow my gift. Despite my awareness, my pride sometimes got in the way and I’d end up having to clean up a few messes of my own making. The more I utilized my gift, the easier my journey became.
While in medical school, I would sit in lectures and completely zone out until suddenly the lecturer lit up (again this is only happening in my mind’s eye) and I heard the pearl I needed for the exam. So it would sound something like this: “Blah, Blah, Blah, Vitamins A, D, E & K are fat soluble, and can only be absorbed with a fatty meal,” blah, blah, blah.” Sure enough, that information would be the question on the exam. It took me about a semester to truly acknowledge my superpower and start writing those pearls down.
Prior to my awareness of how to navigate this magic, I taught yoga in medical school three days a week. I was told by my advisor that I needed to put more energy in my medical classes than in my yoga as it could cost me my place at school- if my grades didn’t suffice. However, by that point over 50 medical students were showing up to my yoga classes and their gratitude for the peace that yoga provided them became my currency and fuel to push harder. You see, I knew doctoring wasn’t enough and that mindfulness was a necessary component to medicine. The good news is that soon after, I learned to trust my abilities, and complete my education, while continuing to share yoga. I’ve since heard the school created a building just because yoga had become a way of life there!
Post, school in residency, the attending initially made fun of me and called me ‘the weird yoga doctor.” By that point, I took it as a compliment. I was already sending out inspirational weekly writings to the masses, which grew by the hundreds. I knew my wacky ways, were creating a path for people who felt lost. It was at that point that I truly stopped caring what anyone else thought about me. Before long, when everything else had been tried on a patient, the attendings would call me into their office and whisper: “Hey, we don’t know what else to do for patient X. We were thinking maybe you could go on in and work your yoga voodoo?” And so I would; the patients were discharged 24 hours later. I’ve saved every one of my patient’s thank you notes. Those letters fueling me to stay on my path and follow my knowing.
By the end of my residency, I had completed a Therapy training on sex and relationships and had kept up with my yoga, meditation and life coaching workshops. I felt armed with knowledge, wisdom, non-judgment and life. However, once again I was strongly advised not to open a private practice. ‘Don’t do it’, my director implored. You must first work in a hospital for a secure income and build your private practice slowly. Fellow attendings warned it would take 5 years to build a private practice and working anything less than a 40 hour week was suicide.
Lucky for me, I had learned to trust my mind’s situational matrix and I didn’t listen to any of them. I opened up my practice and within 6 months I was full. I offered something that was not available anywhere else around me-medical knowledge, ‘alternative ideals’, and a space of total non-judgment. I created a schedule that allowed me to have Fridays off for myself, my yoga and my loved ones. A life where I can work, be with my son and travel to keep expanding my healing modalities.
I share my story so that you might unwrap your own. Where have you been told you were wrong? What disability was placed on a report with your name on it? Where have you been afraid to be weird, unique and totally you? What if I told you it was easier to fly if you have wings than crawl across the floor? What comes easy to you? What is so easy for you that you think it can’t be real? What are you so good at that you don’t think has value? What if other people would pay top dollar for that ease you possess? What if you can have the life you’ve always wanted by only following one person’s knowing? Yours! Because, you have a disability until you decide it’s an A-bility.
Here are some very real examples of what I am talking about:
A patient who was diagnosed with ADD for several years, by his previous doctor, made himself wrong for not being able to concentrate most of the week leading up to his exams. After a session together, we looked at when he does his best studying and chuck what he had been previously taught was the “right way to study.” What we discovered was that he is in fact a human sponge the night before his tests and used that information to ace his future exams!
The girl who writes 50 work reports when she is “manic bipolar,” cleans her entire house and gets ahead on her monthly bills, only to sink into depression cause she suddenly doesn’t feel like doing anything else. It’s until I ask her at our next appointment, “What on earth is their left for you to do?” As she laughs with gratitude, I observe this shift in perception. She grants herself permission to do nothing without making it wrong. Her depression is now peace. Her last doctor felt she needed to increase her depression medication that made her tired when she wasn’t able to get things done. Interesting?
Or the graphic designer who couldn’t sleep at night and was too tired to do his work during the day. His old sleep pills weren’t working and he was in financial debt. That is until we got him to stop the sleeping pills. He started working when he felt inspired-even if that was at night and sleeping when his body asks for it-even if that was during the day. Then he gave himself permission to acknowledge his ability and soon after, he lands a million dollar contract for the work he did when he “should have been sleeping.”
What if we could stop judging everything and everyone, especially ourselves? What would happen if every diagnosis was
merely something amazing yet to be discovered? What if there are wonders in every aspect of ourselves we decided was waste?
The thing is: You will never amount to anything until you do.
Love & Light,
(And yes, that is my real, true story)