“Wow Danielle, you are very insightful. You should use your insights to be able to help someone else.”
“Thanks, but I am a 16-year-old overweight loser, what use could I possibly be to anyone ever?”
This exchange took place 10 years ago between me and a therapist I was seeing at the time. I was struggling hard with acceptance of my nonverbal learning disorder (NLD). It was a neuropsychology office and I had testing coming up soon.
As I got older and became more cognizant of my learning disability, I did what I could to try and make it “go away.” I Googled what types of tests were administered and tried to “hack” them to alter the results. It didn’t work and in reality, all I was doing was driving myself up a wall and becoming severely depressed.
My therapist gave me a package of 100 pink colored index cards (she knew I loved the color pink) and had me write affirmations on each of the cards. This was a a lot easier said than done. Eventually though, I got it done. One index card read, “You’re more then a label. You’re not NLD. You are Danielle and you are enough.” I had pink index cards strewn about my bedroom for the longest time, and I would pick up a card to read every now and again. However, this affirmation was a hard pill to swallow, and it was by far the most difficult thing for me to believe.
Prior to all this, I had told my parents that I was suicidal. I was in therapy twice a week, on antidepressants and seeing a guidance counselor in my high school. I genuinely believed my NLD was a curse I was never going to be able to break.
Fast forward to the present day and a lot has changed. I have been and out of counseling (currently in), worked a lot of dead end jobs and still believed I was “mentally defective and too stupid to function in modern day society.” I had such a negative energy about me that I was pushing the people I was closest to away.
However, as I have gotten older, I have realized I am a lucky girl in a lot of ways. I was daddy’s little princess growing up (and to be fair, I’m still his little princess as an adult). My dad didn’t have the easiest time growing up either, however he came out on the other side of it and was always a person I admired and respected. The biggest message I have gotten from my dad is to be grateful for what I have rather than focused on the negative and what I don’t have. This message has stuck with me for a long time, however it is often difficult for me to put into practice.
Recently, I was presented with the opportunity to work with students with disabilities and go back to school to study developmental disabilities. I have a special place in my heart for the children and families I work with. I know firsthand how difficult receiving services can be and all the work and advocacy that goes into it. However, it makes me that much more grateful for what I have in my life today, as well as what was given to me in my past.
In 2017, I wrote an article for The Mighty describing my school experiences growing up with a nonverbal learning disorder. It also explained how my parents stepped up to the plate when I needed them most and all the hard work and time they put in to make sure I was getting the services I needed. The way my parents advocated for me shows how much they really love me and I will be grateful as long as I live.
I heard in my childhood, as well as into my young adulthood that I “wouldn’t be able to do certain things” or “wouldn’t amount to anything.” I believed this for a very long time. But now, my perspective is slowly beginning to shift. I am finally believing the words on that pink index card. “I am more then a label. I am more then my nonverbal learning disorder. My name is Danielle and I am enough.”
I am so grateful to have had the experiences in my past as they have helped to mold me into the woman I am becoming today. If I have the ability to make a difference in one person’s life, it will all be worth it. That conversation with a therapist 10 years ago set the wheels in motion, and I can’t wait to see where I will be 10 years from now. The sky is the limit!