What would you say if I told you that I had a monster living inside of me? What if I said that I was born with that monster, that it had grown with me, and that it had been my constant companion all through my life? You would probably look at me in confusion; you might wonder if I had been hit on the head recently. What so many people do not realize, though, is that this monster is real. I am not the only one tormented by this grotesque species—even though on some days it feels like it. People have different names for this monster. Some label it as laziness, others as stupidity, others call it “being slow,” and more recently people have called it what it is: ADD and Dyslexia.
This monster is no docile household pet. It is cruel, brutal and relentless. My entire life it has been focused upon one sole aim: my destruction. When I sit down to study it taunts me, pulling my attention towards inconsequential matters. When I try to listen in class my monster is there also, shouting in my ear and stealing my brain away. It is a very clever monster. It knows my weak points and the things that are hard for me. It then comes to me, disguised as a friend—as a pleasant daydream of the sea, or a favourite book. Even when I try to fight it, when I tell it no—I have to finish this essay for tomorrow— it abducts my mind. When it realizes that its goal has been met, that it has successfully distracted me, it casts my mind aside callously. I am left alone to face my reality; the reality that this is another day in which I have completed not a single thing on my To Do list. Another day with nothing to show at the end of it, and one day closer to all my due dates.
Some days I feel that I cannot go on fighting this monster. I am ready to give up and let it devour me. But I do not fight this monster alone. I am surrounded by soldiers, fighting with me, giving of themselves to defend me. These soldiers are my family and my teachers. When I am at the end of my strength and ready to give up, they fight for me. All of my life my family has done this for me. They did this by reading to me when I could not read. They sat with me for hours as I struggled over math equations that would have taken other children a matter of minutes. I cannot count the hours that my mother has spent with me, helping me write my essays, study for tests, or understand instructions that I could not process. The monster inside of me hates this. It rises up inside of me and makes me stubborn and unwilling to be helped. But behind every haughty “I don’t need any help!” there is a little voice inside of me, crying out to be heard above the monster’s roar, begging for help. I think my monster fights hardest against the people who can help me the most.
Some of the people who fight my monster do not even know that they are fighting it. When my teachers give me notes on green paper so that I can focus more on them, they fight my monster. When they explain an assignment to me that every other student understands, they fight my monster. When they look beyond the affected comprehension I wear so often upon my face and ask, “Are you sure you understand?” they help me in my battle. When they give me extra time on tests, or sacrifice their lunch hours to help me with a project, or even when they simply treat me as an intelligent student, they wage war against the very thing that seeks my destruction. They give me a fighting chance at success that I never would have had without their patience and dedication. I could never fight this alone. I owe so much to every person who has sacrificed to keep me going.
What so many do not realize is that my monster does not go to sleep when I leave school. My monster never leaves me. He is there with me to distract me when I am carrying on a conversation. He is there with me to jumble the letters when I try to read a book. He is there with me to confuse my mind when I am given instructions. My monster is not just part of my school experience, he is a part of every aspect of my existence.
I used to wake up in the morning hoping that my monster would be gone, but he would cruelly greet me as I tried unsuccessfully to read the back of a cereal box, and I would know that he was still inside of me. What I have come to understand now, though, is that my monster is part of who I am. I cannot be the person that I am without my monster inside of me. I wonder sometimes how much farther in life my monster will allow me to go. Will he let me make it through university? Or will he stop me at the workplace? I do not know the answer to these questions, but I am slowly learning that I am stronger than the monster inside of me. Perhaps I have my monster to thank for that. When every day of your life is a war, you can’t help but become a pretty good fighter. My monster is making me stronger.
The reason I am writing this is not to make you feel sorry for me. I wrote this to help you understand what it is like to be a child, teenager, or adult living with dyslexia and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). I want you to understand that it is not laziness, or a lack of intellect that causes us to struggle. Next time you see someone who is struggling, think twice before you judge them. Perhaps they are fighting a battle that you cannot see, and perhaps by helping them, you are doing battle against the monster inside of them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Reba Breault is a grade twelve student in Ottawa, ON.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Sept/Oct 2013 issue.