For years, I struggled. I struggled through undergrad, then graduate school. I (eventually) made it though. I became a School Psychologist. I stupidly thought I was done struggling once I had the right letters behind my name. I became an advocate for others with a variety of differences, and yet struggled to accept my own.  Here is what I would tell that version of myself (the girl who is still working it out) if I could:

Hi there,

I want to start by saying that I SEE YOU.

Across the table

No really, I do. I know how much you hurt every single day. I know that you hide it all behind a smile. You don’t talk about it yet. That’s OK, you will when you’re ready. Slowly, you’ll start answering the dreaded question, “How are you?” a little more honestly. You’ll start writing. Eventually, you’ll even share some of it. I know, sounds crazy, right?! Just trust me.

At this moment your primary diagnosis is complicated migraine with aura. It fits, it’s complicated for sure, but it doesn’t cover the whole picture. I see that too. I know that your joints and muscles scream at you when you participate in “normal” activities. I know that sometimes you’re so exhausted you can’t imagine standing through a shower. I know that occasionally, when you try to take one anyhow, because you think you should, you fall. Sometimes you just call it quits and sit down on the tile and cry. You think you’re weak, but you’re stronger than you know. I mean it.

The diagnosis part will work its self out eventually. You’re a fighter, and so you’ll push for it. It’s a journey not a destination, as they say. What you need to know right now is that that you are good enough, exactly as you are. Period. It doesn’t matter that you couldn’t go to work today, or yesterday, or all of last week. You did not ask for this, and you have to stop beating yourself up about it. The path is dark and twisty if you don’t. I know, I’ve been down it.

I know you don’t want to be different. I also know that’s hard to admit for someone who so adamantly believes that human variation is what makes us beautiful, and real. You give so much energy to breaking down barriers so that your students with disabilities can become the best versions of themselves, can show everyone in their path how much they have to offer. You know that they are different, not less. Never less.

SO ARE YOU. Stop judging yourself! Give yourself the courtesy that you give every child that walks through your door. Identify your strengths, and capitalize on them. Recognize your weaknesses, and work on them. Realize there are things about yourself that you cannot change (at least right now). Love yourself anyway, and learn to accommodate. Become an advocate for yourself!

Repeat after me:

I am different, not less.

I am stronger than my pain.

I am MORE THAN enough.