Monday, April 25, 2011

No "I" but "U"

In a piece I wrote titled "Breaking Down Barriers & Walking the Path of Accessibility" I wrote something about how if I won the lotto one of the things I'd like to do is give up work, if I could, and become a philanthropist. I mean there are certain things I'd like to do at home, living within means, taking care of my family, etc...., but if I had the money I'd like to simply become dedicated to getting involved in lending a helping hand. No fancy car, or boat, or any other grown-up toy that some of us buy, use once (or in a blue moon) and then let sit around collecting dust. I like volunteering, being of service and seeing something or someone succeed. And I appreciate seeing others help out too.
There are plenty of people out there who could use a helping hand, someone to hang out with, someone to talk to and share with. There are a ton of good causes that have the single purpose of benefiting others. You can click to Find a Volunteer Centre or even just type in "where can I volunteer?" into Google or any other search means in your community.
Volunteering isn't just about helping others out either, it can be self-help/healing too. I'm not saying neglect your job, because we all need a steady pay cheque, and definitely do not forget about your loved ones; but getting out there and doing something that isn't just about an "I" thing but about a "U" thing can be so good.

After graduating college I was feeling a bit over-whelmed with my career choice. Not only was it difficult finding openings and getting interviews but making my way through any interviews was tough. Things were looking bleak, I was feeling horrible, depression was bound to kick in. Then my mom recommended I volunteer my time at this local theatre, I was a creative person and this was right up my alley. I began meeting people, I enjoyed working with a team, it was fun seeing how the people who attended these shows reaped in the rewards of the work we all did, and I ended up getting a job which lasted eight years. Eight years in a place where I worked hard and learned and made friends and grew. My passion for writing, which I had lost in my high school and college years, was re-kindled. And it all started with volunteering.
I no longer work at that same place or do the same thing, but I do continue to write, (in fact, I've published a book), I'm more confident in working with and talking to people, and I still volunteer whenever and wherever I can.

My mom had an accident quite some ago and she attends a program that is partially run by volunteers. She has come so far because of some of the joy and caring they have brought to her life. She even works and assists them now with certain things whenever she can.
Volunteering has done her good and she enjoys helping out. Volunteering has done me good and I enjoy helping out. It puts smiles on faces, it broadens horizons, it builds character, it teaches, it creates relationships and makes connections. Volunteering can look good on a resume, but it also feels good in the heart, puts a twinkle in someones eye and it helps with the flow of life.
So, aside from my positive thoughts that remain with regards to landing that future big jack pot, I wish things were made a little easier in the present so that we could all reap in the rewards of offering a little less "I" and contributing a little more to the "U".

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Something to Talk About

I have my difficulties with public speaking, as I have blogged about in the past. Not only am I a bit of a shy guy when it comes to verbal discussion, I also have difficulties with things like keeping up, losing track of my own thoughts and words, and I often feel submersed in confusion. I am a lot better when it comes to social interaction than technical or business like dialogue, I'm more relaxed, I'm with friends who are more accepting of me and my challenges and are a bit more patient....... at least that's how I feel most of the time.
Anyway, with that in mind, I find it funny, as I'm sure others will, that I'm writing about 'talking'. I mean for a guy who is known to be a bit on the quiet side even I find it a bit strange that I've chosen this topic. But let me explain, I'm not so much talking about 'talking' verbally, I'm referring to 'communication' in general. I keep my mind open to learning things all of the time and I'm finally, really, beginning to understand that being good at communication does not just mean speaking from your mouth. I think to myself that I should have always known this, and maybe I have in a way, but writing and singing and dancing and even giving a good old fashioned hug are all expressive forms of communication.
Through avenues such as Facebook, Twitter and my blogging I'm communicating with others. I have always tried to be impeccable with my word and that is no different here in cyber space. When I write one of these blogs I try to communicate effectively, I hope I succeed. Because I think it is important to talk about things, keep open minds, share, and not be afraid. I think the more we communicate, really talk, the more we learn; the more we find out that we are not alone in the way feel; that some of us share a common ground; that acceptance and understanding is more universal than we might believe. Sometimes it is not even about sharing the "serious" stuff. Communicating and socializing, in whatever format you chose, helps us grow and understand things as individuals.
I've been told by work colleagues and other friends that I'm pretty good at writing and because of that I've continued to express myself and my thoughts in that manor. I do still talk (verbally) though, I just personally find writing easier when it comes to communicating those "serious" things and getting my thoughts properly organized. I think my method of communicating has helped me at work and I know its helped me in my 'real' life. So when I talk of growing and understanding I'm speaking from my own personal experience; but I do think that this 'communicating' thing being for the greater good may just be a universal phenomenon.
In many ways I find my writing...... or communicating.... or talking, very liberating and healthy. I think, and hope, it is something we can all share and feel. So let's talk.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lost & Found...... Steps to Disclosue

"I once was lost but now am found." I truly believe it.

After my illness I was simply happy. Happy to be alive, happy to be with my family, happy to receive friendly visitors now and again and eventually happy to get out of the hospital and then back into school. I tried to concentrate a lot on my recovery, on re-learning the average, everyday things. And I was happy (for the moment anyway) about the attention I was getting.
But then things changed. I think that when my dad passed away and I entered high school I became lost. I felt as though I was falling down, very slowly, the proverbial rabbit hole. Family and friends kept me from hitting bottom or going so far down that I became unseen, but I was still feeling lost. I didn't know what I was supposed to say or do, I didn't understand why things were difficult for me, the thoughts in my own head at times became gibberish and strange. I did not know why the school thought I could not handle certain things. Various lessons, information and even language became lost on me. Personally, I did not understand relationships or how to make them work; friendships were hard enough, never mind anything more! I found quite a few things about my life very confusing and it became very frustrating!
Just as things changed from happiness to feeling lost, things slowly changed again. Unlike before though, this change was a long, drawn out uphill climb. I suppose some people may have come to the same place I eventually got to faster, some maybe slower; some may not even be on the path yet.
It is never too late in life to get on the path.
It is the path to acceptance. Not necessarily acceptance from others, (we get there later) but acceptance from ourselves.
I have received quite a bit of help with things in the past, I still currently open my hand for others to guide the way. But I had to start on my own. I had to accept that I had a disability that in certain ways made me different from others, but also very much the same. Because all of us have things to bare, mountains to climb and obstacles to get around. I have come to accept and even share my disability with friends and colleagues. It is part of who I am. I've come to learn it is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of.
I don't always share this knowledge, disclosure is in many ways still hard for me to do. I just got to keep reminding myself that there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, I believe not disclosing can sometimes create problems. Whether it is personal relationships or professional employment an accommodation to understanding or functioning may be needed. It may be difficult to bring up, I still have my stresses about it, but sometimes it makes things easier.
Disclosure can be a risk that effects you or the ones around you; you really can never be 100% certain at a reaction. And the choice to disclose, or when to do it, is up to you. I personally think it is worth it, it gives you a sense of where things are at. I'm not talking full out disclosure though, those personal details are yours to do with what you wish. But if asking for accommodation or a better understanding is going to be helpful to you, than why not? And with something like employment, you can at least feel a little bit more at ease in knowing that the law is on your side.
It is unfortunate that not all people are accepting of disclosure, though I believe to a large degree that has to do with people being afraid of things that they don't understand and not something that is based on meanness. And I think any misconceptions about disabilities, or barriers in life, are changing. I have found my eyes opening wide in surprise to the acceptance that is out there...... I think maybe you will to.
I found that accepting myself and feeling comfortable (at a certain level, still working on it) with disclosing that I am going full circle. I'm back to that joyous place of enlightened happiness; together with knowledge and understanding and really knowing that it is my choice; just as it is yours. And now, I can really move forward in this thing called life.

Friday, April 1, 2011

And The Diagnosis Is.......

When I was six I was hospitalized with a brain infection. The virus spread quickly and wiped out a lot of my functioning cells. I was in a coma for two months. When I awoke I had to pretty much start my entire life over again. I had to re-learn everything from scratch. Speaking, crawling, walking and writing. I recall trying real hard to colour inside those damn lines. I went to therapy session after therapy session; but I did it. I recovered, not entirely fully, but more so than most thought.
When I returned to school, after my mom convinced them I was well enough to attend regular school, I was put back a year and made to attend a special education class. The class was really only just a smaller sized one, I didn't receive any special therapy or anything, but it ran at a pace I could keep up with, where I could get more help with understanding things, and at graduation I got a SESPA, (Scarborough Elementary School Principal' Association) award for outstanding effort. But when I entered high school things became much more difficult; there was no "smaller" special ed class, there were no awards, I had to keep up and try to cope on my own. I didn't know how to ask for help, or even that I needed to. Things were hard and confusing. But I got through.
College presented similar problems and I felt even more sheltered. My in-ability to keep up with two certain classes set me back and a three year program turned into four. But I did graduate, my degree even says with honours. Once in the real world I was faced with even tougher challenges. I couldn't land the job, or any job, in the field I had gone to school for. I did not give up and I volunteered my way into theatre work and I did various other gigs in between . I managed, I got through; and even though still confused and even a bit scared, I was happy.
Why would I be scared? Because out of everything I had been through, getting out of the hospital, the therapy sessions, school, special education, and everything in between, I was never told why. Why was it things were so difficult for me to understand? Why was I behind everyone else? Even though I had grown and managed to struggle though and gotten reassurances from my family, I still had not been given a conclusive answer to my questions.

With my mom having gotten sick and my dad having passed away in my early teens, my life came to dark moment. It was a time when anyone down on his luck, unemployed and spinning in circles could have easily folded the cards. but I didn't. I had never given up before and I wasn't going to now. With guidance and encouragement from my sister I took steps. I went to a service provider organization, obtained a job developer and I disclosed what had happened to me when I was a child. I suddenly found that the more open I was being the more help I was getting, and I was grateful to accept.
An appointment was made to see a Psychometrist and I was finally being given a proper diagnosis. I was thirty years old, I had been through a lot in my life, I had learned a lot, but I still needed this. The tests were long and difficult; for me at least. What normally took a day took me two. At times I felt drained from the exercises and a bit stupid. But I was given answers. Some I had figured out on my own, some new ones that gave me further insight and understanding.
A Neurophyschologist confirmed that when I was sick what I had was called Encephalitis, a viral brain infection. It was concluded that my speed and accuracy skills were on the lower end of average, able to perform fine if given the needed time and space. I learned that I have difficulty (to a mild degree) with short term memory and word finding ability. I can even be affected with mild cases of depression.I had.... I have, a learning disability. But after all of this I think the biggest, most important thing I learned was that it is never too late. It is never too late to ask for help and to grow and to learn things about yourself and to try and improve.
I had struggled through life and learned a lot of things all on my own, I finally got the answers I needed because I asked for them myself, but I also got a lot a help. From my mom fighting to get me into a "normal" school setting to my sister giving me good advice to my employment specialist. As much as I did things on my own and learned to rely on me, I've also learned to be thankful for and open to receiving a helping hand.

The diagnosis is...... just like life and learning..... still ongoing; and that is a good thing.