Yesterday, my mom was going through a bunch of old papers and finding out what things she needed to shred and get rid of. There were documents from all parts of our lives, from Duncan (my lab who passed away almost three years ago) and his many medical procedures to old school worksheets. While I was working on something else, my mom gave me a long envelope with a packet that she told me she wanted to read. In that packet? A psychological evaluation from when I was eleven years old in 6th grade. And in that packet, I had been diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disorder I did not know I was evaluated for. Until yesterday.
For the past twenty-four hours or so, I’ve spent most of my time just thinking about everything I had read, everything that had transpired during that time, and everything in my life that led to this even happening. I read the report, saw what my teachers, my principal, my parents, my therapist told me, and after all of that, I then read the formal diagnosis. And it did not make any sense for one clear and particularly disturbing reason: it didn’t mention the glooming factor that I was the only Black student in any social situations I ever had outside my own family.
I grew up exclusively as the only Black kid in my grade up until that year I got the diagnosis. Throughout my entire educational experience thus far, I’ve not only encountered subtle racist stereotyping from teachers or fellow students, but I’ve also been flat out told that I wasn’t smart enough to do well in certain classes even with the grades to show I excelled. I was bullied and harassed by students for a lot of my elementary school days and not given the same resources or attention in my classes by teachers. I fell into a fairly deep depressive state in fifth grade that prompted all of these evaluations and cognitive tests because for the first time I realized I just needed help.
As I read through what my teachers described my behavior, that I always worked independently and didn’t want to be around other people, that even though I excelled in my classes, they spoke with a concern that didn’t at all make them question WHY I chose to distance myself or feel like I had to prove my intelligence again and again. I developed a strong habit of always trying to assert and prove to people I was good enough and capable enough to be a…