13-17yrs, 18 & over, blog series, commentary, inspirational, Motivational (Coaching, Speaking, etc), personal development, Wellness

Despite my Disabilities: The importance of love, acceptance, perseverance and determination

Barbara Ortiz

Hello again to all 🙂. In this long overdue installment, which is long overdue, I am writing a bit about how my education, family and friend’s support helped me to overcome all that I have and let me be who I am today.  The first thing I should say about all of this is that I have didn’t have much of a family or family interaction…my father was an absentee father most of my life he was there in body but not in heart…he never was worried about my academics. He was more concerned with my general well being but spent much of his time drinking and other extracurricular activities, to put it mildly.

I have a much older brother who had his own family to provide for and his own demons to fight; my brother was an alcoholic and drug addict starting with marijuana and graduating slowly to heroine… he’s currently suffering from severe mental illness and is living at a half way house.

My extended family was not much help for a couple of reasons.  We lived in New York while my extended family resided in Puerto Rico.  We had little contact and when we did, they were discouraging. They did not understand my disabilities and allowed misconceptions to cloud their thoughts & opinions’ They inquired why my mother fought so hard for me because due to my “limitations” I wouldn’t amount to much if anything at all. To this day after all that I achieved an aunt still doesn’t understand how I work and function by myself due to my disabilities.

Despite my disabilities, my mother has always defended and encouraged me saying I was self sufficient and brilliant and could do what ever I wanted in life. Knowing what the “family” thought of me, me Madre made a point to share their comments while helping me to fight as hard as I could to overcome my limitations. She pushed me excessively many times showing me the value of knowledge and structure, particularly structure of the mind.  Sometimes she got her point across in not a nice way pressuring me to get straight A’s punishing me and sometimes spanking me when I didn’t.  My condition and family issues overwhelmed me, I suffered from depression that went undiagnosed so at the age of 8 I held my first bottle of pills in my hand ready to end my perceived suffering. Luckily mother came in time and stopped me.

School was an overwhelming chore but it served to show me resilience and determination.  When I was in elementary & middle school, I was relentlessly picked on for being different going as far as being sexually harassed (details in previous blog). Only a few teachers all nuns (go figure) were the ones to lend me a hand. I still remember Sister Anne was the school hard ass –(forgive my language all the students were afraid of her) grew to be my biggest ally, she always told me to hold my head up that I was worth a million bucks.

High School was an eye opener compared to my previous school, which was cramped and full of stairs. Needless to say, my mobility was limited …my high school was more accessible with the entire school being on one floor when I first arrived and when we moved to the new building there was elevator access.  There was a challenge gaining access to the elevator key, but again the experience showed me perseverance and determination.

I met my first true friends in high school. The first person I met was a guy who was rough around the edges but he looked past my disability and saw ME!!!  My first dose of peer acceptance!! He showed me in essence how to survive within this new school. Coming from a private school with very limited social interaction, I had no idea how to interact in a public school setting. I also met the person who would become my best friend Diana, –my sister from another mister. She got me through many emotional issues as well as my physical ones by showing me love.  In spite of how I behaved, she has been there, supporting me on my journey to achieve greatness. We experienced a most tragic day when a friend of ours was found murdered (she had been sexually abused). She and I consoled each other to all hours of the night and followed the case giving me details, which led to the arrest of a suspect. My “sister” showed me real love, trust, acceptance and support; feelings I had never really known from a person outside of my mother.

When I start college my “family” wanted me to go to a community college to learn something remedial because as always they believed I would not be able to do much. I signed up for Puerto Rico’s main university without any help from any one. I was majoring in social sciences but the year I spent in that University was challenging.  For once, it was not due to my disabilities. The University of Puerto Rico (UPR) was very accessible and I had leeway when it came to seating and recording lectures.  The problem was the language. I could speak and read Spanish well but I did not understand how it was spoken in the country. The universities brilliant response to my problem: “you are in Puerto Rico now deal with it”.

I lasted a year before I switched to a private university. Leaving the UPR because I literally had a nervous breakdown.

I enrolled in an English language program and thrived. It was one of the best times of my life. I made many friends and spent time socializing with them and my professor. I fully enjoyed myself.  Yet another process that showed me love, acceptance, perseverance and determination

Finally going into my masters it was a different ball game. The building was very accessible. The professors very helpful and accepting of me as a whole the students however were a different story. I began in marriage and family counseling program but it was too difficult for me. The classes were easy but the interaction (which is vital to success in the program) with the classmates was a pain. Since I was the youngest, all of the group work fell to me and they were very demanding.  After I took some time to reflect and decided to switch over to school counseling and it was a perfect fit.  My classmates were amazing, laid back and hugely accepting of me thus, I was able to thrive and ultimately graduated with a high grade point average (GPA).

My history may be a bit more challenging than most, but basically, we all deal with the good and the bad.  All of it has served as learning experiences and showed me the importance of love, acceptance, perseverance and determination.

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Be blessed everyone! 🙂


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