When I was born, I had a big head.

My parents and the hospital’s medical staff were alarmed. My parents received multiple rumors of the cause, such as having water on my brain, autism or even being intellectually challenged.

As it turns out, big heads run in the family.

My parents were told I displayed characteristics of audial dysphasia when I was in preschool, a condition in which the potential to understand information acquired by hearing is deficient. For me, reading was more effective than hearing in terms of learning how to pronounce words. However, there was no official diagnosis.

In grade school, I struggled academically. In my classes, I felt like we were all running a marathon and someone tied a 20-pound weight to my leg. I always struggled to catch up. I routinely met with speech counselors when I was younger, and they would have me recite lists of words such as “nonchalant” or “responsibility,” and they discovered that in fifth grade, I read at a college reading level.

Clearly, I wasn’t intellectually challenged, so what was wrong with me? Why did I feel like no matter what I did, I never measured up?

I was later diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder, or NLD.

According to the University of Michigan Health System, symptoms of NLD include an extensive vocabulary; excellent memory skills; difficulty understanding the “big picture;” difficulty with math, which, among many other reasons, is probably why I decided to become a journalist; “taking things very literally,” fearing new situations and experiences; “anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.”

I have a hard time understanding humor, especially in a text-based message. If I’m texting, or on Facebook, and someone says a joke, I will interpret the message literally unless there is a “haha,” “lol” or “jk” afterward. If I’m speaking with someone in person, I will search for body language such as a smile, something to indicate that person is joking. I don’t know if these characteristics I’m describing are part of my NLD, or if it’s just who I am.

I am disorganized to a fault. As I write this, my desk is cluttered with papers and textbooks from other classes, and a rainbow of dirty clothes are stuffed under my bed. With that said, I usually remember where everything is. If I ever feel I’m suffering from stress due to the disorganization, writing down lists of what to remember helps to alleviate that.

As a child, I always felt alone. Because I was going through these hard times, there was no one who understood how I felt, right? Wrong. I learned later on that everyone has something about themselves they wish they could change. No one is perfect. Anyone who says they are either lie or have a huge ego.

This world is filled with different types of people: different shapes, sizes, races, creeds, genders, sexual preferences and sometimes, disorders. However, no one is better than any other. These differences in body and mind are simply part of who we are.

As a kid, I was bullied, and those feelings of rejection stuck with me until high school. As children, we might not fully realize that no matter what age we are, we are still people. And if we respect others, we deserve that respect in return. Instead of disparaging people who are different than us, we should celebrate the things that make us unique.

The things that we view as our faults and weaknesses may prove to be our biggest strengths. I don’t let NLD define me, because I am much more than a disorder. We are the sum of all our parts, and our friends, families and loved ones simply add to this amazing experience.

Midterm season is stressful. If you feel like you aren’t living up to your expectations, that stress can be unbearable. It’s important to remember we aren’t responsible for how other people think of us. We are responsible for ourselves and doing things that bring us a sense of personal joy. Once we realize that, we become freer than we ever dreamed we could be.

Email Timothy Lyman at timothy.lyman@cardinalpointsonline.com

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