For anyone who struggles in school even though they’re trying their best, you know how exhausting that can be. I’ve been struggling with math and science classes since elementary school, and even though I’m not currently pursuing a STEM field, I still have to deal with analytical and logical aspects of daily life. Specifically, I have dyscalculia, a learning disability that makes understanding numbers, directions, and abstract concepts very difficult. Everyone’s dyscalculia is different, but a common aspect of the learning disability is teachers believing us to be “lazy,” “dumb,” or “faking it.” Personally, since I excel in English and History subjects, teachers and professors have always regarded me with disbelief when I tell them I have a learning disability. For a long time, I felt guilty even though there’s no possible way my learning disability is my fault. I felt guilty because all the girls around me were working so hard to prove that girls can do anything boys can do, including excelling in STEM subjects. As a young, sensitive child, I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I felt like I was letting the feminist movement down. I used to be angry about being perceived as a stereotype, the typical girl who is better at reading and writing than engineering and math. Now I’m more frustrated with how people with learning disabilities are ignored by society. I try to be patient because I know there’s more research out there on dyslexia and barely anybody knows about dyscalculia. However, trying my best to be patient has become mentally exhausting.
I think what bothers me the most is all the pressure put on young people nowadays. When I got to college, I had some more freedom, and I even found myself forgetting about my dyscalculia for a while. However, I was forced to confront the reality that most, if not all colleges, have required math and science classes that every person has to take. Even the basic 100 level and below 100 levels math and science classes have been difficult for me. For anyone who doesn’t know, when I personally look at an equation or read a math problem, all the numbers and letters switch with each other and sometimes look like other symbols altogether. For example, it takes me at least double the time to solve an equation compared to other people in my class. Even then, I usually end up with a different answer than my peers. I try to tell myself that it’s okay, I tried my best, and sometimes, that’s enough to pass a class.
If you’re struggling just a little bit with math, a tutor can be helpful. However, if the numbers look like they are moving across the page, tutors really aren’t useful. I’ve gotten lucky over the years, memorizing a few equations and hoping for the best, but somehow, I think my mental exhaustion has caught up with me. With the pressures of the pandemic, online learning, and taking more classes than usual this semester, it feels like my dyscalculia has gotten worse. I’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, and OCD my whole life, so failing assignments just exacerbates my mental illnesses. I try to focus on the positives: some people struggle with a learning disability their whole lives without even knowing they have one while at least I can identify what’s going on with me. However, knowing that I have a learning disability just isn’t enough when most of society isn’t educated on how to deal with it or takes it seriously.