The following is a letter from a current recipient about how she has struggled to overcome so much mental abuse in her past and how she is currently finding strength though her college experience. She has asked to remain anonymous to protect the privacy of herself and her children….
Sometimes I don’t feel like I belong with the other recipients of the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County; after all, I became a single mother by choice, through adoption. I hear the stories of brave women who have overcome abusive relationships, abandonment, death of beloved spouses, and other difficult situations and I feel as if I am cheating somehow by being in this group. Yet, I am familiar with the many struggles of trying to provide for two children with one income, the feelings of inadequacy and being overwhelmed, and the bone-crushing weariness of trying to do the work of two parents.
As a child in school, I did well academically and was advanced in all my classes. However, my father’s main way of communicating with me was by yelling and making derogatory comments. His favorite words were, “stupid”, “dummy”, and “idiot”. I was also told that I had no common sense and would never amount to anything. Even though I consistently brought home A’s, somehow his consistent and almost daily disparagement sunk into my spirit and became my inner voice and belief. By the time I was in junior high I was severely depressed, the subject of bullying, and I dropped out and home-schooled myself until I was old enough to take the GED test. I began working at 16 years old and have been in the workforce ever since, I made the decision to attend Bible college in another state when in my twenties. I graduated summa cum laude and once again was told I was quite intelligent. I had put myself through college by managing (and living in!) group homes for various populations (developmentally disabled, mentally ill, autistic children, and children in CPS custody) and began working in a residential treatment center upon my return to Arkansas. While working there, I was diagnosed with PTSD. I also began a relationship that turned out to be very manipulative and abusive. Long story short, after this relationship ended, I decided that I wasn’t going to wait any longer to pursue my dream to foster and adopt. I began fostering in 2005, and in 2008 my oldest son joined me, followed by his younger brother a few months later. We officially became a family the next year. As the boys grew older, it became apparent they had special needs due to their genetic backgrounds and prenatal drug exposure. This, combined with my previous experience working in mental and behavioral health, fueled my desire to go into the field of either psychology or genetics. A particularly tough case that I had to deal with in my career a couple of years ago, along with the stress of parenting special needs children, prompted me to re-enter therapy a couple of years ago. The therapist, whom I had worked with several years ago, kept telling me I needed to return to school. “You’re quite bright,” she kept telling me. “I’m too old,” was my response, or, “I don’t have the time.” “What if I’m not smart enough?” My fear was that I was just fooling everyone, that my father was really right. One day she looked at me and said, “I think we need to do an IQ test.” So, I made her a deal. I told her if I made a “high enough” score, I would go back to school. I didn’t even specify what “high enough” was. I was convinced it would just be average or maybe just a bit higher, so it didn’t matter anyway. The next time I went in, she handed me a letter-a nomination she was sending to Mensa, with my test scores on it. Turns out, I had scored “high enough.” The qualification to get into Mensa is to score in the top 2% on an approved IQ test. I had scored in the top .5%. The next week, I was enrolled in college.
To be honest, qualifying for Mensa wasn’t that big of a deal. Most people don’t even know what it is. What was a big deal is realizing that I had believed a lie for 42 years. How many other single parents believe things they have been told? How many believe they are “less than”? I want to share my story because my intelligence doesn’t make me better than anyone else…but it is a truth about myself that I needed to see in order to find the confidence to go back to college. Now I believe I can do it, that I can take 12 hours of classes’ online, work part-time, and parent two children with special needs. What truth do you need to see about yourself? Single parents have just as many beautiful truths to discover as anyone else, no matter which path you took to get on this journey. It’s time to stop believing the lies and time to break the stigmas!