- By Robin Ungar –
I was born with Strabismus (both eyes crossed). From infancy through my early teens, I had to have surgery seven times to correct the Strabismus, and then to reconstruct the front left side of my head with plastic surgery. I started wearing glasses with an eye patch on the left eye at three and a half years old.
Although I do not remember the surgeries, I do remember some of the teasing I got because of my appearance. I am the youngest of three children and my condition and surgeries only served to reinforce my siblings' tendency to be protective of me when others teased me about my appearance. In fact, my appearance was so different from everyone else's that I did not have a baby picture to put in the year book my senior year of high school because all of the pictures that we did have were of my head being buzzed, which I hated, but my sister loved.
During my school career, I learned slower than other children and received individual attention through the IEP program. In high school, my parents were told by my high school counselor that I would not graduate from college. Well with my determination and persistence, I finally graduated from U of L with a BA in Psychology in May 2010. No one tells me that I can't do something and the word can't is no longer in my vocabulary. However, I do admit that I never thought I would graduate from college either, but with the love and support that I got from my family and friends, not to mention my proofreader, I finally did it!
I started at Murray State University in the fall of 1992. I chose Murray State University because of the great program they have with helping individuals with learning disabilities. So what was the problem that I ended up at U of L instead? Being that I lived on campus, I had to take more then one class at a time and that affected my grades too badly and after being put on academic probation and suspension too much, I dropped out of college in 1995, but only temporarily. As a promise to my mom on her death bed and to prove, not only to myself, but to my high school counselor as well, I started at U of L in the spring of 2003, the semester after my mom passed away. To assure my success, I took just one class a semester.
Not only did the surgeries affect my appearance as a child, but I personally believe and think that it has affected my facial expression even as an adult because I do not smile. I was actually told by my eye doctor that it has nothing to do with the surgeries I had. Due to my lack of smiling, I am looked upon as being angry, when, in fact, I am not. I am on medication for anger/depression. I sometimes wonder if my anger/depression issues stems from when I was being teased all of the time due to my surgeries and has just gotten worse because of my mom passing away.
My next big goal in life is to find my dream job working with individuals who have special needs (i.e. intellectual and mental disorders). I want to help people like I have been helped all of my life. I also want to let special needs individuals know that they are not stupid (they are actually very smart), that it is okay to be a slow learner, and to not let someone tell them that they can't do something.
I want to mention the song "Don't Laugh At Me" by Peter, Paul, & Mary. It is a great song and one of my favorites. It has to do with people that are different. I hope you all have a chance to listen to it at some point in your life.
People can be really cruel. Please do not be that person.