Auditory Processing Deficit: It’s not a hearing problem, but…sorry, what did you say?

I have Auditory Processing Deficit. I’ve had it for most of my life — the test that shows the age level one’s auditory processing is at starts at age 5 and goes to age 18, but we are fairly certain my deficit started when I was 2 years old. Trauma can often be the cause of these sorts of deficits, and there was a doozy of one directly associated with hearing and listening when I was two. (I’m not getting into the story right now. I might at some point in the future.)

Before I took the test, mom thought I was just being a teenager with selective hearing. She’d have to repeat herself several times before I would remember what she said. I explained that I wasn’t forgetting or mishearing things on purpose; it was just that I literally had no memory of her saying certain things.

When I took the test she realized it was an actual problem, so we took steps to fix it. The test, called the Gibson Cognitive Test Battery, is part of a program called PACE — Processing And Cognitive Enhancement. It tests several areas of processing and function in the brain — the framework upon which you put content learning. Auditory processing, memory, visual processing, and other areas are tested. Often people who bottom out in one area will max out in another, because it’s their brain’s way of coping. I had maxed out on visual processor and a few other areas.

It’s a program my mom does, and she’s damn good at it. I did the program with her, though I didn’t get the full benefit. Ideally PACE is done quickly — the 36 hours within a few weeks — because this ensures the most advancement for the brain. Because mom had other students and I was in theatre we were both so busy we rarely had time for PACE sessions. We did the program over 2 years, often sitting for several hours in a session, determined to get as much done in one sitting as possible. For the longest time I held the record for levels passed in a session — not hard when your sessions are 7 hours long.

Still, even though it took us 2 years to do the program, I came up several ages in the areas I was lacking. When we were done I was age 16 in auditory processing — that was an advancement of 11 years (14 if we accept that the deficit was lower than 5 and likely at 2 years of age).

We tested me again recently and I have somehow made it up to age 18. However, I still struggle with remembering things that are said, and when I’m stressed or tired my processing goes down the tubes. (It also does not help that Mr. Katje is an avowed mumbler.)

It’s important to note that auditory processing is not a hearing problem. It is not a physical problem with the mechanisms for hearing things — my ears work fine (with the exception of the constant tinnitus). It is a problem with my brain — specifically the area used to process sounds.

However, so few people are even aware of auditory processing deficit as an actual thing that when explaining why I don’t listen to podcasts or why someone has to repeat something to me a few times to make sure I remember I often default to saying “I have a hearing problem,” even though I don’t. I can hear you just fine. Unfortunately, my ears don’t always give my brain the memo — especially when I’m stressed, or when the words are said in certain tones (because said tones stress me out). And these days I’m pretty much always stressed.

It’s honestly pretty shitty having this. School has been a struggle since high school, and last time I asked a teacher to slow down because he was speaking a mile a minute and I needed extra time to process, he said “Why don’t you try just listening?” (As if I wasn’t.) I explained the processing deficit and he and the entire class laughed in my face. That was in University, by the way, but this wasn’t the first time I was treated like that for having learning disabilities. (I was in Special Ed throughout high school and I swear, the fact that my mom kept fighting for me to get certain help in school was the only reason I graduated. If it weren’t for my mom I would have dropped out.)

Because the test that shows the deficit isn’t considered an official source by most schools I often can’t get any concessions for classes. This, combined with my other learning disabilities, depression, anxiety, and more recently physical disability, ensured that it took me 10 years to get my Bachelors instead of 4.

There are tons of podcasts I’d really like to listen to regularly, but I can’t because podcast listening for me entails sitting stock still and concentrating very hard on everything being said. It’s exhausting, and soon my mind starts to wander and then I need to rewind and find my place again.

Also it contributes to lack of communication with people I love, which creates fights. Just the other day I thought Mr. Katje said something that he didn’t, and we fought for over an hour over it. I misheard a sentence because I was really tired and my processing skills weren’t up to par, and he was mumbling more than usual that day. We made up, and talked it out, and all is forgiven — but I hate fighting with him and for that hour we were both miserable.

But, like with all things I have to live with, I learn to cope. I’ve done what I can to bring up my auditory processing to a manageable level, and I’m planning on doing PACE again with mom — maybe it’ll improve some more. In the meantime, I accept that I might always have problems processing what people say, and I work harder to keep it from adversely affecting my life too much.

In return, I only ask for a little patience from my loved ones.

So next time I need to ask you to repeat yourself, or I don’t remember what you say, please don’t take it personally. It’s just my super fucked up brain making my life a little more difficult. (So original, brain. I applaud your creativity. /sarcasm)

-Katje

Where did January go?

Sometimes I feel like aliens have abducted me, because I keep losing time. It feels like New Year’s Day was just yesterday, and yet it’s now February 1st.

The big thing for me in January was my graduation from university. The Fellowship of the Baccalaureate is completed! Sean Bean has died, and I am on my way to Mordor my [first] Master’s. (Working title for that part of the saga: The Two Theses.)

Graduation day was a whirlwind and it basically murdered my energy levels. I’m pretty sure I borrowed against 2 weeks’ worth of spoons to complete that day. It was worth it; I’m just sleeping a hell of a lot right now.

Early Thursday morning Mr. Katje and I got up and went to catch the 7:45 ferry to Nanaimo. (Mr. Katje got the day off work so he could come to my graduation, and he didn’t guffaw once during the long speeches — I’m so proud of him!) We had breakfast on the ferry, and once we landed in Nanaimo we had to run around doing errands for a few hours: pick up regalia, drop off tickets in various places, drop off a book for a reader. Before we knew it, it was time for me to get ready with my fellow graduates.

I went to the Coast Bastion and met the other grads in the ballroom assigned to us. Several of my friends were graduating on Thursday, too, so I got to high five and hug them and take silly selfies together.

My fellow First Nations Studies grads and I had a brief prayer of thanks to the Creator before we started the procession, which was great — really helped me calm my panic and nerves.

I realized, before we left, that I hadn’t given Mr. Katje my camera — I ran upstairs to see if he was still in the lobby, but he wasn’t, so I held onto the thing and hoped I’d get a chance to get it to him before I got on stage. Luck held out — he and my mom were sitting right next to where we walked onstage. I bent down and gave him the camera without missing a beat.

Then came the sitting on stage through all the numerous speeches that were given. Honestly, this part could have been cut way down. There was one speech that was entertaining; during the rest I had to fight not to fall asleep. Then I had to fight hunger and trying to eat the hats off my fellow graduates. I hadn’t had any food since 8 that morning, and it was 3:30 at this point. My stomach was tying itself in knots.

Finally, after all the speeches, they asked us to read our oath — the acceptance of our degrees. We did, clumsily and definitely not as one, and then we got to move our tassels from the right hand side to the left. Officially graduated!

And then we got to walk the stage to our names being called out. The part we’ve all been waiting for, through the interminable speechifying.

Even though my name change isn’t complete, the school still let me graduate with my real name on the parchment and read out by the Dean. I didn’t think he’d have trouble with one of my middle names — Ayla — so I just told him how to pronounce the ones that usually give people trouble (my first name, especially). Ah well, 4 out of 5 done correct is really good! (And they’re all spelled correctly on the degree, so I’m happy.)

I walked across the stage without my cane, which my back has still not forgiven me for, but it was worth it. It was important to my state of mind that I walk across unassisted. As I walked, I held my hands up in a gesture of thanks used in First Nations Studies classes – hy’chu’qa si:em, to everyone in the audience, to everyone who supported me.

In the middle of the stage I shook hands with Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations in Canada and our school chancellor, and Ralph Nilson, our school president. I then posed for a picture with them before continuing on across the stage, where our registrar Fred Jacklin shook my hand and gave me my degree.

After that I sat down again, and eventually we finished and proceeded out of the theatre again, to the lobby where our friends and family waited to congratulate us. I hugged folks, took pictures, accepted wonderful gifts from friends, and then ripped off my regalia, screaming about it being a demon frock of polyestered death.

Seriously, worst part of graduation: the regalia. It is hot as balls sitting in that thing under stage lights for 2 hours. Also, so-called “XL” size? HA.

Anyway. After all that, we returned the regalia and headed off for dinner, which was fun but had to be quick because Mr. Katje and I had to catch the 8:15 ferry home if we wanted to get our car back from the parking lot before they closed.

We were so exhausted we fell asleep in our chairs on the ferry. When we got home we staggered into bed and fell asleep within minutes.

I woke up early the next day but ended up sleeping some more that afternoon, getting back to my apartment around 12:30am. I went to sleep at 3am, again, and got up at quarter to 9. It’s now 4pm and I’m thinking about napping.

So you can see — very tiring day, very few spoons.

Other exciting things that happened in January!

Which means I need to get back to packing and cleaning.

Or napping. Napping sounds good, too.

 

Pay the Ferryman; it only costs an arm and a leg

Note: this post was originally written at the beginning of May. I forgot to push “publish”. Tense has been edited to make more sense to it being published now.

I honestly would probably be perfectly fine with a bridge from Vancouver to Vancouver Island.

It’s not that I don’t like boat rides. The ferry itself has done nothing to annoy me.

It’s the company that runs the boats that go between the islands.

They’ve raised the prices again. Now instead of $14.85 for a walk-on ticket, it’s $15.56. Every week from the beginning of May until June 17th, I spent over 30 dollars just to ride a boat back and forth.

Well, maybe they need to raise their prices so they can give you better services! you say, if you’ve never had to deal with BC Ferries in your life.

What services? The hard seats that squeak when you sit down? The overpriced gift store? The cafeteria of food poisoning roulette, now only 16 bucks for a portion size that wouldn’t fill up a mouse’s stomach? The decided lack of wi-fi (“coming soon, no, really, we promise”)?

Nope, raised ticket prices go one place, and one place only: to pad the salaries of the head honchos.

This is what privatizing essential services does. This is capitalism in action.

When I went to Spring Mysteries Fest this year on Easter weekend, we had to take a Washington State Ferry to get to the festival. (Theoretically we could have skipped the ferry and driven south all the way to Olympia before heading north again, but who would want to do that?)

I nearly had a heart attack when they asked me for the fare. I had 3 people in my car. It cost us under 20 dollars for all of us and the vehicle. I was sure I was dreaming; I’d dozed off while in the lineup and my brain was making up crazy scenarios to try and wake me up.

Nope. Really only cost about 16 bucks.

4 people plus a car on BC Ferries costs well over a hundred dollars.

Something’s wrong with this picture. Hint: it’s north of the border.

So BC Ferries rolled out the Experience Card, to try and give us hardworking British Columbians a bit of a discount. Except that the card is available for anyone, resident or not, and it’s not applicable for all routes. When I asked why I didn’t get a discount for using my card travelling between Nanaimo and Vancouver, the employee working the ticket booth told me it was because there wasn’t anything in Vancouver that I couldn’t get on the Island.

Ikea, sex shops, and hospitals that don’t misdiagnose you, give you a concussion, and discharge you don’t apparently count.

So a bridge across the Salish Sea would be okay by me. Especially a Skytrain bridge. I could have taken transit to my last class at VIU this summer, or easily visit my friends in Nanaimo anytime I want.

And I wouldn’t have to deal with quite so many screaming hellspawn.

-Kat

Happy Summer Solstice!

Today is the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, though you wouldn’t know it to look outside my window. (Traditional Vancouver June: wet, cloudy, gray.)

For me, this day is not only the longest day and a day sacred to Manannan mac Lir (whose symbols include mist and rain, so I’m not really complaining about the weather). It is also a day that really signifies to me that school is over and done with.

At least, my first degree.

Yes, I’m done my first degree. My last class was on Monday and our grades should be in this weekend. Even though class was done on Monday, things didn’t really feel done until today. Today is the end of the semester. My very last semester at VIU.

This isn’t the end of my schooling overall, just the end of the first step. I’ve worked for 10 years to get my degree, and come January I’ll finally be able to walk the stage in my long black robes and receive it from some dude in a funny hat. Maybe someday I will get my own funny hat.

I was going to blog my journey through my last class at VIU. Being stuck with a ferry commute to school would give me plenty of opportunity to type up blog posts on my tablet and then upload them when I got home.

Unfortunately, this class involved working with kids in the local school system, which meant there were a lot of confidentiality issues of which I had to be mindful. I couldn’t just write anything in a blog post about class; I would have to be circumspect.

I was so exhausted after class I didn’t have the energy to even think about what I could or couldn’t say, so in the end I decided to say nothing at all. It was safest that way.

"I Make a Difference"

“I Make a Difference”

However, now that it’s over and I’ve had some sleep, I can tell you that the kids were awesome and teaching them about First Nations culture was pretty cool, even if I wasn’t so stoked about it to begin with. When it was over, the kids gave us bracelets (pictured above) that say “I MAKE A DIFFERENCE.” I wear it on my arm where I can read it easily.

Cue “D’aaaaawwwwww”.

Working with kids isn’t my first choice of profession, but this class taught me some things — about teaching and about myself. It’s also given me some ideas on how I can work towards doing more public speaking and more workshops in areas that matter to me. So all in all, I’m glad my last class was worth the time and effort it took me to ferry back and forth between Vancouver and Nanaimo for 7 weeks.

Not that I’d ever want to do that again.

I’m off for the weekend now. Have a great Summer Solstice (or Winter Solstice if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere), and I’ll see you next week.

-Kat

Mercury, You Are Drunk. Give Me Your Keys.

Mercury does this thing about three times a year. Well, actually, it doesn’t really do anything; it just looks like it’s doing something. From Earth it looks like Mercury is moving backwards. They call it retrograde.

And dammit if it doesn’t just fuck everything up.

I  mean, yeah, sure, it’s just a planet and it’s probably not really affecting you, Katje. Sheesh. Crazy pagan, thinking planets do stuff.

And, you know, I know people for whom Mercury going retrograde is nothing. Just another week, or three.

But that’s not true for me. Something in my life always goes wrong when Mercury is retrograde. And Mercury don’t fuck around.

Today I had errands; no big deal, except, you know, they were, but whatever. Get in the car, head up the mountain. This is after spending all morning working. Get caught in traffic. Finally make it to the SFU visitor parking lot aaaaatttttt…3:38pm. I need to get a print out from the registration office and then go to the bookstore to return books that I’ve been trying to return for a month before four o’clock.

So naturally, Galactica dies on me.

Right there in the middle of the parking lot.

A few months ago she was doing this thing, I’m not really sure what it was, but I know it was making her stall out and then not start again for hours, if at all. We took her to the mechanic and got ‘er fixed, for no small amount of money (around 400 dollars).

So she’s doing it again. Wouldn’t start, not even with a jump. Or ten. I had to call a tow truck, and no, I didn’t get to the bookstore to return the books. I also didn’t get to downtown to pick up a proof from the printer’s, nor to my old landlady’s house to get my mail from my last place. Or grocery shopping. Ie, the rest of my errands. None of those happened.

Had to wait a long time for the tow truck to come. Apparently they had to build the truck for him first, or something. Anyway, he was a nice guy; took me to my fiance’s place, where I sit now, writing this for you. Couldn’t take me home, because Galactica needs to get parked in the parkade and the tow truck wouldn’t fit, and couldn’t take me to the mechanic because it would be pointless. They were closed and I would have had to wait outside in the rain for someone to maybe pick me up; more likely, I’d have to be lucky and catch the right bus — that is, if I still had enough money for transit after towing costs — and my luck with transit is…iffy? Definitely NOT something to be gambled with when Mercury is wandering around all over the cosmos like a drunken frat boy.

Towing cost me all of my grocery money. So. That was nice.

On the plus side, my fiance’s house is full of food. So I shall eat it until I’m full.

It is also full of Netflix. I drowned my sorrows in The Hunger Games.

Anyway, you didn’t come here to hear me whine. Wait, actually, I’m not sure why you came here if that’s the case. Whining is pretty much all I do.

So! The Jade Star of Athering. Yes. That thing.

Been working on it every day this month. Working hard. I set myself a deadline of finishing it by…um…tomorrow, but seeing as today’s events kind of borked the fuck out of everything, that may not happen. If I don’t finish the book tomorrow, my stretch deadline is March 8th.

Ran into a couple of problems the past few days that left me frustrated enough to screw up the progress I was making, unfortunately. Nothing like writing a continuity error into the plot of a sequel. Easily fixable, luckily — well, relatively easily — and all done now; really you’ll never notice where I grafted in the fix. And then I had to spend a morning figuring out troop deployments, marching orders, etc. There may have been some maps involved. Maps that are now sitting on my desk, at home.

Tonight’s writing and tomorrow morning’s scribblings are doing to be done sans guidance. Whatever; that’s fine. Nothing will stop me from writing this book.

Regardless the problems, the book has been pretty exciting the past few weeks. New things have cropped up, old storylines are being wrapped up, things I gave clues for in Bellica will be revealed. As well, the plot for a third book is revealing itself to me, so gods willing I’ll have the first draft of another book [in what is apparently turning into a series] started before the end of the year. (Maybe I can make it my November project.)

March project is revisions and story bibles! That’s a lot of work, and I’m hoping it’ll help me lay out the rest of the groundwork I need for Camp NaNoWriMo and my April novel project, the next book in the Stranger Skies series, currently untitled.

I don’t yet have a release date for any of these books. I’m hoping to have a clearer picture of when that will be next month. Before the first round of revisions is done, however, I have no way to safely gauge. Suffice it to say — you will see both The Jade Star of Athering and Stranger Skies out this year. And I daresay I’ll do a better job of releasing them than I did Bellica. (Eeesh, what a trainwreck.)

On that note, I’m off to eat the rest of my fiance’s food. I’ll see you next month.

2013, so far

TRIGGER WARNING: depression, suicide, self-harm, university and student loan bullshit, anxiety

This has not been a good year.

I’m not wallowing in drama; I’m stating a fact. This year started out with a week of depression, anxiety attacks, and severe suicidal thoughts. It’s gotten a bit better, but I’ve still be battling the mother of all depressive episodes for the past 3 weeks.

I’ve wanted to cut again. I’ve thought about taking up smoking. I’ve pictured hanging myself or blowing my brains out. I’ve even considered od’ing on my antidepressants, which I haven’t been able to take since December because my body suddenly decided to add them to the food allergies list that is mercurial and ever growing larger.

I have no idea what od’ing on zoloft might do, but I considered it, because honestly the results seemed better than dealing with the shit that’s been going down this month.

And all this, mind you, is after my brush with death that made me realize I wanted, truly, very desperately wanted, to live.

January 1st I went 500 dollars into the red, because Student Loans took money out of my account. No warning. Two days later, I get a note from VIU: I’m not graduating at the end of January, because I’m missing 6 credits.

Did they tell me this six fucking months ago when I applied to graduate? No. They wait until 2 days into the new year. A few weeks before convocation.

This, of course, means that I can no longer go to SFU this semester, after I’ve already worked so hard to get accepted. They were accepting me based on me receiving my degree from VIU this month. Without that, I am no longer enrolled; if I want to enroll not as a second bachelors’ student, but as a transfer student, I can do that — for Fall 2013. After going through the registration process again.

And this — this suddenly blowing in the wind, not being a student when I was supposed to be — this of course now means that I cannot have my loans or interest-free status this semester. So what my immediate course of action was going to be — finishing my application for Student Loans for this semester — to resolve the money issue can no longer happen.

I called Student Loans this morning about my issue. Basically, it is sort of fixable — I have to fill out a bunch of forms in triplicate proving I’m as poor as I say I am, and then I’ll probably qualify for reduced payments, perhaps even to zero. I’ll know within 4 days of sending back the form, which should arrive by the end of this week? Possibly?

I also discovered that the reason Student Loans was under the impression that I owed them money as of November was because VIU told them I withdrew from courses as of April. Which I didn’t. I withdrew from courses in June, when I was informed that I didn’t need the other two courses I was enrolled in that summer.

At any rate, I was supposed to be starting classes again this month — so really, there should only have been 2 weeks in the period of ok, you’ve been out of class long enough, pay up.

The too long; didn’t read version of all this? My life is fucking shambles and right now I am very seriously questioning whether I want my degree from VIU at all. VIU is a school that has repeatedly proven it cares little to nothing about its students. They have completely screwed me in the past year — TWICE now — and their lack of communication skills is LEGENDARY.

I have been tearing my hair out for weeks; studiously trying to solve my problems via avoidance and escapism because my brain cannot deal with the level of suckage going on without going into complete shut-down, depressive/suicidal episode mode; sleeping far too much or far too little as my body goes into emergency coping mode. I am wandering, an errant leaf on the wind, wondering what the fuck am I going to do with my life now?

I’ve now been working at my first degree, my first, four-year, Bachelor’s Degree, for 10 years. A decade of my life that I’m not getting back. And furthermore, most of the credits for my degree at VIU are non-transferable.

So now I face the question: do I suck it up, move back to Nanaimo in summer time (which means, inevitably, living out of my car and being basically homeless for four months, and this is what I was facing at the beginning of this month, for this semester) and do these last two courses (when I’m not even 100% sure that they’ll be offered this summer, or that I can get any funding)? Or do I say fuck it, transfer what can be transferred to SFU, and start from scratch?

Alternatively, I suddenly sell millions of copies of my book/win the lotto and quit school forever.

Wherein Katje rattles about in uncertainty and possibly some despair, though mostly just numbness at this point, for the rest of zir life.

I suppose, however, I can count my blessings — at least this huge fucking fiasco, this shambles that is my life, has given me plot bunnies for new stories. “Hooray,” zie said exactly as Archer would.

I am a waffle, and school has never ironed me

It’s not a perfect metaphor. I’m tired, okay.

I’ve been known to waffle about my education. I’ve done everything from Underwater Basket Weaving to Introduction to Finality; from Basic Lupine Urology to Pre-Law. (Yes, two of those are Community episode titles. Guess which ones.) When I finally decided on my BA, I thought I’d reached a point where I wouldn’t waffle anymore. Where I would know what I wanted to study and do it; therefore, choosing my MA should have been easy, right?

Wrong.

A few months ago I was dead-set on an MFA in Writing and Consciousness from CIIS. Just last month it was SFU‘s GLS program. Now I’m going for the same school’s MFA in Publishing.

I, of course, don’t have all the pre-reqs for this program, but I can get them done before it starts next fall. It’s not impossible. It just means I’m looking at going back to school as early as January, which is earlier than planned.

And an MFA in Publishing is, really, quite ideal for me. I run a publishing business and I plan on not only being a niche publisher but also publishing my own books for the foreseeable future. (Read: forever.)

Let’s hope someone’s left me in the iron long enough to become crispy and unyielding. Let me not waffle anymore! Let the liquid batter of waffling cease, and let me become cooked and warm.

I really will stretch this metaphor to death.