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

Podcast Update: Episode 1 is LIVE

Well, I’ve finally done the first episode of my podcast.

Unfortunately you can’t read it here, as I can’t currently afford the space upgrade necessary to upload audio posts. So I’ve created a Tumblr just for my podcasts, and you can find it here.

I’ll post here each time there’s a new podcast uploaded, and then you can post any comments in the comments section below.

I know this is a bit more complicated than you were all hoping, but it can’t be helped.

First one’s a short one, but I really need your feedback.

Much love,

-Katje

On Podcasts and disability

This should be said. I know that some of you are aware that I don’t listen to podcasts, but I’m thinking of doing one regardless.

I feel I should be clear on this. I have an auditory processing deficit. This doesn’t mean I can’t hear — my physical ears work fine. It does mean that what I do hear may or may not actually make it to my working memory, and from there on to my long-term memory.

So when you tell me something, I may not “hear” it. It doesn’t mean I’m not listening — I’m actually very good at listening, because I have to be — it just means my brain didn’t parse whatever you said well enough to store it for any length of time beyond a few minutes.

This is especially true when I’m stressed, when I’m tired, when I’m trying to multi-task, or when I’m not actually looking at the speaker/fully engaged in a conversation.

I hate phone conversations with people I don’t know, because if I don’t know you I can’t possibly visualize your face and how you would say the words you’re saying to me (yes, that is how I get through most phone conversations). Classroom situations can become stressful when the teacher talks too fast and refuses to slow down because I’m “not listening” well enough and I “shouldn’t have to take notes” (generally speaking my teachers are awesome about this sort of thing, but I’ve had one or two bad experiences). If I listen to a new piece of music, I can’t be doing anything else mentally engaging at the same time or I’ll have a small freak-out at not being able to concentrate on either thing.

A picture may be forming here, and I hope it lets you know why, generally speaking, I don’t listen to podcasts.

This does not mean I have never listened to a podcast or will never listen to a podcast — I have, and I’m sure in the future I’ll be able to sit down and hear one or two on subjects that interest me a great deal and talked about by a speaker who can fully engage my attention. But because listening to a podcast takes so much of my energy and time, as I can’t actually do anything else while listening to said podcast (not even ride transit), and I have precious little energy and time as it is (as should be obvious by how sporadically I post in my blogs), I can’t — in good conscience — dedicate said time to podcasts.

I realize it is a bit hypocritical to start up a podcast when one doesn’t listen to them hirself, but I’m okay with being a hypocrite if it keeps my mental health more or less on the level (you know, aside from the chronic depression and anxiety issues). I’m not writing this blog post to beg you to not see me as a hypocrite; you can see me that way and I really don’t care, because I admit to it freely and I’ve made my peace with it. I’m writing this blog post because I don’t think I’ve actually talked about my disabilities here (or in any other blog, really) and I felt it was time.

Why haven’t I talked about my disabilities in other venues before now?

Quite simply: lack of spoons and sporks. Spoons are units of energy; the term was coined in an article about spoon theory by Christine Miserandino regarding chronic illness. Forks are give-a-fucks, or units of caring. And sporks are a unit sort of in between forks and spoons. They’re when you give a fuck, but you don’t have the spoons to actually give a fuck because you know if you spend that one fork explaining, you’ll be out of spoons for a week or so dealing with the fall-out.

Part of me would really like people in my life to be aware of my difficulties so they can be prepared for my oddball behavior, but another — unfortunately large — part of me doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone, and doesn’t want to be seen as if I’m parading my disability around to try and get special treatment.

And then there’s the treatment I actually do get if I tell people I have issues (and not just of the auditory processing kind, either).

It goes one of two ways, generally. Either people are pitying or they’re complete and utter assholes.

I don’t tell teachers that I have issues because — generally — it’s not necessary to have a learning disability to ask the teacher to slow down when speaking or to repeat something so I can write it down. Able-minded people do this all the time in class, so why should I trot out my disability to ask for the same concession that any non-disabled person would get? Especially when it gets me a reaction of either “Oh, the poor dear, it must be so hard for her to even live in such a world, of course! Can we get you anything while we’re down here kissing your ass?” which is obviously borne of fear of a lawsuit and a complete disconnect from the fact that disabled people are, you know, people, or even worse (0r better, can’t decide) I get laughter, derision, or complete disbelief that I actually have a disability because I’m not whipping out a mountain of paperwork right there.

Well, again, I don’t go to disability services on campus because I can’t stand the pitying look I get from people, like I should be limping in there and making big doe eyes and talking about how hard life is but how I soldier on so they can look up to me for being so brave and bold and blah blah blaaaaaaah. Also, what’s the fucking point, when the only concession I could possibly need is for a teacher to talk like a human being and not a godsdamned Cylon hybrid. Not to mention — and here’s the kicker — my documentation isn’t from a doctor, so it would probably be seen as fake (even though it’s perfectly real and from an actual educational institution).

Outside of class, I deal with the same attitudes, except people don’t have to worry about getting fired so I get a lot more of the explicit “You’re faking it!” attitude, with people telling me to “Suck it up” because “Everyone has it hard.”

Yeah, fuck you buddy. I’m pretty aware that everyone has it hard — I’m part of everyone, remember? — and “suck it up”? What do you think I’ve been doing for the past five years? After being in Special Education for four years in High School I was so tired of being treated like I was abnormal by the system that I wanted to prove that I could do things like a normal student. I didn’t tell anyone at college that I have disabilities and it’s taken me this long to admit to myself that I can’t handle things like a normal student, that I need help.

And there is no shame in not being able to do things by yourself, there is no shame in needing to ask for help from other people. But you know what, tell that to the subconscious part of my brain, the part that has been conditioned by what we believe as a capitalist, consumer, individualist culture that believes in the North American Dream and pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps and the “Self Made Man” and all that fucking bullshit.

Do you know how much shame I am feeling right now posting this? How much shame I feel whenever I ask for more time on an assignment? When I’m late with an assignment? When I can’t complete a test?

Do you know how many nightmares I have about getting bad grades? They’re right up there at the top of the list of Katje’s Brain’s Nightmare Favorites, along with murder, alien invasions, being abandoned, and sexual abuse.

I have had nervous breakdowns about tests. I have left class crying because I felt I couldn’t get something done. I have felt stupid, for no reason other than I am not as fast as some of the other students and I am constantly reminded of that.

And all these factors make me terrified to ask for help. Terrified of going to my teacher and saying “I am having trouble. I need more time.”

In the past I have skipped class because I got behind, and was ashamed to show my face, and ashamed to talk to my teacher about that, and once I started skipping class I got too ashamed to show up again because I hadn’t gone in weeks.

Sometimes when I wake up I lie in bed and cry for twenty minutes or so because I can’t shake the nightmare, the inner voice saying You’re such a stupid lazy bitch, you don’t deserve to live, you are so stupid, you’re dumb, you can’t handle simple courses, how do you ever expect to succeed at your dream job, how do you expect to graduate, no wonder it’s taken you seven years and you’re still not done, you stupid whore, over and over again until I really do want to die.

So, you know, when I talk about having disabilities and I am met with scorn and derision and the surety of neurotypical, able-minded people that I must be faking it to get sympathy, it really doesn’t fucking help with that whole shame complex thing.

Bottom line: believe whatever you like about the veracity of my disabilities. But keep it to your fucking self. I need your pity or your dickheadedness like I need a hole in my head — actually a hole in my head might be more beneficial, as it would indicate brain surgery and hells that might fix some shit who knows. Everyday I am facing depression, social anxiety, and not remembering what my partner or my best friend or my parents may say to me because my brain just can’t parse it all (and always manages to remember the most useless fucking shit I swear to gods I don’t know what the hell it is thinking) and sometimes it’s important, and I miss it, and I feel like a shitty human being because I should be more on top of this stuff, I should be able to be there for people I care about and remember shit they say.

So if you’re so convinced that I’m just whining for attention, or that I must be faking because I haven’t “proved” it to school that I have a disability and who in their right mind would do that (hint: I’m not in my right mind, that was sort of the fucking point here), or any other reason that I’m sure makes a lot of sense in the world of an able-minded person, please don’t tell me. Don’t let it show on your face or in your voice. Just accept that it’s my reality and move on.

Because if you were close enough to me that I would accept that kind of garbage from you, you wouldn’t be saying it because you would know it wasn’t true.

_____________________________________________________________

This turned into a rather large rant, and it should be said that all instances of the word “you” are meant in a general sense and not aimed towards any one individual or, indeed, the general audienceship of this blog. “You” just seems to be the easiest audience to speak to when one is ranting.

So yes, I am probably going to be doing a podcast, and I am aware that this makes me a hypocrite and I am fine with that, and I am fine with you seeing me as a hypocrite, if you do.

The rest of the rant was said because…well, a dam burst and it got said. Mind the waters, and keep your lifejackets handy. There’s lots of anger around these here parts. Easy to drown in it.

-Katje

Just a thought: Movie Rants and Podcasts (and there’s a poll!)

I may start ranting about movies on this blog, as well as books and my own writing/writer’s life. Because I have a lot of rants about films and I may as well get them out here because they frequently overlap with my rants about books.

Also: if I started doing a podcast that contained said rants, would you listen to it? Because I’ve been sort of thinking of starting up a podcast, seeing as I have this nifty computer that has that capability, but I couldn’t figure out what the hell to cast about it.

I’d have to have some cool name for my podcasts though. Like, RantCast: Katje rips people new ones.

OOOOOOH: GrindCast! And I’d start off each one with “YOU KNOW WHAT REALLY GRINDS MY GEARS?”

I’m giggling just thinking about it.

OH, hey, I figured out how to do polls. Go me:

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