Little Green Frogs

A week into term 3 and I don’t have time to type up a backlog of diary entries. So I’ll leave you with this story. I hope you find it uplifting and encouraging on a Monday morning. I heard this tale from a visitor at a school assembly. Because of my serious Auditory Processing Disorder, listening was still not one of my stronger abilities during my school years. I always tried hard to focus despite this, and in this case was really happy that I did. I may have missed bits of it, but I caught the gist of a story which still feels important to me years later.

Little Green Frogs

One day in a rainforest hundreds of tiny green frogs decided to climb to the top of the tallest tree. Wondering what was going on, many people gathered around the tree trunk to watch the spectacle.  It seemed an impossible climb for creatures so small. As they climbed, the people below started shouting at them. “Stupid frogs, you’re too small, you’re never going to make it! You’ll never reach the top!” The frogs began to get tired as they climbed higher and higher. One by one they became exhausted and fell, or collapsed to rest on the branches. Still the people at the bottom of the tree kept shouting. More and more frogs gave up until there was only one left. It kept climbing until it finally reached the top of the forest’s tallest tree, clearing the leafy canopy and emerging in the sun. All the other frogs had fallen or given up, but one made it.

The little green frog at the top of the tree was deaf.

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College starts back tomorrow

Posts here may become less frequent for a bit, since college term 3 starts tomorrow. I will probably be mentally bedraggled over the next 12 weeks or so and not have much free time for posts. I’ll do my best to keep this blog updated regularly though. It’s very important to me.

Now it’s time to charge my Personal Listening Device for tomorrow and go to bed. Since the college’s online system ate my password over the holidays, I don’t know what new class I will have.

Thank you! To everyone who has followed and read my blog so far. I hope that website and blog have been helpful as well as entertaining. And if anyone has ideas on how I could improve this site, please let me know. It would be much appreciated. x

Wednesday 25th March 2015 – Honesty is not what I thought it was

Yesterday I found some text on one of the bits of old scrap paper I was using for homework. It was about first-person writing.

The main two points which had survived a printer glitch were:

  • Keep it fresh- a different perspective on life is interesting
  • Put yourself on the line- be honest and show your opinions. Writing life as you honestly see it allows the reader to really understand what you’re writing about. Openness and honesty when writing from your point of view is the only thing that matters.

This made me think.

Maybe honesty involves more than not lying.

Honest people express their opinions, even if that makes them stand out. They don’t hold back their likes and dislikes, and aren’t afraid to disagree with others and fight their corner even over small things. I admire people who are Honest in this way. They are brave.

I don’t lie often. I don’t like it. However, I’m realising that I’m further from Honest than I thought I was. I tend to reserve my opinions and contain my personality to blend in. This way I suppose, I have never really let anyone know me that well.

This is probably the reason why I have never had a fight or a proper argument a friend. Not even when I was a little kid. I would rather stay neutral then risk confrontation with anyone. I suppose that’s a habit from back when speech still seemed muddy and distorted because of my serious Auditory Processing Disorder. Any argument I had, I would have lost. And most of the time I wouldn’t have understood enough of a conversation to argue anyway. When everything seemed so unclear, I just wanted things to be as simple as possible, so why confuse and complicate things with feelings? The small stuff doesn’t matter, right? 

Since I started writing as a Case study for Johansen and MLC Scotland, (3 years ago now!) I have learned to how to listen, how to talk to other people, and how to understand others much more than I did before. A testament to this is how I write “other people” now. Often in my early diary entries I just wrote “people” and left it at that. I didn’t used to identify with others. Something which learning to understand other people comes with, is understanding yourself. I’m still learning to recognise what I think and feel, but it’s becoming easier and more automatic every day.

To improve this blog, writing from a first-person perspective, I need to include more of my own thoughts, feelings and emotions.  

Perhaps, to improve my life, I need to live more as a first-person. Living spontaneously and in-the-moment instead of delaying my reactions and searching for a “safe” response.  

The first big step forward is acting on how I feel. I don’t mean emotional responses to very clear-cut wrongs and rights, or distressing or joyful situations. What I mean is spontaneous reactions to small, everyday events. Spontaneous reactions are honest reactions. Why would I want to express my opinions about things which used to seem inconsequential, such as differing opinions with a friend on music, films or lunch choices? Now I’m wondering why would I not want to?

A huge part of being a normal human being is all the traits, likes, dislikes, loves, faults and flaws which make up you. Which makes me wonder, if I go through life not being myself, what else could I be?

Thanks to MLC and Johansen IAS therapies I have a second chance at life that very few people get. I am very, very fortunate to have this chance to fulfill my potential.

It may seem scary at first, but from now on I will do my very best to be Honest. I think that living life as myself is the only way I will discover everything that I can be. 

Friday 6th March – Nothing More Concert

Around this time three years ago, I was just beginning to hear the words in music clearly thanks to Johansen Individualised Auditory Stimulation therapy.

Music is what feelings sound like. I think I have always understood this. It still amazes me that sound can express emotions and make the listener empathise and feel the same thing. However until Johansen IAS therapy, I had no idea that songs had words which make the music a story as well. As someone who had always loved music, this was an incredible discovery for me. All the slurred mush and mouth noises interfering with (and as it seemed at the time, detracting from) the instrumental background started to make sense, and I realised that songs are as much about the lyrics as the tune.

Tonight I went to see a band which I love, and only heard for the first time a few months ago, Nothing More. Nothing More are amazing. Their music is a beautiful mix of melody and powerful metal, and the words to the songs are great in their own right. Another very wonderful thing about them is all the drums. Their drummer is phenomenal, and their singer also is a drummer. They have drums on stage which they hammer along with their powerful songs, and a bass solo which involves three of them playing a bass at the same time and spinning it on a stand, which is one of the most awesome thing’s I’ve ever seen and heard. Nothing More also have some of the few songs that make me cry. 

Before Johansen IAS therapy, I would have picked up on a tragic mood from hearing the instrumental parts of a song, but not understood exactly what it was about. Back then when I had serious Auditory Processing Disorder, most of the words I heard in music (and a large portion of speech I heard in general) sounded like Gibberish. Now when I hear a song I understand the story in it. Nothing More sing and play their songs with all their souls, songs with stories which come from their personal lives. Not only is their music amazing, they also use music as a form of activism. Every concert they play is an attempt to get people to stop being cogs in an increasingly corrupt system and think for themselves (MTV, Christ Copyright), never stop loving and caring for one another even when it hurts (I’ll be OK), and to fight the stigma associated with mental illness (Jenny). The song which had me nearly crying in the crowd is (God Went North), about the singer’s mother dying. Nothing More are a musical force for good, helping to save the world one concert hall at a time.     

Without Johansen IAS therapy, I would never have discovered Nothing More’s music in the first place, let alone be able to understand what it is about. Music is not only the most important thing in my life, in a way music also saved my life. 

Johansen IAS therapy music CDs strengthened sound-transmitting pathways in my brain, giving me the ability to hear speech clearly. I heard my family around the dinner table at background noise-filled birthday parties and started joining in the conversation, I made friends by joining conversations I was now able to be included in. Able to communicate with other people, I started to catch up with my age-group socially and emotionally. Sounds such as traffic came from the right directions and distances. The deafeningly loud mash of noise I heard when I was at school, the shops, in the street, dissipated and cleared like a fog lifting. I heard my own voice clearly for the first time and was startled at how it sounded different to the idea I had of my voice in my head. And I heard all the words in a song, which completely changed the course of my life. 

No longer scared of loud noises, which used to overwhelm me, I discovered my main passion, drums. 

So I thank Camilla, Johansen IAS and my family for giving me a second chance at life which I never would have had otherwise. I also thank my family’s tolerance of my decibel-heavy new interest. You are very awesome.  

I will continue this blog for as long as I can, writing about everything I learn along the way from being able to hear clearly. I hope that you find it useful and that it helps you to understand more about Auditory Processing Disorder, which (like Dyslexia) affects 10% of the world’s population. 

Sunday 1st March- The joys of academia

I have SO much homework, an overdue essay to rewrite which I discovered this morning, and revision for two exams which I tanked. Apparently, Tanked can also be a positive description. A garden supervisor once said when I dug over a big area, working flat out, “You tanked that”.

When I say “I tanked an exam”, I mean Tanked as in, like a tank falling from the sky, and whatever resulting unhappiness when it hits the ground with a huge splat. This was a very tough exam in the format of mini essays, which unfortunately can not be answered with a two-word sentence.  

Although I have chosen to go to college, I am not an academic person. I would much rather do things than write essays about it. It is a small miracle that I went to college in the first place. Not because I had very few qualifications- I have a few good highers under my belt. The main reason for not leaving home to study would have been my Auditory Processing Disorder and Retained Reflexes, which affected my life in general as well as making learning much much more difficult. After Johansen IAS therapy to help with my Auditory Processing, and going to The Movement and Learning Centre Scotland to get rid of the Retained Reflexes which were holding me back, I had the health, energy, social skills and learning capacity to go to college. 

So here I am, living independently in a different city, studying with mixed results. I’m not academic and probably never will be, but the fact that I’ve made it this far is something to be happy about. Anyway, no matter who you are, and what your brain is like, sometimes during an exam you just have a bad day.

Saturday 28th February 2015- Bucket Drumming, Junkie Interactions and a Gig

This morning I was tapping away on my buckets, entertaining people, drumming up some cash and dealing with the public.

When I first started busking I was afraid of people looking at me. That then upgraded to photos, videos, far too up-close watching like the Flower of Scotland Man, mid-performance conversations, heckling, and more recently, Junkie Interaction.

Lots of people smiled as they passed, although one elderly man with a great big beard paused in front of me to say “That sound is horrible. Please stop”.  A young guy jumped in beside me with a selfie stick, and a few other people took photos and videos. There’s a lot of tourists in Edinburgh.  I also got some (thankfully friendly) junkie attention. I chatted away, comforted by the knowledge that my Public Relations Frying Pan was within easy reach.

One woman strung out on something said she was a rapper, and wanted to try my buckets. She played along with me, the passers-by losing interest in the tuneless racket. Friendly woman though. She gave me a hug before departing unsteadily.

Previous to her, I had another inebriated admirer. He gave me 5p, which was actually very generous considering he didn’t look like he had much money. He was drinking a can of Special Brew or something similar. He said that he loved my drumming and wanted to marry me. We were chatting a bit and I explained that I busk for confidence when playing drums. He said he drinks for confidence, so I suppose confidence is something we have (or don’t have) in common. Busking for confidence when playing gigs will hopefully allow me to have the confidence to play well without requiring drinks, and have all my concentration to give the best performance I can because I’ll be sober.

Busking makes you kind of a part of the streets, even just for a short time, and people who live on those streets are interested to see what’s going on in their area.

Tonight we had our best gig yet. In an Irish Bar which was packed with people like sardines. The dance area was full, partly because there was nowhere left to sit. The bands there were really good and we’d met one of them before at our first gig in Paisley. One band had come all the way from England. They sounded a bit like Sleeping with sirens. My best friend came to see us too. It was loud, we were all packed together, it was hard to hear anyone talking. Before Johansen and MLC therapies it would have been a nightmare scenario.

I was nervous about playing, but not nearly as much as last time. Bucket Busking and fighting nerves with more nerves seems to be working.

People’s reaction to our music was really good and it was so hot in that wee underground bar all our hair was sticking up with sweat, we all went for it and it was an awesome night. It was so amazing to see people enjoying hearing us and having fun! I’m starting to feel like a proper drummer now.

Saturday 14th February 2015- Bucket and Samba Drumming

This morning I was bucket drumming again. Was I well-prepared? Well-rested? Chilled? Nope. That was kind of the point. Sometimes the only way to get over a fear is to scare yourself into not worrying about it anymore. In my case, performance nerves at gigs. If I can play on buckets badly in public, hopefully our next gig will not feel so worrying.

People seemed to quite like bucket drumming, just for the novelty of it. I wasn’t particularly good at it, just making stuff up as I went along, but I showed plenty of enthusiasm. I was drumming after all, and seeing people smile and give me change made me pretty happy.

One of my college friends heard me from the road and had come to see what the racket was. We chatted for a bit.

At one point, two guys in a white van, joiners I think, waiting for the lights to change had spotted me and rolled their window down. They found my buckets hilarious. They were laughing hard, slumped in their seats, not even looking at the road ahead. Something I have discovered recently is that I like to make people laugh. I did my best to entertain them, hamming it up a bit and grinning at them. I flipped a stick and caught it, which just killed them. I waved as they drove off. That was fun.

I had been playing for a short while when a man in a cowboy hat approached me. He introduced himself as Tad and said that if anyone bothered me, I should come see him and some of the other guys who sort of run this thing. I think I knew who he meant. There’s a bunch of amazing street performers who hang out in front of the Fringe Box Office. I asked if he was the tight-rope violinist, and was this his normal spot? Did he need me to move? “No”, he smiled “I escape from straight-jackets and stuff”. He recommended a spot higher up near the cathedral for better acoustics. Flute didn’t attract as much attention as this, although I have met a few of the street performers higher up the Mile.

Kind people gave me some money, one woman giving me a rose from a bunch she was carrying. I had kind of forgotten about Valentine’s Day. Perhaps that was why the Mile was so busy!

Since I was the loudest thing on the mile, even giving the bagpipers a run for their money, I moved pitches regularly to give people a break.

On the mound, I also got a good response. Amused interest and encouragement mostly. Valentine’s Day seems to put most people in a good mood.

I was still tapping away when a man a few years older than me stopped to chat and said there was going to be a protest on the Mound soon. He was from a Samba drumming protest group called Rhythms of Resistance. Would I like to join? Yes.

I packed up to watch the samba drums and a rather fantastic paper mache dragon painted with Anti-climate change slogans.

I was waiting for them to start when one of the drummers asked if I wanted to join in. I haven’t played in a Samba group before, but it sounded like fun. I grabbed my mini saucepan and a stick.

Samba is great. The leader (called Benny I think) blew a whistle and did hand signs. I just went with it, playing beside some people with things like cowbells. My few sessions at Edinburgh Drum Society before my schedule got too full, helped with understanding the counting hand signals and pauses. We sort of move from side to side as we played, and at the end, marched around in a circle. It was a lot of fun! Hopefully I’ll see them at a meeting or two if I get some free Thursday nights.

After another brief performance on the Mile, I watched an amazing fire juggler from in front of the Fringe shop. He threw and caught flaming torches while balancing on top of a plank of wood, and cheerfully  warning us to “Watch where you step, some idiot spilled paraffin here!”.

His show was cut short by a policeman who was clearing the street. I wondered what for, then heard a familiar sound. Rhythms for Resistance were at the front of a procession of people blocking the road, with a queue of open-topped Tourist Buses forced to snail it behind them.

Sunday 1st February 2015- Today I’m feeling Optimistic

It’s February, and it’s still cold.

Today I’m feeling pretty optimistic.

I want to be a professional drummer. That would make me so happy I think. Playing music with my friends for a living would be amazing. And it’s not an impossible dream. Without MLC and Johansen, a career as a drummer would never have been an option for me. It’s amazing how much my life has changed since I started and finished these therapies- and what a completely different direction it’s taking from what it would have been otherwise. Without going to see Ian at The Movement and Learning Centre Scotland, I would not have the coordination to play drums. Simple, everyday movements such as walking and climbing stairs which nowadays are effortless and automatic for me, would still take up conscious thought.

And without Johansen Individualised Auditory Stimulation Therapy, I would still be afraid of loud noises.

A music theory teacher I had for a short time at school (before he was fired for insulting other members of staff) once said to me “maybe in a parallel universe, Jennifer will do something important with her life”. Imagining a Jenny in a parallel universe who hadn’t had help from Johansen and MLC makes me sad. I have a vague idea of what that story would be like, and as a lover of happy endings, I have a feeling I would be disappointed. Thanks to these therapies I have the opportunity to explore and live up to my full potential- whatever that may be. It’s my duty- and pleasure to live my second chance at life to the full. And of course use my experiences to help other people with Auditory Processing Disorder and Retained Reflexes as much as I can.

My unpleasant theory teacher wanted me to be a musician. In some ways, he may get what he wished for. Although I reckon that I still have as much aptitude for music theory as a shellfish does for mountaineering. I play a small concert on my flute every weekend I can manage. Some tourists and streetgoers particularly like my flute version of “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. The thought of him seeing me play drums- the last instrument anyone at the music school would have expected me to have a talent for- in my usual unquiet, finesseless and deliciously unclassical manner makes me smile.

Tomorrow is Plant Physiology. Meh.

It’s a testament to Johansen IAS that despite a hectic lifestyle juggling a full-time college course, keeping this blog, busking, and being part of a band in another city, my hearing has not been a problem recently. I barely think about it sometimes. I’ve been taking easy, clear sound processing for granted.

However, I will definitely be my Personal Listening Device for class tomorrow. It’s going to be 5 hours of lectures. My hearing may not be 100% perfect, but the fact that I’m so far managing to keep afloat with this course and with life in general astonishes me.

 

Saturday 31st January- Lunch with a friend from Lip Reading Class

Today I was back in Glasgow and saw a friend from my lip reading class. She bought me lunch and told me about how her friends and family are getting on. She is like a Gran to me. All of my lip reading friends feel like my older relatives. I was so nervous when I turned up at my first lip reading class almost three years ago. I was scared that I wouldn’t fit in there, that the rest of the class might not like me because I was so much younger and had no hearing loss.

They welcomed and accepted me. I told her this, thanking her for accepting me and making me feel so at home there. I wanted her to know how important her and my other lip reading friends are to me. 

She just looked at me and said, “Jenny, why would we not accept you?”

After school, lip reading classes didn’t just help with Aural Rehabilitation. The friends I made there helped to restore my faith in people. 

Thusday 29th January 2015

Today I had a chance to work on The Gibberish Dictionary eBook project again.

Reading my diary from two years ago (when I was still going through Johansen IAS Therapy for serious Auditory Processing Disorder) was an eye-opener to how amazing my life is now. I had almost forgotten how poor my sound processing was. I could barely cross roads safely because the deafening, distorted, misplaced traffic sounds I heard clashed with my synaesthesia. I couldn’t hear the words in songs- slurred mouth-noises with the odd understandable words in between were swamped by mushy instrumental backgrounds. Because of this, all the music I love now was uninteresting to me. Some sounds were painful and overwhelming. I couldn’t cope for long in busy environments such as town centres, or even my local supermarket when it was busy. I couldn’t sing anything in pitch because I couldn’t hear my voice properly. My listening skills (and consequentially my social skills) were so poor I could barely hold a conversation. This makes me glad that I kept a record of the massive improvements to my hearing. Not just because the diary may be a useful case study for other people, but because I had been starting to take my amazing new life for granted.