Category Archives: September 2014

Tuesday 30th September- My Brain Explained with computer analogies, and Death Stares

My auditory processing was a little patchy at college today, but pretty good considering the busy times I’ve had recently.

Something new is saying things without conscious effort. I no longer think, after a processing time lag: “They said that. What does that mean? How do other people respond to similar thing? What do I think? What do I want to say? How do I say it?” In the past, before Johansen, this processing slog my brain went thorough made every sentence in every conversation really long and difficult. By the time I thought of an answer, (if I heard what friends said in the first place), by then they were already on a new topic. Here’s a computer analogy (because computer analogies seem to make sense for lots of people)- the speed my brain processes at now is like the processing speed of my up-to-date windows laptop, compared to the speed of the room-sized computers people used about 50 years ago. You can probably do on a gigantic, ancient old machine, most of the basic, important things I do on my laptop, such as word-processing and emails. The difference is the effort and energy required for processing. The more energy required, the less energy remaining for other tasks and everyday life. Yes, you can get by with windows B.C. or whatever, but it’s awful nice to be able to read my emails with one click, then just get on with my day.

Nowadays I find myself talking and responding almost spontaneously. It’s less effort, and also a more genuine response from me. I don’t overthink about what to say until the opportunity to speak has gone, with that slow old processing route. My brain is a-moving with the times.

Johansen and MLC therapies really helped by giving me a solid foundation for life. Now, gradually I’m going through stages of development I missed and growing into my own age. For anyone else who has chosen to go down the route of MLC and Johansen therapies, in my experience it is normal to still be seeing improvements 3 or 4 years later. I’m very lucky that I was diagnosed during my teens. As an adult, I would have much more to catch up on, perhaps even most of a lifetime of missed social experience and development. Something I noticed recently is how much I can be influenced by behaviour and information from people around me. I can learn a lot of social skills in one day, and more about myself in the process.

Being able to hear clearly, and also the benefits of MLC, are something to get used to. It takes a while to adapt to your brain’s strengthened, faster-functioning neural pathways. Here’s another computer analogy: It’s like putting the SIM card from an old brick-style mobile into a brand-new smartphone. You know instantly that it works faster and the same old information is there, but you are yet to understand how to use the new system. And with this upgraded version there are new things you can do that you haven’t even discovered yet.

Any emotional habits and problems related to retained reflexes etc. will also have to be dealt with. They won’t vanish overnight. Sometimes it might seem that the same old problems are still there. They might be, but without whatever was holding you back before, this time you can really change.

I once joked that I never got round to being a difficult, stoppy teenager. Well, technically speaking maybe I didn’t. Perhaps stroppy isn’t my natural temperament, but more and more I feel like I’m catching up with my age group. Over the last year I’ve been listening to heavier music, got a new ear piercing, don’t worry so much about the small things, and am finding it considerably harder to get out of bed. Some of that sounds like the beginning of puberty, although I just turned 20. My parents might be relieved that I’ll no longer be living at home with them for the delayed teenage years.

Tonight I had my friends over to watch the end of Hot Fuzz, which is hilarious. One of my favourite films.

One of my friends is teaching me a Death Stare. He’s very good at it. I can’t do it yet without cracking up or smiling. Death Stares could be a very good life skill. Something my friend is teaching me is that sometimes it can be useful to put up a bit of a front to protect yourself from unsavoury types. He’s a really nice person, but can give a stare to freeze your blood. 

In the past when I felt threatened I used to go the opposite way, becoming more goofy and confused than before. Safety through looking a bit simple rather than scary. Now I don’t feel confused all the time, and when I’m nervous my brain can still string a sentence together. I don’t need to do this anymore. Within a few years I’ve gone from not talking much at all, to enjoying chatting with new people and making friends. But I’ve only got a few years of social experience, and sometimes have an overly optimistic view of people. I’m still learning how to judge characters.  So although socially I’m much more able than before, if one day I realise that I’m in a situation with some bad people, a well-practiced death stare may come in handy.

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SUnday 28th September- More Busking

I got up earlyish, practiced a little then headed out to royal mile. This morning I had put effort into learning the main song from  Frozen. I thought that people would like it, but the general attitude to it was more like, meh. Maybe they’d heard it too many times already. I did get a request from a guy with a 1ft Mohican for a flute rendition of The Dead Kennedys. I put it on my list. I do play some rock music. It’s something I’m working on it. At the moment I playing one of the more melodic songs by Nine Inch Nails, called Losing Hope. It’s slow, sad and beautiful. It’s hard to play angry, edgy stuff on a flute. And something I’ve noticed is that tourists often prefer happy songs. Playing endless mournful stuff won’t earn me much.

I did okay, £10 for about 3 hours. Some of that was spent walking to different pitches. The top of the royal mile seems to be best, but you have to arrive fairly early to get a spot. I thought I’d found a patch until a bagpiper turned up and drowned me out.  Since a flute is a piercing instrument and echoes on the buildings, I don’t need an amplifier. But bagpipes still trump all.

Would I have had the confidence to play in the street in the past, before I went to Johansen IAS & MLC Scotland? Never. My confidence is growing. Even events like yesterday help. It can’t go as badly as that, I think to myself. I’m just starting out at busking, and although I’m not the best street musician there, it’s a relief to probably not be the least skilled.

I wouldn’t have busked in Glasgow. It’s easier to start in a very busking-friendly city, where barely anyone knows you. I suppose that busking actually is a good way for many people to know and recognize you, but I’m doing it because I love music, could do with a little extra money, and want to kill my performance nerves before my first gig as a drummer. It gives my flute a purpose. I love playing to people and seeing some of them smile as they pass. I feel like thanks to the Johansen and MLC therapies, and my fresh start in a new city, old parts of me which I’d forgotten are starting to come back to life.

Off to a friend’s house in the afternoon. We bought some drinks, watched the start of Hot Fuzz and had dinner.

On my way home I passed a homeless man. It’s so sad that people still have to live without shelter, especially in this wealthy country. It makes me angry that life has failed them. I’d given him a little change on my way past, but almost forgot about the big bottle of Mango Rubicon in my bag and went back with it. I probably wouldn’t use it. Maybe he’d like it. When I asked, he said yes, he did want it thanks. He said you’re gorgeous I love you. Not in a creepy way, which is kind of how it sounds here. More like, in return for a litre bottle of mango Rubicon, he wanted to give me the nicest words he could find. I hope his life gets better. He seemed like a nice man and worth writing about.

That’s me written up the last week in one night. I’ve been too busy to write recently! The Gibberish Dictionary website is very neglected.

Now the theme tune of Frozen is stuck in my head. Tomorrow is my first day of a pretty much 9-5 course.

It will be a lot of work, there’s not doubt about that. But I’m looking forward to seeing my friends and chatting with my class. There’s a social side of college I never got near at school. Now I can talk to my friends, hang around with them, hear enough and have the confidence and attitude and energy to be completely included. Before I could hear clearly, it was like every sound and thought was foggy and I had nothing to contribute. Now I’ve been hanging around in a group with my college friends, talking and laughing. Maybe even the odd race on the wheeled common area chairs is in store for me. It’s what I’ve always wanted.

Saturday 27th September- The Teenage Years begin

I did not want to get out of bed.

It’s harder to get to sleep since I moved here, and also harder to wake up. My curtains really keep out the light and my new bed is like a big bean bag- getting out of it is difficult, and then you realise that you don’t want to.

Maybe it’s my furniture’s fault, or it could be the start of my teenage years. The Retained Reflexes I had caused Delayed Development. Now that the Retained Reflexes are gone, thanks to therapy from The Movement and Learning Centre Scotland, I’ve been catching up with my age group quick. Auditory Processing Disorder also kept me lagging behind socially. After Johansen IAS therapy, auditory processing is only a difficult area for me, and I can hear as clearly as almost anyone. Over the past few years I’ve learned a whole load of new social skills I missed early on.  

Last night was exceptionally late by my standards, but something I’ve noticed over the past few months is my difficulty/reluctance to get up on time. It’s as if I’m living out the jetlagged teenage years. I had some insomnia when I was a teenager, but this felt much more normal and healthy. Without the adrenaline jag of a Retained Moro Reflex, it’s so easy to go back to snoozing even if you’re going to be late. My anxious, too-serious, adrenalized past-self is long gone. Who cares if I’m five minutes late? It’s not the end of the world. And if it is, Armageddon can wait. I’ll sleep through it.

Today was a university music jam. I was really looking forwards to it. A chance to play drums! Again, like wind band, I just dived in without thinking about it much. Have I played in front of people before? Yep. Once. Have I ever played drums for a jam? Besides with my bandmates in Glasgow, nope.

Before the music jam, I bought some work boots for gardening. The salesman was very keen, referring to the shoe in his hand as “he” and telling my all about him. Good boots and good prices, despite the shop being a little eccentric.

The jam…..A really brilliant drummer I met was there too. He can play anything and has tons of drum experience. I asked him about some stuff, and he taught me a double pedal exercise. Unfortunately for the first hour, there was no key for the drum kit. We played on the tables, which was fun, but there’s only so much you can do with a table.

We got drums from the cupboard. The other drummer played amazingly, then I had a go. The musicians seemed to want me to start with a rhythm. I had no idea what to play. I’m still really not used to leading music. I ended up playing very similar stuff. In the middle I kind of freaked out a bit and froze, making for a very awkward jam. I couldn’t think of what to play, and they had to play without me for a bit. I got lost again and handed sticks back to other drummer. It didn’t help that seat was so high my feet barely reached the pedals, but I can’t blame the kit for my performance. Not much anyway. I did my best. For my amount (lack of) experience I did okay. I love drumming, and am again faced with the fact that I still have a long way to go to become a good drummer. Yes, it had its embarrassing, awkward, ego-shrivelling moments, but I want to be at the next jam. I want to be the best drummer I can be, and that means working my way up from the beginning.

 

Wednesday 24th September- 3rd day of Garden Field Trips

Today I got the bus to college. Yesterday on the way home I was feeling really tired and fell off my bike through sheer stupidity. I suppose that as a cyclist, falling off my bike at some point was inevitable. I was at the front of a junction, waiting for the lights to turn. To get momentum up a slight hill I stood up on my pedals while turning. Then I raised an arm to indicate, still standing up, and predictably fell off. I thank my lucky stars that I was fine. Not much traffic was moving, so it was more of a “stupid cyclist!” situation than a “call an ambulance!” emergency. I think that since life is a learning experience, we are sometimes given hints and nudges in the right direction by the force which most religions are based on. My intended learning curve for today was not to cycle when I’m tired. I lose concentration and am not safe on roads. So to prove that I this lesson is received and understood, today I got the university shuttle bus. It was a bit of a scary event at the time, but I’m grateful that life chose to give me a bruised knee rather than hit me with a truck.

Perhaps because of my processing difficulties I burn through mental energy faster than most people. To be safe cycling on the roads, I need to have enough energy.

Today’s gardens included a beautifully designed garden in St Andrews. We learned about arranging plants in beds, and how to create themes for each flowerbed.

One of the highlights of the trip was yesterday, when we went to a national trust garden and I saw a tree with pink/red oval leaves which smelled like candyfloss. It’s called a Bubblegum Tree.   

We got back a bit late, the minibuses slowed in traffic. After a quick turnaround I went back to Glasgow to see my aunt and uncle, who were over for the night. It was great to be home and see my parents, although now I’m calling both places home. I have two homes. Living independently hasn’t really hit me yet. I could be on a self-catering holiday, rather than here for probably the next four years.

 

Sunday 21st September- My first Busking session

It was a sunny morning, so I had a quick, very quiet practice in my room, then went out busking. The top end of the royal mile heading towards the castle was very busy with tourists and street performers. Buskers, jugglers, a couple of invisible people wearing suits, a the Most Pierced Woman in the World (who is featured in the Guinness book of records), a floating man dressed as yoda, and some human statues. I moved a few times so not to annoy people, and because my list of music to play is still quite small. I played for about an hour and a half and some people gave me money! A generous woman gave me a two pound coin. Some of the tourists who took a photo of me also put some money in my case.

I think I made about £6.50.

It makes me happy that people enjoyed my music and paid me as a result.

Today there was an anti-climate change march in Edinburgh, so I joined it. We walked (you can’t really think o it as a march with smiling people in colourful clothes, plus their children and pets) along the city centre road and blocked a bus lane. It was fun.

Now I have to clean my bike, make dinner and tomorrow’s lunch, do my laundry and get ready for tomorrow’s garden road trip. We’re going to Dundee, which is quite a long way, but there’s not many people I’d rather be stuck on a bus with.

Saturday 20th September- Brain For Hire

Not feeling great today. I’m tired from busy times and processing, Auditory and otherwise, is slow.

I’m a student. Students need money. One way for students to earn money is to sign up to help PHD students with experiments. Earlier this year, I earned a little money for taking part in a Synaesthesia study. I don’t mind hiring out my brain for some easy computerised tests. For this I would earn £6, which is equal to 6 1-kilo bags of potatoes. I think in potatoes quite a lot since I’ve become a student.

Today I helped with a memory test at the Psychology building. Because I can play a few instruments and read music notation. The tests were computerised, but not easy. They involved a lot of listening to 12-note atonal tunes. Since Auditory tests are a weak area for me, my brain felt fried after an hour of 12-note atonal tunes. But £6 in hand, in headed home, fried but happy. Probably thinking of potatoes.

Before the musical memory test, because I had thought ahead, I made a poster advertising my services as a Brain for Hire. The psychology building is closed to the public and I normally wouldn’t be allowed inside, so while I was there, I put up an advert on the noticeboard. I thought that since I have synaesthesia, maybe more students would want to hire me for my brain. I made a new email address specially for it. Worth a try. My poster isn’t subtle, but it’s to the point, and £4 an hour is competitive with the average PHD study rate.

After lunch I was still tired and a small patch of my vision went a bit sparkly. Life has been much busier than I’m used to. After a break I had dinner and went out to a friend’s birthday party. We have literally known each other since we were born, our mothers being in the same maternity group. Great to see him, catch up, and make some new friends.

Surprisingly, my hearing had recovered by then thanks to a chill out back at the flat. It still amazes me that years after I had Johansen IAS therapy to help me with serious Auditory Processing Disorder, I’m still noticing improvements.

Friday 19th September- There’s two kinds of people in the world.

I don’t like cycling in the rain. All the traffic seems to be in a rush, the other denizens of the road feeling superior just because their vehicles have a roof.

Why the hurry? They aren’t getting wet.

The results of the Scottish referendum weren’t what I hoped for. I have a feeling that after the results, no one’s quite sure where they stand with each other. There’s still some tension around, with both sides waiting to see how the other reacts. Either way, one very good thing about the referendum is that Scotland was more involved in a political decision than usual. Everyone had an opinion, and cared about the decision they made.

Let’s see how it goes from here.

Today I went to a half-day at college then to the shops. One of the wonderful staff at Drum Central fixed my glitchy double pedal and gave me an alan key for free! My mood dropped when I came out of the shop and saw that someone had used the frame of my bike to scrape dog poo off their shoe. After my cycle home I had to clean loads of stuff I had with me, plus my jeans, bike lock etc. There’s lovely people in the world, like the Drum Central people. They are enthusiastic, kind-hearted, and care about what they do. Then there’s the dog-poo-scrapers of the world, literally and figuratively. The people who will selfishly take their problems out on you, or on an innocent second-hand bicycle. I have to remember this. Whenever my view of the world gets too rosy, something like this tends to reset my mind. Let’s hope it’s always something so small, and easily solvable with a £1 bottle of disinfectant.

Tonight is a night out with my Horticulture college friends. Hopefully it will be a lot of fun!

We went out at 8 and before I knew it, it was 1am!  I don’t drink much, so two ciders and I was away. My new friends are lovely. And with them, because we all have some kind of learning difference or other issue, my Auditory Processing Difficulties are totally accepted. I asked for some repeats in the noisy pub (we ended up in Edinburgh’s famous Banshee Labyrinth), and my very dyslexic new friend asked what the name was of the pub we were in because he hadn’t read the sign. Totally accepted. We finished in the students union, which is basically a building full of varying bars. They are kind, fun, like-minded people, who also talk about plants. I will hopefully have many more fun Horticulture nights out, because I’ve been told it will be a weekly thing.

I’ve found some really good people here in Edinburgh and it’s starting to feel like home.

Thursday 18th September- Scottish Independence Referendum Voting Day

At college we had a lecture about learning differences within our college. Apparently at most colleges there’s 10% dyslexic and learning different students. At ours, there’s 25% and that’s just the ones they know about. I’ll be right at home. Horticulturists on the whole, really struggle with spelling. A lot of them, probably almost everyone, is dyslexic. Or their brains are wired for more practical purposes than memorising letter combinations. And then their job throws latin plant names at them every day. Its really not fair. Luckily I have my coloured letters, which are easier to remember. We filled out questionnaires to identify what kind of learners we are- Visual, Auditory, or Tactile. Or whether we’re a mixture of all three. My college has the best Learning support system I have ever seen.

At the end of the day we had a quiz. We split into groups in the atrium, a corridor with lots of seats, including box-shaped padded stools with wheels on the bottom. These wheeled stools are a lot of fun. And a constant source of frustration for staff. The questions were spoken by a lecturer, but my Auditory Processing was clear and fast enough to understand and keep up.

Most of the questions were general knowledge, but some trickier questions had been specifically tailored to Horticulturists, including, Spell “Guarantee”.

Passed parliament again on my way home. Huge two-story media circus tent parked in the grounds along with vans and trucks of people and filming equipment.

It’s the Referendum Vote today. I’ll find out tomorrow what the result is.

Megaphones are being put to use. Hardware stores are still selling megaphones and affordable amplifiers from their window displays. People wearing kilts, tartan, union jack and saltire flags as capes, Yes and No badges. Loads of Yes bumper stickers slapped onto motor vehicles. Police are out and about.

In the kitchen, defrosting dinner, I heard bagpipes speeding past the building. It was a van playing loud bagpipe tunes, not a piper running very fast down the street.

We’ll see the results in the morning. I hope it’s a good decision either way. But a yes would be nice.

 

Wednesday 17th September- Day 10 of Student Life- Second day at College

Today I cycled to college. Not getting run over in unfamiliar traffic was a good start to my day.

After a busy Freshers week and lots of listening at the yesterday’s information day, I was too tired to concentrate in lectures. But I enjoyed the first years’ barbeque. They don’t barbeque first years. We had burgers and sausages in buns, and a choice between orange juice and Irn Bru.

Irn Bru is an original Scottish drink which is made from girders. I’m inclined to believe this because I have never seen anything of the same colour or flavour in nature. Scotland is the only country in the entire world, whose favourite drink isn’t a Coca-Cola product. I think this is something to be proud of. Irn Bru kind of sums up the Scottish Spirit- it may just be a patented mixture of unidentifiable chemicals, but it’s our chemicals.

I was on my way home when someone leaned out of their window with a megaphone. The Scottish Independence Referendum is not far off now. People are getting their voices heard- whether the shoppers below their windows want to listen or not.

Local hardware stores are making sure to keep them well-stocked, selling megaphones and Saltire flags (capes) at discount prices. 

I cycled home past the parliament to see what was going on. As a cyclist, I was allowed onto the blocked road. The policeman let me through. It helps that I’m quite unthreatening in size, and don’t have a likely-to-stab-people kind of face. I’m not sure what a Stabbing Face might look like, only that police probably know it when they see it. For anyone who does have a Stabbing Face, but wouldn’t hurt a fly, you have my sympathy, probably along with as the MET’s unwanted attention.

In front of the Scottish Parliament was a bunch of people waving banners, dressed up, singing, playing music, flags, and a man in a white-on-black Westminster Scum tee.

Writing about the Scottish Referendum in this blog, I should probably include my view on it. I’m not wearing a flag/cape to go to the shops, but I think that a Yes vote could be a good thing. My reason is that I want Scotland to be ruled by the governmental party which we vote for.

Dinner was defrosted Spag Bol.

Tuesday 16th sept- Day 9 of Student Life -My First Day at College

I really like everyone on my course and I might have a new friend who also has APD. I’m getting used to telling new people I meet about my Auditory Processing Difficulties, in case they wonder why I may not understand something they say. She had never heard of APD before, but thinks it sounds familiar. There’s lots of us out there.