This blog post is being written thanks to my friends who are noticeably “different” in some way. I love and admire them for being the interesting and unusual people they are. Sadly, sometimes other people take against them for it. I wonder why some people treat others who stand out in some way with prejudice or indifference. So here are my thoughts on the matter……
I reckon that cliques and conformity are a form of a Caveman mentality we required thousands of years ago to survive. Separated from the herd, that animal was less likely to live. And once they were separated from the group, perhaps they wouldn’t let you back in- instead becoming a sacrifice to whatever Toothfull Beastie was after the flock at the time. The Toothfull Beastie is more likely to gobble up strays and outsiders instead of attacking the main unit of the herd, the sacrifice of the stragglers allowing the rest of the herd to live another day. Leaving members of the flock behind was probably justified by blaming them for their own predicament, such as being too slow or weak or not really one of them anyway. Blame is a Hot Potato.
Those of the flock with a conscience may have been thankful that at least it wasn’t them, believing that “It’s them or us”. I tend to think that wherever there’s a Them and an Us, there’s a Problem. Unfortunately, long after the Caveman days, there is still plenty of that mentality around.
If conformity is fear-driven, that leads to the question: In the case of modern society, what is the Toothfull Beastie?
Most predators which once roamed the earth are now either extinct or excluded from most urban areas. Although nowadays there is a lack of animal predators attacking humanity, we retain this mentality out of habit and lack of change. Perhaps the modern Toothfull Beastie is the fear of exclusion itself. In a way that makes us our own predators, which is even more destructive.
Before therapies from MLC Scotland (which gave me physical and emotional balance) and Johansen IAS (which strengthened the sound processing connections in my brain, allowing me to hear speech clearly and consistently) I used to feel different from other people. Difference is great, it’s what makes us individuals, but I felt different in a negative way.
This is partly because I took on some of the views of myself from some people who were herd members in the extreme. Their uniform was generally Ugg boots, short skirts, carefully prepared hair, shellac talons and that healthy orange glow. Instead of emulating their fashion sense and clothes labels and admiring the beatific solarium radiance of their skin, I remained a minority against their numbers. I was a pretty scruffy herd member, with long unkempt fur and almost zero interest in fashion trends. Because of the serious Auditory Processing Disorder I had when I was at school, I couldn’t hear speech clearly. This made me an easy target for TWITS (Trophy-Wives-In-Training) who identified me as a weaker animal with social skills even less developed than my grooming regime.
Some of them pitied me for not wanting to be the same as them, pointing a bejewelled acrylic claw in my direction and saying “That’s a shame” enough times for my scrambled hearing to pick it up.
Others messed with me out of curiosity as if they were thinking “(OMG!) It’s not the same as us. What does it do?”
And a few of them were just plain mean, the kind of people who intercept the Hot Potato of Blame in midair, just so they can pass it on to someone they dislike.
Feeling like easy prey, I took on some of their Caveman mentality. I felt like there was a Them and a Me. I almost believed that being different was something to be ashamed of, because it made me feel lonely and in fear of packs of TWITS every time I entered the school gates. TWITS are terrified of people who are different, which is why they made sure to remove me as far as possible from them, like doing a biopsy of a cancer. I could have been contagious.
I know many people, who like me, because their differences were seen as negative, badly want to be Normal. Back at school I wanted to feel Normal, whatever that was, unless it was a TWIT.
Now I know that because “normal” is an average created by measuring how everyone is different, there is no such thing. Normal is a myth, a fiction as non-existent as the Toothfull Beastie.
Safety in Similarity has a nasty sting in its tail: Conformists may show contempt for those who do not emulate them, but if there were no people who were “different”, Conformists would have no direction for their prejudice and fear except to look inwards on themselves. And I think they would find that truly unsettling.
One of the amazing things about evolution is that we adapt to survive. We will eventually realise that The Toothfull Beastie is no more, and that we can come out of our Caveman Cliques and benefit and learn from each other’s differences. Where there is no Them and Us, just one huge united group, by helping each other we will also help ourselves. But sometimes I think Guys, can we maybe evolve just a little bit faster please?
My day started with a grocery shop. Sadly, my usual fish fingers are no longer in stock. A shiny new budget-friendly box is filling my freezer drawer with anticipation. Something I’m really looking forward to is a visit from the awesome French branch of my family tree. So today I watched an episode of Chuck in French with French subtitles.
Despite the fact that listening is a weak area for me because of my Auditory Processing difficulties, I enjoy learning different languages. My favourite language is music. Music is a universal language because whoever’s listening- no matter what their spoken language is- can enjoy and empathise with the mood the music sets. Kind of like that TV show, The Clangers. Many people from different cultures claimed that the Clangers were actually speaking their language (or so I have heard). The Clangers speak Clanger. But like music, Clanger has a similarity to human speech. The adorable moon-dwelling mouse-creatures don’t use identifiable words, but somehow their language of squeaks and whistles still makes a lot of sense to their human watchers.
Although for my first 16 years or so, I couldn’t hear speech as clearly as most people because of serious Auditory Processing Disorder, I have always loved music. It’s a language which I understand. Although my social skills lagged behind since spoken nuances and hints were lost in a sea of gibberish and background noise, I could pick up a tune by ear really quickly. On my flute I learned to play music with an emotional maturity which socially I completely lacked. The way I played and the way I spoke completely didn’t match up. Then after Johansen IAS therapy my hearing cleared up enough to hear song lyrics, and I discovered an amazing combination of languages- music with words! After that my life was changed forever.
I’ve read somewhere that children who listen to music or learn an instrument can improve learning skills and strengthen listening ability. My parents played lots of music in our house when I was young whether it was Gypsy Kings (my mum) or Nirvana (my dad). Listening to music from an early age even just in the background probably gave me an edge against my Auditory Processing Disorder which I wouldn’t otherwise have had.
I think that a lot of kids who struggle in some way with communication, in whatever form and for whatever reason, would really benefit from learning to play an instrument. It’s a way to express your feelings without using conventional spoken language. Like a fingerprint, music is unique to the individual it comes from. Personalities shine through, and listeners who make strong first impressions of people on face value ( *The Fish Finger Conundrum again!* ) may be surprised by what they hear.
*The Fish Finger Conundrum- Monday 20th October 2014*
Due to unfortunate exam-related circumstances and the fact that any vaguely maths-related homework is not my friend, blog entries have recently been few and far between. Hopefully in a few weeks I’ll have the time to post a backlog of stuff. I hope you enjoyed this post. =)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today was my first attempt at bucket drumming.
After a short practice in my building’s bike shed I hauled my assortment of plastic bins and buckets to The Mound. I wanted to try playing somewhere a but quieter before I attempted Bucket Drumming on The Mile. The Mound seemed empty enough, with a few people around to watch.
My set up:
Snare and Bass- red Tesco bucket with a handle
High tom- IKEA waste bin with a pretty floral pattern
Low tom- 2 stacked Dulux pots from my uncle’s shed.
The aim of this whole enterprise was to throw myself out of my comfort zone. My logic was that if I could play buckets badly to hundreds of passing tourists, then gigs with a proper kit playing stuff I’ve learned and practiced won’t feel so scary.
I set up my buckets tried to ignore how nervous I felt, and played an improvised beat badly. I did a stick trick, started another wonky beat, dropped a stick and looked up from retrieving it to see people staring at me. I freaked out, shoved my buckets back into the IKEA bag and almost ran out of there.
Town seemed busy today, for a winter morning. After the my first Bucket Shenanigan I went back out with my flute on the Mile near the castle. I earned £2. From a man who sang along with “Flower of Scotland” out of time, key and tune, while standing too close and staring madly into my eyes. Still, that’s 2 quid.
Bucket Drumming isn’t over. It really worked at scaring me, and although my playing was very, very brief, no one heckled me or phoned the police with a noise complaint. I will try again.
Meh. That is how I felt today.
After a very busy few weeks, I was feeling mentally bedraggled and less than enthusiastic about my first Plant Physiology class today. It was going to be a long afternoon- a double assault of two-hour long lectures, detailed to the molecular level.
It was the ideal day for my first experience of a lecture aided by a Personal Listening Device.Thanks to my college’s brilliant Student Support system, the SAAS Student Disability Awards, and Ron from iHear Ltd, I have a Personal Listening Device on loan for a trial.
A great thing about my college is that they always have powerpoint presentations to go with the lectures. However, there is only so much I can absorb from the screen. Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) has its name because the Disorder is all to do with Processing, not hearing ability. I have no hearing loss, but had been dreading this new topic. I worried that I would sit in the lecture theatre and hear everything, but not process, understand or remember it. Thanks to Johansen IAS therapy, my Auditory Processing abilities are 100 times better than they used to be, but I still struggle in some areas (I had pretty serious problems with Auditory Processing to start with!) . The testament to the improvements in my life because of Johansen IAS therapy is that I have managed to go to college in the first place.
Auditory Processing Disorder can be roughly summed up with the phrase,
“In one ear, Out the other”.
Someone with Auditory Processing Disorder can be listening with every ounce of concentration, but lose track of almost all meaning of a conversation because of background noise, or simply a bad Processing Day because of tiredness or stress. Camilla the Johansen IAS therapist once likened APD to listening to a conversation in a foreign language you can get by in, but are not fluent with. Except that for people with APD, what can seem like a vague, jumbled string of words is actually their own first language. Even if you manage to hear everything clearly and understand it, Auditory Processing Disorder can seem to wipe your memory clean, and by the next day the information is new again, still to be learned.
Personal Listening Devices like the one I had for a trial period (The Comfort Audio Digisystem iHear) are designed to cut out background noise by transmitting the speaker’s voice directly to the device-wearer via earphones or hearing aids.
And it works!
After switching on the small black transmitter to my lecturer, and explaining what it was for, (he was very helpful and supportive) I turned on my receiver and put in my earphones. The difference from my other lectures before I got the Listening Device was stark. My lecturer’s voice was in my ears, clear and sharp. The background noise of rustling and chatting in the lecture theatre was very quiet, as if the sounds were coming from underwater, and no longer distracting.
The lectures were intense. I felt like we covered more plant biology in those four hours than I had learned over year for Higher Biology. Thanks to the Personal Listening Device, I was able to mentally keep up with the lecture. Cutting out the background noise took most of the effort out of listening and all my brain’s energy could be devoted to Processing.
I’m not saying that having a Personal Listening Device transforms me into an academic whiz. It doesn’t. I know that I will struggle with this Module. However, I expected to walk into that class, pay attention and learn nothing. Being able to take in spoken information from the lecture feels encouraging. Thanks to the Digisystem iHear, I have a chance to pass a difficult module which would otherwise be hopeless and impossible.
For more great personal listening equipment, please check out iHear’s website using the link below.
This morning I went out for some busking, with a few Christmas Carols added to my repertoire. On the Royal Mile I met Elaine. She is the world’s most pierced woman, and a lovely person. Her colourful dress, dreadlocks, glittering facepaint and of course, many piercings bring colour to the Mile even in the winter.
She gave me some advice for busking and said that she liked my playing. When she came over to chat and listen to me play, some men wanted a photo with her. She told them to give me a pound instead, because she was busy listening to me right now.
I admire her courage to be the brightest and most colourful person in the street, not afraid to look unusual or to be herself. The world needs more people like Elaine.
Gradually I’m getting to know more of the people of the Mile. There are a few human statues (you have to be on the Mile fairly early to get there before a Human Statue), Market traders with small stalls, some bagpipers, Elaine of course, and a kindly portrait artist who has helped me out with advice when I’ve been busking. Further down the Mile are Fire Jugglers, circus acts and escape artists. They are a part of the street and also a small community, and one of the things I love about Edinburgh. It’s a very different city from Glasgow, but it’s growing on me.