As discussed numerous times in the past, I’ve had dyslexia since I was born (so we’ve been told). They say it stems from or at least often accompanies ADHD; both of which I was diagnosed with at an early age. ADHD has been the greater challenge to be sure when comparing the two. Especially since the ADD portion of it had not yet even been discovered (or invented as some argue) and definitely not yet understood or labeled back then. I, along with millions of others, was instead just labeled as being “particularly special” or a problem or a trouble maker or learning challenged, and usually placed in a variety of different “Special Ed.” type programs. (To make matters more confusing for us all, especially pour moi and my young mind, I was also ironically made to begin school a year early, skip the first grade entirely (both of which made me ridiculously smaller, more immature and less hairy than my peers — but that’s a different story, albeit a funny one), and placed in what they then called the “Gifted” programs due to higher than normal test scores. Yes, indubitably my first 16 years of life were a mind boggling roller coaster of fuck all confusion and chaos.)
To be fair to others, in order to better understand the context of anything i might say here, it should be noted that although it was recommended repeatedly to my parents throughout my school years, they chose to never put me on medication for these “challenges”, always insisting that with just a little more effort I could do just as well as the next kid. I just “needed more discipline”. This isn’t really the area I intended to focus on here, so let’s leave the pros and cons of that argument to the side for the time being and perhaps come back to it at a later date.
Ok fine, now that I’ve got us thinking about it, yes I do believe that that was a terrible mistake, though I’m sure an innocent one out of pure ignorance on my parents’ part, and indeed I most likely would have fared much better during those years had they at least tried a few medications as suggested. I will never forget that moment, on the floor of my mother’s office, seeing my transcripts for college at the age of 16 for the very first time — 11 years of school and never a grade higher than a D or F on every report card. I was more than shocked. Which illuminates the problem of the condition of ADHD itself perhaps better than anything else one might come up with: my mother God bless her couldn’t understand my shock, casually remarking “Well Fishy you know you’ve never done well in school. You’re very lucky your father and I were able to get this college to accept you.” To which I replied “Well… I knew I wasn’t an A student… But I had no idea I spent the last 16 years producing over 40 report cards filled with D’s and F’s my entire life. My God! Why didn’t you all DO something mom?!?” “Honey we tried! Do you have any idea how many visits to the principles office I have made on your behalf since you started school?!? I practically lived there!”
And she was right. She had practically lived in the principles office since I could remember. The telling point is that up until that moment, for whatever reason… There must have been something different about that moment… I was never “aware” that I was a “bad” student or made bad grades. Even though all the adults around me knew it, assumed it to be true and tried everything they could to help me. That in a nutshell is what having ADHD is all about. You’re here. And yet you’re not here. You appear to be here to everyone else. But you’re just not really here. So people assume you know things that you just don’t know. In fact you don’t even know there are things that you’re supposed to know but don’t. It’s that bad. At least it was for me.
So as not to cause inadvertent influence in a direction unintended, I will state for the record that since those early years I have tried every medication known to humankind for these challenges and have found none of them to be a benefit enough to surpass the detrimental side effects of them. An important side note I believe.
As an adult I am still struggling with the three main aspects of these “conditions”, e.g. a weakened ability to control my attention for more than a few seconds or stay “here” spatially, mentally or in here-now time; a challenge to sit still or focus on any one thing for more than a few seconds, a propensity for constant repeated movement (the appearance of what they call “hyperactivity”), an inability to finish sentences or stay in a focused conversation without run on sentences or infinite digressions and side roads I find interesting(can you tell?), and a severe challenge with reading and writing in a linear fashion.
Case in point: this Diary entry started off as a simple Status Update on Facebook about an hour and a half ago whereby I intended to make a simple remark about how I have noticed that I have been consistently misspelling the same words when i write my entire life inadvertently even though I know how to spell them. It quickly became too long and was thus moved here to the Diaries and here we are an hour and a half later still writing, and covering way more information than originally intended.
Of course as a writer i have been told that i should find this to be a more than helpful benefit, a bonus really. My beautiful (and more than patient and tolerant) wife often remarks that I have an uncanny ability to find anything and everything “interesting” and can write about even the most mundane things and make them seem important or interesting. I know it can be a brutal burden when another is confronted with this strange tendency at 3 am in the morning when one is trying to sleep and I’m still rambling on about the fall of The British Empire wide eyed and excited as a lark at sunrise. But from a writer’s or songwriter’s perspective and equally from a performer’s perspective I am well aware and none too shy about admitting that all of these so called challenges put me leagues above and beyond other so called “normal” people.
It takes the equivalent of copious amounts of horse tranquilizers to get me to go to sleep in a 24 hour period — versus staying awake for days at a time which is what I would do without the supplements I take to sleep and wake a “normal” cycle as everyone else does. This provides me with ten times the energy and thus productive output of “normal” folk. I’ve also never experienced what people call writer’s block. Can’t even relate to or understand it honestly. On the contrary, I often pray, beg or use affirmations (or simply drug myself into a stupor) to NOT write a song or two a day, or a short story or play or poem or blog or start a new novel or screenplay or invent something or start a new company (of which we currently have tens and tens of for example). So to me personally, in the bigger picture the detractions and challenges of this “illness or disease” are pretty much balanced out by the myriad super natural like benefits of it.
But alas none of this was what I originally intended to write about when nearly two hours ago I told one of my bandmates to “hang on a minute, I’ve got to make a quick note. I’ll be right back.” What struck me this morning while composing a simple thank you note to someone was how I noticed yet again that I had misspelled the word ‘pleasure’ putting the a in front of the e as I do every single time I write that word. And it was from there that we first entertained the notion to jot down a quick list of observations about the dyslexia aspect of ADHD. (I’ve also read that a small fraction of those individuals afflicted with the challenge are prone to referring to themselves in the plural — such as “we” and “us” versus using the seemingly more appropriate singular pronoun “I”, so I’ve never taken this too seriously.)
The dyslexia doesn’t affect my reading half as much as it does my writing. Luckily i do not have any of the symptoms of those who read words backwards or see letters turned around. Never have. The worst part for me in regards to reading is that it may take me having to read the same sentence or paragraph three to ten times in a row in order to understand it because I “space out” while reading it and cannot for the life of me remember what I just read. But that is due more to the ADD portion of it all, not the dyslexia aspect.
Over the last few years particularly I’ve become very determined to integrate this whole thing and get control over it. The first step was to start attempting to fully observe how it manifests, as if from afar, so I can teach or train myself to stop before I make the mistakes. This has helped. Though it frustrates the hell out of me that no matter how slowly I write or how much I attempt to focus I still misspell the same words over and over again, always in the same manner. NOT through misspelling them, but rather through making mistakes in writing the letters in reverse by mistake. From here it will be easier to just go to listing the observations.
– we are talking about both handwriting — script and print– and typing.
– I know how to spell the words. My hand makes the mistake. As if by habit. It happens right in front of my eyes even if I whisper aloud to myself “spell it right, be careful, don’t get it wrong, write more slowly, don’t forget…”
– at some point in those few milliseconds my mind blanks out and my eyes notice that my hand has placed an l where an e should be in the word ‘meet’. Even though I was deliberately focusing on not doing it.
– I then have to go fix it. When handwriting it makes my notes and letters look like chicken scratch, with tons of words crossed out or lined through or bold letters scratched into the middle of a word as if they’ve been unnaturally crammed in there, making nearly everything i write illegible — even to myself; as if I am some sort of retard or mad scientist and have barely a brain in my head. All the while I know perfectly well how to spell and in fact don’t often come across any words that I don’t know the spelling of, in a variety of different languages. It’s just not a spelling issue. Though it may appear to be so from a distance if one didn’t know that it’s more of some kind of neurological glitch.
– Yes, though I’ve not taken the time to submit it to a formal clinical trial, there does seem to be one particular set of words that I consistently misspell every time I go to write them. Always the same thing, omitting a letter I know should be there, or switching letters around in a word, or writing a letter in a strange way like backwards or elongated.
– In other words it is not random. It is very much interdependent on specific words I’ve just not completely identified which words they are in total. But I’ve got a good idea of many of them. When typing for example I always type a space between the o and the u in the word you. So much so (as in every time) that I created an auto-correct macro in Microsoft word that turns yo u into you so I no longer have to deal with going back to correct it every time.
– Yes, you’re not abnormal if by now you are thinking that I’m crazy strange or have a severely rough go at it. I hear it all the time when people learn these things. But I’m so accustomed to living this way that I don’t notice it as much as others do and I am also happy that I’m smart enough to create work arounds to deal with it and resilient enough to not get discouraged by it.
– in fact I don’t have muc patience for people who get discouraged by the challenges the we’re born with. I often wonder if this isn’t also just another aspect of the same malady. This impatience being a sub-symptom of the hyperactivity.
– Yes I’ve had numerous tests and been to many of the most respected and renowned medical facilities and labs in the world over the last twenty years to get all these things tested.
– I had brain mapping done last year where they hooked 21 different electrodes to my scalp with this temporary glue and monitored my brain activity for 30 minutes each for a few days each week for a few weeks to see if they could ascertain why i had so many weird mental emotional and cognitive anomalies. The doctor, a fellow who has several specials on PBS on the subject, was astounded to see that the print outs consistently showed that my brainwaves are in reverse order of what is considered a “normal person’s” brain, i.e. Where I am supposed to exhibit amplified activity of beta waves I instead have hyper activity of theta waves, and vice versa.
– Though his conclusion is still ongoing as we continue to study this, he did offer some help when explaining that this is why valium and other sedatives tend to make me hyperactive and super creative and excited and caffeine makes me feel sleepy and pass out sometimes. This was actually a relief to discover. Though I note the it isn’t always this way. It’s quite random. Sometimes caffeine makes me quite wired and valium or Xanax makes me quite sleepy. It’s pot luck really. I just never know what I’m going to get from medications.
– For whatever reason natural supplements for both energy and/or relaxation seem to work better, as in more consistently for me, but they too usually tend to have an opposite effect on me. So I’m a terrible person to ask “how does such and such work for you?”
– Drinking half a glass of tea makes me literally pass out within minutes wherever I happen to be. Even if sitting in a chair in a public place. We now know it is the L-theanine in the tea, which is relaxing to everyone, but combined with the caffeine has a synergistic effect on my body so intense that I cannot keep my eyes open.
– According to our mom, who has been very helpful and caring through these last few years that i have decided to tackle these issues head on in order to correct them, I have always been a night owl since she can remember, choosing to want to stay awake all night and sleep all day even as a baby. Now as an adult, during the day I feel sleepy and groggy and anxious all at the same time, and come nightfall I begin to “wake up” and feel at my best and most confident and creative. I have heard every reason in the book offered as the reason for this. None of them seem valid or have been helpful except that offered by the primary psychiatrist who has been handling this project since 2008 — his solution was “Being in New York City, I have plenty of clients Who work in the entertainment industry and a few of them have this same condition. My advice is for you to accept it. Why not go to sleep at 4 or 5 or 6 am when you feel sleepy? And wake up around noon or 1 or 2 pm?” This is how I have lived for most of my adult life since about the age of 16 years old. His suggestion for me to accept it got my attention and judgment off of it, which is always a good thing. And it allowed me to “choose” what I wanted to do. Seeing that I am now married and have a family (and enjoy seeing them and spending time with them) and more than a full time job, I chose instead to use medication to attempt to go to bed and wake up at semi-normal hours, usually bed by 2 or 3am and awake by 8am with a one hour nap at some point in the afternoon to catch up on the sleep I lose on this schedule.
– Mysteriously I was able to attend college, two actually — music, music business, and audio-engineering school, and regular university afterwards, and I did remarkably well. I made honors by my first semester, became a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and participated in primarily small classroom inter-disciplinary classes which I did much better in compared to regular lecture like classes. This proved that I could in fact use my will to do well in school if I was determined enough. Though it was an incessant challenge for me. It was never “easy”. Not even one day. I must admit I accomplished much through sheer charm and force of will rather than through the proper channels of study.
– I am unable to read, write, study, or focus on anything if there is the least amount of noise or sounds in my vicinity. This makes it unbearably inconvenient for others around me since I do almost nothing else but read write learn and study in my day to day to life.
– During the day I have the uncanny ability to fall asleep any time and anywhere. No matter what’s happening around me. In broad daylight. My family thinks it odd and hates that I spend the few brief days I have at home each year over the holidays with everyone “asleep on the couch.” And likewise I have extreme difficulty falling asleep at night. So I spend most nights working till almost sunrise while everyone else in the house is fast asleep.
– The fact that I turned into such an avid, one could fairly say obsessed learner and studier as an adult shows that the report cards from my school years as a child were not indicative of any kind of academic weakness or lack of interest in learning (even then I was independently learning and studying at a rabid/rapid pace — just not necessarily what was specifically required of or dictated to me at that moment), but obviously due more to these neurological anomalies we’ve since learned more about.
– The implications in the bigger picture, for others, is that if they or their parents or guardians can catch this at an early stage in their life and create deliberate fixes and or work-arounds — even if it means special schools designed for those with these challenges — they might be able to entirely avoid the problems I experienced as a youngster and do quite well in school.
– When brain-mapping the labs and clinics also tried several new experimental therapies such as shooting low wave electrical pulses into my brain through the electrodes for thirty minutes at a time. Unfortunately these tended to only make me more sleepy and depressed for days afterwards. I quickly decided to stop participating in the experiments after a few sessions and continence instead with my own methods, e.g. extreme quiet and silence, requesting more alone time and isolated environments when needing to work, and using my will to force myself to focus when necessary, etc.
– The goal now, forgetting all but the dyslexia portion if the challenge is to create a list of all the words I consistently misspell on a regular basis through these momentary glitches; see if we can find any others who struggle with the same words or the problem in general, and in the meantime, spend more time slowing things down when I write to focus on each word I write to see if I can overcome the errors one word at a time.
– I am also interested to see if any work has been done on this particular subset of words by any groups or communities in various fields of study to learn if there might be some scientific explanation for why only these words and why these specific mistakes with them. My guess is that there has to be some sort of correlation between the words themselves, the errors being made, and a specific neurological misfiring so to speak that connects it all together. If this turns out to be the case then there is hope that through some form of therapy, my guess would be either northern or southern polar magnetic stimulation of certain meridian lines, we could recalibrate the brainwaves that are operating in reverse and set them straight, thereby negating the need entirely for me to have to train myself to force my brain to focus on not making the same mistakes with the same words and letters every time I write them. That’s the hope at least.