Visual Processing

In the couple of days since my test results,  I’ve begun to notice the gaps and delays in my visual processing.  They’ve always been there, and so I never really noticed them, because I never had much to compare them to.  It’s similar to how I’ve heard people describe discovering they were colorblind.  You only know another’s experience through description; you’ve only got your own experience as a baseline.  Here are my examples:

Last night I met with my writing group.  It was my turn to workshop, so we were discussing my poem.  The group pointed out a passage where I had a significant shift in the poem, and I underlined on my copy where the change began.  A couple of minutes later I looked down again and realized that I had underlined the wrong part; my underline was off by an inch, though in my memory the line had been in the right spot.

Today in class I had the semester schedule on the overhead and was assigning group presentation dates.  Twice I wrote the wrong date on the chalkboard, which was right next to the overhead screen.  Also today in class I wanted to discuss a reading in our book, and I could not find it in the table of contents.  The title seemed invisible to me, even though the table of contents is only two pages long and there are only twenty five or so readings in the book.

The last few days I’ve been doing online conferences with students.  Grading papers in an online class requires a lot of file management.  If we’re going over two assignments during a conference, I have to manage fifty or sixty files for that week.  I download them en masse, mark the files during conference, convert them to PDF files, and upload them one by one.  Once I convert the files, the number of files doubles.  I had a student who was behind on the conference cycle so we had a number of things to go through.  I had trouble seeing her name amidst the many files on my computer.  In fact, I can’t talk while I search for a file or else I can’t see it.

I also realize how much I skip around reading a student paper.  I am not highly motivated to read student papers because it is required reading and I read hundreds of them.  I have to force myself to slow down or else I only read bits and pieces. Last night, I was reading a feasibility report by a student near the end of a long day, and I said something like “you need to discuss the training issues in your proposal,” and she pointed out that she had.  I had skipped over that section completely.

It’s hard to say where some of these issues overlap with working memory.  But they do overlap.  Here’s another grading example: after I finish grading a paper I have to fill out an online form and then upload the file with my marks on it.  When I open the upload screen, it covers the online form.  Once I navigate to the appropriate folder, often I’ve forgotten which assignment I was uploading and have to look at the form again.  I have to actively concentrate in order to remember, or use a big monitor so everything will fit on the screen.

I’ve been using old fashioned written to-do lists lately.  When I look at the list, if I’m not thinking of a certain domain of work, I don’t see items on the list, even if they are written in big letters with a fat star drawn next to them.

And there’s “refrigerator blindness”; if I’m not thinking of the right container or context, then I can’t see something in the fridge, even though it’s right in front of me.

I know this isn’t my eyesight.  I can read just fine, have a recent prescription for my glasses, and almost all of these examples are short-range vision, and I’m nearsighted.  I’m just so used to the gaps, I don’t realize they are there.  I can read when I feel motivated.  I can read a whole book in a day if I get into it.  So this must be my attention slipping.  If I’m distracted or anxious, I have a tough time processing.

My frustration has diminished in the last few days, however, because I have a stronger sense of what I’m good at and where my deficiencies are, and the reason has to do with attention, motivation, and focus.  What I could never figure out under the generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis is why the same thing could be easy or hard, or why I could have such a hard time getting started on something that seemed so easy once I got going on it.  It’s less maddening to know how my brain works.

Still procrastinating on calling the doctor, though . . .

 

Blindness

 

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shut me off

I’ve been waiting for tomorrow to arrive for awhile. Tomorrow I get the results from my testing last month. I went in for my testing on October 12, twenty-five days ago. It takes awhile to get an appointment at this place, and this is my third. (At the end of my first appointment, the doctor scheduled my testing herself, and then said I could go upstairs to the front desk to schedule the follow-up or call and schedule. Following my typical M.O., I did neither and waited until testing day to schedule it.)

I’m feeling really ambivalent about the coming diagnosis, or possible lack thereof. At my first consultation, I got a strong feeling that the doctor agreed with my idea of myself, that I have ADHD-PI. However, I got such mixed messages during testing that I’ve since doubted my own assessment. With good reason—I’ve had plenty of wrong ideas about myself before. If they decide that I don’t have ADHD, do I have to change the name of my blog? I’m sort of hoping for a clear yes, so I can get on with treatment. And blogging.

I didn’t do myself any favors by picking up an Alice Miller book we had sitting on the bookshelf, The Drama of the Gifted Child. I had forgotten we’d had this book, until reading another essay that mentioned it. Since I’d been reading about gifted adults, I thought I would give Alice another whirl. And oh, she had me going down the path of neurosis as the explanation again, back to the land of anxiety and depression, and long, complicated unraveling as the cure.

Most of the newer ADHD work talks about brain biology: poor pathways for executive function, problems with dopamine levels. Alice Miller, in this book primarily about anxiety and depression, is the other end of the spectrum, a good old fashioned Freudian. I started to get pulled in to Miller’s explanations about why gifted people struggle (people pleasing, weak sense of self, even grandiosity) but totally got turned off by the explanation: the mother screwed everything up, and the only way to set it right is to Rage Against the Mother. Furthermore, the level of certitude in the work is really frightening:

Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness: the emotional discovery of the truth about the unique history of our childhood.

That’s the first sentence of the book. I am suspicious of anyone who has the “one true way” when it comes to human behavior. It’s something I’ve learned as a teacher: watch out for anyone who has the only way to teach properly—that person has other issues to work out (Miller would say he’s redirecting his maternal rage to students). For me, such certitude is a kind of sales talk right up there with fail-proof diets, guaranteed exercise regimens, and get-rich quick schemes. The One True Way is always a sort of snake oil to me.

After I kept reading, I got the strong feeling I was being drawn in to a conspiracy. Miller sets up a tautology, a circular argument, the same way conspiracy theorists do. Her basic premise is that people suffer depression because they repress and suppress negative events from their childhoods and the only way to gain freedom is to unearth these unsavory events to be rid of their control. To do otherwise is to remain in a state of self-deception.

So, if you argue against this model, (such as the “only way” part) you are, like the movie cliche, caught in the trap of defending your own sanity while stuck in the asylum. According to this line of thinking, people who don’t acknowledge the absolute primacy of childhood trauma in a person’s psyche must be repressing/suppressing their own childhood traumas and therefore prove the argument. She states this pretty clearly, also on the first page:

In order to become whole we must try, in a long process, to discover our own personal truth . . . If we choose instead to content ourselves with intellectual “wisdom,” we will remain in the sphere of illusion and self-deception.

Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with unearthing past traumas and facing down your demons. I think that’s quite healthy, in fact. However, this book (which is still popular, still being reprinted, as are most of her books) reinforces a simplistic view of depression, that we’re a blank slate when we’re born and our parents screwed us up. In fact, she states her definition of depression in a single sentence: “Depression consists of a denial of one’s own emotional reactions.” That’s it. No hedging, no qualification, it’s just about denial. If you don’t agree you are suffering the same denial.

How could this book be so weird? Well, two things are going on. First, it’s a translation from German, with it’s sturdy, declarative sentences. And second, the first edition of this book appeared in 1979. Think of all the advances we’ve made in understanding genetics, brain biology, and pharmaceuticals in the last 32 years. Prozac, the first of the new, revolutionary SSRI’s didn’t hit the U.S. market until 1987. (At least that’s what Wikipedia tells me.)

Even in “revised and updated” editions, the central thesis remains, and the book isn’t being sold as an historical document. It’s outdated pop psych. Curiously, Miller’s work was first recommended to me by my psychologist.

My objection is my own experience. The therapeutic work she’s talking about? Been there. Done that. Years of talking, uncovering, journaling, raging, accepting, even with the help of modern antidepressants. According to Miller, I should be cured by now.

In this book, there is no allowance for any sort of influence of genetics or brain wiring, not even “predilection.” In fact, she sets up a classic straw-man argument when she writes about another psychiatrist’s book that questioned why some people can endure horrible tragedies without apparent pychological damage whereas others seem to wilt at the slightest inconvenience. This other psychiatrist’s explanation? God’s grace.

She dismisses that outright, as you’d expect, but makes no mention that, God or not, there might be an inherited resilience that doesn’t come from one’s conditioning in childhood. I mean, the word “gifted” is in the title of the book. Where did this “gift” come from, if not God or genetics? If a gift can be independent of experience, something you’re born with, why not depression? Somehow, one’s self-deluded, selfish, and damaging parents managed to create this gift at the same time as screwing up absolutely everything else.

She uses the incident as an opportunity to rail against religious explanations and make a plea for religious leaders to “acknowledge and respect these simple psychological laws.” In my (admittedly layperson’s) reading of psychology, the only law is that there are no simple laws. Again, I’ll use the parallel of teaching; nothing does more damage to students than absolute certitude about how people learn, especially if that involves a simplistic, singular model, even if that model is a good one.

So I’ve begun to reconsider the years of work I did with my psychologist. It was enormously helpful, but eventually I plateaued. Since 2005 or so, I’ve been working on my own, making steady progress. She was wonderfully supportive, but I have to question her recommending Alice Miller (it was The Truth Will Set You Free, I think).

I’d have to say Miller is stuck looking at the mind from the story of psychoanalysis. Freudian stuff is fun to read. Writers and English majors love it, because it presents a compelling story, a never-ending source of conflict. Good stories are about conflict. But it is just one way to understand the mind.

Ultimately, Miller’s whole enterprise seems like when dentists tell you they can detect all your health problems by looking at your teeth, and optometrists say the same thing about the eyes, and chiropractors, the back. Seriously, my former chiropractor believed you could cure allergies by aligning the back. I went along with his story, just because I wanted to be able to get out of a chair without wincing. That, and he liked to call me “Professor,” with serious respect, even though I was only twenty five.

The human body is a greatly interconnected thing. Someone who oversimplifies it isn’t doing us any favors. The best book that looks at the whole landscape of depression is Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon. I say “landscape” because he calls his book, aptly, “an atlas of depression.” Surprisingly, Miller and Solomon come to the same conclusion:

The opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality. —Solomon

The true opposite of depression is neither gaiety nor absence of pain, but vitality. —Miller

So Miller gets one end of the argument right.

Well, that turned into a rant. I guess I wanted some distraction until bedtime, so I could stop ruminating about tomorrow and do something productive. I gave myself an hour to write, and it’s turned into two, so now I’ll finish with one last thought.

Another piece of evidence in favor of the ADHD diagnosis: I have to pay the water bill tomorrow, or else they’ll turn off our water on Tuesday. I know this for a fact; our water’s been turned off three times before. The best thing about it is they leave a little blue flag of shame in the front yard where the shutoff valve is to be able to find it in the afternoon after you’ve trudged down to City Hall with the rest of the delinquents. If you drive around Big Rapids on the second Tuesday of the month between 10:00 and 3:00, you can always see who hasn’t paid their water bill in three months. At least this month it won’t be me; I’ll have paid mine in two months and 29 days.

Valve

Clean Energy

Much of my writing here thus far has been of the lament/angst/ennui/maladaption sort.  When I prepared for my first meeting for evaluation, I had to fill out a long form about my health and personal history.  One of the first questions asked what I hoped to accomplish as a result of my visit.

I’ve been thinking today about what I imagine a more adaptive, less frustrating life must look like.  In my teens and twenties I spent a lot of time thinking about the golden era to come when I would figure everything out, find my thing, get my groove on, and arrive at my real life.  I imagined in order for this to happen, I would need to be married, have a house, have a career, a nice computer, a stylish-yet-practical car.  I have all those things, though not exactly the career I imagined, and don’t feel terribly different.

What I do want is clean energy of the mental sort.

I trust myself most completely in a clean energy state.  This is a state where I think clearly, I do things that at my core feel important and the right thing to do.  I don’t do things because I think my colleagues, my teachers, my parents, liberals, Marxists, students, a cool writer I just read, or poetry editors think I should.  They come from a place of positive energy, not grasping, cover-my-ass, make everyone happy, worrisome place.

I grew up being a people pleaser and often feeling conflicted.  I wanted to make my parents and teachers happy and at the same time have a lot of cool friends.  That’s a fundamental conflict.  To paraphrase P.T. Barnum, you can’t please all the people all of the time.

Conflictedness is a symptom of my “gift” of seeing things from many angles at once.  Thinking about the most basic decision about my teaching, for example, can produce anxiety.  Do I do what students want?  What I think is best for students?  What I think I can do without too much procrastination and worry?  What the promotion committee will find attractive? Some new-fangled idea that’s stimulating my need for novelty?  When you have awareness of other people’s reactions constantly and want to be liked, it is hard to do something unpopular.  When you work in higher education, someone will always criticize you for your work.

I think most of the time, I make such decisions in order to avoid failing and avoid criticism; I am worried about my image.

Likewise, when I write, I often feel that conflictedness.  My students are driven crazy sometimes by the conflicting advice they’ve heard about writing. Writing is so subjective, especially poetry, that I can hardly put a line together without imagining what three different teachers/writers/editors I’ve worked with would say to criticize it.

And the whole idea of creation, that whole Romantic “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” thing that we have Wordsworth to thank for, relies on the welling up of emotion to overcome inhibition of expression that seems a recipe for unhealthy mind, especially if you’re the inhibited sort.  I’ve written from that place many times before, and it is exhausting working myself up into that state in order to write (not exactly “spontaneous” if I have to work at it, right?).

Last night, for example, I got into a state fueled by stress, lack of sleep, and extra caffeine and Excedrin and became convinced that the way forward was to write an epic poem about the holographic principle set in virtual reality.  I still think it’s a pretty cool idea, but yesterday I was ready to devote the next year to writing it.

Better writing, and better thinking, come from a more clear-headed place.  The messy unconscious does have it’s place, but I’m interested in cutting out the vain, self-conscious, and ultimately self-loathing streak from my process.  It’s true that a little bit of self-questioning prevents one from being arrogant, but I’m off balance.

This morning I feel a bit more calm.  I had a relaxing morning.  Sent the kids to school, slept a little bit, and sat for meditation.  I arrived at my clean energy state.  I feel calm and focused, not mind-reeling, gonna spend three hours teaching myself about quantum mechanics while playing chess and drinking three Cokes kind of of energy.  Clean energy allows me to both keep the long view in perspective, not worry needlessly about my classes coming up this afternoon, and just to work on what’s most important, maybe while humming a tune.

It’s an elusive state, however.  It feels great once I’m here, but habit sends me worrying, sets my jaw to clenching, starts me on the path to either working frenetically or frenetically avoiding work, sets the negative self-talk in motion (“you should have done this earlier, why can’t you just do what you’re supposed to do, why can’t you just be a normal grown-up . . .”).

The opposing force of this clean energy, then, is mania, allowing my intellectual cravings and emotional grasping full rein over the day’s events.  It’s not clean energy because I feel somewhat dirty after the fact, somewhat used up and diminished, slightly embarrassed for having let my monkey mind rule the roost. I’m not advocating a sort of repression of that part of the self.  Try to tamp that down and it will find some other outlet.  Instead, when I am in a good state, I practice mindfulness from the Theravada tradition: acknowledge that part of mind, in a slightly bemused way, like “there you are, crazy Jon” and it settles down.  Mindfulness of emotion, for example, is the opposite of denial.  It is full acknowledgement of feelings and cravings and desire that arises seemingly from nowhere.  A meditative state is not an emotion-free state; it’s a place of observing the self.

I am no expert at meditation nor Buddhism.  My experience is just listening to podcasts, reading books, sporadic meditation practice on my own, occasionally attending a meditation session in Second Life (yes, virtual meditation is a real thing) and the five minutes of meditative breathing we do at the beginning and end of the yoga classes I go to.

As I started to wind down on this post, I checked my email, and received my daily dispatch from Tricycle.  It seemed to fit well, as the emails often do.

We Must Grow Weary of Craving

We’re stuck on feeling like a monkey stuck in a tar trap. A glob of tar is placed where a monkey will get its hand stuck and, in trying to pull free, the monkey gets its other hand, both feet, and eventually its mouth stuck, too. Consider this: Whatever we do, we end up stuck right here at feeling and craving. We can’t separate them out. We can’t wash them off. If we don’t grow weary of craving, we’re like the monkey stuck in the glob of tar, getting ourselves more and more trapped all the time.

http://www.tricycle.com/dharma-talk/glob-tar

That’s an awesome quote, but I don’t know why Buddhism is so anti-monkey.

Testing day. Holy PHQ.

Quoth the Ozzy:

I’m going off the rails on a crazy train.

Seems like a too-obvious reference for a day spent having my brain tested at a psychological services center.  But the universe sent it to me.  First, in the form of the Honda Pilot commercial where the car full of people spontaneously erupts into an a cappella version  of  “Crazy Train.”  Second, as I pull into the parking lot, the Oz-man’s original song from the classic rock station on the radio.  Third, as I surf the internet in the parking lot (because I am forty minutes early and I can pick up free wifi) I get a Facebook message from a friend.  “You gotta see this” with a link to a YouTube video of the aforementioned Pilot people.

But I am not crazy.

(Neither is Mr. Osborne’s persona in this song.  Well, he’s driven “crazy” by all the insanity of people who have forgotten to love, but it’s “crazy” in the sense of “fed up,” not in the sense of “I’m going to eat bats now.”)

So I arrived back at the BRAINS place, and the receptionist says, “Oh, you’re here for testing” with wide eyes and a grin. Sheesh.

Crazy Train

Image via Wikipedia

They’ve told me to plan on two or more hours of testing.  I don’t know much beyond that, for example if any of the tests involve electrodes on my scalp or ink blots.

I get downstairs early and they’re ready for me even though I’m early and it seems a little hectic.    It seems the original tester went home ill earlier in the day and I’ve got the backup.

My tester introduces herself (I immediately forget her name, as I always do) and leads me to a conference room with a polished wooden table and leather swivel chairs.  It looks like boardroom with a frosted glass wall.  She’s got papers and props at one end of the table and motions for me to sit to her right.  She is very formally dressed in mostly black, adding to the business aura in the room, but seems a little scattered, perhaps having just arrived or something, maybe from a benefit luncheon or a funeral.

She looks down at the paperwork and says, “Let’s see, so are you in school now?  Is that right?”

“Well, I’m a college professor, if that’s what you mean.”

“Oh,” she says, with a confused look, going back to her papers.  She looks flummoxed by my answer.

“Okay, we’ll start with this.”  She gives me a pencil and a worksheet.  It’s connect the dots.  She acts embarrassed to ask me to do a basic task, as if I’m going to scoff, pull out my pipe and say Poppycock!  I’ll not do such trifling tasks.  Her awkwardness makes me even more nervous.

“It’s a timed test, so just draw a line between the numbered circles in order as fast as you can.”

She says go, and I do it quickly.

“That was . . . fast,” she says.

She gives me a harder one, and I actually mess it up.  I’m trying to do it as fast as possible and I connect the last two in the wrong order.  The test gets harder as I have to connect 1, a, 2, b, etc.

We get through that, and next she holds up a purple plastic sheet about the size of a file folder with a dozen holes in it.  She uses her pencil to poke through the holes in a pattern and I have to repeat the pattern with my finger.  I know that I’m doing fine through a pattern of four, but five starts to trip me up.  I peek through the holes to the sheet where she is writing down my errors.

We move on to repeating back patterns of numbers and letters, and then to an “executive function” test.  I have first a pattern of red, green, and blue squares and I have to say aloud the words to match the colors in the pattern as fast as possible.  The next sheet has the words “red,” “green,” and “blue,” with different ink (sometimes the word “red” is written red, blue, or green ink).  First I have to just say the word and ignore the color.  Then I have to say the color, not the word—much harder.  Finally, on the last sheet, some of the words have boxes around them.  I have to say the color, not the word for the boxed ones, and the rest of them say the word, not the color.  It is taxing, having someone there with a stopwatch, writing down all my business.

I’m getting mixed signals from her, though.  She’s praising my results but looking confused at the same time.

After a putting-pegs-in-holes test, we go to a computer in another room.  The first test is attention.

I sit and watch the monitor with headphones on.  The computer explains to me the test:  a “1” or a “2” flashes on the screen in random patterns and the computer voice says either “one” or “two,” also in random patterns, mixed in with the first.  I have to click the mouse when the computer says or flashes 1, but not on 2.  The computer keeps reminding me in a kindergarten teacher’s voice: “Go as fast as you can, but be careful.”

It’s a fifteen minute test, and I do feel my mind wandering.  I look at the brand of the monitor, it’s a name I’ve never seen before, and then I remember I’m supposed to be looking at the screen.  It was actually pretty tiring to concentrate for 15 minutes for the main test.

My tester comes back in and explains the next test.  I’m just answering a bunch of true or false questions.  Over two hundred, it turns out.  “Some of the questions are . . . outrageous,” she tells me, “but just follow along and answer them honestly.”  A lot of the questions are typical assessment questions “I find it easy to make friends at a party.”  Some of them were pretty odd, like “It would be easier if everyone in my family just listened to me all the time.”  Some of them were delusional, “I haven’t seen a car in ten years.”

But the questions keep coming back to substance abuse, like “There’s nothing wrong with using ‘so-called’ illegal drugs to get through a day.”  And “My family keeps bothering me about my alcohol use.”

I am neither an alcoholic nor a drug addict.  I go out once a week with a poetry group and have two drinks.  I have such terrible side effects from Benadryl, that I’m scared to try anything harder.  My couple of experiences with pot left me feeling paranoid and nauseous.  My drug addiction is coffee, with an occasional Excedrin popper to get me through an afternoon of work.  Which can also make me feel paranoid and nauseous.

But this test won’t stop nagging me.   Every third or fourth question comes back to alcohol and drugs.  I half expect a question like “I have ended my drug addiction.”

Anyway, we end computer time, and my tester comes back for me again.  She says, “I’ve been talking to the doctor, and because you’re so high functioning, we’re having trouble finding a test sensitive enough to show your problems. We’re going to keep trying, though.”  That explains a lot.  I feel like apologizing.

We go back to the table, with more tests.  I do a tower of Hanoi puzzle, which begins with a starting pattern and a card that shows me a goal pattern, and I have to do it as quick as I can with the fewest moves.  The first two are easy, but I get hung up on the third for a minute.  Then it clicks, and I breeze through the rest of them.  She says “well, you did that one in under ninety seconds, so you get three bonus points.”  The next one she says, “that’s the fewest number of moves possible, so you get four bonus points.”  I get excited.  But then I remember I have no idea what the points mean.  I got to the end of the test, though, which apparently was an accomplishment.

An animated solution of the Tower of Hanoi puz...

Image via Wikipedia

At this point, I don’t know if it is good or bad to do well.  I start to have a nagging thought: what if I do so well on the tests that they say, “You don’t have ADHD like you thought.  You’re just a lazy bastard.”

We move on to a test I that I know I will have trouble with.  Finally, I think.  She tells me three letters and a number, like “A X G 78,” and I have to count backwards by threes from the number until she tells me to stop and then I have to repeat back the letters.  She called it a “divided memory” test.  It’s hard.

I do okay at first because the starting numbers are low and the counting time is short.  I do find my mind struggling.  I try to repeat the letters back to myself, but then I lose my spot on the numbers.

The  numbers get higher and the counting time gets longer. Once I trip over the numbers and concentrate on counting, the letters are gone, somewhere in outer space with my tester’s name and the combination to my high school locker.  After a while, I am saying random letters because I have no actual letters in memory.

Then I get a flash of insight.  The next prompt is “L R P 189.”  I make the letters into a word and say it mentally after each number.  I say “189” lerp “186” lerp “183” lerp, and so on, and then say confidently “L, R, P,” at the end.  I do it again, and then finally get to the last one: P H Q 147.  I try not to giggle as I say “147” phuq, “144” phuq, “141” phuq . . .

I finish the test, and am hardly listening to the instructions as I make jokes to myself.  I’m glad that PHuQing test is over.  Holy PHuQ that was hard.  Harder than a mother PHuQer, you PHuQing lerp.

I start paying attention again as she’s explaining the next test: say every word that starts with the letter she gives me.  No proper nouns, numbers, repeats, or different forms of the same word.

My face drains.  She didn’t say anything about obscenities.  Are they all right?  Is she going to write down the words I say, or just count the number of words?  Are they going to analyze the words I say to find the pattern?  If I start using sex words, will they think I’m a pervert?  Because, quite honestly, that’s the first thing that comes to mind.  Should I ask?  Or would that be part of the test?

I get nervous as she pulls out the stopwatch.  “Okay, two minutes with as many words as you can think of that start with–”

please not F, please not F, anything but F

“–the letter F.”

Are you effing kidding me?

“Um . . . floor . . . uh . . . fence”

FUCK! FART! FELLATIO!

“frog . . . um . . . fester . . .”

It is seriously hard not to say fuck.  And because I’m trying not to say that word, the other words arrive slowly. I mutter maybe a dozen F words, shaking my head and squinting the whole time.  Maybe she thought I was tired.

“We’re going to try another one,”

What, S this time?

“Ready?  All words starting with the letter S.”

Shit.

I think that had to be planned.  There are two words we use in English to express displeasure, the S-word and the F-bomb.  Why not give me W or G or something like that?  There’s no W-word!  When’s the last time someone said “Oh, WASHBASIN!” after smashing his thumb with a hammer?  There’s a reason it’s called the F word, because it’s the only one that matters when you’re trying to get serious about cursing.

I did a drawing test, and a recognizing patterns test, and then the last test: vocabulary.  I breeze through that.  I have to give a concise definition to a word that she read to me from a sheet in front of me.  The words start with “apple” and get harder from there. C’mon, I teach English.  The next-to-last word was “plagiarize.”

I expected to have some discussion about test results at the end, but had only some chit-chat with the tester.  It turns out her husband is also an English professor, and she is an avid reader herself.  I did manage to steer the conversation back to my problems, particularly grading papers and memory and focus and such.  She said, “I believe if you’re having problems, that we can find you some techniques and accommodations and such, regardless of what the test shows.”  That didn’t give me much faith in the testing.

I hoped for some definitive answer, something like “yes, your pathways for executive function are inefficient.  You’re not just lazy.”  But I have to wait for the next appointment to discuss the results.

Three. More. Weeks.