On Podcasts and disability


This should be said. I know that some of you are aware that I don’t listen to podcasts, but I’m thinking of doing one regardless.

I feel I should be clear on this. I have an auditory processing deficit. This doesn’t mean I can’t hear — my physical ears work fine. It does mean that what I do hear may or may not actually make it to my working memory, and from there on to my long-term memory.

So when you tell me something, I may not “hear” it. It doesn’t mean I’m not listening — I’m actually very good at listening, because I have to be — it just means my brain didn’t parse whatever you said well enough to store it for any length of time beyond a few minutes.

This is especially true when I’m stressed, when I’m tired, when I’m trying to multi-task, or when I’m not actually looking at the speaker/fully engaged in a conversation.

I hate phone conversations with people I don’t know, because if I don’t know you I can’t possibly visualize your face and how you would say the words you’re saying to me (yes, that is how I get through most phone conversations). Classroom situations can become stressful when the teacher talks too fast and refuses to slow down because I’m “not listening” well enough and I “shouldn’t have to take notes” (generally speaking my teachers are awesome about this sort of thing, but I’ve had one or two bad experiences). If I listen to a new piece of music, I can’t be doing anything else mentally engaging at the same time or I’ll have a small freak-out at not being able to concentrate on either thing.

A picture may be forming here, and I hope it lets you know why, generally speaking, I don’t listen to podcasts.

This does not mean I have never listened to a podcast or will never listen to a podcast — I have, and I’m sure in the future I’ll be able to sit down and hear one or two on subjects that interest me a great deal and talked about by a speaker who can fully engage my attention. But because listening to a podcast takes so much of my energy and time, as I can’t actually do anything else while listening to said podcast (not even ride transit), and I have precious little energy and time as it is (as should be obvious by how sporadically I post in my blogs), I can’t — in good conscience — dedicate said time to podcasts.

I realize it is a bit hypocritical to start up a podcast when one doesn’t listen to them hirself, but I’m okay with being a hypocrite if it keeps my mental health more or less on the level (you know, aside from the chronic depression and anxiety issues). I’m not writing this blog post to beg you to not see me as a hypocrite; you can see me that way and I really don’t care, because I admit to it freely and I’ve made my peace with it. I’m writing this blog post because I don’t think I’ve actually talked about my disabilities here (or in any other blog, really) and I felt it was time.

Why haven’t I talked about my disabilities in other venues before now?

Quite simply: lack of spoons and sporks. Spoons are units of energy; the term was coined in an article about spoon theory by Christine Miserandino regarding chronic illness. Forks are give-a-fucks, or units of caring. And sporks are a unit sort of in between forks and spoons. They’re when you give a fuck, but you don’t have the spoons to actually give a fuck because you know if you spend that one fork explaining, you’ll be out of spoons for a week or so dealing with the fall-out.

Part of me would really like people in my life to be aware of my difficulties so they can be prepared for my oddball behavior, but another — unfortunately large — part of me doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone, and doesn’t want to be seen as if I’m parading my disability around to try and get special treatment.

And then there’s the treatment I actually do get if I tell people I have issues (and not just of the auditory processing kind, either).

It goes one of two ways, generally. Either people are pitying or they’re complete and utter assholes.

I don’t tell teachers that I have issues because — generally — it’s not necessary to have a learning disability to ask the teacher to slow down when speaking or to repeat something so I can write it down. Able-minded people do this all the time in class, so why should I trot out my disability to ask for the same concession that any non-disabled person would get? Especially when it gets me a reaction of either “Oh, the poor dear, it must be so hard for her to even live in such a world, of course! Can we get you anything while we’re down here kissing your ass?” which is obviously borne of fear of a lawsuit and a complete disconnect from the fact that disabled people are, you know, people, or even worse (0r better, can’t decide) I get laughter, derision, or complete disbelief that I actually have a disability because I’m not whipping out a mountain of paperwork right there.

Well, again, I don’t go to disability services on campus because I can’t stand the pitying look I get from people, like I should be limping in there and making big doe eyes and talking about how hard life is but how I soldier on so they can look up to me for being so brave and bold and blah blah blaaaaaaah. Also, what’s the fucking point, when the only concession I could possibly need is for a teacher to talk like a human being and not a godsdamned Cylon hybrid. Not to mention — and here’s the kicker — my documentation isn’t from a doctor, so it would probably be seen as fake (even though it’s perfectly real and from an actual educational institution).

Outside of class, I deal with the same attitudes, except people don’t have to worry about getting fired so I get a lot more of the explicit “You’re faking it!” attitude, with people telling me to “Suck it up” because “Everyone has it hard.”

Yeah, fuck you buddy. I’m pretty aware that everyone has it hard — I’m part of everyone, remember? — and “suck it up”? What do you think I’ve been doing for the past five years? After being in Special Education for four years in High School I was so tired of being treated like I was abnormal by the system that I wanted to prove that I could do things like a normal student. I didn’t tell anyone at college that I have disabilities and it’s taken me this long to admit to myself that I can’t handle things like a normal student, that I need help.

And there is no shame in not being able to do things by yourself, there is no shame in needing to ask for help from other people. But you know what, tell that to the subconscious part of my brain, the part that has been conditioned by what we believe as a capitalist, consumer, individualist culture that believes in the North American Dream and pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps and the “Self Made Man” and all that fucking bullshit.

Do you know how much shame I am feeling right now posting this? How much shame I feel whenever I ask for more time on an assignment? When I’m late with an assignment? When I can’t complete a test?

Do you know how many nightmares I have about getting bad grades? They’re right up there at the top of the list of Katje’s Brain’s Nightmare Favorites, along with murder, alien invasions, being abandoned, and sexual abuse.

I have had nervous breakdowns about tests. I have left class crying because I felt I couldn’t get something done. I have felt stupid, for no reason other than I am not as fast as some of the other students and I am constantly reminded of that.

And all these factors make me terrified to ask for help. Terrified of going to my teacher and saying “I am having trouble. I need more time.”

In the past I have skipped class because I got behind, and was ashamed to show my face, and ashamed to talk to my teacher about that, and once I started skipping class I got too ashamed to show up again because I hadn’t gone in weeks.

Sometimes when I wake up I lie in bed and cry for twenty minutes or so because I can’t shake the nightmare, the inner voice saying You’re such a stupid lazy bitch, you don’t deserve to live, you are so stupid, you’re dumb, you can’t handle simple courses, how do you ever expect to succeed at your dream job, how do you expect to graduate, no wonder it’s taken you seven years and you’re still not done, you stupid whore, over and over again until I really do want to die.

So, you know, when I talk about having disabilities and I am met with scorn and derision and the surety of neurotypical, able-minded people that I must be faking it to get sympathy, it really doesn’t fucking help with that whole shame complex thing.

Bottom line: believe whatever you like about the veracity of my disabilities. But keep it to your fucking self. I need your pity or your dickheadedness like I need a hole in my head — actually a hole in my head might be more beneficial, as it would indicate brain surgery and hells that might fix some shit who knows. Everyday I am facing depression, social anxiety, and not remembering what my partner or my best friend or my parents may say to me because my brain just can’t parse it all (and always manages to remember the most useless fucking shit I swear to gods I don’t know what the hell it is thinking) and sometimes it’s important, and I miss it, and I feel like a shitty human being because I should be more on top of this stuff, I should be able to be there for people I care about and remember shit they say.

So if you’re so convinced that I’m just whining for attention, or that I must be faking because I haven’t “proved” it to school that I have a disability and who in their right mind would do that (hint: I’m not in my right mind, that was sort of the fucking point here), or any other reason that I’m sure makes a lot of sense in the world of an able-minded person, please don’t tell me. Don’t let it show on your face or in your voice. Just accept that it’s my reality and move on.

Because if you were close enough to me that I would accept that kind of garbage from you, you wouldn’t be saying it because you would know it wasn’t true.


This turned into a rather large rant, and it should be said that all instances of the word “you” are meant in a general sense and not aimed towards any one individual or, indeed, the general audienceship of this blog. “You” just seems to be the easiest audience to speak to when one is ranting.

So yes, I am probably going to be doing a podcast, and I am aware that this makes me a hypocrite and I am fine with that, and I am fine with you seeing me as a hypocrite, if you do.

The rest of the rant was said because…well, a dam burst and it got said. Mind the waters, and keep your lifejackets handy. There’s lots of anger around these here parts. Easy to drown in it.


4 thoughts on “On Podcasts and disability

  1. Stephy

    Having struggled with ADHD, I get that a lot. I’m not one of the mass of people who were wrongly diagnosed as children. Medication was a bad choice for me because it did not work, not because I didn’t have a problem. As anyone who’s had a long conversation with me knows, I’m not capable of talking for any length of time without going off on weird tangents. I am not capable of neat, organized verbatim notes that I can pass on to the next person. I can’t just sit, still and quiet, and listen to a lecture. And with the severity of my dyslexia (as in, I’ve had to back up and retype at least half the words in this post, some multiple times), fuck anything with numbers. That inner voice is a bitch, and I hope to gods I never face a tougher critic. And I’m on a nine-year plan for a bachelor’s degree–I just keep hoping they don’t cut off my financial aid for taking so long.

    I said all that to say: I hear you. I’m there. And most people are just fuckwits w/r/t disabilities. Don’t know if there’s anything I can say to make it hurt any less for you, because the sucky truth is that the evil inner voice of destruction doesn’t have an off switch (or batteries to rip off and shove up someone’s ass, or I’d have done it a long time ago), but you’re not alone.


    • Katje

      Hych’qa — thank you — for hearing me and being here. That is enough to make it hurt less, to know that I’m not alone.

      I hear you on the length of time for the degree. I plan on graduating next year, and that’ll happen if I work really hard and the impending possible teacher’s strike this semester doesn’t fuck everything up. When I graduate it will be an 8-year degree, and when I’m done my masters I’ll have spent 10 years in school.

      Fact is, they don’t make things easy on those of us who are different. They make it fucking hard and we’re the ones who suffer.


  2. My overriding thought is: “Wow, you sound totally normal.”

    Your rant is, in essence, identical to my many quiet, terrified, freak-spirals, complete with the cacophony of haters who live in my head. Having talked at length with a couple of others on this topic, it turns out it’s common.

    I agree with Stephy: don’t try meds. They make life worse and don’t really help. But feel encouraged in the fact that this craziness is normal for a person brave enough to face her real feelings (like you). You’re fine! Or….maybe I’m a freak. One or the other. 😉


    • Katje

      Bwa ha ha. I’ve heard that from people before, actually, that I sound completely normal, and it always makes me giggle. 🙂

      The chorus of self-haters I’ve heard is actually quite common, especially among women, and I think it’s a symptom of our oppressive, kyriarchal culture. We are constantly being told by outside sources that we’re not good enough, especially if we’re not part of the ruling class (white, heterosexual, cissexual, ableminded, rich men), and it becomes easy to internalize those ideas because they are so prevalent (f’ex, I wasn’t raised Christian and yet I have internalized Christian ideals in my brain, some good, most bad). Which isn’t to say that people in the categories of the ruling class are immune, because they’re not. Just that it’s easier to brush off that chorus of voices when the box you live in is quite a bit nicer and you get to rule the earth from it.

      I am actually on meds, but they’re for my depression. I can’t function without them at this point in time, so I’m happy staying on them.

      However, I wouldn’t take meds for my disabilities. Depression is a different monster from learning disabilities, and it can actually be dealt with with medication — for me, at least. I am of the opinion, however, that learning disabilities do not need medication — they need patience and a willingness to think outside the box.

      I’m very lucky that when I was a kid and in Special Education my mom was on top of things enough to know that medication wasn’t what was needed for my learning disabilities, so I was never put on Ritalin or Lithium or anything else like that. (My mom is an educator specializing in fixing learning disabilities currently and she meets kids who are totally drugged up and yet — still coming to her for help. Jeez, guess those meds don’t really work, do they? She finds it ridiculous and hopes that someday these kids can get off these meds, because they’re not helping anyone.)

      I’m of the personal opinion that what we classify as ADD and ADHD are actually just a lack of a long attention span caused by an abundance of television in youth (and possibly childhood trauma). TV is full of short segments broken up by even shorter segments — no wonder kids have short attention spans! And if you live with a perpetual channel surfer…well, forget about it.

      I was allowed to watch a few shows when I was growing up, as part of family time, but I wasn’t allowed to watch television for extended periods of time. I was allowed to watch movies.

      Guess what? I have a much longer attention span than my peers who were raised on television.

      But also, I am not a behavioural neuroscientist or a psychologist or any other such person, just someone who’s been in the SpEd system for far too long. If there’s a scholarly study out there that proves my personal theory wrong then I’m willing to look at changing my opinion.

      And on that note, I’m going to bed because I’m up far too late as it is.


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