When I was eight years old, I was diagnosed with central auditory processing disorder. The academic definition of CAPD is the neurological deficit between the ears and the processing area of the brain. It has nothing to do with my intelligence, but everything to do with how I learn. What I tell my friends is that my ears and my brain don't work together. I can hear perfectly well. The problem is sequencing. Sometimes the words come in jumbled and I have to figure out their order and other times words just get lost in translation and this just becomes harder when I'm in a room full of loud people because of the background noise can be distracting. There are a lot of other symptoms, but the one that impacts me the most is my latent response to general questions and sarcasm.
My timing is off sometimes and it makes me a little socially awkward. When someone asks me what it's like to have CAPD, it's like never having the access to a television remote. All I want to do is pause and rewind the conversation so I know what I'm responding to. I didn't know I had this disorder until I was in high school. My parents always told me to rise above the struggles, it caused me to not become its next victim. Now I look back at my childhood, specifically the minutes I would spend at home practicing my CAPD tapes before school. The hours spent having talks with my parents about the art of conversation and the years of speech therapy sessions, and I wonder why I didn't ask my mom any questions. Why was I never curious about those therapy sessions? I guess at that age I just knew I had appointments to go to, so it didn't matter why I was there.
In high school, I became extremely aware of the disorder and the symptoms that came along with it. The hyper awareness I developed created a dark and heavy presence that physically and mentally drained me. The anxiety of it all weighed me down. I experienced shortness of breath, profuse sweating, and headaches that would last for hours. My brain was restless, countless of hours of sleep deprivation from continuously dissecting and anticipating every conversation. Being overly observant of my symptoms made me more aware of how other people acted around me at school, how impatient and easily irritated they could get. It was my senior year and I was eating lunch with friends and my professor's classroom. We didn't like the cafeteria very much because it was way too noisy. I told my friends about my disorder before because they were my confidants. I mean, that's what friends are for, right? While everyone was eating lunch, I was using the remainder of the time doing homework. One of my friends was trying to tell me something about the Korean pop band she was interested in. I looked at her and I asked, "what did you say?" There were other people in the room and it didn't process what she said for the second time and asked, "I am so sorry. Can you please repeat that?" She became irritated and said, "Oh my God, are you deaf?" And continued to say that she was going to the band's concert in LA.
In that moment. Not only was I upset with her for being rude, but I was mainly mad at myself for not hearing her the first time. I could have stood up for myself and sometimes I wish I had, but I knew that trying to communicate with someone who was a quick wit would not go over well for me, so I shut down like I usually handled my issues and she walked away. My anxiety took control and it felt like wearing a straight jacket, a very tight, straight jacket. This terrified me. I didn't want my internal construction and discomfort to become external through my body language. The voice in my head was so powerful that when it told me that all my misfortunes of communicating with people was my fault, I believed it. I allowed it to consume me because that was the only way I knew how to resolve the tension by overthinking and I quickly became its victim. I tried to best conceal myself until I got home and cried in my room. I know I'm not deaf and the comment itself didn't offend me even though it was uncalled for as if being deaf should be an insult. Her choice of words was questionable, but could I have really blamed her for being self-absorbed? I think we can all be like that sometimes, especially when we're excited about something.
High school prepared me for college by thickening my skin and I spent a lot of time gaining tools to help me cope with my anxiety. I understand that this disorder isn't going away anytime soon, so why lament over it? I'm putting an end to that and I'm starting to embrace my situation. The past three years have taught me that I thrive best when I'm outside of my comfort zone. I would have never enrolled myself in acting classes, studied abroad overseas for four months and stand here, in front of you, sharing my story if I remained a victim of my fear. I am, I am not perfect. However, I want to strive to become the best version of myself. There is nothing wrong with having CAPD or anxiety. I would not be the person I am today without them. The message I must keep telling myself is that there are other problems in the world that are much larger than mine, and I'm grateful for everything, life has given me. Mental health has been a popular topic of discussion lately, and I hope you all take those steps to be patient with others. Check in with your loved ones from time to time, and to take care of yourselves. Thank you.