(Re)Learning

Collage of a person with glasses, the lid of their head off, showing their brain and a lightbulb. There are roses, bridges, tentacles, gin bottles, ostriches, a river and hands holding tumblers and chalices.
Image: lisaleo via Morguefile.

Previously, I told you I would talk more about neurodivergency later, so here is that later.

As I’ve said before, I am doing a part-time Master’s Degree because I felt like doing a full-time one would be too much work, specially since I hadn’t been in Higher Education for ages and I needed some time to get used to learning again. Re-learning, one would say.

I have been through a lot since then, and I felt like I left a chunk of my brain rotting in a cupboard in a past life. Reading is now more difficult than when I was 18 gulping Sartre’s Nausea in five days while listening to ISIS (the band) on my discman, sitting on a comfy couch at the multicultural centre at seven in the morning. Now it takes me hours to get out of bed and if it wasn’t for my cat, I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. Or at all.

Digital abstract art of brain network in black, blue, green, purple and pink.
Image: lisaleo via Morguefile.

Words are confusing. Music is distracting. Senses overload. I soak up too much information at the same time while understanding, digesting and producing is slow and painful. Even writing this feels like dragging myself through the North Pole, snow up to the knees. Making things make sense to me is complex. Making my things make sense to you is a lot worse. It’s like chewing up, swallowing, chewing up, swallowing, spitting out, then having to chew it up again because it’s shite.

The disability department at DMU did some screenings at the start of first term. I went to take them to see what this was all about. If it was just good ol’ PTSD and shock doctrine regressing me into a toddler stage. I took a dyslexia group screening and an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder interview. I was already diagnosed with ADHD in Mexico around three years ago and had some extensive research done when I was four years old which showed that while I was bright, it would take me ages to reach that stage of brightness because I was away with the faeries and basically a fucking changeling jumping into a swimming pool wearing a pretty dress in October. But the NHS was taking none of this. They probably think I went to a witch doctor — I didn’t, but so what if I did.

After these initial tests at uni, I went through deeper tests. A lot of the exercises reminded me of the ones I took when I was a child. I could almost say they were fun. I loved the one where you look through the yellow pages while counting the beeps on a telephone. Maybe that’s why I love writing while listening to podcasts now? See, while it might take me a while to not be an executive dysfunctional tadpole, I like multitasking. Just don’t ask me to do it RIGHT NOW. Don’t ask me for perfection, because I already beat myself over achieving perfection in every way. Ask for things, but not too soon. “They’re not enchiladas”, we would say.

Black and white mirrored picture of telegraph poles, cables all connected to each other.
It’s all connected. Image: quicksandala via Morguefile.

Some other testing parameters, like questionnaires and therapy talk, were a lot more painful. I think I cried in a few of them. Sam, the ADHD therapist, poked so many sore points and put some TCP on the wounds. It stung like a bastard, but it helped to heal somehow. It made clumsiness, confusion and patterns make more sense.

Early this year I got the results confirming ADHD and dyslexia. Of course I wish circumstances were easier, but it is such a relief to know what is going on. Not only that, but to know that the school is on my side. They have Assistive Technology and tutors are a lot more lenient about deadlines and note-taking. I have been taking a lot of workshops and learning to use some software. I’m still waiting for news about this, but I might even be eligible for some extra studying assistance and devices.

I am also in the queue for counselling and therapy because of my regular dysthymia and emo drama. ADHD and dyslexia are more neurological and about the wiring of the brain. The dysthymia/mood issues are more psychological and psychiatric. They are not related to each other, but they certainly don’t help each other. We’ll see how it goes.

Picture of a child and a Saint Bernard in the snow, catching snowflakes with their tongues out.
Bork. Image: Roxanneh, via Morguefile.

I still need to be more lenient on myself and don’t be so self-judgmental. I have friends, family and people who love me no matter what. I have accomplished quite a lot. Going through these tests, for instance, knowing that I could have just called deuces and quit everything. I still went through and still go through. Walking through the snow, side by side with a Saint Bernard dog carrying a keg of brandy across their neck.

Back into The Habit of Journaling

Extreme close up to an open notebook, squared paper, with a series of words . handwritten in black ink. Some of these words include "Fitted", "PARALLEL", "ASSEMBLE", "Balance", "Workshop" and "HABIT".
Image: DMedina via Morguefile.

Gee, I haven’t been here in a g e s. Last time I wrote something was in October, which more or less happens to match with the time I started my Master’s Degree in Cultural Events Management at De Montfort University.

After my last adventure into Higher Education — a full-time Master’s in History of Art at Bristol University around eight years ago
— , I decided to take it “lightly” this time and do it on a part-time basis: two years instead of one, two subjects per term instead of four. However, while DMU is really good at practical and creative courses, it is also really, really, really strict. Assignments that have to follow certain parameters, high emphasis on primary research (e.g. interviews, surveys, observation) rather than secondary (e.g. books, journals, the Internet). I love it, but it kicks my arse, but I love it, but it kicks my arse.

A person in front of a large wooden table, with open books, notebooks, folders and printouts. The person holds a black and white pen on their right hand, and it looks as if they are revising a stapled printout consisting of several light blue sheets of paper.
Image: Sarahthecat via Morguefile.

The great news is that through constant one-on-one tutorials and library workshops, they basically take your hand and teach you how to go through each process. More efficient research, formatting, time management, and so on. And if you’re neurodivergent — I’ll talk more on this later —, they have brilliant Assistive Technology and can be a bit more lenient about deadlines and note-taking.

One of the loudest words of advice from my tutor was to get into the habit of reflective journaling. Writing a few words each day about lectures, interesting stuff I find out, life in general, to get used to spill letters quicker and stronger. This should be easy, considering the fact that I do a lot of poetry and songwriting in general, but I’m also an executive dysfunctional self-loathing machine who lets a lot of excuses get on the way. The biggest excuse of them all, asking myself “why bother, no one’s gonna read it”.

A person on a wooden table, under the light of a desk lamp. The person is about to write something with a red pen on a lined notebook. To their right, lies a mobile device (either a smartphone or a music player) and a tumbler full of markers, highlighters and pens.
Image: Sarahthecat via Morguefile.

So I’m going to try to fight that right now.

National Poetry Day workshop at LGBT Centre

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Last minute, I gave a poetry workshop at Leicester LGBT Centre on Thursday, in order to commemorate the National Poetry Day. It was oriented to teenagers from the First Out group, including members from the lesbian, gay, bisexual an trans community who are currently doing college, sixth form and first year of uni. Something I wish existed back in my days, back in my hometown, where a lot of us were stuck in the closet or else we could get extra bullied because somehow, sometimes, everybody knows you’re bent. Everybody knows but you.

Either way, it’s nice to see how these kids have freedom of learning, expressing themselves, seeking guidance and expressing themselves.

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They did a few exercises on the past, present and future of poetry. Writing about being themselves way back in the past. Even using their imagination to imagine they’re gay dinosaurs. Writing about their favourite shows, books, music artists. One of them wrote an excellent puny poem called “Eastbenders”. As an EastEnders fan, it made me cry with laughter. These kids are great at their memes, love Steven Universe and American Horror Story, and relate to the same colourful and painful stuff we relate to. They’re basically pint-sized versions of ourselves and we should respect them and let them speak, learn, live.

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And like back in the days, some of them were really into yaoi. But instead of imagining threesomes in Inu Yasha, they have very real canon queer stories on Yuri on Ice. Like when Ranma 1/2 made us realise we were trans, and Revolutionary Girl Utena and Madoka Magica made us aware that we were sapphic af.

But you know what else I really loved? Remember in the late 90s/early 00s that all the kids said that something was “so gay” to mean it was a bad thing? It was so common, Hilary Duff made a PSA ad asking us to “knock it off”.

Well, now the kids say something is “so gay” when it’s something good. Which now means that top is not gay enough. Maybe if it were the skirt-as-top’s colour? Either way, it’s good that kids are growing up with a sense of pride in themselves and not afraid of being fabulous.

They still have to deal with t e r f  y hags who behave like massive toddlers having more power on the GRA consultation than them tho. So please, speak up and stop bullying them from your positions of power if you can. Think of the children. REALLY think of the children and let them be the happiest, free-est version of themselves.

Stephen King – Carrie

Carrie-Cover

When I was in high school, I wanted to be like Carrie. I wanted to have strong, mental powers to defend myself from the bullies, the teachers, and sometimes from family itself. I wanted to have them on the palm of my hand, unable to escape after one joke too many. I’m pretty sure I’m not the one.

Surprisingly, more and more teens shared this disdain and desire. Not necessarily absolute misfits. A few Halloweens later, this beautiful Suicide Girl chick from university went dressed as Carrie to one of the most decadent parties I’ve ever been to. Mind you, the same party had a bloke dressed like a member of the Ingsoc Thought Police, and I think I saw many Alices in Wonderland, Alex DeLarge and even the Aztec god Tlaloc. Accidentally on purpose, it was a literary themed party. Nobody killed anyone, though. Some people shagged, some people threw up and some people threw up while shagging. Nothing like Brian de Palma’s apocalyptic film adaptation, nor like the straight-to-TV alternate fantasy featuring Angela Bettis, which, quite ironically, we were watching before going to the party.

Angela Bettis in Carrie

It seems embarrassing, but it wasn’t until very recently that I read the original novel by Stephen King. The first film gave me so much life, yet I didn’t know what was printed on paper.

To those unfamiliar with the story: it’s about a teenager who is hated at school and at home. Her classmates treat her like little more than a cockroach, while her fundamentalist fanatical mother tends to lock her in a closet for several hours whenever she commits acts of impurity – such as having her period. When she finds out she has telekinetic powers, her self-defence skills grow in monstrous proportions right on time for Prom Night, where she falls prey to the prank to kill all pranks and… well… let’s say pranks are not the only ones that get killed.

While the book is short and easy to drink in one day, King presents it gradually and slowly, bit by bit, unveiling the facts and rumours behind the second-largest tragedy in post-war America. We get to know the circumstances in which Carrie was conceived, born and raised – her birth story being re-imagined on the latest film adaptation, directed by Kimberly Peirce and starring Chlöe Grace Moretz being more Hit Girl than Shit Girl. We read people’s research and speculations intercalated with the omniscient narrator’s telling of events, including every single thought that’s gone through Carrie’s head. We get to compare testimonials and interpretations with the “truth” as it happened. Supposing it did.

Carrie Prom

Can’t help but wonder if the Black Prom happened in real life, on the 27th of May of 1979, would still be remembered today. How would it stand compared to other school tragedies such as the ones in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Red Lake and Sandy Hook? Or, after learning out lesson with the Black Prom, and knowing that children indeed are our present and future, would these other massacres have happened at all? It was a work of fiction, but couldn’t we learn from it anyway and do our best to not give the perfect soil and nutrients to turn it into a reality?

The adaptations have forgotten several things from the book, unsurprisingly. None of them mention the Rain of Stones, perhaps a very large piece of the puzzle of Carrie White’s life. And the genetic background goes unmentioned in motion pictures. So, movie-watchers infer that Carrie’s powers just happened all of a sudden and weren’t around until her first menses.

Chloe's Carrie with piles of books

On the other hand, something I was missing that was not included on the book was some mention of the books Carrie read on telekinesis. On the films we see her diving into piles and piles of them, and I expected some “quotations” or “page selections” from these books in particular. Just like Yukio Mishima included an entire book-within-a-book on Runaway Horses, where lawyer Shigekuni Honda reads The League of the Divine Wind; and this reading, enthusiastically suggested by the young Isao Iinuma, explains the deadly consequences at the end of the story, the entire Sea of Fertility saga, and even Mishima’s own life.

However, contrary to the Japanese author’s example, Carrie was King’s opera prima and not his Swan Song. It was a lesson to learn, but not a testament. And he was not twisted enough (yet) to leave books within books within quotations within annotations like Mark Z. Danielewski in House of Leaves. I am unaware if he actually does it in later works of his extensive catalogue, but this is still a compelling effort for a first book – or for a book in general, full stop.

Stephen King 1970s

Many years after Carrie, Stephen King is still a very influential storyteller, and whether you’ve read him or not, you can relate to his stories in one way or another thanks to his innumerable adaptations for film and TV. Up next, I will be reading The Shining – which inspired my favourite Kubrick film – and Misery – to force myself to keep writing and stop Annie Wilkes from breaking my legs with a hammer.