“Are you from here?” And Dyslexia

Considering that I’m a pale girl with brown curly hair and green eyes, it would seem unlikely that I would ever be asked where I’m from considering that I live in Ireland. The problem lies begins when I open my mouth. I have a weird accent and I don’t really know why. I was tested for autism because of it when I was younger and that proved negative, so I was refered to a speech therapist because I tended to mispronounce a lot of words too. They said maybe the accent came from being around my family from Dublin whereas I live elsewhere. In secondary school, I was always asked, rather rudely, “Are you from Poland?”, “Why do you sound American?”, “Are you really from here?” but I could never answer because I didn’t know what they meant – In my head, I talk woth a Belfast accent. I think some people just presumed that I put the accent on. Eventually I forgot about it… Until last summer, that is. Last summer I participated as a volunteer in an English speaking summer camp for Spanish teens. Multiple Spaniards remarked that I spoke differently than the other Irish volunteers and that I was easier to understand. It was the first time that anyone had ever said something positive about the way I speak but it has always been made out to be a negative thing so I just made a silly excuse, saying that maybe it was because I do drama and put on a lot of accents while acting. I knew that it was not true but I didn’t know what else to say.

I was reminded of all of this tonight when I was getting a lift to a Christmas party. I had never met the girl that I was getting a lift with and she asked, just as we were getting out of the car “Are you from here?”, and my throat choked up. It was a pretty innocent question but I was so self conscious for the rest of the evening that I struggled to talk.

I am not on the autistic spectrum. I am not a foreigner. I don’t put on an accent. Those are the things I know for certain. Something that I learnt recently is that I have dyslexia – it’s not an official official diagnosis so I almost feel a bit fake calling myself dyslexic. The dyslexia mentor in my college informally assessed me and said that it is blatantly obvious that I have dyslexia, but that it would cost £500 to get an official diagnosis since its not offered on the NHS. Children are normally diagnosed before they turn 16 by an educational psychologist in school, the NHS doesn’t offer it because there is no reason a kid should have to go through education without anyone noticing their difficulties. 

I was told I would be put on the waiting list to see the educational psychologist when I was 13 but (angry rambling paragraph warning) I knew there was a long waiting list so I decided not to worry about it. I asked a few months before my GCSE’s where I was on the waiting list because I wanted extra time for the exams (I’ve no shame, honestly). I was then unapologetically informed that they “forgot” to put me on the waiting list. I managed to eventually get the extra time because of my pre-existing mental health issues, but that almost made me feel even angrier because I had the exact same mental health issues a year earlier and didn’t get extra time then. I can’t lie, my previous school’s negligence cost me a lot emotionally, academically and now financially considering I’ll have to pay for a private diagnosis. 

That last paragraph went off track but what I meant to say (type?) was that I think my accent and dyslexia are related considering that dyslexia can cause speech and language issues (source). So yeah, it is what it is. At this point I think my accent is too deeply engrained to change it but I learnt last summer that when I actually am a foreigner, maybe my accent isn’t so bad.

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It will be okay

While it deserved a blog post of its own, I tagged on to the end of my last post that my lovely little dog needed surgery to remove an aggressive tumour. She went through the first surgery and then a week later she needed another to re-stitch the wound after she tore the stitches. After all the stress of surgery, it turned out to be a calcium deposit rather than a tumour. I haven’t googled what a calcium deposit is, but it sounds quite harmless in comparison to an “aggressive” tumour.

I managed to submit my first round of assignments on time – I’m just hoping that I won’t have to face resubmissions. To celebrate, I stayed in bed for the weekend. I was meant to go to my friends’ 18th birthday party but I just couldn’t bring myself to go (on the off chance either of you guys are reading, it was just me being anti-social after a stressful week – nothing personal). I guess that missing events is just part of having chronic illnesses; sometimes you just feel so burnt out that all you can do is stay in bed. I just need to focus on getting better right now because my immune system is in the gutter – I’ve been constantly sick since October now and there’s no end in sight.

Did I mention that I was almost an extra for Game of Thrones? I’m not a mega-fan but I was pretty excited. I got a short notice casting call but then I lost my role because I’m not quite 18 yet. I was annoyed because I think my agency should’ve done an age check before getting me all excited. I would’ve been paid £90 for a 12 hour shoot which works out as a lot more than minimum wage for my age group. I already had that money spent in my head when I was cancelled on. I’ve been told I’ll probably get contacted again when I turn 18 but who knows if they’ll be a GoT season 9?

On a more positive note, I am losing weight in a healthy manner. I’ve lost 7kg since coming off my antidepressants, although I think calorie counting has had a larger role to play. My weight used to fluctuate a lot, so to be able to maintain a steady rate of weight loss is impressive. It took me a while to find the right daily calorie intake but I think 1700 is good for me. 2000 calories was way too much but I felt hungry at 1500. Considering that I’m still going through puberty (without any sign of a glow-up though), and being moderately active means that 1500 calories would have been unsustainable and I probably would be given up by now if I stayed at that level. While writing that, I was worried that I was overstating but then I remembered that I have posts detailing mental breakdowns so the subject of sorting is probably quite tame in comparison.

This post was a little bit more downhearted than I intended it to be. Even though I’m relegated to my bed at the minute, I’m just glad that I have my mental sanity for now. I’ll be okay.

Formal Memories

I had been stressing about formal for a month but in the end it went really well. I was really worried that I would be the odd one out because I hadn’t seen some people since I left school but in reality it was lovely to see everyone again. One girl gave me a dirty look and another ignored me when I said hello but that’s their loss, I had too much fun to really care about them. A few people also told me that they read my blog and that made my night – I never really know what to say when someone tells me that but I really appreciate it.

I didn’t feel particularly glamorous when my earring ripped through my piercing, nor when we were in McDonald’s at 3am ordering chicken nuggets but I think that formal will be one of those nights that I’ll remember.

Tonight I’m curled up with my little dog who needs surgery to remove a tumour. No not Harry again, this time it’s my other dog. She has an aggressive tumour in her paw which needs removed. We don’t know how much damage it has done, if any. I’m just hoping that, like Harry’s tumour, it’s benign. I actually noticed it months ago, not long after Harry had his surgery. She had what looked like a red-pink sore and I told my father but he insisted that some of the mixture from the strawberry cheesecake that we had for lunch earlier that day had got matted into her fur. I don’t know why I believed that, maybe it was just easier to believe that it was nothing instead of being more vigilant like I promised I would be after Harry-dog had his watermelon sized tumour removed. 

I’m not in a good way myself either. I came down with a mild cough the day of formal and then I got a sore throat and then that caused me to get ketones which caused me to spend most of yesterday vomiting. I should’ve gone to A&E considering I had symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis but I spent most of the day hanging onto the toilet. Of course there’s no rest for the wicked so I had to go to college today anyway, ended up with a migraine and now I have an ear infection just to add insult to injury. 

God I need everything just to stop for a minute.

Adiós a mis sueños (Goodbye to my dreams)

It has been one crazy week but I think I’ll start in the early hours of Thursday morning. My formal (prom) had finished at 2am and everyone was on the coach making their way back to Belfast. It had been a good night but it was good to be going home. My friend was sitting beside me, having a nap while I gazed out the window. I’ve always found something very comforting about staring out the window and watching the road go by but this night I experienced some serious déjà vu. About ten minutes into the ride, we drove past a residential street with a glow of orange streetlamps and a bus stop shelter. I recognised it instantly, not from real life but from a dream I must have had years ago. In the dream I was running away from home and I got off the bus at this scene, thinking that I was finally safe but then the people looking for me pulled up beside me in a car and I went running back to the bus stop. That’s where the dream ended. It’s almost easier to think that I just had too much to drink and that I was tired but this was much too real.

A few hours after this I was on the bus to Dublin to spend time with my family. My auntie took me to see the university where I’ll be studying this year, and I can’t lie – it was a bit decrepit but I know that I only have to spend one year there before my course moves to the new campus. We went back to my auntie’s house and I was thinking about the course, so I decided to look over the syllabus to see which modules would correlate with what I’m doing now at college. To my horror, they had removed the Spanish modules and replaced them with Korean. I almost cried because I was so angry that I spent six years of my life learning Spanish so I could study it at university only to have to learn a new language from scratch. But I couldn’t cry for some reason, I think because the world had been trying to tell me for months.

In August, I got a C grade in my AS Level Spanish and I was shocked because I thought I would get an A. For that reason I decided not to finish the A Level in Spanish, thinking that maybe A Levels just weren’t for me but later that week I got a place on BSc Computer Science (International) meaning that I would be able to study computer science and Spanish. I had to defer entry until next year but I told my parents that I would start a conversation class so that I wouldn’t lose my Spanish. When the time came along to enrol for that class I had a sense of unease so I lied to my parents, saying that there was no places left in the class. I told myself that I’d join the class next semester and that I wouldn’t mind a break from Spanish. In the meantime I downloaded a couple of Korean learning apps and listened to some K-pop, thinking it would be interesting to learn an Asian language. For God’s sake I even wrote about how it would be cool to study in Seoul.

So yeah… I’m awfully confused at the minute. I always hear adults saying “I used to be really good at [insert language] at school” and I never thought that would happen to me because it was my dream to become fluent in Spanish and live somewhere with a Spanish speaking population.  I was starting to worry that I’d hit a brick wall in learning Spanish, but now that wall has doubled in height and has barbed wire on the top.

 

Formal!

I wrote about how I didn’t think I’d be able to go to formal (prom in American) but I take that back. I am going to formal. I didn’t think I’d be able to go because my father declared that I wasn’t, money was tight and, well, I wasn’t sure that I’d be welcome since I’d left the school. 

One of the girls organising the formal messaged me to check if I was going. I didn’t know what to say really, and knew that she didn’t need to know the full story so I just said that money was tight hoping she’d take my half assed explanation. But she said that money shouldn’t hold a person back from formal and offered to help out. I was so blown away by that because I wasn’t really sure if people from my old school wanted me to be there – but it was kick that I needed to sort things out. I had a row with my father, managed to get the money that I had loaned someone repaid and started thinking abouy dresses. I still wasn’t 100% sure if I wanted to go but a couple of days later when I saw a friend that was going, I told her that I was thinking about going and her face lit up and she seemed so excited for me that I couldn’t say no.

I went and got my dress the next day and I’m trying to the final details sorted out now. Maybe a lot of the issues surrounding formal were just in my head, because whilst it all seemed impossible a while ago it’s all happening now. It’s definitely something to get excited for.

So even with Storm Ophelia wrecking the place, I have something to keep me preoccupied. Also, did I mention that I’m doing a solo day trip to London next week? Stay tuned for that.

Updates

I’ve written a lot of blog posts recently on which I promised to update you on so here we go.

First Driving Lesson Advice

I just finished lesson no.4 and it isn’t quite as hard as I thought although I never thought gear changes would be quite so difficult. My driving instructor says that I have a tendency to worry about what’s going on around me more than what’s happening in the car. When I see a pedestrian I tend to take my foot off the accelerator and when I see another vehicle coming my way I freeze and mess up any instructions given to me. Of course, I must focus on what I can do: start and stop, hill starts, junctions, 1st-3rd gear and drive on the main road; and then everything else will start to fall into place.

Week 2 Year 2 BTEC IT

I must admit that I forgot to hit publish on this one and left it sitting in my drafts for two weeks. I’m definitely starting to feel the burn of a disrupted sleep schedule but I’m working away with out any issues. I’ve decided that when I finally get my appointment with the special needs team, who normally support me with my diabetes and anxiety, that I’m going to push to see a psychologist to try and get a dyslexia diagnosis, or at least an idea of why I struggle with reading and writing sometimes. I’ve known that something wasn’t right since I was 13, but my GP, psychiatrist and ex-school played a game of hot potato on who was responsible for getting me an appointment with a psychologist. In the end it was my ex-school who grudgingly accepted responsibility, but told me there was a long waiting time. Thinking that there was just a long waiting list, I never bothered to ask anyone how long it would be before I got seen and just forgot about it until I was 15. When I asked my year head about it two months before my GCSEs, she admitted that the school just “forgot” about it and that there was nothing she could really do considering I was leaving at the end of that year. Last year I never thought to ask my new college to contact a psychologist because I was just so happy to be away from my old school but starting driving lessons has prompted me to start nagging about it again. I can’t tell left from right very well, and when my instructor tells me something about the clutch I reach for the gear stick since I struggle to associate words with objects at times – none of these traits are helpful when learning to drive. Thankfully I can type better than I can write, so studying IT was definitely the right choice for me.

Full Withdrawal 

I’m managing fairly well with coming off anti-depressants. I must admit there was one night where I reached for a tablet because I was having horrible intrusive thoughts. I read about the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster and how members of the public found body parts strewn across farms – all I could imagine was a disembodied head still in it’s helmet coming smashing through my bedroom window – morbid, right? Maybe fluoxetine wasn’t the right tool for that. I should’ve closed my curtains, turned the light on and watched a Korean variety show – something funny with my favourite idols (Unnies’ Slam Dunk, anyone?). Other withdrawal symptoms have subsided, but I still have insomnia although I think that’s always been there, just covered up by fluoxetine. I’ve found that as long as I feel busy and useful, I’m happy


So yeah, I just wanted to write a quick follow up to some of the posts I’ve written over the last month. I have some blog post ideas and a few recipes I want to share so hopefully you will here more from me pretty soon.

 

 

Week 2 Year 2 BTEC IT

One week has passed since I got back to college and things are looking good.We had Freshers Fayre on Thursday, which is more of a “welcome back everyone” festival than an introduction for first years. There I discovered that free Domino’s pizza, Coca-Cola and henna tattoos are all I need in life.

As fun as Freshers week was, I’m here to learn and this semester I am doing 4 and a half units: Organisational System Security, Client Side Customisation, Data Analysis, Project Planning and Human Computer Interaction as the ‘half unit’ – meaning it’s split between two semesters. This is following on from the nine units I did last year in which I achieved 7 Distinctions and 2 Merits, gaining the D*D* grade that I worked my backside off for. I’ve worked out that to get D*D*D*, which would be equivalent to A*A*A* for all you A Level folk, I need 8 Distinctions and 1 Merit so I need to keep my head down.

I thought about publishing my assignments from last year since the people who have published their assignments helped me so much but I’ve decided not to for now. You see a lot of those kids had to publish their assignments on a blog that they set up for their teachers to mark their work, but I never had to do that – I just want to “pay it forward” and see if anyone else can get some use out of my old files. Also I worry about Pearson (the exam board) tracing it back to me so maybe it’s best for me to wait until I have my certificate in hand. Writing all this has reminded me that I’m on the legacy specification – students starting this year will study 13 units instead of 18, have externally set tasks and a two hour examination which I don’t envy. If that was the case when I was applying I would’ve done A Levels instead since there’s less variety in units, controlled assessment and exams – just like A Levels; aren’t BTECs are meant to be different? Another thing putting me off publishing it is what happened the last time I published school work: an opportunity came up for me to reuse it but a classmate had already plagiarized it much to my embarrassment. I wonder if I could get any use out of coursework in uni next year? I know it will be a big jump up but maybe some of my work from now will be good as filler text then. Do you know what? Maybe I won’t publish it after all…

So that was a long detour but we’re back on track now: My timetable has changed a lot. Last year I had 9am starts everyday except for Wednesday which was my day off. This year Monday is my day off, I’m in 9am-5pm two days and 3pm-5pm on the other two which I’m not enjoying as much as I thought I would. I wish the 19 hours that I’m in class for each week were more evenly spread out and that I started around 12pm instead of 3pm on those two days. It’s messing up my sleep schedule too much since I can’t bother myself to get up at a regular time when I don’t have to do anything until 3.

Knowing how much busier I will be considering I have an extra hour of class this year and so many other things to do, I decided not to go for my A Level in Spanish. I got a C at AS Level but I had told myself unless I got a B or above I wouldn’t do the second year. Las cosas son como son. It’s weird to not have any Spanish classes for the first time in six years but in a way it’s nice and I’m just studying at my own pace for my own enjoyment. It’s also nice to have that £350 intended for it still in my savings account but I plan to attend informal conversation classes starting in January so I can brush up on my skills before going to university so I better not spend that money. My parents are disappointed with me but I don’t see them offering to pay so I don’t think they get a say. This is as close as I’m going to get to a gap year since they made me defer my course offer until next year so I may as well take it easy.

Basically that’s what going on with school. I’m going to the Castlecourt shopping centre student night for those sweet discounts on Thursday and I have to pick up my college hoodie tomorrow to show a little tech pride, as well I have a CAMHS appointment tomorrow which, if you know you know, isn’t fun. Positive vibes going on here though and I hope the same for everyone else 

Student Finance Fears

The trials and tribulations of the UCAS applications are upon us. For the uninitiated, UCAS (pronounced u-cas, or uck-ass if you’re my father) is the university application body in the UK (I’ve talked about CAO here too, but that’s for the R.O.Ireland). It’s an acrynom, I’ll guess that it means University Central Application Service. As someone living in Northern Ireland I have the joy of applying to both application bodies for universities on the same island. I applied via CAO on a whim last year and received a place at my dream university so I have no reason to apply via UCAS but my current college are adamant that everyone must write a personal statement for a UCAS form, so I am writing one in solidarity with my classmates. 

Since I have to apply I may as well have a stab at getting a university apprenticeship that some companies offer. Basically you go to university four days a week and then work for them one day a week and over the summer holidays. In return they pay your tuition fees and pay you a wage like some type of sugar daddy. I know that the chances of me getting accepted onto one of these programmes is slim to none but if I did it would mean having to move to England, which admittedly I don’t want do, but I’d go anywhere if it meant not having to deal with the burden of student debt. 

As well I’ve had to fill in forms for the university apprenticeship programmes that can’t be applied to via UCAS. Also I’m trying to get a scholarship in place since I can’t rely on getting an apprenticeship and will probably go to the university I was originally accepted into. This means having to be some well-rounded, hardworking, exceptional kid which I find hard to convince myself that I am. 

So yeah, finding finance terrifies me and I need to find a solution.

Full Withdrawal 

I knew it was long coming but I’ve finally came fully off fluoxetine for the first time since I was 14. God, I was so terrified about a relapse that I kept myself from writing this post for a month but so far so good so I want to talk about it.

I was prescribed fluoxetine, brand name Prozac, after counselling did not help my rapidly worsening depression as a teen. Initially I was prescribed 10mg per day as my body adjusted to it. The adjustment period was tough. The first day that I took it I spent the evening vomiting and then proceeded to sleep for 24 hours. There are no capsules for 10mg so I had to take a foul tasting liquid, which made me gag – the only tolerable solution was to mix it with half a litre of orange juice. I went onto the full dose, 20mg capsules, a week later and began to feel an improvement by week 2. I was sometimes given Prozac by the pharmacist, other times generic fluoxetine but I’ve never noticed a difference between the two except when I was accidentally prescribed liquid fluoxetine which seemed to go through my system within a couple of hours, leaving me to feel like death by mid morning.

I had such horrible side effects at times that I wanted to come off it much to the dismay of my psychiatrist, but she managed to convince me that the benefits outweighed the side effects – it was either dire mental illness or physical sickness. With fluoxetine I became a semi-functioning human, at times I could completely forget the chronic severe depression. Of course it didn’t stop my friends fighting, my teachers wearing me down or my parents making me feel worthless but it took away some of the pain. Infact at times I was numb, and scarily so considering I never felt happiness nor anger or many of the other emotions that make us human but the honest truth was I would have probably already killed myself if it wasn’t for fluoxetine. Fluoxetine was a tool that allowed me to keep going until I was out of the situation causing me turmoil. 

The fluoxetine was so good at masking my problems that my psychiatrist tried to take me off it when I was 15 with disastrous effect which I’m pretty sure I’ve wrote about before. After that I ended up on 30mg for six months which is rare for a 15 year old. I remember nothing from the period when I took 30mg. Depression has given me memory issues so my memories of ages 13-15 are very shaky but it’s like the time when I took 30mg never happened. There is little to no evidence that 30mg actually helps according to my psychiatrist so I was wrong to push for 30mg.

I had some pretty common side effects, others were stranger. For example, I had the weirdest dreams – sometimes nightmares that would make me wake up screaming and sleep paralysis. I never really had many dreams until I started on fluoxetine; maybe once a week, but it turned into two or three dreams per night with fluoxetine. The normal side effects that I experienced were extreme tiredness (it effectively cured my insomnia) and appetite issues, although I wonder if that’s more to do with puberty.

It became clear I was ready to come off fluoxetine this year. My situation has changed a lot, I’m  a lot busier giving me less time for negative thoughts and I have plans for the future. Most importantly I actually agreed with coming off my medication instead of feeling pressurised and scared like I had in 2015 when the first attempt was made.

So far depression hasn’t returned but my insomnia has come back in full force. I’ve had noticeably more migraines (although I forgot to take my migraine prevention tablets for a few days so I doubt the lack of fluoxetine is too blame) and less dreams. I felt less bloated at first but I haven’t ate very well the last week so I feel a bit heavier now but I haven’t weighed myself so I can’t confirm that. A lot of these changes are due to myself returning to a full timetable at college so I can’t blame all these changes on withdrawal. 

Of course I’m no medical professional so please don’t take anything I say as gospel and listen to your doctor. Many people experience no side effects at all and despite the negatives, fluoxetine was a life saviour for me. Hopefully things will regulate soon and I’ll be able to report back in a month or two on how things are going.

First Driving Lesson Advice

I recently had my first driving lesson so I thought I’d give a few pointers to those who are about the begin the journey to their licence…

  1. Make sure your instructor has dual controls – I’ve heard of driving instructors not having dual controls (a brake and accelerator on the passenger side) but it takes a lot of pressure off when they do
  2. Wear appropriate shoes – something with a thin sole so you can feel how much pressure you’re applying to the pedals.
  3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – that coming directly from my driving instructor
  4. Some people need more lessons than other – some people can pass their test after five lessons, others do 20+ and still fail
  5. If your instructor gets angry, get a new one – an instructor should offer encouragement instead making you even more stressed
  6. Your first lesson will be in a quiet residential area with wide roads – some driving instruction businesses will even have private roads for you to learn on
  7. Don’t worry if you get information overload – your instructor should repeat the information as you carry out the action

You may think this is all a bit rich coming from someone who doesn’t have their licence yet but I couldn’t find much other advice than “Don’t wear high heels” so I thought maybe my experience would help someone. Trust your driving instructor and you’ll do great!