Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Magic Numbers...

Three is a magic number, yes it is, it's a magic number. Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity you get three as a magic number. The past and the present and the future. Faith and hope and charity, the heart and the brain and the body, give you three as a magic number. It takes three legs to make a tri-pod or to make a table stand. It takes three wheels to make a vehicle called a tricycle. Every triangle has three corners, every triangle has three sides, no more, no less, you don't have to guess. When it's three you can see it's a magic number. A man and a woman had a little baby (yes, they did). They had three in the family, and that's a magic number. 3-6-9, 12-15-18, 21-24-27, 30. 3-6-9, 12-15-18, 21-24-27, 30. – Three, the Magic Number; School House Rock

Do you remember School House Rock? I LOVED School House Rock. My favorites always had to do with Grammar or History. I was never ever a fan of the math songs. As long as I can remember mathematics has pushed me into a place of angst and panic. I remember the third grade. Miss Peterson’s class. (Random—Peterson went on to date and marry my 7th grade teacher Mr. Grandson. This was quite the scandal. The wedding was in the 8th grade, we were all invited.)

Attempting to learn multiplication tables was one of the most traumatizing experiences I have ever had. No, I’m not kidding nor am I exaggerating. The aforementioned Peterson, useless. My parents were not only useless but they were abusive to boot. I have such vivid memories sitting at the dining room table with the flash cards and them taking turns being either verbally or physically abusive when I, inevitably, got the answer wrong. We’ve all heard the verse from Corinthians right? The one about love?

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails...But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.-1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 13

My parents did the opposite of all that. They were just…mean. I can remember my mother asking me why I was so stupid. I can remember my father screaming that I was just not trying. And of course I remember the hitting. Not my father, my mother. She had this move that she did. It was a swoop down and gets her shoe move. It was scary, because I knew what was coming next. Eventually they just sort of gave up. I was eight. My parents give up trying to help me when I was 8 years old. Shame on them. The problem with that was I never got the foundation I needed for what was coming next. I struggled horribly for years with Math. When I got to college I managed to skip it and put it off and put it off. Eventually I gave up on myself. When working, I would do whatever I could to push off any math to colleagues.

When I decided that I would finish my college education, I learned very quickly that there would be none of that at The College of the Damned, at Overpriced University. I have attempted to take math no less than five times. Five times. I wish I could describe the frustration and mind numbing fear, which completely takes over. I would dread going to class, because I knew that I would not be able to keep it together. It was humiliating. A very kind professor suggested to me that I might have a mathematics related learning disability. Great, just what I need in my life, to be a math retard. However, when I thought about it, I thought… umm no, this is GREAT! If it turns out that I have math related learning disability my whole life (as it relates to math and numbers) would make sense. I hit the ground googling and guess what. It’s a real thing. Dyscalculia is a real thing. (Angels singing) Think Dyslexia for numbers. The more I read the more I seemed to have just about every single symptom.

•Frequent difficulties with arithmetic—Check!
•Difficulty with everyday tasks like reading analog clocks—Check!
•Inability to comprehend financial planning or budgeting, sometimes even at a basic level; for example, estimating the cost of the items in a shopping basket or balancing a checkbook---Not so much. While I am bad with money, it’s because I spend too much. I do this ok.
•Difficulty with multiplication-tables, and subtraction-tables, addition tables, division tables, mental arithmetic, etc—Check! Hello, 3rd grade!
•Difficulty with conceptualizing time and judging the passing of time. May be chronically late or early—Check! Early like it’s not even funny.
•Particularly problems with differentiating between left and right—Check! I am the worst at this.
•Might do exceptionally well in a writing related field — many authors and journalists have this disorder. —Check! (I’m going for it, check god dammit, I can write)
•Difficulty navigating or mentally "turning" the map to face the current direction rather than the common North=Top usage—Check! Check. I have to do this with legends all the time. (Remember Joey, from Friends? He had to get IN the map)
•Having particular difficulty mentally estimating the measurement of an object or distance (e.g., whether something is 10 or 20 feet away). —Check! Check! 2 ft, 6 ft, I don’t know.
•Often unable to grasp and remember mathematical concepts, rules, formulas, and sequences—Check!
•Inability to concentrate on mentally intensive tasks—Check!
•Low latent inhibition, i.e., over-sensitivity to noise, smell, light and the inability to tune out, filtering unwanted information or impressions. Might have a well-developed sense of imagination due to this (possibly as cognitive compensation to mathematical-numeric deficits). —Check! I can smell a banana a mile away and the smell makes me retch. My imagination is crazy. The things that I can conjure up.
•Mistaken recollection of names. Poor name/face retrieval. May substitute names beginning with same letter. —Actually not so much. I’m pretty good at names and faces.

I also read that people who have dyscalculia are clumsy. Likely because they can’t judge the distance, but I am hella clumsy. As I kid, I feel down. A LOT.

Anyway, this summer I decided that I would find out for sure, did I or didn’t I? Well boys and girls, the results are in, it is official. I have dyscalculia and I could not be happier. I thought that being diagnosed with a learning disability would make me feel bad or stupid, but I don’t! I feel pretty stellar. Clearly, I wish that I didn’t have this problem. However, like it or not, it is my problem to deal with. My little problem with math has a real name. This makes all difference in the world to me. I felt so…stupid for so long for no reason.

I have opted to forgive the ‘rents on this one. They didn’t know. They should have done a better job and helping me, but they didn’t know any better. Shrinker had suggested that I tell them. But I don’t need to. This was for me. I am certain that the College of the Damned will make sure that I take math in some shape or form, but they have to give me an accommodation. I am A-OK with that.

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