How I found my new “normal”

After contracting Covid in December of 2020, I realized that I had some comprehension difficulties to add to the list of ongoing strangeness that was my “normal”. Now in my 50s, I was still trying to finish my AA in college – never really feeling like I was learning and constantly searching for the right career path. I had lost my job as a budget analyst due to Covid, leaving me depressed and uncertain about my future. I had struggled with anxiety, panic attacks, stomach issues, and social anxiety among other issues for years.

While I was taking the extra time I had to finish my AA and figure out what was going on with me, I stumbled upon a link to Ronald Davis’ “The Gift of Dyslexia”. I had always thought Dyslexia was only reading letters or numbers backwards. This had occurred, but not to the extent that I identified with this condition.

Once I started reading through what dyslexia actually entailed, I realized that I had many of the characteristics. For years I struggled with pronunciation, I was considered “shy” but I was actually terrified of speaking improperly or having “strange” ideas. My now-adult children and husband always helped me when I was explaining something and could not think of the right word, where we had gone, or the name of a person. I would make up “nicknames” for things so I could remember them. I never remembered sequences for processes and in a career of accounting/bookkeeping I was constantly reviewing post-it’s and notes for the correct order even though I had done it many times.

I had been successfully employed all of my life, but I could never get ahead in my accounting career because of these issues. So, in my excitement of the possibility that there could be a solution, I reached out to a Davis Facilitator, Jacalyn Stewart, for help. Within a month, I was at her lovely location and ready to spend eight hours a day for six days to figure out just what exactly I had and methods to work with this condition.

his (“his mom loved him”)

Something I realized very quickly with my Davis program was that I do not need glasses. I had spent years of my adult life trying to find the right pair of glasses. Depending on the day, the prescription would change by a fraction. I could not read menus in restaurants nor could I do my work without them. When I would go to the eye doctor and complain, they would give me a very low prescription for reading and sometimes for distance as well.

When I used the tools I was taught in the Davis program, I could see just fine. I found out that the letters were moving around and blurry not because I had any vision impairment, but because I was dyslexic. It wasn’t easy, but with my Facilitator’s kind and gentle guidance (and a lot of patience) I learned methods to help focus and I have not worn any glasses for over two months! Although from time to time, my vision blurs and the letters start to move again, I remember my Davis focusing tools. Within moments I am able to read just fine again.

The second major change came with my ability to function in social settings. For years, I was physically ill and completely overwhelmed at parties, meetings, and restaurants. I became very anxious, withdrawn, and hypersensitive to noise. If alcohol was available, I always took it so that I could appear “normal” and try and blend in better. My Facilitator took me to a restaurant and we went through the tools I could use to focus, function, and even enjoy myself. With each step I became more self-aware, focusing on our conversation, slowing down my mind, and lowering “my dial”. Things were workable for the first time in my entire life. I am happy to say that I have had many successful and enjoyable restaurant, party, and professional social gatherings since I finished my Davis program!

I also learned that I was a visual thinker and many of my issues with memory, retention and “normal” processes were because of this. I had spent years trying to learn things traditionally and was constantly frustrated. I was able to do well if I had multiple choice, but I could not regurgitate the information easily in an essay form or verbal questioning. I had adapted to remembering things with “nicknames” so on a multiple-choice test, as long as it was not a spelling test or the words were not spelled similarly, I could do well. Technically, this was double the work, but because I think very quickly nobody ever noticed.

at (“play a game at the table” “look at what time it is”)

I learned that I do not have a bad memory I just do not think in words, I think in pictures. This interfered with my reading process as well. Actually, I was not reading the words as words but I was creating pictures, and this is what caused the issues with my ability to recite the information to someone else. My pictures were not specific enough to identify terms, so I needed guidance on how to retain information.

One of my exercises with my Facilitator was making the alphabet with clay. Using my tools, I was able to remember/visualize the alphabet both forwards and backward. To this day I can still verbalize the alphabet backwards! It was amazing to realize that I can memorize information just as well as anyone else, I just need to do it differently.

By the time my six days ended I was truly exhausted, but excitedly hopeful. My time with my Facilitator was difficult and tiring but I learned new ways of doing things I had been attempting to do forever. At the same time, her nurturing way was like a cozy blanket and a cup of hot cocoa to help get through it all. She became my “cheerleader” and I always think back to her saying “you got this” when things start to get crazy.

In the following weeks we continued, and still continue to work, on enhancing my understanding of the tools and how to use them as issues arise. I see my Facilitator almost weekly on a Zoom call and go over what I have done and what I need to do to help me be successful.

I know there are other adults out there that are much like me, and I hope that my experience will give them the courage and understanding to reach out for help. I owe so much to my Facilitator for helping me through things that were never right, for helping me have self-confidence in who I am even though I think differently, and for supporting me as I continue to work on who I am and how I work best.

Kristiina worked with Davis Facilitator Jacalyn Stewart, the owner of Lifelong Learning Solutions in Santa Barbara, California)