Sarah s Story
Charleston, SC USA
"When I was 8 years old, I was diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder, or APD. APD is a communication problem between the ears and the brain, which can lead to problems understanding speech. Mishearing certain words in conversations has always been fairly common for me, especially in noisy backgrounds. I would respond to what I heard rather than what was actually said.
A perfect example would be during a middle school science class. I was sitting next to my classmate and, during class, we were whispering back and forth. At one point, I remember hearing her ask 'Have you ever been arrested?' I gave her a shocked look and said 'No! Of course not!' There was an awkward silence, then I asked 'Why would you ask me that?' She said 'I thought everyone liked fried rice…' Turns out she had asked me if I had liked fried rice. When she found out what I thought she’d said, she started laughing.
Encounters like this continued from middle school into high school. After I got the 'Most Likely to Not Know What is Going On' award at an employee dinner in high school, I started to feel really insecure about myself. I worried about others’ opinions of me. I began to feel more anxiety in social situations because I wasn’t sure if what I heard was correct.
I started talking to a therapist at the time about my anxieties. In one of our sessions, we established that I tended to view life through a ‘negative screen’ as she called it. When I got to college, I had a tendency to choose studying over extracurricular activities. I do remember a couple of times when I would go to the beginning of a talk or club meeting, I would start feeling really overwhelmed, probably due to the quick change in noise level, and would make my way to the nearest bathroom for a quiet space. In the bathroom, the negative thoughts would abound as I was frustrated why I felt anxious.
Eventually I began to develop a sense of shame about my social anxiety - I felt like I didn’t deserve to get involved. Also in the second semester of sophomore year I started living alone off the peninsula, and that limited the opportunities to get involved on-campus even more.
One area where my social anxiety really got to me was going to parties. It was not only because of the Auditory Processing Disorder that I avoided them, I also can’t drink because of a medical condition. Whenever I would get invited to a party, something inside me said 'You have trouble hearing and you don’t drink, why would anyone want you at a party?'
Sophomore year I remember driving to a friend’s Christmas sweater party and turning around because I was too anxious- anxious because I didn’t know most of the people there, how it would look if I didn’t drink, and because of the background noise level. So I didn’t go, and made an excuse about my car breaking down.
Come to think of it, I’ve made many excuses - out of town, feeling sick, have to study, too busy in general… One missed opportunity was an annual huge event my college hosts each year for graduating seniors and alumni. When I first walked by and saw it happening the previous year, I thought, 'That looks like too much fun! I can’t wait to go to that next year!' When tickets became available, however, I decided against it, the more I thought about it.
I ultimately decided that since I didn’t have a group of close friends or a date, it would look weird to go alone. This really upset me because I missed out on an opportunity that I had been looking forward to since junior year. After I graduated, the feeling that I had missed out on fun opportunities bothered me. I made a promise to myself that I would make more of an effort to stay in contact with friends and get involved with more extracurricular activities.
Even if I feel a little anxious meeting someone or going out, it is better than missing out and saying ‘I wish I had done that.' It is definitely a goal to work toward in the future. Also a positive attitude is essential, especially if there are setbacks.
Regardless if someone has Auditory Processing Disorder, anxiety can be challenging no matter what situation one is in. No matter how hard reaching out may seem, it is beneficial because there is a good chance you are not the only one who feels that way. A person’s condition does not define who that person is- it's what the person does regardless of their condition that defines who they are."
Photo: Cheyenne Abrams, College of Charleston Campus Representative