*Spanish for ‘What did you say?”
By now if you’ve been reading this series I hope you have an understanding that some types of anxiety are like permanent fixtures in your life. I’d like you to consider that for some people, anxiety is simply part of their internal operating system, sort of like Windows on a computer. It’s hardwired into the machine and unless you are really savvy, everything you do on the computer is filtered through that system.
Ever notice that there are times when your computer slows down and starts to do odd things? It takes a long time to open a new page, it gets stuck loading your Facebook feed, you get the Google ‘Aw Snap’ message? That’s usually because there is something running in the background that you are unaware of, something that is using a lot of the computer’s resources that keeps it from functioning optimally. When that happens, your computer can begin to be frustrating.
Anxiety is just like that. When there is a chronic, underlying issue that takes up a lot of psychological or physical resources, anxiety tends to interfere with optimal functioning even more and those ‘background applications’ make anxiety worse. This ‘background application’ could be chronic pain, or a health issue. It could be a set of belief systems that contribute to your internal anxious thinking. It could be chronic job stress or an inability to focus and pay attention (such as in Attention Deficit Disorder, which is a real thing). For me, the background program that sucks up a lot of my resources, creates stress, and therefore makes my anxiety more difficult is my considerable hearing loss.
Remember that anxiety exists in the system of your entire being: the mind, the body, the spirit. It works like ‘trickle down economics’ is supposed to but doesn’t: If one part of the system is in a state of tension, it causes tension in the other parts of the system. And what happens when there is chronic tension? Amy G. Dala sits up and takes notice. (Remember, we are really simplifying here.) Pretty much anything that makes a person feel more vulnerable in the world is food for anxiety.
Hearing loss is the invisible disability. Invisible to others, that is, because I guarantee you that people who have it don’t ever forget it’s there. Consider the following conversation, which I am making up but which is also completely plausible. The place: a gathering of cruisers where we are the new people. There’s a lot of background noise and many conversations going on at the same time.
Cruiser to me, talking over the noise: How was your passage?
Me: Massage? Yes, that would be great! Do you know someone?
Cruiser: No, PASSAGE? Were there any storms?
Me: Warm? Yes, I find it downright hot here. I imagine we’ll get used to that, but the humidity is killing me.
Cruiser: OK. (trying another tack and moving away just a bit) How long do you plan to cruise?
Me: Oh, this bruise? That’s just where I knocked my arm against the corner in the galley during a bit of a rough patch. It looks worse than it is. Just part of living on a boat.
Cruiser: I think I hear my mother calling. See you later.
Ah, it would be funnier if it weren’t also true. Emily Litella, anyone?
What that cruiser might think she is witnessing is a daft woman who can’t seem to answer simple questions or follow a conversation. Maybe she is thinking, “What’s wrong with this woman? Isn’t she listening to me?” What’s really happening is that I will be focusing almost all of my internal resources on hearing and understanding what she is saying. Because of the background noise, I will be watching her lips and trying to read them. On the whole, I will just be attempting to fit in like a normal person. And that will take a great deal of my energy.
I’m very good at telling people that I don’t hear well, but I cannot always count on others to speak up or look at me when they talk. Why should they have to remember to treat me any differently than they treat others? Always having to ask for that gets to be its own level of exhausting. The constant straining to hear and understand, the constant decoding of words and matching sounds to known language, is a background program that runs continuously until I take my hearing aids out at night. Blessed relief. You know what’s a good day for me? A good day is being alone at my house with no one to listen to. I can completely relax. You can see how that would begin to interfere with all kinds of things.
What does all this have to do with Spanish? Just this. It’s already hard enough for me to decode language that is my native tongue. Many times, by the time I’ve figured out what the person is saying to me, they’ve already moved on in their own mind to the next thing. Ever notice that when you have to ask someone to repeat a joke it’s not as much fun for them the second time around? It’s just not worth asking. There’s that fleeting look of irritation that is completely unconscious in people, but I notice it. It makes me feel bad for having to ask. If it seems unimportant, I’ll just pretend I understood and move on.
If someone is speaking words that have no template in my brain because they are literally foreign to me, it’s going to be that much harder for me to figure out what they are saying. You know what? I’m not looking forward to that. To me, it just feels like one more way that I’m going to be depending on Mike: he has preternaturally, disgustingly good hearing. He can hear a owl hoot from across town. Do you know when the last time was I heard an owl hoot without trying? I forgot. That’s how long.
So the continual psychic drain of personal issues that are chronically running in the background of your being contributes to tension in the body, and that sends the message that all is not well. Amy G. Dala sits up and takes notice. That’s the take home from today’s blog post. If you have anxiety, think about some of your background programs and ask yourself if and how they may be making your anxiety worse, especially if they are the kind that make you feel vulnerable in the world.
In my case, Mike and I will take a language class when we get to Mexico. We understand that there is a good one in La Paz that many cruisers have recommended. I’ll have my phone with a translation app as well. Maybe flash cards I can whip out when the going gets tough. If worse comes to worse, I can wear a T-shirt that says, ‘Just speak slowly and clearly, in English.’ Or maybe, “I’m not really a bitch. I just can’t hear you.” Too much? Ok, maybe not, then.
Just joined us for the A to Z Challenge? Want to read all about anxiety from the very beginning? Sure you do.