The Dark Side of Learning Struggles

Thank you, Torin, for opening your heart.  Thank you for telling us about the dark side of learning dysfunctions.   And, thank you for showing us the way “up and out!’

                 Humor is good for the soul.

If you look up the definition of a strong, supportive family, you are certain to find a cheery photo of Torin’s family. These Irish folk live with gusto and give with abandon!  Torin could not have been born into a better home.  Yet, despite all the familial undergirding, Torin’s mind and emotions slipped into “dark places” as his learning struggles persisted.  This is the story of Torin’s struggle and triumph.  It is his bully pulpit to the world.  Hear his message: “People who learn differently are NOT stupid!”

My Harry Potter Days
Reading, reading, reading!   It drove me crazy.  I just couldn’t catch on to it.  Every time I would look at the words on a page, they would shimmer and blur.  I remember being ten years old and kids teasing me, mercilessly.  It was very painful to be reading easy readers at ten years old. As a result, I did everything in my power to keep my reading struggle a secret. During breaks at my karate class, students would sit around and do homework.  I certainly didn’t want to appear different, so I would take out my big Harry Potter book and pretend to read.  I don’t know if I fooled a few kids; I certainly didn’t fool myself.  My mom worked tirelessly to find just the right reading program, therapy, etc. that would unlock my prison.  I tried them all, but my reading continued to be shaky.  Night and day, I felt like I wanted to give up!  My one solace was the great outdoors.  From the time I was a preschooler, I lived outside.  It was my escape from the books and what society expected of me.  Surrounded by nature, my imagination soared.  During these times, I would ponder my dilemma.  I would explain to my mom that my brain was trying to learn.  It was as if my brain was a wall, covered in glue; however, some patches had already dried, so when instruction was thrown at the wall, elements would either slide down or stick - depending upon which part of the wall they struck.  Unfortunately, most of the instruction didn't stick. The games I invented were endless, but  time was marching on and something had to change.  I knew that I was getting older, and the games had to be left behind because the "world" expected academics from me.

inTime a Fresh Coat of Glue
I am very grateful for all that I have received.  My parents have provided me with many wonderful interventions, and I have been lucky to have had wonderful therapists, too.  I've  gained something valuable from each one. They've  helped me to understand "who I am."  They have also helped me to understand that "I can do anything if I take it one step at a time."  Here are a few of my brain retraining therapies:  vision therapy, inTime sound/music therapy, craniosacral therapy, chiropractics, nutritional counseling, and more.  Looking back, I realize that each modality played a part in rewiring my brain.  The one therapy, however, that seemed to have supplied the cohesion for all my therapies was inTime by Advanced Brain Technologies.  In 2015, I met Pat Mattas, Authorized Provider of inTime.   Pat encouraged my parents to consider inTime sound/music therapy.  InTime is a rhythm-based sound/music program that uses frequency to stimulate and retrain the brain.  For me, inTime was a new coat of glue.  I pictured my brain as a blank wall covered with inTime glue.  The inTime program helped all my other therapies to stick.  Before using inTime, the gains which I made in my therapies would slip away within 24-hours.  I noticed that inTime and vision therapy worked synergistically, getting my brain prepared for learning.  My gains stayed with me.  As a result, I began to see improvements in my academics.  At last, things started working together.

The Truth about Learning Struggles
Lest my journey sounds a little too commonplace,  I want to remind you that learning struggles cut deeper than most people realize.  Even astute parents can be misled into thinking that all is well with their child.  This was true of my family.  I had my family’s full support, yet, they had no idea of the depths of my despair and how I truly wanted to throw all academics away, forever.  I wanted nothing more than to yell at the world, "Enough, no more torture!"


Permit Me to Explain
Kids can be so mean!  “Stupid” and “Retarded” are a few of the names that wounded my heart.   I lived in embarrassment.  I constantly wondered - Why am I so different?  Many times I asked –Why me?  And I thought – rather hopelessly – How will I ever get through this?  As I watched my parents spending thousands of dollars on therapies and putting their lives on hold while they tried to meet my needs, my thoughts began to spiral downward.  Like a yoga mantra, all I could hear in my head was  - You are stupid!  You are worthless!   To make matters worse, I was becoming both physically and emotionally tired of the academic battle.  As I focused on the negatives, I slid further and further into a hole in my mind that was difficult to overcome.  I was totally overwhelmed by my negativity and could not break the cycle.  When I told my mom that I was feeling stupid, she would reassure me that I was not , but  I wouldn't believe her.   All moms tell their kids that - right?


Climbing Out of the Hole
Eventually, I reached my lowest point; however, my salvation was birthed in that graveyard.  In utter frustration and desperation, I cried out for help.  I surrendered.  No more struggling.  No more effort.  I can honestly say from the moment of “letting go” – all things changed for me. I began to see the positive things in life; all the great things that I had been missing out on while wallowing in my negative thoughts.  I saw that if I tried even a little thing, I could succeed.  It was better than not trying at all.  I started to embrace the love that I have for my family as well as their love for me.  I respected all of their efforts in helping me.  I realized that there is a place for me in this world - no matter what.  I learned not to let others invade my thoughts regarding who I am or what I think.  I’ve learned these things the hard way, but I am here to help anyone who reaches out.

Torin’s Words of Wisdom -

Emotions are your warning signal.  They serve a purpose.  Do not ignore them.

You cannot recover alone. You must be honest with others and reach out for help.

Remember you have self-worth.

Negative thoughts will destroy you. 

Surround yourself with good friends and positive people.

Find something you love to do.

Find purpose in your life.

Let other people in who care.


POSTSCRIPT:   Torin is doing exceedingly well!  When I interviewed him for this piece, he shared that he plans to go to college upon graduation from Home School High School.  Torin’s interests are varied:  military, medicine, and psychology.  Whatever his final destination, Torin is committed to helping others.  I am so blessed to know him.  Torin is a very special soul!