Hydrocephalus: Do You Limit Yourself when it comes to Learning?

Written by Skye Waters 

Fear…a driver for most (negative) things in life. It’s certainly blocked me from doing a few things. In fact, had it not been for fear, I now know that nothing (physically) would have happened to me. But, I stopped myself before I could reach that point.

When I started realising that my short-term memory was shot to hell, I shied away from learning anything new. My moral compass kicked in as I saw it as a waste of company money asking for approval to do some or other course. More so, my ego was bruised after one too many failed attempts and, my confidence levels took a dive.

I remember one situation only too well where I had attempted an exam for a very highly regarded IT qualification. I failed twice…it crushed me. And, I walked away from it telling my boss (at the time), “I’ve got two blue eyes so that’s it…no more”, having just attempted a rewrite of the first exam, with exactly the same outcome. I felt like a complete and utter failure, was mad at the world, myself and mostly this condition. The fear factor only increased after this…

My brain just feels dull and non-existent when it comes to learning. It embarrasses me to no end and I feel as if “people” will judge me because of it. (Dumb right..?)

So many people just don’t get it though…

They don’t get it when you tell them your memory is affected or that you struggle with even the simplest thing like choosing between more than 1 option. They tend to brush it aside and naively compare themselves to you, there simply isn’t a comparison to be made, unless you’ve endured brain surgery. There’s probably a very small percentage, if not none at all, of individuals who haven’t suffered negatively from this sort of brain injury.

But…the reason why I’m writing about this today is that last week I challenged myself yet again (as I do). A colleague suggested I do this week-long Cyber Security course, even after we had an in-depth discussion about how I struggle with retaining information and, the reasons why. Needless to say, I attended the course and even attempted the exam on the last day. (The consolation/motivating factor being a rewrite exam offered in the total cost!).

I survived the exam and now have to wait 2 weeks for my results. I’ll admit, it was physically exhausting as my brain literally feels like it’s been through a mill. Information overload is never a good thing, not for me anyway. However, I was determined enough to see this through, regardless of the outcome. To say that fear didn’t play a part in this would be an understatement. There were just so many places where it reared its head:

Deciding to do the course or not.

Wasting company money because I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I wouldn’t retain anything.

Failing the exam and possibly the rewrite and looking like a complete Idiot in the face of my colleagues.

Trying to juggle this course, the content and home life…I felt inadequate.

Scared that going through the week, having all this new information to process AND remember, might cause an increase in my stress levels, leading to an unwanted headache, leaving me at the mercy of doctors who refuse to help. (This was probably one of my biggest fears).

I knew I needed to figure out a way to get through this, I didn’t exactly have a choice at this stage. And, I had to get through the exam!

It wasn’t easy but, there was a method in all the madness, something I discovered the night before while doing the mock exam. (Something I tried to avoid as well due to fear). I’m a visual learner and literally fall asleep if I have to read chapters in a book. If the mock exam was anything to go by, I knew I stood a chance. To my great surprise and relief, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. (I just hope and pray the results are positive).

Regardless of the outcome, I discovered some tips I’ll share with you on how I answered these multichoice questions:

I found a method of word-mapping to work best. This was something new to me and definitely not something I’d used or heard of before. As an example, if the question had the word “risk” in it and I found the same word in one of the answers (and if it made sense), I would pick that one.

If the question specifically said that a “technical” answer was required, I would rule out anything non-technical in the list of options and, focus on those which met the criteria. And so on…

I also applied the rule of thumb to identify the answers I knew for sure weren’t correct and eliminated them completely. Then, all I had to do was, focus on the remaining ones and tried to apply some common sense.

Maybe it was the way the questions were set up, maybe my recall was better than I had suspected…Remember, my long-term memory is still very much intact, at least leagues better than my short-term. I “opened” my memory box from the past, having worked in IT for most of my working career (before diagnosis). Also, because I’m analytical by nature, I applied some very useful advice others have given me along the way “Don’t overthink it”. This one pleasantly surprised me too and required me to put a little more effort in as it went against my internal grain!

Whatever it was, it seemed to do the trick because I didn’t have moments of staring blankly at the page before me, in fact, it was the opposite.

Even though I don’t have the outcome yet, I’m glad I completed the exam. I do feel more positive than negative but…fingers crossed.

Besides, the resolve I took towards the end was, why worry about it? Why try to cram every last little detail into your head right before the test? The questions are prepared already, nothing will change what you’re about to see in front of you. Stressing about it and elevating your blood pressure isn’t worth it. Besides, if you’ve made it this far, I’d say you’ve done pretty darn well for yourself already and half the battle is won.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t limit yourself when it comes to this condition and the challenges it throws your way. Obviously, I don’t mean you should put yourself in harm’s way. But, I also don’t mean that you should write yourself off as far as achieving something worthwhile or, accomplishing your goals are concerned. You can reach for your dreams just like everyone else, even if it takes you a little longer to get there. More importantly than that, if it means you do so after numerous attempts or you decide to do nothing at all, then so be it.

Tell yourself: “So what!” (whether that be that you take longer than others, don’t get as good a result as the next person, don’t make it on the first or tenth try…Who cares!). More importantly, live without limits because fear is just a bully that doesn’t exist anywhere else but in your own