Slower and Reading Out Loud Leads to Less of a Headache

I managed one moment of working on my reading last week with all the emotional upheaval I was in. Emotional upheaval really stalls one’s recovery. I also went over the advice I received from non-experts and forwarded it on to my neurodoc then discussed it all with him.

His first comment: do you think you’re reading slowly enough? Slowly enough?!!! Well, sigh, probably not. But I said nothing as my face eloquently shouted my frustration, grief, and fatigue. He pointed out at the rate I read at home, I quickly get a headache. Headaches lead to frustration. I also become extremely tired. Having to rest so long afterwards also frustrates me no end.

He explained with logical empathy that if I read slower, I’d do better. I’d be less frustrated. Less frustration equals my cortisol levels not rising — lower cortisol means I’ll retain what I read. So even though reading would take longer, I would retain and comprehend it, which would make my reading more productive and less frustrating. And then I wouldn’t develop a headache and have to rest so long afterwards.

He made a persuasive argument. I hated it. He gave me a pep talk on how I’m not losing my reading — I’m gaining. I have a neuroplastic brain; I’m taking my Udo’s Oil, which supports the neuroplasticity; I’m continuing with gamma brainwave training. All these things mean as I work on my reading — It. Will. Get. Better.

OK. He believes. So I’ll try.

But first…

One of the suggestions made by another non-expert was to read out loud sans listening to my voice. The idea is that reading out loud automatically slows you down. My neurodoc and I discussed how I could do that. You could wear headphones, he suggested. I would hear through my bones. Only if you have very good hearing, he said. I have excellent hearing (makes for great eavesdropping ability, heh). Hmmm, he contemplated me. I said maybe my improved auditory processing after tDCS of my Wernicke’s Area means my voice will no longer distract me if I read out loud. In any case, I read out loud to him so maybe that will translate to when I’m alone, without an audience.

He handed me a Wall Street Journal article, the most benign he could find, something that wouldn’t upset me or trigger me or make me angry. Just a literal kind of article that is all about facts. He didn’t want my emotions taking off and interfering with my reading.

I began. I read the title out loud, then the subtitle. He was pleased at how verrryyyyy s…l…o…w…l…y I read. I got weighed down by feeling like I was back in nursery school. He handed me the Kleenex box and gave me another pep talk. He believes. And I leant on that and went on to the first paragraph, at the end of which I outlined the skeleton of the article and got it right. Excellent! he exclaimed.

I read two more paragraphs at this new slower-than-ever rate. I didn’t get a headache. And so I practiced at home that way. I’m going to try two times before I see him next. The first time was better than previous homework sessions:

Reread title, sub-head, and first paragraph. Summarized to myself, but I checked as I was summarizing. Maybe a little cheating. Heh. But it was hard to stay focussed; I kept drifting off to my own life. I continued reading the article from where I left off in his office.

Skeleton: 1 min, 45 seconds.

Para 1. 27 words. 50 seconds. 1 repeat. 1.85 seconds/word. Became aware of voice.

Para 2. 62 words. 2 min, 2 seconds. 1 repeat. 1 repeat for fact. 1 reread part of a previous para. 1.97 seconds/word. Awareness of voice less.

Para 3. 29 words. 1 min, 20 seconds. 1 repeat. 1 reread part of previous para. 2.76 seconds/word. Headache starts.

Para 4. 41 words. 1 min, 8 seconds. 1 repeat for fact. 1.66 seconds/word. Headache and tired, but not feeling ill from fatigue. Losing engagement.

Read at comprehension-only level, no analysis of content. I did start to get a little angry at the content and at not having any Canadian context. Yes, it’s an American newspaper, but it was an article on a global issue. So much for being the U.S.’s biggest trading partner.

I rested for two hours after, including dozing for part of it, and I was very emotional at the end of it. I’m not sure why.

The big takeaway: slower makes it easier for my brain to take in, process, and retain — I assume that’s why my headache took longer to develop and was not as bad. But the energy consumption and required rest remain the same.

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