Social interaction. Why is it so hard? Or more exactly, what is it that makes it so demanding to me?
My life is filled with people I care about, and I want to interact with all of them. So what’s stopping me? I don’t know. Maybe that I can’t focus on more than one person at a time. Maybe that I have to think very hard and tend to spend energy on thinking about how to behave to not be a burden or annoy the other person. Maybe it’s because dialogues sometimes make me hyper. Maybe it has something to do with that my brain is such a mess and to keep focusing I have to contract every mental muscle as hard as I can to remember what we’re talking about.
It has something to do with my inability to shift focus. I can focus on writing (or sometimes talking), or I can focus on reading (or sometimes listening). But the shift from one to the other, back and forth, feels like running a mental marathon. When I have to shift focus, I don’t parse what I’m reading and thinking automatically.
It’s ironic, the focus shifting comes back in everything.
I read what people write. I ponder. Then I write something but never as an obvious reply. I rarely reply in twitter threads. I read and then I make my own thread.
Sometimes it’s easier. When I get to talk about one of the things that I care passionately about. But then I feel guilty about me taking up too much space. It’s not that I don’t want to know what the other person is thinking, it’s just that I’m not good at articulating questions. I fear that I will ask something that is too private. I don’t want to be the person that violates somebody’s privacy, because respecting boundaries is always more important than a correct conversation.
Of course, it’s also the fear of rejection. I can’t get rid of the gaze that deems me as defected. Nowadays I call myself autistic and I have found other people that are very much like me, but it doesn’t erase thirty years of being wrong.
Since a couple of weeks back, I’m off my ADHD meds. It’s not because they didn’t work, but because of side effects and a complicating condition. Before I quit taking them I had started to think that maybe they don’t do any good, maybe I don’t even have ADHD. Well, let me put it like this: They did work. I do have a problem with executive dysfunction. I really hope that I’ll be able to start taking them again but I don’t know how things are going to turn out or how many months it will take before I can start again, if I ever can. In the meantime, I need to cope with executive dysfunction more actively than I’m used to and therefore I’ll start to unpack what executive dysfunction means to me.
One of the things that hit me really hard when I went off my meds is how overwhelmed I get from any kind of demand. It’s not only that it’s way harder to come to a point of focus and start working on a task, the problem is just as much how it feels before I’ve reached that point. Before I actually can start to do something, I need to organize my messy thoughts and my lack of context. Considering the fact that I’m literally thinking of around 8-12 different things at the same time, this is a big task. I forget what I’m thinking about and I have to work myself up to try to grasp it again. When I finally reach the point of knowing what I’m about to do, why, how important it is and how I’m going to do it, I’m exhausted. Since there’s no spoons left to actually do the task, I tend to panic.
I have strategies and tools to make this easier, like task lists that are organized to give me information about priority, why and how I should do different tasks. It helps a lot and I’m very happy that I’ve spent so much time on improving this way of working. It helps me further to acknowledge that this orientating process doesn’t happen automatically to me, that I need to take this into account when I try to balance activity and recovery. However, it doesn’t make the executive dysfunction go away. Also, it doesn’t heal the wounds from all the times people have accused me of being unmotivated or avoiding demands. Needing to spend so much energy on just orientating myself enough to know what to do and how to do it is a big source of fatigue that most people who don’t have the same experience won’t understand, and that’s very painful.
No matter if I can start my ADHD meds again or not, I need to cope with the grief of being so misunderstood for thirty years, because now I’m reminded of it every day, several times a day. I still don’t know how, but I guess I’ll figure that out.
When I was a kid, me and my siblings used to play card games. Sometimes we got our parents to play with us, which was fun because with more players some games got more difficult and therefore more fun. Usually the atmosphere was friendly, at least I don’t remember anybody being upset from losing. None of us were skilled card dealers, meaning that we sometimes fumbled with the cards. For some reason this always made my dad remind us of that dropping a card while dealing wasn’t allowed back in the old Wild West. This comment was said as a joke, sometimes my dad formed his fingers to look like a gun and pretended to shoot himself in the head when he was the one fumbling. This wasn’t particularly funny but I considered it just another case of boring adult humor. Sometimes though, this was followed by something utterly weird.
In more than one of these occasions, my dad made a comment on how women like me wouldn’t survive a day in the old Wild West saloons. Meaning, women who spoke their minds and refused to conform to the traditional subordinate position expected from women. Women who were loud, wild, didn’t take orders from anyone and who questioned authorities. Women who were disobedient.
I don’t remember how old I was the first time this happened, but I can’t have been more than ten. When I think about my childhood, I have so many memories of this kind of comments from different people. Teachers, parents, relatives, and a bunch of other adults. They all made sure I knew that I was not like girls were supposed to be like. Very often, people made these comments in the same way that my dad did, not as an upfront accusation, but as a part of a joke. People sneaked it in and it always made me confused. If I confronted the person who made the comment I would prove them right. If I didn’t confront them, I was left confused. These comments made me feel ashamed, since I was obviously a faulty version of a girl.
First I cried a bit when I read this and this. No, that’s not true.
First I saw my doctor and discussed a change in meds for my ADHD. Then I used earplugs while trying to read in a café but still got a traffic jam from all the noises. Then I was upright for way too long so my POTS hit me and I almost fainted in the grocery store. Then I went home all overwhelmed and tried to calm down. Then I read the posts. Then I cried and started to think about things. Like perception and sensory overload. That my doctor didn’t seem to get how insanely demanding it will be for me to change meds. That just existing around other people is so hard.