Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Have I told you about my memory?

...I can't remember.

My brain is like a messy room.

Sometimes, I know exactly where to find information and I walk straight to the correct drawer to access a memory. Other times, I spend a while rummaging around in different cupboards, bins, and under the bed to remember something. I might see it out of the corner of my eye, but when I go over to it, it's gone. More often than I'd like, I stand in the middle of the room with the door closed, unable to figure out the muffled conversation from the other side, or completely distracted by something I just found that I thought I'd lost, so the thing I was looking for rolls off the desk and suddenly I realize that I wasn't paying attention. What did you say? Never mind, I'll try to figure it out as you keep talking so I don't feel embarrassed by drawing attention to my inattentiveness.

Most people probably do not have systems to keep their systems in place. I have to decide that I am going to make a habit, like keeping my keys in only a few specific spots so I don't lose them. At any given moment, I might decide that a location makes perfect sense and of course I'll remember where they are. You can probably figure out that doesn't work most of the time. My currently used purse, a purse that lives on the shoe bench, and my pocket/belt loop are the only acceptable places to leave my keys. Yesterday, I put them in the pocket of my sweatshirt and then later left them on the dining room table at my parents' house. Of course, I spent a minute racking my brain to figure out where I'd gone and where I might have "wisely" left them. I also couldn't remember where I parked my car when I left work because I swore the place that I parked it was where it was yesterday, not today after I got back from my appointment. That's fortunately a rare occurrence. Stress makes it worse.

The system to keep my key system in place is "don't forget you have a key system," which really isn't any easier than remembering where I left my keys in the first place. It just makes me feel like I'm a little more organized, even as I'm dashing back and forth through the apartment, picking up things I need before I go out and unable to subconsciously prioritize so I don't have to go back to the same room for something else a minute later. The hardest part of all this for other people to understand seems to be that none of it is by choice. My brain is just wired this way and I have to make the best of it.

The combination of depression, anxiety, possible ADHD, executive dysfunction, and habits built on all of those things are... interesting, to say the least. Let's not also forget soft-spoken because that is an important part of how this affects my relationships with other people.

I got into the habit of repeating myself during conversations because

  • I speak quietly, but it sounds like a perfectly reasonable volume to my ears so I don't try to adjust it much
  • People wouldn't respond to or acknowledge my comment so I figured they didn't hear me
  • My anxiety told me that people were ignoring me so I should try again
  • My depression thinks that people don't like me so they don't answer me
  • My executive dysfunction would have me repeat my comment without me consciously deciding to because of the habits ingrained from all of the above
  • If I really want to be heard, I sometimes try to raise my voice a little, which my anxiety worries is making my friends annoyed with me
  • I often misjudge how loud I am and feel like I am being really rude, even if what I have to say is important
  • If I give up on being heard, I feel depressed and like my friends don't care about me

It's only after I've repeated myself that I realize I've done it and most of the time it just seems so natural that I don't think about it at all. "They definitely didn't hear me, let me try again." "I can't tell if they're ignoring me, let me try again." "I really want someone to respond to me, let me try again." It's involuntary, I can't slow my thoughts down enough to figure out if it's necessary to repeat, and my anxiety makes it too difficult to assess whether the concerns about people's response/lack of response to me is rational/real.

Another fascinating commonplace occurrence in my mind is losing my train of thought. People have different ways of picking up the thread of a thought. Mine is to mentally walk through any part of the conversation I can remember until I get to the topic at hand. Sometimes, I get to the end of the rails and the train is there, but I keep slipping on the steps and somehow that means I have to go back to the beginning until I can latch on.

So, welcome to my brain. This is why I'm in the midst of getting tested for ADHD. While I definitely fit the mold for the "inattentive type", I can see how my brain's processes could be considered "hyperactive". My doctor described the way medication for ADHD works; the medication essentially calms the brain down so things can be processed at a reasonable and accessible pace. It's not a sedative, but somehow its stimulating properties work better for those hyperactive brains. Weird and cool!

While it's easy to categorize people with labels & types because we can have so many similarities, the way minds work can be so varied. It's a shame it's not discussed more because I find it fascinating! It can be a little difficult to think about thinking and figure out how to talk about it too.

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