AKA, How To Keep On Track Without Being Self Ableist And Self Destructive
So, my eyes refused to work yesterday, and they are battling with me today. Since I am feeling terribly discouraged, I decided — because I have to do this emotional work anyways — it would be good to make a post I can share about it, so that I am continuing some sort of consistent update to the website.
I suppose the first thing to start with is outlining the limits my body and brain place on me in regards to writing consistently. This has nothing to do with external factors such as the amount of hours in the day, or scheduling around other people and appointments; this is all about my battle with myself and trying to find a healthy compromise in the middle. Key word being healthy.
For the most part, my biggest issues are:
- insomnia and/or inconsistent sleep cycle
- back pain
- poor focus/concentration
- poor executive functioning
- hyperfocus and obsession with task completion
But I want to break this list down into a different pattern, one that is more honest for the problem at hand. I want to arrange these issues as sources and consequences.
- hyperfocus and obsession with task completion
- exotropia — from hyper focusing on screens
- migraines — from eye strain from being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
- insomnia and/or inconsistent sleep cycle — lack of sleep from being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
- back pain — from not moving while being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
- poor focus/concentration — from not sleeping or remembering ADHD meds from being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
- poor executive functioning — from not sleeping or remembering adrenal support from being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
- hyperfocus and obsession with task completion — from inflammation from allergies and the cycle feeding itself from being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
- perfectionism — neurosis building and justifying being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
- depression — from mental and physical neglect from being stuck in the hyperfocus mode
Probably not the take you were expecting when reading this post, where I started off complaining about how eye strain is preventing me from getting shit done. But that’s the thing; the eye strain isn’t preventing anything. I got shit done at the expense of my health, and the eye strain and migraines are a consequence of that. Because I have behavioral aspects to my neurological wiring that make task completion dangerous to my health.
Oh, to be clear, it’s not the “they worked themselves into an early grave because they couldn’t get their stress under control” issue. I’m addicted to task completion and I don’t know how to balance a life with doing a thing. This is my default. I will always neglect my health to complete (or work toward the completion of) a task. And I do not have the skill set to balance that yet.
Somewhere within the autism and OCD is a pattern of behavior when it comes to task completion that is absolutely self-destructive for me. And it is something that I know I will be struggling with forever. This is who I am on a base chemical level. This is who I am.
I can highlight the problem quite easily in regards to playing video games, something that I don’t do anymore. I play suduko these days, and that’s it, solely because it’s extremely short, and there is only one way to win it, and winning does not level into another challenge, another game.
The last time I played a proper video game — and thank fuck it was a shortish one — I didn’t sleep for days until I completed it. It was years after I stopped playing video games. My partner bought it for me for my birthday, and became so concerned for me, he kept trying to get me to leave the house, just to get away from it. Once I finished the game and saw that it had another mode after winning, I realized I had to throw it out, that I was going to kill myself if I didn’t remove it from my life completely.
This has to do with the way my brain will find a shape with repetition and hold that shape, getting stuck. Once in that shape, I will hyperfocus, feeding off the neurotransmitters I’m gaining as I’ve adapted to the task, repeating the task for the reward of those neurotransmitters indefinitely until I am finally pulled away to see that I have completely neglected my health and my life.
Hyperfocus comes easily for me even with the ADHD. It’s how I learn to do new things while many others will skim the surface of something but be unable to stick with it long enough to really gain the pattern required to learn something. I joke about my inner animal being a rhinoceros, ever since young, blind and stumbling in a direction with such determination, not seeing the obstacles, not hearing the voices that say you can’t do it, not feeling any blow that might hold me back. And that can seem really positive to have such willpower as you focus on a task and get it done, but there is a cost to having this be my default.
I can pick the wrong direction and keep going. I don’t naturally have the ability to stop and take stock and see that I haven’t slept, or eaten, and that I’ve neglected my personal life. And even when I do have that ability to stop, my brain is still in the pattern of going, of completing that task. And it is very good at finding ways to convince me that I should complete the task so I can be free of this trapped state.
But Once I’m Free? Once I Inevitably Complete A Task?
My brain is still stuck in the shape, in the neurological pattern, and I still have to figure out how to task switch after days or months of focusing on one thing that has managed to arrange my brain in a pattern. And honestly, it can just be a matter of hours, yet stepping out of that state is still the hardest thing ever.
I just want to go back into it. I don’t want to have to feel the pain of my body, or face the complexities of the life that is crashing down around me because I’ve neglected it, or even the complexities of thought that are required for things that are not so single-minded. There is a great escape in being allowed to think about only one thing for hours and not have to face the difficult world we all live in. And my neurological wiring is rewarded on so many different levels when I hyper focus. Shit, I get paid to escape.
I become the task in the way my brain and muscles remember through constant repetition, and I can come back to any task later, reconnect those connections with a little work, and it’s all there, waiting. I get to do so many different things; be these things. I know who I am in those moments… And if I’m a person outside of all of that, I have no fucking clue. I have never hyper focused on day to day life. Being a person is being lost without a task to do.
My brain is an organic computer in a body that has no actual innate purpose to have that computer; it’s just there, insisting on systematizing a chaos that is absolutely supposed to be chaotic.
Where It Went Wrong This Week
I stumbled into a couple issues this week I wasn’t prepared for. I didn’t even notice some of them until writing this now — which is why this process is so damn important. It’s essential to stop and really look at how it goes wrong to properly problem solve.
The short version is that after 2 days of writing, I told myself to rest my eyes when I woke up with a migraine starting yesterday. But instead, when the meds got it under control, I decided to do some coding, which triggered the neurosis long into the morning, leaving me with my eyes again screaming at me today.
And that could have been it, could have been really straight forward… but I looked around my house today, and I saw it was mess. I hadn’t been keeping up with tidying each night before bed. And I hadn’t remembered to eat — breakfast had been a slice of bread the last 3 days to let me take my meds without putting a hole in my stomach, and I hadn’t had any lunch. I repeatedly kept forgetting my second round of hydrocortisone.
I wasn’t sleeping well cuz I was trying to fix my sleep cycle so I would be awake during daylight hours — didn’t take, btw. And I had stayed up late on day 2 to edit a blog post without thinking of the consequences, which was probably why my eyes hurt on day 3. And I had been putting way too many emotional and self worth ideals on me getting back to writing, which was making me push myself blindly toward some lofty goal and feel like shit if I didn’t achieve it in the one way that my perfectionist side was insisting upon.
I had neglected my life at some point in the course of the first two days of writing, and it took another day and another headache for me to stop and see I had already fucked it all up and didn’t know how to solve it. After promising myself I would be watching to prevent my self-destructive tendencies from taking over.
So here we are, day 4 of writing, only having written for 2 days, trying to figure out how I’m going to do this without destroying myself. Because I don’t actually know how. I just know that I have all intentions of figuring it out while having little experience in doing so.
This Is Exactly What I’ve Been Worried About
The main reason I haven’t been writing these last 2 years isn’t the executive dysfunction. It was the wake-up call I got when my working memory and executive functions broke 3 years ago, and I found myself staring at a wall every day not knowing what I was supposed to do. I had to make what I called an executive functioning board where I created note cards of tasks that needed to be done. Like taking my meds and supplements, having breakfast, doing laundry, getting dressed, cleaning, grocery shop, etc. I had to do that for months upon months, checking that board of mundane tasks after each was done, so that I could be a person living a life.
I started to see how much time it took. I started to notice how these were things that rarely got done when I was writing. Not just on the day of writing, but when my mind was in the pattern of writing. And it was so much worse when I was making art. Art was as destructive as video games to my brain. I would wake up, wake up my computer, and go right to where I had left off before bed when I was making digital art. And I would work on that art until long into the morning hours until I was too tired and would fall asleep. That would happen for days straight until I finished the piece, and then I would find something else to art because my brain was happy to be repeating a pattern, no matter the consequences of health and life.
When my executive functioning broke to the point that I could barely do anything, I was forced to truly stop for months upon months. It was only then that I was willing to face that I had never successfully negotiated with this obsessive aspect of my brain. I had only ever neglected my life around it. Every single time.
I Don’t Know What I’m Doing
The only way I know how to deal with this part of me is what I did with the video games; not interact, not engage with the element that triggers my brain into this behavior. I don’t have a skill set to deal with this, because at a base chemical level this is my default. I become addicted to doing tasks.
Right now, I’m trying to manage the consequences as I get back to writing, because that seemed like a logical take. I had hoped the ADHD treatment would give me adequate neurotransmitters support so that my brain might not fall into this pattern of behavior. It doesn’t seem to be the case.
The reality is, I need to do this. I need to be allowed to function in the world doing the things I love whether my brain turns it into an obsessive mess or not. To feel fulfilled as a human being, I need to be able to do the things I love to do. It’s just… what I’m battling is so bizarre, so impossible and unyielding.
It grows strong as I grow strong, and loses power as it steals all my energy and neglects my health. It decides a lot of my perspectives on the things I do, especially in the moment. Especially my priorities and values when I am in the grip of a task.
And once when I break free and step out to face the consequences, I find myself in a society that champions this self-destructive aspect of me. That feeds the obsession, and normalizes it, and suggests I’m not going far enough. That instead, I’m just the wrong broken form housing this addictive will, and if only my form were stronger, or better at time management, and could do all the things that it is impossible to do at once, everything will be fine. That my inability to find balance has nothing to do with the fact I’m dealing with a dangerous behavioral aspect of myself that would destroy me, but instead that I am lacking as a human being on some level because I am struggling at all.
Having all this time off from writing as I learn more about my autism and ADHD has helped. It has shown me that life is more than just doing things. But it doesn’t solve the neurological wiring. It doesn’t make my default healthy every time I go to do a thing. It sure as fuck doesn’t stop the gas lighting of an end-stage capitalist society that would watch us all die just to reach some dumbfuck productivity metric. (Did we do it efficiently enough? Could we have reached environmental collapse faster? Come on, people, synergize!)
Solutions Require Looking At The Problem
Did I sit down to write a plan of how to move my days around when this happens so that I can adapt around the migraines that result from writing too much? Yeah, because that’s my brain digging in, trying to modulate the consequences while still doing the things. And yeah, it’s something I will likely do, because I want to stick with this. But I’ve lost two days of writing, and what I really need to do is work on my mindset as to why I think that way when I absolutely spent yesterday working on my business and coding, and today writing and figuring out why I’m falling behind in taking care of myself while writing.
The neurosis, the perfectionist — the self destructive ableist — who is ingrained deep inside me thinks I need to be more of a computer, and to do things in such a way, instead of accepting that a whole person is involved in what I do.
I hope this gets easier. Not the consequences of when I fuck up — clearly I need them to see I’ve gotten off path because otherwise I will check out of my life indefinitely. No, just to notice that I’m losing myself and switch out. I think that’s what I really need to find. The reset out of a hyper focus brain shape activity.
This is the first fucking week, and it’s not my eyes that have failed me. It’s me for not sleeping enough, for not taking breaks, or stopping and putting more time into my personal life on my writing days. I ignored the self worth I was feeding into getting back to writing, and as a result, I ignored that I was justifying blowing through my healthy boundaries because “productive = valuable person.”
I need to schedule a healthy life in — not out of a neurotic need, but because when I’m stuck in the neurosis, I can’t see anything beyond the task. It is my world, my identity. I need something to be able to break my obsessive brain open and let me out, not once every week, but repeatedly throughout each day. I don’t know what that is — I don’t know if it even exists. But it’s my job to find it.