The noise and the hyper-focus

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, April 30, 2024, 9:44 PM | comments: 0

My head is a very noisy place. Back in January, I wrote about what this was like, and how it makes me mentally tired. In the time since, I've found that a little bit of edible weed helps in a huge way at bed time. I'm starting to sleep really well again, which is one factor that makes the daytime more energetic. Still, I feel the mental exhaustion more than I'd like. Sometimes it's where I'm at after work, if the day was particularly dense and deep into things. I often feel it on weekends, too, when I expect that I could just get into whatever I'm interested in. Instead I fallback on passive entertainment. Perhaps stubbornly, I don't want to accept that there are actual limitations to mental "bandwidth" or "batteries."

The hard thing now is that I'm trying to identify what it is that causes anxiety, and also separate that from what I sometimes think is depression. I've settled on the idea that depression is the absence of joy, and I haven't significantly experienced that in a few years now. I've greatly reduced doomscrolling, so that helps with the anxiety. I can't not be a parent, so that's a little harder to roll with. And for whatever reason, this is the year that I'm feeling a more general anxiety associated with middle age. My therapist, and my previous therapist, both believe that I "have good tools" to deal with life's stuff, but sometimes I'm not sure. Anxiety is so abstract, and cause-and-effect seems impossible to determine. When I'm truly able to be in the moment, and my brain isn't running hot, it feels unusual, and something to take note of. It's glorious, but infrequent.

I'm also pretty sure that this isn't something I can solve with meds. Anything that takes that edge off, lorazepam, medical marijuana or even alcohol, has serious side effects, like not being baseline functional, not to mention be at risk for addiction.

One positive thing about ADHD is hyper-focus, the ability to get so deep into something that the rest of the world seems to disappear, but it's not something I can easily harness. I've read articles that suggest ways to "switch it on," but I swear they're all written by neurotypical people who've never actually experienced it. I've been in that zone many times when writing code, staying up until ridiculous hours. Video games that involve exploration and goals have put me there as well. A big Lego set can draw me in. Good books can do it, too, though I don't read much for pleasure, and when I do, it's generally non-fiction. I can do it with writing sometimes, which is probably why I was able to get a book published.

All of that stuff is obviously in a category of things I very much want to do. They all have outcomes that I want to move toward, that I'm excited about. That's why it's harder to apply to things that are not in that category. For example, I need to edit that short film. But try as I might, I can't sit there long enough to start, let alone get a section done. I'm not entirely surprised by this, because I always loved production, on the day, but post feels too much like work. It probably doesn't help that I need to edit at the desk where I work during the day. Forty plus hours a week there is enough.

It stands to reason that the things I want to enjoy, but can't get to hyper-focus on, might be things I could get that deep into if I figure out how to elevate them to a place where I so badly want to do them. Maybe that's the secret to unlocking the hyper-focus. If this is the way that I'm wired, then I want to figure out how to embrace it. I've given myself a lot of space over the last two years to be OK with the ways that autism makes me different, and it's freeing to not worry that others may find me weird for certain reasons. For ADHD, I no longer look at my "squirrel!" moments as a personality flaw. So with that in mind, I want to exploit the one superpower that comes with it. I do wonder though if anxiety is a blocker from entering into that state.


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