Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I have this problem with people interrupting my train of thought. Aside from forgetting what I was thinking about or the point I was trying to make or where I was going with a story, it’s also actually quite painful.

Once my brain starts, it’s like a car on a freeway. It will be doing its thing, thinking away, like a car driving smoothly along this road and happily going along at 100km/h. And then hitting the brick wall that appears out of nowhere, a la Warner Brothers:

That’s what it’s like when someone drags my attention away from what I’ve focused on. Now, for me, focus is hard enough to come by as it is. When my brain does finally manage to hook into an idea and start running with it, it has too much momentum to be able to just stop. It’s also like being in a tunnel, in that I’m finally not distracted by everything around me. If I am drawn off to the side by something, that will also be like hitting a brick wall, only one that's just a little to the left or right, rather than put up right in my path.

This is called hyperfocus. It’s an ADHD thing which is counter-intuitive in some ways, because it’s not a deficit of attention but an overabundance of it. It can be very helpful in an exam situation, but it’s horrible when someone decides that they want your attention when you’re in the middle of it. It hurts.

And then, when you’ve snapped at the person who has been annoying you (or, worse still, the several  people who have been trying to get your attention, which used to happen at uni has very nearly happened at work more recently), you try to go back to what you were doing. Unfortunately, hyperfocus isn’t entirely voluntary and getting back to that state after an interruption can be a lot like trying to get back onto the freeway and back to 100km/h in your totalled, wreck of a car. It just doesn’t quite work. It’s now slow and clunky and bits have fallen off while other bits are held on by what paint is left and could drop at any moment. You just can’t work the idea in the same way that you would have, had you been interruption-free.

This has caused a few arguments between me and my fiancĂ©, because if he suggests an idea, he needs to hear me acknowledge that I’ve heard it. Unfortunately, if it's a good idea, my brain is already working on it so when he forces an interruption by asking me to acknowledge that I heard him, I snap because he’s just put that wall right in front of my speeding car of a brain.

This leaves him wondering what the hell just happened and why I went off my rocker when all he did was ask whether I’d heard (and that’s perfectly reasonable, given I hadn’t actually given him a proper response).

We’re still working on this problem. At least it doesn’t happen particularly often.

No comments:

Post a Comment