Recently it suddenly clicked that certain situations or conversations trigger a response similar to what I used to have in school and college when faced with a test or exam. I wasn’t a top notch student by any stretch of the imagination, but I did decently well on assignments. It was the exam marks that brought down my overall marks. I’d study, do review assignments, study alone and with other students, but no matter how well I “knew” (or thought I knew?) the material I’d lose a lot of the detail when sitting with a test in front of me. My teachers agreed I knew my material but for whatever reason, a test or exam scenario just did me in.
I use the analogy because while it’s not quite the same situation, the results are unfortunately similar. If appropriate I’ll make notes in advance. Or I’ll rehearse in my head the points I want to make and consider responses to points that might be brought up. I’ll mentally prepare as much as possible in hopes I can explain or describe or articulate the situations or ideas I need to. Unfortunately, under pressure (even if it’s what most people would consider “normal life” levels of pressure) I tend to partially or completely blank out.
If I were to try to explain it another way, I would say it’s like suddenly losing part of your vocabulary: You know that you have the vocabulary and knowledge of our language to describe thoughts and facts and experiences. After all, you’re communicating in your native tongue. Suddenly in the middle of a conversation, you’re “missing” words. A large chunk of your ability to communicate is just gone. You know that you should be able to say what you want to say, and have been able to before – but suddenly the words you need have vanished. All you know is that your high-school or college-level vocabulary has suddenly been reduced to elementary-school levels, except that you know you should be able to verbalize your thoughts or ideas better, but you suddenly don’t know how to do that. Of course, soon after that conversation is over you suddenly “remember” all the words you needed and how you could have spoken better and been more articulate – which for me tends to just perpetuate the cycle next time – somehow subconsciously remembering that I’ll “lose” and “find” my ability to communicate face to face at the most inopportune times.
I’ll attempt to describe it another way. Have you ever been so physically tired that it becomes hard to keep your eyes focused properly? I’m not talking about how you can’t keep them open, but that you’re so tired you have to concentrate on keeping your eyes focused on what’s in front of you – otherwise everything gets fuzzy and blurry. Now, imagine that happening in your mind – but it could happen at any moment, no matter how awake, rested, tired, or energetic you are. At any moment, in the middle of a conversation, focusing on a task or project, or alone trying to follow a train of thought, suddenly it takes incredible effort to keep focused on what’s happening in front of you. If you stop focusing on concentrating on what’s in front of you – you lose the train of thought or lose the thread of the conversation. So yes – you’re now paying attention to make sure you’re paying attention to whatever it is that you were doing. Now for extra fun, imagine doing that (focusing on being focused on the situation right in front of you) while attempting basic multitasking on a level that appears to come with ease to most people you know – the kind that just goes with everyday life.
That is a glimpse into what often deal with. Not all day, and not every day, but it does happen more days than not, and it can vary a lot on how “good” or “bad” it is when it does happen. Sometimes I can take a breath and with a bit of extra mental effort get “back into it”. Other days I wear myself out trying to keep focused and on top of things. I’m not sharing this for sympathy, I’m not looking for “Poor Andrew”. I’m not asking for anything but patience and understanding if I appear to get frustrated and agitated easily – rarely is it only external events or stimuli that push me that far – more often than not it’s the fact my internal battle has worn down my ability to handle “life” and that tiredness will often come across as frustration or irritation when I’m reaching my limits.