As difficult as it is for me to wrote about these things, I feel it is important to share my limitations, hoping that it will help others who cannot put to words these feelings.
Today, I am frozen. A well intentioned thought process has overwhelmed me and now I am physically, and mentally frozen on the set of tasks I must complete. I do not know why this happens, and I still do not fully know what to do to get back on track. It’s a very frustrating place to be.
I have always been disorganized. There is something about filing, prioritizing, sorting, labeling, and following up that I just can’t seem to fully grasp. After years of struggle, I stumbled upon a method called The Action Method. I spent a little time on their website at behance.com getting an overview of the method, and playing with the free online software. For the first time, it felt like achieving some organizational skills was possible. So, I jumped over to Amazon and bought their book called Making Things Happen.
Reading the Book
I have never had help with dyslexia, probably because I didn’t even know I had it until my late twenties. All I knew was that reading was a skill I was painfully slow in acquiring, and was almost impossible to maintain. No one ever asked me if the words were moving around the page or vibrating or flipping around, I was just told to try harder. Most of my interventions are ones I learned about on my own – colored transparencies to cover up the page, low lumen LED lighting so the light is not too bright or noisy, and a guide to isolate paragraphs. Some days, however, I just cannot read, even using all my little tricks.
Last night, my reading was good. I was able to read to page 58, of course skipping over all the examples given by the author. (My autism seems to like bullet points better than stories.) Words were clear, staying still, and making sense in my head when I read them. Unfortunately, duty called and I had to go to work. Reluctantly, I put the book down.
Today, I tried to pick up from where I left off. Reading was off the charts with a battery of vibrations and movements, causing my eyes to quickly fatigue. Motivated by yesterday’s good read, I really wanted to learn this system and get my business organized. I tried with every possible ounce of effort to continue reading, but I just couldn’t. Frustrated, I threw the book down after covering only 3 pages in an hour.
Try Something, Anything
I couldn’t read anymore, but maybe I could just apply what I had learned so far. I understood there were three categories to organize everything into – Action, Reference, and Backburner. I also understood that I needed to gather all my papers, notes, correspondences, and files in order to begin sorting everything into the three categories. The method is clear, and concise as well as simple. My mind easily wrapped around the concepts presented in the book. It was clear to me that I understood, theoretically, how it all worked.
People often rate intellectual ability on action. If a person behaves in a manner that seem intelligent, or if a person can easily complete tasks that are socially interpreted as intelligent tasks, then people assume that person has a high IQ. Similarly, people often assume that the opposite is true – odd behavior or inability to easily complete tasks must mean a low IQ. Both assumptions are wrong. The ongoing frustration I find in autism is the breakdown between my quick intellectual processing and the translation of that processing into a tangible task. I understand what I must do, but I am paralyzed by the process of projecting my intellectual world onto my physical world, efficiently and in tact.
11:01 am – Frozen
I am sitting at the table, absolutely frozen. I cannot stand up, my eyes are heavy, my nerve endings in my back and seat hurt, and my mind is in an unstoppable loop. Trying to touch reality, I grab the pen on the table and start to scribble thoughts down (this works for me, though not for all).
11:01 am Frozen – Thinking of process to get new organization method in place. It is to repeat over & over in my head. Can not seem to make a loop pause or to stop.
Pictures in my mind – file cabinet -> piles of paper -> computer -> emails -> taxes -> try to sort & can’t -> Repeats
Question in my mind – Fast voiceover way – How do I know difference in action & backburner? How many years of bills to keep? What if IRS takes my EIC again? Why I feel sad? Why are eyes sleepy all of sudden? Why can’t I move from table?
This loops over and over again for a length of time I cannot describe. I only noted the time when I finally had the ability to grab the paper and pen already on the table in front of me and write down what was in my mind. My hope? That I would distract myself from the loop and be able to move. It worked.
I was able to get up from the table and grab my laptop. Trying to avoid the loop, I pushed the book from view and started writing this blog post. As much as I desire to be productive and organized, and even though this Action Method seems like the first real way I can learn, but the process has me frozen. It is a change in my routine. True, it will be a good change, but change is hard. It is also a task that is not easy for me to execute, so I must learn to use other mental energy, reserved for other tasks, to put this new system into place. My brain is not able to store this type of functioning in the place it is pre-determined to go, so I must use a different space in my brain. This means I am actually using mental effort to “re-wire” my own mind. It is hard and very tiring.
Don’t believe this is possible? The Human Calculator, Rudiger Gamm, is not a math savant, but learned to do complex calculations on his own. A scan of his brain, done while he performed math tasks in his mind, proved that Rudiger was using areas of his mind, reserved for other tasks, to do the math.
I believe that my advanced adaptations are done the same way. I work hard to train myself to use other mental space to complete tasks I am inherently poor at doing. Though, there are some tasks that are so monumental that I just do not have the mental energy to learn it. I have helpers for those tasks.
I don’t have any answers. Each day and in each stage of life, autism presents new challenges. Some challenges are left over ones from previous years when I didn’t have the skill to cope. Other challenges are just unveiling themselves as I approach new areas of life. the only thing that is becoming apparent to me is that I may not be able to totally work alone. In building my business, I will need to make room for an employee or two that can keep me on track and organized. I am not giving up on this new method, I just may need help executing the method until it becomes routine. I still think The Action Method is the best method I have seen to date, and I plan on making it a part of my life.
If you take away anything from my story today, it should be that being frozen is quite different from inaction. If I were presented with help from another and I refused to try, cooperate on any level, or apply what I know I can do – that is inaction. That is a choice I make. If I cannot move, or cannot ask for help – that is frozen. I have no power over myself when I am frozen and all I can do is redirect my mind.