Post #100: A Hiatus and Some Thoughts on Executive Function

This is my 100th post. Yay!

Around the time I started blogging, a blogger that I was following made her 100th post and I was in awe. I wasn’t sure if I could stick with this blogging thing long enough to make it to 100. I wasn’t sure if anyone would read what I wrote or if I had enough ideas to make more than a few posts.

It turns out that I probably have enough ideas for a thousand posts. Even better, I have an amazing group of readers who I’m enjoying getting to know. I didn’t realize how interactive blogging can be. Again and again I’m humbled by the comments here, by the kind words and the trust. By your willingness to share and be open and support each other and make this journey with me.

And to those of you who read and lurk, I see you, pushing my post view count up day after day. I know you’re out there and I’m grateful. Don’t be shy about joining in the conversation if the spirit moves you.

A Change of Plans

I was going to post one more survey tomorrow before I leave for my Big Adventure, but I’ve decided to wait until I get back. My executive function has been in a downward spiral for the past week. Right now I have the EF of a squirrel.

So here’s The Plan:

  1. 100th post

  2. Put blog on hiatus

  3. Big Adventure Part 1: Go far far away

  4. Big Adventure Part 2: Come home, immediately move to new apartment

  5. Die a little

  6. Recover

  7. Post survey part 4

  8. Start writing again

I have no idea how long 5 and 6 will take so I’m not sure how long the hiatus will last. Maybe close to a month? Hopefully my Big Adventure will give me lots to write about.

I’m sorry to keep messing with the survey schedule. I know unexpected change can be frustrating.

WTF Executive Function?

My Big Adventure is looming large. A major trip followed by a move is a lot to cope with. Massive change, lack of control, uncertainty, sensory triggers, major sleep disruption, yadda, yadda, yadda. I used to think that the uneasiness and disorientation I felt before a big event was anxiety but I’m starting to think it’s actually stress-induced deterioration of my executive function.

The degree of my uneasiness is directly proportionate to how stressful I anticipate an event will be. The next few weeks are 7-9 our of 10 on my stress-o-meter. Not just an evening or a day of level 7-9 stress, but a full two weeks of it. The anticipation I’ve been feeling over the past week has given me a chance to step back and observe my reactions to extreme stress.

Here’s what I’m discovering: the closer I get to the Big Adventure, the worse my executive functioning is becoming. About 10 days ago, I started to notice that I was having trouble concentrating on work. I made myself a detailed schedule, plotting out a reasonable number of tasks each day and allowing myself five days of no complex work leading up to my trip. That helped a lot.

Then I noticed that I was having trouble staying organized. Moving and preparing to travel overseas involves a lot of planning. Random details were constantly flying around in my head, especially things I absolutely shouldn’t forget. Turning the utilities on/off. Buying dog food. Changing my address on this account and that account and some other account. Packing tampons and melatonin and my laptop cord. Picking up moving boxes at the grocery store. My passport!

Finally, I took out a notepad and wrote everything down–lists, important dates, schedules, reminders. The notepad sits on the kitchen counter and every time I think of something, no matter how trivial, I write it down.

Gradually, I started to lose interest in communicating. I’ve mostly stopped keeping up with social media, email, etc. Soon after that, I started to struggle with writing. Just getting through this fairly straight forward post is taking me forever. I keep losing track of thoughts and going down blind alleys. (There also seems to be something wonky about the tenses here, but IDK.)

I’ve been spending a lot of time this week doing stimmy, low-cognitive-demand things, like playing Temple Run, taking long walks and being silly with the dog.

I’ve been double and triple checking everything I do, especially for work. Still, I find myself making a lot of little mistakes. Putting my empty cereal bowl in the fridge instead of the dishwasher. Putting clothes in the dryer but not turning it on. Not realizing I’m wearing my shirt inside out until the end of my run.

So this feeling I get–disconnected, disoriented, unfocused, withdrawn, restless–this thing I’ve been thinking all these years was anxiety is looking more like a deterioration of my executive function. Thinking about it in that way has removed a layer of stress. It also explains why my “anxiety” symptoms only match a small subset of typical anxiety symptoms (restlessness, difficulty concentrating, becoming less social, fatigue).

Instead of worrying about it and beating myself up for not coping well and powering through it like I’ve done in the past, I’m being kind to myself. I’m making accommodations, acknowledging that I shouldn’t be doing complicated work projects right now, taking more breaks during the day, asking for help/advice where I need it, reminding myself that it’s temporary.

By not pushing myself, I feel like I’ve deescalated my stress quite a bit. I’ve also been able to avoid negative coping mechanisms like perseverating, withdrawing or being controlling. This makes for a happier marriage and a happier me.

See You on the Other Side

Assuming all goes as planned, I’ll see you in 3-4 weeks. Until then, be well.

32 thoughts on “Post #100: A Hiatus and Some Thoughts on Executive Function”

  1. Congratulations on your 100th post! That is exciting stuff. I am going to miss you while your on hiatus but wishing you the best, and don’t forget to have fun on you big adventure. I’m a bit jealous, I wanna go on a big adventure too! LOL

    1. Thank you! Still want to go if it involves 22 hours of travel each way including a 14.5 hour flight and an 5-hour layover in an airport? Other than that, I’m sure I’ll have some fun along the way. πŸ™‚ And I owe you a DM, which I’m going to do right now before I forget again.

  2. Tell you what… I am writing to say have a great trip, a smooth move and remember to breathe now and then! And, as an added bonus, please don’t feel like you have to respond to my comment, don’t think of it as one more thing you have to keep up with. Instead, think of it as making me feel good just telling you to take a load off, play with your pup and love the now. πŸ™‚

      1. Those shiny new coping skills are pretty great aren’t they. They are like having a flashlight in the dark. Have a great trip, relax and just let it happen. Bon voyage and see ya when you get back! πŸ™‚

  3. Man, I think I just got all stressed out reading about your upcoming life changes. But they also sound like good things! I’m glad you are planning on coming back because I think this blog is one of those make-a-difference-blogs. The only way I can remember everything I need to do or take when moving or going on a trip is to use a printable with a checklist. I’ve found some good ones on the internet (often free too) and it takes the pressure off my brain to think up all these little things on my own. Have a good time!

    1. It’s a lot, but they are good things. I’m glad to be doing them all at once so I can bounce back and forth and not get too fixated on either one. πŸ™‚ The printable checklists are a great idea. I’ve used them in the past to jog my memory about what I need to pack. Maybe I should look one up and review it to be sure I’ve got everything on my list.

      I’ll definitely be back once I’ve recovered from all the excitement.

  4. ok, I am really excited for you with all this stuff coming up, well maybe it’s actually excited for me because i want to hear about your Big Adventures, I do love an adventure. I love hearing how you are coping and coming up with strategies to make it work for you. I actually do most of those things myself before a trip because i get so nervous and excited that anything real that needs to be done has to happen and be organized into lists and time frames way beforehand. I use the project development stuff we do at work to map out my pre trip time frames and break down each ‘deliverable’ into subtasks with deadlines and time frames and then i feel all safe and structured and it allows me to ‘stim’ on hours of sodoku as the trip approaches to distract my anxious mind. i will miss seeing your posts, but look forward greatly to all the stories, ideas, and knowledge you will bring back to us πŸ™‚

    1. I’m super organized about traveling! My lists seem to sprouting lists at this point but I’m rolling with it. I’m also getting excited and will be very excited when it’s finally time to leave and all of my ‘deliverables’ are in order. πŸ™‚ That’s a terrific analogy.

      It’s good to see you here BTW. I miss “reading” you!

  5. Congratulations on the 100th post!

    Given your flight times I assume you are off to Asia? Going to Europe and Asia next month for 4 weeks so I know what you mean with the pre-departure preparations, I am debating if I should leave the fridge switched on… Mmmm…

    I love travelling, I like the feeling of being scared and excited at the same time when exploring new places, and I have a special interest in really old things like castles and ruins – not too many old things here in Australia. I also love experiencing different cultures, especially places where English is not widely spoken by the general population, I’ve found people expect less from me and I’ve learned to rely on facial expressions / body language to communicate.

    Having said that, I am one of those who need to know where I will be sitting on the flights and have all my accommodation very well researched and pre-booked, I need to know where I sleep and how I sleep!

    LOL at “die a little”, having moved every 1.5 year in the last 7 years and 3 countries, I am usually very good at all things logistics but couldn’t function or think in my last move, took me about a month to recover.

    Enjoy your trip! (excited for you!!!)

    1. Asia, yes! I love traveling too, but not so much the getting ready to travel. I have already Googled the airline, airplane, typical food service on the flight, etc. My husband is in charge of our schedule and accommodations but he has “submitted it” to me in writing so I can refer to it as needed. This trip has a few unusually stressful elements because it’s not entirely a relaxing vacation type thing, but it should be an excellent adventure nonetheless.

      I know what you mean about being in countries where the culture is quite different from our own. The expectations in terms of social norms are definitely much lower. People seem to attribute any unusual behavior to cultural differences which is a nice change of pace. πŸ™‚ I definitely want to write about this at some point.

  6. Congratulations on the 100th post!

    Wrote a few paragraph about travel which is my biggest passion but somehow WordPress lost it (grrrrrrrr) and I have lost my heart in re-writing.

    Really want to say congrats and enjoy your travel!

    1. I found your original post! It looks like it got trapped in moderation because you left off the last letter of your user name. Only regular commenters get through the moderation filter automatically. πŸ™‚

  7. Have a great adventure.

    Your analysis of executive function makes sense. There is still anxiety, but that is not necessarily the cause of cereal bowls in the fridge and cereal boxes in the dishwasher (guessing) etc. I imagine for brains that are so comforted by routine, we have to work really really hard to track changes, to plan for eventualities, to imagine possibilities, that we are distracted away from the cereal and the spelling and the… everything else, just a little…enough for small mistakes to happen. Anxiety would involve fretting what might happen, which is still perhaps part of it, but certainly not all of it and probably only a relatively small part of it.

    We seem to have a similar division of labor. I have learned to trust my NT wife with planning the trips and such. She gives me the details once they are known. I try to relax into the non-control and try to enjoy as much as I can, or at least to not distract from others’ joy. She has learned that giving me a project I can hide away in, like planning a remodeling project, keeps me happily preoccupied. The project itself can then be a great outlet for those Aspie super powers, and is a much better utilization of those powers than is nit-picking trip planning (for me at least).

    We have been on our own big adventure, living in two places at once for a year to spend time with family. It has been a great year, full of so many wonderful things, expected and unexpected, but I will have probably spent a total of about 18 months in the buzzing mind space with varying degrees of diminished executive function by the time we can settle back into a comfortable routine. We have 6 more weeks before the move back home, and I am not sure how long it will take me to come back from my own “mini-death” and recovery, so the 18 months is just a guess. As much as I have had an ever present level of discomfort for this entire time, and with our return move and all manner of craziness happing it is at a super high level right now, I am so glad we went on this adventure. It has provided, among so many other benefits, me with a great opportunity for personal growth. Not least of which is the chance to practice self-compassion and patience. I am unable to keep up with everything right now, including the level of exercise that I need for my mental and physical heath (I like and agree with your thoughts on running) for instance. But, I know it is only temporary. Upon the return to one residence and stability, then I can be more demanding of myself.

    Among all of our craziness I have just started to read you over the past couple of weeks. I do not really read other blogs, but yours has been so helpful, insightful, and familiar, that I have been helping to crank up your post views (a lot). Your first 100 will certainly stand on their own as a very worth while contribution. Clearly, you have created a wonderful community, or rather pulled together a wonderful community, and we will be very happy when you return. It sounds, like, though we will anxiously await your return for our own selfish reasons, we will all be supportive and compassionate of your need to take your time with your adventure and recovery. Come back when you are ready. Until then, some of us will just keep rereading the first 100.

    1. Yes, definitely some anxiety (I’m really feeling it today) but a lot of what’s going on is I think just wonky EF, which leaves me feeling all confused and disjointed.

      I like your description of relaxing into the non-control. I’ve been trying to do that more, thinking about learning to “be okay” with things that I can’t fix or change or control in the short term. It’s challenging but I feel like I’m getting better at it.

      Living in two places for a long time must be challenging. It’s good that you’re able to frame it as an opportunity for growth and find the positives among the challenges. At least that way you’re coming out of it feeling like you’ve changed for the positive in the long run.

      Glad you’re enjoying the blog and finding it helpful. A wonderful community has sprung up here and I can only take a tiny part of the responsibility for that. So much is down to the terrific group of people who read and comment here. It makes me happy and I’m glad it makes others happy too. πŸ™‚

    2. I agree with Dave. I don’t really read other blogs, either, but yours is an exception, because it is exceptional. Do enjoy yourself. Depending on where you go in Asia, you might want to find a local Zen temple/monastery and spend some time sitting or walking quietly in their gardens if they welcome Westerners. It can be a great recovery method to not have to “do” or “think” anything other than being present where you are. I find it a great refuge.

      While you are gone, I will take the opportunity to catch up on all the posts that you wrote before I found you. Bon voyage!

      1. Thank you for the good wishes and wonderful comment. You’re making me smile on a stressful day.

        We will likely be visiting at least one temple (family thing) so I will try to set some time aside for myself while I’m there. That’s a great idea!

  8. Have a great trip! I hope you have a lot of fun and that you get time to relax by yourself while you’re on the trip and good luck moving. Moving is pretty stressful. I’ve done it a bunch of times and it’s not fun.

  9. Congratulations on your 100th post, that is a great effort, and good luck with the big adventure, and the move. someone else said remember to breathe, and that was what I want to say too. Love your blog, take care πŸ™‚
    Julie

  10. Well I guess you are either still having your Big Adventure or sorting out your new house. Whatever it is I hope you are having loads of fun and little stress. Best wishes

    1. I’m sort of back, answering comments and goofing around on Tumblr. Hopefully there will be a new post tomorrow and then a survey on Tuesday. That’s the plan anyhow.

      Thank you for the good wishes!

  11. … I get this post. This week I’ve lost my debit card twice, fused a pot to a stove element (why, yes, apparently I can burn a pot of boiling water), been late to work twice, been late to leave work four times, missed my bus thrice, and forgotten my lunch at home all days but one. I could go on. My crap, it is not together.

    The source? Someone I care about has been having legit pregnancy scares about once every two weeks for the past three months. It will be resolved by September, but until then, stresssssssss. To make things worse, I promised to visit the first week after the birth. Which means I’m doing everything knowing at any time I could be planning an out-of-province trip on <1 week notice.

    Executive function? What executive function?

    Also, I am never, under any circumstances, for any reason ever making that promise again. Ever.

    1. It’s interesting to come back and revisit this post, because my EF doesn’t actually seem to have recovered quite yet. Between the post-trip recovery then getting sick and trying to keep up with work through all that plus the stupid perimenopause hormonal nonsense I think I’m just getting used to running on low these days.

      Your loved one’s health scares sound scary. I can see how that would be very distracting, not to mention the prospect of having to travel at the drop of a hat. I’m glad you at least have a deadline to when things will be more normalish. In the mean time, try not to be too hard on yourself!

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