Something strange is going on in my brain. Aside from the usual strangeness, I mean, which I’m quite used to. Back in March I wrote about my missing word problem. Over the past few months, I’ve developed some funky new issues with writing:
The missing words are no longer just small words like a or the. Now I also skip right over important words, and sometimes pairs of words. A particularly bad sentence might have three words missing.
Sometimes I repeat phrases, typing things like “I was about to about to change directions.” Those are fairly easy to catch when editing.
Verb forms have become interchangeable at times, which results in me sending ridiculous texts like “I’m exciting to see you” and mixing tenses in paragraphs.
Contractions are occasionally problematic, specifically leaving off the apostrophe and what comes after it.
The weird word substitutions continue, perhaps more frequently, definitely in more obvious forms. Also substituting homonyms like to/too and you’re/your, even though I know the correct usage and it drives me bonkers when other people do this.
My spelling has become erratic. In some writing sessions, I backspace over every third word, often more than once until I get it right. The biggest problem seems to be the letters coming out in the wrong order. Yesterday I tried to type Walmart into my GPS and I had “mwla” before I realized that wasn’t going to get me to where I needed to go.
This all adds up to making writing–from a blog posts to one sentence emails–very frustrating. Even a single line reply on Facebook will end up with some glaring–though not to me–error. In spite of multiple proofreadings. In spite of taking my time and being extra careful.
And then there’s the occasional difficulty with comprehension. Sometimes reading is frustratingly hard. I guess the best explanation is that it feels difficult to hold the idea of what I’ve read in my head. For example, I’ve started replying to comments as I read them because by the time I get to the end of a multi-paragraph comment, I’m not clear on what was in the first paragraphs or what I wanted to say. This is in contrast to my usual (past?) strategy of read the comment, digest what was said, write a reply to the overall concept while touching on smaller ideas that also interested me.
In short, reading and writing, two things I have loved all of my life, are becoming frustrating and exhausting. And did I mention frustrating?
Adapting, Or At Least Trying To
When I first started noticing the new strangeness, I thought maybe I was experiencing communication overload. Blogging and keeping up with social media involves a lot of communicating. I told myself that things would be better after my long vacation at the beginning of October. Nearly two weeks of not communicating online seemed like a good way to test that theory out. I didn’t notice a big change when I returned.
The other strategies I’ve been experimenting with don’t seem to be having substantial impact either: commenting less, cutting back on social media, writing shorter replies to comments, posting less frequently, writing only a couple of times a week instead of daily, taking entire days off from text-based communication, reading less, Silent Mondays.
The other strategy–the one I’m having even less success with–is trying to be kinder to myself. So much of my communication with others is in text-based form. When I’m constantly making errors, I worry that people will think I’m being careless or, in the case of work communication, unprofessional. Every time I hit send on something and then catch an error in it later, I cringe and beat myself up a little.
Then I start wondering about all the errors I’m not catching. The other day I wrote an important two sentence email. I proofread it four times, finding a couple of errors. Then I asked The Scientist to proofread it for me and he found a missing verb that I hadn’t caught. Verbs are important. Also important–at least to me–is not having important emails get sent off looking like I couldn’t bother to check for errors.
A big part of my frustration is how self-conscious I’m becoming about writing. The insidious ugly shadow of perfectionism is stalking me every time I put my fingers to the keyboard these days. That makes it hard to want to write, harder still to enjoy it.
But at least I can still write. I should be thankful for that. It’s hard and I’m producing only about a quarter of what I had been, but there are still plenty of writing sessions where I manage to finish a decent draft or revision of something.
The Bigger Question
What’s going on here? Why has my most reliable means of communicating become such a source of angst?
I’ve been considering a few possibilities. This could be a side effect of perimenopause. Cognition disturbances are commonly listed among the symptoms. Maybe my language processing problems are a particularly autistic form of cognitive disturbance. If that’s the case, then like the rest of the perimenopause symptoms, I just need to wait this out.
There is also the possibility of autistic regression–a topic that will be getting its own post. Briefly, autistic regression is a medium to long-term loss of coping skills or abilities in an autistic person. Language and communication aren’t strictly coping skills, so I’m not sure this applies in the way it would if I was losing my ability to, say, deal with sensory overload or perform self-care tasks. But the general concept of “not being able to do something at the level that I previously could” applies.
There are other possibilities too. Some sort of decline in motor function–maybe my hands are refusing to obey my brain and I have more of a typing problem than a language problem. That theory probably wouldn’t account for why my verbal word substitutions and word ordering problems have increased. At least a few of times a day I say the wrong word, have to pause noticeably to find a word mid-sentence or say the right words in the wrong order. Last week it took me four tries to say, “if you write what you think other people want to read” because I couldn’t figure out the proper sequence of verbs and pronouns.
The cause of all of this could be stress or long-term communication burnout, though I can’t say that either my stress levels or the amount that I’m reading and writing are greater than they’ve ever been. I’ve been more stressed. I’ve had more demanding communication loads. I’ve never had this kind of response to either. Of course, age could be a factor–perhaps I’m less resilient to stress or burnout than I was a decade or two ago.
Where I Go From Here
I guess this is a sort of apologia post. If you’ve noticed I haven’t been around much, haven’t commented on something or participated in something, that I’m posting less or making more errors in my writing, that something I wrote is choppy or doesn’t flow well–this is why. I don’t foresee any of this changing in the short-term so I wanted to share what I’ve been experiencing–as an explanation, a request for input, a way of clearing my thoughts–I’m not entirely sure. Probably all three.
Because my love of writing hasn’t diminished. My ideas continue to bubble up excitedly. I have a long list of things I want to write about. I read other people’s blogs daily. I enjoy reading every single comment left by readers here. I miss sitting down to write every morning. I miss feeling exhilarated at knocking out a 1500 word post in one sitting. I miss the absolute joy and the sense of freedom I’ve always felt in writing.
And I’m scared. I want to believe this is temporary or it’s all in my head. Maybe now that I’ve set these thoughts down here, I’ll be able to relax and start to enjoy writing again, glitches and all.