Sunday, July 20, 2014

Complexity Overload - OCD Tendencies and Too Many Details

I know that the aspie brain has the advantage of being detail-oriented, but it becomes VERY difficult for me when there is too much information to process! I experience some OCD symptoms and intrusive thoughts, which are intensified by living in an uncontrollable environment, dealing with transitions, or adjusting to a new schedule.

It’s like my brain is constantly analyzing everything, whether it’s a part of my surroundings or a concept in my head. Even now, my brain is buzzing with theories and contradictions and circular reasoning and paradoxes. It delays my decision making and wastes so much of my time. An example of how this works in the physical realm (aka my surroundings) would be how I handle my family’s messy house.

Keepin’ It Neat = An Impossible Feat

For the most part, I tune out my surroundings fairly easily so my brain doesn’t fry. It’s as if all the things in the house that aren’t mine (or things I don’t bother with) are in grey as if they are “Inactive,” while my belongings (and anything else I use) are in color as if they are “Active.”

Recently my family went on vacation while I insisted on staying home to catch up on my film editing. I also loved the idea of having the whole house to myself for nearly 12 days. I always feel somewhat held back when people are around for some reason, even if it’s my own family. After the first day, I realized something: nothing in the house would be moved or change. Not a single, tiny thing. Every object would stay in one place unless I moved it.

That’s when I let my OCD organizing side go wild on the house.

I cleaned off counters, drawers, cabinets, etc. and labeled a bunch of things, since it had previously helped my family keep everything at least somewhat organized. I tried not to label EVERYTHING so I wouldn't seem too obsessive. I mostly labeled the places that had been the most disorganized, and any particular areas of the house that were strictly for my stuff. For 12 whole days, the house was completely in color for me. Every object was “active,” and my awareness, productivity, and processing speed were greatly increased! It’s as if I had gained superpowers, and the level of my existing abilities was doubled. And it was soooo nice to have that consistency in the house, even though it wasn't for very long.


Once my family came home, I showed them all the new labels so they’d be aware of them. It’s amazing how easily a lot of NT’s can overlook stuff like that if you don’t point it out (no offense to NT’s, obviously there are social things that need to be pointed out to aspies to make up for it). The places I labeled are stayed fairly neat for a while, but everywhere else was free game for messes and chaos.

This caused my brain to overload big time. Since the whole house was still “active” in my mind, I would notice absolutely everything. If an object was moved somewhere else, I’d feel compelled to put it where it belonged. It quickly became apparent that I could not keep up with this, and that it wasn't practical to give in to my compulsions to put every single object in its place. So I allowed my brain to transition back to leaving the house alone, to forfeit mental “ownership” of the house and all that it contains. My brain didn't like this. The OCD tendencies had to be released somehow, so it came out in me googling anything and everything that came to mind when I had a free moment, and processing thoughts over and over and over, while analyzing the complexities of certain situations.

The analyzing was the worst, because I would see nearly every detail and every possibility in each situation.
And what I pondered always varied, from conflicts in religious beliefs, symptoms of particular ailments, why criminals commit crimes, one perspective vs. another, etc. I would also analyze my own thoughts, which often would go in circles again and again, and it would drive me insane… then I would wonder what the heck is wrong with me, and negativity would enter that endless cycle.

One good thing (yet also bad in some cases) is that I can still function enough to get things done in this state, even if it’s a little slower or not as thorough. In fact, I seem so normal during these times that no one notices. It’s as if my body is on autopilot, doing all the things I’ve trained it to do, while my mind detaches to wander off in other dimensions.

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