I’ve made lists and written in the past, but it’s been a while. I’ve avoided it recently as I do view it somewhat as a compulsion, at least the list-making. It’s one thing when you make lists like a normal person– calmly, with a purpose, intending to complete the items on the list (and following through), or reference them again in the future. It’s another to make lists to write down your racing thoughts, never to be seen again. To write them down because you don’t know what else to do with them. Or perhaps you are incapable of dismissing them, and documenting them somehow makes it OK to move onto other thoughts.
I don’t know if it’s because I don’t want to admit it or if it’s just not my biggest issue, but I absolutely struggle with hoarding. I do struggle with hoarding in the traditional way. My room is a disaster. I cannot organize things, and this is at least partially due to my inability to let some of them go. Of course, my racing thoughts also contributes to this, as does my perfectionistic nature — if I can’t make it perfect, why should I even attempt? The product is this unmanageable mess that I am constantly digging through.
But that’s not even one of my biggest concerns. I also hoard thoughts. And while of course this sounds silly, and it may be more easily-described as obsessions, I would still like to relate it to hoarding as I think the connection between the two is important.
I know very well that the expectations I have for my working-memory are unrealistic for any human. Nevertheless, the fact that I cannot address ALL the thoughts ALL the time, or that I cannot remember ALL the information ALL the time, stresses me out. I realize that it’s actually a good thing to have a clear mind, with the capacity to work with and manipulate information. But a common concern for me, is that when I have a thought — even if I know that it is completely irrelevant in some given context and time — is that I might not be able to access that thought again. I cannot let it go, because what if I won’t be able to access it again later? And so I hoard my thoughts and information. I get anxious if I cannot instantly recall all the things at any moment.
And guess what, I’m pretty good at it, and I think have my ADHD to thank (blame) for that. Thoughts usually appear — no matter their relevance or welcome — at the expense of organizing them, sorting them, filtering them, whatever.
I do not think that I’m incapable of complex abstraction with several steps. I do not think I am incapable of knowing which information is important. I do not think I am incapable of identifying goals and the frameworks intended, suggested, or implied to address them. Actually, that is one thing that I actually think I am inherently and without effort good at, although my behavior would not give that impression.
I think I am incapable of utilizing my intuition, but I believe this is a rather complex issue. Here’s my attempt to be systematic:
- As mentioned above, one factor contributing to this is my inability to let thoughts go. Even if I know something is unimportant, irrelevant, and/or SHOULD be ignored, I simply cannot let it go, because, what if? What if I need it? If for some reason I don’t know every single aspect of the mechanisms for something, I cannot move on until I do, even if it is not in my best interest to figure it out. Simple “short answer questions” on exams turn into essays with everything you ever needed to know that maybe even a little bit relates to what the question was. I know the professor knows why that happens, and then why that happens, and so on, and I know that it is unnecessary, but… WHAT IF?! What if it is necessary?
- The fact that those thoughts present themselves in the first place. Sometimes this comes in handy. I often have this annoying and incredible ability to remember ALL auditory information (if I pay attention). I can remember the most random (wordy, not visual) information that no one else can. It comes in handy on exams, until I have to make sense of just a couple pieces of information. I need a silence button for my brain. Something that will ‘shut up’ all the other information when it’s not needed.
- Similar to #1, in that I cannot let things go. But in addition to the “what if,” anxiety-related aspect in #1, I think there’s something else. I’m not sure how to describe it. But I can’t let things go. I can’t switch thoughts, tasks, perspectives, etc., under my own control. That last part is very important. As you read this, it’s probably very obvious that I am extremely capable of changing subjects every two seconds. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I have little control over how, where, and when I direct my focus — even if I know how, where, and when I should direct it.
- Lastly, I think it also has to do with when and how I get my mental reward. I think this may also relate to my ongoing doubt and lack of confidence (which is another story, and probably not necessary to include, just like this, and this…). (side note but pretty related! the content in the previous parentheses was also and example of and OCD. It wasn’t “complete” until the third “and this.” Moving on.) Let’s say that dopamine fires as you “figure something out.” And here’s my disclaimer, since I don’t want to imply that a.) this is accurate or the full story, or b.) that I might think that ‘a’ is true, as that may say something about my credibility and the extent that anyone should regard any of this as legitimate: this is totally a simplified representation, and not intended to imply explanation beyond my what I experience during my thought processes. ANYWAYS. Yeah, let’s say dopamine fires when you complete a thought. And let’s say that there’s anticipation for that, because you have a goal you’re working toward, and you know that. This is probably true for most normal people, or anyone capable of goal-directed behavior. What might vary, though, are temporal and quantitative aspects. It takes a lot for me to complete a thought. And like I mentioned in #3, I have little control over my ability to dismiss some thought or thought process, even if I know that it’s my own best interest to do so.
I’m sure that much of this has to do with “impulses,” whether that be resisting them, their nature, prevalence, and more, but in my opinion, “impulse” is a simplified term that requires an extensive description. It needs to be broken down into further components, at least in the context of impairments like mine (that is, if progress is to be made).
Another disclaimer: Yeah, I know this is a mess and hard to follow. For more on that, please see above.