Attention 2 – interest disruption

I started this as an Autistic blog – yet the overlap with ADHD traits is making it veer into that area – what Autistic and ADHDer adults say are both resonating.

What occurred to me today is how attention can be easily disrupted with an important passion of mine – music – which ironically I can completely forget about.

This might be related to age and feeling increasingly weary – but I’ve heard ADHD adults say they can’t actually concentrate on a film anymore for example. I immediately think of my behaviour when I watch a film on my own. Typically I’ll pause to follow some other thought – look up why the actor I’m looking at is familiar because the thought won’t quiet down despite trying to tell myself that right now that isn’t important – or sometimes I can’t sit still – or go and get a drink. Or perhaps I’ll pause and come back and decide something else is more interesting.

With TV or film I’m less disappointed that I don’t seem to hold concentration as I can be happy enough watching the first half of something up to the point I’ve figured out what will probably happen in the conclusion – I have got my enjoyment.

I just realised however, while trying to listen to some unfamiliar music, the impulse to switch my attention half way through a 5 minute song.

This tends to happen a lot if I get on a sudden exploratory urge through the vast streaming libraries available online – sampling songs to add to listen later – then forgetting I’ve added them for months.

This time I wanted to actually listen and was enjoying the flow of the song, but my mind was still asking me if I wanted to look up some information or remember to listen to some other artist I’d been reminded of while listening to a memoir audio book – and so on.

Are ADHD traits getting more obvious as I get older? This is someone who has kept their mind on classical symphonies that last from 30 minutes to an hour. Maybe this was because I started doing this on CD when I couldn’t look up ten other recordings of the same Symphony – fewer distractions may have helped. Maybe it’s because when you’re a Neurodiverse person trying to Adult reasonably well and finding that harder to manage as age increases – and burnout becomes more regular.

Regardless of whether it’s getting harder to fix my attention or not, I need to find some way of finding the focus again – it could be as simple as finding something to fidget with and remembering that helps – and because attention is a problem – putting the putty or some other thing right in front of where I will listen to music.

The focus is there – because I know I can be completely locked into playing a game on the computer and forget to blink. I can also forget I enjoy gaming for weeks and become despondent. The same happens with music.

The interest disruption is a real difficulty because it’s possible to forget what provides some of the biggest dopamine hits and end up in what I imagine must be some “dopamine desert” where nothing is providing satisfaction and the mood starts to look like depression.

Attention – keeping things visible

Carrying on a little from the last post, relating to why posts don’t get published – where there are a large number of drafts in between sporadic posting.

Attention or focus has been a tricky thing as long as I can remember. I don’t lack an ability to focus – directing the focus is slippery, like trying to catch a salmon with my hands.

Focus can consume when there’s strong interest – but where there is no interest motivation evaporates.

For example writing a blog post may have a fascinating idea in the middle – but sitting down to hash out sentences might suddenly become very dull and that is where distraction emerges, like the woodlouse near my feet that I wanted to watch as I’m sitting in the garden.

Getting a blog post out isn’t only about an attempt to express something – it’s hampered by ideas that it’s supposed to be like an article in a newspaper.

I ask myself why I’m potentially worried someone might think my thoughts are a disorganised jumble on a personal blog – even if it’s not polished someone can come by and derive something from it.

Is this about attention and focus or me just wanting the satisfaction of having rambled and pressed “publish”.

Perhaps the actual point is habits over goals and systems – a habit of writing something manageable and “letting it go” rather than thinking I need a system to enable me to get anything done.

Now I’ve realised I was going to write about keeping things visible – and because I wasn’t looking at the mind map I’ve started using again I forgot that was the point.

The drafts and blog posts are not visible at a glance because the WordPress app needs me to go in and scroll through lists.

If you can get something on a canvas on one screen it can be more obvious what is calling for attention – the task that is coloured purple with a weird font and a fluorescent border.

This colour and quirkiness is stimulating to the distracted brain – perhaps the colours can mean more than the words.

Who knows if this post is “finished”, but I can’t spend more time on it and would rather have the satisfaction of publishing.