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Is the inability to concentrate/get things done part of TMS?

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by music321, Mar 22, 2018.

  1. music321

    music321 Peer Supporter

    As a middle aged man thinking back to the first day of kindergarten, I can remember staring at a picture that I was supposed to color in. I simply couldn't do it. The teacher asked me why I wasn't coloring, and I didn't know why. I simply couldn't do it.

    Around the same time, I remember my dad asking me to pick up some toys and put them away. Other kids could do stuff like this, but not me. I simply could not do it.

    This pattern continued with homework. The only time I could do things is when I had to get them done right now! At some point, I started taking stimulants for ADHD, which never really helped. They gave me far more energy to focus on something other than what I was supposed to be doing. I barely made it through college. I had a thesis that I had to write to graduate. I'd spread out my books at the dorm, then be distracted with something else. I'd pack up and go to the library. I could handle the packing and the walking to the library. When I got to the library, I again had difficulty concentrating.

    Just now, I finally finished four paragraphs related to a hobby of mine, not something unpleasant. I finally did this after hours. I could go on and on with many more examples.

    This has impacted my life profoundly. Rather than working a job that I would like to work, I've found myself working menial jobs because of two reasons: difficulty staying awake during the day, and an inability to concentrate.

    I've come to realize that the the fatigue is either a side effect of SSRI medication, TMS, or both. As for the inability to concentrate, I really don't know. Can anyone comment?
    Balsa11 likes this.
  2. fern

    fern Well known member

    That's an interesting question! I often wonder if certain habits of the mind are just as likely to be TMS as habits of the body can be. I haven't read much about it, but the general consensus around here is that depression, anxiety, OCD, and other mental health issues can be forms of TMS. But the question of concentration is an interesting one, indeed!

    Have you researched executive function disorders? Even if you don't have an actual disorder, executive function exists on a spectrum from disordered to exceptional. You could be anywhere below average (if there is such a thing - I'm out of my element here) and experience negative consequences from poor executive function, especially in your adult life. Some aspects of mine are fine, even good, and others are really lousy. I struggle with chronic lateness, procrastination, losing track of things, and I get flustered doing things like mental math that require me to keep track of numbers (or lists, or names, etc.) in my head without writing them down. But I'm fairly good at planning on paper, changing plans or adjusting to situations on the fly, impulse control (except for when it comes to clicking on a new browser tab and other distractions...), and managing my emotions (too good at that, actually!).

    My understanding is that executive function is something children need to be taught as they grow - it's not something we are genetically predisposed to excel or fail at. But my biological dad really didn't have much influence in my life at all, and some of my tendencies are really similar to his, and nothing like my mom's, who is very on-top-of-things. Who knows. I was really smart growing up and was able to slack off and still get As in just about anything, and my mom was so determined that I succeed in school that she always bailed me out when I forgot homework assignments or permission slips, so I think I just didn't think it was important to learn how to manage my time or keep track of things until it was too late. I'm hoping for a little neuroplasticity to let me learn new tricks now, but it's HARD. It takes a tremendous, almost embarrassing amount of mental energy. I can keep it up for a while, and then I just slump. Luckily I am smart and charming and I've been able to succeed to some degree in spite of those issues. But I'm not living the life I want, and I'm tired of every trip out the door being a total frenzy.

    A frustrating thing about executive function exercises for both children and adults is that most of them are just things like, "Turn a big project into small, manageable tasks." "Plan plenty of time before leaving so you won't be late." "Keep all of your important things in designated places so you won't lose them." These are all things we've all been told since we were children, and for those of us who struggle with executive function, it's not that we don't know these things, it's mustering the will to do them - and the follow-through to keep up with them. Will may be the wrong word. It's like there is something - like you said - just keeping you from doing it, not letting you. What is that thing?

    Could that thing be TMS? Could there be a repressed emotion or assumption down there that keeps us from getting our sh*t together? I often feel like there must be. But then on top of it is a literal lack of skills that I should have been building up since early childhood, habits of the mind that should be fairly automatic and effortless by now because I have practiced them for so long. So there's MORE to it than TMS, in that once you've discovered the underlying emotion or assumption, you also have to build the skills to function the way you want to. I don't think that, like musculoskeletal pain, it will just go away once you've gotten to the bottom of the TMS. You also have to make the effort to adopt new ways of functioning, and practice the hell out of them until they are more automatic.

    Not easy! But in my mid-30s I'm ready to figure this out. How about you?
    Balsa11 and plum like this.
  3. music321

    music321 Peer Supporter

    I'm going to bed. I'll try to post more in the future. I came across a posting on this site that I can't seem to find again after 5 min of looking in which someone claims to have all but cured himself of adhd using Sarno's techniques.
  4. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks @fern

    As someone who has travelled the path of life as if it were a road trip without a map I do appreciate your post. My bohemian self is snuffling like a stuck pig, but how much of that is resistence and how much is the abandon with which I relish freedom is moot.

    Generally I fair better with 'bottom up' over 'top down' approaches so I do struggle with cognitive models. Having suffered long on believing this to be a problem, these days I joyfully hang loose. I am more artist than engineer and feel and function best when I am true to this, yet even artists require skills and techniques...

    And so it goes :happy:
    Balsa11 likes this.
  5. music321

    music321 Peer Supporter

  6. fern

    fern Well known member

    I know what you mean about snuffling! I'm a stay-at-home mom of a small child, and she thrives on routine as most children do. She's more comfortable with freewheeling than other little ones, but it's still so obvious that a predictable routine gives her a sense of mastery and comfort in her space. I never used to care if my keys were in the same place every day, etc., until it started taking a half hour *just to get out the door* with my daughter, and now I'm so late everywhere and flustered when I get there that I draw more attention to myself than I'm comfortable with. And I'm finding that if I meander along with my normal freewheeling way these days, I don't get anything done - not just chores, but also things I truly want to do like meditate, write, create. For the first (maybe second) time in my life, there is a strong felt need to get it together so I can have time and energy to be a person beyond motherhood. But even with the positive motivation, I feel like a bird stuck in a cage as soon as I do get it together. There is something in me that just pushes back so hard against it.

    But at the same time that I'm trying to get organized and improve some of these executive function skills, I also feel exactly what you're saying - that after so many, many years of believing that there was something wrong with me, berating myself for being so forgetful, late, scattered, etc., I'm trying to embrace who I am. I think I'm much more responsive to creative flow in my most freewheeling days. I benefit from that, and hopefully the world does, too, when I create something beautiful as a result. I wonder if there's a balance to be struck. I've had to start going to bed early even though I'm a strong night owl, for example, because I've learned that it's much better for my mental health to wake up before my daughter with her immediate demands. But I've lost those whimsical, misty, never-ending night hours that call the muse in and, even if I'm just sitting around doing nothing, feel so free and relaxed. (So far my solution has been to say "f* it" half of the time and stay up late anyway, regretting it every single time!) I wonder if there's a way to get it together without losing one's freedom and creativity.

    I'm not sure if that's part of the resistance music321 feels, but I think it's related. At least it is in me! I resist deadlines, schedules, keeping organized, etc. partly because I resent the way they hem me in! But if letting it all "hang loose" is keeping me from being in the world in the way I want, where is the balance between freedom and getting it together?
    Balsa11 and plum like this.
  7. fern

    fern Well known member

    Thank you for finding that thread, music321! I'm excited to read it.

    In the meantime, I walked away to make a cup of tea thinking about that resistance, and I wondered if it has something to do with the voice of authority figures in our childhood berating us for being scattered or dreamy. I wonder if the voice pushing us to concentrate, be organized, do the mental math problem, remember appointments, meet deadlines, etc., is the voice of an overbearing teacher or anxious parent exasperated with us for not doing these things. Sometimes the way I talk to myself about these things is patient, but other times it is so rude. No wonder I resist that voice. Why would I want to get organized or concentrate or meet deadlines for that jerk? The Man is right there in my head, and I'm fighting him!

    So...what if it wasn't the Man in my head, or the anxious mom, but my loving heart asking me compassionately to let her shine with some of these skills? What if the mysterious source of resistance is actually a resistance to berating authority or feeling hemmed in by someone who doesn't appreciate our creativity and/or dreaminess? What if, instead, the voice was someone who *truly did* appreciate and love that dreamy self and wanted to help us build skills to help that dreamer offer more to the world and live in a more relaxed, not rushed or flustered, way? I mean that sounds pretty TMSy, doesn't it?
    Balsa11, plum and Lizzy like this.
  8. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle


    Pure simpatico!

    I could have written your reply myself with the substitution carer/caregiver for stay-at-home-mom.

    I am also a night-owl who lived for the dark hours when I would dance and write. To have lost that part of myself is to lose everything that matters. I have healed despite this but I wish to rekindle myself anew.

    There are many aspects I love about the self I have become. I cherish being grounded, becoming a great cook and nurturer, being able to find deep peace and comfort in the soothing tick-tock gentle clock of domesticity and mostly having a place called home that I have made.

    But I do miss my free-wheeling, free-spirited, light-of-heart self. The Lover not the Mother (and not in some narrow-minded Madonna/Whore sense but more the nubility and potentiality). More than anything I miss the swathes of time to play and create without the endless, constant interuptions :mad:

    I'm in the thick of trying to find that balance you speak of. I have TMS as my gunslinging pale rider smacking me around the head each time I goof up. We're not edgy like Bonnie and Clyde but I think we're in it together. At least he has my back.

    Here's to us both crafting a gorgeous golden weave of creative and personal bliss through the actually quite beautiful and blessed fabric of our everyday.

    Plum x
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