Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Never-ending Projects

Completing tasks is a real challenge for me. This is definitely why I was diagnosed with ADHD years before high-functioning autism became the official label for my odd mix of traits. ADHD with seizures, repetitive movements, and a long list of other ill-fitting characteristics.

I have a lot of incomplete projects dating back more than two decades. I also have many completed projects I never seriously tried to publish or distribute. In other words, I do a lot of writing, sketching, programming, and planning without following through to the expected conclusion.

What's strange is that I do complete, with a lot of anxiety from a perfectionist streak, school work, magazine columns, grant applications, handouts for my students, and projects assigned by other employers. So, it isn't everything I don't complete... just the projects I seem to really want to complete for myself. My perfectionism is limited (somewhat) by deadlines, but when there is no deadline, I never stop reworking a project.

Perfectionism is unhealthy.

I outlined a series of science fiction stories in the fifth grade. I have all the notes from fifth grade through the present. I start writing the stories, get depressed with the results, and restart. I'm not a science fiction / fantasy reader because I find flaws in the stories. I want to write something that is impossible to write, of course. Novels, regardless of genre, contain minor errors, but anything scientific is going to be especially challenging to perfect. I should just write, be done with one of the novels, and move ahead.

I've done no better with my start-stop-start over crime novels or thrillers. I complete something... then decide it should be rewritten. More often, I reach the half-way mark and start again, as if 60,000 words or more should be tossed aside.

Now, I do complete some stories. In fact, I've completed a lot of short stories, theatrical scripts, and lots of poetry. But, I don't do anything with those works, either, because I wonder how good they really are. Self-doubts eventually win and I do nothing with the works.

I've tried weekly deadlines for myself, writers groups, and having a student edit my works. Nothing seems to counter the pattern of starting over too often. I'm hoping this changes someday.

It's sad that I can be amazingly productive and end up canceling out my efforts with panic.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Struggling to Sleep

I don't sleep well at night. I end up sitting in front of the TV, reading, or writing until I'm too exhausted to keep my eyes open... but I never seem to just go to bed and sleep like I think other people must do. My wife goes to bed and is asleep within minutes of 10:00.

It is 1:37 at the moment, and I'm writing this, surfing the Web, playing chess, anything to get tired and fall asleep. I've even taken Tylenol PM on more than one occasion merely to sleep for more than a few hours.

During the day, I can sleep. I shut down and sleep to hide from light, noise, and stress. I burrow under my covers, hide my eyes from any light, and sleep. Why can't I do that at night?

Being tired all the time is miserable. It makes it difficult to concentrate. I feel like I'm moving in slow motion, and certainly thinking in slow motion!

Could being sleepy all the time be why I never get the things done I want to finish? Or is there no connection to my productivity and sleep? Maybe there are a dozen other reasons for poor productivity. I'll have to write about those, since I have so many reasons each day for not finishing tasks. But usually, I end up needing a nap more than I need to deal with those other reasons for not being productive.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Wishing to be Nicer

I love my wife, my cats, my family... but I wish I knew how to sound and act nicer. I can be curt, rude, blunt, or whatever else you want to call it. I would like to sound much nicer to the people about whom I care most.

(Tangent: The editor in me forced a rewrite of "people I care most about" even though I know it is a silly compulsion to move a preposition.)

I want to be mellow. I long to be a calming voice, not the loud, nervous, anxious person I am at times. Especially when I don't feel well, I can be a real jerk.

No idea how I can change when I've wanted to be different most of my life. One minor thing goes wrong and I can't relax for hours or even days. It's not fair to anyone else.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Amazing Mercury Myopia

Thursday I was fortunate enough to attend a Minnesota Public Radio forum on autism with Prof. Roy Richard Grinker, one of America's leading anthropologists and the grandson of one of our greatest psychiatric minds. I won't pitch Grinker's book Unstrange Minds, beyond writing that anyone interested in autism and the experiences of a parent should read this book. (Read any of Grinker's books, not only Unstrange Minds, by the way, for a great insight into how anthropology works.)

What struck me was not Prof. Grinker's wonderful presentation, but was the faith of some parents in the notion that mercury causes autism. Not that these parents didn't think there was some genetic factor, I admit, but that these parents were far more concerned with mercury and "toxins" than any realistic research. These people seemed as strange to me as those people certain that Israel was behind 9/11.

Those who suggest "mere" jet fuel could not bring down a building were disproved this week when a single tanker of gas took out three levels of California freeway — but these people will never admit steel melts and concrete compresses. Some people are wedded to their conspiracies. No matter how many tests, studies, meta-analysis or secret pharmaceutical documents show there is no link between vaccines or mercury and autism, the radicals with mercury myopia will remain undeterred.

I wonder why people cannot accept that some things just are? Autism is. Maybe nothing created it. Maybe I was simply born different. No chemicals ruined my brain. No company conspired to poison children in the name of profits.

Others have written about the mercury myopia sufferers in more detail, tracing the idiots and dangerous charlatans behind this myth. Some people simply are self-deluded, others are truly uneducated. But I think many of the "experts" behind the mercury fears are profiteers, no better than mediums offering to talk to the dead.

It's a shame parents, scared and rightly concerned about their children, are being so misled.