So I have a job. Maybe starting Monday. It feels very abrupt. Yesterday, I was still shuffling around metaphorically in a kind of mental bathrobe and slippers, and now I need to hit the ground running somehow.

It feels very scary.

I was at the district office filling out paperwork, and I began to realize that the woman explaining things to me was talking faster than I could process anything. My working memory really is jacked up, and in these situations I am trying to cover that. I am not giving feedback to the speaker about what I honestly understand. I am giving them a response I think they expect. So I nod at the points where I note that understanding is expected. I am not nodding at the points where I do understand. I am processing the information and processing the response that seems to be expected of me. Actually processing my own experience of understanding is something I do as and when I get the attentional bits left over to do that. Which might not be a lot.

Wow.

I am middle-aged and I had no idea I have been doing that all my life. Whenever I am in a new situation, I am taking note of what response I am expected to provide to someone else as part of the data I need to process. And that circuit is taking a higher priority than anything else—a higher priority than actual learning, and certainly a higher priority than generating a response that provides authentic feedback to the speaker.

No wonder I just nod and hope that it all makes sense later when I look at the written instructions. I see giving instructions as someone wanting to be heard and attended to and I want to get that over with as quickly as possible.

Maybe my working memory is jammed up with that as much as it is slowed down by the thinner myelination which happens with chronic stress.

Anyway, I kind of get why new experiences are so stressful for me. I am scanning so hard for what is expected and in a new situation, that’s so much less clear.

 

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