What Are You Talking About? Communication Processing Issues

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I care about you, truly I do, but could you get to the point please?

One of the most difficult tasks I face daily is engaging in spontaneous conversation. The amount of energy and focus required to follow your words, not get distracted, process your words, understand your meaning and any subtext like sarcasm or body language, then hold onto facts and details from beginning to end of what seems like a never ending onslaught of words…well, it’s nearly torture. I will ask you stupid questions. I will ask you to repeat yourself. I will ask about something you already explained. I will miss key points. I will mix up names or dates. I will get confused on sequencing. I will try to guess your emotional state and lose track of your words again. You will be waiting for a response and I have no idea what you asked me, I’m about a paragraph behind, still processing all of those words, attaching meaning.

I’ve never been an extrovert, but I used to speak fairly eloquently at times, or at least would sound educated and not rude. I used to get tired after attending parties, now I avoid them completely. Attempting to follow multiple conversations is far too taxing on my system. If phone calls need to be made, I either rehearse my lines and write down my facts and questions, or ask my husband to make the call for me rather than find myself in a position of confusion, unable to answer someone’s simple query. I’m not used to feeling slow and stupid. I know this isn’t my fault, but I can’t help wanting to hide it, and feeling ashamed.

Texting is much easier for me, as it allows me to respond with a delay, to process at my own pace. I have been accused of stalling, and some people have read into my delays. They don’t understand. I need time to think. I have to figure out your words, then find my own.

Often while speaking, I can “see” the word I want, but I can’t get to it. I can describe it, but can’t name it. I do this often with my kids, as they understand my deficits and don’t ind playing word games. I used to live in a world of words – roll in them, run and jump and play in them easily. Now they hide from me. I am aware there is a better word for what I am saying or writing, but I can no longer access it. It’s like they all fell down a deep dark well and I can only hear their echoes now.

So I apologize upfront, but if you call me, I am likely not going to answer the phone. I am likely not going to attend the family gathering. I am likely not going to the team picnic. I am likely not going to the kids’ awards ceremonies. I am likely not going to sit in the bleachers at the kids’ baseball games. If I do attend, it will not be for very long. I seem to have about 15 minutes that I can tolerate in a conversation rich environment before my brain overloads and shuts down. It can take me several days to recover from that level of fatigue.

So I am careful. I manage by doing what is absolutely required of me. If I need to take my kids to a doctors appointment on Tuesday, I will not attend something stressful and not mandatory on Monday. Or if I attend, I keep myself at a safe distance so I do not get overwhelmed, engulfed by a crowd, lost in a sea of noise.

http://www.tbicommunity.org/resources/publications/professional_education_social_comm.pdf –

“These cognitive problems can contribute to social communication difficulties:

Attention/Concentration problems can lead to:
Difficulty resisting distraction during conversation
Problems keeping track of what other people are saying
Problems in staying on-topic

Memory problems can lead to:
Repeating oneself when talking
Losing track of the conversation topic
Mixing up instructions or messages

Executive Functioning problems can lead to:
Having trouble starting conversations
Interrupting others
Poorly organized speech
Excessive talking

Impaired Social Cognition can lead to :
Difficulty understanding sarcasm or “getting the joke”
Poor use of feedback from others
Difficulty taking someone else’s perspective “

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