Lost for words

I often struggle to translate my thoughts into either speech or the written word.

Sometimes I lack the particular executive functioning powers required to organise and synthesise what’s in my mind, to present it to an external audience. At other times, the very fact that I have set myself the task of writing means that I have made a demand of myself. I have told myself I “must” write. And the moment my brain seizes upon the notion of the imperative, some inner refusal mechanism kicks in.

But very often, it’s something far more mechanical.

I found myself in a Twitter exchange a few months ago about how there are times when I’ll have phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and entire, in-depth arguments and treatises swirling around in my mind, only to discover that – when I attempt to commit them to the written form – they are not there.

Being autistic means I process the written word far more effectively than the spoken. I have time to craft, to ponder, to review, and revise. With speech, once it’s gone, it’s gone; with the written word, I can edit what I’m putting “out there”. 

But it’s not as simple as that.

No matter how much easier I find it to deal with the written word, and no matter how much I enjoy writing (and I love it!), writing does not come easily to me. It’s as if there’s some loose connection between the thoughts stored in my mind and the means I have at my disposal to convey those thoughts.

In that Twitter conversation, back at the start of this year, another user talked of “outside head” language, and how this differs from what’s inside the mind. For me, sometimes, the act of committing my words to a written or spoken form means that something gets lost in translation.

There’s a disconnect between my mind and my body.

I’ve noticed that the thoughts come more easily into shape when I’m committing pen to paper than when I’m using technology. The simplicity of the medium provides a smaller risk of overload or distraction. I’m not tempted to tinker with the formatting, edit or delete compulsively, or simply bugger off and check Facebook.

And yet here, I have another problem. Writing longhand for extended periods is something I find intensely painful. I grip the pen too hard. And congenital abnormalities in my elbow joints mean that one of my nerves is constricted whenever I bend my arm. And so I face a dilemma. Writing longhand means pain. But, whilst different, is this any worse, really, than the pain I get from repeatedly typing on an iPad screen?

I’m required to type a lot at work. I have a specialist ergonomic mouse and keyboard, and wouldn’t be able to manage more than around 10 minutes of computer use without them. I could, of course (as people often suggest), use the voice dictation software purchased for me to alleviate the pain and reduce my use of my hands.

But here I am once again, faced with that disconnect between brain and body.

How do I get my words out?

There are times when I feel I have so little control over my own body. I feel impeded. Component parts don’t quite speak to each other as they “should”.

I forget common, everyday words mid-sentence when I’m tired or overwhelmed. I “lose function” dramatically when I have a meltdown. But this other “loss of function” is a subtle, nuanced, hidden loss of function. It isn’t obvious. With time, effort, focus, a whole lot of internal chastisement, and that persnickety, pedantic, perfectionist attention to detail, I overcome it.

But so often, I still feel lost for words.

24 thoughts on “Lost for words

  1. Reblogged this on Aspie Under Your Radar and commented:
    I can very much relate to this. Just the other evening, I was “put on the spot” by a friend who doesn’t understand the disconnects between my thought-forms and spoken words. She seemed to think I was afraid to speak. But there’s more to it than that. Way more. And it’s frustrating to deal with people who equate non-verbal states with lack or disability. Sometimes, I just have a different way of processing and experiencing ideas and communication.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I rarely type any of my emails anymore. My iPhone has decent voice transcription built in. Of course, I have to find quiet places to do the dictation, but I need that anyway. Communication can be such a cumbersome activity, especially writing when your hands are a mess. I’ve lost the use of my hands for several days, due to repetitive stress. Just couldn’t move them. Fortunately, complete rest and stretching restored them. Good thing, too, because that’s how I make my living…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a brilliant and clear description of what happens daily/constantly in my head – at work and outside of work – and on twitter, and writing my blog. It’s so difficult to explain, so frustrating. TY for finding the words!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing! The irony being, this one actually took a hell of a long time to redraft and post! But yes, this is a daily struggle for me, too. I often come across as highly “verbal” (I teach, deliver training, and do quite a lot of talks/networking), and people commend my written language ability. But few realise how hard I’m having to work *all the time* to get it to come out in any kind of meaningful order. It’s never *not*’a hard conscious effort.


  4. Thanks for sharing this! I don’t think I’ve ever been really lost for words, although of course I find the written word so much easier to use than the spoken word, for all the reasons you mention, and because when you are writing, you can’t trip over your own tongue! I can’t write longhand much anymore, I buggered up my right hand with too much knitting in 1992. Now it gets painful very quickly. Not so quickly when I type, but over time that gets painful as well. I don’t think I could deal with dictation or voice recognition. I don’t like speaking unless I’m speaking to another person. I hate talking to machines, which is why I never leave phone messages. I don’t talk to myself either, I hate the sound of my voice in a “void” – I think I’d just startle myself!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I guess you hear this a lot – but I just read your DSV document and it sounds a lot like me. I think I’m autistic, but no one else does, so not sure what to do! Anyway, thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting! Maybe start by doing something similar for yourself? Then you have “evidence” to take to a GP/physician, or whoever is responsible for referrals for assessment/evaluation where you live. It also serves as a useful aid t discussion.

      It’s amazing how often you start to “see yourself” in what others write – that’s what started me out on the process of getting assessed. 😊


  6. I reblogged this on Superaspiegrrl I also struggle with writing and this blog has articulated things I know but have never been able to say. I communicate much better through my artwork and images. I think I have always dreaded writing because of this combined with my dyslexia.
    I find the fear of writing and failing stops me from writing and I am trying to work against that. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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