In the couple of days since my test results, I’ve begun to notice the gaps and delays in my visual processing. They’ve always been there, and so I never really noticed them, because I never had much to compare them to. It’s similar to how I’ve heard people describe discovering they were colorblind. You only know another’s experience through description; you’ve only got your own experience as a baseline. Here are my examples:
Last night I met with my writing group. It was my turn to workshop, so we were discussing my poem. The group pointed out a passage where I had a significant shift in the poem, and I underlined on my copy where the change began. A couple of minutes later I looked down again and realized that I had underlined the wrong part; my underline was off by an inch, though in my memory the line had been in the right spot.
Today in class I had the semester schedule on the overhead and was assigning group presentation dates. Twice I wrote the wrong date on the chalkboard, which was right next to the overhead screen. Also today in class I wanted to discuss a reading in our book, and I could not find it in the table of contents. The title seemed invisible to me, even though the table of contents is only two pages long and there are only twenty five or so readings in the book.
The last few days I’ve been doing online conferences with students. Grading papers in an online class requires a lot of file management. If we’re going over two assignments during a conference, I have to manage fifty or sixty files for that week. I download them en masse, mark the files during conference, convert them to PDF files, and upload them one by one. Once I convert the files, the number of files doubles. I had a student who was behind on the conference cycle so we had a number of things to go through. I had trouble seeing her name amidst the many files on my computer. In fact, I can’t talk while I search for a file or else I can’t see it.
I also realize how much I skip around reading a student paper. I am not highly motivated to read student papers because it is required reading and I read hundreds of them. I have to force myself to slow down or else I only read bits and pieces. Last night, I was reading a feasibility report by a student near the end of a long day, and I said something like “you need to discuss the training issues in your proposal,” and she pointed out that she had. I had skipped over that section completely.
It’s hard to say where some of these issues overlap with working memory. But they do overlap. Here’s another grading example: after I finish grading a paper I have to fill out an online form and then upload the file with my marks on it. When I open the upload screen, it covers the online form. Once I navigate to the appropriate folder, often I’ve forgotten which assignment I was uploading and have to look at the form again. I have to actively concentrate in order to remember, or use a big monitor so everything will fit on the screen.
I’ve been using old fashioned written to-do lists lately. When I look at the list, if I’m not thinking of a certain domain of work, I don’t see items on the list, even if they are written in big letters with a fat star drawn next to them.
And there’s “refrigerator blindness”; if I’m not thinking of the right container or context, then I can’t see something in the fridge, even though it’s right in front of me.
I know this isn’t my eyesight. I can read just fine, have a recent prescription for my glasses, and almost all of these examples are short-range vision, and I’m nearsighted. I’m just so used to the gaps, I don’t realize they are there. I can read when I feel motivated. I can read a whole book in a day if I get into it. So this must be my attention slipping. If I’m distracted or anxious, I have a tough time processing.
My frustration has diminished in the last few days, however, because I have a stronger sense of what I’m good at and where my deficiencies are, and the reason has to do with attention, motivation, and focus. What I could never figure out under the generalized anxiety disorder diagnosis is why the same thing could be easy or hard, or why I could have such a hard time getting started on something that seemed so easy once I got going on it. It’s less maddening to know how my brain works.
Still procrastinating on calling the doctor, though . . .