Saturday, 29 September 2012

Pop: Living with LLI




Both Blip and I have spoken before about the structure we employ in our lives to prevent the more negative elements of LLI from affecting us. I thought that today I would delve into this a little more and explain exactly what that structure entails.

Every morning at 5am, I write a list containing every interest of ours, every appointment, every possible thing that we might want to do during the day or be reminded of. It has the date and the day at the top, it has space for writing down times for things such as the washing, which we have to go outside for, so that further planning can be kept in the same place. This list is separated into sections for ease of use, very important things such as appointments or lectures, things that we want to do every day, things we want to do if we get time and things that we want to do once a week.

The only way that a list such as this can work is respect. The list almost has to become a third person above both of us and who will be disappointed if we don’t complete what we are supposed to complete. What we want to do is irrelevant, from the moment that the list is written it is taken out of our hands and what we do in the day becomes what the list wants us to do. At night we then reassess and put any important list items remaining into a very short time-based list with the ultimate goal of playing a game at the end.

It sounds obsessive; I can admit that. But before we started using the list system, life was stressful for both of us. We had things that we wanted to do but it was hard to order them and gauge how many could be fitted in. Blip would never know what we were doing next and so I would spend most of the day telling him what we were doing and the plan of the day, even more so than what I do now. This was, of course, stressful on me because it had to always be in the forefront of my mind and although I’m ashamed to admit it I used to get very frustrated with the constant questions he threw at me and having to repeat myself fifteen times a day just so that he didn’t have to worry about focussing on the little things. If I snapped and shouted, he would then try to put remembering these things back onto himself and inevitably his head would get too fast for him and the stress would continue to build up.

Having a list that he can refer to doesn’t stop me helping with remembering things. It is always going to be quicker sometimes to ask me rather than refer to the list. I will still give him the most efficient order to do list items in when asked, because in my opinion it would be far too much to keep the list in a time-regulated order. It isn’t a sequential list with timings and strict importance within the sections because even with self-imposed respect there needs to be a level of freedom. Using this system keeps me free to remember the important things that I want Blip not to worry about and prevents us from building up the stress that leads to hallucinations and whatnot.

It also provides another important service. By having a piece of paper that we can cross things off we have a goal. Through all the studying that we have done of Blip’s funny head we have found that he is kept at his calmest when there is something that he can work towards. If left to his own devices for too long then his thoughts can get on top of him. By having constant goals however he always has something to do that can occupy him. Nearly everything on the list is a passion of ours: Languages, world alphabets, the acquisition of knowledge in areas such as history, geography or medicine, shadowboxing, Rubik’s cubes, games and so on.  Not only does having it laid out so clearly allow us to follow all of our passions, it means that Blip always has something to do that he can put his all into and therefore he doesn’t get overwhelmed.

It isn’t all about Blip either. Being a self-published author as a full-time career and only sleeping for five hours each afternoon leaves me with a lot of time on my hands. I could quite happily write for those nineteen hours minus the time it takes to eat and to make lunch and do the cleaning, but I would not be advancing myself as a person. I think it is very important to maintain a level of productivity when it comes to learning. Studying independently isn’t the same as doing so in school, it is a free and fascinating thing because if you don’t like a certain area of maths then you can just skip it. If you find something hard then you can take three weeks on it and it doesn’t matter because you aren’t holding anyone else up. So by spending my mornings learning about areas of life that I am passionate about, I get to write all night but also stay productive in other areas that I enjoy. This helps my writing because if I just sat in the house for nineteen hours staring at the paper I would eventually run out of inspiration and experiences. I think my characters would end up quite flat if I lived such a life.

Being with Blip isn’t normal; I’ve come to accept that. LLI might not be a condition but it is something that, to fully utilise, requires constant consideration. We could try to be normal, get jobs from 9 to 5 and then watch television until bed at 11 but his head would never be satisfied. The hallucinations would become regular again and he would spend his evenings trying to fill in the gaps other people leave in his knowledge rather than pursuing fresh information. Not every customer in a shop can tell him where they’re going and what they’re doing in the day and I’ve seen the effect that not knowing things like that has on him. Spending his days primarily around me, a person who understands enough that I tell him where I’m going before he even asks, leaves him without the gaps.

Being self-published means I am able to join Blip in this life-long pursuit of knowledge because I’m not held to any strict external timetable. And Blip’s attention to detail means that he can edit my books much better than I can, with much more patience. It is therefore fitting that the first physical copy of one of my books that I can actually hold in my hands is the one inspired by his head that tries to explain low latent inhibition without the super-hero angle that both of us find so irritating and damaging. I have been asked before how I ‘put up’ with him or how I deal with being married to someone seemingly incapable of emotion but it isn’t like that. Our life might not be conventional and there are always going to be people who don’t understand why we live like we do and will therefore dismiss it as laziness, but it works. Blip doesn’t have to pretend he’s normal, he doesn’t have to put on social airs that he doesn’t understand or deal with people that don’t understand him and I get to live my dream of writing full time. On top of that, our lives are dedicated to learning and I can’t remember the last time I was stressed. Unconventional yes, but living like this lets me be the person sat in the corner of coffee shops feeling smug rather than the jealous person sat watching in their lunchbreak. 

This mixture of freedom and structure has led to an important waystone: Cardboard Numbers, my LLI based novel is now available in paperback form on Amazon. Shameless plug you say? That's the best kind, surely. 

Pop (signature on its way)

3 comments:

  1. Hi Guys,

    J here, it's been some time since I have commented as work has been very busy for the past 6 months and i'n not has as much time to read blogs as I would like to have.

    This is a really great post and has uncanny similarities with me and my girlfriend.

    Coincidentally, I have found a way to be more productive and concentrate on my work more and that is to schedule my full day down to the hour. For me, it works a lot better than just setting goals for the day most of the time, but I find it unbearably frustrating is something happens to disrupt it and throws off the schedule.

    I'm interested in what you are saying about hallucinations. I find sometimes that if I am under extreme stress, slightly tired or bored, I always see things (moving 'shadows', objects look like they move and even seeing an object and at a second glance it's gone).

    I've also found that when I am sleeping (or trying to), I have a few issues:
    1) I struggle to 'switch off' my brain. The slightest noise and I am awake.

    2) Auditory hallucinations. This is more common when stressed but I will occasionally hear a scream, drum bang/crash - I even got up as I thought I could hear the dog barking but when I went downstairs he was fast asleep and only woke up when I got close.

    3) Awoken but don't remember. I can apparently get up, have a full blown conversation and fall back asleep and not remember it even happening. This is a hard one to deal with as combined with fatigue from a disrupted sleep pattern, the word 'lazy' is all too quickly slung my way.

    4) Momentary visual/auditory hallucinations. A prime example of this being last week when I woke up at around 4am (van drove past the house and disturbed me). I looked at the clock, took a sip of water, and laid staring at the ceiling for a couple of seconds. I looked at my girlfriend and she looked like a zombie and lunged at me to try and bite my face. As I pushed her and backed away, she suddenly appeared to be sleeping facing the other way. It's difficult to describe as I know I was not sleeping still. I didn't jolt or change in position at all when the hallucination ended, I was definitely awake. Visually it was like a light being switched on, she was lunging towards me and with no interval or movement at all, she was suddenly sleeping and facing the other way! Luckily she sleeps through these things as I imagine it would freak her out.

    We haven't had a formal chat thing about the LLI. I did explain it to her when I first commented on the site and was greeted with some skepticism, not that I blame her - the hallucinations, noises and paranoid thoughts would make anyone think I was either a hypochondriac or a schizophrenic, but when reflecting on it, her personality traits seem to balance out lives. Without her, I would no doubt struggle to get much of anything done and would become even more reclusive than I am now.

    I think she knows that I am not of a normal 'mental state' and can get frustrated. I know my routine when I am working from home, but when the weekend comes, I always ask, what are we doing today (and I need an itemised list as the thought of forgetting something drives me crazy) and she'll give me a run down of what we need to get through. Obviously she gets a little impatient after she has to reiterate it about 10 times a day, but as she is instinctively organised, she will write a list and keep me updated.

    tbc...

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  2. ...continuing...

    As I work from home, I usually cook so that it is ready for when she returns from work. Each week we write a list of meals for the week and put it on the fridge so I know what to cook. She will come in, tell me how her day was, what happened at work and we'll eat.

    A common occurrence when she is telling me of her daily events is that she'll say something like "I was talking to Emma, from our PR company" and I'll say "what does Emma do/What is her job role" and she'll get frustrated as to why I ask questions that in her mind, are not relative to the story.

    Unfortunately, I can't explain that it is because I am visualising everything in my head and the job role helps complete the story (without it I cannot picture what type of desk she is sitting at/what environment she is in etc). Rationally, I know it is of no relevance to the story, but without that information, I cannot visualise it and if I cannot visualise it, I cannot comprehend it.

    Anyway, my lunch break is over, again really great post and I look forward to reading more,

    J

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  3. Hi J,

    Blip here, I'm glad to hear you still finding something useful in our blog. It's interesting that you seem to find comfort and calm in the same places that I do. There's nothing like an ordered list for the day as well as something to keep your mind on. I have managed, through time and practice, to loosen the time restraints on the list slightly so that I can be more flexible. It's a relief because it allows us to catch up on anything in case any element of the day doesn't go perfectly.

    I don't think you should get too caught up in the idea of LLI. Rather, I think you should consider your own unique mental and psychological balance and what demands that makes on your life. Labels don't mean a whole lot and they lead to a great deal of exclusion (i.e. people who don't quite qualify for the label of having a psychological disorder paradoxically deserve no help). But I do think a frank discussion between you and your girlfriend about how you think and how it is just an inherent part of who you are might help things a little.

    I'm sorry to hear that you suffer from such hallucinations. I'm sure you'll be able to calm it down if you concentrate on streamlining any systems you have that aid your calm. By and large I have eliminated the visual glitches, except for when I'm at my most stressed. I still have some minor auditory hallucinations when things are too quiet.

    The very last time I tried to sleep, in fact, I was plagued with the sounds of slow, dripping water, an odd popping like the crackling of plastic and every kind of mechanical click and electronic whirr imaginable.

    I spend all my time maintaining my mind as though it is a paticularly stubborn and finicky child. It never hurts to take yourself seriously when it comes to mental health, nor to dig to the route of any problem or issue you encounter.

    I can also see exactly what you mean about the questions. The context is necessary for reading into the subtext outside of the direct narrative. That is something I worked out with Pop; she understands now that when I ask a question by interrupting like that, it's best to answer it and move on. She doesn't too frustrated with me these days. Lately, things have settled nicely into routine and regular adjustment. It took time but it is worth it for both of us. I may be of an abnormal 'mental state', as you put it, but as both of us are people with minds, we deserve equal consideration.

    We both appreciate the comment and the honesty with which you present yourself. We hope you'll continue to read and find what you can.

    Blippop

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