One of my strongest aspie traits is the “special interest” – or, in my case, interests. I definitely have a way of picking up new interests – often quite obscure – and anything that I become interested in always becomes very intense; I cannot have an interest without it turning into an obsession that changes the way that I think about the world.
On the other hand, underneath all of these suddenly-developed interests which are often quite short-lived (a month at most, usually), I have one or two longer-term ones, which tend to carry on for a few years. And then underneath those I have my greatest obsession of all, the interest that has really shaped my life and that fits in perfect harmony with my way of thinking: computing.
But that’s not what I was going to talk about. What I’m talking about is this really annoying thing that happens with my interests. In short, they become so intense that I “burn out” over them and then any attempt to even think about them ends in a meltdown. It just becomes too much. My mind just feels blank when I try to think about it, and if I try to overcome that I get very stressed. It’s like, the interest got so intense and complicated and “exciting” (in terms of the amount of brain activity associated with it – high brain activity being something that I enjoy) that I no longer have the mental capacity to cope with it any more.
This definitely happens to me a lot. With the short-lived interests, it usually happens when I am at the point where I spend every hour of my day researching my new interest, and then I just can’t take in any more information. And then once I’ve forgotten half of it again, the interest either returns to me or a new one develops in its place to fill the spare brain capacity. With the longer-term interests, which are usually more practical in nature, it happens when I spend so much time “doing” my interest that I get physically exhausted, or over-practiced at a skill (which causes me to make mistakes which is frustrating which makes the interest stressful). Normally then I either give it a break for a while (read: I feel too stressed even thinking about it that I cannot possibly carry on just yet) and return a few weeks or months later. And it’s even happened with my “main” interest of computing, although I never give up on that one but usually what happens is that I cannot carry on with something that I have been working on – such as a computer program – but eventually I will feel able to return to it, or start another computing project.
But it’s really annoying. Because it’s like, I only feel satisfied and content when I run my brain at maximum capacity, but if I do that for too long then I get mental burnout. So I have to try to keep a balance, and that’s hard – really hard.