Static and dynamic mental friction – a way of looking at CFS brain fog?

I’ve been sitting here, trying to either get myself back to writing – or get something else USEFUL done.

Sub-prime time

I’m below the functional line. Let’s call this ‘Sub-prime time.’

In Sudoku-solving terms, this means it takes me more than 7 minutes (sometimes significantly more) to do the Hard ones. And then I do another, and another, and the results are the same.

I’m awake. It’s an odd feeling to be awake, yet incapable of doing anything actually productive unless someone tells me to.

Like static vs. dynamic friction, it takes more effort to get over the energy line (ie, make a decision) to start doing something useful (not writing fiction – that takes a lot more; filing; simple cleaning; a phone call) than it takes to keep the mind rolling once it has started.

I’m perfectly sure that if someone would start me up, and sit here for a moment until I got started, I could keep going.

This is a very silly state for an adult to be in, don’t you think?

Staring at the wall

I sometimes call Sub-prime time ‘staring at the wall,’ but it actually comes in two flavors: the one that could do something if it got started (A), and the one where there is nothing left (B)*.
This is the first kind. Sub-prime A. GOOD sub-prime. Grade A sub-prime. If I can access it.

Paying attention to these details is what’s going to help me find solutions for some of them.

The obvious one (but it requires a decision OR premeditation) is to ask the Husband to get me started on something. I balk at that one (not a good habit to get into if you can avoid it: asking the spousal unit to tell you what to do when you seem lost is dangerous matrimonial ground).

Sometimes the adrenaline from deadlines (taxes due TOMORROW) or imminent problems (LATE charge, or PENALTY charge) is enough to force me over the line, and I get going, and seem to be able to keep going for a while. The adrenaline fades, but work gets done in the meantime in a slow, steady, one-step-at-a-time pace.

A possible solution?

The less obvious one is to train myself to recognize the mental state, and have some way to get myself to make that initial sticky step to start the cart sliding down the incline (overcoming static friction so that the region with dynamic friction is achieved).

I’m seeing a light here: when I’m too tired to do anything, the Sudokus take forever – AND are often failures. Something is not clicking in the brain – and the brain can’t make the connections.

If it’s bad enough, I finally realize it and take a nap or go to bed (often WAY too late at night because it takes that long to decide).

But when I’m in a state where something might be doable (writing this post is an example of this) if I could but get started, the Sudokus don’t FEEL bad – I don’t feel as if I were trying to open doors that have been glued shut), but I am surprised to find that they take so long: my brain is working (or I couldn’t get the right answer), but very slowly (not much in the way of energy in there).

Implementing this solution

It is odd to have to monitor and gauge your own brain AS YOU USE IT.

But it is critical, because I have a lot of both kinds of sub-prime time (awake, but not getting anywhere), and some of it is usable given the right starting push.

I think I will look into

1) assuming I’ll get sub-prime time every day, and

2) using a tiny bit of my PRIME time to set up a task I can just sit down and start at, because it is cleanly laid out, and all the pieces are at hand, and the area is tidy.

I’ll post later if it works. I’m not sure if it will work on the Sub-prime B = staring-at-the-wall-because-there-is-nothing-left time. That may just be stuff I have to somehow live through, as usual.

But I’m starting to think it may work on the Sub-prime Grade A time: usable if I could just get started. I got this post written, didn’t I?

Brain fog is interesting – I just wish I were studying it in someone ELSE’S brain.

*NOTE: Sub-prime A ALWAYS slides into Sub-prime B too soon, and the opportunity to actually get something done with that state of mind vanishes, usually for the day (unless it is early enough to take a nap, and the nap works).

Make sense?


5 thoughts on “Static and dynamic mental friction – a way of looking at CFS brain fog?

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

    Thanks to the person who came along and read this today – I had forgotten I wrote this!

    I’m sitting here in exactly that state – A – and trying to figure out how to get going.

    But just the realization seems to have helped a bit: I put my reading glasses on, started the caffeine drip that is Diet Coke #1, and am going to go move the muscles. The timer for 10 minutes get set, and reset every time it runs out. The B1 is in the body, as is breakfast – maybe there will be some energy production soon, and I’ll get going.

    Over a year later – and nothing much has changed.

    The good part: it also hasn’t gotten worse, something I worry about.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      I try – and part of that is paying attention to the things I CAN change, even if only a bit.

      That and a stack of undone To Dos. I feel so stupid so many nights when I realize I might have been able to do something, but I couldn’t get get it going. Always hindsight, never foresight.


  2. Megan S

    I can relate to the staring at the wall and needing someone to tell you what to do. Lately I’ve been a bit better and can actually get myself to do some things but there are still plenty of times when I’m crashed and can’t work anything out.



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