Just realised it’s been three days now since I ate any lunch. It’s not deliberate – I just don’t think about it at the appropriate time. At least I’ve been having one meal a day thanks to my wife who puts a dinner in front of me when I get home from work – if it wasn’t for that I’d probably not eat regularly at all. What it is – I get so absorbed in what I’m doing that I lose track of everything else and don’t notice little things like the time of day, thirst, hunger, a full bladder…
That’s one problem with the level of concentration I can sustain when engaged in one of my special interests, programming in particular: the world could end around me and I wouldn’t notice. I’ve even failed to hear a fire alarm on a couple of occasions because I’m in the zone and blocking out everything else. (The fire bell is about twenty feet from where I sit with no obstructions between it and me – it’s LOUD.)
The positive side is that this focused mental state (also called flow) is especially productive. It’s like strapping a rocket to my intellect and lighting the fuse – I see systems and patterns with crystal clarity and solutions to problems just arrive in my mind without conscious effort. It’s an exhilarating, euphoric experience: my mind running perfectly, like an engine at full revs with no noise or vibration.
This sustained high level of concentration and attention – the hyperfocus on a particular object or task is not just an Aspie trait although it is reportedly common. It is something that can be learned – most top sportsmen and -women train hard to develop this kind of focus because it helps them attain their best performances. But for me at least it seems to be an innate ability.
Some things will scupper it. I can’t focus on something while I’m depressed or anxious although physical pain doesn’t seem to get in the way. Indeed I don’t notice pain while in flow. But being involuntarily brought out of flow – certain stimuli will do this, such as touching me or putting something in my line of sight – is a jarring experience. I find it can stress me; even anger me, to be taken out of that state unexpectedly and that can be a barrier to getting my flow back.