Coping Skills Series - #1C - Multitasking
My first psychiatrist, Dr. Sol Levy, taught me to constantly monitor my mental, emotional and physical condition, as well as my immediate environment. My first Blog on coping skills was entitled Coping Skills Series - #1A - Monitoring Your Interactions with Others. My second Blog on coping skills was entitled Coping Skills Series - 1B - Monitoring Your Mental, Emotional and Physical Condition.
This blog deals with multi-tasking, and is the last of my foundational coping skills. Thee skills I've introduced in these three blogs will affect your ability to master the coping skills I will introduce in subsequent blogs.
When I first developed schizophrenia over 50 years ago at the age of thirteen, multitasking was the ability to walk, talk, and chew bubble gum at the same time. When the word comes up today, it generally refers to such things as Intel's Core 2 Duo computer processor.
In my current circumstances, the most important form of multi-tasking no longer involves bubble gum, but it does involve a computer. It employs a biological computer known as the human brain. It is chip-less, but nonetheless far more complex than any computer you can buy online.
Our brains have evolved with multi-tasking built in. A great deal of this involves maintaining bodily homeostasis and occurs in our subconscious, so we aren't even aware of it. On the other hand, how many teenage girls do you see a day with a cell phone glued to her ear while providing very specific orders for her favorite coffee concoction and talking with a friends in line behind her? If you mention multi-tasking, they assume you are a computer geek.
I learned multi-tasking the hard way. I found it essential to maintaining simultaneous dialogues with Satan and three of his demons (hallucinations) plus Satan's direct input (thought insertions), while trying to decipher the lectures of my foreign calculus professor (for whom English was a 9th or 10th language), as well as dealing with the snippets of past conversations with others that still echoed uncontrollably in my head.
As I mentioned in a previous blog, experts say that up to 85% of all communications are non-verbal, but are instead embodied in body language. When you have schizophrenia, deciphering body language can present a significant problem.
In the first few years of my illness, I employed a lot of operant based behaviors in dealing with the assaults of Satan and his demons. These weren't compulsive or obsessive behaviors, but very specific acts designed by me to ward them off, as I believed were trying to possess me. For example, when I felt Satan trying to enter my heart, I would gouge my chest with my fingernails to remove him. On days when Satan lingered, I inevitably ended the day with a nasty, deep, self afflicted wound in my chest and large portions of my shirt drenched in blood.
With Dr. Levy's help, I eventually managed to develop mental defenses that no longer required outwardly demonstrative behaviors. This required even more multi-tasking. The ability to multi-task to this degree required a great deal of practice. If memory serves me, in my prime, I could carry on seven or eight conversations simultaneously. My daughter and I today often carry on as many as three or four separate conversations at a time without becoming confused.
The ability to employ multi-tasking in communications (involving both verbal and body language), can be very useful as a coping skill in its own right. And, as I alluded above, it may be essential to developing many other useful coping skills. Multi-tasking can reduce the chaos in which we live, and can therefore reduce our level of stress. In fact, even long after effective medications had sent Satan and his demons into exile, multi-tasking was, on occasion, a significant factor in my success in business.
Please remember, this writing reflects my own experience and opinions. If you, or a loved one, are experiencing the symptoms of schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, you should seek professional assistance.