Thing #1 that frustrates me about ADHD/Executive Dysfunction advice:
“Oh, you have a mental/neurological issue that makes it difficult for you to be organized, follow routines, stick with systems, maintain a schedule, do your work, etc.? Well, what you need to do is GET ORGANIZED! Schedule everything! Find a system and stick with it! Maintain a schedule! Do your work as it comes in!”
It’s like that Allie Brosh comic where her fish are dead, and everyone’s offering to help find them, or advice like “feed them!” Or “make puppets out of them!” And she says, “No, see, that solution is for a different problem than the one I have.”
Yes, I would love to do those things! I have tried to do those things! I am still trying to do those things! But it’s like that post about how you’re going through an invisible obstacle course, and what looks like a block to everyone else seems like a wall to you. Instead of saying, “it’s a block! Go around!” It would be much more useful to hand me a bag of flour so I can see the obstacles for myself and how to get around them.
I keep looking for something I can do. I can’t maintain an agenda- closest I can do is lot appointments into Google Calendar. I can’t use to-do lists- they overwhelm and freak me out and I end up doing less than before. Breaking down a task into a bunch of tiny pieces should work in theory, but again, freaks me out, and I usually end up spending an hour planning and then I never actually do. I can’t set deadlines for myself. Whatever part of the brain allows other people to say, “yes, it’s due on the 29th, but I want to be done on the 25th” just doesn’t work. I can’t make my brain think something needs to be done until the last minute. This is especially bad in classes where everything is due at the end of the semester. I end up doing what I just did, and having to do two whole classes worth of work in two days. Oddly, once that level of desperation kicks in, I’m capable of sitting down and pounding through the material- but for some reason, I can’t tap into that level of focus without a short, urgent, important deadline. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out.
Thing #2 that bugs me about all self help: Don’t wait for motivation! Just do it!
I think my definition of “motivation” is different from the usual. Most people see “motivation” as meaning something like “wanting to do something, looking forward to doing something, doing the thing with energy and happiness because it is the thing you want to do.”
My definition is closer to “having enough willpower to make myself do the thing despite everything in my brain begging me to go watch Netflix instead.” So when people say, “you don’t need motivation!” What I hear is “everyone else seems to have this source of willpower they can eventually learn to tap into that just doesn’t exist for me.” My best technique for doing stuff is having other people make me do it. Which freaks out my social anxiety because then I feel like I’m intruding on their time to make them help me with mine.
The thing is, I’m not lazy. If I were just lazy this would all be easier to cope with. I WANT to be doing things, I WANT to be successful, I WANT to be productive. I even try, really hard, and the effort that exhausts me seems to be so much lower than the typical threshold. But every time I try to be as productive as I want to be, I burn out in a couple days.
I am on the verge of tears because this is everything that frustrates me about my own ADHD. Every word of this reflects my experience.
i’m so bad today i can only read every fifth sentence and it STILL hits me in the gut. well expressed.
my executive dysfunction lately has been so bad i can’t even work on my hobbies. i can’t even stim right. one of my favorite stims is to lay out a textile work in progress and play with the pieces, rearranging them and finishing their edges and doing all the fiddlybits. lately, even though i have a nice clean worktable and my quilt pieces all laid out by color, i have managed to iron a grand total of like… 6 of them. in three days. i like ironing quilt pieces. it’s satisfying to me. but it just… doesn’t seem to be happening.
people who’ve never experienced executive dysfunction seem to think our disability only applies to things that are hard or unfun, and therefore suspect we’re just making excuses not to do stuff we don’t want to do. but it’s not like that. i have trouble doing stuff i enjoy doing. i have trouble doing stuff i have to do to live, like eating. sometimes the stuff i get distracted into doing is less fun than the thing i was trying to do – plenty of times i go to get food and get distracted and fold laundry instead. because folding laundry is a routine, it’s an organizing task, which takes less executive function than making food, which requires making a lot of little decisions and judgement calls based on what’s in the fridge, what dishes are clean, etc.
if you had something wrong with your brain that forced you to fold laundry when you wanted a sandwich, wouldn’t you call that a real disability?
…..well this all sounds painfully, painfully familiar