This week has been a difficult week for me. My son and I had a few medical appointments scheduled, as well as some other outside of the home activities. It has been overwhelming, and this is when all systems crash.
“Executive function is a broad term that refers to the cognitive processes that help us regulate, control and manage our thoughts and actions. It includes planning, working memory, attention, problem solving, verbal reasoning, inhibition, cognitive flexibility, initiation of actions and monitoring of actions.”
The above definition comes from Musings of an Aspie, and I would highly recommend reading that post as well as the follow up posts as they are truly insightful.
I’ve always been a list maker. I’ve been complimented on my organisation abilities and my attention to detail in previous workplaces, and it is mainly because I am generally an efficient list maker. If I don’t make a list, I won’t remember to do it. If I don’t make an exceptionally detailed list, I won’t manage to do it either.
In times of stress, I tend to make lists and then plan out my day step-by-step so that there is no real thinking about “what next” when I complete a task because if I do start thinking “what next”, I end up doing everything except what I should be doing. I get distracted fairly easily. I forget why I started doing something so I end up doing something completely different. This is when adulting is hard.
As an example, a list item that says “laundry” needs to be broken down into:
- Put dirty clothes into washing bag
- Put clothes into washing machine
- Add washing powder and fabric softener
- Switch machine on
- Take clothes out of washing machine
- Hang clothes up to dry
Yes, it really does have to be that detailed.
I should have made lists yesterday, but I didn’t. I didn’t because it was the end of a long week, and I couldn’t even figure out how to go about the somewhat simple thing of finding a shirt to wear. I did find one, but it took much longer than it should have, and the sense of victory that I felt over actually finding one (in my cupboard where it should have been) was probably not quite aligned with the simplicity of the action.
Yesterday, I had a few hours to myself, and I decided to make my way to the shops because I needed a pack of paper. I didn’t write that down because that was the only thing I needed to get – that was my only reason for actually going to the shops.
I returned home an hour and a half later, with three shopping bags full of things. I unpacked all the things because if that doesn’t happen immediately, it will never happen.
I sat down to recuperate from yet another outing for the week, and I remembered that I only needed paper, and then I remembered that when I unpacked the three bags of stuff, paper was not among the stuff I had bought.
I still don’t have paper because the thought of visiting the shops again is just too much for me to deal with right now. I need paper though and the lack of paper is delaying me from continuing to research for an essay that I need to do for uni. Can you see the snowball effect that differences with executive function can have? It piles up, it makes things harder, and it makes things take longer.
So, sometimes, even though I really want to do something, I just can’t. I’ve learned to forgive myself at times like this. I’ve learned to stop trying to push myself forward when all systems fail. Wanting to do something without being able to pull all the threads together in order to get it done is frustrating. I know that it’s a transient thing that will resolve itself and when it does, I’ll be able to get things done again. Until then, I still have no paper.