neurotypicals and even some nd people need to realise that, those psychology posts about lying are bullshit. i have adhd. i will not maintain eye contact. i will look around the room, be unable to sit still, fiddle, rub my nose and ears, blink a lot/blink too little (depending on where i am dosage-wise), add unnecessary details, randomly go off on tangents about related topics - everything that you think makes me out to be “telling lies” is just me being neurodivergent and attempting to communicate while you hold me to standards that are not correct for what my brain is like. i’m sorry but your sherlock ass can stop
When we say “executive dysfunction”, I think it’s important to acknowledge to ourselves (and make clear to those who don’t struggle with it) that we’re talking about a basket of different struggles that we’re labeling with one name for convenience. One person’s executive dysfunction may not look like another person’s, even though the outcome (not being able to complete a task) may look similar from the outside.
Some people with executive dysfunction struggle to break down tasks into their component steps. Others struggle to connect cause and effect (’if I do this, this other thing will likely happen’), which makes daily life a confusing and sometimes terrifying black box. Still others can break down steps and parse out cause and effect, but they can’t start the first task (hello anxiety my old friend), or they get partway through and get distracted by a tangent or forget what the next step was because there were more than three (ah add i never miss you because you never leave), or they run out of energy before they can finish (tons of situations can cause this, both physical and mental). Sometimes people have a poor sense of how long it will take to do tasks, never seeming to budget enough because they don’t track time internally well. Others can only complete a task when they have sufficient adrenaline to spike their brain into focus, which usually means working in panic mode, which associates those tasks with Bad Feelings and further reinforces any anxiety the person may have.
And this isn’t just a few people. This is large-scale, across many groups struggling with different issues, from heavy metal poisoning to autism to add to chronic illness to anxiety to schizophrenia to mood disorders to traumatic brain injury, and more.
What we need, as a society, is to build better structures for supporting those with executive dysfunction, structures that acknowledge the multiple different types and causes. Because we cannot keep throwing the baby out with the bathwater here. We throw away incredible human potential that could help all of us because our society is set up to require a single skill which a large percentage of our teen and adult society doesn’t have and can’t easily develop (or they would have, trust me), or previously had by has temporarily lost due to injury or illness.
Instead of treating executive function as something that some people have developed and others haven’t, like artistic skills or a talent in maths or the ability to visualize systems or managing people, we treat it as a default that some people haven’t mastered because they’re [insert wrongheaded judgment here].
What if we treated the visual arts that way? If you can’t draw skillfully, you must be deficient in some way. How can you not draw? Anyone can draw. You start as a young child with crayons, what do you mean you can’t do this basic task?
Never mind that it’s a really complex skill by the time you’re expected to do the adult version, rather than the crayon version. Never mind that not everyone has been able to devote energy to developing that skill, and never mind that not everyone can visualize what they want to produce or has the hand-eye coordination necessary to accomplish it.
Now, I have friends who say that anyone can draw, and maybe they’re right on some level. But it’s hard to deny that it helps that drawing is optional. That you can opt out and no one thinks any less of you as a person. Executive function is treated as non-optional, and to some extent, since it’s involved in feeding and clothing and cleaning and educating oneself, it’s not entirely optional. But we make all of those tasks much harder by assuming by default that everyone can do them to an equal degree, and that no one needs or should need help.
If we built a society where it was expected that I might need timed reminders to eat, I would probably remember to do it more often. I certainly did as a child, when the adults around me were responsible for that task. Now that I’m an adult, the assumption is that I somehow magically developed a better internal barometer for hunger. Many people do. But I and many others did not. Recognizing that there are many of us who need help and treating that need as normal would go a long way toward building support into the basic fabric of our society.
But then, I guess that’s been the cry of disability advocates for decades; just assume this is a thing people need help with and build the entire structure with that assumption in mind.
That ADHD feel when you get so frustrated with how well your peers can Function Properly™ and it’s embarrassing when you get excited when you finally organize your binder and your friends have their entire life color-coded
-You go into the kitchen to get some cookies, only to find the cookies are gone. You don’t recall eating the cookies. You live alone. Disappointed and confused, you go back to your room. Ten minutes later, you go into the kitchen to get some cookies.
-Your leg is bouncing. You try to stop it, but you no longer have control. It bounces. Your leg is going numb. Still, it bounces. It never stops. You give up. It bounces.
-You see a big flower in a vase. You attempt to count the number of petals, but something is stopping you. You are sure you said 7, but was that the last number or 10 numbers ago? Still, you do not give up. You start from the beginning. You are still counting.
-You have $100 dollars. You are saving it to buy a new laptop. You see a $75 dollar cosplay. You have $25. You wonder why you bought it. You have never been to a convention. It hangs in your closet, untouched.
-All of your pencils mysteriously disappear. You are sure you put them on your desk, but they are no longer there. You get another pencil. Two days later, your original pencils are on your desk.
I really hate the way people talk about ADD/ADHD like it’s made-up and is just hyper little white boys screaming in their elementary school classrooms and shit like that.
It’s really, really hard to live with as an adult.
You can’t follow or remember schedules well, not matter how hard you try. You can’t organize your things or your to-do lists no matter how many methods you use. But adults are supposed to be organized, punctual, responsible people. They shouldn’t have to write things on their hands and arms because that’s the only way to even maybe remember it.
You can’t focus when you need to, and you end up so frustrated with yourself because you know you could do the work if you could just stop getting distracted every five seconds. But adults are supposed to be settled down and calm and focused by now. They shouldn’t be on the verge of tears because it’s taking three hours to read ten pages of a book for class.
You can’t stop tapping your fingers, doodling in your notebooks when you need to be taking notes, and making little noises to occupy your brain. But people just tell you to shut up and stop being annoying, and be mature for once.
You forget your meds one day and you can just feel how annoying you’re being but you can’t stop and you’re begging yourself inside to just stop but you can’t control it and you’re acting like a child and people get annoyed with you and don’t mince words to tell you that.
You scramble to appear like every other person around you who seems to have their life together, but you’re just not an adult in the way that everyone thinks adults should be and it’s so frustrating and draining and disappointing.
And then you see people claiming ADD/ADHD isn’t real, and kids who have it are a burden to their parents and teachers, and that you just outgrow it and by college you should be functional in the way that most people or functional. And you just feel broken and less-than and like you’re ten steps behind everyone else, just because you’re wired a little differently. And it’s so hard to be like that but no one takes you seriously. No one gets that it’s an actual developmental disability. No one gets how much you end up hating yourself because you aren’t what you’ve been told someone your age should be.
It’s just frustrating and difficult and no one seems to care or understand.
DO YOU KNOW how hard it is tryin not to ruin a conversation when you have adhd?? like you can be smack-dab in the middle of a serious conversation and ur brain is like ‘damn my mother is a chronic snacker’ and you gotta physically restrain urself from sharing that thought mid-conversation, or changing the subject cuz it would be hella inappropriate
I was talking to Nina about ADD and I just realized how to describe it. So let me put it here.
Focus is something you hear from a young age, focus on this, focus on that, why don’t you remember these things. And you don’t think it’s abnormal, because people forget things, they’re people. And maybe you forget to tie your shoes and people make fun of you for it, but you don’t mind cus it’s a quirk, you’re just forgetful that’s all, and in children that is fine.
Then you enter school. Your teachers ask you to sit still in chairs, or to be quiet, or to stop drawing, or to pay attention or combos of them all. And it’s hard, it’s so hard to do those things and when you can’t manage it, you’re misbehaving. Maybe your grades start to drop because everything seems to slip by, the board in front of you might as well be covered in fog for how well you can focus on it. Or maybe you skate by because the work is easy, you might not be able to focus on the lessons entirely but you can force yourself to tune in for just enough to stitch it together.
It doesn’t matter which one you are, or if you’re another. Eventually, at some point, you come to a conclusion. Because people won’t let you forget it, how easy it should be to remember to eat lunch, how easy it should be to study by reading over notes, how easy it should be, how easy-
Focusing is natural for everyone else. They don’t have to think about it like you do. They struggle sometimes, for sure, but often clicking in is just natural. Focus is a choice.
Focus is not a choice for you. It’s an effort. It’s the hardest work you ever do when you’re not interested in something and someone wants you to watch a board and listen to them talk work for word. It’s like keeping eye contact for a straight hour without blinking. When you can keep focus, it tires you, takes everything you have, and you hate that it’s so easy for everyone else. And when you can’t, when you catch the first five minutes and a thought drifts your way and suddenly the lesson is over, you look at your empty page of notes and wonder why you keep fucking it up.
You start to feel stupid. Maybe your grades reflect it. Maybe they don’t. Either way it starts to stick, how everyone else can do this so easy and you can’t. Like you’re supposed to be able to do it. People get frustrated with you, why don’t you remember this conversation, why can’t you study, god if you only tried-
You want to scream you try. You try your heart out. But everyone seems to certain you don’t. The things that help you focus better, chipping nailpolish off, drawing, tapping your leg, are all signs you’re not giving it your all. They’re signs you’re lazy. You wonder if your trying isn’t enough. Maybe you’re supposed to give everything. You stop your drawing, your movements and your grades slip and it’s not supposed to be like this, you’re stupid, why are you so stupid-
Maybe one day, you realize you’re not stupid. It’s brain chemistry. Maybe they give you drugs that help and suddenly the world is a little clearer, and focusing is easy and was it supposed to be this easy, is that why no one got it? Because they never knew what it was like to cling off the edge of an icy ledge and have no purchase? Or maybe drugs don’t work and you find other ways to work, move lectures to hands on assignments, study by writing yourself practice exams and filling them out yourself, drawing problems to see them rather than to focus on an abstract. Maybe it helps some days. Maybe it doesn’t. But you know it’s not you and that’s what counts.
You still feel stupid though, some days. When you forget your keys, or laugh too loud, or forget fragments of conversation. Because it’s supposed to be easy and you can’t quit that thought no matter how hard you try. Except-
Sometimes, with some things, things you really care about, focus isn’t a problem. Maybe it’s a tv show you like, maybe it’s a hobby you enjoy, maybe it’s a subject you can’t learn enough about. It’s something that matters, something that you love. There you can focus. You can do more than focus: you can tune out the rest of the world like it’s nothing. The world centers to you and the thing, and until you pull yourself out, it remains that way. In this world, you’re never stupid. You’re just you, and you can see everything in front of you crystal clear. 20/20.
You put the thing you love away. The real world awaits. When you get up, you forget to bring your empty mug of tea with you.