Executive Functions, or Why My Brain Doesn’t Brain Right

While preparing to write this post, I did the following things:

  • Scrolled idly through my entire list of draft posts
  • Played a Gardenscapes board
  • Flipped over to Facebook to check my notifications
  • Went to my Pixabay app to find an image for this post
  • Found an image for this post
  • Found a second image for this post
  • Found images for three other draft posts
  • Chastised myself for using stock photos when I’m a pretty good photographer myself
  • Found one of my own photos for a post
  • Added the aforementioned photos to their respective posts
  • Watched my dad play Breath of the Wild for several minutes
  • Remembered I was in the middle of this post
  • Came back to continue writing
  • Looked up “executive dysfunction” on Wikipedia
  • Fell into Wikipedia hole
  • Came BACK to actually write this post

This sort of thing happens nearly every time I try to do anything that requires concentration, motivation, or focus. And it’s not just work-type tasks. I’ll put off things I enjoy too.

It’s all a part of executive dysfunction, which is tied to my ADHD. It means that I have trouble with executive functions, which according to Wikipedia are “a group of cognitive processes that regulate, control, and manage other cognitive processes.”

I can’t speak for everyone, but for me this has a serious effect on my abilities to self-direct, plan ahead, pay attention, and form goals. These are all pretty crucial aspects of writing a dissertation.

Often, I sit down to work on my proposal and, over the course of a few hours, get very little done. Writing is a slow process as it is — I’m working on the literature review, and that involves a lot of time-consuming back and forth between the works I’m citing and my own writing — but my issues go beyond what is usual for this sort of thing.

I’ll often open my computer with the intent to write, but inevitable get distracted by something. Social media is a biggie, but it’s not the only thing. I can get waylaid by just about anything. It’s a gift.

Honestly when that happens, it’s somehow both a huge annoyance AND a miracle that I even managed to try to start working at all. Because another huge problem I have is even beginning a task.

Executive dysfunction feels like I’m waiting for the right time to do something. The problem is that I’m not ACTUALLY waiting for anything in particular, so what happens is I put things off indefinitely while swearing I’ll start soon.

It’s exhausting and frustrating. Sometimes I think that if I didn’t have this issue, I’d be long done with my dissertation. And I don’t have an answer to how to fix it — the daily Ritalin I take helps a bit but it’s still a struggle.

If you don’t deal with this, it’s easy to think I’m just making excuses or being lazy. It sounds like I should just be able to make myself work. But that’s about as helpful as telling someone with clinical depression to just cheer up.

I’m going to start researching and exploring tricks people use to get through this. But I also need to practice kindness and compassion toward myself. My brain is made differently. It’s not good or bad, it’s just how it is. And I need to figure out how to work WITH it, not fight against it.

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