Thinking Outside the Todo list

How many to do list apps, productivity apps, and reminder apps have you tried? Even spent money on hoping that it will help you get some semblance of structure and routine in your life? Then sat there weeks later looking at the various apps on your phone and realizing you have 30 apps to remind you but no app to remind you to check your reminder apps unless you are like me and put a reminder in your phone calendar. Yeah it is that bad.

How many times have you sat down and written out a to do list? Made a spreadsheet? Bought an expensive planner and calendar system? How many hours have you spent trying to build a foundation and structure to build your habits and routines on? If you’re like me probably hundreds of hours.

How did you feel after it all? Frustrated? Depressed? Like just another failure? Lazy even? Or like you were sabotaging yourself?

You aren’t lazy. You aren’t sabotaging yourself. You are simply not a person for whom these things work. Yeah maybe they work for 98% of the population. But there is that 2%, the population that includes me, that our brains just can’t seem to grasp this and make it useable much less something to be worthy of remembering.

How many post it notes are up around the house? Yeah, me too. Until I found out that had the opposite effect on me, now I just glance past every single post it note. Even the important ones. It’s because it became overwhelming and my brain shut it out. Thanks brain, but come on I’m struggling here could you send me a fold or two please!?

So what will work for a brain like mine? Well, it’s time to get creative. I created a video, which I’m horrible at, that is just a basic overview of what I need to do each day bare minimum. Now, my phone has a reminder and it’s set to text me and email me as well as set off an alarm when the reminder is triggered. Then my Google home and Alexa are going to remind me too. Will this work? I have no idea but I know every thing else has not been working so far so it’s time to get creative. It’s time to change it up. My brain is not typical, why treat it as such?

Here is a link to my video. Like I said, it’s not good, it’s not pretty, it’s not neat. It just needs to help me.

Routine Reminder

What are you creative ways to help yourself outside of to do lists and reminder apps?

Starting Over…Again

What do you do when you are building a new routine, new habits, and then life gets in the way and you miss a day? Most people pick it right back up. I’m not most people. Habit and routine development for the average person is hard. It’s extremely difficult for me.

Yesterday I spent nearly all day in traffic running back and forth the 40 miles to Seattle four times. I spent 6 hours in traffic. It was stressful, overwhelming, agonizing sensory wise, and overall just absolutely exhausting. It used all my spoons from yesterday and it feels like just getting up to welcome repairmen into my home this morning was the only spoons I had left today.

That means I did nothing of my tasks yesterday. It means if I do my tasks today I’m pulling from tomorrows spoons. The cycle goes on. I’m depleted. I’m burned out. But I have to build this routine because I can’t keep this dysfunctional life going. I have to balance the lack of spoons without complete burnout and getting things done.

Just one or two days of me being off my routine and I have to relearn my routine.

My problem is not so much that my kitchen is a disaster. My bathroom counter is a mess. Or that I have stacks of laundry to complete. Its that I lost my routine and now I have to start over again. It’s not just picking up where I left off. It’s rebuilding it again. This happens regularly too. Just one or two days of me being off my routine and I have to relearn my routine. No this is not typical. Most people can miss a day or two and be just fine getting back into the swing. For me, it’s starting from scratch. I really need to make my video for days like this. I forgot where my routine starts. I forgot what my focus should be. I forgot how to initiate. Again.

I’m tired of this routine. I’ve been told I need occupational therapy and help from a speech therapist to rebuild some of my cognitive abilities. Except when you call they don’t understand. And I can’t find words to explain it thoroughly enough for them to understand. I just know I’m not okay. I know I’m struggling. I also know that I shouldn’t have to struggle this hard.

I saw a great idea a couple days ago. To do lists are a favorite of most people, helps keep them on track and it can even help me when I remember to create one and use it. Since I usually forget I have one or an app for that I keep a small one in my head that if I’m doing well I can complete. I also have two large whiteboards to help keep track of my daily things and who needs to do what and when. Remember, I’m also trying to teach my employees to build routines and habits that they will need when they move on with their careers! (Yes, I just called my kids employees!)

Today is going to be a Bad Day Todo List.

  1. Take medicine.
  2. Eat.
  3. Play with the girls.
  4. Read.
  5. Load the dishwasher.
  6. Brush teeth.
  7. Rest.

I hope tomorrow will be a Good Day Todo List.

Being Accountable

Not many are aware that I hold a Master degree in Accountancy. My dream was to be a CPA, not to do taxes or help large corporations. My dream was to be an accountant to help those that were struggling financially, had issues with budgeting, and educating people about financial responsibility and accountability.

Life got derailed. I’m not a CPA. I’m not helping others with financial struggles and responsibility. I can barely manage myself in this aspect. Not because I don’t know how, but because my brain just isn’t capable of it now. My issues with dopamine insufficiency and executive functioning disorder have taken a toll. Besides that, I’m on disability now. Which is a whole different story.

  • With executive functioning disorder how do you make yourself accountable for the day to day things you need to do?
  • How do you manage to keep yourself on track?
  • And how do you manage those days when you just can’t figure it all out and can’t be accountable for everything.
  • What do you do when you run out of spoons? The Spoon Theory

In my struggles with my executive function, I have to be accoutable not only to those around me and who need me to function, but also myself and my needs. I’m autistic. I get overwhelmed pretty easily. I also struggle with chronic illness, fatigue, and PTSD. In my day to day I can lost to it all pretty easily. Add to the mix being stressed and frustrated by a brain that isn’t cooperating, especially the way that I was used to it working till I was 28, and knowing I am failing on this whole being COO of the house, I lose more spoons to that.

The key for me seems to be to only focus on a couple things, things I know I can do well, and then give myself plenty of time to build them into a habit/routine. I know its always said that it takes 30 days to build a habit. Well I call bullshit. A habit or a routine can take as long as it takes to build. Especially when your brain is not neurotypical. So rather than getting down on myself because I’m still struggling two months later with part of my routine, I need to have more patience and figure out what part of this task or routine is my trouble spot and tweak it to meet my needs.

Yes, others will have different expectations than your own. You can’t control their expectations.

You can control yours and you can control how you think and what you do. There will always people those who are going to be disappointed by what you can and cannot do. You are not accountable for their issues.

So what are you accountable for?

Well, obviously your own health and wellbeing first and foremost.  Now, how to we meet our needs for health and wellbeing without it either being an excuse or seeming to be an excuse for our not meeting out day to day functioning responsibilties?

Start small. Small goals. Small tasks. Just as with everything else, executive functioning is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Start with goals that interest you. If you decide that right now you have to keep the entire house clean and you hate dusting or folding clothes or cleaning out the garbage can, you are setting yourself up to fail.

Yes, those around you might wish to see more than you brushing your teeth daily and picking up dirty clothes. Its okay if they are frustrated. They own their frustration. The thing you need to do is to keep brushing your teeth and picking up your clothes, because one day, its going to build into much more. And then, they will see why you started small.

One thing that helps me, is this blog. Being accountable to perfect strangers helps me want to do better. Sure I love my family, but they also take me for granted. I need a wider audience to be accountable to. This is why I’m here. On this forum. If you think you might need that level to help you, give it a shot!

So in the spirit of being accountable for my tasks what did I get done today?

  1. I cooked breakfast and dinner is cooking now. 
  2. I cleaned up my mess from cooking.
  3. I made my bed.
  4. I cleaned the cat litter box.
  5. I brushed my teeth!
  6. I got the kids schools supplies all set up.
  7. I told my husband I loved him.
  8. I cleaned out expired goods from the pantry and frig.
  9. I cleaned my bedroom and bathroom.

No I’m not going for 10 today. I feel good about this. I am proud of me. This met my expectations.

 

I Brushed My Teeth! Hooray!

Cringe worthy right? I brushed my teeth. Meaning, I don’t usually brush my teeth and at 34 I’m super proud when I do and especially proud when I do it more than one day in a row!

Sadly, a lot of people take this activity for granted that everyone does it and its normal. Well its not. Not only because I have issues with executive functioning but also because I’m autistic and it bothers me. Brushing teeth is very rough. I’m sensory avoidant so I hate it. I use a Sonicare toothbrush, its harsh but I have horrible plaque and gingivitis thanks to my lack of teeth brushing, and even after months its kinda painful.

Hygiene can be a big issue with executive functioning disorder or dysfunction. Maybe getting into a shower or a bath is more spoons than you can muster, maybe you hate the feel of water on your skin, or the bathing products. Or maybe you just forget that you were supposed to bathe today! I do that quite a bit.

I’m an intelligent person. I know its important to take care of my hygiene. Its perfectly logical, so why can’t I just seem to get it together? Why can’t I just do it?

Because I forget to remember.

I have tried many different techniques to help me remember. I once had a ton of post it notes up all over my house. I had lists of tasks printed up and made visually appealing with each step I needed to take. I have reminders in my phone. I have apps galore that I’ve spent hours setting up. And they all just sit there. Because I forget to remember to use them.

A couple years ago my life changed drastically. I was very sick for a number of years and it was awful. My brain and cognitive functioning took a big hit. I struggle with interference and distractions are constant at home. I can’t very well just ignore my kids the whole day now can I? Since that time, I have been bouncing back and forth between various stages of executive functioning, several bouts of autistic burnout, and chronic fatigue. I’ve had months where getting out of bed was the biggest achievement and I’ve had months where I can conquer the world. I very nearly did! But all in all, my stages of functioning and especially my executive functioning have settled it seems in their places and won’t budge. It has become very frustrating overall for me and especially for my husband too. We’ve been married 15+ years after all and now his spouse is struggling with just the day to day aspects of running a household, managing kids, and rebuilding myself.

I’m relearning how to live and function. I’m building up brand new routines because somewhere I lost my routines and I am floundering. I’m a control freak by nature and this is very disturbing place to be in and as much as it frustrates my husband he has no idea just how it affects me.

I’m going to put together a video of all the little things that I need to take care of on a daily basis, have him text me in the morning to remind me to watch after I wake up, and maybe this will work. Kind of like the thing from that movie 50 First Dates with Drew Barrymore. I’ll let ya know how that goes over the next few weeks.

So today, I’m proud. I brushed my teeth. Cringe all you want. I’m not ashamed.

Welcome to My Dysfunction

Hello World!

New blog about my current struggles in life. Executive dysfunctioning. Oh the glory and the chaos!

Well executive dysfunctioning is not actually glorious generally speaking, but it certainly is chaotic.

So what is executive functioning and why is the dysfunctioning of it so hard?

Thanks to ADDtitude Magazine we have at least a good basic definition to use here.

What Is Executive Function?

Think of executive function as what the chief executive officer of a company must do — analyze, organize, decide, and execute. Around the time of puberty, the frontal part of the cortex of the brain matures, allowing individuals to perform higher-level tasks like these:

  1. Analyze a task

  2. Plan how to address the task

  3. Organize the steps needed to carry out the task

  4. Develop timelines for completing the task

  5. Adjust or shift the steps, if needed, to complete the task

  6. Complete the task in a timely way

https://www.additudemag.com/executive-function-disorder-adhd-explained/

So in essence, executive functioning is the very ability to simply meet all the needs of day to day life. When it goes amiss or is dysfunctional, as in my case, the ability to live becomes very difficult.

From a young age I had some kind of executive functioning disorder. Even my parents can tell you that we all struggled with my lack of executive functioning. Now this doesn’t mean I’m not intelligent. That I can’t solve problems or that I can’t actually function in my day to day life. No, this means that I just struggle with certain things like planning and task initiation. I struggle with organization and yes I’m that person who forgets where I put my keys or my wallet constantly. So I have to set up things just right, in plain sight, and do my best to not deviate from whatever routines I have developed to cope with my struggles and disability.

Executive function disorder is often associated with ADD/ADHD but this disorder can affect a wide variety of individuals, with our without ADD/ADHD. Its not uncommon to be comorbid with Autism Spectrum (I am autistic, yay!), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, OCD (Yes, this is totally possible), Personality Disorders, and other conditions like menopause!

It is commonly seen in children as until a certain developmental age and brain maturity, this part of the brain does not fully develop. It can develop in adulthood too, following incidences of PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury.

In my case, I had an executive functioning disorder both in childhood that has been exasperated in adulthood by trauma and illness. Add in the fact that I am now in surgical menopause and wow, my brain is beyond dysfunctional in my day to day operations.

This blog is about my struggles, the coping mechanisms I’m putting in place, how I am overcoming parenting and being a stay at home parent who is responsible for the majority of the household management. My husband is the CEO of the house and I’m the COO. That means I manage all the operations and he just oversees it because he is the breadwinner for us, allowing me to stay home. So welcome to my dysfunction. Welcome to the life of a dysfunctional executive.