Executive Functioning

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  • I'm having days of feeling in control and operating well. And then there are days like the last few where I can't seem to get anything done, and can't enjoy myself either. 

    I couldn't get dressed this morning, because I was pretty sure that in order to get dressed, I would have to remove my belt and knife from one pair of pants (trousers) and move them to the shorts I wear around the house. Turns out, the belt and pants already were on the shorts I wanted to wear but it was after 1 pm before I checked.

    How can a simple task like moving a belt and knife to a new pair of pants (trousers)/shorts derail my entire day? 

    I can process this in real time. I can see that getting up and looking at my clothing is not a huge insurmountable task. I can see that I am probably fixating on the clothing issue so I don't have to deal with all the work I have to do. 

    But what if it isn't one of the above, which would put the problem in the purview of therapists, etc.

    What if there is actually a short-circuit in my autistic brain that I literally can't "think" my way out of. Like when the ipad gets stuck and then you wait a few minutes and it catches up with whatever it was doing, and lets me proceed with the next task? What if there is something in my brain analogous to the circuitry inside an ipad that just has to whirr around for several minutes, hours of days?
  • HylianHylian Citizen, Mentor
    I have that issue sometimes, too. It's like I just can't get my day started because it feels like my brain cannot handle actually carrying out something so simple, like making my bed/moving some books to get to my computer for school work/grabbing a book to read and opening it/etc. For me I don't know if it's ADHD, autism, depression, or even a mixture of the above, but it's frustrating.

    When it happens it's also hard for me to "logic" myself into doing the things I need to do, as I already know they're simple and that they'll take around a minute (or less!) to do. I've just sat there and done nothing for an entire day sometimes, even though it depresses me to do that, since I just can't get over that mental block.

    It's definitely weird when it happens, because often the next day my level of motivation is fine, or even better than normal. Maybe there can be an aspect of mental exhaustion to it, and sometimes our brains just need to do nothing? I'm honestly unsure as to why this becomes an issue, since it's different than the usual issues I have with starting and changing tasks.
  • Thank you, Hylian. You've certainly described what I experience. I'm sorry this happens to you because it is so frustrating. I do appreciate knowing others experience this too. 

    And when my brain is working correctly, I can't imagine that I actually experience the stuck symptom. When I am stuck, I can't imagine I will ever get unstuck. That part gets scary. I worry I will become useless and a burden to my husband. 
  • AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen
    I can relate Blaze 💜.
    For years in my teens and 20s I hated my brain like it was something separate to my sense of self, that it wouldn't operate the way I needed it to, to get a job done.

    Im much kinder and non judgemental of how it operates these days.

    You have experienced a loss of late, sorry if bringing that up causes you upset, its not intended thay way.
    With a backdrop of significant changes in your life.

    Grief has impacted on my EF massively in the past, my emotional state having a direct effect on my ability to think clearly.
    You are a kind soul Blaze, what would you say to me if I came to you with a similar challenge?

    I think you would tell me that my feelings are valid, that they are a reaction to changes in my life. That the stuck part is normal when the mind and body is already processing challenges, to be kind and patient with myself.


  • HylianHylian Citizen, Mentor
    And when my brain is working correctly, I can't imagine that I actually experience the stuck symptom. When I am stuck, I can't imagine I will ever get unstuck. That part gets scary. I worry I will become useless and a burden to my husband. 
    I worry about becoming a burden on others when I experience this, too. I am very sorry to hear that you also deal with that feeling. It's not a pleasant thought, though I think it's good that we all can come here and relate on these things. I certainly feel a bit better knowing that you and Amity experience the same thing, since before I thought I was just being lazy or something.
  • AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen
    Im not able to deal with the thoughts of being dependent on others, not sure if its an ASD thing to want to be so independent or if thats how I am because of experiences, but I feel the fear too.
  • Thank you for the kind words, Hylian and Amity.

    Amity, thank you for reminding me that I am grieving. That had really slipped my mind. That kind of thing can tip whatever I do have going into a down side. 

    I really am thinking about whether, once the brain has failed in its ability to continue such chores as executive functioning, there really is only rest to get it back. I don't want to need so much rest and I fight it all the time. Which results in me being pretty unhappy. 

    I have been trying to stay calmer in regards to my work, but the end of the month deadlines, coupled with emergency demanding situations; I really don't stay focused. I've been looking back on today and realized a major error in not delegating a task.  On the one hand, it is good I can see where the problem was - I couldn't always do that. On the other hand, an inner voice says; Stupid, Stupid, Stupid, which is really stupid and am writing here to get it out of my system. 
  • AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen
    That inner voice sounds more like an enemy than a friend... I have one judgemental inner train of thought like that, but Ive been slowly reconditioning its significance in my mind.

    Being in a similar situation at the moment with my wonkey donkey executive functioning I'll share an experience from yesterday.

    I have dyscalculia, it doesnt usually impact on my daily life (because I avoid figures like the plague lol), but a simple counting task threw me through a loop. I needed to work out an end date based on a start date, it took me approx 30 minutes to do this. For a typical person, its maybe a 30 second task, yet thats irrelevant, I'm a person who has developed differently, I have some atypical experiences with learning and less than positive ones with math.

    I wouldnt judge the value of a fish by its ability to climb a tree.

    I still made a mistake in the information I disseminated btw, despite working out the correct answer, the dates became jumbled up in my head between the solution page and the one for sharing and I put in the wrong month.

    When my EF is on the fritz, it amplifies my other/underlying challenges.

    It will take time and rest to recover, its not what I would want in an ideal world but to be authentically kind to and care for myself I need to live in the now of reality.
  • That sounds so familiar! I have trouble with dates, too. And times. 
    Thanks, Amity. 
  • Teach51Teach51 Citizen
    Hylian said:
    I have that issue sometimes, too. It's like I just can't get my day started because it feels like my brain cannot handle actually carrying out something so simple, like making my bed/moving some books to get to my computer for school work/grabbing a book to read and opening it/etc. For me I don't know if it's ADHD, autism, depression, or even a mixture of the above, but it's frustrating.

    When it happens it's also hard for me to "logic" myself into doing the things I need to do, as I already know they're simple and that they'll take around a minute (or less!) to do. I've just sat there and done nothing for an entire day sometimes, even though it depresses me to do that, since I just can't get over that mental block.

    It's definitely weird when it happens, because often the next day my level of motivation is fine, or even better than normal. Maybe there can be an aspect of mental exhaustion to it, and sometimes our brains just need to do nothing? I'm honestly unsure as to why this becomes an issue, since it's different than the usual issues I have with starting and changing tasks.

    Hylian said:
    I have that issue sometimes, too. It's like I just can't get my day started because it feels like my brain cannot handle actually carrying out something so simple, like making my bed/moving some books to get to my computer for school work/grab

    I also have this happen when my CPTSD is rampant. I have ADD and it has been  happening all my life, but is less crippling, things that I could do the day before seem impossible today. it is like my brain knows I should perform a task but my body and another part of my brain neutralize and block the response. It was a major problem with my son,  who has severe ADHD, at school because he would perform a task well one day and another he was unable. His teachers thought that he was being a wise guy but his neurologist explained this was part of the condition. It is actually linked to motivation with me, if I really am enthusiastic about a task it is easier for me to break this impasse.
    I discussed this with my therapist this week and the similarities between CPTSD and autism as this had come up in a conversation with one of the friends here. My therapist's opinion is that yes there are similarities but that the trigger in autism can be far less major to disrupt EF. I don't know if this is helpful.
  • blazingstarblazingstar Citizen
    This was very helpful, teach. I so experience having good productive days with days I cannot do anything and whatever I try to do I mess up. I feel like I should be able to be productive (or even content or relaxed!) all days, except for some critical intervention that could reasonable expected to impact me, such as a death. 

    I think I have mentioned this before, but when there is a real, actual crisis, I can rise to the challenge almost without even thinking about it. In the absence of a reasonable alternative, I can step up and do what is necessary. 

    It isn't just an influx of adrenaline that causes this, because other stresses that cause adrenaline surges can just as easily result in shut down. 
  • blazingstarblazingstar Citizen
    edited May 11
    I've been trying to notice the places that habitual dysfunctions of executive mind insert themselves into my day, positing that if I can identify them, I can start to think about changing them.

    I have "caught" several things. This is one that happened today. 

    I lost my stride in work today and couldn't continue. The only "excuse" I allow myself is that I am too tired (although can also be true.) I have noticed when (totally accidentally of course) I end up involved in a new activity, the energy level returns. This doesn't happen all the time, but it happens often enough to make me wonder if  perhaps a change of activity rather than a nap could improve my life, ie give me a chance to do some of the things I enjoy. 

    But, when I am tired and burnt out from work, how do I get the energy to "notice" that I could do something different?

    Any suggestions appreciated. (Lists don't work. I don't even think to look at the list.)
  • BenderBender Citizen
    I've been trying to notice the places that habitual dysfunctions of executive mind insert themselves into my day, positing that if I can identify them, I can start to think about changing them.

    I have "caught" several things. This is one that happened today. 

    I lost my stride in work today and couldn't continue. The only "excuse" I allow myself is that I am too tired (although can also be true.) I have noticed when (totally accidentally of course) I end up involved in a new activity, the energy level returns. This doesn't happen all the time, but it happens often enough to make me wonder if  perhaps a change of activity rather than a nap could improve my life, ie give me a chance to do some of the things I enjoy. 

    But, when I am tired and burnt out from work, how do I get the energy to "notice" that I could do something different?

    Any suggestions appreciated. (Lists don't work. I don't even think to look at the list.)

    I've had this kind of "happy accidents" too. Not sure what to say: the way I do it, and it's not necessarily the healthiest but works for me, is that I bury myself in work when I have a deadline and almost shut everything else out until I'm done. Then I need a complete break in order to recover and go back to a better balance between work and everything else.

    Working from home actually adds some extra challenges with keeping clear boundaries between work and personal life and it's not uncommon for me to have a hard time identifying where specific issues are coming from.


  • Bender said:
    I've had this kind of "happy accidents" too. Not sure what to say: the way I do it, and it's not necessarily the healthiest but works for me, is that I bury myself in work when I have a deadline and almost shut everything else out until I'm done. Then I need a complete break in order to recover and go back to a better balance between work and everything else.

    Working from home actually adds some extra challenges with keeping clear boundaries between work and personal life and it's not uncommon for me to have a hard time identifying where specific issues are coming from.
    When I was younger, this was my pattern as well.  This is how I got through college and grad school. 

    But I can't do it anymore. When I developed my chronic pain, etc., the advice is to break tasks up and rest in between. When it first started I needed a lot of rest. 

    I still need a lot of rest and that still bugs me. Each day I try to get away with less rest and most days I am exhausted by 1 pm. 

    One piece of good news. At my last virtual visit with my primary care doctor, we adjusted my blood pressure and thyroid meds and I have had  a noticeable increase in energy. 
  • BenderBender Citizen
    Bender said:
    I've had this kind of "happy accidents" too. Not sure what to say: the way I do it, and it's not necessarily the healthiest but works for me, is that I bury myself in work when I have a deadline and almost shut everything else out until I'm done. Then I need a complete break in order to recover and go back to a better balance between work and everything else.

    Working from home actually adds some extra challenges with keeping clear boundaries between work and personal life and it's not uncommon for me to have a hard time identifying where specific issues are coming from.
    When I was younger, this was my pattern as well.  This is how I got through college and grad school. 

    But I can't do it anymore. When I developed my chronic pain, etc., the advice is to break tasks up and rest in between. When it first started I needed a lot of rest. 

    I still need a lot of rest and that still bugs me. Each day I try to get away with less rest and most days I am exhausted by 1 pm. 

    One piece of good news. At my last virtual visit with my primary care doctor, we adjusted my blood pressure and thyroid meds and I have had  a noticeable increase in energy. 

    I'm glad to hear that 🙂

    I know what I'm doing is not ideal, TBH I kind of dread the moment when it might not be sustainable anymore. 
  • Teach51Teach51 Citizen
    Bender said:
    I've had this kind of "happy accidents" too. Not sure what to say: the way I do it, and it's not necessarily the healthiest but works for me, is that I bury myself in work when I have a deadline and almost shut everything else out until I'm done. Then I need a complete break in order to recover and go back to a better balance between work and everything else.

    Working from home actually adds some extra challenges with keeping clear boundaries between work and personal life and it's not uncommon for me to have a hard time identifying where specific issues are coming from.
    When I was younger, this was my pattern as well.  This is how I got through college and grad school. 

    But I can't do it anymore. When I developed my chronic pain, etc., the advice is to break tasks up and rest in between. When it first started I needed a lot of rest. 

    I still need a lot of rest and that still bugs me. Each day I try to get away with less rest and most days I am exhausted by 1 pm. 

    One piece of good news. At my last virtual visit with my primary care doctor, we adjusted my blood pressure and thyroid meds and I have had  a noticeable increase in energy. 
    That is very good news blaze.
  • Bender said:
    Bender said:
    I've had this kind of "happy accidents" too. Not sure what to say: the way I do it, and it's not necessarily the healthiest but works for me, is that I bury myself in work when I have a deadline and almost shut everything else out until I'm done. Then I need a complete break in order to recover and go back to a better balance between work and everything else.

    Working from home actually adds some extra challenges with keeping clear boundaries between work and personal life and it's not uncommon for me to have a hard time identifying where specific issues are coming from.
    When I was younger, this was my pattern as well.  This is how I got through college and grad school. 

    But I can't do it anymore. When I developed my chronic pain, etc., the advice is to break tasks up and rest in between. When it first started I needed a lot of rest. 

    I still need a lot of rest and that still bugs me. Each day I try to get away with less rest and most days I am exhausted by 1 pm. 

    One piece of good news. At my last virtual visit with my primary care doctor, we adjusted my blood pressure and thyroid meds and I have had  a noticeable increase in energy. 

    I'm glad to hear that 🙂

    I know what I'm doing is not ideal, TBH I kind of dread the moment when it might not be sustainable anymore. 
    Another lapse in executive functioning. I have it too. I tend not to dwell on impending future problems. I used to think this was the result of the parenting I had. Now I suspect it has more to do with being ND. 
  • blazingstarblazingstar Citizen
    edited May 29
    Another identified lapse in EF. As I see them and can name them, I am thinking I may figure a way out of them. Or at least be able to name them and accept them as part of who I am.

    I have way more to do in any given day than is possible to do. I also have some things that I really enjoy, but can't make myself do them. 

    I have tried lists. Even lists of things I love. 

    I get a bit of "free" time. I will either 1) have no recollection of what I like to do, 2) will remember to look at the list but not "feel" like doing any of them.

    So I have my list in front of me - all the things I like to do: I could play the banjo, the piano, take the canoe out on my little pond, work in the garden...etc. 

    And I have no AGENCY to do any of them. My brain will not pick one. Even if I decide ahead of time on an activity, I have difficulty picking it out. Instead I will read or nap. 

    I have been working on this for a long time. My success rate is probably 1 in 50 tries. When it does work and I do something I like, I am amazed. Like, why was this so hard? Why don't I just do things I like? 

    Maybe the correct question would not be why - I now know it is an ND mind. The question would be how to correct. I am 67 years old and I would like to enjoy some of the things I love to do before I die.  I still have to work for economic reasons. I still have chronic pain (although that is getting better.) 

    Has anyone else identified this problem in their own ND brain? What works for you? 
  • AmityAmity Administrator, Citizen
    Another identified lapse in EF. As I see them and can name them, I am thinking I may figure a way out of them. Or at least be able to name them and accept them as part of who I am.

    I have way more to do in any given day than is possible to do. I also have some things that I really enjoy, but can't make myself do them. 

    I have tried lists. Even lists of things I love. 

    I get a bit of "free" time. I will either 1) have no recollection of what I like to do, 2) will remember to look at the list but not "feel" like doing any of them.

    So I have my list in front of me - all the things I like to do: I could play the banjo, the piano, take the canoe out on my little pond, work in the garden...etc. 

    And I have no AGENCY to do any of them. My brain will not pick one. Even if I decide ahead of time on an activity, I have difficulty picking it out. Instead I will read or nap. 

    I have been working on this for a long time. My success rate is probably 1 in 50 tries. When it does work and I do something I like, I am amazed. Like, why was this so hard? Why don't I just do things I like? 

    Maybe the correct question would not be why - I now know it is an ND mind. The question would be how to correct. I am 67 years old and I would like to enjoy some of the things I love to do before I die.  I still have to work for economic reasons. I still have chronic pain (although that is getting better.) 

    Has anyone else identified this problem in their own ND brain? What works for you? 
    I experience this too Blaze, on a regular enough basis.

    Ive recently put this down to the impact of depression coupled with my change in approch to motivation.

    Traditionally I approached tasks with fear as my motivator, I mean it was normal based on my childhood to be motivated by external factors, motivated by the fear of the repercussions of not doing something.

    Since I changed my internal voice to a kinder one, I struggle to do many things and am in the process of learning how to motivate myself internally for the first time. It is a slog.

    The feeling being absent like you mention, the indifference even to things I enjoy and know I will enjoy is a real barrier.


  • I've given some significant thought to your message, Amity. 

    it occurred to me this morning that, while one always has a choice, I don't always have the agency to act on the choice. 

    This use of the word agency was brought to me by B19 on WP, bless her. 

    An obvious illustration could be: I want to start running again. (I used to be a runner.) OK. It is Sunday morning, what is stopping me from going out to run? Exercise people, personal trainers, etc., will tell you to just get up and do it. And that if I "can't" it is because I am not trying hard enough.

    Ah, HA! It is my lack of trying hard enough that keeps me from running again. But I might not have the agency to run again. It could be I am not trying hard enough, it could be I am too depressed, it could be because I have a broken ankle, it could be many things. 

    So, there are many things that can keep us (me) from having the agency to do something, even if we (I) want to do it very badly. Finding the cause of the lack of agency can be tricky and a stubborn problem to work out. 

    One of the big breakthroughs I had in learning about my pain management was: My pain was not caused by depression. The pain was causing my depression. Think about it, I hurt so badly I can hardly get out of bed. I can hardly walk to the bathroom. I can't do any of the things I used to do and loved to do.  Does this cause depression.? Duh. 

    When I am not in pain, I am not "depressed." ☺

    So I am trying here to think out loud about what is barrier preventing me from doing the things I like to do? It still could be that I am more tired than I think I am.  It could be a nearly invisible isinglass curtain. Perhaps it is nearly invisible because I can't see it yet. I realize this is circular. I want to find out what it is, or at least a way through it. 



  • I've been  becoming aware of another internal message rut that I have been spinning around in probably all my life. Except that when I was young this actually worked. 

    Scenario: I have too much to do. (True all my life, except when I was younger, it didn't matter.)

    Inner voice: OK, you have to  submit a support plan, but you also have to call all the PS providers to try again to find some staff to care for 4 individuals who have none. Let's do the contacting PS providers now and I can do the support plan after dinner. 

    Function: Relieves my anxiety over too much to do. 

    Problem: I can no longer work after dinner. My mental sharpness is highest in the morning. Afternoon it gets a bit mushy and by evening I am pretty much brain dead. Only good for reading detective stories. 

    As I have now acknowledged the problem, I have to find some other way to reduce my anxiety over having too much to do. 
  • Teach51Teach51 Citizen
    Acknowledging the problem is already enormous progress. As I get older my productivity rate and efficiency  is waning significantly.
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