NOTE – this is the second entry on the new theme I’m exploring around mental well-being and neurodivergence…. which I’m now thinking of calling “Life Off Script”
A neurodivergent friend of mine asked me how I was coping with my new ADHD diagnosis. They said if I needed someone to talk with, they’d be there for me, especially when I hit “the crash”.
“The crash? What’s that?” I asked (it didn’t sound good).
They told me it’s the time when it properly sinks in – this is a life long condition – it’s never going away.
When this came up I was still feeling the first rush of relief and release at my diagnosis. I was glad to learn that I’m not just “lazy”, “messy” and “disorganised”. I have a special brain that works atypically. It’s a reason (not an excuse for) a whole bunch of behaviours that have been problematic throughout my life.
Having a diagnosis is the perfect excuse for an ADHD brain to hyperfixate on a new thing – becoming an expert on my own brain. I have been on a journey of discovery with a series of small epiphanies that go “oh, that’s an ADHD thing?! Not everyone does that???! Oh right of course!” I’ve found support groups, inspirations and connections with my “neurokin” – new and old friends who I suddenly find have a shared perspective, because they are neurodivergent too. Yay!
And then I had a really bad day… one of the ones where I have a mental list of tasks I want to achieve, and I just can’t start.
Hello, Executive Dysfunction.
I used to spend a lot of time on days like this in a dialogue with my internal voice asking “what on earth is wrong with you..?!”
This time I knew the answer. I know what’s “wrong” – it’s my brain. With no puzzle to answer, I began to give way to fresh frustration, anger and despair at my inability to get on with things.
“Come on brain. Just do it! Stop blocking me. Just DO THE THING!”
My brain would not cooperate. Then again, it’s never responded well to angry demands. Who does? I don’t like bullies and I don’t like myself as a bully, either.
Sentences that begin with “just do…” are generally not going to go down well – they are loaded with shame and blame. Getting stuck in a shame loop is a downward spiral I’m all too familiar with.
A diagnosis means the shame loop isn’t a rebellion against social expectations, or my inner parent. Fighting executive dysfunction is a fight with my own brain – one I am never going to win, because my brain just does not work that way. And it never has. And it never will.
And I am tired of fighting.
I think that was “the crash”.
I’ve been in it for a couple of weeks, on and off, coming to terms with this. I may try ADHD meds and they may help… but my brain is not going to stop being “wrong”.
I reached out to some “neurokin” at this point, and they said to take my time. No matter how much I want quick fixes, adjusting to this will take time. And also, they reminded me that we are not “wrong” – we are atypical, and it’s normative circumstances that make us feel “wrong”.
I sat with this for a while and realised that when I’ve been stuck in the Executive Dysfunction shame loop, there was often another voice trying to get a word in. I tried to notice it. It was telling me to write. I wanted to write – I’ve always loved to write, creatively, as a way to process my thoughts, to articulate and calm the otherwise fast and furious ideas whirling around in my brain falling over themselves to be heard, so quickly they jumble and get jammed.
It might be poetry, a shopping list, a blog post, a to-do list, or a journal entry… that doesn’t really matter. I had been resisting many of my urges to write as self indulgent, or avoidant.. another way of prevaricating instead of doing “the thing”. But if I’m not doing “the thing” and I’m not doing what I want instead, then I’m stuck doing nothing and feeling worse.
So I made a mental note to myself. Then I told my therapist. Then I told a loved one. Then I wrote it on social media.
“Write. Just write. For goodness sake, write.”
Today I have had an OK day – I haven’t done all the things I wanted to get done. I noticed that the Executive Dysfunction shame loop stuck brain was looming… and I decided to write.
It’s not a magic solution. It might not work next time, or the time after that. But right now, it feels better than being stuck in a pointless fight with my own brain. It’s not “wrong” – it just needs to be allowed to do what works.
Radical rest. Noticing and doing what works, instead of what “should” be done … and the rest will follow, I hope.
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