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  • Writer's pictureDonavan Robinson

ADHD and Executive Dysfunction: Why My Brain is Like a Chaotic Traffic Jam?

Updated: May 5, 2023

Hello, ADHD Superheroes and ADHD allies! Today, I want to talk about a topic that we all know too well, or do we? Executive dysfunction. If you're not familiar with this term, let me give you a quick rundown. Executive dysfunction is when our brains struggle to plan, organize, prioritize, and execute tasks. It's like our mental traffic control center is constantly backed up, and we're stuck in a perpetual state of chaos.

Now, some people might think that executive dysfunction is just a fancy way of saying we're lazy or disorganized, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Our brains are wired differently than neurotypical folks, and that's not something we can just "fix" with a little more effort. Trust me, if we could, we would have done it already.

So, what does executive dysfunction look like in action? Well, let me paint you a picture. Imagine you're driving on the highway, and you come across a massive traffic jam. Cars are honking, people are shouting, and no one seems to know how to get out of this mess. That's what it feels like inside our brains when we're trying to complete a task.

We might have a to-do list in front of us, but our brains can't seem to prioritize which item to tackle first. We might start working on one task, but then get distracted by a shiny object (metaphorically speaking, of course) and forget what we were doing. We might struggle to break a task down into smaller, manageable steps, and end up feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed.

And don't even get me started on time management. Time is a slippery concept for us ADHDers. We might think we have plenty of time to complete a task, only to realize that we've spent the last two hours scrolling through TikTok. Or, we might hyperfocus on a task and completely lose track of time, leading to a frantic scramble to finish before a deadline.

So, what can we do to manage our executive dysfunction? Well, there are a few strategies that can help. Breaking tasks down into smaller steps, using visual aids like calendars and to-do lists, and setting specific time limits for tasks can all be helpful. But, let's be real, sometimes our brains are just going to do their own thing no matter how many strategies we try.

Another approach is to use organizational tools like Google Keep and make priority lists. It's helpful to have three tasks that are a must-do for the day, and breaking down each task into smaller steps like I mentioned above, can make them feel more manageable. Setting alarms on your phone for meetings and tasks can also help keep you on track and prevent you from forgetting important deadlines. The key is to make the alarms noticeable, so you don't ignore them. Finding ways to create dopamine, such as doing something fun or enjoyable before starting a task, can help you get started on those less exciting tasks. Remember that the dopamine boost may be short-lived, so it's often best to try to get as much done as possible while the motivation is there. By using these strategies, you can better manage executive dysfunction and improve productivity in your daily life.

The 3000 pound rock analogy vs the 10 pound rock analogy

Imagine yourself in a tough spot, trying to move an immovable object. It's like pushing a massive 3000 pound rock - you know it's impossible, others know it's impossible, but you still try to push it with all your might. As you struggle, you grow more and more exhausted until you can barely stand. But this analogy falls short because the rock is visible, and everyone can see it's too heavy to move.

Living with ADHD, on the other hand, is like pushing a 10 pound rock attached to a 40-foot pole buried deep underground. You can't even see the obstacle, let alone understand why you can't budge it. As you keep trying to push that rock, your frustration mounts, and you grow increasingly exhausted. People around you are puzzled, wondering why you can't move such a small object.

But here's the thing - understanding and accepting ADHD can help you find innovative ways to push that rock. You may need to use some tools to lift the rock out of the ground, but just pushing it with that pole won't cut it. It's about finding what works for you and embracing your unique challenges.

Personally, I like to think of it as a flock of birds trying to fly in formation. Sometimes they all go in the same direction and it's beautiful and effortless. Other times, they're all over the place and it's chaotic and overwhelming. But with the right tools and strategies, we can train those birds to fly in a more coordinated and efficient way. Or, you know, at least we can try.

At the end of the day (by the way, I phrase I feel a lot of people with ADHD use), executive dysfunction is just one aspect of ADHD, and it's not something to be ashamed of. We're all just a bunch of birds trying to fly in formation. Our brains are different, and that's okay. So, next time you feel like your mind and life is in chaos, remember that you're not alone. And, who knows, maybe someday we'll invent a teleportation device that can get us out of those mental traffic jams. Until then, let's just enjoy the ride.

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