Reply To: Executive Function Cache 22

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Hi Whatmom,
I’m sorry to hear you are going through all of this. I also have an executive function disorder, plus ADHD and was recently diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. Your posts sound familiar to me. These things you are struggling with are very real and difficult to manage. My supervisor forced me to take a leave of absence because I was regularly forgetting conversations and tasks. Like she asked me to do something and I completely forgot it by the time I reached my desk to either do it or write it down, just gone!

Anyway, I’m writing to let you know that there is hope. Basically I need to use paper and electronic tools to make up for the part of my brain that doesn’t work correctly. There is no magic wand to wave. But what has helped me is doing ALL of the following:
1) TAKE DEEP BREATHS and forgive yourself. All you can do is YOUR best.
2) make a simple REALISTIC daily to-do list. Like on average 5 or fewer tasks per day. I was easily overwhelmed what there was a lot to do on one day. Sometimes I’d waste 30 minutes debating what to do first.
3) Write this on a post-it note or somewhere on your phone that you will check often. Keep your list with you all day. Then when your mind goes blank, you can look at it and remember what you wanted to do. And if the task you forgot wasn’t on the list… then maybe it was OK to forget it.
4) I’m also keeping a weekly planner so I can see all that I accomplished and can plan out tasks for today and in the future.
5) remove clutter from your house, office, desk, computer, phone as much as you can to avoid unexpected distractions
6) I’ve downsized my responsibilities, delegated, and am teaching myself to take on less each day so that I have a better chance of achieving my goals.
7) I know you mentioned this one, but it does help me – keep reminders on my phone set up as calendar events and alarms. I have an alarm on my phone to walk to dog at 6pm. Then if I snooze the alarm and don’t take the dog, I’m reminded in another 9 minutes. Sometimes, when I really really really don’t’ want to do something, this still doesn’t work. Then I just try agian the next day. I mean, I walk my dog because the guilt of not taking him is unbearable, but sometimes he has to wait longer than he’d like. I also use my phone to to send me a reminder roughly every hour. The message reads: “Focus, are you doing what you’re supposed to? Deep breaths, focus, and GO!”. My phone tells me when to brush my teeth, when to eat lunch, when to eat dinner. Otherwise I’ll be eating at 9pm, teeth at 11, and bed at 1am. I can’t trust myself to manage my time mentally.

These are additional techniques that therapists have taught me:
-Tell yourself, OK in the next 30 minutes I’m going to start laundry… GO! The anxiety from a short deadline gets me going.
-Ask yourself what is the absolute worst thing that will happen when you do something. In my case, scheduling a dentist appointment. I said, they’re going to judge me for not going in 5 years. My therapist convinced me they probably won’t and if they do, who really cares? (I called, and no one judged me). But figure out if there is something else in your subconscious holding you back from completing the task – try to address it
-It also helps to have someone, you can ask anyone you know, to follow up with you, like hold you accountable for making that appointment. I’ve had my therapist and my boyfriend fill this role for me. Ask hey, I need to make an appointment with the dentist today, can you follow up with me tomorrow and make sure I did it?

I know this is a lot, but I hope at least some of these tools can help you. I don’t know you or your life, but I think that everyone can benefit from working with a good therapist and psychiatrist team. If you can choose a day where your only task is to call the doctor, then another day your only task is to go to the doctor – I think you can make it. It’s more than just focusing and remembering, it’s also important to remove other distractions.

Good luck. Remember every day is an opportunity to try again, and there’s always tomorrow if today didn’t go as planned.