Brain Chaos: Executive Dysfunction

I’m feeling overwhelmed today. My shortcomings are glaring at me and I’m drowning in them. I’ve been reading and watching YouTube presentations a lot lately about executive functioning and how it’s often an issue for people with Aspergers. It apparently affects areas such as; attention, inhibitory control, working memory, problem solving and planning (anintenseworld.com). I think that’s a trait I have..

As a kid, I remember that my very first assignment in grade 3 was two weeks late. A habit I hung on to. Looking back now on old school reports, whilst trying to compare my school life with my kids’, there is a few reoccurring themes; “Quiet. Needs to speak up in class. Disorganised. Assignment was handed in late.”

You’d think that was something that would change with maturity, but no. Throughout uni (even as a mature-age student at age 29) I generally did the majority of my essay writing and exam study within the last possible few hours available. The fear of impending disaster (failure) was the only instigation of completion. I recall my honours year supervisor watching me incredulously as I scrambled around frantically photocopying my 20,000 word thesis into the 2 extra copies required for submission, 15 mins before the final due-time cut off. That moment right there, summarises my approach to life. Albeit an unintentional approach!

An example in my recent adult life is that I’m terrible at coordinating anything; my kids’ school lives, my pets’ needs and my house are in constant chaos. (My kids and pets aren’t being neglected, there’s just no “order”). There is mess and piles of laundry in various states of needing washing or ironing and all stages in between.

I’m the kind of person who can’t cope with drop-in visitors, not because I can’t cope emotionally but because the house is never guest-ready without a heads up (even then it’s questionable). I’ve been known to hide and pretend not to be home because I don’t want anyone to see the place.

I always promised myself ours would be the kind of house our kids’ friends would love to drop in to and know they’re welcome. But right from day dot, when every afternoon at 3.30pm, my eldest would be trying to coordinate a friend visit after kinder or school which I’d be trying desperately to deflect and hope the other parent would offer their place instead. There’s a mother guilt topic for me to worry about tonight. Yay!

However, no matter how I try, I can’t get the house to look neat and clean within the school drop off and pick up time frame. That is unless I run in a panick the full 5 hours, and that generally will only happen if I know I’m having a visitor that afternoon! It’s exhausting, running for that 5 hours, to make it clean and tidy, just to have it undone very quickly by school bags, afternoon tea mess, cooking chaos and dirty clothes from the day. Not to mention the pet hair sprinkled around for good measure. It just doesn’t seem worth the 5 hour marathon-sprint to have it undone again that afternoon, ready for me to start all over again the next day. It’s on repeat, frustrating, and akin to painting the Sydney harbour bridge (which apparently is in some stage of being painted at all times, as by the time the painting of the bridge is completed, the end it was started at is due for a another coat).

Now, I know; everyone is faced with housework and it’s thankless demands, but everyone else seems to be able to coordinate it so that life goes on and the house is well presented. Not me. No matter how much time I have. My husband comes home and most nights asks me “have u been at home at all today?” Another words; ‘the house is a mess!’

I’m in a constant state of anxiety about it not being clean enough. I first used to blame it on having my uni studies to focus on, then it was working full time (briefly), then it was having babies and then having young preschoolers messing it up and demanding my time. But now, they’re all at school, I’m not working, so what the hell is going on here? Who or what can I blame? Well, me! There’s something about me that just can’t coordinate the housework (or life in general), so that it is done effectively and efficiently.

Therefore, I’m starting to think it’s related to an executive functioning problem for me.

5 thoughts on “Brain Chaos: Executive Dysfunction

  1. Could be. Executive function is one of the weird things for me where I’m both on and off the spectrum. Off it, because I don’t have the serious impairments many Aspies have. I’m pretty punctual, organised and fairly neat. But I have trouble with what I call ‘gear shifting’: moving from one task to another one. In my previous job, I would be working on something like cataloguing while I was on the library issue desk and then students would come up with books to check out and I would just go into a panic because I didn’t know what to do because I was still in cataloguing mode. And then the same thing would happen when I went back to cataloguing a few minutes later. And I’m the world’s worst procrastinator.

  2. I think that’s how all of Aspergers is; this confusing shape-shifting description that can describe so many variations of the same thing. Quite frustrating.
    Thanks for reading my attempts at getting this blogging underway.

  3. OMG! I’ve been procrastinating writing about this issue! Executive Functioning is the bane of my existence! At my age I have development many coping skills on my own but this remains a constant struggle! It was the main issue I struggle with that motivated my to pursue an official diagnosis and seek support.

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