ADHD Lists

To-Do Lists and How-To Lists for ADHDers

Welcome Post
karalianne wrote in adhd_lists
We're tired of having our butts kicked by executive dysfunction! Not sure what executive dysfunction is? Well, it's the part of our brain's functioning that lets us make a plan, follow a plan, and even change our activities (this one is called inertia). People with ADHD, autism, and some other disorders can have huge problems overcoming executive dysfunction, and it's not our fault - we can't do anything about it, but people who don't have these problems often tell us to get over ourselves and "just do it."

This community is for people who have ADHD or other disorders that cause executive dysfunction. We can post our to-do lists for the day and cross off the items as we complete each task. We can also post questions if we aren't sure how to break a task down into steps or more manageable chunks. We can even post steps to tasks we think other people might need help with! It's all about the lists here in the community.

Of course, as a community of lists, we need a tagging system. This system could change. There will be a mod post to let you know of any changes to the tagging system.

Please tag all your posts with your handle and the type of post (i.e., to-do list, how-to list, question). If you're posting a question or a how-to list, please tag your post with the topic (e.g., if I posted a cleaning how-to list, I would tag it "karalianne, how-to list, cleaning").

Here is the icon I WISH I could use for the community, but the file is too big and LJ won't let me upload it!


And here is an essay on executive dysfunction, with three links to more information.

Originally posted as "Do or do not. There is no try."
© 2006, Janna Hoskin

A common attitude encountered by those of us who have "hidden" disabilities - like ADHD, autism, depression, etc. - is "if you'd just try harder, you'd be successful." Or "stop using your disorder as an excuse to avoid working hard." Or (my favourite) "just get off your ass and do it, you lazy bum!"

To those who espouse those views: I am not Luke Skywalker, and you are not Yoda. This is not a case of "do or do not; there is no try."

Telling someone to use the force is only useful if that person actually possesses the power to use the force in the first place. If Yoda had told Han Solo to raise the Millenium Falcon using the force, Han would've laughed in Yoda's face and told him where to go. And I wouldn't blame him. But if Han needed to get the Millenium Falcon out of the swamp at Dagobah and he really couldn't do it himself, he might get Luke and Yoda (or just one of them) to use the force to help him out with that task.

That's the useful advice.

Not "this is something that needs to happen, so even though your history indicates that you are more likely to fail in your attempt to accomplish it, you should just do it anyway", but "this is something that needs to happen, and since your history indicates that you are most likely incapable of doing it on your own, you need to find ways to get it done - ask people who are able to do it to help you figure out some solutions."

I find that people who do not have a disability are incredibly uneducated as to just how difficult life can be for those of us who are disabled. It's like they think that if a person has an invisible disability, then they aren't really disabled, and if they would just "deal with it" then they would succeed in life.

No, not all of my problems are because of my ADHD. They might be more complicated because of it, but they definitely aren't all due to ADHD. Some of my socialization problems are absolutely due to missing information when I was younger, but some of those problems are so obviously caused by my upbringing that it's actually kind of crazy to try to blame them on anything else. And I may have what's termed a psychological/psychiatric disorder, but I definitely am not crazy.

I have worked like a dog to get as far as I have in my life, and nothing has ever gotten easier for me.

The very simple fact of the matter is that my brain functions completely differently than someone who doesn't have ADHD. I feel like my brain is broken sometimes because, in a very real way, it actually is broken - compared to non-ADDers, that is. (I hold that my brain is actually just fine as it is because God doesn't make anything that isn't the way it's supposed to be, and that the reason I have to take meds and need reminders and stuff is more due to there being something wrong with society than there being something wrong with me.)

I have a fairly good sense of which things in my life I actually have control over and which things I am incapable of handling on my own. In fact, I probably have a better idea of that than other people do about themselves. Meds make some things easier, but they definitely don't make anything suddenly happen without any effort. And I am prepared to work on things so that I learn those skills that I don't have, but you know, some days it just seems like everything is a lot harder for me than it ought to be.

But that doesn't mean that my ADHD is something I need to overcome, either. It's hard-wired brain function, and an intrinsic part of my identity. How it's possible to "heal" or "overcome" something like that is beyond me. Neither do I consider it a wonderful thing to have. It definitely has drawbacks! But I am learning to work *with* my ADHD instead of compensating for it.

When I compensate for my ADHD, I am "trying harder" and still failing. Before I was diagnosed and started taking meds to help with my symptoms, I had incredibly high anxiety levels. I was using anxiety to compensate for my ADHD traits and on the road to developing a full-blown anxiety disorder (which probably would have manifested as Generalized Anxiety Disorder coupled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder). My mini-breakdowns and voyages into the realm of depression and suicidal thoughts have dropped off dramatically since I started on the meds.

And nothing's really changed.

I still have ADHD. I still have all the same issues - social isolation, financial difficulties, etc. The difference is that some of the things that were causing me the most trouble are now under control - thanks to the meds - and I am learning to deal productively with the other stuff. Because my anxiety levels are lower, my mood is more stable, which makes it easier to handle problems when they do arise. And my anxiety levels are lower because the problems are slowly becoming fewer.

When I work with my ADHD, I don't have to try harder. I find ways to use those ADHD traits and symptoms to get me through tasks that are necessary. I tend to hyperfocus on the computer, so I avoid using it when I am going to have to be somewhere at a certain time - and I freely use it to accomplish projects that I consider very important, like writing and research. Once I get started on any task, I remain "stuck" doing it until something attracts my attention elsewhere. So I use that momentum to get all kinds of things done.

But others don't see it that way. In fact, others who have ADHD themselves don't always see it that way. Rather than recognize that, because we are all different people, our ADHD must obviously affect us all differently as well, there are people out there who think that all ADHD is exactly the same, and so a person who has different challenges must not actually have ADHD.

An autistic individual, whom I have never met offline, had this to say about the first version of this essay (he is not speaking of me but those who say we should just "try harder" or "just do it":
I will say this... immediately I got the impression that they can solve all disabilities with some "elbow grease" as it were. Perhaps by the same token a hammer will help dandelions grow because it's been proven to work on nails.

There are some aspects to a disability that cannot improve with "exercises" and some can get worse. One case in point is my sensitivities to certain sounds. I cannot desensitize myself. Another example might be sexual preference. While it's true that behaviours can be blocked, one cannot take away a person's preferences regardless. (And inhibiting and not fulfilling those needs can cause much stress in life to the point of feeling effects of starvation and unfortunately, gaining weight... which can become a vicious cycle.)

There are exercises that can be used for coping and there can be some things which are "grey" between "is the disability" and "is the lack of effort" but in either case, recognition of the disability is needed and understanding one's limitations is required in order to be able to progress on any "progressive" kind of work. In a make or break situation, nature will just take its course and repercussions can happen and dealt with sometimes. It is tragic when systematically, people are put in positions of dire make or break situations with known limitations and it isn't quite fair. The expectations need to be there and constant encouragement need to be there and not a lot of "blame" for "the past".

He is so right. Like anyone else, we need encouragement, not criticism. We need assistance and understanding, not denial and blame. We are often much better at blaming ourselves (not our disabilities) for things already.

These invisible disabilities cause a lot of inconsistency in behaviour. And those of us who have these inconsistencies are, as a general rule, unable to explain why we are able to perform a task perfectly one day and incapable of even beginning it the next. (In fact, substitute "second" for "day" and you'll have the full picture.)

Related Links:

ADHD and Executive Dysfuntion
Quote "Executive functioning includes the abilities to plan, prioritize, organize, persist, multi-task, move toward a goal, delay gratification, and self-monitor. Executive functioning often involves inhibition and waiting."

Quote "In high school, I passed many hours thinking about how I wanted to be doing my homework, being frustrated with myself for not doing my homework, making elaborate plans to try to get myself to homework... and still not starting my homework. When I've tried to describe how this worked to others, I've generally been met with disbelief. "If you didn't do it," they say, "You must not really have wanted to." This idea seems to function partly as a belief about how people work, but also partly as a definition -- what a person wants to do is almost defined as what they end up doing."

Some tips on how to manage
Quote "Executive dysfunction involves problems with planning and executing tasks. Sometimes the "simplest" tasks, such as grooming, are very difficult for autistics due to executive dysfunction. Since each person with executive function problems will exhibit different strengths and weaknesses, the methods for dealing with these problems vary quite a bit. The methods presented below work well for myself - they enable me to live independently in much the same way as a neurotypical. Without these methods, I would be unable to do this... Of course these strategies aren't perfect. Even with them, I often find I'm having trouble with maintaining my living space, for instance. But certainly they are better then the alternative of trying to do these things in the same ways that neurotypicals do them!"


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