There are many words that my friends would use to describe me and lazy just is not one of them. I co-host two podcasts, run social media for both podcasts and myself, I blog for myself, write for a column, make and edit videos, am community manager for one of the places I write for: I am a busy person. So why can’t I seem to get up and take out the trash?
Executive dysfunction happens mostly to those suffering from mental health issues or are neurodivergent and it’s best described as when you literally just can’t even. And I don’t mean to make it sound like it’s a chill normal thing, it’s a debilitating and exhausting condition where cognitively, I know I should do something and just emotionally and physically not being able to. In some chronic pain/neurodivergent circles it’s sometimes framed as having spoons or not having spoons: spoons then acting as an energy unit and sometimes you just don’t have the spoons. Sometimes, it’s just a no bones day.
I didn’t realize that I had executive dysfunction until late last year and early into 2021 when I battled with a huge depressive episode after a prolonged illness that left me bedridden and in the worst physical and emotional place in my life. I was heavy, in pain, couldn’t breathe and walking from my bedroom to my bathroom took at least a break or two in between and I do not live in a large apartment.
I noticed then that trash didn’t go out like it should or recycling didn’t go out as regularly as it should. Dishes would pile up for the first time in my adult life and laundry just didn’t get done. I had no words for this condition and thus only blamed myself, spiraling my depression down further and making it even harder to find the will to do basic things. At its worst point, I was not showering regularly or brushing my teeth regularly even though a previous version of me would be mortified to know that I had let the care and keeping of myself fall that far. Again: cue depressive spiral and further negative self-talk and even less will or energy to get things done.
It wasn’t until I spoke about this with my therapist and consulted some online sources (TikTok) that I realized that what I had was not laziness or just simply depression. I cognitively knew I should take out the trash or shower or clean the kitchen but I couldn’t. Rather than willfully ignoring the task, I was screaming at myself to just get up and use soap when my body and mind just wouldn’t comply.
It’s taken a while to address my executive dysfunction as it does not simply have one cause. It’s a combination of anxiety, chronic illness, trauma and depression that make it hard to do some things and just slightly less hard to do others and even though I have had these issues for years: the executive dysfunction is new.
You may be like when I started wondering exactly what changed and it actually hit me fairly recently why my brain has been extra mean to me just now. There’s a whole ass pandemic that happened and while many did suffer for the first time with anxiety and depression during the pandemic, many of us who were already mentally ill simply saw their mental health deteriorate further. So while I have indeed been mentally ill for years, I have not had to survive a pandemic until very recently and that looming sense of dread and uncertainty does wear on the body.
I’m finding ways to grapple with my executive dysfunction and so far changing up my meds, lots of positive reinforcement and just persistence have made it a lot easier to deal with but I’m still not entirely cured. It still sometimes is a struggle to do basic things but I’m getting better and that’s what matters.