I have an imaginary friend named Max. He resembles me and some of my friends, but not as much as I would like. When Max was growing up there was concern because he was incredibly disorganized and spacey. He spent hours on the Internet. He zoned out when people were talking to him. He got confused about coming up with plans and taking initiative.
But look at Max now! He goes to college and gets good grades. Or he's done with college and has a pretty good full-time job. He lives on his own. He does all these things that his parents and teachers thought he would never be able to do. And it's not because he's "recovered," because he still sucks at all the same things.
I know that when I say Max does things that are really hard for him, it sounds like I'm creating a supercrip narrative about how he is just wearing himself down to the bone doing difficult things, and you should too. And some people who know Max do talk about him that way.
But Max has a secret: he skips to the end or slides into home plate at the last minute or wrangles things out of people so that he can get stuff done despite having no executive function to speak of.
The mainstream reaction to this would be to say that Max is a bad person and if he was a good person he would try harder to get things done on time. However, he tries really fucking hard. That's what everyone with executive function problems does, because no one accommodates them because there's been very little study of them so most people don't realize they're even a part of autism, and it's hard enough to get accommodated for things everyone knows about. Seriously. No one wants to be at a point where executive dysfunction is affecting their life. Max, and I, and everyone, are working as hard as we can. It's not enough.
You have to cheat. Ask for as many extensions on papers as you possibly can. Pretend your computer is broken. Use your charm if you have any. If you're going to cry, don't wait until you're out of the room--do it where the people in power can see you. Eat the same food every day if you can't think of anything else to make. Put other things ahead of taking a shower, even if your mom said you have to take a shower every two days. Sometimes people won't notice you're cheating but even if they do and are annoyed you might still get by.
My mom goes to workshops for people with ASD and then gives me the really long printouts that go along with them. The printouts tell me to sit down and make a list of everything I have to do. When I am anxious, as I have been this year, it's hard to think about these things so I hold on to the printouts out of guilt but don't actually read them. Then my mom finds them and gets upset that I haven't read them and says that I'm not ready to live on my own.
But I am ready to live on my own. Badly. Just like I can hold down a full-time job. Badly. Just like I am getting my homework done. Badly. And I forget to balance my checkbook, which none of my non-disabled friends do because you can get it online, and my mom says, "Well it's different for you because they would be able to do it if they needed to, but you wouldn't, so you have to do it." Theoretically I understand this is true, but my checkbook remains unbalanced.
Which is bad. And I feel bad. I do! At this rate I'll never be able to go to college. But I do go to college. At this rate I'll never be able to have any friends. But I do have friends. I just don't do everything right with them all the time.
This blog is a vice. It is something I have used in the past to avoid doing work or looking after myself. Sometimes trying to force myself to do work or look after myself makes me anxious or upset. So I've also been using this blog to avoid self-injury, in a roundabout way. I'm Somewhere Else is a bad, bad business. However, when I forget its context I feel kind of proud. To someone who doesn't know me, maybe it seems like an accomplishment.
For people whose lives are controlled by executive dysfunction, I firmly believe the difference between getting stuff done and not getting stuff done is not caring about doing things right. You cannot always make a list all the time and be early for everything. You just can't. Hopefully you're good-looking or funny or you remind someone of their niece. Exploit all opportunities. Do not do what people who are not disabled tell you to do (unless you want to, of course).
All too often I find myself waiting for the day when I can do shit properly, which more or less amounts to waiting until I'm not disabled anymore. Then I can feel good enough to deserve everything I want. Well my cure is slow in arriving, so I'm just going to do everything I want now, if that's okay with you.