Processing the “Executive Function Deficit Disorder” lecture
Yes, I’m still keeping with the theme of ADHD. I gotta work with what’s in front of me, so that’s where we are right now. But first, some personal updates.
My bike was stolen two weeks ago. Yes, I had it registered to Bike Index, had an AirTag installed on it, and reported the theft to the police. At first I was big mad, but now I’m just heartbroken, so now we have to see if the bike turns up or if I just have to take the L and buy a new one. If I do buy another, it’ll probably be the Jetson Bolt Pro from Costco, which has a game-changing value in the price-per-watt department. In the mean time, I am riding my old bicycle, powered by biology. Trying to make the best of a crappy situation. At least it forces me to expend more calories, so I’m going to join the ranks of cyclists with tree trunks for thighs and use up all this extra energy stored in my adipose tissue. I now have to be careful to not overtrain however, since too much exercise has been shown to make people eat even more calories than they expended. Not the worst result in and of itself, but it doesn't feel ideal to exercise so much that it makes me binge eat. Also, I take more time to properly lock my bike, knowing that I can't exactly trust my ADHD brain's working memory. That ebike got me through a difficult summer, so it's been an emotional time. It represented my independence and technological prowess. Thank you, ebike. I hope we can be reunited again.
A friend also introduced me to the concept of Dutch bikes, which stands in stark contrast the North American approach to cycling. They sent me this video from the Not Just Bikes channel. (I don't really watch YouTube as a way to pass the time, but this channel is probably the first I would actually consider subscribing to.)
Essentially, the Dutch treat bicycles as a mode of transportation, whereas North Americans treat them as recreational sporting vehicles. They dress for the destination, we dress for the journey. The way we regard cycling as some extreme sport requiring triathlon clothing and expensive lightweight frames is simply classist. Thus, one way I dutchified my pedal bike was by installing a cruiser handlebar, which is wider and swept back, allowing a person to sit upright and more comfortably. My original handlebars, in the style of most road bikes, was causing me terrible pain in my shoulders and neck. The intention of the bent-over posture with the narrow road bike handlebars is to maximize power delivery in the legs' pedalling motion, which comes at the expense of pain in the upper body. In any case, swapping it out has made my cycling more joyful. My bike already has a couple other Dutch features, which was a nice discovery.
A week after the bike theft, the car stopped running. Also not the worst thing to happen to a person, but it did feel like I was being tested. I mentally captured this moment where I was cycling home with a 36 lb. battery in my saddle bag, bopping along to one of my favourite songs. I made the saddle bag using an IKEA FRAKTA, aka the BIKEA SÄDDLE BÅG, and I expect this song to be played at my funeral rave, aka funerave.
One quirk of the car's make and model is this plastic cover over the battery which had these clips holding the positive battery cable, and unclipping them required placing one's large hands in a tight, cramped position. It took a lot more effort, swearing, and sacrificing skin cells on my right hand than I anticipated for a battery replacement, but fortunately I cast said plastic cover to the shadow realm, never to harm another living soul again. Still got the light on the dashboard afterwards, so had to tow it to the garage anyway to get the alternator replaced. So I'm gonna have to wait a while to get a new ebike; the old one might still show up.
Aside from the two transportation-related mishaps, there’s been this big, unspecific sadness looming over my head for the past couple months. It feels like when you're standing on the beach and a wave crashes onto the sand and starts flowing back out. It isn’t a lot of force on your legs, but it does present a challenge to stay put or to move around because looking at the flowing water can throw off your sense of balance. One friend mentioned that they always feel sad during Mercury Retrograde. Another friend suggested it was general pandemic grief. Using all the mood boosters doesn’t seem to help much, like exercising, eating fruit, spending time with friends, sleeping lots. It doesn’t seem connected to any recent events. I just feel sad. Nothing more to say or do about it besides to sit in it for a while, let it pass, and keep going. I wonder how many other people are feeling the same way.
Had enough of my life story? Ready to be distracted by my ADHD? Let's do it.
Lots of knowledge blasted through from the previous post, so let’s make some sense of the emotions by mapping out what applies to me and what actions I can take to mitigate the impacts. Expect mentions of Apple devices and the software specific to its platforms.
Prior to starting back up at work again, I mentioned trying 5 mg Adderall, but now I'm up to 10. The Medications functionality in iOS 16 arrived just in time! Some days it feels like I could use more than 10, but I think that’s the arms race that got me in danger earlier this year. Beyond the challenges of returning to work, my schedule has been full outside of the day job as well. The loss of my two main modes of mobility these past two weeks has been hard on my overall functioning, but I think I’ve been rolling with the punches and Adderall has been helping a ton. As a bonus, I’m crashing pretty hard in the evenings and sleeping soundly through the nights. People can hold general skepticism around any kind of medication, and it's especially true for the drugs targeting the brain. There is a potential for addiction with Adderall, but you wouldn't say a person with diabetes is addicted to their insulin, would you? I have a heavy week in front of me, so on top of managing my stress and saying no to everyone and everything, I may try 15 mg to see how I fare. Only one way to find out.
Externalizing the Internal
I'm going to have to talk to myself out loud a lot more. It's already a good practice for anyone dealing with complex problems, but with my deficit of executive functions, I need to do it a lot more. It's probably one of the reasons why I've felt the need to blog for so long.
Sources of Motivation
Barkley recommended that those with ADHD brain should externalize their sources of motivation. It feels weird to hear this because I’ve spent a lot of effort trying to internalize my motivation. Granted, dangling a reward in front of myself in order to complete a task is not the same as using the opinions of others to validate my self-worth. It’s a lot more realistic to give myself a Halloween-sized chocolate bar for washing the dishes than to labour for approval from strangers. Other external motivators include the Activity Sharing social feature on Apple Watch, the Meditation function in the Mindfulness app, and using the AutoSleep app to track my sleep.
It’s abundantly clear to me that I have time blindness, and I’m learning just how severe it really is. It appears to be both a cause and a symptom of my anxiety. That’s a great interaction. I have to ask myself a dozen times a day "What's the rush?" or “Is it rush hour?” I use a lot of timers. Apple Watch is important, and setting timers is one of the few things Siri can usually manage without issue. I make extensive use of the Calendar app, inputting the location and setting alerts for "Time to Leave." Even still, it’s pretty damn annoying trying to get through the day when your brain keeps freaking out over nothing. They say you shouldn’t accommodate the anxiety, but there’s only so much self-regulating a person can do in a single solar cycle.
With my recent loss of automobility and micromobility, I've been taking the bus, and it's an area where I have to pay extra attention to because of my time blindness and where I live. Calgary was designed to require a car to function comfortably. Marchetti’s Constant says that humans everywhere throughout history have travelled an average of an hour per day for work. That is, as we developed new forms of mobility that could travel farther and faster, people didn’t work closer to home or travel less but instead, they all travelled about the same amount of time to work and at greater distances from home. My bus ride to the office takes one and a half hours one way, so I’m travelling three hours a day by transit when I go to the office, triple the global and historical average. I used to really hate taking transit because some years ago, I found that Calgary Transit drivers could either be early by 5 minutes or late by 5 minutes at any of my stops. It’s less of a problem now with the Transit app, its partnership with the City of Calgary, and the app's GO feature, which shares and crowdsources vehicle locations from other riders. Sprinting to catch transit is…unpleasant. It's bonkers to think that transportation would be so hard even when you live in the inner city. It doesn't have to be this way. Today, half of the world's population lives in urban areas, and that's set to increase to two-thirds by 2050. We'll all need to find more efficient uses for space that aren't as wasteful and lethal as individual car ownership. I can't wait to have a reasonable bus route in Calgary when I'm still working in my 60's.
My Working Memory Sucks
I have to put less trust in my memory from now on. It’s possible that I can improve it through training, but it doesn’t seem efficient to put much effort there. Instead, I can easily arm myself with a bunch of memory aids and techniques to give my brain a break.
One facet for mitigating poor working memory is by setting reminders, and would you believe that Apple has an app called Reminders for that very reason? There are the usual controls for setting notifications based on date and time, but you can also set a location-based trigger within a certain geofence. Siri is helpful here, and I ate my words when I originally thought the smart speaker trend was useless. I have a HomePod mini in my bathroom for playing music, but would you believe that its second most-used function is when I ask Siri to add an item to my To-Do list before I forget? For leaky memory, I use Siri and Reminders (SiReminders).
In addition to the pens, notebooks, sticky notes, and saying thoughts out loud to compensate for my unfortunate working memory, I’ll point out this free app called Drafts.
One of the many purposes of Drafts is to quickly capture information. The developer has tuned the software to drastically reduce the distance between thought and action. Some of their opinionated design choices include making the app lightweight; syncing across iCloud; making apps for the iPhone, Mac, iPad, and Watch; integration with Siri; and automating actions via Siri Shortcuts and x-callback-url schemes. There are shortcuts to create a single reminder or multiple reminders if my draft has multiple lines, plus there is a lock screen widget as of the latest update. Beyond the free version, a subscription costs some $25/year, and it is well-worth the money for me. On top of unlocking the pro features, I'm paying to keep the indie developer’s lights on so I can keep using the app for years to come, which is apparently a lot to ask in the broader note-taking app market. This might all feel like overkill, and you’d be right for most people. My working memory sucks that much.
Wrap It Up
Thanks for making it to the end!
My ebike was stolen. The car broke down and then I got it fixed. Since then, I’ve been using my old pedal bike and the bus. Been feeling big sad for some reason these past couple months. I still have ADHD, and there are a bunch of different techniques and technologies that can compensate for it. Such techniques include medication, meditation, externalizing the internal, and candy as motivation. Since I’m such a techie guy, I use tools like Apple devices, timers, Calendars, Reminders, and Drafts. Your mileage may vary, but this is what works for me at the moment.