I've been told that I was a precocious little kid. I learned how to add, subtract, and play piano before I had even begun talking at age 2. Reading came next, and I'd spend hours and hours lost in books, imagining myself in new and amazing worlds.
I was able to rush through the homework I was assigned so quickly I barely even remember doing homework. That is, until high school. In 9th grade, I became clinically depressed, and suddenly this homework that had felt so easy before now just felt impossible. Even if I managed to drag myself in front of my homework, the seeming immensity of completing it blew my mind every time, and I just Stopped. Doing. Homework.
No one could figure out how to support me. It wasn't that I couldn't do the homework, I most certainly could. And it wasn't that I couldn't sit down at the library, I definitely did. I just couldn't start. I couldn't begin. I'd lost my ability to initiate tasks. This is the period of my life when I turned in a paper 6 months late. Yes, I finally wrote that paper because I couldn't graduate without it. But let me tell you, it was a huge emotional struggle.
Right when I graduated college, I developed chronic lyme disease. Now I was done with the unique challenges that school presented me, but I had to work. And with the working memory of a goldfish – that is, 3 seconds long – working as a pharmaceutical chemist was hard (to say the least). As was sustaining my attention for longer than those 3 seconds, or organizing or planning my work, not to mention even getting to work because I'd lost all sense of time. Surviving at a job seemed fairly impossible to say the least.
And again, no one knew how to help me.
But this time, I was older and had more capacity to get creative. So, I started figuring out how I could navigate this wonky new world I had entered.
At first, it was hard even remembering that I could try out new ways of navigating the world. I'd forget there was any ways of being other than the way I as currently being. But slowly, slowly, I started to develop views, practices, skills, and tricks, and these helped me to perform first at par with my colleagues, a feat in and of itself.
And then, a miraculous thing happened, I actually started performing better than my colleagues. Even with this mind of mine that could barely remember, pay attention, or physically navigate my world, I excelled. I was promoted 3 times in 3.5 years. I convinced my managers to dedicate half of my job to a 12-person team I had co-founded. The team was made up of mostly M.A.s and PhDs. I had only a B.A..
What I had developed was so powerful, it effectively outsourced many of my executive functioning (EF) needs outside of myself, which, in and of itself, is executive functioning.
And work became easy. Even with 10s of emails to send a day, meetings, networking, reports, lab notes, my team, conferences, working groups, not to mention the chemistry itself, I worked an 8 hour day and then headed home, letting work fade behind me without a thought until I arrived the next morning, promptly at 8:15am.
The End (For Now)
In my mid-20s, just before I started grad school, I finally learned that I was neuroqueer (the word I prefer to identify myself over neurodivergent), and this opened up a whole new pandora's box of understanding about my executive functioning profile.
First of all, I finally learned the term executive functioning. That helped a lot. Now I had word to describe the difficulties I had been having I had been having my whole life, I could talk with others about it, I could read about it, and I could learn how to get better at it!
But, as it turned out, I had taught myself so many EF skills when I had Lyme disease, that I already had a lot of the EF skills I needed to navigate grad-school! And, not only that, I already had at my fingertips the creativity and capacity I needed to invent more EF supports for myself!
From having navigated Lyme, I had mastered flexibility, metacognition, organization, stress tolerance, sustained attention, and working memory (see What are the 12 Executive Functioning Skills for an understanding of what these terms mean). But there were more EF skills I needed, especially to successfully write multiple long papers every semester: time management, planning/prioritization, and task initiation. And in order to accomplish non-school tasks without the external motivation of bad grades (such as putting this website together!), I also had to build up my goal-directed persistence
Finding the EF literature and getting my neurodivergent diagnosis helped me to realize why so much of my life had felt out of control. Why the things I wanted to do and the things I could do where so far apart. Why I felt so hopeless when I tried to imagine living a life that felt fulfilling.
And, crucially, it also helped me to target the executive functioning areas I still needed to work on in order to live the fulfilling life I wanted.
I no longer feel hopeless. In fact, I feel hopeful about all the ways I am now able to make an impact on this world, navigate relationships, and engage with activities aligned with my values. I have obtained my Masters degree and built a psychotherapy practice and this coaching practice. I am in a very fulfilling, growth-oriented, playful, and functional partnership, and have deep connections with a few close people. I engage in activities that fill me up, like yoga, meditation, music, reading, and scootering around Boulder. I feel like I am the one leading my life.
A Few Important Things
For me, targeting executive functioning alone wasn't enough to see the dramatic improvements I've seen. Three major modalities that have helped me are meditation, yoga, and therapy, especially somatically-based trauma therapies such as sensorimotor psychotherapy (all things I am certified or getting certified in!)
Meditation and yoga helped me to create space in my mind-body and live in and with my body more fully, supporting me especially with metacognition, flexibility, sustained attention, emotional control, stress tolerance, and response inhibition, and generally gave me greater access to feeling like I was the one living my life.
Somatic-based trauma therapy and therapy in general helped me to heal the parts of me that engaged in self-sabotage, that didn't believe in my capacity to accomplish the things I wanted to accomplish, and that got overwhelmed when contemplating even small tasks. This helped me with all of the executive skills, and I've found it has had the most impact on task initiation, planning/prioritization, and goal-directed persistence.
Wrapping it Up
I experience/ed the three main reasons people look for support with executive functioning: mental disorders, chronic illness, and neurodivergence. I, and a lot of other people in developed countries, also experience the fourth reason: An overwhelming, overcrowded, constantly connected, highly distracting world.
I have the unique capacity to not only understand from an objective viewpoint what your relationship with executive functioning is through my training as a neurodivergent-focused therapist, but I have lived through these very same challenges myself. I don't just offer proscriptive techniques, I offer deep, compassionate understanding, a highly personalized approach, and a creative, playful, learning space which, if I've learned anything from my Masters in counseling, is a huge part of what supports someone in changing and growing into the person they want to be.
I'm interested in learning about your struggles with executive function, what's held you back in building the life you want to live, because there is nothing more rewarding to me than walking alongside you as you build the skills you need to build your life, the way you want to live it
Last but not Least
I currently hold a Master's from Naropa University in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a focus on Contemplative Psychotherapy and Buddhist Psychology. I also hold a Bachelor's from Bard college in Chemistry. I have opened a branch of the group psychotherapy practice Neurodiverse Counseling in Boulder and previously worked as a clinical therapy intern at Whole Connection. I have taught Master's levels classes at Naropa as a TA and as a guest lecturer on neurodiversity.
I bring to my work as an executive functioning coach teaching certifications in meditation, yoga, authentic relating, and social meditation, and engage with these practices myself on a daily or weekly basis. They inform my work and I find myself often incorporating these practices to support clients in their growth.