Just make a decision: handling executive function issues

I’ve said this a lot, over the journey so far of writing this blog, but I can only really speak for myself. It’s true that a few people very close to me have dealt with mental illness – some of them, far worse than my own experience, and with humbling grace and optimism – but I don’t actually know if my experiences are ‘normal’.

Whatever ‘normal’ is. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been normal in my whole damned life.

So something I’ve noticed, lately, is that when I’m having a bad day, I will be unable to make decisions. It’s a vicious cycle: if I’m not feeling well, my mind in chaos and my stomach churning, I’ll be totally incapable of making even simple choices. If I’m feeling fine, but I’m somewhere that tends to stress me out – the Tube, for example – and someone asks me to make a choice, it will send me spiralling.

Often, it will be something really simple that flummoxes me, and it’s terribly embarrassing. I won’t be able to pick a restaurant for dinner, and it’ll give me a panic attack. I’ll be asked a question, and fear of saying the wrong thing will make me cry. My brain will glitch, midway through a sentence, and I’ll say something garbled that is misinterpreted, and now whomever I’m speaking to is angry with me.

To be a grown woman crying in public because someone asked you if you wanted Italian or sushi is a bizarre feeling. I sincerely hope you never feel it.

It’s tied in, I think, with my anxiety over annoying or upsetting the people around me. I moved to the UK as a teenager, and I’ve never quite gotten over that sensation of being a stressed-out little girl who just does not understand the social nuance of everyone going on around her. I’m terrified, nowadays, of being annoying. I don’t want to make the wrong choice, so I don’t stand up for myself. I don’t say I want sushi – I pretty much always want sushi – because I’m afraid, irrationally, that my best friend since school will decide to abandon me, so determined is she that we have pizza.

Something Tumblr suggested to me, that I’m keen to try, is this: person A (the neurotypical, or at least not actively panicking person in the group) will say, “Here are 5 restaurants I’d be happy to go to for lunch”.

Person B (tear-stained, emotional wreck after accidentally hearing a sad song on Shuffle-mode): “There are two of those I’d prefer, number 1 and number 3.”

Person A: “Great, let’s do 1, then!”

The knack is this: if you’re dealing with an anxious wreck of a person, who is struggling to make decisions due to the soup of neurochemicals that makes up their brain, try and find ways to take the pressure off. Telling them it’s irrational DOES NOT HELP. They’ll be fully aware, I assure you.

Rather, make it into a game. Make it so that the social pressure is as light as possible – make it so that whatever decision they make, they know they won’t upset you, won’t ruin the day. When at all possible, plan things in advance and have a back-up plan with different elements, so you won’t be disappointed if they can’t do option A.

A great example is this: the other weekend, my Welshman wanted to go to the British Museum. He loves it there – I love it there.

The issue was, London is on high alert for terrorism, and they were doing bag-checks outside the building. This, combined with the time of year and the good weather, meant that the street outside the museum was packed, and the queue for the back-check was loud and chaotic.

I took one look at it and knew I was completely incapable of joining that queue and avoiding a panic attack.

Welshman, to his eternal credit, came up with a plan B. He took me to a nearby teashop. We had a fancy silver needle green tea, a slice of ridiculous hipster cake, and bought some books.

I avoided the attack for a little longer, and managed not to embarrass him or myself.

I suppose my point is this: your brain is complicated, and if you’re going through mental illness, your brain is quite literally sick. Some of that will manifest as emotional imbalance, and some of it as practical processing issues, like a computer running a virus scan. Your brain is trying to heal itself, and you need to lay off the pressure while it does its work.

Sushi or pizza, you’ll still be out at lunch with your friend and having a good time. Take a deep breath. Let it out.

Take care of yourself, and make good decisions, when you can.

With love, always,


Please like, comment and share! I love hearing from you all – when was the last time you struggled to make a decision and it stressed you out?

NB: Please note, I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. This blog is intended as a personal diary, and any advice given is friendly and light-hearted – please do not use it instead of seeking professional help. If you disagree with any advice I give, please let me know. Similarly, if you are offended for any reason, please share and I will take your thoughts into consideration. Finally, if you are having violent or self-harming thoughts please seek medical help as soon as possible



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