motivation videos and why they don’t work for autistics and adhd’ers

Motivation and adhd are a tricky subject, and I love “one size fits all” descriptions like the one in many books and videos, so let’s go over a video I found on the internet that irked me enough to talk about it. I embedded it here for your viewing pleasure.

First of all, it doesn’t take into account bad days. It suggests that every day you have to have a good day and just go through his trick to motivate you. His “showtime” thing. I have been performing on stage and in front of people and sure, I agree it’s a different mindset and if you have done enough public speaking and presentations you know the nerves you get when you do get on stage and the tricks you do to do it anyway, but it doesn’t work this way for when you are really down.

The “routine” he describes is several steps rolled into one, and those that know disabilities, like autism and adhd are 2 of them, know that nothing comes easy when you are disabled and that you will pay later, also known as “spoon theory“, in short it’s that any and all activities cost a certain amount (in this example one spoon), and you only get so many per day. Neurotypical healthy people have a vast amount of spoons per day, but an adhd-autistic only has so many before our supply runs out, so anything we need to focus on, takes one spoon. On good days, going to the showtime mindset presented in the video and going through all the steps might be easy, laughably easy even. On other days, you know the ones, where you hardly get out of bed in the morning, not so much. Even showering seems like an unsurmountable task and you have to find ways to make it easier on yourself to do that task.

Even for things we like, we have to pay in spoons for them to get done, so it’s not a thing that only things we don’t like costs spoons. Setting up a boardgame takes me so long my spoons are done when I want to start to play, so much so that the game has been untouched in my closet now for almost a year.

For example: clothing? I take the pants I will wear out of my closet, as I only own a couple, it’s not a choice, I just take the one that’s on top. T-shirts, I made that one even easier. I only own black t-shirts without a print. Hoodies, black as well. I only own one other sweater or whatever you call it that I wear for more formal times. All the other times? black hoodie. Shoes? Always the same, except on formal occassions. I don’t even untie the knots, so they basically becomes slip ons (if your knots become untied, one drop of glue on the knot and you have slip ons). Socks? All black, one size, one brand. Why this limiting in choice? So I don’t have to spend any time, whenever, thinking about my clothes. Doing laundry? everything goes together. (except towels and underwear) Socks out of the laundry? after they dried? one basket in my sock drawer. No matching or putting together, just drop ’em in the basket. So I lose less spoons and do my fucking laundry. Otherwise, when I have to match and search, I won’t do my laundry at the end of the day on my worst days.

Always, when I think about my days, I picture my worst day, when I can’t get myself motivated to do anything and what would help me get to do the thing when I don’t want to or can’t. I make it easier. How far do I go in this? Far.

Here’s a more recent example: I had long hair, past my shoulders. Saved up for it for 2 years. I hated the drying time and combing it each and every time. I cut it off completely. Until I only have a few millimetres left. Why? Because it was holding me back to take a shower. I wouldn’t take a shower because I dreaded the long drying and the combing. My body rejected taking the shower, because I hated the drying the hair and combing it and after I knew that (as it takes introspection to find this out) I cut all of it. Now, I can hop in the shower whenever I like, as it only takes a couple of minutes now and I’m clean and done with it.

Doing the dishes? I hate doing the dishes, but it’s necessary when you have cooked food. I would let my dishes sit for weeks, because I hated to do the cutlery. I had too many and it would take me a long time before I ran out and was FORCED to do the dishes. I didn’t mind doing the pots and pans or all the rest, but the cutlery was always last and the thing I hated the most, so I took a bag and took all the excess and put it in my cupboard. Now I only have 4 of each and when I run out I need to do the dishes and when I need to do them, I only need to do 4 of each maximum, so it’s easier.

To make it easier on myself I have to really think why I can’t do a certain thing and do something about it, and you can’t believe how happy I am when I find these things. I get the person in the video must have felt the same way when they found out the showtime trick for them, but it wouldn’t work for me, as it’s too many steps. Getting dressed, putting on my shoes (sensory hell, I always walk barefoot when I can), taking my bag and going outside are all different steps, which costs spoons, which on a bad day, I can’t and won’t do, so hence why I find my own little shortcuts like the ones I listed and explained above. They are lifesavers, when I find them.

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