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Time Flies When You Are Neurodivergent

February 1, 2024 Mahevash Shaikh

Time flies when you are neurodivergent. I know this because I am not neurotypical, given that I have been diagnosed with double depression and generalized anxiety disorder. I am aware that many people do not consider depression and anxiety as neurodiverse conditions. But I do, and my lived experience matters. Plus, my psychiatrist himself told me that having depression and anxiety for years has changed the structure of my brain such that it is different from that of a person without depression and anxiety. So, let's talk about time and neurodivergence.

Time and Neurodivergence Is Affected by Executive Function

I find that time flies because I have mental illnesses. In particular, I hold depression responsible for something called executive dysfunction. According to Health,

"Executive dysfunction is a phrase used to describe the challenges someone has with their executive functioning, such as difficulties with memory, thinking, planning, and organizing. Executive dysfunction is not an official diagnosis, but instead it's a symptom of another condition like depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer's, and more."1

In particular, executive dysfunction means I struggle with neurodivergence and time management. When I go through an episode of depression, virtually every task I do is affected in the sense that I am slower at finishing it than before. Worse, I don't quite notice that I'm taking significantly more time than usual to finish said task. So, I show up late at most events, work longer hours than my neurotypical peers to do the same amount of work, lose track of time, and so on. Since executive dysfunction also affects motivation, it is also the reason why there are days when I struggle to get anything done

Time and Neurodivergence Involves Paying Selective Attention

With neurodivergence, to get something done on time, I have to tune out everything else and focus on it. In technical terms, I consciously pay selective attention to the task I want to complete. According to VerywellMind, 

"Selective attention is the process of focusing on a particular object in the environment for a certain period of time. Attention is a limited resource, so selective attention allows us to tune out unimportant details and focus on what matters."2

From the above definition, it is obvious that even neurotypical people pay selective attention because there is simply too much stimulus in our world to pay attention to. However, I'm talking about making a conscious choice to pay selective attention, and therein lies the difference between neurotypical and neurodivergent people. 

Being Realistic About Neurodivergence and Time

Being realistic is important. The truth of the matter is that neurodivergent and disabled people should not compare themselves with neurotypical folks. Why, even two neurodivergent or disabled people should not compare themselves to each other because each one of us is wired differently. Accept your strengths and limitations, and do your best to work with what you have. If you need professional help, consult a licensed therapist. Focus on whatever you can do with your 24 hours and leave the rest for tomorrow. Yes, it's unfair that time flies when you are neurodivergent. But that doesn't mean you have to lose sleep over it. 

Sources

  1. Gordon, S. (2023, September 25). What is executive dysfunction? Health. https://www.health.com/executive-dysfunction-7969318
  2. MSEd, K. C. (2023, December 18). How we use selective attention to filter information and focus. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-selective-attention-2795022

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2024, February 1). Time Flies When You Are Neurodivergent, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/mentalhealthforthedigitalgeneration/2024/2/time-flies-when-you-are-neurodivergent



Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

P
February, 3 2024 at 2:16 am

Your journey is not only motivating but also a beacon of wellness for others. Cheers.

Reena
February, 1 2024 at 1:03 pm

I guess this explains why I am the worst at managing deadlines? Time flows differently for us.

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