Among those of us who are neurodivergent (ND) and/or who manage mental illness, the word lazy has been stamped on our foreheads, like a much unwanted label, by people who just don’t understand our experience. Many of my friends who have ADHD, for example, have had their executive dysfunction completely gaslit by family members, teachers, medical professionals, and colleagues because of sheer ignorance, resulting in being branded as lazy — countless times. That is supremely not okay and creates undue stress when supports are what’s most needed.
For those who aren’t aware, executive function is the ability to plan and implement tasks. I myself am autistic, and it would seem to many who work with me, I excel in planning and implementing tasks. After all, one of my skills is project management. I can admin with the best of them. Time management is my forte. I love scheduling and adhering to deadlines.
While this looks pretty darn good on a business resume, my personal life is massively impacted by executive dysfunction. Especially when it comes to meal planning and preparation. Sometimes these tasks seem so difficult, my brain just shuts down, and I end up not making anything to eat. Having hypoglycaemia complicates this for me and turns executive dysfunction a potentially dangerous trait to have.
If I repeatedly did not make supper, it wasn’t because I was lazy. It’s because I was struggling.
But let’s talk about reclaiming a term. I was recently inspired by Canadian author and writers’ mentor Dianna Gunn, who produces the Spoonie Author Podcast. She mentions on an upcoming episode that lazy is often used against us, but what if lazy is something we choose to do for self-care? As in, “I’m having a lazy day today.” I absolutely relate to this concept. For decades, I have declared, “Today is Sloth Day!” My sloth days almost always involve being a blanket burrito while watching shows or movies I enjoy, and just taking time off from responsibly adulting. These types of days have become essential to my mental and physical health. I love sloth days. They’re just a sensory heaven of snuggly fabrics, treats I like to munch on, and comfort films.
I am not lazy. I choose to be lazy on certain days, so I can regenerate spoons.
Changing this term from a label to a decision really works for me. This is the type of “lazyness” that can be healing, not something to be viewed with disdain.
Anyway, that’s just my take on the concept. What about you? Have you ever had the term lazy weaponized against you? Have you learned to reclaim wanting to relax or moving on your own schedule? Do you have the supports you need if executive dysfunction is getting in your way?
Asking for help is important. Finding out who to trust when asking for help is importanter. That’s not great grammar, but I’m the editor-in-chief, so I will allow it. But it’s true. Budgeting your spoons (energy) to compile a list of folks who will have your back is important. And for me, that included finding a therapist who gets where I’m coming from. Also, being in community with kind people who share your lived experience can really boost the spirit and help you find solutions that work for the way your brain brains.
Oh, and just to let you know. I have this ridiculous love of markers and magnetic or desktop whiteboards. I turned that into making colourful weekly meal plans that I can stick on my fridge . Helps me shop for groceries without having to overthink, too. And I asked for a lot of help from Chef Bruce, the man who’s lived in my house for over 30 years. Nice guy. Makes a great salmon dish. 🙂
So, yeah, I worked hard this week on an important assignment. I can feel my spoons dwindling away, so I am gleefully planning on having a very lazy weekend. Wish me luck in implementing that!
(I will only move enough to let my spouse know I am still alive. Don’t want to frighten the fellow.)
Cait Gordon is an autistic, disabled, and queer Canadian writer of speculative fiction that celebrates diversity. She is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, The Stealth Lovers, and Iris and the Crew Tear Through Space (2023). Her short stories appear in Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland, We Shall Be Monsters, Space Opera Libretti, and Stargazers: Microtales from the Cosmos. Cait also founded The Spoonie Authors Network and joined Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us and Nothing Without Us Too anthologies, whose authors and protagonists are disabled, d/Deaf and/or hard-of-hearing, Blind or visually impaired, neurodivergent, Spoonie, and/or they manage mental illness.
Reblogged this on Cait Gordon—Speculative Fiction Author and commented:
I wrote a thing on the Spoonie Authors Network about reclaiming a word that’s often used against mentally ill and/or neurodivergent folks!
You make some good points about autism and mental illness, but I don’t think people need to have a DSM label in order to be allowed to engage in self-care. Maybe that isn’t what you met, but the whole framing of the article seems to be “self-care is important for neurodivergent people” when really, it’s important for everyone.
For sure, self-care is important for everyone! I just wanted to make the point that the word lazy is often applied to ND/mentally ill folks instead of helping us seek solutions to our executive dysfunction. So, I’m speaking from my point of view. 🙂
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This seems like a comment that is dismissive of the experience of those of us who have been labelled “Lazy” all our lives because of our neurodivergence. The overwhelming messaging that we get in society is that it’s okay for abled people to engage in self care because they are “productive.” Neurodivergent people, however, are constantly labelled as lazy if we’re not productive in the way that society expects us to be.
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