Wednesday, February 21, 2018

ADHD - Of Cocteau Twins and Shoujo Title Generators

Ever wonder what it was like to have ADHD? I can help you out with that.

I’ve recently made a goal of tagging all my published blog articles so I can see which ones haven’t been published. OS X allows me to tag files with colored dots. That way all the untagged files will stand out. OS 9 used to allow the entire filename to be colorized so that it would shout out at me from the din, but now we are living in the future where small dots of color are considered more noticeable than one inch long filenames in pulsating bright green. Regardless, now that I’ve slogged through the past three years of posts, I have discovered an alarmingly high number of posts that never saw the light of day. It’s as if some unnamed power gripped my mind and caused me to wander off. I wonder if there’s a name for it…

Some of the lost blogs have great descriptive names like “Untitled 3.txt” and “Food.txt”. Today’s entry is based on a text file with the sagacious label of “I share the.txt”. I know you’re gonna love it.

I share the following so that you can understand the types of things that excite me, but also how ADHD leads me on merry distractions. This will likely be my blog topic this week (I wrote in April 2015).

I just discovered that I did not miss buying the final Cocteau Twins album, Lullabies to Violaine. It was released as a limited edition boxed set in 2005 and contains almost all the B sides and EPs that hadn’t seen print for ages. I was busy helping my daughter Joy​ launch her podcast and singing career that year while homeschooling Cathryn​ & Lorelai​, while also producing a podcast of my own with Cathryn. That podcast, Harry Podder, was featured in a graphic during a Stevenote when Steve Jobs was introducing podcasts to his audience. At any rate, a friend sent me an MP3 of one of the tracks on the album. It was wonderful, so I searched far and wide on the internet for “the track name, and discovered Lullabies to Violaine. There it was on iTunes, Volumes 1 & 2 for $17.99 each. On I could get those double CDs for $12.99 ea. Hmm, decisions. Wait, and save $10, or splurge and have them NOW… Then I saw it. There was ONE copy left of the limited edition boxed set of all four CDs. It was only $39.99 and included all 4 CDs. Why was I excited to buy this edition instead of saving money on the barebones individual CDs? Are you kidding me? The CDs were lovingly presented in a fold-out package made of a strange dream-like substance: ”Curious Soft Touch Milk“. Who wouldn’t want to buy a limited edition boxed set made out of that? It sounds like a shoujo manga title.

At this point, the ADHD kicked in. No, really. I was totally not distracted before this. Anyway. If you don’t know what I mean by ”shoujo“, give this page a few reloads. Shoujo manga is what they call girls comics in Japan. They have airy, sweet titles, often in English, that make no sense. That random shoujo title generator is spookily on the nose. I found examples like:

Moonlight Icicle Princess
Strawberry Dawn Kiss
Cherry Butterfly Childhood
Detective Marionette Hunters
A Cup of Paradise Wonderland
Sweet Sugar-sprinkled Bandits

I found myself thinking those titles sounded like stories Arina Tanemura would illustrate. Suddenly, I realized that I was just sitting there reloading a stupid web page when I had writing and errands to do. So I sheepishly closed the page and gathered my thoughts here. I’ll make a blog of it so it won’t be a total waste of time (I wrote three years ago…). I actually spent more time writing this than I did being distracted, but for me, this is ADHD at work. It’s a wonder I get anything done.

It is a wonder, indeed.

You know, I never did buy that album. I got distracted and forgot about it. A week later it was gone. I missed buying it, after all.

From time to time, I will refer to something as ”Classic ADHD“, then be called out because ”everybody has that problem“. They usually confuse my self-deprecating humor as some sort of victim impact statement, then feel the need to correct me. I offer this blog entry as exhibit one in my defense.

Everybody does get distracted from time to time. Older people dealing with ”senior moments“ may be distracted more than others. People with brain injuries get distracted. People on medication…people with sleep deprivation…the list is long and varied. However, what marks ADHD is not the distractions. It’s the intensity and frequency of the distractions. My trip down Curious Soft Touch Milk Lane is just one detour of many I will experience that day. Every day. Every week. If I’m lucky, I’ll catch on before too much time is wasted. This morning I lost eighty minutes reading news and posting to Twitter. Now I’m blogging instead of working on my book. Fortunately, I see this as work, too, but there’s need for balance. ADHD adults often lack that balance. It puts us terribly behind. That’s why I like to poke fun of it, and let some of the stress go.

There are plenty of people out there who will scold you. Don’t be one of them. Learn to laugh at yourself when these glorious distractions happen. At least smile. The distractions are a bit funny. Then refocus in on your task at hand. Sometimes, it’s all that you can do.

If you like distractions, you should read my book on Pokémon. I’m working on another one just like it before delving into mental health topics again.

Monday, February 12, 2018

What Does Self-Esteem, Arranged Marriage, and Ramen Have in Common?

mmm, serious ramen

This will be a phenomenally busy week with doctor visits, writing, and preparations for a symposium. Then punctuated by a presentation at BYU just when things get really crazy in the middle of the week. I’ve been asked to talk about publishing e-books, and I’ll be joined with my editor. I did this class two years ago, but unlike last time, I’ve been preparing. We have some ideas we think will be fun, including putting together a very quick & dirty ePub. I also spent the weekend finishing projects like the paperback edition of my Pokémon book, and writing articles that I plan to submit here and there. But I don’t want to talk about any of that. I can’t stop thinking about a recent arranged marriage proposal I received.

I dropped by a local Vietnamese grocery store on Saturday. My family and I have shopped at this store for over 10 years. When I want to get import ramen and all the fixings, this is where I go. The shop carries a wide variety of products from all over Asia. There is ramen from Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, and manga-flavored ramen from Malaysia. Most of the ramen is flavored, of course, but brave souls can purchase blank ramen for homemade broth. There is a Japanese grocery store in downtown Salt Lake I could visit, but the Vietnamese store is much closer and gets all my business. Consequently, we are on a friendly basis with the owner (although it just occurred to me that I have never learned her name). Over the years since my divorce, she has been asking me if I was dating yet. Each time, the answer is “No”. The store owner is usually incredulous that I haven’t begun yet, but I’ve been taking my time.

Saturday, I thought I would be clever. As I was stuffing import Japanese mochi into my shopping cart, I answered her question before she asked, telling her that no, I haven’t started dating yet, but I’m thinking that I’ll be starting soon. Not missing a beat, she replied that she had a friend who has a daughter who’s looking for a husband. Would I like her to introduce me?

I stood frozen. At first, I thought she was kidding. After all, I was kidding. I smiled and waited for the punchline, but then my smile froze on my face as I saw she was waiting for my response. She was very, very serious. Suddenly, I had no idea what to do. All coherent thought took flight out my ears and left me empty as a birdbath in winter. She assured me that the girl, who is Vietnamese, was very pretty. When I didn’t jumpstart my mouth into motion, she then began to let me know that I was a very nice guy—as if I deserved this meeting.

It was the most singularly peculiar event I’ve ever had happen to me. It was so far outside my cultural experience. Soon, the birds of my mind returned to roost, and I began to think many things at once. How old was this girl? Does she speak English well? I need somebody who can keep pace with my conversations. Is she LDS? Having religion in common is important to me. But I had no idea how or even IF I could ask such questions in that circumstance. Instead, I began to blush, then managed to say I wasn’t ready for that yet, but I thanked her for her kindness.

Over the weekend I spent a lot of time thinking about this event. What I decided was that, although the things I initially worried about were legitimate, the truth is that I couldn’t believe somebody thought I was worthy to be offered as a potential mate. I didn’t feel impressive enough yet. I had more more books to write, more money to make, more possessions to acquire!

It’s true that I’m so used to ADHD and being subpar compared to peers that I’m used to failure and other people’s disappointment. Yet this moment was the complete opposite. This dear lady thought I was good enough for formal courtship, and the experience terrified me.

This past weekend showed me that I have forgotten some of the lessons I taught myself over the years to love myself and not get down on myself. I was looking through the glass darkly, seeing only the negative. In fact, I was so convinced that I was unworthy for marriage, I couldn’t believe what was happening was truly happening.

This has both bemused and disappointed me. How many people get an actual arranged marriage proposal? Yet there I was worried only about how many unfinished projects I had! As I move through this week representing myself, I will make special effort to quiet the negative critic who resides within my head. Success is built upon realistic assessments of our skills and a positive belief in our potential, not on negative opinions based on fear.


Monday, January 29, 2018

Beating Off Depression with Distractions

Burdened by comorbidity

Comorbid is an icky word. Say it with me. “Ko-’Mor-Bid”. It means people with mental health issues usually have to carry more than one condition on their backs. I lug around ADHD, Major Depressive Disorder, and Adult Tourette’s. It’s a lot of fun, and you should see the muscles on my legs. Atlas would be jealous.

Last Saturday, Tourette’s was the issue that ruled my day. I had so much work to be done, including posting an article on this blog, but instead I was in slow motion. Everything was harder to do than usual—as it usually is when my brain feels as if popcorn was leaping to life underneath it. Tourette’s triggers boredom and frustration, which my ADHD self has a low tolerance for, and I wasn’t accomplishing what I needed to accomplish, so depression was starting to press in.

By the beginning of the evening, I knew my day was doomed unless I did something about it. I had boosted my protein intake to help reduce the ticking, but my depression was still strong. Distraction was in order. In moderation, distraction can be a very effective coping strategy for fighting depression. Here’s what I did.

I posted a creative photo of Utah’s recent snowfall. (Creativity helps offset depression.) It was a small step, but it felt like an enormous wall. Then I added new commentary on an old Facebook memory. (I considered it a warmup exercise. It is also creative, which helps boosts endorphins.) This was another small step forward, but it came easier than the first step. Next, I wrote a critique of Facebook’s recent news filtering initiative by pointing out how ludicrous their friend algorithms are. (Now I was cooking and thoroughly distracted.) That post earned a negative comment from a reader for it’s randomness. Inspired by the rebuttal, I also posted a wacky Star Wars fangirl video by a local mayor taking office. Now that was random. And weird. Wow. What a strange video. Lastly, throwing caution to the wind, I opened a discussion on how Facebook would decide which political side of the government shutdown was fake news.

Then I got to work. The depression was abated. My ticking had faded. None of my friends showed up as planned that evening, so I suddenly had time for more productivity. We can leave discussions of how pathetic I must be to be happy to work on a Saturday night with no romantic prospects for another time.

The one regret I had for the evening was tearing apart on Twitter an article about gender dominance in picture books. The journalist of the article from England engaged me—which proved to be a very informative conversation—but because it takes so much effort to mentally function when ticking, diplomacy often falls by the wayside. I usually try to avoid polemic discussions, but didn’t that evening. I didn’t post anything that was irate or hateful, but I wonder if the journalist was as excited to read my glib insights as I was in typing them.

What I didn’t do that evening was clear out my brand new paper pile monstrosity, or write a book, or finish research for my Pokémon book. I didn’t even watch TV or read a book for entertainment. Social media and freelance work took up my time. If I were to do the evening again, assuming I can have precense of mind when ticking, I would set a timer for each event, and limit my social media to one platform. Facebook would have been enough. I, also, read far too much news, so that distraction needed to be reined in as well. However, I did successfully fight off depression, which would have robbed me of several days of productivity if I had let it take root. That was my focus.

Sometimes our solutions aren’t perfect, which is why I’m sharing this with you. I don’t have a solid grip on my mental health issues. I can’t snap my fingers and make them go away. It is a constant battle, and it consumes so much time. However, by experimenting and analyzing, we can hone in on the solutions that work best for us. Don’t let yourself get discouraged, and take the small victories where you can. Comorbidity can be very difficult to deal with. You need a positive attitude to keep up the fight.


If you need some ideas on coping strategies, you should read my book on fighting suicidal depression.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Another Pot Slaughtered in the Name of ADHD

Another Victim of ADHD

I may need to change my name to Douglas Cootey, Pot Assasin. I’m not sure who drew first blood years ago, or why we battle in the kitchens of my life, but for decades we have vied for dominance. I must admit it is not usually the fairest of fights. The pot is striving to fulfill its destiny, sitting on a burner, heating the contents inside. Then I come along and slay it.

The worst incidents usually involved ramen or eggs with smoke detectors going off, but the absolute worst was the time when I set water to boil, became distracted in my studio, and came out of my reverie when strange pinging sounds began to irritate me. The water had long boiled away and nothing was left but for the pan’s bottom to return to its molten state on my burner. In every case, Adult ADHD was totally at fault, I promise. I set out to cook, then became woefully distracted.

This stuff was ancient history, though—far back in the 90s. I’m not a clueless tweenager anymore. I am conscientious and careful when cooking. I cook and bake everyday with no disastrous incidents. Well, except that one time soon after the divorce where I boiled eggs so long the water evaporated and the shells popped off the toasted eggs, but that was six years ago. And who doesn’t overbook eggs after a divorce‽ If failure is the furnace in which we are made, then I am the world’s greatest chef!

Then ADHD struck again. I was making pudding for the next day. (See? I’m super organized!) The ingredients were lined in a chronological row, the measuring cups and cooking utensils were set neatly by the stove, I turned the burner on, placed the pot on the burner with the confidence of a surgeon lifting a scalpel, then became distracted talking to somebody in the other room. Just like that, another pan slaughtered.

Look, I know what you’re thinking. I am likely a candidate for eternal takeout, but that sounds like defeat. Besides, burning a pan once a decade means that there are 3649 days of brilliant success in between disasters! I also console myself that I removed the pan before the nonstick coating heated to ash. After a rigorous scrub, the uniform heat coating on the bottom was only burned away in a few places. Although it is true that I had to replace the pan since it wasn’t mine, and now I have a shiny new pan with a blackened bottom—all the rage this year—nothing caught on fire, no smoke detectors went off, the house wasn’t burned to the ground, and the next pan helped me make the most delicious batch of tapioca pudding. That every bite of the pudding had the smallest aftertaste of failure was only the merest of setbacks.

Generally speaking, I make light of these ADHD glitches because dwelling on them invites depression and low self-esteem. This time, however, my ego felt bruised afterwards. First of all, there were witnesses, which never helps, but also, it wasn’t my pan to ruin. So I made a new batch of pudding, added “Replace Pan” to my ToDo list, restored my good graces by following through on replacing the pan the following day, then wrote this blog. Consider this article my confession. My ADHD sins are now absolved.

With ADHD, mistakes are going to happen. We don’t need others chastising or mocking us. We put ourselves down enough when we screw up over and over again. Such stupid mistakes, baffling gaffes, and flamboyant stumbles! Sometimes it seems as if no amount of preparation and caution will prevent them. My best advice is to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, make restitution, and move forward. ADHD may be a life sentence, but it doesn’t have to be a punishment.

If you dislike Lemon Pledge, you should read my books. They’re odor free.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

You Can Choose to Not Be Depressed for the Holidays

Posing with the Brownie at Draper Park

I posted something on Facebook this past weekend that didn’t have the effect I wanted.

“My recent timeline is filled with baking cookies, reviewing children’s picture books, and now I’ve discovered I’m spending tonight & New Year’s Eve home alone reading a book. Something is terribly wrong with my life. 😜”

I had intended it to be snarky. That’s what the emoji was for. I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself. It’s nobody’s fault but my own that I don’t have a special somebody to spend New Year’s Eve together. I’m not logged into online dating sites desperately lining up a date—any date—to ring in the new year. I’m not writing angry screeds on Twitter or Tumblr about the tyranny of happy people. Yet several friends gave me a sad face in response to my post, as if what I wrote was terribly tragic.

The problem here is that we can’t control how people interpret what we write. I’ve written before about self-deprecating humor before, most recently in my book on fighting suicide. People tend to find self-deprecating jokes funny only if they think highly of you. If they pity you, then they’ll likely take your jokes seriously. (Side tip: Using self-deprecating humor can let you know in a flash who thinks highly of you and who doesn’t—a fun litmus test you can try out on your friends!) Although self-deprecating humor isn’t appreciated by everybody, it is also true that sometimes people don’t find certain topics funny. They care too deeply about them—or you—to jape and jest about subjects like loneliness during the holidays.

There is no more popular article to write at this time of year than one on the plight of lonely people during the holidays. It’s the time of year when depression is up. Suicide is up, too. Holidays centered around friends & family are hard on people who have neither. It’s simply not something people kid about, not that I let that stop me.

Since I use humor, even coffin humor, to poke fun of life in order to take the sting out of it, when 2017 careened to a stop with all the grace of a dump truck skidding through ice sculptures, I suddenly found myself with no plans for the weekend and a desperate need for some laughs. One friend’s kids were sick. Another friend took off for St. George to be with family (the nerve!). Even my kids wouldn’t be around. They are adults now and celebrate holidays with friends, and my youngest would be spending the night with her Mum. That left me with a TV and a sense of aching ennui. It doesn’t help that New Year’s Eve on a Sunday in Utah is a giddy thrill like a speeding ticket delivered with a kiss.

So I decided to make the most of it anyway. I could choose to let loneliness trigger a depressive episode, or I could decide not to be lonely. No buddies coming over on Saturday? That’s alright. I had an early movie night with my sixteen-year-old daughter. We bought exotic snacks, and enjoyed ourselves. Later, I organized my towering reading piles and mended my satchel’s zipper with a needle and thread. I’ve been meaning to get those things done. ✔! Tonight, I bought my youngest daughter some ebooks that the library didn’t have, then we went to see some seasonal lights in the biting cold, then came home for hot cocoa. At nine, I stared at the clock in a moment of panic, then got busy reading & writing. It’s not quite the same as spending time with friends while kicking their butts in Sega Saturn Bomberman, but the point is I didn’t spend the night depressed.

Just because we can’t have all the fun things doesn’t mean we have to slip helplessly into despair. If events can trigger sadness, then we can make events that trigger happiness. I won’t pretend an evening sewing a zipper onto a satchel was the same as spending a joyous time with friends, but I made the decision to avoid depression, and that’s a victory. The choice wasn’t between a consolation prize and an evening of gaiety. The choice was between finding satisfaction in the moment versus sinking into darkness. Wallowing is boring. I much prefer what I did instead. In the future, I hope you choose to beat the holiday blues, too.

If you find the holidays trigger suicidal feelings, you should read my book!

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