New ADHD or depression articles on the 10th, 20th & 30th.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I Can't Get Rid of ADHD by Blowing My Nose

Maybe you can relate to this: You can’t think straight. You’re easily distracted. You keep forgetting what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s ADHD, right?

Woman prettily sneezing for the camera

Despite the two surgeries I have had in the past three months, I’ve been unusually healthy. This is a delightful change for me. No bronchitis in Winter? Unheard of! I can go out into the wet cold and not spend the rest of the day coughing and sniffling in bed? Unbelievable! In fact, it’s been so long since I was last sick, the events leading to New Years Eve caught me off guard. As December 30th hurried along, I became less and less productive and doubly frustrated. I couldn’t remember things from one moment to the next. I would walk from room to room in a daze. I was strangely tired. I made careless mistakes.

Now, to anybody who knows me, they’d likely wonder why I’m bothering to mention this. After all, aren’t I like this all the time? Well, thank you, imaginary straw friend, but no, I’m not like that all the time. This was worse. Even on a bad day, I can still muddle through it. Task lists keep me headed forward, alarms remind me of when I need to be somewhere, and a bucketful of coping strategies keep me focused — or at least give me a semblance of focus. The point is, I get things done no matter how unartfully accomplished. The day in question, however, I was not getting anything done. This is because I was sick and didn’t know it. I bumbled about all day until, finally, in the evening, I began to notice that I was croaking when speaking. This, not the train wreck of my day, was my clue. It was only then that I took medicine, took care of my body, and .

I find it fascinating that when my mental acuity becomes impaired due to illness, I am so used to ADHD being at fault that I begin to apply my ADHD coping strategies. This isn’t so surprising. Coping strategies are only effective when they become habitual. What is surprising is that when it should be obvious that I am under the weather, my true attention deficit disorder becomes so fixated on mastering myself that I fail to notice the other signs. It’s like driving a car on slippery roads and blaming your grip instead of the snow when you have a hard time keeping the car straight.

I share all this with you because I hope to help people who don’t have ADHD understand our thought process better, but also I hope to help people with ADHD avoid this common pitfall. When we are sick, none of us are at our best. For adults with ADHD, we are more forgetful, more distractible, more irritable, and less likely to implement coping strategies. Old habits flare up for me at that time. For instance, as I found it more and more difficult to be productive, I browbeat myself for not having my act together. I had books to write, articles to finish, and other important things to do. I couldn’t get out of my own way, yet I still expected myself to perform as usual. The more I criticized myself, the angrier with myself I became because of my failure to focus. I long ago taught myself to control this self-destructive instinct, yet here I was doing it again effortlessly.

Since it is Winter, and I will likely be sick again before the sun comes back from its orbital vacation, I have created some new coping strategies to be added to the bucket:

  1. Three strikes and you’re out – The next time I forget to start the same task three times in a row, I will stop and listen to my body. If only I had taken Tylenol before New Years Eve. I may still have had to cancel my party plans, but I certainly would have checked at least one thing off my ToDo list.
  2. How steep is the hill? – If a common task has suddenly become difficult to do, it is time to take a break. Illness, low protein or blood sugar, fatigue, etc. can all impact performance. Next time I’m frustrated with how slow I’m working, maybe self-flagellation isn’t the best solution. I will eat something, take medicine, or take a nap before beating myself up instead.
  3. How much will it cost? – Goals are great, but sometimes we need to be flexible. Take a moment to think about what you have to put aside to push forward on a goal. Is your health that unimportant to you? *ADHD offers hyperfocus, which can be a blessing for those all too used to foggy focus. However, the flip side of hyperfocus is tunnel vision, which can be very detrimental, especially if we ignore our health. Sometimes I forget the lesson I learned when Jim Henson died of pneumonia because he was too busy working. I can end up exactly the same way if I’m not mindful of my own health.

Only when I am sick am I so oblivious to my body’s needs, and unfortunately, ADHD only makes the situation worse. However, with these new coping strategies made into habits, I know I can avoid this mistake again. If you have ADHD, what coping strategies do you have that keep you out of the doctor’s office? How do you remind yourself to take care of yourself? Do you mistake illness for ADHD at the beginning of a cold, too? For those who have loved ones with ADHD, they may need your help developing mindfulness, but it is a skill that can be learned through repetition, so keep at it.

If your ADHD child enjoys Pokémon, you should read my book.

Writing in a Fishbowl v3 – Day Thirteen

Nifty logo of words in a fishbowl

4:51 PM: I need to touch base today to let you know that some days are better than others. Also, some are worse. Today’s pretty bad for me. It’s a double crutch day. Ironically, I may not be able to attend the Tourette Syndrome support group tonight because I’m ticking too much to drive. We’ll see how the evening pans out.

Today will mark the return to blogging on the 10th, 20th, and 30th of every month. I don’t mean this blog. I have another article planned for today. It will post later tonight. That should please many of you — at least, it is my hope that it will please many of you. I realize that people seeking writing articles are put off by my mental health articles; people seeking depression articles are often turned off by my writing and ADHD articles; and people interested in ADHD articles aren’t just disinterested in depression and writing articles, but they’ve already left the page by now. I seem to always be disappointing somebody, but this is my blog, and I get to determine what subject matters motivate me to put off disability long enough to write. The transition from blogger about mental health to a blogger with ADHD & depression overcoming disability to become an author has been a longer one than I intended. I have been told before that these process entries are boring. I have to admit that after blogging for so many years, I thought I’d have earned a few more cheerleaders than I currently have, but that’s life. We can’t dictate who supports us and who does not. However, I do have to admit that even I get tired of this extended process of mastery over my short-comings. I am impatient for the journey’s end to be upon me. I know, life is a journey, blah blah blah. However, if mastery is on the other side of a mountain range of effort that will take years to reach, I’d like to be at least comfortably cruising down one of those moutains. Sometimes, I feel stuck in mud in a desolate valley filled with terribly good excuses.

Still, I press on.

I have errands to run. Writing this journal entry has helped connect some mental dots, and my ticking has abated. I need to get out there quickly while I can still drive. I never drive while ticking. I have an aversion to car accidents, mug shots, and death.

While you wait for my next article, I want you to know that I don’t have a Patreon, but if you want to support my blog (which costs money to host and run), please buy my books. If you already have, thank you. I greatly appreciate it. Also, did you know that ebooks make great gifts?

4:59 AM: I concede defeat. Ticking took up so much of my evening that I keep falling asleep as I polish up my new article. It's time to take care of my brain. I'll post the article after I delete that awkward section where I used my face to type on the keyboard.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Writing in a Fishbowl v3 – Day Twelve

Nifty logo of words in a fishbowl

2:32 AM: Yes! The holidays are over. I can feel life seeping back into my stressed limbs, but that’s just because I spent the last half week sick with a bug. I spent New Years Eve home, taking a nap of all things. How insulting to the cause of revelry and celebration. I nibbled cherry cordials by myself and hobbled around with a cane. Thank goodness that ordeal is over. I’ve actually been quite healthy this Fall. Except for the two surgeries, this is the first time I’ve been so sick in over a year. Although there was an infection, I’m recovering from my surgery, too. My days of convalescence are at an end. So pull out the map! We’ve got a whole year ahead of us to plan our trip together. I’ve got some new birthday goals to make, and I finally have a brain to put to use.

Once I stopped feeling like Old Man Death, I started to work on promotion and web design. I still can’t figure out what on earth is wrong with comments. I disabled Blogger comments to use Disqus, then I tried to switch back to Blogger. Then I tried to reinstall Disqus. Now, I’m throwing up my hands and just prepping to switch over to Ghost. In the meantime, please help out with book ratings and reviews. You should notice the Call for Comments at the top right. I need more ratings & reviews to get my book seen by more people. I appreciate all the sales. I truly do. I just wish my readers left some feedback that the listing algorithms could put to use. That’s how it works. I’m hoping you can help.

Next up, I have another chapter of Twelve Ways to Fight Off Depression to post. I’ve got some product reviews that are embarrassingly late. I also, have a middle grade novel to pick at. I'm perilously close to a bad case of MIS, but as long as I set goals, and break them down in accomplishable steps, I will be alright. Remember, with depression or ADHD, setting small goals gets you to the end of the project steadily. These Fishbowl posts may seem tiresome, but they show how I plug away at my goals despite my mental health issues. I published two books last year. Isn’t that cool? I can hardly believe I pulled it off. I aim to double that number of books this year. It will take more than will power or wishful thinking. It will take planning and perseverance. Follow along. We’ll see how close I get.

If you need tips on how to reach a suicidal loved one, you should read my book.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Writing in a Fishbowl v3 – Day Eleven

Nifty logo of words in a fishbowl

11:24 PM: My birthday today was practically perfect. I started book three. I spent time with my lovely daughters watching a bell choir perform. My soul was filled to the brim. I did, however, say that it was practically perfect. Even the spectacularly bad customer service & food at the terrible downtown Burger King could compare to the blow to my evening joy that was Dunkin Donuts being closed at 9pm. When did that happen? I enjoyed going there after ten all the time. The lobby was empty. There was no hustle and bustle from customers. It was a perfect environment for writing. Hey! I bought a donut or two. To think that losing my business four months ago when I moved across town would affect them so badly. I feel just terrible. I’m sure the lack of customers late at night had nothing to do with it.

Being resilient, I recovered and then picked up some Krispy Kreme donuts at a gas station. It wasn’t quite the same ambience that I was looking for, but the donuts weren’t terribly stale, and fun was had by all. I celebrated my fiftieth birthday with a pre-used “7” stuck on my donut while my family sang “Happy birthday” off key. Like I said. Perfect.

And now I shall make my last goal for the birth year. I mentioned before that I would start book three and post the chapters online. I made the deadline of my birthday. What I didn’t mention was that I was going to challenge myself to write it within two weeks. That means that book four, which I will begin in moments, won’t see much traction until I finish book three. But I will begin it today. Only twenty minutes left to my birthday.

The purpose of all this public writing is to hold myself accountable to others and to show people who struggle with depression or ADHD that they can make great goals if they apply themselves. I don’t think I’ve accomplished anything truly great yet, but I feel great. That’s almost as good.

If you like feeling great, it will feel great to buy my book.

Depression: The Beast We Have in Common

Learned Optimism Thought #1:

I am grateful for beautiful daughters who made my 50th birthday a memorable one.

If you can’t take medication to combat depression or suicidal depression, how do you cope? Do you resign yourself to desolation, or do you fight back? Can you fight back? How‽ This was the dilemma I faced years ago when anti-depressants had failed me and my life was worse off because of side-effects. What I learned in my battle against depression not only changed my life for the better, but helped me change other lives, too. Fighting off depression seems like hard work, but when you break down the coping strategies into smaller steps, depression becomes easier to conquer. That concept can seem daunting at first. I know it was for me. I spent years learning how to overcome depression. I could continue living a miserable half-life, or I could make incremental changes and begin my recovery. I chose recovery and spent many years experimenting and analyzing my patterns of behavior to work out the best path forward. Now depression doesn’t define my world, but instead is a hinderance that I work around. The scale of its magnitude has diminished, and I spend less time managing it. Whether you treat your major depressive disorder with anti-depressants or not, the coping strategies I discovered should prove very beneficial, especially after you adapt them to your own needs.

Pills don’t teach skills. At some point, we have to make choices, and, as is often the case, we must make those same choices over and over again until we start to see true changes in our behavior. As happy and well-balanced as I am today, there was a time when clinical depression defined my entire world. My first marriage was developing issues, my career was stalled, school was a chore, and I began motor ticking due to a side-effect to ADHD medicine that I was prescribed. Although there were many joys in my life, such as my newborn daughter, family that loved me, and friends that visited me weekly, I was deeply unhappy. I felt justified in embracing my sadness to the point of suicidal ideation.

Depression settled over my life as a thick, murky mist, making the world around me almost impossible to experience without a negative bias. I was angry, bitter, jaded, but worst of all, I was pessimistic. I lost interest in drawing for a year, which until that time was a lifelong passion. I lost interest in people and withdrew from social activities. I wouldn’t even attend a club I had founded that met in my own living room! Video games, escapism through entertainment, and the brand new internet gave me false focus, eating up time, masking my feelings, and distracting me from the important elements of my life. I had lost hope.

I spent four years sinking deeper and deeper into the blackness, then nine years climbing out of it. Eventually, I learned to overcome depression’s influence. I trained myself to think optimistically. I developed a sense of gratitude for my gifts and blessings—an incredibly difficult task in the beginning. I embraced my stay-at-home life and fatherhood more. I smiled more. I blogged about my struggles, my victories, and the lessons I learned. I shared my insights with other depressives and eked out a small corner of success on the internet. My message was simple: You have the power within yourself to defeat depression. As with most things in life, that was easier said than done.

The Beast We Have in Common

Clinical depression, or Major Depressive Disorder, affects more than 15 million American adults¹. My experiences with clinical depression began when I entered High School. I had been shy and introversive through my early teenage years, but by the time I became fifteen, my feelings of isolation and sadness began to affect my social and private life. I began writing poetry. Yes, deep, dark, morbid poetry. Thankfully, none of it survives to embarrass me today. However, when my mother found it, I was whisked off to Boston Children’s Hospital for immediate analysis. Not much came of that experience because children and teens weren’t diagnosed with depression in the early 80s. One memory of the experience that I retain was that they gave me a nine digit number to remember, then asked me to recall it later. I was even able to recite it backwards when prompted. I would love to have that power of recall today! They assessed my intelligence thoroughly, but my sleep and depression issues weren’t addressed to our satisfaction. The whole experience angered me then. I was embarrassed to be forced to participate in such an indignity, but now, as a dad, I appreciate the love and concern that my parents had for me.

Fortunately, I had ADHD, and that impulsiveness helped me have fun in high school despite my pervasive sadness. The party ended in my mid-twenties just after I became married. Maybe it was debt, marital difficulties, stress from school, or all of the above. Maybe it was my terrible sleep schedule, or my life’s failures catching up with me. Whatever was wrong, my wife at the time and I knew I needed help. I was already aware that I had ADHD, and had been treating that medicinally all my life (previously diagnosed as Hyperkinesis), but when I was diagnosed with clinical depression at twenty-four, there was a part of me that sighed a little, “So that’s what’s wrong with me…” At last! I finally understood why I wrote all those terribly bleak poems in high school, and why I had created so many self-portraits with my face in agony. And here I thought I was just a little bit moody.

I had been on a wide variety of ADHD and anti-anxiety meds in the previous years, but my new doctor gave me Desoxyn for ADHD and Zoloft for depression. Thus began a three week period of unprecedented organization and productivity. “So this is what it’s like to be normal,” I distinctly remember thinking, but my personal paradise of productivity didn’t last long. Suddenly, I developed violent limb and body tics. My entire nervous system was in turmoil. The doctor immediately took me off Desoxyn, which many of you might know of by the name “Methamphetamine”, but kept me on Zoloft. I limped along for a while, though the ticking didn’t abate, and then the Zoloft began to affect me negatively, too: it made me suicidal—something that is a known side-effect now, but which wasn’t widely known in 1992. I was a mess, and everything in my life seemed to be going wrong. In fact, I wanted to die. After a failed attempt at suicide (which I stopped before causing myself serious harm), I realized that something had to change. If I was moody before taking the meds ( Oh, so many meds!), and the meds were making me disconnected, loopy, and suicidal, then I would just live with being moody without meds again. I didn’t taper off. I just stopped taking my meds cold turkey.

A few weeks later I met with my doctor again and gave him my update. He told me that I shouldn’t have stopped taking Zoloft that way because a high percentage of people get suicidal when discontinuing it. I said dryly, “Ah, that would explain why I had such a rocky month.” I was always cracking jokes of the gallows variety, so deadpan wry that people often took my jokes seriously. However, that experience taught me something. I couldn’t trust anti-depressants and ADHD meds to fix my problems for me no matter how eager or confident my doctors were. Some people are non-responsive to psychmeds, and I was one of them.

The School of Hard Knocks

By 1997, I was a stay-at-home dad with two daughters when I had a life changing epiphany. There were a convergence of influences that came together in that year. There was the therapist who suggested I had a perception problem. There was the title of a book (Learned Optimism²) that I couldn’t get from my library but which struck me as a brilliant concept. There were the friends who came over every Friday & Saturday to be with me despite my moods. There was the wife who stood by me, and the parents who loved me. There was the unconditional love and warmth of my daughters, too, that affected me deeply. I had begun to notice that my sadness and self-pity hurt them because they cared about me. They were two-and-a-half and four, but they were my world. So one day I decided to test my perception problem. Yes, I had depression, but did it cloud my judgement? Did it warp my outlook? I was skeptical. I had solid reasons for thinking everybody hated me.

I created two email folders: Flame Mail & Compliments. I published anime fan art online at the time for fun and to spur me towards more drawing. This was in the day when we didn’t fear to put our email addresses on our webpages. Spam was not the scourge it is today. At the time, drawing was becoming increasingly difficult for me because of all the ticking, which depressed me, thus making me less inclined to draw. I was worse, not better, as a illustrator, and, consequently, I was very discouraged, so I took criticism of my work to heart. In fact, I was certain that my Flame Mail folder would fill up in days. As the emails came in, I sorted them to their appropriate folders.

At the end of thirty days, I had thirty compliments and one hate mail, which obviously was a fluke. So I extended the test for another month. At the end of that time period, I had an additional thirty-one fan letters, and one more hate mail. The tally was a conclusive 62 to 2. I had a perception problem.

That test transformed my life as I embraced the truth of it and took a long, hard look at myself. Did clinical depression have to shape how I perceived the world? At that time, I managed my ADHD with a PDA and a quiver of quips to shoot out as fast as I made mistakes. I laughed at my gaffes. I managed my ADHD and stopped beating myself up about it. Shouldn’t I manage my sadness, too? My tic disorder qualified me for disability payments, but was my joke that I was now a certified loser really that funny? Nobody else laughed when I told that joke. Maybe I shouldn’t have been laughing at it either.

In the years since that Fall in 1997, I have trained myself to change how I think about depression, disability, negativity, and my own weaknesses. I rolled up my sleeves and began to take charge of my life again. I changed my outlook and called it “enforced optimism”. I even started blogging about mental health in 2005, sharing my struggles and discoveries with others. When people began to ask me how I managed my depression without meds, I wrote a blog post (“Depression: Ten Ways to Fight It Off, Part 1”)³ that became one of my most popular posts. It remains popular even after twelve years. There is a hunger out there for help with depression without the side-effects and costs of medications. Despite what some in the mental health community might have you believe, not everybody responds well to anti-depressants. In fact, many people are highly sensitive to psychotropics and, like me, experience many of the detrimental side-effects with none of the benefits.

Are Anti-Depressants Really That Bad?

The purpose of this book is not to replace your psychiatrist. It is not to denegrate your coping mechanisms. I write it for those who can’t use psychmeds, but it intended to benefit all people who struggle with clinical depression. I have been accused in the past of being anti-psychiatry because of my early stance against psychmeds. It is true that I was more hostile towards psychmeds when I first began my blogging journey, especially since I was still reeling from their negative effects, but I always have recognized the need for a good therapist, especially a Cognitive Behavior Therapist (CBT). As for my anti-med hostility, my readers quickly tempered that antagonism. I learned through their heartfelt stories that many people rely on psychmeds as a lifeline because the meds gave them a fighting chance. Anti-depressants weren’t as evil as I had painted them in my mind. For some, they are still dangerous, so I always advise caution, but if meds give you benefits and help you manage the black beast, then please keep using them.

What you will find in these pages is a much expanded version of my original blog post. These are explorations of the CBT techniques I use to put myself in a better frame of mind so that I can manage my depression without meds. Many readers either learned to use these techniques as well, or they found these coping strategies on their own and let me know how glad they were to see somebody validating their experience. I can’t count all the letters I have received over the past twelve years that have thanked me for writing that blog post. We’ll begin our journey together changing the way we think about depression. This will set the stage for the next section which covers various coping strategies and why they work.

Let’s begin!

¹ Anxiety and Depression Association of America ² Learned Optimism by X S. ³ “Depression: Ten Ways to Fight It Off, Part 1” –

If you want to read more about overcoming depression, you should read my book.

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