Thursday, September 19, 2019

Don't Apologize for Feeling Suicidal

You shouldn’t feel ashamed for feeling suicidal. Here’s how you can take a stand for yourself.

I saw a news item a few months ago that troubled me.[1] At first, the item was in regard to a K-pop idol (Goo Hara) who my third oldest daughter and I enjoyed watching and listening to in the group, KARA. During KARA’s heyday, my daughter and I followed all their videos and song releases. It was fun—at least until she discovered a guy who had his own rock band. Then dad and K-pop were replaced with an electric guitar and a husband. Poor Daddy.

Reading about anybody’s suicide attempt is heartbreaking, but Goo’s suicide hit home because I remember her so fondly. However, what followed two days later deeply disturbed me. While recovering from her suicide attempt, a press conference was held and Goo apologized to her fans for worrying them—from the hospital. She looked pale and haunted.[2]

Imagine having to say the following while recovering from a suicide attempt:

“I am sorry for causing concerns and a commotion.”
“In terms of health, I am recovering … I had been in agony over a number of overlapping issues. But from now on, I will steel my heart and try to show up healthy.”
“So many things were happening in my life, all at the same time. I am truly sorry. I will show a brighter and healthier side of myself.”[3]

I will steel my heart…

The Korean entertainment industry is very similar to the star system we had here in Hollywood during the 40s and 50s. On one hand you have a corporation that will make use of your skills and talents to the utmost degree, providing you with opportunities to grow as a performer. On the other hand, you are a product that is virtually owned by a corporation as it dictates what you do and say. They often pressure stars to apologize for scandalous behavior because money is on the line. Since Goo is a free agent (due to the scandals of last year), I don’t know who pressured her to apologize. Was it herself? Her manager? It is unclear. All I know is that what Goo Hara went through, many people who experience suicidism can relate. She was put in a position to apologize for struggling with depression.

There were a few times in the early days of my blog when my parents requested that I not blog about mental health because my blog was upsetting other family members. I never knew who those family members were, and that was the extent of the pressure, but the anonymous requests angered me. Eventually, I improved as a writer and my family came around to the importance of my blog. The requests stopped. It wasn't hostile or confrontational, but it was enough to help me relate with those who have felt pressure to stay silent about their struggles. However, if your family or friends are not 100% behind you while you struggle with this extremely serious issue, I have some advice for you.

First of all, I want you to know that you are worthwhile. You matter and your life is important. Sometimes we despair, and I include myself, because we don’t clearly see the horizon. Our tendency as humans is to only see the world that is closest around us. Stress, obstacles, and negative relationships can make us blind to what is good in the world and ourselves.

Second of all, family members who don’t support you are usually struggling in their own way. The subject of suicide frightens people. Some of them shut down mentally because they cannot deal with it. Others may be embarrassed, as if your ordeal is shameful for them personally. Your loved ones may also be terrified they’ll make things worse. They might not want to discuss your struggles for fear that will trigger you. Others hope that sprinkling sunshine and lollipops all over you will make your pain go away. Don’t hate them, but don’t rely on them, either, if they don’t have your back.

Take Control To Be Happier

We often don’t have a great deal of control over these emotions welling up inside, but we can control what we do about them. That is what defines us. So my tips are as follows:

  1. Establish your support network before you need it. This is easier said than done, but when I made this effort, I suddenly felt far less alone than I did before. Keep the network fresh and updated. Sometimes loved ones burn out. Sometimes they are struggling with their own issues and can’t be relied upon. Find people who care and who will support you when you struggle with suicidal depression.

  2. Don’t apologize for being suicidal. Don’t apologize for having a problem that you are overcoming. Don’t apologize for having the problem in the first place. Fight for yourself. You are your own best advocate.

  3. Always seek help. You may not have to apologize for having suicidal tendencies, but that doesn’t mean you should just sit back and say, “Woe is me.” The important thing is to recognize how bad things can get when you don’t have coping strategies in place. You matter greatly as a person, but you won’t believe that when you’re in the depths of despair. This is why having coping strategies in place is crucial, but acting on those coping strategies is a matter of life or death.

Goo Hara has launched a new career in Japan and has vanquished her domestic abuse issues in court. She’s even taken time to scold her less supportive fans.[4] She has begun the healing process, taking care of her mental health, and learning to advocate for herself. I wouldn’t be surprised to read that she has a support network in place bolstering her during these trying times. I am thankful that I have people I can rely on. I haven’t been suicidal in a very long while, but when the odd thought pops into my head, I immediately reach out to my support network. I don’t have to struggle alone, and neither should you.

Update: Edited for clarity – 9/20/19, 4:37:16 AM

If you would like to read more tips and coping strategies for dealing with suicidism either as a support or as somebody who struggles, you may want to read my book, “Saying NO to Suicide”.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Five Frank Tips that Helped Me Manage My Depression

Managing your depression doesn’t mean it goes away. Sometimes life will come at you just fast enough to throw you off your game. Here are five tips that helped me get my depression back in control.

As I write this, I am depressed. I shouldn’t be. There’s so much going right in my life right now, but the feeling of that bleak fist of hopelessness around my heart is fairly tight. I am finishing up what is arguably the most productive summer I’ve had in years, yet I feel like an abysmal failure. This summer I have mountains of paperwork and completed applications to prove my productivity. Logic stammers in awe at the long list of massive projects I have undertaken since May. So why do I feel like such a failure tonight?

The obvious answer is that it’s just my stupid depression talking. I’m not a failure! But I feel like one. For some reason, I am miserable, agitated, overwhelmed by feelings of grief, and crushed under the weight of a stifling sadness. I called a daughter, finding the love and support that I needed. Yet despite my daughter’s earnest cheers on my behalf, I still could not shake the oppressive weight of depression. It was time to change my way of thinking. So I decided as a coping strategy to go for a walk and think about my recent accomplishments.

One accomplishment in particular should have me tap dancing on the moon. I have lost 40 pounds since March 2018. I lost over 8 inches off of my waist. This is a phenomenal accomplishment, ending a twenty-seven year struggle. I no longer wear XXL shirts, and I can fit in size L pants now. No more refrigerator box-shaped pants for me. I haven’t been this trim since my early 30s. So of course I shrug my shoulders apathetically and dismiss that accomplishment as insignificant. However, my dietary health issues have never been so regulated and under control. Why shouldn’t that make me happy?

As I walked, I dictated this blog, putting together a mental list of everything I’d worked on and finished over the summer. Here’s what I came up with:

• Submitted medical forms for girls camp
• Prepped & packed for girls camp (I was a chaperone)
• Submitted reams of documents for the Brownie’s DSPD application
• Submitted more reams of documents for her VocRehab application
• Took a guardianship class
• Drove Brownie to therapy group twice a week, counseling every two weeks, plus went to my own six hours of physical therapy every week this summer. (I also did physical therapy exercises at home.)
• Had a VocRehab meeting and got my daughter enrolled in the program.
• Attended Family Fight Club (better than Uno!)
• Gathered medical docs for my car insurance lawyer (6 year case)
• Gathered and submitted 63 pages of medical forms and evaluations from seven doctors and therapists to file for disability requalification for the Brownie, as well as a CD-R filled with seven years of emergency response reports.
• Registered Brownie for school
• Filled out guardianship forms
• Gathered documents for guardianship submission
• I may have lost 40 pounds, and eight inches off my waist, but I’ve also solved a food mystery that has been plaguing me for three decades. This is a very big deal.

That seems like a lot, but maybe I’ve been too busy dealing with my own disabilities and being a full-time dad of a disabled girl to take notice.

I’ve been so busy, I didn’t even pay much attention when this blog was nominated for a WeGo health award. I didn’t promote it, and I didn’t even check to see what came of it. In fact, I still need to finish the Guardianship paperwork this week, then I’m contacting a lawyer to represent my daughter during the guardianship hearing.

Maybe I’m depressed because after three months of work, I’m still not finished. Maybe all of this work has me feeling isolated. I certainly don’t socialize with other adults very much. Whatever the reason, I’ve been asking myself lately, “When will I be happy?” I’m beginning to wonder if I ever will be. It seems I am never satisfied with enjoying the moment. I’m always looking forwards to the future when things will finally be better.

What a miserable way to live. So I’m going to give myself advice and share it with you here.:

  1. Stop selling yourself short. Depression is heavy enough to deal with without you adding more weight to it.
  2. Do something that makes you smile. Surely something positive out there brings a smile to your face, no matter how slight.
  3. Make a list of accomplishments. Even a little bit of progress is still progress. Own it.
  4. Do something new. The day-to-day grind is a routine that can stifle and suffocate spontaneity. I’m not proposing that you toss your responsibilities out the window, but make an effort to break your routine. Go for a walk. Change your scenery. Do something different.
  5. Go have some fun. Find somebody—friend, family member, pet, lover—and go on a positivity date. I know. It sounds so dopey. But if I just hang out with my friends, we always start talking politics. It’s all too negative. I need to do something upbeat and relaxing. Laugh. Smile. Would it kill you to have some fun?

I’ve taken most of this advice tonight as I wrote this blog, and I already feel tons better. I’ll attend [FanX comic con](http://fanxsalt this weekend with a daughter and a friend, so #5 will be taken care of as well.

Depression will rob us of joy if we don’t fight it. I can usually handle this battle, but when life is stressful, and responsibilities pile on like sacks of heavy potatoes, it’s hard to get out from under all of that weight. These five tips didn’t magically wipe away my depression. It’s still there, lurking under the surface. Fine. Let it lurk. I’m back in control. At some point you, too, are going to be tired of the sadness. Use that moment to make a change. Recommit to your coping strategies. Make sure you’re taking your medications. And screw your head back on straight. It’s time to start enjoying the moment. You can do this.


Thursday, August 01, 2019

You Can Do It! Defeating Mental Health Issues with Your Own Voice

You’ve heard that you are your best advocate, but are you giving yourself pep talks? Maybe you should be.

Clip from Yowamushi Pedal

For years, I have been an advocate for talking out loud to oneself as a way to organize one’s mind. I’ve casually blogged about it (as can be read here), and there was one time I gave a tutorial of sorts on the subject over on[1] However, I have also been known to give myself advice as well as a pep talk, both here and in person, as a coping strategy for dealing with my depression. I have found talking to myself to be an effective coping strategy for ADHD & depression, despite people around me thinking it’s kooky.

I can do this!

You can do this!

You can do it!

You can find variations of those expressions all over my blog, but the “you” is usually you, the reader. In real life, however, I’ve been known to talk to myself in the second person as well.

Crazy, huh? I’m a certifiable nutter. But the technique works so well, I can’t see myself giving it up anytime soon. To be discreet, I’ve taken to speaking into my earphones as if I’m on the phone so nobody is the wiser.

Talking out loud to yourself is empowering

Recently, I read an article on this very subject.[2] There it was! Scientific evidence I wasn’t a nutter after all! What serendipitous joy! Apparently, saying “You can do it!” works even better that “I can do it!”. In practice, they found that…

…those who used the second person consistently completed the trial quicker and produced more power.

Then I read that the scientists gleaned their findings from the mind-stammering massive sample of twenty-two cyclists. That’s almost no better than my anecdotal observations. How fortunate for me that anecdotal observations are all I need when writing these articles.

Case in point, I once wrote:

Life is stressful for everyone. Where my depression and ADHD contribute is that one makes coping more difficult, and the other adds to the chaos. I tell myself “I can do this,” a favorite mantra of mine, and so I will, but it isn’t a simple matter of repeating the words. Coping strategies are more than mantras or prayers of hope. They are action plans.[3]

There is power in giving yourself a pep talk. When I’m unable to rise from bed, I tell myself “You’ve got this,” then force myself to move. When I’m under deadline and overwhelmed by stimuli, I take a deep breath and say out loud, “You can do this!” Then I do. You can argue that it’s a placebo, but I’m not sure if you can get the same results with made up words like “bibbity boppity boo!”. To me this technique is not a magical mantra. Speaking the phrases out loud engages the mind. I verbally reinforce what I already believe I can do. It’s a pep talk, but one that initiates a calm, focused state of mind. I’ve spent years practicing it.

You are The Little Engine That Could.

You don’t have to be an athlete to give yourself a boost when you need extra oomph. However, you do have to believe in what you say. Otherwise, you may as well be spouting gibberish.

You’ve probably heard of the story about The Little Engine That Could. Where other, larger trains passed up a hard job, the little engine showed them up, all while chanting “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” How curious that a children’s story from last century now has scientific findings from this century to back it up.

We can climb out of bed, shower, eat, and move out into the world despite the influence of depression. We can organize ourselves and prioritize our lives despite the influence of ADHD. The power lies within us to accomplish it. Now, you may say, “But I need my meds!”, and I’m not saying you don’t. I’m just saying that fictional trains may not be quite as trite as we’ve been led to believe. Maybe there is something to giving yourself a pep talk in the second or even first person. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll utilize whatever coping strategy will help me get closer to my goals, even if it makes me look a touch crazy.

So hold that phone close to the side of your face. Place your hand on your earphones as if you’re in a conversation. Find a private place and have a good loud chat with yourself. You’ve got this. You’ll be saying “I thought I could” in no time. You can do it!

If you’re looking for tips on how to help a loved one who struggles with suicidal ideation, read my book. I provide tips at the end of every chapter.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Eight ADHD Tips to Tidy Your Tabs & Bookmarks

You’ve heard the expression, “Less is more”? Too bad your bookmarks & tabs haven’t.[1]

Nice & Tidy Browser Tabs

Sometimes I wonder if there’s a support group out there for adults with ADHD who have a tabs & bookmarks problem.

Hello, my name is Douglas Cootey, and I’m a hard core tabs junkie.

Maybe this seems like a first world problem. Maybe you’re asking yourself, “What’s the big deal with several hundred open tabs and a million or two bookmarks?” If that’s how you think, you might need to join me at that meeting.

In theory there’s nothing wrong with lots of tabs and bookmarks. I did things that way for years. The problem I ran into, however, was although ToDo tabs were great, I had so many tabs open in my browser I couldn’t find what I needed. Just as ToDo lists can get long and unmanageable, ToDo tabs multiply until they become noise—no longer useful as resources or reminders. Bookmarks are the same way. Yes, you’ve saved that funny self-surgery with tweezers link, but where is it? Unless you organize your bookmarks regularly, they are probably a jumbled mess. They cease being useful. If you’re searching the internet for something you’ve already saved, maybe your system isn’t working for you.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Healthline's Best Depression Bloggers for 2019

Facebook isn’t always the best curator of excellent content. If you’re looking for people who write about depression, you are going to love Healthline’s new list.

depression best blogs badge 2019

I am honored to be included in Healthline’s Best Depression Blogs of 2019. This is my fourth year to be listed. What a wonderful resource they have put together for you.

Many mental health sites have made curated lists of depression bloggers over the years (you can find some of them here), but Healthline’s is the most consistent year over year. You should bookmark the link. They update it every Spring with their new selections. Read on for my personal recommendations.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Accolades, Attributions & Awards

Over the years, I have received various awards for my efforts here. I've even been interviewed, though I've not been thorough in keeping track of those. It's like I have an attention deficit or something. You can find all those links below. Why would you care? Maybe you wouldn't. I keep track of these links for my own sake to remind me that I'm doing alright—that I'm not just shouting into the void. You might enjoy these sites, regardless. There's more there than applause for yours truly. Most of these awards lead to a list of excellent blogs and wonderful writers who have their own things to say about ADHD, depression, and mental health.

Unfortunately, not all of the sites that featured me are still online. Frankly, I am gobsmacked and befuddled that I have been online long enough to outlive so many of these resources. To address this, I've updated this page with archive links so you can see what the award pages looked like when the award was issued. The layouts are often broken, and some require you to scroll and scroll and scroll… but the content is there. Now you can discover them, and, with luck, access them again.



Thursday, April 18, 2019

Looking Your Best for Depression

If You’re Depressed, Why Bother Getting Up & Ready for the Day?

I was recently asked if I had a blog post about why I cared so much about my dress, hair, and appearance despite my depression. What drives me to bother cleaning up when laying in bed while reading news in my PJs is easier to do? Why bother shaving? Why bother showering? Why bother getting up at all?

I couldn’t find a specific blog where I addressed this issue, but the pat answer is that my vanity is a super power. Vanity overpowers the darkest, deepest depressions to make sure at least my hair is presentable. Doesn’t that sound superficial? The truth is much deeper than that. How did I get to the point where I care so much about my appearance, it can override the urge to not care about anything at all?

Thursday, March 28, 2019

ADHD: Five Throwaway ToDo Lists that Quickly Organize Your Day

Sometimes the simplest solutions can be forgotten. [1]

A cheap whiteboard and a list on a napkin.

On those days when it feels as if you woke up late for the launch, you need to strap on a jetpack to get through the day. You don’t have time to deal with elaborate ToDo list systems. Franklin Covey? Getting Things Done? Omnifocus? Or any handful of powerful task management systems installed on your phone? These systems each have their strengths, but they require upkeep, and when you’re pressed for time—if you are anything like me—you are focused only on what’s in front of you. The other things, albeit important, get lost in the ADHD panic of the moment. That’s why it is so important to keep on top of those systems, but if you’re forgetful or easily bored, you may find yourself behind.

Most Task Systems Require Maintenance

The Franklin Covey system with its A, B, & Cs helps prioritize your projects, but requires daily review and reprioritizing. The Getting Things Done system hopes to simplify your life by moving unimportant projects out of your headspace, but still requires a weekly review. Other task management systems offer their own takes on organizing to be more productive, but ofttimes the ADHD mind is put off by meticulous systems—or maybe it’s more likely that meticulous systems are put down by ADHD minds. Those minds have a fondness for distractions. All one needs is a few days of disuse, or worse, a week or two, and these management lists become anchored in the past.

So it’s a bad day at the office and an evening lost on Netflix then? Let’s not give up hope just yet.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

ADHD: Visual Reminders

The simplest ToDo list is one item long and stays in your face. [1]

There is one kind of reminder that I always fall back on when sticky notes, calendar apps, todo lists, and alarms fail. It is the visual reminder, and it is as powerful as it is simple.

Perhaps you haven’t noticed, what with all the forgotten bills, lost paperwork, and unfinished projects no longer on your mind, but one of the most notorious downsides of having adult ADHD is being forgetful. I can remind myself to do something every hour of every day and still forget to do it. All I need is a distraction at the wrong moment. That’s why task lists are so helpful for forgetful people. You don’t need to rely on your memory. That is unless you forget to look at the task list. Then you’re in all sorts of trouble again.

Friday, March 01, 2019

ADHD: Wicked Fast Photo ToDo Lists

When you’re in a hurry, photons are faster than pens. [1]

When I made the transition from paper to digital back in the 90s—you know…when Palm Pilots still roamed the earth and Man was preparing for the impending Y2K Bug apocalypse—I said good-bye to that trusty old standby for ToDo lists: the pen & paper. It was all digital for me! I was prepared to spend as much time as needed to get my very complicated repeating ToDos to beep on cue and sync with the desktop for backup security. It may have, occasionally, required hours to bang out the syncing bugs, but I was living in the future, baby!

Long ago, I sold off my half dozen Palm Pilots and Sony Cliés on eBay for $20. I’m older and wiser now and realize digital isn’t always better. Sometimes, it’s downright unreliable, which is why I keep a pen & paper handy just in case. However, I still love living in the future. I’m just smarter about it.

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