Friday, February 17, 2017

Life, the Universe, and Everything 2017 Was Just What I Needed

Nifty logo of words in a fishbowl Entry 18 – 11:46 PM: Just a quick update before I head off to bed. Finally, sickness left me so that I could attend Life, the Universe & Everything. It’s an academic symposium on science fiction & fantasy held every year in Provo, Utah. I used to help run it when I attended BYU. There isn’t anything else quite like it out there. I missed yesterday’s programming (economics of the undead and a discussion on folklore with Jessica Day George and Dene Lowe, and I worried that I simply wouldn’t be able to shake off this virus. In a fit of unusual slumber, however, I retired to bed at 7:50pm and woke up refreshed early this morning. Well, refreshed sometime after 1:30am, then I was up all night, insomniac that I am, but refreshed I was, and off to the con I stumbled!

I was delighted to bump into old friends from college. Life takes us in so many varied directions, it’s hard to keep track of everybody. Sometimes we let friendships go. It was comforting that I could resume our friendships as if time had stood still.

Some highlights for me were “So You Want to Write Fantasy” with L.E. Modesitt, Jr., Larry Correia, and some authors that were new to me. Correia talked about the short attention span of the modern reader, and how an author used to have quite a bit of shelf-life before reader interest waned. Nowadays, awareness can be counted in weeks, not months. To fight this, authors need to be more prolific. Since he was addressing a room full of wannabe authors, Larry put it in his inimitable way and pantomimed a trip to a bookstore: “One book? Who is this guy?” followed by “Six? Oh, this guy must be good.” That’s one reason why my goal is to produce four more ebooks this year: better exposure. It is proving to be a daunting goal since I’ve had numerous setbacks, but I have a goal, so I plod forward. Just last week I completed all research for the update to my Pokémon Legendaries in 7 Easy Steps book for Pokémon Sun & Moon. It took a few months of experimentation, but I cracked the GTS and can trade from a Petilil to an Ultra Beast now in six steps. You may not care, but I’m very excited to write the updated edition. This time I’ll release the book when the game is new and not the day it becomes outdated.

I also learned about at the Crafting Realistic Fight Scenes panel. Need references for medieval martial arts? They’re your guys. I don’t often need to access ancient French sword techniques when writing articles on ADHD and depression, but I found the website interesting. Aside from honing our craft and learning about resources, symposiums can be a wonderful vacation for the ADHD mind. It’s like a marching band filled with squirrels blowing kazoos in brightly clad outfits keeping my attention all day long.

I also found the “So You Want To Write Science Fiction” panel fascinating. There was a moment where the conversation seemed hijacked as the panel and audience discussed the Singularity and how it was as crushing for hard SF as it was for the future of mankind. There seemed to be an assumption that all hard SF must address the Singularity—as if machine intelligence was a predetermined event in our future. Of course, the authors didn’t feel this way, but the hard SF audience seems to have purists who are fixated on this event. The end result seems to be that future science fiction is hampered by this theory, which explains why so many authors avoid it by working in near future SF.

And that’s all very geeky, but it is a pleasure to be in a room where such concepts are discussed in a serious tone.

What I gained most from that panel was the following tidbit: There are two ways to approach technology: How characters use technology to solve a problem, or how technology affects the characters. This can be extrapolated for the fantasy work that I’m doing. How does my main event affect my characters. It’s not enough to tell a dry tale about fantastical happenings. The reader relates with the bizarre through the characters.

The last panel that I found absolutely fascinating was “The Appeal of Science Fiction and Fantasy for Mormons”. I enjoyed listening to the panel and the audience discuss our religion in relation to this genre. Curiously, a lot of Mormons gravitate towards consuming and producing science fiction & fantasy literature. This panel discussed some of the reasons why.

Now, for my writing goals. Some steps forward, and some steps back. I can’t say that I am completely in control of my life lately. I am awaiting the return of spring with great anticipation this year. I need fresh air and sunlight to disinfect my depression and illness. I’ve been sick with viruses since New Year’s Eve. I’ve done very well this winter compared to other years, but even still, when I get sick, my tic disorder is exacerbated. I’m afraid I have yet to figure out how to be productive when my brain turns into quivering Jell-o. But don’t despair! I will get back on track. It’s only February.

Coping strategies used: Smiling practice to warm up my downward turned face. Forcing myself to mingle with people outside of my home to fight depression and anxiety. Allowing myself to be an adult with ADHD and letting my attention be pulled here and there, but taking notes during the panels to keep myself focused.

If you want to be as upbeat as I was today despite depression or suicidal tendencies, you should read my book

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

500,000 Unique Visitors!

Half a million unique visitors!

Sometime before midnight on January 31st, my blog crossed a threshold that I’ve been waiting for a long time to see. A Splintered Mind has hit 500,000 unique visitors. Considering the blog just had it’s twelfth birthday on January 2nd, this seems a fitting month to achieve such a milestone.

Thank you, one and all, for your support over the past twelve years. I’ve grown so much as a person and as a writer. In fact, we’ve come so far together since the days years ago when I would blog about my wet socks, and you could leave comments—back before my blog template became damaged beyond repair. Maybe that’s a bad example. My socks are still a water magnet. It’s so irritating. I change them almost twice a day. I just stepped in a puddle a few minutes ago. Why was water waiting to lovingly soak my socks in that particular corner? How did the water get there? Why didn’t anybody else step in it? And why am I talking about wet socks, anyway? I didn’t start blogging about wet socks until my blog was nine months old. I started this blog whining about my bad luck with electronics, which stuns me to think that half a million people later I’m still writing about it. What were we talking about again?

Personal growth! Yes, I feel blessed to have shared this journey with you, even with competition from Facebook, Twitter, and Netflix. I’m lucky that I still have readers, to be honest. Those that have stayed have put up with my meandering coverage of depression, ADHD, and writing. You empathized with the reasons why I’m wary about taking psychmeds. You were there when I came forward and shared my struggles with suicide. You watched me get writing gigs, like my current one at ADDitude Magazine. You’ve seen me earn awards and then finally publish my first book, then a second book. You made a blog I wrote eleven years ago on fighting depression one of the most popular articles on this site, so much so that I’m basing my third book on it. Most of all, you were there rooting for me and cheering me on. I am glad to have shared this journey with you. Thank you for all your clicks and comments.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Don't Forget To Plan for Detours

Nifty logo of words in a fishbowl

Day 17 – 11:56 PM: I’ve put together a heavy schedule—a roadmap—that will lead me towards achieving my goals, but as usual with lists, life has a way of giving them a flat. Fortunately, the lists still work as roadmaps, even if distractions and responsibilities put detours in front of my deadlines.

The point of writing openly like this is to share a bit of the process. I believe strongly that if we identify our stumbling blocks, we can learn to work around them. Some people who don’t have mental health issues look upon that belief as letting my diagnosis limit me—as if I could suddenly, for example, not have a tic disorder if I just stopped thinking about it so much. On the other extreme, I’ve met multitudes of people who allow depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other disabilities define and rule them. They give up and behave exactly as those who stigmatize mental health expect. I’m caught in the middle, just like a lot you.

I can’t help ignorant or clueless people see the world differently. They require me to be more successful than I am currently before they will regard my accomplishments with any degree of respect. Learning to understand other people takes patience and a willingness to be taught, something that can be hard for them if they can’t relate. However, I can help those who struggle to believe in themselves. I can help them see that they can accomplish more than they realize. What I accomplish isn’t so amazing to most people, but for me, fighting family hardships, a tic disorder, depression and ADHD, I am sometimes surprised how far I have come from that guy who wanted to die so many years ago.

Maybe I do define myself by my disabilities. Maybe I haven’t learned how to work around them enough. Maybe my perspective is still too low to see beyond the obstacles out to the open vista awaiting me. Or maybe this is what life is: one step at a time, moving forward. Some people can race; other people can only crawl. I like to believe that I’m hobbling ahead just nicely.

I remind myself of that when I see how many goals for the month I missed. I did a lot of necessary research today for my Pokémon book sequel despite my new cold. Then I took care of my daughter after school, fed her, entertained her, got her to her therapist, made phone calls to multiple doctors for her, made her dinner, and administered her meds before her mother showed up. Then I was so sick I vegetated in front of the TV for a few hours. It’s easy to beat myself up when I missed posting a product review, as well as getting the second chapter for Twelve Ways to Fight Off Depression up for my readers. My amazing list didn’t leave room for any of those things! There was no room for sickness, ticking, and child-rearing. It’s funny how I always do that. I get so excited planning out my projects that I make no allowances for obstructions, as if life is a perfectly paved road laid out in front of me with no potholes, detours, or accidents.

Trust sickness to rudely remind me how hard reality can smack you when you aren’t paying attention. Still, I’m excited about what I will accomplish this year. This is only a temporary setback. There are still plenty of miles to go before my fifty-first birthday.

Struggling with suicidal depression? My book can help.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Writing in a Fishbowl v3 – Day Sixteen

Nifty logo of words in a fishbowl

5:56 PM: I’ve had a flurry of productivity and focus lately. I know exactly why, but I haven’t decided to share the reason yet. Last night, I fell asleep while watching Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes “The Final Problem”. This was not due to the plot boring me. I’ve had a hard week of family drama, family emergencies, and ticking. In fact, minutes before I fell asleep, I had just been laughing out loud during the scandalous nude scene. There I was minding my own business watching Sherlock investigate Mona Lisa forgeries, when this guy 👇🏼 suddenly mugged the camera before heading off to chat with the nude model. It’s like the plot jumped the tracks for a few minutes and headed out behind the shed with the other giggling school boys. So strange.

And I bet you thought Cumberbatchs Woman was scandalous
And I bet you thought Cumberbatch’s “Woman” was scandalous

So I decided to go to bed early at 10pm. I’m all grown up now! Except at that point, I couldn’t fall asleep. I wrote in bed for a bit, then I got up, got dressed, did a security check at my chapel, and finally headed to Denny’s to finish my second Family Guy article before the month disappeared on me. I outlined a few other articles as well. I was out until 4am, then returned home to sleep until 10am. Not the greatest sleep schedule, but not as bad as past weeks have been since my surgeries. I’ll take progress where I can.

I blogged again later today as well. But now my day has been derailed by my daughter. Before the night ends, however, I will finish a third Family Guy article and the lion’s share of the next chapter of my book. I finally found a fire to light under myself. Finding this fire has been difficult because of three months of convalescence and family turmoil, but finding your fire is key if you want to ride the waves of drama life sends your way, yet still remain productive by the end of the day.

Don't Put Your Suicide Message in a Bottle

“Oh please, dear Lord, take me home.” ☜ Somebody posted this on Facebook last night. I had been reading this woman’s cries for help for weeks, but never spoke up because dozens upon dozens of people jumped into each post to give her love and encouragement. I didn’t believe that I could add anything that her peers hadn’t already expressed. Last night, however, this post bothered me. If you’ve read my blog, you know how I feel about drive-by suicide notes. These types of posts are cathartic for the people who leave them, but they burden the folks who read them. They aren’t constructive and smack of wallowing. I felt compelled to leave a comment, but what would be the best approach? How could I help her believe that she could take control of her suicidal tendencies? I didn't want to scold her. She was as down as a person could be, but she didn’t have to needlessly suffer, either.

Most drive-by suicide notes posted in the comments on this blog were usually posted by anonymous people who left their cry for help, never to return again. Over and over, I tried to reach out to them via email, but these people, if they weren’t just trolls, never replied. It made me feel impotent and helpless. Eventually, they began to make me mad. Cries for help with no way to receive help weren’t really cries for help at all, but self-indulgent suicide graffiti sprayed onto the lives of people who cared, but who were denied the opportunity to truly be helpful. My readers left the most heart-felt, passionate replies, but the person was long gone. How were my readers to tell the difference between somebody trolling the comments section and a legitimate cry for help? I analyzed the pleas and found patterns to distinguish valid expressions of suicide from drive-by suicide notes, then I made the policy to delete the drive-bys.

With the above in mind, when I read this poor woman’s post, old feelings of frustration came to the surface. Didn’t she know she had to fight suicidal ideation? Didn’t having four children dependent on her give her the motivation to live? Didn’t she know that suicide lies?! What did she want people to say with a post like that‽ How was that post not simply a cry for attention instead of a cry for help? Obviously, the answer to many of these questions was that she was a person in pain, overwhelmed, and flailing in desperation. Unlike the anonymous posters who spammed my comments sections, however, I knew this person. I could reach out and help. I share my reply here for you:

████, twenty five years ago when I was at my lowest point, moving beyond suicidal ideation into suicidal planning—when I was moments away from executing my plan—I asked myself if I had any reason to live. My daughter and wife came to my mind. Who would take care of my daughter when I was gone? I was a stay-at-home dad. She needed me. I held onto that as a lifeline, and I learned to love myself. That lifeline grew into a family of four beautiful daughters. Even when my wife left me several years ago, and I struggled again with suicidal thoughts and urges, my daughters were the reason I kept going. And I wanted to keep going. The truth is that I didn’t really want to die; I just wanted the pain to end.

Where depression can seem like a heavy, smothering blanket of sadness, suicidal depression feels like a sharp ache. It warps how we think. We start to believe that people will be better off without us, but that is suicide’s lie. Things truly will improve. You can learn to control this, and push it deep below the surface. Start by finding reasons to live. Make a list and keep it handy. Train yourself to think more positively with thankfulness journals. You can offset the chemicals in your mind. You have said in the past that you love your therapist. Ask them about cognitive behavior therapy. Your family loves you and needs you. They are worth all the effort to turn your thoughts around. My prayers are with you. You aren’t alone.

To you out there struggling with suicidism, I want you to know that you aren’t alone. Your pain is real and hard to bear, but it can be healed. Don’t keep your pain buried in secret. Seek help immediately. Please keep in mind, however, that there is a world of difference between saying, “Hey, guys. I’m struggling tonight. I feel suicidal.” and “Oh please, dear Lord, take me home.” The former is a confession of pain that invites help. The latter is a self-indulgent comment that has already shut down the conversation.

I know about the warping affect suicidal depression has on the mind. Taking your own life seems so logical when you are at the nadir of life. It can even seem like a blessing for your loved ones. Aside from the trolls, this warped negativity is likely at fault for the maudlin posts that many suicidal people leave. I understand this all too well from personal experience. Yet the problem with this Facebook friend’s posts was that she was abdicating responsibility for her own mental health and laying it on the shoulders of others. This is an incredibly irresponsible way to ask for help. Facebook could bury your comment through their algorithm. It could get lost in the heavy flow of people’s timelines amidst all the kitten videos and Nazi-Trump references. I favor a proactive approach to happiness. Don’t send out a message in a bottle! Call an actual person and get some help.

If social media is your only method of reaching people, don’t spam your channel. Reach out to specific individuals. Reach out to the people who can help. I cover this a lot in my book (Chapter 22: Knowing Whom To Rely On), but I can tell you here that you need to start compiling a list of supportive people today. Not everybody that you admire or pin your hopes on can handle suicidism. Their minds may melt down at the mere mention of the concept. But supportive people do exist. It is your responsibility to find them. Sometimes you can get lucky when they reach out to your first, but it’s good to have a backup network.

Lastly, be kind to those that follow you on social media. Nothing makes us feel more helpless than reading about somebody who wants to die and isn’t interested in our input. More people care about you than you know. Learn to care for them back. Start with caring about yourself. You are worthy to be alive.

If you’re looking for tips to help a suicidal loved one, you should really read my book.

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