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!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Do Fidget Spinners Cure ADHD?

By now, Fidget Spinners are collecting dust in bargain bins across America, marked down to $1.99 or 3 for $5. My local Walmart is selling them for $1 each! The fad hit America like a whirling tornado. In April and May, they were selling out faster than you could say “pet rock”. By June, dealers had palettes of them stacked to the ceiling. It was easy to see there’d be a glut. Now that they’re so cheap to get, are they worth it? The tl;dr answer is “Yes”, but you can be forgiven for cocking an eyebrow of doubt.

After all, most online ads for Fidget Spinners on read like this:

Figit Spinner Hand Toy for Relieving ADHD Anxiety Boredom! Helps Focussing! Stress Reducer. Cure Toenail Fungus!

OK, I added the fungus bit, but dang! These sound like miracle toys! It seems China was on the verge of obsoleting the psychiatric industry with these things, but aren’t these just spinning plastic toys? How does a rotating gizmo relieve symptoms of anything, especially boredom?Round and round it goes, and so what?

That was my attitude when my daughter first started bugging me to get one for her last Spring. Then she claimed that kids were using them for therapy at her day treatment school with the teacher’s permission, so I took another look at them. However, I wasn’t going to buy just any old spinner for my girl. Oh, no! Now that I was committed, I had to make sure her spinner was unique. What I bought was glow-in-the-dark orange and so amazingly cool that somebody at school stole it two weeks later. I replaced it, then bought some for myself so I could test them out.

Are All Fidget Spinners Created Equal?

The question on my mind over the summer was whether these doohickeys were of any use to somebody with ADHD. Amazon was filled with dozens of models of various quality and claims, but I seriously wondered if a turd made of gold was any less of a turd.

Good grief!!

Let’s get the dumb ones out of the way first. The Light-Up Spinners, which seem cool, defeat the purpose of what Fidget Spinners are supposed to help with: Focus. The clear LED spinner I purchased strobed, so my epileptic daughter couldn’t use it. It was also so light that it took more effort to keep spinning than other models. $2.80 on Amazon. The Novelty Spinners may also catch your eye. They have designs inspired by many pop cultural icons from superheroes to dragons. I settled on a Golden Snitch. I liked how small and discreet it was. Despite the solid brass build, though, it had a lot of juddering with only two arms, one of which needed to be glued back on after a few spins. $4.51 on Amazon. I wouldn’t waste my time or money on either type of fidget spinner again.

Various spinners

The ߷ Standard Fidget Spinner has the most well known shape. They often work better than novelty spinners. Build quality differs from manufacturer to manufacturer, but generally, they spin for about a minute or two and have a nice heft. $4.80 on Amazon. However, I eventually settled on what I refer to as the Executive Fidget Spinner. I came across Spinetic at Salt Lake Comic Con. Spinetic makes the best fidget spinners on the market, in my opinion, hand tooled, made of metal, and priced around $30 and up. That seems like a lot of green if you bought your fidget spinner for a buck, but these spin like floating dreams. They feel good in the hand, have the best build quality, and give a strong gyroscope-like feel after you get them going. Spinetic’s plastic spinners are most affordable. I picked up a glow-in-the-dark four-armed spinner for $5 and fell in love with it. The four arms reduce juddering, providing a smooth, lengthy spin, and it’s small, so it can be spun discreetly.

Wait. You fell in love with a fidget spinner?!

OK, so it’s not like I take it out on dates. Let’s forget I ever mentioned that.

What good are fidget spinners?

The basic fidget spinner has three to four weighted blades centered around a spinning hub with ball bearings. Hold the device between your thumb and index finger, then use another finger or hand to give it a flick.

My favorite spinner, by Spinetic

Oooooh, it spins. You can probably relate with my initial skepticism.

There is more to them than that, however. The spinning blades make a quiet, white noise while the weights keep the blades spinning continually, very much like a gyroscope. If you tilt the fidget spinner in your hand, you can feel the centrifugal force. Maybe you can see why the spinner depicted above won me over. It spins the fastest, with the most force, and for the longest of time, while fitting easily in my hand.

Poor spinners will have a lot of audible juttering and visual wobble as you turn your wrist while the blades spin. You can sometimes improve the spinning by popping out the middle plastic and dropping a bit of sewing machine oil into the bearings, but generally cheap spinners are cheap.

I tested my fidget spinners in the following areas:

Nervous Energy – On several occasions, I have found that spinning one of those gizmos helped me relax when I was feeling agitated. The most effective at night is the blinking LED monstrosity. Perhaps it has a hypnotic and calming effect. Regardless, the centrifugal force of fidget spinners has a calming effect because I allow it to. I've incorporated it into my coping strategies as a tool.

Focus – Sometimes when I am having a hard time formulating a blog, article, or chapter, I like to shut the lights off, turn off the music, and just think without distraction. Last summer at church, I was struggling with a Priesthood lesson that I was about to give to a class. I had all the lesson elements gathered, but the lesson itself lacked focus and unity. It’s a classic ADHD issue. I went into the empty gym, paced in the dark, and on a whim, spun the fidget spinner. That stupid, glowing piece of whirling plastic helped me focus where pacing alone hadn’t succeeded. After that, I was hooked. This is by far my favorite way to utilize fidget spinners.

Insomnia – I have tried using a fidget spinner as a relaxation device when trying to get to sleep. In the dark, as the only thing that I am focusing on, I find it too distracting. As a relaxation aid, Chinese baoding balls are more effective.

Anxiety – The soothing motion and weight of the spinning blades can have a calming effect for anxiety, but like any coping strategy, it will require training to become effective. I’ve used my fidget spinner a couple of times in bumper-to-bumper traffic when I needed to detach from the frustration, but I can’t say definitively that fidget spinners are superior to other coping strategies in that instance.

Final thoughts

Fidget spinners won’t help you walk on water. You can’t use them as an awesome spinning guitar pick, either, but they do have their humble uses. Whether you find them useful for your needs depends upon you. I rather like mine, and plan on picking more up to have on hand if I ever lose my current favorite. Curiously, my daughter, who started me on this journey, no longer has interest in them. As a fad, fidget spinners are so last Spring. However, if they’re selling for a buck at a store nearby, it’s easy to pick one up and try it out. If you like them, upgrade to a better built Spinetic spinner. In the meantime, here are a few parting points to keep in mind.

  1. Spinning one won’t cure your ADHD. They don’t have any medicinal effect. Anybody claiming otherwise is literally trying to sell you something.
  2. It’s only slightly more helpful than other busy motions that people with ADHD use to find focus, such as bouncing a ball, tapping a pencil, twirling a pen, pacing, talking to yourself, going for a walk, etc. However, a fidget spinner does have the benefit of fitting in one hand and not requiring much skill to get going.
  3. People won’t respect you very much if they catch you, an adult, using one in public. Oh, the looks I put up with for you!
  4. Most schools ban them now in the classroom because they are a distraction for other students.
  5. Like any coping strategy, you will need to train yourself to utilize a spinner properly. Don’t expect it to magically realign your chakra. Do expect it to work well in tandem with your current meditation and relaxation techniques. It’s a tool. If you find the hum and motion comforting, you’ll find them useful. If you don’t, they’re just colorful bits of spinning plastic.

If you like taking things out for a spin, you might want to read my book. There are tips in it to help you help your suicidal loved ones better.

Monday, November 13, 2017

ADHD: Writer's Roadblock

Sometimes Writer’s Block is due to Road Work Ahead.

I wish the roadblocks of life would announce themselves better. Then I could chart my detours in time to avoid them. Maybe they could have mechanized arms to wave at me, catching my attention as I rocket from Point A to Point B. Most roadblocks in life do give me advance warning. It’s the ones that family members throw up in my way that catch me off guard. It is as if they announce the upcoming construction by standing on the side of a road with a postcard filled with tiny hand scratchings that somewhat resemble English. They don’t even so much as nod their head at me. Sometimes, I’m blowing by them so quickly, I don’t notice them, but for the most part, their troubles go off like bombs in my life. Then I find myself swerving out of the way, slamming on my breaks, or just careening into their manmade ditch. Surprise! Somebody’s having a bad day! My life has been like that lately, especially over the Summer. I wish I could offer myself some advice on how to avoid these pitfalls, but I have little to no control over other people’s lives.

I had such big plans for this year. I was going to be AMAZING. The stars would twinkle their approval even through the light polluted sky. I would accomplish great things. Instead, I’m scrambling to get even one book finished this year.

I read a blog today by an author boasting about how prolific he was. He made sure to point out several times that he was a single dad raising a kid. You know, to drive into his reader’s brains how incredibly awesome he was. I don’t have the ability to tune out stress and drama while keeping on track. Family drama scatters into my life like an upturned box of tacks in the road.

This year, my youngest daughter’s mental issues reached a head. It involved a new school, counseling, and group therapy on top of our already busy schedule with her physical therapy (for cerebral palsy), monthly seizures (epilepsy), and meltdowns (teenager with disabilities). Then I had to enroll her back in the old school. Our home became a battle zone, and with the increased stress, my Tourette’s became exacerbated, which then created strange, unproductive synergies with my ADHD. I had energy enough to take care of her needs, then collapse on the couch at the end of the day, mindlessly watching TV while I recovered. 

The problem is that I can’t think while I’m ticking. The sensation is as if my mind is having tremors while I’m unable to concentrate on anything else. TV distracts, but by the time I come around, the night is late, and it is time to prepare for the morrow. The end result was that I didn’t blog for my editor, I didn’t blog for myself, and I didn’t write much either. The upside was that my daughter’s needs were taken care of, and that we made huge progress with her. Everything is much better now, or else I wouldn’t be able to post this update. 

Upon consideration, I suppose I do have some advice to give myself: Play with the cards you’re dealt. We don’t always have control over our lives as much as we’d like. There are responsibilities, emergencies, and disabilities that spring up roadblocks in our path. They arrive unannounced and make a mess of things. However, if we have even a tiny idea of where we’re going, we can keep ourselves moving forward.

My goal was to finish Pokémon Ultra Beasts in 5 Easy Steps last Spring! Then I’d have a half a year of sales before the next Pokémon game dropped, whereupon I’d update the book quickly to include the new game, and get more sales. Meanwhile, I’d have moved on to my Twelve Ways to Fight Off Depression, finished it, then begun my middle grade novel in September. Yes, GREAT THINGS. Now I’m eight months behind schedule, I’ve discovered that nobody wants Ultra Beasts, and the year is almost over.

Oh, well…

Here’s what I am going to do instead. Since the new game drops this Friday, I’m going to attend the NAMI conference tomorrow, finish the first draft of my book by Wednesday, and then work on my middle grade novel until Friday. Then I’ll update my book and prepare it for a December launch.

I’m not sure if I’ll write about Pokémon again after this. I was a game reviewer before I began blogging years ago, so it’s not a wild divergence for me. It’s just not the subject matter that burns in my heart and demands to be let free.

Thank you for following along. I realize people expect me to be an expert, and some lose faith in me when I pull the curtain back and reveal the man behind it, but this is how I’ve always dealt with my limitations. I admit them. I analyze them. I attack them, and then I achieve victory.

If you like books with self-analysis, you’ll love reading Saying NO to Suicide.

Monday, November 06, 2017

ADHD: So You Screwed Up. What Else Is New?

Ever feel like you just can’t do anything right? Maybe it’s not just you.

I’m sitting here in my car, stunned and quite embarrassed. I just showed up to yet another appointment on the wrong day. You would think I’d be used to this by now, but the truth is that it comes as a surprise every time. And here I was thinking the worst I had done today was be seven minutes late.

Let’s Rewind

I began the morning sick again. This has been going on for weeks, and I’ve seen a roulette wheel of symptoms instead of any healthy payout. I wondered if I should even go, but I canceled the last two times because of illness, so I headed out the door in plenty of time. I obeyed all traffic laws, cut nobody off, avoided creatively driving over anything paved that might shave a second off my journey. I did not dash. I was not mad. I was at peace, or as at peace as one can be while coughing, sniffling, and driving.

When I arrived at the doctor’s office early, however, my exultant cheer was cut short. Wrong doctor’s office. Whoops. So off I was again, this time dashing ever so much along State Street, which I noted was much less congested than I was.

I arrived. I parked. I ran to the elevator and recovered, panting, for nine floors. Then I got the bad news: my appointment was tomorrow.

What Went Wrong‽

Sometimes there isn’t much you can do to thwart ADHD. I had set an alarm. I left early. I made being on time my only goal. This should have worked. I simply wrote down the wrong date. I didn’t notice the discrepancy even when I received a reminder call last week. I was sick. I wasn’t paying attention.

Moving Forward

So I’m deciding to not beat myself up about it. For now on I will:

  1. Double check with the doctor’s office if I don’t get a reminder call.
  2. Take time to verify the date during the reminder call.
  3. Leave with the destination in mind. That way I can’t brain fart my way into being late again (even though I was technically early).
  4. Forgive myself for being forgetful.

Point Three seems self-evident, but I will visualize the destination and route in my mind before shifting into gear. I haven’t been doing that. Point Four means I’m having a good chuckle right now at my own expense, blogging about it, then moving on. Mistakes happen, some more costly than others, but dwelling on them only suppresses your self-esteem and sets you up for more failure. Focus on what you can fix. Focus forward.

If you have a tendency to beat yourself up, you might find my book on fighting suicide full of helpful insights. I’ve gotten really good at dodging self-inflicted blows.

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