Monday, February 01, 2016

OverDrive Drive

(cc) Douglas Cootey
I'd like to get my book into my local Salt Lake County Library as well as other libraries. Since my book is carried by Overdrive—which most libraries support for ebook loans—I thought this would be easy. I've even thought of donating copies. Unfortunately, the only way to accomplish get the book listed with my library is to request a purchase. Meaning, I can't submit a copy to the library for their consideration as I could with a physical book. OK, I think. This isn't a problem. I'm an indy publisher and have been doing everything myself already, so I fired up the browser and got ready to type. That's when I realized I'd have to officially request a book purchase with my name and library card number for a book that I wrote. Suddenly, I felt very silly. While I was sitting there convincing myself that it was silly to feel silly, it occurred to me that other people might want this book in their library, too, but they wouldn't have any idea how to go about doing it.

Most libraries have a "request a purchase" link buried somewhere on their website. They aren't hidden necessarily, but they're often not easy to find either. I can't join every library in America in order to request a purchase of my own book, but if you are having difficulty finding that link for your own library, leave a comment below. I'll do my best to find it for you.

In the meantime, if you are interested in reading my book, live in Salt Lake Valley, but don't want to own my book, here is SLCoL's request form. Maybe you'll feel less silly filling it out than I would. 

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Mormon Musings: Does Prayer Cure Mental Illness?

This is a new series I hope to publish over the next few Sundays. I’ve made myself a goal of writing an article every day for my various freelance projects, and since Sunday is the day of rest, I figure I can explore recent statements by my church leaders on mental health while not running afoul of other promises I’ve made. It doesn’t indicate any sort of editorial shift on this blog. I’m Mormon. I’ve written about that before. No surprises here. Hopefully, you are tolerant, secular, and educated enough to handle diverse life-views.

Recently, there has been a spate of prayer shaming on social media. Otherwise rational individuals have suddenly begun to tell religious people how pointless prayer is in the face of tragedy. Because they are supported by like-minded peers, these humbugs are convinced that they represent rational thinking. But having a non-religious person pass judgement on religious behavior is akin to a meat-lovin’ hunter telling a vegetarian how pointless their diet is. I mean, it’s all free speech, right? Every one of them is entitled to speak their mind on any subject they please, just as I am now shaking my head publicly at them.

The urge on hearing your religious behavior mocked is, of course, to fight – to roll up our sleeves, put on the war paint, and jump into the fray. No? Not your urge? Well, it’s certainly mine, though my Native American ancestors were generally farmers and fishers from Cape Cod, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about. I readily admit that I struggle with that whole turning the other cheek concept.

I recently came across a post by a fellow mental health blogger where she more or less tossed down the gauntlet that prayer is pointless because if there is a God, He gave you your mental illness, so why expect Him to remove it?

She’s close to a truth there, but we’ll come back to it in a bit. She also stated how she felt encouragements to pray were insulting because the proselytizers were assuming that she was religious, that she accepts faith as a process towards healing, and that she believes that praying to God isn’t just talking to herself.

Whooboy, did her blog comments light up.

Respecting others means not forcing your viewpoint on them

The thing is, she has a point. Well-meaning people in their zeal proclaim lots of things that they feel strongly about, and they’re generally insensitive about it, too. Prayer shaming is an example. Global warming alarmism, another (Don’t you know that if you don’t believe in man-made global warming, you’re a moron, no matter what facts you bring up?) Here are some others: Meat is murder. Mormons aren’t Christians. Taxing the 1% will fix all our problems. Removing taxes will fix all our problems. Dark chocolate makes you lose weight. Feel the Bern. OK, maybe not that last one. It’s not absolute enough.

I remember I used to have a reader who insisted that my tic disorder wasn’t caused by psychmeds, despite my doctor’s diagnosis and concern about side-effects. This reader would get quite incensed, then he’d quote the DSM-IV at me in an appeal to authority. It was annoying. So, I can feel for this blogging peer’s irritation.

I don’t agree with her for a minute on most of her statements regarding prayer, but I certainly appreciate that nobody likes having a belief system forced upon them. People of religion need to proselytize only to those who are hungry. Force feeding religion down people’s throats will just make them grumpy.

So, what was that truth she was close to?

There is a scripture in the Book of Mormon that I find very comforting.

Ether 12:27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

This is Christ explaining that we are indeed made flawed, but that if we turn to Him, He can make our weaknesses strengths. It’s a very beautiful sentiment, and one that I happen to believe.

So why hasn’t my ADHD, Depression, Chronic Motor Tic Disorder, and chronic illness been done away with? I’ve certainly prayed with belief. I’ve fasted and prayed. I’ve searched the Gospels. I’ve consulted religious leaders. I’ve received numerous priesthood blessings. I’ve even seen many miracles in my life, and yet my mental health problems still remain. That female blogger would have seen this as evidence that there is no God.

Here’s why this is not a crisis of faith for me.

When I pray, I no longer pray for a cure. The Spirit guides us to know what to pray for, and I have been given the strongest impression that this is my burden. Once I accepted that Heavenly Father wasn’t going miraculously heal me, I began to look inward for solutions, and that’s when my life began to improve. I prayed for strength. I prayed for wisdom. I prayed for inspiration. And I slowly took back control of my life. Our weaknesses are meant to be overcome, not removed.

Just because I cannot be healed doesn’t mean that my Father has abandoned me. Through prayer I have conquered my Panic Anxiety Disorder. Through prayer I learned the principles behind Cognitive Behavior Therapy before I knew the name. Through prayer I learned that my perspective was toxic and needed improving. Through prayer I learned that I was using ADHD to excuse my temper issues. Through prayer I became a better, stronger, more compassionate man. Each time I received an epiphany, prayer gave me faith that I could conquer my weaknesses. And so I did.

Now if only my list of weaknesses wasn’t so long. I may need the years of Methuselah to work them all out!

I am thankful for prayer. It is a deep period of inward reflection that is not dissimilar to Mindfulness or intense Yoga, and studies have shown that it is very, very effective as a coping strategy (Chapter 9 in my book). The blogger who inspired this post may not think much of prayer, but I can’t help her by going to war in her comments section. Instead, I share with you how I look at the matter just in case you have struggled with this issue on your own—within your own faith. Be kind to others who do not believe as you, and don’t let the cynicism of the world rattle you. If faith & prayer helps you be optimistic towards managing your mental health, don’t stop!

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Cookie Time: ADHD Distractions as Therapy

Some distractions are tasty

As you may have noticed, I have ADHD. One of the ways it manifests itself in my life is something I affectionately call Multi-Irons Syndrome. This means that as I get bored, I have a tendency to abandon one task to pick up another. The shinier the better! Over the years I have trained myself to control that. This is how I was able to finish my book. (I'm afraid I'm so pleased with my accomplishment that I'll be touting it for awhile.) The key to my success, however, was that I didn't expect myself to stay on task 100% of the time. I gave myself mental breaks.

Putting ADHD in a full Nelson may seem like the best way to wrestle control of your life, but the effort can be exhausting, and I question whether it is healthy to always control our ADHD so tightly. Increased stress levels and feelings of failure are bound to arise because adult ADD and ADHD defies such constraints. This is why it is important to recognize that ADHD is not always a detriment. It can be a source of joy.

To maintain positive self-esteem and mental stamina, I have allowed myself a few distractions to cycle through. I consider it a release valve that lets my mind spin freely before wrestling with it to be on task again. For example, I am simultaneously practicing the ocarina, the soprano & tenor recorders, the pennywhistle, and the clarinet. I started to pick up the melodica, but that was too much even for me! But oh, does it beg to be played! That's OK. I allow myself to have music time so that I enrich my life. What does it matter if I pick up yet another instrument? I do realize that if I want to master an instrument, I need to focus on that instrument, but I'm already focusing on being a full-time dad, a freelance writer, and now, an author.

Video games used to be a favorite distraction, but became a source of addiction. I went cold turkey years ago. Now I can let myself play games again without the binging problems I used to have. If I need to unwind, and the impulse leads me there, I just set a timer.

My favorite distraction of all, however, is baking. Here NEW is allowed to reign as I let myself experiment with new recipes. Sometimes, I experiment with old recipes. If I fail, then whatever. I go wherever my whims takes me, even if the results are less than pleasing. The pumpkin pie cupcakes I made two weeks ago were gooey and gross. I burned 3/4 of the crumpets I made last week before I figured them out. I wasn't worried a single bit. In fact, I posted pictures of my failures online and laughed. Last night, I felt like baking cookies, so bam! Out came the KitchenAid. Cookies are a specialty of mine, so these came out perfect. But whether they are perfect or pathetic, the experience brings me joy.

You may be used to AD/HD ruining your life because you zig when you should zag. Impulses may even frighten you because they mean you can lose hours, days, or weeks pursuing your new pleasure when the project you were supposed to finish languishes in the back of your mind. The harder you push yourself, however, the harder you seem to fail sometimes, I know it can be frustrating. First, try accepting that you will likely be distracted again. Then learn how to manage your distractability with a list of authorized distractions that let you feel free, but which don't take over your life.

Do you already employ this technique? Got some questions about the process? Leave a comment below.

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