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.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Down in the Dumps? Here Are Seven Steps To Beat Depression

I knew I was in trouble when I looked at the time. It was 12:30 already. Half past noon, and I was still in bed. I was just lying there feeling as if a giant weight was on top of me. I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to. Eat? Nah, too sad. Go to the bathroom? Too much effort. Even social media seemed tiresome. I put my iPhone down and thought in stunned, heavy silence, “I’m depressed.”

Savage bouts of depression can still jump out at me and catch me off guard. I have clinical depression, yet I manage my depression on a daily basis. It doesn’t often get the better of me anymore. There was a time when depression ruled my world, but I have long since put that behind me. Which is exactly why I can be waylaid by depression from time to time. I get lax. I forget to be ever vigilant.

It’s not that I hadn’t seen the warning signs. They were pretty obvious all week. Yet here I was, caught “unawares” because I hadn’t acted on the advance warnings. Since readers have asked me over and over again how I manage my depression without meds, I find it helpful to share my coping strategies.

Let’s start with today. As I was wondering how I was going find the mental strength to get out of my bed, I decided to share my process on Twitter. Already, I’ve employed two coping strategies. I admitted to myself that I was depressed, then I decided on a course of action. Both events are very difficult to do when depression has sway over your mind. Regardless, let’s focus on the tweets where all the action was.

Alright, #depression. I’m going to kick your butt today because so far, you’re kicking mine. Step 1) Move. Doesn’t matter where. Just move.

Moving in that instance meant crawling out of bed. I wish that didn’t sound as pathetic as it does, but it was the most intense bout of depression I had dealt with in years. Crushing waves of sadness washed over me. I felt as if I was drowning in all that black misery. Getting up and moving seems far too easy for a coping strategy, but when you are dealing with hardcore depression, any step forward is a difficult one.

Step 2) Eat! Sometimes when I’m depressed, I forget to eat. Filling your stomach fuels your mind. #depression

I need to eat regularly to manage my Tourette’s, but clearly that wasn’t a high priority for me this morning, so I had to made it one. Up I trudged to the kitchen and made myself a protein shake. I also talked with family a bit. Conversation with friends & family can be healing.

Step 3) Organize something. I filled out disability license form and sleep logs. Both I’d been procrastinating. #depression (and #ADHD)

Filling out forms may not be sexy, but it is taking action, and taking action is often all you need to do to reverse direction.

Waited too long to eat. Started my thumper tic, reserved only for the dinner table. Protein helps keep my #tourettes in control. Avoidable…

Food is kicking in. Ticking has stopped. Sleep logs all caught up. And, as expected, #depression has receded quite a bit.

The #depression no longer feels like an immovable force pressing me down, but more like a weight dragging behind me.

Time for Step 4, but what is it? I have an obligation I’m late for. I need to exercise. Get ready. But all I want to do is sit still.

An hour and a half later, and I was feeling better, but more needed to be done. I didn’t want to slip back.

Step 4) Distraction. I need to stop thinking about #depression for a bit. Give myself more time for food to do its job. Time to read a book.

This was a very good idea. Thirty minutes later, a good book had been read, and I was ready for the next step.

Step 5) Exercise. I need to get going, but want to boost endorphins and drive #depression back further so I can function at my best.

This step took far longer than I had planned, but in the end I felt better. In fact, I felt good.

Step 6) Shower and get ready for the day. It’s 6:23pm, but I’ve vanquished my #depression. So much work for almost no results? Nah. I’m good

When I skip showers (or don’t make my bed), I can see how that carelessness spreads sends out waves throughout my day. To make a change, I force myself to be clean. It makes a difference for me.

At this point, my friends were going to not see me tonight. I had run out of time, but I was finally not depressed.

Step 7) Blog about it. I’m more than a little disappointed at how unproductive today has been. Here’s one way to turn it around. #depression

I have found that creativity is an excellent coping strategy for fending off depression. When you find yourself at the bottom of a well, there are steps you can take to pull yourself back up. There was a day that I would have spent weeks in a blue funk, unable to escape, deep in that well. I don’t want to ever go back to those days, so I make fighting depression a number one priority.

Good luck with your own battle. You can do it, too.

If you liked this peek into my coping strategies, you may enjoy reading my book on fighting suicide.


Friday, October 13, 2017

The Tale of the Corrupted Kingdom

Once upon a time, and long before the evil, fanged Facebook consumed the conversations of the internet, readers could leave comments on my blog. Most readers left intelligent and insightful comments on what I wrote about that day. They were delightsome to behold. Thanks to vigilant knights, trolls didn’t often blunder into our edifying conversations, but whenever they did stumble upon our happy kingdom, the trolls were quickly vanquished. Then one day, the king (which is me) decreed that Disqus would be the new conversation system for all because the old one didn’t work. Except that Disqus didn’t work very well, either, and so, after a time, the king switched back to Google’s default system. That’s when he, me, I discovered something was wrong. There were NO Google comment boxes to be found. I couldn’t even reinstall the Disqus system. My blog was corrupted on Google’s server. After a year of banging my head against the portcullis, scrubbing the castle’s layout TWICE, I turned all comments off, left Google Plus on, then gave up. And the people wandered off to Facebook to unfriend or mute anybody who didn’t agree with them politically.

Then sometime this year I started noticing that trolls were leaving spammy comments, but the comments were INVISIBLE!! They could only be seen if I followed the comment announcement link from the email. What evil magic was this‽ Most strange was how many trolls were having troubles with STDs. Good thing they found my blog to share their miracle cures with my kingdom! But alas! Because the comments system was corrupt, I could not delete the comments. Fortunately, they were invisible from users, so I left them there and continued to not post articles on my blog for the next several months. Then this month the spam began to increase. This time when I checked, the comments were showing. Hundreds of comments going back thirteen years (Finally!), but also the icky new one from trolls with socially transmitted discomforts. The cloak of invisibility had been dispelled. Curse those trolls!

All was not well. The database was still corrupt. The comments were there, but the controls were ghosted. Nobody could leave comments except the spamming trolls and their evil scripts. So I’ve disabled comments, banned Google Plus, and vanquished the trolls. Peace has been restored to my kingdom, and the few readers not scared away by STD ads rejoiced.

The End

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