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Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Maelstrom of Sleepy Chaos

Claw Conquest: $2.50

The chaos that is the Brownie is at her mother's, finally asleep. All that remains of her is the debris left behind in her tornado's wake. Not even my latest claw acquisition remains as a cute accent on the dump I call my apartment. With her angelic absence, I was finally able to work on the business cards I intended to use later today. What a handful she has been this summer! You have no idea. After all, how could you? I have kept the drama tight to my vest. And here I am, changing the subject. Now I can at last prevent entropy from destroying my kitchen, finish the laundry before the cycle of chaos begins again Sunday night, and wind down with ethereal shoe-gazer music in the background. Morpheus calls, but he's a dull old boy and easily ignored.

In the morning, I will rush off to Fedex Office and print the business cards that I didn't have ready for the last conference I attended, then I will race along the Wasatch Front to arrive at the Community & Family Education Day on Tourette & Tic Disorders conference. I don't know what I am expecting to find there, but I have promised myself to attend more mental health themed conventions. Perhaps I will find new friends & enlightenment. Perhaps I will wake up in the morning and discover I am unable to drive. So much uncertainty makes for an exciting weekend.

Then the evening will be spent at the Miss Sandy beauty pageant where my 2nd oldest daughter, Cathryn, is competing. I'm probably planning too much for one day, but if I prop myself up with plenty of protein & potassium, I should be able to make it through the evening without incident. What a shame I forgot to cancel my Saturday get-together with my friends. Hopefully, I'll remember to call them before they call me when I don't answer the door.

I am listening to "Eskimo Swin" by The Autumns this very second. ♫ ★★★★



I regret that I didn't finish the Family Guy articles this week that I promised to send to my editor, but you won't regret reading my book on overcoming suicidism.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Writing in a Fishbowl - Week Six



Nifty logo of words in a fishbowl

Saturday: It's about this time of the summer every year that I suddenly realize there is a very good reason why I have not accomplished even half of what I set out to do: Summer vacation. I must live in a fantasy bubble, but I forget year after year that when the kids are home over the summer, I don't get much done. Every year I set big, amazing goals, and every summer I beat myself up for failing at them. Then I remember, duh, hello? Summer vacation.
You'd think with only one kid at home that I'd manage to master this conundrum, but I'm afraid the Brownie has the best of me. It could be that my brain damaged, learning disabled, epileptic daughter with cerebral palsy is time consuming. I'm just going to throw that one out there as a possibility. 
Here's what I can tell you that has been done. My work on my upcoming Fighting Depression book is coming along, as in, I've reworked the first chapter so many times that I've lost track of the edits, but dang, does it look better than the previous six revisions. The truth is, I am having a hard time getting out of the gate. I am trying to find a good balance between background information and too much information. I want people to get excited about managing their depression. I don't want to be a source of depression! So…although I have stated before that I was super, super, really close and stuff to being done, it's not truly done until it's posted. Maybe tonight? Maybe Monday? Who knows? I'll know it's ready when it's ready.
I am also working on edits for Trading Up to Legendaries: A Parent's Guide to Pokémon, which is that quickie book I did last March or so. It's not so far afield for me as you might think. I have done freelance game reviews in the distant and recent past. This book was conceived and researched after writing "Saying 'NO' to Suicide". I needed to do something drastically different. I believe I succeeded. At any rate, my goal is to have the edits done before the Brownie starts school in two and a half weeks. You may insert peels of laughter here. 
I haven't written for Family Guy since June, so that's a problem. I also blog here less frequently. There's been a lot going on at the home front that I haven't written or even tweeted about, but I hold out hope that the drama will clear away like morning fog, leaving me focus and plenty of time to write. One can dream.
Your takeaway for this is that writing while parenting with ADHD & Depression can be challenging. You are in for a lot of setbacks. When you toss in a disability like my chronic motor tic disorder, things don't move forward as much as sideways. But if you chart your progress — if you make plans and stick to them — you can accomplish great things despite your limitations, distractions, and obstacles. With practice, we just become very good at working around them.


Monday, August 01, 2016

Falling into Depression, and Climbing Out Again

Sometimes days don't go as planned. With my tic disorder and a sudden bout of depression, Sunday started off poorly:

That tweet was the turn around moment for me. Before that, I missed church because I was ticking, but I was also too depressed to get out of bed. I was wallowing!! When was the last time I did that? Since my daughter, Bri'anna Joy, was in town from Germany, we had planned a big daddy/daughter hike with me and my four girls, and there I was lying in bed thinking of cancelling. That thought was so distasteful to me that it shocked me into awareness: I was depressed. Once I diagnosed the problem, I began to think of solutions.

Get up. Eat. Shower. Get ready. Go have fun with your daughters!

I tweeted my resolution and got to work.

Identifying depression is an enormous step. It can slink up on us because the depression becomes a part of our sense of normal. Hey, doesn't everybody lie in bed feeling waves of despair and stay there just feeling miserable? Sounds normal to me! Developing the self awareness to recognize that feeling so much sadness isn't normal, or healthy, takes practice because we have to unravel our feelings, which seem intensely real, from our observation of our behavior. Lying in bed long after the day began it fairly obvious, but sometimes our behaviors are more subtle. Have we suddenly stopped enjoying something we enjoyed before? Are we thinking more negatively than we usually do. Are we thinking more negatively than we should? Is the amount of sadness we're feeling appropriate for the situation? These can be tricky questions for the person first beginning to take control of their depression.

Once you have identified it, take action. Even getting out of bed and doing something else is a step in the right direction. Get moving. Change your surroundings. Do something that will help you feel better. Call a friend. Watch a favorite TV show. Go for a walk. Move forward, reassess, move forward again.

Once I realized I was severely depressed, I sent the above tweet to commit myself, then forced myself to get out of bed. Wow, was that hard! I just wanted to stay there, but I slid out of bed, shuffled zombie-like into the kitchen, and fed myself. I felt as if I was dragging weights behind me, but I knew that if I got food into my system, I would start to feel better. Showering was next. I'm embarrassed to say it had been four days since I last showered. I hadn't realized how depressed I had been.

Getting ready took longer than I had planned. We were late getting up to Donut Falls, but the more time I spent with my girls, the less depressed I became. I've been in physical therapy for months due to a knee injury, so this was a risk for me, but I was determined to push myself. My daughter with cerebral palsy had a harder time. The going was careful and slow. We talked about a variety of light subjects, discussed my goal to start dating before my 50th birthday this December, helped each other along the trail, and laughed a lot.

We never did make it to the donut where water had worn a hole through the rock to fall below. I tried. I made it up to the falls. I stepped into the falls. I fell into the falls. I fell down the falls. Then the falls rolled me like a Dixie cup until I finally regained footing. I was so busy pushing, pushing, pushing past depression that I forgot to assess my tic disorder. My desires outpaced my neurological ability to keep up. Oh, well. A few scrapes is no big deal.

I gave myself a massive endorphin boost and reaped the benefits. Even later that night, long after Donut Falls had been left behind, depression couldn't take ahold of me again. Managing depression is a constant fight. Every once in a while I forget to assess how I'm doing and slip backward, which makes the fight to regain ground a difficult one, but it isn't impossible. It started with the simplest of steps. All I had to do was get out of bed.



You should read my book on fighting suicide. Not a single Dixie cup was harmed while I wrote it.

 

 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Curing Depression with Pokemon Go

Just like almost everybody else on Earth, I have been enjoying the augmented reality game, Pokémon Go. I'm sure you've heard about it. There has been a lot of bad press for this game. It seems each week there is a new scolding article letting people know that they're having fun wrong. Most of it is clickbait fluff with no merit. When you have millions of people playing a game, there are bound to be negative incidents, but they are the exception, not the norm. I can assure you that I have not come across any dead bodies, I haven't been assailed in the dark by roving gangs hellbent on stealing my stuff, and I haven't driven into a tree while I was trying to capture a Pokémon. What I have had is a lot of fun while playing the game with my daughters, as well as by myself.

Pokémon Go is a variation of a popular game available only on Nintendo handhelds. Having a Pokémon game on a non-Nintendo device is a big deal. The original games for the past twenty years have been role playing adventures where you play as a young trainer trying to catch all the Pokémon in your world while completing the story and raising your Pokémon for battle. There is no story mode in Pokémon Go, but the role playing has leaped off the screen and put the players in the role of trainer. Now we do all the capturing with our phones.

Pidgeotto protects his frozen cousins

As you walk around, the game will alert you to the presence of Pokémon that randomly appear on a simplified version of Google Maps. Once you tap on the Pokémon, the camera displays the world in front of you, but this time with a Pokémon character superimposed on the video. This is called augmented reality. Using your finger, you toss a pokeball at the Pokémon and cross your fingers.

There's a lot more to the game than that, including leveling up Pokémon if you wish, and gym battles, but most players are content with the scavenger hunt aspect of the game trying to collect all 151 Pokémon. The game is a free download, and although it has available purchases, a thrifty player can find Pokéstops all over town (usually at parks, churches & landmarks) to stock up on free pokeballs without spending a cent.

Now that you understand the game a bit better, here's why it has been helpful to my depression:

  1. Exercise — It's not uncommon for me now to walk three or more miles every day while hunting down critters for my Pokédex. When I do it in the sun, that's a bonus. I've been cooped up for months because of a knee injury. This game came along at a good time during my recovery. I force myself to get outside, even with forearm braces if I'm ticking, to work that knee and get some much needed exercise. Exercise boosts the happy chemicals in your head that you need to beat depression's grip.
  2. Change of scenery — One thing very beneficial for depression is a change of scenery, especially if we have been house-bound for a while. Surrounding ourselves with new sights and experiences boosts our mood. New experiences are healthy for your brain.
  3. Socializing — Get out there now while you can. There is a wonderful camaraderie among players. It is not uncommon for players of all ages and colors to pass tips to each other and share locations of hard to find Pokémon. People are good. Go out and meet some of them. Even if all you manage is a knowing nod, it is still beneficial for depression to have positive experiences with other people.
  4. Fun is good — Despite the naysayers in the press, playing the game is fun. If it makes you smile, who cares if some grumpy journalist somewhere in New York City doesn't approve?

There are some things to keep in mind while you are out hunting:

  1. Fight the urge to explore where you shouldn't. The game once put a Gastly in the middle of a train yard near my home. My ADHD mind wanted to hop the fence, but the adult in me didn't fancy explaining to the cops why I was trespassing. I opted to not hop the fence.
  2. For goodness sake, don't play the game while driving. It's tempting when your phone lights up and it's a Pokémon you haven't caught before, or you are within range of a Pokéstop to grab some goodies, so make the mental decision to NOT play the game before getting behind the wheel.
  3. This game gobbles battery life like a ravenous Snorlax. You can turn off AR mode when you're in a battle to conserve power.
  4. The servers often can't meet the demand of millions of players, so expect some lagging. However, if you've turned on battery saving mode, you can expect more hangs than usual. The game doesn't like dimming and undimming the screen too frequently and will become non-responsive. I turn that feature off.

I am so glad I've been out there playing. Pokémon Go has turned into a defining cultural event that people will remember fondly in years to come. Even if you can't manage to shamble about too far, do what you can to participate in the excitement for yourself. At the very least, you might find some relief for your clinical depression.

UPDATE 8/3/16: I tweeted earlier today that the honeymoon period was over for me with Pokémon Go. Then I discovered this article. They do a great job of explaining the changes that make the game more expensive and less fun to play. All the benefits I mentioned above are still true, but I don't enjoy games with mandatory microtransactions. That's where Pokémon Go is heading.




If you like tips on beating depression, you may like my book on fighting suicidal ideation. It's more fun than a barrel of Mankeys.

 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Writing in a Fishbowl — Week Five

Nifty logo of words in a fishbowl

Week Three and Four were total busts. So embarrassing. I became sick AND had a ticking bout that lasted days. When that happens, I default to just the bare minimum: taking care of my daughters. That's my primary responsibility. Learning to squeeze blogging and writing into my life around my responsibilities is secondary.
That doesn't mean I'm pleased with the results. It just means that I chose to succeed at being a dad and fail at being a writer. And by fail, I mean not meet my unrealistic expectations.
Later in week three, I used Pokémon Go as an excuse to go outside even when sick or ticking. That was a fun distraction. Being shut inside during the summer is so depressing, but the game had definite mental health benefits. I wrote all about it for my next article.
Nevertheless, all was not lost:
  • I finished the first chapter of my new book on fighting depression. I'll be posting it later this week. I've decided to post the first draft of each chapter as an experiment. I'm hoping it will pressure me to finish the book quicker instead of dying on it. My goal was the end of this summer, but with me moving at the same time, I'm not sure that is a realistic goal anymore. I'll shoot for it anyway, then revise if necessary. I'd like to post one chapter a week at a minimum.
  • Scrivener released their iOS app. I remember in 2010 how the dev felt the iPad was not a creation device, so he publicly disavowed the iPad as a software platform. Glad he thought better of it years later. I spent a few hours streamlining my writing process, and now I'm all excited to get started.
  • My editor delivered the edits for that book I wrote last spring. I was very excited to get started on it, but too sick to do anything. I had hoped to finish it by the end of July, but that isn't likely to happen now. Now that Nintendo has announced new Pokémon games for release in the fall, however, I have to get this out the door. Then I can update it when the new games are released.
  • An interview that I did last month was recently published over at Depression Getaway, written by Wendy Love. After you check out my interview, please browse her site. There are many interesting people interviewed there as well. Inspiring stories.

Monday: Today I wrote two blogs, tweaked my blog layout, struggled with computer issues, started packing for the move, practiced my clarinet on a whim, and wasted far too much time on Facebook arguing about politics. I convinced exactly no one that they were wrong. When will I ever learn?
Friday: 8:21pm: How many times am I going to rewrite this thing this week? I have found that I put most of my work in the first chapter. Once I nail it — once I get that distinct voice and focus I'm looking for — the rest of the book flows easier. There are chapters here and there that will give me trouble, but overall the first chapter sets the difficulty of the project. I've worked on too many abandoned books where I plowed ahead hoping things get better, but they never do. Maybe somewhere down the road I will become better at establishing focus without so many rewrites, but considering how my ADHD mind makes for fractured thinking, I shouldn't be too surprised that my books have this issue. Those who write into the dark must have innate focus and vision for the work. All I do is write gobbledygook if I close my eyes and let words flow.
I'm fairly certain that the moment will be upon me soon. I realize that rewriting can steam press and fold the life out of voice on your way to perfection, but I'll accomplish nothing if I write according to the habits of others instead of myself.
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