Thursday, January 27, 2022

When Does Research Become a Fixation?

I pull back the curtain a bit today, revealing a deep, dark secret about myself—a secret so dank, surely I’ll lose the last three readers I have.

Pandoras Box from an unknown artist at Pixiv

I’ve been reading far too many Japanese light novels lately.

It started as a form of research, but now I actually like the darn things. I can’t get enough of them. They’re my personal Pandora’s Box. I opened the beautiful, ornately engraved box, saw the plentiful wonders inside, and now I can’t shut the lid. Is this an ADHD obsession, or a newfound joy? I can’t tell, which is why I’m troubled. Have you seen my Goodreads timeline? I read almost all escapist manga and light novels these days. I know I’ve been struggling with depression lately, but it’s embarrassing! I’m sitting here wearing a Fair Isle style, wool sweater, a designer, long-sleeved, henley shirt, and Izod tech pants, not a 1-ply t-shirt featuring Sailor Moon with chip crumbs all over my belly. How will my polished author image survive this lapse in pretentiousness?

In 2019, I had noticed that many of my favorite anime that season had origins as light novels in Japan. The more I looked into them, the more I realized that most anime was based on successful light novels. I’m not sure when they crowded out manga as the number one source. Even many successful manga are light novel spin-offs these days.

The best way to describe a light novel is as if pulp fiction and anime had a baby. Most stories are told in the first person. Most are written in a rush, with rapid output outweighing literary craft as the number one priority. The emphasis is on story and entertainment, not languid, literary explorations of contemporary themes. That’s where light novels are similar to pulp fiction, but where they differ is that the stories share more in common with comics with overpowered characters, romance being secondary to adventure, and so many portals open to fantasy worlds, it’s surprising Japan has any population left. In fact, many read like visual scripts to anime—as if the authors already have the licensing goals in mind. At worst, they can be fannish, derivative tales where they don’t milk tropes as much as they stick a spicket in and drain them by the bucketful.

Light Novels are not all bad. Otherwise, I wouldn’t spend so much time enjoying them. I’ve found my favorites. The intricate settings of Ascendance of a Bookworm are inspiring, as is the characterization and complicated plot. So much detail and research went into that series that I’m a little bit in awe of it. Unnamed Memory is gorgeously written. Earlier volumes are more sumptuous than later volumes, but over all I find the strong world and character building very engaging. The story reads like a fairytale whodunnit. The marathon-named Banished from the Hero’s Party, I Decided to Live a Quiet Life in the Countryside is a LitRPG, traditional high fantasy story that slowly reveals deep explorations on the meaning of free will while it subverts the proverbial hero role. Like Unnamed Memory, the story bucks the Light Novel trend and features romance in a warm and healthy way. Also, the Rascal Does Not Dream of… series is notable for its rapid-fire and funny dialog. Imagine a Young Adult X-files crossed with Moonlighting situated in Japan. The story is funny, but the author makes me care about the characters. The last volume was a bit cruel with my heartstrings.

Reading for research is one thing, but light novels have replaced vegging out in front of the boob tube. That’s an improvement, right⸮ They’ve replaced gaming, too. The downside is now that I read for fun, I’m no longer studying the craft, the pacing, the compromises, or the output of the authors involved.

I blame (JNC). I paid for a subscription to read everything I could get my hands on. I wanted to understand the phenomenon better. JNC serializes the stories as they are serialized in Japan—weekly—so one can find themselves quite busy keeping on top of several series all week long. I just paid for one month, but here I am two years later. I’m just glad that JNC doesn’t serialize daily as some of the stories are released in Japan.

I’m not complaining. Light novels and Kindle Vella gave me the kick in the butt I needed to write more. Serializing daily? Do you realize how much work that is? Even if the output is a tropey lark with no originality, I am still impressed with the dedication and output. On top of my Tourette’s and other issues, the pandemic, along with family drama, snuffed out my writing flame. I felt like a podling from Dark Crystal, drained and lifeless as I moved from day to day. Now I’m anxiously engaged in a good cause in my own way instead of letting depression win.

If only I could cut back on reading and do more writing. (Serialized daily! I’m exhausted just thinking about it.)


Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Doomsday in December?

I’m run down and sick, so I’m posting something positive every day this week until I lift my spirits.

Hipstamatic Photo. Looking Fine!

There is a reason I’m depressed. It’s more than having major and persistent depression disorder. I’ve had a surprisingly cruddy year. I have to admit that I’m frustrated because my coping strategies are failing me. This is the sort of year that could only happen to a protagonist in a dark comedy. I’ve already written before how I was severely sick for seven months before the pandemic began. This feels like slow death sometimes. I’m so isolated from others, I’m forgetting how to be human.

Here’s my calendar since May. I think it’s a bit much:

May: I began running to lose weight and get in shape, but tore my right meniscus in my knee. I know its a torn meniscus, but insurance demands I do physical therapy first. Thus ends my newfound hobby, as well as my summer of longboarding before it began.
June: Babying my torn meniscus, I bent over to get something out of the fridge and ripped my quadratic lomborum on my right side. How did such a thing happen? When did I become so frangible? I have to cancel my knee PT.
July: My back is improving, but still sore. No exercise can be done, though I manage to walk long miles. It’s very painful, especially on the knee, but I’m determined to lose weight and get in shape. Then I catch a summer virus and go down for three weeks.
August: I feel like I’m getting back on top of my life, though my LD daughter began an extremely volatile stage this month. We haven’t seen temper outbursts like this in a few years, so it was surprising. It took up enormous amounts of time to deal with. Halfway through the month, She and I got rear ended on a highway onramp in the rain. One driver ahead of me braked, causing a pileup. The guy in front of me avoided that guy, and I avoided him, but the guy behind me wasn’t as skillful. Now I need a chiropractor, I can’t do my PT, and my car is wrecked. But we are alive and thankful that things weren’t worse.
September: Mostly filled with chiropractic visits until 2/3rds through when I have surgery to correct my torn meniscus. By the end of the month, I had one day where I began to feel functional again. I spent the day helping parents register their car, but not mine. I’d do it on Monday, except…
October: I got COVID–19 despite dual vaccinations. It was probably Delta. I have never been so sick in my life. It lasted for weeks, eating up the entire month.
November: Finally, I’m feeling normal again! I register my car. I get the insurance fiasco and repairs going. I put out fires here and there that had begun to smolder in my life. Then my daughter got RSV. I spent eight days tending to her needs. She hadn’t been as sick as that in twenty years. Then she shared it with me. I tested positive for RSV and COVID a week an a half ago. I hear I’ll test positive for COVID for up to three months. My symptoms were all RSV, but I was already run down from COVID. It was brutal. I’m still sick. Fortunately, I got the car in for repair. The bill came to over $5000, but insurance paid for it. One bright moment. I got my car back today, and I feel strangely giddy about my worldly possession. I have freedom again.
December: That’s tomorrow. Nothing short of disaster and ruin can follow up this chain of events. December shall usher in a personal Ragnarök, resulting in smoke, carnage, and a crater where my hopes and dreams once resided. Oh, is that negative? Gosh, shucks. I wonder why my outlook is so dark?

What’s most frustrating is that for most days, there is no brightness or joy in my life—just sickness, pain, and suffering. No friends to socialize with. I’m quarantining. No health to explore the world around me. I’m too sick to be active, and going outside will result in me getting more sickness. Just me stuck at home, sick and miserable with a compromised immunity system. In the past, I would hold tight and wait for Spring when the warmer weather would begin my days of living and health. It’s a dull way to live, though.

I recognize that this entry is filled with self-pity. Nobody set me up for a fall. There are no angry gods making sure my life is perfectly disastrous. Yet still, I had such high writing goals for the year. I needed to reach forward and lift myself up. I have little patience for life’s nastier distractions.

This is why I’m posting something positive every day. This journal entry doesn’t quite count. It’s sad, bitter therapy, but I feel better getting it out. No, I’m referring to my attempts at gratitude. Here is today’s:

I’m grateful for ebooks. I can go out shopping at 4am, dressed in swaddling clothes, and never leave my bed. 📖

I have not given up hope, but I may not make my writing goals. I wanted to have my new fiction work up on Kindle Vella by Saturday. That may happen. I wanted my ADHD visual ToDos book up on Kindle Unlimited by my birthday. That may happen. I owe a friend quite a few articles for his website. I think I can bang them out by the end of year, but it might be a bit much to expect them done by my birthday as well. I also wanted to reach certain goals in my Japanese studies. Those may happen. I’m not dead yet, and wallowing only makes depression stronger, which makes productivity harder. It is dour enough that I am sickly. My mental outlook doesn’t have to reflect that. I’ve been lazy in my coping strategies. It is time to recommit to being in control.

With that said, I’m being grateful and posting a blog today. I even took a selfie and tried to make myself look human. These are three proactive tasks that are hard to do when my outlook is bleak, but I feel that I’ve accomplished something, even if this blog is overly maudlin, lacking in humor, and heavy on ruthful observations. I’m getting it out of my system. I’m going to put this year behind me. I’m going to succeed.



Monday, November 29, 2021

Feeling Down, So It’s Time To Be Grateful

Sometimes life gets me down. So what am I going to do about it?

Moody Sunset Looking West I’ve been way too sick to blog lately or post here. I mostly lay in bed and cough. It’s a party! But I did get some book writing in. One more chapter, and I’ll be ready to post it on Kindle Vella. Now I just need to design a fetching avatar for the book.

I started feeling better yesterday…marginally. I had energy enough to remotely log into my four computers and setup SSH key pairs, moved some doge into a dedicated hot wallet, listed items on eBay, updated my dynamic DNS account to make sure my web and ebook servers were working, downgraded Calibre and DeDRM to fix the Mac glitch with Kindle 1.31.0 where the DRM keys weren’t passed to the new install, then upgraded them so I can make DRM-free backups of my purchases again, ignored the crypto-markets because they were depressing, worked on the impossible family jigsaw puzzle that will be the death of me before sickness ever takes me out, read a lot of books, and laid down inbetween each task to recouperate.

What’s funny is that what I want to do is vastly different from that list I just shared with you, but I simply can’t exercise or do PT yet. I can’t write as long as I can tinker. I run out of stamina. Same problem with studying Japanese. Or blogging. I wonder why tinkering on my computers is easy, but working on them is hard?

I believe the reason is that I forget to take breaks when I work, but tinkering is intellectual pudding, effortless for me to do, and I take frequent breaks in between tasks. You’d think I’d set a timer and work in small blocks when working. You know? The Pomodoro method? Ten minute increments? I’ve been so exhausted from these oxygen-depleting coughing attacks that come up from the bottom of my toes, I’ve forgotten most of my coping strategies.

So I’m typing all this here to remind myself.

I haven’t gone into details on what I’ve been dealing with this year, but let’s just say that I ate my Thanksgiving dinner quarantined in my bedroom, so this current bout of illness has me a bit down. I just want to get back in shape, socialize with people more, and ride my longboard for hours like I did last year several times a week. But it’s December, we’re in a pandemic, Omicron is around the corner, and even though my knee PT has been delayed due to my car accident and COVID–19 (and now RSV), I couldn’t go longboarding in this weather anyway. If I owned a gun, I would put pictures of viruses on a post in my backyard and shoot at them all day until I felt better.

It’s possible that I’m in a dark place. Now that I’ve vented, I believe I will post something positive every day this week until I lift my spirits.

Here we go. Positive thought No.1: I’m glad I’m not dead.

Nope. Not positive enough. It sounds more like a lyric from the Smith’s than an empowering statement of gratitude. I’m sure I can do better.


I’m grateful for a bright mind and geeky things to keep it entertained.

There! That was better, don’t you think? What are you grateful for?



Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Good Grief! Where Have I Been All This Time‽

My life was briefly put on hold, thanks to a certain virus, but now I’m back, more cheeky & cynical than ever!

Orange-tinted Sunset

So much for new beginnings.

A week after my knee surgery, just as I was able to feel more human than sore, I became sick. Then sicker. Then sicker still. A quick visit to the InstaCare on a quiet Sunday evening ushered me into my new life of exhaustion and fatigue.

I’ve had five or six COVID–19 tests since the pandemic began. They were almost beginning to feel routine. That Sunday night was no different. I showed up to pick up my pre-registered self-test, then opted to be seen instead because I felt lousy. I didn’t think I had COVID–19 because I was vaccinated, but I had something. I thought it was strep throat.

I waited outside. They called me in when they were wearing their biohazard suit. I had my vitals recorded. They decided to test for Strep as well as COVID–19. I waited some more.

I’ve been there before. Multiple times doctors would tell me, “Oh, 85% I’m sure you’ve got COVID”, and I’d test negative. Every time. They just didn’t understand how sick I get. Respiratory illness is my raison d’être . A virus only has to pass by the front of my home on the other side of the street, and I’ll be bedridden for a week. I’d made progress in recent years. I’d enjoyed traveling, longboarding, and shrugging off colds after a day, but the pandemic made me unhealthier. I couldn’t get out. Couldn’t exercise. It was as if the pandemic lay on my Major Depression Disorder like an anvil, then pushed my Persistent Depression Disorder down the stairs. It helped my sleep phase disorder knock me around the clock like a hockey puck. I was back to be being sick more often than healthy again.

When the test came back positive for SARS-CoV–2, I was irritated. “C’mon!” I thought. “I followed all the rules. I wore that stupid mask. I got my shots!” Yeah, but Delta didn’t care. From what I’ve read, it had a different protein spike than the one American vaccines targeted.

Delta’s path to me was logjammed with vaccines, all of which it vaulted over grimly and with grace. Apparently, my brother’s mother-in-law went to a party, came home and gave Delta to her husband. Then they waited to get better because they couldn’t possibly have COVID–19. They were vaccinated! Everyone says get vaccinated or you’ll endanger your grandparents, as if the vaccine is a magical potion that wards off evil, but the grandparents ended up sharing the virus with their eleven-year-old grandson, who then shared it with his daddy, who then shared it with me. All of us except my nephew were vaccinated—twice.

Can I be dramatic for a moment (as if I wasn’t already over the top). I’d never been sicker in my life. It was like pneumonia and the flu had a baby in my lungs then beat me down with its diapers. I’ve been bronchial all my life, but I’d never experienced anything like this. Even watching TV or reading a book took too much energy. I was miserable. Getting air into my lungs was exhausting at times. COVID–19 weaponized my comorbid conditions, then waged war on my health. With the time recovering from surgery followed with COVID–19, I’ve lost five weeks of my life. Fun times.

Now that I’m on the mend, I’ve begun taking back my life, putting out fires, getting things back on track…and sleeping at all the wrong times of the day when I collapse, battery depleted. Things couldn’t be worse if radioactive meteors began to rain down upon me every time I ventured out to check the mail.

Don’t worry, though. My spirits are up even considering all I’ve been through. Being melodramatic is all part of my therapy. Next time I’ll tell you about my comical trip to the ER for the monoclonal antibody treatment. Being in danger of a heart attack was never so hilarious. Just make sure you have “Yakety Sax” playing in the background while you read along.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed the first sunset that I beheld in ages, venturing outside on my own for the first time since this whole ordeal began.

Date:   October 26, 2021 at 6:19:01 PM MDT
Weather:    46°F Mostly Cloudy
Location:   Sandy, Utah, United States

Monday, September 20, 2021

What Gets You Down?

Sometimes external forces can induce depression. They can induce panic. They can control how you see the world if you let them.

I’ve got surgery coming up this week, so I’m getting my blogging in early. I want to work on my current novel when I start to come out of the anesthesia. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, I’m watching the crypto market implode…again.

I decided to get into crypto last Spring—two days before China cracked down on Bitcoin miners and the Chinese banks that did business with them. I had only invested $10. It was play money, to be honest, but what a lesson that was for me! China’s crackdown caused the market to crash. That $10 became negative in just two days.

I laughed. There I was. Mr. Moneybags. The Crypto Guru. All because I was so entertained just twenty-four hours earlier when my $10 had gained 50¢ in value.

The main character of my book made and lost a fortune in crypto, so I wanted to understand that world better before writing about it. He lost his business. He lost his girl. He lost his charm, optimism, and self-respect. He was destroyed in a week. It wasn’t my goal to lose my $10 bucks. I don’t need to write that authoritatively! However, I did feel that some background knowledge would make me write a more realistic character.

They say that the cryptocurrency market is volatile. Saying that is like saying the sun is somewhat warm. Since Spring I have seen the crypto market crash three times. It’s doing so again right now. It will probably be up again sometime after my surgery, but for the moment it is leaving a trail of blood all the way to the floor. The common internet advice is to “buy the dip”, which means buy during the crash. I’m not in a position to do that. I’m better off focusing on paying off my medical bills. Besides, sometimes dips have dips, too.

Though minuscule, watching my investment shrivel last Spring wasn’t a happy feeling, but I was insulated from the depression and panic many people experienced when their investments went South because I hadn’t invested very much, but also because I had already prepared to potentially lose it all.

Which made me wonder how people actually lost money on the stock market. As long as the market goes back up, I haven’t lost anything. I’d have to sell at a loss to lose my investment. As part of my book research, I talked to family members who had lost money in the stock market crash in 2008. With my newfound knowledge, it seemed the only way they could lose anything is if they sold low—which is exactly what they did. They sold for fear that getting something was better than getting nothing.

Panic & depression cause us to make very emotional decisions. Our worldview is skewed darkly as we envision nothing by doom. For me, my investment in crypto wasn’t meant to make me rich, so I wasn’t emotionally impacted by the dips. However, I mused that there were many other external forces that caused me to panic and be depressed aplenty.

This time I don’t have a succinctly numbered list of advice for you. I’m still formulating ideas. One thing I can say is that the trick to not becoming depressed by external forces is to separate your mind from the events that are impacting you. Personally speaking, I have to decide that those external forces don’t impact me at all. Just as the ups and downs of the crypto market don’t affect my self-worth, I need to ensure that the ups and downs in my life don’t affect my self-worth either.

My entire book on fighting suicide was based on the idea that there is always a dawn. Improving our perspective through discipline is a very appealing thought process to me. I am grateful for the second crypto crash this month for reminding me of this lost lesson…….



Date: September 20, 2021 at 2:53:10 PM MDT
Weather: 61°F Sunny
Location: Sandy, Utah, United States

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Finding the Beauty in Chaos

A new beginning that looks an awful lot like the old one.

When I set out to explore fractal art, I face a confusing array of controls & parameters. It has taken me years to develop the eye to select the best cropping, the most flattering palette, and the most interesting settings, then present them in a pleasing manner. Without this discipline, the fractal is an utter mess with no focus. By making a few poorly chosen decisions, the same mathematical location and the same color palette can appear completely different—and far less appealing.

Of course, anybody with the time and desire to learn the software can produce pleasing images. It isn’t as if I received a PhD in advance fractal art, traveling to distant lands to study with the Mandelbrot masters before writing my doctoral thesis on the societal implications of sliders versus number fields and how they subvert the patriarchy.

However, as I was exploring a particular fractal set the other day,—tweaking the parameters to get something beautiful to leap out of the screen—I had an interesting thought that caused me to stop and ponder:

I wish my life was as easy to organize as these fractals are.

There is too much chaos to detail here, but suffice it to say that my life is more like the bottom image with its cacophony of line and color, overwhelmed with indiscernible patterns. It feels like absolute and total chaos, and I’m not pleased about it one single pixel.

I sat there wondering what my slider controls were. What could I tweak to bring my life back into focus? Was it as simple as choosing a new palette, in other words, changing the scenery? How could I pacify the waves of chaos that seemed to be carrying me far from my goals? Oh, I self-pontificated grandly, assigning various aspects of my life as metaphorical tools in my fractal art program. After a few minutes of that, though, I realized it was all a bit silly. There is no “frequency” dial in my life to reduce the amount of chaos.

But if there could be such a dial, what would it look like? How would I use it? Would I want to?

Since the pandemic, my family life has become complicated. I don’t write as much as I’d like. I don’t draw or play instruments anymore. It seems that I am entirely preoccupied dealing with my disabilities as well as those of my daughter. I must admit that I am thoroughly depressed, my ADHD is not being managed well, and my Tourette’s is running my life. Although I am not lying down, playing the victim, I am so busy surviving that I am giving no consideration to thriving.

Instead of being knocked around by life, I want to choose the direction. Recording my thoughts on social media has long lost its charm. I want to thrive. It’s not enough to tread water. We only tire ourselves out that way. Instead, we need a clear direction to head in.

Since I’m still living out in the fractal weeds, so to speak, that clear direction that I want in my life is obscured by chaos. I’ve decided to record my thoughts as I work through the process. ocial media has lost much of its appeal for me, yet blogging has also lost its appeal. I began to worry too much about each article being quotable, SEO-optimized, and shared. So I’ve begun a new journal instead, then post the pages here. I’ll try to get back to my roots to when I began blogging, offering more personal observations.

I will discuss my process more, working through my ADHD, depression, Tourette’s, and family life as obstacles. It’ll be more like my old Writing in a Fishbowl series, but I will try to be less colloquial and more beautiful in the way that I write. Finding beauty in chaos starts with me. I need to highlight the good in my life and emphasize my progress.

I hope you won’t mind coming along for the ride. There are some beautiful sights to behold. They may have even been right in front of my face, but I missed them because I was focused on the chaos instead.



Date: September 19, 2021 at 12:30:54 PM MDT
Weather: 76°F Sunny
Location: Sandy, Utah, United States

Sunday, July 04, 2021

Feedburner Is Dying. I'm Moving Email Subscriptions to

(cc) Douglas Cootey
Feedburner is being put to pasture by Google, so I have moved my Feedblitz email subscribers over to Thank you for understanding. 

My original RSS URL is sixteen years old, back from when I called this blog THE Splintered Mind, long before I discovered that early blog indexers alphabetized their listings without ignoring determiners like "a" or "the". So A Splintered Mind was born, and suddenly I was at the top of the lists. Yep, I was sneaky. 

Then I discovered Feedburner which allowed me to track stats and such on the people who subscribed. Feedburner took the old RSS feed and gave you a new one to share with readers that made their magic work. Now Google's shelving the magic. Bad news for me, but not bad news for you.

Feedburner for end users will hang around for an indeterminate amount of time according to Google. You should be able to continue accessing all your feedburner based RSS feeds in whatever RSS reader you still use. That means you'll continue to receive updates from this blog. However, Google giveth and Google taketh away. I wouldn't trust them for long. It's time to update your feedburner branded RSS feeds. This link should do the trick:
It's also time for me to move this blog to another platform, so I'll be planning my migration in earnest now. I suspect that Blogger will be on the chopping block one day soon. I'm looking into self-hosting solutions, just for your information, but whatever I elect to do will be much better than this tired old Blogger platform. We've had a lot of fun here, though. Thanks for your continued support.


Saturday, July 03, 2021

Patience for Those Who Grieve

Anger, Grief & Pain © Douglas Cootey

❝My son fricken tried to commit suicide, so I had to drive all the way over there to deal with it.

A few months ago, I pulled up to the one remaining branch in my area that US Bank allowed to be open during the pandemic and tentatively approached the entrance. I had banking to do, but they had bizarrely limited hours and, of course, they were closed. So I entered the ATM area and began my bank transfers with hundreds of dollars tight to my chest, hoping nobody would come in and rob me blind while I was feeding the money into the ATM.

As I was doing my banking in the comfort of their ATM fishbowl, a woman entered behind me. I made some polite comment about how I was almost done, and that magically opened up a flood of information from her that I never would’ve expected. Strangers usually don’t open up to each other, especially about the subject that she was dealing with. The quote above is the choicest one that she shared with me. I remember thinking at the time how callous and insensitive she was. I prayed that her son would find the support that he needed during his struggle with surviving suicide.

Recently, a family in my neighborhood suddenly dealt with the death of a son. His family went on vacation without him and came home to find a surprise. It was a traumatic event since the children were there, I believe, when they found his body, and the whole family is struggling with anger, shame, and survivor’s guilt. As usual, many family members will not talk about it. Suicide is the death act that shall not be discussed. It is taboo. Meanwhile, other family members openly discuss it on Facebook, angering or hurting those who want to keep the matter private. It seems older generations are more reluctant to acknowledge suicide than the younger generations who wish to discuss it openly.

At first, I presumed that my banking friend fell in with the older generation, but she discussed her son’s suicide attempt openly, though with contempt. I couldn’t tell if she was callous because she was a heartless mother, or if she was in shock and angry. I don’t read minds.

When I was dealing with that stranger, I was trying to stay polite in the onslaught of her anger. Her unsympathetic comments seemed inappropriate and unwarranted. I was just somebody she was venting at. Personally, I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but now I wonder how alone she must have felt to open up and vent her feelings to an absolute stranger. Having struggled with suicidal ideation off and on in my life, I would like to think that my family will not be griping to strangers about me if I should ever stray. However, having dealt with people who survived a loved one’s suicide, I realize that grief transforms rational people into raw nerves. I do try not to judge.

My advice is two-fold since there are two issues being dealt with here.

  1. If you encounter somebody who is grieving over the suicidal death of a loved one, you need to be compassionate even if you disapprove of their method of grief. Grief is very personal, so be patient and allow them to grieve initially however they need to. They will run through a spectrum of emotions, and it is not your place to police those emotions, especially within the raw hours following the bad news. Try to resist the urge to correct their thinking while they are doing nothing but feeling. In the days to follow, there will come a moment when the rage or grief will abate, and then they can receive your suggestions for better, more constructive methods of dealing with their pain and depression.
  2. If you are the one grieving over the suicidal death of a loved one, you might not want to open up to a stranger at the ATM. It is imperative that you find people you feel safe talking to. You shouldn’t bottle your feelings up, or bury them deep inside in order to “be strong”. Being strong is being in touch with your feelings which will give you the strength to help those who are struggling with theirs. Avoid negative friends or family members who feel compelled to force their viewpoints on you. Lastly, don’t decide for others when they have grieved long enough.

I’m not sure what I can do to help the family in my neighborhood. I’m not extremely close with them. They have not turned to me for comfort. It’s not my place to shoehorn my way into their life, but I am sure I can find some way to serve them without intruding. Mostly, I am glad that I did not lose my patience with that outwardly hard-hearted mother. It is possible that I saw the reason why the young lad tried to end his life. Perhaps she isn’t a very good person. However, if she dumped her frustrations and darkness on me instead of family members, then I’ll consider that my good deed for the grieving family.

I wrote a book a few years back that has advice on how to deal with suicide. You might find it helpful.

Friday, May 07, 2021

Depression: Five Throw-Away Journal Ideas You Write in Secret

Sometimes the best kind of journal is the one that you shred, light on fire, then cast its ashes to the wind.

Throw-Away iPad

Last January, I woke up severely depressed one morning. At first, I didn’t realize what was happening. I just knew that I had no will to move, no will to eat, no will to do anything. I felt interred with heavy, suffocating sadness.

Mmm, that sounds rather dramatic, doesn’t it?

The moment I realized I was depressed, I grabbed my iPhone and began dictating a blog entry to Siri as a coping strategy. However, it was all in the same vein as that emo sentence above—nice and juicy with just the right amount of adverbial angst and self-indulgence. We should all be grateful that I deleted every single word of it.

Normally, I avoid blogging or posting on social media while under the influence of Major Depressive Disorder. Despite my efforts to sound upbeat, depression affects my narrative voice and mental outlook. Fortunately, hindsight gained from experience keeps me from embarrassing myself online. I tend to write only when I have a handle on my emotions. Otherwise, my writing would become a morbid dance that leans towards the theatrical, like graves dancing in the rain.

That morning, however, I wasn’t worried about the need to self-edit. I had an urge to express my fathomless despair. I wouldn’t dream of sharing that private, turgid moment of maudlin, morning, mopey malaise with others.

Okeh, okeh…I’ll stop with the purple prose!.

The abandoned journal entry did serve a therapeutic purpose, however. It was so over the top, I laughed, which lifted my spirits immensely. As I deleted the colorful journal entry, I realized that sometimes my first blog drafts are just as cheesy. I wonder why I never noticed the similarity to throw-away journals¹ before.

The temporary, throw-away journal is a fantastic coping strategy for when you need to purge your feelings but don’t necessarily want to share them with anybody. One of the worst things you can do for yourself when you’re depressed is to bottle up your emotions. Those dark and toxic feelings tend to bounce around in our head, building up momentum and importance. When I am emotionally agitated, keeping ideas to myself is the quickest way towards blowing things out of proportion.

Although I’ve talked before about the importance of support networks, sometimes I don’t want to share these dark feelings with anybody. They’re too personal and often a wee bit self-indulgent. Long ago, I decided that burdening a family member or friend with that potent prose was a bad idea. Instead, I express myself into a journal I have no intention of keeping. I can be as turgidly maudlin as I want. Sometimes, the temporary journal helps me vent the worst of my feelings so that I don’t overburden my support network when I reach out to them afterwards.

Here are five temporary journal ideas for when you need to vent or work through your feelings before talking to somebody:.

  1. Write a letter to yourself, then crumple and throw it away after you’re done: By purging negative emotions in a creative and constructive way, we can prevent things from becoming more complicated in real life. This strategy has the presidential endorsement of Abraham Lincoln. Fireplace not required.
  2. Tap a letter to yourself, then delete it: We can be commuting, surrounded by people, and still vent into a notefile without anyone being the wiser. I would probably advice against using this technique where your boss or coworkers could look over your shoulder. You may also not want them to know about your mental health issues.
  3. Dictate to your phone, then delete it: It can be very helpful to just speak your feelings sometimes. You gain the benefit of feeling like you’re talking to somebody while also expressing yourself via voice if typing isn’t your thing.
  4. Record a voice memo, then delete it: If transcription errors make your note unintelligible, you could use a voice recorder or your phone to record instead. Get all of your feelings out, then delete them. It’s very therapeutic.
  5. Make a fake phone call: When I’m extremely agitated, and there’s no one to talk to in my support network, I’ll go for a walk and pretend that I’m on the phone. With earpiece in ear, you can walk down the street while talking out loud praying, dictating a note, recording a voice memo, or just talking to yourself and no one will think anything of it. Be careful of who is nearby because voices carry.

Although my depression did not magically go away that morning, I was able to lighten the depth of it, which allowed me to get out of bed, eat, get myself dressed, and move on with my day. I didn’t take to social media and embarrass myself with a self-pitying plea for sympathy or post that purple pile on my blog. I love journal writing, and I have a dozen or so volumes tucked away in boxes, but I don’t want every moment to be preserved for posterity. Sometimes, I just need to vent—maybe even wallow—until I’m ready to let it go. Those moments are private. That’s why I like to delete them. Hopefully, you’ll find these suggestions helpful when you have a bad day of your own.

  1. The Throw Away Journal: Point #5 in Six Journal Ideas to Deal with Depression and elaborated on in my book, Saying NO to Suicide  ↩

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Depression – Breaking Out of the Cocoon and Thinking You've Failed

Sometimes we can be so fixated upon the finish line that we miss how far we’ve already come.

Backlit cocoon of an emperor moth
© Alan Watson Featherstone


Ah, if I hear another commercial on the radio with a smooth-talking announcer earnestly pretending their company cares about me during these “unprecedented times”, I may puke. I’ve moved way beyond that acid reflux-ish moment where my stomach’s contents race to my mouth to voice their opinion. I may not be able to hold them back next time. Between you and me, I’m a little worried about it. I’m still making payments on my car.

So I’m not going to talk to you as if you just woke up next to Rip Van Winkle and need me to explain what COVID–19 is. I’m just going to write from my heart about how this pandemic has affected me, and maybe you’ll be able to relate:

I feel like my life has been sealed in a cocoon.

This is a funny thing to write because I’ve never before been so productive in my life. No, the BIG goals like publishing my new books haven’t been accomplished yet, but I’m paying off debts, I successfully swam through oceans of paperwork and petitioned for guardianship of my disabled daughter, I’m the fittest I’ve ever been in my adult life, I’m dating again (which means I occasionally leave my home), people pay me to write for some reason, and I have raised four lovely daughters.

But life feels like it’s on hold. Some of that is the pandemic’s fault. After all, who gets happy in a lockdown? However, in this case the pandemic only added to an already crushing situation. I haven’t had such a bleak, hopeless Winter since my divorce nine years ago. What happened to my coping strategies? What happened to my fighting spirit?

Consider this. I’ve just had the healthiest Winter in forever. I cannot recall a year in decades where I didn’t spend weeks sick in bed during the Winter. However, this time I only experienced four colds at most, and each one was over within a day. Talk about unprecedented times! I’m never this healthy. The diagnosis of asthma, the meds to treat it, and the new coping strategies I employ to keep myself healthy have all turned my world around. This was thanks to my consistent, proactive efforts to solve my health issues despite being sick.

But do I focus on that in my head? Why would I? I haven’t published my new book yet. I haven’t lost ALL my weight yet. I’m not married. Loser! Wait, what?

I should be ecstatic. I should be happier than those models you see in bank advertisements who are so excited to be in debt, their smiles wrap fully around their heads. The reality is that my life isn’t so bad, even without a 360ª smile. I’m incredibly blessed. What’s to be depressed about‽

Yet each one of the complaints I fixated on sat upon my chest like an elephant of disappointment. I could barely move. While I lay there focusing on my burdensome list of failures, I wasn’t focusing on the good that I had accomplished, nor was I benefiting from the rewards. I was disavowing them instead because “I haven’t done enough”. I understand that depression doesn’t need a reason to lay waste to happiness, but my errors in thought weren’t helping.

How thankful I am that Spring came early for a spell. I got outside finally. I jumped on my longboard as often as I could and cruised around in the sun, talked with strangers, smiled a little, and felt good about myself. When Spring snubbed Summer and passed the baton on to Fall, however, my mood began to sink. That’s when I noticed what I was doing to myself. Was I really allowing the weather to determine my mood? Well, it’s more complicated than that. I have major depression disorder and persistent depression disorder. I don’t need an overcast day with chilly rain to get me depressed. However, I certainly was allowing weather to dictate my coping strategies.

I had let my guard down. During all those months locked away from others, I began to see my goals as the only way of measuring my progress—which can usually be quite efficient—but there is a serious downside if you link that progress to your self-worth. No progress = no self-esteem. In essence, if you fail to do something unrealistic in an impossible amount of time, you are ensuring your own ego’s self-destruction. Those warm Spring days were a distraction—an outlier—but once they faded I realized that I had allowed success to determine my self-esteem again.

As you start to come out of your pandemic cocoons, keep in mind your coping strategies and don’t ride yourself too hard. You may have lost valuable time in a lockdown stupor, but, as I remind myself, just because it seems dark, that doesn’t mean that tomorrow will be dark as well. The sun always rises. Well, unless it’s running around with Summer right now.


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