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…….

~Dˢ

 

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.

~Dˢ

 

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 Follow.it

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

~Dˢ


















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.

~Dˢ

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Is Suicide Preventable? (Short Answer: YES)

As I wind up my latest book project, I thought it might be a good time to share an interview of sorts I did a few months ago. I was asked to answer the question “Is suicide preventable?” in three sentences. Can such a question be answered in three sentences‽ Actually, it can be answered with one word: Yes. I elaborated on that word with three sentences that I hope are helpful to somebody.

Fortunately, the rest of the article was a bit longer, so there is plenty for you to read. Kate Haldeman tackled some of the typical stigmas of which depressives encounter. People mean well, but sometimes their advice does more harm than good. Ms. Haldeman addressed every negative word of “encouragement” you could imagine, from telling people to “get over it” to telling depressives to work harder at being happy. I liked her alternative questions. I hope that people who need to learn these tips find her article.

There is no perfect way to respond to everybody’s depression. Each response needs to be tailored to the individual. For example, I don’t mind the concept that we have to work hard to be happy, but words have nuances. Telling somebody they have to work hardER at being happy is a judgement on their efforts. You can commiserate that it is hard work being happy, or that we must work hard to be happy because depression robs us of our quality of life, but to command a depressive to work harder at being happy, even in jest, is to dismiss their struggle offhandedly. Would you tell somebody with a broken ankle to try harder to run? No, of course not. You would find a way to assist them. Mental health is no different.

I know a former bishop of mine who will ask me how I’m doing when we bump into each other around town, and when I tell him about my blog or book successes, he’ll either change the subject or tell me I need to stop letting my disability define me. I’m sure he means well, but since I don’t recall him ever taking time to find out how my disability affected me in the first place, his advice is useless to me. Ms. Haldeman’s article tackles this kind of misfire in her article, “7 Things People Don’t Understand About Depression”. I invite you to give it a read.

~Dˢ

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Top Mental Health Blogs for 2020—the Bestest Year EVER!

All was not terrible in 2020. 

The press will try to convince you otherwise, but their job is to panic you into thinking the world is ending any minute…again…so that you click on their news links to help them make money. I'm sure your personal life is filled with happy events that spit in the eye of Cynicism 2020. In fact, I'm positive I can rattle off dozens of such events in my own personal life. For example, my ex and I successfully gained guardianship over our learning disabled daughter. Pretty good, huh? I filed pro se, and the hearing went without a hitch. Take that, ADHD! I sold another article to ADDitude Magazine. Huzzah! I successfully learned to do the 180º cross-step on my longboard while carving. Well, that was important to me even if it seems obscure. I've only been practicing for three years. Oh! There was that time I crossed the street without getting hit by a car. That was a big event in 2020. And those monoliths from space aliens planted in my Utahn backyard? That turned out to be a PR stunt. Huh, that wasn't so exciting after all, but the local BLM and news reporters sure made us laugh. Um… I lowered my blood pressure? I dropped down to a 36" waist—then climbed back up to 38" with pandemic pounds? My plants haven't died?

This is tough. Maybe 2020 really wasn't such an exciting year, after all.

On the upside, however, I won another blog award. Don't roll your eyes! This is great news for you because I can now point you to other blogs much better than mine. Merry Christmas! You're welcome!

British education site Twinkl reached out to me with the good news in September—right when I was in quarantine—or maybe I was just sick? I don't know. September was a long time ago. But I promised to share the news with my blog readers and here we are! It's only four months later, right This time there was only one other blogger I recognized (Hi, Natasha!), so I'm excited to look over the list as well.

If your Fall was filled with sickness, quarantines, family members with COVID-19, and false alarms like mine, you might enjoy having something new to read. Here is a list of fresh mental health blogs with unique points of view. You might find a new kindred spirit or a new valued resource. Hurry on over to Top Mental Health Blog 2020

Thursday, October 01, 2020

ADHD: ToDo Tabs Done Right

ToDo Tabs Mania

Sometimes I wonder if there’s a support group out there for adults with ADHD who have an open tabs addiction.¹

Hello, my name is Douglas Cootey, and I’m a hard core tabs junkie.

Maybe this seems like a first world problem. Maybe you’re asking yourself, “What’s the big deal with several hundred open tabs?” If that’s how you think, you might need to join me at that meeting.

In theory there’s nothing wrong with lots of open browser tabs. I did things that way for years. If I found a web page with a great project or article I wanted to refer to later, I’d keep the tab open and leave it with the other saved ToDo tabs. The problem I ran into, however, was although ToDo tabs helped me not forget important data, I had so many tabs open in my browser I couldn’t find what I needed.

Just as ToDo lists can get long and unmanageable, ToDo tabs multiply until they become noise—no longer useful as resources or reminders. Yes, you’ve got web pages open for that funny self-surgery with tweezers, fifty things to do with a used toilet paper roll, and The Astounding Link Between Lizard People and the Founding Fathers, but where are they?

Productivity takes a hit when our ADHD tendencies aren’t reined in for a simple reason: chaos means extra work. I once had so many tabs up, I kept researching the same material over and over again. I had forgotten the very same research was already available in two identical tabs. Other times, when I do manage to remember I saved something as a ToDo tab, I have to dig through dozens upon dozens of tabs to find where the web pages I want are hiding. Worst still, I might be distracted by an old tab while making my search. Open tabs can weigh on the mind. Many of them represent unfinished projects waiting to snare my attention. This is what happens when you keep “31 Pumpkin Spice Recipes that Will Win Her Back” lurking in the background. Instead of writing, I’m suddenly in the kitchen making pumpkin spice sushi rice.

What turned me around was when my learning disabled daughter hopped onto my open Mac and somehow reset all my tabs. I had three windows open with 20–30 tabs in each window. Yes, some of the tabs were a kind of wishlist on how I wanted to spend my time or money, but the majority were important research for my first book. I literally sounded like Luke Skywalker when he met a certain long-lost relative. All my research! Gone!

Fortunately, my hourly data backup allowed me to restore what was removed, but since that time I’ve changed how I utilize ToDo tabs. If you’re as prone to distraction or wasting time on the internet as I am, you might find the following tips helpful:

  1. Wipe the slate clean – I’m not going to lie. Deleting all your ToDo tabs and starting smart from scratch is the easiest solution. One time, after a long bout of illness, I discovered that I had 197 tabs open on my iPhone alone, never mind what I had on my iPad and Mac. There were multiple hundreds of ToDo tabs! Why did I have so many open tabs anyway? I simply didn’t have the time or energy to prune them all. I opted to wipe them all. It was amazing how liberating that felt.
  2. Use a “read later” app – Instead of loading dozens of news stories into tabs, I like to send articles I want to read later to Pocket, a read later service. Then the articles appear on my Kobo ereader for later perusal, but they can appear just as easily in the Pocket app on my iPhone or iPad. Kindle users can use Instapaper for that purpose, too. Read all your news later, leaving no open tabs in your browser to distract you or clutter up your work environment. The downside is that you will still have to eventually prune them afterwards in Pocket or Instapaper.
  3. Browse in Privacy Mode – One way to reduce open tabs is to separate your productivity web browsing from your break time browsing. I developed the habit to browse in privacy mode when reading news. I realize that privacy mode is usually used for hinky sites you don’t want anybody but your ISP to know about, but you can use this feature for other purposes. I prefer to use the Brave browser for this purpose. It never saves privacy tabs. Once I shut off privacy, the tabs all go bye-bye. This is perfect for cruising around the web on a whim, but leaves nothing to clean up later no matter how many tabs I opened up. You can do the same thing in a new window just for breaktime. Then when you’re done, just close the window.
  4. Segregate your ToDo tabs by window – To keep ToDo tabs from becoming cluttered, designate different browser windows for different purposes. News, work, research, fun… Each window can have its own ToDo tabs. Personally, I found this method a bit too prone to abuse. I’d mix themes all the time and end up with five or more browser windows with dozens if not hundreds of tabs all in a jumble. However, if you’re disciplined, this method may work best for you.
  5. Segregate your ToDo tabs by device – I need more austere ToDo tabs separation to fend off chaos. For this reason, I do my blog research on my iPhone. Writing research is left for my iPad. On my Mac’s browser, I keep only tabs that relate to my current project. Since I use iCloud, all bookmarks and pages are shared, so the segregation isn’t as hard core as it sounds because what I have open on one device is available on the other. Keeping a theme for each device helps me be more organized. In this way, ToDo tabs become very useful.
  6. Segregate your ToDo tabs by browser – If using different devices to organize tabs seems too much work, you could use different browsers for your different ToDo tabs instead. This can help you manage the clutter and keep important pages from being buried in a wasteland of open tabs. When I was researching my Pokémon book a few years back, I did all my work in Chrome browser while keeping blog work in Safari. This made finding my research painless and productive. Segregating by browser or device is extra work at first, but once you get used to it, you will find the productivity benefits worth the effort.

My old ToDo tabs system was terribly inefficient, risky, and a drain on productivity, but now ToDo tabs have become a powerful tool at my fingertips. I have to admit that every once in a while I need a reminder lesson. About once a quarter I prune my ToDo tabs to make them easy to access, visually accessible, and useful again. My ToDo tabs and bookmarks are much more useful when I take time to prune and organize them. Since open tabs represent ToDo list items to me, each tab needs to be important and deserving of my time. Now that I manage them, I don’t need intervention or a support group anymore.


  1. This article was based on an older article originally published on May 20, 2017.  ↩

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Play It Again, Seratonin

So very, very, sad, la la la ♪

I might get myself in a bit of trouble with my daughters with this post, but I recently sat in on the Brownie’s session with her therapist (she’s learning disabled). We were discussing ways to regulate moods. She used to have anger issues, and although those days are behind us, she still doesn’t know what to do with strong, negative feelings like disappointment, irritation, and frustration. I can’t recall exactly how the topic came up, but I used my “Heartbroken” playlist as an example to make a point.

This playlist used to be a point of contention for my older daughters. After the divorce, I filled this playlist with all the most painfully sad love songs I had in my vast music collection. I labeled it “Heartbroken”. Not surprisingly, most of them were country. On bad days, I would hit play and dive deep into the music before I could come up for air again. It was cathartic.

But my girls hated it.

Because of our current living arrangements, the Brownie wasn’t familiar with this “controversial” playlist. I listen with headphones on. She’s the youngest, so using the playlist as a positive example was a novel experience. I tried for years to get my older girls to understand how the playlist was actually helpful, but all they could see was that I was hurting—or more specifically, hurting myself.

What I, and the therapist, pointed out to the Brownie was that letting myself feel sad helped me deal with those emotions. What I was unable to explain to my girls all those years ago was that my feelings were a flood I feared would never stop, so I dammed them up. I didn’t dare let them spill over into my new, single parent life where so much was relying on me to be strong.

One day, I noticed that I felt better after listening to a particularly sad song, which reminded me that I have playlists for other emotions like anger and joy, so I created my monster list of songs so heavy with crushing sadness and betrayal that my daughters grew to loathe it when I hit play. Letting myself feel in touch with emotions I normally shied away from helped me wash them away. When the playlist was over, I was back in control.

In the early days, the playlist was quite brutal on my heart. Maybe there was a little bit of punishment mixed in with the sadness. Maybe a little bit of self-pity sprinkled in with the minor chords. My girls had cause for their heartfelt opposition.

However, over time, the playlist grew to become something wonderful. Yes, there were sad songs in there of love lost and paradise destroyed, but there were also songs with irony and wit. There were songs with clever lyrics that inspired, and synths and strings that lifted my sadness away. When I listen to the playlist, I give myself permission to feel things that I normally hide.

Letting yourself feel sad through music for a limited time can conversely lift your mood—even heal you—by which I mean, it can soothe your soul. Good music can boost serotonin levels in the brain, dramatically alleviating depression or anxiety. Dr. Alice Cash who uses music for therapy says her “Healing has to do with decreasing symptoms [of anxiety or depression], physically, physiologically, psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually.”¹ One study took the premise that “Music interventions have been used to reduce anxiety and distress and improve physiological functioning in medical patients” and examined music’s healing effects on people with heart conditions.² There are other studies. They all focus on the healing power of music to make physiological changes in our brains. The concept isn’t so far out there, though perhaps it hasn’t been touted as an optimum coping strategy, perfect for mix tapes and playlists before.

I don’t often listen to the entire “Heartbroken” playlist anymore. I don’t need to. I’m in a healthier place than I was in the years first after the divorce when I would listen to the playlist on repeat. However, once the playlist was finished playing (or I was finished playing it), I was ready to face the world. If you experiment with your own depression playlist, make sure to set limits. Touching an emotion to be free of it is therapy. Drowning in an emotion is wallowing. There is a fine line there you need to watch out for. Assuming you’re careful, though, you may find a new coping strategy to help you up when your spirits are low.



If you are looking for ideas to help you overcome suicidal depression, you should read my book. I step you through various methods I’ve used over the years.

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