Monday, April 27, 2015

The Shelter Cats and Why I Need Them

Mary. Stella. Simba. These names have been uttered by me an awful lot. They belong to three beautiful cats at the Humane Society nearby.

While they may not mean much to you, they mean the world to me.

First, I love cats. I love all furry animals and even non-furry animals. I have two betta fish at my apartment. There are four cats plus my turtle at my parents house. My favorite animal is the grey wolf. Humane societies? They're awesome for animal lovers.

But this love is not just about loving animals.

It's about needing their care, their affection, their quirks, even their moody days. And them needing me. It's about my anxiety and my need to nurture. It's about personal growth. It's about saving lives. It's about my depression and finding beauty in every single day. This is why I need these cats.

When I first moved to Michigan I was still having high anxiety. It was less than it was in Minnesota, sure, but it was still making life hard for me. I somehow managed to publish An Addictive Personality and pull a 10k Writing Marathon. Progress.

But anxiety caught up to me and I wasn't able to do much else. What was I going to do with my days? I started aching for something to nurture. I wanted something small and warm. I really wanted a pet. And not just any pet. I wanted a cat, a dog, or some kind of rodent larger than a hamster.

Of course, I can't own one. The apartment does not allow pets. This is a common problem.

So here is where the humane society comes in.

We started going there and met all the pretty kitties. They were awesome. I loved them. The more we went... the better I felt.

I felt good enough to restart freelancing.

It was an amazing thing. I began to actually work on things. I started working a little more on Wings and other projects. I did some mturk tasks. I didn't feel like every day was one step closer to a potential anxiety attack.

The more I came, the better I got to know the cats. Mary is described as a "diva." She does not like one too many pets and she wasn't too friendly towards people she didn't recognize. She started warming up. Now every time I can pet her I feel pretty great because I know that it's because I put effort into getting to know her.

Mary taught me a lesson about working to get to know someone. A lot of times people think they know each other long before they actually do. They think they know a lot because they talk a lot and hang out a lot but there are sides that take a long time to see. And so Mary taught me to be patient for those layers to show themselves.

Stella is described in terms much less nice. She has been at the shelter for a very, very long time. After gaining Mary's trust, attention to Stella became a thing. She already understood that I was a frequent visitor, which helped matters. Cats like stability, too.

Eventually, she allowed me to pet her and actually has sat in my lap a couple times. Her biggest thing appears to be trust. Trust and stability.

I don't know much about Stella's past and frankly I don't know if I want to know. Maybe she was just never around humans, but maybe it's something much worse. What I care about is that she has grown and adapted and is well taken care of.

Stella is teaching me about how long it really takes to trust someone and about taking baby steps. She has taught me restraint as I make sure not to pet her when she is likely to be upset. Moreso, she is teaching me how stability of my actions has an effect on others. I feel like this is a very important lesson.

Then we have Simba. Simba is constantly bullied by other kitties. I'm not sure why, though he is a little standoffish. It's widely accepted that a single kitty home might be best for him, especially one where he can be left alone a lot. Simba has taught me about personal space, reading a person's discomfort level, and about how to make yourself seem like a safe person.

I didn't begin to work with Simba until February when I decided to sponsor him. I had already learned some restraint and had grown up knowing how to respect animals, so I wasn't a threat to him. But I also wasn't his friend.

Simba needs a lot of personal space, so I learned how to read the signs about when he needed it. And I knew not to go after him. Because I respected this and took the time to learn about him, but didn't neglect to offer petting and treats, he began to see me as "safe."

Since then, he's still standoffish, but when he sees me he comes to get a head rub. And when other cats are bullying him and my lap is clear, he'll jump on up.

Edited to add: These are my personal opinions and experiences about the cats. Your results/opinions may vary. 

That's actually another thing, all the cats have learned or are in the process of learning that my lap is a no-brat zone. Meaning no batting or growling or hissing at cats to cats on my lap or from cats on my lap. So far it's worked surprisingly well.


And that is why I need them.

Also, because they've helped me so much, I've started to sponsor them. I sponsored Simba in February, Rory in March, and I finally got the funds to sponsor Monica for April! This way I'll help them find new homes.

Oh, a quick update - Not doing no-sugar week this week. Not because "I can't handle not having sugar" but because that's the kind of thing you REALLY need to plan ahead for. I learned this only AFTER checking labels of foods.

Fried food week goes on as planned starting on the 3rd. Because I have more than enough oil and things to fry.

Love the felines in your life,

Oh, and for those of you interested in helping out with the car situation, here is the fancy progress bar and how to help! From what I know of the car, we have definite transmission issues and potential intake problems. And all the cars problems are expensive, so working towards getting a new car would be beneficial.

Apparently there's also the potential of the car exploding. This would be exciting if it didn't mean potential injury/death.

New Car Downpayment

Note: I heard there was trouble with the previous donation box thingy, so much as I'm going to regret putting my email address out on the net, you can send me paypal monies using the email address bbnewgo @ yahoo . com

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Editing, Writing, and Anxiety - Tips

If you haven't yet, please read my blog post entitled "Mental Disorder Series - Anxiety." This is a great resource if you don't know what the difference between common anxiety and an anxiety disorder is. It also provides a bit of background with my anxiety experience for those of you interested.

This post, however, is not about the generals of anxiety. No. Instead it is about how Authors can manage to revise and edit their own books, even through suffering from anxiety attacks, avoidance, and other anxiety disorder related problems.

This subject was brought up to me by this twitter comment by user @hannahswiderski:
This was after I posted my tweet about dealing with my anxiety while editing my upcoming book, Wings. Because guys, editing is hard. Writing is hard. Doing them with anxiety? Even harder.

So when an author writes a book, they sit down and basically put their soul on paper. (Or into a word/scrivener/etc document.) The process begins with an idea, moves into the writing part, includes some pre-emptive editing, maybe some outlining... Honestly it depends on the author.

Anxiety can strike at any time during the writing process, but it most commonly seems to strike while editing. The reason for this has to do with the fact that, hey, we just spilled our guts out and now we have to go back, re-read it, and change it.

Big problem number one: Re-Reading what we just wrote. Why is this a problem? Simple. "What if it's terrible? Why am I such a bad writer? How did I forget this comma? Why should I have to edit this?" And then of course there's the fear of just plain reading what you wrote. Yes, it's normal to be scared of what you've just written. Even moreso if you have an anxiety or avoidance issue.

Big problem number two: CHANGING what you just wrote. Hun, this is my pure emotion in word format for you and you think it needs to be edited? Changed? Re-arranged? This is my baby!

And then of course there are other issues too such as compulsive editing and not being sure if your editing is good enough.

(Some of you will note that you can hire out an editor to edit your work for you but I must remind you that in the end the choice of what to do with your book is ultimately yours. Every change is your choice whether to accept or deny.)

Here are some tips for all of you:

  1. Take a deep breath - Hyperventilating isn't going to make your job any easier. No you can't avoid it. You wrote this, you want to edit it. Take many deep breaths and ground yourself and get to it.
  2. Get a warm drink - Whether it's tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or something else, the warmth will help calm you down and let you relax. That's really what you need to do first. Relax.
  3. Ground yourself - Meditate, prey, go for a walk, whatever your method of grounding yourself is: Do it. If you aren't grounded you won't be able to concentrate on your work.
  4. Re-read your story - This may feel scary at first, but read the whole thing. Many of you have let the story sit for at least a month (as suggested for anyone editing their own book!) You need to get acquainted with this piece before you can change it. One cannot edit what one does not know.
  5. Edit a section once and move on - Yes, you can come back to it later, but just change it once and come back to it after you've gone through the rest of the story. This helps with compulsive editing. If you edit one part too many times, it might stop fitting with the rest of your story and then you've begun creating a completely different book entirely.
  6. Don't edit your story in the original document. - Whether you paste the whole thing in a different document, print it out and edit it, re-write parts on paper, just don't edit the original document. You may need it for reference. You'll need it for a backup. And all that stuff is just distracting.
  7. Don't try to edit the whole thing in one day. - Editing is a process. You'll have to go over it multiple times, look for different things, and honestly you're stressing yourself out by trying to change 10,000+ words in 24 hours.
  8. Take breaks. - Constantly re-editing? Take a break. Stuck on one part? Take a break. Out of coffee? Take a break. Breaks will allow you to re-focus later.
  9. Have someone else look it over. - They don't have to do a full edit, not even a proofread. They just need to read it and give you a semi-detailed opinion on your book. That way, you have something to go off of as you edit. Do this before and then after you edit. If someone looks at your edited version and says "hey, I like this" then you can feel okay going on to publish it.
  10. Remember, you're not the only one with anxiety. Scott Stossel, the author of "My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind" is an editor at Atlantic. He suffers from anxiety and nobody even knew until he published this book. In fact, it's really sad that more authors and editors don't come out and talk about their anxiety. It would really help the rest of us. Of which there are many.
  11. Don't Procrastinate. - The hardest part of finishing is getting started. Get started now. Read your book, figure out what tools you're going to use to edit it, and start.
  12. Go paragraph by paragraph. - First, this gives us the 'one step at a time' mentality, which is comforting. Secondly, it helps separate this section from the rest of the book which allows us to focus.
  13. Read it out loud. - Sometimes our brains aren't working right when we edit, so we need to calibrate them. Read the part that you're working on out loud. It exposes a lot of errors you may not have been able to previously catch.
  14. Remember this book is YOUR baby. Because it is your baby and you care about it, you need to remember that it deserves a lot of your respect and attention. You wrote this and you should feel proud. It's your love, your work, and it's marvelous. Be sure to cherish it for what it is.
  15. I said, this book is your BABY. That's right, it's a baby. It is your child. It's your job to help this baby grow into a wonderful piece of work. Use this editing session to teach your baby new things. One day it will be able to go out into the world on it's own. You'll be such a proud parent.
I hope these steps have helped you out. Another thing that helped me out recently was being told that the rough draft of your book is you telling the story to yourself. That means that after you write it, your job is to add more details so other people can understand as much about your book as you.

Editing is and always has been a difficult job. If you have anxiety, your job is to remain calm, take breaks, and go at it bit by bit. 

With all that being said, I need to get back to editing wings.
Happy Writing!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Part One of My Food Intolerance Journey

Hey guys,

So I wrote a little bit before on how I'm doing this food project thing where I have these foods I think are causing me stomach problems and that I'm cutting them out and then reintroducing them to see what's up.

The first week was onion week. Onion week was very hard for me because I react to the juices of the onion in the air. I have since found out that partially freezing it (so you can still cut it) minimizes the spray. However, I still reacted VERY badly. I react to raw onion juice worse than most people. In fact, the verdict of that week is that I pretty much avoid raw onion altogether. I can buy frozen pre-chopped onion but I can only use it sparingly.

The second week was potato week. I suspected potatoes to be the cause of my fatigue. What I found out is that potatoes give me fatigue, yes, but they also give me bloating and other related problems. It doesn't appear to matter what form they're in. The verdict on them? Well, the fatigue wasn't as bad as I thought so really I'm just going with avoiding potato heavy dishes and using them primarily as sides.

The third week? Meat week. Meat week is inconclusive. I will continue my omnivore ways.

Now we're on the fourth week. This is dairy week. It is only Tuesday and I give up. Yes, yes I am lactose intolerant. Yes, yes it does give me stomach problems. Also, it's the primary cause of my fatigue and even gives me a really bleh mood. The problem is I love cheese. I love icecream. They are amazing. I also love pizza. So what am I going to do? I figure I'll just cut down a lot and allow myself a little dairy here and there... Just not when I have a serious deadline to attend to.

The reason this post is titled part one is because starting Sunday I am on to the next part of this... I found during my journey that I might have other food triggers I hadn't previously thought of. We're talking Sugar and Fried Foods.

So this means I'm going to have a part two and a part three. Maybe a part four if I'm not sure of things by the end of it.

For sugar week, the plan is to cut out all the sugars, be they natural or not. Except, obviously for naturally sugary foods like fruit. So I guess no added sugars.

I'm also going to keep to my regimen of no/limited dairy, onions, and potatoes for both weeks. I can add meat back in, however, because as of yet its results are inconclusive.

From now until Sunday, I'm just going to eat whatever I want. Maybe make some freezer space available.

Yes, by the way, that does mean I've actually completed a project that I've set out for myself. Pretty neat. And mostly on deadline, too. I might even make a recipe book out of it, or a series. I could do something like "Cuisine for the Potato-Impaired" featuring dishes commonly using potatoes. Or I could just make a "Recipes for Food-Impaired" using as few ingredients as possible. Or both. I see no reason why not. Except time.

Anyways, in other news, still working on Wings. I have both Sumbola and Amazon waiting for this and it's progressing slowly but surely. Will be open for another set of eyes soon. Might make someone make a platformer based on it. Or something. We'll see. I should probably quit rambling about my potential ideas.

Oh, and for those of you interested in helping out with the car situation, here is the paypal button and a fancy progress bar! From what I know of the car, we have definite transmission issues and potential intake problems. And all the cars problems are expensive, so working towards getting a new car would be beneficial.

Apparently there's also the potential of the car exploding. This would be exciting if it didn't mean potential injury/death.

New Car Downpayment

Note: I heard there was trouble with the previous donation box thingy, so much as I'm going to regret putting my email address out on the net, you can send me paypal monies using the email address bbnewgo @ yahoo . com

You are always one choice away from freedom.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Update Thing!

Good afternoon or whatever time of day it will be when you see this!

I hate writing articles. Content pieces, articles, etc. I don't know why. I mean, they're simple and short and on point, but I just dislike writing them. This is part of why I stink at keeping this blog updated.

But I know I have to keep up on my blog because this is my journey and when I do projects I'd like some accountability, you know?

Anyways, I ran into some issues with mturk, not doing that anymore, and now I'm working on doing elance stuff which I've had an account on since I turned 18. I'm working on creating work samples of editing, transcription, Spanish to English translation, and creative writing.

I'm also going to try to do some learning stuff. Because learning is cool and gives me more marketable skills.

My website will be the host for my samples, as well as elance. Because I already have a section called "treasure chest" I figure it can't hurt to have a freelancing section. I mean, I already write. And the website it basically the home of... my projects. ^^"

I'm hoping Wings will be ready soon. Both Amazon and Sumbola are waiting for my work. So that's where my focus needs to be, besides projects. I'll probably also look for some writing contests to submit to because why not.

I might quit my reading a hundred books in a year challenge. I want to read all the books, I want to record video of my reviews, but it's all so much effort and takes time and I'm finally beginning to understand that I'm a human.

The fact that I am only human is something I've been trying to ignore for years. It's caused me a lot of problems. I still have a lot of interests and things to take care of, but I now realize I can't do 20 zillion projects at the same time. It's not good for my mental health.

So there will be more blog posts in the future because this has been my blog for forever and it's not going to stop.

Oh, and for those of you interested in helping out with the car situation, here is the paypal button and a fancy progress bar! From what I know of the car, we have definite transmission issues and potential intake problems. And all the cars problems are expensive, so working towards getting a new car would be beneficial.

Apparently there's also the potential of the car exploding. This would be exciting if it didn't mean potential injury/death.

New Car Downpayment

Note: I heard there was trouble with the previous donation box thingy, so much as I'm going to regret putting my email address out on the net, you can send me paypal monies using the email address bbnewgo @ yahoo . com

Stay Cool and Remember You are Human,

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Featuring Wings!

Good Afternoon my lovely viewers! Here is the post I promised you on my currently-being-edited book, Wings!

First, let's take a look at the cover of Wings.

The cover depicts a bird in a tree, which plays a role in the book itself. I wanted to use a piece centered on the beginning of the book so that when a reader steps into the world, they start around the image they see. This allows some connection between the look of the book and the story inside.

"Wings outstretched. Darting. Soaring. Gliding. Trees creating mazes in the playground of the sky."

The story begins in the dream of our main character, Melissa. Melissa is a young girl just trying to make her way through school. Unfortunately, she doesn't have many friends, her best friend has ditched her, and now she has these bony lumps growing on her back! What's a teenager to do?

To top it off, her mom wants her to go into the doctor for surgery, but Melissa hates doctors! Her only escape is in her dreams, but they start feeling a little too close to reality. I can't say much more plot without spoiling the story, so I hope you give it a read!

Wings is set to be published within the next month! See future posts for more details.

Stay Awesome!

Oh, and for those of you interested in helping out with the car situation, here is the paypal button and a fancy progress bar! From what I know of the car, we have definite transmission issues and potential intake problems. And all the cars problems are expensive, so working towards getting a new car would be beneficial.

Apparently there's also the potential of the car exploding. This would be exciting if it didn't mean potential injury/death.

New Car Downpayment

Note: I heard there was trouble with the previous donation box thingy, so much as I'm going to regret putting my email address out on the net, you can send me paypal monies using the email address bbnewgo @ yahoo . com

Friday, April 10, 2015

Making the Numbers Add Up

Wonderful stuff, financial stability is. With financial stability you can buy food and pay bills and even do some fun things. But financial stability is hard to get and sometimes some people have problems making the numbers add up. I know I do.

Today, I have one less bill. This bill is the last changeable red mark on my credit score, so it's pretty spiffy to have gone. It's what I've been doing with my freelancing, trying to pay off old debts and get my life together. So far it's been working, but it's hard.

There are many things in life that cost money that are unexpected, unplanned for, and sometimes feel unmanageable. This includes medical problems, car problems, computer issues, and broken items, as well as a wide variety of other things.

A lot of people talk about building a safety net for those unexpected incidents, but how does one build a safety net when all of their money is spent on things they need?

This is part of why we're doing a once a month grocery trip instead of once a week. It's not as healthy, no, but it helps to save money.

It's why we're considering bikes. It involves an upfront fee, but might save on car-related things later.

How do we make the numbers add up?

There are two factors that are a part of every big money debate. They are lowering costs and increasing income. Which do you focus on? Well, obviously both. So we're doing a bunch of things to lower our costs, which will help us a lot. But we somehow have to increase income. So I've been seeking out more freelance opportunities.

This is also hard. One reason people love the idea of lowering costs as a means to making their money last is because it's easier to control. You can control how much you spend, to a point. It's a lot harder to control how much you earn. There's a lot more that goes into it. You have to find work, be hired/accepted, get verified, and be given the work to do. Then there's all the reporting and stuff. And if you're earning income by selling a product, you need to find buyers.

But increasing income is needed if you have those unexpected incidents. What can you do but work harder? Try to work smarter? Well, you can have a loan but that will increase month by month costs. So even if you do get a loan you still need to work harder and smarter. And it's hard. It's hard but I don't think it's impossible.

I'm going through a mild down turn in weekly earnings through my freelancing, but part of that is due to the time investments on finding more and better opportunities elsewhere. An investment into my future.

And as stated before, I'm also working on Wings and will have a blog post out soon on its behalf!

Oh, and for those of you interested in helping out with the car situation, here is the paypal button and a fancy progress bar! From what I know of the car, we have definite transmission issues and potential intake problems. And all the cars problems are expensive, so working towards getting a new car would be beneficial.

Apparently there's also the potential of the car exploding. This would be exciting if it didn't mean potential injury/death.

New Car Downpayment

Note: I heard there was trouble with the previous donation box thingy, so much as I'm going to regret putting my email address out on the net, you can send me paypal monies using the email address bbnewgo @ yahoo . com

Stay Awesome!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What is Alex's Journey?

After the mental health series I did, I got a lot more views on things. Part of it is the content, the other part is that I actually posted regularly (which makes a huge difference in numbers.)

So because of that, I wanted to take a moment to express the "point" of this blog and welcome any newcomers along to this journey.

At it's most basic sense, this blog is about me and my journey. It's not really a journal blog, though, because I don't just write about my day. I often write about issues that are close to me, new things I'm trying, and pieces related to things I'm doing, such as the 10k writathon series I did last August.

So far this blog has covered work-related, writing related, lifestyle related, and health related subjects.

I refuse to make this blog be about anything more specific. And why? Because this is my journey. If I had a blog for everything I was interested in and did, I would never be able to keep them all updated. The central point of this blog is the journey. The journey, the planning, the ideas, the goals and how things change.

I made a point early on to mention that not everything I try will work. But that doesn't matter. That's the appeal of this blog. The changes. The ups and the downs.

And of course, soon there will also be cat pictures. As the weather gets warmer, I'm going to try to go down to the Humane Society more and get way more pictures. I try to sponsor cats every month but it's a little hard with other bills. I haven't made much this month, but I'll keep working towards it. They need me.

As part of your update on me and how my life is going:

The car is still broken and we still don't have much by way of funds. Luckily there's been a donation since then because closetdemon is awesome. However, I may soon have to ask someone for help with a loan. And by help, I mean cosigning because I've been only working on increasing my credit score since the start of the year.

I've paid one and a half bills since then that were overdue, talked with my student loan place who is going to start bringing things out of deferment like yesterday so I can pay them, and am not only saving for a car but also for one of those credit cards you pay into to get your initial balance. I think I need like $300 saved to start one? Either way it's save first, spend later.

I've been freelancing on mturk, applying for jobs on elance, and working on my book so that I can publish it soon. An Addictive Personality has netted me a couple bucks a month which may not seem like much to most people, but the fact that it's been going steady is amazing. I hope Wings achieves the same results.

Later I will be posting a blog post dedicated to the story of Wings, what some symbols are, etc. Oh, and you'll all get to see the cover. My mom took the picture for me. All the birds up here were way too elusive. And from that picture I designed the cover.

And for those of you interested in helping out with the car,

Oh, and for those of you interested in helping out with the car situation, here is the paypal button and a fancy progress bar! From what I know of the car, we have definite transmission issues and potential intake problems. And all the cars problems are expensive, so working towards getting a new car would be beneficial.

Apparently there's also the potential of the car exploding. This would be exciting if it didn't mean potential injury/death.

New Car Downpayment

Note: I heard there was trouble with this donation box thingy, so much as I'm going to regret putting my email address out on the net, you can send me paypal monies using the email address bbnewgo @ yahoo . com

Stay Awesome!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Mental Disorder Conclusion - Dermatillomania

Whelp. One problem of my various disorders is I randomly vanish from time to time. Just a lot of stuff to handle. (A lot of car stuff being part of it.) Plus, I have mild avoidance issues. I like to just go "ugh" and fall asleep. So that's what I did this weekend. That and playing Catherine, which is a puzzle platformer style game with a great story line complete with alternative endings. I got the best possible one.

Taking a break now and then isn't a bad thing. It's just really difficult for me to get back on track. 2-3 days is actually on the lower end of how long I vanish.

And now it's time to talk about a problem that doesn't contribute to my vanishing! Although, it does take up a lot of time. And it can trigger (or is triggered by) my depression and anxiety. This mysterious little disorder is called Dermatillomania.

What is Dermatillomania?

Dermatillomania is not widely heard of. In fact, not even spell check knows what it is, so I will probably have a hundred red squigglies by the end of this. It thinks I'm trying to spell dermatological, which is related in subject, but not what I'm trying to type.

Dermatillomania, also known as Skin Picking Disorder (SPD) is sort of an OCD cousin. The person with dermatillomania picks at their skin compulsively. It can become a pretty big problem leading to an excess of scabs and tissue damage. It also takes a big chunk of time out of your life, with serious sufferers spending hours per day. Luckily mine isn't that bad.

People with dermatillomania exhibit a wide range of behaviors. Some people only pick briefly a couple times a day without even realizing it. Others spend hours picking at a single spot. Most people use their fingernails to pick, but a lot of people also use various instruments such as tweezers or nail clippers. Some people even injest the skin that they pick.

There are two main time periods when dermatillomania starts happening. Puberty, when pimples first start appearing, and around age 30-45, which is when a lot of life stresses tend to come up. As for me, it started during the puberty time. What happens is a person starts picking at the perceived imperfections (I have keratosis, too, which means I get random excess skin bumps.) It becomes a habit and is usually tied to anxiety or boredom.

A shocking figure is that about 11.5% of pickers make suicide attempts. Also, people with dermatillomania are very likely to do other types of self-harm like cutting and banging their heads on things.

There is a controversy over whether dermatillomania is a disorder of its own or a symptom of another. As the primary issue with dermatillomania is the picking, and not something else, I stand by the opinion of the DSM-5 which puts it in its own category.

What treatment options are available to somebody with Dermatillomania?

There isn't exactly a specific cure for dermatillomania. There are some treatments that may help such as behavioral therapy similar to people with OCD, as well as trying to address potential root causes. There are not always root problems. If the person experiencing dermatillomania found a way to stop chewing their fingernails when they were younger, using a similar method may help get rid of or at least reduce their dermatillomanic behaviors.

Also, some doctors provide SSRI's, which do help some individuals.

What you shouldn't say to someone with Dermatillomania.
  • You're crazy/psychotic.
    • We're only as crazy as people who bite their nails, stay up too late, drink too much, or smoke. Our behavior is just less socially normal.
    • If we were psychotic, a treatment of the psychosis would stop the behavior. For a majority of us, it doesn't.
  • Why don't you just stop picking?
    • If we could, we would. Do you think we enjoy the scars left on our arms and face? The pain and irritation? High risk of infection? Ridicule? Not really.
    • Our bodies become addicted to the hormones released when we pick, so it's not really a "habit" we can easily break.
  • I don't see how this is a problem, you're making it up.
    • If you can't see a tree fall in a forest, does that mean it never existed? Dermatillomania is a real problem that affects real people. 
    • Just because we're not covered in blemishes, it doesn't mean the problem isn't serious. The other important factors besides how many scabs we have is how much time we spend picking, how the picking has effected our views of ourselves and our bodies, and how much the picking has changed our lives.
  • You must have really bad skin if you're picking all the time.
    • Not all picking starts from having a skin condition. Some people pick at perfect skin that they perceive as imperfect.
    • Also, thanks for the insult.
  • I pick at my scabs sometimes.
    • That's perfectly normal. People with dermatillomania do it more than "sometimes" and it's not always scabs and acne that they pick at. 
  • I used to cut, so I get what you're going through.
    • Skin picking and cutting are two totally different things, started for completely different reasons. 
    • Cutting usually relates to depression and, though it can be compulsive, it usually isn't a life-long uncontrollable compulsion. 
    • Skin pickers do not pick their skin for the purpose of hurting themselves. Often they don't even realize they are picking until after they've done it.
  • You're leaving marks on your skin for attention.
    • Actually, the marks are our least favorite part of picking. Many people with dermatillomania use make-up or clothing to cover the marks. They reduce our quality of life. 
    • Also, giving attention to them is like social suicide, especially because most people don't understand or even know about the existence of the disorder.
  • Stop taking drugs and you'll stop picking.
    • Very, very few people with dermatillomania are on drugs. Dermatillomania is a disorder, not a side effect. This is very damaging stigma.
    • On the other side of things, people with ADD often take stimulant medication which WILL worsen their picking. 
  • If dermatillomania were a real disorder, it would've been in the DSM a long time ago.
    • A lot of "real" disorders were just added to the DSM. The DSM is a lot like the Vatican in terms of stances it takes, they only want to publish what they are absolutely sure of. With more medical advancements comes more information and therefore the realization of what is going on with people.
  • Skin picking is only a superficial disorder because it's only harming your looks.
    • Skin picking also harms your self-esteem, perception, and body-image.
    • It creates a higher risk for infections.
    • Some people pick to the point of needing surgery.
    • It's not just blemishes, it's tissue damage.
How you can help out the Dermatillomanic!
  1. Suggest they seek some help! Less than half of people who suffer dermatillomania go to get treatment for it. 
  2. If they start picking, point it out. A lot of the time they don't realize they are doing it.
  3. Gift them or recommend to them various lotions, loofahs, soaps, and anti-acne things that they can use. Even though people pick with great skin, I at least don't pick as much when I don't notice any bumps or scabs.
  4. Help us keep healthy sleep schedules and keep to other lifestyle things that lessen anxiety and depression. Those are two potential root causes, so helping one helps the other.
  5. Don't comment on how it looks. We try to hide it, bringing up the scabs and blemishes will only make us more self-conscious and therefore more likely to pick.
  6. Hang out and keep us busy! One of the other causes is boredom. The best way to fight boredom is to hang out with somebody. This way we don't become bored and mindlessly find ourselves in a picking session instead of, say, reading a book or going on a walk.
  7. Likewise, if we text you saying we're bored, reminding us of things that we can do like going on a walk or solving a puzzle might stop us from going into a picking session.
My Personal Struggle with Dermatillomania.

I might have technically had dermatillomania for longer than most people because of my keratosis. All I remember from my childhood is when my keratosis would spike, I would scratch at it and then I would get these scabs all over my arms. My peers thought it was chickenpox. Needless to say I was ridiculed for the marks on my skin.

Then came acne. I started to go after my face more than my arms. This did two things. First, my arms had way fewer scabs because I was focusing on my face. Second, my face was battle-ridden from my picking sessions. It still kind of is.

That's the thing, I'm still picking. I go through bad times and good times, but it's still there. Sometimes I make sure to add an extra half hour to my "getting ready for an event" time just so in case I start picking, I'll still be ready on time.

That, by the way, is how you know it's a problem. When you have to maneuver your life around your disorder is when it desperately needs to be managed. It has taken hours out of some of my days. It has decreased my self-esteem. It has increased my anxiety. I'm just glad I have a name for it, really. Nothing like explaining to people why you've been in the bathroom for an hour, picking at your face.

I'm working on trying to take care of it. I've been trying to lessen my anxiety, which I know is a trigger. I've got more than enough things to keep me occupied. And when I go to the bathroom, I set specific rules about what I can and cannot touch on my face. I'm still trying to get into the "wash my face everyday" habit, but I know that will help as well.

Thank you for staying with me until the conclusion of this mental health spotlight! 

It really means a lot to have people listen to all the things that effect you. Making this series is also great because hopefully it's helped spread some awareness on these disorders. At the very least it's put the names out there one more time.

Alex's Journey will continue it's random subject matter as normal, except with an attempt at posting every day. Minus random vanishes, of course. Those are going to happen. But at least now you all know why, right?

Oh, and for those of you interested in helping out with the car situation, here is the paypal button and a fancy progress bar! From what I know of the car, we have definite transmission issues and potential intake problems. And all the cars problems are expensive, so working towards getting a new car would be beneficial.

That $19 is just me saving so far. After one of my debts is wiped out (FRIDAY!!) hopefully I can make that number climb a little higher. Please consider helping out, it would be much appreciated.

New Car Downpayment

Want to donate some Shinies?
Who is this rad giver?
Note: I heard there was trouble with this donation box thingy, so much as I'm going to regret putting my email address out on the net, you can send me paypal monies using the email address bbnewgo @ yahoo . com

In other news, I'm trying to figure out Minnesota ride stuff. The fiance and I have a ride to MN, but not back. I'm hoping we find one because it's kind of a special weekend. You see, on the 20th, he and I will have been in a relationship for a full year. We plan to go to Baker's Square because that's the place where we first met up. We can't stay until the 20th (a Monday) so we'll be going either that Saturday or Sunday. But as you can see, it's relatively important to me.

Hopefully we'll get a ride. And hopefully they'll have pumpkin pie in stock.

As always, Charmed

Friday, April 3, 2015

Mental Disorder Series - Depression

We're on day four of five guys! Bear with me! Learn some stuff and help out your friends! Obviously today's subject is probably the most common out of all the subjects you've seen and will see on this blog. (Also, I feel pretty awesome for blogging five days in a row with such huge posts! Because, you know, consistency and writing.)

Let's talk about depression!

What is Depression?

In this post we're going to mostly talk about depression in general, rather than lighting on the different kinds such as bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder.)

Depression is, at the most basic level, a constant feeling of sadness that doesn't just last a couple of days. It can be a series of periodic episodes or it can be a constant feeling. Sometimes it is dull, like a small, grey cloud in the back of one's mind. Other times it is a severe storm which can cause a lot of very unfortunate decisions to be made.

Depression hampers a person's ability to function 'normally' and can lead to problems with work, school, romantic/platonic relationships, or even just general daily existence.

What it does is it puts up a wall in front of positive thought patterns and reroutes ideas to negative thought patterns. We don't purposefully think terrible things, it just comes to us.

Depression is often tied to self-esteem and self-worth, but another huge aspect is quality of life. With self-esteem and self-worth, sadness is rooted in how we feel about ourselves whether it be from our own ideas, societies ideas, or family and peer's ideas. With quality of life, sadness is rooted in how we live our lives. People with low income, people living in abusive situations, people in dead end jobs, they all could easily get depression from quality of life.

Of course, there are always more places it could come from, but those are the three ones often featured.

There are also biological aspects of depression. In fact, according to NIMH, the brains of people with depression and the people without have distinct differences in regards to how they look.

Some signs/symptoms of depression are:

  • Suicidal thoughts (These are NOT necessary to be diagnosed with depression)
  • Loss of interest in activities or just things in general
  • Change in appetite and/or sleep patterns
  • Fatigue/Decreased Energy
  • Difficulty with concentration and memory
  • Persistent sad or empty feelings and thoughts
  • Irritability and restlessness

How does Depression get treated?

Two main ways! Medication and psychotherapy!

Medication tends to be SSRI antidepressants but this varies from individual to individual. In fact, there is almost no way to tell exactly which one will work for you without trial and error. Doctors tend to first try you on the least risky SSRI with a long half-life and then they move on up in risk and complexity until you find something that works. Family history or recommendation may speed up the process as genetics have a correlation, though not exact match, on which medication may work for you.

As for psychotherapy, a lot of people go in for some kind of "talk therapy." The two most common types of therapy for depression are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT.) CBT focuses on thought patterns whereas IPT is more about working with your relationships with others.

Then, don't forget, as with most disorders there is one other way to handle it. Life style changes! Most doctors say you should exercise, get more sunlight, and make sure to sleep at least 8 hours... especially when you have depression! Yes, all that stuff seriously effects your brain chemistry. And of course then there are the other lifestyle changes like being organized and accomplishing goals as well as just plain getting out more.

What you shouldn't say to someone with Depression.

  1. "Just be happy!" - Oh yeah, as if it were really that simple. We cannot change our moods on a whim. I've tried, I really have. I've faked a smile and looked at cute pictures (and videos!) of cats for about an hour before giving up and taking a nap. I've put on comedies. I've tried to think happy thoughts. When you're depressed sometimes you need fuzzy pajamas and tea, not forced smiles and positivity lessons.
  2. "You'll get over it!" - This is a chronic disorder, not an event related sadness. There is nothing to get over. 
  3. Or "Get over it" - Again, there's nothing to get over. Plus, rude. If we could stop being depressed, we really would. Nobody WANTS to be depressed.
  4. Or even "Get over yourself!" - For some reason there's this idea that people who are depressed are really self-centered egoists. I'm not even talking the "killing yourself is selfish" way. (Which, by the way, is another thing you shouldn't say.) Depressed people do have an enhanced level of introspection, especially during episodes, but that doesn't make them selfish. 
  5. "I feel sad sometimes, too." - As stated in this and many other posts, this is not the way to empathize. Sadness is a common and completely okay feeling. Depression is a recurring and painful and extreme level of sadness that changes lives and worlds.
  6. "Stop being lazy." - Depression causes fatigue and apathy, not laziness. Laziness is a term used by people who just think that people simply choose not to do things for no other reason than they don't feel like it. People who are depressed have multiple reasons not to do things.
  7. "You're just seeking attention." - WRONG. If someone is pointing out their depression to you, they're not seeking attention. They're seeking help. And if they are using depression as a means for attention? Then, yet again, they need help. Help them, don't chastise them.

How you can totally help out the clinically Depressed!

It's actually really easy to give depressed people a hand! It's so easy, I can use simple bullet points to describe it! Without even an explanation!

  • Encourage them to seek help for their depression.
  • Give them a nonjudgmental listening ear.
  • Invite them to hang out away from home with you.
  • Go on walks with them.
  • Give them tea, stuffed animals, chocolate, or other simple comfort items.
  • Let them know you're there for them.
  • Let them know everything will be okay.
  • Check up on them to make sure they're taking care of themselves.
  • REMIND them to take care of themselves, like eating.
  • Send them pictures of cats or other adorable things.
  • Send them uplifting videos, quotes, pictures, or stories.
  • Communicate with them.
  • Tell them that they're appreciated.
  • Support them.
  • Help them come up with solutions when they're stuck on a problem.
  • Tell them how great they are.
  • Encourage their talents and passions.
  • Bring them to hang out with pets.
  • Encourage them to learn new things.
  • Help them meet new people.
  • Let them have their moments to decompress and let our their sadness.
  • Make sure they can list at least five positive things about themselves.
  • AND MORE! (Basically, be a good friend.)

My Personal Struggle with Depression.

So I'm already tired as I write this so it won't be as long as the post for anxiety. It might even be about as short as the bit for Focus Disorders! So probably about the length of the one on ODD. Let's find out!

I'm having trouble starting this out. Partially because I'm tired, but also because my depression has sort of just been with me for a majority of my life. Like I can't remember anything that started my depression or when it appeared or anything. For me, it's just kind of been there.

There were times, of course, where I'd have depression rages and I'd text my friends looking for support. There were times where I would cry randomly. There were times I would say screw it all and just go into my bed and sleep all day. It made homework difficult because I could never focus on the work. It made work difficult because the ever present thoughts plagued me. I would lay in bed sometimes simply because I hadn't the motivation to get out of it. I had no interest.

Obviously, my depression is a chronic thing. It goes through ups and downs but it's always there. Sometimes I think I'm good until I have these nagging or intrusive thoughts. I always have this cloud in my brain filled with negative things. It waits for... I don't know what it waits for before it strikes, actually. It's like a complex algorithm that one cannot crack without getting inside my head and visually seeing the variables.

My depression works in conjunction with my anxiety and focus disorder. It's like a weird cycle of emotions and feelings that I don't understand.

See tomorrow for my next mental disorder spotlight!

Oh, and for those of you interested in helping out with the car situation, here is the paypal button and a fancy progress bar! :) Also, here's a quick update on the situation! The car is currently out of commission until further notice. The coolant was leaking and there's some other problems, too. It'll be drivable for work-related purposes as soon as a couple things are done. So it's not a problem there. Sadly, however, it's showing signs that it's getting to be about that time.

New Car Downpayment

Want to donate some Shinies?
Who is this rad giver?
Note: I heard there was trouble with this donation box thingy, so much as I'm going to regret putting my email address out on the net, you can send me paypal monies using the email address bbnewgo @ yahoo . com

In other news, I learned the game "We didn't playtest this at all." It's basically a card-based micro-game that briefly (very briefly) reminded me of munchkins. On each card is an action, and you do that action. For example, there's a duel card where you play rock, paper, scissors, and if anyone chose rock, they lost. I now need to add this to my list of games to get, along with Munchkin and Cards Against Humanity.

As always, Charmed

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mental Disorder Series - Anxiety

I see I got a lot of views already today, so I made finishing this blog post a priority! I'm so pleased to see all the support so far on these issues I and other people deal with. This is day three out of five in my mental health series, where I discuss mental health issues that I currently have and I explain what they're like.

What is an Anxiety Disorder?

"Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained." ~Arthur Somers Roche

Every person experiences some anxieties in their life. They can be big ones or small ones. Some people call anxieties: worries, fears, trepidations, or nervousness. Some anxieties don't fall under this category though. Some are unfocused uneasiness or a kind of rumination.

When anxiety becomes chronic and begins to effect one's life, that's when it falls into the disorder category.

There are many kinds of anxiety disorders including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and various phobias. Just like in the Focus Disorders post, this anxiety post is going to deal with the general aspects of all of these, but mostly focus on generalized anxiety.

So, anxiety disorders are basically uncontrollable, chronic uneasiness, fears, and worries. Yet it often feels physical, too. People with anxiety disorders have moments of quickened heart rhythms and trouble breathing. They feel tension most of the time, even when there is nothing wrong.

Sometimes there are triggers. Sometimes there aren't. Sometimes just thinking about the day can trigger anxiety. And if anxiety gets to be too much? Anxiety attacks. Anxiety attacks are these moments of extreme anxiety where your heart beats fast, your brain is filled with frenzied thoughts, your breathing is fast and shallow. You become almost numb. It's not fun.

Anxiety attacks are slightly different from panic attacks, which is what people with Panic Disorder get. Those almost never have a trigger, but they can have one. The DSM-5 states that both expected and unexpected panic attacks are part of panic disorder. Panic attacks involve sudden intense fear and, well, panic. They involve the fast heart beat as well as the feeling of lack of control. It's pretty paralyzing.

What not to say to somebody struggling with anxiety.

"Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal." ~Albert Camus
  • You're faking it.
    • Nope! Sorry to get in the way of your ignorance, but people with anxiety disorders have a real problem.
  • "Woman/Man Up"
    • I told you all I'd bring this up today! Imagine going through a day at work with frequent periods of dizziness from not being able to breathe correctly combined with quickened heart rate and racing thoughts. Within an hour or so you also get this feeling of dread. It's not a healthy way to work. We will either snap, run away, or start bawling out of nowhere eventually. Why? Because we CAN'T HANDLE IT. Literally can't. And telling us to woman/man up is only going to make things worse. You may not be able to see our mental wall, but it's there.
  • You need to just cut out the stress in your life.
    • That's actually hilarious. If we suddenly could live without going to work, school, or hanging out with friends, we'd still have anxiety! Hermits can have anxiety. Monks can have anxiety. Yoga instructors can have anxiety. Zen masters can have anxiety. Reducing stress helps us cope, but it won't get rid of the anxiety we feel.
  • It's just your imagination.
    • Actually, many anxiety disorders have roots in brain chemistry. So it's actually how our body makes us react. 
    • Not all anxiety has a trigger, which makes the disorder really scary actually. We can be having a great time, dancing at a concert, and suddenly start breathing really fast, all wide eyed, and just want to curl up in the fetal position. That happened to me before, actually. I ended up just standing there for a couple songs.
  • I get anxiety too.
    • EVERYONE gets anxiety some times. It's a normal part of living. Everyone DOESN'T get chronic, debilitating anxiety. Or anxiety attacks. Or panic attacks. According to NIMH, about 40 million people are affected by an anxiety disorder each year. 
  • Have a beer/smoke/drugs.
    • While these things will temporarily help, people with anxiety are highly likely to develop addictions to them, which is not okay. Also, some forms of alcohol and drugs can have adverse effects, making things worse.

How is anxiety treated?

"A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety." -Aesop

Anxiety is treated through a variety of methods, mostly through therapy but also through medication. Medication for anxiety is usually benzodiazepines. These are highly addictive and have terrible withdrawal symptoms, so they are usually only prescribed short term.

There is also a medication called buspirone (an anxiolytic) that is not as widely used, but is approved for treatment of GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder.)

Life style changes can also help, such as avoiding triggers, decreasing stresses, and developing ways to cope.

How you can help someone with anxiety.

"All too frequently, anxiety crushes not only your spirit and your potential, but your ability to take care of your mind and body." ~Jonathan Davidson and Henry Dreher, The Anxiety Book: Developing Strength in the Face of Fear
  1. Don't overreact when they're having an anxiety attack. In fact, don't do anything without asking them first. Some people hate being touched when they have an attack, other people need it. Ask and let them know you're here. Oftentimes they just need your presence and familiarity.
  2. Actually, don't overreact in general if you can help it. Nothing like anxiety and freaking out to trigger... well anxiety and freaking out.
  3. Suggest they seek help. Therapy is amazing for people with anxiety. It can honestly change their lives.
  4. Don't throw them out of their comfort zone. If they tell you something is not okay, it's not okay.
  5. Help them get over their anxieties. Are they afraid of taking the bus to meet you because they get anxiety over putting change in the coin thing? Help them get a prepaid card and show them how to use it. Or go with them on bus rides and put money in for them, offering every once in a while that they try. (And if they decide to, stand there with them while they do it, don't just wander off to your seat.) It is mostly through gentle suggestion that they will overcome their issues.
  6. Don't belittle them. They'll avoid you. (Avoidance is a large complication of anxiety. That and belittling people is a jerk move and nobody wants to be friends with a jerk.)
  7. Check on them. Much like depression, anxiety can effect someone's ability to complete normal daily tasks such as taking a shower, brushing their teeth, or even feeding themselves. It's good to be sure they are taking care of themselves.
  8. Give them tea. Or other relaxing gifts. Foot soaks, hot chocolate, scented candles, bubble bath. Anything that can be used to help calm them down will be an immense help. We also accept chocolate.
  9. Support their goals. Guess what? These champs already think through a ton of issues with what they're doing. If you're going to play Devil's Advocate, please make sure we know you're supporting us first. Otherwise we might get an anxiety attack and scrap the whole idea altogether because damnit nobody thinks we can do it anyways.

My struggle with anxiety.

"I try not to worry about the future, so I take each day just one anxiety attack at a time." -Tom Wilson

My anxiety exists with my every day, in everything I do. It goes up and down, fluctuating constantly. I didn't know what it even was for a very long time. In eighth grade I was told I needed to relax constantly by a friend of mine. Hint: Didn't know how.

Before I knew what I was dealing with, I just constantly felt tension and worry. It was more of a physical feeling than anything most of the time. It would cause me to not turn in homework, act sick to get out school, actually end up sick from the stress, and then just plain avoid things and people altogether. In short, my anxiety was terrible for any hope I had of success.

I often couldn't take care of myself properly.

In 11th grade I took PSEO (post-secondary enrollment options) online. I would forget an assignment due to my focus disorder and then I would avoid the class until I had things done. That semester did not end well at all. It showcased the anxiety-avoidance paradigm. I ended up doing terribly in most of the classes due to this problem.

My anxiety got so bad due to the school issues and issues with my peers that I ended up switching schools my senior year. I don't know what I was thinking, but I took PSEO again. I still did terribly because I still hadn't gotten a handle on my anxiety and avoidance. At least this time I had a campus to go to, right? Nope. It was better for keeping me accountable, but terrible because instead of just avoiding emails, I was avoiding classes. I ended up skipping a couple times because my anxiety was that bad.

Also, the school I switched to was a charter school that did things a bit differently. Charter schools are great. This school was especially great for people who were self-motivated and had the ability to focus. It was project based learning and it was pretty much you creating your own projects and learning at your own pace. Sounds great, right? Yes, except for my anxiety, avoidance, and focus disorder. This cruel combination made me lucky to even graduate on time.

Fast forward a year and I end up in a college where I was studying massage therapy. My anxiety is not just general. I also have a sort of social anxiety. Massage therapy is probably not a good thing to get into if you have social anxiety. Especially not if your goal is to make your own business out of it. I ended up realizing this after not feeling any less anxiety at my third hands-on class as my first. Needless to say I dropped out with about half the credits I needed already completed. I had even gotten a scholarship for the school. But I couldn't handle it, and a future in massage therapy was not for me.

Then comes dealing with work and work related things. I have a lot of retail experience in different places. I worked at a hardware store, at a fast food restaurant, at a hat/costume shop (at a festival), and even as a hostess at a restaurant. Each time things went the same. I was awesome at my job, often getting complimented for my work, but would get bad anxiety. It was either customers, me not learning fast enough, not being fast enough, having too much responsibility being thrust at me, and/or having to handle money. Eventually I would start getting anxiety attacks before and sometimes even during work.

As I started to get more anxiety attacks, my anticipation of working would sometimes cause me to call in sick. Of course, I wasn't always lying. Literally sometimes my anxiety made me sick. I would feel pretty miserable that day. But it would start to become frequent enough that I knew I had to quit because otherwise I was doing the company (and my coworkers who had to cover for me) a disservice.

I ended up just not working or going to school altogether because I couldn't handle it. I tried making my own business. Too much anxiety. Tried writing my own book. Too much anxiety until I moved and somehow managed to get out An Addictive Personality. I tried freelancing and until I moved, I couldn't handle that either.

Obviously moving has helped out my anxiety a lot. I am away from a lot of pressures and stresses. I have a place to live, food to eat, and an amazing fiance who I live with that helps me out a lot. But I still suffer anxiety and get anxiety attacks. In fact, I recently had a severe upsurge of anxiety. I'm not back to my moderate levels yet, but I am getting there. It's a constant struggle and soon I will seek out care for my various disorders.

See tomorrow for my next mental disorder spotlight!

Oh, and for those of you interested in helping out with the car situation, here is the paypal button and a fancy progress bar! :)

New Car Downpayment

Want to donate some Shinies?
Who is this rad giver?
Note: I heard there was trouble with this donation box thingy, so much as I'm going to regret putting my email address out on the net, you can send me paypal monies using the email address bbnewgo @ yahoo . com

In other news, I finally have a registered domain specific to my website! And a business email with that domain! Huzzah! Lookit:

I obviously still need to update things on it, but this is a step in the right direction.

I'll try to post my next blog earlier tomorrow, especially since I'm going to have to queue up this weekend's posts before I leave for Easter. Hopefully the schedule thing works. Oh look, anxiety.

As always, Charmed

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mental Disorder Series - Focus Disorders

Weird title, huh? Inability to focus is technically not a classified mental disorder. ADD is, but according to my psychologist I might not have that because of some of my scores on the IQ test were too high. However, no test could rule out my high level of inability to concentrate and my general distractability.

This being the definite on all levels, it's what I'm going to focus on in my story, but I will call this and everything in this post Focus Disorders. So this post is about and for everyone that exhibits one or more ADD/Focus Disorder like symptoms to a level that effects their daily life.

What are focus disorders?

Focus Disorders are a type of mental issue that involves the inability to focus or concentrate, as well as the higher distractibility rate. (Yes, those are all different things.)

The most common, and therefore named, disorders are ADD/ADHD and Concentration Deficit Disorder or CDD. (I just learned about CDD today and am probably going to bring it up to my psychologist on a later date.)

I'm not going to go into the differences of the two disorders, because that is NOT what this post is about. This post is about the general qualities involved in focus disorders and how they effect people.

What are these general qualities?

  • Inability to focus.
  • Staring blankly/zoning out frequently.
  • Lack of concentration
  • Heightened levels of distraction
  • Anxiety.
  • Sleep Problems.
  • Fatigue/Drowsiness
  • "Bored Easily"
  • Memory Problems
  • Impulsivity
Obviously not every person with every focus disorder is going to have all of these, but they're in a lot of people and a lot of the disorders.

It's important to realize that people with these disorders are not purposely forgetting things, allowing themselves to be distracted, or not just working hard enough. This is a real disorder that causes a lot of real problems and has nothing to do with laziness or apathy. Speaking of these things, let's move on to:

Things you shouldn't say to someone with a focus related disorder.
  1. Try harder - Trust us, we're trying.
  2. You're just being lazy. - No, we're really not. In fact, it takes a lot of extra effort just to do the same things you can do.
  3. Stop letting yourself get distracted. - Honey, I could get distracted even if I was locked in a white walled room with nothing around but the project I'm supposed to be working on.
  4. ADD/CDD/Etc isn't a 'real' disorder. - Actually it is and it effects many, many people. By perpetuating the idea that they aren't real, you're taking away valuable resources from people who need them. We can't just "Woman/Man Up" and just suddenly be able to focus, that's not how this works.
  5. Woman/Man Up - You'll see this again in the anxiety section because it's literally been said to me for that reason but SERIOUSLY PEOPLE. We aren't faking and it's really affecting us terribly when you act like we can just change on a whim. TRUST ME I'VE TRIED.
  6. I get distracted sometimes too. - Okay, while I understand and appreciate the attempt at empathy, your problem could probably be solved by organization, lists, and other methods. And while these things will also help people with focus disorders (see next section,) it won't take away all of our problems. The reason it's a disorder is because no matter what we do, it's still going to get in our way.
  7. Medication is evil, etc. etc. etc. - Alright, this is where debates normally start. Some people have focus disorders because of their brain chemistry. Brain chemistry isn't changed through willpower and organizational strategies. Brain chemistry needs things that effect brain chemistry. Medication. While some people can get by without medication and live mostly normal lives, other people can't.
How are Focus Disorders Treated or Managed?

Well, most people use a combination of methods. While I don't think you can completely treat a focus disorder, they're relatively simple to manage. Note, simple does not mean easy.

There are three main components here: Medication, therapy, and life style changes.

Medication, the ever increasing controversy, is used by many, many an afflicted person. There are both stimulant and nonstimulant versions, each prescribed for their various reasons. Most people get the stimulant medication (such as adderall) whereas people with high irritability or other factors use the nonstimulants (like Strattera.) These medications help the user concentrate.

Therapy, especially behavioral therapy, is another common method of dealing with focus disorders. Most of the time therapy used in conjunction with medication leads to some pretty good results. Besides behavior, therapy is good for all the issues that come with focus disorders, most notably anxiety and depression. Self-worth has a habit of getting damaged when you find yourself falling behind things.

The third common focus disorder management? Life style changes! This is the one that everything thinks will work all the time. I'm on the "hey medication is helpful" side of the debate because I've seen what it can do for people but I'm against ONLY using it. Life style changes? They are amazing. Organization, lists, planning, routines, even diet changes can mean the world! No matter what you do, doing this third thing will boost your ability to do things that much more. Figure out what you need to do and get it done.

How Can You Help Someone with a Focus Disorder?
  1. Reminders. Reminders. Reminders. Please, all the reminders. Not like every second of every day, and as with ODD wording is everything, but reminders are really helpful. "Hey, I asked you to take out the trash earlier, could you take a break and do that now? It's a little full and I'm cleaning." "Just to remind you, we have guests coming over tomorrow." "Hey, how are you doing on ___?"
  2. Don't act like we're super weird for not being able to focus. A lot of people do, which I find very strange. 
  3. Help us organize! Being organized is going to make things that much easier for a person unable to focus. We'll be able to find things and do things and be less distracted!
  4. Suggest we go to therapy. Most disorders of any kind are going to be better through therapy. Why? Because a professional who has studied our disorder can probably give us some pretty good suggestions on what we can do, will help us get past our insecurities AND won't hate us for talking about how much we get distracted all the time!
  5. Encourage the use of lists and other productivity related things. One thing about this productivity movement that has been amazing is the amount of resources it provides for people with focus disorders! Timers, schedules, lists, all optimized to be the best they can are all available at our fingertips. And we should really use them.
  6. Become a part of our routines. Even if we don't have a routine, setting something up at a specific time each week or day like going for a run or meeting for coffee can make our lives that much easier. It's harder to forget something that happens regularly, and it provides a reference point in our lives so we know when something is. (For example, a doctor's appointment after my weekly run with my friend is a lot easier to remember than 9am on Sunday the 5th.)
My Struggle with Focus!

Oh boy, where do I begin? How about at the part where I totally just zoned out for like ten minutes before writing this part? Kidding. (About starting there, not zoning out...)

So when I was a little kid in 1st or 2nd grade I was passing notes between my parents and teacher for a couple days. Later on in life I find what was being said. Apparently they wanted to get me tested for ADD. Why? Well because I couldn't pay attention and I was always very fidgety and prone to daydreams.

This continued. I went to a church where I participated in some of the plays. Other kids were terribly annoyed by me. I wouldn't shut up half the time and I would always fidget. Always. I wouldn't notice until I was shown the recording. I still fidget.

Classes were hard because I couldn't pay attention. 3rd grade I was told I could sit anywhere and work on the math book by myself since I could understand it and could learn from a book pretty easily. Soon enough I fell behind because I could not concentrate on the work. I would find a tiny red spider and follow it on the floor with my pen. I would look out the window. I would daydream. I would create worlds in my mind... And then I would be abruptly brought back to earth when I realized I hadn't completed a single page. I fell a little behind and lost the privilege to self-learn.

Fast forward to any school year in the future. I can't concentrate, I forget my homework, I zone out during important discussions. Somehow I manage to keep decent grades in most of my classes. By some miracle. The higher the grade level the harder it was to maintain that grade's level. I was lucky to graduate. I'm intelligent and I work hard, but I was just plain lucky to graduate.

And why? 

Because of my focus disorder.

See tomorrow for my next mental disorder spotlight!

Also, after reviewing all the research and links that I did, I have found a couple niches that need to be filled. Calling all people to do research and write articles about Productivity Tools for people with Focus Disorders. Also, calling all people for articles on general non-cleaning organization. And on focus disorder life-style changes. Oi. You'd think there would be articles but no, only a few books that briefly touch on such things.

Oh, and for those of you interested in helping out with the car situation, here is the paypal button and a fancy progress bar! :)

New Car Downpayment

Want to donate some Shinies?
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Note: I heard there was trouble with this donation box thingy, so much as I'm going to regret putting my email address out on the net, you can send me paypal monies using the email address bbnewgo @ yahoo . com

In other news, my brain hurts because this post took a long time to research.

Anyone that knows about my food experiment, here's an update for you. The four foods: Onion, Potatoes, Dairy, and Meat are not the only potential problems. After my week last week where I cut them out completely I still experienced digestive issues, though less intense. Because of this I am adding sugar and fried foods to my list of things to try to see if they are causing issues.

This week is onion week and so far I am agreeing with myself that onion plays a role in my digestive problems, though cooked onion is not as bad. So far my verdict is that I'll only buy frozen pre-cut onion to avoid contact with raw and use said onion sparingly. Of course, the week is not up yet. (Oh, and if you have issues cutting onions, throw them in the freezer until they're a little more firm. Cuts down on the onion spray)

I would also like to mention that I'll probably be submitting an essay to Stigma Fighters when I have a chance to create one. I'll have to ask about specific requirements, but it sounds like a blast and is for a great cause.

Also, shoutout to ADDitude for having so many insane resources on their website.

As always, Charmed