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Chad and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Brain

Bipolar Disorder is a moving target. Its effects vary from episode to episode, and a treatment that might be effective for months or even years can suddenly stop working. Treating it is a challenge. Staying stable is a challenge. Accomplishing anything, no matter how small, is a victory.

And it’s a victory I haven’t enjoyed very much in the past couple of years.

Before about seven years ago, I would have bouts of hypomania. Hypomania is awesome. I would be full of energy, whole novels would dump themselves into my head in a single afternoon, I felt like I could do anything. I could go without sleep and not feel the effects. I would think fast, and talk fast. If I was a little incomprehensible to people around me, who cares? I was on a higher plane than they were. I could do anything.

Eventually, though, that would turn toxic and I would crash into a depression. No energy, little coherent thought, getting through the day was a challenge. I would obsess about various ways I could kill myself, but lacked the wherewithal to do anything about it. If anything, this just made me feel worse, like I was a failure even at this.

I rode this cycle until about seven years ago, when the cycle of hypomania and depression stopped, and I began instead to go between stages or normal and mixed episodes. Mixed episodes are awful. You have all the energy of mania, with all the negative thoughts and anxiety of depression. In hypomania, you want to climb a mountain. In a mixed episode you want to climb a mountain so you can throw yourself off it.

Back in 2008, when I was in the middle of one of these mixed episodes, I went to my GP. He consulted some kind of web app, looked up Bipolar Disorder, and put me on Abilify.

If anything, this was worse. I was a zombie. Walking across the room was a struggle. My wife saw I was struggling and planned a family trip, hoping to cheer me up. It was a really great trip, but I don’t remember much of it. It was hard to even stay awake. I stopped taking the Abilify, but was still having the crushing anxiety and elevated anger of the mixed episode.

So we found a specialist. He diagnosed me officially with bipolar disorder, and put me on a mood stabilizer. I wasn’t fixed, but it was better.

All through this time I was trying to write. in 2007 I finished a novel, and in early 2008, before the mixed episode, I started another one. Then, with all of the cycles, writing became difficult. Hypomania gone, I found my ideas just weren’t coming anymore. The prose was bland. I hated everything I wrote. I managed to get past it and write anyway, and even sold a couple of stories, but I wasn’t happy with it. I came to the place where I thought I might now write anything good again.

This continued for several years. I got out of the habit of writing every day. I worked on editing my first novel, but had to admit it just wasn’t working and abandoned it. This only made me feel worse. I used to love this, why couldn’t I do it anymore. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had always defined myself as a writer. What was I going to do if I didn’t have that any more. More years passed. I wrote a couple of short stories, but they didn’t sell.

Last year, I decided to pull out the novel I started in 2008. As I read it, I got excited. It wasn’t perfect, but It was pretty good. The voice was entertaining and the plot, which I had written by the seat of my pants, actually hung together pretty well. I loved the characters. If I had once been capable of this, might I be capable again. I just needed to make myself do it.

So in July of last year I signed up for camp Nano. This is like NaNoWriMo except you set your own goal. I set mine for 30,000 words. Doable, I thought. I was fine for the first three weeks, then the fourth week an episode hit and I got nothing done. I ended up writing only 20,000 words, which wasn’t bad for a month’s output, but I didn’t meet my goal.

I read what I’d written and I hated it. I put my writing away for several months. Eventually, I wrote another short story, which didn’t sell. For a year I was pretty stable, but was accomplishing nothing. I wasn’t falling into mixed episodes, but wasn’t able to get much done.

I also gained about forty pounds, which only made things worse.

This summer I finally talked to my specialist about. He decided to try an anti-depressant long with my mood stabilizers. After a few weeks, I started to feel better. I wasn’t writing, but I was able to get stuff done during my day and had more energy. I got sick of looking at myself in the mirror and decided to start running again, hoping this would help me continue to balance out. I set myself for running in the 5k color run coming up in October.

In August I looked at all I had written so far on the novel, and I had to admit, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was definitely salvageable. I decided I had worked on it long enough that it was time to finish it. It had been since 2007 since I’d finished something long form, and that was just unacceptable. I set myself another goal. I would have this book done by my birthday in January. In September I started writing again setting myself a goal of writing 1000 words a day, five days a week.

If I was going to do this, I needed a plan. Even on all my meds, organizing my day is hard for me, and I often come to the end finding I hadn’t accomplished mush. This had to stop. So, I got myself a notebook, wrote out a schedule and a to-do list for each day, and tried my best to stick with it.

It worked! I was meeting my writing goals, continuing to run, and (mostly) keeping up with all the housework and laundry.

So with the combination of mood stabilizers, anti-depressants, and exercise I feel like I’m functioning again. I’ve been in a better mood. The book is 2/3 of the way done, and none of the pets have died.

I don’t know how long it’s going to last. Like I said, it’s a moving target.  But for now, I’ll take it.

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Posted by on September 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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In the Interest of Not Being a Sarcastic Jackass All the Time part 2

I’ve done this before. It’s inspired by the great folks on Pop Culture Happy hour. It’s nice to take stock and look at the good things that are happening once in a while, so here are 5 things that are making me happy right now.

1. Stupid Summer TV is here! Summer is traditionally seen as a a dumping ground for all the shows the networks didn’t feel strongly enough about to show during the actual TV season, and for the large part, that is true. But the good news is that I like stupid stuff. I like goofball ideas and experimentation. So bring on Primeval New World, Under the Dome, Siberia, Sinbad, and all the rest.

And oh, Sinbad. This is the platonic ideal of a silly summer show. Just in the first episode Sinbad: won a street fight, stole an artifact from a mysterious father-daughter duo, got chased by guards, got captured by Sayid from Lost, got his brother killed, broke out of prison,was cursed by his grandma, got chased by guards again, stole away on a ship, discovered a perky thief, was thrown in the brig, sailed into the middle of a storm, battled water demons, saved perky thief from drowning, guided the ship through a tidal wave, found himself and his companions lost on the high seas.

Again, this was just the first episode. It wasn’t even double size or anything, just an hour in length. It’s new on the Syfy channel, but it probably first aired in Canada or something.

2I finally replaced my laptop. My old laptop was five years old, and though it was mostly working it had this annoying habit of turning itself off for no reason while I was in the middle of doing something. At first I thought it was overheating, so I bought it a cooling pad, but this didn’t seem to help. Recently, I became able to afford it so I replaced it.

My new laptop has 8 gigs of ram and a terabyte hard drive. Do I need 8 gigs of ram and a terabyte hard drive? Not really, but it’s nice to know it’s there. It runs on Windows 8, which is a mixed bag because windows 8 has a habit of forgetting it has things like, oh, say, wifi, but this is a minor annoyance and doesn’t happen very often. Beside, there are time it would be very good for me to have a computer that doesn’t have wifi. And it doesn’t turn itself off for no reason.

3. I have a couple of days this week to get caught up. The kids are home from school now, which means my writing time has been curtailed to say the least. I have a short story that needs editing, and a novel that needs an updated outline and a new start. So when my wife had to go to a conference in Santa Cruz, I decided to go with her, which would leave me a couple of days in a hotel room with nothing to do but write (and yes, watch TV and surf the internet, but I’m really trying to avoid those things). This blog post is the first result of that time, so so far I am doing ok.

4. My wife and I are taking an actual vacation. And no, I am not counting the Santa Cruz trip. It’s our fifteenth wedding anniversary in August, but she’ll be working, training teachers at a conference in San Diego, But the kids are going away to camp in July and we decided to take that time for an early anniversary trip. We are going back to Seattle, which is where we spent our honeymoon. Hopefully this will be a better trip since on our honeymoon we both got the stomach flu and spent two days retching in our hotel room. It was not very romantic.

My wife, the travel planning expert, has a lot of stuff planned. It should be a lot of fun.

5. Perry. I finally broke down and gave into the begging and let my daughter get a new puppy. She wanted something small that could live in the house with us with a minimum of fuss (we have a bigger dog who stays mostly outside because every time he comes in he pees on something). She selected a Yorkshire terrier and we found a breeder who didn’t want to charge $1000 for one. We brought it home last Thursday and the thing breaks the cuteness scale. The best part is I get to play with the dog, enjoy hanging out with it, bask in its adorability, and hand it over to my daughter to train and clean up its messes. I imagine it’s something like having a grandchild. We named it Perry, mostly so that we could look at each other and say “Hey, where’s Perry?” (yes we are big fans of Phineas and Ferb)

anyway, here’s a pic: Image

And that’s five things that are making me happy right now. I’d love to hear about yours.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2013 in culture, life, writing

 

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What’s Happening (now)

It has been so long since I posted that I was afraid that I had forgotten the password to log in and was going to have to start a new blog entirely. But I remembered, obviously, which means I am reusing passwords and will soon be hacked at all sites I log into.

I probably shouldn’t have typed that out loud. Just…a…sec…Never mind, I have changed all of my passwords.

The last year has been a strange one, lots of standing in place while events move around me, like I’m the main character in a badly plotted novel.

I put my writing on hold for a while, not on purpose but because I just wasn’t in the headspace to do it. The novel is still there, between drafts, waiting for me to come back to it. I have the characters and the setting, but the plot needs work. And the plot is kind of an important element here.

I have worked on a couple of short stories. I actually have three of them sitting around right now, and one that’s almost ready. Two of these have been sent out and rejected once without being sent out again. I am bad at submitting and that’s kind of an important step in all of this, I know. It’s not that I’m afraid of rejection, per se. I know I’m going to get rejected. lots. It’s more like I have trouble letting the stories be what they are and go out there into the world without feeling the need to tweak them just one more time. 

My mental state has been mixed. I’ve had no major mixed episodes, a few minor ones. I had a few days last week where all I wanted to do was sleep and brood, and the brooding was related to nothing that was actually going on. But there’s been nothing like the incident two years ago when I had to be babysat to avoid being hospitalized.

This year has been really hard financially, but things are looking up in that department, freeing me to treat writing like it’s an actual job, which is what I intend to do going forward.

But that’s what’s happening now. I plan to blog more, aiming for two posts a week, depending on if I have something to say or not. I imagine I will, if twitter is any indication.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2013 in life, writing

 

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Quick Update

Still alive. Most days, at least.

I have started the novel over. yes, again. This means I have thrown out a 120,000 word draft of this thing, and then thrown out another 15,000 words (or not, depending.) I think I don’t know if I hate the book or not, at this point, but it clearly hates me.

I am taking a breather and working on some short stories. Some of these aren’t going any better, but at least the drafts aren’t so long.

I did not even pretend to do NaNo this year. At some point in the last couple of months I started getting really concerned about my writing, which then made me afraid of it a little bit, so the thought of writing 50,000 words in one month, or trying to, sent me into convulsions. It may be that I need to adjust my meds. I didn’t used to be this much of a pussy.

I’m declaring December a get shit done month so I can finally make some headway on all these projects, and wrestle the opening of the novel to the ground. Once done; I’ll feel much better.

It gets better after you break through the wall, right?

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2011 in life, writing

 

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And now is the time on sprockets when we dance.

My weekend of pretending I am a for realz writer person paid off in the added motivation I needed to finish the first draft of the short story I’ve been working on for three gorram months now. It is, of course, terrible, but since when has that ever stopped anyone? The job now is to go through it, change every instance of the thing I decided to change halfway through without going back to the beginning, somehow make the plot make sense, try to evaluate objectively whether or not the stunt-writey thing I was trying actually works (outside experts may need to be called in here), and probably cry a lot. If I drank, there would be a lot of that too.

But it’s a first draft. This was no particular call for submissions for this so I had to sort through the chaos myself to find something that worked on its own, which could be a good or bad thing, depending. My three sales have all been written to specific prompts, so take that for what you will.

But I still like the idea of the story, and the characters, and the basic set-up. I just need to make sure it pays off at the end, not to mention makes sense somewhere outside of my own head. This last part is the biggest challenge, since I have trouble coming up with a grocery list that makes sense outside of my own head.

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Now What?

So I have a couple week’s distance on the book. And am finishing up a short story I wrote both because 1. the idea had been bugging me and patiently waiting, 2. I need a palate cleanser between drafts, and 3. I would like to have something I can shop around now. I’m now taking a serious look at what it’s going to take to get this novel into fighting shape.

Good point 1: I still like it.

Good point 2: There’s still a workable spine for the story. I didn’t break the narrative the way I did the last one I wrote and never finished revising because of the aforementioned borken narrative. (the long Manic episode that followed didn’t help either. Nor did the following crash).

My wife will be happy to know this because she has been insisting that it would possibly be nice if I actually FINISHED SOMETHING. ahem.

The problem is two-fold:

I need to cut about 20,000 words out of it.

I need to completely expand the final act.

Yes, I realize these things kind of conflict. I’m on it.

But mostly what I see in it is that I held back from some aspects of the story because I thought they would be a little too expected at certain points, and my instinct has always been to avoid trite-ness. What I forgot was that this is a very specific kind of genre piece, and those things I held back from might actually be necessary to give the full experience a reader might want from it. I want this thing to feel satisfying at the end of it. The trick will be to satisfy those expectations in unexpected ways, not ignore them altogether.

I guess what I mean is I want this book to be even more of what it is. And I’m kind of excited about that.

But I have no clue where those 20,000 words are coming from.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Victory and Da Feet (not a typo!)

After a week-long final push, during which I wrote 4 chapters, I have finally finished the first Draft of Voyages of the Prodigal: The Calculus of Hope. (btw, searching for a new title since this one is striking me as a little to Obama-y, not that that’s necessarily a bad thing). Let’s just say those final chapters are not the most brilliant writing I’ve ever produced, but as I’ve said before the first draft is all about the narrative. I’ll pretty-it-up later.

So now … there’s a short story I want to write this week, and then I will attack the book again in the re-write. I’m actually looking forward to that since I figured some things out on the first pass I want to bring forward a bit. And I still like the story. The ending could make more sense, but the spine of the thing is intact. It was a lot of fun to come up with since it’s just a fun adventure story, sort of a cross between a Planetary Romance, and a Space Opera (and yes, there is a fine distinction there). NOT hard sci-fi by any means.

I celebrated by doing several loads of laundry, during the course of which I went out to the garage to switch loads and stepped on a pretty big piece of glass from something the cat had knocked off a shelf and lacerated my foot badly enough that it required stitches, not to mention a tetanus shot. Yes, I am the one person alive who can injure themselves doing laundry. But it’s fine now. Still hurts like a mofo, but the doctor said I hadn’t hit the artery or severed a tendon, which I had not even realized were possibilities. Note to self: wear shoes in the garage because when you are carrying a huge basket you tend not to look down at the floor.

And while I’m glad this draft is finished, I don’t want to get too happy because there’s a lot of work left to do, and it would be easy to lose track of it here. But this is the draft actual beta readers will see (recruiting now!), so that in itself will be motivating. I think I might dole it out chapter by chapter to see if the whole serial-cliffhangery structure is actually working.

So, one draft down, probably many more to come. But it’s there, the story. Let’s hope it can start to make sense somewhere outside of my own head.

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2010 in life, writing

 

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