Author Archives: Waldo Jeffords

Is Twitter good for my mental health?


I'm new to Twitter (follow me as  @frustratedmess!) which is probably obvious to maybe the one follower who is actually reading my tweets.  I'm trying to follow the etiquette.  I like and retweet other's tweets.  To be honest I think following my favorite blogs has been a little more enjoyable so far (I use Feedly on my phone).  To be even more honest... I was hoping Twitter might be a way to promote my blog.  I don't think that's inappropriate.  A lot of users out there seem to be doing the same thing.

My question, however, is whether this is all good for my mental health.  One thing is for damn sure, it has been very detrimental to my work productivity.  I have had great difficulty concentrating and focusing the past seven or eight work days.  However, I was having problems before I got onto Twitter.  Loss of concentration is a symptom of depression after all.  And I've been mildly cycling these days between depression and a "low grade" hypomania.  Both of those make me vulnerable to distraction and thus my job performance suffers.  It's not clear then how much Twitter is keeping me away from work and how much I'm looking for something else to do since I seem to be unable to get much done.

I got off on a tangent again.   Job performance is not the same as mental health.  So is Twitter good for that?  I'd say yes in that it is reminding me how many people out there deal with mental illness.  It also has pointed me to some interesting articles.  I'm interested in Ketamine treatments for example, even though I don't think I'm a very good candidate for them.  However, there are some clear negatives.  I'm checking on it way too much.  It's a huge distraction.  Even more than Facebook used to be.  The thing I love about the updates of the people I follow is that for the most part they are either informative or honest.  There is very little image crafting.  Obviously people are trying to be funny... but they are trying that to an audience they mostly don't know.  Facebook was so lame because at one point I had crossed paths with all the people on there.  For most of them I didn't want to hear updates on totally awesome things happening in their lives.  So Twitter seems better so far than Facebook... but that's not saying much.

To summarize, my mental health is less than ideal but I don't think Twitter is making it that much worse.  I'm experiencing lows, crying jags, feelings of being overwhelmed.  And I'm cycling back to high energy, racing thoughts, and of course thinking up the next decent tweet.  Am I going to stop?  Absolutely not!

Image credit: My crappy drawing

Is Twitter good for my mental health?

(In which I feel so cool because I joined Twitter)

I'm new to Twitter (follow me as  @frustratedmess!) which is probably obvious to maybe the one follower who is actually reading my tweets.  I'm trying to follow the etiquette.  I like and retweet other's tweets.
To be honest I think following my favorite blogs has been a little more enjoyable so far (I use Feedly on my phone).  To be even more honest... I was hoping Twitter might be a way to promote my blog.  I don't think that's inappropriate.  A lot of users out there seem to be doing the same thing.

My question, however, is whether this is all good for my mental health.  One thing is for damn sure, it has been very detrimental to my work productivity.  I have had great difficulty concentrating and focusing the past seven or eight work days.  However, I was having problems before I got onto Twitter.  Loss of concentration is a symptom of depression after all.  And I've been mildly cycling these days between depression and a "low grade" hypomania.  Both of those make me vulnerable to distraction and thus my job performance suffers.  It's not clear then how much Twitter is keeping me away from work and how much I'm looking for something else to do since I seem to be unable to get much done.

I got off on a tangent again.   Job performance is not the same as mental health.  So is Twitter good for that?  I'd say yes in that it is reminding me how many people out there deal with mental illness.  It also has pointed me to some interesting articles.  I'm interested in Ketamine treatments for example, even though I don't think I'm a very good candidate for them.  However, there are some clear negatives.  I'm checking on it way too much.  It's a huge distraction.  Even more than Facebook used to be.  The thing I love about the updates of the people I follow is that for the most part they are either informative or honest.  There is very little image crafting.  Obviously people are trying to be funny... but they are trying that to an audience they mostly don't know.  Facebook was so lame because at one point I had crossed paths with all the people on there.  For most of them I didn't want to hear updates on totally awesome things happening in their lives.  So Twitter seems better so far than Facebook... but that's not saying much.

To summarize, my mental health is less than ideal but I don't think Twitter is making it that much worse.  I'm experiencing lows, crying jags, feelings of being overwhelmed.  And I'm cycling back to high energy, racing thoughts, and of course thinking up the next decent tweet.  Am I going to stop?  Absolutely not!

Image credit: My crappy drawing

Am I truly unashamed?

Today there is an effort to get #imnotashamed trending on Twitter.  I've tried to do my part by tweeting.  Not sure if multiple tweets by the same user really gets a trend going. 

I've been thinking whether I am completely without shame.  What would that mean?  I've tried to break it down into as many social areas where I could feel shame.

Internal - I don't feel shame when I think about myself.  I feel strongly that having bipolar is nothing to be ashamed of.  It is just as much an illness as any physical illness.  It has been described online as an invisible illness and I agree (mostly… perhaps another blog post lurks there).  Given its near invisibility and how it is wrapped up with one's very thoughts, it is difficult to be unashamed.  If only one could think oneself out of the horrible highs and lows.  But someone with diabetes can't think their pancreas into producing insulin. 

Family - I am proud of my efforts as a father and husband.  I have more or less been the only provider since my wife was pregnant with our first son.  I have held down the same job despite three hospitalizations.  Finding out your child has autism is a huge emotional stress... it's an additional daily stress getting through the day.  I am there for my kids.  Could I do more?  Sure.  I could educate myself on autism, become a better advocate, and get closer with my neurotypical son.  But I do think most of the time I'm doing my best.

Close friendships - I have about three close friends and they all know I am bipolar.  Granted I called all of them when I was manic and something clearly was not right with me.  That behavior could have been swept under the rug as sleep deprivation (maybe).  But I was open with them.  Luckily they all accepted it openly and we remained close friends.  I still worry that one of them doubts it as a "real" illness and that maybe I could overcome it just through willpower.

Acquaintances - Perhaps I feel shame here.  There are lots of other parents I have been acquainted with for some time.  None of them know.  I am afraid how they would react, which I guess is a kind of shame.  Their children are friends with my son and I don't want to jeopardize that based on any prejudices they may have.  Lately I've questioned whether I need to keep silent, but these are casual friends.  The context usually doesn't come up for us to share our internal struggles etc.    

Work - I telecommute.  I don't interact with people face to face.  Letting someone know remotely that I have bipolar just doesn't come up.  Unless someone has difficulty working with me, I don't see why they need to know.  When I needed to go to the hospital I did impulsively let my supervisor know.  That was a huge risk, but it turned out fine.

Public - I don't feel any differently in public because I have bipolar.  However, I'm not going to sport a shirt that says "Bipolar" on it.  My town is not necessarily the most tolerant or forward thinking.  I can't foresee wanting to do that.  It's a bit "in your face" for me.  It shouldn't affect how I interact with a random stranger so why have the shirt?


Online - It takes actions and not just talk to show the lack of shame.  I like to think that my blog, Twitter, and Instagram are some form of evidence.  I've got pictures of myself with clear indicators that I have bipolar (I almost just wrote 'I am bipolar' but changed it).  I'm trying to be candid about my daily struggles on this blog.  Is that enough or is it just too easy?  I can vouch that from a technical perspective having a Blogger blog couldn't be much easier.  It doesn't seem like I'm much of an advocate if all this social media is the equivalent of talking to myself since I have no readers.  At least from my primitive understanding of Google Analytics the only reader appears to be me.  Nevertheless, all this content is out there.  I have no plans of taking it down, so if anyone stumbles across it, they'll find yet one more person out there in the world coping with having a mental illness.

Image credit - my drawing (isn't it obvious?) :)

Do I speak gently or harshly?

Daily prompt for April 6th - Head to your favorite blog.  Scroll down to the third post in the list.  Take the third sentence in the post, and work it into a new post of your own.

One of my new favorite blogs is dad;diagnosed and this post On Advocacy happened to be the third post down.  The third sentence is "Do I speak gently or harshly?"

I have to admit I cheated a bit and went to another blog first, but the sentence was about kidney pain.  This second one I visited... what luck!  It's a quote from the Patimokkha specifically the samma vaca which is about "right speech" in Buddhism.   I don't claim to know a lot about Buddhism.  I did take a course in eastern philosophy but that was a long time ago.  But what an amazingly appropriate excerpt to quote relating to advocacy, the purpose of blogging, and reacting to comments.  If you are interested in any of those things I encourage you to read the post!

However, the prompt is to work it into a new post of my own.  I've already written a "meta" post about blogging and undoubtedly I will write more.  I should reflect on that sentence only.  So here goes...

As a parent I always regret those times I speak harshly.  I almost always wish I had spoke more gently.  It never seems called for after the moment passes.  Perhaps that's because as a depressive perfectionist I am constantly reviewing things I could have done better and beating myself up about it.  In other words, I ruminate as a habit and probably blow things out of proportion as to how bad they really were.  My reflections cannot be trusted.  They are most likely out of touch with reality.

Despite all that, I am confident that I have gone overboard at times.  And haven't all parents?  My mom told me she would sometimes pray at night for God to make us forget that day, that she had been too rough with us.  I don't remember her that way so maybe God answered her prayers!

It's easy to think that one should speak gently, but obviously takes a great deal of mindfulness to maintain that.  It doesn't help when Curly Jones lashes out by swiping my glasses, slapping, or even biting.  It can be extremely difficult to speak gently then.  But dramatic reactions and harsh tones only end up encouraging him more.  It has become an exercise in mindfulness to be aware that at any time he is capable of exploding at you, and to be prepared for how I will react.  We talked to his therapist a few weeks ago and one of the things she simplified for us was that he is probably doing it because he wants something or wants to get out of something.  Our goal must be to not let him get out of something if he behaves that way.  We must pause and then continue what we were doing.  It is hard!

Image credit: Dharma wheel

Do I speak gently or harshly?

Daily prompt for April 6th - Head to your favorite blog.  Scroll down to the third post in the list.  Take the third sentence in the post, and work it into a new post of your own.

One of my new favorite blogs is dad;diagnosed and this post On Advocacy happened to be the third post down.  The third sentence is "Do I speak gently or harshly?"

I have to admit I cheated a bit and went to another blog first, but the sentence was about kidney pain.  This second one I visited... what luck!
It's a quote from the Patimokkha specifically the samma vaca which is about "right speech" in Buddhism.   I don't claim to know a lot about Buddhism.  I did take a course in eastern philosophy but that was a long time ago.  But what an amazingly appropriate excerpt to quote relating to advocacy, the purpose of blogging, and reacting to comments.  If you are interested in any of those things I encourage you to read the post!

However, the prompt is to work it into a new post of my own.  I've already written a "meta" post about blogging and undoubtedly I will write more.  I should reflect on that sentence only.  So here goes...

As a parent I always regret those times I speak harshly.  I almost always wish I had spoke more gently.  It never seems called for after the moment passes.  Perhaps that's because as a depressive perfectionist I am constantly reviewing things I could have done better and beating myself up about it.  In other words, I ruminate as a habit and probably blow things out of proportion as to how bad they really were.  My reflections cannot be trusted.  They are most likely out of touch with reality.

Despite all that, I am confident that I have gone overboard at times.  And haven't all parents?  My mom told me she would sometimes pray at night for God to make us forget that day, that she had been too rough with us.  I don't remember her that way so maybe God answered her prayers!

It's easy to think that one should speak gently, but obviously takes a great deal of mindfulness to maintain that.  It doesn't help when Phillip lashes out by swiping my glasses, slapping, or even biting.  It can be extremely difficult to speak gently then.  But dramatic reactions and harsh tones only end up encouraging him more.  It has become an exercise in mindfulness to be aware that at any time he is capable of exploding at you, and to be prepared for how I will react.  We talked to his therapist a few weeks ago and one of the things she simplified for us was that he is probably doing it because he wants something or wants to get out of something.  Our goal must be to not let him get out of something if he behaves that way.  We must pause and then continue what we were doing.  It is hard!

Image credit: Dharma wheel

Bipolar On Fire Blog


Daily prompt - Share the love - Tell us about another  blogger who has influenced your own online journey.


I've been reading a lot of bipolar related blogs at the Bipolar Blogger Network and one of my favorites is Bipolar On Fire.  There is a wonderful mix of honesty, humor, and stream of consciousness coping with bipolar that I think many blogs aspire to.  For example, in this post the author makes light that her most read post is about a celebrity's anus.  Not to say that the she isn't aware of general knowledge and trends that are out there in relation to mental health.  For example, in this post she summarizes and reflects on spoon theory and why she thinks it is suspect.  Overall I find myself interested in her struggles, her daily life, her well being, and her insights.

So how has she influenced my own "online journey"?  I guess I'd like the same combination of humor and daily life that I mentioned earlier.  I'm not striving to report the latest bipolar research or summarize psychology and psychiatry.  There are lots of blogs and resources that do that.  I do want a kind of diary but with larger reflections about what it means to be bipolar.  Nobody cares that much what you had for breakfast... unless perhaps breakfast represents a challenge related to bipolar... or you made an exotic meal because you were manic... or you had leftover pizza because you were depressed.  I take that back, breakfast could be interesting.

Image credit: drawn by me (can't you tell?) :)

Bipolar On Fire Blog

I've been reading a lot of bipolar related blogs at the Bipolar Blogger Network and one of my favorites is Bipolar On Fire.  There is a wonderful mix of honesty, humor, and stream of consciousness coping with bipolar that I think many blogs aspire to.  For example, in this post the author makes light that her most read post is about a celebrity's anus.  Not to say that the she isn't aware of general knowledge and trends that are out there in relation to mental health.  For example, in this post she summarizes and reflects on spoon theory and why she thinks it is suspect.  Overall I find myself interested in her struggles, her daily life, her well being, and her insights.


So how has she influenced my own "online journey"?  I guess I'd like the same combination of humor and daily life that I mentioned earlier.  I'm not striving to report the latest bipolar research or summarize psychology and psychiatry.  There are lots of blogs and resources that do that.  I do want a kind of diary but with larger reflections about what it means to be bipolar.  Nobody cares that much what you had for breakfast... unless perhaps breakfast represents a challenge related to bipolar... or you made an exotic meal because you were manic... or you had leftover pizza because you were depressed.  I take that back, breakfast could be interesting.

Image credit: drawn by me (can't you tell?) :)

Good news finds it way in

Great news!  Curly Jones went to get checked by the school nurse and he is lice free and was able to return to school.  Thank goodness.  We feel like we can breath a little easier and the house is feeling more like a home than a source of infestation.

After a morning of getting little work done, I have moved into bed with my laptop.  While extremely cozy, this is an undoubtedly bad idea.  I think I’m making the odds a million to one that I get anything else done.  I’m not entirely sure why I’m so unproductive today.  I can’t quite distinguish the boundaries between anxiety, apathy, and a general unwillingness to work.  My performance last week is starting to feel like a predictor of this week.  Very anxious about my task for this week, have to turn some of the software upside down to do something it was not initially designed to do.  That is intimidating.  Each minute wasted feeds into the anxiety and makes it all that more overwhelming.  Nothing new there, that’s how dodging work always feels to me.  It’s never very satisfying and I can’t relax that night knowing how little I got done.

Besides anxiety and apathy, the recently discovered fun of Twitter and Feedly are a huge distraction.  I’m collecting blogs to read and people/organizations to follow.  It’s as if I’m just now discovering all that is out there on the Internet about bipolar and autism.  Unfortunately for Curly Jones, most of the autism content is anecdotal and will not directly help me be the best dad I can be for him. I still think it’s a good thing for me to read about other dads that have kids with autism even if there aren’t specific techniques or anything like that. It feels like an act of acceptance and one step closer to getting educated and becoming his advocate.

Mary called with more great news that APD is going to cover all of Curly Jones’s tuition to go to camp this summer.  This is absolutely fantastic as it could cost us up to $1,250 to send him to camp for five weeks.  Now we won’t have to worry about that cost at all!  Something to be truly grateful for today!

Good news finds it way in

Great news!  Phillip went to get checked by the school nurse and he is lice free and was able to return to school.  Thank goodness.  We feel like we can breath a little easier and the house is feeling more like a home than a source of infestation.

After a morning of getting little work done, I have moved into bed with my laptop.  While extremely cozy, this is an undoubtedly bad idea.  I think I’m making the odds a million to one that I get anything else done.  I’m not entirely sure why I’m so unproductive today.  I can’t quite distinguish the boundaries between anxiety, apathy, and a general unwillingness to work.
My performance last week is starting to feel like a predictor of this week.  Very anxious about my task for this week, have to turn some of the software upside down to do something it was not initially designed to do.  That is intimidating.  Each minute wasted feeds into the anxiety and makes it all that more overwhelming.  Nothing new there, that’s how dodging work always feels to me.  It’s never very satisfying and I can’t relax that night knowing how little I got done.

Besides anxiety and apathy, the recently discovered fun of Twitter and Feedly are a huge distraction.  I’m collecting blogs to read and people/organizations to follow.  It’s as if I’m just now discovering all that is out there on the Internet about bipolar and autism.  Unfortunately for Phillip, most of the autism content is anecdotal and will not directly help me be the best dad I can be for him. I still think it’s a good thing for me to read about other dads that have kids with autism even if there aren’t specific techniques or anything like that. It feels like an act of acceptance and one step closer to getting educated and becoming his advocate.

Mary called with more great news that APD is going to cover all of Phillip's tuition to go to camp this summer.  This is absolutely fantastic as it could cost us up to $1,250 to send him to camp for five weeks.  Now we won’t have to worry about that cost at all!  Something to be truly grateful for today!

The Lice Chronicles Part I

(In which my son gets lice)
I realize that is a horrifying picture over there.  It expresses a bit of the terror I am feeling after yesterday.  This is part I of the “Lice Chronicles”.  I am desperately hoping there is no part II.

Thursday was an example of how a crisis can sometimes override a mood. I was lucky enough that while I am struggling with what seems to be mild cycling, I was not so depressed that I couldn't rise to the challenge nor was I manic and unable to maintain the necessary focus.

I had stepped away from work to attend a “poetry cafe" that Jacob’s gifted class had worked so hard on. Mary and I had just enough time to hear Jacob's poems before Phillip's teacher called to inform us he had lice!  Perhaps it is an overstatement to call it a crisis, but we had to spring into action.  Every member of the family had to apply lice shampoo and comb out any bugs and nits.

It turns out that only Phillip actually had lice so there was minimal work for the rest of us. But, when you have lice, you need to comb it all out. That means we spent almost two hours trying to comb a nonverbal four year old with autism.  For the situation, he was incredibly well behaved and cooperative.  He did not jump, scream, or struggle to get away.  Only toward the end did he attempt biting us a few times.  But no hitting.  Despite all that, he would not keep his head still.  The shampoo recommends combing for two hours for shoulder length hair.  For Phillip, we probably should have spent four hours doing it.  We could only hope we got it all.  Turns out the next morning Mary found two more nits.

Mary and I had a big misunderstanding.  I wanted to shave my head but was concerned that she should check my head first to make sure I didn’t have lice.  She actually wanted the same thing.  I thought she was trying to talk me out of shaving my head.  I stupidly went ahead and shaved it without checking.  So now there is no way to know if I actually had lice.  Furthermore, it is my responsibility to look for lice in Mary’s hair.  If you’ve never done it before… it’s hard.  I can’t stand it’s my responsibility alone to determine if she is lice-free.

As far as my suspected cycling, I still think I am.  This has been a huge stress.  I was able to focus a little more on work the next day but still spent a good deal of time unfocused, distracted, anxious, and antsy.  I am just hoping so much that we have got our family, bedding, and house free of lice.  It’s so disgusting.

Here's my first selfie for this blog showing my new hairdo.  A week ago I never would have thought I'd put a picture of myself on here.  However, the hypomania has caused me to create an Instagram account and Twitter account.  I've got selfies all over those accounts.  So what difference does it make?  Not sure... I sense another blog post about privacy lurking in there.

Image credit: Wikipedia Head Louse