While I’m Thinking of It

Tools of the trade are great. When I remember to use them. Image by Freepik

I don’t really remember the last time I posted; it may have been December, for Dragon Age Day. Time has gotten away from me; it tends to do that anyway, but in the strange hellscape that was 2020, it happened even more. Changing the year to 2021 did not magically reset everything. Not that I expected it to! But at least it meant that even 2020 could end (and could be–wait for it–hindsight!) and that a new year could mean new hope.

I’m not one for resolutions; I don’t like setting myself up for failure. The best year was the year I decided I was going to resolve not to do things, because then I wouldn’t feel like I’d failed when I didn’t do something. Reverse psychology, right? But that gets me to thinking. The pandemic has been tough in a lot of ways, and the mental health toll is just one. This past year, working from home with a special needs pre-schooler turned kindergartner, who was also home for a lot of it, had me seriously evaluating some of my mental health more than usual.

Major changes tend to bring out my depression/anxiety more. Starting full-time teaching when I was in my mid-twenties triggered constant panic attacks that eventually led me to being diagnosed with depression/anxiety disorder. I managed pretty well with medication, and have for the most part. I still have some trouble with focus and procrastination though. I love a planner… if I can remember to use it. I love project management theories and tools… if I can remember to use and apply them. Organizational hacks? Fun! If I can recall where I put things or why I set it up in the first place.

I liken my mind this past year to an Internet Explorer window with about 25 tabs open; one is playing music. Another is trying to play a video. I’m not sure which tab is doing which, and I’m trying to catch up all the time. I have a dozen projects I want to start and a dozen more I have started, but haven’t finished. What’s for dinner? Did I make that appointment? I had a list somewhere. What was that? Sorry, I was daydreaming, missed that!

Not me, but a fairly accurate depiction of how I felt most of 2020. From Freepik.

Looking back this isn’t new; it’s a pattern I can trace back to grade school. And I was a horrible procrastinator in high school. I managed decently in college, but took on so much that I kept myself constantly busy, coped by pushing myself and not giving myself the opportunity to fall into some of those patterns. For the most part. Keeping up that coping strategy for the first three years of college took a toll, which I realized when I discovered Lord of the Rings my senior year of college, and that was that for the rest of my undergrad career.

Which brought me to my other pattern: hyperfixation. I can also look back and track obsessive periods: original Legend of Zelda, Edward Scissorhands, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Dragon Age, MCU Captain America and especially Bucky/Winter Soldier (and still Dragon Age)… things that captivated me and demanded my attention. And then in 2018 I started writing Sneakthief, and had many hyper phases on that. And there was that time in 2011 when I was SO into Mass Effect 2 that I played all weekend and forgot to do progress report grades. Oops.

So while I’m thinking of it I’m going to speak more with my PCP about the likelihood of something else besides my depression/anxiety–something that plays well with the two. Medication helps the depression part of it, but that hyperfixation tendency is still there, the fractured thinking is still there, feeling of just KNOWING I need to do a thing, but just. Can’t. MAKE MYSELF do it is still there. Like I said, I love a good checklist… when I remember to make it.

While I’m thinking of it I’m going to do as much as I can during this current mental upswing. I already finished the Sneakthief 5.0 edit, already sent it to a friend for editing. I did groceries, and some frozen meal prep. I booked a vet appointment for my geriatric cat (17.5 years!) and made a note to call for another appointment at another doc for myself. I completed a beta read, and remembered to get cash to repay a friend, and finally wrote out those postcards from an exchange I’d joined up with back at Christmas. I’m taking tomorrow off (it’s my birthday!) and planning a few errands, as well as creating some backlog of content so I can have stuff when I’m not quite so “up” in the future–and I know that will happen.

I don’t post this to be proud of all I got done, but so I can remember the circumstances around it all. That I was in a downward trend as far as focus, productivity, etc. went, and then something clicked and I was able to think (also did not feel the urge to make any crazy impulse purchases recently, another thing that I find myself doing when I’m down). I post to remind myself to take advantage of these moments ‘while I’m thinking of it’. And because I know I’m not alone, and if it hadn’t been for a friend blogging about her strategies for working with her brain rather than against it, I don’t think this weekend could have happened the way it did.

With everything I hope to do with Sneakthief and The Ungifted Series as a whole, I’m going to need to take advantage of these moments of clarity. At least I’m starting to recognize them for what they are, so, while I’m thinking of it, I’m going to go try and get some more stuff done.

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J. R. Rainville

J. R. Rainville is a writer, gamer, and caffeine enthusiast. She's currently working on her original fantasy novel series.

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