Journal Thrive

My Issue with the Cognitive Function Nonsense

Let’s take a moment to talk about That Guy From That Thing going on about how he “aced” the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. He behaves as if he’d received an invitation to join Mensa. He wants to imply that it validates his competence to do his current job. Neither of which are reflected by that test. My issue with the cognitive function nonsense has nothing to do with him. It’s the way that it implies that people that do have impairments are somehow less-than.

I have also recently scored well on that same test… and I have a cognitive function disorder. My issues come and go, based on stress, sleep, and other factors. How I score could have varied if I’d taken it during a different part of the day. Passing the test doesn’t mean I’m free and clear. The ability to name animals and repeat words in order doesn’t qualify me to, say, be the guardian of a massive nuclear arsenal.

But having an impairment doesn’t mean I’m wholly incapable, either. It means I need help with specific things. There’s a reason I have a set schedule. My desk is surrounded by white boards and calendars because they compensate for sporadic memory problems. I take my bullet journal with me everywhere I go because it not only allows me to write things down so I don’t forget, but the act of writing things down helps me to remember.

Imagine what I could do if I were surrounded by competent advisors, certified experts, and virtually unlimited resources. Cognitive issues wouldn’t be the thing keeping me from doing my job exceedingly well. I’m fairly sure it’s not his problem, either.

Harriet Tubman, Disabled Badass

One of my favorite humans, Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, posted a video the other day detailing an often-overlooked fact about Harriet Tubman. She was conductor on the underground railroad, served as a nurse and a spy during the American Civil War, and did all sorts of amazing and badass things. What we’re never told is that she did them in spite of a traumatic brain injury and a pretty wicked seizure disorder. Talk about cognitive function problems! No one credible is going to assert that Tubman was anything other than intelligent and competent.

My Issue with the Cognitive Function Nonsense

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About Berin Kinsman

Berin Kinsman is a writer, game designer, and owner/publisher at Dancing Lights Press. An American by accident of birth, he currently lives in Finland with his wife, artist Katie Kinsman.

Journal Thrive

Interlude: Working Around It

This post is being written in the throes of an executive dysfunction episode. Please run any word salad or odd transitions through that filter. I normally medicate with caffeine, which keeps me focused. The stress of the current world situation is triggering my anxiety, which makes my cognitive issues worse. It also sets my digestive issues in motion, which leads to a lack of sleep, which leads to further difficulties staying focused. The stomach issues require me to cut back on coffee (and eat a bland diet) for several days, which means I’m not getting as much caffeine, so I’m essentially screwed until my gut settles down a bit. I’ve had to find ways of working around it.

Basically my attention span is about 10 minutes, max. It’s hard for me to read, watch a television show, or write. I need to set timers when I cook, so I don’t wander off and forget what I’m doing and set the kitchen on fire. When I walk into the bedroom to fold laundry I see the bed, and decided to take a quick nap. As soon as I lay down I remember something that I need to do, and get up to write it down. Walking to my desk to grab my bullet journal I see there are a few dishes to be done, so I decide to do that. And so on, and so on, and the laundry is still not folded, no nap has been taken, the idea was never written down, and the dishes aren’t done. I just keep walking in circles.

Working Around It

I had to set aside the writing project that I was working on. My brain has decided that it doesn’t want to do that. Not for 10 minutes, not for a one-page word sprint, not for anything. It’s like trying to get a fussy baby to eat their peas. They just keep turning their face away and throwing a fit. Which is distressing, because if I don’t constantly release new content, I can’t pay the bills.

Fortunately, my fickle brain has latched onto something. There’s an old project that I set aside years ago because I couldn’t figure out how to make it work. About a week ago I had a flash of inspiration. Everything fell into place. Now it’s the only thing my brain wants to work on. Eat? Sleep? Shower? Nah, just work on this project. In the past 3 days I’ve written 92 pages. At this rate it’ll be ready for release next week.

I’m not going to argue. While I’m not moving forward in the direction I’d planned, I’m getting something done. If this is what my brain wants to do, that’s what I’m going to do. I think it’s going to sell well. The fact that I can work without caffeine and allow my gut to heal is a bonus. That it keeps me distracted from the news is a balm for my nerves. I’ve accepted that this is what I need to be doing right now.


Create Journal Thrive

I Realized I Was Beginning to Spiral

My plans for the weekend include writing project plans, outlining the next several books, and watching the train wreck that will be Wrestlemania 36. The latter warrants its own post next week, after it’s over. On Friday I realized I was beginning to spiral. It was a mixture of anxiety and executive dysfunction. I need to drop back, center myself, and refocus.

The other day I talked about how having a stocked pantry makes me feel safe. When my executive dysfunction kicks into gear, cooking becomes “base”. Anxiety makes it difficult for me to organize my thoughts. I need to land, write things down in my bullet journal, and follow lists and routines. Otherwise, I will walk in circles, bouncing from one task to another, and not get much of anything done.

Cooking, and more recently baking, force me to focus. Follow the recipe. Carry out the step-by-step instructions. Pay attention so I don’t burn the place down. It calms me. I’m back in control. This is why I feel like I’ve gotten very little writing done, and I haven’t released anything this week, but I’ve got sandwich bread, banana muffins, chocolate cupcakes, kim chi, sauerkraut, cole slaw, and four jars of sourdough starter.

Writing this blog has had a similar effect. It’s allowed me to collect all of the random data and news stories about the pandemic and put them in some sort of order. As I see patterns, I can share what I see. I’ve been able to express my feelings about what’s happening in the world. That’s net good.

I Realized I Was Beginning to Spiral

I need to be working, though. I’m not beating myself up for taking time for self-care, because that’s what this is. We’re eating, I’m sharing. Somehow I need to mitigate this, and redirect my energies into doing the things that pay the rent. The New York Times ran an article encouraging people to stop trying to be productive with the newfound downtime. Some of us still have to work. What’s going on inside of our flats remains the same. It’s the world outside that’s changed.

That’s the part that I need to keep in mind. We don’t need to go out. There’s enough food to last us a good month or more, even if it gets down to eating lentils and rice. While the pandemic has affected us and will inevitably do so for months and years to come, right now, in this moment, I’m okay. I need to just worry about hitting my deadlines, and carry on as if nothing apocalyptic is happening.



Journal Thrive

Rise of the Ableist Supermen

There was a time when I was critical of people who, in my perception, wasted time on trivial things. This was always in conjunction with them complaining that they had no time for seemingly more important tasks. Taking 30 minutes to cook a meal, for example, was declared to¬† be impossible. Reading was a luxury they didn’t have enough hours in the day for. But in the next breath they invariably talked about how many hours they spent binge-watching Netflix, playing an MMO, or just dorking around on social media. I would like to offer my apologies. Sincerely. I was not aware that in holding those views, I was enabling the harmful myth of the ableist supermen.

A few days ago a well-known writer in my publishing niche tweeted out that he was tired of people saying they can’t find time to write. When he was starting out, he worked 70 hours a week. He got up at 5 am every morning and went to a coffee shop. That’s how he wrote his first two books. The post was tone-deaf, cringey, and incredibly condescending . The implication was one familiar to all of us with physical or mental health issues, or just complicated life situations: you’re lazy. You say you can’t, but you only need to try harder. It was easy for me, so I don’t understand why it’s so difficult for you.

I’m Trying to Be Kinder

It’s been a while since I’ve regularly posted about my daily word count and such. I realized that I was making some people feel bad. This is my full-time job. While I do have to deal with depression, anxiety, and executive dysfunction, I get to allocate a significant number of spoons to writing. Working from home I have the luxury of going and taking a nap if I need one. Being self-employed, I can flex my work schedule to suit my needs as long as I meet my deadline. I recognize that this is a privilege. It is unreasonable for most people to be a prolific as I am, because I am in an incredibly fortunate situation.

As my own issues have progressed, I have also learned to be less judgmental of how other people spend their time. If there are days when all you can manage to do is play Mario Kart, or stream a whole season of a show, or eat frozen pizza, well, I get that now. It’s almost noon as I’m writing this, and I’ve been up since 6 am. Six hours and three cups of strong cups of coffee later, I’m still groggy. I’m pushing through, but it’s not easy and it’s not fun. There are days when I can’t do more than stare into space, trying to focus. I fear that a time will come when I won’t be able to do this any more.

Rise of the Ableist Supermen

Teddy Roosevelt nailed it in two quotes. First, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. Hey, if you can work the equivalent of two full-time jobs and still have the spoons to get up before dawn to work on your book, good on you. That’s not me, and I’m not going to be shamed for it.

The other quote is “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are”. I try to optimize my schedule for productivity, but a lot of my bullet journaling, scheduling, and note taking is just an attempt to be baseline functional. Find what works for you. Recognize your limitations, because we all have them. Make the most of what you’ve got, but don’t beat yourself up if that varies from day to do. Love yourself, be proud of your accomplishments, and don’t let the ableist supermen get you down.

Journal Thrive

Forget GoDaddy: Take Your Scam and Shove It

Moments ago I received an email from GoDaddy, the domain registrar and web host. The subject line was “Alert: is available”. I have not used GoDaddy for anything in years, because their service was terrible and, well, pick from a long list of other reasons. “The CEO is an elephant murderer” is at the top of my personal reasons. Forget GoDaddy.

I also know that my domain is not up for renewal. First, my current domain registrar and webhost, NameCheap (not sponsored), has done a good job of keeping me informed of these sorts of things without getting spammy and intrusive. Second, I was literally on the NameCheap site a week ago renewing a different domain. While I was there I noted when all of my sites are due for renewal this year, and noted them in the future log of my bullet journal.

Forget GoDaddy

Clickbait tactics side, this scummy email campaign is nothing less than predatory. I have an anxiety disorder. Even though I knew better, of course I immediately began to worry that I’d accidentally allowed my domain to lapse, and all of the hassle and expense I’d have to go through to either reclaim it. Forget GoDaddy for putting me through that for no reason other than to trick me into visiting their site.

I also have executive dysfunction disorder, fancy-talk for “I forget things because I have an anxiety disorder”. I spend a great deal of time worrying that I’ve neglected something important, which will bring dire consequences crashing down on my head. Which is exactly why I fill put all of this type of information into my bullet journal. Forget GoDaddy for putting me through all of this.

To remedy this I marked the email as spam and blocked them within Gmail. Hopefully this will slow them down, if no stop them. I rarely use the “unsubscribe” option with dirtbag companies like GoDaddy. I expect they’ll just take it as validation that it’s a good address, and continue to send me garbage emails in the future.