What To Do with Opinions

self-care

An opinion is a judgment, full stop. It doesn’t necessarily come with the weight of knowledge, lived experience, or even thoughtful consideration to back it up. You know what to do with opinions, and it isn’t “take them to heart”.

We listen because we’re externalizing our own fears and doubts. No one wants to be rejected, or made fun of. The most savvy opinion-spewers know this, and leverage it. They take what you’re already feeling and convince you that it’s true. It’s called gaslighting.

They also understand that we all compare ourselves to other people. At best, we have role models and mentors that we seek to emulate. At worst, we beat ourselves up because we don’t recognize that our own path is unique. We have to be finding our own way, not trying to replicate someone else’s journey. Any opinions that compare you unfavorably to other people are therefore invalid at a root level.

You haven’t received the type of success as they other person because, shocker, you’re not that person. You haven’t suffered their struggles and setbacks, either. The opinion-spewers don’t know all of your journey. What you need to do is respect your own strengths and talents and focus on those.

What To Do with Opinions

My self-worth is innate. So is yours. It’s not based on what other people think of you. That’s madness, because you can’t please everyone. It’s also not your job to please anyone.

For the sake of my time, my productivity, and my mental health, I have set boundaries.

If you ignore them, they go away. When bullies don’t get a rise out of you, they find someone else to hassle. That doesn’t stop them from being awful, and that’s annoying. You can worry about that once you’re got your feet under you.

This is your life. You make the decisions, and you reap the consequences and rewards for that. The only person accountable for your success or failure is you. The only person who has to live with the decisions you make is you. When you follow other peoples’ opinions they may step up to take credit when you win, but they rarely stick around to help you up when you stumble.

Thank You for Your Support

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My Relationship with Coffee

self-care

Writers being addicted to coffee is as much of a stereotype as the alcoholic author. It keeps you awake, sharpens the mind, and helps you get things done. I want to talk about my own relationship with coffee, because my situation is slightly different from the norm.

While I am still awaiting an official diagnosis, it appears that I have executive function disorder (EFD). It’s related to attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but not the same. It affects working memory, reasoning, and the ability to plan. I’ve struggled with it for a while, but also chalked it up as a side effect of my anxiety disorders. While it is connected, it has its own pathology.

The reason I figured this out, and made the decision to have myself tested, is because I drink massive amounts of coffee.

My Relationship with Coffee

Everyone that self-medicates with caffeine experiences brain fog at some point in the day. They use it to keep themselves alert. Most people get some form of the jitters if they’ve had too much. If they drink coffee too late in the day, they have difficulty getting to sleep. I’ve never had these problems. To feel jumpy I have to really consume a lot in a short period of time. I can drink a large cup of coffee right before bed, and be out like a light as soon as my head hits the pillow.

This is apparently a telltale sign of EFD. It’s why they treat it with stimulants. Caffeine makes me right. It corrects, rather than over-corrects. It’s why giving ritalin to kids with ADHD mellow them up, but giving it to adults who don’t have ADHD amps them up.

I’m now the same age that my grandmother was when she first start exhibiting symptoms of dementia. Since I was in my twenties, I’ve been concerned about that being my fate. So far I’m okay. My memory loss and bouts of confusion, even the executive dysfunction itself, can be attributed to stress and my variety pack of anxiety disorders.

At the very least, I know what’s going on. I know what I can do about it, and how to manage it. Part of that is continuing to drink copious amounts of coffee. With luck, I now have this under control, and have done so before it became as serious issue.

A Handy Self-Care Checklist

Whether you’re out of spoons, facing writers block, or just struggling to feel productive, having a self-care checklist can help. It’s full of suggestions that you can try. You don’t have to do everything on this list every time. When you’re feeling stuck, though, skim the list and find something that might help shake you out of your rut. There are some more notes at the end on how to utilize this idea effectively.

Body

  • Are you thirsty? Drink a glass of water.
  • Are you hungry? Eat something with protein.
  • Have you showered today? Take one.
  • Have you exercised? Do something simple for 10 minutes.
  • Are you awake? Get away from screens, listen to white noise.

Mind

  • Have you gotten dressed? Get out of your sweats or pajamas.
  • Have you accomplished something? Do a small task on your to-do list.
  • Have you made a plan? Create a to-do list for today.
  • Have you changed medications? Make notes on effects you feel to take to your doctor.
  • Have you given yourself time? Not everything changes right away.

Spirit

  • Have you danced today? Put on some music and get down.
  • Have you been outside? Go for a walk.
  • Have you complimented yourself? Take a selfie and post it.
  • Have you interacted with people? Call, text, or DM someone.
  • Have you overdone it? Give yourself permission to take a break.

A Handy Self-Care Checklist

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all list. It shouldn’t be. Create your own self-care checklist, and keep it in your bullet journal. Look at it when you need it. Make a note to look at it periodically, so you remember that it’s there. Add to it as you think of new ideas. Cross off things that don’t work for you. Make is a living document that you can consult. Turn effective things into habits. Schedule things that you know will have a positive impact.

Why I Identify as a Spoonie

People have seen that I identify as a spoonie, but don’t know what that means. I reference it in posts about self-care. My tweets sometimes have related hashtags. I want to clarify what that term is, how it applies to me, and why I think having it as part of the public conversation on chronic illness is important.

Spoon Theory was first described by Christine Miserandino in 2003. For a full explanation you should go read her original post, but I’ll sum things up here. When you’re living with a chronic illness, you have finite resources to get through the day. It could be energy, or a threshold of tolerance for pain, or the emotional fortitude to be around people. That resource is represented by spoons, because Miserandino was in a restaurant when she was explaining this to a friend. You only get so many spoons at a time. Nearly everything you do costs spoons. Based on your exact illness, some things cost more spoons than others. When you’re out of spoons, you’re done. You can’t do any more.

The people who live with this reality call themselves spoonies.

Why I Identify as a Spoonie

This metaphor has become important, because it’s a way to explain “invisible illness” to people who don’t understand. We hear “but you don’t look sick”, or get called out for having a job and a social life. Because we appear to be as functional as anyone else there’s an assumption that we’re faking, or seeking attention, or looking for pity. You’re seeing us when we’re spending our spoons. We’ve budgeted to use our resources on those activities. What you don’t see is that we then go home and collapse. We spend the weekend recovering so we’re able to go to work on Monday. Even getting out of bed in the morning can have a cost.

I’ve suffered from chronic pain since high school, when I was involved in an accident. It never goes away, although the intensity waxes and wanes. Over the years I’ve learned to ignore it and work around it. Most of the time it’s background noise. As I’ve aged that’s become harder to do. Along the way I’ve also picked up arthritis and a battery of anxiety disorders. More recently, I’ve added executive function disorder to the mix. Yay.

Throughout my life I have had success in a variety of jobs. I’m a productive person, an entrepreneur, and manage to get the bills paid, keep the house in order, and stay on top of things. I’m not bedridden or housebound. But things have a cost. I know how many spoons certain things take, so I need to plan. It’s another reason why I’m a bullet journal enthusiast, as well as a pragmatic minimalist.

How the Term “Spoonie” Helped Me

Having a simple metaphor I can use to explain my issues to other people is handy. People seem to get it, where other attempts to describe it have failed. They understand that it’s a zero-sum game, that it requires choices. Yes, I can do this, but if I do then I can’t do that. The more people understand, the easier life become for spoonies everywhere.

The term has helped me to better understand my own limitations. Since embracing the term I’ve become more productive because I plan my activities more realistically. I have a better awareness of how much I can reasonably get done in a day, and how far I can push myself. It’s helped me to gain awareness of how long it takes me to recover when I overdo it. That means that I have fewer ups and downs, and more continuity. There’s less guilt over things left undone because I ran out of spoons. I feel better and have more energy, because I’m not trying to be superhuman.

Probably the most impactful result of having a term to use is finding community. Knowing that other people are going through the same thing, that there are people who can relate, helps in ways I can’t begin to describe. It doesn’t matter that their illness isn’t my illness. They understand being exhausted and overwhelmed. They’ve heard the same hurtful remarks. We can share tips and tricks, coping mechanisms, and just generally offer one another moral support. I identify as a spoonie because the term makes me feel like I’m not going through this alone. I share this for the benefit of other spoonies, so you know that you’re not alone, either.

The New Posting Schedule

The current plan for the new posting schedule is as follows: There will be 3 to 5 new posts per week, which will appear on the Patreon site at 9 am Eastern time. These will only be accessible to patrons. One week later that will become viewable to non-patrons, and will appear on BerinKinsman.com as well.
Each day of the week will have a different topic. Obviously, if I only post 3 times per week, not every topic will be covered every week. I won’t have more than one post per week on any topic.

Monday: Bullet Journaling

This topic is covers how I use my bullet journal, planning, and general productivity. There will be elements of minimalism thrown in, because I’m all about simplicity. Posts may also cross over with self-care, since I also use my bujo to manage my executive function disorder.

Tuesday: Writing

This topic is about writing and creativity. It’s a calling, a career, and a lifestyle, to be sure, and I’ve made a living as a writer for a few years now. You won’t find much advice here, because there’s plenty of that elsewhere. Instead I want to find connection with other writers, and the community, in this space.

Wednesday: Worldbuilding

This topic obliquely discusses the creation of tabletop roleplaying games and the work I do as Dancing Lights Press. It’s going to have more to do with my creative process and the use of the medium for self-expression than cliched nonsense about murder hobos and genre tropes.

Thursday: Self-Care

This topic is about making time for yourself in a world filled with stress and unreasonable demands. Because I identify as a spoonie there will be posts related to that, managing mental health, and living a productive life in spite of physical limitations.

Friday: Arts and Culture

This topic includes for posts about books, music, film and television, and other forms of entertainment. It is also the place for visits to cultural events, trips to museums, and dining experiences. While it may contain opinions and recommendations, I wouldn’t classify any of these posts as reviews.

The New Posting Schedule

This will all be subject to change, of course, based on how readers respond. If people get tired of a topic or, to be honest, I run out of things to say on a topic, I’ll swap it out.
Thoughts? Opinions? Leave a comment, I want to know!