3 May 2003
(updated 3 May 2003 at 06:25 UTC) »
For a great many years, I've banged my head against a wall
within, wondering why I could always seem to see
great things, but never to do them.
After too long vigorously rejecting
outright, and being fundamentally ambivalent
toward any chemical
solution, I gave up. I stopped fighting long enough to
hear a therapist ask me "have you ever considered that you
might be bipolar?"
It was a moment of perfect, obvious insight for me. She said
those words, and all of a sudden, years of watching myself
and my behaviour "made sense". I wasn't oblivious to
how much my world resembled that of a manic depressive... I
just didn't want to call myself that. I can't explain
why. Maybe it was that Humanities course where we dissected
the DSM (see links above).
So now, with the help of people I'm coming to trust, and
people I've always loved, I'm finding a place from which I
tap the years of ideas and make wonderful things
happen. Sure, I don't wake up every day now and produce
masterpieces, but I wake up every day and most of those days
I produce something. Over time, that's going to add
I've found great comfort in reading some of Advogato's own
on his personal journey with schizoaffective disorder, which
apparently shares some common traits with manic
depression. In particular, tonight while looking for links,
I found these
The problem with manic creativity is that there is usually
little substance to it. It is brilliant but it lacks a
solid foundation. A great deal more work is required to
implement an idea than to conceive of it, and it is hard
to stay focused when I am manic. Projects are started and
soon abandoned for new projects, or I start something very
ambitious and then come crashing down into depression and
abandon it. Very little of what I have accomplished was
accomplished when I was manic.
It is also hard to work when I am depressed. I get bored
with what I am doing, and find it difficult to overcome
frustrating obstacles. Computer programming can be
terribly frustrating work - bugs occur all the time in
software, and they are usually not cooperative towards
efforts to find and fix them. The single most important
skill I had to learn to become a programmer was to
overcome frustration, but this is very difficult when I am
depressed. The slightest obstacle fills me with despair.
Yes, manic depressive people are creative, but the real
creativity does not come when we are manic or
depressed. It comes in the in-between times when we are
feeling alright but not high.
Oh, yeah. I paid someone to finish the
bathroom, and they did, and now everyone's happy.
Postscript: (added 2003-05-02 06:17 UTC)
MichaelCrawford: From my own experience, I
can suggest that you delegate, or find some "tricks" to
manage yourself through the blocks. If you choose
delegation, you can either delegate the work of small
stumbling blocks, like the progress bar, or you can delegate
the work of managing you. Either can achieve the same goal.
If you delegate the work of managing you, then you need to
make sure that you've actually empowered that person to keep
you on track. In other words, they have to understand the
work you're doing, and help you say "no" to the distractions
that are going to try to seduce you.
As for tricks, there's the classic "divide and conquer"
(break the blocking task up into sub-tasks), but sometimes
all you need is a nudge to say "just sit down and
work on this for like thirty real minutes, and if
it's not going well, get up and take a break." Repeat that
enough times in a day, or a week, or what have you, and
you'll have chipped away the block.
I used the tricks above this week to wade my way through a
server migration that was killing me through many small
wounds. Instead of setting myself a "hard deadline" for the
migration, I decided to focus only on the next small
thing. "Install a JVM". Okay, done. "Install Apache
1.3". Okay, done. "Get SSI working on the Apache 1.3
install". For each of those tasks, though, I employed the
"just sit down and do a little something on it." In each
case, by forcing myself to switch to a terminal on that
machine and do something, I built up enough momentum to
finish the task, and most of the time, to go ahead and
finish another one or two of the tasks that were next.
There's also a very good book called Getting
Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by
David Allen that has a lot more concrete advice on attacking
the things we put off.