Mental health rabbit hole

My post on rejection-sensitive dysphoria sent me to Wikipedia. You know what happened next.

I’ve been letting this post marinate since then. It’s a lot of new information to take into account, and there’s a significant amount of overlap among the symptoms of several brain activity disorders. It’s like everywhere I turn there’s a new, better way to describe my experiences.

But I’m also being mindful of how easy it is for research to turn into self-diagnosis. Wikipedia is not a doctor.

Atypical Depression

There wasn’t a Wikipedia article on rejection-sensitive dysphoria, but the original post mentioned atypical depression so I looked that up instead:

Atypical depression. . .shares many of the typical symptoms of the psychiatric syndromes major depression or dysthymia but is characterized by improved mood in response to positive events.

Hmm, this kind of sounds like me. When good things happen I’m happier than I should be with my depression. It’s really like a high.

Atypical depression also features (edited for readability)

Woah, I literally have all of those. This describes me a lot more accurately than regular old depression does.

In general, atypical depression tends to cause greater functional impairment than other forms of depression.

Weird. You think it’d be less.

Atypical depression is a chronic syndrome that tends to begin earlier in life than other forms of depression—usually beginning in the teenage years.

Sounds right actually. I was always sensitive but my highs and lows started to affect my ability to function sometime between 8th grade and 10th grade.

I start clicking through the Wikipedia rabbit hole.

Cyclothymia and Hypomania

Cyclothymia (I just learned) is like bipolar-lite. You have moderate depressed symptoms along with periods of hypomania, which are high-functioning episodes of near-manic behavior.

Why did I continue reading about these? I was mostly just curious. I had just found a new way to think about my illness: atypical depression.

But also, my therapist has described my behavior last summer as “almost manic.” Hypomania basically means “just below manic.” Could this describe me too?

About halfway down the hypomania article I read this:

When a patient presents with a history of at least one episode of both hypomania and major depression, each of which meet the diagnostic criteria, bipolar II disorder is diagnosed.

I’ve had several recurrent episodes of major depression. So if what I experienced last year was hypomania… then it sounds like what I have is bipolar II…

Hmm. Trying to balance skepticism with open-mindedness.

In some cases, depressive episodes routinely occur during the fall or winter and hypomanic ones in the spring or early summer and, in such cases, one speaks of a “seasonal pattern”.

Woah, this describes me so accurately. It’s more than Seasonal Affectedness. I’m like two different people in April-May vs. October-November.

Bipolar II Disorder

So I went to read about bipolar II’s description of hypomania (and see how much of it applied to my near-manic period last summer).

Hypomania is characterized by euphoria and/or an irritable mood. In order for an episode to qualify as hypomanic, the individual must also present three or more of the below symptoms, and last at least four consecutive days and be present most of the day, nearly every day

  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity. (Check) 
  • Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep). (Occasionally) 
  • More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking. (Oh yes) 
  • Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing. (Check)
  • Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli), as reported or observed. (Wow yes) 
  • Increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation. (Yup)
  • Excessive involvement in activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments). (Very much so)

This definitely describes summer 2016, but was I only like that because of the ADHD medication I started taking that May? Was it the high of being able to function on medication? Maybe combined with great weather?

Or is there a different illness that better describes my combination of symptoms? My seasonal highs and lows have been noticeable since high school. Maybe it’s been Bipolar II all along?

I guess I’ll ask my doctors.

Simple app idea: a story in status updates

While waiting to hear back from Astrohaus support about when my Freewrite is going to ship, I happened across this blog post:

A Twelve Step Program for Writing More and Interneting Less

It’s the usual advice, but this comment caught my eye:

“It’s a sprint, not a marathon. Work in bursts of energy.” — that’s gold. but the image used for the article evoked an idea… we’re all constantly posting on social media… maybe they should make “a writer’s social media site” except that you don’t post things for others to see – every post is just you continuing your writing… but since it’s in post form, it feels less intimidating and removes angst? and of course, there’s something on the site that lets you see the whole thing if you want….

I replied:

Great idea. I’ve been wanting to write a web app to learn a new framework. Mind if I use this idea?

They said yes!

please do! let me know when you finish! would love to use it!

And here’s where I’ll lay out my vision!

Private Twitter for writing, basically

That’s literally all it is. I’m not trying to get bought out here. It’s a really simple thing to implement.

Step 1: Write a Twitter clone following the Rails tutorial

Stuff

The difference is that their timeline will be private until they post it.

I’m thinking something similar to Novlr or Scrivener, but with a bunch of one-off notes instead of scenes and chapters. Little snippets that can later be combined and built upon.

Step 2: Allow users to edit and rearrange posts

This differs from Twitter immensely. I’ll borrow some UI stuff from Storify. I mean what I’m writing is essentially Storify with the option to export.

(Wait… Storify already lets you export… although only as HTML, XML, or JSON. Welp, mine is different enough.)

I want the creative juices to flow, so users will be able to add new snippets in between existing ones. (Yeah, Storify lets you do that but Twitter threads don’t.)

I’ll also give them the option to import actual Tweets from their own Twitter timeline, if they have existing threads they want to compile. (This is literally exactly what Storify does.)

Step 3: Allow users to compile and export story in various formats

Here’s where I’m innovating! Storify doesn’t let you export your content as plain text. Makes sense, since you can embed literally anything. Storify is good for telling other people’s stories. This is going to be for writing your own stories.

It shouldn’t be hard to support plain text/markdown, .rtf, Google Docs, WordPress exports. Scrivener, Novlr, etc. might be tougher, but it’ll be worth learning.

What users are exporting will probably be far from the finished product, but it’s way better than hunting down tweets to embed in a blog post.

Nobody actually writes this way, do they?

Actually they do.

This is Gerald Weinberg’s advice for writing:

advice

This is also exactly how I write. It’s probably my ADHD in part, but as long as I’ve been writing papers on the computer I’ve jumped around like this.

For example let me show you the order in which I wrote this specific blog post.

This post’s revision history

Here are 16 revision snapshots:

rev1
1. Paste comment that gave me the idea
rev2
2. Paste my response to idea comment
rev3
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rev4
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rev5
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rev6
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rev7
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rev8
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rev9
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rev10
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Neat, huh? Bet you didn’t even know WordPress had version control.

(Programmers call the red and green highlighted stuff “diffs,” btw.)

What does any of that have to do with Twitter?

Well like the comment I mentioned at the beginning said, we love writing in social media snippets. Our story segments are getting shorter and shorter.

On top of that, Twitter has become a hugely popular medium for telling stories. Personally, I do a lot of thinking out loud in Twitter threads.

My idea is to encourage the stream-of-consciousness approach that Twitter storytelling uses, but allow writers to go back and edit their snippets at a later time.

Maybe give users a certain amount of control over the strictness of the writing vs. editing process. For example, when you start a writing mode session it’ll require a certain word count before you can switch into editing mode.

I can see this being a useful tool and platform for writers of all backgrounds and styles.