How I Deal with Anxiety/ADHD

Ben's Medications

I’m not a doctor. If you believe you have anxiety or some other condition please consult a professional. I am, however, somebody who deals with anxiety and ADHD on a day to day basis. This post goes into how I deal with it personally and I encourage anybody reading who deals with similar issues to share their experiences and suggestions in the comments below. Keep in mind we’re all different and there’s no one size fits all cure.

I’ve said elsewhere I don’t want this to turn into Ben’s Anxiety Blog but as anxiety’s a part of my life it’s something worth talking about here. There are different types of anxiety, it manifests itself in different ways for different people, and there are various methods of treating it. Anxiety itself isn’t necessarily good or bad. It’s one of the ways the body responds to certain situations. Sometimes a fight or flight response is called for. If you’re trapped with a wild animal it’s perfectly acceptable. Other times, when you’re sitting at a desk breaking into a cold sweat, not so much. If you regularly have stressful reactions to seemingly minor things, or even to seemingly nothing at all, then you may have an anxiety disorder. For me, anxiety was like the constant buzzing of a fluorescent light. Always kind of there, sometimes in the background, sometimes loud and up front. When I described it to my doctor he decided to put me on Celexa.

Medication

Some people and groups don’t believe in treating psychological problems with medicine. I will say right now, for the record and for anybody considering commenting as such, kindly fuck off. There’s enough misconceptions and stigma dealing with mental health. If I could simply “snap out of it” or “stop feeling bad” I would have done that long ago. There is no shame in wanting to feel better.

I take Celexa once a day and Buspirone twice a day. Celexa is the one that helped me to even be able to talk about my issues at all. Before then I was terrified of seeming abnormal. I still get terrified, sometimes, but now it’s more situational and something I can deal with. I started Buspirone after telling my doctor I still carried a lot of physical tension around even with the other prescription. It’s easily the worst-tasting med I’ve ever been on but it does help. Once we determined I had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder I was prescribed Adderall. It helps me keep my concentration though we had to increase my dosage. For a few frustrating weeks I felt like I was of two minds, able to observe my actions but unable to act. It’s also a controlled substance which makes getting refills frustrating and traveling more complicated than it needs to be.

Therapy

I asked my doctor to recommend me to a therapist because I knew I had some issues to work on. After some issues with my insurance I started seeing one once a week until she retired at the end of November. She helped me identify I had ADHD and sensory issues. Once we figured that out it became a matter of accepting and coming to terms with it. People with ADHD are more prone to develop problems with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc. and though I’m pretty sure I inherited mine, being undiagnosed ADHD growing up probably added to my frustration. Therapy for me has two benefits. Having a safe space to get things off your chest is important, especially if you don’t have one otherwise, and it gives you reassurance you’re thinking logically. It also helps you plan. I booked a trip to Canada after my therapist suggested going to an event with like-minded people to get away for a bit. She was genuinely impressed I was motivated enough in my own treatment to do that. I believe in being proactive and, even though doing new things can be scary at times, conquering that fear is part of the reward.

Family and Friends

If you have a good support system set up you’re going to have an easier time. Likewise, if your friends and family aren’t on board, things get more difficult. I love my family but they’re a lot like me in some ways and very different in others. My mom doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with me. She’s convinced it’s just part of my personality. My dad doesn’t really grasp what I’m in therapy for, either. They grew up at a time when you didn’t talk about mental issues. If you had them you were simply nuts. With that mode of thinking admitting there’s anything the matter with me means accepting there’s potentially anything the matter with themselves and they’re not ready for that.

My friends have been very compassionate. I only wish I were closer with more of them. When the only way you keep in touch with most people anymore is through Facebook you miss deeper connections. I fully accept my own blame in this regard. I haven’t been the best person to get close to and it’s something I’m trying to get better at. I care about people but I also get terrified I’ll do the wrong thing and be rejected. I’m also introverted and burn a lot of energy when I’m with others. I’m working on getting better at saying no without feeling horrible.

Journaling

I’ve journaled off and on since I’ve been able to write. As I’ve gotten medicated I’ve been able to think more clearly address my thoughts/emotions. I try to write every day now as a way to get things off of my mind and to do something constructive with them. Some days it’s just a string of obscenities about whatever’s making me angry. Other times I can have a revelation by actually taking the time to write my feelings out. It’s easy to get busy and spend all your mental energy just being reactionary. It’s a good pressure valve to look inside and sort your own thoughts out. My current favorite method is to type in a TaskPaper document on my computer. I used TaskMator on iOS for awhile but the ability to fold entries up once I was done with them was too important to me. I recently got Editorial and it’s very elegant.

List Making

I mentioned TaskPaper specifically because I sync to my mobile devices through Dropbox to keep things organized. This means I can be waiting in line, pull out my phone, and type something up to get back to elsewhere later. The TaskPaper format makes it very easy to search, tag, and organize. Lists are important to me because they gave me a way to structure the things I dump in my journal entries into actionable plans. They’re also good because we all tend to carry too much in our heads. When something comes to mind, write it down so you can pull it out later. A lot of anxiety can be resolved by planning and feeling secure there’s a plan in place. Lists can always be changed around and re-written, too, so they’re low pressure.

Taking Action

Plans and lists are great tools but they’re only tools. Some people can spend their days debating what hammer they should buy and never actually get to that home improvement project. Settle on the tools that works best for you then take action. In my case that means actually writing the blog post I plan on writing, on opening that art program and designing those characters I’ve been meaning to develop. It’s easy to get swallowed up in just one type of task. I’ve spent weeks tinkering with PHP and MySQL, fiddling with WordPress plugins and CSS, only to realize I haven’t drawn anything in ages. Once you lay out your plan you need to stick with it. Some days I might not feel like writing. Others I can fill pages before lunch. The trick is giving yourself enough room to feel comfortable. One thing I learned doing webcomics is it’s very easy to fall into a strip a day mentality with projects. If you only focus on doing a thing a day you can fall behind easily. Eventually you’re waiting until you’re right against a deadline. I really recommend laying projects out further. I’d pencil a week’s worth of comics at once, for example. It was much more fulfilling getting ahead and getting more done though it did require more lead time up front.

It’s important to have clear goals when sitting down to work. When I’m planning I pull out the calendar and know the constraints I have to work with. How many weeks do I have to work on this? I try to set my own deadlines ahead of when they outside factors influence them. In college when I had to finish something over the weekend I’d stay up all night Friday or Saturday so I could recover on Sunday. Once I know what I need to do I can delegate the different parts as needed. If I’m going to be drawing all day I put myself into drawing mode. Gestural layouts are a different mindset from refined lines and inking, for example. It’s also good to divvy things up so you don’t over extend yourself. If I have to spend multiple days on the same stage of a project I get worn down quicker. If I’m doing an animation I might do the basic planning on the whole thing but the longer it is the more I’m going to subdivide. I’ll work on one segment in rough keys, then refine it, then move on to the next instead of trying to completely rough animate an entire sequence out. I need to feel like you finished something each day, be it that week’s pencils or the rough animation on a segment. Otherwise I can have trouble switching modes and getting back to writing when all I’ve done is draw and vice versa.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

Distraction and Ritual

I stated earlier I have sensory issues. I’m still sorting out what that means and the proper ways of dealing with them. I know I’m light sensitive and get migraines regularly. Sometimes when I’m overwhelmed I’ll turn the lights out in my studio and lay on the floor until I calm down. I also have trouble with background noise, voices in particular. If a television is on in the same room as somebody I’m trying to have a conversation with I can’t tune it out. My mom tends to leave the set on because she likes the noise. To me it’s like constantly hearing somebody call out my name. It’s really distracting and it cuts through to my ears. I’ve started wearing noise-canceling headphones to block sounds like that and to channel my focus on things I actually want to listen to like some of my favorite playlists.

This ducktails nicely into the idea of creating ritual and routine. I have playlists of music I work to because they have an energizing effect on me. They also reinforce the idea that now it’s time to concentrate on work, helping me transition from whatever mode I was in before into one for working. Likewise I also have relaxation playlists for winding down at the end of the day and accepting work time is over. I can get fussy and repetitive with my music, listening to the same artists over and cover as I find it comforting. I listen to a lot of instrumental tracks so the words don’t distract me, unless it’s an album I’ve listened to so much I’m used to it. I try to do as much mental heavy lifting early in the day as I can so my decisions are sharp. Laying out images takes up more headspace than the straight forward tasks of refining and inking or coloring them. It’s easy to get bored with ADHD I need to give myself enough wiggle room to play and enjoy what I’m working on. I don’t want to be my own version of the coworker who did all the creative work on a project and hands it off for the grunt work.

Anxiety tends to be triggered by regular factors. These can vary from person to person so it’s good to know what things set you off so you can avoid them. For me it’s situations where I might not know enough about what’s going on and fear looking stupid. This ramps up when I see others don’t have confidence in me. I hate being rushed or held late, especially when I’m tired and having trouble focusing. This happens to me more than it should as I have trouble excusing myself because I’m afraid it’ll be awkward.

Ben's cat Hope

Being Well Rested

Sleep has a lot to do with how we feel. I know it’s hard to get enough rest, especially when we’re busy, but I really do notice when I’m stressed out that I haven’t been sleeping regularly. We’ve all tried that sleep math of a nap here, a few hours there, hoping it adds up. It’s not just the amount of sleep but the quality of sleep we get. If you sleep through the night you’ll feel better than you would if you woke up every hour. When I haven’t had enough sleep I’ll be irritable. I’ll try to work and nothing will feel right. Even if it’s something I really want to work on I’ll be struggling. Sometimes this leads to getting frustrated with myself and it’ll spiral from there. It’s something I’ve become aware of and need to take steps to prevent from happening.

Now and then I need to remind myself to step back. I have to give myself permission to relax and take some time away from what’s bothering me. Occasionally that means calling it a night and coming in fresh the next morning. Once in a while it means scaling back my expectations so I don’t push myself too hard. Plenty of times it means snuggling with my cat and being ok with what I’ve gotten done for the day.

I’m sure I’ll be writing more on this topic in the future as I get better at recognizing what sets off my anxiety and compensating for it. I’ve learned to not fight with the anxiety so much as accept I’m going to feel it, that it’s ok to get upset sometimes, and remember it’s not going to last forever. Everyone feels anxiety at some points in their lives. It’s a matter of not letting it control us or stop us from doing what we want with our lives. I’d like to thank you for taking the time for reading this far. If you have any advice or comments you’d like to share I’d love to hear them. How do you handle your anxiety issues?

2017: New Beginnings

Hi 🙂 If you’ve been following me for any length of time, I want to thank you for your patience. If you’re new, Welcome! I’m Ben. I’m a cartoonist and this is my blog. It’s been awhile since I’ve properly blogged here and I’d like to take a moment to apologize for the way I’ve handled things thus far.

Where Have You Been?

The short answer to this is dealing with mental disorder. I’ve never really felt comfortable blogging on my own sites as it tends to feel rather news post-y. This sets up an expectation in my head that whatever I write about needs to be newsworthy. It sounds silly and irrational explaining it but that’s anxiety for you. I’ve dealt with anxiety and other issues most of my life, certainly from the time I started my first site. It took me a long time to be ok with the idea of seeking outside help for my problems. I’ve shared some of my journey on my tumblr blog as it felt more casual. Eventually I realized this is something I should be addressing in my own official blog. Not that I haven’t been authentic when I post things but rather there’s parts of myself I never shared due to fear, humiliation, or some other rationalization that my own site wasn’t the place for sharing my experiences.

I have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. I didn’t fit the stereotype growing up as I was a fairly well behaved kid and a good student. Some of that I attribute to family pressure to act “normal” in public and some to how poorly ADHD was diagnosed at the time. I have sensory issues I’m still sorting out. I know I’m light-sensitive and background noise distracts me, especially voices since I can’t tune those out. I probably have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, though I haven’t officially been diagnosed with it yet, as I’ve compared my anxiety to the constant buzzing of fluorescent lights. I’ve been in therapy about a year now learning what all this means for me and coming to terms with it. I’m still on this journey. It’s sometimes scary and confusing. Actually getting medicated and seeking help, however, has been nothing short of life changing for me. Before I would be positively terrified of anybody even suspecting there was something wrong with me, much less the idea of sharing and discussing it with people. Mental health has a stigma surrounding it and as soon as I realized my worries were due to a chemical imbalance I decided I wasn’t going to let them control me ever again. I will never feel shame for getting treatment. I hope my efforts to normalize and open a dialogue about mental health help other people realize they have the right to feel ok with themselves. Every person, no matter who you are or where you are on your journey through life, deserves to feel accepted and loved. I want you to know I appreciate you and I’m very glad you’re here with us.

What Happened to the Podcast?

You may have noticed Season 5 of the NoRights Podcast ended abruptly and transitioned into TNT (Talk, News, and Trivia) with Ian and Frank. I apologize if it seemed jarring. Let me be clear I’m still really good friends with everybody involved. This wasn’t some sort of falling out or anything like that. The fact of the matter is it didn’t feel like the NoRights Podcast to me anymore. It became something I liked attending and participating in but no longer wanted to host. I handed the reigns of that show over because I want the NoRights Podcast, like this blog, to have a more personal direction. I like hanging out with my friends but my own voice was getting lost in the mix.

What’s the Plan Moving Forward?

I’ve taken down the static front page and have pushed the blog to be the main focus. For a time I considered starting a multimedia magazine. It’s a good idea but completing full regular issues alongside growing a readership is too ambitious. Instead I intend to post at least two substantial blog posts a week from here on out, hopefully more. I’d like to document my projects as I work on them, share my thoughts and opinions with you, and try to be more engaging than I have been in the past. It’s not going to be perfect because I’m not perfect. But I will be honest and I will respect you. Once I have enough significant content on a subject or project I’ll put together an ebook for it. I’ll be working this into a Patreon campaign so people who like my work will have a chance to support it while getting some nice extras for themselves. More on that to come.

I’d planned to record and roll out the first episode of Season 6 of the podcast on Tuesday but that didn’t happen obviously. I’d spent two weeks vacationing with my mom in California and returning to a productive schedule has been rough. Refilling my prescriptions became an ordeal with travel, my sleep cycle was all screwed up after staying awake 27 hours and then sleeping through New Year’s Eve, and I got slowed down with some depression. I’m not making excuses, just being realistic as some day’s goals are going to be harder to reach than others. That said, I will do my best to be open with you all and keep you updated from here on out. My twitter is the easiest way to reach me if you’re wondering what’s up or have a question about anything.

I’d like to thank you once again for joining me and I hope you enjoy watching me work. I have projects lined up running the gamut from making music to drawing pin up girls, monsters, and animating shorts. It’s my wish that neither of us grow bored and there’ll always be something interesting ahead of us. May my successes and failures inspire you, friend!

Status of the Blog 10/01/16

It’s the first of the month so I figure this is a good time to post updates and plans.

Blogging

I’ve started blogging on my tumblr more and to keep it regular I’m going to try and do it every Friday to recap the week and announce plans for the next one. I might post more than that but Friday’s what I’m shooting for. (I meant to start last night but was on a hangout with Ian and Frank until about 2 this morning.) Following what I’m doing right now I’ll try to write up about the month’s progress here.

Animation and New YouTube Channel

The main goal is to launch a new channel in 2017. I want to make it specifically for my cartoons, program a content strategy for it, and see if I can intelligently play the YouTube game. I’m still deciding on a proper name for it. I’ve used NoRights Productions for a long time but it’s ambiguous and having a dedicated name for my animation business is a good move. I’ll probably crosspost to my newgrounds account, too, though I’d like to experiment there. Tom Fulp has posted about YT on NG and he makes excellent points. NG’s audience is smaller but more passionate about animation. As I start producing more content we’ll see how that shakes out. I’d also like to do some freelance work though I’m still building my demo reel.

Multimedia Magazine

I’ve been enamored with the idea of doing a digital magazine that’s a mashup of creative writing, essays, comics, animation, video, audio, basically a bundle of stuff I want to put together in a unique regular package. I’d considered starting with a Halloween issue but don’t want to feel rushed by an arbitrary deadline. I’m actively working on it, collecting my thoughts and outlining them. The animation channel is Project A and the magazine is Project B. Project A is going to have many sub-projects during the week and Project B will be evenings, weekends, and other down time.

Status of the Blog: 07/12/16

  • On July 12, 2016 ·
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Hey everybody! Here’s a site update and plans moving forward.

Web Stuff

I’ve been retooling things, moving content to it’s own custom post types. Still working on it and I’ll probably change how the portfolio displays, too. It’s been a little tricky figuring out what stuff I need to hard code and what I can edit through posts. I want to prioritize things so it’s not overwhelming for new visitors.

The Podcast

I enjoy doing the weekly hangout shows with Frank and Ian but it hasn’t felt like the NoRights Podcast for some time now. I’ve handed the reigns of that show over to them to host. They’ve started calling it TNT – Talk News and Trivia. I’ll have it on the site once I move some other stuff around.

I’ll be rebooting my own podcast once I get some episodes recorded. Expect them to be shorter and more topic-focused.

The YouTube Channel/Newgrounds Page

Animation is going to be my main focus. Most of my projects I plan on posting on my YouTube Channel – Animated shorts, Let’s Plays, game parodies, reviews, tutorials, time lapses, etc.

I also want to experiment with some more adult subjects and techniques so you’ll find these things on my Newgrounds Page as they’ll probably be more NSFW.

Blogs/Tumblr/Social Media

I like having a regular blog space as it helps me track progress. I just have to keep it from becoming an expectation to fail at. To that end, I think the main blog here will be for releasing things, site announcements, news like that.

My Tumblr will be my de facto WIP, yakety smackety, daily thoughts, stream of conscious, rambling blog. Really that’s what I feel tumblr’s good for, anyway. If you have anything bigger than 140 characters, post it on there and link it on twitter.

Speaking of my Twitter, the plan for now is to post screenshots there as I work. That’s a good way to mark a break and I’ll work on something else after progress shots go up to keep from burning out. I’ll amalgamate them on tumblr and maybe post collections of them here.

In Closing

At this point I’m lining things up. I don’t want to make promises or set deadlines. I just want to get in my studio and work.

Status of the Blog 06/04/16

  • On June 4, 2016 ·
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Hey everybody, hope you had a nice Memorial Day weekend. I’ve been busy lately and I think it’s about time I catch everybody up to speed.

How’s Your Health?

I’m doing better than I have been in a long time. The anxiety’s been manageable and the ADHD meds have helped keep me focused. I took a bit of a work vacation that put some things into perspective.

Where Have You Been?

I spent a week in Calgary, Alberta, Canada hanging out at Quickdraw Animation Society participating in the Animation Lockdown event. If you’ve never heard of QAS, they’re a nonprofit artist co-op for animators. During the annual lockdown teams gather over the long weekend to make films in 48 hours. This was a great opportunity to travel, make some friends, and see if I could actually get an animated project done in time.

I present to you, Bottled Spirits:

I had to cut a lot of it to finish on schedule so I’ll be doing a longer, fuller version in the future.

What’s Up with the Site?

Before I left I decided to roll the site back to an earlier theme to make it easier to navigate. Then I realized some of the shortcodes I’d been using were from a plugin for the newer theme so I had to reinstall that. Since I got back home I’ve been trying to deal with errors and considered moving to a different system/host. That’s probably not going to happen given difficulties I’ve had importing the archives. I could really use a webmaster as the site’s held together with little more than duct tape and a prayer.

The front page should be getting cleaned up soon. I want it to be the hub for all my projects without getting confusing on where to go.

Status of the Blog 04/30/16

  • On April 30, 2016 ·
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I’ve been seeing a therapist about my anxiety/frustration and they believe I might have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This could explain why I have trouble focusing in the studio, even when it’s on my own work I care passionately about. I didn’t originally consider it an option since I don’t fit the stereotype of being hyper and I was a good student in school. Looking back on it a number of my problems could have built up as a response and a way to cope. I’m going to be starting medication that could help.

Also in an effort to improve my art and career I’ve signed up for online courses and a 1 on 1 mentorship program with Stephen Silver. I’m excited to have somebody I admire and respect guiding me along. May is shaping up to be a busy month as I’ve got a project I’m going to work on and an event I’m going to attend.

Status of the Blog 02/29/16

  • On February 29, 2016 ·
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Today I want to talk about a few things that are changing and what they mean for the site.

Billy Badass Updates

I love making this comic. However, one page can easily take 2+ days of work to finish and I find myself getting frustrated trying to fit it into my schedule. I don’t want it to go on hiatus but updates are going to be more sporadic, at least until I sort out a better work routine. If you follow the blog on Tumblr you should see pages when they go up.

YouTube Channel

As I announced on the podcast, the NoRights Productions channel is now part of the Leaderboard Network, a new gaming vertical of the Channel Frederator Network. This means my videos will see promotion, I can get guidance on running and growing my channel, and other benefits. The channel is still entirely mine to take in any direction I want and I still own everything I make.

I have goals and projects in mind to work on. I’m trying to move from a deadline-focused mindset into a works-in-progress one. I’ve already started streaming while I’m in the studio. If you’re subscribed you’ll see them when I go live. You can also find broadcasts on the Live page of the blog. I’d like to make a time lapse version for each project when they’re done. The focus of these is to let you look over my shoulder while I work. If there’s enough interest I’ll do some on Twitch where I can turn my mic on and chat but the idea isn’t to be “on”  and talking all the time. Think of it more like Bill Plympton’s Ani-Cam.

 

General

A number of opportunities have been opening up for me lately and I’m looking to take full advantage of them. I’m also trying to get better control of my anxiety issues. Part of that is getting enough rest and part of it is allowing myself downtime. I feel so guilty when I try to relax and that’s not healthy.

Status of the Blog 01/23/16

  • On January 23, 2016 ·
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I spent the week testing out the new theme for my site and today I made it live. There’s still some bells and whistles to fine tune. I need to populate the portfolio more, which will be easier as I add new projects, and I’ll add posts to the front page once I sort out how to do it properly. I know I’ll be updating it more frequently than the old portfolio, which was the point. It’s still in that new phase though I’ve gotten the gist of how to post things properly. Things are going to be more image-heavy, as they should be for an art site.

Recorded an early podcast this evening with Frank and Ian. Tomorrow and probably a chunk of Monday are going to be spent working on the next comic. I’m looking forward to drawing again after fussing with WordPress all week. I’m really really looking forward to doing some animating once the comic’s up.

Complete NoRights Curriculum

  • On January 11, 2016 ·
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Today’s the last day to get in on our partner Udemy‘s New Year’s deal. Over 12,000 courses discounted to $10. I ordered a new one myself last night, Become a Game Maker with GameMaker Studio. A 9+ hour course from Benjamin Anderson, otherwise known as HeartBeast, who does excellent tutorials on YouTube. Here’s a list of all the blogs I’ve written up with some potential courses folks might find useful.

NoRights Curriculum: Introduction to Udemy

NoRights Curriculum: Art Fundamentals

NoRights Curriculum: Art and Creative Software

NoRights Curriculum: Website/Portfolio/Ecommerce Building

NoRights Curriculum: Entrepreneur/Business

NoRights Curriculum: Blogging/Copywriting

NoRights Curriculum: Social Media/Self Promotion/Marketing

NoRights Curriculum: Time/Project Management

NoRights Curriculum: Course Review

NoRights Curriculum: Become an Instructor on Udemy
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NoRights Curriculum: Become an Instructor on Udemy

Now that you’ve had a look around our partner Udemy‘s New Year’s deal, perhaps you’re interested in becoming an instructor and teaching courses yourself? Check out their guide Create a Udemy Course.


How to Become a Udemy Instructor

How to Gain Students