Month in Review – January 2017

January 2017 is almost over. This is where a lot of new year’s resolutions fall apart. Rather than set a bunch of unrealistic arbitrary goals I want to use the calendar to track my progress at improving myself. Weekends are good for looking over the previous week and planning the one ahead. Each month a stretch on the marathon that is the year. I should start doing a proper monthly wrap up post in the future but for now I’ll keep this more informal.

This month was the soft relaunch of the blog. I spent a lot of time behind the scenes restructuring the site and I still have work to do. I built a local mockup thinking I’d start from scratch and eventually decided time would be better spent fixing what was broken. I declared my intent to blog twice a week and to restart my podcast. While doing this my microphone stopped being recognized and my sleep schedule went off the rails. I’m not making any excuses. I’m merely sharing how I lost control of my time and days in an attempt to stop myself from doing it in the future.

I forget which stand up comic this bit comes from, but when tired his body becomes inhabited by a personality known as Sleepy Dave. He’s not a bad guy but he’s also not a very good employee. When the alarm goes off in the morning, the responsible person gets up. Sleepy Dave goes, “Why get up when you can stay in bed and ski down a mountain of syrup with French toast sticks for skiis?!” I have my own Sleepy Dave. I plan things like a logical grown up. Then when it comes time to actually implement them a scared and sleepy child comes out who really needs an adult. These are both parts of my personality that I express differently at different times. I can tell myself I need to go to bed early if I want to get up at six the next morning. Actually communicating to the people I’m talking to that it’s my bedtime is an entirely different situation. I’ve had whole evenings swallowed up where I haven’t had time to think for myself until I’m in bed ready to fall asleep. The advice of, “Just tell them you’re going to bed,” is about as helpful as, “All you have to do to lose weight is exercise and don’t eat so much.” If it was really that easy we wouldn’t have entire industries devoted to it.

I’m naturally an introverted and non-confrontational person. Once I’ve talked to you for about an hour, I’m maxed out and need to recharge. There’s a range of responses to this depending on how well the person I’m with empathizes with me or picks up on hints. Some shrug it off like I’m joking. A few get bossy or guilt me for not doing what they want. Others try to distract and always seem to have one more thing they want to ask me about. Sometimes I’ll be talking with somebody I really like who I enjoy spending time with, conflicting what I want at the moment with what I should be doing. This creates a cycle where I’m not rested or thinking clearly so I can’t correct myself. When it’s already the season for early dark and you’re waking up after the sun has gone down all you can really do is try to right your ship the next morning.

Some people may think I sound like a coward for not sticking up for myself. It’s very easy to look at moments out of somebody else’s life out of context and blame them for their problems. It’s much harder to actually listen and provide useful advice. The fact is I have stood up for myself on many occasions. But when others don’t listen to you, gaslight your words to make you second guess yourself, and when it happens regularly enough when you’re exhausted you get worn down. I’ve called my dad, agreed to meet him the next day at noon or one for lunch, and he’s shown up at more door at nine in the morning ready to go out. My mom still doesn’t understand that sometimes I’m open to talking and other times I need to have quiet. I’ve taken to wearing my headphones while out, even though I know it can seem rude, because I need to be able to step back before I have a panic attack. This is the reality of my situation right now. I love my family and friends but they don’t always listen to me or pick up on my social cues. To combat this I’m scheduling my devices to be in Do No Disturb mode during work hours. This may make it harder for some folks to contact me but I need to regain control of my own schedule.

Ultimately I need to have time to myself to think. This last month I kept finding myself on the night before something (if I was lucky) trying to even sort out what I wanted to do. That is not how I want to work. I can’t be pulling all nighters every night for everything. I’ve tried setting hard and fast rules only to frustrate myself when I can’t meet them. The key is going to be getting myself enough rest, quiet time, and keeping myself out of situations where others can have power over my decisions. I see confrontations in my future as people wonder where I’ve been, but not answering my phone when I’m unavailable is less awkward than being put on the spot when I do answer.

Plans for February include more regular blogging, new podcasts now that I’ve replaced my mic, and I’m going to try posting animation on Twitter. I’d like to experiment in the 30 second to two minute range and Twitter sounds like the best place to roll that out without fiddling with square aspect ratios, portrait mode, or any silly restraints other sites with video (remember Vine?) impose. I have fan projects I want to work on as well but I can’t share the content from those until they’re done so Twitter video experiments are a nice regular thing to work on and share. I’d really like the month to be more about structure and routine. I didn’t spend much of January drawing at all. Every time I opened an art program I felt out of practice. My therapist and I worked out some affirmations I’m going to be repeating to myself regularly about permitting myself to work, feeling capable in what I can do, and not letting the negative things that have creeped into my head push me around anymore.

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!