Not “just a toy”

Fidget cube

This is a fidget cube. In fact, this is MY fidget cube. It has multiple sides and multiple ways of engaging my fingers and my mind. To be specific, let’s turn to the description of the cube itself. “It has sensory tools on all sides: an on/off-style switch, gears, a rolling ball, a small joystick, a spinning disc, a “rubbing stone”, and 5 buttons.”

The reason I’ve been wanting one since I first heard of them is because of their intended purpose. As per the description I found: The cube is intended to provide an easy way to occupy one’s hands and other senses, particularly for self-soothing.

I suffer from anxiety and PTSD. They can be pretty bad, especially when I’m out in public around a lot of people and/or loud voices. I have a tendency to start wringing my hands, picking at my skin, or pulling on my hair when I get frazzled and that causes serious damage. I’ve actually made myself bleed several times because of it. The cube, which is compact enough to fit in the pocket of most of my jeans, gives me something to work with my fingers so I don’t start wringing my hands or doing anything else to hurt myself.

A lot of people are turning these into toys, giving them to children (and even some adults) because they’re novelties and causing problems for those of us who need them for the self-soothing properties. It’s the same with fidget spinners. Fidget spinners were first created in the 1990s for a similar purpose – they were designed to help people with ADHD, autism, or anxiety release nervous energy. Yet they too are being seen as toys, as games for everyone to play with instead of being recognized for their original purpose.

When I was in the store where I got my fidget cube, I watched a rather large family getting fidget spinners. I listened as the children talked about how they were going to practice until they were better than their friends so they could win the bets they made and get candy from their friends. Their mother, who was with them, was encouraging this. I was appalled by this flagrant disregard for the fidget spinners’ true purpose, and then I realized that this was perfectly normal anymore.

People turn therapeutic devices into toys for children all the time. Then they get banned because someone does something stupid, and those of us who are helped by those items are left with nothing to use.

I wish people would understand that what you see as a nonsense toy is actually a tool for many of us to keep us sane, to help us not hurt ourselves, to keep us from passing out from panic or to make sure we can focus on what’s going on around us.

So when you see the next biggest “fad,” do some research. She if there is another purpose behind it. I’m not saying don’t buy it. If you want it, and can afford it, by all means go for it. Just keep in mind that there are people who use the device for something other than just amusement. (Because I will admit using my fidget cube is fun, which is part of what helps alleviate the anxiety.)

I am not a pickle jar

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Photo via Visual hunt

“I am bipolar.”

This is how I introduce my mental illness. Not “I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar 1” or “I have a mental illness.” I say “I’m bipolar.” It’s a label I give myself. It’s something I refer to myself as that’s seen as negative by general society.

Some labels can be seen as positive. “I’m a farmer.” “I’m an author.” “I’m a mother.” “I’m a teacher.” “I’m a singer.”

But these limit us. They indicate that’s all we are, that this is all we see ourselves as. We are multi-faceted with many interests, complex personalities, and a life beyond one thing. When we give ourselves labels people identify us with those single things. They don’t go deeper to learn more about us. Those labels also lead to preconceived ideas about us, and people expect us to act a certain way.

When I say “I’m bipolar,” people immediately assume I’m dangerous and unstable. They’re scared I’m going to grab some kind of weapon and kill people. Why? Because that’s what the media and society in general have trained them to think. When I say I’m an author, people expect me – as a woman – to be writing romance. Because that’s what women write. Very few people take me seriously as a science fiction author because “that’s a man’s genre” even though there are some awesome science fiction authors out there that are women.

Labels can also lead to violence. Muslims are all labeled as terrorists because of the actions of a small portion of religious extremists. People see them as dangerous and treat them with suspicion that often leads to attacks and even murders. This is because the label of “Muslim” means “killers.”

We need to stop labeling ourselves and others around us. If we must put a name to someone, then we need to break the chains of preconceived notions. We need to open our minds and learn how to look beyond the surface of those labels, to see what lies beneath.

Let’s talk social media

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Let’s talk social media. No, I’m not going to tell you all of the benefits or all of the drawbacks to it. You’ve heard all of those before and I’m sure you’ll hear all of them again. Instead I want to tell you what social media has done for me.

I am an introvert, I suffer from PTSD, and I am bipolar I. That doesn’t make it easy to be around people. I’ve always had a hard time making friends and keeping them. In fact, of all the friends I made during my high school years, there’s only one I still talk to. The ones from my college years are all gone.

I used to play in a table top RPG group. That was both fun and difficult at the same time. Fun because I could use my imagination freely. Difficult because I was around people that got really exuberant at times. Loud voices are one of my triggers so it could sometimes lead to me needing a few minutes of quiet to compose myself. A lengthy trip to the bathroom was usually my way of dealing with it. Or sitting inside while everyone else went out to smoke.

But we moved away from those friends and I became even more isolated. I was drowning in a sea of loneliness but was too anxious to do much. I tried going out with Tims but he and his friends were often loud and that didn’t help my anxiety. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Then came Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr. And suddenly a whole new world opened up for me.

I met my two closest friends on Facebook – Joelle and Deborah. Joelle and I started talking when I asked a question about BDSM. Deborah and I started talking because we were in one of the same writing groups. Joelle and I now talk to each other every day through IM. Deborah and I exchange daily emails, she’s come to visit me once, and I plan on making a return visit since she’s only about two hours away from the farm.

I’ve also made a whole host of other friends, people who notice when I’m offline for a while. People who are there to talk to when I need a shoulder to cry on. If I post about my depression, they offer support. If I talk about something exciting, they’re right there to celebrate with me. They wish me a happy birthday, something my own family (other than my husband…he doesn’t forget) couldn’t even manage this year.

Social media has made it so I can socialize, have friends, and talk to people I’d certainly never have had a chance to before – such as my friends in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Hell, even in different parts of the US and Canada. I’d never have gotten to know any of you without social media.

Yes, social media can be a real time sink. It can be a distraction at the wrong moment. It can be used to bully people with impunity through anonymity. There is a dark side to it. But there is still so much good in it and I appreciate all it has done for me. And I want to thank all of you for your friendship and your care over the time we’ve known each other, as it has meant the world to me. I hope for many more years with all of you and one day to maybe even meet more of you in real life, with the ice broken because of our social media experiences.