Mental health update: one week on Strattera

Today I have been exactly one week on Strattera, 40 mg once a day. As Strattera usually takes a couple of weeks to become fully effective, I didn’t expect to see any difference so fast. But I did, perhaps because I’m already on some medication known to increase the effectiveness of Strattera.

One of the first things I noticed was a change in energy levels. It isn’t anything like the big energy boost I experienced on Concerta but there is definitely an improvement. I don’t get tired as easily and haven’t experienced the exhaustion I have been struggling with for years. In other words: I feel like I have finally healthy energy levels.

My quality of sleep seems to have gotten better too. Or rather, my sleep doesn’t really feel different but how I feel when I wake up. After a 7-8 hours night sleep I have no trouble getting out of bed and it actually feels like I’ve slept. The afternoon nap I often take when I come home from work now helps me refill my energy, as before it was more of a necessity to not get depressed from exhaustion and most of the time I did not even feel rested when I woke up.

When it comes to my ADD-symptoms the Strattera does seem to make a different. I can stay on task for longer without getting distracted. It came as kind of a shock one day when I was working on proofreading my book, looked up at the clock and realised that I had been reading for one hour straight without getting distracted by some unimportant thing or drifting into my own thoughts.
I have also an easier time switching from one task to another. Before this would always be a huge stress moment for me but now it isn’t as much.

Emotionally I feel more calm and collected than before. My impulsiveness seems to have decreased too and I’m a bit less afraid thar I willl make rash decisions I haven’t thought through and that end up getting me in trouble. As my impulse control issues is one of the things that have screwed up life for me the most over the years, this is quite a relief. 

When it comes to side effects, I have experienced a bit of mouth dryness, which was expected since it is a common side effect of Strattera and I’ve already been taking meds that cause this problem.
But the biggest side effect is definitely increased sweating. I’ve never been someone who sweats a lot. I haven’t used deodorant in years because I just don’t need it but since taking Strattera I’ve been sweating a lot more and in places I usually don’t, like my face and stomach. It’s kind of inconvenient and I’m going to have to buy some deodorant but considering the positive effect of the medication, I can live with it.

Overall my experience with Strattera has been positive and if it continues working I think it might just be a life-changer for me.

On worldbuilding and sexism/racism/homophobia etc

The other day I stumbled upon a blog post where someone expressed frustration over the facf that so many fantasy writers incorporate institutionalised sexism in the fictive worlds they create. Why bother putting energi into creating a whole hypothetical world and in the end incorporate in it the same oppressive structures that exist in the real world? I can’t remember the name of the post or of the blog but it got me thinking.

I recently finished writing the first part of my first fantasy series and in the world of this story there is sexism. And homophobia. And racism. And many other oppressive structures such as slavery and religiously based oppression. Why did I incorporate this things when I didn’t have to?

The beautiful things with speculative fiction is that you can make up almost anything and this allows you to experiment with concepts and ideas that you might not be able to in other genres. Want to make your hero ride on a dragon while battling orcs? That’s fine. Want to make alien robots fight each other in outer space? Nothing’s stopping you. Want to theorise about what a world without racism/sexism/transphobia etc could look like? That’s sound like a plan.

I think that trying to imagine a world without certain institutionalised forms of oppression sounds like a really interesting idea and a great way to show that maybe such things don’t actually have to exist. It’s definitely one way to go about it and I’m personally quite interested in exploring this in future projects.

But back to why I didn’t in the particular series I’m working on right now. One of the beautiful things about literature is that it can shed a light on the struggles people face in real life. None of us will ever face the challenge of having to slay a fire-breathing dragon or fighting off invading alien forces. But many now all to well the challenges of discrimination and oppression. And sometimes this things can feel as unsormontable as fighting monsters.

Having your own struggles mirrored in those of a fictional character can be, oddly enough, empowering as it reminds us that whatever we are going through is rarely unique.  Many others know them all too well and we aren’t alone in this battle.

I was reminded of this recently when I was reading a fantasy novel with a gay male protagonist. The animosity from people who know of his sexuality, the not even concealed homophobic disappointment from his family and the violence he had faced growing up just because he was who is was felt all too real; because it actually happens to so many every single day.

Art can help us for a moment escape the evil in the world and it can show us how the world could or ought to be. It can also point us to the real monsters in the world, the ones all or many of us actually face, and remind us that we are not alone in the struggle. It can give us the strength to, like the valiant warrior who picks up their shield and sword to face the dragon, grow in our determination to never give up and to continhe fighting for those we love and for what we believe in.

Or in the wise words of G.K. Chesterton:

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

Book review: The Steel Remains by Richard Morgan

A while back I was googling around on the Internet for books of speculative fiction that had LGBTQ themes and characters. In the different lists I found, the name of a series kept popping up: A Land Fit for Heroes by Richard Morgan.
When I read that one of the main characters was a gay man, something you don’t see every day in fantasy, I stopped by my local sci-fi and fantasy bookstore to buy the first book or the series:

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I was pleasantly surprised to see that not just one, but two of the three main characters were queer.
The story follows three war veterans who fought years ago against what is referred to as “the Scaled folks”, some sort of dragonlike creatures that came from the sea. Now Archeth (who is the last of her race), Egar the steppe-nomad and Ringil the legendary hero of the battle at Gallows Gap will meet again when a new and strange enemy is threatening their world.
First thing you should know about this book is that it is brutal. There is no lack of violence in this story which contains graphic depictions of war, torture and sexual assault among other things. I would say that it is my only criticism against this book that the brutality feels sometimes too much, almost like it’s trying too hard to be shocking.
But mostly I really enjoyed this book and Morgan’s masterful storytelling. The author’s skilled worldbuilding creates a fascinating land with complex politics, strange creatures of all sorts and complicated characters with a real emotional depth. Not least Ringil, who has to navigate a deeply homophobic world where many show him animosity, not least his own family, despite him being a war hero.
One major thing that makes me loves this book is its unapologetic depiction of Ringil’s sexuality and his sexual encounters with other men. Including a pretty hot and very unexpected one in particular. I don’t want to spoil anything so if you want to know what that means I guess you’ll just have to read the book. 😉
I ordered the rest of the series as soon as I had finished reading The Steel Remains and I can’t wait to dig into it. If I had to give this book a rating it would be a 4,5/5. Can definitely recommend.

Five things I learned writing my latest book

This week I finally finished writing the first part of the fantasy series I’m working on. It actually isn’t the first time I write a book. I have written several manuscripts in the past and even tried to get a few published but failed. Which I’m now grateful for since, in retrospect, I wasn’t that satisfied with them.

But even though I’ve been writing since I was a child I still learn things in the process. Here are five lessons I learned writing my latest book:

It always takes longer than you think.

Those who have been following me for a while might know that I expected to have this book finished literally months ago. But, as I should have learned by now, writing often takes way more time than you’d expect. Work-related stress, bouts of writer’s block and other unexpected obstacles stopped me from being as productive in my writing as I wanted to. But I think I’ve learned my lesson and will probably be not as overly positive as I’ve previously been when it comes to setting up deadlines and release dates.

Doing research for a book can lead to some pretty strange Google-searches.

“Decapitation Wikipedia”, “death due to bloodlose” and “dismemberment how to” are some of the kinda disturbing things I’ve googled while doing research for this book, which you probably can tell will have some violence in it…

Thank goodness for writing apps.

As I can’t carry my laptop with me everywhere, I’ve previously had to write a lot by hand and then rewrite everything again on the computer once I get home. But then I discovered writing apps. Now I can work on my book while I’m on the train, during a coffee break at work or while waiting for the bus without having to rewrite everything again. I can just email myself what I’ve written and copy paste it directly in a Word document when I’m home again. A lot of smartphones also have speech-to-text functions, which save time and can be a great tool for anyone who has difficulty typing for whatever reason. 

Flow is great but routine is better.

On my previous projects I’ve mostly waited for inspiration to hit before I wrote anything. I really enjoying being in that “flow” state when it feels like time stands still and nothing exists but me and my writing.  Not so surprisingly I wasn’t that productive.
But lately I’ve worked on writing every day, whether or not I’m having flow or even feel like writing at all. I’ve gone to writing like you go to work and treated it like a duty more than a fun thing to do. And, not surprisingly, I’ve never been so productive. Best of all: the quality of my writing has not deteriorated in the least (if I may say so myself).

I can wait to write the rest of this series.

Writing a book can be at times incredibly frustrating. Doing my daily writing sometimes felt like a chore more than anything. But I still kept going and I’m glad I did. I was afraid that once I was done I would be sick of the whole thing and not feel like writing the rest of the series. I am glad to report that it is most definitely not the case. I’m still as passionate about writing as ever and can’t wait to write more! I’ve even experienced some “flow” lately and have tones of idea that are just waiting to get put to paper.

If you are wondering when the book will be published: in at least a week and a half as I have some proofreading to do and other stuff to take care of before.

I’m really looking forward to sharing my work with you all!

You can’t stop us from dancing

Yesterday an armed gunman walked into a gay bar in Orlando, Florida and killed 50 people. 53 more were injured in what is now being described as the worst mass shooting in American history.

The reason the man did this is apparently that he saw two men kiss about a month ago and felt so angered that he decided it was the reasonable thing to do to shut up a gay bar full of unarmed people who just wanted to dance.

This level of hatred towards people just because they love each other is nothing less than pure insanity. But sadly I can’t say I’m surprised. I’ve had the feeling for quite a while that such an attack on the LGBTQ community was going to happen eventually.

Whether it is from Christian or Muslim extremists, neo-nazis or just random people on the street, there is a lot of hate directed towards us.

But the thing is: they can’t defeat us. Homosexuality and bisexuality exist in at least five hundred species and has been around for millions of years. LGBTQ people have been around since the dawn of humanity. Whether or not these extremists like it, we are part of this world just as much as them. We have a right to be here, and enjoy being here, just as much as they do.

We are their sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, non-binary relatives, cousins, co-workers, neighbours etc. We are here and we are NOT going away.

They can choose to hate us. They can try to destroy us. But they will fail. Because we won’t let them.

Many extremists of all kind may be rejoicing right now, thinking that this means we will now hide away. Stop being out and proud. Stop parading at Pride and fighting for our rights. But they’re wrong. 

This gutless coward who thought he was some sort of hero for shooting unarmed people has harmed us, it’s true. The LGBTQ community all over the world is mourning with their siblings in Orlando. But thousands of years of oppression has hardened us. We will rise again, like a phoenix always rises back from the ashes.

And we sure as hell won’t stop dancing, no matter how many bigots wish we would.

If you wish to help the victims of this heinous crime, please consider donating to the Pulse shooting victim’s fund

Short mental health update: soon to go on Strattera

I wrote a while back that I was going to ask my doctor to put me back on ADHD medication after four years off because I’ve come to a point where I cannot longer manage my symptoms. My doctor was first reluctant to put me back on meds since I had such a bad reaction to stimulants: insomnia, anxiety, mania, violent outbursts etc. My experience on stimulants was definitely not a good one and putting me back on them would have been a really bad decision.
After discussing it the doc concluded that I should try a medication called Strattera, the only non-stimulant drug approved to treat ADD symptoms. It works by increasing the production of norepinephrine, an “awakedness hormone”, instead of dopamine like a stimulant does. If you want to know more about the difference between Strattera and classic ADHD medication, you can check out this helpful video.
I will start taking Strattera around the 21th or 22th of this month since I’m out of the country right now and my doc wanted me to be nearby when I started the treatment in case something goes wrong.
I’m looking forward to try this new medication as I really can’t handle living with such a short attention span any longer,  especially since it’s so negatively affects my writing.