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July 31, 2014
11:43pm EDT

Rated: 18+ | Book | Comedy | #1805328
I have made the mistakes so you won't have to.
  Real world advice for the reality-challenged.

Always looking forward to what's around the next bend.

Previous ... 2 3 4 5 -6- 7 8 9 10 11 ... Next
December 7, 2013 at 1:16pm
December 7, 2013 at 1:16pm
Don't do this: Do not exclude insane chairment

Guitar six is almost done. I took this picture before I put strings on it for the first time because I honestly didn’t think it would hold up. Styrofoam poster board is more structurally sound than this piece of redwood. The fibers are so soft that wood glue won’t stick to it. But, I strung it up and it held, so I guess I will apply the finish.

I would claim a degree of competence in guitar building, but it isn’t true. That there is a guitar pictured above would seem to argue in favor, but it is a guitar built by committee, and not a very competent committee at that. There were many disagreements, ad hoc changes, unilateral actions by rouge members, and it wasn’t always clear who was in charge, or even in attendance. In the end it was a series of compromises and cosmetic cover-ups. I suppose it requires a bit of competence to produce a playable guitar under those circumstances, but it is not competence in guitar building.

I am paring down the committee. I am optimistic that this new medication plan is going to produce a more decisive and competent chairman. It wouldn’t hurt if they were a little better with wood working also, but those who have hired people will testify that one must be careful how restrictive their standards are. I could end up disqualifying myself.

I am going to apply the finish next. It doesn’t require a committee to apply a French rub finish to a guitar. A few hours of vigorous rubbing, which will be followed by a few more tomorrow, and so on for a couple of weeks, and voila! A beautiful instrument which sounds good, plays well, and is an abomination that I will have to give away before it drives me even more insane.

A guitar is what comes from hanging our in my shop. Before I began building guitars, I would spend my time developing Don’t Do This entries. Now, I hang out down there and a guitar appears. I don’t really have much invested in them emotionally. Although, I do wonder what in hell possessed me to choose that piece of defective redwood I had in the wood closet for a guitar. I could have made really pretty boxes for the grandkids with it. I don’t know why I decided to increase the neck declination two degrees after the blank was already cut, although that rouge committee member is a suspect. But, all these are just curiosities. The guitar “is what it is”, the product of a bent and twisted committee.

Do you habitually do things you know you should not do, like increase the declination of a neck blank after it is cut. Me too. Here are the techniques I use to cover up the inevitable fallout:

Deny – You can deny you knew you shouldn’t do it, although it is a hard sell when it is something you have been told repeatedly not to do. For instance, claiming you did not know you shouldn’t play with oxidizers will only hasten your mental evaluation.

Obscure – Hiding the damage is the best option, although if you fail, it is worse than simply admitting the mistake. Weigh the chances of a mental evaluation against admitting your mistake.

Obfuscation – If there is any one thing people like us can do well, it is a confuse a situation. Take advantage of your natural talents to muddy the already uncertain waters. Take care that you are not just simply confusing yourself, or that mental evaluation is right around the corner.

If the inside of your head is getting crowded and unruly, my recommendation is to disband the committees, working groups, focus groups, and all the other groups. Take control! Get a grip! Good luck with that. It has never worked for me.
December 6, 2013 at 10:14am
December 6, 2013 at 10:14am
Don't to this: Do not disturb rabid dust bunnies
I think marriage vows are a dandy thing. But, I think there needs to be an escape clause attached to “for better or worse”. For better or worse up to a point. For better or worse mostly. Or, in my case, for better or worse except for insanity.

I think if my wife had the option of invoking an escape clause, she would have invoked it some time ago. I have become a bit tedious over the years until now I shout at invisible things, clearly remember things that never happened, and completely forget things that did (or so I am told). Clearly, my wife is bearing a ponderous load. That is why I have been actively seeking ways to make her happier.

Doing more cleaning would help. Sadly, I am a failure at housekeeping. I have what may be a common male disability – Dirt Blindness. Those afflicted fail to recognize dirt when they see it. Yes, I see the dust on the plentitude of knick-knacks we have covering every flat surface in the house, but it doesn’t look like dirt. It isn’t hurting anything. In fact, on top of the multifarious knick-knacks is a good place for it, otherwise it would be floating around aggravating our allergies. I am told that in this, I am mistaken. I occasionally try my hand at dusting. Don’t do this. It will not improve your spouse’s happiness. I have never dusted without knocking something off a shelf, and every one of the teeming multitudes of knick-knacks is crucial to my wife’s happiness.

I am told the cupboards need washed. The difference in hue before and after washing is not within the male color detection threshold, which is three shades of white. Females can detect thirty shades of white. That is why paint stores have selections of white paint with three colors but thirty names. My wife can tell if the cupboards have been washed, and also if they have been washed satisfactorily, which I cannot. Attempting this chore does not improve her happiness either.

I am also told that dirt which cannot be seen must be removed. This is beyond me. My wife is five foot tall, yet she knows the top of the refrigerator is “filthy”. I am encouraged to develop these dirt psychic skills so I may clean more effectively. Looking for that which cannot be seen is in large part what got me promoted to bipolar I. And, I never once saw invisible dirt. Needless to say, this does not increase her happiness.

My wife may be considering an alternative to the regrettable escape clause omission: an eject button. She has mentioned more than once that the shop would make a very cozy apartment with the addition of a cot. The shop has a few shortcomings as an apartment what with the complete lack of plumbing and kitchen amenities, but she has correctly pointed out that a camp toilet and a hot plate would solve that.

I clearly need to increase her happiness if I hope to avoid living in my shop. My doctor will be disappointed, but if looking for invisible dirt will help then I am willing to try. The tricky part is that once one starts looking for invisible things, they often find things much worse than a “filthy” refrigerator, and that will certainly not increase her happiness.
December 5, 2013 at 10:03am
December 5, 2013 at 10:03am
Don't do this: Avoid delirium unless you are delusional
It is hard to tell if you are delusional. Delusions and reality have similar qualities in that both seem normal. Being told one is delusional is akin to being told, “Don’t be so normal”. People wandering around in an alternate reality of delusion often claim that it is everyone else who is in the wrong one. Due to the difficulties outlined above, it is hard to know if they are wrong.

What brings this up is that it is cold. Dangerously so, we are told. There is something about the pairing of the word ‘dangerous’ with the words heat or cold which makes going outside irresistible. I can sit through 85-degree weather perfectly happy, but let it reach 95-degrees and I am getting my hiking gear together. One hundred, one 0’five, the hotter the better.

I think it is fun to hike until I am verging on unconsciousness. I may be delusional about that, because I am pretty sure it is not fun. I have confirmed that is indeed dangerous on more than one occasion. My doctor has forwarded a few ideas concerning the question, but my wife has never been present when he has made the alarmist contentions, so I am free to continue for the time being.

Regardless of what the doctor may think, avoiding self destruction is relatively easy during hot weather, but cold weather is tricky. On a hot day, one may possibly encounter another hiker who will help them into the shade and pour water on their head. There will be no one out today. When one begins to overheat, it is a gradual ramping-up of symptoms. When in cold weather, one is colder, colder, then unable to move. One doesn’t get much of a warning. That has never happened to me, mostly because I don’t like being cold so I don’t walk far. There are limits to my delusions about that.

If you think you would like to give self destruction a try, I have a few tips for you. These have been learned by trial and error. I advise against both trial and error.

Walking in dangerous heat – One reads that light long-sleeved shirts should be worn to keep the sun off the skin. That is fine advice, but the more important reason is that when you collapse on a gravel road, you will find that the gravel is very, very hot. Long sleeves help.

Walking in dangerous cold – A brief reading of Jack London short stories reveals that delirium and delusions are a hazard of extreme cold. Mr. London wrote about real cold, whereas what we have here is pretend cold, but his observations still hold. Those of us who occasionally contend with delusions are at an advantage here. Try to enjoy the delirium, and keep up the delusion that you are having fun. Now would be a good time to turn around.
December 4, 2013 at 9:22am
December 4, 2013 at 9:22am
Don't do this: Do not make caffeine crystals at home
I think I have unraveled a mystery that has been nagging at me for the last few weeks. As I have written before, I have been feeling strange. My doctor had changed my diagnosis from bipolar II to bipolar I sometime in November. He prescribed a medication of exceeding virtue, so much so that the practically minor risk of death made taking it still worthwhile. When it became apparent I probably would not die from taking it, I slowly increased the dosage. I was sure after only a few days that I was feeling better.

Then my wife got me a one-cup coffee maker for my birthday. I didn’t think I would like it at first, but when I realized that it was a great convenience, I made a lot of coffee. I fiddled with it until I could produce a tar-like cup of extremely strong coffee.

I have the restraint and judgment of a rabid cat. I will abuse or overdo anything which has the potential for it. In the case of the coffee maker, I began to drink the beautiful caffeine condensate with true devotion. I have had three cups this morning and it is only 5:47. As I sat contemplating the espresso roast goo in my coffee cup this morning, something occurred to me.

The not-always-fatal medication I had begun taking was intended to treat exactly those symptoms which I was recreating by consuming truly abusive amounts of coffee. It is hardly a stretch to imagine why I might feel strange. The not-fooling-around-here medication was attempting to keep a lid on a brain that was being fed a constant stream of a stimulant. I had devised a dangerous but effective goof ball. One may say what they want about my lack of Good Sense, but they cannot fault my instincts.

It may not come as a surprise that this is not the first time I have abused coffee. When I was a young man, I began drinking espresso, and not just a little. After a time, I began to experience unpleasant symptoms which might have indicated an STD. I was mystified as to what may have happened, and I told the doctor so. He performed the standard test, and when the results came back, he conducted an interview. One of the questions concerned drinking coffee. After I told him that I drank substantially more than simply a lot of espresso, he told me that my problem was caused by caffeine crystals in places were one would not hope to see them. Then he commented that the lab people were quite interested because they had not seen the condition outside of a text book.

I need to get a blood test before I go back to see my doctor on the 10th. I will wean myself off of my coffee habit so I don’t garner the interest of another set of lab people. I am hoping to be the very model of a conservative gentleman of sober demeanor and expressing reasoned thoughts. Any little improvement would be better than the last few months. I have been interesting to more than just the lab people lately.
December 3, 2013 at 9:22am
December 3, 2013 at 9:22am
Don't do this:Avoid more than 5 degrees. Wheels fall off
I sat on the toilet of the pet store with water dripping on my head thinking, “This is strange, too”. It had been a strange day in general. I have written recently about feeling strange. Not bad, necessarily, but definitely different. I feel as if reality has been turned five degrees and now the world looks slightly different. Those Don’t Do This readers who have felt strange at one time or another, which accounts for all, will understand how the condition will turn everyday events into curiosities, or extraordinary events into psychedelic experiences.

We were cleaning out my father-in-law’s house in town in preparation for sale. He lives down south and doesn’t need or want the house. My father-in-law is a bit of a hoarder. We found four new pairs of shoes in a closet. Since my buddy down the road wore that size, I brought them home.

He tried on one pair and they fit, so we opened another. The third box looked strange. When I opened the box, I realized it was a contraption to treat erectile dysfunction. It was quite strange. I had never seen such a thing outside of late night infomercials. The device was new and unopened. The air was rife with questions too profound for our weak minds to grasp. My buddy and I decided that the thrift store would be the best place for it.

We left for town on our regular shopping trip and came up on a truck towing a field rake. The rear wheels were wobbling as those on gurneys will do. We entered into a discussion of why every rake had the same problem. We speculated that it had to be hard on the wheels. We went through a list of components that would affected, the tire, the wheel, the hub, so on. Then the left wheel fell off and began rolling into the opposite lane. The axle hit the pavement and began giving off a plume of sparks. The truck pulled over, and as we passed, I thought, “This is strange”.

When we arrived at the thrift store, I walked in and quickly dropped off the device. I returned to the car to watch the reaction of the store volunteer. A young woman came to the cart a minute later. She opened the box and examined the contents and put her hand to her mouth. She waved another volunteer over and they both fell on each other in laughter. As far as thrift store experiences go, it was extraordinary.

We continued with our shopping trip, which took us to a pet store. I went to use the rest room. There was a sign on the toilet stall warning that there was a roof leak. The damage appeared to be toward the middle of the room. It was not. The drip was directly over the toilet. As the large drops spattered on my hat, I thought, “This strange, too”.

A summing of the occurrences revealed yesterday to be a strange day. I have considered if perhaps it was normal and that it was I that was strange, because that happens sometimes. The discovery of the device that was not a pair of shoes was quite odd. I have followed field rakes a hundred miles and have never seen a wheel come off during a discussion of why they should. The water dripping on my head was the topper, so to speak. I am eager to venture out today to see if this is the new normal, because if it is, reality has shifted quite a bit more than just five degrees.
December 1, 2013 at 10:27am
December 1, 2013 at 10:27am
Don't do this: Hitting both toes will make things worse
I feel very strange. I don’t know if that it is good or bad. The old “normal” was not great, so I guess this could be better. I am going to stick with the med plan and see where I end up. Hopefully not the mental health inpatient ward.

I hate to trouble my wife with the trials and travails of my feature-rich emotional states. For one thing, she has had enough to last her a good while. For another, she sees a link between my alcohol consumption and periodic declines that I do not see. Or rather, I see it inversely. I think it helps. I have developed some tools for disguising my less desirable lapses. Hiding an attempt to avoid stepping on an invisible cat is tough. But, it is not impossible. Those of you that have experience with hiding anything from your spouse know what a futile and dangerous exercise it is. Still, sparing your spouse from the disappointment of having their worst fears reaffirmed is worth the risk.

There are times when navigating a house is difficult. Perhaps troubling spatial distortions are making the floor uneven (oddly enough, walking a floor that only appears to be uneven has the same result as if it actually is). Or, your efforts to silence annoying invisible things using home remedies has left you debilitated. You may be faced with that most difficult and imposing of questions, “What is wrong with you?” A short, reasonable answer is needed. Hit your toe with a hammer. You can truthfully claim that the reason you are walking poorly is that you have a sore foot. Do not say you stubbed your toe on anything that is invisible to your spouse.

Sometimes people are simply not intelligible. Even the most reasoned and intelligent of speaker (such as your spouse) will unknowingly begin speaking backwards or in some language that you have neglected to learn. The speaker may be unaware of their lapse. Correcting your spouse is not conducive to favorable marital relations. Listen attentively until they finish speaking. Then say, “Ow! My foot really hurts!” Limp to the shop and hit your toe with a hammer. With luck, your spouse will have begun speaking English again when you limp back.

Some things are simply impossible to hide. Tremors, spasms, knocking over valuable and treasured belongings, these things garner attention. Your spouse has probably come to accept such things, but the general public probably has not. If a member of the public insists on giving aid, do not say, “I’m fine”. You are obviously are not fine. Claiming that you are will raise suspicions. That’s bad. Say, “I have a very sore foot”. After the continuous pounding you have been giving your toe, it is probably quite true.
November 30, 2013 at 9:54am
November 30, 2013 at 9:54am
Don't do this: Do not detonate things in the kitchen
Aluminum nitrate heated above 240-degrees C. will detonate. Complete this portion of the project well before starting gingerbread construction.

I had great hopes that the recent medication change I undertook was going to be relatively smooth. That was irrational. Even minor med changes are rough. This one is not minor. My wife is an astute and ardent observer of my behavior. This is largely precautionary. Observing my erratic behavior yesterday, she asked, “How do you feel?” I replied, “Really weird.”

It is not unusual for one to feel normal and do things which are not. Perhaps you have discovered that one can produce Nitrous Oxide at home. This will require using the kitchen as a lab, something that is squarely on the “Don’t Do This” list. It is clearly a deranged thing to do. But, do you feel weird while doing it? No, of course not. Doing something like that is normal for those of our ilk.

Being of our ilk but feeling weird is new ground for me. I feel like the mania is better but I am hallucinating a bit. I feel a little more relaxed but I am out of sync with reality and everything is happening one second before I experience it. I go back to the doctor in ten days to report on how things are going (if I don’t see him in a more brilliantly-lit and sterile environment before that). I have no idea what I will tell him. Shall I say I feel better except for the hallucinations and detachment? I think not.

I have been on the lookout for things that that seem normal but that one would only do when feeling weird. Most of Don’t Do This is damage control, evidence abatement, and relationship maintenance. Weird things are in a class of their own. So far I have come up with these which were gleaned from yesterday:

Gingerbread houses – constructing a gingerbread house with grandchildren is just plain crazy. It doesn’t take a Don’t Do This reader to know that much. Constructing two is somewhat worse. It takes a Don’t Do This reader to know how much. Not only are the results questionable, but the children have consumed enough sugar to match my level of weirdness easily. I think we were all hallucinating by the end.

Tween’s television programming – Programs made to appeal to older children are everything one could wish for in a tortuous viewing experience. If you find you are holding off dinner in order to catch the end of the Jessie Christmas Special, there is something wrong.

Remedial Convenience Cooking – Perhaps you occasionally attempt to feed children. My condoloences. Our grandchildren prefer nutritionally negative items, which I willingly serve. There are only two ingredients to Chinese noodles. Both are crucial. If there is a unanimous consensus that the noodles are deficient, you forgot one. Probably the spices.

I am finding weirdness difficult to navigate. If you are weird and are succeeding in navigating the troubled waters of a one-second delayed reality, then kudos! Perhaps we could share notes on why caulking is superior to icing as a construction material, and on the comparative merits of Tween television programming. In closing, I offer this: Waiting to start your Nitrous Oxide production until you desperately need it is inadvisable. Don’t do this.
November 29, 2013 at 11:01am
November 29, 2013 at 11:01am
Don't do this:Calling a woman Monkey Love is inadvisable
I have been inspired by a bit of praise. It doesn’t take much. My wife will tell you that it is best not to encourage me, but if the saying holds that every dog has its day, I feel I should get one also. I just don’t want it to be this day, particularly. I would like to put it into my meager Good Day Savings Account and haul it out when the weather is better.

Good Days come around this time of year without any prompting. They are intermingled with really bad days. It is a bipolar season. If I was able to coordinate and match my ups with the season’s downs, maybe I would be normal. This, of course, isn’t how it works.

How it works is that despite solemn vows and determined resistance, I will end up in town on Black Friday. I will probably do it again on December 24th. If I were the paranoid type, which I am, I would say that some omnipotent force was working to drive me insane. I don’t want to point fingers, but there is only one omnipotent force in the room and it isn’t my orchid. I don’t think. As far as I can remember, I have never done anything to God or my orchid to make them mad enough to send me to town on Black Friday. Obviously, I am mistaken.

I am debating on withdrawing my Good Day for the occasion, but it might be a waste. Even a good Black Friday excursion is torture. Why waste a Good Day on that? I have medications for that sort of thing. I know people who are not daunted by the prospect of teeming crowds, calamitous Christmas music with several songs playing at once, store lighting amplified to blinding levels, and everyone feeling obliged to talk to you. I admire people who can endure that. I cannot.

Yesterday our cat was lying behind the curtains of the sliding glass door as she is wont to do as the heater vent runs under the floor. I could see her little paws and tail sticking out from under the drape. I told my wife as we were leaving to watch out for the cat. She said, “What cat?” This incident is further proof that a Black Friday assault is not in the cards for me. If my wife is unconcerned about stepping on an invisible cat, what is she going to do with me in the maelstrom of a large store?

I am going to stay my home, pull out my Good Day, and go invisible critter hunting. The forest is an interesting place in this condition. I saw a skunk the size of a Labrador Retriever once. A Good Day is a very useful thing in a situation like that.

If you have found yourself in a disorienting place having forgotten to bring a Good Day and are insufficiently medicated, there are a few things you can try in order to avoid a mental evaluation. Read How to Pass a Mental Evaluation before leaving for town just in case.

- There is a sea of dazzling lights directly in front of you. You have fallen down. Get up. Don’t say, “I’m fine”. Say, “I need to eat”.

- The crowd has turned to a Fellini-esque assemblage of leering faces with distorted features and lurid colors. You are in the toy section. Leave before you get to the war toys. They are worse.

- You wife has unexpectedly become hostile and people are looking at you even more strangely than the dolls did. It is not your wife. Apologize and walk away (not into the toy section!).

Latching onto a strange woman will gather attention. You are now at the mercy of store security. Hopefully they will page your wife. Be sure to get her name right! Monkey Love was a doll. Don’t do this.
November 28, 2013 at 9:01am
November 28, 2013 at 9:01am
Don't do this:Do not repair extra-dimensional lights
Screwing with feng shui

The decorating is going well despite the hazards. Our windows are filled with breakable and valued things, except for the rocks, which are just valued. I have knocked a couple of things off the shelves but they either didn’t break or I caught them in time.

I feel the windows can be decorated without removing all these items. I would never get them back in the right place, which is important because they are placed in accordance with some bizarre feng shui. It is also time consuming and I need all my available time to consider why bizarre feng shui rules result in seemingly foreordained mishaps instead of preventing them.

The factor which makes the operation feasible is that the lights and tinsel are very distracting and minor mishaps are disguised. There is one foreordained incident that hasn’t been discovered even these two years later. The relationship between our other-worldly feng shui setup and the universally foreordained discrediting of my competency is something else I think about.

I am not given to moderation in any of its forms. Having a condition which is infamous for its immoderate effects is just one reason. The other reason is that if the truth regarding the universe is to be discovered, it is going to require some work. It is essential to the mission of Don’t Do This that we know if the universe is conspiring against us. If it is, that takes a lot pressure off. For instance, we will know before hand that there is no possible way to make a gasoline powered rocket safe, and that relieves us from the effort of trying. I am making progress. I am close to having nothing ever go right. Then the universal forces will be in balance and I will know the truth.

It is that time when some advice concerning seasonal activities would be useful. Here are a few tips regarding another universally foreordained condition concerning Christmas lights.

-All the light strands worked when you carefully laid the lights in the container eleven months ago. Now, some of them do not work. We all wonder why, but it is due to some unfathomable foreordained feng shui failure and I am thinking about that for you, so make a hot buttered brandy and continue on. Your innate inability to act out of moderation and buy new lights may prompt you to debug the problem. Don’t do this. Modern light strands fail extra-dimensionally and you won’t be able to get back if you go there.

-You may be frustrated that light strands cannot be straitened out. It seems to defy nature that something twisted cannot be untwisted. Christmas light strands are twisted extra-dimensionally. They may look like right when on the ground, but they aren’t. Screwing with them will aggravate pre-existing universal conditions and will cause catastrophic failure somewhere along the line. Just put them up.

-It is said that hanging wall paper with someone is the true test of a relationship. In fact, it is only one. Hanging Christmas lights is another. Mess with your spouse’s feng shui and the universe will show you what foreordained really means. Don’t do this.
November 27, 2013 at 10:54am
November 27, 2013 at 10:54am
Don't do this: Nine-year olds know best, don't argue
The holidays are tough for many people, including me. Of all the things I am not built well to handle, I am not built well to handle the holidays the most. Besides the obvious things that a person of uncertain temperament might object to, there are the increased demands that require a higher level of competency. I am really very bad at that.

I am glad I am able to relieve my wife of the burden of shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. She works long hours, has an epic commute, and there is a person of uncertain temperament she must contend with. She takes care to make complete, explicit shopping lists with travel routes, stores to shop at, and anything else she can think of that will be helpful. As you might suspect, I never get it right.

I am not the only marginally competent person whose spouse has dispatched on a crucial yet impossible mission. There are aisles clogged with people (read: men) trying to discern the difference between canned onions and cocktail onions. We have two jars of cocktail onions in the cupboard.

Where my mission runs into trouble is related to the sequential nature of lists. Let’s suppose I am weaving down an isle and I spy something which is number seven on the list. I claim it and cross it off the list. That happens about half the time. The other half I have either crossed off the wrong item, or I have chosen the wrong item. Worsening matters, I fail to return to the top of the list from where I had left off. Lists should not be sequential, they should be dynamic. That is why I bride a grandchild with candy and have them help. If ever there was a dynamic system, a nine-year old is one of them. Plus, I can claim to have been distracted by them.

I am shopping today. I have the advantage of having our nine-year old grand daughter with me. The medication change I underwent last week has destabilized me, which is not unusual. They always do initially. That is not making this weekend any easier. I know we are picking up children, dropping them off, having dinner, not having dinner, and getting a day off, but I have no idea who or when. I have been enjoined from asking because it doesn’t do any good and my wife is tired of telling me.

I have to admit to a bit of fatigue with persistent mania. The dietary supplements I use are not compatible with driving a nine-year old personal assistant around town. Sallying forth in a desperate and doomed assault on stores full of holiday shoppers is not compatible with being of uncertain temperament. In short, I am not looking forward to this weekend.

But, I have put up almost all of the inside and outside lights. That makes things cheery. There is the possibility, remote as it may be, that the new medication will begin to perform as advertised. And, I do have a magic bullet for mania (draconian as it is). Children are not allowed in my shop by edict of their mothers and no one else is inclined to, so I have an escape route. As a word of caution, the holidays are possibly not the best time to cut back on the lithium. Don’t do this.
November 26, 2013 at 11:06am
November 26, 2013 at 11:06am
Don't do this: A spirit has no use for an address book
Don’t Do This is packed with valuable free advice you will find nowhere else. It is invaluable for helping you extricate yourself from troubling situations. But, it isn’t 100% effective. There are some events and situations that are so indelibly etched with your modus operandi that you may have well signed and dated them.

My wife’s address book was misplaced some time ago. The natural assumption was that I had done something with it. I couldn’t deny it because I have no memory of the events happening before yesterday. I seldom used it except when directed to in order to mail something. It seemed to me to be unlikely that I had misplaced it because I almost never handled it. That argument held no sway with my wife and she told me to find it. I did not find it.

The situation here is making it hard to raise any sort of holiday spirit, but I knew it would cheer my wife up to see the outside Christmas lights put up. I retrieved the large tub containing the lights from the storage closet and began testing them. I worked my way down through the layers of coiled strands, which all miraculously worked, and under the fifth coil of lights I spied something strange. I picked up the lights and there lay my wife’s address book splayed open.

There is only one person in the house capable of that, and it isn’t the spirit in the foyer. My wife thought it was funny. She had been able to get the addresses she needed elsewhere so it wasn't too much of a hassle. The worrisome part is that it further illustrates the acts I am capable of and I don't need any more examples. How and why the book was opened and deposited in the tub and then not noticed when more lights were piled on would be a mystery, except that it had to have been I that had done it, and that makes it obvious.

As for me, the incident doesn’t matter too much. That I am almost completely insane is not in question. For you that have not been found out yet, it does have some value. There are some things that I tried before I found it was useless to try. You might do better. The following applies to things that carry your mark so clearly that you may have well given DNA and urine samples (don’t do this):

-Do not blame fictional, imaginary, hallucinated, or corporeally-challenged entities. Except where plausible. Use your judgment on this.

-Do not deny the incident ever happened. This will backfire and cause your spouse to suspect you have become (more) psychotic.

-Do not claim you remember the incident and it wasn’t your fault. Your spouse is well aware of your memory issues and your propensity for constructing revisionist histories.

Deciding if one should simply admit their lapse is dependent on how much further along the harmless/dangerously deranged scale it moves them. If you are only suspected of being insane then good job! You are hiding it well. However, if you are treading a fine line then a defense of some sort is warranted. I hope it works better for you than it has for me. I am smashed right up against the dangerously deranged line and the appearance of the address book did not help.
November 25, 2013 at 10:56am
November 25, 2013 at 10:56am
Don't do this: Do not have your party in an institution
In physics, stability describes an object’s potential for changing state or for remaining unchanged. A positively stabile state means things aren’t going to change, or if they do they will return to the original state. This is a dandy metaphor for my current condition. I was recently promoted to Bipolar I. Not great news, but promotions are generally accepted as being a good thing so I am working on embracing my new position. This has relevance to the question of stability.

I reject the notion that I have become unstable, although the last couple of months are hard rectify with that statement. The last couple of months have been interesting and entertaining. A blackout is like a surprise party that happened in the past with the surprise being sprung at a later date. I will admit to having become a more interesting lunatic as of late. With my recent promotion, it seems I will be returning to this state aeternus constans, which is encouraging because it means I am at last stable.

With that arcane discussion behind us, I would like to explore the ramifications for Don’t Do This. Paltry little three or four week periods of mania are fine for short term projects. Propagation of bed mites, fun with reactants, projectiles and propellants, there are oodles of fun things one can do. But, for serious projects such as converting a truck to a nitrous injection system (because, God knows, 454-cubic inch engines simply don’t provide enough power for driving on gravel roads), an extended period of mania is required. The depression over any mishaps may be pronounced, but it is an old truck anyway.

I had transitioned to Bipolar I without being aware of it, which is a drag because promotions are typically accompanied by a party. Although, it is possible it was and the surprise hasn’t been revealed yet. As a provider of valuable free advice you will find nowhere else, I offer these tips on determining if have transitioned to a higher state in order to prevent you from missing out on your party:

Perhaps you have been hearing voices. This isn’t necessarily anything to panic over. It could be handy if you can get them to say anything useful. I never did. When I told my doctor I had a two-day period of hearing harpsichord music and music boxes, he informed me that was a bit beyond simply arguing with an invisible person. If this happens to you, buy party favors.

If you miss an appointment and call to reschedule but are informed that you had kept the appointment, don’t ask the receptionist what you said. They won’t remember and it will frighten them. Reserve an ice cream cake and hope you remember doing it when the party comes.

Seizures are tricky. If you simply fall down, people will ask if you are alright. If you fall down due to an unexpected loss of motor control, people will also ask you if you are alright. Unfortunately, one might not respond with an appropriate answer such as, “yes”. People will interpret that response as, “no”. Buy festive paper plates and plastic dinnerware.

One’s spouse may not be inclined to organize a party in response to the good news that one has finally achieved stability. Telling them that there is an ice cream cake waiting for you will indicate you have known this was coming and probably not help. Don’t do this. An intimate affair with a few invisible friends may have to suffice. I recommend asking them to leave the harpsichord home. They are very distracting.
November 24, 2013 at 9:40am
November 24, 2013 at 9:40am
Don't do this: Check all certifications first
My buddy down the road and I spend a lot of time together. We have similar views, the same likes and dislikes, and he is crazy, as certified by the US Government which pays him for it. I, on the other hand, am not paid for it and only have the weight of the medical community to back up the diagnosis. He did two tours in Vietnam as a photographer in Psychological Operations. He won’t talk about it, but I suspect he was not photographing landscapes.

He was a plumber for years and then worked in compressed gasses for a major tech company. If I were ever going to outfit my shop with a liquid hydrogen system, which would be a real hoot, he is definitely the one I would ask for help. He would do it for free. He is beyond being simply willing to help people with their plumbing projects. He is closer to being beyond reason. Certainly beyond sanity.

We have new neighbors down the road. The couple who bought it are very interesting folk. He is a retired avian biologist, did a stint in the Peace Corp, lived on a sail boat in Hawaii for two years, and is capable of rebuilding the poor little wreck of a house he bought. He started with the plumbing first because he discovered the bathtub hot water spigot produced a mere trickle of water.

My friend was drawn to the house by the faint odor of rusting pipe and a small pile of dirt in the front yard. The new owner had thought to fix the immediate problem and call it good. My friend correctly pointed out the renters who were waiting to move in with their infant son would be distraught when the plumbing failed.

The owner and my friend worked side by side for days. When they were finished, they had completely replaced the plumbing from the meter through entire house. This is what I mean when I say he is insanely helpful.

The owner is very happy. The plumbing certainly needed to be replaced. Having a plumber with his knowledge wander up and do the job to professional standards for free is a gift (even though he was never asked). The owner was definitely entertained because my friend never stops talking. But, the fact remains that the guy was just going to fix the bath tub hot water and ended up replacing every bit of pipe on the property.

I feel I should introduce the owner to Don’t Do This so he will know to ask about any mental health certifications a person may have in addition to their professional qualifications. But, I think has probably gotten a whiff of actual lunacy and will be more alert from now on. I hope he gets into the electrical system so I can take a shot.
November 23, 2013 at 11:03am
November 23, 2013 at 11:03am
Don't do this: Mother bears ignore life support failures
This morning I am recovering from a near failure of life support and thinking about the sanctity of heater settings. It is a subject of passion and strong beliefs. There is very little middle ground when negotiating a heater setting. All parties hold intractable positions which are seemingly directly linked to their very survival. Screw with the heater and you are headed right for the intersection of mortal danger and Don’t Do This.

It is an unfortunate truth that traveling me is an exercise in hysteria management. It is not as bad when I am driving, although not by much, but when I am a passenger I am constantly verging on emotional crisis. My comfort zone is a small region with the time between comfortable and panicked occupying about two seconds. The critical factors exclude the glove box and the back seat. Other than those, everything else about traveling is two seconds from horrifying.

My wife is a compassionate and understanding person. Except in regards to heater settings. When it comes to heater settings, she is a mother bear protecting her cubs, the fan, heat, and blower settings. Touch one and die. This is in direct conflict with my panic-attack reaction to hot air in the face.

It has been cold here this week by our standards. We went to town last night and when we got in the car it was 33-degrees. That is outside my narrow comfort range and definitely out of my wife’s. She drove because having me drive at night is even less advisable than driving during the day. She turned the heater to a setting that made me hear the computer of the Starship Enterprise saying, “Life support failure in 10 seconds.” Knowing that life support failure was immanent, I nonchalantly reached over and turned the blower from defrost/feet to feet.

This, of course, is rookie Don’t Do This material. If it hadn’t been for the impending collapse of life support, I would have lowered the visor to deflect the hot air from my face and gone in search of my happy place (which went missing some time ago). As it was, I suffered a blistering reproach for my complete ignorance of how the heating system of her car works and was informed of shortcomings I didn’t know I possessed. That is a good thing, I can use the information.

The implications for Don’t Do This are obvious. Leave the damn heater controls alone, hope that your death due to life support failure is not a lingering one, and relocate your happy place before you go anywhere. And most importunately, consider this: there is no more intractable foe than a mother bear protecting her heater controls.
November 22, 2013 at 11:18am
November 22, 2013 at 11:18am
Don't do this: Do not get in a bathtub on TV
The new med plan I am transitioning to requires I take my regular medications plus a new one. With the addition of this new one, the major medications I take now outnumber the ones I don’t. The ones I don’t take are more of a broad spectrum type. I specialize in mania because my depression episodes typically last until I can get to the store. All things being equal, I take enough anti-mania meds to stun a horse. The difference is the horse would have enough sense to lie down.

The instructions for this med plan are lengthy and complicated. Stop this, taper of that, and whatever-you-do don’t take these together. I am trying to pay attention because this is a pass/fail test, and failing has some unsightly consequences. One of the instructions was to call if I experienced any of a long list of unpleasant things, and ended with “confusion”.

I have been confused since 1995. Perhaps earlier. My wife felt it was worth noting in 1995. My initial contacts with the medical community confirmed that, among other things, I was confused. About quite a few things, really. This confusion persisted for about 15 years. It became apparent that trying to correct the confusion was impossible, so my doctor opted to reduce my ability to think, which worked well until recently. None of this did anything to relieve the confusion.

I know many of you are confused over something. Any spouse is a baffling creature with motives and methods beyond the ken of salient thought. The rules of the road, which even though spelled out clearly and concisely, are very confusing to every driver on the road. My point here is, hell yes I’m confused. For 18+ years now.

My question to all of us is, how do you know if you are more or less confused? We are all of us already confused, say about how to cope with plastic armor packaging or a spouse’s sudden fascination with ABBA. So, from one to ten, rate how much more you are confused by penile dysfunction ads? Why are they in bathtubs? Sure, it is confusing, but anymore than your spouse cavorting to Dancing Queen?

I need to let my doctor know if I “experience confusion” related to the new medication. I am working with the following guidelines in hopes I can nip any further confusion in the bud. BTW, none of these things are happening yet, but I will sure call if they do:

Confused: An attractive couple lounges in two bathtubs while an announcer lists the reasons the man should be much closer to a hospital.

More confused: One of them turns and asks if I want to join them.

Confused: A familiar forest suddenly turns into a place I have never been before.

More confused: The trees offer directions.

Confused: The grocery checker makes small talk which is difficult to respond to.

More confused: They speak backwards.

I clearly do not need to call the doctor yet. I run into a chatty tree now and then, and checkers talk backwards routinely. But, I will be damned if I am crawling into the TV to be with those people just so I can run the guy to the hospital when his medication works too well. I would say it is they who are confused about that.
November 21, 2013 at 9:33am
November 21, 2013 at 9:33am
Don't do this:Perverting a coffee maker causes psychosis
It is a sad fact that I enjoy doing almost anything that can be abused. It is a basic personality flaw. When taken in context with the rest of them it is a minor thing, but it has still fleshed out several categories of Don’t Do This. Some people enjoy one thing or another over. Some specialize. Myself, I enjoy whatever is in front of me. In short, I have the restraint and judgment of a rabid cat. I thankfully do not have the opportunity to engage in that sort of thing anymore. I am pretty sure that I would revert to old ways if I did. I do not endorse this behavior. Still, when I am faced with the opportunity to alter reality, I will take it (because God knows, I don’t get enough of that on a daily basis). Coffee presents an opportunity.

My wife bought me a new coffee maker. Our old one was over ten years old. The lid of the old carafe had broken which made poring coffee a hazardous operation. One of the water reservoir retaining clips was gone which caused the container to fall out and spill twelve cups of water on the counter occasionally. That would spawn intemperate language on my part, which in turn disturbed domestic tranquility. I viewed these shortcomings as simply another example of the larger universal shortcomings, which are something I experience on a daily basis. My wife viewed it as dump fodder.

The new coffee maker is a marvel. My wife doesn’t drink coffee, so she got me a one-cup maker. Yesterday’s experiments revealed that it made good coffee, but a little weak for my tastes. The results were very positive despite the potency issue and I had attained a cold-sweat caffeine psychosis by the end. After considering the situation, I formulated a strategy.

I bought an espresso roast, the darkest coffee I could find at the store. The maker as three settings, cup, mug, and travel cup. I made a mug first. Not bad, but I was looking for something more abusive. Next I made an 6 Oz. cup, and then made another in the same mug. That produced a pretty decent cup of coffee.

After reading the instructions (because who would do that first?), I learned that the brewing process could be interrupted by turning the maker off. I was able to get a very passable cup of black, black coffee with about 4 Oz. of water. Using this method, I was able to fill a mug using three loads of coffee.

Conducting the research had left me a bit shaky. I made another super mug and retired to the office. My cup of super coffee is gone now and I am fighting the urge to make another.

My wife correctly observes that I am incapable of having anything without trying to alter its intended purpose or somehow pervert its use. I have no counter for this, except for the obvious one. My first thought when I took it out of the box was how I might manipulate its operation. I suppose there are people whose first thought wouldn’t be “What is the strongest possible coffee I can make?” Perhaps there are even some who are not curious what other uses such a device might have. It has some interesting qualities. It dispenses pressurized water into a sealed container, surely that must be useful for something other than coffee. I am sure some ideas will present themselves if I have another mug of super coffee. I’ll let you know.
November 20, 2013 at 11:40am
November 20, 2013 at 11:40am
Don't do this: Do not misplace your world
I won’t claim to know what reality is, exactly. It is too mercurial a thing to pin down. I admire those people with incisive minds who claim to know. I am never sure of anything. Even though I cannot speak to reality, I feel I am well qualified to speak about unreality.

I don’t think this is my world. I think at some point I slipped across the border and now can’t get back. The reason I say this is because things happen here that don’t happen in my world. There are no Stop/Yield signs, for instance. What does that even mean? High heel clogs? The laws of probability function well there, as opposed to here where the odds of hitting your finger with a hammer are almost 100%. If you recognize me from my real world, please send directions on how to get back. This is a strange place.

That personal plea aside, if this is your native world and there seems to be odd things afoot, look for these indications that you are edging towards the border with another world:

If you seem to be shorter or taller than you were just a few minutes prior, you may actually be. Unreality is like that. Act like there is nothing wrong even though you have become a foot shorter. Try on some clothes. If they don’t fit at the waist as you were hoping they would, you may have become shorter, which causes your waist line to expand. Don’t diet. You will look like a stick person when you return to your normal height.

If you are seeing stick people and squat people, don’t comment on it. That is rude. If fact, if everyone looks weird, it is a good indication that you do as well. That may be why people are staring at you. It is also a good time for a wardrobe check to make sure your clothes fit at the waist.

If you are hearing things speak that usually do not, or seeing things move that usually do not, don’t panic. You are probably experiencing unreality. If, on the other hand, you are on a ladder and it is actually moving, panic. As a note of caution, the ground will never rush towards your face. That means you are falling. Don’t do this.

This has been a rambling discourse, but I have taken two doses of the new medication my doctor prescribed and it is a hoot. It should be a lot of fun but it may impair my ability to produce insightful entries (which were never much better anyway).

I am at a complete loss about reality versus unreality at this point. But, I feel much better about it. My jeans are still too tight, there is still a Stop/Yield sign at the intersection down the road, and I see young women wearing skirts over pants. I can only assume they were once taller and have shrunk so now their pants don’t fit at the waist and they are wearing a skirt to cover it up. None of that bothers me now. I hope it stays like this, it would make this world much more tolerable.
November 19, 2013 at 10:31am
November 19, 2013 at 10:31am
Don't do this: Unmedicated is bad. It could be worse.
I was right about my doctor appointment, he changed the medication plan, and in a draconian way. He eliminated all five medications I currently take and replaced them with a single medication. When I remarked that this sounded like a drastic change, he replied that hallucinations, seizures, and blackouts are a sign something is not working well. I will be taking all of them while I am transitioning to the new med. That will be the Mood Stabilizer Trifecta of taking all three major mood stabilizers at once.

I asked him why, considering my monk-like lifestyle and having “moderation in all things mostly” as a motto, I would attain such an achievement as the Mood Stabilizer Trifecta, which he said is rare. He replied that I had gotten worse. It was an astute observation.

I talked to him about the brain damage and the unpleasantries I thought to be associated. He told me that, yes, there was brain damage, and, no, there wasn’t anything he could do about it. It is evidently something that is common in Bipolar brains. If the new med works, the seizures will get better.

The down side is that the medication can be a tad fatal at times, but I am not to be worried about it and to call at the very first sign of a rash or anything else that seems a tad fatal. Also, when the med works (and is not fatal), it is a marvel. My every dream of lucidity will come true. I will be relieved of the desire to blow things up. I will speak with insightful clarity using words that actually exist. The invisible people will pack up and go where ever invisible people go.

The problem, and it is a big one, is that it only works 50% of the time, and I won’t know until I am off all the other meds whether it is working or not. Right now, I am taking five medications and I still hallucinate, have seizures, and have blackouts. If the new med doesn’t work, the old meds will have to be phased back in over a period of several weeks because one doesn’t just pop open the bottles and gulp them down. The result would be dramatically worse than a tad fatal.

I don’t know who among you may have had the experience of being an unmedicated bipolar sufferer, but it is not pleasant. I tried it for a time when I was younger and, really, was not very good at it. Now, some thirty years later, I am a feature-rich lunatic with a shop full of interesting materials. I can easily predict that if I were totally unmedicated, I would be committed within a week. There are times when I have to talk my way out of it now as it is.

On the upside, I will have a wealth of material for Don’t Do This if the second worse thing happens (fatality being the worst). I start the new med today. I have high hopes this is going to fix everything. Unmedicated. Sheesh.
November 18, 2013 at 11:05am
November 18, 2013 at 11:05am
Don't do this:Avoid becoming interesting to your doctor
I am at a bit of a loss this morning over what I am going to tell my doctor this morning. I had planned on talking about a blackout last month. That is not the worst thing that can happen. It was only a day and was something that could have happened to any heavy drug user or alcoholic. I am neither of those (if you exclude psychoactive medications), but still, it isn’t necessarily an indication that I have become crazier than I was before. Neither is it an indication that I have become any less so. But, I felt it was worth a visit because my doctor is interested in such things and he went to school for God-knows-how-many years just to hear about such things.

In the intervening time between making the appointment and now, I have become somewhat more interesting. I have had to resort to heroic measures to quell anxiety symptoms, measures he does not endorse in a rather strident way. I spent two days listening to invisible harpsichords and music boxes. That was not at all typical and made me question if I actually was only as crazy I had been before. To make things even worse, the aggravating vocal tick that I have been fighting half my life, with no success, has escalated into spasms. This turns out to be problematic while driving, trying to eat, and more importantly, holding a beer.

The one-day blackout might sail past him with only a nod since it hasn’t reoccurred, although trying to remember if one has had a blackout is also problematic. However, when combined with the more interesting hallucinations and spasms, it may get his attention. That’s bad. Here are some of the things that could happen in ascending order of unpleasantness:

1 – Medication change. This could be placed further down the list because of the potentially disastrous effect, but at least one walks out of the office with nothing more than a prescription.

One might say they don’t want a change and feel things are going OK if their psychotic symptoms are discounted. If the new med seems entertaining in any way, one might agree to a trial. None of these will have any effect as doctors pretty much do whatever they think is best.

2 – He might order an MRI. I had evidence of brain damage in a scan 20 years ago which they attributed to Scarlet Fever, a real hoot of a disease, and the vocal tic/spasm could be related to that getting worse.

Preparing for an MRI is a matter of coming as close to unconsciousness as possible without passing out. This is a fine line, one should practice beforehand.

3 – Mental evaluation.

This is hazardous ground. If you think this might happen to you, read How to Pass a Mental Evaluation in Don’t Do This. Predicting when you might end up with an evaluation while so mentally compromised as to warrant one is also problematic. Maybe you should read that section now.

I will have to admit to being somewhat compromised. I have a broad base of agreement on this. My wife believes that since a mental health facility is almost the same cost as a hotel after insurance, I should take advantage of any invitations offered. The bars are woefully under stocked and that is problematic as well. But, if one voices their displeasure in strong enough terms, they will be administered a substitute which will solve all their problematic issues very nicely.
November 17, 2013 at 10:52am
November 17, 2013 at 10:52am
Don't do this: Optimists do not drop their glasses
I am close to finishing the guitar I have been working on for the last couple of months. It is a time when all the little (and not so little) mistakes come together to reveal nothing fits right. I was very disappointed when this happened while building the first few guitars. Now I just expect it and that makes things better. I think of it as shortcutting the five steps of grieving. The other four have a bad effect on me.

I don’t know if this places me in the optimist or pessimist category. I may fall on the midpoint of the spectrum, which is ambivalence. In the half full/half empty debate, I am just surprised I still have the glass, it probably has something other than water in it, and it won’t be half full for long.

As one might gather from reading the helpful free advice contained in Don’t Do This, things often do not go well for me. I have decades of experience in disastrous misfortune and have devoted a great deal of time to mitigating the fallout. Is it pessimistic to expect a can of paint to fall into the bathtub while painting the ceiling, or is it optimistic to think it can fixed before being discovered? (Answer: It depends on how much goes down the drain.)

As the British Royal Observer Corps so insightfully observed, forewarned is forearmed. In that spirit, I offer this: At some point you will make a mistake so hideously awful that you feel you must hide it. Perhaps you already have, and rue your even more hideous failure to hide it. Consider this as forewarned. Don’t Do This is forearmed.

The British Royal Observer Corps was definitely on to something. Anticipating one's hideous mistakes is key to surviving them. Here are a few practical applications:

Forewarned – Gravity does not respect the sanctity of your flooring or furnishings.
Forearmed – Since you obviously did not put down a drop cloth before painting, because you never do, bring a wide range of solvents, stain removers, oxidizing cleansers, copious amounts of rags, and scrub brushes up from their hiding place in the shop before you start painting.

Forewarned – Your spouse has become suspicious of your excuses.
Forearmed – Be absolutely truthful about minor incidents that you can’t hide anyway, like wrecking the car.

Forewarned – Your doctors will not hesitate to call your spouse if they feel they should.
Forearmed – Think before you speak! If possible. If not, skip to step five of the grieving process and find a half-full glass before it gets taken away from you.

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