Fox and I have started taking a course about developing Android apps on Coursera. We started accessing the Week 1 materials yesterday, watching videos and downloading the software development tools we’ll need to participate in the course, and beyond! It felt really good to be focused on learning, get new software, and start playing around with what I’d just learned. I’m very glad I have a structured course in which to learn how to use the software development tools, so I can take advantage of all their features should I choose to use them to develop new apps.
I’m also eagerly waiting for my new tablet, which runs Android, to arrive on my doorstep. It will be the first time I’m able to fully and freely access “smartphone” technology, including all the apps that already exist. Even if I never develop new software of my own (or decide tablets and smartphones aren’t the right platform for it), I’m hoping that I can use my new tablet to help improve my own mental health (and not as yet another time-wasting device!).
As awesome as it felt to DO SOMETHING toward a goal I feel passionate about, I do foresee some areas of frustration and obstacles I’ll need to overcome:
1) Software development seems to require a different way of thinking from what I’m used to; none of the material covered in the videos we’ve watched so far seemed intuitive to me. I felt like some of it might’ve gone over my head. I’m not really used to that – if anything, I’m used to material being easy for me to understand.
But, I was able to learn algebra by copying everything the teacher put on the board until I started seeing the patterns in it. I decided to major in music because I was similarly challenged by the first semester of music theory, so I wanted to take the second semester. I can face this challenge! I just need to be aware of it and willing to accept some frustration while I navigate it.
2) I’m very codependent with Fox. He’s been very supportive of me since I first came up with the idea to develop software that might help me overcome some of the difficulties I’ve been facing. He suggested Android apps and offered to take the Coursera course with me.
But I don’t know how interested he really is in learning this stuff for himself, and that could make this process difficult. He seemed annoyed with the course creators for requiring students to interact on the forum, frustrated because if his laptop is able to run the required emulators at all they will be painfully slow, and less enthusiastic about the learning process than me. I don’t want him to feel like he has to do something he’s not really interested in or doesn’t find satisfying.
I was hoping that he would help me stick with the course and complete it – if nothing else so I could recall that experience when faced with uncertainty, instead of perpetuating this image I have of myself as someone who never completes anything. But now I foresee being faced with the difficult dilemma of wanting to watch the next video lecture, but also feeling like I should wait for him because we’re “taking the course together.” I need to stay firm and focused on what will be best for me – what I can do to learn and keep up with the course, whether we’re watching videos together or not. If he decides it’s not for him, I need to be able and willing to fly solo.
As much as I wish I could let go and trust him to take care of me, the truth of the matter is this: it will only lead to resentment when my needs aren’t met. We both need to figure out how to take care of ourselves, and each other. It’s not easy.
3) I’ve gotten some encouraging responses from people I’ve told about my idea, but for the most part I’m frustrated by lack of response. I’m especially frustrated by lack of comments on this blog.
I know I need to take at least some responsibility: I’ve been intentionally vague about the software I want to develop, how I want to develop it, and what I want it to do. I’m not sure how much is safe to disclose online; I don’t want someone to steal my idea (especially not some big wealthy company that will use it to make money and prevent others from making free or inexpensive versions, or worse use it for even more invasive advertising). But if I’m going to get feedback I need to give people something to respond to, something they can understand and connect with and want to respond to. How do I protect my idea AND get the feedback I need to create a program that others might also find useful? Well, I’m also taking a course about entrepreneurship on Coursera, maybe it will give me some ideas.
I think this is a wonderful idea! It’s great that you’re taking charge of your desire for assistive technology by learning to design it yourself. I can also see it being helpful to have a course that provides a source of structure and fulfillment, but without the pressure that a credited graduate course would. Personally I don’t see any harm in Fox doing the course with you mostly to support you, and not because he has particular interest in it himself…so long as it’s not always him making compromises for you, and you sometimes join him in his endeavors as well. Couples can’t be expected to share all the same interests, but it can still be nice to provide support to each other with your individual projects and goals.
Regarding apps, I know Android has some of the same apps as Apple products. Some apps that have helped me with mental health and also organization/time management (I have an iPhone so they may not all be available for Android, but there’s no harm in checking the app store for something similar):
~Binaural Beats (sort of like subliminal messaging; you listen to various soothing nature sounds and beneath the sounds are different tones that you can’t consciously hear but can produce different effects, such as improved concentration or creativity or sleep). As cooky as this sounds, I find it *really* helps, especially with my insomnia and ADHD (I listen to the “concentration” setting while doing homework and the “sleep” setting before bed). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binaural_beats
~Sleep Tracker: log how much sleep you get each night, what time you go to bed and wake up, the quality of your sleep, and what the hours before bed were like, and it makes charts for you to notice patterns of what helps or hinders sleep and how sleep affects your mood
~Time Tracker: a timer times how long different activities take, again so you can track patterns and improve time-management skills
~Period Tracker: track your periods plus symptoms that you get (which is really fun actually because for the symptoms they have these cute little symbols, like a smiling cupcake for “food cravings”). it analyzes the data to tell you when you’re ovulating, PMS, when you should get your next period, and what symptoms are most common
~My Mood: if you only get one app, I would recommend this one since it’s basically a combination of all the other tracking apps, making the process easier to stick to. (I do *not* recommend doing all these apps simultaneously, that would be too much time and work and veer into OCD territory. just focus on what is most important to you). This tracks how a lot of different factors influence your mood (such as food, exercise, medication/supplements, events and activities, menstruation, and sleep). Like the other trackers it uses pretty charts and symbols, and you can also take photographs of things that either stress you out or make you happy for later reference, which makes it fun. Over time I’ve found it really helps me to know my triggers and notice initial signs of episodes, and also remember what has helped me in the past to deal with them.
Thanks so much for your suggestions, found them very helpful and encouraging!
I found an app called Magic Binaural which I think will work similarly to Binaural Beats. Fox and I have decided to try listening to it when we go to bed tonight, will let you know how it goes.
I also found two apps that sound similar to My Mood, called eMoods and T2 Mood Tracker. I’m going to play with both of them for a while to see which I like better, or I might use them both. eMoods tracks sleep, medication, whether you had verbal therapy that day, and lets you take notes. The T2 Mood Tracker has multiple sliding scales for each thing that it tracks (e.g. depression, anxiety, general well being) and can keep track of your score for each category. One benefit to the T2 Mood Tracker is that it enables you to set a reminder to do it regularly. On a related note, I also found a Depression Inventory that works similarly to the Burns Depression Checklist but with less questions; it automatically keeps track of your score, no spreadsheets necessary.
Finally, I found some additional apps I think might be useful. Yoga Moment plays some very nice music. Stop Panic and Anxiety has guided meditations, an audio that can guide one through a panic attack, and tracks one can listen to to change one’s thinking about things like depression and social anxiety. Cognitive Diary CBT is a space to write about a distressing experience, note emotions, intensity, irrational beliefs, how strongly one believed them, rational challenges to those beliefs, etc.
Trying to use all of these every day seems a bit nuts, but I’m glad I found them and I hope to find at least some of them helpful.
Listening to Magic Binaural just doesn’t seem like a good idea for me, or Fox. We tried listening to its sleep induction program last night and agreed we didn’t like how it made us feel. I tried a few other programs with headphones today and had the same problem.
Also, I did some searching and found an app called “Assistant” which is one of many versions of Siri for Android. It’s the only one I’ve found so far that seems to understand the idea of repeating reminders (daily, on weekdays, etc). I couldn’t get it to set a reminder for once per week on the same day (e.g. “Remind me to take out the trash every Thursday.”) but having it pre-set to remind me to take my supplements, turn off electronics at a decent bedtime, etc. every day should help. I’ll just have to remember to set the weekly reminders each week!
The Magic Binaural Beats app Ziya found sounds a bit different from the one you mentioned. No soothing nature sounds (more interesting techno-like sounds). The bigger issue (at least from my perspective) is that we consciously perceive the other tones, and those tones seem so far to be royally screwing around with our mental well being. It might be that we’re just too sensitive to those tones, or it might be that our brains are wired differently enough to have an effect opposite from the intended one.
Or it could be that a different app might actually work, and be worth using. To be honest though, I’m not sure its worth the risk of another bad one for me to try again. If Ziya wants to, well, that’s up to zir.
I know nothing about apps, but I do know a thing or two about learning. It sounds like you’ve embarked on a great learning project. Perhaps if you’re concerned that Fox is less engaged in the project than you are you could talk about an “escape” clause. From what you say about your previous learning experiences, you need more support at the beginning until you build up some confidence with the new material. You could look at Fox’s participation almost like the training wheels on a bicycle. When you are ready to “ride” on your own you can let Fox know, and then it’s his decision whether he wants to keep riding alongside. By that time you will also have developed some connection with your instructor and classmates through the class forum, so you will have a wider support group to turn to when you get stuck. I look forward to hearing about your progress.
Ziya and I talked about the course after ze posted this, and I assured zir that yes; I actually do want to take the course. I am happy to be able to support zir through it, but I can also get something out of it myself; it’s another skill that could prove useful for my freelance web work.
What I’m not so crazy about is the semi-forced social interaction (especially the stuff that feels very social media like) – I generally don’t like when scholastic/informative things try to blend with social media. I’ve taken enough online (partial or full) classes and that sort of thing drives me bonkers.
I think it was that reaction, along with the fact that I generally try to follow along with the video as we’re watching it (rather than watch then do) that was leading Ziya to believe that I’m not as interested in the course as I am.
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