Long Time, No Review…Let’s Change That

It has been a while since I have spoken to you guys on the site side of things, which has been a subject that has been eating at me since the last review I wrote seven years ago. Every time I have been asked, “yo, DMJ, when are you going to do the next review?” I always get this knot in my stomach when I get on to the answer. It isn’t that I don’t want to do reviews; it’s just that there have been a lot of things going on since 2015. So the only way I can explain what was going on is to go back in time before Touhou and before reviewing music, to my childhood to give everyone a perspective on what is going on.

Understanding DMJ

Growing up, I was always a loud, rambunctious kid, always wanting to get outside and do stuff, which is expected for a six-year-old in the early 2000s. I was always playing with friends, playing outside, and enjoying what was seen as a normal childhood. However, in school, I struggled to get good grades when I entered 1st grade. It wasn’t like I wasn’t trying; it just took some time to hammer home concepts into my head. It was rough, and going to a private school didn’t help much. I also struggled to keep my focus on the lesson if the subject was something I didn’t care about or if it was getting close to recess. Halfway through the school year, my parents took me to my doctor. I don’t remember much about these early meetings; however, I was being prescribed medications in the end. I would later understand that I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD. I didn’t understand it, and in the early 2000s, doctors were still trying to understand how to treat this condition. I felt normal, and I acted just like my friends around me, so why did I have to take medicine that made my heart race, feel like a shell of a child, and made sleep hard to achieve?

ADHD and Me

What ADHD is, in a nutshell, is my brain struggles with attention in both keeping it and refocusing it away from things. It is typically diagnosed in children and it is more common in boys since the symptoms are more outward than in girls, but it affects all genders. It takes time for me to understand things since I am actively fighting to keep my focus on the task or conversation at hand. There are some elements with processing auditory stimuli that can pop up from time to time. For example, I could be engaged in a conversation with someone, and the conversation would be going fine. Suddenly the words coming out of the other person’s mouth would drop out and start to sound like mumbling, requiring the person to repeat themselves until my brain can process what is entering my ears.

I also have trouble creating dopamine, the happy chemical, in my brain. But unlike other people, my brain craves dopamine like a drug addict. My brain will go out of its way to get dopamine. At times, it even fights against my own needs and wishes. People with ADHD tend to compare their brains to a second entity. A common issue we struggle with is managing our own needs versus wants. Even if we are hungry or need to use the restroom, if our brains are engaged with highly dopamine-producing tasks, they will actively fight to keep us engaged with the task instead of trying to take care of the need. This doesn’t just extend to needs, but almost all things. This need to feel happy can also lead someone with ADHD, if untreated, to addictive behaviors. These behaviors could be drugs and alcohol, of course, but they also can lead to bouts known as hyperfixation. This has been the main thing I have struggled with in my day-to-day life. Hyperfixation is where my entire focus is placed within a single task or subject. This tends to lead someone with ADHD to jump hobbies repeatedly, constantly gaining and losing interest in subjects, activities, and topics. Hyperfixation can be difficult for some because most people with ADHD are chasing that dopamine “high” that their brains crave, leading to an “all-in” mentality when tackling hobbies.

A good example is someone getting into baseball: buying bats, gloves, balls, and uniforms. Then a week later, that passion for baseball completely fades away, but now you have all this equipment you don’t use. A more direct example is when Lunar brings up how often I jump in and out of things on the live shows, Halo, Star Citizen, Airsoft, etc.

Treatment varies from person to person; however, back when I was a kid, the main form of treatment was prescribing stimulants like Concerta, Adderall, and Strattera. My whole childhood was bouncing between taking different drugs at various doses because ADHD’s hold on a child moves and shifts with the child’s developing brain. This led to some school years where I was pretty ok and could maintain a dosage; however, I spent a good chunk of time shifting between different medications and doses year to year.

Later in Life

For a while, school was good, and I was getting good grades despite how the medications made me feel. I still felt like a normal child when it came to how I socially interacted with others, and emotionally I felt normal. Still, I didn’t get ADHD as a whole, and as a child, my parents were always the ones speaking for me in meetings with my doctors. However, years down the road, we moved to Kentucky, uprooting me from all the friends I knew. This is where I saw myself being different from my peers. I moved from a religious private school to a secular public school, and it was a significant culture shock for me. I didn’t understand the way things were taught at first; however, I could somewhat adjust. The kids in my class though we’re slightly different. I felt like they were nothing like the kids at my old school, where I could approach them and have some sort of commonality with them. This also didn’t help because this was middle school, and I was still trying to figure out who I was. That year, I made it my goal to find a group to fit into, which was a new concept because “cliques” didn’t exist where I came from. I fell into a group that was into heavy metal music, anime, and video games, sometimes just one of those things or all of them.

At this time, I understood what ADHD was, but not at the level I should have because I had no control over what went on in the doctor’s office. All I knew was that the gauge that parents were using to judge how I was doing was solely based on grades. This was before a time where Cognitive Behavior Therapy and seeing specialists who work with people with ADHD was a familiar path most people took because it was either not understood by the pediatrician or because it was not covered by insurance. There was also growing sentiment around ADD and ADHD that it was overdiagnosed and used to push pills on children; if I remember correctly, there was a South Park episode all about this subject. There was also the sentiment that ADHD and ADD were something a child would “grow out of.” This was the major trap I fell into. Around me, there were kids in my middle school that were selling the same medications I was taking for treatment for recreational use. Some of those kids were diagnosed and just selling off their daily doses to others, while others were stealing from siblings who were also diagnosed and trying to make a quick buck. Even as a kid, I knew what I was seeing wasn’t good for both sides of that equation, mostly because I saw one of my closest friends fall apart because of it.

On top of that, all the kids and teachers around me always fed me the “you will grow out of it” line when I brought it up. I fell for that hook, line, and sinker. So around mid-high school, I started to throw out my daily doses at first because I made a promise to myself never to sell, and around my Sophomore-Junior year of high school, I was taken off entirely at my request. I hated feeling like a zombie, and I believed that in no way would this go on forever and I would just “be normal.”

What Happened

After taking the meds, I started to fall apart in school. I could not focus on much. Each night instead of doing homework, I was up late with friends playing Halo, Call of Duty, or Minecraft. In 2012, right before I graduated, I discovered Touhou for the first time in my Comp TIA class. After that, there were nights when me and my friends were up playing Touhou Hisoutensoku until 3 AM on skype calls or playing Ghost Recon: Future Soldier until our thumbs bled (hence the fanfic that will never see the light of day). I was already at a low point in my life at that time, despite the mask of normality I put on every day. I don’t want to go too deep into that in this already long post, but I felt alone, locked inside of myself, and I didn’t have a support system I trusted enough to talk about these things. I have always found it difficult to talk about medical issues with others, let alone the stigma of men talking about these kinds of subjects. At that time, I met my current partner right before heading off to college. I noticed a Flandre keychain on their purse, and we hit it off. College, however, was brutal; I felt underprepared and had a lot on my plate. At this time, I also started Touhou Music Reviews on Facebook, getting into semi-professional Planetside 2 (which, at the time, I played 4-8 hours a day depending on my workload). I also started my first job as a contractor at Ford doing quality inspection. I was able to keep up my reviews since, at the time, I was on Facebook most of the time and because I was putting everything off until the last minute.

Then I was put into my position here at Gensokyo Radio, where I do music reviews. However, this was again where I felt like I was stumbling about through life, constantly switching majors, getting a handle on life by myself, and being a general adult. For a long time, I struggled and was pressured to get a better job so that I could better support myself, so when I got on at Ford proper and started to work longer hours, reviews suffered since the only time I had to work on it was weekends and the short times I had after work. However, my brain has been having a hard time pivoting back to reviews because it was chasing that dopamine rush. What would happen is that I would know I need to do a review, I feel the guilt build up about needing to do one since that is the whole point of the website, but my brain could not start on it. The best way most of us with ADHD describe this is “brain fog,” where you want to do something, but because of your brain’s need to feel happy, your focus is almost stuck on tasks other than the ones you need to do. At this point, I was questioning whether or not I should still be part of the fandom since, after Touhou 13.5, I haven’t picked up playing any of the games. I also got burnt out on Touhou music after spending 2012-2014 listening exclusively to Touhou Music. I have no idea what the rest of the music world was doing between those years, and going back to listening to it was almost like discovering music for the first time again. It was hard to balance everything. This problem persisted until the pandemic happened and I was stuck locked with myself in someone else’s home with no understanding of my diagnosis. I noticed how my behavior affected others and how hard it is to keep myself on track for essential things. Important tasks would be put off for years when the tasks would only take five minutes, and I saw that I struggled to find a place of my own because I could not understand the process and my inability to keep myself focused on the task. It strains relationships close to me, and I shut myself away from everyone not directly around me for a while. Coming out of lockdown, I have been opening up to others, and this year, I committed myself to getting back on the medications I was taken off a decade ago. The issue is that my last doctor visit to send me off to a specialist wasn’t too good; basically, my diet and activity levels put me at risk for heart issues if I were to be put back on. They don’t want to put me on anything until I get into an exercise routine and eat better. So a couple of weeks ago, that journey began.

Another part of the deal is doing reviews again. I made it my goal to find ways to sit down and do more reviews. I owe it not only to myself but to you guys. I am not doing this only to feel better about myself, but because the landscape of Touhou Music has changed since the last review, and I want to do my best to help you navigate these new waters.

Reviews Going Forward

So here we are. If you see this post, my first review in over five years should be up. There will be little change initially; however, new methods are being worked on behind the scenes to improve the process and possibly give more content to those who want it (nothing solid yet but things are in motion for something cool). There will also be some experimentation in the types of reviews. I can say one review coming up is a compilation/”remastered” album that I would have avoided in the past. I will explore whether or not the album is worth a listen compared to the originals. There is also the idea I have toyed about in the past to bring Bandcamp albums into the fold and review them through that lens. Also, if there are groups with small discographies, I plan to do total discography reviews (I already have one on the books).

The most significant change is slowly moving over to video reviews. I have thought about it for a while, and I want to explore the idea of doing the reviews in video format with shorter write-ups. When I physically speak, I am clearer in my thoughts and can convey a better message about the album. It will also allow me to be more critical of work since I am focusing more on my thoughts versus my wording which can get me into trouble because I sometimes understand the amateur nature of our neck of the woods when it comes to production and skill. My goal is to make it so you can go into it with general expectations but not the whole story every time you pick up a record. However, my goal for reviews is not to shape your overall opinion of an album. I want to give you all my impressions and opinions, so I will avoid placing objective values, like number scales or star values, in a subjective medium. This is a trap almost every publication that covers the subject of a review falls into, and I find it destructive to the overall covered subject (books, games, music, etc.)

I will also use that time to discuss topics I haven’t been able to cover in written form; a good example is, funny enough, examples. For example, I want to be able to talk about the difference between a “fry scream” versus a “false chord vocal” when it comes to harsh vocals, or describe a sound based on examples outside Touhou Music to give better comparisons for those who are just getting into this end of the music spectrum.

This process of moving to videos will take a while since I am learning how to use video editing software (DaVinci Resolve). In the meantime, there will be a stream of written works in the pipeline, and with some music now being on Spotify, not only will there be a good mixture of new and older albums, but I’ll be able to publish reviews faster since I am not waiting for albums to ship. Currently, my collection of physical albums is around 65 CDs, and all of them have been ripped and sent over to my PC archive, so I have plenty of work to do.

Right now, no schedule has been set since I am still working on a new process (I was told about it a week ago as of this post), and I want to see how it flows into my current workflow. However, I plan to give you at least something every month to look at. Video reviews also help with the frequency of posts since it gives me a chance to film multiple reviews in a day versus focusing on one write-up at a time. The other hitch in the giddy-up is that I might be moving soon (for real this time), and I want to have time to settle into a new routine and set a good work/life balance.

This Post is Too Long So I Will End It Here

So reviews are back and here to stay. To everyone out there reaching the end of this post, I thank you so much for getting here, and I look forward to this new era of reviews. I am so sorry it took so long but as my favorite podcast “Last Podcast On The Left” likes to say “mental health isn’t your fault, but it is your responsibility,” and it is time for me to do that. For those like me who were diagnosed with ADHD as a child and are still trying to figure out their next steps as they become/have become adults, please talk to your doctor about moving to a specialist if you aren’t already seeing one. Your general practitioner is a foot in the door to get you the tools you need to make it through a world that isn’t built for you. ADHD doesn’t go away as an adult, it just gets more disruptive and feels like everything is amped up to 11. So build your mental toolkit to go with medication or whatever you end up going with, and stick with it. If you think you may have ADHD, please talk to your doctor so you can get diagnosed. ADHD/ADD is more common than you think, and some symptoms of common mental issues are also symptoms of ADHD.

I can’t wait for you all to see the next review. I am excited to do it, and for the first time, I feel like I have some sort of confidence in myself when it comes to giving my opinions about things. I always loved music but felt like I wasn’t always giving you guys the best reviews I could. Now I feel more confident than ever, and I can tell you this was pretty hard for me to write since I dislike talking about myself in this way to a large audience, but I feel like this is the best way I can convey the personal struggle I have been going through for years.

I am so glad to be back, and I can’t wait to see you all in the comments, on Discord, in our live shows, on the road, and around in general because I always felt that the Touhou community is a big family. We are all here for each other, and we are all here to prop each other up when others need it. I look forward to the future here, and I wish you all a good life ahead. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some yogurt to eat, and yes, I added granola.

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