Welcome to the final issue of 2021. I can say without any doubt that the last two years have been some of the roughest I've ever lived through, and to be 100% honest, I'm tired. I have a LOT of words for how I feel on a given day. Here are just a few: anxious, anxiety ridden, tired, blocked, fragged, happy, elated, morose, blah, rough, exhausted. Every day seems to have its own set of emotions..

The worst days are what I call “black cloud” days. These are the days when a black cloud flies over, ready to drop a steady drum of emotional rain down on me. These days are the worst of them. Some days I catch the cloud flying in early and others, it takes me all day to realize that the cloud has been overhead all along. My preference is to catch it early so I can mitigate the day or to just call it and take a mental health day. Back in the before times, my normal therapy on black cloud days was to shut down the laptop and head to the movies. Movies always lift me out of my doldrums but with COVID, taking a trip to a dark movie theater is far from a stress-free way to relax.

You're probably thinking “Gee, thanks Rod. Way to start my day on such a cheery note.” It's my sincere hope that this editorial doesn't stress you out but rather, helps you realize that you're not alone. I know for a fact that I'm not unique in my experience with these feelings, and that helps. It helps to know that other people are experiencing the same feelings and maybe, if we talk about it, we can help each other on our journeys. We're all in this boat together and it's up to us to help each other along.

So how do I deal with these “black cloud” days? I have several things that seem work for me. Here are a few of them.

Over the years, listening to music seems to have worked well in helping me get my stuff together. In the early 2000s, I went through a rough divorce and listening to music helped keep me sane. I have no idea how this works, but it does. Sometimes the fix was a dose of Santana's “Supernatural” or a steady stream of Foo Fighters' “The Colour and the Shape” or simply some Slipknot at 100db. For me, a song or two can change my attitude.

Another form of therapy for me is simply getting into the car and going for long drives. I kind of knew this about myself already, but during COVID, it became more apparent to me that this was a form of therapy. During COVID, I spent many weekends taking long road trips with my wife. We'd get into the car and point it in a random direction and spend the day checking out the sites. My random travels aren't limited to Texas (where I live). My random drives happen elsewhere, as many of my friends can attest. I'm known for my famous “Rod's Reality Tour” of Hollywood. Ask fellow CODE Magazine author John Petersen. He can tell you about these epic drives.

Another form of therapy, and one that's been elusive of late, is vacationing. It's nearly 2022 and I haven't taken a “real” vacation in some time. Like many of you, I had big plans for 2020. We had our passports all ready for a trip to London, Gen-Con, Reaper Con, SDCC, and a Motley Freaking Crue concert! 2020 was going to go down in the books as EPIC. Well, you know what happened. It WAS epic, but 2020 turned into a bummer and here we are. This lack of real downtime has probably had the biggest impact on me and my family. The strange thing is that it took until September of 2021 to come to this realization. I was in the process of cancelling many concerts and conferences that I'd scheduled for fall of 2021 (because of the Delta variant) and I was having a “bitchy” kind of day. It was this bitchy kind of day that gave me the realization that I hadn't had any down time for over a year and a half. I'm trying to rectify this now. It's difficult, because things are really ramping up work-wise as we head into the end of 2021. Wish me luck.

Finally, there's writing. Writing is a form of therapy for me. The biggest help for me was when I discovered Morning Pages. Check out the Jan/Feb 2021 issue of CODE Magazine for my discussion of how Morning Pages helps me. But it's not just the Morning Pages that helps when it comes to writing. These editorials of mine are therapeutic to me as well. When I first started doing these editorials, I was a bit snarky in some of them. One day, Markus Egger messaged me and recommended I use these pages in a more positive way. I took that to heart and have tried my best to use these pages to serve our readers in a positive way. I hope I've succeeded.

As I conclude this editorial, I want to make clear that these are just a few things I use to help get me through. FWIW, I also include many creative endeavors to help get me through. A good example is the Dungeons and Dragons game I DM. This has been an invaluable outlet, as it involves creativity and getting together with friends, albeit virtually for most of the pandemic.

There are numerous ways to help make your mental health better and, in some cases, it might take professional help (something I'm looking into). One of the first steps is to realize that you're not alone and that these feelings are universal. Remember that we're all in this together - and I thank you for being here for me, too!