Dear GMPuzzles Family,

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I haven’t been able to share more details with you on my mental health recently (not mental illness, although the first being in bad shape can lead to the other!). I wanted to give you all this update, possibly more to come later, as you all watch out for the site and for me.

Over my life, I have managed what I have called hypomanic states that can include (short) bursts of high productivity, creativity, the need to do extensive walking or running to control one’s thoughts, and diminished sleep. This past week, starting ~March 13th and provoked primarily from stresses at my scientific work, was the first time I had a full on manic episode that built over 3-4 days, including the release of an unusual amount of ideas in raw/vocal and short/tweeted form from usually dormant accounts. Over March 17th-20th, for reasons I won’t share here although they don’t involve self hurt/harm or trying to hurt/harm others, I was confined to a psychiatric ward in San Mateo for 72 hours of evaluation. I received both individual and group therapy, and have started to get better but am not yet well. Today, I was released from that facility and have my best friend watching out for me as I get resettled in my San Bruno home. I have an on-going treatment plan including on-going outpatient group/individual therapy and medications that I will be managing.

Most of the above is considered my protected health information, but I am openly sharing it because the discussion of mental health is very poor in the United States and possibly across the world. I’m not interested in hiding what I just went through, but learning more about it and making sure it doesn’t happen again to me and by proxy to others struggling with the borderline of hypomanic and manic states.

Over the coming weeks I will mostly be recuperating, and helping GMPuzzles a bit will be part of my recovery. This business is not profitable yet, but I view it as a big contribution back towards mental health given the numerous other authors and puzzle solvers who find comfort in the logic we put into the world each day. A community of both authors and solvers who may be on the autism spectrum or have dealt with depression, suicidal thoughts, or other challenging things, but been appropriately cautious to share them externally. I’m hopeful that in the coming weeks the visibility of my mental break will help us update how we all try to communicate together, by talking to people rather than talking at people, at least until we understand where they may be coming from.

I will probably be moving all of this discussion forward in other channels like my LinkedIn and not in our puzzle feed so you do not need to engage further if you do not want to.

Thanks for all your thoughts and support through the years but particularly these last few days,
Thomas (aka Dr. Sudoku)

Edited to add: Also see these videos: video 1 and video 2 for a little more commentary about where my head is at.

Edited again to add: Here is a self-contained video analyzing the week of the breakdown, some aspects of how I track my mental health, and more.

  • M says:

    So glad you are recovering and you are really brave in sharing your journey so openly. Hang in there

    On a personal note, you may not know me personally, but if I can help in anyway, would absolutely love to (I am in the bay area as well btw). This site has been part of my daily routine for a while now and has helped me get through tough times too

    Get well soon, Thomas

  • Scott says:

    I’m also so glad to hear that you’re recuperating. I’d like echo that this site has also offered a welcome distraction for when life hasn’t been ideal, and I hope that is equally true for the act of crafting and editing new puzzles. But if not, please take whatever time you need to be healthy and well.

  • Michael Tang says:

    Thomas, I’m delighted to hear that you are doing better. As somebody who has also struggled with mental health (and just had a flare-up myself these last few days!), thank you so much for all you do, puzzles and otherwise. I am proud to be a contributor to this site and the community.

  • Teddy says:

    Get well soon Thomas!

    Your blog has been a godsend for me when I was also dealing with mental health issues back in 2017-2018. Solving logic puzzles have been a part of my life ever since. I know you can overcome this much like any puzzle you have solved in contests.

  • David says:

    “Puzzles as mental health care” seems like it should be more of a known thing than it currently is, especially considering the established evidence that solving crosswords delays the onset of dementia.

    Glad to hear you’re doing better than you have been, Thomas. Best wishes for your continued recuperation.

  • Eric Fox says:

    I wish you all the best, Thomas, and I’m glad to hear you’re getting better. <3

  • bert says:

    Dear Thomas,
    I’ve been admiring you and your puzzle peeps from this blog for a long time. The energy and work you put into this thing is very much appreciated by sooo many people to whom you are offering daily companionship in the form of brilliant puzzles.
    I wish you all the best, and take all the time you need to get better!

  • emin says:

    we love you and your puzzles..

  • Ixca says:

    Thomas, mental health issues are no joke, they pop up in my house every now and then too. But they don’t define you. I greatly enjoy your contributions to this site and wish you the best as you continue to grow.

  • Anurag Sahay says:

    I am glad those episodes of hypomania have helped you be hyperproductive on some occasions as you mention.
    I have never opened up or spoken to anyone about my mental/neuro health history. The two areas might sound interrelated and they really are in that a neurological disorder can often lead to a mental health condition. I had and still have too many health issues to list down, epilepsy being one of them. Fours years following the one-off attack, I fell into an episode of depression, invitebaly so. This lasted a year or so ending in a short course of medication all of this when I was still in school. I was left socially inadept and withdrawn (long before depression set in) for what is a long time on the longevity scale. I am still dealing with anxiety, possibly for the remainder of my life.

  • drsudoku says:

    Dear everyone (here and via email): Thanks for sharing your stories and other echoes of your own challenges in my message.

    Dear Anurag: I have seen the interesting new ideas you can create given all the submissions you sent in but also recognized you could not always execute them perfectly. I had never assigned them as partially due to mental health issues. I was always happy to try to be your editor and allow your best puzzles to find an outlet. I’m very sorry our audience attacked you with hate on the few occasions we posted your ideas. If you or any other author wants to be labeled as “Anonymous” we will still try to evaluate your works.

    (For the others to see, not for Anurag to revisit the anger thrown at him, these posts are some of the places I was disappointed by our audience: https://www.gmpuzzles.com/blog/2020/06/star-battle-by-anurag-sahay/ and https://www.gmpuzzles.com/blog/2020/07/lits-by-anurag-sahay/ ).

  • Yossi Fendel says:

    Thomas,

    GMPuzzles has been such an important part of my life for many, many years with almost no visibility to you for how big a role it has played, since I don’t submit solutions via the website and rarely comment.

    I faithfully print out every puzzle that comes through – and many of the books – and keep two stacks: one by my work terminal and one by my bedside. They have become my anti-anxiety “medication”, and whenever I find myself worked up over an issue at work or unable to fall asleep, the stack of GMPuzzles provides a soothing meditation for me to recover my calm. (This has become particularly critical during the pandemic, but had become a practice of mine many years earlier.)

    Your observation that puzzle solvers “find comfort” in the creations exhibited on this site is an understatement. Thank you and thanks to your authors for all that you’ve provided.

    – Yossi

  • M says:

    > (For the others to see, not for Anurag to revisit the anger
    > thrown at him, these posts are some of the places I was
    > disappointed by our audience:
    > https://www.gmpuzzles.com/blog/2020/06/star-battle-by-anurag-sahay/ and https://www.gmpuzzles.com/blog/2020/07/lits-by-anurag-sahay/ ).

    Shouldn’t those comments be deleted on grounds of being bullying/harrassment? The response was good but there is little value in giving comments like these air time IMHO

  • drsudoku says:

    M: I appreciate this perspective. Because I cannot moderate all the other puzzle sites, I like showing how we all should be speaking up here against certain types of speech so we can carry it to the other corners of the internet.

  • Giovanni P. says:

    Thomas,

    Glad you’re back and getting some assistance with the mental health issues. Having been through some myself, the puzzles here have helped me have little problems that are meant to be solved, as opposed to the complexities of life.
    Thank you and the other authors for continuing to be a source of quality puzzles.

    I have some other words/thoughts I would like to say about the comments linked above, but I will save them for another time and place.

  • nkm says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, and for this site which has become a valuable part of my life. Wishing you continued recuperation!

  • Roger Barkan says:

    Thomas,

    You’ve come a long way from the scrappy kid that burst onto the US puzzle scene 16 years ago and immediately dominated. You’ve made the international puzzle community a much better place (and likely, through your work, the world as well). I’ve been privileged to be a witness to your kindness, brilliance, and dedication to your craft throughout those years.

  • Philippe Beaudoin says:

    Thanks for your openness and for talking about such important topics with such frankness. I’m not part of the puzzle scene, but I’ve been following GMPuzzles, your videos and the community coalescing around it and I must say I find it very inspiring. Thanks for what you’re doing.

  • desantoos says:

    Hello Thomas. I’ve been a fan of yours since the PuzzleCraft days in Games Magazine. It’s amazing what you’ve accomplished. I’m sorry you’re going through such difficult times.

    What you seem to be implying here, and in prior messages, is an urgency to get something more commercial-ready with regards to this project. I really want this to happen. Go to any store or other website and the number and logic puzzles are always generic, faceless, and with uninspiring and often repetitive logic. The creativity shown here is what makes this place so exciting. And it feels so necessary, to challenge the others out there to make things that are fresh and original, charming and with an interesting twist.

    I can see how this is an immense undertaking. The end goal has to be a platform as intuitive and friendly as Wordle. But to get to that point, with all of the puzzle types, variations in rules, and so forth, is intimidating.

    Looking at the current program, you’re getting there. The Sudoku segment isn’t as user-friendly as the NYT’s (albeit their puzzles are really ugly), but it’s kind of workable and has some of the important features, though it needs to be more friendly for phone users like NYT’s.

    Star Battle is probably your second most user-friendly puzzle. Star Battles solve real fast many times and they have far less visual noise than anything else here, even a Sudoku, and so it’s a good one to spin off and sell to an audience of people on their phones on the train as something to do after they’ve completed the NYT’s Crossword Mini. But there’s still issues to be solved: left clicks and right clicks don’t exist on phones real easily and while we in the know are aware of what the dot means, newbies may find that feature strange and it will have to be explained.

    So I love the Penpa+ program. It has ignited an interest in me to try many of the puzzles I otherwise avoided because I don’t have access to a printer that behaves (before you had it, I typically only did LITS, Yajlin, and Star Battle, as they worked best in MS Paint). I think it further incentivizes people to bring high quality work here and see it in such an interactive form. But I think the next step will have to be having a working prototype of just one puzzle type, likely Star Battle, and polishing it to something those not obsessed with all these logic puzzles will enjoy.

    Probably none of this advice is any help, but perhaps it explains how I too can see a plausible path toward decent financial compensation for the creativity and passion this community has. When I was a kid, if someone asked me what I truly wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said I wanted to be a puzzle writer. I never got to be that (I too took a scientific route full of stress), but I root for you, and the rest here who are the best of the best, to have that.

    Take care.

  • Azakura says:

    I’m really thankful to have read your sharing. GMPuzzles is an amazing piece of work that has impacted me personally in my own journey. It has lifted me in major depression and other times when I’m maintaining a fine balance of mental health, so the work you guys do is exceeding expectations of any kind. I hope in time with what the future it does turn over as a business for you guys. It is so worth it.

  • Jack Nino says:

    I’ll just add my voice to the well wishers, and also to the list of people who have found a lot of comfort in the site. I was very excited when I found out GM Puzzles had started publishing puzzles again in 2020 (I think about two months after you had started). Since that time one of the most relaxing pastimes I have had is sitting in front of the TV vaguely “watching” some TV show or movie and doing puzzles. I usually do the daily puzzles at the end of the week, but with the book publishing schedule lately I almost always have pending puzzles I can do on any given night, which helps to keep my mind at ease (and distracted).

    As a side note, I’m not sure exactly how long I’ve been doing logic puzzles, but I’m pretty sure it’s close to 15 years now (and I still claim I suck, especially at 4+ star puzzles). I’ve been wanting to say that I really enjoy the new solving videos using the Penpa tools. The different ways you can highlight things does a lot to help show your thought process. It always makes me laugh how easy you make puzzles look that I’ve struggled to solve (or maybe couldn’t figure out at all) and often one little thing that I probably should have noticed myself gets me back on the path of solving it myself.

    Get well soon.

  • kumaresan R says:

    Dear Thomas,
    As a yoga practitioner I would like to suggest you to do practice Pranayama and meditation. For that you try to reach any yoga teacher/therapist nearby.
    Get well soon.

  • Gavriel Hirsch says:

    Thank you for sharing all this openly Thomas. And I hope you have success with the treatment plans and in your recovery!

  • Husnu Sincar says:

    Hi Thomas, Hey Dr. Sudoku, This is Husnu Sincar from Istanbul and I have just found about your unfortunate situation. Happy for you since your situation is getting better. I wish you get well sooner. You have already done a tremendous job helping the community with GM Puzzles and I am really proud of you cause you are still willing and planning to continue! I personally observed and amazed by you several times during the WPCs and WSCs, knew that you are a very brilliant and accomplished person. I do not want this to be awkward but in our culture it is customary to ask in this sort of situation whether we can do anything to help. Honestly can I do anything to help? Looking forward to your prompt recovery!

    • drsudoku says:

      THanks Husnu for the thoughts and glad to have connected in the past at WPC/WSC events. For right now, I don’t know of any steps you or other puzzlers need to be taking to help me, but recognize I am hardly alone in having struggles with mental health, or using logic puzzles as a coping mechanism, so if there is anyone else in your life who might be in a similar situation my request would be to figure out if you can help them in some way.

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