Thursday, January 2, 2014

"Just" friends, and other lies

Disclaimer: I am well aware that not everyone who writes fan fiction is a woman. And I also know that there are many non-binary genders whose perspective may not be appropriately covered here. But the discussion that was started began as a discussion between hetero men and women. I recognize that a lot of women I know personally who write fan fiction are gender fluid and/or something other than hetero, and that a non-hetero male perspective would probably be significantly different. I don't want to leave anyone out, so if you've got something to say from another perspective, please do.

In the aftermath of the whole Fandom vs Journalists fuckup which I'm happy to say it sounds like the fangirls won, mildrednbobbin asked a very interesting question, which was this:

Do women wear romance goggles?

As it turns out, I have a lot of feelings on this subject, probably because of that whole idea of "just" friends is something  that I have put a lot of thought into. So much, as it turns out, that it's taken me a couple weeks to get my thoughts in order. Because the thing is, being as I am, there is no such thing as "just friends." For me, friendship is it. It's as far as I go, and the deepest combinations of feelings I am capable of. It's different every time. It's deep and meaningful, and sometimes difficult and fraught with affection and admiration, and deep, true feelings, that I sometimes feel pressured to keep half-hidden, because of knowing that so many others feel like friendship is just what you have aside from those other feelings. So throwing that Just in front of friendship is like slapping a barrier on my relationships, saying, "we go this far, but no further." Which is ridiculous, of course, because where romantic relationships tend to exist within pretty well-established structures and patterns, and sexual desire is, from what I can gather, largely autonomous, a thing that happens without you having any input other than (in the best scenarios) to say yes, I will pursue this feeling, or no, I will not, friendship is, as I said, varied and complex in it's in and outs and preferences and cherishable moments. So when looking at why women tend to see romance even when men insist there isn't one, I first want to examine the point I made on the actual post; that women are taught from an early age that there will one day be someone for them who will fulfill every possible need, whereas men are encouraged to look for a fullfilling life outside the home.

Today's tactics for keeping women separated from men seems to exist in a kind of divide-and-conquer method. Think of how many heroines we get who are proudly "not like other girls." Think of the constant messages that women are catty, that women competing with other women is somehow much less clean and honorable than it is when men do it, that women are insecure and jealous of each other. Think of the media's sudden interest in the brutality of "girl-on-girl" violence and bullying, of the excuses that "she just fell in with a bad crowd." and "she's not really like that." and all the many, many stories in which the romantic lead is, "not like any girl I've ever met." Add it all together and you'd almost get the impression that we're discouraging girls and women away from other girls and women, wouldn't you? The fact is, we teach women when they are still girls, that if you want to run with the boys, you're going to have to set yourself apart from the rest of "them." We live in a culture where friends are that thing that girls have before they start dating. Because other girls will try to steal your boyfriend, or because other girls will call you a slut, or because a guy may love you, but hate your friends... Meanwhile, men and boys are encouraged to never take the "opposite sex" too seriously, lest they be subject to endless ribbing from friends. Media narratives hugely reinforce these stereotypes; romantic comedies with female protagonists tend to be all about getting the guy, about getting him to notice you, getting him to fall in love with you, getting him to drag you out of whatever misery fate has dropped you in. When friends do feature (which is rare enough) It's usually a story of how one lifelong friend (because there is only ever one) has to get over her jealousy at being replaced, and be happy for her friend to be leaving her. Conversely, taking a  comedy about men and relationships, (which is almost never called a romantic comedy) The love story is generally not about falling in love, but about how his friends help him get the girl, or about how difficult it is for him to maintain his boy-time with his friends. A lot of the time, in men's stories, the love story has already happened. He's either married, or else comfortably single. In media and other storytelling forms, men are encouraged to have strong multifacted bonds with other men, and keep their relationships with women as self-contained as possible. Women are encouraged to pursue strong bonds with maybe one or two women if they can get it, but also understand that it is inherent in their nature that their most fulfilling relationship will be the romantic one, and with the knowledge that no woman can ever truly trust another. I remember when I was 19, a friend of mine who identified as bi, introduced me to her new boyfriend. As soon as he had me alone, he asked me, "So, when did you two stop fooling around?" I was pretty shocked.
"What? Did she say that?"
"Well no. She says you two are really close. And obviously, she's bi, so-" When I told him he had it completely the wrong way around, that nothing ever happened between us, and it never would, he seemed completely flummoxed. When, fuming, I told my friend she should dump him, because he was obviously using her for sex, she got angry with me. She responded with,
"Oh, don't be so judgemental. Of course he's going to think that. Guys always do."

Which is kind of a segue into my next point. Women's behaviors are constantly monitored. Women are not asked so much as ordered, to consider the implications and thought processes of other people. It's a lifetime of "If you wear that skirt, guys might think you're asking for it." "You don't want to come off too ________ or people will think ________" "You know, some people could take what you've just said the wrong way. Be careful you don't offend anyone." For men, by contrast, that sort of censoring comes up much less often. So I think another part of why male writers, producers and actors tend to shrug off the ideas presented in say, slash fan fiction, is largely because it really doesn't occur to them. And unlike women, they can then safely assume that it has never occurred to anyone else either. If you'll notice, women authors and actors are typically much less bothered by the idea of fan fiction then men are. (Sadly, there are not enough women producers to test the theory.) I'm not saying men's attitudes and opinions are never challenged but they're more likely to have only ever been challenged by other men. Women interpreting words or performance as different from what an actor or writer intended is more likely to throw them. And of course, when we're talking about a romance between two guys, that throws up a whole lot of, if not blatent homophobia, certainly a general threat to that character's perceived heterosexuality. Women's opinions, thoughts, and  stories, are open for interpretation. Men's stories are meant to be exactly what they have made them, and no more. I've made that complaint about Moffat many times, that unlike Doyle, or taking a different tact, the writers of Doctor Who who came before him, he can't seem to be able to keep sexuality ambivalent. He has to have his heroes as heterosexual males, and even when the romance is all off screen, it has to be explicitly stated with no room for interpretation. Because good Lord what would happen if other people had their say!

My third point is one of the major problems I have with slash fiction in general. Particularly heterosexual men have safe spaces to frankly explore their own sexuality. You can throw heterosexual sex on a screen, and people will allow it to be filmed, and people will watch it, and people will understand it. Men's stories are full of men who are less than perfect getting women who are idealized perfection. Women don't have that. If women are seen as wanting that, they are selfish and greedy and shallow, even among other women. If women are seen as being too desirable, she's a slut if she accepts the attention, she's a frigid bitch if she hates the attention. In stories, if women are curious about sex, they are punished, either through trials meant to redeem them, or by becoming cold, unfeeling women who no one could love. So here then, is a safe way for women to explore sexuality and desire: through interpretation of someone else's stories. Which is wonderful except for the underlining sense that, in case anyone should think your own sexuality is leaking through, get rid of the women entirely if you can, and focus on the men. Men being played by actors, and written by writers, and filmed by producers, whose sexuality will always be secured in its own acceptance. So of course, they're going to be dismissive of the need for women to have a platform and give a voice to their own sexuality. The ways they choose to express it shouldn't really be all that shocking. Given that we accept and understand that most mainstream pornography shows lesbian pornography essentially as by men for men. So really, is it so shocking that a portion of gay erotica is written by women, for women? Certainly, the latter is done with a lot more respect and affection, and a hell of a lot less exploitation for the former. Or at least, usually.

Anyway, I want to thank mildredandbobbin for getting my wheels turning on this one, because it's an interesting thought.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fangirl Feminism

Remember way back when I said I didn't want to talk about what fandoms I love? Yeah well, This happened.

I have so much rage about this I can't even think straight, and we all know what happens when I rage, so yeah, kids, parents, future employers, look away now. I have so much rage, I was just a few minutes ago telling my mother about it. My mother responds, "and when did this happen?" and I replied, "last night."

"Oh my God, your fingers must be sore." (My mom is so awesome.)

There are several things I'd like to talk about this, but it's been pretty decently dissected by other people. And there's a whole lot of supportive awesome on Tumblr about it. So yeah. Basically Google "Caitlin Moran" it'll cover the whole mess.

Okay, so first thing's first. I have my problems with Stephen Moffat's Sherlock. In the first place, like with everything Moffat writes, the roles for female characters are pretty pathetic, by and large (though admittedly played by some awesome actresses.) There's his long-standing discomfort with anything that reads as asexuality, which I have written about before. There's also the fact that every fandom has it's toxic elements. There's a lot of general dislike of women in any fandom.  And while I think it's lovely that girls and women have places on the Internet to revel in their sexuality with pretty much ZERO judgement, and nothing but hearts and cookies, the fact is that it's usually slash, and so removes a lot of actual female sexuality from play. And that does sort of rub me the wrong way. *cough* sorry.

But there's a lot I like about fandom culture, and about the Sherlock fandom in particular. In the first place, a lot of people there are older, so I feel less creepy, and they're a bit more aware of my aforementioned issues. In the second, there are a lot of fics where Sherlock is asexual, or demisexual, and some of them represent really well. Which you get in pretty much no other fandom. It's also a fandom that actually does make room for new characters, and because of Moffat habits of writing goddawful women, it is also a fandom that rewrites those women into something more complex, and generally more awesome. Basically, if you're looking for a fandom that really does write the world as they want to see it, Sherlock is where you wanna be. And you know what?

A whole lot of people want to see John and Sherlock having sex.

I mean honestly. It's been like 200 years of writing 2 men, at least one of whom is sexually ambiguous, who deeply love each other and pretty much shun the whole rest of the world, and you're going to tell me that before the 21st century you really never considered the fact that like a whole lot of people want to see John and Sherlock having sex? I mean really? The show has been accused of queerbaiting, surely it has occurred to some of the people who make that show that "OMG SUBTEXT!!!!" runs a bit rampant. To be honest, Holmes will always be asexual to me, but those are some damn pretty faces this time around, and while journalists delight in finding fic they can make fun of, there is plenty of well-written stuff to be found. (Including the author of the fic that was read out, who is actually incredibly talented.) I mean, Martin has gone on to say that he reads it. (I think he was kidding? He's pretty much got the best face ever, so I can't actually tell.) And really, they're pretty good sports about the whole thing, given the number of people who just really really want them to hate their fans.

Because let's be honest, that's all this is, isn't it?

I don't know why that is. I'd like to say we can blame E.L. James for putting badly-written fanfic into public consciousness, but the fact is, we can't. Because this fangirl's been around. I remember when it was bandslash with real boys (which is, incidentally, something a lot of people in the Sherlock fandom get squicked out by. You don't use real people's lives.) and "journalists" would point out these things, and said bands would laugh it off. (Or kiss, depending on your listening pleasures.) Plenty of authors encourage fan fiction. People giving interviews routinely want actors, musicians, even authors (sometimes especially authors) to be disgusted at the idea that women or girls are turning what they've done into sexual tension and then some. They are routinely not. (ETA: By which I mean that most laugh it off, encourage it, or at the very least, quickly change the subject.) I'm not sure how this keeps getting missed. But seriously, Graham Norton, Caitlin Moran, whoever else?  


There is fan fiction for every imaginable fandom. There are negative people in all those fandoms too, the kind of people who send our new Mary Morstan death threats. That is awful. There are plenty of fandoms not welcome to anything outside of established ideas, and that is terrible. I was part of a fandom that actually had a group with a special name, which showed that they were real fans, because real fans understand these boys have girlfriends, and it's disrespectful to make up girlfriends for them, because everybody knows real fans make them have sex with each other. And yeah, there is some horrible fiction written, and there are places where fans go to mock it. Those places are not in front of the subjects themselves. Those people don't want to do that, it would be alienating people who admire them. By and large, fandom is a safe place to explore ideas and thoughts you might be ashamed of, either because they're all a naughty good time, or because they make you giggle (I will never understand why journalists don't have nearly so much fun with crackfic as they do with slash. I mean, why is it weirder that women write dirty sex between men than it is that women occasionally write dirty sex between men who might sneeze and turn into a unicorn, or suddenly suffer an affliction that causes them to speak only in song lyrics?) This is a part of being a fan. It's part of loving stories. It's part of learning to write. When did it become such a big deal? As people have pointed out, there is zero difference between Irene Adler being made into a sometimes-lesbian-dominatrix-but-in-love-with-Sherlock-because for an hour and a half, and a 221b-is-for-blowjob about John and Sherlock.

I want to talk about Caitlin Moran's "feminism," which includes the kind of sex-shaming that only twelve year olds still think is funny.  I want to talk about the good fandom has done, the way it brings creators together, the way it offers them a safe space to do what they love, and to love what they love wholeheartedly, while still being utterly, joyfully ridiculous about it, which is something Moran supports apparently on a theoretical basis. I want to talk about her own fangirling over Benedict. And I would love to talk about every other stupid question she asked that panel, which apparently included cracks at Amanda Abbington getting the role because she's Martin's real life partner, and nitpicking over a mistake that was made in the episode. I'd like to talk about how Mark Gatiss has published erotic fiction under a pseudonym, so that whole, "ew, gay" vibe of everything she did would have been a bit uncomfortable. But I'm not going to. Because I don't write fanfic, so I haven't got much to add that hasn't already been said. But I really just want to know one thing:

When you walk into a room you've been paid to be in, while others, (the sad little virgins) have waited in line for days, when you go in there knowing that everyone there has waited two years for this moment and is thrilled to be sharing it, what actually happens? I don't know, and I probably never will, because most of us don't have the opportunities Caitlin Moran does. What is it that makes your gut reaction to remind those people who have worked hard to make this happen, that the people for whom this show means so much that the BBC went, "Yeah, go ahead, take two years. They'll wait." are freaks? It's pretty obvious that she hates other women, but as far as I can tell, these people like their fans. Benedict cringes every time the word "Cumberbitches" is used, and both of them have talked about how even though the press make it out that the fans are insane, and even with a few bad experiences, they're really lovely, and they both feel lucky. Leaving aside that any fanfic author would have asked better questions. I'd like to say something intelligent and feminist about this whole mess but there is a point when something is so stupid there is nothing in it for intelligence to respond to. Moran is a bully. It's as simple as that. She bullied the audience, the panel, and the writer of that fanfic, and all writers of fanfic. This kind of bully is the reason I couldn't call myself a feminist til I was in college, because before then the only feminists I knew were bullies who believed if other women would stop acting the way men wanted them to, men would learn to behave better. I know different feminists have different goals, but really?

When you humiliate other women because you've got nothing of substance to add or you want to stand out you are not a feminist

When you encourage somebody else to humiliate another woman because "teehee aren't other women pathetic?" you are not a feminist

When you are grossly underprepared for a job you undertook and your knee jerk reaction to feeling out of place or insecure is, "I'll just point out how I'm not as bad as some women!" you are not a feminist

When you shame other women for following passion, or for being deeply invested in something you are not a feminist

When you use sex negativity to shame other women for their sexual choices, or expressions of sexuality you are not a feminist

Most importantly when you scare women's voices away from feminist spaces, away from creative expression, away from telling the stories they want to tell, and seeking support and validation from people who can offer it you are not a fucking feminist.

I don't care how good you are at "academic feminism." I don't care how many buzzwords you coined, or how many books you've published. If your feminism isn't about women, it's egoism. There is a difference between believing women deserve to be treated better, and believing you deserve to be treated better than women are treated.

Fan fiction is harmless. This is shameful

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

About personal definitions

Sorry for all the emoting all over the place. It's been a rough couple of weeks, internet.

An interesting thing happened on the road to the next job search. (Sorry. It's the kind of line you always want to use, and almost never can.) So, I was talking to the recruiter attempting to help me find work. Very important information on this whole job recruitment thing, kind of vital, is that I am not looking for work through the ODSP work assist program. This is not because I don't think it works, but because I don't like the way the ODSP program treats its own clients, and I feel like, by and large, that encourages similar behavior from employers. I was fortunate to get a job fairly quickly while with ODSP, where I was then immediately told by a counsellor that I was the first client on ODSP she'd ever had who actually managed to get a job through ODSP. Since I've already explained how mild my CP actually is, I don't think I need to explain exactly how backwards that is.

So this time, I'm using another government-funded program, specifically designed for under-30s looking for work. They, by contrast, reassure me I am not the first person on ODSP they've been able to help, and they like to help, because it grants me access to all kinds of funding that my ODSP worker "forgets" to tell me about. But this is not another rant about ODSP (I promise.)

It's not uncommon that people in other government sectors are better at dealing with people with disabilities than the office that actually does the dealing. In the first place, I'm pretty sure the guidelines for ODSP begin with "Do not believe anything these people say." so there's a level of trust between me and other people that simply does not exist between me and ODSP. Of course, I am not stupid enough not to be able to recognize my own complacent privelidge in this. The fact is, I could almost "pass" for enabled. Which, to the ODSP office means I'm probably exaggerating the effects of my disability, and to everyone else means I'm not really "one of those" so to speak. Which is, to say the least, problematic.

So I tell this recruiter person that I am in a difficult situation, because it is difficult to underline the help I need until I'm already on the job, and that after that, people have a hard time giving me honest feedback, which is essential, because I can't parse what people are saying from what they really mean. I tell her that it is difficult to get what I need to do a good job, and still convince people that I really don't need a lot. She tells me it should not be a problem, that they've done a lot of this. She tells me of a blind woman who refuses to refer to herself as a person with a disability. She says this with a note of pride I am familiar with, and then suggests that maybe part of the problem is related to my self-esteem.

*sigh* Y'know, sometimes, I feel like I can't win with these people.

This blind woman I've never met is none of my business. Certainly, I define myself in terms I would never use for other people. I call myself a "handicapper." because it helps capture the person I am. It's a tongue-in-cheek reference to my non-existence athelecism, a throwback from my childhood, when my disability was miraculously not my problem to solve, but everyone else's, and my own petty rebellion in the form of reclamation. I don't exactly want people to be uncomfortable with me, but if they're going to be anyway, I'm going to have to find it amusing, won't I? The definition of self is a cornerstone to everything I am, as a person with a disability, as an asexual person, as a woman, as a human being who has faith in the general goodness of other human beings. But it always gives me pause when someone tells me they know someone who will not be defined as a person with a disability. Because oh my god, I have been there. And the person I was when I was there was not someone I liked.

I get told a lot that I am conceited. Part of this is because I genuinely believe I am usually more than what other people think I am, part of this is because I work so hard to be an open-minded person, and the assholes of the world have picked up on the fact that that is the line that hurts me the most. And then again, some of it is likely because I do have a strong belief in myself. It's a bit of an occupational hazard, the kind of thing no one outside disability culture can truly understand; people spend your life telling you how special, how you are, how unique and different from other people with disabilities, how much better you are than "most people" in your situation, and even when it's the last thing you want to do, there is a part of you that buys into it.

There was a part of me, when I was young, that believed I was distinguishably different from other people with disabilities, because I was constantly told that difference was obvious and important. One of the first major breakthroughs I had in becoming a political person was understanding that there was a part of me that hated being associated with "that." That I had been taught to hate that is no excuse for not knowing that it's wrong. That I have friends who are associated with that, and I understand that is also unfair, and that I do not inherently deserve to be treated better or have more than them, does not wash away the fact that I inherently believed myself superior, or exactly why there is a vested interest in this kind of divide and conquer.

So, for all I know, it's a matter of the nuances of translation. Maybe this woman does not want to see herself as a person with a disability because she, like me, sees the stupidity of beginning a personal identity with a negative. Because she understands that our definition of those terms are drastically different from that of the larger world outside us and our experiences. Or maybe its just the enabled way of speaking, the same kind of idiocy involved in the encouragement to "overcome" our disabilities.

But as someone who has spent years denying that part of herself, for very good and very practical reasons, which can feel horribly necessary and are in fact entirely futile, it bothers me to think of all the people who think the best thing they can do for themselves is to separate a large part of their experience and understanding of the world out of themselves, like some kind of exorcism. At least while they're in public.

I am not ashamed or afraid of being a person with a disability. I can admit to being afraid to be identified that way by other people. It's not the part of me I like best in the world, but I tend not to hate it as much as other people do. I'm not the one who sees this as a negative trait. It worries me how many people I might have a lot in common with, are being told that in order to succeed, they must think themselves better than me. It hurts me when I think I might buy into it. I work hard to make sure I remember every day, that I, like millions of others, am a person with a disability. That this body, on its own, is not a punishment or something that needs to be removed from the core of my being. And unfortunately, all I can do is hope that other people understand that. Because I've said it before and I'll say it again:

It is not our job to make you okay with this.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

In which I have a terrible experience with a shrink and think about magic

Content warning: This post discusses suicide and suicide idealization.

I'm still talking about mental illness.

I feel like I've been doing this a lot lately, and that bugs me, because a) that is not what this blog is about, and b) because I don't like talking about it. I am talked out of it. I am exhausted. It runs around my head all day long. I don't want to talk about it. But. This is where I am right now. So.

Oct 6-13 is Mental Health Awareness week in the States (I think ours is actually in May.) so there's a lot going around about it. And while I think it's important to encourage your friends and loved ones to get help, and to offer support, I've been getting a lot of encouragement and support myself. Some good, some... not so much. So, because I like to do things the difficult way, I thought I would write all this up to explain to anyone who might be interested why "getting help" is not what you mentally healthy people might think it is.

Let me clear this up, first off. I LIKE most of the psychiatrists I've ever had. My first shrink was when I was seventeen, he was a nice man who gave me a diagnosis, who spoke in a frank, honest way, which I, of course, adored him for, and who knew things about me and how my brain processed things that I did not, which, even at the age of seventeen, was rare enough to be very fucking important to me.

My next psychiatrist was not so much my psychiatrist as the psychiatrist of the clinic I went to see my counselor at. I have a lot of respect for her. She is ALSO a no-nonsense sort of person, in fact, my last breakdown she asked why I had come to see her, and I said, quite honestly, that I was there because the counselor, and my mother, wanted me to be there. She said, "I think they have a point, but I'm not going to be able to help you. Come back when you're ready." She has told me many things I do not like, and there are some things we disagree on, but I know her enough to know she does not suck at her job, and so I go to her when I need something. These two experiences have led me to believe that while yes, there are problems with psychiatrists, that psychiatrists are not the over-educated non-thinkers that doctors usually are. Except now, I live in a different area. So the other day I met with a shrink. And he really did suck at his job.

So, after cancelling 45 min before the meeting out of nerves, I went anyway. I was in tears and shaking, and still scared. I'd been to this agency twice before and had two horrible experiences. But I did the right thing, told the doctor everything that had been going on. He asked all the usual intake questions. How old are you? How long have you been depressed? Do you have a family history? I stopped there, and detailed my family's history. So that when we get to Are you on illicit drugs? I tell him I've never touched the stuff, and he says "good." which is different, but doesn't surprise me. However, he asks me how far in my education I've gotten. I tell him some college, before stuff happened, and university which I'm still finishing. He stops.

 "You finished high school?" He asks.


"Wow. That's very impressive. Good for you." Okay that one was weird. I let it go. He asks me how bad it is really. I give him the standard spiel, no I am not suicidal, yes, I think about dying all the time, no, my last active attempt I was 17, and I gave up on it as soon as I had a diagnosis. I don't want to kill myself, it's messy, and I would probably mess it up. At which point he gets up, calls in someone else, who sits with us while he explains they are sending me to hospital, legally they have to, blah blah blah. He doesn't know I know he's bluffing.

Instantly, the tears stop. "I will not be going to hospital." I say. "You do not want to see what happens to me when I am in a hospital. A hospital is not a place of healing, for me. Plus I've got an essay to finish, and three pets to take care of." He insists that legally he must see me hospitalized, as he considers me high risk. His reasoning? I live alone.

We battled for about twenty minutes, and eventually, come up with Plan B. He says their crisis team will call on me this evening and tomorrow morning. I remind him again I've felt like this for months, I'm not sure what he thinks he is doing (false: I know exactly what he thinks he's doing, I just can't wrap my head around how he thinks its helping.) He tells me, "if you don't answer, they are obligated to call 911 and you will go to hospital." so that I agree. The other shrink, the one he dragged in after the fact, asks me on the way out, "does this sound like a good plan?" I tell him no, it does not, but I'll do it.

So then I spend a whole evening scared to use my phone, in case they call. Then they call and tell me the crisis workers will come tomorrow, I say no, that's not right, I have meetings tomorrow, they say, "That was the deal you made." I retort, because I am exhausted,

"It doesn't surprise me he'd leave that out, given the fact that he's already lied twice in one intake." She tries to backpedal, "well, if you really can't do it..." and I interject with, "no, no. He said if I don't do whatever he says for the next week, I go to hospital. So I will do it. but you better make it in the morning, because I've got a meeting in the afternoon."

So they show up in the morning, and ask me what I hope to get out of our time together, where I sweetly remind them I am here on threat of a hospital stay. The first crisis worker is actually the second shrink from my intake, and he tells me, gently, that it's not so much a threat, just a plan for my care.

"I don't care how well-intentioned it is," I reply, "'Do this or I will cause something unpleasant for you' is a threat even when you don't have an anxiety disorder." He concedes the point. We chat for a bit about my pets, all three of whom are running around, Sophie especially, since I haven't stopped crying for more than two minutes, and several groups that will be no help to me. We talk about the assumptions people make about people like me, and the financial problems I am struggling with, and at some point, I complain about the assumption the first shrink made about my education. I cry some more. They leave. I fall asleep and then head out to my appointment. The appointment is about job-hunting, and I come home in a much better mood then I was when I left.

Today, I had my follow up meeting with the shrink. Initially, I just wanted to lecture him about what happens when people are dishonest with me, and tell him the medication he perscribed left me so sick I could not get out of bed for three days. But then we got to chatting, and things kind of... got away from me.

In the first place, he keeps talking about how angry I must be, and how I am struggling with CP in addition to everything else, and at one point, he even says "I can understand how that must feel." Which I tell him is nonsense, that all he knows is that it feels bad, and that is not the same thing. Then he tells me repeatedly how smart I am, and how no one can force me into treatment- and I break off to tell him,

"That's not what you said last week."

"yes well, uh. Legally we can force you if you're suicidal. Are you suicidal?"

"I wasn't last week, and I'm not this week."

"Well uh, I can't force you, but you're smart enough to know-" and then I got it. And oh my God, it took every ounce of self-control not to laugh in his face.

"I'm smarter than you're giving me credit for." I reply.

"Oh, no, I know you're smart-"

"No, see, last week, you didn't know I was smart. Last week you were amazed I had graduated high school, and last week you were also threatening me with enforced hospital stay because you didn't know I was smart enough to know you couldn't do that. This week, after consulting with your colleague, you realized both those mistakes, so suddenly, I am 'so smart' and you can't force me. Now, how am I supposed to trust you when your method of helping me involves telling me whatever you think I want to hear so that I'll do whatever you tell me?" At which point his mouth clamps shut.

"I really do want to help you." He says finally.

"I really don't think you can."

"Think about it, for a while."

"I've had a week." At which point he sighs,

"Okay," He says, "We're here if you change your mind." And with that, I left, still furious.

It's a bit of a Pyrrhic victory, to be honest. I really do want to get help. But regardless what the idiot psychiatrist thinks, he does not know what it is to deal with "CP and this other stuff," because if he did, he would understand the exceedingly long history of people offering help you don't actually need because what you're asking for is beyond them, and then getting mad that you won't accept that as actual help. He might have known that dishonesty is one of my major phobias, since, as is stated on my medical record, I can be very easily taken in by lying, thanks to vision comprehension issues between my brain and eyes, and that most people with CP, regardless of communicative and educational challenges are of higher-than-average intelligence. He may have even known that the reason I didn't fill out the sleeping pill prescription that came with the antidepressants last week was because ODSP's drug card doesn't cover it. If he had in fact been listening, he might also have known that the particular drug he was prescribing was one in the family of drugs that has always made me nauseous, and that I have already tried talk therapy, CBT, and occupational therapy, and that I had only agreed to this assessment because the woman who told me to come here, after three separate disasters at this same agency, over the phone and in person, had promised they would be willing to try something else.

I know I'm not a genius or anything. But it is very hard to find a doctor, any kind of doctor, who is smarter than I am. Not because I know more so much as because of their assumption that I know so much less. And I'm not going to get help from a doctor I can run intellectual rings around because someone decides to dumb themselves down for my benefit. It's like that episode of House where he's being forced into rehab, and realizes he's not scared because he will always be able to cheat. Psychiatry is like a magic show. You go in knowing you are about to be manipulated into believing something that is not real. You go in because you know you want to believe. And, like a magic show, you don't want to see how the trick is done, or it won't work. I've been at this since I was seventeen. All I can see anymore, is how the trick is done.

One of the things that always gets assumed when I'm having one of my down spirals is that I am lonely. My mother says it often, so do the shrinks and the counselors. It's almost a cruel joke, because it's true, just not the way people think it's true. They think I should get out more, talk to people, make connections. They assume this is possible, in the way they assume that knowing someone wants to help is as comforting as actually getting help. I'm not lonely because I don't have anyone. I'm lonely because everything I do, I have to do it on my own. In my own way, in my own time, and usually, separate from everyone else. And every time someone tries to help, all I can see is where the rabbit is hidden, or how the rope isn't really knotted. And what can you do, really? Of all the many people suffering depression, what do you do when it actually is that bad, when nobody can offer anything you can't see through?

I'm not asking for a miracle cure. And I know most people don't understand this, and I accept that. But it would be nice to have someone who knew something about me, and about this, that I didn't. When I was seventeen, having that, just the one time, literally saved my life. But it doesn't seem likely anymore. And when I was seventeen, I was so relieved to know, that I couldn't understand why anyone would refuse treatment. I miss being that child. I would give anything to not know, all over again.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Impotent Blog of RAGE - Unedited version

Yeah, so. Basically, I’m pretty sure I got fired because I have a disability. I mean, it’s not explicitly stated, but only inasmuch as the reason they gave was, “it’s not things we feel will change.” and when I pressed, “how could you know what will change after three weeks?” the response was “… We don’t legally HAVE to give you a reason after only three weeks. And this is all we’re comfortable telling you.” And in my experience, “this is totally legal.” means “if we tell you the truth, it would probably NOT be totally legal.” Like, when my landlords were kicking me out of my apartment in the middle of the month (illegal) and had the gall to tell me if I was going to stay to the middle of the month, I would just have to pay them, as normal (illegal) because they wanted to change my apartment into office space, and I stood their like a fish going, "WTF?" she just kept repeating that they were giving me exactly as much notice as was LEGALLY expected, and also  that they've known this was coming for a while, but they wanted to make sure to do it LEGALLY. So, y'know. I'm not stupid. Since I wasn’t breaking any laws, and the most controversial thing I said while there was “I hate Starbucks” I’m gonna assume they think the fact that I did not learn enough during FOUR DAYS of training is because I CAN’T learn.

Not to say there weren't issues. I know I was struggling with two things in the office, two things which I asked repeatedly could I get some help with this? I am not getting this. I know there were two very busy days in which the person who had trained me (Who the hell does four days of training?) was not in, and I had to ask the only other person in the office to help me with these things, which were not being explained to me. I also know I worked very hard to socialize and be normal and comfortable, because everybody was all, "we're one big family here, it's okay, get comfortable." except not really. But I genuinely liked the people, and I thought I was liked back. I felt like I was learning, and I was working hard, making notes on EVERYTHING, so that I could solidify things in ways that worked for me. Apparently, other people do things faster. Which, well, story of my life. I could have told them that. If they'd bothered to ask.

The ironic thing about this is not that it is actually wrong to discriminate against people with disability WHETHER YOU DO IT OUT LOUD OR NOT. Also not the fact that I was assured because the boss lady ALSO has a chronic condition, she is “more than sympathetic.” (which is bullshit, btw. People who develop chronic conditions later in life can sometimes handle it HORRIFICALLY badly, and in fact often reach a stage they have to wade through where they are suddenly faced-to-face with their own prejudices, because they are not like those people! Hell, I have a condition I was born with, and even I've had to do that.) But nine times out of ten, a person with a disability will be able to find a different way of doing something. If you tell them what they are doing wrong, and let them work that out on their own. But people are so terrified that they will actually mention something that can’t be changed, and therefore BE discriminatory (WHICH IS WRONG WHEN IT’S OUT LOUD!) and so conditioned to believe that we use our disability to excuse anything, they decide we are not worth the effort. And then the government makes everyone pay taxes to keep the housing list at a three year minimum wait, and our families go deeper in debt trying to make up the difference, and keep YOU all complaining about how lucky we are to get free money, especially when most of us are faking it anyway.

But of course, I’m probably just being paranoid. I mean, we’re always looking for excuses, aren’t we?

I hate the world.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What is and is not political

So I just read this.  First, if you're not following Drew on Twitter even just for the giggles, you need to be doing that. But also read his blog, because there is some really good stuff there. And then  a few days later WriteWorld posted some really great stuff about othering, to go along with previous great stuff about "writing the other" and if you are not following Drew, you should be, but if you are not following WriteWorld, you are not yet half the writer you could be. Get on that. (though, granted, if you are a writer and you are not following WriteWorld because you are not on Tumblr, then you have more self control than I will ever possess, but I swear, this is not me leading you astray.) And then in response to all of that I wrote this post. And then, because of the aforementioned mental illness, it sat on my dash for a much longer time then I intended it to. Sorry about that. Here it is now, in all it's glory!

As you have undoubtedly seen over the last few weeks, I also suffer from mental illness. I am generally a very high functioning depressive anxiety sufferer. I have a job (FINALLY OMG THREE MONTH JOB SEARCH SUCKED SO MUCH!!!) And when I'm not working I occupy my days with studying and writing, and other busy make-work stuff. I like to do things. This may not seem like it could be true of an anxiety sufferer, but it is, in fact, the reality. I like to move around. I like to have things always coming up. It stops me from believing the crap people say about people with disabilities.

I've written a few times about being a person with a disability, and how that has shaped me as a writer. Also, I have written how difficult it is to write a person with a disability. It's something I've been struggling with for a long while. Most times, my main characters aren't people with disabilities, but I'll have someone with a disability in the background. This part isn't because I'm scared of it being mistaken for me. It's generally because when you put a person with a disability up front and centre, you first have to explain that person, because you have to assume enabled people are going to read your book. You have to explain things they might have to do differently, and then you have to explain all the things that aren't different. And that can sometimes be the harder thing to do.

I have both a visible disability, and an invisible mental illness. So I'm in a bit of a weird position.
It's tough to have a mental illness. It's tough to hear that a person who is generally happy and optimistic can have a mental illness like depression, and understand that it isn't about positive thinking. But in the last seven months, the tough part of my mental illness has been the really depressing stuff that I'm not actually wrong about. It's having to separate the feeling that I don't deserve to be stuck on the system, that I should have been able to get my education, that people who love me the most are the people who have been lying to me my whole life about what they think I'm capable of, with the fear that it's always going to be this way, there's nothing I can do about it, and I probably should have died as a baby like all the doctors thought would be best. (Yes. That happened. Depression sucks, you guys.)

Recently, I had a discussion with someone. She is a friend of mine, who has read my work before. She mentioned, in the pseudo-casual way, why I always put people with disabilities in the background of my story. I explained my reticence to put them in the foreground, and that I was sort of trying to work my way out of that. She said "No. That's not what I meant. I mean, you always write them in. I'm just thinking it might be distracting just to have them there, when you don't talk about it."

"Well, that's sort of the point. I don't think about the actual diagnosis. It doesn't matter, it's not part of the story."

"Well, isn't that a bit too political? People aren't going to want to read it, like that. You can't just have them in there for no reason."

Here's the thing: I grew up with people with disabilities. That is one half of the world I was straddling. Those are my friends. I put people with disabilities in the background of the story, because mine has been the background of my life. I'm lucky. It doesn't consume everything I do, except when it does, except when it's supposed to. Because yes, at summer camp we would occasionally talk about symptoms and diagnosis, but mostly we talked about boys, and clothes, and school subjects and horrible teachers, and bands we liked. And yet every single one of us were aware that two weeks a year was the most normal we could squeeze into our lives, and we were supposed to pretend we didn't know that.

When my depression and anxiety is at it's absolute best, I still have to be afraid what people see and don't see. Because I am physically weaker than almost everyone I know, including my sister, who is 3 inches shorter than I am, my friends, who forget because they "don't see me like that." and my ten year old nephew, who doesn't understand when I don't roughhouse with him. I have to be aware of those things, because everyone else doesn't want to know, so I have to cover it up. Just like have to be aware that the whole world thinks my life is depressing, even when my depression is so bad it's the worse of the two conditions. I have to remind people there are good things about being born like this even on the days when I can't get out of bed long enough to eat.

Nobody wants to know that I actually don't mind being disabled, that my legs don't hurt as much as they used to, that I've been able to travel on my own, that I do things on my own because that's how I like doing them, not in some bid for "independence". They don't want to know about my friends who've got married, or had kids, or have jobs a hell of a lot better than the one currently tiding me over. Because they don't want to know that this is not the problem. I went for years without a diagnosis, because it seemed pretty obvious why a kid with a disability might be sad. Sometimes, that was used as the excuse to bully me, "well, there's not a lot we can do. She's different from the other kids."

I write people in the background with disabilities because they're in the background of my life, but also because they're in the background of yours. Because I know you don't want to look at us, and I deal with that knowledge every day, and you know what? It sucks, and I'd rather not have to hate you for it, because there are still more of you then there are of us, and I am not that misanthropic, not yet. I put us out there because I don't care what you want to know anymore. I put it out there because I still can't put it all up front, I'm not ready for that, you're not ready for that, and this is what I can do.

It's not my fault if I'm a political issue instead of a person. And I don't care- no, I hope- that makes somebody uncomfortable, somewhere. I think it's someone else's turn to be an uncomfortable reality. I dare you to write me one person with a disability who's just there because we are. Don't make excuses. I have to write people I don't identify with every day. Try it. You have no idea how needed it is.

But I do.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sometimes It's The Only Thing There Is

Content warning: More stuff about depression.

Internet, I have been ill.

I started feeling sick about July 10th. I went to a job seminar thingy, and I was feeling iffy about it, but I had a good time going home, got into a great conversation with a nice person, which helped. I didn't think I was going to take the job offer. I didn't think it was a good idea financially. I came to that conclusion confidently.

I woke up the next morning struggling to breath. I had two panic attacks before lunch. That's pretty normal in the last few months. I breath my way through it and keep going. But then it just didn't stop. My Kobo died. Another panic attack. I can't afford another one right now because I don't have a job yet. One more panic attack. Had to go out and get groceries. One panic attack while waiting for the bus. I went back inside and didn't get groceries. And it kept going. I chalked it up to a bad day, and went to sleep. I slept through the night, and, having had panic attacks all day, I had no nightmares.

The next day I couldn't get out of bed. Not "I was scared to get out of bed." I wasn't having panic attacks at all. My whole body was drained of all energy. I slept the whole day, and assumed it was illness. Day three, I could get out of bed for an hour at a time, then panic and cry until I had to go back to sleep. Day four, I accidentally cut myself during a panic attack, and was too afraid to go to hospital because I was sure if they found out I had done this during four days of panic attacks they would hospitalize me, assuming it was intentional. Day five, I had the injury treated, and fought my way awake to get some writing and homework done, in increments. I could still only stay upright for an hour at a time.

By day ten, my chest hurt every time I sat up, my face was raw, and my eyes hurt because I'd been crying so often I was dehydrated. I kept waiting for it to break, like a fever. A person cannot withstand that sort of misery for any length of time. And yet, withstand it I did. For three straight weeks, my days were forcing finger food down my throat, struggling not to vomit it up, crying myself to sleep every hour on the hour, and calling crisis, my mother, and anyone else I could to be told they couldn't help me. And while I did that, I thought about dying.

About week two, I got tired of the struggle. I had been doing so well with writing, and so I took twenty minutes out of my incredibly short day, and wrote words. I tried writing what was in my head, but honestly, that just made my throat close up and my stomach heave. So for a while, I was writing current WiP. And then I would get stuck. And because it's the only thing I know for sure to keep the wolves back, I came up with new things.

When I was little, and I was afraid of the stuff inside me, before I had a diagnosis, and when I was left alone to deal with the fact that I was more something for other people to deal with than a person in my own right, I used to tell myself stories. A lot of the stuff I write about now is largely about dealing with the darkness that lives inside every person, the ugly person inside the person that you're trying to be, which is inside the person that you are. Between the depression and the constant battle between hating myself and hating the way I was seen by everyone else, I have a lot of that dark and ugly stuff. I started writing out one of those stories. And two paragraphs in, I realized how much more there was to write. And then, two pages after that, I realized there was even more. And then I kept going.

It's odd, because this time nothing much changed. Normally, I get an idea and it feels like something huge. Which happened. And then I run at the thing full-tilt and imagine that I can make this work, and I hurry myself along and I think it's amazing, and then I hate every second of writing the first draft, and if I make it to the second draft, then I'm happy again. It's a whole roller coaster, very involved. That didn't happen here.

There was the initial jolt. The awarness that I had been writing a story without knowing it for years, the knowledge that it was a good story, that in fact, it was the thing I'd always been trying to write. And after that- nothing. I was out of feelings. I got up, every day, same as I had been, and thought, "Do I still wish I was dead?" and the answer was always yes. And then I would jot out a page or two and go back to sleep. Until eventually, I was answering, "Yes. But I don't want people to only ever read the first draft of this."

It was a slow, uncomfortable trek. Four days ago I could leave the house without crying. Two days ago I laughed for the first time in three weeks. And all the while, I kept going.

I'm not going to jump the gun here. I don't know if it's ready for a first draft to be finished. There have been a lot of those moments in my journey. But I do feel that this, whatever it is, is important to me. And in the middle of the claustrophobic misery that has made up my life lately, it's nice to still have something that is mine.