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?  

NOBODY ACTUALLY CARES. 

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.

"Yes."

"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.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Where Do You Get Your Inspiration?

This weekend, I went to the Kingston Art Fest. I am vaguely aware of it since I have friends in the art community, but I’ve never got to attend it, and my mother was desperate to help me find something to like about the city, and picked up a pamphlet. It was about a week later that I found out my younger cousin would have a tent.



Tonya is four years younger than me, and, clearly, infinitely more talented. She makes these portraits with found art photographs for the sketches, and drier lint for the finished product. While at Art Fest I sat and watched her nervously say hello, unless someone directly asked her about her work. In which case her eyes would light up and she’d launch into long explanations of what she was doing and how she did it. And the whole time, with a spare canvas and basket of lint at her lap.

Her mother tells me she does this all day. While watching TV. While on the phone. She loves what she does, and it shows. And watching her, it hit me like a kick in the stomach. So do I.

That should not be news. I don’t mean to suggest that I had started to hate what I was doing. I don’t. I hated writing first drafts because they’re frustrating and I got stuck a lot. But that hasn’t been happening lately. I hated editing, because reading over that chapter one more time made me want to throw up. I hated reading about the odds.... Okay. So I was starting to hate it.

That’s scary, learning that. But what’s even scarier, is how now that I don’t hate it anymore, now that something has happened internally to make me not hate it, I don’t know how to take it. Hence my last post. But watching my cousin work, and doing a lot of thinking, I think I have worked that out too.

In my family, you don’t enjoy your job. You just do it. You don’t hate it, or at least, my mother doesn’t hate her job, and my sister had a job she loved and would only consider going back to work for that job. But we were not raised to follow a passion so much as we were raised to do a good job at something. It’s difficult to live under that when you’re really only good at one thing, and even then, it’s a long shot. So for a large chunk of my life, I’ve been taking myself too seriously as a writer. I’ve been trying to make it work, more than I’ve been trying to make it work. I somehow got it in my head that if I wanted to be treated like a writer, I had to treat it like a job. And so I did. And, like any person with two jobs, I hated every second of it. Especially the fact that my hard work never seemed to pay off, and that just made me want to slack off more.

I remember when I was thirteen and fourteen years old, waking up at seven every morning on summer vacation to get those five pages, because I was only allowed an hour a day with the computer, and five pages took me 90 minutes, but I knew my brothers wouldn’t get up before eight thirty. I remember coming home from college and living for weeks off lunches of peanut butter sandwiches or dinners of a mix of rice and Clamato Juice, which my housemates referred to as pink rice. I didn’t do it because I was poor. I did it because it could be cooked and eaten in under an hour, and I needed time to write. It was such a well-known phenomenon, in fact, that two years ago, when working on a particularly good chunk of The Damn Vampires, I called a friend to tell her I was feeling ill, and she responded with, “are you eating food? Because you did say the writing was going good.” Somehow, I had forgotten all that.

Lately, I’ve been writing more like myself. More like the person I am. I set aside a couple hours each day and write until a chapter ends, or until I get to the end of a scene, and then brainstorm a bit, or work on something else until the timer runs out. Then I gripe and groan about the assignments that need doing, and clean the house and take the dogs for their walk and wish I was still writing. I miss it when I’m not doing it. I resent the intake of food. And watching my cousin work this weekend, I realized that is the way it’s supposed to feel, and that is what I have been missing, not just for the last four months, but for the last year or longer, as I tried to make myself into a writer that I really am not. I’m not a workerbee. I am an artist, and that’s what I want to be. I’m not someone who needs to be reminded you can’t only write when inspiration hits. Inspiration hits every two days or so. My job is to stem the tides, and wait out the initial jolt of excitement, and put one foot in front of the other. And I have, miracle of miracles, actually been doing that.

I still feel about eight years behind, because of what happened, and because of everything it has brought me since. But I wrote my first novel at 14, and my first screenplay at 12. Maybe eight years was just enough time for everyone else to catch up?

It’s good to be back.

Tonya Corkey makes found art portraits with dryer lint. Her current collection "See You In The Future" is visible on her website, which unfortunately does not do it justice. But you should check it out anyway.

video


  www.tonyacorkey.com

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stories (The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, The Mirror)

So, weirdly, my depression seems to have done something to my writing. Not sure, to be honest, if it's a positive thing or a negative thing. A couple weeks ago, I was talking about how depression doesn't actually give you any self-knowledge, which is a bit of an oversimplification. Whenever I slide back into the depths of Relapse Hell, something has to break before I can climb back out again. Last time, I was able to use this knowledge to haul myself back out. This time, the thing that I learned about myself is every bit as unattainable as I believed it was when I went in. I don’t know what to do with that knowledge. But it seems, I am doing something anyway.

Ordinarily, when I sit down to write, this is what happens.
Omg why is this story in my head so good? I cannot get this down.
There. I have written it and it’s awful. I wish there was somewhere like an idea repository you could dump things so someone less crap then me could do this.
It’s not fair. I don’t want to do this.
I hate this. It’s awful. Why do people tell me I’m so good?
HATE IT SO MUCH!!!!


Lately, all of that’s been happening, as normal. And then, in this very calm voice, the same calm that scares me at night and tells me that it’s never going to happen, and I should just give up, goes,

It’s not like it matters, anyway. Just do it. Just do it and suck. If nobody cares, at least nobody cares if you suck.

Which makes a lot of sense. I’m not sure that it’s a positive feeling. But it’s been a nearly a month, and I’m still writing, nearly every day. (Okay, so I haven’t quite built up to every day. But whatever. Words are getting posted, and I no longer want to die. I am taking this as a win.)

So. Words are coming out, and I don’t feel like I hate the words less. But I feel like I’m probably always going to hate the words, or at the very least, I’m always going to wish I wasn’t the one writing the thing. I think that might be a part of me. It’s a part of me that makes me long for the days when I was young and could read back what I’d written and see how young and untried I was, but also see potential. It makes me wish I’d never learned to read critically, which is almost blasphemy. It is, at least, a part of me that’s loosening the reins a little bit. It’s also why I love to write in different genres. There are certain things I can’t take seriously, and I’m learning to forgive myself that. I remember Stephen King once offered a room full of would-be writers the advice to read crap, so at least you can comfort yourself with the fact that you are at least better than that, and that was published. I feel like right now, I’m taking a bit of a different approach.

I just finished reading the latest Neil Gaiman book, The Ocean At The End of the Lane. I’m not going to review it, never fear. I do not think I could adequately or critically express how brilliant it is, other than to say, “It’s Neil Gaiman. Go read it.” But Gaiman is one of those authors who is so brilliant it doesn’t make me feel bad about whatever I’m doing. Because telling yourself you want to be that good some day is the same as little Ally writing stuff that makes the adult Ally smile, and cringe and still see the potential. It’s the equivalent to buying your first home and realizing you will never be wealthy enough to own a castle. Of course, it would be nice to have a castle, or even to have a home as big as you’d like. But it’s not going to happen. Somebody else is there, and there is no way I am that. And weirdly, I am fine with that. I hate the fact that I might never write something as popular as Stephanie Meyer has written, and that might be seen as a reflection of my skills. And I’m terrified it might even be a reflection of my skills, and it’s that terror that makes me hate everything I’ve ever written. I am aware of the problem. But then. There are writers who have somehow set the bar so high, I don’t ever want to even reach for it. And that knowledge is somehow a lot more comforting to me than, “I can do better than that.” The knowledge that it’s not just that I can’t be the best. It’s that I can decide I don’t want to be. It strikes something deep and visceral inside me. I don’t want to be the best. I just want to tell stories.

Put like that, why the hell not?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Square one, all over again

One of the awful things about recovery is that the essential goal is to get back to where you were before the depression hit, which is an idiotic goal. Because most of the time, wherever you were, is gone, and you have to sort of chase it for a while before you catch up to it, and the rest of the time, you get there, and everybody else is somewhere else.

This blog is a good example of that. I started this blog, and I honestly didn't expect it to be read. But then, quite quickly, I accidentally stumbled onto something people were reading about, and then people were reading me. And that was really exciting, and sort of weird, and I wasn't sure that I was ready for that yet, certainly I was unprepared for it. And I kept at the writing as often as I could while trying to write the other things I wanted to write, which was really difficult, and then school started up again, and that got out of hand busy and life got in the way again, and then... depression.

My depression tends to start up in waves, which crest at a certain point, and get very bad, and then dissipate, unless something happens. In this case, something did, and the storm broke directly over my head for months. But going back over my notes, things I was writing (also things I was not writing) and various conversations I was having, I had been getting steadily sicker for months. Not sure why. It`s just, as a dear friend says, "the nature of the beast." This particular episode was exacerbated by many personal issues, but it had been coming, if I had slowed down a bit, and watched the signs. I know that. I would have known it sooner, had I been paying attention.

But other people, unfortunately, don't know that. I'm starting to realize that whatever happened a few months ago has never actually happened for them. I don't mean that some people don't experience depression, that's not exactly news. I mean some of them, even though they're aware that I have depression, or even when they've seen some of the symptoms of depression in me, what happened to me is something some people in my life, even those who have known me my whole life, had no way of suspecting was even there.

I see it in the way my mother treats me differently now, how when I talk about the future, sometimes it feels like she's trying to talk me out of it, as if my future is too much for me to handle right now.

How everybody tells me not to worry so much now, but they say it differently than they used to.

How when I tell someone I had one nap today, and they say "good" they actually mean it with relief.

How my mother works into every conversation, "have you eaten today?"

How I don't know who to call when things go wrong anymore, because I don't know how to say "this sucks right now." and have it not be taken as "I am standing on the ledge, again."

I don't mean to sound poor me about this. It's the fallout for a major depressive episode. It's just the fallout has never been this bad for me, or for anyone I love. I don't know what to do to show them that I'm getting better, except apologize over and over for what I have been, and what I've made them sit through and watch. Having been the comparatively healthy person while someone else walked along that ledge, I know how much I've hurt people and let them down in the last few months. I'm not exactly pleased with myself.

But I'm still recovering, and it's an annoyingly long process, and for someone like me, born with zero patience, and a hundred and one things to do in the world, it doesn't suck for anyone more than it sucks for me. I'm frustrated, impatient, and not sure how to transition to normal feeling bad anymore.

Which is a weird thing to say, apparently. It reminds me a bit of how I felt when I was first diagnosed, except in reverse. Then, I was anxious to show that I was getting better, and it was difficult to prove to people that the person they knew was just the result of symptoms of the illness, but working through those symptoms, and the several years people had to get comfortable with that person, had been near impossible. I had made strides, but  the changes didn't really occur until college. And well. We all know how that went. Now, I'm doing the same thing again, but I'm also struggling through having to explain to people that I can be both "a happy person" as my mother has always described me, and "a person with depression." That both of those things are a part of me, have always been a part of me, and are part of what makes the depression so difficult and also sometimes easier, is not an easy thing to explain, especially in the wake of the hell my loved ones have been forced to witness, thanks to me.

But here I am, in a new city, with a whole slew of new experiences coming up (more on that later) and hoping against all hope that it will make the difference again, only to go a little better this time. I'm writing regularly, and taking it much slower, and feeling much happier about it. And maybe I'm glad to have another shot at this.

If ever, that is, I can manage to get it!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

More About Depression - Writing

Apparently, this is not how other people do this.

When the howling gets too much for other writers, they write things down until the howling stops.

It's funny, but I think because I never wrote when I was depressed when I was a kid, I cannot write the depression away. I was never about hiding in other worlds. What I really wanted, was to drag someone else into these worlds. I didn't mind if they were kicking and screaming, to be honest. My little brother was the first person to be dragged into the stories, and he never really seemed to mind. In fact, we still talk about them, and they are still the easiest fodder I reach for, when I don't have anything to write. But I wanted there to be other people.

I have a medical condition that means I can't tell lies. It's a combination of the anxiety and persistent negative thoughts, my being non-neurotypical, and home training. But I was able to tell stories. I was able to draw people, to explain to them who I was, without having to convince them it was real, and that's what I did. I drew people in. Sometimes, I forgot, and lost touch with the fact that the me that existed in my head, could only exist in my head. And then I was lonely all over again.

It's part of the reason I wanted to write films instead of writing. I wanted to be around people who wanted to tell stories, and I wanted to know if they were anything like me. It's something I still struggle with. I've never been the kind of person who needed constant validation from others. I know that I do things differently, so I don't often hold myself up to other people's standards.It was never that I wanted to be like other people, so much as I wanted other people to be more like me. Which, I swear, is not as conceited as it sounds. Most of the time, when it was felt I couldn't do things, the reason was always because other people didn't. To me, it seemed "other people" must be very sad.

I think that's probably why I still struggle with the idea of self-publishing. Even though it feels like something I really want to do, what with being a control freak, and all. But there's so much that I could get wrong, it's such a minefield, and most importantly, it means that I'm the only person who can help me. It's a bit scary.

I'm not doing great on the move thing. So one of the first things I've decided to do is to join a writer's group. I'm hoping it'll help with the ABSOLUTE HATRED OF EVERYTHING I WRITE, and possibly offer me the advice needed to keep going. Failing that, it will at least give me an excuse to talk shop!

If anyone else wants to give me feedback on something I'm working on

I'd love it.

Been a rough week on the recovery front. But I'll get there.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

In Which I Don't Know Where I Am But I Am Here

 (content warning: This post goes into some seriously heavy stuff about my recent experience with mental illness, and other not-pretty things. If you're sensitive to any of that stuff, you may want to skip this.)

Hello, Internet.

So.
Stuff has happened.

It's been a long time, Internet, and I feel incredibly guilty about that. The truth is, I have been avoiding this blog, because for some time I have felt that it was taking away from the fiction writing I have been wanting to do. And then I was avoiding this blog because I had no time to write anything ever. And then.

And then, Internet, the bottom sort of fell out of my world. I am currently coming off a four-month depression relapse. I won't bore you with details, but it was bad. Bad enough that there was the all-concerning Plan that doctors, counselors and psychiatrists ask you if you have, during particularly long episodes. Bad enough that I had to move houses and quit my job and am now living on ODSP with no cushion and am scared out of my mind, but I HAD to go, because things were just bad, and they weren't getting any better, and I was going to the Terrible Scary Place more often then I was doing human things like eating and sleeping. Bad enough that for the first time in my life I was eating to SURVIVE, rather than because I was hungry, or because a particular thing looked tasty. I was actually eating a meal a day, purely in order to function, because I could not summon up the emotional energy required to actually ENJOY food. I was hospitalized for a six-hour long dissociative episode. My mother was on suicide watch. I refused to allow the kids to even talk to me on the phone, let alone to visit because I was afraid of the awful things I would say to them, because I could not filter anything, and everything inside me was ugly.

We don't really talk about depression like we should. We are aware, I think, that depression affects many, many people, and that it is not the same thing as sadness, and these things are important to know, but they don't convey what happens, I mean what REALLY happens. For me, depression is like I am a little kid being lost in a supermarket. Five minutes ago, my life was fine, everything was familiar and everyone I loved was right there with me. But now it's not, and they're not, and I'm not sure how to get back to that place, because I never really know what I've done to lose it in the first place. And that's a really awful and scary thing, to know that because of some chemical trick being played on me, sometimes I feel bad for no reason, and sometimes there is a reason, and I never really know which it is, and worse, neither does anyone else. And then, Oh. And then.

I think the hardest part about that kind of depression is the amount of love and support I get. Growing up, my depression and my anxiety were mine to deal with and now, they are mine and my mother's. My brothers and sisters, all of whom struggle with it in some form or another, just aren't available to care. Which may actually be a blessing, because there are times, during that period, where you actually wish you were loved less, so people would stop telling you they know you're going to get better. Because the hardest, the absolute worst thing about depression? Is not the pain you're in. It's when the pain goes away.

For the first few weeks of a depression relapse, I am always in a great deal of pain. It's all very visible, and visceral, and noticeable, I start sleeping 20 hours a day, I either refuse food, or eat whatever is available. I take the dogs on shorter walks because I don't want to be seen by anyone trying to be nice to me. And I cry. Oh my Goddess I cry all the time over everything. And then, slowly, it goes away. It's a funny thing, about depression. There's this idea that even though we know depression is an illness, not a sadness, we still imagine it as being sad. It's not like that. When I am happy, I am aware that I have been sick, I have been depressed, and I remember that that hurt, that it was scary and it was bad and I don't want to go back there. But I don't actually know how it feels. I am wrapped in cotton wool and nothing I feel is real, and I barely feel anything at all most of the time. I am not part of the world. Happiness, however, is a vibrant and alive thing. So while I am depressed, I remember every single second of what it was to be happy, everything I had and lost, and I don't know where it is, or how I lost it, and what if I never get it back? People keep reassuring me it's there, but they are the same people who reassured me that I was so happy, while I was happy, and how could I have been, when this has always been there?

I find it's a common attitude among particularly young writers to sneer at a happy ending as taking the easy way out. I always had a darkly private giggle over that. Having been undiagnosed til I was 17, I can still say with some certainty I have been dealing with some form of depression and/or anxiety from probably eleven years old. I'm always curious as to who and where these people are that their happiness had an easy answer. My own has been so hard-won, and often, much too fleeting. There is, of course, a part of me that understands that conflict makes a story, but there's still something off about the glamorizing of misery that goes on. I don't mean people shouldn't be writing sad books, or making sad movies. I mean the fetishist that says, "I like sad things because they are more real." Sad has never felt like a real thing to me. Most of the time, sad is a trick of my brain chemistry, out of proportion to who I am and how I feel, usually brought on by nothing, and offering nothing in return for what it takes. In real sadness, you pick yourself up, learn from your mistakes, and try not to let it happen again. In depression, you pick yourself up, slowly crawl back to the world, and hope the monsters won't find you again. Another version of this is that I hate the number of people who feel that my disability have made me a stronger person, not because I don't think it has, but because I don't know why I'm supposed to be so strong when so many aren't. Is it just so that I have space inside me to be more unhappy then they do? Why would I need that, if I didn't have the thing that made me so 'strong' in the first place?

After I got out of the hospital, I stopped writing. That was a conscious decision. I had been through a rough patch, was unsure if I wanted to write anymore, at all, and that was scary to think about, because as I have previously discussed, writing has never been about what I do. It's who I am. But I gave it up. For two weeks. Then I wanted to get back to it. I missed it. I had things I wanted to do, and there are things I feel like need to be written, because they should exist, and they don't yet. I sat down to write. And promptly started screaming.

I've had panic attacks while writing before, fear of failure that creeps up without warning, makes it hard to breath, and I have to go sit in the other room AWAY from the computer for a while. This was not that. I stared at the blank doc for twenty minutes, and cried, and then I screamed. I screamed how much I hate myself, how much I hate doing this thing. How it was the only thing I ever had or ever would have. How I didn't even know who I was anymore, and how I hated that everything inside me meant so much, and so little of it was real. How I am never going to be the person I wanted to be, and nobody was even bothered by that, except me, and that meant that I am apparently the only opinion in my own life that doesn't matter. And that went on for another six weeks. Six weeks of being cut off from what mattered most to me, after nearly four months of alienating my entire family.

I don't know what to say about all that now. Things have slowed down. My world has started righting itself, but it has taken on a very different shape from what it was, and, I think, so have I. I don't know if it's a good shape or not. I mentioned above about depression never offering anything for what it takes. Last time I was in this bad a shape, I had a similar moment of suddenly knowing the truth about who I was and what that meant, and how people saw that, and how that mattered. It was not a good moment, for me, but it was an important one. I think this is another of those. I think. I don't know yet. I think the reason writing has made me angry was not, as I guessed, because it too had nothing to offer me, because that could never be true, but because I was angry about having so little to offer it. It is indeed a poor workwoman who blames her tools, isn't it? And Goddess help me, but I think maybe. Just maybe. I can do better. I don't know that, mind you.

But I'm still here. And I'm still doing this thing.