How the Amoeba Cat became a creature made of spun glass

Content warning: this is an incredibly depressing post about the injuries I’ve suffered over the past 2 years. It’s also rather graphic. Do not read if you suffer from emetophobia (fear of vomiting), for one, or if you don’t want to read anything somewhat TMI. I also talk about depression, suicidal thoughts, and I do not end this post on a happy note. This is not an inspirational story of overcoming adversity. It is a matter of fact telling of things that happened to me and how much they fucking suck.

~

As most of you know, I have a spinal injury. It happened, I believe, in 2009, but somehow didn’t flare up till 2012. Bodies are weird. I’m quite sure it was 2009 because that’s the only time it could have happened — there was a drunken theatre party and a few of my compatriots decided to start wrestling and landed on my head. I felt my entire spine compress, a line of loud pops ringing out from my neck to my pelvis.

The pain was short-lived, so I didn’t think much of the incident. The fact that afterwards I started feeling a new pain in my lower back whenever I walked uphill or anywhere for a long period of time was easily ignored: I’ve had chronic back pain since I was 9 or 10. This was obviously just a new permutation of it. I ignored it.

It was in January, 2012, after I got home from my trip to Orlando, Florida, that the spinal injury finally made its presence fully known — 3 bulging discs in the lumbar region — and I became a self-proclaimed cripple. (Was it the rides I went on at Universal Studios that finally tripped the back into full blown agony? Or was it the 3 feet of snow I had to drag my heavy, Harry Potter-merchandise-laden suitcase through when I got home to cold Nanaimo? We may never know.)

I was bedridden for weeks and it was only with physiotherapy was I able to walk again, albeit with a cane. I completed my theatre show, knowing it would likely be my last. I adore acting and I always give 110% to any role I’m in. The reality of my life post-injury is that I must always be careful, and I cannot trust myself to be careful if I’m in a show. Whatever the director asks for, I will do. I cannot set boundaries; I sacrifice myself on Dionysos’ altar.

I stopped going to physiotherapy — not because I was done with it, or because I wanted to stop, but because it’s not covered by MSP and I have no extra insurance. Each visit is in the ballpark of 50 dollars, and I would have to go a few times a week for several months to get the sort of results — back to a degree of normal living — that I want.

Instead I’ve tried to remain as active as my back will allow me to be, and kept as positive a worldview as I can. I was suicidally depressed during my weeks of being bedridden, crying into my mother’s arms about how my life was ruined and I would never be the same. My youth was over — something I felt I never really had in the first place; a childhood cut short by the trauma of an abusive father and an 11-year long divorce. My 20s was when I started to reclaim some of what I’d lost, and now that, too, was cut short, by a body that was broken.

But I had come to a point where I was finally starting to feel better about my different life, and I had begun a job search for work outside the home — something I didn’t think I’d be able to do again. (I get zero assistance, even though I’m permanently disabled.) Maybe after I got a job I would even be able to afford physiotherapy, I dreamed. Maybe within 6 months I would be able to walk without the cane.

Then on Friday, July 4th — Independence Day! The irony burns — after coming home from driving Mr. Katje to pick up his truck from the mechanic’s, I slipped and fell in the kitchen. My leg twisted severely, and I was racked with pain so terrible I screamed uncontrollably for 5 minutes.

Continue reading How the Amoeba Cat became a creature made of spun glass

Two Crowdfunding Projects I think you should support (if you’re able)

Today is a signal boost for two very deserving projects on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. They’ve both made their goals, but with more help they can make their stretch goals and make an ever bigger difference in the world.

The first is Fattitude, a documentary by Lindsey Averill, exposing fat hatred and offering an alternative means of thinking.

WHY WE ARE MAKING THIS FILM?

We feel that most people are ill informed when it comes to fatness. We want to offer a counter argument to the current popular notions that condemn fatness in all forms, an argument that overturns notions of fat hatred in favor of body acceptance.

The media and other cultural sources say that people need to lose weight – that obesity is a deadly epidemic, but there is scientific research that shows that weight loss and health are not linked like we think they are. For example, according to ASDAH, “Weight and BMI are poor predictors of disease and longevity. The bulk of epidemiological evidence suggests that five pounds “underweight” is more dangerous than 75 pounds “overweight.”

Lindsey has been attacked by fat-hating trolls and had herself, her husband, and her supporters dox’d just for daring to campaign for people to treat fat people like human beings. (Doxxing is when someone’s home address and phone number are posted publicly, online, with the express purpose of sending harassment that person’s way.) Having trolls attack en masse like that is terrifying, but Lindsey has stayed strong and now her campaign has been funded.

I still think it deserves more backers, so if you’re inclined, you can fund it here. (You have the option to put yourself as anonymous when you back it so you can’t be dox’d.)

The second is Make Me a Radical Dietitian by Michelle Allison, aka The Fat Nutritionist. Reading Michelle’s blog, in the early days of my coming to Fat Acceptance, helped me on the road to recovery with my eating disorders. She — more than anyone — let me know that it was safe to eat, that I was not a bad person for eating or not eating, that food was not a moral choice. Her blog told me I could make my own decisions about my food and I would not be wrong, because it’s my body and I know it best. I learned about intuitive eating from her and attempting to put it into practice is what has helped me start to recover from my disorders.

I say attempting because I’m not perfect, and recovery is a journey, not a destination. I mess up, have slip ups, fall backwards. But I pick myself up and continue onwards. I am committed to my recovery.

If Michelle does this dietitian internship, she can help even more people like me. She will be given a bigger platform to do the good she does in the world. I think that’s worth supporting.

You can fund her here.

I myself plan on supporting both campaigns, assuming I get some money in the door in the next few days (and assuming I can decide on what perk I want; there are so many cool ones). If you feel the urge and you can, you should too. Signal boosting is also an awesome thing to do.

Campaigns like this, when successful, will help to make the world a safer place for people like me. This is why it’s so important to me that these campaigns reach their stretch goals. I want to someday live in a world where I am not on guard all the time, where I am not constantly fighting against fathatred, food shaming, people triggering my eating disorders. I want the world to be safe for me and for the next Katje who’s growing up, hating herself for eating, hating herself for not eating, and not receiving any support from the world around her.

-Katje

PS: Fat-hating comments will not be approved and the IPs will be blocked. Concern trolling comments will not be approved and the IPs will be blocked. Comments of “But but but SCIENCE!” or “You’re LYING about having eating disorders!” will not be approved and the IPs will be blocked. This is not a public forum; it’s my blog. I am not required to give fat hating trolls a voice here. If you really need to show the world how much you hate fat people there are plenty of places on the net where you can do so without consequence. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.

We’re not public property

Fat women shouldn’t have to be afraid to post their photos on the internet. We are not public property. We shouldn’t have to worry that a diet company is going to use our photo and fat shame to sell their “system” or that forums are going to post disparaging comments alongside our photos. We shouldn’t have to deal with rude trolls sent to our websites to bother us. It isn’t about legalities, copyrights and watermarking, it is the culture of fat hate that encourages and approves it.

-Rachele, Fat Babe Designs

Read the entire story of how her picture was stolen by a scummy, scammy diet company called Venus Factor here.

This type of thing is, sadly, common — women are considered public property on the internet, and especially fat women. We are used as “inspiration” pictures — heads cut off, of course, because heavens forfend we’re treated like actual people — for people wanting to lose weight. We are attacked in large number by misogynistic, fat-hating trolls, because we dared to put pictures of ourselves up without the requisite apologies for even existing. Our pictures are stolen for snake oil salesmen to use in their ads for fake diet companies.

It shouldn’t take mass activism or a social media campaign to get a company to take down stolen pics. One note from the owner of the pics should be enough. But, again — fat women are not considered people. Misogyny + fat hate means we need to go the extra mile just to be treated like human beings — we have to fight for people to give us some common human decency.

Rachele has my unconditional support as she traverses the roads of fighting these guys legally, and if I have any money to spare I will donate some to help pay her legal fees. She is fighting for all of us fatties — especially those of us with a smaller voice, fewer followers — and showing these gross companies that we’re not taking this shit lying down anymore.

I am tired of being treated as less-than human, as public property.

I am Katje. I’m fully human. I am not public property. My body is a dictatorship, and I am its ruler. You do not get to treat me as anything less than a fully sovereign human being.

Why I don’t suffocate my skin for the sake of acceptable femininity (ie, why I don’t wear antiperspirant)

There’s a Dove commercial (I think it’s Dove; they’re great at doing problematic things disguised as progressiveness) that does this big long “Ode to the Armpit”, talking about how the armpit is an undervalued bit of flesh and constantly gets mistreated by shaving or waxing. They then go on to talk about taking care of the armpit the way it deserves…

…by using this certain antiperspirant on it.

Because nothing says love like suffocation!

I don’t wear antiperspirant. I haven’t for years — not since I was young and impressionable and believed capitalist patriarchy when they said so long as I sweat at ALL I was gross and unfeminine and boys would never want to kiss me.

(This made worse by my father saying, basically, the exact same thing when I hit puberty.)

I used to wear antiperspirant on a not-regular, but not-once in a while basis. Why? Because then it was my only option for smelling how I wanted to smell. I used to wear Old Spice deodorant. I hate smelling like Old Spice. I like the smell of it, but on other people. (Specifically Mr. Katje.)

But there were no options for me! If I went to the deodorant aisle, the “women’s” section — ie, the ones that smelled how I wanted to smell — was nothing but antiperspirant. The “men’s” section had actual non-antiperspirant deodorant.

I turned to natural deodorants in an attempt to find something that smelled the way I wanted to smell — and failed miserably. I have always had very strong sweat, both in amount issued by my body and smell. Even when I wore antiperspirant, it didn’t work for as long as it said it would. By the end of the day I was sweating through it, and stinking even worse.

Natural deodorants were no match for my super-sweat. They’d last an hour, if my luck held out.

So I started using antiperspirant on occasion. Not for daily use, but for going out to parties or with my friends or on Halloween night. It would wear off by the end of the night. But, I thought to myself, at least I smell like flowers instead of musk.

And then the pain started. The more I used antiperspirant, the more my armpits hurt. It felt like a knife was being stabbed into them.

I’d heard stories about antiperspirant and breast cancer, and I panicked. Put it down and didn’t pick it up again.

I mean, even if there is no link between antiperspirant and breast cancer — you’re blocking your pores for hours on end. You’re blocking an area that’s meant to sweat from sweating. That cannot be healthy.

I went back to wearing deodorant, searching high and low for “women’s” non-antiperspirant. Every time I found one, it would be gone from the shelves within months and I’d have to start my search again.

Recently I found one that hasn’t disappeared yet (though I may have bought 7 sticks of it right off the bat, out of fear). It smells like roses — my favourite scent — and it actually lasts most of the day (depending on how active I am).

It helps that I don’t live in Hawai’i anymore, too. 90 degree days are not a friend to the person with the terrible sweat problem.

It really says something that I have to search high and low to find a “ladies'” deodorant that isn’t antiperspirant. We, as a culture, do not want women to sweat. It’s “not attractive”. Whereas the “men’s” section is FULL of deodorant that’s not antiperspirant — yes, there is antiperspirant there, but not in the same ratio as there is for “women’s” deodorants.

(You’ll notice I’ve been putting “men’s” and “women’s” in scare quotes. This is because our segregation of deodorants into gender categories based on what kind of scents they have and whether or not they stop you from sweating is absolute bullshit. If a woman wants to wear Old Spice because she likes the smell of it on her, that’s awesome! She should go for it! And if a man wants to wear a rose-scented deodorant, he should also be able to go for it! Instead there is stigma around more floral or “light” scents as being a “woman’s” territory, and stronger scents are seen as more “masculine”. Scents are not gendered. There’s just what you like and what smells good on you. I happen to prefer the scents assigned me as someone socially-classed-as-woman, but that does not negate my genderqueerness.)

The pushing of antiperspirant on women is yet another way our patriarchal culture tells women to abuse their bodies for the sake of being seen as worthy — in this culture a woman’s worth is measured by her sex appeal, and we’re told that sex appeal does not exist if there is sweat. (Which is stupid; I mean, what do people imagine happens when you have sex? THERE IS SWEAT INVOLVED. At least there is if you’re doing it right.)

If you want to wear antiperspirant for your own, personal reasons, and it doesn’t have any ill effects on your health, or even if it does — get on with your bad self; I’m not going to tell you to stop. That is between you and whatever god of armpits you worship.

But if you’re wearing it because you’re expected to? If you don’t like wearing it because it hurts? If you would rather quit but feel you can’t?

Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s self-care to stop your pits from sweating. Don’t let the commercials fool you either.

You are not required to wear antiperspirant if you do not want to. Sweating is a natural human function for all genders, no matter what the corporations tell us.

Reading more women authors

This is not actually something I need help with, in the most general of terms. I tend to read women authors by default, and often have to work to seek out male authors.

I consider myself lucky — in this one, small way, my brain has escaped patriarchal programming.

Well, perhaps. I think I still read a disproportionate amount of cisgender, white, able-bodied, women authors, and I often only read the speculative fiction/SFF genres. My defaulting to women authors still does not yield much diversity in what I read.

So I am taking a page from Lilit Marcus’ book, here in 2014, and actively seeking out more women authors — but more specifically, queer and trans* women (including genderqueer folk who are socially classed as women/assumed to be women), women of colour, indigenous women, mixed race women, and women with disabilities. Also, I’m going to attempt to branch away from SFF and read other genres.

I won’t be reading women exclusively — as I said, I already default to reading women authors, so I actually have to actively seek out male authors most of the time. However, if I read a book by a man, I will then read 2 by women.

And I’m not sure how many books I’ll get read. I don’t do much reading these days; I think university killed my joy in it. But I will try; I will work very hard to read several books this year, and to seek out different types of books by more queer, trans*, indigenous, mixed race, WOC, and disabled [women] authors.

Are you participating in #readwomen2014?

(Worth noting: the hashtag was created by Joanna Walsh, and most of the credit for the idea is given to her — but Lilit Marcus deserves credit for the idea, and I’m giving her her due.)

And if you have any recommendations for books by queer, trans*, indigenous, mixed race, disabled, and/or women of colour authors that are not SFF, please let me know in the comments!

 

My best friend today…

fireplacewarmback

No, not my arm, the fireplace in front of which I am sitting. It is really cold outside right now and this thing is keeping my bacon from freezing.

I’m using bacon as a shorthand for butt, there. I’m not talking about actual food.

Anyway. I am sitting in front of this thing and it is keeping me warm and keeping my pain levels down, which is nice! Because my back does not like moving boxes of books around! At all!

I did finish cataloguing them today, though; I have just under 860. Not as much as my initial guess of 1,000 — but practically speaking, there is no difference. It’s still a lot to sort and catalogue and pack and move.

I just finished packing all the theatre and film ones. There were a lot — I was in theatre for 20 years, and film for about 5. The books tend to accumulate.

There is still a huge pile to go (history, fiction, languages, science, arts and crafts, children’s books, comics and cartoons miscellaneous), so I’m getting back to that now. Tomorrow morning the truck comes to grab the big furniture and the boxes of books (and likely the bookcases).

Oh gods I’m so not ready aaaaauuuugggghhhhhhhhhhh

-Katje

I might have too many books.

I only say that because today was spent cataloguing and packing them. There are a lot.

The book situ when I started this morning.
The book situ when I started this morning.

That picture doesn’t show the coffee table and the couch, but they’ve also got books on them — the coffee table, a lot; the couch, not so much.

By midpoint it looked like this:

bookpacking2You can see my laptop open because of the ongoing cataloguing work. I’ve now got 717 books in my library on LibraryThing (796 in all collections, which includes books I’ve borrowed and still want to read and my wishlist).

The couch is covered in books that have been inputted into my LibraryThing catalogue, the coffee table in stacks of books yet to be put in.

You can’t see the piles I added to the coffee table today, because they’re balanced on the edge behind the four boxes of books.

Note: this does not include all the books that were not on the shelves because I’ve been reading them or they’ve been travelling with me — they will be packed, but not in boxes. Nor does this include my own books, of which I have several copies lying around — they will get their own box.

I just finished about 15 minutes ago, and now the living room looks like this:

bookpacking3

Yeah, I took down all those bookcases. Only one double-stack remains, just off camera. That bookcase contains my notebooks and journals and such on the top, and my late Oma’s books on the bottom. Oma’s books are going into storage — we’re keeping them, because they’re family heirlooms, but neither mom nor I have any room for them in our personal libraries right now.

I think the couch now has more books on it than the coffee table does, which means the more tedious part of my job has been lessened. Packing boxes of books is not, actually, tedious, but adding them to my catalogue is.

You can see my dinner in the last photo. I am eating it right now, at 11pm, because it’s been that sort of day. I’m exhausted and thinking I have too many books.

You know it’s bad when you think you have too many books. (Hint: the correct paradigm is never enough books!)

Tomorrow, up bright and early to pack up the couch-books and input the table-books and then take down the last bookcase.

The Last Bookcase. Sounds like it could be a fantasy/horror novel.

And that’s the sign I should go to bed.

Yeah, I’m going to do that now. See you all tomorrow.

This is why I’m tired today

I don’t have the spoons for a proper post. This is why:

This is why I'm tired today. Cataloging and packing books.

I’ve spent most of today cataloguing the books that were on that bookcase into my LibraryThing account and then packing them into boxes, in preparation of eventually moving out of this house. (Eventually = in the next few months.) Books take a long time to pack and they’re something I can pack earlier than other things, so it seemed like a good plan.

But that, combined with lack of sleep, means I’m exhausted. More awake Katje tomorrow, hopefully.

A little foreknowledge can save you a lot of heartache…

This prompt comes from the ebook of 365 prompts put out by the Daily Post blog.

“It’s never a good idea to discuss religion or politics with people you don’t really know.” Agree or disagree?

Disagree, very much.

In my experience, it’s better to discuss religion or politics with people you don’t know very well. By the time you’re already friends with someone, if they’re a good friend (or if they’re family), if you have severe disagreements with them on the subjects of religion or politics what good comes from discussing them? Unless you really are the rare pair who can discuss it without wanting to murder each other.

Most of my politics are tied up in my life or death. That’s how it is when you’re a member of an oppressed class in an oppressive society. Abortion rights aren’t a quaint mental exercise for me; they’re a matter of whether I live or die. Fat acceptance isn’t me whining because I don’t want to lose weight; fatphobia has very real consequences for the health of fat people, and I deserve to be treated with respect no matter my size. Equal rights and protections for trans* folks aren’t just some abstract thing I can talk about with buddies over a beer; they affect my friends, they affect me — they affect our lives and safety. If I decide to present as male and I get into a situation where the cops need to see my ID, guess what? My life is at risk, because if they see “F” under sex and I don’t match what they expect in their brains, there is no telling what they’ll do.  If I go to a doctor who decides that all my problems are because I’m fat and they misdiagnose me, that could have real, life-or-death consequences for me — and I’m not even getting into the mental health issues that come from living in a society that’s geared towards hating fat people.

For these things that are life or death for me, there’s no room for disagreement. Because disagreeing that I deserve the right to terminate a pregnancy without legal interference is saying that I don’t deserve to have agency over my own body. Disagreeing that I have the right to present as male without fear is saying I’m not a person to you. Disagreeing that I have the right to respect no matter what my size because you’re “so concerned for my health” is saying that what really matters is not my health, but your comfort — because if you knew anything about my health, you wouldn’t say a damn thing about my needing to lose weight.

As for religion, it’s not a life or death situation for me, at least not here in Canada — but it does have a lot to do with my mental health, my happiness, my life going smoothly. If I’m making friends with someone, I’d rather know early on if they’re going to try to convert me to something else every chance they get, or if they’re going to call CPS to protect my (future) kids from my “devil worship”. That’s an actual worry for someone who IDs as a witch, by the way. Don’t kid yourself that it’s not.

I want to know if someone is the type of person who believes, truly believes, that they cannot be moral without religion to guide them. Because I don’t want to know those people. If religion is the only thing stopping them from hurting other people, then I don’t want to be around if they have a crisis of faith.

I’d rather discuss politics and religion early on in a relationship. That way, if they’re a transphobic misogynist who doesn’t really believe I’m a person with rights and freedoms, I know to not let them any further into my life. That way, if they’re not bigoted, but just very uneducated, I know exactly what I’m getting into and can decide if I want to spend the spoons on educating this person. That way, if they’re the proselytizing type, they know early on there’s no point to try with me — I’m not open to conversion tactics — I know early on that I may need to be prepared to kick them out of my life, if they don’t stop trying. That way, if they believe that religion is the only way to have a moral compass, I can say goodbye early on. I prefer my friends to be able to steer their ships with their own moral compass regardless whatever god or gods may be in their lives.

I try to keep the peace with people I still want to be friends with, even if they disagree with me on politics or religion. (There are not many people like this in my life, for the record, and those that are disagree with me on portions of politics that aren’t life or death for me.) Discussing these things only comes up if I think we might actually make progress, instead of talking past each other and getting angry.

And as for talking religion or politics with random people on the internet…. Well, what do you think my blogs are for?