The Love You Give Is Enough

Yesterday I ran a lot into something that’s physically painful for me to see: clappy hand emojis between words. It’s an internet trend to make what are considered important points this way, instead of the old-fashioned placing of a period between each word. (What. was. wrong. with. that?)

You’re probably wondering why/how it makes me sick. The best explanation I can come up with is that my visual processor is over-developed and hyper-competent after a lifetime of having to make up for my auditory disabilities — my hearing is fine, my brain has problems processing and parsing sounds — and so when I read things, I experience them more vividly than people without that disability do.

My lack of ability to properly parse things I hear means my visual processor makes up for it by making me hear things mentally really well when I read them. This is why shitty punctuation in a book drives me insane. I can’t just skim over it when reading; it’s integrally a part of what I’m experiencing. It tells me how to “hear” things in my mind, and if it’s wrong, it will fuck up my entire experience.

(This is also why I loathe the practice of 2 spaces after a period. It makes my brain grind to a halt when I’m reading something, because one space is a normal pause between sentences for me. Two spaces is the emergency brake.)

My experience seeing the clappy hand emojis between words is to feel as if I’m being slapped or punched in the face after every word. Reading a sentence written that way gives me a headache and makes me nauseated.

And to be honest, even if it didn’t cause me physical pain, I would find it the most annoying fucking thing on the planet. So either way, I’d be stoked if people could fucking stop doing it.

Anyway. Yesterday I saw like, 3 or 4 tweets using this method so I spent most of the day feeling headachey and sick to my stomach. One of them, however, is what inspired this post.

This was from an account I used to enjoy following, and from someone I thought was pretty cool. Not only did they use the clappy hands emoji thing that makes me sick, but they used it to repeat a really damaging belief: “you can’t love somebody until you love yourself.” (I’m pretty sure that’s what the tweet said exactly; I just went and double-checked as fast as I could before getting too sick. Am super nauseated right now anyway.)

This is a bullshit idea and I am so sick of hearing it repeated.

An image of two people kissing is overlaid with text that says "You can't love someone unless you love yourself; You can't be happy with someone else if you aren't happy with yourself." Over top this text is a big red X, and the words FUCK OFF in bold black Impact font on a pink rectangle background.

I have strong feelings about this.

Working on self-love is, of course, important, and something I encourage EVERYONE to do. But the phrasing of this idea, the way it’s always put forth, makes it a zero-sum game: you cannot love someone until you love yourself. Unsaid in that sentence: your whole self. You cannot love someone until you love yourself 100%.

This idea leads to a horrible self-repeating spiral of self-hate. That sentence also says that if you DO love someone when you don’t love yourself, it’s not enough. It’s not GOOD enough. Your love for your spouse or sister or daughter or son or best friend — it’s not enough, because you don’t love yourself first.

And because your love isn’t enough — because you don’t love yourself — you are obviously not worthy of that person. And if you’re not worthy of that person, then you are, of course, not worthy of THEIR love and thus unlovable.

How the fuck are you supposed to work on self-love if you keep getting told that the love you give isn’t good enough?

I’m a broken person. I’m damaged goods. I always will be; doesn’t mean I want to be treated like I am. You can glue something back together, but those cracks will always be visible.

Most days I absolutely hate myself. But you know who I love? Mr. Katje, my husband. I love him so much I can sometimes forget what an awful person I am. I love him so much I can forget that I hate myself.

And Mr. Katje loves me, and because he loves me, he helps me work on these things. He reminds me to eat, because I can’t love myself enough to do that. He reminds me to take my pills, because sometimes I cannot take that care of myself. His reminders build up, and become my reminders: I eat because Mr. Katje loves me, so I am worth loving, so I need to love myself. I take my pills because Mr. Katje loves me, so I am not an unlovable monster, so I need to take care of myself.

Through his love of me, I am slowly, very slowly discovering self-love. It is self-love based in the love of another person.

I suppose people who believe that self-love must be entirely self-generated, a virgin birth in your heart, would see that as unhealthy.

I believe humans are pack animals and we cannot exist alone. I believe relying on oneself to the exclusion of all else is unhealthy. I believe we need each other in the same way we need food, water, shelter.

So I do not see my building up my self-love based on the love others give me as unhealthy. I see it as human.

I know Mr. Katje struggles with self-love, too. I know he has doubts; I know he has that voice inside that tells him he’s not good enough, not smart enough, not strong enough for me. I know he feels he’s not a good enough husband for me, because he can’t support me like he wants to, because he’s been damaged by a lifetime of society shoving it down his throat that if he’s not earning big bucks, he’s not good enough.

(Kyriarchy damages men too.)

He is enough. He will always be enough, regardless our money situation, regardless what lies society screams at him. And if the love he gives is enough for me, then the love I give has to be enough for him.

It’s not fair to ask damaged people to put everything on hold while they try to figure out how to love themselves, and then to tell them that if they can’t figure that out, they don’t deserve to love anyone else.

It’s not fair to ask that of anyone.

Spend time cultivating self-love, as much as you can. But if you cannot get that to 100% — that’s okay. If all you can manage is 5% on a good day — that’s okay. The love you give is still worthy. The love you give is enough. The love you give is not subtracted from by the hate you feel for yourself. This is not algebra.

We may be brokenhearted, but we are enough, and whatever love we can pump out of those damaged organs is enough. It has to be, or humanity doesn’t stand a chance.

Vindicated

I just got off the phone with both my doctor’s office and my insurance company (this is after searching the car and concluding the fault MUST lie with the pharmacy, but I need to be absolutely sure of that before going to war).

The fault absolutely lies with the pharmacy. I was given NO scrips for my stomach and crazy pills in June by my doctor, I was given them in April (which is the date I knew). My insurance was not charged in April at all, but was charged on June 27 for those pills.

Both offices said that if the pharmacy tries to dispute it with me, I can tell them to call doctor or insurance and they would confirm that I am not, in fact, fucking crazy (on this count, anyway).

Tonight, after it cools down a bit as the wildfires have blanketed the city in smoke and it’s a smokey sauna out there, I will be going to the pharmacy to rain down fire and brimstone upon them.

Normally I don’t like confrontation, but their fuck up could cost me 90 dollars I don’t have, or make me go a month without my *life-saving meds*.

Normally I am more understanding about humans making mistakes, but this is exactly the sort of mistake I am not okay with. I didn’t fuck up — they did — and yet I’ve had to spend several days RUNNING AROUND LIKE A HEADLESS CHICKEN trying to rectify it, all while convinced that I’ve completely lost touch with reality because I don’t remember doing what they said I did.

I already suffer from dissociation. The past two days have been stressful as hell as I’ve tried madly to hold onto what I know is real.

And godsdammit, I will be damned if I let their fuck up break my streak of taking my pills EVERY DAY for the past 2.5 months. EVERY. DAY. Do you know how AMAZING that is for me? Every day when I take my pills I immediately tell my husband that I did, so that 15 minutes later when I forget I’ve taken them I can ask him if I did and he’ll know.

But that’s not the only part of the system I have to keep me taking my pills every day. I also have a weekly pill container (not refilled for this week BECAUSE OF MY LACK OF NEW PILLS) and I keep track in my habit tracker in my planner. This combination has lead to me having a near perfect pill-taking streak for 2.5 months.

Before this system, I was lucky if I remembered to take my pills every other day. I was a wreck.

Now I’m marginally functional. And no pharmacy fuckup is going to take that from me.

So I am vindicated today, and preparing for battle. I almost feel sorry for whoever is working at the pharmacy tonight.

Almost.

The Summer I Went Crazy

Serious content warning for this post. I talk about childhood abuse, trauma, suicide, and sexual assault.


There’s a video making the rounds on social media. I haven’t watched it. I don’t want to watch it. But I’ve seen the comments and I know, basically, what it’s about: a child having a tantrum on a train.

Comments have ranged from “this kid is probably autistic” to “this kid needs to be disciplined” and it strikes me this is just yet another way for people without kids to judge parents for not doing a good enough job; or people with kids to feel superior because THEIR child never had a meltdown on the subway.

It also strikes me how very lucky I am to have been born in 1986 and become a teenager in the 90s. Because I grew up without ubiquitous cellphone video cameras and the ability to post video of strangers online. I grew up without the danger that my one bad day would have meant worldwide shaming of my mother, and custody being ripped away from her.

Before we moved to Hawai’i my summers were split between my parents. (After moving there, I spent them with my bio-sire, for what was called “access” because he required access to his child and I was supposed to have access to my tormentors.)

After the first half of the summer being spent with my bio-sire and his new girlfriend, a woman we dubbed Wife #5 (he’s on #7 now), and her band of ill-mannered, horrific monsters of children, I got to spend time with my mom. This particular summer we went to Hawai’i to visit with people, including my new friend who became my best friend and still is (she was my maid of honor at my wedding).

I’m not really sure why she stuck with me for so many years, because that was the second year we knew each other and it was the summer I went insane.

I was a monster. I screamed and cried and kicked. I lashed out at everyone, including my best friend. I threw tantrums on a regular basis. I said cruel, hurtful things. I tried to kill myself. I wielded sharp weapons and was a danger to myself and others.

No one knew what was going on. My mother was at a complete loss, trying to manage a child who had never acted out on this scale before. She was inches from putting me into an institution, and had the threat of my bio-sire taking custody not loomed, she may have done so.

And I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t tell anyone, because I didn’t have words for it and I blamed myself.

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This is not for you: Productivity and Chronic Illness

This was originally posted on my Medium profile on February 7th, 2017.


I read a lot of articles on productivity and improving one’s creativity and making life better. How to do better, be better, accomplish more, feel satisfied with my life, not feel like such a fucking failure all the time. I read these articles because productivity and discipline are things I struggle with and I want to see if there’s anything out there that can give me a leg up in reaching my goals.

About 90% of them are explicitly not for me.

I struggle with discipline, but I’m also chronically ill. I have trouble being productive because I’m a procrastinator, but I’m also disabled. I struggle with gratitude because I haven’t developed a habit of it, but I also suffer from severe mental illness.

There are very few articles out there about productivity that write with any of these things in mind. Almost all of them talk about “willpower” and “making time” and “a morning routine is essential” and “you need to practice gratefulness” and “breakfast WILL give you energy!”

Willpower? Willpower means nothing when I sleep through the 10 alarms I set; it’s not about using my strength of will to not hit the snooze button, it’s about salvaging my wreckage of a day because my body refused to wake up, refused to even hear the alarms until it got 12 hours. Articles that write about “having the willpower to get up earlier” are telling me nothing new; they’re just telling me something useless, something I’ve heard time and time again that does nothing to help me with my issues.

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new meds

content warning: emetophobia

got my gabapentin today. trying it tonight.

also sleeping on the recliner tonight, because my neck won’t stop hurting. i don’t know what’s up with it. it hasn’t hurt this much since the last time i got whiplash. which was…on a bumper car i think. (yeah, bumper cars give whiplash. just in case you were out of things to worry about your kids doing.)

we had to go out when i was just waking up and before i had a chance to let my muscles adjust to actually being upright. that was less than fun. i’m doing better now, though, and we did pick up the package from the post office and our scrips — can i just publicly thank Asclepius for insurance? i don’t even know what it would have been without, but with our extended insurance from mr. katje’s workplace it was 17 bucks for three scrips. gone are the days of me taking my anti-depressant every other day to make it last! Io Asclepius! — and also got a little grocery shopping done as we were out of milk.

we’ve recently switched to 3.25% milk from 2% and i’m drinking a lot more of it. IT’S SO GOOD. however, we kind of regret going to IGA instead of Save-On today. milk was over 6 dollars for a 4L; at Save-On it’s around 4.5 bucks. that was a huge ouch. but i was too unwell to handle too grocery trips, so we just got it and sighed heavily.

i also asked at the pharmacy about switching from zoloft capsules to tabs because the capsules are incredibly hard for me to swallow and can cause me to throw up if i don’t do it exactly right. apparently the tabs are not available in Canada. because Canada has super draconian laws about medicine and food. (if you think the FDA is tough, haha have i got news for you.)

sometimes, i appreciate those laws. not today.

so continuing to use zoloft in capsule form until i can figure out a new med. maybe one that doesn’t make me sick and actually works better for my mental illnesses. hoping i get that appointment with a psychiatrist soon because i am running low on my meds.

but i’m excited about the gabapentin! i had a feeling i have Willis Ekbom Disease (aka ‘restless legs syndrome’ but the restless legs are a reaction to the uncontrollable spasms it causes) which i brought up with my doctor (short aside: i love my current doctor. he actually practices medicine instead of just telling me to lose weight. sent from the heavens. Io Asclepius again!) because i’m worried that it’s causing me to have a bad sleep. even after using the cpap for 6 months i am still exhausted all the time. much better with the cpap than without, but still. i shouldn’t be this tired.

so i asked if there was a test for willis ekbom and he said no, it’s one of those things where we give you treatment and see if it works and then that’s the test, basically. so i’m only supposed to take it before bed to see if it helps interrupt the processes that are causing me to spasm so i can actually get a full night’s rest instead of my body shaking itself ever so slightly awake all the time.

(i still spasm during the day and it’s uncomfortable, but if i can just get it to stop at night i can handle the daytime spasms. i’ve been dealing with them for a long time, after all.)

i’m really crossing my fingers the gabapentin works for me, because if i can fix my sleep i have a feeling i will feel 100x better, even with continued disability and chronic pain.

-katje

edited to add: between finishing writing this post but before publishing it i actually took a look at my pills. they’re capsules, because of course they are. i now have three prescription pills that are capsules. huzzah me. XD

Finding Back the Glue

This post was originally posted on my Medium profile on January 13, 2016.


Sometimes I imagine myself as a table, holding a mug. The mug is my sanity, and the table is my life, it’s me, it’s the sum total of experiences and memories and everything that makes me, me.

The table has three uneven legs; they are wobbly and patched in places. One might actually be a real, human leg, but we’re not asking where it came from. Glued together, stapled, hinged, whatever’s available has been used. In the center of the table, between the legs, is a creature. It’s not human, not animal, not plant. We don’t know what it is. All we know is that it has many limbs, shakes constantly, and has a psychic link with my mug.

My mug is cracked in so many places it’s more glue than ceramic at this point. Every time it breaks, my perception of reality shifts a little bit. Every time it breaks, I lose a little bit of my mind. Every time it breaks, I’m left to glue it back together again, even if I’m not the person who broke it. My hands are cut and scored from broken pottery, flesh lined in tiny scars, fingers covered in that awful glue that turns your skin into a scaly nightmare as soon as it touches you.

I’ve glued my mug back together so many times I could do it in my sleep.

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Hope in the face of numbness

This post was originally published on my Medium profile on January 6, 2016.


My left pinky has become permanently numb.

I don’t know when this started. Every day I press it, hard, to the palm of my hand, in the hopes that that feeling, that pins and needles, that signal to my brain that something is wrong with the flesh — in the hopes that will disappear. It never does.

My pinky has become permanently numb.

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An Open Letter to the Man Who Called Me A “Retard” Today

Dear Sir, whomever you may be,

I hope you feel good. I hope that you are sitting in satisfaction at never having made a mistake in your entire human life. I hope that you know that you must be perfect, that the gods shine love down upon you and bless you in ways they do not bless other mortals.

This must be the case. I can’t fathom any other reason you would feel it necessary to scream “Nice fucking parking job, retard. Next time stay in your own fucking lane!” at me for a parking job that, yes, while not perfect, wasn’t as bad as you describe.

I’m tired, you see. It exhausts me to leave the house. But I did so with some excitement today, heading to the post office to pick up what I hoped was my wedding dress (it was). I parked in the only spot available — one between a tiny red sports car (yours) and an empty handicap spot.

The parking lot of this particular post office, located in a Pharmasave, is kind of shitty. It’s rather hard to do a good parking job there, and to be honest I’m still getting used to my minivan. It doesn’t handle the way my old car used to and it’s much bigger. So I parked, and got out, and saw that it wasn’t the best parking job. My rear right tire was on the line, yes. But there was still plenty of room between my car and the little red sports car — perhaps not enough room for someone sized like my fiance, Mr. Katje, but then he wouldn’t be able to fit in a car that size anyway. So I felt safe assuming that whoever was driving that car had enough room to get into it. And I was so tired. So, so tired I didn’t get back into my car and spend several minutes reparking, trying to get it perfect.

Besides, I figured, I’d only be a few minutes inside picking up my dress and then I’d be gone. Probably before you even came back to your car.

Obviously I was wrong on that count. Dress in hand, allowing myself to feel happy today despite the crushing weight of depression an anxiety on me, I headed back to my car and saw the space beside me empty once again. I hope they didn’t have any trouble getting back into their car, I thought, and yes, I felt a little guilty for not fixing the parking. It was a mistake on my part.

I make lots of mistakes, being human. I guess you don’t have that trouble. You must not.

It wasn’t until I got back into my car and, sitting still with the door open, arranged my things on the seat next to me that I realized you hadn’t left at all. I guess you had circled in your little red sports car, waiting for me to come back so you could shout obscenities at me.

Don’t mistake my slack-jawed face as I stared at you for a lack of thought (though I’m sure you did, considering the slur you flung at me). I was simply in shock.

I get road rage. I do. I understand feeling that people in other cars are idiots. I understand rage over shitty parking.

I do not understand what would drive someone to lie in wait, hidden, just so they could scream at another human being and call them a “retard”.

I guess I don’t understand because I’m human, with human empathy, and you’re obviously so much higher above me, on your cloud of never making mistakes, not fettered by annoying things like caring about other people.

So, Mr. Red Sports Car, I hope that you felt better after calling me a retard. I hope that, if you have kids, they never get put into Special Education for having learning disabilities and spend their school years being called a retard not only by their fellow classmates but by their teachers as well. Trust me, that sucks. I know from personal experience.

I hope you had a better day than I did, as I got to drive home holding back tears and thinking that I was so worthless I should just go kill myself. I hope you didn’t have to feel terror that an angry stranger might follow you home and attack you for one mistake that you made — as I did, because I honestly never know what angry men will do to me. I hope you find joy in berating a stranger for one mistake that they made. I hope that ruining my day made yours a little better.

I hope you’re still able to leave the house for reasons other than necessity, because after today I don’t think I can even make it to the library to pick up that book I wanted to read. After today, it will take all my strength to go to work, and come home. I don’t know how I’ll complete any wedding-related errands this week, seeing as the first one was such a fiasco. I can’t even open the package my dress is in to look at it. I feel too awful. I feel sick to my stomach.

Mostly, I hope that red sports car does its job of bolstering your self-confidence, so that maybe you don’t also feel the need to scream obscenities at strangers to prop up your manhood.

And I hope that this letter reaches you, so you know exactly what kind of impact you had on this stranger’s day. You’ll know it’s about you when you see it — after all, you saw my face, which is all over this blog.

Cordially,

-Katje

PS: Comments are disabled for this post because I don’t have the spoons necessary to moderate them.

I should probably post something here

Just so you all know I’m not dead.

I know, I haven’t posted in over a month, and now I am posting it’s just a boring general update on my life, not something fascinating about the backstory of Athering.

I apologize.

I’ve been fighting off illness, physical and mental, for most of February and March, and been finding it really hard to keep my focus. Even now I’m getting distracted, looking away, letting my attention wander, obsessively checking Kitten Clicker to see if there’s a new astronomical event I can observe and make a star chart from (there isn’t).

Yesterday I decided that cleaning up and reorganizing my office/the guest bedroom would help me focus better, because the mess has been distracting. It’s true the mess has been distracting, and I do feel better now that I’ve taken the first step to cleaning. Of course, there are still a million steps, and I’m sitting here trying to convince myself to do some actual work before tackling the mess again. It’s going to take me several days to finish it, so there’s no need for it to be the first thing I work at every day.

All this is to say: I have no idea what to write about here. Or, I have ideas, I just haven’t had the focus to sit down and get them done.

I don’t know where my focus went. I wish it were something simple, like I’ve been off my meds and just need to start taking them again, but that’s not it. I’ve been taking my meds faithfully for a while now. I just…can’t concentrate. It might be a symptom of absolute overwhelm. Whenever there’s too much on my plate (as there is now) my brain just sort of…shuts down. It won’t focus on what needs to be done, what’s priority; it’ll just grab onto random passing thoughts and run with them. Which is why I find myself doing low-priority things first, because they’re easier, and I can convince myself I’m being truly productive because hey, that thing I’m doing is on the list. Somewhere near the murky bottom, but still on the list.

So I think what I’m getting at with this post is that I need to reduce my stated posting schedule here until my current state of overwhelm is relieved a bit. Posting once a week would be awesome, but it’s apparent I just can’t manage it at the moment, and every week I miss I feel guiltier and guiltier until I’m stuck in a shame-spiral that won’t end. Well, time to end the shame-spiral because it’s not doing anyone any good. I’m going to post here once a month, on a topic related to the worlds I write in — character snapshots, backstory, maybe unpublished myths, who knows. Stuff like that.

Reducing my posting commitment here, for now, will lower my stress levels and allow me to finish other projects — like proofing the paperback copy of The Jade Star of Athering, which really should have been done this week, and would have, probably, had there not been a TON of errors for me to correct (because I apparently misplaced my brain when I did the layout). New goal: end of the month.

Other projects I should be focusing on? Writing the third book in The Third Age, Anala, as I have a self-imposed deadline of April 12 to finish the first draft. Going to have to pull out the big guns to make that happen: coffee IVs and huge sacrifices to the Mousai. (Only half-kidding.)

Then there’s this month’s episode of Fifty Shades of Drinking; finishing the cleaning of the office; finishing last year’s taxes; re-organizing my pantry and cleaning my kitchen; doing my filing (a Sisyphean task); and oh, did I mention, wedding planning? Yeah. Getting (officially) married in 7 months and am super behind on that. Go me.

Adulting is super difficult and the benefits don’t always outweigh the costs. If you’re a kid reading this, take my advice: don’t grow up. Run away to Never Never Land and just stay a kid forever. MUCH BETTER CHOICE.

Anyway. I’m off to work some more on The Jade Star of Athering, and if I don’t post again this month (with something actually about Athering or something) then I will see you in April.

-Katje

Mental Illness in Athering

So today I’m taking a little bit of a detour from Character Snapshots in order to talk about Athering’s approach to mental illness. I’ll be using examples from the books (Bellica and The Jade Star of Athering), so spoilers ahead.

Why? Well, it’s #BellLetsTalk day, and I like contributing to it on the blog. As it is also a Wednesday, I figured this would be a chance to talk about how Athering approaches mental illness.

In a word? Badly.

Let me elaborate.

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