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.

Praying for Wellness for Wolffy

You know what’s terrifying?

Hearing that your mom “might have cancer again” 6 months out from your wedding.

Putting it that way seems selfish, I guess, but I’m not trying to say that I care more about my wedding than I do my mom. I’m saying that having my wedding being so close puts things in starker perspective than the first time I heard my mom had cancer.

A young woman with short ash-blonde hair holds an infant with dark hair. The young woman's face is pointed away from the camera; she sits cross-legged and is dressed in a white dress covered in colorful embroidery.
Me and Mom.

The first time I heard my mom had cancer, my radar was clear of any major life events that I wanted her to be part of — so the bone-deep terror that struck me, paralyzed me, didn’t get a chance to really extend to “What if she won’t be at my wedding/see her grandkids?” beyond vague thoughts of such far-off, seemingly fantastical events. The only event that I thought she could possibly miss would be my graduation from University (though, honestly, if she’d died 5 years ago I doubt I would have graduated last year, or at all).

I remained worried, terrified, until she recovered from surgery. All her assurances of “They caught it early; it’s just a few polyps at this point. They’ll just snip them out and I’ll be fine,” did nothing to calm my fears. All I could hear was “Mom has cancer. I’m going to be alone.”

I have abandonment issues. They’re deep-seated; I’m aware of them; I don’t have the money to get therapy to try to work through them right now. I have coping skills to get through the common triggers.

There are no coping skills for hearing “Mom is really sick and we’re pretty sure it’s cancer again.”

And the thing is, it’s even scarier this time. *This* time, we’re not sure it’s cancer, not right now. *This* time, we are waiting for a firm diagnosis. *This* time, mom is _visibly sick_ in a way she wasn’t 5 years ago. 5 years ago you never would have guessed cancer was setting up shop in her colon. Now? I look at her and feel icy claws close around my throat because she’s definitely ill and _we don’t know why_.

Two women smile at the camera. One is older, with short ash-blonde hair and a toothy smile. The other is younger, with a closed mouth smile and red hair. She rests her chin on her mother's shoulder, and it's clear she's holding the camera for both of them.
A more recent picture.

All we know right now is what’s working and what’s not. Mom’s taking a bunch of her supplements to deal with the weakness, which is caused by iron anemia (supposedly probably related to cancer “somewhere in the gut”), and the pain. She’s sleeping a hell of a lot more than she used to, and down in the library, on the guest bed that has a remote to lift her partially upright in the morning. She’s unable to work. She’s lost so much weight she doesn’t really look like herself anymore — not like the woman I’ve known my whole life, who raised me.

I look at her and my heart skips beats, my breathing becomes short, and the terror descends. I have been paralyzed with this terror for almost two months now, feeling helpless and out of control.

The truth is, we have no idea what the next few months hold. I’m trying desperately to keep it all together, to keep our lives going as normal as possible, but it’s the most difficult thing I can think of right now. All my spare energy is twisted up with praying that she’s okay; that it’s not as serious as they think; that in a few months she’ll be back to her old self. But I don’t let myself cling to those ideas, because that sort of hope can be deadly.

Mom’s sick, so my life is on hold. She doesn’t want it to be, of course; she doesn’t want things disrupted for me. But the very fact of her illness means things are emotionally disrupted for me — and these things are fucking dominoes. Everything else comes tumbling down.

My mom is sick and all I can think about is my wedding, wondering if she’ll be there to down the aisle with me, to give a toast at the reception, to have fun with family and friends, to witness me making one of the best decisions of my life.

All I can think about is my wedding, and all I can feel is fear.


We’ve set up a fundraiser to help support Mom during this time. If you’re able to give anything to it, it’s greatly appreciated. If you can’t give monetarily, we totally understand, and just ask that you pass it on. Alternatively you can give my mom’s blog a read as she chronicles what’s going on in her life.

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

Happy New Year!

Road subject to flooding.
I couldn’t find a picture to encapsulate my year, so I just picked one at random. Though I guess “Road Subject to Flooding” does it pretty nicely.

I am writing this from the past, because I know myself well enough to know I would never be able to write this and post it on time for when I want to post it (11:59pm, December 31st 2014). That, or I’m trapped in the past and this is the only way I can communicate with you. Help! Rescue me! GET IN THE DELOREAN AND SAVE ME BEFORE I FADE AWAY

Anyway. My best wishes are going out to all of you for an awesome New Year’s, with partying that suits your personal levels of introversion/extroversion and midnight expressions of affection you are comfortable with. If 2014 was good, I hope 2015 is even better. If 2014 sucked donkey genitalia, then join me in wrestling 2015 to the ground and making it our minion.

2014 was a mixed bag for me. On the upside, I finally moved in with Mr. Katje, and he’s pretty great to live with. On the downside, I broke my femur, requiring long months of doing absolutely nothing followed by more months of not being fully recovered yet — see above note about donkey genitalia.

Hooray, just got a big shipment from Barefooot Books! Continually impressed with the quality of these books.
Some of the things I sell.

On the upside, I started a new business in selling Barefoot Books, which I’m enjoying and I am really excited about. (You can read about my exploits on my business blog.) On the downside, I’m fucking exhausted: starting a new business is a LOT of work and I have, yet again, overestimated my capabilities. (As downsides go, though, this one isn’t huge. I’m just whining.)

On the upside, I wrote almost 120,000 words this year. On the downsides, I didn’t make my goal of 150,000 and over half of what I did write was on blogging because I allowed myself to count blogging words for word count. That skewed my writing heavily in a way I did not like.

I also had a bit of a breakdown in November with regards to my writing. The stress of releasing The Jade Star of Athering was so great it broke something in me, and I was pretty close to calling it quits with this whole writing thing.

I’m glad I didn’t. I decided to take a step back, give myself a hiatus, and take it easy on myself. I’m feeling better now, and I hope that very soon I’ll be back in the saddle. However, what this means is that I won’t be releasing any books in 2015. If I try, I might have another stress-related breakdown and then all bets are off. I’m sorry, I know how much it sucks to wait a long time for the next book in a series. I really do. (10 years.)

On the bright side, it should only be about 13 months before my next release. I hope to get the next book in The Third Age out in February 2016. That’s assuming everything goes to plan, so cross your fingers!

Blog changes in 2015

You might have noticed the changes to this blog already. New theme, new name. Mind you, I came up with “Quillscratches” when I was loopy from lack of sleep so no telling how long it’ll stick around.

What is sticking is the change to what’s being posted here. I’m not going to quit posting about mental illness, smashing the kyriarchy, or the weird things that happen in my life — not completely. I’m just shifting focus.

Starting next week, on Wednesday, I will be posting bits of backstory, character profiles or interviews, and other bits and bobs from my writing that doesn’t make it into the final books. I’ll be posting every Wednesday, all year.

Other posts might come up outside of Wednesdays — maybe snippets of my personal life or those rants I love to get into — but they won’t be a focus, and will only show up as and when I’m inspired to write them…which is basically how my posts here have been done for a while, anyway. I want to change that.

(If, by the end of the year, I’ve kept to the once-a-week schedule, I may consider upping it to twice a week because I, too, like to live dangerously.)

And, despite the subtitle of this blog, these bits and bobs will not be solely Athering-related. Any world I write in is fair game.

If you have questions for me you’d like me to answer with one of my weekly blog posts, please send them to me at this email address: katjevanloon AT gmail DOT com. Put “Blog questions” or something similar in the subject line so I know what it’s about.

Fifty Shades of Drinking

This has been on hiatus for an unduly long time, and I am sorry. I was going to get back to it in October, but a bunch of events sort of took over my autumn and then I was planning on doing one as a surprise Christmas present to y’all but then I slept a lot and then Christmas was over and then I slept a lot again and now it’s basically the end of the year, so.

It is coming back. I’m not going to give an exact date, because I won’t keep to it, but expect a new episode in January. Hopefully before the last day of the month. Honestly, I plan on doing this vlog series for as long as I humanly can. The broken leg just threw a wrench into a LOT of things for me…including my leg, which was wrenched when I fell. A wrenched leg wrenches plans!

I’ll stop typing ‘wrench’ now.

Anyway, it IS coming back. Sometime in January you will again get to enjoy the slow destruction of my liver, punctuated with many vicious swear words and rants against misogyny.


 

Welp, that’s the news. I will see you all next week.

Sending wishes to banish the morning’s hangovers!

-Katje

ETA: Apparently I set this post to publish at 11:59 AM, not PM, so. Uh. Not the new year for me yet. But maybe for you! HAPPY NEW YEAR ANYWAAAAAAY

Getting a straight answer from a doctor

Post Doctor's appt selfie. This is my "well that was a depressing waste of energy" face.
Me, post-doctor’s appointment. My “that was a depressing waste of energy” face.

It’s not easy. I feel that’s one way The Doctor is very much like regular doctors — give you a straight answer when you ask a question? MADNESS

But, finally, I did. Yesterday, at my follow-up appointment at the cast clinic. After he told me that I’d probably have to be in the brace and off my feet until October, basically (so, a bit longer than originally thought), I finally got an answer regarding the possibility of ligament or meniscus damage:

They don’t know.

They won’t know until my fracture is healed up, because they can’t do an examination to figure out if the ligaments or meniscus are damaged without risking further damage to the fracture. So in several weeks, I may get an answer to that question.

I’m guessing it’s going to be “Yes, your knee is damaged,” mostly because my knee still feels like it’s been smashed with a hammer and I can’t bend my leg without extreme pain.

But apparently the reason they kept avoiding my questions about the knee was because they didn’t know and couldn’t tell me for a while. Which is all I wanted to know! Just an answer, any answer.

So now I know it’s still on the table, the possibility of more severe damage, and I just have to wait and see what happens. And in the meantime, don’t put any pressure on the broken leg.

This weekend we’re picking up a wheelchair for me and maybe getting me a proper shower at the in-laws’ place. If I’m up to it, Mr. Katje might even take me out for dinner at our favourite restaurant.

I’m honestly pretty excited about the wheelchair. Apparently it has a leg rest on the left hand side, which already makes it a million times better than those stupid hospital wheelchairs. (Yes, I totally have the muscle strength to just hover my leg straight out the entire time I’m in that thing. Not.)

I don’t mean to sound bitter about our experience with BC medical this time around. I’m getting the help I need. I’m just frustrated and tired of being cooped up in a chair 24/7, and looking at another 2 months of being cooped up like this.

Book has been proofed, as of last night. now to change the files and ship em off.
I think I went through 5 stacks of post-it notes.

So, I’m trying to set my brain to productivity. Namely, edits, rewrites, and writing fresh words (and, on the other side of the business: publishing). I’m just finishing up the work for a book by Kaimana Wolff, called Broken Sleep. It’s a really good book, even if the subject matter is hard for me to take. I said in my review that it’s a harrowing exposé of abuse, and I stand by that. It needed a lot of proofing, though, as you can no doubt tell by the picture. Right now it’s on round 3 of proofs. I’m waiting to hear back from the author, and then I can finish up work on it.

If you want to get an ebook ARC — advance reading copy — you can sign up for one here. They will be sent out as soon as I’m done with the ebook formatting.

Regarding my own writing, currently I’m working hard on The Jade Star of Athering. When I started re-writes there were 9 entirely new parts I had to write. Now there are 4, along with the various continuity edits and smaller rewrites within the finished chapters. For the record, editing and re-writing Jade Star has been like trying to marathon through a swamp filled with eels and unspeakable horrors. I am never doing vomit-out-words-and-fix-it-in-post writing again — after this, I’m going back to the much-more-natural-for-me edit-as-I-go style of writing. Fixing it in post is torture.

After I finish my edits and rewrites, I’ll be sending off the manuscript to my editor for the first round of edits. When she’s done, it’ll be time for beta readers to have at it. Once I’ve implemented beta feedback, it goes for its final round of edits, and then I start the publishing process. It’s at this point I release an ARC for advance readers. During the publishing process, we proof the manuscript several more times (and likely find more errors). Hopefully by the time release day rolls around there are no more errors left. (I say hopefully, because we are human.)

When Jade Star is off with the editor and beta readers, I’ll be focusing on finishing up the first draft of From the Ashes, sequel to Stranger Skies. I have a deadline of the end of the year to finish the first draft, but if I’m lucky I’ll get it done sooner.

I’ve got a lot of writing projects planned out for the next year or so. I really want to finish Jade Star and From the Ashes soon because I have another book I’m starting in November — Anala, the sequel to Jade Star and third book in The Third Age. It’s going to need to be outlined very carefully, however, as it happens during the same time period as Book 4 (which is so far untitled).

There’s a lot more on my plate, writing wise, but if I outlined my entire year’s plan here then I’d have no choice but to stick with it and I like to give myself some leeway for failure. (Insert winky face here.) Accountability is great, so long as I’m making myself publicly accountable for things I know I can accomplish.

So right now it’s just a matter of keeping busy with what matters to me, which thankfully is something I can still do while I have a broken leg. I have to be grateful for that — my passion doesn’t involve using my leg. I can still work on it even when injured and chair-ridden.

-Katje

PS: If you want to be first to hear about release dates, tours, events, etc for both my mother and me, then you should sign up for our mailing list. It comes out about once a month, and it gives you the opportunity to sign up to receive ARCs before anyone else can, or to pre-order first. Also, you get 2 free ebooks for signing up. July’s is set to come out in the next couple days, so sign up soon!

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

The Great Bookening 2014 (or Katje finally unpacks and puts away ALL THE BOOKS)

Almost all of them. I’ve yet to really unpack Mr. Katje’s books (I did 2 boxes; that’s all), but I’ve done all of my books, which was 30+ boxes so it’s kind of a big deal.

Look, pictures!

The Great Bookening '14: non-fiction and unread fiction.

Non-fiction and unread fiction. Most of the non-fiction is of the sort that will help my writing along (history, culture, books on writing craft, grammar, books of names), but there’s also a lot of theatre and film books on these cases. Also, writing notebooks and proofs. You may notice the cases are overflowing. This is true of most of the bookcases in the house, because I had to sacrifice one when we needed a TV stand.

The Great Bookening '14: God-bothering books.

God-bothering books, as mom calls them. Lots of books on Buddhism, esoteric stuff, spirituality…etc. This is also my meditation corner, hence the Thangka on the back of the door and the little altar/shrine areas.

The Great Bookening '14: read fiction

Read fiction. Double-stacked. Triple-stacked even. (For scale: all these books used to take up five shelves on another bookcase.)

The Great Bookening '14: misc

Misc. mish-mash! This was one of the first cases I filled up and I was in such a “FUCK ALL THESE BOXES” mood that I just jammed whatever the hell up there. Journals at the top, some language books, comics and children’s books, First Nations studies, history, science…the list goes on.

The Great Bookening '14: cooking, crafting, fiction

And the cooking, crafting, herbalism, knitting/crocheting, and Mr. Katje’s books shelves. Not totally full yet — will be when I unpack some more of Mr. Katje’s books.

So I have managed to unpack and put away all my books, and am making a dent in Mr. Katje’s books. It is likely we will have to get another bookcase for the rest of his books.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sleep for forever. Or eat a lot of food and watch NCIS, season 7. (Mr. Katje has gotten me hooked on the show and I expect I will soon catch up to current episodes.)

-Katje

Small Things

This is meant as sort of a general update on my life.

Defeat of the depressive episode: I’m apparently in a good place again. I think this was partially brought about by embracing my true self again (and partially because it had been over a month, which is how long the last one lasted after my first Depo shot). That was accomplished thanks to Abby from NCIS. It’s complicated; I don’t know if I can explain it. But it has to do with the fact that I’ve suppressed my goth-ness for years and years, for various reasons, and watching NCIS and Abby kick ass at a respectable job while being totally gothed out has made me feel more confident in being myself again.

Ok maybe it wasn’t that complicated?

Today's look inspired by Abby from NCIS. #ootd

Anyway. I got hair ties and I’ve started doing my hair like Abby’s and wearing more of my black clothes, as well as starting the process of weeding out the things from my closet that I never wear or no longer fit. I’m taking my time with it, because I need to be sure, and because it’ll be a while before I can add any more clothes to my wardrobe.

I’m alive, at any rate, and doing pretty well.

I worked my butt off last week in an effort to put rent together to pay back Mr. Katje for his covering my half. I did it, but I still need to work extra hours this week because I also owe him for internet and cable.

Plan G didn’t come through, so I need to find a way to pay for my meds. (Unless it’s just held up in bureaucracy; whatever the case, I can’t wait any longer for it to come through. I need to find a way to come up with the cash for my anti-depressants.)

I may be looking for a job outside the house soon, to supplement my self-employment income. I don’t know what that will do to my ability to blog on a regular schedule. Probably cut it off at the knees.

I wish I didn’t have to consider this as an option, but the fact is money is tight enough that I might need to work a part-time job on top of my full-time jobs of Publisher and Hausfrau. Who knows when I’ll find time for my full-time job of Writer. #notbitter

Took my first walk in the neighborhood today. Dressed far too warmly for it; thought it was going to be a lot colder. I took some pictures, which you can see at my Flickr photostream. Here’s one of them:

Road subject to flooding.

Road subject to flooding.

Phone-camera photos aren’t the most amazing, but I think I do alright, considering. Eventually I’d like to get a SLR camera, but it’s not exactly in the budget right now.

I wrote an angry rant about tattoos, ageism, and classism. I don’t know if I’ll post it or not. It rambled and seemed incoherent and really just wasn’t my best work. If I manage to revise it to a satisfactory version, I will probably post it.

I applied to grad school. Have some supporting documents to upload still, but the application is complete and paid for. I’ll know in May if I get an interview, and then after that they’ll tell me if I get in or not. I don’t really have any emotions about it at this point and I think that’s a form of self-defense against disappointment. So, more on that as it develops, I guess.

That’s about it. And now I need to get back to work.

-Katje

Minimizing Mental Illness: a message to allies

TW: discussion of depression, thoughts of self-harm and suicide

I’ve been in the midst of a severe depressive episode for the past month. I have barely been able to keep house and home together, and not very well at that. Beyond that I’ve had no get up and go to do much of anything else.

I’ve kept my brain and hands busy, for the most part, by watching TV shows, knitting, and playing video games. This is because during this particular depressive episode if I get too much inside my own head, if I’m too still, I start thinking about hurting myself again. I start thinking about all the ways I’m terrible and I deserve this depression, and it becomes a sneaky spiral of doom and death that I get locked in and have a lot of trouble getting out of.

Driving has been the most dangerous activity for me, because I start to think while I’m driving, and I start thinking about what a horrible person I am, and how I should just put everyone else out of their misery by offing myself. Driving is the most “inside my own head” activity in my life, so I’ve been avoiding it as much as I can this month.

This means I’ve mostly been inside the house. I have a lot to do inside the house and I’ve tried to be productive as possible. Of course, because I have impossibly high standards for myself and I am incredibly hard on myself all the time, this has only added to the depression as I’ve been unable to complete as much work as I want to, and that is, my brain tells me, my fault because I am lazy and horrible.

This is a sneaky way the depression and anxiety manifest themselves: make me have impossibly high standards so when I inevitably fail them I can hate myself more. Huzzah! Ale and whores for everyone, except Katje, because screw zir.

I haven’t really been able to talk to people about this, because some of the conversations I’ve had about it have gone like this:

Me: My fish are dead.
Other person: Have you tried feeding them?
Me: They’re dead.
Other person: I’ll help you look for them!
Me: My fish. are. dead.
Other person: Do you know why they’re missing?
Me: Why can’t anyone see how dead these fish are?

(Analogy courtesy Allie Brosh.)

And it becomes exhausting trying to figure out who will see my fish are dead and who won’t, so I just don’t talk about it with anyone. I’m tired of people asking about the reasons behind my depression, as if 20 years of mental illness has a fucking reason. I’m sick. I have a disease. It flares up. There’s no reason except that’s what happens and I’m stuck dealing with it.

Continue reading Minimizing Mental Illness: a message to allies

The Great Rewashing of 2014

For the past 4 days I have had the worst allergy attack of my life. Runny nose, inflamed eyes, hives, itching constantly — itching so bad I wanted to cut off my skin and set it aflame. I thought I was dying. I thought it was measles (there’s an outbreak in our area and I’m missing one of the shots). I thought I was patient 0 in the upcoming zombie apocalypse.

Whatever I thought, I couldn’t think straight. Couldn’t work, could barely keep house. Most times I couldn’t even concentrate on watching TV shows, which uses the least brain power like, ever.

The itching on my feet was the worst. At some point I attacked them with a pumice stone, viciously trying to scratch the itch out of my skin. It didn’t work, but the calluses are much smoother now.

For three days I suffered until finally Mr. Katje kicked me out the door to go get some godsdamned antihistamines, for Zeus’ sweet sake. (Actually I don’t really think Zeus cares if I’m itching or not; I think it’s rather a thing below his sphere of “Shit I Care About”.) I’m sure he would have picked them up for me if his work schedule didn’t prevent him from doing so.

I’m not really sure how I looked to the people who saw me at the grocery store, but I’m sure it wasn’t pretty. Red-faced, red-eyed, frizzy hair. Jittering and rubbing my hands together constantly like a raccoon hoped up on caffeine pills, scratching my wrists and my arms and my neck and face, my head — whatever skin was exposed. I rubbed my legs together like a cricket and did little dances in the aisles, trying desperately to rub the arches of my feet against the inner soles of my shoes, anything to stop the ever present itch from HELL.

I was so out of it from the allergy attack that it took me agonizingly long to find the antihistamines in the pharmacy section, and even longer to decide which one to get. I wanted non-drowsy, but budget won out — I got the 10 dollar cheaper drowsy meds, no-name brand. Perhaps there was non-drowsy no-name for the same price, but I didn’t see it. My eyes and brain were failing fast.

I also picked up some itch relief cream for some immediate relief for my hands. That was more expensive than the allergy pills, and it didn’t work for shit.

Dancing and jittering out of the pharmacy section, I picked up a new 4L bottle of milk on my way to the checkout. I got through as fast as possible and went home as fast as I could, eager to take pills.

1 – 2 pills every 4 to 6 hours. I took 2, because the attack was so bad I knew I’d need it.

A few hours later I fell asleep onto my keyboard. Keyboard face isn’t very attractive but it was so worth it. A little while later I staggered up and went to bed at 6pm. I slept for 4 hours, and went back to sleep at 5 am.

Woke up at 8am today but despite the short sleep sessions, I feel 100 times better than I did yesterday. The allergy pills are fucking miracles. I can finally function again — as you can no doubt tell, seeing as I’m sitting here writing this post.

Mr. Katje and I spent some time trying to figure out what caused the allergy attack. We just moved; there are a lot of new environmental factors in our lives. We narrowed it down to the new laundry detergent being the culprit. I’ve always had sensitive skin, and have always had to use sensitive skin laundry detergents. We didn’t check carefully enough when we picked this one up — we thought it was sensitive skin, because it was scent-free, but it wasn’t. It’s a brand we’ve never bought before — Cheer — and the only reason we got it was because we were at Costco and it was the only scent-free detergent there.

(Both of us get headaches from scented laundry detergents, and often the scents cause allergic skin reactions for me. The only scented laundry detergents I can stand are the Arm and Hammer ones.)

It’s not bugging Mr. Katje, so likely he’ll continue to use it for his work clothes. In order to save my sanity and my skin, I’m switching to the Tide Free and Clear for my clothes, any clothing of his I may borrow, our towels, and our sheets.

Thus is beginning the Great Rewashing of 2014. I’ve done several loads of laundry in the past 3 weeks — we both had dirty clothing from the move and from everyday wear, and our new washer is…incredibly small, compared to our last washers. We even have less clothing than we did, but now we’re doing more laundry.

I have to rewash almost everything I own. There are very few things I’m absolutely sure I haven’t washed in the Cheer. If there’s any doubt in my mind about a piece of clothing, it gets rewashed. I cannot risk another reaction like this.

Today I started with a load of pants and skirts, and ALL my underwear. Those seemed the most important. The last load I’m doing today is our sheets and duvet covers, as soon as Mr. Katje is awake and off to work — these are actually the most important things to rewash, but I couldn’t start with them because of our different sleep schedules. Tomorrow, shirts, socks, and towels. And so on and so forth, till the end of time.

I feel guilty using the washer and dryer so much, and for clothing that’s ostensibly clean. But there’s no other option. I can’t continue to wear clothing that will give me an allergic reaction.

Yes, theoretically I could go to the laundromat. If I could drive. So long as I’m taking the allergy pills, I can’t operate heavy machinery. Until I can stop taking the pills or we can get me the non-drowsy kind, I’m homebound unless Mr. Katje is driving. As his truck is still full of stuff and he’s working tonight, I’m definitely not going anywhere today.

So it’s into battle with the laundry on the battlefield of the living room I go.

Katje dons a suit of armor and goes charging at windmills with zir lance. “The Impossible Dream” plays in the distance. End scene.