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.

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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.

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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.

Ragnarok, day 2

Ragnarok, day 2

It is still snowing like whoa over here. Stopped briefly yesterday in the late afternoon/early evening, but when I woke up this morning it was back in full force.

The world is ending covered in water. Fenrir has eaten the sun. ARISE JORMUNGAND.

Anyway. Today is my rest day after surgery — yes, my surgery was Wednesday, but I’ve been busy every day since. Probably been overdoing it a bit. I promised myself I’d spend today resting, possibly sleeping a lot.

I’m still in a considerable amount of pain, though it is nowhere near the amount of pain I was in when the teeth were still occupying my jaws. This pain is a healing pain, and it is annoying and slow to go away, but I can be patient and deal. I am now eating semi-solid foods, like omelettes and quiche and such, which does quite a bit to improve my mood.

Tomorrow I’m planning on posting something very revealing about my childhood/upbringing and being a survivor of abuse. It was an article I found very hard to write; I’ve been sitting on it for a few weeks while I decided if I had the strength to share it. I finally decided I do have the strength to share it, so it will be going up tomorrow.

Please note if the comments turn abusive I will turn them off. I might have the spoons to share my story, but I am not required to weather the sadism of trolls, nor am I required to weather people who will come to the defense of my abuser. (Yes, there are people who defend my abuser(s). Because abusers aren’t abusive to everyone; if they were they would not have any licence to operate, and they do.)

If you find these topics difficult to read about or triggering, you may want to skip reading the blog tomorrow.

Hope everyone has a great end to their weekend, and I’ll see you tomorrow.

-Katje

This Week at WolfHouse

I’m more a fan of “Wolf Haus” but mom likes WolfHouse, so there you go.

Overheard at WolfHouse

  • That’s a fantastic coffee! Accompanied by RAT DANCE.
  • Hey, Tyee is helping us renovate by ripping up the linoleum in the kitchen!
  • Oh, fireplace, I love you. Let’s elope.
  • Pack Leader, I’m worried about Mistress. WHY IS SHE ALWAYS GOING TO THE VET?
  • I think the oven is possessed.

Some context:

WolfHouse is having a bit of a rat problem right now. No biggie…except, well, the rats are huge. Apparently they’re Norwegian Roof Rats, and they come into houses because they don’t like the cold. My reaction to this:

Norwegian rats who don’t like the cold? What, did Norway send us their defective rats? What the hell? I DEMAND BETTER RATS.”

::shakes fist at Norway::

Yesterday morning I woke up to a loud thumping sound from the kitchen. It was a massive rat, caught in the trap under the sink. A while later another came by, and they started making more noise under the cupboard, thumping all over the place. Mom dubbed this RAT DANCE and then called the rat man to get him to come take care of the rats.

Tyee was very interested in the rats, and started going into Hunter Mode. He scraped and scrabbled at the floor, hoping it would help him get into the cupboard where he could hunt the rats. This prompted me to make a comment about him helping us renovate by ripping up the kitchen linoleum. Not really, though; that stuff is tough.

We would have let him hunt the rats if there were no danger of said rodents getting into some poison, but there is. Mom was at the end of her rope a while ago and put out poison for the things. She felt awful but didn’t know what else to do — she’d bought a humane trap and every time the rats took the treats out and left it still open.

The original trap didn’t work, the poison didn’t work, and now we have the Rat Man and his traps. He sets the trap up, the rats get caught, he comes and gets them.

If the rats could mind their own business and leave us alone we wouldn’t have to do this, but they get into our food and keep us up by running around in the walls and basically make life very difficult, so we are forced to deal with them even though we’d prefer not to hurt or torture them. Being human can be pretty rough on your soul sometimes.

~

The fireplace and I are in love. I stand by it and it warms my butt up. This is obviously true love. We are going to elope.

~

Tyee is worried about me, because I am always going to “the vet”. Wednesday I had surgery at the hospital, Thursday I had a doctor’s appointment, and Friday I had a follow up dentist appointment. Tyee can smell the medicine on me each time and looks at me worriedly before cocking his head in confusion, as if he’s saying “But you have no balls to cut off! What could they be doing to you?”

It’s honestly not that hard to confuse a wolf-dog.

(Also, you’ll notice Tyee uses the wrong pronouns for me. That’s okay; I don’t ask him to try and grasp the intricacies of my genderqueerness. I tried to explain to him a few times about it and he just looked very worried and confused, and then licked my face to show me he still loved me.)

~

Mom’s oven is broken. The CPU is fried. The burners work but the oven(s) (pizza and regular size one both) won’t turn on, nor will the warming centre (which mom calls “the hob”). The buttons are broken, basically.

However, this did not stop the oven from turning itself on to 350 degrees Farenheit in the middle of the night on Thursday, nor from beeping at me unprompted throughout the day Friday.

It is possessed. We are getting rid of it and perhaps performing an exorcism.

~

Never a dull moment at WolfHouse, that’s for sure.

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!

 

Insert interesting, witty title here

It should tell you how tired I am that I didn’t even care about missing doing my 750words.com entry yesterday, let alone missing a blog post here. I realized it was going to happen and couldn’t summon the energy to scramble together something. I just let it slip me by.

Moving is always, always, stressful, and I’d hazard a guess and say most people hate it. Even though I am so happy to be getting out of the place I’ve been in since September 2012; even though I am so happy to finally be permanently cohabiting with Mr. Katje; even though I’ve had help from amazing people, without whom I wouldn’t have been able to do this; even though this new place is great, and I’m excited about living there — moving sucks. It sucks big time.

I haven’t gone through my email in a few days and my inbox now has over 500 messages in it. I can barely get an hour of publishing work done each day. Writing? Oh, yes, I think I remember what that was. I think I probably enjoyed it, and would again! (I’m referring to working on my books, here, not blogging.)

Well, that last part is not entirely accurate — since the month began I have written 3 poems. I’m hoping that number will go up. But writing a poem is not the same as working on The Jade Star of Athering or From the Ashes for a few hours. It uses different skills, different parts of my brain.

I have completely fallen behind in my Coursera courses and cannot bring up the energy to actually do any of the work for them. This is unfortunate, as I signed up for the courses in the hopes that they would help enrich my writing life. But I cannot spare the time or energy for them.

All my brain is focused on is The Move. Information falls out of my grey matter all the time, especially spelling — I’ve rewritten parts of this post trying to spell words correctly so many times I’ve lost count. If I’d let it go unedited, it would be unreadable.

All I can think about is boxes and things and do I have the energy to move that bit down to the car today and organizing my piles of random junk that have been moved, wholesale, from place to place for years and that has to end now. I am going through the piles and throwing out what needs to be thrown out and keeping what needs to be kept — but it is a big job, almost as big as the move itself, and I am tired.

So forgive me, forgive my lapses. Right now it is all I can do to keep myself moving, fixing on a future point when I will be fully in the new place, everything will be shiny, nothing will hurt, and I will have my brain back. In the meantime, I struggle to get my fingers to type out the words in my head; I struggle to meet my commitments to myself.

And I’m going on vacation in HabitRPG, or my character will be dead by the end of the week.

-Katje

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