Hello dear readers! I am sending you lots of warmth and love over the holidays. I hope that whatever your celebrations may be, and whatever you end up doing, they bring you much happiness.
If the holidays are a stressful time for you, please know you have my complete understanding and sympathy. You have the strength to get through this and you are not alone. <3
This time of year has not always been easy on me. It used to downright suck, honestly, and consequently I used to be a total Scrooge, without the excess piles of money or the scary ghosts. I’ve been very blessed that in the past few years it has gotten better, to the point where I actually get excited for Christmas again and look forward to the holiday, as well as my Longest Night Vigil (where I attempt to stay up from sunset to sunrise on Solstice). Also, I really enjoy wrapping presents, and I am insanely good at it.
I spent part of my Longest Night Vigil putting up our tree (check the video to see the twinkling lights!) and tonight Mr. Katje and I are having our own, private Christmas dinner. Tomorrow we go to his parents’ place to unwrap gifts and spend the night, and then on Boxing Day we’re having the big family dinner. Between now and this evening, however, I’m going to be watching Stargate SG-1 and trying to finish the stocking I’m knitting for our nibling. I will also be refraining from hitting “refresh” a million times on the USPS tracking page that tells me where my 2015 planner is (San Diego, since the 18th).
Happy Holidays! I’ll see you all in the new year. (Or possibly the evening before.)
Content warning: emetophobia, depression, thoughts of self-harm/suicide
A week ago I had the flu. I call it the “Angry Badger Flu” because it felt like two angry badgers were fighting in my stomach and ripping up my insides and punching my gag reflex like it was a button that would give them kibble. Luckily, that portion only lasted one night, but the terrible nausea continued for a week.
Consequently I went without meds for a week. Taking pills of any sort often triggers my gag reflex and I always have to be super careful when swallowing pills to make sure they stay down. So when I’m suffering from things like the flu, I often have to stop taking any meds I’m on completely, at least for a few days. Otherwise it’s The Exorcist all over again.
Today is day 3 of being back on my anti-depressants. There’s kind of a night and day difference. It takes about 3 days for the anti-depressants to kick in, and today I am much different than I was this weekend.
This weekend I picked fights with Mr. Katje. I was surly and weepy and angry, so angry I wanted to hurt someone, preferably me. I thought a lot about killing myself, or just driving off a bridge. I had a lot of “What the fuck is the point of anything?” thoughts.
Today, I’m still stressed by the various stressors that didn’t help with my shitty mood last week, but I’m not thinking about suicide anymore. I’m not picking fights with Mr. Katje. I’m not surly, I’m not weepy. I’m even doing housework. (Is it possible to drown in laundry? I think it is. If you don’t hear from me for a few weeks, assume that’s what happened. Or that I forgot to update my blog in forever, as usual.)
I’m posting about this because I wanted to illustrate a very important fact: I am a better person when I’m on my meds. They are not a crutch, or a problem. I believe in better living through chemistry and that means finding the chemistry that works for me. My anti-depressants do a hell of a lot more for me than Vitamin D (seriously, shut up) or St. John’s Wort (though it does have a small effect, so I’ll give it two points for trying) or medical-or-otherwise marijuana (just makes me stupid and really hungry) or any of the amazing new miracle cures people are pushing these days.
Three days. That’s all it takes for me to go from “being suffocated by my own illness” to “functioning as normally as I possibly can.”
And yes, while I did survive years and years and years of having this illness without any sort of medication, so therefore it is possible for me to live without it…the key word there is survive. I did not thrive. I scratched my way through the dirt and broke a lot of nails to get here, to live enough days to get to this one.
I’m tired of breaking nails. I want a shovel. I want to see the light again in more than brief snatches. I want to thrive.
You know what else I just realized? My 4-year anniversary with Mr. Katje was 4 days ago and we have marked the occasion in no way whatsoever. I think because we forgot.
Either way, it’s clear that I am terrible with anniversaries. And so is Mr. Katje. We make a good team.
Anyway. There was a draw for ebooks. WINNER ANNOUNCING TIME
I used Random.org to pick a winner, and the winner is Shawna! Congrats! Check your inbox for an email from me.
In other news I will be volunteering at the Writers Fest all this week, as I do every year, so I don’t know how much I’ll be posting here in the next several days. I am going to be very busy. I may already be suffering from intense overwhelm. Send help in the form of tea and Nutella.
If you’re in Vancouver and you haven’t done the Writers Fest before, you totally should! There are still events that are not sold out and it’s a really cool opportunity to see authors speak and maybe even meet them or get your books signed. If you’re into literature, you’ll probably enjoy yourself.
It occurred to me that, while I often mention my injury or identify as disabled, I don’t really talk about what it’s like to live with this injury. I think people get confused, because some days they see me doing things that make it look like I’m a-ok, and the next day I can’t even get out of bed.
The fact is if you don’t have an injury like this, or chronic illness or disability, you don’t know what it’s like, and you really won’t unless something happens to make you end up in that position. Before the spinal injury I was a much different person. I was suffering from various chronic illnesses, some of which I’m not even sure of the name, but they did not take as great a toll on my health and wellbeing as the injury did. Before the spinal injury I could not have ever conceived of what life would be like right now.
But I can still try and shed some light on what it’s like. For me, at least — I don’t claim to speak for anyone else who may have a similar injury or situation, and I certainly don’t claim to speak for people who are disabled or chronically ill in ways much different than I am. I’m only speaking for myself, and I hope it helps explain things to people who don’t live this every day.
Ok. So, every day I start out with a pool of units of energy — I refer to them as spoons, and so do many other chronically ill people. (That link goes to the article that started the use of the “spoons” terminology.) I’ve personally extended the spoon metaphor to include forks (mental health energy) and knives (social energy), but as this post focuses on my physical energy I’m only going to be talking about my spoon supply and demand.
On a Perfect Day, I have about 100 spoons. Please note, perfect days never happen. I’m only including them as reference. A perfect day means I had a perfect night’s sleep (no nightmares, didn’t wake up during the night, slept in a perfect position), woke up in no pain, am full of energy, didn’t borrow against spoons for the past week, and feel only minimal pain for the rest of the day. The first two things never happen. The second two happen, but only occasionally.
More likely than a Perfect Day is a Good Day. That means I had a good night’s sleep (minimal nightmares, only woke up a few times, slept more or less in the right position that doesn’t exacerbate the pain), woke up with minimal pain, had a pretty good amount of energy, didn’t borrow against spoons for the past few days, and felt minimal to moderate pain for the rest of the day. A Good Day gives me about 80 spoons.
The days I have most are OK Days, and especially so now that I’m recovering from a broken leg (which has made my back worse, as it’s been overcompensating for the lack of left leg support). Ok night’s sleep — moderate to heavy nightmares, woke up several times, didn’t sleep in good positions — wake up in moderate pain, have minimal energy, borrowed against spoons minimally to moderately for the past few days, and felt moderate pain for the rest of the day. OK Days yield a pool of 55-75 spoons.
Bad Days are the worst, and they happen more often than Good Days. I have a shitty night’s sleep, wake up in a lot of pain, have almost no energy, borrowed against spoons heavily in recent days, and feel a lot of pain all day. Bad Days yield a max of 50 spoons, but that’s a high estimate.
What’s borrowing against spoons? That’s what I do when I’m out of today’s spoons but I must continue to use spoons. I borrow tomorrow’s and sometimes the next day’s, too. I actually borrow a lot — way more than I should. This is why I have so many OK Days and more Bad Days than Good Days. Part of the reason I find myself borrowing so much is because I’m still not mentally adjusted to being sick and tired all the time. I keep signing myself up for things I could have accomplished three years ago but can’t today.
Now. Each activity I do throughout the day takes a certain amount of spoons — a price tag, if you will. But those prices aren’t constant. On a Good Day prices are much lower than on a Bad Day. On a Good Day, loading the dishwasher and starting it might only take me 3 to 5 spoons. On a Bad Day, it might take 10. And it should be noted that, with my leg still healing, the prices have all spiked, no matter what kind of day I’m having.
So, let’s look at Monday, October 13th. Thanksgiving.
While I loathe Columbus Day and think it should be renamed into Indigenous Peoples’ Day or Bartolomé Day or something else, anything other than honoring the father of the transatlantic slave trade, I don’t actually hate Thanksgiving, for all the parallels drawn between the two.* That’s because my experience of it is pretty different from the way the Thanksgiving experience is portrayed in a lot of western media.
That school play thing where half the kids dress up as Pilgrims and the rest are Indians and there’s a giant turkey and it’s all very sappy and simple and glosses over the intricacies of the actual history, not to mention talking about “the Indians” as if we up and went away to the Undying Lands all Tolkein Elvish-style? Yeah, never had that. (The play specifically, I mean. I’ve experienced plenty of talk about Indians being “gone” or “lost to history” and will likely continue to experience that on a regular basis.)
The pat story about how the Pilgrims and the Indians survived the winter through the Power of Sharing? Was never really a Thing. I wasn’t even fully cognizant of that being part of the story until I was in my preteens. At which point, well, that seemed ridiculous.
Thanksgiving was always presented to me as more of a harvest celebration, where we’re grateful for the fact that we have food and shelter throughout the cold nights, and as a reminder that not everyone is as lucky. I don’t know if that’s just the way I was raised or if it’s more common in Canada to see Thanksgiving this way, but it’s how it was for me.
Also, once Mom and I moved to Hawai’i and began celebrating the US version of the holiday, it had the benefit of being a holiday that I was sure to have with her instead of on access with my father. (There was one Thanksgiving I spent with my father, when I got a week off school to come back to Canada in October, and brought my best friend. She’s forgiven me for that experience, thankfully.)
Finally, I fucking love turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie.
So while Thanksgiving might have dubious origins, and while it may contain enough threads of colonialism or just, well, being a family holiday to taint it for many people, for me it’s a celebration of thanks, harvest, togetherness, and PUMPKIN.
PUMPKIN SPICE FOR THE PUMPKIN GOD.
*cough* Right. Where was I?
Thanksgiving! Yes! So we spent Monday evening at Mr. Katje’s sister’s place. I made a pumpkin pie and it was a huge success. It was only my second pumpkin pie; the first one didn’t have enough pumpkin spice in it and the pumpkin god was displeased. Also it was bland. But I have pictures of the first one and not the second one, so here you go:
Looks delicious, doesn’t it? Well, its brother was.
If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you had a wonderful one, full of all your favourite holiday foods and people.
-Katje, who is thankful for pumpkin
*Probably important to note here: I adored seeing 1492: Conquest of Paradise in theatres and I listen to the soundtrack to this day (in fact I’m listening to it now; it’s VANGELIS HE’S AMAZING). I visited Dominican Republic for the quincentennial celebration of the “discovery” by Columbus and there were huge parties. While now I acknowledge that Columbus was an ass and isn’t someone we should celebrate, that doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t know it then (I was 5 or 6 after all) and I still had an amazing time. And while I haven’t seen it in ages, I’m pretty sure I’d still enjoy the movie 1492: Conquest of Paradise even if Columbus is the protagonist. And I wouldn’t feel guilty, nor would I try to make anyone else feel guilty for enjoying that film or the music.
Just, you know, it’s possible to hold opposing thoughts in your brain at the same time without being devoured whole by them.
So last night was supposed to be this big blood moon eclipse thing, right? We didn’t see it. We tried, but by the time it was supposed to be happening we got a nice big fog cover, so. No luck.
We even went so far as to drive around looking for a better vantage point (there are a lot of trees on our street) just in case the moon was poking through the fog…of course, we didn’t realize until after we’d driven for a few klicks that we’d left the front door unlocked and our gate open.
We are not smart people.
(Everything is okay. I came back into the house waving my cane wildly in the air so I could hit any intruder before they struck. There was no intruder, and I didn’t break anything. Win win.)
What we did see, however, was the pre-eclipse show: a huge (I mean HUGE) halo around the moon at about 12:30am. We took out the garbage together and looked at the moon for a while, and I even got a picture. When we looked at it on my phone screen after, it turned out really well — I managed to capture not only the moon but the halo and the trees below. Ok, so the halo wasn’t that clear, but it showed up. That was way better than what I expected.
So I immediately uploaded it to Flickr and got…this:
What the fuck?
I double checked on my phone, thinking maybe Flickr had screwed it up somehow and that I had to re upload. No such luck. Apparently the really great picture I took somehow changed itself to, well, what you see above. Which is a picture of the moon taken with a phone and looks about how you’d expect from that description. No halo, no trees, itty-bitty moon.
(And no, I’m not crazy, because Mr. Katje saw the original picture too. It was better. I have no idea why or how it magically changed.)
(Well, okay, I’m not crazy about this.)
My phone works really well for most pictures but things like this make me really wish I had a proper camera. Like an SLR or something. (I am so not hip to the lingo but I believe an SLR is the thingamabob I’m thinking of. *waves hands vaguely*)
Anyway. There you go. A photo of the moon, sans all the cool stuff happening with it that I actually wanted to capture in said photo.
Spoilers ahead. Thoughts for episodes 3 and 4 should be up in the next few days (we did a marathon). Still working on episode 5. No, we are obviously not caught up. After episode 3 we sort of stopped caring for a while.
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.
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.
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!
Long and short of my trip to the cast clinic is yes, I have a broken femur, there is apparently no tendon or ligament damage, and no, I cannot have a plaster cast, because my leg is shaped weird.
Yes, you read that right: I have a weird leg. The plaster cast will not stay on it properly, just as the immobilizer of doom does not stay on it properly — but, the doctor says, the immobilizer will likely be more comfortable, and I can take it off from time to time. There’s also a chance my leg could swell again, which would be very uncomfortable in plaster, apparently.
I have to stay off my leg for 6 weeks. I cannot put any weight on it. I can rest my foot on the floor if I’m sitting, but beyond that? Nope. Nope nope nope.
But anyway, besides all that — let’s focus on what’s really important. I have weird legs, guys. WEIRD LEGS. I can’t even argue with the doctor on this one because he’s right. I’m a freak of nature.
See? This is right after it happened, too, so you can see the amount of swelling in the left leg. But that bend inwards at the knee? It’s super pronounced. When standing straight the edges of my feet almost line up with my hips, and the knees bend inwards to touch each other. And the kneecap is super high up. I know, because I saw it on my CT scan. IT WAS WEIRD.
Also there’s the fact that my legs are sort of shaped like cones, with the tiny end pointing down.
WEIRD LEGS, GUISE. ::does spooky arms::
After the cast clinic we headed home, and this is the conversation we had in the car (this was after my crying breakdown in the hospital).
Me: So this is the worst birthday gift I’ve ever gotten myself.
Mr. Katje: That’s what you get for getting it so early! And now you can’t even take it back.
Me: Nope, I’m stuck with it. Buyer’s remorse or what.
Anyway. I am immobilized for six weeks. In 2 weeks I have to see the doctor again so he can see how the leg is doing. But basically, no nothing for Katje until the end of August.
I have some projects to keep me busy while I’m stuck without a working leg. A big one is writing. I’m trying to get my word count up this month. (I’m participating in Get Your Words Out and I’ve pledged to write 150,000 words this year. So far I’m at just over 80,000.)
Another big one is editing and publishing — related to the first, of course, but I’m not always editing or publishing my own works, so it deserves a separate category. Right now I’m proofing Broken Sleep by Kaimana Wolff, and editing/revising The Jade Star of Athering, sequel to Bellica.
I’m also trying to get caught up on my reading. I read very slowly, but with not much else to do I might read more than one book this month. One can hope, anyway.
And finally, I’m powering through Stargate SG-1. I adore this show. I am on season 7, please no spoilers in the comments. (I realize it’s 17 years old but I’ve been able to keep myself relatively spoiler free.)
Anyway, this is my summer. All this, and no showering (at least until I get the shower chair from Oma’s old place). Don’t visit. Your nose will never forgive you.
If you do want to brighten my summer up, however, you can nominate my book, Stranger Skies, for the awards for which it’s eligible! (Assuming you’ve read it. If you haven’t read it, most of the Advance Reading Copy is available to read here. All of the chapters will be released by October 5th.) Details in this post at my Livejournal. The deadline for one of the awards is July 15th, but the others have more time.
In about 6 hours I have an appointment with a doctor at the hospital’s cast clinic. They may be upgrading me from this monstrosity of foam and velcro to a proper plaster cast.
I had to go into the hospital again on Monday morning — a phone call at 5 am told me that they’d missed something on the x-rays and needed a CT to confirm. Turns out I do have a break — a femoral condyle fracture. I broke my femur.
However, I still don’t know if I also have tendon or ligament tears or if all the excruciating pain was from the fracture. There is also still the issue of the slipping/grinding noise/pain that happened that night at emerge when my knee was bent for too long. Since then my leg has been kept straight by the immobilizer, so it hasn’t happened again, but I’ll be asking the doctor about it. I don’t want a possible bone dislocation or something else to get missed.
If it is just a broken bone, then things have improved dramatically. Yes, my summer is still ruined, and yes I’ll still have to spend my birthday in a cast, at home, likely stinky from lack of regular showering (I showered on Monday with the help of Mr. Katje; I doubt I’ll have the energy to do so more than once a week, leastwise not until I’m able to get the shower seat from Oma’s old place). If there’s no ligament damage, I won’t be facing quite as much physiotherapy as before thought.
But I still don’t know. And until I know, I’m not letting myself get too optimistic. The fact is regardless the full extent of the injury, I’m going to be down and out for the next several months. Recovery, whether incredibly long with a torn ligament or comparatively short with just a fracture, is still going to be long, slow, and hard.
In the meantime I have fallen into a deep depression over this. I feel useless and helpless and like a burden, and I hate feeling these things. When it was just a spinal injury I wasn’t the most active of people, but I could still do my part. I was in pain daily but I could move about and get things done. Now the most I can do is sit around in a recliner all day, trying not to move my leg too much in the immobilizer-that-doesn’t-immobilize.
I am trying to fling myself into writing, editing, and publishing — useful, productive things I can do. It hasn’t cured the depression but it does distract me from it for a little while.
Distraction is currently my best weapon against despair. Instead of sitting and staring into space, thinking about how much this fucking sucks, I open my computer and work, or turn on the TV and watch Stargate and let the absolute adorableness of Teal’c carry me away from my problems.