juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
(CW for offhand discussion of mental health issues and suicidal ideation.)

At the risk of jinxing it, we've been having unseasonably cool weather these last few weeks. I hate summer but live seasonally, in particular organizing my media consumption around the seasons, so this deviation is disorientating but not unwelcome. And I've been finding a lot of media to fill the gap in my media consumption as I push some things back (like sports anime, which is uniquely suited to warm weather).

I discovered Critical Role only approximately an eon behind everyone else, and it's phenomenal and also a gigantic timesink. Halfway through the second episode I stopped to make sure it was safe to binge watch and I wouldn't run into a sudden end, but the joke was on me because it's 50+ 3 hour-long episodes. I've never participated in a tabletop RPG and always wanted to, but never been interested in D&D because of my hatred of high fantasy; I still don't care about the setting, but I had underestimated how engaging this sort of by-user for-user creation could be, even when the source material is as generic as imaginable. (It does make me wish I could play something similar, which then reminds me that a lot of things aren't accessible to me because of my crazy; I receive that reminder often, and it always manages to sap away some joy, but the show is still fun to watch.)

(See also: Pokemon GO, which I would love to play but can't b/c no cell phone b/c mental health reasons, so that's a fun phenomenon to be excluded from.)

I've also been reading significantly more book series in the last few years, which has increased by book consumption considerably and contributes to the number of books I've reviewed this year. I still dislike the time and energy demand of series, still think a lot of them would benefit from brevity, and always keep to my habit of alternating between series-book and non-series book to prevent fatigue—but there's something satisfying about chewing through a sequence of books instead of a slew of stand-alones, and it's opened up some authors (Octavia Butler, a lot of children's/MG/YA literature, and, goodness knows, a ton of SF/F) that I previously would have avoided.

This last week or so I've been having some abnormal pain problems (neck and upper back, approximately unrelated to my normal back pain) that are affecting my sleep, and some amorphous low blood pressure issues. Both are annoying but niether particularly awful; less sleep just means more time for stories, and, as established, feeling cold in the summer is A-ok with me.

My mental health issues mean that I have constant suicidal ideation, not often with any particular desire or intent but with unflagging consistency; I would always rather not be, even when various symptoms are in remission; I have never found anything that justifies the effort of being present. And these stories still don't, but the sheer number of them, that I'm timesharing episodes to watch against series installments to finish, means that—for a rare occasion—I feel like there's not enough time, not enough of being, for all these things. That's not exactly a counterbalance but it's pretty close, as these things go.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
A week ago: While sitting up in bed, I threw out my upper back. How? with magic? a perverse force of will?? My trapezius on both sides were just gone, goodbye; everything hurt, but the worst offenders were sleep and the computer. I have a huge pain tolerance and endless experience with back pain, but it resisted every one of my treatments. (In retrospect, I should have iced it—the one thing I never do for my lower back, because it causes cramping.) What is it about a different pain that's somehow worse than chronic pain, not so much because it is worse or even more debilitating, but because these carefully honed coping mechanisms are now inapplicable. I've been dealing with my lower back for 15 years; I should either be exempt from other pain, or equipped to deal with anything. I was not. It went about 4 days without improvement, but is now back to normal anxious-person's-muscles level of ow.

A few days ago: Dee's mother's dog, Casey, died suddenly. Cut for brief discussion of pet death: Read more... ) This is not my immediate pain, but I still care immensely. All dogs are good dogs, but he was such a good dog, surfeit with love, content if he could just lean on you or lay against you and be touched. And so obedient, especially when I knew him and his puppyhood awful (of which I've heard horror stories!) was gone. And so engaged with his people. The loss hasn't quite registered for me, yet; but I've never been so glad that I had Thanksgiving with him and Odi. This was Casey: one, two, three, four.

Last night: Dreamed the mother of all anxiety dreams: I was back in school, living simultaneously-via-dream-logic at Devon's parents's house and in a boarding environment, and became convinced that the environment was so unhealthy and I was so stressed that I shouldn't have pets anymore, so I drowned August by luring her into a swiftly-flowing river with treats. Cut for suicidal ideation: Read more... ) I know what factors underlay all aspects of this dream; it was still singularly awful.

Tomorrow: Taking the train down to see Devon, to celebrate our 13th anniversary. (See: dreaming about his parents's house.) This is absolutely a good thing! It also bring with it "I have to leave the house" anxiety and "why do I have to travel to see him after thirteen years?" anxiety. It has been a long and strange week, an unearthly haze of blurred vision and intense pain and abstracted loss and anxiety. It will be good to make a clean break with it by traveling.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
At the risk of jinxing myself again: a little better day by day. Today I cleaned Kuzco's cage and came down for dinner, which is actually an improvement, and I feel like a living Amanda Palmer song (let's, er, ignore the slideshow). I'm also in a wrist brace for repetitive stress issues (just the right for now, but the left should kick in soon if pattern follows), but an anti-inflammatory has helped reset the back pain, which probably helped to alleviate my mood; bless Devon for forcing me to take one. Good is relative—three spoons instead of none—but, aside from my usual if-I-were-really-depressed-then-I-would-never-feel-better emotional veracity/self-doubt anxiety, any good is welcome. Maybe someday soon I'll be able to figure out what day it is and/or wash my hair.

I've been sleeping crazy hours (no really Juu you don't say), which is disturbing August's schedule. She still sticks to me like my own small shadow—except much fluffier. A few early mornings ago I drifted out of a doze with a cat pressed to my chest, warm and soft and full of purrs, nudging and snuggling me until I was awake enough to check the time and serve her a slightly belated breakfast.

So some of this, some of that, I guess. The idea that this too shall pass raises my hackles for too many reasons (first above all at this particular moment is the above anxiety of emotional veracity), but it's still true. Misery, and a warm black cat. It could be worse.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I'm coming off of about three weeks of various and nearly unrelenting pain. There was the week of back pain followed a brief respite thanks to Devon's visit, a resurgance of back pain which left me bedridden for another week, and as I started to get over the worst of that I ran into some random wrist issues and menstruation-triggered back pain, and as I stopped menstruating I developed a tension headache and some head/neck/eye soreness—with continuing back pain. I took some more medication, which seems to have helped: the tension soreness persists, but is mild; the back issues never seem to end, but I no longer feel like a 90-year-old woman. To say that all of this aggravated my depression would be something of an understatement. I went through a wailing-flailing stage, I hit the utter exhaustion stage, and I'm still recovering mentally as well as physically. I have every reason to suspect that these problems will reoccur, but I'll be heading to Corvallis in a few days and Devon and I can troubleshoot them together if necessary.

Somewhere in the wailing-flailing stage of MY BODY HATES ME AND I HATE IT BACK AND THE WHOLE WORLD TOO, August decided that she was sufficiently safe and comfortable here to begin acting like a complete shite. She was annoying and didn't want to be touched and elsewise did her damnedest to push every one of her boundaries. No lie, it hurt like a motherfuck and I just couldn't deal with it at the time—I had no spoons and suddenly the cat was ransacking the cutlery.

If you look for a knife or a fork
And you think it is merely misplaced—
You have seen it one moment, and then it is gawn!
But you'll find it next week lying out on the lawn.


I survived only by watching two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation in quick succession, eating entire bars of chocolate, and desperately pretending I was no longer alive. But survive I did. August is currently sacked out on my bed. Earlier today she fell asleep while spooned around my arm. (Now if only Spike would stop peeing on the windowsill.*)

I believe that cats are people. My people, yes, but people above all—as unique as you or me, with personalities as complete and faceted, and they have moods and relationships and identities. August is an adorable ball of fluff, but she is much more than a particularly warm and wonderful teddy bear. She's a person with moods and desires and an attitude, she's an adolescent, she's trying out a new environment and making her home here for better and worse. A new human roommate may have a bit more grace about it (and just leave dirty socks around, rather than trying to claw the carpet), but we all do this, we all act like asses and then we get over it and the people that matter love us anyway.

I know this and that's what I want when I say I want a cat, but man, what an infuckingopportune moment to learn the lesson for real.

The worst of this all has past. By rights I ought not be sitting up to write this now, because I can feel some substantial back pain creeping up on me; I'm sure that August and I (and Dee and Spike) will have even more adjustments to make when my trip to Corvallis throws another wrench in the works—and elsewise I don't expect "better" to mean "perfect" or "inviolate." But I've found some of the silverware on the lawn, and I expect this, all of this, to be worth it. Today it was, as August purred all over me and put her paws against my eyelids and fell asleep wrapped around my arm. It was even worth it when she was being a shit, but don't tell her that. I am learning to love her not as a wish-fulfillment fantasy, but as the whole and entire person that she is. Of course that's worth it.

No one warned me, but living a real life can be a hell of a lot of work, eh?

* Okay, story time. Spike's urine marking has actually much improved and we're working hard to continue that trend, but Dee and I are still about up to here with his shenanigans. And then today he and August were both on the best windowsill, which was the first thing that Spike began marking and still his particular favorite. She was on the right, which is the side he marks; he was on the left, and contentedly sharing the space. I praised him for not marking, but when he stood up to leave he began to assume the position. I raised my voice and caught his attention, and for half a second that seemed to be enough: Spike looked at me all guilty-like—and then peed on my cat. And the windowsill. But also my cat.

And August looked confused.

And then I had to chase down my confused, scared cat with a paper towel to dry a different cat's pee off of her chest.

So how was your morning?
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I've recently playing Yume Nikki, which is a small, free, independent game made by one person using RPG Maker, about the unusual dreams of a woman named Madotsuki. I'm enjoying it immensely, and as usual I've been blogging about it if you want to hear all my thoughts on this strange and brilliant game.

Unfortunately, Yume Nikki is a PC game, and keyboard controls—combined with IM, email, journal posts, and some original fiction I'm writing—have been enough to trigger my intermittent wrist issues. I'm being good and wearing my braces and typing only infrequently, but I can't for the life of me compose anything while chicken-pecking* and everything, everything, is sitting half done: emails and posts and that wonderful, painful video game. It's amazing how much of my life circles around a computer and keyboard. And, of course, the less social I'm able to be, the more social I want to be.

So this is part rant and part PSA. I am part of the tech-gen wounded: my rigorous computer use has put me temporarily out of commission, and it's driving me batty. (And if you were ever thinking there was something you wanted to send me that didn't require immediate response, this would be a wonderful time. I want to interact with people—I just can't talk.) So now we all know.

* This has certainly driven home the connection between mind and motion: when the physical process of writing changes and deteriorates, so does the mental process of composition. This only makes bad things worse, because it means I can't even get thoughts on screen one index-poked character at a time.
juushika: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
The shoulder/neck pain that I mentioned a few days back has not indeed gone away. The leg pain that started before did, in the course of about two days. But while my neck/shoulder relaxes during the day, it tenses up something awful at night and each morning I have to start afresh. It's not as bad as it was that first day, there's no dizziness now, I've been in significant pain, my flexibility is limited, and it hurts to move.

So, as the pain has continued for about five days now (and not rest nor massage nor vibration nor stretching does much to help it), Devon finally convinced me to take some medication: a single pill of Tramadol, which Devon's father takes for his back pain.

Whoo boy.

About three years ago Dink bit my finger hard enough to cause excruciating swelling (and three years later that finger still has limited mobility), and I spent a week on staggered doses of Aleve and Benadryl so that I either dead to the pain or dead asleep. I've been known to refer to this as the best week of my life, even if it was proceeded by the worst pain I've ever experienced—because for a full week I was sleeping peaceful and I was not in pain. Chronic pain is a strange beast: mine is often a steady throbbing tightness and ache, so steady indeed that I grow inured. I forget it like you would the thrum of a refrigerator or a computer: a noise which is ever-present but no longer heard. Except you do hear it, even if you don't notice as much; if you pull the plug the silence is deafening. So it was when, for a week, I felt no pain. I only realized then just how much I had been feeling the whole time.

Today was a reprise of that week only even better. Maybe because it was so sudden, maybe because the drug causes euphoria in some users (and as I take medication very infrequently, I'm susceptible to such side-effects), maybe because my back is worse now than it was three years ago, but for whatever reason I have spent the last ten hours floating on air. I do not hurt! I can stretch and twist and nothing is tight, nothing pulls, nothing tenses. Devon compressed my back and I popped in dozens of places, realigning without a twinge of discomfort. My skin tingles, muscles having released their death grip on my nerves and veins. I've been drowsy and my vision is a bit fuzzy, and tomorrow I will probably regret the hell out of today as reawakened nerves and better circulation trigger severe soreness. But oh, I would not trade this for anything.

I am foating, giddy, loose, calm, cheerful. My neck does not hurt, and I am not in pain.
juushika: Photograph of a row of books on a library shelf. (Books Once More)
Woke up with a muscle in my shoulder/neck so tight as to make me dizzy on and off throughout the day. For two days now my left calf muscle has been cramped such that it hurts to stand. What the fuck, body. Seriously. The boy posits nightmares, which is possible because (although I don't remember any, recently) I am quite prone to them. If that's the case, though, I feel doubly betrayed—I finally got a handle on sleep (looks like it goes better if I try around 8a—this happens sometimes: I can only sleep to sunlight) and have been getting my 6-12 hours a day again ... and so now my body uses it as time to become twisted and cramped to painful dysfunction. Wonderful.

I'm halfway through Lost Souls already, which while not surprising (except that I've managed to watch some of Mononoke and play some of Persona 3 in the meantime) does make me a little sad. I knew the book would consume me utterly, and it has, and I love it—but that means it will end all the sooner. It is great to reread, though. I'd almost forgotten just how gratuitous the book is. That's part of what I love about it and as such it's difficult to forget, but my memories underestimated just how extreme, how bloody and sexy it is; just how far it flings its morals and expectations, just how deep it indulges all the rest. It's addicting, it's at once delicious and revolting, and it was definitely the book that I wanted to read right now.

I am deeply, sweetly in love. Today I smell of Haunted (soft golden amber darkened with a touch of murky black musk) which—not for want to competition!—is my current BPAL favorite. 4chan now has a literature board, an idea destined for failure. I watched Beauty and the Beast yesterday and it made me tear up (although I don't know what they were thinking when they added in "Human Again"). And so it goes.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Many many years ago, when I was still a child, I encountered a piece of fiction—I believe it was an animated film, potentially part of a made-for-TV miniseries based on fairy tales, but all my attempts to track down it or any detail about it have proved fruitless—in which a character, who may or may not have been a some sort mermaid, stepped on a tentacle-like plant. It was sharp, or spiked, or in some other way injured her foot and poisoned her. The story's plot was an attempt by her companions to find a cure for the poison while the female character was trapped in a coma, nearing death.

Many of those details are irrelevant. Was is relevant is this: When that character stepped on that plant, I felt it. A sharp, stabbing sympathy pain on the sole of my foot—in the center, just above the heel, where the inner side of the instep draws a line of tender, vulnerable muscle down the foot. Ever since then, painful images, descriptions, or thoughts have been able to trigger that same sympathy pain. It doesn't always happen. It doesn't matter what sort of pain or injury is described. When the response is trigged I feel a stinging, stabbing, slightly cold pain in the sole of my foot, like a woman stepping on a pointed tendril, a tentacle, which penetrates her flesh, just barely flexes inside of her, which stings her, poisons her—all in the moment just before she realizes where she's put her foot.

What interests me though is that—as I discovered tonight—the reverse also works. I was sitting here, after spending too long online again, curled up with my feet pressed to the chair seat, my soles are cramped and sore from it, twinging with discomfort. Meanwhile I was looking at violent imagery for which I tend to have a remarkably high tolerance but on this rare occasion it was getting to me, disarming and disturbing me, paining me—because I was already in pain. I felt the effect of the emotion, and that helped trigger the emotion.

This is no breakthrough in how my, or any, brain works, but I hadn't thought about it before and it was fascinating to see in action.

I've been thinking a fair bit about pain lately—specifically about pain as an intentional intensifier. I have another storybit brewing for Ghost and Aaron (who are not forgotten!) about Ghost's reactions to pain during intercourse. I stumbled upon a drawing of a man touching an open wound on his partner's back and it was in my mind remarkable—so much so that it's had me in search of more equally images of intimacy via pain/violence/wounds (and here we loop around to the event that sparked this post). And the cold weather has my back muscles tighter than usual—which causes unwanted, undesirable pain, but also makes it very intense when Devon stretches my back—more intimacy via pain, because I would let no one else do that to my body.

None of this is new to me—I discovered BDSM far too long ago for that to be the case—but it's been fresh on my mind. I should write that Ghost and Aaron fic bit to put all these thoughts to a constructive purpose, and imagine I shall soon. But for now the thoughts of it swirl: the relationship between emotion, reaction, and pain; pain as an intensifier for social interaction, pain as an intensifier for physical reaction; pain as intimacy, sexual or otherwise. Thinky-thoughts, thinky-thoughts.

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juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
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