juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I had an extremely conflicted response to Hyperbole and a Half's Adventures in Depression which now deserves substantial revision on account of the new Depression Part Two post. But it's a revision I may not be able to provide, because this topic hits way to close to home. But if you can read that post—the contents are triggering but potentially cathartic for mental illness—perhaps you should.

I'm in the process of reconnecting with a friend in high school, and yesterday wrote him a rambling and spotty summary of the last near-decade. I added at the end of my letter that it's not all as dire as it sounds, that I'm doing better and am more comfortable with, and with discussing, my mental illness. These things are true. But there's no way I can sum up my college experiences and their fallout that isn't incredibly depressing, both to read and write, because those years were horrific and legitimately traumatic; and even though I am in a better place now, depression remains the defining factor of my life—it is who I am.

And when I tell that story, I realize how little I've done to "fix" everything—I'm doing better, but it's better as a relative descriptor and it's by virtue of doing not much at all. But I'm still too tired and too scared to try to find a solution.

I was bitter about Adventures in Depression because of falsity of a pseudo-happy ending; now I wish it had been true because, when I can see past the blinders of my own situation, I don't wish this on anyone. Allie's continued journey isn't identical to mine, but it has a heartbreaking resonance (this is how my suicidal ideation manifest(s/ed), as a passive but total desire for cessation), and I just ... don't know where to go from there. Here is an active blank:

[          ]

to represent thoughts so sympathetic and fragmented and conflicted that I can't process them.

So much of my depression was/is defined by a sense of isolation coupled with the platitudes of "everyone feels sad sometimes" that I don't like it when other people get it—it makes me feel betrayed and combative. But there's a resonance, a gratitude that someone else can express these things, a knowledge that the voice is necessary and potentially useful. But talking about depression is, without surprise, depressing, and issues of mental health trigger my mental health issues.

Depression Part Two is a robust and bittersweet continuation, and I wish that it didn't exist and didn't need to, but it means a lot to me and I ask that you read it, and now I need to step away from these things and try to stop thinking.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I warn you that all that follows is pretty self-centered, angry, and immature, interspersed with vague gestures in the directions of Deep Thoughts. Also it's more or less about Homestuck. Read at your own risk.

I have a friend that has to blacklist a lot of media because they internalize it, take it personally, get sad over sad stuff and heartsick over romantic stuff. Of course it doesn't make sense to consume media you don't appreciate or enjoy, but I tend to think this is an extreme reaction; to be honest, I think they should get over themselves, and that taking it all so personally shows a certain amount of self-centered immaturity. But I just finished reading what so far exists of Brainbent, a Homestuck AU set in a residental mental health treatment center, and hey would you look at that: there's stuff that I take too personally, and most of it has to do with mental health and illness.

It's not the only thing I take too personally. I hate cats in popular media, because their representations are inaccurate clichés and I would know—and for the same reason that I know, it's a personal issue and I hate to see it butchered, over and over again. It's akin to someone making a mockery of me. Sometimes representations of mental illness trigger the same disgust, as well they should—even it means I'm getting mad over another goddamn saccharine advertisement where depression is symbolized by some sort of cute blob. Fuck you, Abilify, because no it doesn't feel like *sadface* and a cute little animated hole in the ground, and patronizing to me will not convince me to shove that or any other medication down my throat. It's a personal bias—because what medications I tried didn't work for me, and I don't have the faith or energy to find the ones that do—which I shouldn't project onto others—like those with the need of and resources to find effective medication, who should be able to make that search without my judgement or doubt—and so I'll admit to being selfish and short-sighted, but the anger is still pretty righteous.

But that's not what Brainbent does. It leans a little saccharine, or at least feel-good; it has competent doctors and respects patient rights; in short, it's a best possible situation with the best intentions: to provide a heartfelt and helpful story about living with and recovering from mental illness, instead of dwelling in the horrors of lack of recovery or corrupt mental health systems. But on the whole it approaches its characters and their illnesses with knowledge and respect, fetishizing their diversity just a touch but managing to be accessible and hopeful and real.

And you know what, I still don't care.

It's not righteous indignation at this point: it's bitterness. It's me reading it at the wrong time, and taking it too personally; contrasting the resources of St. Lobaf Residential Treatment Center residents against oh wait I have none, contrasting mod's promise of a happy ending or at least that residents won't be left in misery against oh wait I don't have that either, contrasting any sort of it gets better against fuck you. Of course it's a stupid reaction, and two weeks ago I probably wouldn't be such an idiot about it; but one week ago I started a steady descent towards feeling like shit—because there's some minor real world stress going on, because my brain is really damn good at feeling like shit, and for no other reason—and so I don't identify or think it's useful or find it hopeful; I think it's trite, and that anyone who can be helped doesn't have it all that bad, and that anyone with hope is a fool.

And look at me all self-centered, immature, and did I mention an asshole?

No deep thoughts here, no conclusion. This isn't a recommendation for or against Brainbent—I found it compelling enough to read the whole thing (even if I probably shouldn't've), but I just can't pretend any sort of objectivity. Nor is this a condemnation of [livejournal.com profile] junkmail, who recommended the AU—I warned her that I might have this reaction, and that the reaction is all me and says nothing at all about it, and that if there's any fault in my anger it's my own because I just should have put it down until I was feeling better. It's just a realization that I too can have such an arbitrary and selfish reaction, and that in fact I often do, and that to be honest I'm just ... not doing that well right now. This is a roundabout PSA that I'm about one week of anxiety/nightmares/depression/dizzy spells, and a repeat realization that perhaps I'll never be able to find the distance I need in order to not internalize this stuff—because even these years later, I'm still too deep in it.

But Devon is here for the weekend, snoring on my bed while I try to figure out if I'm still boycotting sleep. August is in my lap, napping until I decide same. It's not as bad as my unrighteous indignation would suggest. It's just not awesome, either, sometimes, to be me.

Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today! Adopt one today!
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Everything about my responses to fiction I learned from reading Homestuck: That I can care about a big cast, especially when background characters are given stealth characterization; that the right sort of characterization can redeem even the worst character; that unusual storytelling devices can be even more immersive than normal ones, because they are more visible, demanding, and—when successful—convincing; that second-person narratives are a particularly potent unusual and immersive storytelling device; that self-awareness treads a delicate line, but when it stays balanced it allows for a story to get away with the outrageous and achieve the affecting; that there is indeed media out there that suits my sense of humor (excepting Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff); and most of all, that:

I form two major connections to characters: emotional, and intellectual. These rarely overlap. I understand and sympathize with Vriska, who is aware of and confident in her internal morality—effectively amorality—but can't shake the lingering regret that this morality distances her from society, despite the fact that her regret directly conflicts with her awareness and confidence. In other words: she's a monster without regrets, except that she has regrets. I understand the anxiety of conflict between identity and community, I sympathize, I grok her if you will; but I don't obsess about her as a character, despite her fascinating role in the story, despite what we share. The bond is purely intellectual.

Meanwhile, I do obsess over Karkat. I don't identify much with his personality (even our respective self-hatreds have different grounds), although I think he's adorable; I do latch on to his obsession with relationships. I understand and share his attempt to approach intellectually what falls largely under the jurisdiction of emotion, and the potential and limitations he creates in that attempt fascinate me. He turns every relationship—his own and otherwise—into a meta-relationship, dooming it to failure in his constant attempts to comprehend and define it, pretending a certain distance from its development and eventual destruction on account of his intellectual interest, but betraying intense emotional need in his unflagging obsession with the issue. It appeals to my shared fascination with the topic, and sympathetic pitfalls of the same, and gives me everything I look for in a character: intense and troubled social interactions, in which the most intense and troubled may actually be the interaction with oneself. He's my ship and shipper in one convenient package, with the bonus analysis that I demand or else create myself; he has a mainline to my id, and that's what it takes to make me obsess over a character.

Discovering that distinction explains so much.

Homestuck also taught me that I've been waiting for quadrants my entire life. That's almost trite given fandom's obsession with the same, but quadrants are essentially a canonical institution for unusually intimate relationships, which is my primary interest in any media (oh hi Karkat, I see our kinship again). They're not perfect, but they're a breath of a fresh air and a promising start.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
I have pumpkin bread in the oven; maybe if we're lucky, Devon will use it to make cream cheese-stuffed pumpkin bread French toast this weekend. So with that good, some bad.

A few days ago Devon and I watched the Star Trek: Voyager episode Extreme Risk, an episode about depression and self-harm which just made me want to punch something. Consider it the antithesis of Doctor Who's Vincent and the Doctor (which I rambled on here), because what Voyager lacks is permanence: sure, they never forget that Neelix has just one lung, but near every episode a cast member goes through something traumatic and every next episode they've forgotten it all—not because there's no continuity, but because it remains episodic. And it should—if all the PTSD did accumulate, it'd be one hell of a depressing show—but it still has a deleterious effect on everything that they try to take seriously. The episode doesn't give B'Elanna a magical breakthrough, except that it does: in a week, it's as if it never happened. No lasting effects, all problems healed, no one dies at the end. Issues-of-the-week are well-intended and even the maudlin ones can be successful, but this one was not only Othering, it was heartbreaking: ah, of only I could forget in a week.

And then yesterday, Hyperbole and a Half posted Adventures in Depression, which was like a kick in the gut. As I explained it to Devon, there are something like four groups of people: Group 0 is never experiences major depression. Group 1 experiences depression with some sort of external cause, and gets over it when that cause resolves or passes. Group 2 experiences depression with no external cause, and gets over it when the episode passes or through treatment. Group 3 experiences depression with no external cause, and continue to experience depression in some form or another indefinitely. These definitions aren't absolute; in reality groups overlap or aren't groups at all. Depression also isn't a competition: having a cause doesn't make a depressive episode any better or worse, and overcoming it doesn't make your experience more or less meaningful. Group 3 doesn't "win."

But as better as I am these days—and I am—I have weeks like those in the last two which remind me that my version of "better" can often be everyone else's version of "not very good at all," and that isn't going to change. I'm in Group 3. I'm not doing all that I could to help myself, I'm not in therapy or on medication, but my non-life is basically as good as it's going to get. Despite that, I will always be sick. I will always backslide.

Allie hasn't had a Lifetime Movie breakthrough because those moments don't exist. Breakthroughs, such as they are, are arbitrary and small, and far from magical; even if they occur, they are hardly the end of the journey. Her experiences aren't lesser than mine. I don't win the misery Olympics. But it still stings like a bitch to know that I haven't had my bike ride of pseudo-victory, and I probably never will. It stings even more after such an accurate depiction of depression, because yes, it is like that; and while it's no longer that bad for me every single day, I know that any day in the future could be that bad and there's shit all that I can do about it.

I think there's nothing to jinx when I say am doing better, now. I wiped myself out just making dinner yesterday, so "better" still may not be saying much, but some of my energy and a fair bit of my joy are back, and I'm looking forward to celebrating Halloween and seeing Devon this weekend. The pumpkin bread smells fantastic. But I was feeling like utter shite for a fair few days back there, and this for me is indicative of so much. I'm the issue of the week. I'm the problem without a solution, the breakthrough that never does plan to come, the unforgotten traumatic event. That sounds pathetic, and self-centered, and it is. But it's also true, and the reminders of that which keep on popping up simply hurt.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I came back from California feeling approximately like shit on a biscuit. It always takes me some time to recover from this sort of thing, and this was a particularly long trip, and there were a number of delays on my journey home, but it's still been worse than I was expecting—nigh full-on depression, if I'm honest, which I've not wanted to be.

So instead of thinking or living I've been drowning myself in media.

When I was visiting, Express got me hooked on Initial D because he is a creature without a soul. The art is horrific, the pacing is transparently slow, it's about a billion episodes long, and it's exactly like Dragonball Z or Prince of Tennis except with little cars that go vroom and squeal around corners. There's parallel Vegeta and Piccolo characters, a Tezuka, and Takumi and his father are prototypes for Ryoma and Nanjiro. Every race is even more extreme than the previous race, and there are minutes at a time given over to eyes squinting—foot on brake clutch gas—hand on gear shift—taillights making trails in the darkness, and yes, of course I love it, nevermind the raging sexism and the fact that, and you have to believe me on this, the art is truly awful. You can't watch just one episode because one episode may just be the decision to go to the race, or the first half of the race—so, yes, it's just like DBZ and Tenipuri, and you watch it for five hours at a time: what of it. It's exactly what I've wanted these last few days, but I do worry about the havoc it'll wreck on my next few weeks.

In California we also watched—on a whim—the first episode of Persona 4: The Animation. It ... it really shouldn't be good, given its incredible redundancy (it's the game turned into one long cutscene, really) but it is so gleefully self-aware and fandom-aware that I can't help but love it. Watching something still in production isn't my style, but there's no suspense to a story I already know so eh, why not.

California was pleasantly mild, but still didn't offer much in the way of autumn save for the pumpkin pie samples at Whole Foods, so I've been watching Hocus Pocus in the attempt to get my brain back into the season. As corny as the film is, I'm enjoying it more this year than I ever have.

Against what may be my better judgement, I've gone back to Homestuck. (I read half of it before, and stopped at an intermission.) I find reading Homestuck for me a lot like reading Death Note: both are long, convoluted, and ridiculous (although Homestuck is more aware of it), both are surprisingly good, and both are surprisingly popular in a way that makes me feel dirty inside. It's partially the haughtiness of better-taste-than-thou and partially authentic surprise. The majority usually has shitty taste, right? But here's this thing they like, and I like it too—I even like the fan favorite characters, and so help me even the humor is my style. Woe is me, for I like something other people like, behold but I am normal, yeah. It's like falling in love with Buffy's Spike. I STILL HAVE MY OWN OPINIONS I SWEAR oh god this is fantastic.

Devon and I together are tearing through episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, from the brilliant Message in a Bottle to yet another episode about 7 of 9—who would be a much better character if she didn't star so heavily, because it swamps out the joy of episodic Star Trek with too much maudlin continuity. The show wants badly for a good antagonist, Neelix makes me want to stab someone in the face, but for all of its foibles I'm preferring it to Star Trek: The Next Generation just now (which I've been watching on my own)—because the characters have more personal appeal, and because even if they didn't TNG is unlikely to make me tear up but this, this does. Both shows have weaknesses, but in the end Voyager has more to say.

And I've been reading, but the books of course will get their own posts.

Each day is marginally better than the one that proceeds it, and so even as this recovery period drags on I know that it can't last forever. A good thing too, as Dee's family is in town tomorrow (although I'll have some time while they're here to housesit and take it easy). I know it's getting better. It just feels like it never will.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Ghost and Aaron: Master List | Next Update

Just a hug
Just a picture from the end of the day before.

The next day dawns with ghosts and a butterfly +23 pictures. )

Which is where I think I'll leave it for now.

I expected sex this time, I really did—but kept the boys busy and just didn't get around to it. It's odd—and here I ramble and go overly thoughtful considering this started with a video game (and this is massively navel-gazy and TL;DR. I am writing it because I need to screw my head back on straight. I will not be offended if no one reads it.): Some thoughts on the webcomic Friendly Hostility, with spoilers. )

And then here I am telling the story of a couple falling in love, not being in love—with full knowledge that I probably won't continue telling it too much longer after they reach that plateau because what I'm doing is playing a game and the shiny attraction of new sims will pull me away eventually. I find Ghost and Aaron's story fascinating because it is new, semi-taboo, full of waiting and stumbling and nerves—precisely because it is developing, not status quo. But my total anxiety after completely Friendly Hostility has reminded me that a relationship is more than that. Does slashfic, told in pictures or otherwise, necessarily need to be? Of course not. But in my head it is right now very important that Ghost, that Aaron, be more than just two people falling in love because I find it exciting.

On Ghost, Aaron, and the nature of their relationship; on progression vs. platueas; on telling a story. )

So where was I before I slipped down that unending spiral of words? Oh yes, hair! I love the hairstyle that Aaron had (and Ghost still does), but when I stumbled upon this new one I had to try it out. I intended it for Ghost but it looked awesome on Aaron—so I had to get him to the point of New Hair. It's nice to see Ghost and Aaron a bit more physically different but really what it comes down to is oooooh shiny hair. (But what really tickles me about the new hair—other than my outright love for it, of course—is that Aaron was inspired by a guy I know here in the real world and this hairstyle is eerily similar to one he used to have.)

But Juu, you say: We need portraits showing off Aaron's new hair! You never post enough pictures of him! Well, if you insist.

Aaron's new haircut

One more. )
juushika: Photograph of a stack of books, with one lying open. (Books)
I love the way that a good book slips through you fingers as swift and as slick as water. Of course not all good books move like that—I'm currently putting off a Jeffery Eugenides book not because I expect it will be bad but because my last foray into his writing was meticulously slow. This one, however, flows like as water: I'm reading The Story O, and almost cherishing the speed of it. I accidentally sped through a third of the book in a single sitting last night, and passing over a page can lead to a dozen more before I notice it. What a precious change.

Not to say that I haven't read good books lately (just finished another Jane Austen, for example) or that I have read books that are consuming (like The Time Traveler's Wife), but I've wanted a book like The Story of O for a while. I'm glad [livejournal.com profile] lupanotte's review reminded me to check it out—or as it were, purchase a copy. I find the premise intriguing. Like De Sade and like The Dreamers, the content of The Story of O—but nature of the boundaries it breaks—becomes psychological and philosophical. It is the story of one woman's submission to brutal and violent sexual acts for the pleasure of her lover. I view BDSM as a positive thing, but O's story takes BDSM past the boundaries of safety, consent, and mutual pleasure (in however atypical a sense) that I view as a necessary standard. At the same time that parts of the book are painfully erotic (to pardon the pun), I take issue with the character: above all things, she is driven by her love for her lover. This is a common sin, to allow yourself to be consumed and defined and so weakened by another person, but the book takes it to its extreme. O's journey towards debasement occurs of a literal, violent, exaggerated level. It is the heart of the book. The narrator obsesses over the debasement and its cause in equal parts. Through the events that O submits to, the reader sees into O's head, sees her thoughts and her desires and her self.

I've been jamming my to-read list with books about suicide and (consensual) abuse and incest and such topics because they explore a fringe of humanity and, in doing so, reveal something about its whole. I just read a book called Playing (review forthcoming) that has the same themes as The Story of O but a smaller scale and only a vague mimicry of this book's realistic introspection. It is delightful and so satisfying to read The Story of O, to see introspection done so well that the truth of it becomes discomforting.

More thoughts on The Story of O: the second half of the book and my review.

What besides books? Video games. I never talk about Second Life here because I know that it's a game you have to play to care about, but if you ever chose to check it out, I'm often around (and still post pictures of SL outfits to my Flickr. Meanwhile the boy just beat GTAIV last night, and having watched a good 90% of his gameplay I have to say I was very impressed. They did a great job of making the story real this time—it's not tear-jerking precisely but unlike the others it manages a greater depth than just humor, and Niko is a compelling character. Plus it's shiny. All the driving and shooting, two skills which I do not posses, intimidates me still—but I may pick up the game a bit and see if I can manage it.

The boy and I also broke down and bought Microsoft Points so that we could purchase Penny Arcade Adventure series: On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode One. My love for Penny Arcade knows no end, and so the characters and cameos and humor of this game appeal to me. Plus, it's an RPG, and I love those. I've just started playing it, so we'll see how good it is in time. Developers just announced the upcoming release of Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise, which returns again to the gardens (rather than the mini games of the first sequel). I loved the first game so much, so I'm now itching for this sequel. Along with Spore and Fable II(!), it's now on my list of fourth-quarter game releases that leave me waiting impatiently. In the meantime, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith comes out in June.

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