juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Went to my first Pride on Sunday, with Dee. I only had the energy for the parade, so we left after that and didn't go to the gathering; I'm not sure how that would have changed my opinion of the event.

It was remarkably more corporate/sponsored that I was expecting, and I was expecting plenty—although I do feel like the front-loaded that stuff, which we appreciated & which made for a better final impression. I am of mixed feelings re: some police marching in uniform, the number of companies on display, about acceptable/sanctioned activism vs. what's valuable to the community & in current political climate—the same conflicted feelings everyone's having lately, I'm sure. There were little things, like the company members with aggressively doctored signs, which helped me find a middle place between fears and ideals.

When I was trying to talk myself into going (leaving the house is hard!), Teja and I made a list of What Would Make Pride Worth It: 1) to belong to a community, 2) to support that community, 3) to actually be a present roommate who goes-with, and/or (in any combination), 4) that feeling I got from the recent St. Johns parade: that Portland itself is tolerably unshitty, as things go, and I am grateful for unshitty things especially now and can stand to be reminded they exist.

(The local Montessori school marched in rainbow flag colors at the St Johns parade and I had a moment of realization that, when I attended Montessori, that's not something my school would have done; we were weird hippy liberals but essentially white liberals, who recycled and biked and misgendered trans* people. But the intent to do better was there; it helped to make me who I am. Times have changed. Portland is not Corvallis. And, in the least, the local Montessori school is doing better.)

2) was distantly, approximately achieved; 3) was bare-minimum achieved, but I guess that's the best we can expect of me; 4) occurred, however complicated by thoughts re: the commercialism of Pride, as above.

1) was difficult, is difficult.

At the MAX station on our trip into town, we talked briefly with a woman going to Pride, a woman that had been active within the community for some 40 years, who told us briefly about her work in the community, and about GLAPN; who asked if this was our first Pride, and welcomed us, and told us we would meet friends there. It was a lovely interaction.

We did not make any friends. Did you know that if you don't talk to people and skip the actual gathering part, you don't make friends? A lot of my pre-event angst came from just being a crazy person, but part of it was that I do want 1) to belong to a community—and I don't. Community means interaction, and I'm barred from that, predominately by the crazy (also by the way I conduct my relationships ... which is influenced by the crazy). It would be easy to tell someone else in my position—and believe it!—that their identity isn't defined by the fact that they appear straight or monogamous or cis, but when all of that is rendered moot (albeit in it a frustrating, unfulfilling way) by circumstance then ... it's hard to feel that, to be convinced by it. (Especially relevant given recent conversations online re: identity politics, queer as a slur, LGBTQIA+/MOGAI acronyms and definitions; consider intersectionality while policing identity, and that mental illness can complicate everything from gender expression to romantic/sexual relationships.) Portland would be a great place to make friends, to socialize literally at all, to engage in this community and in other communities which are important to me. And in six years, I've done none of that.

But at the same time, there were fat shirtless people, hairy people, sagging-bare-breast people, and that outreach—the visual but also unexpectedly literal outreach of it, of bodies I don't normally see, obviously non-conforming people, people in triads, queer couples, was viscerally effective. A lot of the world doesn't feel allowed to me—and maybe that's something I still need to work on, or maybe it'll always be a barrier, I don't know. But the world was there, and it still feels present within me. A sum positive experience, I suppose? I feel fragile in the wake of it, and exhausted (my back absolutely gave up the ghost even on pain killers, and it was 80° and the sun came out halfway through—thank goodness for parasols—so a significant portion of the exhaustion is physical), and despondent; and hopeful.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I went down to Corvallis for my mother's 65th birthday almost-surprise party—not a surprise that there would be a party, but a surprise that out-of-towners, including her sisters, would be there; they also gave me my ride down from Portland. I am very bad at social events, even casual ones; I went and I didn't fail miserably (just moderately), so that's something, I suppose.

And I talked with people, uh oh. )

Then I spent ~10 days closed in Devon's bedroom, speaking to no one except a very good dog and occasional cat (and also Devon), lying in bed and reading, and playing the occasional video game; and it was approximately enough recovery.

- - - - -

I came back to PDX because I wanted to see my cat, and we made the mistake of driving up on a weekday afternoon because it fit every schedule except traffic and the first heat wave of the season. The car began to overheat once we hit the Portland traffic, so we ended up pulling off to the dead end of a residential street—a vacant lot and a half, tucked under an overpass and against a power station, nothing there but the shade of trees with their sudden vibrant green and the quiet backs to apartment complexes. We hung out for an hour, to let the car cool and traffic pass; I read 1984 for the millionth time. Then we drove home through back ways we know from when I lived in SE. It was, bizarrely—the unexpected 4-hour car trip, unseasonably hot, broken radio, rush hour traffic, and yet—a lovely, long goodbye, relaxing despite the stressful circumstances.

I hate summer, don't get me wrong. But summer is such an intense experience, so physically present, that the first signs of it conjure something akin to nostalgia: memories of spending all day in bed with all the electronics off, reading, reading, coaxing a crossbreeze out of my opened windows, and the anticipation of sunset and the full-body relief of tired eyes and tired skin. I saw that in the haven we found in that dead end.

- - - - -

These things are over a week old, now, but I've been been so tired lately; I've been having back issues for the last three or four weeks, the "wake up already in pain" variety, which is part of it. All I want to do is lay down and read, but the more time I spend reading, the longer the omnipresent backlog of book reviews becomes, fie. (It is so long.) But there've so many great books lately! Almost everything hovers at that 4-, 4.5-stars level, not quite flawless, but that can't really be a complaint.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Last night, I was finally able to make some calls to senators/representatives, Department of Justice, poll lines, etc.; not as much as I want to do, unfortunately nothing yet touching the Standing Rock situation, but significantly more than nothing. What made this possible for me is fourfold.

One: If you're comfortable with VoIP but not phone calls, and/or don't have or use a phone, and/or only have access to a landline and are worried about charges: it's possible to make all phone calls from a computer (I used Google Hangouts), and within the United States those calls are free. Staying within the comfort zone of my computer screen and headset made it easier to step out of my comfort zone and, you know, make calls; it also meant easy access to my notes.

Two: Talking to a live person is probably the most effective thing you can do, but leaving a voice message is more effective than emails/website comments and significantly more effective than doing nothing at all. Out of business hours and national holidays are good times to make sure you get a machine, not a person. (For example: this week)

Three: There are scripts for most/all calls to action. "We're His Problem Now" Calling Sheet has scripts for everything it advocates; I also found some just by googling "[political issue] script." Using those as a starting point makes the process significantly more accessible.

Four: One of the "how to make phone calls with social anxiety" posts floating around explicitly says it's okay not to be able to make calls, and that validation and forgiveness, in a hilarious turn of events, eased my anxiety enough that I was able to make calls. So I'll restate it here: what is phone anxiety for some people maybe literally disabling for other people. If your disability is making certain things impossible, hopefully there are other things you will be able to do—but, regardless, you are forgiven. Look after yourself.

I'm sincerely grateful for the people on social media who are proliferating calls to action, providing their own scripts, and working at the interpersonal level to help people manage their anxiety, because those things are making this accessible to me. And please, if you can speak out, do speak out, because there are people who cannot safely speak who still need advocates and protection.

- - -

(I'm feeling a little better having actually done something, but not better enough that I've left the house or will be traveling for Thanksgiving; hopefully I can see my family that weekend or the weekend after, since there are tentative plans for them to visit me. The frantic anxiety has mostly passed, to everyone's sadness—the compulsive cleaning was productive!—and left me with the predictable depression. With a particularly weird symptom this time, alongside the usual sleep upfuckery & nothing tastes like food: a weird musty smell that followed me from room to room, regardless of how much bathing and laundry I did, regardless even of if the central air was running, probably because I was creating it with my mind; the actual smell of sadness? if so, sadness is a mundane, vaguely unpleasant, inescapable scent.

I feel, like most people probably, like every time I'm getting better something in the world gets worse. The most haunting for me, personally, is that I've lived until now in a steel fortress of Godwin's Law—I hate reject ignore almost all mentions of and comparisons to and narratives about Nazis, because near all of them do harm, they obfuscate or idealize, essentially benefiting from the Holocaust without productively discussing it; but right now, comparisons are not hyperbole, they are literal and they are being made by my people. That we live in a world where we make video game villains Nazis as an earmark of "bad person, murder without compunction" but call Neo-Nazis the alt-right, give them the benefit of political correctness, normalize and idealize them, and refuse to see them as Nazis and therefore as bad people is ... I don't know what to do with that. It requires a readjustment of how I process information. It creates such an amount of fear and anger.

Living in Oregon is a strange thing: to look up all my reps and see that they've already spoken against Bannon is heart-mending in an essential way, but also means that my contacting them on this issue isn't particularly valuable, which is what living in Oregon always feels like: this is a pocket of relative, bare-minimum safety with no political power to extend that safety or, right now, to preserve it. I did a thing! I'm trying, I'm helping, and doing that does make me feel better & more able to do more to help. But it is also so hard, and requires me exceeding my personal limitations, and for what? My reach is so limited, for so many reasons.

My sister's cancer diagnosis two years ago was a reminder that it is less that I am better, despite my wealth of experience and coping mechanisms, and more that I have removed all possible stresses from my life; and that when stresses are irremovable, I am not better, I am very bad indeed. The day after the election I wrote, "dealing with anything while mentally ill is hard, and this is dealing with something, a big something, and I am at a loss." That compounds, every day.)
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
In 2010, September, October, the rise in queer suicides among students and the It Gets Better campaign hit me in a personal and unproductive way—my intersection with those groups and experiences compounded preexisting mental illness and left me ill and non-contributive, in general but specifically in my attempts to aid those groups I was part of and sympathetic to. I wrote about it here.

I feel like my response to this election is a larger version of that, because while I fall into some marginalized groups I am not visibly marginalized except in my assigned gender and I'm living in a relatively safe area of the country (the occasional celebratory firework not withstanding) and (for aforementioned "not a real person" reasons) I won't be directly effected by most changes, and there are marginalized groups in present and future danger, some without a safe place to fall to pieces, who need people to self-educate and provide support and not co-opt their experience. But I am doing my good god damnedest to fall apart, I tell you what; I am high anxiety fending off major depression and my agoraphobia is vast, firm, unrelenting.

I've been keeping myself so desperately busy, exploiting the anxious energy to fend off the point where anxiety tips into panic; I vacuumed everything, I baked more apples, I'm reading a lot & catching up on Critical Role & playing Stardew Valley enough that my wrists are acting up, I'm not sleeping much. I feel like I am courting a major depressive episode, and I don't know—I've never known—when "self-care" is or isn't indulgence, and if I can create my own depression by accident or in search for validation. Experience this trauma and grief now, people write, so that you can limit its extent and enable yourself to move on to activism—but what does that mean when mental illness makes it impossible to process and heal? What is activism when you can't leave the house or interact with people, and have no money?

But Devon wrote to me:

I'm sorry. I don't know.. I think you can contribute by voting and we have lots of opportunity to fight the system with that in the next bit. there will be elections for senators and elections for house of reps people and we need to get Democrats in those positions to balance everything out.
and that's about all anyone can do at this point unless they're in a place where they can contribute.
I'm sorry that things are so rough for you right now.
I really am.
and I know that doesn't really say much, but I know that this whole thing is terrible and you have the right to feel hurt by it all, everyone's interactions are different.
I love you lots.


and I think it's all I have right now. There will be things I can do, even if they are the barest possible minimum for a decent human being, but there is right now nothing I can do except hold on, because I am not doing a great job at even that.

(All of this is compounded by the recent suicide of someone in the LJ community, someone I did not know but only knew of, but whose situations and motivations run parallel to my own; it's a discomforting mirror and a reminder of the validity of this experience, while somehow managing to feel like yet another pain I am co-opting. I'm not sure what to do with these thoughts, all of these thoughts.)
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
What are you currently reading?
Possession, A. S. Byatt. Because I'm in a depressive episode, I've been frantic for distractions—in my reading that usually means fantasy, because there's more escapism and potential for distraction; it can also mean lighter, faster books which I can lose myself in despite the brainfog, which has reached Silent Hill-intensity. So I'm surprised how much I'm enjoying Possession—I love in this sort of post-modern literature how lush and aesthetic the heavy-handed parallel narratives/messages can be; there's a self-awareness, something even deprecatory, but also something enthusiastic; it knows the potential faults of the attempt it makes, but loves regardless, loves its characters and concept and indulgent format. It's a broad and contrived and richly intended book, and I adore it; I even adore a heterosexual romance! and how novel that is.

What did you recently finish reading?
The Giver, Lois Lowry, review here. There's a film adaptation coming out soon, with a 25-year-old playing Jonas who's 12 in the book, which—so the society of The Giver doesn't make entire sense and isn't untouchable gospel word, it's largely concept instead of execution, but Jonas beginning his coming of age with the discovery of the truth of his society is sort of the point; see also the correlation between Stirrings and sexuality and emotion: his society represses human biological and social nature, so that he's at the age to develop alternate/"natural" desires and relationships matters. In short, no, I have no interest in the film. But the book was an interesting reread; I found I remembered basically every page of it, which, no matter its flaws, indicates that the book does something effectively.

What do you think you'll read next?
I broke my ereader because of course I did—depressive episode, desperate for distraction, and so now my ereader is unusable (and my game controller is failing, too, of course it is). So I'm stuck with physical books already in my possession—getting to the library isn't feasible, again because of the depression—and that's limiting; I was already grasping at straws, and now there's significantly fewer straws to grasp. In short: fuck if I know what I'll read next.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Don't mind me—I just discovered The Icarus Project so I'll be over here, repeatedly banging my head against the wall.

(And for the record: Yes, my various mental health issues over the years would have been dramatically different if they hadn't been considered diseases and defects that needed to be changed for the good of society, and so that I could be reintegrated into it. At this point I've given up trying to "cure" myself, and am fully content to recognize that my mental health conditions define who I am, and fuck a culture or society that denies that, or denies me as a result. But it's a far leap between self-acceptance and ownership, and celebrating the disease. Because here's the thing, my friends: even if the world around me had been ideal, forgiving, understanding, supportive, and elsewise perfect when I fell sick, I still would have been sick. Half the pain of mental illness is all the social suffering and baggage that comes with, which is why I'm so upfront about this shit now. The rest of the pain? IS THE ILLNESS. That shit doesn't go away, no matter how you relabel and reclaim. Trying to pretend it does does nothing at all to help combat it. It can only hurt.

And yes, this is 110% subjective, and my experiences and mental health issues are not indicative of anyone else's. But caveats aside: go fuck yourself, man, and get off my flist.

And now this magical fucking madman is gonna go make the bed.)
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Because life is nothing if not ever ironic, I followed up yesterday's journey towards self-actualization post by having a wretched afternoon followed by a sobbing breakdown. I don't even know what to tell you.

Well, that's not quite true. I have lots to tell. For one thing, I understate the frustration which comes with steps forward: each one shows me how long the path is, and it is so long, and that's intimidating and wretched. I am not good at forward progress (call it the story of my life), and so as good as it feels to take each step it comes with a certain knowledge, even if it's one I'm working to controvert, that I will never get to the destination.

For another, Devon's father is back from Arizona. I won't pretend that I made perfect use of the sometimes-empty house while he was gone, but I made some use and even more important was the ability to do so: it was liberating and calming to know that I could leave the room, make myself meals, and visit the guinea pigs without worrying about sharing my space. Losing that option makes me trapped and stressed and regretful, and it's wearing on me. Is that horribly ungrateful? Of course it is: oh hey, thanks for letting me live here without rent, now will you all shove off and leave me alone? I know how entitled that is. But the fact of the matter is that it still leaves me feeling like shite.

For one more, I used the opportunity to the empty house to spend more time with the guinea pigs; now that the house is full again, my relationship with them is in crisis. This is not something I talk about: as honest as I am about my laundry list of illnesses, I find it difficult and shaming to talk about the concrete effects that they have on me and my loved ones. But the fact of the matters is that I've lately been a shitty caretaker to the pigs lately, because they live in a public space and being in a public space exhausts me (and moving them to a private space is impossible). They've been giving a fraction of the care and attention they deserve; I'm convinced Dink's death may have been avoidable if I had been more involved in their lives at the time. All of this guilt has, with no amount of irony, made it difficult to reconnect with them—it makes seeing them that much more taxing, and I continue to miss and mourn Dink with ... with a passion, with a strength that tears my heart to pieces. It's been a long battle to convince myself that I can love and care for them, even as I am, even without him. And as soon as things started to get to that healthier point, Doug came back. I don't know what I can or should do, and it scares the everloving shit out of me.

On one hand, the sobbing breakdown was wonderful in the way that catharsis can be: it's a violent relief but a relief nonetheless, and I felt ... not better, afterward, but pleasantly hollow and clean. But I know that feeling is deceptive: I may feel better about these issues today, but they will still exist tomorrow—and worse, the fact that I feel better about them makes me less driven to try to find a way to solve them.

If they can be solved at all.

Both sides of this are still true. I am taking steps towards becoming myself—the best me. I am still so far away from that goal that getting there seems impossible.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
Devon remarked yesterday that I may be having a bit of a downturn, and he may be right. I've been melancholy these last few days—I don't know how long, time is not my strong point, it blurs together and skips over itself, but maybe a week now—distracted and distant and, the catch-all, depressed. Difficult to make happy, discontent with myself. Other things that start with D. My dislike-of-self is making me stressed, making me feel fat and gross and ugly. I've been introverted, too—beyond my usual, I mean: the sort of introverted where seeing people I know terrifies me, but browsing books at the library does not. And quiet. And malcontent.

Nothing groundbreaking, I know, but it's a bit worse than usual and it's been hanging around for a few solid days. It's wearing on me. I don't think it's tied to pain this time (my back is meh, but it's always meh; my neck and jaw are stiff, but I think that's a product of the stress and not a cause). It's just there, uncalled for, unwarranted, because this is how my brain works.

As it's been called to my attention that this is a trend rather than a one-off weird day or bad night, I'm afraid that I've latched on to the idea that it exists to feed its existence. I think I'm unhappy so I am unhappy because after all if I'm unhappy, why try to be anything else? (And nothing else is working.)

Ah, well. Sometimes Devon makes the mistake of asking "But why aren't you feeling well?" But most of the time, and at times like these, he knows that there isn't a cause. I'm not feeling well because I'm not feeling well, I'm down because I'm down. This is one of my natural states, as innate as my hair color, so innate I forget about it until I'm reminded its so. Knowing that isn't making it any easier to cope with this time, but at least I know. At least he doesn't mind.

I'll go try to play video games now.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Second, let us talk about family. Because the one good thing of the cruise—perhaps the good thing of the cruise, nearly it's point and purpose—was that these people my grandfather married into became, well, people. Introductions always go over my head and I rarely recognize faces; I'd met these folk before, but they were still strangers in every way that mattered. I didn't become bosom buddies with anyone, but for the most part I know and respect who they are now. For no damn good reason, Grandpa and Ilene had seating charts for dinner—grouped by table, thankfully not assigned specific seats—which made sure they were able to sit with everyone but didn't confer to us the same favor. On the last cruise the group of us mingled with ease all on our own; this time, there was one couple I never really spoke to. But I bonded with one uncle-in-law over books, and one cousin-in-law over video games; I can match faces to names to identities now, and that's worth something.

The conversation about books was particularly delightful.

But third, let's talk about me. (Of course.) Spending intense time with people—prolonged time with a group that I'm supposed to be apart of because we're all family now—reminds me just how much I am not people. Sometimes it's little things: I don't like what people seem to like, "nice" weather (sunny and warm) and "luxury" accommodations (which they were not—I'm picky, yes, and was recently on a much larger and plusher cruise ship, but this one had a general second-class feel). I don't take things for granted or float along on expectations—just because it's a cruise doesn't mean it's necessarily fun and relaxing and escapist; it actually has to be those things to be those things. More importantly, there are expectations for behavior and acceptance that I don't meet. You may remember my issue with being photographed on the last cruise, and it held true here: I don't believe anyone has the right to assume they have my permission, and it upsets me to be photographed without being asked. Similarly, I don't think it's appropriate or respectful for strangers to call me "sweetie" or for extended family members to call me by a nickname. People are supposed to be cheerful and optimistic, social and acquiescent, and I, in the back, am none of these things.

I sit differently than other people do, because of my back. I dress differently, in broomstick skirts and long-sleeved shirts, a style which hovers between causal and formal but is suitable for neither. I eat differently, I'm a vegetarian but also I don't drink and, unlike most people it seems, I like good food: I take a critical approach to food as I do to all things, I will reject bad food, and I believe nice plating and froofy descriptions don't automatically make food good. I avoid group activities and loud noise. These are my own quirks and none of them are necessarily anyone's business, but if they want to know what I think of the dish I'm not eating then I will probably tell them: I think watering down opinions in the name of social nicety is stupid.

This is news to none of you, I know, but it is isolating to realize it afresh. I still had a few good conversations. The one about books was personal, fairly private, involved, educated, a discussion in the most fulfilling sense, and I'm thankful for it. But so much of what people do to gather and be social makes me feel like the odd one out—because, of course, I am.

Dinner was the only required family event most days; we were free to dispose with the rest of our time as we wished. Devon and I slept a lot, in part to cope with the constant seasickness that everyone was suffering (smaller boats and rough waters are a bad combination); we watched a number of movies through the awesome DVD service* and he taught me to play backgammon. For the most part, we did nothing social except attend dinner.

And sure, maybe that was a wasted opportunity, but dinner alone was exhausting. Not always bad—sometimes so, like when the third generation was seated together and we 20-somethings were grouped with the little kids, or when the cruise line thought it wise to have a half-assed, painfully loud song and dance routine with the last dinner—but always exhausting, and by the end of each night, especially near the end of the week, it was all I could do to hold out until dessert.

And on the last night, in between rounds of bad song covers being blasted through the speakers, I got into a conversation with Ilene and one of my uncles-in-law about 1) Why if I'm such a picky eater and eat so little of the (on that night particularly shitty) food, I'm not thin! You'd think I'd be a stick figure, but there I am. Ilene then followed with a little monologue about how when she gets back she wants to start finding ways to get skinnier so have no delusions, it wasn't a celebration of my body type. Then we transitioned into: 2) What I eat at home, and why I don't eat breakfast, and why don't I just give a quick explanation of what agoraphobia is and how it impacts my day to day life. Because I don't leave the room much, you see—sometimes I manage a meal before Dev makes it home for dinner, sometimes not, because I can't always stand the thought of sharing a space and risking a conversation with someone just because I'm hungry.

I try to make it a point to discuss my mental illnesses in the same tone that I would any respected physical illness. My heath isn't necessarily anyone's business, but if I wouldn't feel ashamed to explain how my diabetes impacts my diet, then I sure as fuck won't feel ashamed to explain how my brain crazies do. It's healthy for me to be honest and self-accepting, and if I can make anyone else more honest and accepting (of themselves, of others) then I think that helps us all. And it has helped me, to be more honest; I've also gotten better about talking about these things—a similar issue came up at the end of the last cruise, and my summary and explanation this time was much clearer.

But that does nothing to change the fact that I was still, at the end of this long week, the fat girl** and the crazy girl; the outsider, the not-person. I don't regret being outed: despite all the caveats, and there are so many, I accept who I am, from curves to crazies. I believe that owning the person that I am and being willing to talk about it can only help. And the conversation didn't go poorly—Ilene was sympathetic I suppose but also, as usual, chock full of halfway-correct assumptions which she took to be the absolute truth, and it's pretty pointless to try to correct her (even on the word, agoraphobia, which she called agraphobia, and more importantly on the fact that agoraphobia means you can't even leave the house—nevermind that for a time not to long ago, I didn't—therefore mine can't be "real"); my uncle was surprisingly receptive, excluding an offhand but inappropriate quip about how he hears that that a bit of alcohol can help with problems like these.

But...

But things were so very good before the cruise. I saw [livejournal.com profile] century_eyes, I met [livejournal.com profile] sisterite, and I had a marvelous time. I listened to "Dog Days are Over", and realized it was true. In my own silly way, I took a step towards self-actualization ("Today, being me makes me overjoyed."). I don't celebrate New Year's because the end of a calendar seems too arbitrary a cause for celebration, but for what it's worth I went towards the end of 2010 realizing that I am better—feeling better, being better, better at being me.

And then I was the fat crazy not-person. The cruise didn't destroy me—honestly it wasn't that bad, just exhausting, and that's nothing that some reading in bed can't fix. And part of the experience of isolation (in the midst of a crowd) has driven me to want to combat it: I want to find my own crowd, my clan, my chosen family; I want to see my loved ones again and find more and build on preexisting relationships; I want to spend time in Portland so badly that my skin itches with the desire. It frustrates me that I can't make these things come instantly to pass, but the desires for them are good.

But that good isn't quite enough to erase the bad that rouses it.

Anyway. The cruise was. It was long, and tiring, and did good things, and did bad things, and could have been much worse. FLL wasn't using the backscatter machines when and where we went through security, so the trip ended on a similarly exhausting (flying all day tends to be) but surprisingly painless note, which is an absolute blessing. I came home to news that a handful of you have been going through tough times and experiencing incredible losses, which puts my own familial angst in brutal context and mostly just makes me wish the best for all of you. Above all I am happy to be home—even if I sort of wish that home were up in Portland just now, but still: what matters is that it's over, so thank goodness for that.

* This was one of the few benefits of this particular ship: free movies to borrow as long as they were on shelves. We watched Death Race (not bad for what it is, and we both adore Jason Statham), Mission Impossible (I'd never seen it; yeah, it was fun), A Knight's Tale (pretty awesome, gleeful anachronistic, and the We Will Rock You sequence rocked my socks), Wicker Man (the remake; better in two minutes but still delightfully loltastic), Catch Me If You Can (not exceptional but solidly entertaining), and Shooter (again, not exceptional but solidly entertaining, emotionally rewarding and technically sound—gun-wise, not filmography-wise), and The Bank Job (a little more serious than we were expecting, and so relentlessly depressing; it might have been better at a different time).

** For the record, I wouldn't class myself as "fat," but then I also wouldn't self-apply any similar categorization. I'm short and curvy and moderately overweight; I'm also very bad with visual comparison, and I have no idea how my body actually ranks in the thick to thin scale. For the most part, I also don't care. But this isn't about what I would call myself: it's about how I felt I was being classed, implicitly, by someone else—and, as such and via context, carries the word's negative social implications.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
I spent all of yesterday curled in my freshly-cleaned bathrobe just watching TV. Watching the new Doctor Who on Netflix, to be precise. As a geek it's almost compulsory that I watch this show, but I'd been avoiding it because I tend to avoid everything which is still running, because I had wanted to start with the original/older series (although, upon Googling, it seems it's a bit easier to start with the new series and then go back to select older arcs, given that not all of the show has aged well and some parts weren't that fun to begin with), and because the young-and-shiny ethos of the remake did not appeal. But to my pleasant surprise, I'm enjoying it. There's a dozen reasons why, and enumerating them all would be redundant given the show's popularity and discussion, but I find that what I'm loving most, what keeps me watching, is the attitudes.

For both Rose and the Doctor, exploring space and time is one big adventure. It's thrilling and beautiful and fun, and they approach it with a smile. It's not that way for everyone: there are characters who don't understand the appeal, characters who reject the opportunity. It's also not without difficulty and drawbacks, and it can mean loss and culture shock, endangerment and possible suffering. But it's a choice they make, a willful and increasingly educated choice. And that's awesome. Just like I wish for more portal fantasies where the transported actually enjoy and want to stay in the new, wondrous, beautiful, dangerous world they've found instead of dreaming of ruby slippers, I wish for more attitudes of "yes—despite its difficulties, absolutely, positively, yes." It needs both halves, the glee and the drawbacks, without angsting too much over the later. It's empowering and enjoyable, and it makes me love Rose oh so very much.

The long day of rest did me some good.

Some, but perhaps not enough. Today I went to Starbucks, found out I had grabbed the wrong card and so was without funds, had a delay before I could get in touch with of Devon, discovered I hadn't brought my Moleskine, and in short found myself isolated and panicking at Starbucks. Starbucks, of all places—what the hell kind of person can't go out to coffee without having a minor breakdown? Devon did end up getting online and did come back to pick me up, we went out to dinner so I could decompress, and now I'm back again in my robe set to curl up and try to calm down and not remember how it feels to be taking up their space and internet without buying a drink because I have no money and no way to reach out. That is the very definition of "hell," as my agoraphobia would have it: to feel conspicuous, wish to be invisible, and have no means of escape.

This weekend is the last Ashland trip of the season, and I'll be spending three solid days in the company of my parents. I really need to get my head screwed on right before then. These days, though, it seems permanently misthreaded.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Two nights of sleep made up of horrible, violent, terrifying nightmares, and I slept just fine. I was chased and abused and stalked and humiliated and ignored but for whatever reason—Devon posits that I knew I was dreaming, and that's possible; somehow I felt enough distance, enough remove, that even though the dream was happening to me, even thought I was objectively horrified, I could just shrug it off. I slept long and hard, and woke well-rested.

Last night began without dreams but I was up, uncomfortable, restless, and depressed, every hour or three. Eventually I just got up and watched a movie; when I went back to bed I had a dream about going back to school which was so stressful that my heart was pounding when Dev woke me up when he got up. He was able to calm me down a bit, but when I got to sleep again I had another stressful dream about going to a three-day political rally that mirrored a speech and debate event or a con—until I finally stopped attending events, went back to my dorm, and ended up adopting the animals that I found there—a kitten, an adolescent cat, a ferret, a small rodent, and two guinea pigs. Dink was one of them, although his fur was spotted black and white (but I knew it was him) and I woke up miserable and missing him.

Things with the other pigs just haven't been the same since Dink died.

I just don't get it, really—what circumstances and content it is that makes dreams into nightmares for me. Or perhaps I do. I think all of the bad stuff used to get to me, but I've grown inured to some of it by now. Desensitized by repetition. Being stalked and humiliated by an abusive ex-boyfriend? No big deal! It doesn't target my own personal fears and memories and experiences. Objectively, I know it's awful; personally, I have some distance. But man, send me back to school and I turn into a shaking mass of anxiety, because in dreams and out of dreams that is my nightmare. I toss around the idea of finishing my degree one credit at a time at a public school, because the one class I took at PSU actually did me a world of good, it got me out and working but it wasn't stressful—either by being a difficult course, or by immersing me in the college atmosphere—and so, all good things forfend, I was actually able to complete the damn thing. Doing more of that tempts me, under similar circumstances. But college—the people, the culture, the schedules, getting myself on campus, being on campus, doing homework, receiving assignments, trying to complete assignments that require me to work with others and/or come on campus even more, every bit of it adds up, it even seems to multiply, exponential growth that builds a stress greater than I can completely imagine or hope to bear.

And I dream of it, I fear it, all the damn time. I wish that I'd discovered Reed earlier, before Whitman crushed me, I wish I had completed my degree, but I wouldn't be a fulltime student again for my life. I can't.

I have more to say about why I'm thinking about college again, about the death of a Rutgers freshman and how much of all of this anxiety comes from Whitman, not just started there but was born and bred there. But I'm only just starting to realize that I'm not looking objectively at that suicide. I'm taking too personal an angle on it—this happens, I hate it, it's useless. High school for me wasn't fun but it was no big deal, socially, and I still don't understand what made it into living hell for so many people; but college, the social abandonment and ostracization in a society so isolated that when pushed out of it you had nowhere to be, and mine was only a case of that, of rejection rather than ridicule, and I can't even imagine how much worse the latter would be. But I know it happens. I want to warn people that it doesn't get better, like some magical turning point—that depending on person and circumstance it may get quickly, remarkably worse. And what do you do that when they promise you that the day after you leave high school it will all magically improve—and then you get to college and they humiliate you?

And I think those are fair concerns—and then at the same time I know I'm being so negative and hopeless that instead of encouraging a little good I'm denying even that effort. Well done, me. I don't want to think it's hopeless, that there is nothing that can be said or done to make things "get better." Awareness and dialog helps, but wearing purple ain't gonna do a goddamn thing and that breaks my heart because I understand the impulse, I do. But we're looking at a beast that a purple t-shirt can't change: a combination of the social acceptance of bullying and the prevalence of anti-queer sentiment. Just one of those by itself is a monster; together they do horrible things to kids and to promising college students but I can barely even see it, barely even fully understand it, and the size of the problem scares me.

Into nightmares, and inaction.

I do this. I hate it. I hear about someone's rape and it leaves me incapacitated by my fear of rape culture, I hear about a suicide and and it gets me stuck on my own memories and fears of the hell that can be college, and that's selfish and it does no goddamned good. It arises from sympathy and love, it is how I try to understand how I feel about others, but it all comes back to me. How self-indulgent, how privileged, that I can complain about how these big things make me feel so small and curl up into my little ball and hide. I understand the want to wear purple because I can do that, I can wash a purple shirt and put it on, that's easily within my abilities, it's concrete and it's safe. It's also largely useless, and because it is so easy and so satisfying it's all we do do: we make ourselves feel better with a t-shirt, and then go on to ignore that huge and terrifying problem that it's supposed to represent. Awareness matters. Talking about, sharing, realizing, attempting to publicize the existence of these events matters. Symbols for them can matter, too. But that's not all it takes—it just feels like all that we know how to do.

I actually haven't been that depressed, lately. I've been okay. But I interpret this all too personally. I always do. I feel hopeless and I panic and make myself sick with nightmares. It shouldn't be about me. I'm not sure, though, how to wrap my head around the rest.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
The good news is that I survived my jury summons; the bad news is that it knocked me the fuck out for a few days, but that's hardly surprising.

Word to the wise and similarly anxious called in to do their civic duties (and for the curious as well): poke around you courthouse's website to see if they're hiding a jury information handbook somewhere. Benton County's is particularly well hidden; read it here (pdf). This is a summary of the information they deign to share with you if you show up, and it does a lot to answer questions and perhaps relieve fears—such as the scheduling and length of jury duty. In Benton County most trials only last one or two days, which for the juror includes the entire process: from summons to jury selection to deliberation. That's news which, predictably, I found very comforting—because once I was there I wanted to be finished and done as soon as possible.

I didn't get picked for the jury, of course. In fact they didn't even get to me in voir dire, because they called upwards of 160 potential jurors and were able to pull a jury out of the first 18. (Apparently the last few times they've had too few jurors show up; this time they called in an epic amount, and all but about four showed.) Considering the circumstances of the case in question they wouldn't have wanted me anyway, and not just because they ask if there's any reason you strongly don't want to be there (why yes thank you!).

So I was in at 8a and out by about half 10a. Not unreasonable. Still not easy: towards the end of that first round of voir dire I fell apart a bit. For the paperwork and various waiting I could at least read, but while the DA questioned each of the first 18 individually and the rest of us waiting our turn, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have been appropriate to pull out a novel; without the distraction and sitting on perhaps the cruelest benches known to man, it was a long, miserable wait. Luckily it was only uphill from there, even with Devon's work phone being on the fritz when I tried to call for a ride home.

I was a zombie from then until I woke up this morning, and have had wretched nightmares and killer backpain in about equal measure these last few days. Sadly though that's nothing all that new. But those courthouse benches, man, let me tell you. Slick lacquered wood and a special spine-destroying shape—they inexorably pull you back, back, back no matter how straight you try to sit, then tilt you hips that way and push you lumbar this way and in just an hour try their damnedest to undo all the good you do by constant good posture and stretches and body babysitting. It's as fucking miserable as it is impressive.

At least the jury box is filled with plush office chairs, for those lucky enough to be picked to spend all day or two there.

What I really gained from the experience (other than PAIN, of course) was a glimpse into just how poorly I function in the "real world" these days. I don't drive, I can't approximate transportation costs or distances, I don't carry a cell phone (and as a result the one I do have somewhere was MIA when I wanted it), I'm not employed, hell I currently can't even remember if I'm currently registered to vote (somewhere in my dozen changed addresses of the last few years, I've lost track of if and where they're sending my absentee ballots—and yeah, I know I ought to go in and correct that). Some of this is intentional—e.g. I'm terrified of driving, so haven't driven in years; I hate time-sensitive, real-time, non-voluntary communication, so I hate cell phones—but a lot of it is just that I'm so sheltered, right now. Which is intentional, which brings me joy, but which may not make me all that well-adjusted, to be honest.

Devon doesn't much mind that I'm dependent on him, but I think we're still going to change things up a bit. A tiny bit. A little bit. Spring is coming here—I know it seems fickle or slow to come to some of you Northern hemisphere-livers who are awaiting it, but here we're having sunny days, cold snaps, and buckets of rain; the lawn is plush, rich green, and that means spring. Devon and I went walking in the blustery Central Park the other day, stopped by the library and then wandered through the art center; yesterday in the rain and dark we went for coffee, also downtown, and then walked across the corner to the local new/used bookstore and came away with two more volumes for my collection. In short it is lovely out, temperamental or no, and I've wanted to get out lately. In careful, short hours spent around books, coffee, trees, it's more enjoyable than stressful. So we're thinking more library visits, more time around the park and Starbucks, maybe even on my own!

When I was living in Portland, during my first and blissful leave of absence from Reed, I used to get out about once a week. I'd take the bus to Portland State (where I was taking a psych course I could have done in my sleep), walk a few blocks up to the main building of the public library, take my finds down the street to Starbucks, and/or come back down to the park near PSU. I consumed books swift as fire, studied up on Celtic mythology, had conversations with strangers, drank mochas, sat in the dappled shade of deciduous trees, and honestly it was one of the better, healthier times of my life (more ironic then that it was followed by my return to school and my swift slide towards ruin). I miss it a lot, and the little things that made it possible: public transportation within easy walking distance and, perhaps above all, a city big enough that it didn't trigger my anxieties. I know that sounds contradictory, but it was always easy for me to get to downtown Portland than it was for me to get to Reed's campus, because a lot of the social aspects of my anxieties are that people are building a little checklist about me, cataloging all my behaviors and faults and using it to view me a little worse the next time they see me—in short, that people remember me. Meanwhile, you can spend a month in downtown Portland and (especially if you're as bad at recognizing faces as I am) never see the same person twice.

I don't think I can spend near-full days in downtown Corvallis for just that reason, but a few hours at a time wandering between the places I find comfortable and beautiful? That I think I can probably do. And it would be good for me: to get me out and moving, more engaged and active with the tangible and sun-brightened world that I don't often see from the safety of my bedroom. And then I can come on home.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I just completed a reread of Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle. No better time for it than while living in dread of my jury summons. There are some books that I reread often simply because I like them—they're enjoyable, engrossing, artistic, escapist, intelligent, thoughtful, beloved, any such combination, and those are all meaningful things themselves. But there are some books that I reread slightly less often but still come back to again and again, books which I do find enjoyable but which are more importantly a part of me. They are formative, or self-descriptive; they are the sort of books which I can hold up and say: Me. This made me. This explains me. This is a part of me. Shirley Jackson writes those sort of books, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle is one of them.

I've always had a fondness for stories about individuals and small groups who, by choice or by force, must recreate society in isolation. I call these desert island paradises: you're stranded there but you refine it, you recreate it to fit you, yourself to fit it, and it becomes home—moreover it becomes a home better suited and more beautiful that normal society used to be, despite the inconveniences of isolation. I idolize the concept because, of course, it's my ideal—if somewhat modified to allow the wonders of the internet and occasional trips outdoors. But books based on the premise fascinate me and they make me feel less alone for my own tendency towards hermitage.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle is my favorite of that would-be genre, the desert island paradise. Unlike many of the books that I've read built on the premise, it's not cheap escapist literature—it's beautiful written, it gleefuly reverses so many gothic images while still preserving the genre, and the darkness it reveals in both the townspeople and in Merricat is chilling. But the book is still wish fulfillment, and that may be what I love most about it. It is a letter from one agoraphobe to another than reads: You are not alone. Just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not all out to get you. You isolated yourself, you brought much of it upon yourself, but they are still unreasonably close-minded and cruel and they will tear your safety from you if they can. But if they do you have been wronged and, whether in shame or in fear, they will know they have wronged you. They will give you leave and little favors, and from the rubble of your life you can build your castle, small and odd but, to you, beautiful; to you, everything you need. You will be safe there and happy, in your castle on the moon.

That's an idealized message, wish fulfillment in the purest sense, but I find no shame in it because it is as if it were a wish made just for me. It frightens me and comforts me as if it were written for me, as personal as my own name. I am thankful for it, and loved it this time better than ever.

Relatedly: All of you are wonderful, and for you messages of support regarding jury summons (which seems like such a small, arbitrary thing to arouse such angst), I thank you. I'm sorry I left all those comments hanging. True to form I've been an anxious mess lately. Poor sleep, no sleep, dizziness and listlessness, and absolutely terrifying nightmares. But I've been keeping as busy as I can and Devon has been an absolute savoir, gifting me with dinners out and distractions and most of all with endless patience. And—what do they say? This, too, shall pass.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I got a jury summons the other day. Now I know that there's probably no one out there that wants one, but I am dreading the whole thing.

I responded to the summons online because that's an opinion now, thank goodness. But the next day I got an email telling me that, as per my request, I had been excused from duty. This would be welcome news, but I didn't request as such—and I don't want to defer and then be at the top of the next list and otherwise postpone the inevitable, that I may have it hanging over my head for months and months. But can this be resolved online, as the summons response was? Oh no. I had to call in to the court house and let the nice lady on the other end of the phone know that something had gone wrong, as I just did.

It took about five minutes but it was all alone more social contact that I can do, today.

I am scared of phones. I'm scared of other people. But really what terrifies me is the idea that I may have to come into court daily to be surrounded by strangers, to sit in a little room in them for hours, and to not be allowed to leave. I think agoraphobia is a bit out of fashion these days as a diagnosis—it certainly took me years to get mine—but for those that suffer from it, there is nothing truer than figuring out that that is what it is. It's not social anxiety, it's not anxiety NOS—it's the crippling fear of inescapable social situations. It doesn't matter if it's one person or a group, in a room or in the open: the anxiety roots in the fact, and is worsened by the fact, that you can't get out of it. There will be people there, people to see you and watch you and judge you, people who would be frightened by a public outburst or a nervous breakdown, people to remember your face, and you are not able to, not allowed to, leave them.

Sitting in horrible chairs without being able to stand every half hour would do a number to my back, too, in the worst possible way. But I can cope with pain. I can't cope with being scared shitless.

So I've been fretting about it, been and am and it is unpleasant. You can be excused for mental or physical health reasons with a doctor's note, but I haven't seen a doctor since I was in Portland—for years, now. I stopped going because there's nothing either a doctor or physical therapy or a psychiatrist can do to help me, really, and because—here's another surprise!—getting out into public to see someone is stressful for me, too. So no note, here.

I know this seems petty—a very elaborate "dun wanna." And even if I were normal, average, or otherwise well-adjusted I doubt I'd be clamoring for my chance to sit through a boring local trial. But I'm losing sleep over it already, and I don't go in for the first "let us pick from among you" until the 22nd. This is more than a lack of desire. This is fear.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Who's Noah, and who's Noah's wife?

Sometimes, when I'm bored or having an off day or am looking to kill time, I watch clips of Whose Line Is It Anyway until my cheeks and my stomach ache.

I don't talk much about my day to day life—mostly because I was away from LJ for a few months, but also because there's just not a lot of it to talk about. These last few years I've become increasingly home-bound, largely by choice. I don't work, and I dropped out of school. Devon and I live together, of course; I live with his family as well, but I spend most of my time in my room. I see my family once a week. My social life is largely online, and at this point (as I'm spending most of my time reading) fairly limited. All of this is more or less intentional. It's how I cope with agoraphobia: I'm rarely afraid of being unable to flee when there's little that I'd want to escape. These days, I'm more likely to desire social contact than be frightened by it.

That means that the boy and I go out about twice a week, though it's usually just the two of us. And recently, what with my limited online social life, I've had even more energy for time spent in public. But the agoraphobia and anxiety are always ready and waiting, even if I've gotten better at avoiding them. Yesterday, after a couple of days in a row of going into town with Devon, I went out on our street (we live off an unpaved road at the edge of town where there are hedges and fields everywhere) to cut grass for the guinea pigs (no pictures of them lately, but they're fine) and ran into one of the neighbors. I've met a few of them this way, which is fine; this was just five minutes spent talking to a man (in his 60s, perhaps?) that live a few houses down. But it was just too much for me, that unexpected conversation. I came back to the house and crashed hard. It took me all of today to recover enough that I wasn't exhausted and unfocused and continuously replaying the conversation (my anxiety often manifests in obsessive thoughts).

I read a lot (the sequel to Maledicte, yay!), and watched a whole lot of Whose Line.

I'm used to this cycle: I conserve my social energy, actually want to expend it, enjoy expending it, but as soon as it's gone—I'm out for the count. Luckily I can crash in safety these days, but it's still impressive how hard those crashes are when they come.

Yeah. (The best line of that clip: the very last one.)
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
On my recent spike in anxiety, and other mental health thoughts. )

For all of that, I promise things aren't so bad. ^_^ I had a good day today, with plenty of positive attention and love, as well as chocolate (even if the torte lacked something in the way of torte-ness—it was still good). Thank you everyone for birthday wishes! I much appreciate it.

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