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)
LJ's recent ToS update and the final, for-real-this-time exodus hit me harder than I expected, for one logistic reason (my list of book reviews, which I reference a lot for personal use, links to LJ posts, and I will never be arsed to manually replace >600 links), predictable comment- and community-related nostalgia reasons, and vague "the intrusion of the current world climate into my personal bubble" reasons. The compromise? solution? I've opted for is to turn off crossposts and make all of my LJ entries private; I have indefinite, personal access to the comments, but if my LJ is deleted or it becomes wiser to do so, so be it.

A while ago I made a trip down to see Devon which ended up lasting about a week longer than normal. When I see him, a lot of my crazy comes to a head because my subconscious decides the make-it-better person is present and I should therefore provide all the icky things for making-better purposes; as such, I tend to have ironic mental health crises when visiting; as such, I generally make those visits sort of ... vacations from reality, since they're also vacations from my 1.5 responsibilities. So I just ... switched off the politics part of me when I was there, and I was there for ages. And when I got back, I never switched politics back on.

And you know what, I was pushing myself far beyond my limits. So now I'm one the other side of the same debate: I'm not doing the work I deem important, I'm filtering what I expose myself to which, there's inevitable unfilterable intrusions that really bring it home; I'm less crazy, less anxious but more depressed, cognizant always that avoiding the world is only possible because I'm so crazy as to not have a life; I know it's a long game and I can resume my role in it later.

And LJ manages to be simultaneously a petty nothing and emblematic of all of that.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: Affinity
Author: Sarah Waters
Published: Penguin, 2002 (1999)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 360
Total Page Count: 209,320
Text Number: 637
Read Because: fan of the author, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: When a troubled woman begins volunteer work at her local prison, she meets a captivating spiritualist inmate. Waters's books consistently offer a dramatic, discomforting tension—they're set deep within their historical contexts, dealing with social/gender roles and queer relationships; they're unromanticized, yet evocative and atmospheric. I found Affinity's social tensions (imprisonment, mental health, suicide within gendered/social context) especially unpleasant for personal reasons, but they have strong thematic synergy. But much of the book's tension lies in the authenticity of the supernatural elements, which means most plot developments are shunted into dramatic revelations in the closing act—and, though both logical and foreshadowed, this still betrays the long, slow engagement that is the bulk of the narrative. This is my least favorite Waters novel so far, which is to praise with a faint damning: it's compelling and sympathetic, but didn't strike me in the way that Waters's other novels have.


Title: Throne of Jade (Temeraire Book 2)
Author: Naomi Novik
Narrator: Simon Vance
Published: Books on Tape, 2007 (2006)
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 370
Total Page Count: 209,690
Text Number: 638
Read Because: continuing the series, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: After discovering that Temeraire is a Celestial, the rarest and most prestigious of Chinese dragon breeds, Laurence and crew must make a political journey to China itself. I love an extended training montage; as such, this second book in the series lack the immediate appeal of the first. Its focus is politics and culture clash, sometimes in petty ways (which suit the historical setting, but still weary), but improving as themes develop and Chinese dragons are explored. The plot is unremarkable, but what I love about this series is the proactive way it engages the companion animal trope, and here it extends both its setting and purview to explore the social role of dragons across two cultures, while maintaining an emotional center in the relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. I may not have loved this as much as the first book, but I remain content with the series so far—it's a satisfying and increasingly thorough take on one of my favorite tropes.


Title: It's All Absolutely Fine
Author and Illustrator: Ruby Elliot
Published: Kansas City: Andrew McMeel Publishing, 2017
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 255
Total Page Count: 209,945
Text Number: 639
Read Because: personal enjoyment, print book borrowed from Dee
Review:
A memoir and comic collection by a 20-something woman figuring out how to live life as an adult with mental illness. Chapter divisions give the book structure, but grouping the comics makes most of them feel repetitive while leaving a handful of outliers—themselves quite cute!—to stick out sorely. I feel like the comics would be more successful viewed individually, and my experiencing seeing the author's work online supports this. The text sections are honest and have a distinctive informal and self-deprecatory tone. It's all quite relatable, but I'm not sure who the intended audience is meant to be: not an outsider, as everything hinges on relatability; but the lack of detail or productive payoff make it feel too shallow for a fellow sufferer.

I'll be honest: I am the exact wrong audience for this. I find memoirs of this tone wallowy and vaguely triggering; they evoke all the frustrations of female bodies and mental illness, but don't do anything with that except provide sympathy and platitudes. Readers that benefit from a sense of kinship and loving self-mockery will probably have a far better experience.
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: Screen capture of the Farplane from Final Fantasy X: a surreal landscape of waterfalls and flowers. (Anime/Game)
Yesterday I woke early (~4 hours of sleep) due to election anxiety, and I played video games all day long in desperate escapism, and it was such a long day, and it only got worse. Nothing sunk in until I woke this morning. The language I keep hearing is "grief" and that is what it feels like—a distant, difficult to access, sincere loss.

Loss of faith, I suppose. I'm politically aware and I voted, but I think I didn't believe Trump was an existing threat; it felt absurd, surreal, a practical joke in particularly bad taste. And I know bigots exist, but I forget the ways in which my privilege and sheltered life and physical location save me from seeing most of them—they too had a distance. And in that space between me and these forces of hate there was a sort of faith, that despite our stellar examples of bad humanity we were not that at our core.

I've been proactively keeping occupied. Last night, after the results, I made baked whole apples (stuffed with oats and brown sugar), escaped into a book, took a sleep aid & passed out. Today I swept downstairs and brushed the dog, and then made superb apple crumble. I winged the recipe, but Dee bought vanilla ice cream and the apples were tender but not mushy and the spices were robust and the topping was rich and toasted—this small and objectively useless but pure good thing. I did everything while listening to podcasts, uninterrupted hours of The Black Tapes and Tanis. And I called home, and talked to my mom—as I told her, not because there was anything she could do, but just for the solidarity and comfort. She spent the day a haircut and manicure, and binge watching a show on Netflix. Tumblr today was a quiet comfort, most people I follow only flooding their feeds with forms of distraction.

It felt like self-care was all that many of us could do today.

Mental illness means that self-care is my entire life; I'm not sure what that will say about what comes next. I'm in a position of limited personal danger, but that's largely because I've absented myself from ... well, everything. (E.g. as an unemployed dependent, I would benefit from national healthcare—but am consistently too sick to seek care. I want the system to benefit other people, but its benefits or lack thereof doesn't effect me—most things don't effect me—I don't pay taxes I don't leave the house I don't, significantly, exist.) It's a weird place of privilege that originates from a disability. I'm terrified for those less privileged and more at risk. I'm not sure I'm in a position to help anyone.

But there was help in what I saw today from the communities I'm invested in. On one hand, this rude awakening, this shame and fear and rage, that the apparently impossible has happened & has always been possible. But on the other, our communal grief and terror, and our communal soothing, matters.
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)
Title: Black Iris
Author: Leah Raeder
Published: New York: Atria, 2015
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 370
Total Page Count: 188,410
Text Number: 553
Read Because: queer author/content, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: As she enters college, troubled teenager Laney falls in with a pair of friends in the party scene. An aggressively unreliable narrator means the plot it not what it first seems; the non-linear narrative can be difficult to keep straight and is overtly contrived, and the scale is exaggerated, too intense and too smart—a stylization echoed in the lush, harsh language, psychological insights, promiscuity and drug use, and violent interpersonal dynamics. But also present are queer characters and relationships, power dynamics, obsession, vengeance, mental illness, poetry, and love. Black Iris is something in between Dangerous Liaisons, urban fantasy of manners, and a harsher Francesca Lia Block, and in larger quantity, I'd find it exhausting—but in this one novel, which is compulsively readable and a victorious labor of love, it's phenomenal.


A quote I need to preserve for posterity. )
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers Book 1)
Author: Becky Chambers
Published: New York: Harper Voyager, 2015 (2014)
Rating: 2 of 5
Page Count: 410
Total Page Count: 187,610
Text Number: 551
Read Because: about a thousand BookTube recommendations, buddy read with Teja, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: The crew of a wormhole-tunneling ship makes a long haul to their next job, a planet occupied by a strange, violent race. So: what it says on the tin, but only nominally because plot is not the point; rather, the journey is a mere vehicle for interpersonal exploration. The crew and their interactions span a wide variety (which is almost satisfactorily alien), and the messages within are often hamfisted but as obviously well-intended. It's creative, snappy, sappy, heartfelt; rather like Mass Effect on a smaller scale. But all of this was ruined for me by one plotline: Ohan's, which is ultimately about spoilers )—a message that hits me close to home and which I find inexcusable. This perhaps shouldn't eclipse the rest of the book's more successful diversity, but, for me, it does. I can't recommend this, or forgive it.


Longer form, more anger, explicit spoilers, as posted to tumblr:Read more... )


Shorter form, more swearing, as sent to Teja: Read more... )

Teja and I have remarkably similar responses to the novel, despite our different tastes (he has more tolerance for feelgood, I have more demands from narrative structure) and the fact that illness and autonomy isn't a hot button issue for him. We've had a lot of back and forth chatter about most character's arcs, which—while not always positive—certainly indicates that these arcs are engaging. We both were disappointed in the dearth of plot, and the fact that the mega-arc was the least developed and most redundant of the bunch. But the book is a promising combination of elements, and I can see why it's had such positive reception; to me it feels like Mass Effect, and he compared it to Firefly—speculative/found family opens the narrative to a lot of creativity and feels. If it hadn't been ruined for me by Ohan's storyline I still wouldn't've loved it, because the tone was too cheesy for me, and he didn't either. It's hard to call a book with such an obvious, weighty, and varied interpersonal focus "insubstantial," but it sort of is nonetheless.
juushika: A black and white photo of an ink pen. (Writing)
Yesterday I discovered bullet journaling, which sparked way more feelings than any journaling system should rightly warrant. I keep a Moleskine, for review drafts and notes; I love the efficiency of marking dates in my Google calendar; I keep an exhaustive list of media to consume and media consumed. There's an absolute appeal in the idea of a consolidated journal, especially written all pretty and neat, and tangible.

But. I switched my to read/watch/etc lists to a digital format because it was easier to annotate and to access, since I can use OneNote offline on my phone. Ditto a digital calendar, also because Devon/messenger systems can add to it, also because it provides alerts. My review notes are by necessity not amendable to bullets. And here's the thing about to-do lists, which is basically what a bullet journal is in long form: I don't have daily responsibilities, I don't have classes or deadlines or a social schedule; I have intentionally withdrawn from any level of society where I might have to do a certain thing or meet a person at or by certain time.

That withdraw was intentional, and it's what keeps me sane; I'm aware that, insofar as my starting point is "too crazy for real life," I'm lucky that I'm able to live this way. But this sort of hyper/aesthetic/tangible organization is so much my thing that realizing I have no use for it is a bitter reminder that my starting point sucks, that what I escape is also what I'm forbidden.

It does make me want to keep an index in my Moleskines, though, to mark the occasional unfinished thought/longterm reference item. It makes me wonder why there's no bullet journal equivalent software, because customizable calendars and entry formats are beyond the scope of printing but would be achievable digitally. And it makes me wonder how much tangibility matters—I write my review notes longform both for convenience and as a part of my thought process, but switching to digital for my media lists has made them significantly more useful and easier to maintain. How important is tangibility for to do lists? Depends on the person, I suppose.

And it makes me want to do what first popped into my head as "bullets chronicling each day," and keep not a list of to-dos but have-dones, not reviews but single statements about media ongoing consumption or moment by moment thoughts—the intended purpose of my Tumblr, but I'm so given to long-form writing and my anxiety makes me paranoid about talking about something while still consuming it, so my Tumblr never really gets used that way.

And it makes me think about the irony of thinking about doing a thing, any thing, instead of actually doing anything.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
In Sense8, a trans woman undergoes forced hospitalization and is threatened with a lobotomy (for reasons unrelated to but not independent of her gender identity); in Sarah Waters's Fingersmith, one Victorian woman is committed to an asylum under false pretenses while the other is held captive. If you asked, I'd probably say that my biggest fears, other than the crippling agoraphobia which is at this point more a personality trait than a fear, are spiders, automatonophobia/life where life shouldn't be, and existential horror. It's surprising how often those things come up, in daily life and in video games and in the night sky. But let me tell you, I am fucking terrified of the idea of forced hospitalization, medical procedures, and institutionalization.

Terrified, almost, on the level of agoraphobia. My other fears have that push/pull of horror, and revulsion that can be manipulated into intrigue. But, while I think there's room to creatively explore and even idealize mental illness/institutionalization, specifically in/of women (see: my thoughts on Emilie Autumn's Fight Like a Girl), there's no potential in me for a pleasant thrill. I suppose it's too real. I've never been hospitalized, but it's always been at the fringe of my experience—offhand comments by authority figures, horror stories from peers; half the reason I'm afraid to seek any help is the fear of the form that help may take. On some level, I've always believed I deserved it—that I am sufficiently incapacitated that I should not be able to self-govern. What makes it worse is that these narratives are often about women who are not mentally ill: it's terrifying that the social standing innate to gender and perceived neurotypicality are used to control and punish women, but, even worse, these women don't even deserve it—and part of their punishment is being alongside actual crazies, who do. These women at least have the narrative to advocate for them; whether or not it ends well, we as consumers know that their situation is unfair. What advocate would I have?

(I think this is why Emilie Autumn's Fight Like a Girl doesn't bother me as much—nor, to some extent, American Horror Story: Asylum: the PoV is not solely "sane person punished by being viewed as crazy"; both have mentally ill characters that the narrative still acknowledges are undeserving victims of the system.)

It's not something that will happen, and on society's scale of crazies mine are pretty acceptable—it's probably not something that could happen. And even if it did, there's every possibility that I have a skewed perspective built on historical evidence and horror stories, and that some forms of forced/in-patient medial aid would help me. And it doesn't matter. The idea makes me so anxious and miserable that a bit of logical counterpoint means nothing.

As fate would have it, Sense8 and Fingersmith are the primary show I'm watching/book I'm reading right now. They're both quite good! But consuming them at the same time meant that last night when trying to wind down to sleep I couldn't even give up one piece of media for another that would be less anxiety-provoking. "I know!" I thought. "I'll grab the next Circle of Magic book, because middle-grade wish fulfillment about found families and personal ability will certainly sooth my anxiety." But my elibrary hold still hasn't come in, and I couldn't *cough* "find" an epub on the entire damn internet. But by some minor miracle, even though it was 3a, Devon was awake and he read to me the two last chapters of a Wizard of Oz book, and then I read two chapters of a Narnia book, and then I slept.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
That massive depressive episode that began with my sister's cancer diagnosis finally died a lingering death (I gave up tracking its length by the end, it started in July 2014 and lasted until ~June 2015, so it was basically a year of my life), but a ~month later I had a resurgence of my normal month-long (I think, I hope, but I'm not measuring; I'm too tired for real records these days, I'm just trying to wait things out) episodes, so: I have been absent-ish from social spaces/friendships because I'm not feeling great; it's not a severe episode, but I was just beginning to feel hopeful about recovery when it began so it's bitter and gently spirit-crushing. You know, more than depressive episodes usually are.

- - - - -

May-June back pain episode did resolve a few days on Tramadol.

- - - - -

Dare is settling in well! When you adopt a pet, but especially a cat, you make an (informed, one hopes) gamble: they are their own people, so, while they do adapt, their underlying personality will shine through. We gambled well with Dare—her outgoing nature counterbalances her blindness, and makes her a good fit into the house's preexisting social structures. What amazes me most is how bright she is, how proactively engaged with her environment; she's more aware than anyone in the household, nevermind not having eyes.

- - - - -

Made a brief visit back home: my sister got a puppy, a Red Merle Australian Shepherd named Tiber who is currently 3 months old. She's still living at my family's home, so Jamie (who is now far into Old Lady territory) has to deal with him. He's ... well, he's a puppy, engaged and bright but overflowing with energy. They're doing pretty well by him training-wise; Jamie isn't pleased with the new dog.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
The very great catch-up post.

March, 7: Saw the Twilight Sad in concert
at the Doug Fir. Most of the bands I see with Dee are ones I don't much listen to or only listen to live; I have never yet been disappointed by a performance. This is in part because Dee has great taste, and in part because live music is its own energy and sound—and this show was a great example. The energy flow between musicians and audience was joyful and near palpable; the band was so obviously happy to be there, with us, and I felt somewhat responsible for that—a phenomenal experience.

March 8: Made trip to Corvallis
A brief one, as it was right before finals week for Devon. The very first thing that happened as I walked in the door: Devon's mom asked, "oh, how is Mamakitty doing?" and Devon went "WELP it seems I forgot to tell you something." A weird trip, not entirely in a bad way; I missed seeing my sister but did see my parents.

Family Stuff under the cut. )

March 13: Traveled back to Portland, got sick
Started with a tolerable cough; remained a tolerable cough until directly after:

March 21: Saw The Decemberists in concert
I can't remember how many times I've seen them, now. Many! At least four, if you count Meloy's solo show. I occasionally listen to them, but not often; Meloy's twang sounds raw on record. But I adore them live, and this concert was no exception. It was in the Keller Auditorium, which is quite stately, but they still got everyone on their feet. Their concerts are performance art, despite the minimal performance (whale excepted): presence, energy, vivid dark humor, self-awareness, an appetite for the absurd, a proactive engagement with content and audience.

Then was really sick
Polite of it to wait until I had free time to be miserable. Complaining about a cold feels trite, because no one enjoys them. But post-Mama, still unsure how I've recovered; post-travel, which is exhausting even if positive; post-two big, beautiful, but energetic concerts: I'm already bereft of energy and cluttered with unexamined feelings, and being ill and nigh unable to sleep didn't help.

My saving grace is that I've been consuming a lot of engaging, enjoyable media—and while I don't have the energy to spend time in my own life, escaping into another is welcome. The problem is that I should be reviewing, or at least making note of, all I've consumed, but I feel disorganized and feeble, and can't set my thoughts to order. So, I thought, writing some of that down may help, and I wrote.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Most memorable Hanukkah event so far thus year: Loki the kitten jumping up on the menorah windowsill the first night and (harmlessly) singeing her fur. She gets locked in her bedroom for candles, now.

I'm still amazingly unwell. Every few years I lose the holidays to my illness, because I don't have the energy to engage as giver or receiver—so I'm sensitive about how this season intersects with my mental health, which predictably increases my anxiety. I'm so stressed and exhausted that I keep forgetting things, like eating and lighting the menorah.

Between the genetic aspect of my sister's cancer, and my grandfather's Alzheimer's, I'm very aware of my Jewishness right now. Being half Jew, especially through your father's side, especially when you're cultural/non-religious, is a tenuous thing. I'm white-passing and not-Jew in the bulk of my life, but the Jewish imprint lingers—and it's frequently an unpleasant burden, an inherited pessimism, a culture of Exoduses and Maccabean Revolts and Holocausts, a presumption of suffering. And right now it's also BRCA mutations and Alzheimer's.

I don't look very Jewish, I don't act very Jewish, but lighting the candles makes it real. It makes cancer and Alzheimer's real; it's an acknowledgement—but despite all the negative connotations, that menorah is also my light in the dark. I don't know why. I suppose it's enough to validate and memorialize something, that that act has meaning. But this is the most sacred Hanukkah that I can remember.

My father gets back from Florida in a few hours; I'm meeting him at the airport to drive with him down to Corvallis, and spending a few days with Devon and my family. Just arranging it has been exhausting, but I'll be glad to be there.

(Raise a toast to my boyfriend, who buys me a Hanukkah gift and a Christmas gift, because he knows that Hanukkah matters and deserves its own special recognition.)
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
Just got back from a week in Corvallis, a longer than average trip because I caught a cold on the way down. It was pretty minor, in large part because I had Devon to look after me and didn't try to travel while sick. I was nervous when I developed symptoms because I'm never great at dealing with adversity but I'm particularly shit at it right now, so I'm thankful. Unfortunately, finding ways to sleep with congestion has done a number on my back and I imagine I'll be recovering from that for a while.

My parents were out of town by the time that I was well enough to visit the house, but I did stop by to pick up a bag of Liberty apples (a tradition; these are my favorite apples in the world) and this year's crop is phenomenal, firm and tiny—I find the smaller fruits to stay firmer longer, be more flavorful, and be an ideal serving size.

While I was there I had a nice long talk with my sister; we haven't talked in person since her diagnosis, so the conversation was long and weighty and hugely reassuring. She's halfway through chemo, and has run into most of the predictable issues but none of the big and dangerous ones. I've always had an unshakable faith in her ability to deal with this, and that's not something that I say lightly: it's something that I know I couldn't deal with, not right now and maybe not ever; I believe that praising a sick person for their strength and bravery can easily slide into the realm of the problematic and belittling. I have a lot of predictable, essential anger at the whole Cancer Thing: it isn't fair and she shouldn't have to be strong—but she is: she has an intense capability and self-control and will, she's giving nurses and doctors What For to ensure she gets the treatment she needs and is able to continue to work and live as she wants to, she's dealing with intense emotional burdens with great aplomb. I'm proud of her and it was nice to have the chance to say so.

All that she's been dealing with also makes me confident in my decision not to get tested at this time, because I cannot do what she is doing.

I was also fairly honest with her about how I've been, which was—well, it was weird. Weird and pleasant, I mean; it fit the situation and felt good to share. But I tend not to be forthcoming about my personal life/health issues with my family, and there's something about the sentence "sorry, I've been too busy being sad to be present and supportive while you were diagnosed with cancer" which triggers every anxiety about the veracity/severity of mental illness.

I'm at ~4.5 months with this major depressive episode, which is by far the longest episode I've had since I dropped out of school; I'm sure that what's been going on with my sister has contributed to its longevity. The day-to-day experience is somewhat more tolerable than it was at onset, but I'm so worn down that it barely matters.
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: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (I should have been born a cat)
I continue to be at the heart of a depressive episode as we come in to the start of a new year. Depression talk. ) But for a change of pace and for once to follow a trend, I do have a few best of lists. Much of it wasn't new to 2013, but I discovered it in 2013.


Best Books:
  • An e-reader! It's not a book, but it counts. No reading format is superior, but an e-reader makes some things wonderfully accessible; I'm adore mine.
  • The Dancers of Arun, Elizabeth A. Lynn. I loved this entire series, but the second was my darling: compassionate, well-characterized, id-level writing.
  • The Doctrine of Labyrinths by Sarah Monette (1, 2, 3, 4). Speaking of id-level writing: I was never blind to this series's flaws, but Monette writes complex, resonant character interactions and I never wanted to see them end.
  • Ombria in Shadow, Patricia A. McKillip. Exquisite. This is the year I discovered McKillip, and I'll come back to her—her voice is art, and Ombria is its perfect compliment.


Best Games:
  • TERA. TERA went free to play in 2013 and so we returned to it; we finally reached post-game and it's perfect for me: a focus on dungeons, comforting repetition, but rewarding challenge.
  • Animal Crossing: New Leaf. I've put 300 hours into this game so far; it's more robust, more accessible, everything the series was meant to be: a home away from home.
  • Feminist Frequency. Sarkeesian's full-length videos are triumphant.


Best Television and Film:
  • The Hunger Games. I'm not particularly fond of these as books, but the film blew me away, in no small part thanks to Jennifer Lawrence's phenomenal acting.
  • The X-Files (see here and here). Even what hasn't aged well about this show is fascinating as a forerunner in its genre; what has aged well was exactly what I'd hope for from conspiracy theories and strong character relationships.
  • Kuroko's Basketball. I had a run of enjoyable but not phenomenal anime this year; to be frank, Kuroko's Basketball also belongs on that list save for the fact that it's indicative of what I watched: character-fueled, addicting, and more than somewhat silly.


Ignoring for a moment the irony of what I'm about to say: This is an open call for more things I should read or play or watch! All mediums and all genres; recommend to me a thing I should consume in the coming year.
juushika: Photograph of the torso and legs of a female-bodied figure with a teddy bear. (Bear)
I went down to Corvallis over Christmas (Dee decided to go up to see her family immediately after Christmas, so it was lovely no-stress scheduling), and it was okay, I guess. Every few Christmases, the holiday comes during a depressive episode and I just want to wish the whole thing away because I lack the spirit to begin with and all the holiday responsibilities and events serve to exacerbate my mental state; at least once I've effectively defaulted on Christmas, even failing to buy gifts. This would have been one of those years, there but for the grace of Devon—he saw it coming, and so he researched wishlists and gifts and made it stupidly easy for me to pick presents for others. And everyone loved them! and that surprised me. Buying for my family is hard; my parents have a lot of art in the house and I've had good luck getting new pieces for their collection, but that grows predictable year after year; my sister and I have radically different tastes, and I never know what on her wishlist reads as "something you actually really want but may still have sentimental value." Considering where I started, with a deep unwillingness to do anything and an utter dearth of Christmas spirit, coming out the other side having given successful gifts feels awesome.

Christmas gifts given. )

Christmas gifts received. )

As always, I record this stuff because my memory is horrible and they're things I don't want to forget.

My father's birthday was December 21st, so we did a family dinner in and a family dinner out, and I went to the house to decorate the family tree, and then decorated Devon's grandparents's tree; Christmas Eve was blessedly quiet, but I went to both Devon's grandparents's family Christmas (a dozen people were there) and had traditional Christmas homemade pizza dinner with my family; Devon and I drove up to Portland on boxing day so that he could transport and set up the new monitor and Dee could leave to see her family the next day. In other words: exhausted, utterly exhausted, and while there were highlights and the homemade pizza continues to be the best pizza, I am mostly just exhausted. And exhausted.

But the days have been silver gray and heavily fogged; skeleton trees against cashmere skies; cold weather, scarf and overcoat weather, hot coffee weather; distinctly winter.
juushika: Drawing of a sleeping orange cat. (Default)
My grandfather's funeral was a few weeks ago. Everyone in my nuclear family went but me; I went to Corvallis to watch my parent's house and the family dog while they were away. My impression is that this is the best decision I could've made; it sounds like the funeral was a minor nightmare, too much alcohol and grief and drama in one place; I would have found it extremely stressful, and that's not how I want to remember my grandfather. Jamie and I meanwhile had a fine few days of watching bad TV and walking in autumn weather.

Hanukkah began the night before Thanksgiving this year—very early! I was down in Corvallis Wednesday/Thursday/Friday last week, and then came back up so that I could watch the house and approximately one thousand cats (kittens, man, they're like a dozen cats in one small cat body) while Dee went up to visit her family over the weekend and Devon did Thanksgiving with his extended family on Saturday. My family and I had latka for the first night of Hanukkah, traditional French Toast on Thanksgiving morning, and a very relaxed Thanksgiving dinner that night. The weather has been starkly cold, dry and bright and on the edge of freezing, just what I needed to clear my mind in between too much socialization. The menorah has been burning each night both at my parent's house and at Dee's house here in Portland.

Hanukkah's early date has made me extremely sensitive to how easily it (the holiday, Judaism, take your pick) is overlooked—that sense that with Thanksgiving passed we're all now preparing for the "holiday season," but half of mine is nearly over, and so "holiday" obviously reads as "somewhat secular Christmas." I celebrate secular Christmas, too! with enthusiasm. But the erasure is needling me, this time around.

I think it's reasonably safe to say I've been in another depressive episode these last few months. Given the accommodations in the rest of my life, these episodes are mild now—pedestrian, even: something between ennui and anxiety, a suffused discontent and sadness with the catharsis of a breakdown. The best recourse is just to try to stay out of my own head, thus the constant reading and TV watching and gaming. I got worse and better—see: the catharsis of a breakdown—while in Corvallis, which was expected because even family stuff stresses me out. Been listening to Kelli Schaefer's Black Dog when I'm hopeful; Nick Drake's Black Eyed Dog the rest of the time.
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.

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