Entries in mental health (8)


Hope at the End of the Longest Year

Like in 2017, this year was hard fought and draining. Trying to get things done amidst creeping fascism has been incredibly hard. And because having fascists loose everywhere else in the world wasn't bad enough, the greedy idiots here in Ontario had to go and elect Thug Fraud to premier. I truly, deeply hope that horrible man goes the way of his equally horrible brother VERY soon.

Anyway, when I'm not wishing death on The Worst people in power, I'm probably reading a book. Maybe writing one. I still hit a lot of my writing goals, though I've been lagging behind all of December because of severe depression.

Heh, you want your favourite creators to keep creating? STOP ELECTING FASCISTS

Anyway, here's the breakdown of how I did this year, despite all the bullshit.

I hit most of my writing goals this year, and the ones I didn't hit were because I swapped them for something else. I've done a lot of work on Blueshift 1, revised book 2 and rewrote book 3 for NaNoWriMo. Books 2 and 3 still need work, but I'll get to them later. I'm happy with the trilogy as it is right now and look forward to polishing the rest. I've been querying book 1 and getting some good feedback from agents, though no contracts yet.

I got Fireborn polished and out into the world and it's also had some positive feedback from agents. I will continue to query both books in the new year.

I wrote and submitted three short stories but, while one of my stories got shortlisted for an anthology, ultimately nothing has gone into print this year. It's a tough industry, but I'll keep working to improve my craft until I can wriggle my way in.

I've looked into novellas and have read plenty of what Tor puts out. I haven't attempted to write a novella yet, but I've started to outline one.

I didn't end up outlining the next two books in the Fireborn series for a few reasons. One is that I'm just not as interested in the series as I was, though I'm sure that will change once I deal with the fact that I'm not entirely sure where I want the next two books to go. And finally, there are a lot of compelling reasons not to work on the rest of a series until the first book is published. So instead of working on books I can't sell/publish right now, I plotted and started writing something different: The Spider's Eye, a stand-alone epic fantasy.

I'd wanted to get a good portion of Spider's Eye written by now, but I was sick for most of November so my NaNo goals fell short, and then I've been severely depressed all of December and didn't get anymore writing done. I've done some more research and some planning on Spider's Eye, but that's it.

And my shiny (not so new) idea is still percolating in the back of my mind. I'm still not entirely sure what I want to do with it, though I'm leaning toward the novella format. And then I've got to do an epic amount of research and... I just really hate research.

Anyway, I've learned now to keep my writing goals flexible because I'm inevitably going to be more interested in certain projects than I think I will be and less interested in others. And I've got enough ideas to work on that I don't have to force myself to finish one thing if I (temporarily) stop loving it. So I didn't necessarily hit the things on my list, but I still did about the same amount of work.

So I hit this one out of the park this year. I've read 66 books! If I finish the one I'm currently reading over the weekend, it'll be 67! About a third of that has been the children's books I've read to my daughter (chapter books only, not counting any picture books). I've read a lot of novellas this year too, including a double-read of the Murderbot diaries because I love them so much.

I've read loads of books from the library and the vast majority of the books I read this year were by white women. I'd like to keep reading more diversely and I'm still not reading as many books by people of colour as I could.

I've gotten really bad at family stuff, and a lot of it is the stress of the current political climate. I just don't have a lot of energy for things. What energy I do have goes more toward time for my daughter than to my spouse and the extended family. So we still did plenty of family activities, but my spouse and I have spent another year not having many date nights. We're both just so tired. Not sure what to do about it other than just keep trying.

Hey, this one was a smashing success! I did all the walking until the weather got cold. I did plenty of kickboxing. And I even lost weight! I lost and have kept off 10 lbs! Now that I've found something that works (I'm using the MyFitnessPal app), I'm hoping to keep up this trend until my knees stop hurting. We'll see how it goes.

So this year was all about the travelling. I suspect that travel is partially my midlife crisis? It's also my creeping-fascism coping mechanism. So I went to more than two new (to me) national parks in both Canada and the US, including Yoho NP in BC and Volcanoes NP in Hawaii. I went to a lot of new places this year, and it was magnificent. I went back to the national parks in Tobermory as well, and returned to Sequoia NP with my daughter for a week before we went to WorldCon76. I am now out of money, but it was well worth it!

2019 Goals

Submit 3 short stories
Write Blueshift short story "Making Waves"
Plot & write Mage War novella
Plot Mage War novel
Finish, revise, and polish Spider's Eye
Do NaNoWriMo
Look into writing a MG series
Keep querying Blueshift 1 and Fireborn
bonus/swap in:
Research and planning for shiny idea
Start writing shiny idea
Start querying Spider's Eye

Read 30 books
Read 15 books from my shelves
Read 15 books by POC

One family event per month
One date night per month
Continue after school activities

Regular kickboxing
Regular walks in warm months
Lose some weight (any amount will do)

One mother/daughter trip
One family vacation
Anniversary vacation

Anyway, 2018 has been the longest decade of my life. Congrats for surviving! We all deserve cookies just for that alone. If you managed to actually accomplish anything this hellscape of a year, bonus! Here's hoping we're all still here and kicking ass at the end of 2019.


Depression, Life and Art

I have neglected this blog right along with almost everything else in my life for a couple of months now, in large part due to being utterly busy and also because of depression. I'm sure people who don't have to muddle through the dark cloud of depression would have been able to get through my days with more time for a blog (and a lot of other things). But this is my reality, and I have to cope with it in what ever way works.

I've learned over the years that when depression starts to weigh me down, I have to cut away obligations until I can get my head above the surface again. And this blog is definitely expendable.

It didn't help that I just didn't have anything to say. The books I've read the last little while have all been the children's books I read to my daughter, or an epic re-read of the Murderbot diaries, which helped me through last week's epic low point.

In the last two months, I've mostly just struggled to exist, to pass the time until the seasons warm up again and the days get longer and I know I'll feel better. I bought a SAD lamp, though so far it doesn't seem to be doing much. I'm going to therapy regularly. I'm trying to engage in only the things that bring me joy.

I did NaNoWriMo again, as an ML again, and it's one of the things that brings me joy, even if it was a little stressful this year trying to keep on top of all the events plus my writing when I was struggling through physical and mental illness. I had this low-grade but draining cold for most of a month. By the time I shook it, the SAD had settled in for the long haul.

It's still hard most days, even days like today where the sun is shining and it's a little warmer. I haven't done any writing since NaNoWriMo ended. I've been doing some research for my current project. I've done some revisions and sent more of my writing to publishers and agents. But no actual writing yet. I just don't have the spoons for it right now.

I've weathered this before. I just need to do my best to hibernate. To surround myself with the people and things that bring me joy and fulfillment. Sometimes that means writing difficult letters to politicians. Sometimes that means binge-reading my favourite series. Sometimes it means going back to bed.

I fight the good fight when I have the energy, and I do my best to recover when I don't. This is winter for me and I've learned to accept it.

One thing that absolutely does not bring me a single ounce of joy is my continued presence on Facebook. That website is evil. There is real and actual evidence to show the role it has played in the radicalization of good people and the degradation of democracy. I have never liked that website or how people tend to interact on it, and it's long past time for me to delete my account.

I have tried to curate a better experience on FB. I've blocked shitty people. I've used software extensions to block out shitty content. But none of it helps, and as the Cambridge Analytica investigation continues, it becomes clearer and clearer that I cannot, in good conscience, continue to use that site. So I'm working on an exit strategy.

Twitter is not much better, but I have at least been able to curate that experience more deeply. But as I (and many others) pull away from social media and the devastating effects it's had on society, I expect this blog to get more active again. I might even resurrect my newsletter.

So this blog will probably start seeing more activity again. It will also likely get more political. I got a lot of bad advice early in my writing/editing career that I should refrain from politics in regards to my business. But to be frank, I do not want to be associated with clients or bosses I find politically adverse. I'm not going to work for fascists. If you don't like my politics, I'm perfectly happy for you to take your business elsewhere.


Furiously Happy

Okay, this is the follow up to Let's Pretend This Never Happened and it's everything you would expect it to be. It's hilarious and tragic and full of hope. I love this book. I laughed so much and I cried a little too. And it made me feel better about my shortcomings.

Here's a sample of some of my favourite lines:

"And I know some of you are saying that cake isn't medicinal. Really? Cake isn't medicinal? Who's crazy now, asshole?"

"That's the thing about my father. You never know when he's hiding a giant surprise giraffe head from you."

"...I'm not overweight. I'm simply overgravitated."

"Recognizing that popularity is sometimes the equivalent of human mange sort of cured me from wanting it."

"Having a purse full of spiders is actually less scary than having to think about finances."

And every argument with Victor that Jenny documents is nothing short of amazing. And hilarious. I love their dynamic. It reminds me a bit of the one I have with my husband. How I say batshit crazy things and he just stoically endures them, occasionally with some meaningful witticism.

So most of the book had me laughing out loud, sometimes loud enough to frighten my family. But it was the final chapter and the epilogue that had me crying. It wasn't a sad kind of crying though. It was hopeful. Not necessarily happy, but definitely relieved.

Because there are two things I took away from this book, two things more important than anything else, including the much-needed laughs:
1. Our continued existence is better for our loved ones, no matter how troublesome we think we are.
2. Accepting our flaws, every last stupid little one of them, doesn't mean accepting defeat or that we can't change or that we shouldn't keep trying to be the best we're capable of. Acceptance is freeing. It gives us the space to grow and truly be our magnificently fucked up little selves.

And in a few short hours I'm heading to Toronto for Jenny's only Canadian stop on her book tour. Updates to come!

UPDATE! This happened. :D


Let's Pretend This Never Happened

If you are not familiar with the Bloggess, you should go check out her blog or perhaps follow her on the Twitter right now. Jenny Lawson is adorably deranged and hilariously, brutally honest about a myriad of taboo topics, predominately about mental health. She's got a thing for really weird taxidermy, too.

Jenny is a mental health advocate and a beacon for misunderstood weirdoes everywhere.

This first book is a more traditional memoir in that it tells of the big moments of her life in mostly chronological order. It's horrifying and hilarious. You will laugh and then immediately feel guilty for laughing at something so horrible. And then you'll laugh some more.

I recommend Jenny's blog to get an idea of her writing and the kind of content you'll see in her books (hint: it's NSFW). She's a sweet, compassionate woman with absolutely no filters. But she has a gift for storytelling, for recounting the most heartbreaking things in a way that will have you laughing hysterically.

This is an especially important memoir for people who silently suffer from mental illness, or people who are painfully socially awkward, or who blurt bizarre things at the most inappropriate times. You are not alone. You have a whole tribe. You matter and you can cope with support and the right tools.

And if you're lucky enough to be cognitively and emotionally normal, well this will probably give you some perspective on how the rest of us function (or struggle to function, or don't function at all and have to hide in bathrooms or stay in bed for days).

And you'll get a good laugh out of it in the process.

Jenny's got a second book out, another memoir-ish book called Furiously Happy that goes deeper down the mental illness rabbit hole. I'm a few chapters into that one and it's possibly more hilarious than this first book. But that's a review for later.

If you're familiar with the Bloggess and haven't read this book. What are you waiting for? If you're not familiar with her, really go check out her blog, if nothing else.


The Sociopath at the Breakfast Table

I read this book by Dr Jane McGregor and Tim McGregor as part of my research for Fireborn, in which the villain is a devastating sociopath. But I've found it's got so much real-world application that I decided to review it here, even though I don't normally talk about the books I use solely for research.

Here's the thing about sociopaths: they are everywhere. You know one, even if you don't know that you know. You may not have been a target of one, you may not have been an unwilling accomplice of one (though 60% of the population is at risk of aiding sociopaths), but you've undoubtedly been in contact with one.

I have had direct contact with at least two sociopaths. One is a family member and the other was a girl at school. Those of you reading this who know me personally probably know exactly who I mean in both instances.

Being the target of a sociopath is absolutely crushing. I was a target of the sociopath of the girl at school and I have no idea how I made it through that. Except that maybe dodging the sociopath in the family had me prepared for it. The family member in question rarely tried to target me and I saw through her every time she tried to enlist me as a minion of destruction.

The sociopath at school blindsided me a little more, but I have a really good memory for what people say and I started noting a shitpile of lies coming out of this person. My guard instantly went up. I am incredibly fortunate that it did because, from what I understand, most people never see it coming from a sociopath. I caught onto her and kept playing along (mostly out of self-preservation), but starting doing my best to disengage.

Then she caught on to my attempts to distance myself and things went to shit. She turned everyone I knew against me. She turned people I didn't even know against me. She was out to ruin me and I knew it. I was extremely fortunate that this happened in a small town where everybody knows everybody. I was also extremely fortunate that the school administrators she was trying to use against me saw through her.

She was trying to paint me as a menace. Some of the other students bought her BS, but the principal and VP never did. It is the only reason I was not suspended or expelled. In a way, I won. As much as anyone can against a sociopath. She never did reach her endgame, I was able to disengage entirely. I had lost all my friends, but looking around I realized they weren't very good friends in the first place. I made new friends. It was still an incredibly traumatic time. It took years to get over it, but I'm a much stronger person as a result.

Unfortunately, I'm also mistrusting and suspicious. Not to the point of neuroses, but I don't engage with other people I might have otherwise. I don't as quickly become as close to friends as I used to. I don't have as many friends. Maybe that's for the best, because I haven't been drawn in by a sociopath since. I'm pretty sure I even worked for one a few years back. So it's taught me a lot of things.

Okay, so back to this book. It made me realize how lucky I was. It buoyed my confidence that I did the best I could in dealing with that particular sociopath. I feel more secure about what happened, including the end result. I know I've survived and overcome and that while I'll always be a little damaged, I'm also so much stronger for it. And I realized that the sociopath from school was a textbook sociopath. I could see exactly how she operated. Looking back on it now, from a place of healing, it's actually quite fascinating. I read this book and kept thinking, "Holy shit, that's exactly what she did!"

The short version of this book is that people are divided into sociopaths, apaths and empaths. I am an empath. We are easy targets of sociopaths, particularly because apaths (who make up the majority of the population) are easily drawn in as allies of sociopaths. This is exactly what happened to me. All those "friends" who turned on me were apaths. Some of them were blinded to what the sociopath was doing. Some of them weren't but wanted to avoid becoming targets themselves.

So this book gives you a really good look at how sociopaths operate. What they do and how they do it. It shows you how it can totally destroy a life (and almost never the sociopath's). It also has several chapters devoted to healing after being taken apart by a sociopath.

And one of the things that struck me the most about the book was one thing it hammered home again and again: the only way to combat sociopaths is to cultivate more empathy. If apaths develop more empathy, they will be less inclined to join in a sociopath's game. Empathy is something I've long thought is sorely lacking in our world.

I think everyone should read this book and learn from it, even if you've never knowingly been involved with a sociopath. Because people who haven't encountered sociopaths don't seem to believe just how bad they are, how insidious, how damaging. We need to arm ourselves with knowledge and compassion.