Writing about Depression

I’ve always admired people who can write about depression, because for me, depression means not writing. Writing is my life, I love writing, my old Livejournal (which is private, if you’re a friend ask me personally for access) I used to average about Pi posts per day. I’d write fiction, hell, my standup comedy routine had me reading my own structured poetry (sonnets a particular speciality), and even writing one during the show using words chosen by the audience. I love writing. And depression as it is for me, that I love it means I haven’t been doing it. Anhedonia, thy name is Cait’s depression. Painting has also gone by the wayside. Only gaming has survived, so far.

And yet here, a perfectly cromulent place to write, where access is as easy as picking up my tablet, if I want (I don’t, I won’t be posting from it until i can get a bluetooth keyboard to use with it, it’s just too tiring and slow to try and type with a touchscreen one-handed)…I can’t seem to get a regular thing going.

This is all despite the fact that my new meds have seen me much more effective in many ways. I’ve been getting some housecleaning done, allowing for my body by doing it in small stages over time. I’ve designed an entire new game, and I’m over the hump of the boring stuff needed to make a prototype, now I just need Craig to help me physically make it and we can get playtesting. That’s kind of amazing, and given the history of the other games we’ve roughed out in notes over the years, which have always foundered on my inability to get that boring stuff done – to wade past pain and ADD and depression so I can push the boat out and get some damn fishing in so I don’t starve – I got over that hump this time.

I’ve (and this is hard to admit) been working on my hair, even. See, I’ve got long hair, and it’s Medusic. That is, it writhes and tangles like a live thing – the single way to make it not get too tangled is to braid it. Then only within the braid’s strands will be tangles. And over the last several months as my depression got worse through the winter, I’ve gotten rather badly sloppy about brushing it. In short, it’s matted in a few places, and I’ve been slowly, slowly, working on brushing it out. It’s painful and difficult, because it necessarily involves my arms up over my head, so I can only do it for ten minutes or so before needing an hour to recover.

If I didn’t have to perform femininity in order to have people not misgender me, I’d just cut it all off and start again. But I do. So I’m brushing, and washing, and brushing, and washing, and lathering conditioner in like you wouldn’t believe, but it’s all about the brushing. I wish there were a way to get help, but I don’t know of any such opportunity. :/

Wow…the shame on this runs deep. Since you’re reading this, I got over that enough to hit Publish, so yay me. But just thinking about mentioning it publicly feels so shameful that I’m weeping like a child writing this para. Can’t actually see. Stupid. But there it is. Intellectually, i know it’s not my fault. It’s depression, the big double D, depressive disorder and disthymic disorder both, and it’s the end of winter (and it fucking snowed yesterday…no…no more snow now, please?), but it’s very hard to get that fact to penetrate my feelings, in whatever weird brain chemistry is going on.

Sorry for the rambler, folks, sometimes it’s just what I need to get out. Trying to love writing again.

The Excitement Tariff

I’m using “tariff” rather than “tax” here, because taxes tend to do things, in my world, and thus I’m loath to hate on them.

What I’m talking about is a subtle part of my disability experience: that doing exciting things, even when sitting still, can be intensely wearying.

The last two nights (Saturday and Sunday), I’ve been at a friend’s place, sitting on very pretty dining room chairs that are more or less stools from the point of view of “is this a supportive chair?” Each time for about three hours and well-medicated, but at the end of each, I’ve been really sore – like, spasms hitting 8 out of 10 on the unhappy-face scale sore – and it’s carried over into the next day.

Tonight, my friends want to play Heists on GTA Online, which is something I find exciting. Mind, I’ll be sitting in my comfortable chair, well-supported, with a heating pad on my back as needed, and I can get up and move around if I need to. Ideal conditions, so it shouldn’t be too strenuous, you’d think. But you’d think incorrectly. Because it’s exciting. And excitement makes us tense our bodies.

Three hours of alternately tensing various parts of me for several minutes, and trying desperately to relax in the few moments’ downtime between missions? That’s hard on my body.

Even in optimum conditions, the excitement tariff cuts down on the amount of time I have to spend doing things I like. Now cycle back round to the depression, where getting myself interested in doing the things I like has been one of the main challenges, and you can begin to see another aspect of the ways in which my mental and physical disabilities interact so that each is made worse by the other. Not only is it a blow against dualism, but also against treating mental disabilities as “less than” physical disabilities. When someone makes a joke about how being sad making them eligible for disability, help us out by reminding them of the difference between “being sad” and “being in depression”.

Pranks and Rape Culture

The “posting regularly” thing. I’m trying. :)

Today, I want to talk about pranks. I hate them. I hate pranks, prank shows, April Fools, and any other setup where the goal is to humiliate another human without their consent. I get enough humiliation in my life, every time some kid in the bank says, “Mommy, why’s that man wearing a skirt?” (granted, this doesn’t happen like it used to, but it still burns). What I don’t need is extra doses from people who consider themselves my friends.

Specifically, though, what I wanted to discuss was the idea that pranks are a crucial supporting element for rape culture. There’s an innate requirement that one “be a good sport” about being humiliated, and a stronger one on those looking on that they find it funny, and (crucially) that they don’t intervene when a “prank” is being played, because doing so would be being a “spoilsport”. This is a way of reinforcing people’s tendency to be bystanders in the face of cruelty, helping to train us even as small children in how to maintain the rape culture. It also allows us to write off as “pranks” what might otherwise be seen as something dangerous or frightening to another person, training us to question our own judgement in what we see around us: is that guy really attacking that woman, or is it just a “prank”? Was that really racist bullying I just saw, or just youthful hijinks?

It would surprise me not the least little bit to find that people who enjoy playing pranks on others are also people who have a hard time with the concept of consent in other realms. To be “successful”, a prankster cannot seek consent ahead of time, but must hope for the bystanders to keep their noses out of other people’s business while they violate someone’s consent. The excuses made afterwards are similar to those of rapists: I thought they wanted it, nobody spoke up to object, everyone does it.

I don’t think it takes a diagram to show how this kind of behaviour leads to people unwilling to step in when they see someone being bullied or assaulted. We already have a social imperative, perhaps a necessary one in a tightly-packed society such as ours has become, to try not to stick our noses into things that aren’t about us.

Disability: medications

I thought it might be interesting to see what my daily load of meds looks like. This doesn’t include the one med which is not yet fully recognised as legal, and a couple of others I forgot to gather before taking the pic.

daily meds for CaitieCat

Meds for one day

These are:

  • four large white round pills, marked TEC: 5mg oxycontin plus 375mg acetaminophen (paracetamol) – analgesic plus anti-inflammatory
  • four small white round pills, marked 10: 10mg oxyneo slow-release – analgesic
  • two small green ovate rectangular pills: 2mg Abilify – antipsychotic, offlabel use as intensifier for next med
  • two large orange capsules with black markings: 100mg sertraline (Zoloft), antidepressant
  • six oval white pills, small, marked BAC 10: 10mg baclofen, muscle relaxant.
  • one (should be three) brown round pill: ibuprofen extra-strength, anti-inflammatory

Not pictured are my Concerta (slow-release ritalin, one per day at 18mg), or the various anti-allergy pills I take ad-hoc to combat itchiness effects of opiates, or the laxative and anti-nausea meds I take for other side effects, or that other med which ought to be legalised and makes it possible for me to, y’know, eat and stuff.

That’s one day. And it’s why I’ve been trying hard to keep my dosage down as much as possible, in all things: I don’t want to end up on a liver transplant list. In ten+ years on that pain med regime, I’ve had only two dosage increases, for a total of 15mg/day. And like most chronic pain sufferers, I don’t get any euphoria at all from all those oxy. I know that some people do, and that it can be very addictive in that mode, but believe me, what I’m not getting from them is stoned. What I do get is the Golden Hour, that period a few times a day when the meds overlap in such a way as to give me an hour or so of much-appreciated actual relief of pain. Because of the overlapping nature of the med times – my muscle relaxant is on a 3/day, while my pain meds are 4/day – this Golden Hour moves about during the day, but it’s usually a nice break. I’m headed for that hour next, should be around noon.

The rest of the time it’s all about fidgeting and moving and trying to find a “comfortable” way to sit. Usually failing, but there it is.

Morale will improve until the beatings continue

Things continue to improve, though unevenly. The trend is definitely upward. Feeling a bit cabin-fevered atm, got no money to go anywhere and nowhere to go anyway. And the weather has been so cold, so snowy, that people are being crappy about clearing their sidewalks, meaning I can’t even really go for a walk. I do get out on Saturday nights, when I get together with Craig and Chris at Ken’s place for gaming. Saturday past we played my new copy of Mansions of Madness, which was fun and difficult. We literally lost (everyone, Keeper and Players) on the very last turn, and if I’d had a single action more I could have won it. Much enjoyment all-round.

We followed up with a party game called Time’s Up, a trivia sort of game that was again very close, Chris and I beating Craig and Ken by only a few points in a hundred. It was odd, though; Ken and Chris are ten years younger than Craig and I are (Craig is almost exactly six months older than me), and neither of them is widely read, while we both are. So we were in pairs where one partner would know who Casanova, Malcolm X, and the Marquess of Queensbury were, and the other would know who Kelly Clarkson, John Stamos, and Vin Diesel were. Okay, that last trio was just me. What? I don’t watch reality shows, sitcoms, or action movies much at all. I only know that’s what they do because it had to be explained to me. :)

More posts coming, but I wanted to get the chatty stuff out of the way first.

Improving!

I don’t know if I can express what a feeling it is to have the sense that I’m coming out of the long, long night that has been this latest major depressive episode. It’s been two years at the minimum, probably longer. Last winter was the worst depression of my life, and winter is usually the very worst for me.

And yet…here I am, posting. Not regularly yet, but I’m writing stuff. And I’m making notes in my phone about more stuff to write about. And designing t-shirts for sale. And engaging in social activities.

In February. That’s like MAGIC.

New post today over at The Gaffer’s a Bird – don’t bother unless you’re a fan of the Football Manager games – and if I’m able to, I should be back to posting rewatch episodes here soon. I’m watching a few this afternoon. :)

I think my meds should be slightly raised in dosage, the one that’s made the difference that is, and when it is (I’ve an appointment next Thursday), it feels like fucking OZ is opening up before me, with colours and rainbows and shit.

If you’ve never been depressed, you can’t know how amazing this feeling is. I just hope it’s a real dawn coming down the tunnel, and not a TGV, and fuck mixed metaphors anyway.

I Hate My Voice

It’s kind of like an incantation, that phrase. By using it, I can cause people all around me to say some variation on, “Oh, I love your voice, you’ve got that Kathleen Turner thing going on…”

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard it, and I’ve come here today to write about how frustrating it can be.

How can a compliment be frustrating? When it feels like it leaves no room for how I feel about it. It feels like I’m hearing, “Oh, you’re wrong about that, there’s nothing wrong with your voice!”

But as well-meaning as that is, it’s frustrating because you don’t have to live with my voice. You don’t have to be misgendered on the phone 20-30% of the time. I even left a cable company because despite my asking supervisors repeatedly to make sure that my account was clearly marked as belonging to a woman, EVERY SINGLE TIME I spoke to them, someone misgendered me, and usually more than once per call. When I quit, the retention specialist heard me tell him this reason, and thought that offering me a better deal would make a difference.

Me: “Yes, but my dignity matters to me, and your company has consistently shown it doesn’t matter to you. If you can’t guarantee me that your company will treat me with that dignity, then-”

He: “Wait, your ‘dignity’ is worth more to you than $120?”

Me: “Thank you for summing that up for me. Goodbye.”

We talk of microaggressions when we talk of life as a marginalised person: “Hey, baby, you’d be so pretty if you’d smile!” “Can I touch your hair?” “You’re not like those others!” and so on. For me, at least, being misgendered is not micro at all. It’s a metaphorical punch in the gut, whoosh there goes my breath, “Crap sakes it’s been 22 years when does it stop?!” It’s often a sign of risk, being misgendered; I’ve had it be the start of an extortion attempt, back in the day, and no one has ever physically assaulted me for being trans without throwing in the casual violence of misgendering.

So what would I like, when I say “I hate my voice!”?

I’d like to hear that the person empathises, that it must be difficult/frustrating to make me feel that way, and maybe not to be told I’m wrong by way of wanting to make me feel better.

And I do get that the intent is to make me feel better, but as we so often say, “Intent is not magic“. I think this falls into that habit people have of wanting to always fix things, whether or not the person with the issue wants it fixed. But like offering unsolicited advice, it shuts down the conversation I might have been trying to have, and substitutes the one that won’t make the listener uncomfortable having to acknowledge that sometimes, cis people make my life really difficult.

As always, be clear that I speak for a vast and teeming constituency of one. It’s entirely possible that other people saying “I hate my voice!” are, in fact, wanting compliments. No easy answers, ever, are there?

ETA: Overnight, Miri of Brute Reason (whom you should read because she’s clever and insightful!) pointed out this excellent post from June/14 at Book of Jubilation: Kids these days get too much praise: Praise, validation, and encouragement. Just wanted to add the link because I think it provides a really useful approach for people to understand the concept in terms that might be more familiar than trans life.

ETFA: Further adding a thoughtful development of the idea at C.M.Stone’s blog, A Better Way for Praise, Validation, and Encouragement.

Back Again, Part II: The Ensequeling

Well, it’s like this, see. I’ve finally got some meds that I think are making my brain work a little better. Scary perhaps that it’s an antipsychotic, but still, if it helps, I don’t care. Lots of little signs that the depression may be lifting a little, not going to go into them all, but the fact that I’m writing here is one of them.

Should see a flurry of posts in the next few days, as I’ve been sitting on a number of topics, and wanting to get them written, for the last week or so. I’ve got stuff for all three blogs – here at Fullmetal, and over at TheExpansionBoard and TheGaffersABird as well.

You can expect posts on Grand Theft Auto Online, and how I use it for cosplay, over at The Expansion Board, along with a second post on Firefly the board game. Came up with a delicious strategy on Saturday night, and I plan to outline it.

At The Gaffer’s A Bird, my blog specifically about Football Manager, I’ll be talking about team selection and match prep.

And here you can expect an update about disability stuff, a post about my voice, and a link update post. I’m also hoping to get back on the SPN bandwagon soon.

I hope that’s whetted the appetite a bit; I’m off to do some writing. Thanks for hanging in until things are getting a little better. I hope it will have been worth the wait. :D

Supernatural Re-watch, S1E6: Skin

Sixth episode overall, from October 18, 2005.

Synopsis:

The teaser gives us a proper tease: a SWAT team carefully moving into a house with blood plenty visible, discovering a young blonde woman bound and gagged to a chair, covered in blood. As they rescue her, she frantically points to the other room: “He’s in there!” Moving in, the SWATties see a man trying to get out through the balcony door in the darkness. As they shout the usual things about getting down and complying instantly, the flashlight of one catches the man turning – and it’s Dean, with blood on his face and a knife in his hand. Fade to black.

Backing up, we get “One Week Earlier”, where Dean is talking about their plans for the upcoming drive, and Sam is reading email on his phone. Dean sneers about Sam’s “college buddies”, and lectures him that you can’t have friends when you’re a hunter; Sam disagrees. One of his friends says that her brother has been arrested and charged with the murder of his girlfriend. This seems odd to Sam, as Zach was a pretty level-headed guy, and he insists that they go to St. Louis, NOW. Rebecca meets them at the door, and is pleasantly surprised by Sam’s appearance there. Her folks are in Paris, so she’s staying with her brother at least until they get home, so he has some support.

Zach says he came home, found his girlfriend tied to a chair, badly beaten and not breathing, so he naturally called emergency services. The police arrest him, citing a video they have showing him arriving home around the time she was killed; Rebecca insists that he was with her, having a few beers until at least an hour and a half later. The boys claim Dean’s a detective from somewhere, and offer to have him come through and look at the crime scene.

Sam breaks out the puppy eyes, and convinces her. Dean remains skeptical.

The house is trashed, covered in bloody handprints, but no signs of a break-in. One odd thing: about a week earlier, someone had broken in and stolen some of Zach’s clothes, but the police think it was a homeless person or something. A dog next door is all barky and excited, which is apparently unusual for it, and it started around the murder. Dean is starting to wonder, and conveniently Rebecca has stolen the video that apparently shows Zach entering the building.

Cut away, and we see Zach standing outside an apartment building, watching an East Asian man kiss his partner goodbye, hearing them mention that he’s gone for a couple of days. Zach makes notes. As he watches her walk back into the apartment, Zach grins a little, and then his eyes flare bright white.

Back looking at the video, and Zach can be seen entering the place at a little after ten, half an hour before her time of death, and the tape’s been authenticated as untampered. Sam gets Rebecca out of the room so he can point out the eye-flare to Dean. They theorize it might be a doppelganger of sorts.

Cut away again, to the East Asian man returning home, saying his client cancelled at the last minute. Growing concerned when she doesn’t answer him, his fear spikes when he sees a bloody handprint. He finds her, bound and gagged and covered in blood, but when he frees her, she begs for him not to hurt her anymore! Warily checking the apartment, he meets…himself? With the eye-flare. And, unfortunately, a baseball bat. Lights out.

Sam and Dean pull up at the first scene the next day, with Sam pointing out that the killer didn’t leave by the camera-watched entrance, so he reasons there should be a trail from where he did leave. They do find some blood, but before tracing it further, they notice an ambulance, and follow it to the second scene. We see the police arresting the East Asian man.

Dean discovers that the arrested man was driving home from a business trip at the time of the attack, and that he claims to have encountered himself inside. The police are…skeptical, and take him away.

The idea of a shapeshifter comes up – every culture has a story of them, but apparently they don’t fly. Sam’s picked up a trail running away from the scene, but it just stops. Right by a sewer access hole, so down into the stink they go. Dean discovers a pile of truly horrible glop, slimy bloody flesh, which he speculates is a shed skin. On the good news side, silver is a reliable antidote to shapeshifters.

Rebecca has discovered that Dean’s not, actually, a cop, and wants the boys to stop helping, before they make anything else worse for Zach. Not even SVPDE can help this time. Dean, inevitably, gets his I Told You So on.

Down into the sewers they go, finding more glop near an apparent nest. Suddenly – eye-flares! Sam gives chase, but the shifter books, and after they split up to search, Dean comes back to meet up with Sam, and says they should head to the car. Behind Sam’s back, though – eye-flare. Dean isn’t Dean.

Sam becomes a little suspicious when Dean asks him for the car keys, and tries testing him on their shared history – but Not!Dean passes. Flipping him the keys, Sam moves away while Not!Dean opens the trunk, excited by all the toys. Suddenly, Sam’s back, pistol up, and asking where his brother is. Sam noticed that the real Dean had hurt his shoulder, and wouldn’t have been able to catch the keys left-handed. Not!Dean gets the drop on Sam, and fade to black.

Waking up, Sam’s tied to a post in the sewer, and Not!Dean is claiming that Dean is dead already. Not!Dean demonstrates that he can tap into Dean’s memories, using it to build some animosity between the boys, before heading off to see Rebecca. She’s skeptical, but lets him in. Not!Dean tells Rebecca about the shapeshifter, and gets touchy about her sneering at the idea of sympathy for the monster.

Back in the hole, Dean turns out to be also tied up, and the boys get around to untying themselves. Dean points out that they can’t exactly call the police and put out an APB on, well, him, so they have to go rescue her themselves.

Not!Dean is still trying to get Rebecca to feel sorry for him, and creeping her out by being too forward. Not!Dean takes her down, and starts his usual routine – but SWAT arrives, as per the opener. Not!Dean attacks the SWATties and gets away, but is wounded, leading to a really grody shapeshifting scene, replete with groans and peeling skin and just a lot of ick.

The APB does get put out after all, and Dean’s the most wanted man in St.Louis. Sam points out they have no weapons, but they reason out where the Impala is…only to find the cops were sitting on it. Sam distracts the cops and is arrested, so Dean can get away and (inevitably) go into the sewer by himself. Searching, he finds Rebecca, badly hurt and tied up in the nest.

Cut away to Rebecca’s house, where clean and tidy Not!Rebecca is talking with Sam about his arrest. When his back is turned, she smashes a bottle across his head, and eye-flare, in case we didn’t know. Untying the trapped Rebecca, Dean helps her out of the sewer.

Back in Rebecca’s house, Not!Dean has Sam tied up, and says he’s going to kill him, as Dean, to make sure that Dean will always be hunted. Sam breaks out, and he and Not!Dean fight, fairly evenly, trashing Rebecca’s house. Just as Not!Dean gets the upper hand, Dean shows up, and silver-bullets the shifter into Purgatory for good.

Sam reports that the cops are convinced this “Dean Winchester” guy did the murder, and probably the others, and that the video had obviously been tampered with. Zach is released, and we get some more bad matte work on the driving broment.

Analysis:

Despite the matte work (ugh!), the makeup effects in this one are really strong – the shapeshifter extended transformation scene is disgusting and creepy,

I quite liked Rebecca in this episode – she’s decisive when she needs to be, quick to accept that Dean is not Not!Dean, and her delivery of the creepiness of Not!Dean hitting on her at such a terribly-chosen time was spot-on. Quite a small named cast in this one – Zach, Rebecca, Emily (Zach’s partner), and the boys are about it. If the middle couple got names, I didn’t hear them.

If the episode is missing anything, it’s a stronger sense of the violation it would be to have someone steal your very shape. At least for me, that ties into a strong reaction to body-horror, which makes the episode better; it’s a horror series, after all.

Conclusion:

Next up is a classic legend, Hook Man, and another early-season favourite for me.

(cue guitars and credits)

S1E6: Skin: 4 Pentacles

4 Pentacles from me again on this one: another solid early-show MotW episode, introducing another important piece of the show’s lore, about shapeshifters and their vulnerability to silver.

Trivia:

Running total of innocents killed by the Boys: Still being good boys, yet. 0.

Named women and/or POC (not already dead) who end up dead before the episode’s out: I count only two named women in this, Emily (the first victim), and Rebecca. So we’re at ½.

Marginalized (named) body survival rate: 50%. Yikes!

Objectification by Dean: Some, around Rebecca, but among his milder expressions of same.

Misogynist slurs: Actually, I don’t think there were any I caught.

Aliases used by the boys: None this time, as the vic was someone who knew Sam already.

Hint o’ maple: I didn’t catch a single trace of maple goodness on this one. Small cast meant they didn’t get much with accents, and a fair bit of tight shooting kept the background pretty clear of Canadiana.

Well, I’m back

My favourite line from Tolkien, Sam’s when he returns from the Havens and seeing Frodo off. Well, that and Eowyn’s “I am no man!”

And I am. Back, I mean (also, not a man). Ran into a buzzsaw of depression last winter, and more or less got hermitty. Not intentional, and not desired. I’ve got a couple of posts to make about Doctor Who (#MoffPleaseJustGoAway), and I’ve got a few more SPN eps queued up.

I’ll also shortly be starting another blog, specifically for game reviews (board games mostly, though I’ll also write about video gaming). I’m doing this because I don’t think Anita Sarkeesian and the other brave feminist game critics/reviewers out there should be alone. So I’m gonna take up my place on the Via Cyberia, and shout “I AM SPARTAKEESIAN!” I’ll post a link here when I get started there. Already got my first review written, 3 kwd on the newish Firefly board game (spoiler: I like it!).

Anyway, that’s all for today, just wanted to say hi, thanks for staying with me, and I’m looking forward to hearing from people when I get rolling.