You’ve been holding out on me, Internets

How in the frakking Nine Circles of D&D Hell can it be that not one of my friends ever told me about Adam WarRock?

I’m DISAPPOINTED! I came across a link to this amazing artist (he does geek-related hiphop, for those who didn’t open the tab or don’t already know), and after downloading half a dozen of his free EPs, spent yesterday listening to them on a loop. He’s got me painting again, and I haven’t picked up a brush in…oh, crap, it must be two or three years? I started sketching up some ideas for a couple of fan-art paintings I’ve been wanting to do, one of Alphonse Elric in his various ages protected by his big armour body, and another of Lan Fan at the end of the episode where she’s just taken down Gluttony in the dark, returning too soon with her brand-new automail. When I’m happy with the sketches, I may even post them, if anyone’s interested.

But, back to Adam Warrock. OMFIPU, dude has brought a happy into my life. I started being interested in hiphop/rap while playing GTA III San Andreas a few years back, but although I can appreciate them musically, the gangsta form doesn’t appeal to me lyrically. And I prefer my music without getting sticky kyriarchal fingers all over it (cf. homophobia, misogyny, transphobia, ableism, narrow and toxic definitions of masculinity, et c., et c.).

AND I’ve been thinking about finally writing some of the fan songs in my head and seeing if I can induce a couple of friends to do some recording with me, so this is also timely. Might be a few months, as my favourite fiddler is currently incubating a new fiddler, but it feels really good to be inspired towards artisticness again.

To bring it back around to a focus of this blog, in this case depression, one of the biggest symptoms for me of the disorder is the anhedonia, or “inability to feel pleasure”, particularly in the area of “things I used to always love doing”. Such as painting, poeming, writing, filking, all my creative loves. I’ve done very little of any of them in the last few years, as my depression has grown worse.

I think the recent dosage increase in my current AD meds is helping a lot; I also think that now I have a drug plan which can afford all my meds, I’m going to be asking my doctor for the rest of the meds I should be having which would make my life more livable. The sheer cost of them, and the overwhelmingness when depressed of dealing with the bureaucracy to get on the government health care drug plan for low-income people, has kept me from having about half the meds I should be taking.

So this is beginning to look like it will have been a very good month for me. I started a new blog (so I’m writing, huzzah!), I’m sketching, I’m poeming, and I’ve had three really good game design ideas in the last two weeks. One of them, a way to get more out of the Arkham Horror game, is good enough my game-design-partner and I are going to buff it up and polish it to present to Fantasy Flight and see if they’re interested in publishing it after we playtest it.

And I want to return briefly, before I finish and get on with some creating, to the top of the post, where I said how awesome (素晴らしい!!) Adam WarRock is. Seriously, go. Buy some of his music. Even people who don’t like hiphop, like him. And if you do, then yeah, 素晴らしい. 😀

“Brave” is too small a word

Too small to encompass the massive, almost unimaginable courage being shown by Chelsea Manning, sentenced to 35 years in Leavenworth, and responding to that outrageous sentence (please note that Lt. Calley, the leader of the unit that committed the My Lai atrocities in Vietnam, served only three days of a 3-year sentence for the dozens of murders) by publicly declaring her transition. 

I’ve had a nightmare thousands of times, off and on since I was about 7, about being myself and being put into a jail or prison for men. And that’s me-the-big-tough-varsity-athlete-with-military-unarmed-combat-training-who’s-fought-off-two-attacks-already. 

Being a small, slight woman like Chelsea? In a military fucking prison? I don’t have a word big enough to do justice to that kind of bravery. 

Just a note here: DO NOT use the name she doesn’t want to use anymore; DO NOT misgender her in my comment thread. I WILL instantly ban anyone who does, no exceptions, no do-overs, and the comment won’t see the light of pixels. DON’T push me on this.

A word I freaking HATE in its current usage

“Junk.”

loathe this usage. In fact, if it hadn’t been deprecated, I’d have put a “blink” tag on “loathe”, because red-bold-italic-underline doesn’t feel like enough to express my loathing.

Here’s the thing. I transitioned – was reborn, I like to think of it – in 1992. I went into a catatonic depression, was hospitalized for it, and after a few weeks came back as me, the me you “know”(1). When I did so, the only way to get one’s gender marker changed on driver’s licence, let alone anything important like a birth certificate, government health insurance card, or passport, was to have genital surgery. And you needed to come back with a signed affidavit from TWO MDs saying that they had found you to be physically $NEWGENDER. I won’t try and speak to how difficult that was for trans men, because I’m not one, but do take a moment and consider that standard; remember, too, that in order to get paid-for surgery on the government health insurance, you had to be in a Benjamin-standards program for transition, which at the time meant that you were flying the first year without even starting hormones, which was no picnic for any trans person who wanted paid-for surgery. 

Because the Benjamin standards, as applied in my jurisdiction, were so rigidly applied, the “Real Life Test” only counted if you did it in the panel-approved way: for trans women, that meant (no exaggerations here, I promise) ALWAYS wearing makeup and visibly feminine clothes; legally changing your name to something unambiguously feminine, even if your existing name was sufficiently androgynous and commonly used by any people gendered as men or women; being hetero (interested in men sexually); working full-time or studenting full-time or volunteering at least 25 hours a week, meaning my “raising my damn kids” didn’t count for shit; and working hard to “pass”, meaning “if you tell people you’re trans, that makes you ineligible for being considered trans”.

Place alongside those standards, me: 25, a former two-sport varsity athlete, “tomboy femme” in appearance(3), and my long-term goal, which upset my counsellor some, was this: “Some day, I want to wake up in the morning and realize I’ve got no milk for my tea. I want to grab the nearest two articles of clothing that fit the local ordinances, put on whatever pair of shoes is easiest and nearest the door, and go to the store, buy my milk, come back, and have my tea, without anyone I meet ever thinking anything more unusual about me than ‘oh, that woman’s not wearing a bra!’. I didn’t carry a purse, but a backpack; I still wanted to play soccer, only now with women and not men (later I played co-ed too), and it would be several more years before I self-defined as bisexual, let alone hetero. 

It took me twelve years after I transitioned before I was able to afford the surgery I wanted. Twelve years in which I lived every day with a driver’s licence and health card that said I was male; twelve years in which I feared, every single time I left my home, that this would be the day I met the mean cop, who’d put me in the boys’ jail until my lawyer showed up. If my lawyer showed up. Twelve years in which I didn’t dare do anything to interact with my governments any more than I absolutely had to, because every time I did so, i got treated like shit by clerks who saw my ID. 

Once, while trying to set up a bank account, I had the bank manager calling the police, because she said I was trying to commit fraud by not telling her that I “wasn’t a woman”, as indicated by my ID. 

Twelve years. In that time, the state of my genitals was everyone’s fucking business, and they treated it as the single most important fact about my existence. 

So pardon me if I have a tough time accepting a society dismissing the importance of genitalia as “junk”, given how very deeply I have felt the pain of society’s disapproval of my (presumed) genitalia for many years. 

Am I saying you shouldn’t use it? Well, around here, yes, if you’ve got any consideration/empathy. But elsewhere? We are all responsible for our own actions, you’ll have to make that decision on your own. 

But believe me when I say that after being societally defined by my genitals for twelve years, hearing that difference now described as “junk” is a cognitive dissonance and emotional minefield for me. Make of it what you will.

1) There are more and more trans* folk who are happy to keep using their old names, or to have anyone know their old names; for me, given how much I truly hated my old name even aside from its verygendered-ness – it rhymed with a lot of very bad things to be called, and i knew a lot of very creative bullies in my gifted program, as in “let’s go to the library and get foreign language dictionaries to find new names to abuse Hagafemu(2) with” creative. The point is, I don’t tell people my old name. Outside my family of origin, only five people in the city I live in know my old name, and three of them are ex-partners of mine. And honestly, I generally don’t want to know other trans* folks’ old names, either; I want to know who they are now, not who they used to be. Not every trans* person feels this way, though; Zinnia Jones, for example, is quite public about her transition, and I completely respect her choice to be so, as I’m quite sure she’d respect mine.

2) A short version of the Japanese name of my site, “haga” from “hagane”, and “femu” being a Japanese-phonetic way of shortening “feminisuto”; a case could be made for “femi” rather, but “femu” was the default/obvious, so that’s what I picked.

3) “Tomboy femme” is how one of my besties described me shortly after I transitioned. I lucked into finding a small group of women friends after transition who didn’t subscribe to the then-fairly-common separatist/radfem/trans-exclusionary feminism; one of them said that this was the best descriptor, as I kept my hair in a short curly bob, wore only what makeup I felt I needed to “pass”, and most often wore jeans and a t-shirt to going out. 

W00t, and such

I’ve just determined that this is the 967th*-most-popular feminist/atheist/anime/chronic pain/depression blog IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD, already in just two weeks!

I couldn’t have done it without every one of you. 😉

Okay, well, I could, but then no one would be reading it, so what would be the point? A most happy AROTE to you all; I hope your coming/current/just-finishing weekend was/is/will be pleasant.

* Rank is an estimate, derived using the well-known statistical technique of “transrectal instantiation”.

I done made me a logo!

That is all.

Okay, it’s not all. An update on my squeezedness: I went to the local welfare office yesterday, and had a very productive meeting. They give very little money, but the other benefits are enormously useful: a drug plan with very low co-pay (meaning instead of $400 if I were to purchase all my meds – $200 for the pain meds alone – I pay a few dollars), optometry (I haven’t had my eyes checked in ten years, at least), and necessary dentistry (I’m running low on teeth). They also have free counselling, and help with applying for disability, and a bunch of other little things that are making my life easier.

So, a very positive experience, and knowing the stress of wondering how I’ll pay the rent this month (which happens every month) will be gone is going to make my depression a lot easier to work with. Knock-on effects are good; they can provide the traction to get out of the viscous cycle.

鋼の女性 – The Women of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

(the title says “hagane no jousei”, pronounced ha-ga-nay no joe-say; means “women of steel/fullmetal”)

One of the things I completely adore about the show – and to be absolutely clear, I’m referring to the second anime series, called in English Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, rather than the first one – is the wide range of women characters playing important parts in the story. The first show was made while the manga* was still coming out, so its plot fairly quickly diverges from that of the second series, which is pretty much completely faithful to the manga.

The other big, big difference is that the second show (and the manga) has a wondrous range of different roles for the many women it depicts, from the emotionally frail but personally devoted wife of Great Leader** King Bradley (whose name is never given except as “Mrs. Bradley”), to the amazing and tough bodyguard Lan Fan, to the kind and thoughtful mechanic Winry. Not every depiction is what I would call perfectly feminist, but the wide range and type of people who happen to be women is definitely feminist-friendly.

I will try to mark anything plot-important before mentioning it, but be aware there are definitely spoilers ahead. Characters in (roughly) order of appearance.

Riza Hawkeye: 1st Lt Riza Hawkeye is the faithful adjutant of the supporting character Col. Roy Mustang; she’s tough, quick-thinking, highly skilled, a lethal shot with any firearm, and unafraid to stand up to Col. Mustang and call him a fool when he’s being one. Having served as a sniper in a major insurrection/civil war some years before, she’s seen hard combat, has killed a significant number of people, and has the mental scars to prove it. Very popular, I understand, with those who “ship” the pairing of her and Mustang, though being a shounen story, there’s no actual sexytimes in the show. Being a pretty good shot myself from my days in the military, I like and identify with her some, but she’s not my favourite woman in the show.

Gracia and Elicia Hughes: The wife and three-year-old daughter of Lt. Col Maes Hughes, a close friend and academy classmate of Col. Mustang. Hughes is comically devoted to his wife and child, hauling out pictures of them at any slight excuse, to brag to everyone about how wonderful they are and how lucky he is to have them. Gracia is as gracious as her name implies, a good mother and generous host to visitors, while Elicia is just TOO. CUTE. FOR. WORDS.

Rose: a minor character in the second show, she was part of what annoyed me about the first, in the way her character was used. In the second, she’s a woman who fell for a priest’s puffery and faking, believing his false promise that he’d bring back her boyfriend who’d died. When the priest is removed from his place as leader of the religion he started, she is initially left bereft of purpose, but finds a role as a community support and organizer when the people of her city decide to rebuild after the damage done to it in the riots after the revelations about the priest.

Trisha Elric: One of the ways in which the story does rely on a standard trope is that of the Woman in the Fridge: the two protagonists are brothers whose mother died in an epidemic, and who encounter disaster when they try to bring her back to life with alchemy. Trisha is never given a whole lot of development in the manga or second anime; her only real function in the story is as mother to the boys, and loyal-past-his-abandoning-her to their father. Like I said, not everything about the show is strictly feminist.

Lust: One of the few failings of the story is that there is only one woman who’s a proper villain; Lust is one of the seven sins, of course, and is also one of the seven homunculi who serve the main antagonist. She’s the only character in the show to ever have the infamous breast-jiggling that anime has in some parts become associated with (and for good reason, for a number of shows), and it only happens once, and is lampshaded when it does: Mustang is facing off with her along with one of his subordinates (2nd Lt. Jean Havoc), and after the jiggle is shown, Mustang comments that he can understand how Havoc was attracted to her, knowing Havoc’s love of large breasts. Lust is a capable villain, easily able to kill as ruthlessly as needed, and enjoys her ability to do so.

Winry Rockbell: Winry is the neighbour and close friend of the Elric brothers, and indeed is Edward’s “automail” (highly functional prostheses) mechanic, along with her grandmother Pinako (see below). Her parents are dead, killed in the same insurrection noted above under Riza Hawkeye, despite being doctors willing to treat people from either side; this provides inspiration for her to use her mechanic talents to help people who’ve lost limbs, as well as other actions that I won’t spoil. Winry is extremely talented as a mechanic (something highlighted better in the first anime, actually), and explicitly considers her position in the boys’ lives as “someone who is always waiting”, and whether that’s a role she wants to accept. When used as a hostage against the boys, she brightly comes up with a way to get her away from the hostage situation that doesn’t implicate them. She’s ingenious, curious, a complete “gearhead”, while still being what I like to call “tomboy femme”. Winry and Edward have a complex relationship, but I don’t want to say much more to not spoil anything major.

Pinako Rockbell: Winry’s grandmother Pinako, a tiny woman with a heavily-lined face and an always-smoking pipe, is also a capable surgeon and automail mechanic. She’s caustic, pragmatic, and funny, quite happy to be the Snarky Crone in the family, and explicit about her distaste for the military after they drafted her daughter and son-in-law to the medical corps (which led to their deaths). Pinako was also a heavy drinker in her youth and a chum of the boys’ father, kind of a party girl, which is fun to juxtapose with her generally granny-like role. I adore Pinako, if you can’t tell.

Sheska: Sheska’s a minor character, but one many women fans identify with, as she is a lifelong reader who is obsessive to the point of being nearly unemployable because of it. She also has an amazing talent, related to her obsession, which makes her quite useful to the boys and to Maes Hughes. Sheska is kind of awesome, as well as devoted and loyal, and shows an ability to work very hard (at a suitable job!) when needed.

Mrs. Bradley: A woman who loves the Great Leader, and who is so overshadowed by his immense presence that she never even gets a first name. She’s an older woman (as indeed her husband is 60), very much the devoted wife character, and honestly a bit of a cipher, outside of one fantastically brave moment mentioned in passing.

Maria Ross: 2nd Lt. Maria Ross is a soldier assigned to the Elrics as a bodyguard (along with the male Sgt Brosh). She’s compassionate and pragmatic, and also willing to fight when needed, and a pretty good shot with her service pistol. She recognizes the difficulties the boys have in trusting adults, since their father abandoned the family when they were very young, and their mother died when they were 11 and 10, and sets out to help them regain that ability to trust. MAJOR SPOILER AFTER THIS BIT: She ends up accused and falsely convicted of a murder, but escapes to another country with the aid of Col. Mustang, who knows she’s not guilty of it, then returns to save the day late in the story. SPOILERS END.

Nina Tucker: Nina is a young girl, about five, the daughter of a not-very-gifted but ethically bereft alchemist the boys encounter. Both boys are charmed by her, and spend time playing with her, before something very spoilery happens which I won’t spoil. Let’s just say it’s the only time the words “Let’s play” (“asobu”, in Japanese) have ever taken on a chilling feel for me.

Paninya: Paninya is an orphaned teenager living in Rush Valley, a town famous for its automail. Her parents were killed in a train accident that cost her both legs when she was an infant, which were replaced by a dour mechanic, including one leg having an extensible blade, and the other a 1.5″ cannon in it. She survives by pickpocketing tourists before Winry is able to talk her into taking a different turn in her life, using her agility and lack of fear in high places to a positive end.

Izumi Curtis: Definitely my favourite female character, Izumi is the boys’ martial arts and alchemy sensei. She describes herself as “just a frail housewife”, but this conceals an incredible level of ability in both fighting and alchemy. She’s married to Sig Curtis, a butcher built like a rhino who is nonetheless fairly gentle and not particularly interested in fighting (well, unless someone manages to harm Izumi – not easy – at which point he will reluctantly but effectively step up to help). Izumi is a fierce teacher, expecting only the very best from her two students, and developing their philosophy of dedication and commitment even as she develops their skills. When they first start with her, she teaches them the principles of alchemy (that all life exists through the destruction and creation of other life) by abandoning the two of them on an island for a month, with a knife and a rule about using no alchemy. The boys are partly terrified and partly just awed by her abilities; a hilarious scene shows them training at 12 and 11 years old, trying to attack her as she reads from a cookbook, offhandedly blocking their attempts without even looking. Izumi is MADE OF AWESOME, and is my very favourite character in the whole manga/anime/franchise. Her catchphrase, “SHUFU DA!” (I’M A HOUSEWIFE!), makes me laugh every time she uses it.

Martel: A former soldier turned into a chimera by blending her with a snake, Martel is one of a cadre of followers of a rogue homunculus (one of the seven antagonists), loyal and strong. She has a much bigger role in the first anime, but in general continues the willingness of the Amestrisian military to employ women who want to in combat alongside the other soldiers. By far the women are outnumbered by men in the military, but they do exist in all the roles people fill in armed service: administration, doctors, bodyguards, officers, NCOs, infantry, communications, whatever.

Lan Fan: A martial arts specialist from the neighbouring (China-analogue) Xing, Lan Fan is the dedicated bodyguard (with her grandfather Fu) of Yao Lin, a prince with ambitions to become Emperor of Xing. Lan Fan is BAD. ASS. When it’s called for (small spoiler), she amputates her own arm to save the life of the prince, then rushes far too quickly through rehab with her new automail arm to get back to her duties (end spoiler). She’s an amazing fighter, teaming with Fu to make an impressive team watching the prince’s back. Another of my favourites, and it’s nice to see that the loyalty she feels to her liege lord Lin is returned; he risks his life to save her at one point.

Mei Chang and Mei Xiao: Another Xingese character, Mei Chang is a thirteen-year-old princess of the Mei clan (as Yao Lin is a prince of the Yao clan), with her dwarf bearcat Xiao, a panda-like companion she travels with. Despite her youth, Mei Chang is a very skilled alkahestrist (a Xingese variant of alchemy used mostly for medical needs) and highly acrobatic martial artist. She’s very much a 13-year-old bundle of emotions and crushes, but is as dedicated to achieving the empire’s rule for her clan as Yao Lin and Lan Fan are for theirs.

Madame Christmas: Madame Christmas is just as advertised, a madam for a – not really a brothel, but a companion-bar, if you know the Japanese concept I mean (whose name I forget), where the (sex?) workers work as “hostesses” entertaining men who visit to drink and talk to/look at pretty women. Since the show is shounen***, it’s hard to say whether they’re meant to be sex workers or not. Madame Christmas turns out to be related to one of the major characters, and part of the reason I like her is that she’s visibly old and fat; her face is square, with a fairly heavy jaw, and she’s notably heavy in build, constantly smoking cigarettes with a holder and speaking in a gravelly rumbly husk of a voice.

Olivier Mila Armstrong: Major-General Armstrong is the sister of a major character, and shows up in the second season of the show. She’s known for being something of a martinet, imposing strict discipline and obedience on the men and women who serve under her, but showing them also an immense loyalty and confidence in their abilities and training. She’s utterly ruthless with her officer’s sword, willing to use violence as necessary to achieve her aims, and eschews anything remotely associated with femininity, throwing flowers onto a fire, for instance. She’s also highly ambitious. Given the snowbound nature of the fort she commands, she’s known as the Ice Queen, and it suits her.

So there you go. The women of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, a diverse and interesting collection of characters, who fulfill a wide range of roles in the story. One of the major things I like about the show is the importance given to roles occupied by women characters, as well as the incredible variety of people that they are.

* Manga: Japanese word for “comics”, in the superhero-type sense. Has come to be used specifically to refer to Japanese comics, rather than US comics imported to Japan. Relatedly, the artist responsible for the manga is known as a mangaka.

** Since the show is set in a fictional Industrial Revolution-era Europe, and a not-very-veiled version of Germany between the wars, “Great Leader” is often rendered in English as “Fuehrer”. Despite this, the language of the Amestrisians (the country where the story is set) is English; documents, newspapers, and messages between characters and such are clearly produced in English, like “(this character) is a Homunculus” passed as code within a scene.

*** Shounen means “male youth”, more or less, and is a genre of manga aimed at young teen boys primarily; the genre tends to be pretty much sexless in any explicit sense.

 

Shit just got serious, yo.

I mentioned in my first post here that things were becoming pretty tight.

“Tight” just got to “suffocating”. Had a bad night for sleep last night (with all that implies), and when I finally got hungry enough to lever myself to a vertical position and head to the kitchen, noticed a piece of paper under my door.

Well, that piece of paper – three, actually – bears the words “Notice of Termination”, namely, my lease, if I don’t get the rent caught up by the 20th. It looks nice right beside the e-mail from my ISP saying much the same thing about my access to the net. And sitting on top of my not-working laptop (I’m still using a loaner, having failed to get the resources to fix it, but the loaner won’t be available forever). Without laptop and net, I’ve got no access to my workspace or clients.

So, I made the long trek over Mount Embarrassment to the Post Office here in Beggars’ Hollow, to make the clichéd plea for help.

As in, “Help, and how I need some.”

I’m about CAD700 from caught up on the two things. Another CAD100 or so from making my laptop work.

When the risk was just “my landlord is annoyed at me”, I could manage it. But when the risk is, “winter is coming and shelter is going”, I cannot manage it.

So here I present a new and temporary feature at Fullmetal Feminist, being the Donation button. I wouldn’t be asking if I had any other options. My family of origin sent me on my way twenty years ago, when I transitioned (“don’t call us, we’ll call you”; they didn’t). My family of choice are out of resources to spare. I have no credit.

EDIT: Great. I can’t figure out how to get the button to work. Perfect day. If you’re able to help, please e-mail PayPal or questions to the gmail of “eharte66”, which is my addy, and i’ll try and figure out why the @(*#ing button doesn’t work.

I’ve applied for “Ontario Works”, the ghastly euphemism for welfare hereabouts, as part of the path to claiming for disability. Yes, 26 years after my accident, I’m finally going to admit I’m disabled enough to ask for help from my fellow citizens. Not an easy thing; my cultural stiff upper lip has stopped speaking to me, because it’s embarrassed too. But ODSP takes six months at the best of times, and as these things go with governments, usually requires an appeal to get it to happen. By that time, I’ll be running an eye over local bridge abutments for my housing needs.

So there it is. I hope you can help, so we can make the button go away. Please? I simply have no other options.

Crankeh!

And yes, I’m cranky, so I’m going to leave the post title encheeseburgered. 😛

Why cranky? Well, turns out today’s a good day for discussion of the interaction between insomnia and pain tolerance. If there were a hell, this would be it.

So, for me anyway, it works like this: iff* I get the six hours’ or so that I need in a night, then my pain tolerance will be at its maximum in the morning. I take my meds, wait the two hours for full effect, and then off I go with my day.

But, and it’s a big but (and yet I still enjoy the way I look in minis, so 😛 ), there’s what I like to call a “viscous circle” here, because the more turns one takes on the Viscosity-go-Round, the higher becomes the initial energy needed to make me into a moving object again. I avoid ‘vicious’ circle, because there’s no malice in this. It’s just a function of various physiological responses to pain.

It’s hard to sleep when I’m in bad pain. Like, for me an eight or more. Most people would probably rank it somewhat higher on a ten-point scale, but as Ania mentioned in the FTBCon panel, chronic pain people use a different scale, because we’re used to operating with higher levels of it**. And what might be a ten for you, for me is Tuesday, and it’s maybe a six or seven. So when we go to hospitals? We inflate those numbers a touch, because people judge by what they themselves consider the ten-point scale to mean, and if i say it’s a six, they’re reaching for the aspirin rather than the demerol.

So, an eight or better, and I’m struggling to sleep.

Problem 1: the opiates dull my sensitivity to most sleep aids. That is, I can usually take enough tranqs to get a stegosaurus feeling like a trippy rave kid without falling asleep, if I’m in bad pain. Recently I found one that does have some effect, which is deliriously delightfully de-lovely. Until this, though, we had neologism the first: painsomnia. Painsomnia is when the pain is so bad, you can’t sleep.

Problem 2: If I may mix my sporting metaphors*** here, the painsomnia is the crossed ball from the wing, and the insomnialgia is the slam dunk. The insomnialgia is “the amount of pain tolerance depleted by sleep deficit”.

It works like this. I have a hard day, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s the weather (between 2 to 13°C and rainy/damp), maybe I had a long commute back from Toronto on a bus or train, or a long drive back from anywhere, or I played soccer, or any of a hundred other ways I can end up with too high a proportion of vertical in my day. Too much vertical means increased pain.

If I can’t get the pain under control before lying down, it’s very hard to get to sleep. No position is comfortable for very long, pain sweat makes my pillow all warm and icky****, and when the pain is bad it’s hard to still my mind towards sleep, hard to focus.

Remember that every hour I don’t sleep, I’m also lowering my pain tolerance for the next day. If, as last night, I can’t get to sleep until 3:30, and wake repeatedly before my next set of meds kick in, I maybe get two hours, maybe three.

So when I get up the next day (for some value of “up”), I’m already in a deficit. I’m short of sleep because of the pain, and I’m unable to take the pain as well because I’m short of sleep.

If I can’t intervene and break this cycle, it can get so bad…well, I don’t really know how to describe it, I’m sorry. One of the ways I can intervene is to take a day of horizontal. Necessarily, this means that if I’m working outside the home, that day is a write-off. If I’m working for myself, and I can get the pain low enough while lying down, I can dictate notes for me to work on later about the thing I’m working on (translation, or thesis, or whatever). Often, even at home, it ends up being a writeoff anyway.

Where it becomes a bigger problem is when one day won’t do it. Or when people don’t understand (usually bosses and/or clients) that yes, I was able to work eleven hours yesterday on your project, but because I did that, I will now need at least two or three days to recover, most of which will be spent horizontal in some manner as seems appropriate.

Speaking of which, it’s time to get more horizontal in my presentation to the world. I believe I shall use my bed for this. See you after my (hoped-for) nap.

* Iff

** I won’t rehash that here, but if you want me to talk about it, drop a note on any post and I’ll put it on my list.

*** And I’m going to, so it’s not like complaining is going to help.

**** Pro tip for others who have this problem. Use two pillows. Between the pillows, at about the spot your head would rest if you flipped the top pillow toward you, put the most solid, long-lasting ice pack you have, wrapped in something fairly water-absorbent if possible. Continually flip the pillow toward you as you try and get the pain down to a level where you won’t be dripping and sweaty for no fun reason. I use an icepack used for shipping refrigerated medical supplies, because it easily stays at leas half-frozen for several hours when held between two nice insulating pillows.