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”.

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.


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.

Comics about depression

Saw this at buzzfeed after a friend sent me the link in e-mail. I don’t know why I’m always shocked when i see that other people experience depression in ways that are so, so familiar to me. I guess it’s the nature of the problem, that I tend to think I’m all alone in far more ways than I actually am. 

comics that capture the frustrations of depression

Also, à propos de rien (ha! as if), I’ll try and get responses to your comments on the S1E2 SPN episode from yesterday, but I’m having a bad brain day. Those happen. Did read ’em, did enjoy ’em, can’t find my spoons is all. 

State of the Cait, and a Tip About Self-Assessment of Disability

I’m definitely doing better with the depression. The pain’s been worse, but I’ve been fighting through to keep working when it comes in, and accomplishing more of the bureaucracy stuff I have to do in applying for disability.

The tip about assessment of disability is this: A really useful thing I did when going to my doctor for the forms was to bring along one of my partners, a woman who helps me out a great deal in terms of how I live; she does the laundry, for instance, and prefers to do most of the cooking (for her reasons, which I’ll respect her privacy on). So she has a great position from which to be able to assess the ways in which my life is deflected from its path by my disabilities.

I tend to minimize the impact of my disabilities on my life, for several reasons. I was raised to not complain, to not whinge about things that made me unhappy. I also have lived with them for so long, it’s very hard for me to imagine how my life would be different if I didn’t. How do I assess how much more I would go out and spend time with people, or how much more I might work, or how much farther I could walk without stopping, when those activities have all been circumscribed with pain for as long as I’ve been considered an adult? 

So when they ask me to explain how my disabilities are having an impact on my life, I’m at a loss, somewhat. Humans can normalize almost anything, we’ve seen this in all sorts of situations when people have done amazing or appalling things at the edges of human endurance. How far could I walk without a cane? If well-prepared with sufficient meds (more than my usual amount; I reserve 25% of my meds in a given month to allow me functionality on occasions which require the extra help to be accomplished), I could probably walk a kilometre; without the extra meds, I’d be lucky to make it 100m without my stick. I don’t take stairs unless there’s no option. I don’t have a car anymore, partly because I can’t afford it, and partly because I don’t feel safe driving with the huge load of meds I now have to take to be able to go out in the world*. 

I don’t see these as impairments, anymore, they’re just the limits of my life. 

Any road, that’s my tip of the day for how to get a more accurate picture of your own impairments: ask someone who knows you well, and doesn’t share your impairments, what they view as the ways in which your life is different from what might be expected.

* Before you ask, no, I never use my herbal remedy and drive (minimum two hours, prefer three, after last use before I’ll drive, and remember, I use it constantly, so my intoxication from it is pretty minimal – even so, three hours if I can get them). My physical crippledness comes from an encounter with an intoxicated driver. The last thing I ever want to do is put someone else in a casket, or in this same state, because I thought I was too important to pay attention to research showing how bad it is to drive intoxicated. 

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. 😀

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.

Tsunaide te

So here I am. I’ve got a friend working on a nifty little banner logo for me, because my trusty old laptop is buggered (power pin in the case came unwelded), taking my pro software with it.

The post title is the name of a song I particularly love, used in the anime of Fullmetal Alchemist; as may be apparent from the blog name, I particularly love this show. I’m using it because the main character, Edward, is a person living with a disability (he’s lost an arm and a leg, literally; he uses some advanced prosthetics to get by), with almost no family left alive, and I like the mental image of me as being the Fullmetal Feminist. I did give brief consideration to being the Fullmeta Feminist, but thought that might be a level of meta too far.

If there is such a thing.

So who is the Fullmetal Feminist? Well, I’ve been around the webs for a long time, mostly posting as CaitieCat, a nickname (my first one ever outside my family of origin) given to me by a former paramour, and used both at Shakesville and at FreethoughtBlogs, where I’ve done guest posts.

I’m 47 in a couple of weeks, and a translator of German/French/Russian to English, as well as an academic editor/proofreader, by vocation. I deal with chronic pain from a car accident when I was 21; my particular problem is degenerative disc disease, which has so far cost me two inches in height (with probably another four inches to go before I’m done shrinking), my ability to play my beloved football (soccer), and the daily need for a cane to walk with.

I’m also a serious depressive, and that, along with the chronic pain, is to be my “special focus”, if you will, of this blog. That doesn’t mean it’ll be all doomgloom and painbrain all the time; I enjoy a fair bit of geek culture, and intend to write about that as well, such as Supernatural (call it a guilty pleasure) and a whole bunch of anime that’s a little off the beaten path (Ghost Hound, House of Five Leaves, Mushi-shi), along with geek staples like BSG, Doctor Who, and so on in that manner. Expect things like a Supernatural rewatch from the feminist point-of-view (and with a ’67 Impala, you know it’s gonna be a bumpy ride), or news, or whatever else comes to mind, alongside the primary foci. The comments will likely be strictly moderated, because I’m not the least bit interested in dealing with jerks; they can go freeze their damn peaches wherever they like, just not here. Expect an explicit comment policy before too long. Comments in not-English may happen, if I can arrange that; posts in not-English may also happen. I’m comfortable in French, German, and Russian, and can get by in Spanish and Japanese reasonably well.

Enough, Cait. Let the nice people get on with their AROTE*.

* AROTE: Arbitrary Rotation of the Earth; an acknowledgement that we don’t all live in the same places, so I may well greet you with AROTE, rather than presume you have a day ahead of you when I do.

I’m a trained linguist, and will often talk about things languagey; this is my avocation as well as my profession. I didn’t do my MA or PhD because in 1992, when I graduated from my BA, I enrolled in an MA programme that I soon after dropped out of, so that I could play “Catatonia” in my bedroom, a solitaire game that I do not recommend. I drew the “Go to Hospital, do not pass Go, do not collect any wages at all” card after a few weeks of playing, and when I came out of the hospital, realized that the reason I was so down was that I needed to transition.

So old boy-name me, whom people thought was a man, went away, and new girl-name me showed up. I’ve been around ever since. I left academe because in 1992, I knew I didn’t have the mental strength to deal with transition and the horrific transphobia then extant in most places.

For one tiny example, the last place I’d worked before transition wouldn’t give me any reference, not even admitting that I worked there, because, in their words, “no-one by your name has ever worked here.” This didn’t fill me with hope about how I’d end up doing in academe, with opaque hiring practices and no protection for gender identity (at that time) in the Charter of Rights here in Canada.

In fact, in those days, I couldn’t change the marker on my ID until I’d had certain specific surgery; I lived for 12 years between transition and surgery with the daily fear that any interaction with police could end up with me in the “boy jail”, without any recourse. You want highly-law-abiding women? Make that threat to them, that they’ll be put in jail with the men if they do anything wrong.

I’ve not had so much as a speeding ticket since I transitioned.

The song…the song helps me feel a little less overwhelmed. In brief (it’s Tsunaida Te, by Lil’B, a Japanese rapper), it’s about not letting go of someone’s hand when they really need you.

Why am I overwhelmed? Because despite my chronic pain issues, i’ve been trying for 26 years now to live within the means I can raise. But as they’ve gotten worse, the time I can work each week has shrunk. I’m now down to about 25 hours a week, that being the maximum I can sustain working. I can do short bursts for longer, but I pay for them later.

Which has led me to the now. Today’s the 1st. That’s rent day. Everything I have in the world is $400, and my rent is more than twice that. I’ve applied to the local welfare programme, which could help with some small amount after I get enrolled in two weeks, but that’s not going to keep a roof over my head. I’m not in urgent danger of being thrown out, but I was late paying last month, and I doubt they’re feeling any more charitable this month.

I can’t afford to move. There’s just no way. I have a rent-controlled apartment $100 less than others of the same type in the same building, and it’s perfectly located for someone without a car and with mobility issues: my pharmacy is a mile away, as are three different grocery stores, my bank, and so on. Also, no way on earth could I raise first & last months’ rent, let alone pay for moving, or get Internet service (without which, I can’t work).

Because I’m just setting this up today, I don’t have a PayPal donate button set up, but if you find you’re in a spot where you could help, well, I could sure use it.

Honestly, if I can end up with even $800 in, I can get my laptop fixed and pay off my overdue charges for Internet, as well as make rent; might even have a few shekels left to make some flyers to drum up more business.

So that’s me, for a start. I’m also, as I mentioned when I’ve posted over at Miri’s Brute Reason blog: CaitieCat is a 47-year-old trans bi dyke, outrageously feminist, and is a translator/editor for academics by vocation. She also writes poetry, does standup comedy, acts and directs in community theatre, paints, games, used to play and referee soccer, now uses a cane daily, writes other stuff, was raised proudly atheist, is both English by birth and Canadian by naturalization, a former foxhole atheist, a mother of four, and a grandmother of four more (so far). Sort of a Renaissance woman (and shaped like a Reubens!).

Thanks for reading. And hey, if you’re able to drop a few bob, you’d be helping me keep the door with as low a wolf-content as possible. My e-mail address eharte66 is scattered in this sentence in bold type at-gmail, as I’ve not yet set up the blog dot-com to have profile and stuff.