Therapy

I have long struggled with my mental health. Though I have gotten better once I was able to get a better job, depression unfortunately doesn’t always just go away. Even though it’s not as severe as it once was, even though there are longer stretches of good periods and shorter stretches of bad ones, it is still with me, and it is still something that I struggle with.

I have tried several times to go to therapy before. I went when it was free at my college, until I was told I would need to find a new therapist since the student who had been assigned to me was moving forward with her program. I tried group therapy as well, which I didn’t really fit with me that much.

Other times in my adult life, I would try but would find the task of googling and working with the insurance company just way too daunting. So, I did what I could on my own.

But recently I realized that I had come as far as I could by myself. I was able to identify that I have trouble creating and maintaining interpersonal relationship, and I was able to identify that I experience a lot of suspicion of people’s intentions and motivations.

When I went to my therapy appointment today, I discussed that this is my primary goal. After living for nearly two years in Utah, I still have no friends or a support system here. I want to change that, but I do not know how, and I am hoping that therapy will help.

It was very strange experience because the therapist considered the reasons that I have these and other difficulties is because of trauma. I am constantly second guessing myself because I feel that I should be fine. I always wonder if I am faking it. Like, even on the way I was like, I feel fine this weekend (even though last weekend I was literally incapable of doing anything and was lying on bed trying to watch Gravity Falls because I was unable to do anything else because of how poorly I was feeling), everything is fake and I am just lazy, ungrateful, selfish, etc.

But these things aren’t true. In a way, after speaking with my therapist, I’m glad that I went on a “good” week because it allowed me to think clearly, and I was able to clearly identify my goals.

My therapist warned me that I wouldn’t be able to change tomorrow, and that it would be hard work, but the good news is that I think I’m in a place where I’m ready for that kind of work, when before I wasn’t.

We’ll see what happens next.

Adventures in Editing

I’ve decided to edit the NanoWriMo I wrote in 2014 with the intention of putting it up on on my KDP store.

Here are the snippets in the several pages I read through today that a) made me realize I have improved as a writer in the last two years (good news!) and b) made me smile:

One Direction’s Steal My Girl blasted from the stereos wired outside of the facility and this must have been what? The fifth time she’d heard it at least since last night.

Steal My Girl, really?? This deserves two question marks because I’ve not been a huge One Direction fan. I say this as my Pandora station is actually based on One Direction. I might be slightly understating my affection for One Direction. That said, Steal My Girl is catchy, but it’s also not the song that comes to mind when I’m thinking about One D. I can only conclude that this particular song was on Pandora when I was writing this section.

Mina glanced down at her wrist, at the Mickey Mouse watch someone had brought from Disney World before she was born (because it had been her mother’s), the one with his faded yellow gloves, leather so old and worn the black cracked into grey wrinkles.

I legitimately forgot that I did this. To be completely honest, I’ve forgotten about 95% of this story. But reading this was like a billboard reading Petty Much as I drive by because this watch exists. This was a watch that my aunt used to wear all the time–I don’t know if she still wears it. My aunt is extremely homophobic, and we are no longer on good terms because she spewed some truly ugly homophobic bullshit to me some years back. I don’t remember if I wrote this before or after this specific instance but I also wasn’t surprised it came from her so my way of getting back at her is putting one of her signature possessions on my gay character.

Mina licked her chapped lips as her gaze fell on the soda machines, already hooked up and put together. She slid her hand in her pocket and pulled out her tube of lip balm, slathered her lips with cheap chapstick like she was your ch-ch-cherry bomb.

I guess the reference isn’t bad in and of itself, but it is crafted not very well. Also, for someone who does not listen to a lot of music outside of the top forties, I am referencing a lot of music. This one is from the Runaways.

It was Ruby the mortician, Ruby who was almost named after Wednesday Addams but came a day too early. So Ruby Tuesday just like the song.

Honestly.

Mina held t-rex bait still”

You know those articles that get circled around on occasion listing “terrible” metaphors written by poor kids who are just trying to pass the same class? This should be on one of those lists. An attempt was made. I haven’t decided if I am going to keep this or not.

Someone had done her nails a pink so pail a ghost would blush

My heart is in the right place, but a) haha typo and b) why would a ghost blush at pale pink nails? I know this metaphor will work with a bit of tweaking, and I will make it work because I really like this sentence.

“I want him gone. I want him fired. I want him back in the cold, hard ground.”

“This isn’t a goddamn Taylor Swift song,” the manager said. “I’m tired of this. I’m tired of you whining about your hours. I’m tired of dealing with this shit.”

I had not listened to a lot of Taylor Swift when I wrote this (thumbs down on Pandora) nor had I listened to this song but I was aware of it and so I went with it but. It feels really forced.

I’m sure there’ll be more but these were in the segment that I read today

Thinking About An MFA

When I first graduated college after a senior year from hell, I immediately wanted to get my masters. I think part of this was because I was afraid.

To provide some context, I had, at that time in my life, always been dependent on someone. I first lived with my parents, then I left them for my boyfriend (later husband) who begged me not to work because he wanted to provide for me. I proposed that I would go to school and become a teacher so that I could support him when he went to school, a plan to which he agreed.

Later, I found out that my husband had cheated on me when I was visiting California for my brother’s graduation and on top of that had burned through all the money in our bank account (which he then proceeded to blame on me), then attempted to steal my scholarship money after I told him he couldn’t borrow any when he asked. Furthermore, he was leaving me home alone for days at a time while he disappeared god knows where with our only car.

During this trying time, I was going to summer school, which was a three mile bike ride in over one hundred degree heat because my husband insisted on taking the car to his work which was two blocks away from where we were living. During one of these bike rides, my back wheel was clipped by a car who was turning left. It flipped my bike. I think I blacked out for a few seconds because I don’t remember the fall, only waking up flat on my back, scared and panicked.Thankfully, I didn’t have books in my backpack but rather a change of clothes because I wasn’t going to class–I was going to group therapy. I climbed to my feet, left my bike behind in the road, and started screaming at the lady who had hit me. She was getting out of her car, and was apologizing profusely. In retrospect, she seemed just as scared as I was, and also looking back, I know now that I was having a panic attack (I got them regularly in those days)–which doesn’t excuse my behavior, and I wish I had reacted differently in that situation. About thirty seconds after I started screaming at her, I realized my bike was still on the road so I went and got it and biked to group even though I should have gone back home because I was in no condition to be driving anything.

Later when I got home, my husband pretended to be concerned as he was touching my face so gently, so tenderly, like he actually cared, and then he told me I should have sued her for money–and oh the anger, the resentment when I heard those words because we had already agreed to divorce after I confronted him about what an asshole he was being and how I knew he was cheating on me.

So that senior year I took out the scholarship largest loan I was allowed because I had no money and no source of income–I lived on less than 20k for that year. I had no method of transportation because we didn’t have buses and the car was in my husband’s name because he bought it without me, even though he used my money as part of the down payment. I comforted myself with the knowledge I wouldn’t be able to make the payments on it anyway and that I didn’t care he still had the car (news flash: I still care lmao). While I was in summer school, my husband had found me a very tiny studio apartment closer to the school so at least that helped.

That senior year was easily the most difficult year of my whole life, and I honestly don’t know how I survived it. I did have help because our neighbors, the boyfriend of whom used to be my husband’s best friend, invited me over until I moved away, and even then, she still let me use her washer and dryer even though she lived out of town on a farm, and on the way back, we did my grocery shopping for the week. I helped her with her school work too. They were on my side when it came down to what had happened with me and my husband, but it got awkward when her boyfriend was more interested in me as a girlfriend–which I was not interested in, at all, and I think she knew that so it didn’t cause tension like it could have.

But even so, I was so depressed. I couldn’t find a job not even at the college. I wasn’t able to clean my apartment because I was just focused on graduating, which I did, eventually, with a 4.0 gpa. I don’t think that people at school knew how poorly I was doing because if you just looked at my academic performance, I was excelling and everything looked fine.

I have always excelled in school, but not so well in real life. So when I graduated and found myself moving back in with my mom (which turned into another disaster that did nothing for my mental health) and then again with my dad, I found myself failing–again. I was having another hard time finding a job, and I was so reliant on my dad for everything and I was so afraid all the time.

So I thought–I need to get my master’s because I am good at school, I can succeed at school. I asked my favorite professors for help, and they helped me. But–I wasn’t able to write the statement of purpose. I had no idea what I wanted to do other than I wanted out of my current situation. My brain was in constant flight mode and I couldn’t think beyond that. Even the notion of taking the GRE overwhelmed me because, even though I’m good at school, I am lousy at standardized tests, even the written section.

Eventually, I became so stressed and depressed and afraid that I was unable to keep working on it. Communication became extremely distant between me and my professors until it stopped entirely.

Going to grad school became an alternate reality that could have been my reality if I had been able to get it together. Instead, I was a cashier/usher at an AMC theatre, and I had a Big Anxiety problem. I would feel nothing for a long time, and then I would feel an intense rush of negative emotions that could be triggered by anything. I would hit myself across the head. I would have anxiety attacks. I was Not Well.

But then I found a better job. I had financial assistance from my dad and uncle and moved back to SoCal. My car broke down six weeks later and I found myself biking over ten miles in 100 degree heat again, but at least this time I had a job. This time I had my own apartment. This time, I wasn’t so completely separated from my family. I had help. I wasn’t doing this alone any more.

But I didn’t see that at the time. Everything felt so hard. Even though I wasn’t alone, I felt alone. I still had anxiety attacks. I was afraid that I would get fired and I was afraid, constantly. I was still hurting myself. I was drinking copiously every weekend and one day in a moment of clarity, I realized that this could not continue. Even now, I try to keep my drinking very limited.

Eventually I moved back in with my brother when my Grandma gave me her car, which allowed me to commute to work. Moving in with my brother helped me so much because I was no longer living alone, and I was no longer living pay check to pay check. Even though he charged rent, it was not as much at the complex I was living, and I didn’t have to pay for utilities. Moving in with my brother allowed me to become friends with his girlfriend (now his wife!) when she worked out in the garage. Moving in with my brother allowed me to reconnect to him after a long time of just…not talking to each other.

And, for the first time, in a long time, I was financially dependent. To this day, I know that the only reason I am where I am is because of the help I received from my dad and my uncle and my grandma and my brother. I think I paid my brother back for when he helped me buy my mike, but to be honest most of what happened during this time is blurred and far away. Still, I doubt I will ever be able to pay back those who have helped me, and that is something I still struggle with.

Other things were changing too. For one thing, I was excelling at my job, something I didn’t think was possible. My bosses liked me, and eventually when they wanted to set up an office in Utah, I was the one chosen to go. A year later, the political dynamics at work turned into a mind game fuck all that I eventually quit when I found a better job with lower pay that would still pay my bills.

Since I took that job, my stress levels have gone down. I have paid off my student debt. I’ve started writing and reading again. I’ve slowly come to the realization that I am not afraid any more. The last time I had a panic attack was nearly a year ago, and the one before that I don’t remember. I still get depressed, I’m still having trouble making connections with people outside of work, but I feel, in my heart and in my bones, that I am getting better.

Which is why I think I’m finally ready for grad school–because now I want to go to build something, not run away from something.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to ask my professors for anything besides a letter of recommendation after flaking out on them so badly before–but we’ll see what will happen there. It’ll be awkward, considering it’s been six years since I’ve spoken to them, but I will still try.

I would prefer to go to a school in Utah because I like it here, and I want to stay here, but I won’t be paying to go to school. I’m not going in debt for school again. If I can’t find a program that will waive my tuition fees or give me a fellowship, then I won’t go, but I think I’ll be able to as I do plan on applying to at least three schools in addition to Utah.

I don’t plan on going this year or even next year. I’ll take the GRE in 2017, and start applying in late 2017, but I don’t see myself going until 2018 at the earliest, 2019 at the latest. And in the interim while I am preparing for the GRE, I intend to start reading more rigorously. I intend to keep writing flash pieces and short fiction and submitting them for publication. I intend to keep self publishing–which is something that has sort of fizzled, but I do want to get back on that ball again.

But I also want to get my MFA, and even if it doesn’t work out, it’s not my only hope for the future.

 

It’s A Wedding

Last week, my brother was married.

It was a Persian ceremony, and I had been asked to be the candle-bearer, a position that I accepted (I was also asked to take part in the Persian knife dance occurring after the wedding, which I also accepted). The ceremony was in both Farsi and English, and there was dinner and dancing afterwards.

I was honored to be asked to take part in their special day, and I am so glad that I was able to go to California in order to see them and the rest of my family.

Coincidentally, the wedding was also within a week of our tenth high school graduation anniversary, and about half of our graduating class was also there (considering we only had a graduating class of about nine, that is not saying too terribly much). It was a very nice reunion.

I don’t usually cry at happy events, but I did cry at this one while waiting for the dinner to be served. My dad, in an attempt to forestall his own tears, was concerned about my makeup, and I assured him that I was wearing waterproof primer. I have long loved my sister-in-law and have considered her to be part of the family for some time now. I also love my brother, and it is a common known fact that they both bring out the best in each other.

I know that my brother has changed for the best since he met his wife, and I am sure she has changed as well (though I did not know her prior to her being with my brother).

I hope that they will be happy together for a long time, and I hope that it will not be too long before we see each other again.

Writing Update

With just barely a week to go before Strange Horizons’ deadline, I finally finished the first (haha) draft of the story I want to submit to them.

It’s been edited once since then, but it still needs a title, I’m still not happy with the name of one of the protagonists, and it needs further revision.

But it’s finished, and that means that even if I don’t get it to where it wants or needs to be, I can submit it to Strange Horizons and that’s really the only thing that matters.

Now, I still need to write the horror story, and there’s another anthology I’d like to submit to called UFO (Unidentified Funny Objects — deadline also April 30).

I’ve not written a lot of humor (actually more like zero humor) so I think it might be an interesting exercise.

I feel like I’ve been writing a lot lately, which is nice.

Reading Corner: Star Wars A New Dawn

I was able to finish reading Star Wars: A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller. It was entertaining, and like most Star Wars novels, I was able to finish it quickly, but I also thought it was missing the heart that appears so clearly in Star Wars The Clone Wars (television series) and Star Wars Rebels.

“A New Dawn” introduces Kanan and Hera who are two of the mains in Star Wars Rebels. We meet them both in a different part of their life, when Kanan has less purpose and Hera is not quite as tempered as she appears in Rebels.

It’s always hard to do that, to go back, when the audience is probably more familiar with these established characters that they already know and love.

I think it would be easier to do that if Miller hadn’t decided to ostracize certain members of the audience immediately off the bat.

Star Wars has always had an issue with ableism, and A New Dawn does nothing to contradict that, or to undo it. Obi-Wan speaks of Darth Vader that he is more machine now than man in a manner that suggests that this has something to do with his evil doings. The same sort of context is used repeatedly in describing Count Vidian, the primary villain in the novel. He is a man who murders indiscriminately, who would destroy entire moons to establish himself and his authority, and who would not hesitate to commit genocide. He is described as a “human droid” and the author took great care to detail how unnatural he appeared with his synthetic skin and his cyborg parts.

Another character named Skelly was a war veteran who had lost an arm. His prosthetic was made for a species not his own, and it doesn’t function correctly because the hospital was not well equipped. I feel like this would have been a very good way to discuss when people do not have the resources to access proper medical care–whereas Vidian had vast resources at his disposal–but that never happened. The focus was always on the presence of the prosthetics and did not open a discussion about access to health care.

Even Skelly is contextualized as crazy. Throughout the novel, he attempts to make his point by bombing the mining facility and the town, and even though he shows regret, and even though no one dies from it, it left a sour taste in my mouth, especially since he dies at the end.

There really is no reason for this, and it lacks a nuance that emphasizes able bodied people as the good guys and the ones who survive.

The other ostracizing moment for me was the depiction of Kanan as aggressively straight. The captain of the star destroyer who brings Count Vidian to Gorse is a woman of color, whom he immediately flirts with over the radio. Kanan immediately flirts with Hera. Hera’s physical appearance is perpetually emphasized through the eyes of multiple male characters–which I thought was especially unfortunate considering how frequently the Twi’lek women have been sexualized throughout all of the Star Wars franchises. It felt to me that the author was assuming a heterosexual man would be reading this, not a woman, certainly not a nb lesbian such as myself.

It also affected the way that Hera herself was written. She had several view points throughout the novel, but I felt that she lacked depth and complexity compared to Kanan’s.

In the forward, Dave Filoni wrote the following:

So how do we move forward? And how do we make sure we get it right? Very simply, we trust in the Force, and we trust one another. We came together as a group and found the best talent: people who, like you and me, love Star Wars and want to make it great. Who want to capture the feeling that it gave all of us, that inspired all of us. More than at any other time in its existence, new Star Wars stories are being told every day. More important, the old concept of what is canon and what isn’t is gone, and from this point forward our stories and characters all exist in the same universe.
I really hope he means that. I don’t want the same story being told by the same person over and over.

Listening Booth: Alice Isn’t Dead

The first episode of Alice Isn’t Dead, produced by the same folks who brought us Welcome to Night Vale, was released earlier this week, and I loved it.

I think I preferred it to Welcome to Night Vale–but no, I’m being unfair, because I cannot listen to Welcome to Night Vale without being lulled to sleep (not because the content matter is dull but rather because Cecil Palmer’s voice strikes that sleepy-time cadence in my brain, which combined with my difficulties in processing the spoken word without something to assist in focusing my attention, makes it difficult for me to listen to Night Vale). That said, I adore Jasika Nicole’s performance as the narrator–I love the way she speaks and sighs and laughs and how her voice goes soft and sometimes playful.

I also love how she is driving cross country in her truck. It reminds me of this post from tumblr which talks about how the road trip narrative lends itself so well to this sort of genre fiction.

However, even though I had an easier time listening to Alice Isn’t Dead, I decided that I wanted to write a transcript of it, not just for my benefit but for others as well. You can find the transcript here: [link]

I’m not sure why I decided to write my own transcript instead of finding a transcript, of which I’m sure several exist. After all, I am currently slowly catching up on Welcome to Night Vale by reading transcripts of the podcasts.

Actually, that’s a lie. I did it for several reasons. I thought it would be good practice in thinking a different way since I am trying to make the things I enjoy more accessible in general. It’s something that has been on my various social media feeds for quite some time and so I figured that I should attempt making my own platforms more accessible. I knew that I didn’t have the energy or time to describe every image that I reblogged, but I knew that I, at least, could be responsible for making the content that I produced more accessible, especially if I wanted to talk about Alice Isn’t Dead, which I do want to talk about it because I liked it a lot.

So I decided to write a transcript, and it gave me time to process it in a way that I hadn’t been able to before. Which doesn’t surprise me — I survived college not by writing notes in the way that I was “supposed” to but by drafting transcripts of the class. It helps me to write down the things I hear because I will not remember them, sometimes it feels like I don’t even truly understand it until I see it down on the paper.

 

So, when I began to transcribe, I realized that the way the narrator described the man with the yellow fingernails, the man with the word “thistle” written on his shirt, reminded me of how Carol Oates wrote Arnold Friend in Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been.

Except, I rather did enjoy Alice Isn’t Dead more than that short story which I think is required reading in both high school and college? I’m not sure.

I just know that there was a similarity even though the young girl in the short story doesn’t go anywhere and the narrator in the podcast drives and drives under a night sky, afraid that the man she saw is behind her, and is catching up.

The podcast structure is the narrator speaking to Alice through the truck radio. Music underlays most of the one-sided conversation that the narrator engages with Alice. Sometimes, there is nothing but silence as the narrator speaks, such as when she states that sometimes she hates Alice, more than any of them, and when she assures Alice that of course she cried after what she witnessed in the parking lot, and when she wonders if Alice left because of her.

Who is them? The narrator doesn’t elaborate but I am sure that the man with the yellow fingernails is one of them.

The structure is punctuated by radio clicks that occur when the narrator presses the button to speak into the radio. The narratives become disjointed as the narrator admits that she is avoiding tell Alice what she saw the man with the yellow fingernails do, and this avoidance turns into musings about the night sky, about why Alice left, and other things that allows the story to juxtapose mundanity and the supernatural, and to have those roles flip with subtle shift of voice and word.

The story has established such subtle relationships: the narrator with what she saw in the parking lot, the narrator with the landscape (at one point, she laughs about a strange little sign she saw but then she goes long about the night sky), the narrator with Alice.

I think though that what I liked most about the narrator is how tired she seemed, and how sad. How she had to assure Alice that of course she cried, of course she did, as if she was afraid that Alice, for whatever reason, would think she would have been unaffected, that she wouldn’t have cried, along with her quiet anxiety that Alice left because of her.

I hope they find each other. I hope they will be okay.

Reading Corner: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

I’ve been struggling with reading, primarily because real life demands in my life take a lot of energy from me, and I have a difficult time finding time to read when I do so. I am trying to make reading more of a priority to me and, since I’m currently still on a Star Wars kick from The Force Awaken’s release back in December, I thought I would start with a Star Wars novel. I also decided to start with Star Wars because I would love, love, love to one day be invited to write one (but that is dependent on me actually, I don’t know, writing, finishing things, etc).

I started with Lost Stars by Claudia Gray.

Read More »

On the To-Do List

I’m looking forward to getting back in the swing of writing again, so I thought I would drop a note here so I wouldn’t a) forget and b) because I’m terrible at deadlines

I’m currently drafting a story for  Strange Horizon’s Our Queer Planet. Up to 10k fiction entries with the deadline on April 10.

I have a story percolating for Let Us In, an anthology featuring horror fiction. 4k words (soft). Deadline is April 30.

Happy writing all.