Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Post post-Christmas.

I'm about to leave my brother's house. It's been a restful Christmas. I've not left the house for 3 days, and watched a lot of movies with my family. I cooked a lot, I'm pooped. I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed and taking a proper shower (my brother has country water).

Just checked my e-mail.

Read Rob Brezny's forecast for my 2017.
Nothing can hold you back -- not your childhood, not the history of a lifetime, not even the very last moment before now. In a moment you can abandon your past. And once abandoned, you can redefine it. If the past was a ring of futility, let it become a wheel of yearning that drives you forward. If the past was a brick wall, let it become a dam to unleash your power.
I hope you got to rest this holiday, I'll be heading home today, I have a lot of projects I'd like to work on, and I'm expecting deliveries and need to re-open my Etsy shop.

I got a fitbit for Christmas, which I had asked for. Part of my trying to take better care of myself. It was a nice holiday. My gifts seem to have been well received. I always enjoy giving gifts. 

I took some additional holiday days - at my own cost (unpaid) - and I just want to go home and enjoy being home.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Every body goes haywire.

Finally found the time to read Every body goes haywire by Anna Altman. A friend had shared it with me months ago.
Joanna Kempner, a sociologist at Rutgers and author of the recently published Not Tonight: Migraine and the Politics of Gender and Health, writes that “people worry when they cannot fulfill their end of the so-called sick role, an implicit social contract in which sick people are given leave of their everyday duties, as long as they adhere to certain rules like seeking appropriate medical care and working hard to get better. But these obligations are difficult to meet when there is no effective treatment.”
Ooooof. This has been a bit point for me the last two years. Getting it into my head, and accepting that I have a lifelong, chronic condition. There is no endpoint, other than the big endpoint.
THIS INHERITANCE AWAITS MANY WOMEN. Almost 20 percent of women suffer migraines, and 75 percent of migraine sufferers are women. That same group of hard-to-diagnose and hard-to-treat diseases—lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis, but also chronic fatigue, chronic headache and fibromyalgia—primarily afflicts women. “Women are more likely than men to be disabled by chronic illnesses,” Susan Wendell writes, “and women (including women with other disabilities) suffer more ill health than men. Women live longer than men, but much of that extra living is done with a disabling chronic illness.”
Wendell points out that those chronic conditions bring with them the kind of invisible impairments that can cripple a patient without appearing notable. “Pain and/or fatigue are major sources of impairment in many chronic illnesses that are more common in women than in men,” she writes. It is exactly these impairments that are easiest to dismiss or misperceive as psychosomatic.
And doctors treat complaints about such conditions differently when they come from women. Kempner cites studies that show physicians prescribe less pain medicine to women than they do to men, even though women are more likely to suffer chronic pain. Other studies show that women are more likely than men to be prescribed antidepressants and tranquilizers—rather than pain medication—for their migraines. Add to this the fact that migraine is more likely to occur in people with mental health diagnoses like depression and anxiety, both of which are more common in women. All of this makes it hard to untangle migraine and other chronic pain conditions from stereotypes of female weakness and hysteria. The characterization perpetuates the notion of the migraineur-as-malingerer, the sensitive soul disabled by everyday disruptions.
I remember reading about hysteria in feminist health class and man did I not really get it at the time. It took an added decade of navigating the medical system for me to see it time and time again. I remember talking to my most normie friend N when she was on the verge of a burnout from her job. She was traveling internationally several times a year and was working over 60 hours a week. I told her, without mincing words that she should not wear makeup or dress up to go to the appointment (she usually would) because if she looks tired and beat, the doctor will be more likely to believe her. I also mentioned the study about how women often minimize their pain and discomfort out of the gendered habit of "I'm fine" -ing everything. I told her to psych herself up, and not play it off. This is a woman who is neurotically privileged and physically in peak condition.
This is hard to communicate when you appear to be young, healthy, and able-bodied. “To be recognized as disabled, we have to remind people frequently of our needs and limitations,” writes Wendell of women who suffer from chronic, invisible disabilities. The struggle for recognition is constant, even among the most compassionate: “Some people offer such acceptance readily, others greet every statement of limitation with skepticism, and most need to reminded from time to time.”
In my case, much of my close circle has these "invisible disabilities," chronic conditions that do not always display outwardly. There is something especially slippery about mental illness, something we're asked to describe at inopportune times, or when we aren't verbal or when we're feeling better, or when we're in such crisis we're catatonic.
I had my diagnosis immediately. Learning to cope with it takes years.
Illness is the space where I came to understand the limitations of my being. It’s a lesson we all learn but one I learned harshly and twice, first watching my mother and then enduring my own suffering. Now I know that I can lie down for hours without moving. I can meditate. I can stare at the wall and not despair. If I discovered something redemptive in this experience, it’s that capacity for stillness.
Heavy piece, but her closing paragraph really nailed it. There is a natural quiet that comes to you through solitude and suffering. I wish that didn't sound as poetic as it does. There's a resignation in it, an acceptance. But really, what choice do we have?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

What Comedy Taught Me About My Mental Illness.

Just read What Comedy Taught Me About My Mental Illness by Kate Lindstedt.

I've been thinking a lot about self-representation through creative forms, through writing, and through my Etsy store. I've also been thinking about my ability to write, and my ability to be honest. 

Lindstedt's piece vaguely discusses how stand-up has helped her in controlling her narrative, and in being able to reflect and the absurdity of certain situations in an open way. 

It isn't easy in general, but there's something about comedy that has a way of defusing so much. If you're successful that is.

I made a joke in the kitchen at work yesterday about traumatizing one of my front teeth in high school, which then killed the nerves, resulting in the need for a root canal 15 years later. 

I was telling the story in French, and I said something along the lines of, "At the time I thought it was funny. I got a field hockey ball in the mouth, and my front tooth was wiggling around. I laughed *huh huh huh* (Seth Rogen chuckle) and played with it constantly. I was such a dumb idiot I didn't realize it wasn't the greatest thing to be able to wiggle your permanent adult teeth that way."

The thing is, I told this story in French, so instead of a ridiculous double-insult like "dumb idiot" I said something more serious, which would translate to "dumb bitch." The tone was off.

One of my colleagues got really serious and said, "Man you are hard on yourself."

So, first, duh, guy. 

But then I also wanted to explain how I failed the joke - but I couldn't be bothered. 

All of this is to say that I can be hard on myself in a way that's also ridiculous and overly-absurd, because life is ridiculous and absurd and that's also part of my coping strategy / survival method. 

I've thought about stand-up. Where the art loses me is having to perform for people. lol. It's like, meh, I don't need you to think I'm funny. I'm pretty funny. Thus writing and other types of creative work that are more self-motivated and curated are what I'm exploring. I also don't have the energy for the grind of it. The open-mics, the traveling, the hustle. I'm too busted right now.

Friday, December 16, 2016

David Foster Wallace and depression.

From a piece on David Foster Wallace and his depression:
All of this is to say that sadness doesn’t possess the real teeth of depression. The symptom that distinguishes depression from any other state is something I would call terminal fragility, although it’s defined in a less hand-wavey way by the DSM as “guilt/worthlessness.” It’s the feeling that the world’s fundamental malignancy begins with oneself. It represents a categorical change in the way you perceive negative outcomes. You see pain as appropriate punishment, instead of occasional inconvenience. You see yourself as a burden—a net loss for humanity—somehow less worthy of life. Instead of thinking, “that shitty day happened to me,” you think, “as is consistent with my deservedly shitty life, that shitty day occurred, the pain of which is unmitigated by its predictability.” The normal thought, if your hair is misbehaving, is, “fuck, I’ve gotta buy a blow dryer.” The depressed thought is, “I am feeling paralyzing woe because my hair, finally, is as ugly as my soul.” That’s depression’s foremost distinction—it holds you responsible for your suffering.
The original article, The David Foster Wallace Disease by Sasha Chapin is over on Hazlitt.
Wallace’s story “The Depressed Person” opens like this:
“The depressed person was in terrible and unceasing emotional pain, and the impossibility of sharing or articulating this pain was itself a component of the pain and a contributing factor in its essential horror.”
I've never read Wallace. It sounds too intense for me. Intellectually and in scope. I don't know that I have the stamina or attention span for it. I also don't know that reading such well-developed writing on and around depression would be good for me. I'm already convinced, brother.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The pendulum swings.

I've thought about it, and I doubt I'll be applying to graduate school.

Though K really inspired me, once I researched the programs in Montreal, the costs, and the intellectual limitations and rigid guidelines, I got real tired real quick.

My issue with graduate school is that there's so much stuff you have to do in order to do what you want to be doing. Required classes and lectures and work groups. And though I'm sure masters-level theory and research method courses can be very helpful, I also know they most likely are not.

I struggled a lot with my undergraduate thesis because it wasn't about my research, it was about checking off boxes and making sure the i's were dotted and the t's were crossed.

If the majority of the work I'm doing now is creative, thinking of reformulating any of it in order to adhere to ivory-tower standards bummed me out.

I'm not getting a master's degree in order to go up a pay scale as an engineer. I'm a fucking art-bum. Why pay so much for a degree; kill myself for something that has such limited application - when art itself exists well outside of official spaces.

What I'm doing now, trying to write, creating small pieces for Etsy - I did it for me. I do this for me. I need to let stuff out. I need to try and let stuff out, I am encouraged by people's reception of my work - all of this, all of this is for me.

I worry about compromising what it is I want to do for something so fickle. I have a tremendous amount of respect for education, for reading and the arts, for history and engaged critique. But now I also know that that doesn't necessarily live in institutions, and in fact, the halls of academia have been exclusionary than anything else.

Even "mad studies" lives within specific kinds of academic spaces. Spaces you need to pay a price of admission to access. Spaces where your language use and classwork is filtered through a professor's narrative. From my reading of the faculty websites, I don't see flexibility or radicalism here.

I do not want to spend the time I have, the little bodily energy I have and the intellectual and creative energy I have trying so hard to fit into another system that wasn't meant for me.

Let me be clear when I say "wasn't meant for me" I do not mean that this space was destined for specifics kinds of people of which I am not. I mean it isn't meant for anyone, really. It's meant for very specific kinds of knowledge and exchange. There is a given look to what the pursuit of knowledge is, and it looks like a research paper. It looks like deadlines and exams. It's impersonal and cold. And making it anything other than these things is work. Work for myself. Work that is undervalued and patronized.

I don't want to live in that space. I want more free time for my own creative endeavors. I want very little of anything else.

I want to explore things fully, through my own whims, not through pre-set paths off of school hallways.

Night cabage.

In the wee hours of the morning I get up to pee. Afterwards I have a drink. Every day I look out the patio doors while drinking  my water. Every day I see my neighbours giant cabbage. Every day my twilight-eyes and sleepy brain think "Woah is that a little kid?!"

Then I remember it's my neighbours giant cabbage and I go back to bed.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

lol @ doctor idiot.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Lady Gaga on living with mental illness.

Lady Gaga discussed living with mental illness, PTSD and her struggles as a rape survivor when she recently visited a LGBTQ youth shelter.

I love Gaga, and I especially love her for being so open and honest about her own struggles. I really love her new album, there are definite threads of song-writing about kindness and care and that are hyper-emotive, throughout the album.

There's also a piece in The Guardian, that's a little more fleshed out.
She spoke about it again in November 2015 in a panel about the campus rape film The Hunting Ground, saying the rape “changed who I was completely. It changed my body, it changed my thoughts.” 
“When you go through a trauma like that, it doesn’t just have the immediate physical ramifications. For many people it is almost like trauma, where you re-experience it through the years after it.”
Gaga has always been open and honest. The song she did for The Hunting Ground was devastating. Find the live version from the Oscars if you can.

She seems very strong lately, her tone is clear and open and her work is emotional and confident in its vulnerability. It's also sweet, and loving. And that tone is comforting right now, since things are so shitty.

Check out Grigio Girls and Come to Mama from Joanne - I mean, even Diamond Heart and Joanne and Hey Girl . . . .

2016-12-07 - updateShe published an open letter on the subject of her PTSD, read it.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Mad studies.

I had a busy weekend. On Saturday I trekked out to Victoriaville to visit a handful of antique places with K. I was introduced to K in Victoria when I visited my buddy there. K is in Montreal now, working on a master's degree in interdisciplinary studies, specifically disability studies.

Our day together had us discuss all sorts of things, much of it around disability studies, academia, access, mental illness, graduate work and just everything in and around those subjects.

When I talked to her about my Etsy shop, as well as my blog here, and what I focus on she was very encouraging as to my work being elaborated into graduate work.

She also pointed to an upcoming symposium on feminism and dark humor, as well as the field of "mad studies." Both things seemed so me. 

I'm going through a few "mad studies" links now:

This is a resource site. It seems to be based in Lancaster but many of the links are Canadian. It seems to have started in Canada.

It's linked me to the Centre for the study of Gender, Social Inequities and Mental Health in Vancouver, which sounds right up my alley.

From The Guardian UK, Mad studies brings a voice of sanity to psychiatry by Peter Beresford:
The approach embodied in mad studies offers us a coherent roadmap for rethinking our mental wellbeing by recognising people who have experience of mental distress as both service users and experts.
I'm surprised that with all the reading I've been doing I've not been linked to Ryerson or "mad studies" before today. The symposium was in 2012. Though in all fairness to me in 2012 I was too busy having panic attacks to be reading anything other than Ativan labels.

 From another article, The rise of Mad Studies: A new academic discipline challenges our ideas of what it means to be “sane” by Alex Gillis:
"Mad studies doesn’t reject medical models of madness [but it puts] them into a historical trajectory, one that shows that psychiatry isn’t an absolute interpretation of human mental states,” says Kathryn Church, an associate professor of sociology and director of Ryerson’s school of disability studies.
It contextualizes "madness" - and I hope the representation of actual "mad" voices and experience fill the gaps (and there are many) of the nuances of access, care, and experience. Like any history account, the majority of reading someone's history means negating the histories of others. Views are never fully three-dimensional. Much of our talk about mental health is extremely superficial.

The article ends with a call to represent yourself and your experience, and that's where I'm wading right now.

How best to represent myself and my experiences?

Is academia more limiting than it is a helpful framework?

Do I want limits to how I represent myself and my struggles?

Am I comfortable with a language-based approach?

Does my writing and creative work need to be shared, viewed, and recognized to be valuable?

Am I willing to make such a financial sacrifice, for a degree with no monetary return value?

Am I willing to continue living like a student / someone who is perpetually broke?

Can I afford graduate school?

Do I have the energy for it?

All things I'm thinking of. All of this, and more, of course.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Life Inside.

VICE has a section on its site called Life Inside that features stories about incarceration.

I just read What I Saw Tracking Down the Mentally Ill in Jail.

I've been informing myself on incarceration more and more, ever since I started taking part int he Prisoner's Correspondence Project. I have a pen pal, and the more I try and hear him the less I understand about incarceration.

I plan on reading up on incarceration over the next while, especially proposed alternatives, clemency projects, and alternative programming.

Recommendations welcome.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Lidia Yuknavitch's The Small Backs of Children.

Where are the borders of art? 
Where are the borders of a woman's body?
How unimaginable is one without the other?
When we think of violence, are we not aware, as women, of our place within the world of men?
The borders of our body, of our safe spaces, of hostile spaces?

I just finished reading The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch and I am re-committed to my impression of her as a fluid, visceral representation of what it is to write of art, trauma, violence and living a woman's experience.

I was floored when I read her memoir, The Chronology of Water. It's lead me here, to her novel, which kept me as enamored.

It's a novel, yes, but I feel as though the narrative of people and places is secondary to the passages that describe life so astutely. This book features a group of friends, all artists and creators, juxtaposed to a young girl in eastern Europe, orphaned by war and surviving through art, grit, and the persistence of young blood.

There are segments of her book that discuss art and experience, art as expression, as language, as reference point, as both anchor and catalyst. These sections created in me more questions. An infinite amount. Sometimes they fuse with and of the body, and gender and sexuality pour into her writing. Violence as commonplace, as a masculine language and threat. She has a similar juncture in violence, trauma, and women's bodies. One intrinsically stomped onto the other.

Our blood is all over this world.

Our greatest threat is so linked to us.

And of trauma, of death and loss and surviving the horrific, does our tongue split, now able to speak two languages? As if at different frequencies, two languages in parallel.

Yes I understand your desire for me to print this document, to do this grocery shopping, to celebrate this holiday, but do you understand that feeling, the deep rumble that comes from prolonged, wretched pain, where you become diluted by the incessancy of it, and become convinced your threshold makes you the undead, untouchable. Have you known that pain? No? Then we do not speak the same language. But yes, I do enjoy coffee. And yes, the weather has improved.

From page 69:
Who are we in moments of crisis or despair? Do we become deeper, truer selves, or life up and away from self, untethered from regular meanings like moths suddenly drawn toward heat or light? Are we better people when someone might  be dying, and if so, why? Are we weaker, or stronger? Are we beautiful, or abject? Serious, or cartoon? Do we secretly long for death to remind us we are alive?
This actually heavily links to the conversations I've been having with my best friend S regarding HBO's Westworld. There is an awful lot to unpack regarding the nature of trauma. If you have not watched Westworld - do not read anything about it! I went in blind and was able to discover and discuss things as I went and it's been very interesting!

Are our trauma's our cornerstones? 

I'd read something recently about the way in which trauma can root certain pathways in the brain, making it more difficult to adapt or change habits. Isn't this a scientific explanation for what we already know? How our wounds remind us, how old habits die hard? Aren't we creatures of narrative, of story? Isn't the story we hear most often our own?

Yuknavitch also has these really bodied moments, that represent those abstract experiences of being alive and sentient but not fully present in our culture and context. Detached. From page 93:
Then he thinks: love is an abstract word coming from a face hole.
I guess the only alienating bit to Lidia's novel is how it's populated by successful artists. Confident in their art. Monied. That's my alien experience. My unknown. Where art is a work, a calling, and not a form of communication and a way of being, of purging that is necessary.