In the Wee Hours, the Brain Gremlins Descend

It’s been one of those mornings. Motivation and morale are low, and those pesky brain gremlins are creeping in.

You know the ones: they’re the little parts of your brain that don’t think you can do it. Doesn’t matter what “it” is; they try to tell you you can’t. Or they try to convince you not to even bother.

Interact with followers and writing community on Twitter? Nah. Waste of time.

Try to get some writing in? You know you’d rather sit here staring into space.

Get up off the couch and do some chores? But you’re so warm and comfortable…

It seems that for every productive suggestion I have, my brain gremlins have a counter point. They’re weak counter points at best, but the gremlins are stronger some mornings. Today’s one of them.

The gremlins are trying to convince me to go back to sleep until it’s time to get ready for work. They’re trying to tell me to watch a bad B movie on Netflix, or to just stare into space because what’s the difference? It’s all an endless cycle of self-hatred, depression, and darkness. Why bother?

There’s stuff I could be doing. Cleaning the kitty litters, emptying the dishwasher, putting the laundry in the dryer through a de-wrinkle cycle before I get ready for work, writing, etc. I mean, I’ve got a good hour at least before I have to get serious about getting ready. So why can’t I get myself to start any of these?

Oh yeah: the gremlins.

Like the Bugs Bunny cartoons of old, gremlins are known for sabotaging things. Brain gremlins are no different. They want to sabotage your life…but to what end?

It’s hard to determine the motives of the brain gremlins. They certainly can’t have anything to gain by making you feel down, depressed, or just plain done with life and all its hassles. But maybe gremlins don’t need motives; maybe they are just malicious little creatures. Tiny little malignancies in the thought process that seep in and spread like a cancer.

That’s not to say I haven’t accomplished anything this morning. I made myself an energy drink (no creamer, so no coffee this morning), took my pills, and made and ate some breakfast.

Pills. That’s why the gremlins are out in full force today. I forgot to call my doctor’s office to see about the authorization for my new mood stabilizer. It’s a newer drug on the market, so the insurance wants the doctor to jump through hoops to get it approved for me. It sucks, because I ran out of the sample doses last week, and the anxiety has been creeping back in its absence. Perhaps the brain gremlins sensed the lack of medication and descended in full force to thwart my efforts to be a productive member of society this morning. (Well, at least a productive member of the household.)

At the very least I’ll get the laundry fluffed and the litters cleaned. Maybe the dishes put away. But writing? No, the gremlins have too firm a hold on my brain at the moment. I can’t wrestle my creativity free of their crusty little claws.

I wish I had advice for other gremlin-sufferers right now. Something inspirational that will scare the gremlins away, or maybe keep them in hiding for the most part. Sadly, I have no such advice. I’m still battling those demonic little buggers myself.

Some day those gremlins will be quiet. They’ll stop telling me there’s no point, that I’m not good enough, or whatever such nonsense they cook up. For now? I guess I’ll just figure out which task is next and work through them one at a time.

You won’t win the day, gremlins. Maybe you’ve won the past few hours, but you won’t win the day.

Author and Editor Relationship: Adversarial or Advantageous?

Some authors describe their stories as their “babies” or their “creations”…so what happens when the editor gets hold of said creation and decides it needs sweeping changes?

For many authors, the relationship with an editor can be a love-hate thing. They love getting feedback and learning new things about their writing, but they hate the need to make changes. There are authors who accept the changes with open arms, ready to polish their story to a gleaming shine. Other authors, however, see it as someone trying to gut their story–and who wants their baby gutted?

I’ve had my own experiences with editors, good and bad. The bad experiences were mostly my fault in that I wasn’t willing to make the changes necessary to make my work the best it could be. Do I have regrets about not making those changes? Yes, at times. There are times when I think, “Hmm, should I have done X like the editor wanted, or am I happy with how my original decision worked?” I have doubts to this day about not listening when maybe I should have.

Editors aren’t here to kill our babies. (Okay, so maybe some of them are–I don’t know all the editors out there, obviously.) They’re there to make our stories shine, to give them the best chance they have. They’re there to catch the mistakes that we’re too close to see, to look past the original vision to see where the story needs to go to grow and succeed. Editors are a good thing.

Some authors might disagree with me. They might have had some bad past experiences with editors, or they might think that they’re doing just fine as their own editor. Well, I’ve got some advice for those authors: You remember the adage about “A man who represents himself has a fool for a client” (credit to Abraham Lincoln, via the Internet)–well, the same could be said about the man who edits himself. Yes, we all need to do our due diligence in editing our stories as best we can before submitting to a publisher, but we also should do our best to find an editor who can give our stories the once-over (or twice- or thrice-over, if necessary) that they need. If an author chooses not to find an editor for their story, well, I have little sympathy.

Granted, there are those who simply can’t afford an editor. I was lucky to have a built-in editor in the form of my mom (who has had her own professional editing business in the past), who wouldn’t take payment from me for Whispers of Death. I was lucky to have a critique swap group on Facebook where I could send a few chapters at a time for critique, review, and yes, edits where necessary. But not everyone has these resources. Professional editing services can be expensive, and for the struggling writer it just might not be feasible to hire someone. And that’s okay, but be warned that your story might also not be as successful without that neutral pair of eyes to look over it and see what you’re too close to see.

As I await the first round of edits for Escape the Light, I try to keep this in the forefront of my mind. I don’t have to butt heads with my editors (although I love the editors at RhetAskew, so I don’t think I will). I don’t have to dig in my heels and refuse to budge on something they suggest changing. What I have to do is keep an open mind and try to learn from the experience. I have to be receptive to change and utilize those changes in the manner that best helps the story.

Try, try again

On the advice of many, many people, I went to my psychiatrist yesterday (a month earlier than scheduled) and talked to him about all the stress I’m under. New medicine acquired, old medicine discarded, and now we play the waiting game.

Basically I have a month to adjust to the low dosage of the new med (which totally sounds like an alien species) before I get the full dose filled. There are a few bonuses to this new med:

  • No known weight gain side effects
  • Long half-life, so once I’m on the higher dose I’ll only have to take it Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays
  • Teeny little capsule, so not a huge gag issue

The med is soon-to-be-approved for bipolar depression, so that’ll help with that side of things, but I am dubious as to the anxiety/stress benefits of the med. If it’s supposed to help with depression, will it also help these other things? We shall see, I guess.

Speaking of bipolar disorder, I’m slated to appear on a podcast called Speak Your Mind, which is a mental health podcast. I know, I know, it’s not my usual book/writing podcast venue, but the host is excited to talk about Abnormal and my writing in addition to discussing mental health issues in my life and in society as a whole. More info to come on that once I’ve gotten a date scheduled. We had a good, long chat the other night, so I’m hopeful that someone listening in gets some benefit out of hearing my story and my struggles.

I try not to get too political about mental health, but let’s face it: mental health is widely ignored by insurance companies and even more widely stigmatized in society as a whole. I think back on the work that Carrie Fisher did to try to destigmatize mental illness, and I think this is one cause I can get behind, not only because it directly affects me but also because it affects such a wide range of people, and not enough people talk about it. Maybe one day, when I’ve hit the NYT bestseller list, I can have the kind of influence where my experiences make a difference.

Yes, I have a mental illness. Yes, I have bipolar disorder. Yes, I take medicines to be “normal.” No, I’m not crazy.

Rusted blade, broken heart

It’s my own fault, I suppose. I stopped practicing and fighting rapier because depression got the better of me, and now the rapier community in my Kingdom has all but forgotten me.

My husband gave up on rapier long before I did. He quit bringing his gear long before I did. But I’m a nonentity, a no one, so while he gets people asking him what gives, I get silence (save for a few steadfast friends who always ask where I’m at).

I don’t know. Maybe I’m not approachable. Maybe I hide off to the side too often, and people assume it’s where I want to be. Maybe they don’t know how much it hurts to think that almost no one cares if I’m out there or not.

Do I put on too good of a show? Have I hidden the pain that well? So few people seem to acknowledge my existence beyond a smile and a nod. I get a rare hug from someone outside my circle. I don’t get invited to stuff (except tangientially, as an extension of my husband or friends), and I often wonder if I ever cross people’s minds when I’m not there.

The worst part is he doesn’t realize how much it hurts me when he goes on and on about it. About how so many people talk to him and chat with him and I’m over here like “Hey, I exist too. I’m a person. I’m a rapier fighter.”

Have I lost that part of my identity? Am I perhaps no longer a rapier fighter? If not, then what am I? I’m not an artist until my husband shows off my work. I’m not a leader, not a helper, not anything. I just float along on my husband’s coattails, clinging to the hope that one of his friends will think I’m worth talking to.

I think I need to go to bed now. I’m clearly not thinking right. I’m getting emotional over something silly. Maybe these people do give a shit. Maybe they just think I don’t need conversation or comraderie or anything other than a smile and a nod.

A Twitch in Time

As work gets more hectic and time ticks away to Estrella War–and with it, deadlines–there has been some other ticking of late…a tic in my right lower lid.

I know it’s likely stress-induced, and I know there’s not a whole lot to be done about it, so I’m tolerating it for now. The tic. Not the stress. I’m not tolerating that well at all. Sure, I hide it…sometimes. Sometimes, though, those who know me notice the pause before my response, the gritting of my teeth, the tension in my shoulders.

I bite my tongue. I choose my words with care. I pick my battles. But it’s starting to nip away at the edges. To fray my nerves. To unravel me.

Intellectually? I know I should make an appointment with my doctor. My psychiatrist. I should go and see him and tell him about the high-octane stress and see what can be done pharmaceutically, if anything, to ease some of it. Emotionally? I am afraid. I’m terrified that for the first time in over a decade I’ll have to be taken off work to readjust to new meds, to destress, to recenter myself.

Note I didn’t say I’d have to take time off work; I have no intention of taking time off voluntarily. But I’ve been removed from work by a psychiatrist in the past, and I fear that may be what’s necessary now.

I can’t afford it. I can’t financially afford it, and I can’t afford to leave my duties right now. There’s too much at risk for me to stop. The house. My job. So. Much.

Too. Much.

It’s all too much. And I don’t know what to do.

Every cloud

This weekend has been nice. Low-key, home alone, and best of all: not sick as fuck.

I made myself retrospect a little too much, though. I was cruising Netflix, looking for something to watch, when I found a good movie. Silver¬†Linings¬†Playbook. Excellent flick, great acting….and maybe a little too real.

Being bipolar, I feel this movie on a visceral level. No, I’m not quite like Pat. Or Tiffany. Not really. I’ve never been hospitalized for my emotional state, never been that far off. But yeah, I’ve missed work over my mental state before. I’ve obsessed over failed relationships, I’ve written nutball letters/texts/emails to my exes, I’ve been the “backup.” I’ve slept around because my depression had me down, or because my mania had me horny. I’ve quit taking my meds more than once. So maybe I’m bits of Pat and Tiffany. I’m Piffany.

I’ve been doing okay for a while now. Well, mostly okay. I mean, I get depressed sometimes. I get manic. I’ve been on an embroidery kick this weekend, and I’m pretty sure it’s not completely deadline-induced. I’m probably manic. I mean, I’m tearing through these embroidery projects, stopping briefly to eat or go to the bathroom or take a catnap. But mainly I’ve been embroidering. To the point of dry skin and calluses on my fingertips.

The whole Pat thing happened to my brother a few years ago. Not the beating-a-man-almost-to-death thing, but the bad ending to a bad relationship that ultimately resulted in him being committed. I won’t go into it too much here, because it’s his story not mine, but it was scary to watch.

It was even scarier knowing that our great-grandfather died of psychosis. “Exhaustion in the progression of psychosis”–that was the CoD on his death certificate. He was so fucking crazy it killed him.

Since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder before my brother was, I always assumed that was my eventual fate. Then my brother got diagnosed, and combined with his substance abuse issues he’s way worse off than me. He had his psychotic break in his mid-40s….the same age good ol’ Great-Granddad was when he died.

My brother didn’t die. We’ve got better meds now, better tech, better treatments. But guess what? This year I turn 40. Now, like I said, I’m not as bad off as my brother. So I’m not necessarily on a timeline here. The past doesn’t have to repeat itself. Maybe my brother’s incident was the repetition, and I’ll be passed over. Like the Christian thing. I dunno–I’m not the religious type. But maybe I don’t have to dread my mid-40s. Maybe I don’t have to go go go, to push myself so much, to worry about whether or not I’ll make it long enough to do the things I want to get done.

I want to finish my sci-fi series. I want to finish the collaboration I’m working on. I want to learn more about making garb and clothes and embroidery and get good enough at researching it all to become a Laurel. I want to learn more rapier techniques and practice enough to be good at them. And I want to lose this weight I’ve gained. I want so many things, and I think the back of my brain is telling me “You’ve got a few years left. Five, six max. You need to hurry up. You need to get your shit together while you have the mental capacity to do it.”

I gotta get that out of the back of my head. I gotta tell myself that there’s no deadline to insanity, that it’s not written. It’s not predestined. I don’t have to go crazy. I can stay sane, stay mostly stable, stay me.

I also have a secret weapon: my husband. Even if I do go crazy, I have him to keep me alive, to keep me from going so far down the hole that I can’t crawl back up.

That’s it. That’s my silver lining. That’s my ace in the hole.

Five or six years. I pass that, and I win. I beat history.

Sicko’s Log: 24 Hours Alone

It’s been about a day since I got home from the pharmacy after spending almost four hours at the doc-in-the-box. What has a day alone been like? Let’s see…

I slept off and on quite a bit. I got a lot of progress made on my royal embroidery project. I wrote a chapter in one book and tweaked another chapter in a different book. I ate–a LOT. (Apparently bronchitis is not having an adverse effect on my appetite.) I watched several movies on Netflix. I listened to music. Somewhere in there, I had brief human contact when a friend came by to pick up my car to take it to my husband, who is out of town. Oh, and I’ve nearly completed a new Viking tunic for myself to wear at Estrella War.

I’m kinda proud of myself for that last one. Eyeballed the whole thing (I know, there are garb makers out there cringing), and only really had to make one small adjustment… more for comfort than anything, really, as it still would have fit, just been really big on me. I plan on adding trim woven by my husband (hint, hint honey) later on, as well as some embroidery done by yours truly.

Sure, if I wasn’t manic with pent-up energy from being confined to the house for over 24 hours, I might have stopped and done the embroidery prior to assembling the tunic. But no, I had it in my head that I was going to make a tunic, and that’s just what I’m doing.

I’ve got color blocking and front and back facing and top stitching and a whole bunch of stuff that I’ve never done without a pattern before. That, of course, has not deterred me. I took the fabric I had, looked at what it could become, and went with it.

I’ve still got to stitch on the sleeves and side gores, but it’s almost done. All in all, not bad for twenty four hours of mind-numbing solitude.

I’ve got maybe another day or so before my husband gets home. I’ve got some cleaning up to do around the house, but I’m wondering if I can swing an underdress before he’s back…..

Follow me on Instagram to see how the tunic turned out!

Goal!

It’s that time of year again–time to set the new year’s goals/”resolutions” and reflect on where the old year took me.

Let’s start with 2018. 2018 was a long, full year of firsts and new triumphs. I went to my first Estrella War, moved into my first house, published my first novel, submitted my first sequel…. Sure, there were moments when I wanted to rip my hair out, but overall it hasn’t been too bad.

What do I need to do for this year? Let’s take a look (in no particular order):

-Get Book 2 in the bag and on the shelves. Yeah, I’ve got the first draft submitted and the first round of revisions (in before the new year!), but, as I’ve learned, there’s so much more to getting a novel published than simply writing it. Lol

-Take it easy on the SCA events so I can have time for other projects–to include my writing. I’ve been overdoing it entirely too much, and I need to pull back and reevaluate where I’m going in the SCA and how fast I want to get there.

-Finish the draft for Book 3 and polish it for submission. This is kind of a given. I have to keep them rolling while I still have story to tell, and the further ahead I get the easier it will be to stay on top of the writing game.

-Remember to keep marketing Abnormal. I can’t stop just because the book’s been out a few months now.

-Start a collaboration project. Because yeah. I need more on my plate. Lol

-Get more organized at work and get ahead of that game as well. I’ve got charts piled up, and they won’t stop coming any time soon.

-Focus on health. I need to zero in on what I should prioritize health-wise to take care of myself. Walk more? Eat less? Sure, but what then? I’m the biggest I’ve ever been, and at this rate it’ll be hell to try to fit into all of my garb for this year’s Estrella War. As it is, I’ve got all of a month and a half to drop a few pounds and squeeze into the garb I have–or to alter the garb I have/make new garb. Either way, I’d better get on the ball.

-Be more assertive with my needs. I can’t keep trying to please other people. I have things I need to be physically and mentally sound, and setting those things to the side so other people aren’t disappointed won’t do me any good in the long run.

That’s all I have for now, but I’m sure I’ll come up with more. Right now, I’m trying to focus after a three-hour night’s sleep…and right now, my brain has fewer tabs functioning than my web browser.

Oh, and one more thing about 2019–it’s gonna bring me the big 4-0! That’s right, I’ll be 40 this summer. Will I have a midlife crisis? Will I sail through? Who knows? The fun’s in finding out!

Here’s to making 2019 my bitch!

Take a deep breath. Again. Good.

That’s what the surgeon at work says when he listens to a patient’s lungs. I always find myself unconsciously deep breathing with the patient as the doctor says this, and even though it’s relaxing in a way, it’s not enough for the day I had yesterday.

It was busy. I mean, I did some standing around, but it was mostly when I was standing still during the lasers. Mostly I was hurrying back and forth from room to room to room, and though I managed to get a break I never felt rested or relieved. It didn’t help that the heater was on at 73 all day long, and when I first got to the office it was so hot in the exam rooms that I immediately started sweating. From there, it got worse. Between the movement, the heat being on, and the stress of one problem after another, I ended up damn near drenched by the end of the long day. Even though the temperature was in the 40s when I left, I cranked the A/C to half blast and left a window open as I drove home. It took about fifteen minutes to cool off.

But I’m trying. I’m trying to calm down, trying to take those two deep breaths when I need to. I’m trying not to stress about the things I can’t change, and I’m trying to be more assertive in the things I can. Yeah, I’m still going out of town this weekend. I didn’t really try to fight with my husband on that. But I did tell him that I need to slow down and that I’m feeling stressed. I can’t do anything much about the work stress, but I can at least try to minimize the home stress. I will cut down on the SCA activities. Sadly, that sometimes means cutting down on time spent with friends who also participate in SCA activities.

Once my laundry is done–any minute now, really–I’m going to finish getting dressed, go to the post office, and go visit with a friend. I need that so much right now; “me” time with someone I enjoy talking to. I haven’t spent much time with my local SCA friends lately because I’ve been trying to cut back wherever I can, and unfortunately the local events and get-togethers have suffered. By the time I’m done with work, or back in town from a weekend away, or whatever, I just don’t have it in me to go exercise with my friends or go to rapier practice. I quit going to the monthly populace meetings and the months Court Nights because A – I’m not an officer anymore, so I don’t have to go to the populace meetings and B – no awards or recognitions are ever given out at Court Nights, so what’s the point? It’s generally a regurgitation of the information from the populace meeting, which I can easily get from my husband. So, long story short, I don’t see my local friends too much. Feeling kinda guilty about that lately, so I need to see when I can find the time to hang out with them where it won’t add to my already-full plate.

That being said, the next two months–basically now through Estrella War–are still going to be hectic. I still need to reevaluate the events I’ve agreed to attend and see which I can stay home for. I’ll feel bad leaving my husband to attend on his own, but I have to take my health and well-being into consideration. The stress is affecting me adversely, so I need need need to do this. For me. For my sanity. For my physical health and mental health. All of it.

Post-Christmas funk

It happens. Christmas comes and goes and you’re left with a void that you don’t quite know what to do about. You may have to go back to work, or do chores, or return something that someone got you, but after that, what is there?

For me, I’m thankful that I have my sequel to work on. Sure, I’ve got other projects aplenty, but this morning, at oh-dark-thirty, I cranked out almost two thousand words… And that’s not taking into account the words I deleted. I was on a roll!

Of course right before I got to the good part, I had to leave for work. The office beckons, and I must answer. At least until, say, three o’clock or so. Then it’s off to the household twelfth night party. Tomorrow’s a full day of lasers, Friday through Sunday I’m off, and next week, aside from having New Year’s Day off, it’s back to life as usual.

So I’m excited over the progress in my next book, not so much over the working. And yes, I am aware that I have nearly two full Persian outfits to make and a set of cuffs to embroider and two hems and….

Ugh. Can another holiday be added in here?

Aww, who am I kidding? I need the money from the day job, need the sanity from the writing, and need the sewing projects for when the words fail me.