A free thing for you

Yes, really. It’s a digital thing but it genuinely is free. However, first you have to read the blog post (or at least scroll down until you find the link).

First I have to talk about what’s happening in my life. Our Landlords are retiring and have given us Notice to Quit. We’ll have to move out pretty soon. Which is a problem because it’s going to cost us thousands that we don’t have. We did have some savings but *gestures at cost of living crisis*.

It would be great if I had my podcast ready to go live at this point but I don’t. Quite apart from my other difficulties the microphone I bought to record it has spontaneously stopped working. I might try to record it with my headset mic if the sound quality is good enough.

I do have paintings for sale in the shop on my Ko-fi page, and this is where the free thing comes in. I have a digital still life painting available to download for free. It looks like this:

Still life with reflections

If you want to help out with our moving costs that would be great. If you’d like to buy a digital copy one of my other paintings that would also be good. There’s also my T-shirt Shop where you can buy excellent designs like this one:

Because you are, and I do.

Anyway, enough shameless self promotion. I need to get back to trying to make something. There may be some political rants incoming.

It’s been a while

I’ve been unusually quiet this year. Perhaps it’s down to the changes in my health. I can’t say that I’m back to posting regularly but stuff has been happening that I want to talk about.

I’ve been learning how to pace myself. I’d be angry about having to relearn how to adjust to the latest bullshit from my body, but I can’t spare the energy to be angry. It’s not in my nature to go easy on myself. Well not deliberately, anyway. I’m much more of a one for sliding into going easy via disorganisation and forgetfulness. Then panicking and doing everything at the last minute. Not any more. Now I have to wait around doing nothing for long periods while I recover from such strenuous tasks as standing up, or picking up my bullet journal, or sketching for five minutes.

Sketching is a thing that I’ve been doing. I’ve gone back to my first love – art. I was one of those kids who was always drawing. I did an O-grade and Higher in art (the Scottish equivalents of an O-level and A-level). I even went to art school. In retrospect it wasn’t a smart decision. I was a fairly timid working class girl. The chances of me succeeding in the Art World were slim.

Anyway, I’ve been painting. Only in short bursts but you can do that with digital art. You don’t have to worry about leaving a mess, or things drying out, you can put it down and pick it up as needed. The finished paintings are for sale as files over on my Ko-Fi shop. I’d like to make them available as prints too but I haven’t found a good solution for that yet. Here’s one to look at while I work out what to say next.

Edinburgh Gloaming

I really haven’t written much this year. I’ve worked on my podcast a bit but I haven’t even started recording it. I’m not sure what’s stopping me. There could be a lot of small reasons all tangled up together. No single reason would be enough to stop me on it’s own, because they’re all pretty trivial, but all of them at once saps my strength. I can’t deal with being intimidated by the recording software because I’m distracted by feeling self conscious about my voice and worried that I now have an audible wheeze. Of course it’s all wrapped up in my Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria.

I’m trying very hard not to care if anyone else likes the podcast. Why would anyone else like it? I’ll be amazed if anyone else ever hears it. I’ve got to way to draw an audience to it. I’m not doing it for the audience, I’m doing it for me. I’m doing it so I can feel like I’ve done something. I’m so sick of drifting along and not doing things.

Immobility

So it’s 2020 part three and I feel like I’m walking through knee deep treacle. It’s possible that I am undermedicated for dealing with Pandemic World. It’s also possible that any dose that would make me feel better would also knock me right out. Which is counter productive when you’re trying to get stuff done.

I’ve been failing to get stuff done for a while now, since before Christmas, and so far nothing has worked. Part of the problem is my shitty health. It seems to just keep getting worse and I’m starting to suspect that all my attempts to improve things are actually part of the problem. Maybe I need to rest more, not less?

Resting is all very well in theory but in practice I have stuff I want to finish. I’ve written a script for a Podcast and all that work will be wasted if I don’t edit it and record it this year. 

There is a part of me that feels like resting is pointless since I’m never going to be well again. Why not just push myself on until my body fails completely? Live fast, write hard and finish with the metaphorical handbrake turn into the grave – tyres smoking and not an ounce of rubber left.

Somehow this attitude is not getting any writing done either. People often tell me that I should be kinder to myself. I don’t know how to do that but it looks like I’m going to have to learn because nothing else is working. I need to discover how to cause things to happen without constantly shaming myself when things don’t happen. I need to learn how to create flexible deadlines suitable for a person who sometimes needs to sleep for 11 hours and sometimes can’t sleep for two days.

I also need to confront the fact that this podcast is going to suck. Of course it is. How could it not? It’s being bodged together by someone with zero relevant experience (me) and I can’t compensate for lack of experience or money by just working harder because any work at all is already as hard as I can work. I’m going to dislike it and I’m going to feel terrible for the friends who’ve helped me. At least no-one is going to know that it sucks because no-one is going to hear it because I have no way to attract an audience to it.

I’m still going to do it, though. I’m going to make the thing that I’ve decided to make even though it’s going to take far too long, and use up too much energy, and it won’t be very good, and no-one will know that I’ve done all this work. I’m going to do it because I have decided that this thing should exist in the world.

Diagnosis

I’ve been thinking a lot about diagnoses recently. I’m not ready to talk about all of mine yet but since I just had my last psychiatrist appointment I do want to talk about that.

In one sense my psychiatric treatment has been very successful. I’ve been prescribed a medication that seems to be working. I’ve been able to make decisions about my creative path and stick to them. I’ve been much more productive, and I have’t been nearly as upset or depressed as usual about those times when I wasn’t productive.

On the other hand I don’t really have a useful diagnosis. I asked for a referral because I felt that I had ADHD and I was hoping for treatment. I did also wonder if I might be on the autism spectrum but didn’t seem as good a fit to me. My question was based partially on how well my experiences line up with other adults with ADHD/ASD and partially on how many other people in my family have one or both of those. The Psychiatrist said no. She thought I had Prader Willi Syndrome, or maybe Oppositional Defiance Disorder.

Prader Willi Syndrome is a chromosome disorder. The most well known chromosome disorder is Downs Syndrome which is caused by Trisomy 21 (having three copies of chromosome 21 instead of two). Prader Willi Syndrome is caused by having a missing chunk of one copy of chromosome 15.

I was absolutely sure that I didn’t have Prader Willi Syndrome. I already knew a bit about it because it causes constant hunger and I knew that I didn’t fit the profile. I tried to treat her suggestion seriously and I did some more reading about PWS but the more I found out about it the less likely it seemed.

Typical symptoms of PWS include short stature (the average height of adult women with PWS is 4’10”), developmental delays, delayed puberty, infertility, low IQ, small hands and feet, temper tantrums, repetitive behaviour, sleep disturbances, and unusually pale skin. I’m 5’6″ and while I do have fairly small hands I have size 9 feet (US size 11). I hit every developmental milestone, started puberty at 12 and have two children. I have a temper but it’s under control. My sleep patterns are trash but that’s a symptom of practically every form of mental illness and neurodivergence. I’m pale but not much paler than my brothers. I would hope that it’s clear from my writing that my IQ is fine.

The wonderful thing about Prader Willi Syndrome is that because it’s a chromosome disorder there’s a blood test for it. Guess who has two thumbs and 23 pairs of normal chromosomes? 👍👍

So I think this means my diagnosis is either *shrug* or Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I’ve always been sceptical of ODD as a diagnosis. I think it’s quite often attached to kids with ADHD and narcissistic parents. The main difference between ODD and ADHD in kids seems to be that ODD kids do incredibly annoying and disruptive things specifically to upset the adults around them while ADHD kids do the same things through a combination of distraction, boredom, inattention and just not thinking ahead. You can see how a narcissistic adult would interpret an ADHD kid’s behaviour as being all about them, leading to an ODD diagnosis.

Adults with ODD display patterns of negative, hostile and defiant behaviour including at least four of the following symptoms.

  • Often loses temper
  • Often argues with family and coworkers
  • Actively defies or refuses to comply with rules and laws
  • Deliberately annoys people
  • Blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  • Easily annoyed by others
  • Angry and resentful
  • Spiteful or vindictive

That really doesn’t sound like me. I am often angry but with very good reason. I apologise for everything, even things that couldn’t possibly be my fault. I’m not pretty, privileged or charismatic enough to get away with being that kind of arsehole. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I? If I really do have ODD then I could be blaming other people for arguments and insisting that my anger was always justified. It’s really down to the people who know me.

Am I like that? My spouse says no. The niggling voice in the back of my head is convinced that I’m a monster and they’re too scared of me to be honest.

Correctly Medicated

I’m writing a podcast. I know, I’m surprised too. All my indecision has fled and for once I know what I want to do. I even have a plan to record the podcast. I spent actual money to buy a proper microphone so that it doesn’t sound terrible.

I can only assume that I’m finally on the right dose of psychiatric medication. Maybe this is what people who make their own neurotransmitters feel like all the time. No wonder they get so much done.

I don’t really expect to develop much of an audience out of this. If it earns some money that would be nice but I don’t see how that’s going to happen. Perhaps I’ve finally learned how not to care about it. If I get one of those sponsors that gives podcasters free stuff then I shall call it a win.

It’s going to be a fiction podcast. It’s set in 2012, told in the first person, and is about the senior historian of an occult government agency getting stuck investigating an unexplained death because:

  • a) It happened in her home town an no-one else in the office understands the accent.
  • b) Everyone else is too busy with the Olympics.(when I say busy I mean that they’re watching the beach volleyball from the windows of head office)

It’s got all kinds of good stuff in it, witchcraft, the Fae, artificial intelligence, cat girls, and brutalist architecture. There are two different secret worlds nestling alongside the familiar.

I already had it written as an existing story. I just have to re-write it to work with the medium. I’ve broken it down into episodes and currently it looks like 10-12 to tell the story. I’ve got the first episode written and it’s currently running at roughly twenty minutes. That might change as I write the other episodes and realise that I need to got back and put stuff into earlier parts so that the plot makes sense. I’m aiming for twenty-five minutes per episode plus or minus five minutes.

I have no idea how long this is all going to take. It’s not just writing and recording it. The raw recordings have to be edited. I’ll need to set up a company to publish the podcast and find a network to host it. I’m going to have to learn how to do basic business accounting. There’s probably a whole bunch of other stuff that I haven’t even thought of yet. I am weirdly unconcerned about all of it. Must be the serotonin talking.

Audience

The more I think about my problems making money from my creative efforts the more I realise that my problem is an audience. Or rather, the lack of an audience.

My writing is weird, I know that, and that means that there isn’t a mass market audience for it. There doesn’t have to be. The world is huge and a lot of it speaks English. Even a small audience by proportion is massive in terms of actual numbers. So I just need to find my audience. Only one problem. I have no idea how to find an audience. I’d blame my budget of zero money but I wouldn’t know where to spend the money if I had it.

In the golden age of blogging, when the internet was yet young, a blog was the thing you used to snag your audience. You needed something to say, an interesting point of view to say it from, and some actual skill as a writer (pick any two out of three if you’re white and good-looking, or rich, or you know a journalist). You’d temp them in with some free words and wait until the London media types noticed you. The Guardian or the Independent would do a profile.Then before you know it you’ve got a book deal, and off you run with a newly minted career as an author. If you blog it, they will come.

Back then I didn’t have anything to say. Which is ridiculous because I always have something to say. It would be more accurate to say that I didn’t have anything coherent or entertaining to say and I was convinced that no-one wanted to hear what life is like when you’re poor, fat and mentally ill. Which, to be fair to myself, was probably true. It took me a long time to find stories that I wanted to tell.

So how does one find an audience? I know it’s possible. There are authors, and podcasters, and tick-tockers, and youtubers out there building themselves an audience right now. Surely I can do it too. Unless it’s about popularity.

It’s about popularity isn’t it? I’m doomed. I’ve never known how to be popular.

The creative problem of money

Once again I find myself despairing about writing. I’ve barely written this year. I haven’t queried. I’ve lost all faith that anyone wants to read what I have to write and I don’t know what to do next.

I need to be creative but, like almost everyone else, I also need money. Bills must be paid, food has to be bought, the lights and the internet must be kept on. I do not have the spoons to earn the money I need and do my creativity on the side. I barely have the spoons to be creative at all but if I don’t create then my mental health suffers.

I could give up on the idea of publishing my novels and stick them somewhere for free. I could put them on Wattpad or serialise them here or on one of my other blogs. But if I do that then I’m giving up on ever making any money from them. I have thought of trying to turn some of my stories into a fiction podcast but I’m half convinced that I’m just falling for the sunk cost fallacy. It feels like I’d only be doing this additional work because I’m not ready to give up on the work I’ve already done. Even if I did create and record a podcast and work out how to put it out in the world that wouldn’t necessarily earn me any money.

Ah that old money problem. I have so many things I need money for. My new rise and recline chair is broken in almost exactly the same place as the old one. My health is so much worse that I haven’t been able to clean so I need to pay a cleaner. Some time soon I may have to move to a bungalow and I have no idea how I’m going to find the money for that. I need surgery for my lipoedema but it’s not covered by the NHS and I can’t even begin to imagine what I could do to find that much money.

It’s all very frustrating when our illustrious Prime Minister has been complaining that he needs double his £150,000 annual salary just to get by. That salary, for a single year, would solve all of my problems that are soluble with money alone.

However I’m sure someone will be along soon to point out that I don’t deserve that money because I haven’t earned it and our very smart big boy PM has. He knows Ancient Greek poetry you know. I’m not even sure how to correctly capitalise “Ancient Greek”.

But enough complaining. Anyone who’s slogged all the way through this post deserves something for their trouble so here’s a picture I painted of Edinburgh Castle. That’s how I’ve been flexing my creativity this year while I’ve not been writing – digital art.

Edinburgh Castle in Shades of Blue.

Transition

CONTENT WARNING FOR MENTION OF TRANSPHOBIA AND TRANSMISOGYNY 

I am a cis woman and I’m about to write about transness. Before I begin I would like to make it clear that I support my trans brethren. Trans rights are human rights, trans identities are valid, trans women are women, trans men are men, and non-binary people are exactly who they say they are.

I am not going to tell a trans story. It’s not my place as a cis person to tell a trans story. I’m here to write about the experience of watching the transformation that happens when a trans person becomes their truest self and the envy I feel.

Recently I’ve watched as two people I like and admire came out, one as gender fluid and the other as a trans woman. I was happy for them, and struck by how much happier they seem, but also by how pretty they are. How are they so pretty after such a short time taking hormones? I’ve been on estrogen my whole life and I look like a boot.

Incidentally I think that question might be behind some of the transmisogyny and transphobia aimed at trans women by so-called feminists. There’s this stab of rage that you can feel if you’re not happy with your own appearance and you’re faced with a trans woman who is just blossoming as she becomes who she always was. Why does she get to feel whole when I don’t? She’s not a proper woman. She doesn’t even have a uterus. Which is bullshit, of course. Trans women are not responsible for your (or my) low self esteem. They absolutely are women and no woman requires a uterus.

Some of you reading this are already thinking that this must mean that I’m trans and in denial. Nope. I’m definitely a woman. I already am my truest self. It’s just that I don’t like who that is. I’m not looking at trans men and wishing that I could be a man too. When I look at non binary and gender fluid people I see some amazing aesthetics that I’d love to be able to pull off but I don’t see an identity that I aspire to. 

I do want to transition but I want to transition into a woman that I actually like. I ache to be able to smile at the person in the mirror without faking it. I yearn for a body that feels like it belongs to me.

I don’t know what it’s like for other chronically ill people but for me it feels like I’ve been at war with my own body for a long time. It causes me pain, constantly, and I hurt it back by insisting on moving around and doing things. It would be so much easier to just lie down and die but I’m not going to give the bastard the satisfaction.

My body has no redeeming features. I look like a potato, I move like a badly made marionette, nothing fits and I’m never comfortable. And there’s not a thing I can do about it. There’s no surgery or pills that can fix my body or how I feel about it.

Which is one thing that I do have in common with many trans people. A lot of trans people aren’t taking hormones or getting surgeries. Some of them don’t want to do either, which is absolutely fine, but many more are blocked by lack of money or by medical gatekeepers. They shouldn’t have to suffer when the remedy for that suffering exists. They definitely shouldn’t be suffering just because no remedy for my suffering exists.

I suppose that I’m really talking about that suffering. I suffer because of my shonky body, and my terrible self esteem, but that terrible self esteem didn’t spring up out of nowhere. It comes from being told that my body isn’t what it should be. It also comes from my body not being equal to the tasks required of it. I suffer because of the constant gap between what I am and what I feel I ought to be. I can’t ever bridge that gap, and no-one should expect me to but I still feel the weight of that expectation. There’s also this unconscious expectation of a transformation. Stories are full of people discovering strange new abilities, of spontaneously transforming into some new form. I have this unconscious expectation that I should be transforming, that I should be finding some inner strength or previously unknown power. 

I want to say that such a thing just doesn’t happen but then I look at trans people and it feels like that’s what they’re doing, even though many of them talk about it as revealing who they truly are rather than becoming something new. 

As I’ve said before, my problem is that I don’t like who I truly am. What I truly am is disabled, dependent and limited. I can’t do half the things I want to and I’m having trouble accepting that because my mind keeps insisting that it’s just temporary. I need to somehow get over this because it’s keeping me from doing the things that I am capable of while I’m still capable of them.

Maybe the real problem is that I don’t see myself represented anywhere in the media. Disabled people only ever get to be victims, or monsters, and in order to be victims they need to be disabled in ways that are more visible and more socially acceptable. I don’t see myself anywhere except in the mirror. It’s no wonder that I can’t smile at the woman I see there. She’s a stranger.

Back on my self promotion bullshit

Now that everyone is broke it’s a perfect time for me to try to sell you something. I’m back with a new design for t-shirts etc. It’s inspired by the ways we support each other through the lockdown. It’s the same combination of love and stubbornness that usually get’s humanity through our darkest hours.

This new design is also inspired more directly by my daughter who came up with the phrase I’m using.

My daughter suggested it as a t-shirt and that is available, as are mugs, totes and hoodies, but I felt like a face mask really puts the point across. Because when we wear a mask it’s an act of love. We wear masks to protect each other. We wear them out of respect. We wear them to piss off the kind of humourless arsehole who is going to find a rainbow mask with the word ‘valid’ to be absolutely enraging.

Check out the design on TeeSpring. To look at all my designs check out the Page of Stuff.

Not a resolution post

I don’t trust New Year’s resolutions. It’s partly because human reckoning of time is entirely arbitrary and partly because I don’t believe that you can fix anything by declaring a new start and making a half-arsed attempt to start a bunch of new habits.

Perhaps I wouldn’t be so sceptical about resolutions if I’d had a better introduction to the idea. The first time I encountered resolutions was when, as a child at school, my teacher asked me if I had made any. I hadn’t. I didn’t know much about resolutions and I was only seven or eight years old. So she dedicated some for me to write down because I definitely needed to improve myself. I was told I needed to ‘turn over a new leaf’. She didn’t explain how I was supposed to go about turning this new leaf over or exactly what this new leaf would be like beyond a vague suggestion that I needed to be better at doing what I was told. So for me New Year’s resolutions are just a reminder that I’m failing as a human being and I don’t know how to be any better.

Last January I wrote a post about CGP Grey’s video about giving your year a theme. I absolutely endorse his argument that a theme is much more productive than a list of resolutions. A theme can be flexible. Almost no-one writing lists of resolutions last January was expecting a pandemic, and even some of those who were weren’t expecting that pandemic to play out the way it has. How can you expect to stick to resolutions made with no idea of the challenges you’ll be facing during the year?

Last January I decided that 2020 would be my year of showing off. I meant the name as a joke, a reminder to not take myself too seriously, and what I really meant was that 2020 would be my year to show people the things I’ve made.

And I did. I queried agents, entered competitions, shared photographs of my crochet, made myself a fancy new author website, sold some t-shirts and mugs I’d designed, and even pitched a podcast.

So in one sense it worked beautifully. I showed off. I made myself share the things I’d created. In another sense it didn’t work at all. I don’t have an agent, I didn’t win anything, almost no-one visited my website, only a couple of people bought t-shirts and the podcast went nowhere. I could get upset about that but it was 2020. The year sucked for almost everyone. At least I had some kind of guide to follow. When I couldn’t decide what to do I could focus on showing off in some way.

Thus I declare that 2021 shall be my year for finishing things. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to start anything new, just that before I do I’m going to ask myself if the time would be better spent on finishing something else. I’m going to be generous with myself about what counts as finished. I’m going to break big projects up into smaller tasks and then count each finished task. I plan to keep track of all the things I finish. Maybe having a record of the things I’ve finished will help me to feel less worthless? If not then at least the tracking will be a useful displacement activity when I’m procrastinating. I might even make a spreadsheet. And the first thing that’s going on that spreadsheet will be finishing this blog post.