The State of Me: Infinite Loops

This is my ten year old canine BFF, Bramble. She gives the best kind of unconditional love and is the kindest dog you’d ever meet. I am also one of her Favourite People which means I get extra dog hugs.

Seeing her lifts my mood but at the same time reminds me that I am dogless. Showing you her wasn’t actually about reminding myself that I’m still waiting for New Dog, it was rather to show you part of my support network of people, cats and dogs, who keep me safe during times when I’m not actually sure what planet I’m on.

The heat has thrown me out. Summer and I don’t really get on; extremes in weather tend to make my need to hoard things worse as (due to the fluctuations in temperature) it’s not always as easy to get things as it is at other times in the year. Especially as the garage, my local bastion of essentials is dealing with broken fridges which means, unless you want alcohol or snacks, they’re essentially out of everything.

Oh and to add insult to injury: the coffee machine’s also broken.

Ironically the only thing I buy from the garage is snacks, mochas and skimmed milk.

The heat makes everything worse: guide dog paws burn and so sensible owners are staying in. Even I’m walking around with a parasol (quetiapine makes my eyes sensitive as well as my skin burn like kindling). I’m my own worse enemy as well which means sitting at home with just a computer for company is a recipe for cabin fever and Amazon purchases.

Or, worse, stationary.

The big problem is I’m putting added stress on myself. Knowing I’m doing it doesn’t actually mean I can stop the cycle. I just get stuck.

My PTSD has some interesting triggers and right now those seem to just come under the broad heading of ‘life’. Some of them are usual, like screaming or physical violence. It’s why I usually Wikipedia things so there are no uncomfortable surprises. Fantasy violence is perfectly okay.

The others are very me:

  • Running out of x item.

Partially solved by apps on my phone which tells me what I have, how much of it and when they expire. Also being able to buy milk on the fly from said currently-broken garage.

  • Criticism.

Slowly being worked on with the kind help of my crit group, who do it gently and understand I have a serious emotional aversion. Because, growing up, criticism was always judgment.

  • Time-limits.

Those emails you get which say ‘spend x and get y’ as a reward or ‘join now for a limited time reward’.) It’s why, aside from places I do actually use that I’ve unsubscribed from a shedload of mailing lists and feel so much the better for it.

  • Broken things.

Specifically, things I’ve broken, either accidentally or because I didn’t do a thing. The Amazon account debacle, for example, where a mistake was made that confused an entire datebase. Weirdly though, when a white good dies, I just find my credit card and replace it. No problems.

  • Failure complex.

This is a huge one for me. I’ve been told I’ve failed or wasted opportunities by various family members over the years. I pushed myself to be a strong woman in a male industry for nearly a decade and I hated myself for it. I hated that I had to be bitchy and pushy. These weren’t the traits I was taught as a child, because I was only instructed in subservience. My lesson in life was, literally, burn yourself alive to keep others warm. Do it without being asked because it’s expected. Suffer so others don’t have too, your own feelings don’t matter.

Having a spine goes against my core programming but the more I shine mine now, the more I realise that I was just doing my job. My job actually forced me to grow a backbone, it was only later I realised you could transfer the skill set over to your personal life as well.

  • Being an author

Because of one thing the Parental Unit said to me several times. I hate being an author. I love writing, I love creating. I just hate everything from editing to publication. Like trigger level of hate.

I hate editing because criticism.

I hate publishing because there are always errors and it feels like my fault.

I feel like using the blind card is a cop out. Except, between my mental illness and my actually visual impairment, I do need someone to proof the proofs. I just can’t do it.

I need a PA because I cannot deal with KDP, with W-2s and all the other stuff involved with promotion. I suck at my own promotion because, while I believe in the story, I don’t believe in me.

Ksenia Anske is being awesome and trying to help me with my really soft relaunch. Because I’m living on benefits, I can’t earn more than a pittance (which is basically what I do earn, or did until I took all my books off Amazon). I got in touch with her because she gives her books away for free, as well as offering print versions on Amazon.

I like the idea as it suits my situation. And this is the important thing. My situation is no one elses. I don’t have the money to just buy covers or the concentration to work a project from once upon a time through to publication. I can’t afford it, fianancially, and I can’t do it because of my mental fragility.

Most of my author friends have jobs. I don’t.

Many of them have two-person households. I don’t.

Most of them have networks. Yeah, I do but I’ve always been the one promoting others’ work but no one ever returning the favour (see the implosion of Wonderment Media and the shitestorm which preceded it). When publishing, no one ever sees the work gone into it, the street teams and the friends boosting friends. You just see the best-seller lists and the news stories. There were better networks but half the time I’m afraid to reach out and talk to folks like Susan Kaye Quinn.

I need a mentor of my own, I think, specific to publishing and how to survive pushing a book out into the world and keeping it there.

If I could find a way to publish where all I do is write, where I have a close relationship with an editor who understand me and my … well, shall we call them quirks? Then I’d be okay. I’ve never had a problem, for example, with short stories. Rejections for those roll off my back like water and even when I have published stories, the edits have never been an issue.

So yeah, I’ve been planning a relaunch with all my titles under Asha Bardon. Except I hate KDP, it freaks me out. I can’t afford Squarespace and I have no idea how to get WooCommerce working on WordPress. Bradley Beaulieu’s the only one I’ve even seen who made it work.

  • The other thing. The important thing: None of this is a problem for today. For now. These are issues for next year.

Why the fuck am I so worried about stuff that won’t happen for at least twelve months. Because I have to have something to worry about. It’s another part of my shitty programming. I need to have a reason to worry because it takes my mind of whatever is my current problem.

Most of the time I’m caught up in my own infinite loops of stupidity that they become a kind of safety net in their own right. Right now I’m fluctuating mood-wise, the heat is making everything worse, I’m still waiting for Letters of Doom from the DWP and I want to write an epic fantasy series but am too scatty to do more than world-build. Actually starting this thing, actually focusing, is too much.

So I feel like a failure. Like I’m just wasting time. I remember being ten and having this exact same feeling: that I’d just wasted six weeks of summer holiday doing what kids do when I could have written or done constructive things. Instead, I tried to be a child. Well, okay, I read books. Lots of them.

I’ve never been a child.

Maybe that’s half the problem right there.

The rest of it is going to take the rest of my life to work on. I just feel like I need to be more selfish, for my own sake. I just feel guilty about everything: spending money, buying lunch, sitting in a coffee shop blogging. I feel like my existence, thanks to said childhood programming, has been wasted. I’m just kindling for the fire of civilisation.

But I’m also a person. I have rights, I have wants and needs (Maslow’s plus WiFi at the bottom) but that doesn’t stop me wanting to people please or give into every wild instinct. This week it’s food, a Hobonichi Cousin for 2018 (I want to start a gratitude journal and document the good things as they happen because I need to learn to be proud of myself). Oh and a dozen other things like a new vacuum cleaner and a post box.

Rambling probably isn’t helping but it’s all I can do until the quetiapine stabilises my mood. That and hug Bramble whenever possible.

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The State of Me: Prepping for the Worst

Quetiapine and I have an interesting relationship. Technically I’m good with quetiapine, it’s when you add in diazepam and Ambien when things get fun.

This is said with as much sarcasm as I can muster. Seriously.

The problem is I have brain damage, specifically periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). This was basically a side-effect of oxygen toxicity from being premature (and it’s why I have retinopathy of prematurity as well). Now in a normal brain, you might stand a chance but as mine has severe rewiring issues caused by hypoxia, the ASD and bipolar angles as well. All this is on top of long-term benzodiazepine use. I’m screwed.

I’m screwed.

Last time I got so scatty I literally couldn’t do anything as I’d forget it ten minutes later. This time I’m aware and trying to prep for the worst. This means I’m on low-dose diazepam (for anxiety) and avoiding taking anything to help me sleep. This isn’t an issue right now as the 300mg of quetiapine is basically knocking me senseless. It lasts about a week but this has been extended because I had a party (and thus skipped a couple of doses) due to alcohol consumption and a general desire to be, you know, conscious.

I’ve already noticed a lapse in my cognitive functions; I put things down and forget them. I’m a natural multi-tasker but this has meant not even going near the kitchen, let alone leaving anything on a stove. If I do cook, I prefer the boiled egg method where you put potatoes or eggs in a pot of boiling water/slow cooker and then just let them cook. No gas involved. I forgot my potatoes for thirty minutes tonight. This is why I eat out.

In some ways, I’m in a better place to do this than I was. I write down stuff religiously as well as keeping a diary of where I was/who I was with and what I’ve done during the day. I also spent the afternoon documenting the contents of my fridge/freezer/cupboards to help me manage my shopping (lists and visits to supermarkets) more effectively. Fridgely lets me take photos of the stuff I have, note expiry dates (milk is a big issue for me, ditto eggs) and also compile a shopping list when things get low. Even better, when I restock and scan the barcode, it remembers the item so within a few weeks I should have this down pat.

But I’ve noticed my concentration is fleeting. I’m leaving tasks half-finished, unable to concentrate on anything more complicated than Futurama. I tried a couple of hours of ARIA the Animation (one of my favourite chill out anime series) but couldn’t focus on translating the dialogue on the fly and write at the same time. Thing is, I can’t sit and focus and watch something either. I need to do more than one thing because it’s how I function. I want to world build for a new fantasy series but I’m finding the ideas evaporating like smoke. Even this blog post took twice as long to write because of subtle distractions.

I want to world build for a new fantasy series but I’m finding the ideas evaporating like smoke. Even this blog post took twice as long to write because of subtle distractions. My Midori helps in a lot of ways, not only am I tracking spending and have a diary plus braindump journal in there, the very act of writing helps hammer things home in my brain. Typing can’t hold a candle to this.

That and awesome friends who were there the last time this happened and have seen me at my flakiest.

But it’s tiring. The memory issues make me anxious about safety. Cooking is right out. At the same time I really want a drink and, as I’ve been spending a lot of time in the courtyard of a very nice inn, I’m keenly aware everyone else is drinking and I … can’t. I got my story into crit this week but that’s about it and I’m frustrated that words just aren’t coming. The pressure leads to anxiety which leads to stress which just makes things worse.

At the same time, one thing I do want to do is start some kind of gratitude journal. I picked up an A5 Hobonichi Cousin Avec (which runs July to December) as I wanted to try one out as well as the Tomoegawa paper. I’ll prob pick up an A6 version in September (along with the cover etc) in order to document the coming year. I just can’t do anything until I hear about my PIP and that, too, is stressing me out. But I have started doing things and one of the bits I’ve enjoyed about having a paper diary is being able to stash tickets or postcards in it, things which were tangible proof of events.

This week, for example, I went to a book signing by M.R. Carey at my local Waterstones. I love The Girl With All the Gifts, especially the movie version, and it was so nice to get out after hours, as it were, and not have to worry about getting home. The bus stop is 3 mins from where they were having the talk and my favourite driver, Tony, tends to be doing that shift. I also had a bottle of wine which led to a fun 45 minutes of him remaking on my bladder. Git. The point is, I feel able to do things because I want to. I was going to go home at one point and I’m so glad I didn’t.

I’m not normally an evening person but, right now, that’s when I’m the most conscious.

I’m having to slow down a lot but I’m still here. I have to remind myself to do things, to take my medication with regularity but it’s baby steps until I figure out how my brain wants to play, nicely or not.

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The State of Me: June 2018

This is my new friend Henry.

Another quick one because: a) the election and b) medication.

So bullet points:

  • Latest New Dog update suggests that IF they find one for me, next class starts in September so I should hear something next month. I’m not banking on anything. 2018 is much more likely.
  • It’s bipolar redux month: I’ve just gone back on quetiapine. My mood’s been plummeting and my anxiety’s sky-rocketed. Some of it was personal but getting a rent notice three months early and paperwork from the DWP a year early (to add insult, on a Saturday) did not help.
  • I’m taking enough that I feel stoned until around 2:30pm each day. Coffee helps but only a little. Oh and I slept for 14 hours last night, right through until mid-afternoon.
  • And I missed most of the election, which turns out to be a good thing. Urgh.
  • I’ve moved into Nero’s permanently now and am accruing a lot of free coffees by being savvy (you get a bonus stamp for bringing your own mug which allows me to spend a lot less on coffee, as well as making sure it doesn’t cool).
  • When not in Nero’s, I seem to be in the Lamb. It’s a little pub with a courtyard in spitting distance of my bus stop and they even have their own cat: Henry, Lover of Dreamies. We’ve bonded and it’s not in the least bit creepy that I now carry Dreamies in my bag.
  • Yesterday was the first anniversary of the Great Name Change. I bought myself a throw in celebration.
  • Speaking of the Great Name Change, I’m still encountering issues. Like the DWP deciding to ignore the loss of a middle name in my paperwork. It’s taken me a year to notice as they seldom any middle name unless it’s renewal paperwork and they don’t usually send me large print. I’m hoping this has now been fixed. The Deed Poll was pretty clear about my old name and my new one.
  • Wonder Woman was amazing, BTW. I’ve seen it twice and, oh, the arse-kickery.
  • American Gods is, similarly, one of the few TV shows to really get my attention.
  • People have started calling me Ash in earnest now. I like it. I’ve never had a contraction of a name I’ve loved before.
  • The cats love me; D is still a bitey little shit.
  • I’m still writing but my process has slowed. I broke my Amazon account so don’t really want to go anywhere near KDP for a while, even though I spent a week dealing with Amazon and the angelic CSR who eventually helped me fix everything. Triggers are a bitch.
  • I’m writing a proof of concept story called “Proof of Concept”. I’m hoping it’ll be ready for crit next week. That aside, anything more complicated is on hold. Though I do have an idea for a fantasy series connected to this particular short.
  • It’s sorta, kinda summer. Yay!
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The State of Me: Anxiety Issues

It’s hard to say I’m anxious when this lovely—but bitey—little monster is curled up on my lap every morning. But I am and it’s crippling.

I have medication—personally reserved for the biggest shitstorms or when I’m triggered—to take but most of the time it’s a constant stream of noise in the background which breaks my brain.

To give you an idea of just this morning:

  • It’s sunny, should I go into the city?
  • I don’t wanna go into the city but, equally, I need to leave the house to keep my sanity intact. Will a walk to the garage sort that?
  • My friend is calling, do I make myself available even though I hate the city/going in late on a Saturday.
  • Will they take this personally? I just don’t want to go in.
  • Do I get up or stay in bed?
  • Do I nip to the garage and get a (free!) coffee?
  • Do I ‘stay local’?
  • I don’t need to go to the supermarket, do I? Oh, gods please no.
  • I need to do at least two loads of washing, including stripping my bed (which I hate).
  • Do I want that coffee? I have no chocolate in the house …
  • Fuck, I just looked at my credit card. I’m a failure.
  • Is D going to hate me if I move and disturb him?

Today wasn’t even a bad morning. It was just normal. Some of this is my actual anxiety, the rest my PTSD and autism. It’s not a nice mix, as mental illness cocktails go.

Fortunately, I was on the phone with one of my BBFs who quickly reminded me most of my credit card (well 1/3) was the shopping I needed from Sainsbury’s. Because if I don’t feed the cats, they will eat me, and I have MySupermarket set up to email me whenever their chow of choice is on offer. Plus I needed a bulk buy of other household stuff like bog roll, kitchen towel, bleach and heavy things I can’t carry.

I get stuck in a recrimination loop most days. Usually, due to being starved as a child, it’s food related and panicking about not having a specific item in the house. Today it was chocolate. Because female and PMS is near constant for me. The point re the food (plus any obsession) thing is that I’m literally unable to function until I’m reassured I have whatever it is in the house, the good thing is the garage has a much bigger selection now than it did pre-makeover.

Another example:

Last night I couldn’t find my emergency roller tip for my cane. I have a sneaking suspicion I bought three, changed two out and had the last one lurking somewhere. Except my memory’s so damaged I can’t remember half of the last two years from the medication. I had a flash of the tip in its little bag but it was in none of the places I normally put these things. I only started thinking about it because I’m helping New Friend who needs a new cane and wanted to give her one of my older, larger roller balls as a stopgap until we can get her a long cane she’ll actually use.

It doesn’t matter, not really. I have a spare cane but I need to order new balls, I just can’t afford to do it right now (they’re nearly £6 each from the RNIB). I was trying to work out, when we get New Friend a couple of special-order long canes from Canada, if it would be cheaper to add in some balls with the order for me and her. Sadly the exchange rate is in US$ not CAN which sucks so not really. I could get them locally but Sensory Support is a pain to visit and last time I was told to just order them from the RNIB instead of getting them for free. Double sigh.

Oh, and I’m still refusing to patronise NNAB, which was the last place I got the balls, because they cancelled archery on us. I’ll visit if I have to but I really don’t want to. Plus there’s no guarantee their equipment centre will a) have them and b) give them to me for free.

Stuff used to be free. It was a heck of a lot easier. I suppose at least I know where to get stuff. That’s not disabled entitlement talking, BTW, it’s a literal case of all mobility aids used to be free. You’d ring a number, give your registration details, and whatever you needed would be sent out by second class post. It was awesome. Except for that one time where they put two folded canes through my letter box and said canes unfolded.

My hallway is only about a metre square between door and steps. If that. That was a fucking nightmare.

That was a fucking nightmare.

I have what I call anxiety twitches. They’re random ripples that just set me off. Yesterday it was because I stayed home, because I lounged in bed. I have issues lounging because, in my head (not the best place, obviously), lounging means laziness which is the stereotype of the benefit scrounger. Again this bounces directly back to my disabled imposter syndrome and the non-disabled concept of what how a disabled person should behave. This is a lot harder for me and New Friend because both of us have more sight than most people put together. But we’re both still blind. Technically and literally.

And I am missing not having a dog which isn’t helped by my Husky fixation or BFF’s love of German Shepherds, though I do appreciate having daily lab/retrievers posted on my Facebook page. The lack of my own guide dog, however, it’s getting really bad now. I cried last night because I was on the phone to BFF and could hear Gismo in the background, chasing dream bunnies. He doesn’t yip, more grumble, but that noise, it still reminded me of Uni. Who used to gallop across the carpet and make tiny yip-barks of joy.

I’m still stuck on a waiting list and it’s been nearly eight months (unofficially). I know I need to wait, that compromising will just bite me in the arse for the next decade of my life. But I need a dog, Bramble hugs only go so far and I want my own. I have my friends and their dogs, but I’m not as fast as them, I’m constantly having to focus on where I’m stepping which means I feel slow which my anxiety translates to ‘I’m overweight ergo lazy’ as opposed to ‘I can’t see and have to slow down’. Friends are awesome but they have dogs so don’t have to worry about that. I also have to watch my cane in case I clip one of their dogs’ back legs.

I’ve always had anxiety, except it never bothered me because I was either busy or I could step around it: I had to go to London, because of work. Work was my shield. I could ring people because it was work-related because that was how stuff was done. Now I have a phone phobia and just seeing unknown numbers triggers me. I can make phone calls but it has to either be for someone else and in a capacity where my flowchat of answers is active (like ringing the DWP but always, in that context, for someone else) or it has to be a last ditch/no other option thing.

Oddly I’m perfectly fine ringing my power company …

Weird.

I prefer email/twitter/IMing because it gives me a minute to think before I reply. Ask me on the phone and I’ll capitulate and instantly guilt will set in because I’ve not had time to plan something out. I like planning. It keeps me sane. But, at the same time, my default is that while I have a plan, I don’t take precedence. All my friends know that if I’m not in the city, they need to factor in an hour for me to get to them. That alone stresses me because, in my head, I’m supposed to be psychically aware of everyone else’s plans, even though they’ve not told me. I’m supposed to spend my days sitting in cafes waiting for them to ask if I’m in for coffee.

And if I’m not, I feel guilty, because of my lack of foresight.

A couple of days last week I found myself with time and no one else in it. So I took myself to a boardgame night. I went in late, had coffee, did some writing, and then had fun. I got one of the last buses back, timing it with perfect precision. I was so proud of myself (especially as I’m never usually out past four pm). But then, a few days before that, I went to the movies on a Bank Holiday and, knowing the buses were on Sunday service, left the movie thirty minutes early so I wouldn’t have to wander Riverside or spend money in a bar while I waited for the next bus. Missing buses, even when I know there’s another one in x minutes, really stresses me out.

But then, a few days before that, I went to the movies on a Bank Holiday and, knowing the buses were on Sunday service, left the movie thirty minutes early so I wouldn’t have to wander Riverside or spend money in a bar while I waited for the next bus. Missing buses, even when I know there’s another one in x minutes, really stresses me out.

The point is, my anxiety is logical but still stupid.

Also, it doesn’t come with an off switch, not unless I take myself off the rails. Most of the time, unless it’s a calmly prepared but last minute thing I don’t have time to panic about, I just can’t. Not unless I’m very medicated and a Valium addiction is just not on the cards right now. I try to rationalise it, taking myself out of the picture or asking ‘What would Mhairi do?’ and then tone the answer down just a little. Sometimes it works but the contriction, it’s never going to leave me.

It is me.

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Time For a May Update!

So it’s time for an update, it’s been a couple of weeks and I currently have a D on my foot, which means I’m stuck.

Send help and chocolate!

But, seriously, spring is … erm … springing. We have blossom and my windows are open/the Sonos are on half-pelt. Life’s okay.

My foot is going to sleep. Crap.

But, yeah, I survived London and Easter. S’all good. My mood has been relatively stable which is nice, though my anxiety remains through the roof. Not so good but it’s a work in progress. Shall we do this through the medium of bullet points, just for brevity?

 Okay then:

  • London was awesome. I really enjoyed it. I’m still paying it off but it was worth it.
  • Hidden Figures is even more awesome in the cinema. Bonus for having an actual American with me who can explain the whole political mess around it and the Space Race. Also, it makes me want to go back to my Space Race on an alien planet novella.
  • I am writing. My current focus is still on the Atridia books, specifically on a short story I’m calling “Bindings, Seen and Not” about a neutral gender bookbinder living in a city under state-sanctioned non-binary gender oppression.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale was amazing … and severely triggering. I want to watch the rest of it (I think there are like ten episodes). I’m not sure I’ll be able to though, it’s horrifically foretelling but incredibly relevant. I know a lot of people are noping out purely because of anxiety issues with the content.
  • In election news, I’m noping out. Due to a bureaucratic cock-up relating to the Great Name Change, I’ve been kicked off the electoral roll and won’t be back on it time for the local election. I’m very angry about this but also glad I caught it as I do want to vote in the general election next month. I just don’t want to have to listen to the election kerfuffle until then. Aside: I know it’s a cock-up because they have ZERO records of me under Old Name either and I’ve lived here for a decade and voted, both in person and postal. They also have no problems sending me Council Tax bills in my new name. It’s a work in progress but I don’t expect it to be resolved in time to vote locally (I have re-registered to vote and intend to give someone at Electoral a serious talking to about the legalities of this, I’m registered as a head of household and am not dependent of anyone else so there’s no reason for me to have been removed).
  • There’s no ETA on the guide dog front either. Sigh. The cats are picking up the slack though. Bramble and Gismo hugs are also helping.
  • I got an update on Uni’s progress and she’s doing so well. She’s happy and has a beach. That’s all I can ask for.
  • My mood has been yoyoing but nothing too hard-core though I managed to really trigger myself last weekend. It was unpleasant. Oh and I’ve been obsessing again, mainly on buying things, Field Notes and food. Oh and Midori, of course. But I’m starting to argue out reasons why I should wait (example: my phone is due an upgrade but, instead, I’m going to go sim-only for a few months/til the end of the year as it’s cheaper).
  • Money-wise, I sat down and worked out my income and did a spreadsheet. I’ve worked out a rough, date by date, payment plan and should be debt free just after my birthday. I even budgeted in a new Limitless card and my rent. 2018 should start out with a nice, clean, slate. If I can restrain myself and focus on the Big Picture.
  • At some point, I’m going to write that book on bipolar or, at least, how to manage things like money while dealing with the mood swings.
  • I’ve decided to teach myself bookbinding (I started learning it a couple of years ago), thanks to the help of YouTube. Actually, I’ve been a lot more crafty of late; mostly laminating stuff and experimenting with little things like making postcard-sized pictures for my fridge (mostly of upcoming movie posters and inspirational quotes) or laminating stuff for friends. I am now the proud owner of an awl, a craft knife, cutting map, guillotine and haven’t yet done myself any serious damage. Go me. My task for this week is to learn to saddle stitch and learn how to bind my own notebooks for my wallet (there’s more variety in terms of paper and cover colour). Plus it keeps my brain quiet which is the biggest thing.

  • I cancelled my gym membership. The pressure of attendance (I’m not an evening person, especially not when I ‘have’ to do something I don’t want to do) and my continuing plantar fasciitis had been driving me nuts. Said PF was getting better, then I went to London. Sigh. On the upside, I’m not missing the place and much prefer walking around Eaton Park with my guide dog owner friends and their hounds.
  • I’m eating better food. Simple meals which are easy to cook and fast (or involve the minimum amount of prep). This week it’s garlic and bacon pasta with chorizo and lots of herbs. Healthy and tasty.
  • My faux Midori wallet is working beautifully, as is the free diary I got from JP Books (though it runs out in September and I kinda want a dated one. Dates are hard.). I’ve been playing with the inserts and now have a zipper pouch, a kraft folder and a notebook inside each other on the first string and my diary and expenses ledger held together with a band on the second. It works perfectly. Oh, I added a Neo Queen Serenity tiara charm onto the string and it sits beautifully on my yen coin.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 is freaking awesome. End of. I didn’t look at my watch once AND I’m going back tomorrow.
  • I’m looking forward to so much TV and so many movies. I have tickets to Alien: Covenant and Wonder Woman already. I’m actually going to the cinema physically and ordering in bulb because the Odeon site only lets me book two performances ahead online (in person I can book loads). It’s annoying and cramping my social life.
  • Doctor Who is actually kinda good this season.
  • American Gods starts tomorrow. YAY!!!!
  • I’m managed to keep on top of household stuff, though I’m yet to put my washing away. Small steps, Asha, small steps.
  • I’m back in therapy and it’s helping. Reddit is helping more in terms of a support group which is just odd but so welcome. Ditto my very closest chosen family.
  • Ramen is still awesome.
  • I finally got my hands on a Lindt 1kg Gold Bunny in the post-Easter sales and I don’t regret it. Not for one second. 😀
  • We are Groot, people!
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The January Blues

Seasonal Affective Disorder, coupled with the depressive side of bipolar and a slight issue when it comes to a loss of my beloved canine mobility aid, means January is sucking hard. There never seems to be enough cash lying around (and I just bulk bought cat food for my feline overlords). Said cats are trying to compensate with ALL THE LOVE but it’s not quite enough to tip the tide. Oh and apparently it’s going to snow tomorrow.

No. Just no. At least, if it does snow, I have a couple of books to read, good books and a comfy sofa on which to sit.

Sadly the sunrise is something I’m seeing little off, it’s usually dark for most of my commute into the city. However, when I do see them, they’ve been stunning. I usually sit in the cab of the bus, right behind the door which affords me stellar views of the A47 (/sarcasm).

And, oh fucking gods, please don’t snow.

Understand I don’t hate snow per se, I just hate what it does to my mobility, specifically in the frozen and slush stages. I have zero issues with walking while it is snowing and, in fact, quite enjoy it. It’s the best time to go to the supermarket, in fact, as everyone else is not there.

I’m neither properly depressed nor manic at the moment, but I am still miserable. I don’t want to go into supermarkets (because it’s all too easy to spend money) and I certainly don’t want to go out after dark. Even putting a letter in the post was too much this morning (so I gave it to the postwoman as she brought me a Lakeland catalogue). I’m able to get coffee and go into the city but that’s about it.

However I’m also trying to meal plan and use up the contents of my freezer, I’m also trying to cook a meal a day and eat lots of soup. Soup is warm and filling and the garage sells nice baguettes that are right next to the bit where I stand to get my coffee. If it does snow, I know I have gyoza and bread, leftovers from tonight, various meat stuffs and enough to make spag bol for the weekend.

January, by its sheer definition, just seems to make everything harder. I can’t concentrate (though that could just be because I’m watching Homeland which requires it.) I need to go to Zumba but the idea of being in a room of people with loud music after dark just makes me want to hide behind my sofa with Isis. This also means I can’t settle on a project, even though I have a new short story on the front burner. I just lack the motivation to work on it, or anything else. I’m waking up but from then on, the days just drag, then it gets dark and cold … Rinse and repeat.

At least, if I go into town and top up my Nero card, I’ll have coffee and a comfy seat that doesn’t keep moving (my desk chair is now making death-rattles and sinking every time I sit down in it). Warmth, a croissant and WiFi is a bonus. I just feel lost, uninspired and very mundane which means spending a lot of time just surfing the internet and watching TV shows on Netflix. I know all this is a passing thing and it will get better. Just hugging Bramble the other day did me wonders, ditto the small puppy I fussed as I waited for the bus. Watching Gismo and D size themselves up is also entertaining (and D is currently losing the war).

New Dog would help right now but it’s not going to happen on my schedule, it’ll happen on Guide Dogs’ (which also explains why today sucked because they called me and, for two glorious seconds until I saw it was their main switchboard number, I thought it was THE call, even though I know better). No one does matching visits in January because there aren’t any dogs (another strike against the month IMHO).

Yeah, I wish I could say positive things but I can’t. I’m going to take an eARC and curl up on the couch with some music on then go to bed, it’s all I can do until this weather decides if it’s going to be awful or not.

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Unis’ Retirement (Working: January 2010-October 2016) and the Future

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Uni was officially retired on medical grounds at my request—and Guide Dogs’ agreement—on Monday morning. She’s currently in holding at their Redbridge facility in Woodford Green being medically assessed. She’s still ill (and blood was found in her faeces). After six very long weeks of continued gastroenterological problems, it was decided that, for her wellbeing, it would simply be the kinder thing to retire her, treat her illness (assuming it can be identified) and then see her rehomed with people who will love her until she passes.

As a courtesy Guide Dogs are keeping me in the loop about her condition, medical issues and her emotional wellbeing (she’s happy and settled in) but I need to say that retiring her, it’s not a decision I’ve made lightly and, oh fuck, it hurts.

Imagine having your heart ripped out and shown to you, it doesn’t even come close. Neither does putting down a beloved pet (at least you have closure and can reassure them as they go peacefully). Uni’s been my constant companion for nearly six years and not having her is … well, weird. This is grief; I know it is. I know it will go away but it takes time.

Uni was a character best described as ‘Einstein with a dash of Moriarty and a bit of Houdini’, she was smart and sassy, she took the piss. She knew things a dog shouldn’t know. Worse she loved people and that was a part of the problem, she wanted her cake and fully intended to eat it. It’s why becoming Asha was so easy, because she was the more recognisable and lovable of the two of us.

Basically here’s what happened:

  • She relapsed on October 7th. We were in Starbucks when she started giving me the paw and whining (Uni code for ‘something’s up) and she started shitting liquid as soon as I got her outside. I immediately took her to my local vet who took her in for observation and put her on fluids. At this point I was physically unable to look after her due to the stress so two days respite helped but didn’t solve the problem, even though the vet kept an eye on her over the weekend her, releasing her back to me on the Sunday. She was officially signed off work for at least ten days and the vet arranged for special food for her.
  • We’d previously had an appointment booked for the 17th to go down to Redbridge to discuss her case going forward. That was unable to be moved so I had to find compromise.
  • Because I’m autistic I need routine; it hurts when I can’t do things in their usual order or be at certain times. So I left Uni at home as much as possible for the maximum of four-five hours. She slept through most of it. I went out to run errands, grab a coffee, chat to new friends and old and do the minimum in a set amount of time to keep myself sane. I do not apologise for this.
  • After consulting with other GDOs, knowing it was a quiet week with a single event I wanted to go to (purely for selfish reasons of my personal sanity and needing interaction with friends in a dog-safe space), Paul suggested ‘half harness’ where you put on the neon bra bit of the harness but leave the handle (which is the bit which tells the dog they’re supposed to do stuff) at home. I then used my cane to get around and would therefore be able to take Uni out to archery, knowing she would be happy on a blanket with plenty of access to water.
  • On Thursday, she ate cat shit while I let her out to pee. She’d been avoiding the pen due to the associations with bowel movements and pain so I let her go where she wanted to, only realising later that she was actually after stuff in the garden. She was fine but on Friday morning I noticed her straining and knew the jig was up.
  • On Friday, after acknowledging she was still unwell, still exhausted, and on advice from trusted sources within Guide Dogs/my circle of GDO friends, I emailed my contact, making it clear I was unable due to my own mental illness and Uni’s continued suffering to give her the care she needed. She required a safe area, better eyes than mine and so I told Guide Dogs I would bring her down to Redbridge expecting them to either:
    • a) Retire her on the spot due to her age and the fact rest/food were making no difference in her condition. (My personal option).
    • b) Board her for an extended period while tests were carried out (which would still most likely end in option a).
  • I followed this up with an email requesting her formal retirement. Because formality. Also I wanted to make sure there was actual room for her at Redbridge. I also may have compared her to my Sightsaber and what I do when it breaks.
  • Friday/Saturday were mostly spent crying. Also packing Uni’s things.
  • Sunday: I decided it was only fair to take Uni on a short Victory Tour (again in half-harness) so people who cared about her could say goodbye. She got so many hugs and though it may seem cruel to take her out, we both needed to pretend it was just a normal day. We met a trusted friend who agreed with my plan and my motivations, as well as understanding the mental pressure this was all putting on me (remember: my bipolar is triggered by stress). We returned home and I had to reiterate (somewhat angrily) in an unexpected phone call that even though the vet cancelled, we were still coming down to Redbridge and this was in no way related to her pre-existing skin condition.
  • Monday: We got down to Redbridge, Uni slept most of the way. There was no coffee. She was however pleased that the vet wasn’t there, they normally poke at her and she, understandably, doesn’t like that. The forms were, thankfully, waiting for me and after I reiterated I felt it was unfair to continue in the current fashion (Uni is a guide dog which means she needs human interaction 24/7), both for her health but also for my mobility and state of mind. The papers were signed; I let them keep the 50p. Then we left, stopped for a drink in her honour and returned home.

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This is my last picture of Uni. Frank, that’s the nice chap who I’ve been dealing with, let me have some time to cry and hug her. She looks sick but also like the weight of the world has been lifted off her shoulders. I like to think she’s happy because being a guide dog is stressful. On the way back I spoke to my handler (a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor) and confirmed I wanted to be put back on the list for a new dog. We briefly discussed the details of what I need (a short haired lab or crossed bitch, must be white/gold, must be calm, good with cats and able to work with escalators and the Tube). He affirmed, though we’ve been quietly discussing retirement for a while now, that I’d done the right thing. Had Uni been a dog working in London, she would have retired by now anyway.

Validation helps.

I’m meeting him formally next month to fill in paperwork, because Guide Dogs love paperwork, and the plan is to pass me onto the London Mobility Team (because escalator-trained dogs are usually only for inner city blind people). I do go to London a lot, more if it wasn’t so stressful, and so it’ll be a simpler thing to just have them to class and find a suitable dog they feel will be compatible to me. Also, given the clusterfuck that was my previous class I don’t want to train at home or in somewhere I’m vaguely familiar. Norwich simply has too many bad memories.

So, that, friends, is what happens when your beloved guide dog retires. I miss her, I love her to bits, but I don’t regret a thing. This was always about her health, her well-being, but as her owner mine also had to factor in. We’ve always bounced off each other, it’s why we worked so well together. For now I’m trying to explain in as few words as possible to people why Uni’s not with me (someone actually asked me if she was dead!).

Short version: She’s ill and has retired. She’s being rehomed as soon as she’s well enough. I’m waiting for a new dog.

From a personality perspective though, it’s also going to allow me time to figure out who I am. Changing my name was easy because no one really noticed I was there, I was plus 1 to a gorgeous guide dog. Next Dog is going to be different, I’m going to be different and I have a six month wait (ish) to find myself and start my next relationship on the right foot.

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