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: 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 Creatives’ Guide to Living With Bipolar Disorder: So, Erm, I Came Off My Quetiapine

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I’m writing this mainly for my own reference and because, apparently, I’m not the only one coming off quetiapine this week.

I’ve been noticing the more quetiapine I take, the more nasty the side-effects have been becoming. Aside from the weight gain (boo), the biggest one is my brain. My memory, my ability to function. It’s not sedation, it’s not brain fog, it’s someone going through my head and randomly chopping out bits or pulling entire pages right out my grey matter.

This is problematic, not personally, but from a writing perspective. I can’t remember much about my own books, who a character is, what colour their eyes were, names and places. Yes, I should have a concordance of this stuff but hush.

Now I don’t taper. I am, at heart, masochistic and somewhat impatient so I cold turkey things. This isn’t, I admit, the smartest move or the first time I’ve done this but I’d rather have a few days/weeks of feeling shit than months of halving pills and lowering doses. Bollocks to that. Granted my GP probably won’t approve (and while I’ve not consulted her, I have spoken to several pharmacists who’ve given me an idea of withdrawal symptoms, apparently being on Biquelle XL, as a form of quetiapine, should make it easier though I thought it was just a brand name). Worse case, it’ll be three months, best case it’s already out of my system.

So, stuff I’ve noticed:

  • My memory is still shit. Maybe the damage is permanent? I hope not. It’s not what I have to do, it’s what I have to buy or where I’ve been.
  • I had one morning of intense nausea without needing to be sick, exacerbated by an extreme hypersensitivity to smell. Like everything made me feel ill, from bars of chocolate on a stand to that damn burger place up near Morrisons on Riverside. When I don’t want dinner then my friends know there’s really something wrong with me. On the upside, when I did eat, no problems. Also, I’ve actually been enjoying food more though having someone else cook has helped.
  • I had some flu-like symptoms but they passed in a couple of days
  • My IBS has cleared up, though I’m still having some issues with constipation. I don’t think it’s my diet though, I’d had lots of proper meals and vegetables this week.
  • There have been some weird vision things, like changes in light perception and flashes but I’m blind so able to cope easily enough.
  • I’m a lot calmer and when I’m not, I take my valium like a good girl.
  • I want to come off my sleeping tablets but I also want to sleep. One thing at once.
  • Alcohol is really making me ill. I had two pints and felt like shit. My internal thermostat stopped working and I just shivered. No more for me for now.
  • My concentration has improved. We went to see Independence Day: Resurgence on Monday and I couldn’t concentrate, so I talk. By Wednesday, when we went to see The Secret Life of Pets, I was engrossed. I don’t know, maybe it was just a better movie?
  • I’m being more talkative to Uni and she, sensing I’m off, is being uber-clingy. I love my dog and we’re being much more physically demonstrative. Also, I have this running dialogue with her which seems to help, even if she doesn’t answer back.
  • I’m making a conscious effort to eat (more healthily and actual meals). Yesterday I had to be somewhere at noon, so we went and shopped then went specifically to the pub for breakfast (and met Mhairi by a total fluke of two seconds later and would have missed each other). My appetite is definitely better and my cravings have become more manageable.
  • I’m able to deal, both with things and people. I’m not as irritable or paranoid. I’m more rational and if there’s a problem, I actively try to fix it, including ringing people. On my phone. Fuck me …
  • I found myself not worrying about time management for the first time in ages (which also included giving Uni a change to have a roll on some nice grass/an ice cream for me). Normally I obsess over buses and hate missing them, even when I know, logistically, I just can’t catch certain ones due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • I’ve been more active, watering the garden, walking and being willing to do stuff.
  • I’m not sleeping as much … and I’m waking up stupidly early, like before I need to as opposed to when my alarm goes off. Though much of that could be down to the recent weather/stupid humidity. Plus quetiapine is a sedative so not having it in my system is, of course, going to not make me as sleepy.
  • I am not manic. I’m level and okay. I’m a tad worried about withdrawal but I also know if I sleep, I’ll be okay. Sleep, for me, is a key trigger for my episodes. Or at least it helps me have an idea of my mental state. Too little sleep and I start to become more manic, too much and well, the opposite.
  • I have people on speed dial who know what I’m doing and will be there for me if things go bad.

Some of this might be psychological or psychosomatic but it feels real then it is, at least to me. Uni is there if I need support and having her definately makes me feel like I can face things, situations or people. I also have a small but amazing batch of friends. I’m trying to be kind to myself, if I’m tired, I go to bed. If I want to watch a movie or go home, I will. Heck, I was also asked if I wanted to do something and rather than panic and madly rearrange my schedule, I simply expressed interest but explained the timing wasn’t good (very short notice) and could I do x in a few months’ time?

Just to be sure, my diary is clear until Wednesday to the point where I don’t need to go out if I don’t want to. I also know, if I feel ill, I can just chill out. Tuesday is my big do-stuff day (the boiler needs servicing, the dog food is due and I’m having a new dryer delivered) but none of it requires me to go anywhere. I’m booked for Zumba on Tuesday but if, like Thursday, I feel sick, I’ll simply cancel. I’m also seeing my GP on Wednesday so at least she can be made aware of what I’m doing.

So yeah … I’m alive, it’s good, hopefully the weight will start to go down as well as I try to eat real food. Plus it’ll be nice to have some time to give my system a break, not a detox (I’m still on valium and zopidem) but I’m hoping I feel better (and I do have some quetiapine in the house, should I need to go back on it).

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Remembering Why

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Just before I was diagnosed with bipolar, I got this tattooed on to my right arm. When looked at from the perspective of someone shaking my hand, they’re the chemical formulae for serotonin and dopamine. Serotonin is what decides if you’re depressed (when you don’t have enough of it) and dopamine, well too much makes you (or, rather, me) manic.

I got it to remind me not just to take my medication (which is making me feel miserable right now, due to the side effects of weight gain) but that it’s a better thing than dancing between high and low. It’s also there to remind me that walking the narrow path between the two is something I have to do on a daily basis. Mania is wonderous, you never want to end. The creativity, the ease of everything, it’s like being able to fly, but at some point you’re always going to come crashing down.

Hard.

Worse, you never want it to end. But, in two weeks, maybe three, that glorious feeling evaporates and, if you’re lucky, you don’t break anything in the fall.

Depression is almost easier, you use the darkness, rely on the banal tasks to get you through the day. Eating, doing laundry, feeding the animals, going to bed and waking up just as tired. I make a point of meeting friends, of being there for the people I care about and hugging as many animals as I can get my hands on. Then I count down the days. At least, you know it’s going to end and, unlike mania, it will be an easier thing because you’re not crashing, you’re climbing up out of the pit. As long as you remind yourself that a new day is a new start, it’s okay. Any scars, mental or physical, you accumulate on the war are simply proof of survival. I’ve actually lived through worse.

At least, you know it’s going to end and, unlike mania, it will be an easier thing because you’re not crashing, you’re climbing up out of the pit. As long as you remind yourself that a new day is a new start, it’s okay. Any scars, mental or physical, you accumulate on the war are simply proof of survival. I’ve actually lived through worse.I find music I love, television which entrances me (hence my

I find music I love, television which entrances me (hence my Game of Thrones rewatch), and wait through the days. Living on my own actually helps because it forces me to do the things I’d otherwise relegate to a partner, I don’t have anyone so if I don’t do the basics, I’ll starve … or the animals will eat me.

I also try to keep some kind of schedule.

Monday: Early starts in Norwich. Coffee and Game of Thrones, lunch and time with friends. Sailor Moon Crystal.

Tuesday: Zumba.

Wednesday: Whatever. I’m trying to use Wednesday as the unplanned day where I can chill out, have lunch with Uni, do errands. Get a massage. Free run the hound. Wander the shops.

Thursday: Zumba.

Friday: An early start with appointments, maybe coffee with friends. Home, knowing the weekend has arrived and I can sleep in.

Saturday: Coffee and a lie in. Start my house cleaning. Do the washing.

Sunday: Another lie in, perhaps an early night. My writing crit group meets in the afternoon. After that I’m free to write or just watch TV, knowing no one else needs me to do anything. I’ll put the washing away, hang clothes, empty the dishwasher.

And we begin again.

What I didn’t realise, though, was that the little white tablets I take to regular my mood aren’t infallible. No one bothered to tell me, instead they were touted as a miracle which would finally put my mood on an even keel, like a seesaw with someone sitting in the middle to keep the weight of the kids on either end from sending me stratospheric or into the earth.

Then I got stressed. Physical stress, mental stress, it doesn’t matter though both just makes it worse. Stress means those little tablets, they might we well be placebos. Last year I had five manic episodes and I’m still dealing with the fallout. I’ve just had my CBT confirmed (mainly to deal with crushing anxiety) which should start this week and that’s a great thing, even if it’s taken sixteen months to get anywhere. People keep telling me to hang on but I’m so used to waiting a long time for things … but I’m not suicidal, I’m patient. I have to be because the cogs of the local mental health surface are so rusted over they’re barely moving.

Unfortunately, I’m also about to do something which, at worse, will trigger another manic episode. It’s a necessary evil, pre-planned to be as easy as possible. My credit cards are tucked away, details removed from websites so I can’t just purchase stuff. The amount of effort involved in prep has been stupid, from dog-related stress to making sure I’ll have food in the house. I can deal with the actual event in my sleep but it’s the rest of it that’s going to be a headache. I’m worried more that I’m going to end up with an unexpected manic episode than I am about physical pain because the mania is, hands-down, actually worse.

So I have my tattoo, there to remind me, there to help me remember the line I have to walk, a tight-rope. Balance was never my strongest suit but I’m getting better at it because falling or flying is worse.

I just need to remember why.

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