I am a survivor

I am the sum of all my parts. Even the broken bits and the parts I don’t like. The cracks are proof that I’m still alive.

People tell people with chronic illnesses to not let their illness define their identity. People say are you sure you want that ‘label’ in relation to being diagnosed with mental illness(es).

Well. Chronic illness makes you feel all kinds of things. I’ve come to believe that people without chronic illnesses don’t understand how it’s part of your identity and always will be. Every time I leave the house I have to account for a list of things a ‘normal and healthy’ person doesn’t. That’s part of who I am.

The same goes for mental illness. I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression over a decade again. In the past 5(?) years I started to wonder that there was something else. There were other things about my brain that made life hard to cope with, and they weren’t anxiety or depression. There’s been so many times I felt broken. Because I couldn’t remember something (from yesterday, this morning, or three years ago) or confused because I forgot where I was going when I was halfway there. I often feel disconnected – from everything – including myself. My therapist at the time dismissed these concerns. More than once. Hindsight says why didn’t I go elsewhere? But logically, I know it’s because I was too busy trying not to drown. (Now I know what a shitty therapist is like.)

Before now I was scared to learn more about my traumatic first five years of life and how that trauma effects me as an adult. Neglect and abandonment are just the traumas I know of for sure. In fact I have focused on my physical health until the last year or so. I wanted to be “normal” so I could go back to work. In that time my mental health suffered more. Probably. And I’ve survived too much stuff to be “normal” – but that’s the thing. I was strong enough to survive.

Last year I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and PTSD. (It’s probably cPTSD but I haven’t remembered to ask my doctor.) So I have more labels. But the labels are important because now I can get the treatment I need.

Now I understand much about the effects of trauma on the body, how these effects stick around, and what I can do to heal. I’m working on it and I still feel broken but now more importantly I realize I’m a survivor. Understanding trauma has given me some answers but theres so answers I’ll never have.

I’m broken and sometimes I feel like a mess but I’m still whole. I’m sick but that doesn’t make me less. I’m strong and I’ve always been stronger than I realize. I’m a survivor.

…. This post has sat as a draft for a long time. I’ve edited it a few times. I’m not sure the point, but I still feel I should publish it instead of deleting it.

My new novel bullet journal

For the last… year? I’ve been working on my writing process when I haven’t been working on my physical and mental health. Needless to say, it’s a slow process.

Besides learning brainstorming techniques and recognizing the difference between plots, ideas, and premises, I’ve also been working on how best to organize my writing so that I don’t feel overwhelmed.

Currently, I’ve started a general writing reference journal and I just started a writing tracking bullet journal (ish). Everything clicked when I found cheap and decent quality soft sided notebooks at Michels.

I’m using Planning Your Novel by Janice Hardy to reorganize and flesh out my Sci-fi/fantasy story idea before I try again to outline.

This was my first version to keep track of my progress:

It’s got a number of issues… And I realized I need a begin date if I’m going to have a date completed.

So with my new journal and some new stickers I now have this

It’s so much cleaner and easier to read. The exercises come from the book and what I’ve written out is in the contents page. I do also recommend the book, especially if you are like me and struggled with your writing process and don’t necessarily have the time, energy, endurance, or money for classes.

I’m adding 30 days of worldbuilding next. It’s a completely free fantasy world builder guide offered in multiple formats at www.web-writer.net/fantasy.

I’ve just now realized that my parallel world idea requires world building twice so I’ll be duplicating this page.

I haven’t decided if I want to write in this journal or keep it primarily for tracking and write on loose leaf paper instead.

I’m also adding a plot embryo tracking page and I glued in some reference material for writing a plot embryo. (Posting this via my phone, Google Rachael Stephen plot embryo for more info.)

If you’re reading this, is there anything you think that’s important that I’ve missed?

Camp NaNoWriMo: what I learned in April 2019

I know, it’s halfway through May. I’ve been…working on my bullet journal! Yea. Seriously though, I’ve been writing!


If you’re planning to write Camp NaNoWriMo in July, I recommend tracking minutes, not hours.

I whole heartedly recommend using bullet journal techniques to keep on top of your novel development – but I have yet to figure out what I like best so if you’re here looking for bullet journal recommendations I might not be any help. I also have no idea what format to use for a novel bullet journal. I’ve tried some stuff in a bound book and all sense of organization is lost so binders are better…. but then I ran into issues with different kinds of paper being harder to flip through and I think I might need better quality paper? Little things that might seem like acceptable allowances or compromises now might not work later. Learn what you like and what works for you and stick with it.

So, here’s my list.

  • Tracking something besides word count helps a ton. This is the first time I did any kind of bullet journal style tracking other than word counts. Turns out it’s important to track something besides words.
  • Brainstorming takes more brain power than writing scenes but I can still spend more time on it than I thought I could. I had multiple productive hour long sessions.
  • Brainstorming is idea development. You already have something, like a question, when you start. You are *not* looking at a blank page.
  • There’s lots of ways around blank pages.
  • Brain dumps are useful on a semi regular basis when I’m trying to get an idea figured out. Brain dumps are vomiting ideas onto paper or screen.
  • Organization is your friend and you aren’t as organized as you think you are, or I’m not anyways.
  • It’s important for me to write long hand on paper and on the computer. They both make my brain work in different ways. Paper is mostly better and might be easier to organize.
  • Once I get to the 8000-12000 words window in Scrivener I need to clean up my files and organizing or I got lost and don’t write anything. I noticed it with my current project and this seems to be the window where I start to lose my focus. Preferably, I can stop this from happening at all.
  • When I get lost and lose focus on what I’m doing is when I feel overwhelmed.
  • I need to experiment more on bullet journal techniques and what to keep track of where. By this I mean tracking more than just words or time. I also mean story items that have to do with characters, plot, setting, theme, etc.
  • Write in pencil because then you can erase!
  • Write on both sides of the paper for idea development that’s list based but not when you’re doing a brain dump.
  • You are *not* a pantser.
  • Be patient with yourself. Learning your writing process is a lot more complicated than I once thought.

I think that’s everything. For now. I’m sure I’ll learn more this month. For May I’ve got a page on my blog for tracking time and a page in my binder for tracking too. We’ll see which one I stick with come June.

Why I want to write a book

I have more than a few hurdles that make writing daily difficult. These include my health – physical and mental, as well as my regular doctor appointments.

Beyond that, I’ve realized in the past 6 months or so that the biggest things that stop me from making progress and building momentum in my writing are staying organized and continuing to track my progress – or not knowing how to track my progress. They make it difficult for me to remember why I want to write a book (or two, or three, or more).

  • I enjoy the writing process. I hate the beginning, when you’re starting, like everyone else who’s human, but I love the actual process; regardless of whether it’s a blog post, a thesis paper, a short story, or something else.
  • I want to write the kind of story that I wish was available when I was growing up. This falls under the write the kind of book you want to read.
  • I want to write a story that’s focuses on women and girls doing important things and the boys and men aren’t as important to the story. I’ve reached a point in my life where I prefer protagonists that I have something in common with.
  • I’ve recently realized I appreciate books, tv shows, and movies with themes of survival – especially individual survivors. For example, I watch Law and Order: SVU because of the characters on the show who keep going despite all the terribleness in the world. In the past few months I’ve learned also that I identity with the word “survivor” so I’d like to incorporate some of this into a story too.
  • Another that I sometimes forget, is that I want to write a story where the protagonist has a mental illness that makes getting through daily life more difficult – but not impossible. Basically, present mental illness in a way to show that it’s simply part of life.
  • Finally, writing is also learning and I love to learn.

And now I think it’s important to list out why I hate writing –

  • It’s hard.
  • It’s overwhelming.
  • It takes regular work and some days it feels like there’s no reward.
  • It’s difficult for me to stay organized.
  • Sometimes it’s difficult to remember what I was doing or where I was going with the story.
  • Making decisions is hard.
  • I can’t seem to remember the most productive ways to brainstorm.

Research: Borderline Personality Disorder and migraines

Borderline Personality Disorder: Treatment and Management — National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health (UK). from 2007 but the link to the full pdf can be found here

Borderline personality disorder and migraine. Study from 2007, full article behind pay wall.

Relationship between borderline personality disorder and migraine. Study from 2017. full article behind pay wall.

This one upsets me because doctors seem to group everyone with Borderline Personality Disorder and migraines together, saying they will all abuse their medicine, which isn’t true. Borderline Personality Disorder and the Chronic Headache
Patient: Review and Management Recommendations

This one is a little better because it notes where more research is needed. Personality traits, personality disorders, and migraine: a review

But I still cannot find the article I stumbled on that says people with Borderline Personality Disorder often have longer lasting, more difficult to treat migraines. It sounded like the type of migraine that occasionally destroys my life for the past 5-6 years.

Mental illness and the medical industry

inspirobot meme: Words say "Friendship is life itself. Life itself is friendship."

I really have no idea how to title this post, let alone start it, past picking an image from inspirobot. But here it goes —

As I learn more and more about my PTSD I realize more and more about how ignorant medical professionals and staff are (seemingly willfully at times) about mental illness. The people I expect to have some kind of awareness or understanding seem to have none. Initially I found this shocking, at this point, it’s unsurprising and tiring. I also realize experiences similar to mine – and worse – are not uncommon. I’m referring only to my personal experiences here.

Recently FB memories reminded me that in January 2014 I was basically assaulted and abused by ER staff. Part of the experience included me blacking out, I only know because my husband was present. Through my entire time there, when I was desperate to receive care when my migraines – which had just started to become severe – things continued to be handled badly. (There’s a thing known as patient’s rights – I’m not sure they respected any of them). I didn’t report any of the hospital staff’s behavior because it was too traumatic and I was too new to the going to an ER for a migraine experience. I tried to move on. I thought moving on would be better, safer, easier. It took at least 3 years to stop feeling like I was there when I remembered anything from that night. When I remember it now, it’s closer to a regular memory.

The FB post that triggered quite a few memories:

Reading the memory and posting about it triggered other memories including parts of an interaction with my previous counselor. I can remember talking about having flashbacks to being in the ER, and being confused and scared. I was questioning if they were flashbacks, questioning if it was a sign of PTSD. I was probably in some kind of crisis. She said yes, it’s post traumatic but no it’s definitely not PTSD. Denied that I had any further problems, just was having isolated problems with a difficult experience. Dismissed my emotions.

Not once, in the 4-5 years, with a visit every month on average, that I met with this woman did she ever consider that maybe she should send me to another professional, like a psychologist or psychiatrist. I have come to realize that she denied any chance of me having anything more than anxiety or depression – continually. Almost regularly. I must have started seeing her in 2012 or 2013, well before January 2014 when the shit happened in the ER. She offered me bandaids, and occasional realizations like a few sips of a cool drink, but nothing to actually help me understand my behavior.

I’ve come to learn that her behavior was at least in part, because of the stigma in the medical/healthcare industry that people with mental illness will try to collect more mental illness diagnoses. Sure, some might feel that it’s helpful to do this. I’m not judging them. But not all of us do. When I finally sought testing – an idea she resisted – after learning I might/probably/do have borderline personality disorder, she still resisted this idea and disagreed – but never elaborated on why.

So that’s four years of worsening symptoms – flashbacks, blackouts, dissociating for sometimes days, severe mood swings, and severe migraines triggered by psychological stresses – that maybe I could have had help with sooner. Because I wasn’t educated enough and because this (older) woman was so stuck in her ways of thinking, including her mental health stigmatization, I continued at many times, to not do much better than survive.

I think I have to continue to try to “move on” from all of this. Writing out this jumble might help. Since then I’ve started seeing a new counselor, further trained, and therefore prepared to help me understand my behavior. The new counselor has been a fresh and new experience. I wish that I had sought out testing and “fresh eyes” much sooner than I did but for so many reasons I didn’t. I wish I had “fired” her sooner. Sometimes I debate one more appointment with her to ask why she disagrees with my BPD and PTSD diagnoses/symptoms/presentations. But that’s a $50 question.

I think it’s also important to note that I have found it necessary to only tell some of my doctors that I was diagnosed with PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder – because of the stigma, especially of Borderline Personality Disorder – thanks in a large part to TV.

Navigating the (American) healthcare system is difficult in general, and an especially exhausting and stressful ordeal if you are trying to get help for your mental health – assuming you can even afford to do so. Everyone’s experiences with mental illness are different, and everyone’s experiences with medical professionals are different too. Also remember, medical professionals are humans too. Unfortunately, sometimes I think some of them need reminded.

So my point. If you have mental illness and you are trying to get help, keep at it. It’s difficult and scary but worth it in the long run. It took me from July 2018 to November 2018 to finish psychological testing, get all the results, find a new counselor and find a psychiatrist. Now I have a counselor I appreciate and trust who’s warm and friendly. The psychiatrist I found (on the second try) seems to be really laid back and competent.

And if you know someone with mental illness – even if you have mental illness – offer them empathy. Educate yourself. Keep an open mind. Ask them how you can help. Don’t tell them what to do – which is hard when you see people in pain. Sadly, some people will also be in denial all their lives too – but that’s their choice because everyone has to seek care at their own pace.

Remember, you aren’t alone.

Cat Life Recommendations: Catnip toys

Not all catnip filled toys are created equally. We’ve tried quite a few brands and shapes. There’s one specific toy we were introduced to when we adopted Rey and Finn almost 2 years ago. It’s the only catnip toy worth it as far as we are concerned (we includes the cats here.)

brand new catnip banana toy, fresh out of the box
new toy on the right, lightly used toy on the left
catnip banana toy, well loved

Two of our cats will literally tear these open to get at the catnip.

You can find these on amazon dot com, chewy dot com and in pet stores. They are $5 to $6 each. Yes, that seems expensive, but trust me, it’s worth it.

My Most Successful NaNoWriMo Ever

I did a lot different this year. I used some bullet journal style tracking including my word count for the day and a sentence about what I did.  I wrote down a variety of things for inspiration or brain storming. I prepared for NaNoWriMo by setting up a process and working on *my* process.

I realized some things. Like when you’re developing a story you don’t need to pick the perfect option or motivation for your character now, you can consider every single option you can think of. Silly things. I realized silly things. But important nonetheless.

This is the first year I’ve ended NaNoWriMo with multiple story ideas. I’ve done enough work now to recognize some trends in my own writing ideas – so there’s a story I want to tell. But there’s other ideas I haven’t figured out yet. For example, writing a character with mental illness who still manages to be successful and kept together and, well, a hero (or heroine).

My goal became to write for 30 days in a row. I did not have enough of my story developed to actually write scenes and dialog and content. I spent a lot on further development – because I was trying to cram too much into 1 story? I also arbitrarily assigned myself a word count goal of 16,000 – and also removed/rewrote a chunk of 700 words and still kept over the 16,000 words.

My next steps: 1. Set up scrivener files for each story idea. 2. Figure out how to track progress and word counts. Progress is story specific, word count doesn’t need to be story specific. 3. Start Chuck Wendig’s No Fuckery Writing Plan. Like officially. 4. Writing next will be outlines for at least 2 of the 3 stories. The third story is probably a short story? It’s got to sit and simmer for a while so it’s decide if I want to bounce around or focus on 1 at a time.

See that?  A plan!

I’ve had improvements in my physical health in the last few months – and now better mental health treatment in the last 2 months – and I think that’s helping more than I can possibly explain. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2012 —-

— This is the first year I’ve felt I have something I can continue to work on. Mental health treatment probably has a great deal to do with that. I’ll know more for certain after I’ve done more work on my mental health/well being. I have this funny feeling as I write this blog post. I think it might be pride and accomplishment because I did a thing! Emotions are confusing and hard. Anyways –

If you’re a writer, or trying to be a writer, and dealing with depression, anxiety, ptsd, or any kind of mental illness. You aren’t alone, keep at it. As they say, “Your story isn’t over yet;” Also Chuck Wendig has  lot of good things to say on the subject.

NIN Set List from NOLA 2018 turned into playlist

Mostly I want to record these links somewhere together so this seems like a good spot!

The article where I found the set list for a concert on November 25, 2018, in New Orleans LA.

The cover by NIN of David Bowie’s “I can’t give everything away.” – youtube because the song isn’t on Google Music.

The album of NIN and David Bowie performing together in 1995 which past me would have probably loved for so many reasons. (The lost teenager inside me is sad right now.)

And the playlist I made on Google Music trying to get as close to the set list as possible. There’s David Bowie songs on it though.

NaNoWriMo – More Writing Reference

I like having things to jog my brain, get ideas started. What am I missing when I think about my characters? Or my plot? These aren’t how tos, or walk throughs, or tutorials, but handy little things to keep around.


This is a copy I found big enough to print out and be able to read. (Google search will get you lots of options too.)

And courtesy of “The Mad Scribbler” are these character templates. One is extremely detailed (spreadsheet!) and one has lots of info on one page. (Pay attention if you print it out and check your settings.)

This one is a collection of “writing tips.” (link straight to pdf)

Here’s another created by a helpful writer. LOTS of information in this “writer’s cheat sheet.”

The website Writers Write has some handy looking tables with a total of 350 character traits. I saved each picture and printed them out.

NaNoWriMo 2018 Prep

I remembered NaNoWriMo Prep in the beginning of October! I’ve done more prep this time too. Still no outline (yet).

I’ve joined the followers of Rachael Stephen. I like her and her videos. I love she’s a research nerd. I learned her approach to the embryo plot device, I recommend trying it out. At least try it out.

I’ve been a fan of Chuck Wendig for a while and his blog is fantastic for so many reasons. He’s talked lots and lots on NaNoWriMo and I’m sure he’ll talk more about it still. His post collecting the ways you can outline for NaNoWriMo is damned extensive. (I also like how he says National Plot Your Novel Month too.)

I’ve also done some bullet journal stuff for NaNoWriMo too. Not a lot, but I’ve decided to start a project journal/bullet journal for general writing stuff just for me. Like things to help get me writing and tips for outlining.

This time around, I might use these from Better Novel Project dot com too.

Day-by-Day NaNoWriMo Outline: Your 30-Day Cheatsheet

Day-by-Day NaNoWriMo Outline: Characters & Themes Cheatsheet | Better Novel Project

Master Outline | Better Novel Project

There’s also a lot of information at Fiction University by Janice Harding. I have her book. It’s useful. Here’s a guest post from her blog I really liked. The Alchemy of Inspiration.  I started a “pet peeves” list after reading that and it’s also very useful.

 

What mind am I in today?

Here’s a poem (?) I wrote sometime in the past few months when I decided to do some writing about mental health and my mental illness symptoms.  I don’t remember writing it. It sorta sounds like me but doesn’t all at the same time. I can’t tell if it still needs an ending/if it’s complete. I’ll leave the interpretation up to the reader.

Some days I don’t like living in my mind

The weather is always changing.
Nothing is where I remember leaving it.
Doors that were open yesterday are locked today.
Stairs and routes from rooms to rooms change, often overnight.
Windows don’t work right, they won’t shut or they won’t open. The blinds will get stuck too.
Sometimes I wish it was brighter so it would be easier to find my memories.
Other times I wish I had more rugs.
You can sweep things under rugs but eventually the rugs stop laying flat and you trip.
There’s no way to forecast the weather, it can change stormy in a breath –
Or be calm and quiet in a breath.
Days and days everything will be as I expect
But then
Something happens. Someone happens. Time passes.
And the rules.
My mind has so many rules to keep track of too.
Rules for talking to people, feeling, being alone. Rules that have nothing to do with my body.
Some days everything is stress. Everything is bad.
Sometimes I can’t leave the house. I can’t deal with anyone.

Why I Hate Breaking in New Doctors

A memory is a winning strategy. Like human sacrifice.I could title this all kinds of different things, like Why the US Healthcare System Fails People with Chronic Illness, or Please Will More Doctors be Honest with their Patients. Or something about how chronic illnesses and mental illnesses together make doctors afraid of you.

I saw a new psychiatrist today. I haven’t seen a psychiatrist in over a decade, partly because of all the other doctors I see or have seen. I mention that because I’ve gone through what feels like a thousand new patient appointments with new doctors. Lately they all go pretty much the same. If I’m lucky they’ll have a tidbit of insight or confirm something and agree with someone else. I’ve had good and bad experiences with new doctors. You can feel anywhere from validated to broken.

It’s probably worth noting that when I fill out the paperwork that doctors request their new patients fill out, I include my own lists for my medication, health history (or diagnoses), and allergies. The preferred (better) response to this is appreciate for the clear and thorough information. The not preferred response is shock and awe.

As you probably guessed, the doctor I saw today was shocked and in awe. Her eyes widened at least three times. She couldn’t believe my list of allergies or medicines, and stumbled over my medical history. I think her jaw dropped once? More than once she asked a question that would be answered by reading 6 to 10 more words of the paperwork she was already reading. She picked out the medicine she doesn’t prescribe because it’s “very old” as well as commenting how I’m on “so many” sedating medications. (I don’t think she read the word “as needed”.) She commented on my xanax prescription, probably because she doesn’t prescribe it, but offered no alternatives.

All of this happened while she was firing questions at me. She moved quickly but didn’t specifically rush me. She was very nice but also clearly overwhelmed. She was even surprised at the number of doctors I have – which shouldn’t be a surprise in the US healthcare system after you see the number of diagnoses a person has received. She also assumed I wanted more medicine since she told me that considering the medicines I’m already on, she doesn’t want to give me more medicines. (If I had a nickel for every time…..)

And one I haven’t heard before….   she didn’t want to get in the way of any of my other doctors. Psychiatry is very specific the last time I checked, if she’s willing to send records to other doctors then she’s working with them, not interfering.

Probably the most interesting? successful? useful? part of the entire experience? Within 5 minutes of talking to me and looking at my paperwork, she asked if I was ever diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. This means that I’ve had a doctor at Mayo Clinic, psychological testing, and a random psychiatrist all have the same “opinion” – that I do have Borderline Personality Disorder. But no one wants to make recommendations on medications.

She had very little to say about the problems I described with my memory, including lost time, and how through working with my new therapist I’ve come to learn I probably/likely/definitely have PTSD.

She clearly felt I was beyond her capabilities but never actually said this. Really good doctors say this! Great doctors explain why!

In fact, I even felt like she wanted to run away. As she was leading me back out of her office towards the front desk she was walking fast enough to disappear behind the turns in the hall. I’m accustomed to people waiting for you or giving you directions. Logically I know that this was probably the way my brain interpreted the situation – and probably not what happened – but I still feel like subconsciously she was trying to get rid of me/get away from me. It’s super weird to hold both those thoughts at the same time.

No, I’m not expecting a new doctor to have answers –  but the more people involved in a problem, the more likely you are of finding some kind of help. If you can’t help me, refer me to another doctor, please! Or if you aren’t sure how you can help, tell me. This appointment wasn’t bad or terrible, but it wasn’t productive or pleasant either.

Ultimately, she referred me to another place to receive this thing called TMS that’s supposed to help treat depression. I have an appointment tomorrow for a “cost free consult” so we’ll see. Not holding my breath. Insurance, time, and money all figure in.

I’ll need to try another psychiatrist but it’ll likely be a few weeks. Finding a new psychiatrist is difficult on my mental health. Especially with my other doctor appointments and trying to build a relationship with a new therapist. The first psychiatrist I tried never returned  my calls (2 left over 3 days with a message that calls are returned same business day!). So I guess this was a slight improvement. Maybe the third try will be a success.

*image courtesy of inspiro bot. Seemed appropriate based on the various blank spots of various sizes that I have in my memory.