Random droppings from my life: Cats. Books. Health. News. Stuff.
Author: Histamine Queen
Nerd, wife, knitter, writer, cat mom, and comic book reader w/masters of science in Applied Sociology.
I have histamine intolerance, lots of food allergies and sensitivities - including gluten. And I have multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, asthma, drug allergies, and migraines. Then there's the PTSD, BPD, anxiety and depression. I look fine, but I have trouble getting stuck in my head. Too much going on to be able to work.
I was going to summarize each week of July Camp NaNo but I guess I got too busy writing to write blog posts! I did finish my goal of 1080 minutes or 18 hours for July 2019 Camp NaNo. I actually went a little over with 1155 minutes total.
I will definitely continue to summarize what I worked on and what I think I should work on next every day that I write. I’ll continue to keep the summary in my notebook for my current project. That way it’s really easy to look back at what I’ve done when I’m stuck on what to work on next… at least before I get to writing an outline.
Unfortunately, this project notebook has absolutely no organization at this point. In my experience, if you want to create a project bullet journal like for writing but don’t know how you want to arrange or organize, just dive in. You’ll need to use it and figure out your workflow to know how to organize the journal.
My goal for August is 30-60 minutes of writing a day. I’m aiming for 1320 minutes which is an hour a day Monday through Friday only. I have a few more doctor appointments this month but hopefully they won’t interfere.
Past that, my goal is to be able to start outlining come October 1st for writing in November for NaNoWriMo. I have no idea if I can meet that goal since I’ve never developed a novel in this way before. I’ve been more of a “pantser” in the past because of an utter lack of understanding of story format and structure.
In hindsight I know I’ve never made it this far before because of my mental illnesses interfering — no severely interfering — with my fatigue, focus, and, well, general outlook on lie. It’s amazing how much my mental illnesses and how much I didn’t realize until the wall started to come down.
I’m going to keep pushing forward. I still have a lot of questions to answer before I can start outlining my story.
Doing more new things. The biggest thing I’ve learned so far this year is tracking how long I’ve worked on my project and what I’ve done is extremely helpful. For Camp NaNoWriMo I’ve tracked time because I’m working on making writing routine. It worked very well in April’s Camp NaNoWriMo. I keep track of the time in my regular/daily bullet journal and the content tracking is in a separate project journal. (I’m not sure I’d call it a bullet journal, maybe slightly inspired by bullet journal format?)
I’ve found that my spread for tracking time spent writing shouldn’t be that structured. This month I have 2 lines for the time period spent, the minutes I’m counting towards my goal, where I was and if I had a doctor appointment. I’m didn’t lay out the entire month all at once so I had more room.
I’m doing similar for tracking what I worked on. I write day of week/date and then summarize in bullet points what I worked on/want to work on, only after I’m done writing for that day. Stuff I worked on has a + because it was added. Stuff I want to work on has a bullet (.) just like basic bullet journaling to do lists. Word counts and time do not go with the content tracking.
Sorry, no pictures of my journals currently. Nothing pretty here.
Now for my progress. In April my updated goal was 800 minutes because I find it easier to count minutes. I think I started with an arbitrary 600 minutes and was surpassing that easily. I wrote for more than 800 minutes in the month of April too.
I tracked again in May and June but things fell apart for a variety of reasons. (Having shingles again didn’t help.)
My goal for July’s Camp NaNoWriMo is 1050 minutes. (I started at 999 minutes but adjusted it so I my numbers could be more “even”.) It’s July 8 and I didn’t write yesterday so that’s 7 days of writing. For 4 of the 7 days I wrote for an hour, other 3 days I wrote for less time. And you know, why not have it at an even 18 hours for the month? So now my goal is 1080 minutes.
Right now I’m at 405 minutes or 6.75 hours of 1080 minutes or 18 hours. I have room to increase my goal more but I’m going to be busier next week and might write less.
The other day I found myself looking at a book I was super excited about and received as a winter holidays gift some years ago. I’ve never read that book. There’s so many other books we own I haven’t read either. Why you ask? I realize now, with the work of done with a new therapist and a new psychiatrist that it’s because of depression. I always thought it was so many other things.
Staring at that book on the shelf surrounded by other books I haven’t read I decided the worst thing about depression is when you’re actually excited about the potential of something but you’ve never able to follow through. Depression taunts you with the potential of all the things you could be doing if you had the focus, energy, enthusiasm, and motivation. (That list is probably near endless. I’m trying to generalize.) You’d probably have more energy too if you weren’t looking at all the things you should or could be doing that are impossible because depression. Depression steals your action, your follow through, your doing.
It’s like a book sitting on your shelf, taunting you. Why haven’t you read me yet? Why? Why? Why?
Depression is sneaky and knows how to protect itself so it lies. It tells you there’s other answers to the questions of why. When you have depression, the answer is depression… except depression tells you it’s because you aren’t good enough, or it’s your illness (and therefore nothing you can do about it), or you’re afraid, or it’s the actions of another person, or, or, or, or….. There’s so many other answers to that question that aren’t true. (And yes, some that are, but we aren’t focusing on that right now!)
That’s depression’s weakness. You can do something about depression.
You can reach out and talk to people (even though it sounds impossible), take medicine, work with a therapist or counselor, read about techniques like cognitive behavior therapy, take different medicine (because the first one didn’t work), exercise, journal or write, eat chocolate, and … something that works for you that I haven’t thought of … It’s a long list. You might have to find what works but I promise something does.
Important note: I assume you have access to healthcare which also means you can also afford healthcare.
Doing something about depression is work. But it’s work worth doing because you can get back to doing life instead of just wishing you could do life.
One more important note. The details and feelings of depression are different for different people so maybe this doesn’t apply to you. (Like I have chronic illnesses and other mental illnesses so my depression is different.) Also, I’m not talking about being glum or sad or down for a few weeks or having bad days. I’m talking about being diagnosed with depression (or needing diagnosed with depression). If you want definitions, go here.
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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)