A Survivor’s Memories

fractured_dollsAt one of his rallies yesterday, President Trump, my county’s president, took the opportunity to mock Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman accusing Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme court of sexually assaulting her in high school. The Predator-in-Chief made fun of Dr. Blasey Ford’s inability to remember certain facts about the attack. People like him are why I never reported anything that happened to me to the police. They are why so many of us blame ourselves, fear the criticism we know will come, and hold silent with our pain in the shadows.

When I was sixteen, my grandfather sexually assaulted me. I don’t remember the day of the week, the time—other than that it was morning, or the date. I lived with my grandparents at that time, but I don’t know why I was home from school. What I do remember with absolute clarity was the way the morning sunlight slanted through the yellow metal blinds, the things he said to me, and the feeling of being outside my body—that this was all happening to someone else. It wasn’t the first time he had done something sexually inappropriate to me, but it was the first time I knew, with absolute certainty, that the man I loved and trusted more than any other was harming me. I hadn’t been drinking or using any type of illicit substance, but everything surrounding the event is pretty much a blank.

After clocking out from bussing tables at my first job when I was 18, two brothers who also bussed cornered me in the back of the restaurant. One pressed me against a metal table and ground his clothed erection against me. Then he flipped me over, and he and his brother took turns pretending to have intercourse with me that way. I don’t remember the day of the week, the time, or the date. I know the year only because I graduated high school that year. I don’t remember their last name. I do remember the cold of the metal table beneath my palms and against my face, the way the first guy flipped me over like a ragdoll, the happy-sounding Mexican music playing from the cheap radio in the front of the kitchen, and wondering if they were going to pull me into the bathroom or out to their car. I don’t remember why they stopped. I don’t remember exactly how I got home. I was stone cold sober.

When I was 21, I met an incredibly cute guy at an all ages show. It was in an old airplane hanger, but I don’t remember exactly where it was, what it was called, the day of the week, the exact time, nor the exact date. I don’t remember what bands played nor any of the songs. The cute guy and I talked, laughed, had a couple of beers, then went to a party in separate cars. At the party, we talked more and decided to get something to eat. His car wouldn’t start, so he got in my car. We ate breakfast somewhere–an all-night diner, but I can’t remember it at all. I don’t know if it was a chain or some local place. I don’t know where it was. We talked and talked, but I can’t really remember what we talked about except for art and music.

I offered to drive him home. Instead of going home, he wanted to go to a friend’s house. So, I took him there and we did a few shots and had a few beers. I don’t remember what the friend looked like, his name, what his house looked like, or where it was located. I thought I would be okay since I had eaten something. I didn’t drink more than I usually did when I went out. I remember feeling fuzzy. We left. He must have driven my car. The next thing I remember was lying in the back of my station wagon and feeling deathly cold. I could barely move. My jeans were around my ankles and my cute guy was hovering over me like a shadow, blacker than the darkness, trying to wedge his penis into me. I told him ‘no.’ I remember feeling like my voice was so far away. I wanted to have sex with him. I was utterly smitten. I would have done anything he wanted, but I wanted to be awake enough to enjoy it. But he didn’t care about that part, I guess.

Some time in my mid-twenties, I have no idea what age I was, I was raped by the manager of the bar where I worked. He raped me over the desk in his office. It happened really fast and was over quickly. I barely felt him. I know how I got there. I was at work and typically drove myself to work. I know that I drove myself to my boyfriend’s house, but I think I was several hours late. I don’t remember where I went. I just remember driving around in the dark feeling numb.

So, I don’t find it odd at all that there are some things Dr. Blasey Ford remembers strongly while other details have faded into the ether. What I find inexcusable is that our society continues to treat victims of sexual assault, abuse, and predation as if they are unreliable and foolish. As long as men like Trump have power, that trivialization of life-shattering acts will continue.

Changes to This Site!

I couldn’t change that clashy blue font on the old theme, so I switched to a different one and totally revamped the site! What do you guys think of the changes? You can actually talk to me again, because I’ve enabled comments. I found a widget that lets people give their consent per the GDPR guidelines and covers the WordPress workings that I can’t see. Yay!

I hope you like the new design. So far, I’m pretty happy with it. I’m also really glad that people can comment on my posts again. I’ve missed interacting with everyone.

Also, I realized the other day that my new logo has the same colors as the qenderqueer flag. It was pure serendipity. I love it when things like that happen!

A New Look–and My Fox Fetish Explained

My website has a snazzy new banner created by the talented Kyleigh Castronaro of Free to Be Covers and Designs. She also designed the logo using my little spirit animal, the fox, and two of my favorite colors. If you’re an author, you should really check out her Facebook page here. She has premade book covers at fantabulous prices, and she also does custom work.

SWG-Small-White

Why foxes? Because I love them. Like a genderqueer person (like me), they are sort of a creature between–not quite a dog, not quite a cat. They are their own unique beastie. I’ve loved them since I was small. My first story written in English (previous attempts were penned in scribbles) was about saving a family of foxes from hunters. I’m not quite sure why, but I’ve always been drawn to trickster gods and trickster animals. I suppose it’s because they live by their wits, depending on their brains more than their brawn. They’re also often misunderstood. Two of my favorites, foxes and corvids (ravens, crows, jays), are often seen as nuisances or are associated with evil. No animal is ever evil.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new look!

Writing with Suicidal Ideation

cliff-2213614_640Recently, in my blog entry Writing with Depression, I revealed how depression affects my writing and talked about the depressive episode that has thrown a shadow over my past few months. I was trying to exercise my way out of this recent depressive episode. That didn’t go so well.

In Writing with Depression, I said that medication didn’t help me. I’m bipolar and take mood stabilizers that help prevent manic episodes. They do little to nothing for depression. The popular antidepressants used to treat unipolar depression don’t work for me because they throw me into a ‘mixed mood’ and usually result in a suicide attempt. To treat bipolar depression, doctors prescribe antipsychotics or atypical antipsychotics. I’m extremely sensitive to the side effects of these medications and basically hate them. However, they have their place.

July is a hard month for me. Its anniversaries remind me of death. July, so sultry and sun-drenched, so full of promises of summer pleasure, doesn’t charm me at all. I know that she is full of death and shadows, that her breath is as fetid as it is hot, and her kisses bruise and burn. July quit being my friend years ago.

This July, I was depressed, but I thought I could take care of myself and fend the depression off. If things had been normal, maybe I could have. Honestly, though, things are never normal, are they? I had a stressor that came as something of a shock. Under normal circumstances, I think I would have been more resilient. This time, however, I was already depressed, so I just sank. I went from ‘kind of down but mostly okay’ to suicidal in a matter of minutes. It happens like that. Fast.

I hatched a quick plan and started to implement it. At a pivotal point, I had second thoughts. I actually thought about that depression blog entry and called the suicide hotline that I mentioned. They were really nice and talked me through the maelstrom. Afterward, I called my therapist and made an appointment for the next day, then followed up with my psychiatrist a few days later. During the time between the call and the psychiatrist, I felt constantly plagued by thoughts of suicide. Having suicidal thoughts is called suicidal ideation. (Suicidal ideation sounds like a band I would have liked in my twenties. Sadly, it’s not as fun as it sounds.) I felt like I was caught in some kind of loop. I thought of better plans. I settled on one that met all of my requirements, held it close and nurtured it. The morning of my psychiatric appointment, I dressed in the clothes I thought would work well for my best plan in case she had nothing to offer. I wanted to be ready.

I didn’t tell her that. I did tell her that I was having constant suicidal thoughts. She put me on an atypical antipsychotic called Vraylar. Honestly, so far, I don’t like it. She said it would give me lots of energy, but it makes me sleepy and lethargic. I’m having to drink a lot of caffeine to stay awake. It did, however, stop those destructive thoughts. It stopped them cold. Now, I feel embarrassed for having them, and I can see that it was all over something that shouldn’t have bothered me so much.

I apologize that this entry is even more pointless and self-indulgent than usual. I just thought, since I write about depression and bipolar disorder and have tried to be transparent and honest about my illness, I should admit to what happened with my self-care strategy. I’m hoping I can get off of this medicine soon and go back to trying to self-care my way to normalcy again. Despite this post’s title, I haven’t been writing much since everything blew up. My characters are bothering me to get back to it, and my cats have been trying to get me to go into the office where I do most of my writing. I’m trying to give myself some space, but characters and cats have little patience.

If you’re reading this and having suicidal thoughts, please seek help immediately. I know everything might seem clearer now than ever before and that suicide is the only way out, but I can promise you that pain is clouding your judgment. Please call one of these numbers:

 

An Audiobook with Heat and Heart

My contemporary M/M romance, Zen Alpha, is now an audiobook vibrantly narrated by voice actor, Hugh Bradley! You can buy it on Amazon and Audible. If you subscribe to Audible, you can get it for free. Zen_Alpha

Although ‘alpha’ is in the title, it’s not an Omegaverse story. (No MPREG, no shifters—not that there’s anything wrong with those.) Zen Alpha is a contemporary romantic comedy. I wrote this story shortly after Trump won the U.S. presidential election. I was appalled to hear people around me describe him as ‘strong.’ He’s a chest-thumping, bullying, bellowing idiot. Narcissism isn’t strength. Cruelty isn’t strength. Willful indifference isn’t strength. I don’t know how, or exactly when, Americans started thinking personality defects were virtues, but it makes me sick.

So, I wrote Zen Alpha. No, it’s not a political diatribe or anything. It’s a sweet love story with gay characters and erotic sex scenes, but there’s an allegorical thread running through it. It’s about a young, somewhat insecure, man who keeps insisting that his obnoxious, emotionally abusive boyfriend is the man of his dreams. Even as he begins to develop feelings for his kindhearted, helpful neighbor, he wonders how he can love someone who isn’t an alpha male—the sort of self-centered, uncouth silverback society seems to think is so desirable.

Because a good romantic comedy needs a few teary scenes, Zen Alpha has some drama. But it’s a romance, so, of course, there’s an HEA (happily ever after.) If you hate Trump like I do and want to escape the toxicity of our current age, or if you just love steamy M/M romance, give Zen Alpha a listen. I hope it makes you smile and takes your mind off your problems for a bit. We all need more joy in our lives.

 

Writing with Depression

women_with_gauze As I said in an earlier post, writer’s block and depression are different things. Depression isn’t fixed by a writing exercise, brainstorming, or reading books on the craft. If a writer had a heart attack and didn’t write the next day, we wouldn’t say he had writer’s block. If someone is clinically depressed and doesn’t write, he probably doesn’t have writer’s block either. Depression is a mental illness. That decreased ability to perform even simple tasks–let alone writing–is caused by a dysfunction in the frontal lobes. This article explains it.

Writer’s block can feel pretty bad, but it’s not an illness. It’s just a hurdle. It’s deeply frustrating, but it ends at some point. Depression claws its way inside you and lives there until you die. It might go into a sort of remission, like cancer or herpes, but it’s always there, lurking, waiting, gathering its power for the next attack. At least, that’s how it is for me. I’m bipolar. Unipolar depression might be different. I’m not a doctor, just a writer who struggles with this stuff. Medications work for some people. They don’t work for me.

I’ve been in a low grade depression for a few months. (I say low grade because, although I’ve had days where I didn’t get out of bed, I haven’t had any suicidal thoughts. So, this is a good depression.) I haven’t written much. Instead, I’ve focused on self-care. I set a few small goals in the morning and try to accomplish them. Walk five thousand steps. Shower. Do laundry. Walk another five thousand steps. The walking has been really good for me. I’m able to commune with my characters and ‘write’ while I walk. I sweat, which forces me to shower and change clothes. If you’re able to do some type of exercise when you’re in a depressive episode, I highly recommend it. It might just be my superstition, but I feel like that is what has kept the suicidal thoughts at bay. (Actually, that article I linked to above says exercise increases serotonin and dopamine in the brain, so maybe there is something to it.)

Although I do take breaks from writing, I try to push myself to write at least once a week when I’m depressed. It isn’t easy. I’ve noticed that when I’m depressed, I:

  • Make more typos

And some of them are really weird. I’ve understood homonyms since grade school and know the difference between too, to, and two, etc. When I’m depressed, I’ll find words like that switched around in my manuscript.

  • Have trouble finding words

A word is there–then just vanishes. Poof! Usually, I can jog my memory with Google searches and music. Sometimes I’ll ask my husband if he knows what word I’ve lost. Sometimes I simply find a different word that works well enough.

  • Take longer to write a scene than normal

Something that would ordinarily take me a couple of hours to write takes four

  • Have trouble answering questions

Although I construct a ‘rough sketch’ outline prior to writing scenes, I often run into places where I don’t know how something happened or why something is the way it is. It’s tougher to ferret out these answers when I’m depressed.

  • Feel pessimistic about the outcome

When I’m not depressed and in the midst of writing a book, there are spaces where I lose myself in the story. I forget that any other world exists. After I finish, I’ll often have misgivings and worry that readers won’t like it. When I’m depressed, I feel like no one will enjoy it even as I’m writing it. These kinds of thoughts crush creativity.

On the plus side, a depressive episode, by slowing down the writing process, gives me extra time with my characters. (This is mostly with a low grade episode. Deep episodes are a hell I don’t want to even discuss at the moment.) During this current episode, I ended up spending a lot of time with Frank. I would lie in bed and suddenly discover Frank with me. (This wasn’t an hallucination; my logical mind knew he wasn’t there. But…he was. That’s called writer crazy.) Anyway, he was usually quiet, but sometimes we would talk about his friends, his jobs, his lovers. I felt him more acutely than when I did his character worksheet. He entertained me, buoyed me, and we became friends. I usually bond with a character while I’m writing, but not this early in the book.

If you’re reading this and are depressed, please seek help—especially if you’re feeling suicidal. Some resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

International Association for Suicide Prevention

 

Saving Pets One Breath at a Time

fire-2911041_640Have you ever wondered what happens to our furry companions when the house or apartment where they live bursts into flames?

If they survive the fire, chances are they will have inhaled smoke and possibly toxic fumes. This means that if they don’t get care soon, they could die despite being rescued from the flames.

Most fire departments understand that our pets are an important part of our families. In some areas, where funds permit, firefighters carry oxygen masks made expressly for pets. Sadly, not all fire stations are equipped with these life-saving devices.

That’s were Breaths for Pets comes in! I know one of this non-profit’s founders. She loves animals and was heartbroken when one of her friends lost his beloved dogs in an apartment fire. Although the dogs escaped the horrific fire, they died from smoke inhalation. When she learned that special pet oxygen masks could have saved her friend’s pets, Breaths for Pets was born.

Breaths for Pets provides free oxygen masks made especially for dogs, cats—even birds—to fire stations. I love this charity because I know how much they care and how hard they work, but also because losing my fur babies in a fire is one of my greatest fears. If you would like to join me in supporting Breaths for Pets, you can make a donation here. Or, if you would like to donate while getting a fun coffee cup, tee shirt, or other cute pet-themed merchandise, check out their Zazzle store here.