Ask Jax Anything (Part 12)

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series)

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

CW: Eating disorders/alcoholism

How do you work at undoing old destructive patterns that you’ve repeated for years, or even decades? I know there’s no quick fix, but curious to know how you grapple with the same old demons that want you to do the same old shit time and time again (and yes, “demons” is totally a reference to “Strange Glue” by Catatonia…)

I love that song. 🙂 (Given your phrasing, I am guessing you are a person who knows that.)

You’ve answered your own question, I am afraid. There is no quick fix. Slow, dedicated commitment to change is the only answer.

So, my own destructive patterns used to look a lot like me drinking a bottle of wine, having some kind of ill-advised flirtation (or sometimes more than just flirtation) with someone I was only superficially interested in, crashing asleep, waking up feeling awful, both from the alcohol and from the bad choices, and shuffling through my day hating myself.

Here’s another: spending money I couldn’t afford on something I didn’t need, and then feeling guilty about it, so proceeding to basically stop eating for a week. (In my last really bad depressive episode I lost 15kgs. I weighed about 53kg. My healthy weight is closer to 70. The not eating thing is really really bad and dangerous.)

Here’s another: starting a ton of projects when everything is great, and then when depression (inevitably) comes knocking, just giving up on everything because there is too much and it is too overwhelming, and just hiding from the consequences and flaking on everyone.

How did I stop these? Discipline. External scaffolds (I make a LOT of lists). And many, many screwups.

If you drink, my first piece of advice is to stop. Alcohol fucks with meds (if you’re on meds). But more than that, it makes it very difficult to make good choices. And you lose not just the time you’re drinking, but time afterwards while you recover. I tried a lot of things, but nothing really worked till I stopped drinking. I stopped (pretty much) completely for about a year. I spent that time getting my feet back under me and putting in place a bunch of coping mechanisms. Now, I will occasionally have a beer or a glass of wine, but I haven’t been anything close to drunk in…. I think last time was my last birthday, which is nearly a year ago. And even that wasn’t too out of hand.

It also means I don’t do the stupid shit I used to do when I was drunk, so I don’t have to deal with the fallout from that. It means I don’t lose time hating myself and feeling like shit as a result, so that time can be better used on other things. Productivity helps my brainmonkeys, so that helped.

I talk a lot about my many lists. Here’s the thing though. When I started making lists, they had things like meals on them. Shower. Eat breakfast. Drink some water. These were things I would do and tick off. It made me eat three meals a day. It made me hydrate. I had stuff on there I just like to do, because in the depths of my depression I had forgotten what I liked to do. Or even what it was like to like to do things. On the bad days, instead of hiding, I would just tackle the list, one thing at a time. Shower. Eat. Drink water. Go outside. Tick. Tick. Tick. It gave my body what it needed to help fight. And eventually, doing those basic things became easier.

I won’t lie, it was a slog. And for a long time it felt like it wasn’t making a difference and I was still just dragging myself through each day. But I no longer woke up hungover and full of self-hatred. I no longer lived with gnawing hunger in my belly as a broken sign of control. I could reliably take work and start things without being afraid that I was going to flake. (I still over commit; I’m working on that.)

It’s slow. But brains can be retrained, luckily. I learned to stop berating myself. I learned to talk to myself more kindly. I learned to look at myself in the mirror and say, “Come on you badass motherfucker. You got this. You’re a warrior.” I used to say, “Come on you stupid bitch. Stop being pathetic and get your shit together.” This is not a metaphor. This is literally the way I used to talk to myself. When I changed how I spoke to myself, I started to like myself a lot more. Funny how that works.

You’re going to screw up. Changing habits is hard work, and you will fuck it up. Accept that. But learn each time. Why did you fall? Is there a barrier you can remove? Is there something (or someone) in your life that is enabling the destructive behaviour? Can you remove it/them? Get back up. Try again.

Start small. Change one thing. Stop drinking. Eat properly. Set up a schedule. One thing that helps you towards health. Once that becomes easier (it may never be easy – sorry, that’s just how it is), add something else. Don’t try and do it all at once. Don’t set yourself up to fail.

Keep trying stuff till you find something that works. For me it’s lists and routine. That doesn’t work for everyone. Try things. If they don’t help, try something else.

You got this. You’re a badass motherfucking warrior. I love you.

Ask Jax Anything (Part 11)

CW: Suicide.

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series)

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

Should I leave my husband, or kill myself?

Leave your husband.

That’s the quick answer. Here’s the longer one.

This came in this morning, and I don’t usually reply to them right away, but this seems… urgent.

If those seriously seem like the only two options, leave your husband. Like, as soon as it is safe to do so. If it feels impossible, let me tell you this. I left my husband when I had an 18-month-old child and very little income. It was hard. Stupidly hard, some days impossibly hard, but I never regretted leaving. And while I would (probably) never have killed myself, I do think that if I’d stayed I would now be a chronically depressed alcoholic. It sucked for a while, but I got better, and I got better because I left.

I don’t know who you are, or what your circumstances are, but if you feel comfortable revealing yourself to me, please do. I will help you any way I can. IF not me, then tell someone close to you who can help. If you feel these are the only two options available to you, then find a way to leave.

I hate that you feel this way. It is heart-breaking. But there is help out there and better choices in your future. Give yourself a chance at those better choices.

It can be hard, really hard, even if you have the financial and emotional support to leave, even if he’s not abusive and controlling, even if, as was the case with me, he’s not a bad man, he’s just not the right one. If staying with him is making you suicidal, you need to leave.

Honestly, any decent person would rather you left them if staying makes you want to die. And anyone who doesn’t feel that way kind of deserves to be left.

I love you. I hope you find a way out of this place, and if you are comfortable doing so, please do get in touch in private and I will try to help if I can, even if it is just advice or a listening ear. Or maybe just permission to leave. If that is all you need, here it is. Leave. If you think that is right for you, then do it. You don’t need another reason.

 

Ask Jax Anything (Part 10)

 

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

I have a friend that is getting sucked in by the Red Pill movement (or whatever they’re called). Can I get a sounding board check that I’ve been ‘a good friend’ by calling them out for blindly adopting this group’s propaganda?

Oh man. This is a fucking hard one. Okay, so, spoiler? I have lost a couple of friends to this movement. I tried to reason, I tried to argue, and they just got worse and worse until eventually I had to cut them off for my own mental health. (It’s pretty tough staying friends with someone who insists that everything you hold dear is just bullshit and that all women are evil monsters who for some reason owe him sex. :/ )

So, I haven’t yet found anything that really works with these people. There are a few considerations. You don’t mention your own gender, and I think your (and his (I assume his, because of the nature of the movement)) age is probably a factor too.

I’ve read some great stuff about this movement and how a lot of the guys who get sucked into it do so out of feeling alienated and excluded by what they perceive as the “mainstream”. They’re often young (hence age being a factor) and desperate for something to belong to. They’re often bitter and disaffected because, I think anyway and I’m not alone in this, they’ve been fed this idea of what it is to “be a man” and what they can expect in return, but it no longer works, because, well, women refuse to be property now. This causes a massive cognitive disconnect which results in them getting angry and feeling “cheated” by the system. Which, honestly, they kind of are, since the narrative tells them one thing (that they’re entitled to certain things by virtue of their (usually white) manliness), but reality is actually something else. Combine that with a narrative where the only “acceptable” emotions guys are supposed to feel are, like, aggression and anger, and you get red pillers – full of bitterness with a massive dangerous chip on their shoulder.

If you’re a guy, this may be easier, because there is the potential to model alternatives and to possibly give him something else to belong to. Try and find him a hobby that channels those negative emotions, maybe? Something physical, preferably something you do, maybe, so you can surround him with dudes who are not just sitting around bitching about how women won’t fuck them even though they’re such nice guys. I think a lot of the anger comes out of feeling isolated and not knowing how to break that isolation, so if you can find ways to stop the isolation that also removes him from those toxic ideologies or at least provides alternatives, that may help? This may all be totally impractical, I realise, I’m just throwing out ideas.

If you’re a woman, it’s a lot tougher, I am afraid, because you’re already “the enemy” and you can’t possibly understand because it’s a guy thing. And it kind of is a guy thing in that it is a reaction of (mostly) white men to a world where what they have always considered “normal” is rapidly becoming a more even playing field.

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

I think some white women get sucked into it too, but it is honestly mostly a white guy thing. I mean, you can try and argue the point, but I have never made that work with someone who was already heading down the red pill road. I think, possibly, because the core of it is actually emotional, not logical, despite what they think. Perhaps you could enlist the help of a dude who is already somewhat aware that redpillers are taking the wrong route to step in and try what I say above? I’m not sure.

I think the younger he is right now, the better the chances of him getting his head straight. I think you ARE doing the right thing by trying, but you may also have to accept at some point that you need to let it go for your own safety and hope he figures out that following that road just makes him an ass no one except other asses are going to want to be around. But you are a very good friend for trying to halt that before it goes too far.

I wish I had better advice for you. I have spent a lot of energy trying to work out how to reach these guys, because I genuinely think that this is where a lot of alt-right start out. This sense of disconnection, isolation and loss of power becomes anger and resentment and many of them eventually turn into motherfucking Nazis or mass shooters. :/ So far though I haven’t been able to work out how to get through all that anger and find the hurt person inside it and get them to realise that the road they are on only leads to more anger and bitterness.

I hope you can find a better way. I hope you don’t lose your friend. It’s a really hard situation. I wish you the best. Big love. ❤

As I write this, there is only one more question waiting in the box, so if you’re enjoying these, ask me something!

What’s Jax up to?

Hi all!

I cannot believe it has already been six months since I last posted a project roundup. I try to do them every six months or so, but it tends to sneak up on me. Anyway, here’s a list of the stuff I am currently working on, and the ways you can support me and my writing/editing, if that is your wish.

The Patchwork Raven

Eeny Meeny Miney Mo: Tales for Tired Tykes funded successfully! YAY! A big thank you to every single person who supported that project. We’re very proud of it. You can still buy yourself a copy over at the Raven website (along with Twelve Days, our other completed book), basically while stocks last. 🙂 Once I run out, we will have to assess whether it’s worth another print run.

Allusions of Innocence got a little bit sidetracked while we were focussed on Tykes, but I am still working on getting that one over the line. It is my next focus once I have tied up the last few threads from Tykes. It’s one of the anthologies I created back in my Solarwyrm Press days, and we’re giving it a bit of a facelift and re-issuing it under the Raven banner.

Speaking of Solarwyrm books, we are also working on revamping and reissuing Fae Fatales and a giant omnibus of all the Latchkey Tales stories. These are still in production, so they may be a while, but they are coming!

We’re taking submissions for the Backyard Earth project. This may be one of the most ambitious projects I have ever attempted – we’re gathering a story based in every country in the world, and putting them together in five books, creating a boxset. We still have a long way to go and are seeking stories from a number of countries. If you’re a writer, please check out our submissions page for more details.

I’m also still very slowly reading through our backlog of novel submissions. Someday I hope to get through them all and reopen submissions for that, but it is a bit of a slow process. If you submitted something though, rest assured, I will get to it.

Patreon

Hey, did you know I have a patreon? I write short stories roughly monthly, usually not quite that frequently. Become a patron for $1+ and gain access to all the stories in there. I only charge when I produce, so at most it’s $12 a year, but in reality it’s less than that because I juggle too many balls pretty much all of the time. 😉

Still, please come and help fund my coffee habit. 

Social Media

I spend a lot of time hanging out on social media, and have my fingers in a bunch of virtual pies. Here are some places you can follow/support me and my projects.

I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

I have a Facebook page for all my writerly/editorial work.

The Raven is on both Facebook and Twitter.

I run the meBooks FB page – meBooks is an awesome platform for NZ writers and publishers to sell their books directly to readers. I love that we give Kiwis an alternative to Amazon. Please, come and hang out with me there.

I run this awesome little musical community called We Choose 40, based extremely loosely on the old U Choose 40 thing that used to be (maybe still is) on TV. We pick musical themes, nominate songs for them, and then vote to create a top 10. (It used to be a top 40, hence the name, but that proved unsustainable.) It could definitely use a bit more attention. 😉

Critterdom

If you’re not a Critter, you can skip this bit.

I’m still working on [redacted]. It’s kind of a secret project a bunch of us are engaged with. If you’re a Critter writer or artist and you don’t know what I am talking about, you should maybe PM me about this and get involved, because it is pretty epic. That’s all I am going to say about that for now. 😛

I also run a truly amazing Critter community called Critter Gifting, which came out of the Secret Santa last year, where Critters congregate, send each other cool mail, birthday cards, book exchanges, gifts, and etc. It is everything I love about the Critterverse, full of love and generosity. If you’re a Critter, come join in.

Hamilton Zoo

I work at the zoo, now, you guys, in case you missed that. It is frikkin’ EPIC. I love it. If you’re following me on social media, you are probably already aware that I occasionally post about my zoo joy and adventures. However, there are more official zoo accounts which I do not run, but do occasionally nudge on Facebook and Instagram. You should definitely take a look.

If you are a teacher or an educator in New Zealand, you might want to join our Hamilton Zoo Education Group on Facebook. I do run this one. It’s the best way to make sure you don’t miss out on educational Zoo related awesomeness.

The Bookish JellyBean

I am gradually getting this going again. The JellyBean is a blog where I examine the “canon” of children’s books and hold them up to a modern standard regarding gender, diversity and suchlike. It’s an interesting project. I have enlisted the help of my bookworm 7 year old son, so you get his perspective too.

Follow the blog, or like us on Facebook, or, if you’re really keen, become a patron and fund my total kiddielit nerdiness.

Ask Jax Anything

I have a very irregular advice column where I answer people’s questions to the best of my ability about everything from parenting to kink, polyamory to mental health. I’m out of questions at the moment though so it would be awesome if you could ask me something. (It’s completely anonymous.)

 

I think that’s it. As usual, when I do this, I realise that I am a maniac who does way too much at once. I mean, on top of this, I am also learning how to pole dance, being a parent, being a girlfriend, trying to keep up with my reading, and stay in touch with all of you beautiful people. I’m a crazy person. Thanks for staying with me through the mayhem.

 

 

Ask Jax Anything (Part 9)

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

Have you ever had to deal with impostor syndrome? If you did, how did you overcome it/how do you deal with it? I’m struggling with it at work, and I could use any advice you might have. Thanks in advance.

Have I ever dealt with this? Hehe. Yes. Every day, pretty much. I’m not as good an editor/writer as I think I am, or even as other people think I am. I’m definitely not as good a mother as people seem to think. I’m not as clever, wise, kind, organised, energetic as people think I am. People only think I’m organised and energetic because they see me, like, do all these things, and they don’t know that I am driven by my desire to not be a flake, to not look like I don’t have energy. I am faking it 95% of the time.

Here’s the thing I have come to realise, though. It doesn’t matter whether the energy is real or I am only getting things done out of a perverse desire not to seem like a lazy flake. Because the things get done. It doesn’t matter whether my drive to spread kindness and beauty comes out of a need to fight back against the darkness that laps pretty much constantly at the edge of my mind, because the kindness and beauty still happens. It doesn’t matter if I don’t think I’m good enough if people keep supporting my work and buying the books I make. Maybe it doesn’t even matter if they don’t. I used to write predominantly to work shit out – like, self-directed therapy. If my words sometimes resonate with people and sometimes help, then that’s enough. You know?

The truth is, I think most people feel imposter syndrome to a greater or lesser extent. I remember asking my Mom at some point when she started to feel like a grown up, because I was (technically) a grown up but I didn’t feel like one. And she laughed and said, “Mostly, I still don’t.” We all bumble along through life doing the best we can with what’s presented to us, and mostly hoping nobody notices we’re just hot messes, the lot of us.

Cucumbers with anxiety, according to one internet meme. Perhaps very accurate. 😉

I don’t really have any good advice. Maybe try to be as kind to yourself as you’d be to your best friend. Maybe try to believe people when they tell you that you rock. Maybe try to step out of your own ridiculous standards for yourself and recognise that if anyone else were doing what you’re doing, you would consider them competent.

In my experience, a lot of people with imposter syndrome work twice as hard out of a fear that somehow people will know that you’re just faking it! If this is what you do (I sure do), realise that the work COUNTS even if your motivation or drive comes from a stupid brain place. The work is getting done. People aren’t noticing that you’re faking it because even if it feels fake, the work you do is still real work.

“But I don’t know what I’m doing!” That’s okay. Most of us don’t. And then one day you get asked a random question about something in your field, and you answer it knowledgeably because it turns out that while you’re working really hard to fake it, you’re also actually learning and becoming good at what you do. (I am still surprised every time I realise that I have become quite good at what I do, just by doing it (often in a blind panic) for a decade or so.)

Be as kind to yourself as you are to your best friends, your partners, your children, anyone you feel disposed to give the benefit of the doubt. The fact that you’re worrying about this probably means you’re doing just fine. ❤

As I write this, there are no more questions waiting in the box, so if you’re enjoying these, ask me something!

Ask Jax Anything (Part 8)

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

If you had superpowers, what would they be? And would you be a super hero or super villain? (And why)

This is a slightly tangential answer, but I think I’d basically be a D&D bard. The power of a bard comes down to being a bit of a jack of all trades who inspires when inspiration is needed, heals when healing is needed, provides some comic relief (though mine is usually accidental), reminds people why we fight in the first place, and just generally bolsters and helps out the fighters.

That is the kind of hero I would be. Handing out strength where it is needed. Mocking the bad guys to distract them so that the people with the big axes can knock them down. Providing healing when it is required. Giving strength where I can.

I guess that’s basically what I try to do anyway. I don’t have spells for that stuff in real life, of course, but I do have words, which is almost the same thing. 😉 I am better at making beauty than fighting bad guys. I try to inspire and provide reasons to keep fighting because that’s where my strength lies.

As far as hero or villain goes, I am definitely on the good side of that equation. I am fascinated by villains, because I think they’re often, essentially, personifications of the monsters we fight in our own worlds and lives and heads all the time. But I’m no villain. I just don’t have the temperament for it. I don’t even kill spiders.

In the parlance of my people, I fall firmly into chaotic good. But that’s about right for a bard, I think.

That wasn’t quite what you asked, but I hope it’s a good enough answer. ❤

As I write this, there is only one unanswered question waiting in the box, so if you’re enjoying these, it may be a good time to ask me something!

Why I made a children’s book

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As I write this, we are in our second week of crowdfunding for “Eeny Meeny Miney Mo: Tales for Tired Tykes”. We’ve hit the 10% mark, but we have a long way to go, and that makes me nervous.

Let me tell you about this book. To tell you about this book, I have to tell you about another book. When I was a child, we had a book called “I can choose my bedtime story”. The contents page had a bunch of illustrations on it in lieu of titles. The idea was that a kid could pick a picture, turn to that page and their loving, patient parent could read them the tale. We must have heard these stories a million times as children. Some more often than others, because, of course, we had favourites.

When I had a child of my own, I managed to abscond from my parents’ house with this book that I had loved as a child, so that I could read it to my own child. Much as I had, he loved picking a story from the contents page. And that was when I made my terrible heart-breaking discovery.

The stories were awful.

Through adult (editorial, kiddielit expert) eyes they were badly written and plot holey. The illustrations were actually kind of average. I looked at this book I had adored as a kid, while I was reading it to my own child, and I thought, “I can do better”.

So, in true Jax style, I did.

I had to wait several years. When I had this idea, I didn’t have the Raven, the energy or the skills to do it justice. I needed to learn more. I kept it on the backburner and waited till I had them.

Then the Raven happened. I got better at what I do. The time seemed ripe. So we made it happen.

We have kept the “choose your own” illustrated contents page concept, but everything else is better. The illustrations are bold and bright and colourful and beautiful. (Thank you to Jon Stubbington, who totally delivered on what we were looking for.) The stories are diverse and substantial. Well-written. Engaging.

Even my kid is crazy excited about this book. IT is very close to my heart.

I very much hope it may be close to yours too. But for that to happen, for us to be able to print this beautiful thing, we need you to come on board and help us make it happen. If you have a small human in your life who might love a new book, consider making it this one. If you just want to see more quality books for kids in the world, just have a beer with us, and support us that way. (Yes, we have a beer reward again, because, well, this is the Raven, after all.) Or just drop us $7 and irritate the snot out of Will by making the total a weird number. 😉

Please help me make this happen. I am so proud of this book and it is so close to my heart. And you won’t regret it. No one ever regrets buying beautiful books. 

I love you, awesome nerds. Help me do a cool thing. ❤

Ask Jax Anything (Part 7)

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

If you were to have a position in government, what portfolio would you like to oversee, and what would your first action in office be?

Hooboy. I’m not sure I am qualified to do any of this sort of thing, but I guess if I were going to, the thing I’d most like to have power over is Education. So, Jax for Minister of Education (or whatever they call that here)!

My reasoning is that I honestly think that if you want to change the world, you start with the kids. They’re still malleable. Their prejudices are not as locked in as those of adults. Adults can change, but it is a lot harder to get them to do so than it is with children. To a kid, almost everything is a new idea, so adding in things like “the colour of your skin does not dictate how smart you are” or “what you can do or like or enjoy isn’t dictated by your gender” is that much easier.

But also, I think that the key to a smart, critical, productive populace is educating them properly from the start. Plus I think teachers should be better recognised for the work they do because that shit is exhausting, phenomenal, and thankless.

I guess my first action in office would be to start trying to get that recognised, and get more funding channelled into education, and into the education of our educators. I have this dream where being a teacher is more like being a doctor – hard as fuck to become and then financially recompensed as it should be.  (I doubt the medical process is perfect, by any means, but hopefully you see what I am saying.)

If I was going to make the biggest long term difference, that would be the place to do it, I think. This is like that old tree thing though. (You know the one? About how planting a tree is not for your benefit as much as for the benefit of future generations. You will never sit in its shade. Dammit. I am going to have to look it up.) AHA!

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.

(Can also be old women, but this is an ancient Greek proverb, says Google, so there ya go.)

I’d like to plant some metaphorical trees. 🙂

 

Ask me something!

On living with high-functioning depression

I fight an ongoing battle with depression. Anyone who has paid any attention to my journey over the past ten years or so will already know this. I speak quite openly about it, because I can – the stigma has no massive influence on my life, and I hope very much that talking about it helps other people feel less alone. Also, I have developed ways of coping with the symptoms and mechanisms for beating that nasty depression voice in my head that likes to lie to me and tell me how useless and unloved I am.

As far as depression goes, I am doing okay. I had a major crash about 6 years ago, when my marriage ended while I had a small child, and I spent a lot of the time since then putting my life and my brain back together. Now I am back to a place where I can make commitments and meet deadlines and work when I need to, and parent effectively and all that good life shit.

I’m what they call “high-functioning”. I take my meds, I eat properly, I try and get some exercise, and, for the most part, I get through my days without anyone on the outside any the wiser about the battle on the inside.

Because of this, and because I know I’m not the only person in the world who deals with this – you or someone you know might be one of them and maybe it’ll help knowing you’re not alone – I want to talk a bit about the challenges of high functioning depression. I hasten to add, I am not a medical professional, and this is based entirely on my own personal experience. If any of it rings true for you, and you don’t think of yourself as depressed, it might be a good idea to have a chat with a doctor. Coping mechanisms are great, but meds work too. Help your body to help your mind. ❤

The biggest challenge of high functioning depression, for me, is accepting that it counts. That probably sounds silly, but it’s legitimately a major thing. Because I know what it’s like to be can’t-shower, getting-out-of-bed-is-an-achievement, haven’t-cooked-in-a-week, bring-me-my-wine full on depressed, the fact that I haven’t been properly drunk in months, eat three decent meals a day, get up every day at the same time and work and shower and look after my kid often makes me feel like I’m just malingering. I’m fine! I mean look at me, meeting deadlines and eating healthily! Sure, I’m tired, like, all the time, and everything feels kind of grey and numb, and nothing is, exactly, FUN, per se, but it’s not like I can’t get out of bed, right?

I have developed all these mechanisms for getting things done even when I feel like shit, which I did because I needed to beat that feeling of impossibility I used to live with, so now the things get done and I am super productive – perhaps more productive than I’ve ever been in my life. Which is dandy. But it makes it hard to feel “legitimate” if I am having a depressive episode. Because now instead of hiding in my bed crying, a depressive episode looks like irritability and exhaustion on me. I find myself saying, “I’m just tired” when what I mean is, “I’m pretty sure I’m actually really depressed right now, but it isn’t having any major external impact, so meh, it’ll pass”.

I had to talk my doctor into giving me meds because he was like, “You seem very together for a depressed person.” At which point I burst into tears and said something like, “Yes, but holy gods, it costs me so much effort to be” and he was like, “Oh, yes, I see it now, take these once a day and come back in three months.” (He is actually pretty great, I’m downplaying how this went. But there was still that “you don’t seem depressed” thing.)

I’m really good at hiding it now. I get things done anyway. I get up anyway. I can still talk and socialise with people if I need to, though the gods know I usually don’t want to. When I get time to myself, I spend it sleeping or reading or anything that requires almost no energy or effort from me, because I have spent it all looking after my kid and being a girlfriend and cleaning the dishes and making sure whatever I need to get done gets done.

If I get some time to myself, and one of my friends messages me in a way that requires immediate attention, I feel resentful, and then I swallow that resentment because there is no way for them to know how tired I am, and, you know, I’m always tired, so what difference does it make anyway, and I talk to them as much as I can and then I tell them gently I need to go, and I go. (I am very fortunate that my dearest friends all get this shit, and understand that when I am out of juice, I am out of juice, and they don’t get hurt if I say I have to go. My people are amazing.)

Small decisions become impossible. I plan two week menus so that I don’t have to think about what’s for dinner. My to read shelf is in an order already so that I don’t have to decide what book to read next. I even have a system for my t-shirts so that I don’t have to think about which shirt to wear in the morning. I have structures and systems scattered throughout my life, lists and procedures to keep me on track, to minimise how many small daily decisions I have to make. I have reminders for things normal people just do, like drinking water and eating lunch. Because every decision takes monumental effort, so I do what I can to minimise them, and stick to the ones that are work related or absolutely cannot be avoided. Those I can handle with aplomb. I do story selection quickly and efficiently, but really only because I have this almost insane scaffolding holding up my day to day life to make space in my decision matrix for the big stuff that cannot be avoided.

This has weird consequences. I am good at dealing with the unexpected, but if something “unimportant” throws off my schedule, I get irritated. If my partner offers to cook dinner, I’ll thank him, but if he needs me to decide what he should cook, or if he asks what I want, then there’s no point, and I may as well do it myself. It’s not the cooking that takes effort, it’s the deciding. If I have planned to do something specific in the afternoon, and my kid wants to play with me, it takes a huge conscious decision to set aside whatever I had planned and hang out with him. Sometimes I manage to do this, sometimes I don’t. I should, always, because the years when he is going to want to hang with me are getting shorter, but I have to have the juice to consciously set aside whatever was on my radar and engage with him.

I think the worst thing is that nothing is really fun. Some things are kind of vaguely enjoyable. Some things make me feel better for a while. Some things give me an injection of energy. But I’m not spontaneous any more (I used to be). I struggle to remember what things give me actual enjoyment, because instead of enjoyment, I mostly just feel tired. I feel happiness, and pride, and love, but not really enjoyment. There are, very likely, in my case, hormonal reasons for this which are going to be resolved in the next month or two, so I am hopeful my passionate spontaneous fun will come back, but honestly, this is the hardest thing to deal with. Feeling permanently too tired to actually enjoy anything. It sucks, man.

This all sounds very “poor me”, and I want to highlight that I am not, exactly, unhappy. I have a very supportive amazing boyfriend who really gets this shit, and we talk all the time, learning each other’s idiosyncrasies and how to handle them. I have an amazing kid who gives great snuggles and tells nifty stories. I have kittens and sunflowers. I do work that I really do love most of the time. My life is pretty awesome. But there is an unseen cost for keeping all that rolling, and sometimes it gets away from me and then I feel awful for a while. It passes, and then I feel okay, but I am never not tired, and I am never totally marvellous. I am getting better all the time, because I never stop working on ways to beat this bullshit. But a lot of the time, stuff is kind of grey and meh.

The other thing that is awful is that sometimes I just want the effort acknowledged. Other people just, you know, get up and go to work and live their lives and it doesn’t seem to cost them this monumental effort. I grit my teeth and remind myself that I am a badass and then I put a smile on my face, or some 90s rock on to remind my muscles of who they are, and I pull my shit together and I do what needs doing. I am a tough stubborn wench, and that’s why things get done. And sometimes I just want people to see that. But, of course, I have spent all this effort building a scaffold that hides that effort, so that I seem “normal” (whatever the hell that is), and most of the time only the people closest to me have any idea. (The day my little boy told me he was going to be an inventor and make me a robot to do my work for me “so that you won’t be so tired all the time” I nearly wept.)

So here I am pulling back the curtain just a bit, so that you can see what it costs. And maybe so that if your productivity and getting through shit costs a similar thing, you know you’re not alone, and I see you and you, too, are a motherfucking badass. And maybe if you know someone who is always tired and a little bit irritable, you may show them some compassion and understand that maybe, just maybe, they also have this monumental cost just to appear functional.

I love you, nerds. Stay magnificent.

Ask Jax Anything (Part 6)

Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox so it can be totally anonymous.

I am considering getting a tattoo. The design will be composed mostly of elements from a culture other than the one I was born into. Is this still appropriation, even though done with respect toward and with the approval of a family member who is of that culture?

I mean, I am not sure I can really answer that since I’m probably also not of that culture.

The whole thing about appropriation is a bit tricky and knotty. I don’t much like the idea of never being able to borrow from other cultures, other stories, other worldviews, because I think part of what makes humans interesting is that we do this. We take elements of things and blend and combine them to make new things. I think that’s a positive. I mean, I am a total nut for retold fairytales.

But where there are major power imbalances and histories of oppression this can become super problematic, when the oppressors take the bits they dig and adopt them while ignoring or actively denigrating other parts of the culture they’re borrowing from.

The short answer is, I think that doing this means there is always going to be the chance that people indigenous to the culture from which you are borrowing are going to roll their eyes and go, “Yeah, nice try, that ain’t your shit”, and they may be justified in that (not knowing your own background) and that is something you need to be cognizant of if you’re going to go down that route.

At the same time, it’s your body, so, you know, maybe do what you want?

This is not super helpful, I realise. It’s even problematic to say that your relation approves because it’s not totally cool to expect one member of any group to speak for everyone in that group. I guess the best I can offer is that you weigh your desire for this particular piece and what it means to you beside the potential eye rolling you may encounter and have to suck up and then make a decision.

Personally, speaking only for myself, I would probably steer clear. There are so many things in the world you can use to express things without having to deal with all of this, that I think there are probably better, more creative ways to do it. My tattoos are all kind of original and specific to me (with the exception of the theatre masks, but those are definitely from my own cultural heritage). The older I get, the more inclined I am to stick to creating my own iconography rather than taking from other cultures.

But, ultimately, it’s your body. So, you know, do as you will. Just prepare for possible consequences.

Ask me something!