Monkeys

Yesterday I lay on my back and thought, “Holy crap, I never get enough done.”

I feel like a slacker. I feel lazy. I feel like I *could* do more, so I *should* do more. I nap too much. I play too many games on my phone. I spend too much time on social media.

I told some of this to Adam. Then I said, “The stupid thing is that a lot of people probably wonder how I get so much done. And here I am telling myself I am not doing enough.”

He gave me that look he gives me when I’m being sarcastic but I’m also (accidentally) right. “Yes. They do.”

And then I just think: Good gods, imagine what I could do if I wasn’t lazy.

Ah depression. You goddamn asscactus. We’re doing fine. Hush your monkey chittering.

Pole Dancing

Let me tell you about pole dancing.

Once a week, I take my almost 40-year-old body to a studio in Frankton to learn how to pole dance. It is one of the hardest things I have ever tried to learn. I am a cerebral girl. Before I started this, I hadn’t danced in 15 years. I am finding muscles I forgot I had. I am getting stronger. But holy shit it is HARD.

It is also one of the most empowering things I have ever done. It is an incredibly supportive environment of (mostly) women wearing almost nothing (skin grip is the best grip) in all their variety of shapes and sizes because what their bodies LOOK like is nowhere near as important as what they can DO. And those of us who can’t do as easily as the others get nothing but love and encouragement.

Recently I got taught to hula hoop by a woman who is at least ten years, maybe 15, younger than me. I have never been able to hula hoop. I am still not awesome, but I can keep the hoop up now.

My pole instructor is becoming a dear friend.

When I tell people I am learning pole, at least half the time I get raised eyebrows and laughter. And I smile sweetly and say, “It’s incredible. I’m getting so STRONG. It’s the most fun I have ever had getting fit. Way better than the gym. It’s frikkin’ HARD. But I love it.”

I have learned more self-respect hanging upside down half-naked from a pole with these extraordinary women than I ever did following the rules.

Do what you want. Bollocks to the haters. 

This kid

Forgive me, but I am about to brag about my child.

Since Wolfenoot happened I have watched my feckless typical 7 year old begin to develop a work ethic that threatens to rival mine. He sits down and does pictures to go in the letters without being prompted. He hassles me to get podcast episodes done and uploaded. The true test will be when he has to sign 100 books in a couple of weeks, but he is prepared for that.

“I know it’s going to be hard work, Mom, but sometimes, when you get famous, it means you have to work hard.” 😂😂😂 – my jaded little internet celeb. 

It’s just neat watching him thrive under the added responsibility. Ask him to tidy his room and he whinges and groans like any normal kid, but if I say “I need you to do a Wolfenoot picture please” he gets this serious look on his face and goes “Oh yeah, I need to do that.” And goes and does it.

Sometimes he frustrates the living crap out of me, but honestly, more and more, I look at the human this little guy is becoming and I am so damned proud of him.

Hot take of the day

Ready for my hot take for the day? Here it is.

When I wear my nerdy t-shirts – Crit Role shirts, shirts that reference superheroes, or books – I accept that that means that people who see me (who get it) are going to recognise my nerdery. I am affiliating myself with a particular community.

When I wear my rainbow D&D emblem shirt, I recognise that that’s not just saying “is nerd” but is also saying “is LGBTQ supporting nerd”.

If I wore a Zoo shirt (I don’t have one, but stay with me) I would accept that people who saw me in it would recognise that, at the very least, I am supportive of the Zoo and the work it does.

If I wore my South African rugby shirt, I would accept that people who saw me in it would assume I am a SA rugby supporter.

When I put these things on my body, I am saying something about my identity. I play D&D. I affiliate myself with lgbtq rights. I am a conservationist. I am South African.

So, don’t tell me that someone wearing a MAGA hat doesn’t know what that means. It is very, very clear by now that that hat is affiliated with a very specific worldview – a worldview built on xenophobia, racism, conservative gender roles, and, yes, white supremacy. You cannot put that hat on, and then complain that people assume you are a racist.

You are making a conscious choice to identify yourself with that movement. Accept the consequences.

Environmentalism

Okay, look. I have bamboo toothbrushes and reusable bags in my house. I use a menstrual cup, in large part because of the environmental impact. I grow sunflowers in my garden for the bees. I work in a conservation industry, educating kids.

I get trying to do small things to help. I really do. And I commend it. But all of that is worthless if you don’t vote for the environment too.

Wherever you are, whichever country you are in, if you have a vote, the best possible thing you can do for the environment, for our planet and the people on it, is vote for people who prioritise it.

This is more important than ANYTHING at this stage. All our social injustice, all our economic issues, all of that will be irrelevant if we don’t address climate change. It’s important for things to be equitable, I agree. I want women to get paid as much as blokes and I want all kids to be able to go to a damn doctor when they get sick.

But none of that means anything if we don’t have food. None of that means anything if the planet wipes us out. And it will. And bamboo toothbrushes aren’t going to do shit unless we also handle oil corporations and the mechanisms of capitalism that put making money ahead of keeping our planet habitable for people.

This fight is won with regulations and laws. And for that to happen, we need the right people making those laws. Wherever you are, next time you have the chance to vote, vote smart. Vote for environmentalists. Your life and the lives of your children pretty much literally depend on it.

On brain monkeys and depression naps

I’ve been trying to figure out how to talk about my brain at the moment. Because, frankly, it’s being kind of an assmonkey.

We went away for the weekend, just me and my Adam and a spa pool and good food and books and total relaxation and it was so frikkin’ heavenly, you guys.

And then I came home and did a bunch of things yesterday morning. Like, a lot of things. Productive Jax for the win.

And then I depression napped for 5 hours. I know it was a depression nap, because I couldn’t wake up. I had repeated dreams about waking up, but I couldn’t do it for real. I eventually crawled out of bed like a zombie when Adam came home from work, mostly because I felt guilty for sleeping all afternoon.

And what it feels like, is that I am not, under any circumstances, allowed to stop. Because if I stop, if I relax, if I let my guard down for even a second, then the brain monkeys swoop in and knock me down. If I keep moving, keep doing, keep knocking things off the list, then they can’t get me. A moving target is harder to hit. A moving target never really gets to rest though.

I don’t want solutions. I am working on it. We are working on it (because I am fortunate enough to be with someone who understands that combatting brain monkeys is a lifetime thing).

I just… I guess a lot of people don’t think of me as depressed because I am very productive and have a pretty positive outlook on the world (overall) and I try and be someone who puts good into the world and engages with people with compassion and kindness as much as I can.

And I wanted to lift the curtain for a second, because I am also exhausted from fighting the things in my head, and extremely irritable at the moment, and likely to snap at you. So, like, please just be a bit patient with me right now.

I’ll come right. I always do.

This is less about me and more to say that sometimes depression looks like 5 hour naps and sometimes depression looks like hyper-productivity and sometimes it looks like a desperate attempt to make the world a bit shinier. It has many faces.

Today, if you’d like to help me, check in with your other strong friends. Let my ability to talk about this maybe help someone else. You may never know what it means to them. It may make all the difference. 

I love you.

Ask Jax Anything (Part 13)

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.

Tell us the story of how you built up your online presence and created your online business, specifically in terms of getting people to engage and drawing interest ❤

I’ve actually answered this before! 

 

Here’s a heavy one.
My husband and I have a bad relationship. We got married when we were young and stupid (I was 19/20, he was a few years older) and things were ok until kids happened and we got out of school. Now, I feel like I don’t know him at all; he’s turned completely into his dad, including with how he treats me – there’s a lot of emotional/psychological abuse from his dad to his mom, and husband has picked up some of those habits. But I fight back, so there’s a lot of yelling and anger in our house.
I’ve tried to fix it. We’ve had conversations over the nearly 9 years we’ve been married. I’ve explained my emotions and my reactions and listened to him, but things never change. And he adamantly refuses to go to couples counseling or to see a psychiatrist to see if he has any mental health problems (I know I do, and I’m treating them with meds. We just found out his mom has severe bipolar disorder, and he still refuses). He claims we can work things out on our own, but the spiral just continues.
I want to leave. I’ve threatened divorce several times, but I’ve never had the courage, or funds, or close support to get out. I don’t want to take my daughter from her school – she has behavioral special needs, and the teachers who work with her are a dream. I have no income of my own, and the closest family to us are his parents, who wouldn’t be any help if I did leave, so I have no money of my own to hire a lawyer for any divorce proceedings. My friends are all telling me to leave so I can finally be happy, it’s just that I feel trapped by all the details of actually trying to get out and where will I go and what will I do with the kids. I’ll admit in my darker times I wish that my husband would just die so I don’t have to deal with any of it, and I could be free. I feel horrible for wanting that but it doesn’t stop me from wanting it.
He knows I’m unhappy. It’s affecting my daughter’s behavior at school, and my younger son’s behavior at home. And he’s not really that bad of a guy, it’s just… not working. And it didn’t work from the beginning; there were these same signs when we were dating, I just never noticed.
How did you do it? Just pick up and leave? How can I do it without becoming a villain to both my and his family? Where did you find the courage? How can I do this with no income? I’m tired of being mistreated, but I’m scared to be on my own. How did you do it?
Tl;dr in a bad marriage, husband refuses to change, have counseling, or divorce, how do I leave and give my two young kids a good life?

 

This is such a difficult situation. First of all, let me send you so much love and assure you that you are doing the best you can in a terrible situation.

I can only talk about this from my own perspective, and my answer is, I didn’t feel I had a choice. We also tried for a long time to fix the issues between us. I am not going to go into the details of that. We both made a lot of mistakes, but at the end of the day what it came down to was that we were deeply incompatible and I realised that if I stayed I was just going to fall ever deeper into a spiral of depression and drinking and cheating and I didn’t want to be that person. I especially didn’t want to be that mother.

So I just left. Honestly, I was a bit of a basket case at the time. I didn’t have much of a plan or really anywhere near the support I needed, but I felt like if I stayed I was going to lose myself, so I just left. And then I just kind of stumbled through the first couple of years desperately trying to keep my head above water. I just sort of dealt with the next thing in front of me, and then the next, until I reached a point where I could breathe again, but it was really very fucking hard and sometimes I look back on those two or three years and wonder how the hell I survived.

A big part of the answer to that is that I live in New Zealand, and we have a relatively decent welfare system, so I was able to get a single mom benefit, and even some mental health help. While it really wasn’t enough to live on, realistically, between that and my freelance editing skills, I managed to limp through.

I also have a lot of really amazing people in my life, so when things got really impossible, my friends and family helped out.

If I was going to give advice, I’d say don’t do it the way I did. Heh. See the title of this column. Be smarter about it. Start setting up some kind of financial buffer if you can – that’s the big one. Start looking into where you could live. Is there somewhere where you would have more support? Check the schools there. Check the rent prices. Is there something you could do for money? You don’t say whether you worked before kids, or what skills you have, but start looking into those things now. Find out what help there is in your country. Are there organisations that might support you? Knowledge is power.

As for being a villain to your families… you know, my attitude to that is that you have to do what is right for yourself and for your children. It’s not best for your kids to grow up in a house full of anger and unhappiness. Showing your kids by your own example that it is possible to take control of your life and pursue happiness is a good thing, in my opinion. If your family doesn’t understand that, then, frankly, that’s their problem. And I don’t think you should really care at all what his family thinks of you. You may be a villain in their version of events, and that may just be something you have to live with. But you need to do what is right for you and your children, and what other people think of that is kind of irrelevant.

Your question about where I got the courage is hard, because when I look back, I don’t remember feeling like I had a choice. I remember agonising about it, because I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was, but I also remember the moment when I realised he was never really going to understand the things I needed, the reasons I was so unhappy, and that that meant I had to leave both for myself and for my son. Because my kid deserved better than a chronically depressed alcoholic mother. And that was where I was heading. And once I saw that, I just… told him I was out. And that was that.

I never changed my mind, I never regretted it, not even when things were really hard afterwards. I just put one step in front of the other through that awful, impossible, desperate time, and eventually things got better. But I won’t lie to you, it was bloody difficult. There were times when I wasn’t at all sure I was going to survive it.

But I look back now at the mountain I climbed, and at my life now and it is so so much better, so I believe it was worth it.

I would recommend more planning than I put into it, but I also think that if you have tried and tried and you’re still miserable, at some point you may just have to do what you need to do. If you’re someone I know and you’d like to talk specifics, get in touch. I will help in any way I can.

Much love. May you find a way through. ❤

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!