It’s Not Just in My Head

This was originally going to be an episode for Professional Bitching, but seeing as Santa hasn’t brought my new microphone yet, and this is bound to be incredibly painful emotionally, I’ve opted to scribble until my fingers cramp. Because, maybe then I’ll feel vindicated in some tiny, insignificant way.

Something’s gotta give before I check myself into a mental care facility, and it’s getting to that point.

First, a little history. When I was 20, I met this guy who seemed weird, but he paid attention to me and I’d been antsy as a single gal since being unceremoniously dumped by a guy who was also strange yet attentive enough to pander to my overwhelming personal image issues. We met because he really enjoyed a torture-porn story I’d written for shits-n-giggles, and he asked me to a poetry reading. Yes, his interest in the story threw up red flags. No, I didn’t heed them. That one decision cost me dearly. I’ve never been completely happy since this guy, we’ll call him JA, came into my life.

For six years, JA controlled my life. He picked what we ate, where we lived, how I dressed, who I associated with, he even went so far as to constantly deprive me of sleep by playing video games at full volume from 9 PM until 9AM—while I had a toddler to care for. JA was physically abusive to my child. He manipulated my mother to get money and whatever items he wanted without ever stepping outside to find a job once he lived under my roof—while at his home, I paid for half the groceries, held a job as best as possible, and dealt with the Hoarders-like nightmare his family seemed content to wallow in.

But that wasn’t even the worst of it. No, every time he opened his mouth, that was the real nightmare. JA couldn’t stand that I have strong notions about sexual consent and activities. He relished in telling me daily about his ex girlfriend who was into public sex, graphically laying out his exploits like I should be impressed instead of mortified. It took me years to realize the repetitive stories were training me to give in when he wanted to finger me at the dinner table or make a scene at a party which ended with him loudly fucking me in the guest room for everyone to enjoy. But I didn’t enjoy it.

Whenever I fought his manipulation games, JA brought in his wingmen. These mutual friends were molded for once specific purpose: To embarrass me as often as possible, and to ensure my humility around JA’s obvious sexual prowess. There was a routine to every gathering of friends. We’d sit down, grab a drink, and off JA would go, making some off-hand comment about anal sex—or whatever sexual favor I denied him most recently. The guys joined in, after all everyone loves pounding Brownietown, right? Then they’d turn on me, the person dumb enough to not like anal sex, and spend an hour or more convincing me to perform a sexual act I don’t enjoy in any way, shape, or form. I always said no. But after each night spent with the guys, JA would try to force the issue in bed. Often, it resulted in a physical altercation, ending only when I gave him at least a blowjob in order to escape him forcefully fucking my asshole.

But it was just jokes with friends hours before, how can that turn into rape? Because that’s what abusers do. Why didn’t my friends stop it when they saw how uncomfortable I was? Because they didn’t care. Not really. It took him less than a year to win over all of my friends. After I finally kicked him out, JA clung to my friends for support. I clung to my cats because my friends had spent so long enabling my abuser, I didn’t know who to trust.

I still don’t know who to trust.

This week, I was determined to get my shit together. Being mentally ill in the current political climate in the USA has been awful, leaving me too anxious to do more than furiously clean and reorganize the house—like a sparkling toilet will banish the Orange Overlord. I wasn’t thinking of past trauma. Didn’t even occur to me to be mindful of my current friends and what they post online because I’ve spent years culling those most entwined with JA’s life. Then someone who has also suffered serious domestic abuse posts an obscene video featuring JA in the nude. It’s like she wasn’t there for the last ten-plus years of bullshit I’ve dealt with—which she was, often in the room to see it first-hand. Or she didn’t know he’s still gaslighting me by sending junk magazines to my house—I get at least five a week—though I made it very public that I needed a middle man to tell him to knock it the fuck off. Why would anyone go into a room as an abuse survivor with a known abuser? Why when they’re nude? It’s JA’s game starting anew. He posts that he wants to do a weird, vaguely sexual thing (it’s the torture-porn story thing all over again, really) and out comes a woman he knows he can manipulate because she’s already “broken.”

The minute I realized he’d found a new victim, I was in her shoes. The panic attacks started again. I can’t focus long enough to remember something in the living room, walk twenty feet, and write it down at my desk. Every time my mind vomits up footage from the video, I shake and cannot get warm. I haven’t done paying work in a week. Sitting at my desk is a test of will. I never stay still long enough to think of what to write and instead zip off to fix something, anything, because I can’t clean the past out of my head but I can sure make the stove top shine.

Bottling up the reaction to my abuser being flung in my face wasn’t working. I tried to talk to a friend, but this is such an overwhelming issue for one person to deal with unless they’re a professional. I’m known for being outspoken about a few things. It’s about time I did the same for my abuse. I’ve held it in for so long, downplaying the damage done by one pathetic man who feels so insignificant, he has to lord over a woman, embarrass her into submission in order to get an erection.

Let’s be honest, he’s earned my ire. I’ll never have a functional relationship again. I can’t stand being touched in public unless I am in complete control. If someone grabs me, I come unhinged and flight-or-fight turns into a sobbing mess—I fought every day for six years, I’m done fighting for autonomy of my own body. Thanks to the job he’s done on my head, I cut off three feet of hair so I wouldn’t be terrified of someone coming up from behind and touching it without permission—that was a daily anxiety-maker. I literally cannot tell anyone no in the bedroom for fear they’ll hit me and do it anyway. I perform sexual acts I still don’t totally enjoy, just because someone asked. And when I do want to say something about what’s happening in bed, I choke on the words and continue on not having fun. I can’t even masturbate without his bullshit abuse wriggling its way into my fantasies half the time. I’ve tried to move on, only to realize I’m subconsciously seeking another JA. No more. I can’t do it.

This isn’t JA winning because he broke me. This is me saying I want full control of my body, no matter what that entails. If that means flicking my bean solo until I die, so be it. I cannot become a victim again. No one should go through life in an endless cycle of abusive relationships. JA wasn’t the only bad seed, just the worst, and I wish more people would see his schemes for what they are instead of helping him entrap more victims.

This was a rambling mess that doesn’t make sense, but I had to say it. Do with the information what you will. I just can’t keep it in my head anymore.

Professional Bitching Suffers Zombie Attack

So . . . I take it you guys noticed there’s no new podcast this week. To put it simply, I ran out of time. This week I’ve been with Hobb’s Grove working at a haunted attraction inside a baseball stadium. Weird concept, right? We scare while they play. The fans are the real winners. But after prep days to build a new (read: cleaner) costume, an early-morning news appearance, and the two-day event, there was not much brain matter left to speak about anything coherently. But, I can steal a little time to type.

I planned to discuss Damien and it’s first season. I’ll be honest, if it gets a second season, I’ll be surprised. It’s okay horror. There’s some striking moments and character choices. However, it’s utterly frustrating for them to have the lead character more or less a pawn, even in his defining moment during the finale. Damien makes no coherent decisions. Everything’s manipulated or coerced. Pair that with their insistence in trotting out the over-used selective amnesia crap and I switched from watching the story to waiting for the next death gag. The show needs to take a step back and look at the big picture—one producer swears they wrote it to tie every moment to Damien’s ultimate decision in the finale, but that’s not what I’m seeing. I see the writer’s hands too much. Good television makes you forget it was written, though may the gods help you if you just dismiss those writers who did a Very Hard Job and made it look easy.

And we won’t go too deep into how flat and uninspiring the women on the show have been. One is there to be dragged around with no real purpose. Another is CrazyPants Sycophant. We have Religious Nutjob, played by one of my favorite actors and given such bullcrap motivation, I just wanted her to die so they’d quit beating that dead horse. One was there just to be blonde, cute, and then die. Any other woman on the show is background, silent, or slated for death. We can do better nowadays.

That’s Professional Bitching Lite for this week. To make up for it, click this link for the news footage where I played zombie at an ungodly hour in the morning.

I Deserve a Pat on the Head

Last month I sent myself to the emergency room on purpose to begin the process to remove my gallbladder.

Two weeks ago a complete stranger cut me open, yanked the little malfunctioning asshole out, and glued my wounds shut.

I did this horrifically terrifying and Very Adult thing more or less by myself.

Save the three friends who gave me rides to/from the hospital–one to the ER, one dropped me off for surgery, and the last took my loopy self home after–I handled everything about this little health scare. This is the first time I’ve had to rely on myself to get through anything with doctors, hospitals, etc. without my mother pulling the strings. Hell, aside from a few visits to friends/family recovering from their ills, I’ve never had a reason to go into the ER, let alone go under the knife. No broken bones. No major health problems. *knock on wood* Not even a stupid childhood accident like a marble up my nose.

Up until now, it was a blessing. I was, and still am, terrified of hospitals. To be honest, I’m not one-hundred percent sure how I saw it through to the endgame–the actual surgery. Somehow every time I needed to make a gut-check, I rolled a natural twenty. Yeah, that might go over some heads…. Basically, anytime I though for sure I’d yank out the IV and bolt out the door, hospital gown baring my ass to the world, I managed to talk myself off the ledge–in the ER and the pre-op waiting area. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

A miracle which left me with itchy incisions, but a clean bill of health as of yesterday morning’s post-op check-up.

The check-up was hilarious. Dr. T–not my surgeon, but the head in the department–walked in. “How are you feeli–” He spotted the soy latte clutched in my hands. “Felling better, apparently.” “Yes, Doctor. Coffee means I’m myself again.” We laughed. The rest of the appointment took a whopping five minutes. Any nausea? No. How’s the pain? Not bad if I don’t do dumb things. Dr. T checked my itchy souvenirs, prodded my stomach, and sent me on my way.

It took me three fucking years to get my gallbladder removed and the Big Scary Things I anticipated never happened. It’s such a Minor Thing, I talked to people who hack into others for a living for maybe thirty minutes total. That’s including the ER, pre-op appointment, pre-op call, meeting the surgeon day-of, and yesterday’s blink-and-miss-it check-up.

Being on the other side of the ordeal, I’m laughing at Past R.C. who hyperventilated at the mere thought of an operation. She had her reasons. Dad’s never-ending string of Serious And Scary surgeries set a bad tone for my life. He died on the table a few times, but they always brought him back. During one spinal surgery, his heart stopped. They had to flip him over to bring him back. Ta-da! Staph infection. Every other surgery after, they couldn’t close the incision(s). We lived in the middle of nowhere. Nurses couldn’t make it every time he needed to change bandages. Guess who got to learn how to flush, clean, and pack deep wounds? Yup. This chick. Or rather, her twelve year old counterpart.

Once you’ve packed sterile gauze into a four-inch deep abdominal incision the length of your forearm, the mere thought of allowing someone to cut into you is terrifying.

Didn’t you guys ever wonder why I know so much about what the insides of a person look like? My Google-fu is strong, but nothing can compare to childhood lessons like the ones I received.

I’ve got a couple more weeks ahead on the recovery road. Mostly just keeping myself busy doing desk work so I don’t attempt to clean the house, which requires lifting heavy things. Yes, that’s the story I’m sticking to. It’s making the others in the house clean. I’m okay with that.

Your Reasoning is Not Valid

Found a (horribly written) article where a journalist admitted he’s actually not as concerned about legalizing weed as he once was. When he finally got to the “Ooo, scary unknown long-term effects of Mary Jane” part, these two quotes were all he could find to really drive home the inherent dangers:
And drug policy experts say there’s a risk to pot even if it doesn’t have long-term or deadly health effects. “The main risk of cannabis is losing control of your cannabis intake,” Kleiman told me in February. “That’s going to have consequences in terms of the amount of time you spend not fully functional. When that’s hours per day times years, that’s bad.”
Jon Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University put it more bluntly: “At some level, we know that spending more than half of your waking hours intoxicated for years and years on end is not increasing the likelihood that you’ll win a Pulitzer Prize or discover the cure for cancer.”
Obviously these guys haven’t met the new generation of stoners. We’re hungry. Driven. Pissed the fuck off at the condition of the world we’re inheriting. Now we want to make it better.

Part of that may actually involve those who want to chilling out and letting anger take the backseat for a while.

So much going wrong in the world can be traced back to someone angry at someone else for whatever reason. Imagine anger as a stick. Everyone right now is all riled up about politics, police abuse, women’s health rights, racism, religion, etc. and to make sure their voice is the only one heard, they’re going after each other with Anger Sticks. Now take the sticks and wrap them in a few layers of bubble wrap. Does the stick still hurt? Yeah, it’ll sting. Can the buffered Anger Stick kill anyone? It’s not that likely and would take a tremendous amount of effort. Okay, my demonstration is super simplistic, but still a valid take on how something everyone has demonized for so long could be one thing to dampen the anger controlling everyone right now.

If these are the only excuses experts can come up with, why has it taken so long for pot smoking to become socially acceptable? People who smoke every day know their limits, will smoke just enough to reach the high they want and stop. Self control is a thing. I know I’m not the only one who’ll pack a bowl, take a hit, wander off to clean or work on something, then come back to my pipe later for more. This isn’t Reefer Madness. We aren’t instantly driven to insane acts of depravity after half a lungful. It’s not a race to smoke the fastest. The weed will still be there after I write an article or wash the dishes.

And now because I need a giggle, here’s a picture I found on Facebook which made me laugh so hard, I thought Gallbladder Hulk would burst.

Well, Then . . . Do YOU Want to Raise My Kid?

This rant is inspired by an anonymous post on an Indie Author/Blogger Facebook page.

It’s the same ol’ song and dance. A group of women, in this instance authors like myself, called on the carpet for not being “helicopter parents” and *gasp* attending signing events or conventions–where they hope to make enough money to pay their electric/gas bill that particular month.

Guys, we’re trying to do what’s right by our children. Honestly. If that means missing a school event, so be it. Will we be late for that birthday party someone invited us to two days ago because we have a signing gig? You bet your ass. Nothing and no one will come between myself and the financial goals I’ve set in order to ensure my child wants for nothing. This is the general consensus I’ve seen from everyone fielding this flavor of criticism.

How do these trips impact my kid?

He loves it.

I’m a stay-at-home mom. Have been since we took custody of my nephew (Kiddo) nine years ago. Since I don’t drive, we’re often stuck at home with each other a lot with little to no options within walking distance to entertain ourselves. The nearest park is essentially a motel for the homeless and drug users. The school’s play yard isn’t really entertaining enough for my geekling; he’s too big for the meager play equipment. It’s an hour bus ride to reach safer, more engaging places for us to romp in town. That’s an hour plus of editing work I’m not doing for the sake of a little playtime. He and I agreed a while ago, it’s usually not worth the trip unless we’re making a full family day of it–movie, frozen yogurt, dinner, etc. Plus, those are hours he’d much rather spend killing orcs or dragons. What can I say? I raised a gamer by accident. We have plenty of family time, despite. It’s just not all day, every day. We’re perfectly content in our separate corners, one writing, the other laughing at whatever oddness he’s achieved in-game.

I really don’t appreciate anonymous people assuming convention/signing trips are all fun and games–this goes for myself and other authors lumped into this, “Not momming enough,” category–or that I’m running away from parental responsibilities. Authors work insane hours. Most also have at least one or two day jobs to put food on the table. And here we are, signing up to work three/four insane days, putting our socially awkward selves on display for potential readers at signing events or *literally* walking twenty miles a day across a convention floor. What do we get out of it? Sometimes just enough to cover our costs for the weekend, with hopes that new reader outreach will boost sales down the road. Lucky few walk out with enough cash to finally pay off their overdue cable bill so the kids can binge-watch My Little Pony without Mommy having to explain why there’s no ponies until next week–or the week after, or even a month down the road if finances are that tight. Kids don’t understand balancing budgets and picking which bill is the most important.

I work this much so Kiddo will never find out just how hard it’s been the last two years to keep the family afloat. Yet some people judge women like me for it. I sacrifice time with my kid to make sure he has clothes, food, and whatever books/games make him so giddy, he begs to stay up just another fifteen minutes. But somehow I’m a bad mother for, say, missing a school carnival when I’ve volunteered for every other one in the past; critics just don’t care to find out that part.

Are there author moms running away to join the figurative circus? Totally. No one is perfect. Are all author moms guilty of this? Not at all.

Why are we still harassing women for choosing to put career and family on the same pedestal of importance? Oh, right. We’re walking baby factories without the ability to make critical life decisions without a husband’s input. Get out of the history books. Get a friggen clue. Most importantly, get your nose out of our private lives and focus on your own. Quit transferring your guilt, frustration, and envy onto a group of women simply trying their best.

Why I Sent Myself to the ER by Eating Peanut Butter

Healthcare systems are odd. Something I’ve learned rather late in life, unfortunately. See, I was one of those statistic numbers everyone loves to fling around–an American adult without health insurance. Was, being the operative word. Last year, the ACA (Affordable Care Act) allowed me to visit a doctor for the first time since I was sixteen. Good. Great. I can finally get some of these health concerns taken care of. Namely, a cranky gallbladder.

What do you mean I’m not sick enough, doc?

Turns out, my provider won’t give patients ultrasounds to confirm gallstones unless they’re actively miserable (pain, nausea, etc.). It’s bad enough I’m fighting a hard-wired fear of hospitals, but they wanted me to willingly put myself in pain in order to receive treatment.

I put it off for another year. That’s what a restricted diet is for, right? Well, not really. But I couldn’t fight my fear as well last year. Call me a coward.

Something, I’m not sure what, finally kicked my self-preservation into gear. If I didn’t take care of this now, one day I’d end up seriously sick and unable to control it. That’s actually my fear–being unable to control my body. This is what happens to children raised by a disabled parent who didn’t take care of himself. Didn’t care what happened to his body, or what extreme lengths doctors went to in order to save him from self-destruction. One of those extreme lengths–a gastric bypass–contributed to the heart attack which killed him.

So on Monday I bit the bullet . . . actually, I ate a ton of organic peanut butter and chocolate spread on graham crackers, then had a friend drive me to my healthcare provider’s emergency room.

I knew exactly how much fat to ingest in order to bring up the symptoms the doctors needed to consider it a Serious Thing and finally ultrasound my gallbladder.

Guess what? Little fucker made stone friends to keep him company. But I already knew this.

There was literally nothing else I could have done to obtain this diagnosis. The doctor and ER nurses quickly understood (and I made no point to hide it) that my condition when I walked in was intentional, I’d controlled symptoms for years through diet, and I knew full well what my body was doing, why it felt the way it did.

I knew it was a bad day for them shortly after I arrived. It wasn’t my intention to add to their workload. Two patients coded that morning. A woman with a compound fracture rolled in about the same time I walked in. An older woman with no actual medical problem yelled abuse at the nurses, cried uncontrollably, and even faked breathing troubles to avoid being discharged without what she considered adequate care and attention. “Everyone ignores me. They want me to suffer,” she bellowed constantly. At the far end of the hall, a woman too drunk to function bitched at any passing staff member about the fact that she’s drunk. In response, I was on my best behavior. Shut up. It’s possible.

But now the ball is rolling. I will finally get the surgery I’ve needed for three years next month. Yes, in a month. I have things to do, damn it, and I’m too stubborn for my own good. My body and I are on speaking terms again, and back on the diet wagon. I’m not concerned about any problems between now and then. Even if something does happen, I now know that the ER at my provider’s hospital is pretty damned good. The fear, which still gives me plenty of anxiety, isn’t enough to stop me from getting necessary aid now that I have this information.

I’m losing sleep over the surgery, though. This is something I anticipated. What I didn’t anticipate was my decision to keep it quiet compounding the anxiety. So here I am, talking through it on a blog. Publicly. Apologies to any friends who read this and want to kick my ass for not telling them privately. I do try to keep my fears from bleeding all over cyberspace and relationships, but it can’t be helped. Not if I want to sleep anytime between now and the surgery date. This is my way of holding myself accountable. Too many people know now. I can’t back out of the surgery just because I’m afraid.

Yes, there will be updates once Gallbladder Hulk is evicted. No, I’m not going to try and convince my doctor to let me keep a stone. That’s weird. I mean, I kill fictional people, dress as a zombie, and scare people professionally, but the line is drawn at including my own medical waste to my bookshelf memento collection. Unless I had a teratoma, then I’d beg to have that shit preserved.

Oh, It’s *That* Day Again.

Father’s Day and I don’t get along for one obvious reason: My father died when I was in high school.

So of course, every force-fed story on social media talks about what to buy your father, what outdoor activities to take him to, why father’s don’t have to be the biological kind in order to love a kid, etc. Honestly, I usually put up a blinder to this flavor of media until a good three days after the holiday. It’s done me good so far.

Then I saw this GQ article where Chris Pratt talks about what he learned from he recently departed father.

“The perfect metaphor: Dad left me a compass that didn’t work. And I still—the sentiment—I’ll take it out and look.” He laughs again. “And be like, ‘Aw fuck, I better use my phone’.”

Much like Pratt’s father, mine was a tough guy who found himself unable to cope with seriously limiting physical ailments. Dad was a diabetic who didn’t give a shit about doctor’s orders and diets. His lower spine was shattered in a motorcycle accident that should have killed him. Before he finally passed, a good chunk of his heart stopped working. He died and was resuscitated numerous times during surgeries. I spent my childhood terrified of hospitals because I never knew if Dad would roll back out the doors to smile at me again.

Dad’s physical problems weren’t the only hiccup in his life. He suffered from what I can only now describe as a horrific mixture of chemical dependency and undiagnosed bipolar disorder. We didn’t know what bipolar was when he would hole up in the master bedroom for days on end and fly into rages about nothing at all. Life was all about the eggshells for a long time. If Dad was having a good day, we all were. When he didn’t . . . I’d beg to go to a friend’s house for a long weekend.

But like Pratt, I eventually learned to appreciate the lessons Dad taught me instead of dwelling on the bad. He was who he was. Death didn’t make Dad a martyr. It just means he’s not here to tell me I’ve used the wrong fake blood on a prop or that a medical emergency in my latest book isn’t as life-threatening as I thought, or even make fun of me for staying across the room from a snake securely locked in its cage. Through Dad’s emotional demons, I learned that I’m not okay. Bipolar is an issue in our family, one which passed not only to myself, but to my sibling.

The one I disowned because they became exactly like Dad. They didn’t learn these vital lessons. Didn’t pay attention when we left because of his drug use and emotional abuse. I tried to pass on what I learned, but it didn’t work.

So today, not only do I remember the lessons Dad taught me–from the silly and gory to the nightmares lurking in our brain chemistry–but also the sibling who is learning the hard lessons about emotional instability and drug abuse on their own.

Listen to your fathers, guys. Even if what comes out of their mouth is wrong and ugly, it’s still something to learn from. A behavior you now know never to repeat.

The best lesson I learned from Dad? Be weird. It’s okay. If weird makes you happy, go for it. Don’t let anyone tell you horror movies and books are for freaks. If that’s true, then you’re the best freak out there.

Today, I’m going to be weird. Tomorrow I’ll be even weirder. Because Dad said it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Life vs Art

Warning up front, this may have a couple spoiler-ish tidbits from my second vampire novel, In Too Deep. It’s unavoidable. Why?

I may have accidentally predicted one of the biggest ecological crisis in my lifetime–the California drought.

It sounds nuts. I know. I’ve had my head in the sand for months, looking past the similarities. But the numbers I crunched while plotting ITD–there were ten pages of information gathered about agriculture in Fresno, CA–kept bouncing around my head. See, it’s one thing to watch the news and see that another farmer is selling his property or letting the fruit fall without harvesting or an entire field wiped out because there’s no water. The game changes when you know how many tons of grapes the average farmer grows.

Suddenly trips to the grocery store incur anxiety attacks half a mile from the nearest shopping cart. How much longer until the cost of fresh produce reaches obscene levels? Californians, for the most part, are spoiled with cheap produce prices. We grow it. There’s no huge transportation cost. Our Eden, the security of knowing one can go to the store with $10 and pick up enough fruits/vegetables for at least two meals plus dessert, will vanish soon.

These were the “what if” concerns I chewed over while plotting ITD. I wanted the KGB to attempt something that’d seem insubstantial on the surface–disrupt production produce–but once the numbers came to light, everyone would know just had badly they’d screwed over the United States. Food became the obvious focus because, well . . . food and I are tight. BFFs. I’d take a bullet for food. Well, maybe not really. I expected Meghan to do it for me.

I’m a writer. She’s a CIA agent. Okay, a fictional one, but still . . . .

There’s no sexy, witty redhead to fight this drought, though. She’d have plenty of people to confront about the worsening situation in my home state–from politicians approving horrible water-management policies, to companies schmoozing their way into exceptions to drought protocol. Hell, if my neurotic ass can deal with a dead front lawn in order to save water, they can man up and do their part.

Oddly enough, the plot for the final vampire novel ended up coming true in part, as well. Now, now. I’m not going to let you in on that one just yet.