I Cry Sometimes (TW: self harm)

9 Aug

“It’s been a long time since you cried after.”

It really has.

I cry a lot. Movies and books make me cry. Songs. Commercials. My cats. Pictures of really cute animals. Bad things too: feelings of guilt about events five, ten, twenty years in the past. Physical pain. Fear. Loneliness. Impotent rage. Feeling trapped. Being yelled at. Exhaustion. I have cried in the parking lot of more than one job, trying to make myself get out of the car.

I also don’t cry a lot. Like I want to cry, but I can’t, because something in my brain has stopped me, so instead I get that tension in my temples that means I’m going to cry, wrinkle up my face as though I were crying, sometimes in an attempt to force something out, sob once (dry, like when you’ve thrown up everything in your stomach but your gag reflex doesn’t know that), and maybe one tear trickles out of each eye. Very disappointing. The tension never goes away. It’s like having to sneeze but never doing it, or being like two centimeters from an orgasm that you never get to have.  The relief and release and validation of actual tears never happens and I just wind up feeling silly and having a headache.

That’s happened a lot more over the last few years. Sometimes I was just too damn tired to cry, I think. A friend of mine used to joke that I only have two speeds: 80 MPH, and couch coma. I don’t know how to moderate very well, I have a tendency to overcorrect one way or another, and then next thing I know I’ve been going at 80 MPH for a thousand miles, I’m almost out of gas, and the nearest gas station is over the state line, and I have to shut off the AC and the radio and pray the fumes will get me where I’m going.

That metaphor got a little stretched, I admit, but assume that I have a tendency to get into situations where “the nearest gas station” is the next time I can stop moving without feeling like I’m going to lose literally everything, and “the AC and the radio” are anything other than the very, very, very basic staples of life*. Like a lot of people, I try to self-medicate away my depression (and, ya know, poverty) with Busy, with projects and jobs and gigs, with the feeling I have worth because I have something important going on. Meanwhile my anxiety is losing its SHIT, my body is suffering, and the only sane guy in the Central Command Zone of my brain throws up his hands and starts to shut down the non-crucial systems like “be nice to mr. biscuit,” “wash your face,” “do anything but sleep when you get home,” “make decisions,” or “cry when sad,” because there’s no energy for anything except “show up for work” and “don’t crash car” and “continue to breathe.”

I spent a lot of my life pushing myself to the point of exhaustion because I firmly believed myself to be a Lazy Bitch, and for a long I was ok with being exhausted. I was wasting all my potential anyway, so I should at least suffer for it. Then at some point (my sophomore year of college) I began to fantasize about hurting myself so I could rest. “I would rather stab myself in the leg than write this paper,” I said, which was a joke except that it wasn’t**. And then, a scarily long time later (this year), it occurred to me that thinking about driving my car into a concrete wall so I didn’t have to go to work was Not Healthy, and also probably some of that self-harm that I was always telling my friends was not healthy, and I should quit my job at the VERY least.

I’ve been having trouble crying over the last couple of years. After the situation with my grandma. Her memorial happened. I was a champion. I helped clean, I looked nice, I smiled and made a joke, it was all good. After, my family was in the guest room talking about something, and something was said (what? I don’t know anymore), and I broke. My dad noticed first and tried to catch me, so he could hug me and keep the pieces together, but I am fast and agile when I am breaking, and I power-walked out of that house, weeping like the world was ending, and just kept walking until my feet hurt too much to keep walking, because I don’t think I was wearing shoes, and then I sat down in the grass on the side of a quiet rural road and I cried and cried and cried. Eventually mr. biscuit came to find me*** and helped me back into the house, and I Started To Feel Better, because goddamn, y’all, I do not like being sad. I know how to deal with anger, with fear, with jealousy. Grief? I don’t know what to do with grief. You can’t punch grief. All you can really do is feel it or ignore it. Feeling grief is fucked up and hard, so I chose to ignore it.

I stopped crying as much and started don’tcrying a lot more, because when I started to feel sad I shut it down fast like a freak. It bled over into the rest of my life, so that I started shutting  down other things–pleasure centers, self-care, rational thought (my depression was loving this. It was like Depression Christmas. My anxiety was less enthused because I would get too tired to care, but then it got happy again because I would try to bury my guilt in activity).

“You have to feel this,” said a voice in my head, and I replied (out loud) “I don’t want to, and you can’t make me.”

At first not crying felt like a victory, but that was never going to be sustainable. Over the last…months? I’ve been trying to deal with my inability to cry, to process my feelings in a way that feels healthy. Much of that is just trying to make myself feel safe. A lot of really terrible shit happened to mr. biscuit and I over a short time, and while he came out of it stronger, I came out of it a giant wreck. My current life plan (working from home in a very low-stress job, staying mostly in my jammies, sitting on the porch a lot, not doing many things that require me to leave the house) is a very direct response to that. He’s taking care of me a lot–he brings in most of the money, does the gross chores, never mentions the state of the house, assures me it’s ok if I don’t want to get another job yet, doesn’t yell at video games as much because it makes me nervous–and that’s ok. I’m trying to gently re-introduce some of the things I used to love that also caused me stress, just to see if I can do them if I’m careful. If I can, great! If I can’t, it’s ok.

I used to cry after sex–not a lot, but more than what I assume is typical. I love sex^ and I love mr. biscuit, and I love having sex with him and I love feeling big feelings, and a lot of times all of that emotion would bubble up in my heart and I’d crest that first big orgasmic wave and whatever noise I was making would just become a gut-wrenching sob, and mr. biscuit would have to stop whatever he was doing and hold me until I stopped crying and calmed down. Like, this was fairly regular. I would cry (or laugh, or once I even started singing) a lot. As my brain stopped doings things that weren’t Survive, and my sex drive plummeted, so did the times I was so overcome with joy and pleasure and safety that I would weep. The other night it happened for the first time in years. I cried for what felt like hours^^ and I felt so much better afterwards.

“It’s been a while since you cried after,” he said, with a very particular smile of his that is impossible to describe except that it contains a universe of love and tenderness.

“It really has,” I agreed.
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I Make Playlists – Henry VIII

1 Aug

I’m kind of a little bit obsessive about Tudor history. You’re surprised! To be fair to you, I’m very quiet about things I’m interested in. I also really like to make themed mixes, whether to burn to CDs (my favorite, perhaps because I am An Old) or listen to obsessively on Spotify.

I’ve made a lot of mixes I really love, but I think this is among my favorites of all time.

Hank 8

A Mix for Henry VIII,
His Wives, Mistresses, Would-be Wives, Children,
and Daddy Issues

(I never could think of good songs for his sisters, and am open to suggestions).

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/stonebiscuit/playlist/1ayYy7A8R5uvYIGffWvhoa

Wives
Being Queen Won’t Get You Ever After Anymore – Joni Minstrel
Ring the Alarm – Beyoncé (Catherine of Aragon)
So What – P!nk (Anne Boleyn)
Careful What You Wish For – Eminem (Jane Seymour)
Survivor – Destiny’s Child (Anne of Cleves)
I Never Loved You Anyway – The Corrs (Catherine Howard)
The King is Dead but the Queen is Alive – P!nk (Catherine Parr) (apparently this is some kind of Japanese exclusive and the real track isn’t on Spotify, so listen here)

Mistresses and Would-Be Wives
Hot ‘N Cold – Katy Perry (Madge Shelton)
If You Seek Amy – Britney Spears (Mary Boleyn)
Womanizer – Britney Spears (Christina of Denmark)

Children
King Nothing – Metallica (Henry Fitzroy)
Who Are You – The Who (Edward VI)
Killer Queen – Queen (Mary I)
Run the World – Beyoncé (Elizabeth I)

Hank Hisownself
Make it Rain – Ed Shereen
Used to Love Her – Guns N’ Roses
Henry the 8th – Herman’s Hermits

I well and truly love to hate Hank 8. He was just such a douche.

Still Mad

29 Jul

In 6th grade, I placed into the gifted program.

The gifted class necessitated a couple of us leaving the regular Social Studies class halfway through*, which was its own special brand of hell for me: I placed in midway through the year, and was never convinced that everyone else knew I was supposed to be going with those kids now. I lived in abject terror that I was going to get up one day and people were going to ask me what the hell I thought I was doing. I missed a couple of classes because I was paralyzed with this fear.  When I finally managed to get there it was fine, mostly. I liked the regular teacher of the gifted class. She was tough but fair, she loved history as much as I did, she kept a handle on the other kids. Unfortunately she got sick, and we had a long-term substitute for a while. I don’t remember much about her–middle school was a goddamned chaotic time, all bullies and raging anxiety and terrible decisions, and my memories are not clear–except for two things.

The first is that she did nothing to stop the other kids from harassing me. Kids are mean. Kids who have been told they are smart are brutal. I was probably a pretty weird kid–I have no real frame of reference because everything seemed normal to me, but I was the third tallest person in the whole school, I carried my D&D Player’s Handbook around and tried to get people to read it so we could learn to play, I had a bad perm, I talked to myself**, I read all the time, I daydreamed constantly, I still sometimes chewed on pencil erasers when I got nervous. I was probably pretty weird. At the very least I was pretty visible. Because I had not yet learned that my size and strength give me power, they made me a target. This had been a problem for many years, and some teachers handled it better than others. The normal teacher in the gifted class handled it well. The long-term substitute teacher in the gifted class did not handle it at all. There were only like 8 or 9 students in the class. I don’t know if she didn’t realize or just didn’t care.

The second is that she made me read my story out loud.

For some reason we were assigned to write short stories, potentially as part of a unit on epic storytelling. I being, 10 or 11, crafted a wish-fulfilment first person fantasy tale wherein I had a talking dragon, a magic sword (with a name!), a handsome boyfriend, and an important quest. Was it good? Hell no. I was 10 or 11 and had attention problems. Stylistically it was a pastiche of the books I valued most at the time: Pern***, The Hero and the Crown, and the Sweet Valley/Girl Talk/Babysitters Club genre of Cool Older Girl Does Stuff books. It switched from 1st to 3rd person by the end, which I realized but was too lazy to fix. It opened with the main character yelling “MOM! WHERE IS MY MAGIC SWORD?^” I’m sure I tried to rip off Gone with the Wind at some point. It was a hot mess. But it was ambitious, and it was an assignment I completed on time, which put it well ahead of most things I did, and it made me happy.

I was nervous, because I wasn’t sure it was an OK story to write, but I was ready to turn it in anyway. Well, the long-term substitute did not want us to turn the stories in. She made us read our stories out loud, standing in front of the class. I don’t remember what this was supposed to teach us. I remember standing in front of peers who hated me trying to read a story with character names I couldn’t pronounce, I remember stammering and stumbling and paraphrasing so much the sub told me to sit down, I remember people staring at me with naked hatred on their faces, or openly laughing. I remember that two other kids had made me the bumbling antagonist in their stories. I thought one of them was my friend, but in her story I was not only a monster, I was half a monster and the other half was one of my biggest tormentors, a guy nobody liked. I remember the long-term substitute didn’t say a goddamed word about any of this. I remember she made me get up and read my story out loud again after everyone had read theirs. And I remember people laughed.

I didn’t even turn it in. I think I threw it away, but I was pretty dramatic; I might have flushed it down the toilet.

Everyone gets nervous when someone reads something they’re written, right? Right. It’s not a secret. I’m old enough and have practiced enough that by now it only makes me want to die a little bit. Maybe I could lapse into a coma until they’re finished and have come up with something good to say about it? That sounds perfect. Of course, I have to actually show someone what I’ve written first, and that doesn’t happen often^^. I don’t trace all my Writerly Insecurities back to this moment–don’t be ridiculous, they began much earlier–but I can tell you that It Did Not Help, and Yes, I Am Still Mad.

I remembered this today when reading a Facebook thread about school-age humiliations, and realized halfway through typing an abridged version that I was shaking with rage. Healthy? Probably not, but healthier than crying in the corner, I think. I just wanted to be the hero for once, rather than the butt of the joke. Yes I’m still mad. I’m mad as hell.

I’ve been reading a lot of old stories today, and writing a lot of fiction in the last several weeks^^^, and finding most of it good. I even revisited a WIP I’ve been struggling with for years, found it good, and found a lot of new energy for it. I get paid to write nowadays. It’s my job. I have a lot of hobbies and pastimes that let me be the hero AND the butt of the joke, because it’s not a bad thing to be both. I wish I could go back and tell that poor little kid who was me in 6th grade that it’s going to be ok.

Mostly though, I’d have a few words for that long-term substitute.

 

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A Room of One’s Own

19 Jul

My office is exactly the kind of space I dreamed of having as a teen who was sad and overwhelmed all the time and didn’t know why.

mr. biscuit and I live in a 2 bed/2bath condo we rent in a small, quiet community in the city. It took us two years, two shitty apartments, a lot of shitty neighbors, and three moves to get back into a space we love as much as the last place we loved. It has hardwoods throughout, a lot of natural light, quiet neighbors, a beautiful covered porch, and so much hot water I’ve never run out, which is very important since I am part dragon and at our last place I had to boil water on the stove to fill the tub. We’ve put a lot of work into making it feel like home, framing art and pictures for the walls and being proactive about decluttering and keeping things tidy-ish. I love almost every part of our home (the master bathroom has terrible lighting, causing me no end of trauma).

When I was young, I vacillated wildly between terror of being alone and fury that I was surrounded by people. That hasn’t really changed, I’ve just learned to recognize whether I want solitude or company at any given moment, anticipate how long I have before that chances, and calm my raging monster of a brain if I can’t get what I want. The one thing I always wanted, though, was a place I could retreat to that was totally my own, where nobody could have input into my decorations, projects, organizational schemes, music choices, or the obscene number of purple containers I have and scented candles I choose to burn at any given moment. For a long while my car was that space (it still is to an extent), but spoiler alert: you can’t do a lot of projects in the car, and if it’s comfortable enough to hang out in the car while you’re not driving you’re probably wasting a SHITLOAD of gas, you planet-killing MONSTER.

That brings us to the concept of my office.

I can’t remember when I first decided I wanted an office. When mr. biscuit began a job that let him telework a few years ago, we knew we’d need a separate space for him to set up so that his workaholic ass would have clear delineation between Work Time and Not Work Time, and also so the cats wouldn’t mess with his stuff. It seemed logical that I should also have a space for all my projects, their assorted accoutrements, and all the memorabilia I have collected over the years.

Nowadays he’s working at the company office, and we share the second bedroom as our joint office. It’s divided almost straight down the center, or it would be if I had packed up my stuff from my last project rather than leave it lying around. My half of the office is my favorite place in the apartment, especially now that I’m working from home. I don’t always spend my time here. I do my yoga in the bedroom, which has the most space and is a peaceful, tidy, comfortable little oasis that is all about us. I cuddle with the cats on the couch. I also spend a lot of time on the porch (or would, except that it’s 900,000,000 degrees outside right now).

My half of the office has a very specific vibe that I love. My desk is against a large window that overlooks a bunch of greenery. I’ve put up some strands of colored crystals to hang in front of the window and catch the light. All my books are here. When I sit at my desk and look around, I see my history. The things I’m proud of, the people and things I love. The tools of my work are here–computer, pens, ten thousand notebooks, costumes, fabric and notions, sewing machines, guitar. I work here. I read here. I stare out the window and daydream here. I listen to whatever the fuck I want to listen to here, and I pretend that no one else knows I’ve played “Kyrie” by Mr. Mister a thousand times already today. From the collection of art (sketches, custom work, prints, framed photos, a little Spanish mission made of cardstock) to the awards to the purple Mason jars to the 6 lb jar of purple glitter to the tiaras to the half dozen signs with my name on them, everything here is here because it makes me feel proud, happy, joyful, nostalgic, amused, thoughtful, strong, safe. Good. I remember who I am in this room.

Of course it’s not perfect.I’m pretty sure that mr. biscuit does in fact know that I’ve listened to “Kyrie” a thousand times, because he’d not deaf. I wish the closet was bigger. The cat boxes live in the bathtub in the attached bathroom and my cats make the stinkiest poops when they feel I haven’t been paying enough attention to them. There are never enough outlets. I keep forgetting to leave a tissue box in here. And though I understand the value of daydreaming, of idleness, sometimes I still have to fight the pressure to Be A Serious Creative when I’m sitting at my desk. But in here I get to shut out other stuff and focus on being me. It’s pretty close to being perfect.

I feel most at home when I’m laying in bed with mr. biscuit’s arms around me and a cat on either side of us. I feel most myself when I’m in my office, being whatever I want.

Out of curiosity, I asked some friends what their favorite room or space in their home is. The overwhelming majority have said their office. My sister, on the other hand, said under the table, and when asked why, she responded with one word: “Fort!!!” We’re not really so different, she and I.

Hogwarts Beauty School

29 Jun

Useful spells someone at Hogwarts probably knew but Harry Potter was too busy playing Quidditch/snogging Ginny/staying alive to learn:

  • Avada This Ingrown Hair
  • Wingardium Put Your Contacts In Correctly The First Timeiosa
  • some kind of spell to clean bras, match socks, and prevent expensive tights from ripping, and it would be great if these were all the same because I cannot remember all this shit
  • Accio Falsies (puts fake eyelashes on for you)
  • Fix My Motherfucking Lip Liner, I Look Like A Prostitute Who Caters Exclusively To Clowns (you just say this while waving your wand angrily at the mirror in the car)

Stage Fright Vignettes: In Which I Am A Mess

17 Jun

We start recording tonight. The Kickstarter was successful beyond our imaginings, we’ve rehearsed and prepped and planned, and in about an hour and a half we’ll get started. I spent the day half-heartedly working on some other deadlines, rehearsing some more for songs later in the week, watching trash TV (hi Riverdale, you source of delight and shame) and making myself eat more out of the knowledge that I have to eat rather than out of any appetite at all. I have to eat, ya know. If I don’t eat I’ll wind up being starving the second the nerves wear off (halfway through the second song). So I ate. A little bit.

It’s the third day of recording. Things are going so well! We got through so much in the last two days, songs we have every right to be proud of. Tonight we add instruments. I am not ready. We rehearsed for four solid hours (including the half hour I held a bag of frozen pomegranate seeds in my aching fret hand), then got in the car. My hands are shaking, and drenched in sweat. I have to struggle for every single chord; they’ve all flown out of my head. I’m going to throw up, or die, or die while throwing up, or throw up while dying.  

I have no idea what day it is, but I know I’ve been staring at the microphone in front of me like it’s going to eat my face if I look away. Fuck you, microphone. You’re not going to eat MY face. I won’t blink. I–oh shit, I definitely missed that line GODDAMNIT MICROPHONE.

I am splicing together a short promo to send to some faires, and had to bribe myself with a glass of wine for each separate video clip of myself I watched with the sound on because I hate listening to recordings of myself.

My bandmate tries to tell me everything will be fine and I tell her, in as many words, to shut the fuck up. She tries to tell me she’s really enjoying this process and is happy and proud and I sort of say “ok?” like I’ve suddenly lost the ability to speak English.

I am starving because I didn’t eat enough.

My husband tries to hug me and tell me he believes everything will turn out well and I yell at him to leave me alone and stomp off to take a very hot bath and drink wine for dinner (again).

We’re about to listen to a few tracks to see if the storm on Wednesday affected them in any real way. I’m pretty sure I’m going to burst into flames.

The sound guy, a professional musician I like and respect a lot, is telling me that he likes everything we’ve done, and I am fantasizing about a giant hedgehog appearing out of nowhere and devouring my head so I never have to play guitar in front of people ever again.

My mammal brain acknowledges that after a lot of hard work, practice, and organization, and yes, a lot of fun moments, these records sound pretty good! My lizard brain has retreated under a rock to pray for the swift coming of Zephelepod, Destroyer of Worlds, Bringer of Oblivion, Crusher of Embarrassing Moments Beneath His Mighty Cloven Hoof.

Ze Zings I ‘Ave to Do for My Art

8 Jun

Watching/editing videos of myself got me like…

20170608_213913 20170608_214143 20170608_214133

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