Annual Reflections

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Sunsets promise sunrises.

It was my birthday a few weeks ago and this is the time I tend to reflect on the past year and what has happened. (78) The past year has been one of the roughest in my life. I’ve had to deal with learning about my gluten intolerance, debilitating muscle pain, cumulative emotional and mental issues, and some pretty hard writing setbacks. Of course there has been a lot of good things that have happened. I’ve met really cool people, had some amazing trips, and also had a few things published—one of which is still under wraps for now.

I remember it was shortly after my 30th birthday last year when I began to deal with numbness in my hands and arms. My doctors treated it with ibuprofen and naproxen, though I had a massage and it turned out to be a muscle issue. After almost fixing it, I pulled them so hard I had to be in bed when I wasn’t using the bathroom or eating. I could hardly shower, make food, or do laundry. I try to be pretty independent and that was extremely difficult for me. Some of you may remember this. My sanity was saved by audiobooks provided through the local library. Over the course of the year, I’ve figured out the source of the problem: emotionality leading to physical tension, injury (which makes the area easier to re-injure, especially if tense), and incorrect posture. I’ve mostly been able to manage the tension and pain by regular stretching and relaxation techniques. It’s not easy but I can manage much better. I’m not as hampered by the pain as I was a year ago and the numbness is mostly gone.

Sometimes comfort food is the best
Sometimes comfort food is the best

As documented here, I’ve been on a mental health journey these past few years and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. It’s opened up my ability to write and edit; begin, manage, and end relationships; understand my mental processes as processes and not be all/end all of everything; and last allowed me to begin to think I could actually have a decent life. I always figured I’d be dead by 20/21 and since I’ve lived quite a bit longer, I have to learn how to adult properly and take care of myself. I know I still have so much work to do, but now, I know it will help me.

I’ve done some awesome trips and some awesome things this year. I’ve made it to Portland a few times, I’ve gone to San Jose again, seen some of my favorite musicians in concert, gone to several conventions. It’s been great for connecting and reconnecting to my friends across the world. When you realize you have a vast social network there to support you when you are down is probably one of the reasons I’ve been able to heal and learn to trust their supportive voices telling me I’m worth something. Thank you all for that. It means a great deal to me.

The journey hasn’t been easy and I’ve had so much adversity to deal with. I used to minimize my problems as not as bad as other peoples, but that doesn’t make my issues any less valid and any less necessary to deal with. That is something a lot of people come across. Just because someone has it worse than you does not invalidate what you are going through. Understand their struggle and help those in need if you can. As long as you know the difference it can be very helpful.

IMG_5423Writing this year has been super hard with all the physical things I’ve had to endure. It’s not easy to have to relearn how to work and play, and writing was no different. I always think I should be about ten years further down the road then I am, but I’ve come to understand that I need to trust my own work. I’ve had some great publications come out that I’ve been proud to be a part of. There is so much work left to do, but I’ve sent off a novella for publication. I’ve got a good grounding for where my writing needs to be. I know I need to work more and more on it, but I have a place to go, a place to start from.

Life is looking up. I have supportive friends, a network of awesome professionals I can rely on, a grip on my physical problems, and a beginning understanding of the traumas I’ve endured. My life is by no means easy and by no means the hardest. It is my life and I’m coming to terms with where I am and where I’ve been. With that knowledge, I can plan and work out where I want to.

Thank you for your support and comments. You are all wonderful people. 😘

Support me on Patreon—a site for creators to connect with patrons. Your support will help me worry less about how to survive and more on how to create better art (including blogs!). I appreciate any and all levels of support. I post poems, short fiction, observations, and blogs (before they appear here).

Portland Trip

I may have made the mistake of driving to Portland, OR. It’s certainly a long trip (it took me about 16 hours over two days) to drive. Flying is about 2 hours plus travel time to the airport and TSA security. But this time I decided to drive up to have an adventure of sorts. It may not have been the best idea I’ve had but it was interesting in it’s own right.

IMG_5912On the way up, I stopped in San Jose (if you remember from a few blogs ago) to see some friends I made while there: Martin and Alice. We ate at an Ethiopian restaurant that was simply fantastic. Amazing gluten-free food and so so flavorful. Alice found it yay! I was probably a little loopy from driving so long, but it was great to see them again.

Black Butte, I believe
Black Butte, I believe
Mt. Shasta is hiding
Mt. Shasta is hiding

I stopped in Sacramento for the night and stayed with my friend Brian. Better to break the drive up then try and do it in one shot, especially with how gimpy I can be. Over the course of the trip I found out that I have to stretch every couple hours or so if I’m sitting or especially driving. My hips and armpits get really tight and sore. And it’s no fun. Anyway, the next day was when I would finally get to Oregon. If you weren’t aware, California is a very long state, and it takes about 10 hours to drive from LA to the border.

IMG_5934Gorgeous country up there, but still very dry. Of course, the moment I entered the state of Oregon, it began raining. To be fair, there was a little rain on the way up California as a storm had moved through, but it was pretty precise on the rain. The way up and through on I-5 is fairly straightforward (compared to, say, mountain roads—another upcoming blog, stay tuned!). Anyway, the drive through Oregon would have be very pretty, but it was night by the time I got an hour or so in.

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Powell’s map plus coffee from the World Cup?

IMG_5939The next morning, I went to Cup and Saucer for some gluten-free pancakes and some delicious food. Driving doesn’t guarantee great food—unless you already know where to go, so I needed to grab something more than the quick bites I’d been having. Always a good idea to catch up on food. Also went to Powell’s on Veteran’s Day (woohoo free parking!) and picked up some awesome books. It’s so easy to spend lots of money there.

IMG_6013After the convention (see previous post) we didn’t do much so I didn’t take a lot of pictures, but, Karina and I made it to Olympia, WA and hand lunch with my high school friend Bethany. It was a pretty arduous drive (what with the heavy rain and hydroplaning), but I had a nice conversation over lunch—always good to catch up with old friends.

IMG_6042On my way home, Mt. Shasta came out from under the cloud cover and it was quite a stunning view, especially with the dusting of fresh snow. It’s hard to see in the picture, but if you click to expand you can see it in better detail. The country up there is gorgeous. I’d love to be able to explore up there a little longer, maybe when I have more than just a week to hang out in Portland and when I have enough cash to enjoy it.

Support me on Patreon—a site for creators to connect with patrons. Your support will help me worry less about how to survive and more on how to create better art (including blogs!). I appreciate any and all levels of support. I post poems, short fiction, observations, and blogs (before they appear here).

NYC/New Jersey-Howlercon Trip

Sorry it has been a long time since I’ve updated, but I’ve been out of town for a couple weeks and needed to settle back in to daily life a bit. I’ve got a few blogs planned out and this will be the first.

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Vic, me, Larry, and Cass on the ferry to NYC

I went to NYC for a few hours after driving up to Portland OR (which is way too far to drive FYI). The pictures in this post will be from the trip. We started out by taking a ferry (which apparently isn’t supposed to take rando people). We got to wave to the Statue of Liberty basically, though it was still a bit far off. Cool nonetheless. It was a goregous day out, something like 70º which for the area was unseasonably warm.

High Line view of the Statue of Liberty
View of the Statue of Liberty

We walked the High Line for a bit until we got the Chelsea area. The High Line is old railroad tracks that have been converted into a park. It was pretty awesome and there were more than a few shirtless guys running around so we got to enjoy a little of nature in the big city and a bit of oogling as well. Or maybe that was just me? Anyway I’d seen and heard about the High Line before so it was cool to walk around and experience it. Next time if I go I’ll have to come up with an actual plan.

IMG_5958 IMG_5962After the High Line, we made it Chelsea to see Christopher Street and the Stonewall Inn (which was pretty awesome). We went to this ice cream place called Big Gay Ice Cream Shop (no joke!). I didn’t partake, as it was a little chilly by the time we got to there, so I just hung out and watched them eat. They said it was really good, so I believe them.

Proof I was in Times Square
Proof I was in Times Square

After that two of my friends had Broadway tickets so we dropped them off in Times Square before heading back to New Jersey (where our host lived—thanks Vic!). I liked everything but Times Square—way too many people in general.

That night I had a fever which was awful of course, but the next morning I felt better. One thing about being sick is it prevented me from drinking a ton (cuz being sick and drinking is just awful anyway) so I was saved from hangovers. The following day was the first day of the con.

Stickers and magnets!
Stickers and magnets!

I attended Howlercon 2015 in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Howlercon is a Teen Wolf convention and it was super awesome. I went with Karina to help her sell art and gopher for her while she worked. I didn’t get to see much of the programming, but I did attend the last panel of the weekend with all the guests and that was fun.

Karina and Vic (Nay in the background)
Karina and Vic (Nay in the background)

If you’ve never been to a convention before, they are incredibly intense, jam-packed schedules. The best part was I was too busy to ruminate (as my therapist likes to say). Other than selling a lot of art, I hung out with fandom people I’ve collected over the past few years. It was a good time and I got to meet a few more cool people (which is always awesome!). I’m looking forward to the next HowlerCon. Yaaaaas!

After the con, it was back to Portland to relax and chill before the drive home. I’ll save that for the next blog, with fewer pictures.

Support me on Patreon—a site for creators to connect with patrons. Your support will help me worry less about how to survive and more on how to create better art (including blogs!). I appreciate any and all levels of support. I post poems, short fiction, observations, and blogs (before they appear here).

When a Rough Patch Lasts

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Silly to balance out seriousness.

This past week has been one of the roughest weeks I’ve had in a long time. Before this, I was doing pretty good. Actually, I’m feeling okay while writing this—not that it means I am okay, as I found out.

Many of you know I have Complex PTSD, and part of that means I have triggers. I was trigged two Fridays ago. I knew I was at the time, but I thought it wasn’t that bad, since I felt okay after an hour or so, but it took me until Tuesday to realize I wasn’t. Of course, the “discussion” I had on Sunday with family did not help.

Basically, on Tuesday, I knew something was up, because I carry my emotions in my muscles and I was in intense pain and I had no idea why until I thought back and remembered I’d been triggered—it’s pretty awful. It took me a couple days to work through that mess of anger, anxiety, and depression. During these times it’s important to do self-care—comforting oneself and working through the difficult emotions in a safe space.

I also had lunch with my stepmom and dad and those situations can be intense; even though it seemed to have gone well, it was still stressful—especially when still recovering from being triggered. We didn’t have much of a discussion beyond the superficial and sometimes small talk is all I can handle.

Thursday was looking pretty good, as I had scheduled some time with this guy I’ve been seeing. I always felt better when we hung out, and especially after a really tough week I wanted a little extra comfort. We went out to dinner and a drinks, and it was from good to red flag to good again. But when I got home and texted him, we basically decided to end things, as we were not on the same page. Though awful in and of itself, it wasn’t the worse thing that happened this week, just another stressor.

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This was me after therapy. Like right afterward. I needed a moment or 500.

The following morning I had therapy with my social worker and that turned out to be one of the roughest, rawest sessions I’ve had and it took me about a day and half to feel remotely normal. I feel better, almost to where I was before being triggered. Weeks like last week can ruin people. I’m lucky that I have a support network of friends and I’m gaining the tools to be able work through all the emotions and come out functional. Sometimes okay is as good as it gets.

This past weekend it was both World Mental Health Day and National Coming Out Day, and I think these types of days are worth mentioning here in my blog. World Mental Health Day is something I’ve just found out about, and I was doing a little digging, and discovered that it’s about raising awareness for mental health problems and discussions—something I’ve been doing on my blog (sharing my story). Hand in hand is National Coming Out Day, which is a day I’ve been celebrating for several years. Coming out is an important part of mental health—especially in discovering ones sexuality and confirming it to oneself. Sharing this with other people is also a good idea—I know for me, my anxiety lessened once I came out to friends and family.

I hope these blogs help others understand mental illness and/or help others learn it’s okay to have bad days, bad weeks, etc. You are not alone in this tough journey. You deserve love and kindness, especially from yourself.

Please support me on Patreon—a site for creators to connect with patrons. Your support will help me worry less about how to survive and more on how to create better art (including blogs!). I appreciate any and all levels of support. I post poems, short fiction, observations, and blogs (before they appear here).

The Journey Thus Far

This, I suppose, is a late blog. It’s been a interesting and busy couple weeks for me. This weekend alone I had three events (working at one of them “write” now!).

Yesterday, I had a good session with my social worker. We joked a little and talked some. I had a few good days in a row, and a lot of the issues I’ve been dealing with are not as big and scary as they have been. I still know they are there, and when the shoe will drop again. Because I have so much going on in the next few days that he mentioned not to overwhelm myself and use stress-release strategies to remain able to deal with normal stress and trigger stress (if it comes up).

I’m doing okay, even if I’m a little over busy. I’m hoping that I know my limits and that I won’t overdo it again. I have R&R planned for Tuesday, which will be much needed and should be good.

IMG_5775Anyway, last night I attended the Like a Girl: Perspectives on Feminine Identity release party where I was invited to read my poem, “Sharcas.” It was amazing to hear others read their poems. This is a fantastic collection of poems and stories based around what it is like to be a woman. Kudos to Lucid Moose Lit and their staff. Amazing work! Go buy a copy to support this literature and support the work of Lucid Moose.

I have another anthology release on Monday night, which will be pretty awesome too. Like I said, very busy.

I’ll keep you all updated on how things go. Thank you for following 🙂

Please support me on Patreon—a site for creators to connect with patrons. Your support will help me worry less about how to survive and more on how to create better art (including blogs!). I appreciate any and all levels of support. I post poems, short fiction, observations, and blogs (before they appear here).

Trip to San Jose: Silicon Valley Pride

Though it’s been almost two weeks, my last post Emotion-Related Muscle Tension felt more important to post. This is more a fun post than what I’ve been publishing lately.

Anthony and I just before hitting the parade.
Anthony and I just before hitting the parade.

Anyway, I was invited by @actuallyanthony to attend Silicon Valley Pride in San Jose, CA for the event Cosplay Attends Pride—a group of dedicated cosplayers who marched in the parade and walked around the festival grounds to make the festival more … festive. Anyway, I also found out that Steve Grand would be performing.

Me as Derek Hale
Me as Derek Hale

Though it took me a couple days to decide, I made plans to go. I told my social worker about pride, and he thought it would be a good idea for me to go outside my comfort zone. Hell, going to a city I’d been to once before for a convention (where we barely stepped outside the hotel) and knowing absolutely no one. But, it meant I got to meet Anthony, as we’d been following each other for years on Twitter and Facebook, and that I could see Steve Grand perform again.

Sunset on I-5

I drove up I-5 after working all day (yes, I have a history of making some pretty poor decisions, but the festival/parade was on a Sunday, so I didn’t have too much choice). The drive was pretty brutal, but I made it in about 5.5 hours, which isn’t too bad.  No traffic out of town, and none getting into San Jose. I checked into my hotel and basically threw everything around the room (hot mess!) and showered before passing out. Early mornings are not my thing and the parade call time was supposed to be 8 am.

New friend Alice and I near the end of the event.
New friend Alice and I near the end of the event.

Well, that call time did not happen. I could have totally slept in until about 9 am. We didn’t get to the parade staging area until about 10/10:15. Oh well, I still had fun, even if my feet and back were murdering me by the end of the day. It took me about 3-4 days afterward to recover (#yoldie). Anyway, the event was a lot of fun and a meet some really cool people. Including Alice, pictured to the right. Pride events are not all that fun without friends, at least for me. So making new friends with Alice, Anthony, and Martin, I got to experience one of the most fun prides I’ve been to in years (sorry Karina! PDX pride wasn’t that exciting, even with the great company of you and Matthew!)

FotorCreatedPhotos on left: Black Widow and Thor, Black Widow with Derek Hale, Garnet.

I took plenty of pictures included. The cosplayers were super great—I felt a little out of place with mine, but I still had fun. Not too many Teen Wolf fans maybe … lol.

FotorCreatedAnyway, it was a bit warm out that day and there was a lot going on. I made sure to walk around the festival out of costume (aka out of my leather jacket) to experience everything. By the time Steve Grand was set to take the stage, I was ready for dinner and a nap. But not to worry! I watched the show (though it was a little loud and I probably have hearing damage, oh well #yoldie). It was fantastic. I had only seen Steve Grand perform acoustically before when he came to LA. It was awesome to hear the band with him as well. Super high energy. He met people on the side of the stage afterward and remembered me from the aforementioned performance. He’s super sweet.

After the festival was over, and I said goodbye to everyone, I ventured out on the town for a couple hours before I decided to retire for the evening. I meant to visit friends in the area, and only managed to see Jenn. I wanted to get home and rest—more driving and an unsure place to sleep wasn’t going to work.

Even though it took me about a week to fully recover, I’m glad I made the decision to go. It was worth the time, money, and the little bit of pain and I had to endure to go.

Please support me on Patreon—a site for creators to connect with patrons. Your support will help me worry less about how to survive and more on how to create better art (including blogs!). I appreciate any and all levels of support. I post poems, short fiction, observations, and blogs (before they appear here).

Emotion-Related Muscle Tension

This might be the hardest post for me to write. There are a few good reasons I don’t want to write it, and that is because I feel vulnerable. But there is a better reason to write this post: there simple isn’t enough information online about it and from a perspective that isn’t clinical.

As many of you know, I’ve been dealing with weird muscle tension and pulled muscles since November of last year. Though it has been almost an entire year since, I’ve figured out what the problem was very recently: emotion-related muscle tension. Most search results on this topic are stress-related muscle tension, which is similar in a way.

Sometimes the road is long
Sometimes the road is long

I haven’t mentioned this before, but at my last session with my social worker, we discussed Complex PTSD/Complex Trauma (though I believe they are moving toward the label of Complex Trauma). From what I’ve read, I believe I may have this particular disorder. Regardless of the causes, I still have to deal with the traumas. I will be seeing my social worker today, but I really want to post about this so anyone else who may be dealing with the same issues can come to understand what I’ve come to understand—the activist and educator in me wants to tell the whole world.

Anyway, I discovered that my muscle tension is related directly to the suppressed emotions of the Complex PTSD. When I try to relax, especially when going to sleep or in general, my muscles tense up. This is because I’m “letting my guard down” and my body is trying to release the emotions I’ve keep repressed for so long. Literally, my body is contorting into a physical expression of the emotion, regardless of whether or not I feel that particular emotion at that time. I’ve learned to let my body do what it needs to, to release the tension and emotions. By feeling and expressing the emotions (often several times a day: fear/anxiety, crying, and anger) the muscle tension I have goes away and I feel lighter and better.

It’s difficult to be able to release them as often as I need to. I’ll have to take breaks at work to go in the back and let go, stop what I’m doing at home and close the door to let it loose. It’s disruptive, but far better than holding on to them even longer. Even though I’ve only know this for about two weeks, every time I release, I feel like I can live. For example, at work last week, before my mini-vacation to San Jose, I was feeling miserable and down and was so tense. I let out emotional stress in the morning and immediately felt like I could actually get through the day (and had another 5-6 releases), whereas before, I was struggling to want to do anything at all.

The journey will be difficult, but worth it. Thank you for being a part of it. If you think this might help someone, please feel free to share this post.

Support my writing at Patreon—a site for creators to connect with patrons. Your support will help me worry less about how to survive and more on how to create better art (including blogs!). I appreciate any and all levels of support. I post poems, short fiction, observations, and blogs (before they appear here).