Friday, May 25, 2018

I did the thing!

If I had a nickel for every time I've seen a blogger mention "secret projects" or other things they'd just love to tell you, but can't, I could demonetize pretty much everything and retire. Unfortunately, I am one of those bloggers.

But, that situation is no more!

Awhile ago, I mentioned something I was quasi-secretly working on, and, I'm pleased to say, I've actually done the thing.

Now, in addition to this personal blog, I have witchpaint, an art blog dedicated to the intersection between art and magic. If that sounds like a thing you might think is neat, please check it out, subscribe, comment, and so forth.

Thank you for reading here. I really don't have the words to express my appreciation. I hope you'll enjoy (or at least get some decent snark out of) my other writing and artistic endeavors.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Secondhand Good Enough?

Trying to buy new clothes is a minefield.

I don't just mean trying to fit my body or find things I like, either. (Though that's plenty difficult enough, between drastic weightloss and my attempts to get back to a healthier weight and build more muscle.) I always end up having to answer a lot of questions, like:

Was this made in a sustainable fashion? Is it at least going to biodegrade sometime this century?

Was it made with sweatshop labor? Are those sweatshops the primary means of economic advancement for people in that area?

Does this company secretly donate to politicians who are not-so-secretly giant buttholes? What kind of legislation does the parent company support?

Is there a chance that this is counterfeit, and my money is actually going to support organized crime?


It's exhausting. I just want a pair of pants so I am legally allowed to leave the house ever.
Preferably ones that didn't cost a malnourished eleven year old their eyesight.

One of the easiest ways to avoid most of these is to buy things that were handmade in the U.S., but that's expensive. The next best way? Buy secondhand.

Except I'm starting to question that, too.

One of the biggest things driving fast fashion is the idea of owning a certain label or distinctive look, or, if you can't drop the dosh for an actual designer, something that at least looks the part and won't fall apart before it's no longer in style. Since clothes age in dog years, that bar is basically low enough to crawl over.

Not shown: the worker handcuffed to a sewing machine.

To frame it another way -- if I wouldn't buy unsustainable sweatshop clothing from a certain label when it was new, is it really more ethical to buy it used? Either way, I'll be wearing that label, and, considering the bizarre way fashion works, essentially advertising that brand. Even if none of my money went to the original manufacturer, I'm still basically paying to promote them. (Truly ethical consumption is pretty much impossible with modern economic and production models, but trying to be more ethical is at least a little better than nothing.)

On the other hand, there's also the somewhat-questionable practices of big name secondhand shops. While they can do great things for charitable causes, the Salvation Army's relationship with LGBT people could best be described as "complicated," and Goodwill's model relies on the fact that it is legal to pay disabled people pennies per hour. That... doesn't sit right, and I feel like I should be able to do better. If you're looking to make upwards of half a million per year as the head of what is ostensibly a charitable organization, you should probably find a different job.

I swear -- if I was able to forego this entire process and just be a full-time nudist, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

... And that's how I time-traveled fifteen hours into the future.

In some circles, people are fond of talking about herbs as a superior alternative to medication. They're less harmful than prescriptions, have fewer side-effects, you get the jist.

While that may be true in some cases, I am here to tell you that that doesn't mean that herbs will not mess. You. UP.

From what I have seen in other herb fans I know, there's a lot of, "It's just a cup of herbal tea, it can't do any harm!" or "It's just a couple of drops of tincture, it'll be fine." The puzzling thing is that this is often said in the same breath as, "Herbs are just as effective as prescription medication."

But which is it? Are they as effective as pharmaceuticals, or are they harmless? Being both at the same time isn't physically possible, people. 

Usually I'm pretty good (read: fanatical) about researching drug and food interactions. Part of this is my fear of taking pretty much anything anymore, part of this is habit after having to choke down the handfuls of pills intracranial hypertension demanded of me.

Yesterday? I goofed. I goofed bad.

Not in an enormous way, either -- it was as simple as having a cup of tea with a bit of lemon balm with a late dinner, because it was tasty. Then I took a Zyrtec, because it's spring and that's what I do. Then, about an hour later, I drank a double-strength cup of chamomile tea to help settle my stomach. Like a lot of people, I usually think of tea as closer to "food" than "medicine," but there's a reason why websites highlight a drug's interactions with medicine and food.

The next evening, I was Robin Williams in Jumanji.

Robin Williams "What year is it?" Jumanji gif.

Not just a little bit, either. I had managed to sleep fifteen hours straight, through phone calls, knocks at the door, and (apparently) several attempts by my very concerned cats to bop me in the face and wake me up. It was not good.

That's four -- count 'em, four -- relaxants in the space of maybe two and a half hours. While not one of these alone is enough to make me tired (which is probably why I didn't think much about what I was doing) the combination of them knocked me completely out for more than half a day. (And my most-of-me still feels like Jell-O.) I'm fortunate in that I can set my schedule and can't drive anyway. If I'd had to leave my home for basically anything, I would've been completely boned.

So, yes. Chamomile and lemon balm are pretty gentle herbs (I think most people would consider them foods before they thought of them as drugs), and antihistamines aren't exactly what I would think of when I think of "serious drug interactions," but, when their powers combine, they are Captain Knock-You-The-Fuck-Out.

Consider this my tiny PSA about researching all of your medication's interactions. It could save your life, or at least keep cats from trying to poke you in the eye for most of an afternoon.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Not that kind of fertile.

"You'll change your mind."

It's a refrain I think every childfree person has had to hear, many, many times -- like some kind of incredibly irritating Ludovico technique usually used by older people, all of them with children.

As if that weren't enough, it's common to come up against it in religious or spiritual pursuits, too. A lot of Mormon and ex-Mormon bloggers have given their opinions on their church's emphasis on motherhood, and the particular pressure they felt when receiving these messages. Emphasis on fertility isn't the sole province of patriarchal religions, though -- I wish I had a dime for every time I've rolled my eyes at the emphasis many forms of paganism place on reproductive sex. Half the books out there categorize herbs and stones as "masculine" and "feminine," relying on lazy heteronormative tropes rather than useful, accurate terminology.

So I was worried I would have to bite my tongue when I was studying Druidic virtues. Fertility ranks pretty highly... Fortunately, it's a definition of fertility I can live with. Part of what drew me to this path is the emphasis on creation. Not entirely -- or even mostly -- referring to reproduction, either. The creation of art, music, poetry, and prose all fall under fertility. A fertile mind is prized as, if not more, highly than a fertile womb.

Which is pretty good, because even if I wanted kids, I kind of balk at the idea of what my body would do in the process. I have accepted the fact that my innards are essentially a soggy sack of horrors, albeit not without a kind of subtle, creeping dread. I mean, how many more extra parts am I going to sprout?

(But maybe that's actually some kind of super power. I make too much cerebrospinal fluid, and my organs appear to be trying to bud like hydras. Maybe I'm secretly some kind of mutant with the dubiously useful power to literally be extra.)

I like children just fine. I enjoy having them in my life. But I don't want to have my own and never have, which is pretty fortunate because it seems biology has made that decision without requesting my input.

And still, I get haunted by a Greek chorus of, "You'll change your mind," and things holding up fertility as the ultimate virtue.

It makes me worry, to be honest. I know my mind pretty well at this point. Why does the world keep insisting I'll change it?

Am I inevitably going to end up with baby fever? Mourning the loss of the one would-absolutely-have-been-a-goddamned-catastrophe anembryonic gestation I did experience? Am I going to end up regretting it when it's too late, and even adoption is no longer an option?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I'm so tired, you guys.

And, for the first time in awhile, I don't just mean the mental exhaustion of existing in the U.S. right now.

I mean, there's that, too, but also other stuff.

The weather has warmed up in D.C. -- granted, it never really got all that cold to begin with. It snowed two or three times, maybe (which, ever since living in draught-stricken California for a bit, makes me nervous) and we had at least two days of over 60°F temperatures.

This means two things:

  1. It is more humid than Satan's foggy taint.
  2. It is rainy.
I've mentioned that intracranial hypertension responds weirdly to weather patterns before, so it's probably unsurprising that I've been hovering between "My brain is malfunctioning, let's sleep all day!" hypersomnia and "I would drill a hole in my own skull if it would actually let me sleep" painsomnia. The odd little tricks I use to control my pain still work for me, and some days I'm convinced that they're the only things that're keeping me from an emergency lumbar puncture or risky pain management. 

Pye and Kiko seem to get that I'm not feeling well, too -- they sort of hover around me, with Kittybear flopping himself down next to me, grumbling, and changing positions until I acknowledge him and let him wear my hand as a hat, and Sweetbean giving me half-lidded stares and purring directly into my nasal passages. 

The only problem is, she seems to have very definite Opinions about when and how I am allowed to sleep. Every night, at about 3-4 in the morning, I get the same thing: little pink beans patting me on the cheeks and forehead. If I open my eyes, the same sight greets me: a little, squinchy, loudly-purring cat face. If I close my eyes and try to go back to sleep, the patting starts again. In a studio, keeping her out of the bedroom isn't an option. So, unfortunately, she always gets rewarded by waking me up and slowly driving me (more) insane.

So, to recap: I want to sleep all of the time. I can't, because my spine often feels like a squished tube of toothpaste. When I can, Kiko decides that this situation is not optimal, and it would be much better if I were petting a cat instead. (Specifically, her.)

It has made it hard to write, or do much of anything else. I've managed to eke out some paid writing, but, by the time I'm done with that, all I want to do is take a nap. (I also wrote a really, really weirdly hot scene of someone having knives thrown at them, but that is something for another day.) I've also done some painting, which I'm grateful for -- I always feel like I'm not accomplishing anything when I can't. 

I have another project in the works that I'm pretty excited about, which I've mentioned before. It's about a month out still, so I don't want to provide too many details... I'm just very frustrated that I haven't been able to put much work toward it lately. 

I hate complaining about rain because we need it, but it's really cramping my style. Hopefully the weather lets up soon, or I'm able to acclimate to it! 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Run over by the Wheel of Fortune

Remember when I pulled a card earlier this week?

It was, shall we say, accurate.

The nature of the Wheel of Fortune has encouraged me to re-frame some of the things I experience. There's that old wives' tale about the Chinese word for "crisis" comprising the words for "danger" and "opportunity" (it doesn't, but follow me for a minute) which has actually been somewhat useful in keeping me from tearing out what little hair I left myself. The Wheel represents a turning point and a chance to do the right thing, but I'll be damned if I don't want to burn some things down in the process.

I think I'm making good decisions, though. Ones that will help put my life even closer in alignment with my values, which is saying a lot considering I lack many of the conventional ways most people have to do so. In the process, I'm making a lot of discoveries -- for one, I have more flexibility than I used to, or thought I did. I'm still physically limited and don't have a lot of material wealth, but that's mattering less and less as I grow into the things I am able to do and the spaces I can occupy.

It's a really good feeling. As frustrating as it is to feel stunted in some ways (lol, hello dishwasher-I-can't-unload-without-losing-my-balance-and-breaking-everything!) I'm feeling more and more as though this is necessary to help me grow in others, the same way pinching off the top leaves of a plant encourages it to become lush instead of tall.

Here is a soothing picture of some trees and water, because it's about to get weird.

But there's a darker side to some of the things I've learned this week, too. I'm part of a really good witch group, one that has a tarot live chat every week. We talk about decks, techniques, you name it -- the person who runs the group is even generous enough to do free, two card readings for some of the people who attend and express interest. Last night, my name was picked. I held my question in my mind...

"How can I level up in my life? What do I need to do to achieve the next level of my spiritual and creative development?"

And, oh boy, did I get an answer.

Now, when you're reading tarot, it's wise to take the circumstances around the draw into account. If you're using incense and the ember flares or the pattern of the smoke changes in an odd way, if you're burning a candle and it suddenly flares, if a card leaps out while you're shuffling... All of these things can color the reading itself.

I received a Clarity affirmations card, the Queen of Cups, and the Ten of Pentacles reversed.

Without going extensively into the background and interpretation of each card separately, the thrust of the reading was this: while I am usually perceptive and intuitive in my relationships, and can quickly and easily differentiate between people who are worth my time and those who are not, mental chatter and anxiety may be causing me to place more distance between myself and a relative than is strictly warranted.

Here's where it gets weird. The Queen of Cups, which ended up making up a large part of the reading, leapt out of the deck. In the midst of the reading, there was a small flare of light and a drift of smoke, which was interpreted as a sign of sorts.

Here's where it gets weirder. If you've read here for awhile, you know that I've made no secret that I am estranged from some family members, particularly one parent who shows the signs of having narcissistic personality disorder. Unfortunately, these are often not relationships that can be repaired. You can't win with a narcissist, ever -- your needs, desires, and ambitions will always be trivialized, unless there is a way for the narcissist to directly benefit from them. They will feel entitled to every success you have, and become belligerent when you want to separate from them or express your will in any way. They also have pretty much no concept of boundaries. These things contribute to a feeling that is sadly not uncommon among people who have escaped the clutches of a narcissist -- the feeling that you won't be able to live a full, happy life until the narcissist is no longer capable of interacting with you at all.

It's an expression of the very real fear that, no matter how far you go or how well you hide, the narcissist will still find you somehow (or, if not them, their flying monkeys). That if you're successful in any capacity, it's only a matter of time before the narcissist shows up to either claim some of it for themselves ("Now that you have this, you can do something for me!"), attempt to take credit for it ("You're only successful because I taught/raised/helped you."), or belittle it ("That's so stupid, it doesn't count!"). It can become part of a very complicated relationship with praise and achievement, especially if the narcissist is also violent. It becomes about survival.

Basically, it's like having the zombie from [Rec] for a parent, and achieving anything in life is the equivalent of jumping up and down and waving a flashlight. It's like when people win the lottery and get friends and relatives crawling out of the woodwork with their hands out, but, instead of money, a narcissist wants to suck our your soul.

Sometimes literally.

I just finished reading Sandra Ingerman's Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self. The book is an interesting exploration of some of the concepts of "healing the inner child" that counselor John Bradshaw talks about, but from a shamanic perspective. When we undergo trauma, parts of the soul can fragment as a protective mechanism. These missing pieces can continue to impact us in deep ways as we go through life -- physically, mentally, and spiritually. Unfortunately, retrieving them is not really something you can do on your own. There are things you can do to help heal and overcome the trauma, but, much like self-help books are not quite a substitute for guided therapy, it is not the same as soul retrieval.

Ultimately, I know that being no contact is the right thing to do and I will never go back from that. I also know that the unshakable fear that the narcissist will reappear in my life is not fully justified, and that the deep, saddening feeling that I won't be able to relax and be happy until they are fully gone is not necessary. Overcoming this in a way that allows me to thrive -- not just pushing the thoughts aside and trying to ignore them while they fester -- is going to be a real challenge for me.

There is a lot of work to do.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Technical stuff!

Hello! Due to some annoying (and expensive) security issues, I am switching hosting providers. So, if things seem a little broken for the next couple of days, I apologize. It should only be temporary, and things should run much more smoothly for everyone concerned after that.

Thank you for your patience!

What search terms brought people to my blog? (The answers might not actually surprise you.)

Every year or so, I like to see what kind of search terms lead people here. It isn't really anything I act on -- I do enough annoying SEO stuff for my regular job as it is -- but it's fun to see nonetheless. I recently pulled up a list from the last year, and oh boy did I probably disappoint a lot of people.

We've got:

"ive been channeling goddesses"
and "goddess chanelling quiz"

This probably brought them to a short series I wrote about channeling the inner goddess (not in a 50 Shades of Grey way, don't be like that). Since this was mostly me messing around with internet-new-agey things, it was probably... less than helpful.

"which item is were for fashioned in fellow visual treats in my fair handle with care & gem in the water"

I... I think this might be related to gem elixirs?

I got nothing, I'm sorry.

"that is a ghost n that movie three men and a baby"

Nah. Just a piece of cardboard.

"clam ice shelter"

I can see why you'd have to buy one online. It's probably really hard to set up one of those ice fishing tents when you're about three inches long and don't have any hands.

"can crystal send somewhere for revenge"

That's an interesting concept! It reminds me of this article I read from 1956 where a neighborhood found itself pelted with mysterious stones. The local police responded by machine-gunning the adjacent woods (WTF?), only to have the stones resume flying as soon as the shooting stopped.

It's called lithoboly, and has been a Thing for a very long time. In folklore, stone-chucking demons called lithobolia were usually blamed for it. I might write more about this subject -- it's an interesting one!

But yeah, to get back on topic, I don't actually know how to send rocks after people for revenge. Maybe don't do that if you don't also want there to be a lot of machine-gunning, though.

"do people with iih need another drug to get off diamox"

Oh boy, that's a tough one... The answer? Maybe. Some people's pressure becomes low and stable enough for them to step down and eventually discontinue their dose completely. Other people have terrible side-effects from Diamox, or find it doesn't work for them anymore, and need to switch to something like Lasix and Topamax rather than quit completely. Whatever your situation, talk to your doctor about it first! They'll be able to help you avoid a sudden upswing in intracranial pressure, or at least prepare you for what you might experience.

There were more than these, but these were the ones that stood out. I like to think I am educational as well as entertaining (particularly on the subjects of rubbing yourself with garbage and hiding small containers of vinegar in your living room), so hopefully my blog has been of some use to the general populace. Here's to another year!

Monday, January 29, 2018

This Week's Card: The Wheel of Fortune.

Coming after last week's Nine of Cups (which turned out to be a great omen for me!), there's the Wheel of Fortune tarot card.

This is another good omen, though not quite as unambiguously so as the Nine of Cups. Where the Nine of Cups represents a culmination of sorts, the Wheel of Fortune is more like a step in a process. The wheel is neverending -- it inevitably rolls onward, cycling through feast and famine, good times and bad. This is a chance to influence its direction.

The Wheel of Fortune card illustrates the cycles of life. Everything has its season. That said, this doesn't mean that we're passive recipients of whatever fate chooses to hand us -- upright, the Wheel of Fortune also indicates consequences for one's actions. People often use the word "karma" for this, but that's not really accurate. Karma is a specific concept that relates not only to how a person's actions influence their life, but also their position in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. In a non-religious context, the Wheel of Fortune tarot card's meaning is closer to the idea that you're going to reap what you now choose to sow. Even if you are at a point where you're doing more reaping than sowing, how you choose to act will affect your future. Will you be complacent and rest on your laurels, or will you continue to push forward? If you are at a low point, will you wallow or will you remain optimistic and persevere?

The Wheel of Fortune card can also indicate a turning point. It may not seem to be a good at first blush, but it provides the opportunity to act in a way that offers increased happiness and abundance. Though it depicts the inevitability of change and the fact that there are some things in life we just can't control, we can control how we respond to them.

Whatever is coming up may look like a very good opportunity, it may not. Nevertheless, it is an opportunity. Take this  chance to choose to stay on the side of good and ensure you're in a position to enjoy the benefits in the future.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Trichotillomania: A week or so after shaving my head.

In case you missed my Instagram story the other day, I showed how my hair has been growing back since I completely shaved my head. This was mostly because, since I was dealing with the damage of trichotillomania, I wanted to camouflage the spots that had been plucked clean and avoid having it look all patchy.

So, I kept my hair shaved completely for a bit. The last time I shaved it was roughly a week and a half ago. Now that my hair's had the chance to grow back a bit, how is it doing?

It's a bit tough to tell yet. My hair grows pretty quickly, so the spots that were completely bald are starting to fill in, which is great! Unfortunately, as anyone who religiously plucked their eyebrows can tell you, hair just kind of stops growing back if you're persistent enough about yanking at it. Plucking gives way to traction alopecia, which gives way to damaged follicles and scar tissue. Eventually, those plucked-bald spots just stay that way.

Is my hair growing back?

I have a few places that are most likely not going to fill in completely, but that's okay -- I kind of knew that going in. I can't quite tell the full extent of the damage, though, because hair that has been pulled out takes a bit longer to grow back than hair that's just been cut. So, even though my pulled spots are growing back, it's going to be a solid couple of weeks before I can really figure out what I need to do in the future.

This spot is right along where my part was, and one I pulled from frequently. It's going to take a long time to grow back, and, even then, may not do so completely.

Do I still want to pull it out?

I do still feel the urge to pluck sometimes, but it isn't nearly as strong as it was back when I was able to indulge it regularly. It's easier for me to identify triggers now -- like boredom -- than it was when I subconsciously resorted to hair-pulling right away.

Interestingly, I've caught myself developing new ticks in its place. Most of them are actually odd little behaviors I used to do as a child, before I began pulling my hair.

Is this curing my trichotillomania?

I don't know. Honestly, I'd be very surprised if shaving my head "cured" it -- trichotillomania is a notoriously difficult issue to treat, even by professionals. That said, even if shaving doesn't get rid of it entirely, having very short hair is allowing my poor head to heal and letting me exist without constantly worrying what my hair looks like. Even if I'm not cured, I'm still benefiting from having shaved it!

Worse comes to worst, I may just decide to keep it very short.

What else am I doing, besides shaving my head?

I have a bunch of other strategies I'm using to help my hair and scalp be healthier and control the impulse to pull and pick at my hair. I'm most likely going to break some of those up into their own posts so I can go into greater detail, but they include:

  • Redirecting the impulse onto other things.

  • Using a special hair potion to help my hair grow back stronger.

  • Meditating to help control my stress levels.

  • Habit-breaking spells.

  • Using bamboo silica, biotin, and zinc.
Even though I haven't been able to see a huge difference yet, I'm feeling pretty good about my decision!