A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Invisible disabilities

I'm continuing with my theme of serious posts for this one. You may get another serious post when I do my next one, or you  may get my usual bit of fluff. I can't say for sure because I write as the feeling I need to strikes me.

Let me tell you about something I experienced at the pharmacy the other day.

I was at the pharmacy to ask about one of the medicines I'm taking since my doctor just went on vacation and I figured they'd be the best ones to know about it. There was a woman there. She looked to be in her early to mid 20's and she was trying to get her pain medication and the woman at the counter (who was not the pharmacist) was giving her crap about being on a narcotic pain killer for "so long".

My guess was that this woman had been getting her prescription here fairly regularly. The young woman kept telling the pharmacy tech that she was disabled and needed it to get through the day. The pharmacy tech snorted and made rude comments about her "needing it" like she was addicted.

At this point, I'm pissed. I have an invisible disability myself (see my previous post about mental health issues) and hearing pharmacy techs give people shit because they're on a serious med (my neurontin is considered one of those "serious meds" apparently) really gets me upset. Now, my anxiety is through the roof because I have to ask about my neurontin. But I get up behind this young woman who is near to tears and say loudly, "Not all disabilities can be seen, dumbass."

The pharmacy tech didn't look impressed. "What do you know about disabilities?"

"I'm disabled myself," I told her. "So I understand the need for medications other people might think I'm trying to get just because I'm addicted. This woman probably has some kind of chronic pain disorder like fibromyalgia and needs the pain meds to get through her day. Without them she's writhing in pain and can't function. Would you like to have that to wake up to every day?"

The pharmacist came over and sent the tech off on break or something. She personally filled this young woman's prescription and, to my surprise, I'd guessed right. She suffers from diabetes and fibromyalgia and needs the pain meds to get through her day. We exchanged phone numbers and have texted several times since then so my being bold (and sending my anxiety through the ceiling, roof, and ozone) proved to be beneficial to the both of us. I also got my question about my meds answered and was able to go on my way.

Invisible Disabilities is an umbrella term that captures a whole spectrum of hidden disabilities or challenges that are primarily neurological in nature.  Here's a good definition and a short list of invisible disabilities. (The quote I just used as a definition comes from this link.)

Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. There are those of us who live with disabilities every day, many much more debilitating than mine, who can't get help for our disabilities because we look healthy. No one wants to believe us, even with doctor's notes, that we're disabled.

But we are. And we deserve to be treated with respect and not made to feel like shit because some idiot gets a stick up their butt about us lying. We're not lying, folks. You just can't see it.

So remember if someone tells you that they're disabled, give them the benefit of the doubt.

(And if you've got one of the invisible disabilties, check this out.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I'm scared but I need to say this

I'm scared.

No, I'm not scared. I'm freaking TERRIFIED.

Why am I so scared?

Because I'm afraid with this post I may lose some friends. If I do, I'll have to be okay with it. But I'm NOT okay with it and I probably will never be okay with it.

Let me get serious for a change. My blog is usually posted full of light and fluffy things with the occasional heavy thing thrown in for good measure. I want to introduce you to something that most of you probably already know but I'm going to talk about anyway - depression. More specifically, bipolar disorder and anxiety.

Why am I talking about these illnesses (and yes, they ARE illnesses)?

Because that's my diagnosis: bipolar affective disorder with moderate general anxiety and mild to moderate social anxiety.

People look at mental illnesses as something a person can just "get over". Newsflash, folks. No we CAN'T just "get over it". It's not something we want. It's not something that we turn on and off at will. It's with us every day of our lives and it affects everything we do. My bipolar and anxiety (mostly the anxiety, I think) is the reason I've had a hard time holding a job down since I was 16. I'm 35, almost 36 years old. That's 20 years, folks, that I've been battling this demon.

I've taken Lithium. Never again. I've taken Depakote. Never again. I'm not inclined to become a zombie prior to the zombie apocalypse and that's what those medications do to me. I've met some people who were perfectly fine on Lithium and Depakote. I say if it works for them, that's great. It's just not for me.

It can take years to perfect a medication regime to help stabilize your mood. A prime example are the three meds I'm on now. They work great to stabilize but they make me too tired to do much of anything. That won't work so I need to have them adjusted. We're going to see what they suggest tomorrow when I go to the doctor.

What scares me the most, though, is how many friends am I going to lose over declaring myself as mentally ill. I've already lost a lot of people who didn't understand what was going on in my head and abandoned me. Hell, half the time I don't understand what's going on in my head and I live with it. I don't understand bipolar very well, though I'm learning more about this illness and the effects it's going to have on my life going forward from here.

Knowledge is the key to understanding anything. If you're curious, take a moment to look up bipolar and anxiety. Read their descriptions. Learn more about mental illness. If you suspect you've got a similar problem, talk to your doctor. I waited until it was almost too late to get help. Don't follow my example. Get help and nip it in the bud.

If you've been diagnosed with some kind of mental illness, check out NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill). If you're bipolar or were diagnosed with clinical depression, check out the Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance. I didn't do a lot of research but there are other websites for the different diagnoses for mental health issues, so check your area for support groups.

Get in touch with a support group. I can't afford the cost of the one I found but I'm going to talk to my counselor on Saturday and see if she knows of any that are free, and on what days they meet since my insurance won't cover it otherwise.

Getting stable has to be a priority for those with mental illness. Being able to just get through a normal day without a problem from our illnesses is something we strive for. A walk down the street may be just another day for you but for someone with social anxiety it's like walking through a lion's den where the slightest sound may wake up a lion.

Don't turn away from those with mental illnesses. They need your support. Don't tell us to get over it. That will never happen, though we may through the use of meds be able to lead stable lives. Don't tell us it's all in our heads. One, we know that. Two, that means you don't believe us that it's an illness and that's hurtful to us.

Education, people. That's what it boils down to. There are some websites out there that are bad, but check out the NAMI and the DBSA websites. They have a lot of good information on mental health issues and are great resources. Read books. Ask questions of your doctor. Find the answers yourself through careful research. Don't just take anybody's word for it. Don't take mine. Do your own research.

But please don't judge us. We're not deliberately doing the things that worry/frighten/anger you. We're trying to live our lives and sometimes we just can't do it without help.

(This post brought to you by yet another friend abandoning me over this. Yes, I'm bitter. Yes, I'm hurt. Educate yourselves, people. Don't abandon others when they tell you they're mentally ill.)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How books changed my life

Books. Books changed my life. Books were what gave me my peace and my freedom.

Let me explain what I mean.

I was a very withdrawn child. I didn't enjoy playing with the neighbor kids. Frankly, they terrified me. Part of it was their habit of terrorizing the other kids in the neighborhood (never me or my siblings though...I think they were scared of my mom). Part of it was even at that very young age I was an introvert with social anxiety. In an adult this is bad enough, but as a child this was terrifying.

When I was 3, actually a few months shy of my rather memorable 4th birthday (I'll share that memory one day as it's one of my clearest pleasant memories of my childhood), I remember going up to my dad and asking him "What does this word say?" I was holding the advertisements for our local grocery store. He told me what it was and then I pointed to the picture and said "That word means this."

A whole new world was opened up to me. I started grabbing the ads out of every paper. When we went to the grocery store I would look at the signs and make sure that they matched up with what was beneath them. I was learning to read.

On my 4th birthday, I was given the greatest treasure of all: books. I didn't know how to read them yet but I was determined to do so. At first I just made up stories to go along with the pictures. But my dad sat down with me every night and pointed to the words on the page and read them to me so I understood the sounds and the marks on the page correlated with one another. Soon I was reading my books by myself.

But it wasn't enough. I wanted more.

More books came my way, inherited from when my next oldest sibling was still learning to read. I devoured them. By the time I was 5 - just one short year later - my dad tells me I'd read every child's book appropriate for my age in the house at least a dozen times. I didn't always understand the books but I'd read them.

Kindergarten came and we were taught to write our names. I thought this was a little silly because I already knew how to write my name. I could read words. I wanted to know more. I'd actually skip recess and sit in the classroom and read the books the teacher gave me. My teacher was awesome. She connected very early on that to force me to socialize was to send me into a tailspin of anxiety that made me sick. I socialized while we were together in the classroom, but when it came to recess, she let me sit and read. She gave me books for the 1st graders and let me read those. They were a little better, but I still wanted more.

Then I left kindergarten and I no longer had the ability to read during recess. So I read at every other possible moment. I was doing my assignments as fast as possible to be given the time to read before it was time to move onto a different lesson. I used to get my books taken away from me because I wanted to read rather than pay attention to my teachers.

This went on for a time, where I read every book that was recommended for my grade level and maybe a few books for the more advanced grade levels - though my teachers discouraged that saying I wouldn't understand them. Meanwhile at home my mother was using vocabulary lists to push my reading comprehension to a higher level. By third grade I understood and could put into context words from a sixth grade vocabulary list.

Then I got Mr. Murphy for fourth grade. On the first day, he threw the reading list into the trash and said that as long as we did our assignments in a timely manner and weren't so rude as to read while he was talking, he didn't care what we read. I jumped on this. I read every book in his classroom, and not all of them were at the fourth grade reading level. He even had some high school level books in there that were just begging to be read.

In fifth grade, Mrs. Johnson introduced us to the Hobbit. I read all of the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings on my own in the space of a month. They were interesting but it still wasn't enough. At least when I was reading, though, my parents left me alone so I read a lot.

Then, the summer before my sixth grade year, I got my hands on Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. That was it. I was gone. I was an immediate fan. For those of you who don't know, Anne McCaffrey was the brilliant author who wrote the books detailing the lives of the dragonriders of Pern. Ms. McCaffrey died before I could thank her for the wonderful gift she gave me. But she wasn't the only author to open my eyes to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I could write books too.

Then came the Andre Norton books. I read a few of the Witch World books and then I moved on into others. I read the Rowan books by Ms. McCaffrey. Though I didn't understand some of the themes I knew they were good stories. My parents owned every book written by both of these authors that were available at the time (this was in 1989). I also discovered the books of Tamora Pierce at this time. I suddenly had three female authors who I adored (and possibly worshiped in a sense at that time) and who were successful writers. Most of the books I can remember reading as a young child were written by men so I didn't realize until that point that a woman could write books and be successful too.

It wasn't until I was in 8th grade that I started actually writing down some of the stories that floated in my head. I patterned them after the three women who were so heavily influencing me and came up with my very first fan fic crossover mash up. It was...horrible. But at least I was writing. I haven't stopped writing for any serious length of time since, though I've had a few dry spells over the last 23 years.

If you have never read a book by any of these women, I suggest you go to your library or to Amazon or SOMEWHERE and get their books. I can happily recommend the Alanna (Song of the Lioness Quartet) and the Daine (Wild Magic Quartet) books by Tamora Pierce. I haven't had the opportunity to read any of her other books, though my niece swears by the Keladry (Protector of the Small) books. If you want to read Anne McCaffrey you can either read Dragonflight which is the first Dragonriders of Pern book she wrote, or you can read Dragonsdawn which is a later book but actually the events predate Dragonflight as you discover the origin of the dragons. Andre Norton...just pick one. I can't recommend any specific book, though her Witch World are my favorites.

Without reading in general, my childhood would have been a lot harder than it was. I wouldn't have had my escape. Without these three women, I may never have first set pencil to paper and crafted my own words. I hope one day to meet Ms. Pierce as sadly my other two idols have passed on. I want to thank her for her gift with words and her inspiration to me.

Friday, September 21, 2012

I had this great blog post idea

No really, I did!

Then I went to bed without writing it down.

So now I don't remember what I was planning on writing about.

So I'll just give you a general life update and a writing update like I usually do.

I know you're all excited, aren't you? *grins*

Life update is as follows: I spent 8 days in the hospital. Dehydration + extreme stress = one messed up system. So I stayed in until I stabilized and now I'm trying to extend my FMLA/short term disability while I deal with therapy to get me completely back on my feet. I'm also trying to apply for permanent disability because honestly I'm probably going to end up back in the hospital from the stress and anxiety this job causes me.

Yes, I know I could look for another one. I have been. I'm not having any luck. And really, any job short of something that requires NO interaction with people is going to trigger the anxiety and there aren't too many jobs where you don't interact with anyone. Actually, there are no jobs where you don't interact with people. Not even if I went to writing full time, though that has less interaction with people until you're published than other jobs. Not NO interaction, but less than a normal job requires. Then again, I'd get lonely if I didn't have someone to talk to occasionally so being completely isolated is a bad thing for me.

Boy, that rambled on a bit.

Writing update is as follows: I did a lot of world building and note taking while I was in the hospital and I've come to realize that things are going to need some tweaking. Yes, again. Aleran is a constant work in progress. I've redefined the world and the characters enough times in the last 20 years that one more time won't matter. What matters is that this is the last time for the world building tweaks and that I'm finally ready to take the plunge and write the main series that I've been playing around with for the last few years.

This means no more slacking. I'm writing out the "histories" to sketch out the characters, and then it'll be onto the main event - the 6 book series that revolves around the two guys. Poor Anila is relegated to secondary character status in Reidar's books, though I may elevate her to additional MC in one of them to explain something that's essential and has to happen. I haven't quite figured out what to do with her yet.

In regards to roommates: Himself (who is not by definition a roommate since we're, you know, married) bought me a Milky Way to celebrate me coming home. Hey, we're broke and it was a sweet (ha, ha) gesture. Twitchy bought me a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich today from the ice cream truck lady to celebrate my coming home. It's not anything big but it's the little things that make me smile.

In regards to the cat: Reidar (yes, he's named for one of the characters in my main novel series) is still Reidar. He hasn't changed, other than being pissed off at me for the first day I was home. Now he's back to face planting in my arm pit and licking it. Got to love weird cat behaviors.

Pretty much that's it for this blog post. If I remember what the cool, awesome, probably-been-done-before-but-not-by-me blog post was I'll post it too.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

I need a blog post naming guide or something

First, a little self-promotion.  I have two Tumblr blogs that I'm running now. *points to the links below*

A World of Images - Pictures, political ranting, fangirling, random things
The Story of Aleran & Vassa - Writing excerpts, updates, writing exercises, and various posts on my writing process

Now, on to my adventure today...

Today has been rather...interesting.  I was supposed to be at work at 7:30a.  I was going to work from 7:30a-8p.  My usual shift is 7:30a-4:00p, and I was going to pick up four hours of overtime.  My insomnia hit very hard last night.  I was in bed, asleep by 11p as planned.  I woke up at 1a.  I didn't go back to sleep again.

When my alarm went off at 5:30a I got up and climbed in the shower.  I closed my eyes...and opened them again when the water turned cold.  I had passed out in the shower.  What was truly frightening is no one heard me fall.  I am not a small woman, and the sound of the impact should have woken someone up.  There are three other adults in this house.  No one heard a thing.  Had the cold water not woken me up, I would have lain there until the five year old got up and needed to use the bathroom.  Perhaps not even then.  That was truly frightening.

I crawled out of the shower, called my manager and told her I'd be in late, and curled up until the waves of vertigo ended.  I got into work around 11:30a, which was perfectly all right with my manager since I was supposed to work until 8p.  When I tried to sign into my computer, I was locked out of the two main databases we use.  Which means I couldn't access any of my programs.  None of them, except the base Windows log in and my email.  I had to request resets on both of the passwords.  One of the database passwords reset within 5 minutes.  The second?  By 4p when everyone else was leaving, I still didn't have my second password reset.  My manager just sent me home at that point.

I was very grateful to be sent home, to be honest.  My shoulder and head hurt from the fall, I was still dealing with the attack of vertigo caused by my fall.  I came home, laid down and dozed for an hour.  I feel a lot better tonight but I'm still exhausted.  At least I now have another experience to subject my characters to - passing out and waking up when their shower runs cold.

Life can lead to some painful experiences.  But no matter what they are, as long as you take something from them and add it to one of your stories it's not a complete loss.

(But I highly recommend avoiding passing out in the shower.  I could've gone my whole life without that one.)