Working with anxiety

Folks who've been following this blog from as far back as yesterday will know that I have chronic anxiety problems. I don't think there's any area of my life where I feel the effect of these problems more heavily than in work, and there's definitely no area where I have more fear of the stigma associated with anxiety than in work.

I recently put a "Hire me" link at the top of my blog. I really do need to start finding more freelance work, and that need is becoming more and more desperate as my stopgaps and backup plans dwindle at a rate exceeding the rate of income I've managed to get down so far. But it's so far been too scary to direct people to that link, because I know anyone who wants to hire me to work for them is probably going to scroll through my personal blog a bit, too. One of the problems with having your whole life in one place, right?

On the other hand, compartmentalizing my life is exhausting. Maintaining separate names -- my tax-form name for employment and my name here for my life -- is constantly draining, and I have basically zero motivation to do any upkeep on the other name. The website associated with it has been 404d for like a year now, and I know I have a twitter for it but I don't know the login. I'm waiting on one last check before I remove the saved login to that google account from my computer, because it's cluttering things up.

I think the thing to do is just be totally honest: I have an anxiety disorder. I am medicated, and it helps a lot, but medication for mental illness is more management than cure. Like any chronic illness, sometimes it affects my work. Like any person who lives with a chronic illness, I have strategies for handling it when it affects my work. 

Being upfront about it is scary, because it feels likely to drive away a lot of people who might otherwise want to work with me. But what it's really more likely to do is create a natural filter: the only people who are going to hire me knowing I have mental illness are people who have a base level of empathy about it that I can rely on. That means it'd be easy to tell them whether and when I can take on more work, it means I can tell them when I might need more time -- early enough that they can handle it -- or when I might need to bring in another person to help. 

It's never in my interest to bite off more than I can chew, and I think one of the fears people have about hiring people with mental illness is actually a fear that they're un-self-aware about the limits created by that illness. I hope that being upfront about it signals to people that I am aware of my abilities and limitations, and that I'll take on work in proportion to my ability, not in proportion to the ability I imagine I'd have if I weren't mentally ill. 

I'm having a really rough night, and getting this out is helping. I've been thinking about writing this post for a few days -- I'm planning on writing a more concise version, in a letter-to-potential-employers format, to link from my "Hire me" page soon.

This holiday is a frustrating and terrifying experience

I just started wondering how much I drank, and when, because I'm feeling dizzy and my head is pounding. Then I remembered I haven't been drinking.

My chests has been tight for hours, I can barely distinguish one voice from another. There are probably more people here I don't know than people I do. 

My work at Hampshire is a lot less fun to talk about in a room full of people whose only question is "what are you going to do with that to make money?" None of my usual responses feel okay to say right now. "I want to work toward building solutions to climate change." Nope, don't want to get into a fight about whether global warming exists. "We're probably about 10 years out from the end of human employability, anyway." Nope, they aren't gonna let go of their smugness about the liberal arts that easy.

My mind keeps going back to a point, an infuriating point, of rhetoric I heard once about social justice activism: that you need to be able to convince your family. That if you aren't doing that, you aren't really doing anything. 

As if family isn't a place to find a catalogue of almost every mentally ill person's triggers. As if they're the people you're most likely to be able to handle. As if they aren't the people most likely to assume that they're your intellectual superiors no matter what happens, ever.

I feel like I'm burning up and freezing at the same time. I'm hungry and thirsty but I'm afraid to eat or drink because I feel like I'm going to throw up. I can't stand in this hailstorm of microaggressions and fight for the hearts and minds of my family. I can barely fight for myself.

And I resent the implication that changing these minds is the litmus test for my ability to contribute to social justice movements.

Jessica Jones is great

I may have binged the new Netflix series "Jessica Jones" this weekend. It's very good. Heads up if you're thinking of watching it: It has basically all of the triggers. If you have PTSD or are otherwise sensitive to any kind of violence, look into that before you pick it up.

Hereafter is spoilerish territory.

I thought it was really interesting how they had moral ambiguity play out in this series, versus in Daredevil. Because Jessica is a way darker character than Matt Murdock, but Murdock's approach still plays out as a lot more ambiguous than Jessica's, because the villain of Jessica Jones, Kilgrave, is so, so much more obviously, vividly evil. Like, Fisk's villainy is a morally horrific approach to political achievement. Kilgrave's villainy is a morally horrific approach to getting whatever he wants with the smallest possible degree of effort.

Idk if I'm going to have more thoughts on this to share later (I should really go through my blog some time for all those posts I ended with "more later" and expand on some) but Jessica Jones definitely gave me a ton to think about, and I am sure I'll end up watching it again.

Exhausted semi lucid night post

I'm tired. Really tired -- like, my laptop is a foot away from me and I'm blogging on my phone because I can't get myself to adjust so both hands can reach the keys.

Tomorrow is the first day of thanksgiving break, and I'll be going home for the weekend, into one of the strangest holidays. i guess it's good, then, that I'm going to be rested, because who knows how sleep will go once I'm back at home.

  My eyes keep shutting, and my brain keeps trying to dream. I just had a moment where I couldn't remember if a photo I had taken today while I was working was from an episode of the Flash, which I caught up on today.

I'm bad at scale

I spent, like, probably 10 hours this weekend working on a cityscape picture. It's still not even close to done, but I think I may have to start from scratch -- or, more like flatten the whole thing and start tracing it so I can make major, fundamental adjustments.

The problem is, I drew a whole bunch of buildings, and I also drew an entrance to an underground area. Then, I started adding detail to the buildings: doors, windows, etc. And I immediately realized that, based on that scale, the small metal roof covering the stairs leading down was actually about three stories tall, and the staircase had steps that were about 2 feet each.

It was an extremely frustrating realization. I sketched out a more appropriate scale, but it's going to require a huge amount of working backwards if I'm going to fix it in the version of the image I'm working on now. 

I'm on a waitlist for a drawing class next semester -- I really hope I learn some new things about not fucking up scale so often.

Solarpunk Press print editions

The Solarpunk Press print editions are available for preorder! And I'm announcing it here first, because it's late and this is the only place where I need to write something before midnight. They're going to be up until December 7, the day the next issue of Solarpunk Press comes out -- at which point we'll close the preorder, print the orders we have, and ship them out, in time for Christmas.


It's 10 minutes to midnight and I just remembered that I haven't blogged yet. Oops.

I haven't been doing an awesome job of keeping track of things lately. I mean, I've done better in the last few days. And that's helped melt a lot of anxiety. But there's still stuff sliding. Like this. 

It's not the only thing on the list of stuff I should really do before I sleep, either. Some of that stuff is definitely going to slide a little longer. I don't have the mental fortitude to conjure it right now, and I'm starting to remember that, in fact, I never do. I just let my organizational patterns slide enough that they aren't keeping up anymore.

So, I need to get back on that.

I have a DeviantArt page again!

I've got a drawing app on my phone, Autodesk SketchBook, which recently added DeviantArt integration, the main interesting feature of which is challenge prompts. These are great, because more often than not when I open the app it's because I want to draw, not because I have something to draw, and it's super frustrating to draw the same couple scribbles over and over again.

A timed sketch challenge, to draw a landscape using black and white/grayscale within 15 minutes.

A timed sketch challenge, to draw a landscape using black and white/grayscale within 15 minutes.

So far that's all I've used the account for: Uploading my challenge entries. I'm more happy with some than others -- the tree (another timed challenge) is outright embarrassing, but the City at Sunset is one of my favorite pictures that I've drawn lately.

No, I'm not embedding the tree.

No, I'm not embedding the tree.

I'll probably start to upload some other stuff there too, it'd be nice to have a convenient place to point to for a portfolio. I don't think I'm going to try too hard to maintain it, though, because I've got enough online identity maintenance to handle right now that I don't want to have to learn how to interact with a whole new website on a serious level.

Let me know if there's any art you know I've done that you think should be online.

The Martian, Kindred, and neurodivergence

I saw The Martian last night, with Faith. We're probably going to write up our thoughts on it for Solarpunk Press, but there was one thing that stuck out to me that I want to talk about here. It's the same thing that's been sticking out to me in class discussions about Kindred in Weird Fictions: people without chronic mental health issues are weird.

Here on is going to contain spoilers for both the movie The Martian and the book Kindred.

In a class discussion last week, the professor had us consider the scene where, after being stranded in the 1880s for five years, Kevin (the protagonist's partner) was so frustrated by seeing his typewriter that he smashed it with his fist.

We talked about how massively upset he must be, to cause a reaction that strong. It was a weird conversation to be having, because Kevin's reaction sounded to me like a remarkably restrained management of a mildly bad emotional experience. Being frustrated by everything around you within the first few hours after a five-year-long trauma sounds to me like a tiny, trivial reaction. Kevin was going through an experience I have like twice a year, on a good year. His reaction to literally being stranded out of time was about on par with my reaction, last weekend, to having a stressful class period.

In The Martian, the main character, Mark Watney, copes with having to survive for an anticipated four years alone on an entire planet, using the resources meant to last for a few more weeks, without any reason to hope that he'd get so much as a conversation with another human, for months at minimum.

Being able to survive that seems absurd to me. Not because of the technical challenges, but because Mark Watney seems to have a superhuman capacity for retaining a sense of hope: to the point where he can leverage that hope against the feelings of loneliness and doom that I would have found unbearable within a week.

It occurred to me that a person selected for a Mars mission would necessarily be someone who passed psych evaluations designed to filter for exactly that quality, so it doesn't feel like bullshit in terms of plot. 

In both of these cases, though, I found myself realizing, well into the story, that the characters in the story are neurotypical, and have no chronic mental illnesses, and that means they have access to a set of abilities entirely outside my life experience. I found myself wondering why the creators had chosen to make the protagonists neurotypical, before it occurred to me that they would never have made that choice: if the story isn't about the mental state of the character, they'd never make that a part of it.

I feel like the next beat in this blog post is a sort of call-to-action about the representation of mental illness in media, which is important, but these thoughts are unsorted so I don't have anything clear to say on that front. It's just weird.


I withdrew from a class today. It's literally the last day I'm allowed to do that: if I had given it a couple more hours (when the office that handles these things closed) I'd have to take a "No evaluation," which is the Hampshire equivalent of an F. Instead, I get to take a "W," which means the same thing everywhere, I think.

Friday night, after I blogged, I fell asleep from exhaustion for about two hours. Then I woke up, and I didn't go back to sleep until the sun came up. Every time I closed my computer, turned off my light, shut my eyes, my head flooded with anxiety about class. So in the afternoon when I woke up, I wrote an email to the professor explaining what was wrong and why I was withdrawing. In the five hours following writing that email, I got more work done (especially self-care work) than I had in about two weeks. So, I added another 300-ish words in a postscript and sent it. (It ended up being about 1000 words long.) 

I feel like I learned a lot from that class, and I may write about that more later, or share parts of the email. But I think very importantly one of the things I'm doing better about now is controlled failure: I could have stayed in that class, and maybe done okay, and let my other three classes' work suffer, damage my personal relationships, and just generally live in a state of constant anxiety. This loss, this incompleteness -- it was already there, manifest in my circumstances and the kinds of control I had and didn't have. It feels like I've packaged up another month's worth of personal loss into a neat little "W" rather than let it spill everywhere.

Sponge capitalism

I don't normally use this blog just to signal boost Tumblr posts (that's what Tumblr is for) but check out this incredible analysis, "The Red Sponge: Spongebob's role in enforcing an oppressive, capitalistic society."


Patrick represents the bourgeois caricature of the working class that capitalists want you to buy into. He is ignorant, undereducated, and lazy. He lives under a rock, likely because he can’t afford anything else — although he doesn’t seem to mind. Patrick appears to deserve his poverty because he does nothing but sleep, yet he also seems at peace with his lot. This idea of the happy, unproductive bum simultaneously vilifies and justifies the proletariat. “See, they’re poor because they just don’t work hard enough! In fact, they like being poor!” Patrick Star is arguably one of the most offensive cartoon depictions of this generation.

Tumblr messaging

I got Tumblr messaging yesterday. Here are my thoughts.

I just had my first real conversation with another person on Tumblr’s new chat device – like, more than three or four lines – and I have comments

  • I’m really looking forward to seeing what kind of tumblrish converesation conventions emerge for chat, and whether they spread to other chat forms.
  • I wonder if an explicit distinction between “just idly scrolling” and “here to be social” moods are going to emerge, and if they’ll tend to be respected? Like, I just reconnected with someone I hadn’t talked to in a while, and it was really cool, but I’m not in an extensively social headspace right now and I’d like to retain the option for Tumblr to be that.
  • There’s no so-and-so is typing notification. idk if that’s good or bad.
  • You can’t minimize the chat box in-window. It looks like you should be able to. And you can’t have more than one open at once. 
  • New messages were making it to my phone before they showed up on-screen. That seems like a problem. It means messages go through really slowly. I wonder if they’re going to sometimes fail to send to one device or another at all.
  • There are a few people I only have contact with through Tumblr. I’m not on facebook, so that limits my ability to retain a gradient of connections with people. I expect I will continue to not share my Tumblr with people I don’t want to follow on Tumblr, but still, this creates more steps in between “mutual follower” and “communicates outside Tumblr” that makes the gradients of friendship more mobile. I think that’s a good thing. I may be biased because my first full conversation on Tumblr chat was a manifestation of the best possible version of that.

Those are the thoughts I have right now. I’m going to go back to idly scrolling and reblogging now.

Panic week

Yesterday, I had a bad day. I'm not going to get into what the specific events were that were involved but I almost had a panic attack around midday and spent the rest of the day feeling more anxious and afraid than I had in months.

It bled into today, and I expect it's going to keep bleeding out for a while -- both because the circumstances that caused it haven't changed, I've just had more time to get used to them, and because I was already in a pretty tightrope-ish place before it happened. I have a lot of assignments due this week, and I'd fallen behind on some important aspects of self care that I'm not likely to find the energy to work my way back on now.

For me, there has often been a pretty close relationship between running out of spoons and running out of fucks. (I think the technical medical term is "dissociation.") 

The problem with letting my spoon meter slide and keeping my fucks-to-give meter up is that I run out of the ability to do the things I need to get done, while maintaining maximum emotional energy to be incredibly anxious about them. The problem with going the other way around is that that's what assholes do -- I don't want to hurt people just because I don't have the energy to be careful with their feelings.

'Course, if either one bottoms out, it takes the other one with it.

Sometimes it feels like I can manipulate them to get things done: if I don't have the spoons to get a task done because it's triggering too much anxiety, I can just let the bottom drop out my concern about the consequences and get through it by pretending that I'm not bothered by my inevitable inadequacy.

Sometimes they're kind of the same thing. Sometimes they're totally different. Often this metaphor breaks down completely and neither "idgaf" or "no spoons" expresses the nature of my lethargy quite right.

And I don't actually have access to a spreadsheet or a stat book that allows me to balance my energies with reference to known upcoming circumstances and a metagame understanding of my intended outcomes.

But right now I don't have the energy to get things done the old fashioned way (by not being mentally ill) so I'm going to be trying the next best thing: manipulating the bubble and flow of my not-really-comprehensible feelings to attempt to chuck balls of energy at the right tasks at the right times to keep things moving until I get my feet under me again. (Mixed metaphor level: maximum)

The song that's stuck in my head

I've been listening to the Hamilton musical soundtrack all weekend. It's really fantastic, and incredibly catchy. Lafayette's song, in particular, and pretty much every occurrence of the leitmotif "Rise up" have dominated my internal audio for days.

And as a result of that, I also fell down a rabbit hole of Daveed Diggs's work, especially with the band Clipping. The songs "Get Up" and "Summertime" have been a major part of my soundtrack for the last several days.

So I have no idea why, despite all continuity and reason, this is the song that's been stuck in my head for the last 20 minutes:

Congealing schedules

i think I'm starting to get the hang of the schedules that are shaping my life at Hampshire. When things are due each class, (just remembered a thing that's due Tuesday while I was writing this) And Solarpunk Press stuff is starting to fall into place faster and with less struggle (right in time for new, unanticipated challenges to pop up) and I've started to manage to block out time socially with slightly more consistency.

And, of course, the semester is almost over, and I'm going to have to solve for winter break then figure out a whole other set of classes in the spring.

i may-or-may-not be slightly overwhelmed. I'm managing, though. 


A moment ago, it just struck me as really strange that, in facsimiles and depictions, the only detail of the thing depicted is the detail the creator expects the audience to notice, but in real life, all the detail, in absolutely perfect intricacy, is always there.  Like -- there are hair follicles on my body that currently have hair growing in them, there are books that have pages that contain writing in every library in the world, even when virtually all of them are virtually always closed. In every star in the sky, right now, at this moment, there are specific, individual atoms smashing into specific other individual atoms with specific, individual consequences.

Depictions leave things out, though. Video games only render the face of a rock you're going to see: if you clip through it, you discover that not only is the rock hollow, it's not even visible from the inside. Paintings don't have a back to them featuring the rest of the person. Sculptures don't have hair folicles, individual, growing. The stars in "Starry Night" contain the same, inaccurate, combination of molecules they did when they were first put on the canvas, more-or-less.

And our perception even leaves things out. If you stare at a pattern on the wall long enough parts of it will just sort of stop being patterned in certain chunks of your vision. We think of obviously-fake things like books and movies as being real, whenever it's convenient or comfortable for us to do so. We think of other people as being basically like one of the other people we know, or like one of the other people we've heard described, or the person we remember them being last time we took a good look, 10 minutes/months/years ago.

But that detail is always still there. That person you haven't taken a new look at in the last ten minutes has had an entire ten minutes worth of new life happen in their brain -- life that may have had profound implications on the nature of your relationship with them, in that moment/day/month/lifetime. They may have remembered a song that changed their mood completely. They may have suddenly realized that they love you, or don't love you, or don't care and thought they did. They may have realized that about somebody else, in a way that's inconvenient for you.

Those changes grow from possible to certain when you scale up by decades, because it really only takes a few minutes for life-changing thoughts to occur, and given 10 years worth of time to have thoughts in, eventually one of them's going to relate to someone who hasn't been paying attention in the meantime.

This was a weird place for a thought that started with "It's weird that mitochondria have existed for thousands of years before we even found out what cells were" to have gone.

"Kindred" by Octavia Butler, and enjoying reading

I finished reading Kindred this morning. I was reading it for a class, and I was excited for it because I hadn't read anything by Octavia Butler before and I kept putting it off.

I have a lot of thoughts about it, but I'm going to let them filter through my classwork for a while longer. 

On one hand, Kindred was hard to read. It's about the experience of slavery in 19th Century America, and I don't feel confident enough to say "It doesn't pull punches" but it did plenty to make my guts twist up for a whole variety of reasons.

On the other hand: This was the first book I really tore through in, like, months. The first book I couldn't put down. That I didn't find myself reading the same sentence over and over again.

Kindred was familiar territory: Octavia Butler is a science fiction writer. She writes in that genre-y way that I'm at home with, she gave me the information I wanted when I wanted it and made it easy to trust her about what she was withholding. The other books we've read this semester, and the other works I've read lately, mostly haven't been like that. Dracula tended to lay things out refreshingly early, but it was deeply different than the SF/F style. Never Let Me Go was just a straight-out literary novel. It occurs to me that both of those books were written with a hypothetical audience: Dracula is a collection of documents written by the characters, Never Let Me Go is the protagonist telling stories to the reader. 

In Kindred, Butler just tells the story. It's first person, but it isn't written like it's something Dana (the protagonist and viewpoint character) wrote. There's no sense of what was going on in her life when she decided to sit down and write this book, who it's for, what she'd do with it if she had the manuscript. There's no narrator's detachment from the moment of the story. Dana's not an unreliable narrator. She's barely a narrator. She's first-person as an extremely close third-person.

I hadn't realized how tired I was getting of works that perform themselves as an artifact that exists in their own worlds until I realized how much of a relief it was to read something that had no trace of that quality. It adds so many layers of things to think about: The motives of the author, and therefore their reliability; the quality of their memory, the audience they were considering. Those qualities can be worthwhile but often it feels like they're unnecessary. In Kindred it felt like Butler knew she was asking the reader to do a hard thing, to face the reality of enslaved life, and didn't ask us to do any extra work to get there. 

Even as I write this, I fear I'm over-stating the case against texts that exist within themselves. Maybe it really is just that I'm sick of them right now. But I think there's more to this thought, and it's an aspect of works that I'll be keeping an eye out for now, as much when it's absent as when it's present.

"Are you Rick?"

Here's my costume from Halloween last Friday. I was going for a sort of archetypal character -- you know, the submythical mad scientist. I had a piece of mental dialogue prepped for it and everything: "Are you a mad scientist?" "No, I'm a perfectly reasonable scientist who happens to disagree with an ethics board about the necessity of human trials in my research."

But I didn't get that question. Instead, I got -- several times -- 

This asshole.

This asshole.

"Are you Rick?"

I even overheard more than one person say "Oh, look, another Rick."

Because there were like five people who were dressed up as Rick. So I also got to navigate those fun exchanges where someone dressed up as Rick goes "Hey, same costume!"

And there's nothing fun to say in response to that. "No, I'm not Rick, and it squicks me out to imagine dressing up like him. Please don't talk to me about that show."

It didn't help that the glasses ended up being way too dark to actually wear outside. (My friend Ash, who was dressed up as Trinity from the Matrix, also had that problem.) 

I did get one "Are you Doc Brown or Rick Sanchez?" Which was a little less terrible, I guess. 

So for future reference, I've got to remember to dress up as a specific character from something. Next year somebody remind me about Dipper from Gravity Falls. That'd be a good one. And my social awkwardness would be in-character.