Pain Study

The doctors look at you and ask you that dread question.

They asked it before. You answered it before. It never gets easier.

They look at you, while you try to find the right words, and the idea that you sit down and write stuff with any kind of eloquence but can’t tell this story to save your life leaves you flapping your hands in despair.

It’s not hard, surely?

Tell your story. Explain your pain. Do so in as few words as possible but in a way that has you taken seriously as a patient.

Right.

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Know Me for a Little: The Heroic Protagonist

I’ve been trying to articulate, for a friend, the problem I’m finding in the depiction of a protagonist who does not appear, some sixty thousand words in, to be on the path of personal change.

This is a vague accusation to be levelling. I’d be heartbroken, though, if someone told me that, after sixty thousand words, my characters still read as the same people they were at the beginning of the story. (Heartbroken, and then looking at what I can do to fix that, but heartbroken nonetheless.) How can I not be, when I spent so much time with these fictional people, when they are different facets of me, when I breathed life into the words that comprise them?

I’ve heard, many times, that a good heroic protagonist doesn’t end the story the way they began it.

What does that even mean, though? Why is it important?

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Not Only the Label

Before I came back to writing and posting it here (for me a profoundly terrifying thing) I was considering whether or not I should just build a new website from scratch. I’ve got a lot more .org experience now, thanks to my work on the Twilight School website, and I would definitely have fun building my own self-hosted blog where the CMS allows me more control over certain elements and I’m not constrained by a client’s finances and design requirements.

There were two reasons why I was contemplating this.

One was that the Twilight School is sponsored by the Salesian College Sunbury, and I’m so far out of the closet I’ve lost the way back to Narnia. Maybe it would be safer to have an online identity that’s a teensy bit less, well, queer?

This is now irrelevant, since I’ve outed myself to the Twilight School community and the world hasn’t imploded. In point of fact, I experienced the entirely underwhelming reaction of … nothing. Man, when I’m steeling myself up to cop homophobia that might even extend to the loss of my job, it’s bewildering to then experience silence. Good, certainly, and I hope this is the beginning of interactions with people of Christian faith who are, if not accepting, at least considerate enough to keep their beliefs about my legitimacy as a human being to themselves, but bewildering.

(I’ve also been sitting on a post about how community does in fact comprise those of us who dare to be queer, and any school promoting their community outreach initiatives doesn’t get to pick and choose which parts of the community are welcome, which is something like being all dressed up with nowhere to go.)

The other was … well, most of the things I’m feeling and exploring right now aren’t all that queer, taken in a separatist/isolationist view that denies the importance and relevance of intersectionality. I’ve been asked to write a piece about turning points for a publication, and while my first thought was to write about the subtlety of turning points, I’m actually thinking that what I’m feeling right now is the turning point encapsulated in the word “autism”.

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All The Puzzle Pieces, Please

I have a roller bag/trolley. It’s a battered railway-issue bag I’ve had for a little over a year, and it goes almost everywhere I go. People comment on it as though it’s funny: they can’t imagine why I need to take it everywhere.

I consider it an accessibility aid for anything that involves leaving the house.

I have things I need to take everywhere with me. My wrist and thumb splints, because my pain is something I can’t plan, and being in pain at work without a splint is a nightmare. A thick hooded jumper, because my hypersensitivity to cold means that waiting at railway platforms at night is agonising. A woollen, hooded scarf, ditto. A large tub of Play-Doh, for stimming. A bottle of water, for timetabled and non-timetabled medication. An umbrella, because I live in Geelong/Melbourne where we can get five seasons in a single day. Lunch, if I’m going to work, because I can’t afford to just buy two meals a working day on the hours I get.

I’ve also got optional things I take everywhere with me, like my netbook (I use all time I spend on trains), deck boxes and a dice bag (you never know when you might run into someone and regret not having a deck on you), a playmat (this makes it so much easier for me to pick cards, even sleeved cards, up off the table) and other odds-and-ends (wet and dry tissues, nail scissors, deodorant, a tape measure because the Warhammer players never bring their own and sometimes the store one gets lost). Yes, I have the bloody kitchen sink, but you’d be amazed at all the times someone has needed something I just happen to have.

I also have a rainbow-striped satchel over my shoulder for absolutely-bloody-essential things like wallet, headphones (I need something to drown out the noises made by other people/traffic/trains), coin purse, meds, bandaids, notepad and pen. A satchel bag where I can just reach in without pulling the bag off a shoulder and unzipping is so much better than a backpack, even if a backpack is less gendering.

I also need, quite simply, a place to put anything I buy.

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A Dialogue in Good Faith

I haven’t said it here, yet – there are a great many things I’m yet to speak about here on the matter of finding my way back to myself – but I started freelance work this year designing event flyers and administrating the Twilight School website.

The Twilight School, run by Bruno Lettieri (of Rotunda fame, one of the most amazing and generous people that ever lived) is the community outreach project of the Salesian College Sunbury. The Salesian College sponsors something quite unique: an after-hours education service providing classes, guest speakers and other community events, at low-cost, for the Sunbury community. Most of these conversations involve literary personages and community health workers, and the classes run from cooking to writing and gardening to photography. The Twilight School also sponsors the Good Man Project, which is about fostering and developing healthy and open emotional dialogue with, between and among men. Barn Owl Journal is another of Bruno’s pet projects for getting creative writing out into the community, and you can read the current issue here.

(For an event example, you can go and see actor, comedian and writer John Clarke this month for $10 plus drinks, and all you need to do is bring a plate of food for the communal table. We’re talking an evening with a seriously famous, at least in Australia and New Zealand, seriously clever satirist for $10 and however much it costs you to bring a plate of sandwiches or cake. If you’re in Melbourne and this interests you, book now, because places are filling up. If I were living anywhere reasonably close to Sunbury at the moment, I’d go.)

I can’t overstate how important this sort of thing is. The Twilight School is offering and allowing real connection, expression and education in a world where the privileged have an infinite number of avenues in which to communicate yet we are still discouraged from being honest and vulnerable in the company of others.

(When your feminist goddess of a friend is telling you that she’s not sure she should have written about her experiences with depression and anorexia because it’s not appropriate to tell that kind of intimate story, on her own damn website no less, we have a problem with communication.)

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The Agency of Hardwiring

A friend sent me this article on the correlation between transgender identities and autism spectrum disorders. (Please read on before clicking.) I don’t ever want to say that being trans is an autistic thing – although it happens that all the trans people I know are also autistic, which is a bias most likely explained by the habit of like-minded people flocking together – but when I look at the significant amount of non-binary (which, I remind everyone, is a transgender identity) autistic bloggers, I’m all for acknowledgement. It meets my lived experience, after all.

What I didn’t quite expect was some scientific bullshit about “extreme male brain” and lack of empathy used to rationalise the existence of binary trans-masculine autistics, i.e. the assumption that female-designated autistics are “more masculine” in brain function and therefore it’s reasonable for many of them to be trans men. This invalidates every conversation I’ve ever had with another autistic person (whom I generally find to be more empathetic towards me than the average neurotypical), ignores the fact that autistic trans women exist and furthers an assumption that often denies female-designated people diagnosis (because if we’re not autistic in ways commonly expressed by men, we’re not seen as autistic). It also comes with a massive misunderstanding/mislabeling of the trans experience and forgets, entirely, about non-binary people when it’s not contributing to even more gendering. It’s okay; we non-binary folk are used to not existing. It’s the story of our lives.

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A Philosophy of Natural Movement, Part 1

This is a long multi-part essay on the experience of being autistic, the process of gaining the label, and the nightmare (especially the last two years, especially especially the last nine months) it’s been being an undiagnosed autistic person being treated for depression, anxiety and chronic pain in the Australian healthcare system.

So, of course, I’m going to start with my ongoing love affair with metal music.

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Wanted: an audience

Before I begin, a tangent.

Last time I got wordy, you may remember, I wrote about geek feminism. Or feminist geekism. Either way.

Three weeks after writing that post, I went to the Sunday pre-release event for Battle for Zendikar (the latest Magic the Gathering release). As I was early, as the shop was quiet, and as I’d almost finished my current creation on the way up, I got out my girly-decorated game box, my play mat … and a sewing box, a Barbie and a Barbie-size skirt I’d made out of an old bandanna that needed a hook fastener to finish. If I can sew on the train and on the platform, heedless of what people think about my stashing half-nude Barbies in my bag, I can sew in a game shop, right?

The first thing I was asked by an arriving player, one who knew I was there to pre-release (it’s a verb): Did you bring any decks with you?

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Little steps, strength in numbers, the tales we tell ourselves

Before I ramble, I’d like to say that I know there are comments awaiting replies. You see, right now, despite the fact my rational brain knows that most people care about me, the thought of looking at comments and facing the possibility that someone might have said something that my brain tells me I can’t cope with is panic-inspiring. (There’s a reason why the words ‘social anxiety’ have been adopted by various professionals working with me … which is kind of absurd, since I get paid to fucking talk to and at people, and have just finished a course that involves, in essence, facilitating people talking to each other, largely by means of talking. But that negative evaluation thing in relation to anything I do online? Man.) Since that panic means I don’t write at all, I’ve made a deal with myself. Right now, I get to write posts, and I get to work my way back to writing posts on a regular basis, and when I’m comfortable with that as a process I can start poking at the next terrifying thing (comments, commenting on other people’s posts). So, yes, I’m deeply sorry that I’m ignoring you, and you’d better believe I feel like shit about it, and I’m grateful for your love, concern, empathy, time, effort and thoughtfulness, but … well, online social interaction is more frightening for me than talking to strangers in a classroom or at a con. I’ve actually done really well to get back to a point where my phone is mostly on and I can mostly reply to text messages!

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A return to the world of monsters

(As a prologue, this post goes out to the people of my ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – group, for their encouragement when I spoke about my blog and the fears that have kept me from writing. Also to Julia Kyle, who just doesn’t give up on me. Thank you for making me feel as though I can, maybe, re-become my warrior-writer self.)

I wish I didn’t have to begin with this literal title.

I wish it with all my heart.

At first … at first I thought it would be okay, moving back to my parents’ place. It would only be for six months or so; I’ve got a room at a mate’s place, back in my beloved Melbourne, as soon as his sister moves out. It would give me time to recover from how severe my anxiety and depression have gotten, living in a space where I have to worry less about the basic struggles of just looking after myself. It would give me time to worry less about money, at least in theory, and work on finding a second job so I can support myself with fewer stresses. It would only be for six months. Endurable, right?

Oh, the lies we tell ourselves when we have no other option!

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