Perfectly Broken

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Lately I’ve been dealing with a lot of depression, anxiety, and self-loathing, and I figured I’d talk about it here, because chances are other folks go through this too and it’s always helpful to know one is not alone. General content warning for the post.

So, first: I want to say that objectively, my life is pretty great. And subjectively, too. I’m engaged to a really awesome person who respects me and my career. We live together in a nice place, in a nice neighborhood. I’ve started a new business and my career as an author is going pretty well. Overall our life is a nice thing.

But of course this does not preclude shitty things happening to us, and of course our lives are not 100% great. There are definitely areas that are causing some long-term stress and, for me at least, depression, anxiety, and all those other fun things I get to deal with already for no particular reason. Except now they’re being given a reason, and I’m finding my already fragile mental state being poked at constantly.

The main thing that’s poking the bear of mental illness for me right now is my physical state. Some of you know that almost 3 years ago I suffered a spinal injury. That’s actually not entirely accurate; the injury itself happened in 2009. It didn’t flare up like a fireworks show, however, until 2012, leaving me bedridden and unable to walk for weeks. After a lot of hard work in physiotherapy, I slowly was able to walk with a walker for short bursts, and then longer bursts, and then finally upgraded to a cane. I’ve been walking with a cane since 2012, though there have been times when I’ve been able to go without for a short period of time.

Likely, had I continued with the physio after getting to that state of wellness, I would eventually have gotten to a point where I could walk without a cane, and probably get somewhere near the state of health I was at before the injury knocked me down. Even in the years I had the injury but it hadn’t flared up I was doing pretty well, despite the new, sharp, knife-twisting pain in my lower spine that I had chalked up to “Another weird permutation of the chronic back pain I’ve had my entire life because genetics is a shitty lottery.”

But I didn’t continue with the physio. I quit in 2012. This wasn’t because I wanted to, or because I thought I was done: I wanted to continue and knew I needed more. But I could not find a new physiotherapist when I went back to Nanaimo after staying in Coquitlam for several weeks, and not only that — the price went up. You only get a few visits at the reduced rate with a doctor’s prescription, you see, and I would need to continue to go every week to see progress.

Fifty dollars a week is too steep for me. Then, and now.

So for 2 years I have lived no where near what “normal” is for me, just dealing with the pain, taking a strong painkiller on the days when I can’t move without it, and continuing to do things that are probably contraindicated for my spine’s condition but hey, what else am I going to do? My social life has dropped off considerably and my ability to do a lot of things in a short period of time has gone to zilch, approximately. I now need a few days to recover after an event that wouldn’t have left me winded 3 years ago.

It has been an adjustment, to say the least. I still overextend myself because I am used to a body that can handle more than it can. And though mentally I have gotten better since it first happened, I still have dark nights of the soul.

So when I broke my leg this summer — 3 months exactly as of this coming Saturday — I slipped into depression again.

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Your Diet is Boring and Sad (and triggering)

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ETA, September 17th: Comments are off for this post for the foreseeable future.

Trigger warning for eating disorders, diet culture, child abuse, emetophobia, and fatphobia.

I don’t know how to start this post, aside from the trigger warning. I know it will need it; I’m talking about things that are hard for me to even think about, let alone speak about. But I don’t know where to begin.

Do I begin at the beginning (for me) — when I was 2 and encountered severe trauma related to food? When I was screamed at for getting dessert on Christmas, when I was so upset I threw up all my food?

That is where it started for me, my rocky relationship with food. Imagine, being told by your loving mother you can have a fancy eclair because you ate enough of your Christmas dinner and it is, after all, bloody Christmas, and then having the other parent in your life unleash a torrent of his abuse on you both until your little body can’t take the stress and you just lose it, everywhere.

That wasn’t the only time my biological sire made me vomit with his anger, either (or his reckless driving). To this day, strong negative emotions and, especially, angry men make me sick to my stomach.

I suppose it’s strange I never developed bulimia, not really. There was a period of time when I was vomiting after every meal, like clockwork, and sometimes it was induced, but it wasn’t bulimia. It was me feeling physically sick all the time, and needing some relief. As suddenly as it appeared in my life, it disappeared.

No, instead, I developed binge eating disorder and, much later, anorexia.

My father didn’t stop when I was two, you see. He continued to abuse me in many ways throughout my childhood and adolescence, including at the dinner table, in restaurants — really, anywhere food was involved, he made sure to give me a complex about eating.

His excuse? I was being spoiled rotten by my mom and Oma, he said. Or I was getting too fat, or eating too much sugar. Or any other reason he could come up with to abuse me for daring to want food.

Abusers always find it easy to justify their actions. It’s for your own good. Always for your own good. It was for my own good when he took me to get a treat at Dairy Queen, said I could order whatever I wanted, and then took that food away from me when I had it and ate it in front of me, saying I couldn’t have it because I was ‘getting fat.’ It was for my own good when he screamed at me at the dinner table because I was ‘too fat’, making me cry and feel too sick to my stomach to eat — which he then yelled at me some more about, because I was a wimp who was crying and why wasn’t I eating? He’d slaved over the stove to make that food so I better eat it or he’d give me something to cry about.

It was for my own good when he made me sit at the dinner table until I finished my food, even though I told him I didn’t like squash, not at all, not a little bit, I had to eat it because it was good for me. And when my step-siblings came in from their after-dinner swim at the pool and saw me sitting there — I was determined to sit there all night, and hoped I peed on the chair, hoped for that small revenge — they told me to take the food and just throw it in the compost, and lie about eating it! I said no — he’d know, he always knew, nothing was safe — but they took it and did it for my anyway, and then dad came back into the room and pulled out squash covered in coffee grinds and other organic waste and force fed it to me, holding my mouth shut until I swallowed it.

It was for my own good when he force-fed me salmon and called me a wimp and weakling for not liking it. To this day, the smell of salmon makes me want to vomit and cry.

He was convinced that every time he put another landmine in my brain with his actions, he was doing it for my own good. He swore up and down that someday, I’d thank him.

Well, he was wrong about most things, so add that to the list.

The for your own good narrative doesn’t stop with my father, though. It continues on every day I am forced to interact with people who have bought into the propaganda of our fat hating culture. Shaming me for my food choices is for my own good. Constantly talking about diets is for my own good. Maybe, if they make me feel enough shame, I will magically lose weight. That’s the belief, so it’s easy to justify with for your own good.

This is all true, and it’s probably important background for this tale. But is that where I start? Is this the best place to begin for this particular story?

Let’s start again, maybe.

Google+ has a function that shows you things from people you haven’t circled. Other people you have circled click the plus button on shares, and those things might show up in your feed. You can’t turn this off, to my knowledge, though I have posted asking people for help finding out if you can.

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Getting a straight answer from a doctor

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Post Doctor's appt selfie. This is my "well that was a depressing waste of energy" face.

Me, post-doctor’s appointment. My “that was a depressing waste of energy” face.

It’s not easy. I feel that’s one way The Doctor is very much like regular doctors — give you a straight answer when you ask a question? MADNESS

But, finally, I did. Yesterday, at my follow-up appointment at the cast clinic. After he told me that I’d probably have to be in the brace and off my feet until October, basically (so, a bit longer than originally thought), I finally got an answer regarding the possibility of ligament or meniscus damage:

They don’t know.

They won’t know until my fracture is healed up, because they can’t do an examination to figure out if the ligaments or meniscus are damaged without risking further damage to the fracture. So in several weeks, I may get an answer to that question.

I’m guessing it’s going to be “Yes, your knee is damaged,” mostly because my knee still feels like it’s been smashed with a hammer and I can’t bend my leg without extreme pain.

But apparently the reason they kept avoiding my questions about the knee was because they didn’t know and couldn’t tell me for a while. Which is all I wanted to know! Just an answer, any answer.

So now I know it’s still on the table, the possibility of more severe damage, and I just have to wait and see what happens. And in the meantime, don’t put any pressure on the broken leg.

This weekend we’re picking up a wheelchair for me and maybe getting me a proper shower at the in-laws’ place. If I’m up to it, Mr. Katje might even take me out for dinner at our favourite restaurant.

I’m honestly pretty excited about the wheelchair. Apparently it has a leg rest on the left hand side, which already makes it a million times better than those stupid hospital wheelchairs. (Yes, I totally have the muscle strength to just hover my leg straight out the entire time I’m in that thing. Not.)

I don’t mean to sound bitter about our experience with BC medical this time around. I’m getting the help I need. I’m just frustrated and tired of being cooped up in a chair 24/7, and looking at another 2 months of being cooped up like this.

Book has been proofed, as of last night. now to change the files and ship em off.

I think I went through 5 stacks of post-it notes.

So, I’m trying to set my brain to productivity. Namely, edits, rewrites, and writing fresh words (and, on the other side of the business: publishing). I’m just finishing up the work for a book by Kaimana Wolff, called Broken Sleep. It’s a really good book, even if the subject matter is hard for me to take. I said in my review that it’s a harrowing exposé of abuse, and I stand by that. It needed a lot of proofing, though, as you can no doubt tell by the picture. Right now it’s on round 3 of proofs. I’m waiting to hear back from the author, and then I can finish up work on it.

If you want to get an ebook ARC — advance reading copy — you can sign up for one here. They will be sent out as soon as I’m done with the ebook formatting.

Regarding my own writing, currently I’m working hard on The Jade Star of Athering. When I started re-writes there were 9 entirely new parts I had to write. Now there are 4, along with the various continuity edits and smaller rewrites within the finished chapters. For the record, editing and re-writing Jade Star has been like trying to marathon through a swamp filled with eels and unspeakable horrors. I am never doing vomit-out-words-and-fix-it-in-post writing again — after this, I’m going back to the much-more-natural-for-me edit-as-I-go style of writing. Fixing it in post is torture.

After I finish my edits and rewrites, I’ll be sending off the manuscript to my editor for the first round of edits. When she’s done, it’ll be time for beta readers to have at it. Once I’ve implemented beta feedback, it goes for its final round of edits, and then I start the publishing process. It’s at this point I release an ARC for advance readers. During the publishing process, we proof the manuscript several more times (and likely find more errors). Hopefully by the time release day rolls around there are no more errors left. (I say hopefully, because we are human.)

When Jade Star is off with the editor and beta readers, I’ll be focusing on finishing up the first draft of From the Ashes, sequel to Stranger Skies. I have a deadline of the end of the year to finish the first draft, but if I’m lucky I’ll get it done sooner.

I’ve got a lot of writing projects planned out for the next year or so. I really want to finish Jade Star and From the Ashes soon because I have another book I’m starting in November — Anala, the sequel to Jade Star and third book in The Third Age. It’s going to need to be outlined very carefully, however, as it happens during the same time period as Book 4 (which is so far untitled).

There’s a lot more on my plate, writing wise, but if I outlined my entire year’s plan here then I’d have no choice but to stick with it and I like to give myself some leeway for failure. (Insert winky face here.) Accountability is great, so long as I’m making myself publicly accountable for things I know I can accomplish.

So right now it’s just a matter of keeping busy with what matters to me, which thankfully is something I can still do while I have a broken leg. I have to be grateful for that — my passion doesn’t involve using my leg. I can still work on it even when injured and chair-ridden.

-Katje

PS: If you want to be first to hear about release dates, tours, events, etc for both my mother and me, then you should sign up for our mailing list. It comes out about once a month, and it gives you the opportunity to sign up to receive ARCs before anyone else can, or to pre-order first. Also, you get 2 free ebooks for signing up. July’s is set to come out in the next couple days, so sign up soon!

Worst. Birthday Gift. Ever.

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The title is better if you imagine it being read in Comic Book Guy’s voice.

Long and short of my trip to the cast clinic is yes, I have a broken femur, there is apparently no tendon or ligament damage, and no, I cannot have a plaster cast, because my leg is shaped weird.

Yes, you read that right: I have a weird leg. The plaster cast will not stay on it properly, just as the immobilizer of doom does not stay on it properly — but, the doctor says, the immobilizer will likely be more comfortable, and I can take it off from time to time. There’s also a chance my leg could swell again, which would be very uncomfortable in plaster, apparently.

I have to stay off my leg for 6 weeks. I cannot put any weight on it. I can rest my foot on the floor if I’m sitting, but beyond that? Nope. Nope nope nope.

But anyway, besides all that — let’s focus on what’s really important. I have weird legs, guys. WEIRD LEGS. I can’t even argue with the doctor on this one because he’s right. I’m a freak of nature.

legs

See? This is right after it happened, too, so you can see the amount of swelling in the left leg. But that bend inwards at the knee? It’s super pronounced. When standing straight the edges of my feet almost line up with my hips, and the knees bend inwards to touch each other. And the kneecap is super high up. I know, because I saw it on my CT scan. IT WAS WEIRD.

Also there’s the fact that my legs are sort of shaped like cones, with the tiny end pointing down.

WEIRD LEGS, GUISE. ::does spooky arms::

After the cast clinic we headed home, and this is the conversation we had in the car (this was after my crying breakdown in the hospital).

Me: So this is the worst birthday gift I’ve ever gotten myself.

Mr. Katje: That’s what you get for getting it so early! And now you can’t even take it back.

Me: Nope, I’m stuck with it. Buyer’s remorse or what.

Anyway. I am immobilized for six weeks. In 2 weeks I have to see the doctor again so he can see how the leg is doing. But basically, no nothing for Katje until the end of August.

I have some projects to keep me busy while I’m stuck without a working leg. A big one is writing. I’m trying to get my word count up this month. (I’m participating in Get Your Words Out and I’ve pledged to write 150,000 words this year. So far I’m at just over 80,000.)

Things I'm working on today: writing....

Text from a short story I’m working on.

Another big one is editing and publishing — related to the first, of course, but I’m not always editing or publishing my own works, so it deserves a separate category. Right now I’m proofing Broken Sleep by Kaimana Wolff, and editing/revising The Jade Star of Athering, sequel to Bellica.

I’m also trying to get caught up on my reading. I read very slowly, but with not much else to do I might read more than one book this month. One can hope, anyway.

And finally, I’m powering through Stargate SG-1. I adore this show. I am on season 7, please no spoilers in the comments. (I realize it’s 17 years old but I’ve been able to keep myself relatively spoiler free.)

...and Stargate SG-1. (that shld rly say dreamboat tbh. Mmmmm, Teal'c.)

Mmmm, Teal’c.

Anyway, this is my summer. All this, and no showering (at least until I get the shower chair from Oma’s old place). Don’t visit. Your nose will never forgive you.

If you do want to brighten my summer up, however, you can nominate my book, Stranger Skies, for the awards for which it’s eligible! (Assuming you’ve read it. If you haven’t read it, most of the Advance Reading Copy is available to read here. All of the chapters will be released by October 5th.) Details in this post at my Livejournal. The deadline for one of the awards is July 15th, but the others have more time.

Now that would be the best. birthday gift. ever.

-Katje

Distraction is the better part of valor

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In about 6 hours I have an appointment with a doctor at the hospital’s cast clinic. They may be upgrading me from this monstrosity of foam and velcro to a proper plaster cast.

I had to go into the hospital again on Monday morning — a phone call at 5 am told me that they’d missed something on the x-rays and needed a CT to confirm. Turns out I do have a break — a femoral condyle fracture. I broke my femur.

However, I still don’t know if I also have tendon or ligament tears or if all the excruciating pain was from the fracture. There is also still the issue of the slipping/grinding noise/pain that happened that night at emerge when my knee was bent for too long. Since then my leg has been kept straight by the immobilizer, so it hasn’t happened again, but I’ll be asking the doctor about it. I don’t want a possible bone dislocation or something else to get missed.

If it is just a broken bone, then things have improved dramatically. Yes, my summer is still ruined, and yes I’ll still have to spend my birthday in a cast, at home, likely stinky from lack of regular showering (I showered on Monday with the help of Mr. Katje; I doubt I’ll have the energy to do so more than once a week, leastwise not until I’m able to get the shower seat from Oma’s old place). If there’s no ligament damage, I won’t be facing quite as much physiotherapy as before thought.

But I still don’t know. And until I know, I’m not letting myself get too optimistic. The fact is regardless the full extent of the injury, I’m going to be down and out for the next several months. Recovery, whether incredibly long with a torn ligament or comparatively short with just a fracture, is still going to be long, slow, and hard.

In the meantime I have fallen into a deep depression over this. I feel useless and helpless and like a burden, and I hate feeling these things. When it was just a spinal injury I wasn’t the most active of people, but I could still do my part. I was in pain daily but I could move about and get things done. Now the most I can do is sit around in a recliner all day, trying not to move my leg too much in the immobilizer-that-doesn’t-immobilize.

I am trying to fling myself into writing, editing, and publishing — useful, productive things I can do. It hasn’t cured the depression but it does distract me from it for a little while.

Distraction is currently my best weapon against despair. Instead of sitting and staring into space, thinking about how much this fucking sucks, I open my computer and work, or turn on the TV and watch Stargate and let the absolute adorableness of Teal’c carry me away from my problems.

How the Amoeba Cat became a creature made of spun glass

My leg in an immobilizer.
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Content warning: this is an incredibly depressing post about the injuries I’ve suffered over the past 2 years. It’s also rather graphic. Do not read if you suffer from emetophobia (fear of vomiting), for one, or if you don’t want to read anything somewhat TMI. I also talk about depression, suicidal thoughts, and I do not end this post on a happy note. This is not an inspirational story of overcoming adversity. It is a matter of fact telling of things that happened to me and how much they fucking suck.

~

As most of you know, I have a spinal injury. It happened, I believe, in 2009, but somehow didn’t flare up till 2012. Bodies are weird. I’m quite sure it was 2009 because that’s the only time it could have happened — there was a drunken theatre party and a few of my compatriots decided to start wrestling and landed on my head. I felt my entire spine compress, a line of loud pops ringing out from my neck to my pelvis.

The pain was short-lived, so I didn’t think much of the incident. The fact that afterwards I started feeling a new pain in my lower back whenever I walked uphill or anywhere for a long period of time was easily ignored: I’ve had chronic back pain since I was 9 or 10. This was obviously just a new permutation of it. I ignored it.

It was in January, 2012, after I got home from my trip to Orlando, Florida, that the spinal injury finally made its presence fully known — 3 bulging discs in the lumbar region — and I became a self-proclaimed cripple. (Was it the rides I went on at Universal Studios that finally tripped the back into full blown agony? Or was it the 3 feet of snow I had to drag my heavy, Harry Potter-merchandise-laden suitcase through when I got home to cold Nanaimo? We may never know.)

I was bedridden for weeks and it was only with physiotherapy was I able to walk again, albeit with a cane. I completed my theatre show, knowing it would likely be my last. I adore acting and I always give 110% to any role I’m in. The reality of my life post-injury is that I must always be careful, and I cannot trust myself to be careful if I’m in a show. Whatever the director asks for, I will do. I cannot set boundaries; I sacrifice myself on Dionysos’ altar.

I stopped going to physiotherapy — not because I was done with it, or because I wanted to stop, but because it’s not covered by MSP and I have no extra insurance. Each visit is in the ballpark of 50 dollars, and I would have to go a few times a week for several months to get the sort of results — back to a degree of normal living — that I want.

Instead I’ve tried to remain as active as my back will allow me to be, and kept as positive a worldview as I can. I was suicidally depressed during my weeks of being bedridden, crying into my mother’s arms about how my life was ruined and I would never be the same. My youth was over — something I felt I never really had in the first place; a childhood cut short by the trauma of an abusive father and an 11-year long divorce. My 20s was when I started to reclaim some of what I’d lost, and now that, too, was cut short, by a body that was broken.

But I had come to a point where I was finally starting to feel better about my different life, and I had begun a job search for work outside the home — something I didn’t think I’d be able to do again. (I get zero assistance, even though I’m permanently disabled.) Maybe after I got a job I would even be able to afford physiotherapy, I dreamed. Maybe within 6 months I would be able to walk without the cane.

Then on Friday, July 4th — Independence Day! The irony burns — after coming home from driving Mr. Katje to pick up his truck from the mechanic’s, I slipped and fell in the kitchen. My leg twisted severely, and I was racked with pain so terrible I screamed uncontrollably for 5 minutes.

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I was homeschooled. It was pretty cool. Can we stop with the dominant narrative that it is awful?

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Last month, this post and various posts relating to it made the rounds on the internet. I don’t think I need to tell you my reaction; if you’ve been paying attention at all you’ve figured out I’m a sex-positive feminist. What happened at that girl’s prom is bullshit.

What interests me more right now is the reactions to the post. They’ve been varied, but something I’m seeing pop up now and again — and by “now and again” I mean “pretty often” — is the reaction of “It was a homeschool group, so of COURSE this makes sense — they’re all religious fundamentalist nuts.”

In fact, it seems that nowadays whenever the word “homeschooling” is even breathed online people are quick to jump all over it as the worst experience ever: religiously repressive, misogynistic, downright abusive. And when I’ve responded to that with “That is not my experience at all, nor the experience of many of the other people I know who have been homeschooled,” it’s made clear that my experience doesn’t matter — because what does matter, apparently, is that people from the South and Eastern United States will assume all those horrible things when I say homeschooling. So I should prepare myself for their responses. Even after I’ve explained that’s not the universal experience. I understand, of course, that there ARE homeschooling cultures that are like that, but it’s not everywhere.

It doesn’t matter that I explain this. The people with these reactions have already made up their minds. They have already decided that homeschooling is bad — and because they haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary (ie, people like me telling our stories), they have trouble believing it.

I can’t speak for others with positive homeschooling experiences, but for myself I haven’t done any big reveal on it because…it was a good experience. I felt no need to process past events via writing, as I often do with my trauma and abuse. It was one of the good parts of my life. So, naturally, I tend to carry the assumption that if I do mention in passing I was homeschooled, or that I plan on homeschooling my kids, the first reaction from folks won’t be to jump on me and tell me homeschooling is awful and I should reconsider doing it because it is categorically awful, no exceptions ever. This is a logical assumption on my part: before the majority of my interactions were on the internet, they were in person, on the West Coast or Hawai’i — places where people don’t have those sorts of biases against homeschooling.

Now, though, if I mention I was homeschooled I have to immediately launch into qualifications: “It’s different out west; it wasn’t religious at all; my mom is a Buddhist; it was totally secular.” And people still sideeye me like I’m the creature from the fundamentalist lagoon. Heavens forfend I mention wanting to homeschool (or unschool) my future spawn — then I’m a terrible parent who’s going to set up my children for years of therapy! Pretty impressive that I’m breaking all the Good Mom Rules, seeing as I’m not even a parent yet.

So, can we stop? Can we stop with the POV of the South and Eastern United States as being the dominant narrative? And maybe the Midwest too; those terms are sort of nebulous to me, to be honest. One thing I do know, as a resident of the West: in conversations online with United Statesians further east from this coast, on any topic, more often than not my experiences and opinions are consistently dismissed. “Well it’s not the MAJORITY,” I get told. Because “majority” apparently equals not only USian, but eastern USian.

(I see this sort of attitude directed towards west coasters in the US, too — not just Canadians. And yes, of course, not every eastern USian does this — but enough do that I’ve noticed a pattern. One that is tiring me out greatly.)

Dear people who have been homeschooled in really sucky or even abusive situations:

I am sorry. I really am. No one should ever have to go through that, and I understand you might have a kneejerk reaction to the word “homeschooling.”

But it would be really, really great if you could remember that regional (and individual!) differences play a huge role in determining how much homeschooling is going to suck or not suck — and out West, at least in my experience, homeschooling is largely seen as a positive, secular experience done by forward-thinking parents.

I’m not going to tell you your experience was positive, or your parents were forward-thinkers. I’m not going to tell you your experience.

Please stop telling me mine.