Re: Grief and That Painting

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(Painting by Matthew Jackson)

There’s this thing in my head that I can’t quite put into words, and I’m not entirely sure I want to.
I originally wrote this in my journal. It’s that kind of personal.

But I feel now that I have to say something, to explain why I can’t accept… I don’t know. I have to speak.

It’s buried too far in, somewhere cool and dark and private. I want to talk about it sometimes but I can’t. It’s too personal, too raw. Just writing about it feels like I’m glorifying or dramatising it and maybe that’s why I keep quiet about it. I don’t want to soil this truly, painfully raw thing with the dressing of the world. I don’t want it to be seen or heard or witnessed by anyone but those who understand and appreciate it.

There’s this painting dad created, of he and I at the candlelight vigil after Rachelle’s death. He shared it on facebook and I feel exposed- not so much in a malicious, malignant way, but like my tragic superhero backstory is just there for anyone to see.

Except they don’t.

Captured in that painting is the precious aching real thing in me and none of them can see it, can understand. I can’t call it beautiful. I see myself in it in clearer detail than I see myself in the mirror.

A sees it, A understands, but she’s like me. It’s this common thread between us, our traumatised childhoods and our terminally ill parents. L has it too. This thing, this quiet, bleeding thing, but because it’s ours we never speak of it. It’s not done. It’s barely even acknowledged.

It’s like it’s secret, but it’s not. Rather, it’s secreted away. Protected. It’s the core of our beings, an integral component to our makeup, and we carry it in our breasts the way Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne carry theirs: In plain sight, where nobody can see it.

And even with this post, it’s still perfectly, silently mine.

Emotional Landscapes

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Sometimes I feel as though I am blinded by emotion. As though each feeling is a shaft of light, and I have the brightest torch shining directly at my eyes. I find my way through a world I can’t see, as I am seeing too much of it all at once- I let my hands guide me, I knock my shins and stub my toes and stumble at the edge of the stage. I reach out and I grasp on to others as though their movements through a world I cannot see will keep me from the pain and confusion I am experiencing. It doesn’t, naturally. Most of the time I just end up hurting them as well. I’ll either hold on to them too tightly, or pull them down with me when I fall.
I can’t see. That is, I can’t feel the world through my emotions. I feel altogether too much all at once. I can’t even tell what direction the ‘light’ is coming from, only that I am dazzled and overwhelmed. I could close my eyes and block out the light entirely, but then, that would just be another kind of blindness. It would be more comfortable but also dark, a self-imposed impairment to my senses. I am afraid of the dark. I fear it would leave me cold and helpless. I have been experimenting with closing my eyes but they have been open for so long now that doing so hurts just as much. I am not very good at feeling nothing. It’s a little too much like being nothing, and when you can imagine what the world looks like without you in it… things start to get dangerous.
People like me are landmines for those who can moderate their emotions. I understand why we are to be avoided. When every feeling is like an unexpected camera flash it gets tiresome quickly. You have to be ready to be a stumbling block and a makeshift ladder, simultaneously the thing that trips us up and keeps us from falling. I understand, I truly do.
What I am learning now, however, is that it’s not the effort people are afraid of. It’s the exposure. If we can’t see, we find our way through our other senses. We feel everything or nothing. When I am with someone, I have to learn their thoughts and feelings by touch. I can’t keep my distance, because otherwise you might as well not even be there. You are wiped out, just like the rest of the world. To be emotionally involved with me, you have to be as emotionally exposed as I am. Think of an encounter with someone where instead of just looking at you, they have to touch you to identify you. There is no personal space. You can’t maintain a respectable and respectful distance. If they are to see you, they have to touch you, and that is the way it is with me and those like me. We cannot see you, only feel you. We are contagious raw nerves, live wires, wild hands searching in the bright light or the unfathomable dark.
Who in their right minds could stand to be as exposed as we are? As I am?
Who could handle that kind of intimacy and honesty, when it’s so obvious to those who watch us flailing about in our blindness that we are obviously completely out of control?
I wish I could describe the relief that comes with having a piece of the world take shape when I’ve been stumbling blindly for so long. I wish I could describe what it’s like to feel the world through another person, to run my metaphorical hands over their emotional landscapes. How much trust and wonder and joy and fear there is in touching other human beings. What it’s like to have friends and loved ones who dance close and then away again, so all you experience of them are flickers and flutters and temporary brushes against your extended fingertips. That when you’re not directly connected to them, you can’t tell where they are or if they’re even there at all.
Not to mention finding someone else as blinded as you are, and the emotional overload that comes with two people trying to experience eachother all at once. From nothing to everything, or everything to nothing? It’s madness.
Those of us who don’t break our necks navigating the emotional wilderness learn to live in a world so full of sensory information that we lose our senses. We learn to survive. We learn how to guess where someone is in our world without touching them, even though we crave to know them. I am trying to learn. I’m trying to find that strange thing people call self-respect that to me just seems like loneliness. Maybe one day I’ll stand on my own and not have to grasp the arms of those near to me to be sure of who they are.
I have to admit, I don’t want to. I want to touch the minds and hearts of everyone I meet. I want to learn who they are, to feel them, to feel with them.
I hope one day someone will be brave enough to let me.
In the mean time, I’m trying to be okay being alone.

But you don’t look…

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I’m borderline, bipolar, and autistic.
You’d think that between those three, there wouldn’t be any common ground. There is, oddly enough, a lot of shared symptoms and triggers- but that’s not my point. The commonality I want to talk about today isn’t what happens in my brain, it’s what happens in other people’s brains.

The most common phrase I hear is, “But you don’t look…”
But you don’t look autistic.
But you don’t look bipolar.
But you don’t look borderline.

The question I always want to ask in return is, “Well, what did you expect me to look like?”

I’ve had people think that I’m too smart to be autistic, too kind to be borderline, and altogether too human (I know, right?) to be bipolar. I’m expected to be completely socially inept, or emotionally manipulative, or downright violent.
These are signs of social stigma, not of who or what I am.

Autism is a spectrum. It varies wildly from person to person, and even then, from situation to situation. Personally, I feel like an alien much of the time, because unspoken rules go right over my head. I’ve had to learn most of them, and I’m still finding many that I don’t know about.
Moving house with another human? How the hell do you navigate that?
Most of my noticeable autistic traits are more to do with sensory differences. I find great pleasure in simple things like fur and water. I struggle immensely with loud crowds, because I can’t differentiate between noises. Sometimes it hurts, and I’ll cry.
I have never been violent.

Borderline personality disorder is a tougher one.
I’ve had many, many people- too many, really- tell me that when they first met me, they kept their distance. Apparently I surprised them by not being a cruel, aggressive, emotional wreck of a person.
Borderline has a terrible reputation for extreme and vicious mood swings, irrational overreaction, and manipulation taken to sociopathic levels.
What it actually is, is a rawness of emotion. We feel everything very intensely, and yes, there are a few of us who explode and take this pain straight to the perceived source: you. The main aspects of BPD are intense fears of abandonment, problems with self-identity, and suicidal ideation.
NOT, as most people have come to think of it, bunny-boiling serial killer women or sad-eyed Winona Ryder having adventures with a psychopath.
I am not an external borderline. I used to be, long before medication and therapy, but much of my borderline traits are and have always been internalised. Rather than hurt other people, I am more inclined to hurt myself- and I haven’t self harmed in a very long time.
I have never been violent.

Finally, bipolar.
Extended periods of mania and depression.
Why does bipolar have such a negative reputation?
You know what I do when I have manic episodes? I spend a lot of money, and then I clean the house at five am. Really, manic me is amazing. Last time I was manic, I studied basic chemistry for three days straight. The only thing I harm when I’m manic is my bank account.
When depressed, I’m just… Well, depressed. Everyone knows the basics of depression.

I’m running out of steam here, but that’s because my brain has been playing with words all day and needs a break. I’ll cut to the chase in a moment.

The point I’m trying to make is maybe I don’t look mental because you don’t know what that looks like. We are just people. We aren’t more dangerous, more hurtful, more self-involved than any other person. If anything, we’re more likely to hurt ourselves.

Apparently yesterday was Bipolar Day, and I figure that something needs to be said. Maybe the reason I don’t look the way you expect is because you’re looking for something that’s not there.

I’m tired of being told I don’t look autistic/borderline/bipolar.
Because I do. This is what it looks like.
Just a person, just like you.

Hush, the loop.

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Somehow we clash, we come together. The violence of our selves fuses us and forms a functional machine.

You with your lethargy, the clarity of your sharp blue eyes, the smooth movements of your hands, and me with my frenetic energy, the uncertainty in all things that makes up all of what I am. I fluctuate and flex around your sharp edges. You maintain your rigidity, your walls give me form.

I find myself falling asleep in your arms, your lap, your embrace. My eyes flutter closed even as I press my lips to yours. You flush pink. You flush pink.

I sleep. I don’t dream. The sounds of the world filter in and convince me that I am awake, truly awake.

I sleep. You flush pink.

Prisoner

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     Days passed, locked in that grand room. Liessa slept through much of it, waking only to eat or to bathe- a comfort she hadn’t realised how much she missed- or to ask the only servant for any information. The boy was small, quite young, with soft brown eyes and mousy blonde hair. The overall effect was a little disconcerting, giving him an intense, alien kind of appearance, although his expression always remained respectfully blank even in the face of Liessa’s interrogation. He would tell her nothing, politely informing her that any questions she had could be directed toward the lady of the house. She fluctuated between bribing and fury, at one point throwing a plate full of fresh vegetables and dried fish at the poor boy’s head. He hadn’t flinched, only ducked with practiced efficiency and then set about cleaning up the mess. His calmness was infuriating and frustration drove Liessa to tears. He came and went at the same times every day, regardless of her behaviour, though eventually he ceased to speak entirely.

     No one else visited the room. Guards came and went outside, the two posted at the door checking the lock whenever they changed shift. Liessa re-fractured her left shin attempting to kick it off its hinges and her short screams of pain brought no one to her aid. The guards ignored her. Her struggles were to no avail, and eventually she fell resigned to the bedroom, sleeping through the daylight hours and wasting away the night.

She had no idea what Zax-Sia did while she slept. Little had changed in the room when she woke, although the bath was often left full of chilly soapy water.

     Her healing was slow but steady, and though she ached the pain was rapidly easing, her scars fading to the faintest silver. When time moved slowly she would trace each of them, trying to remember where they all came from. Many of them she couldn’t, and she supposed they were from Jaraen’s attempts to interrogate Zax-Sia, and there were a couple on her arms from the battle for Aeskeir. The wound from her sacrifice remained open, though not gaping and foul-smelling as it had been during the early days. Every now and then she’d test how much pain she could take, reaching inside and exploring her own cool, wet organs.

     It occurred to her that perhaps this was not a thing that sane people did, but she didn’t particularly care, either. She was dead. Sanity had no place in the world of corpses.

     Time passed and eventually she lost count of the days. She noted interesting things that happened in the silence- once, something exploded nearby, and she watched smoke trailing around the city for what felt like hours. Someone was being chased. She heard the city guards yelling in the oddly mathematical languages of Shinkara.

On my dabbling in paganism… A realisation.

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I am a witch who does not work magic.

That isn’t to say I don’t believe in such things- I think magic is what’s unknown. Magic is that thing you don’t understand. If you’ve seen that video of someone crying out at the colours in the rainbow created by sprinkler mist, you’ll understand what I mean. That’s magic. I don’t practice it, but I don’t look down on those who do.

To each their own.

I am a witch who crafts.

I have no use for symbolism and prayer, at least, not by themselves. They have no service in my world. Things that are tangible, that have meaning… That’s where I work.

And it is work.

Make no mistake, so much energy (if energy is your thing, energy is… Hmm, a state of being? It heats and cools and moves the universe, a post for another time) goes into knitting, or cooking, or tending a garden. I think that’s where it takes root, this idea of magic, this metaphorical thing neo-wiccans look for in their little Llewellyn books. Where the history fits. Back when living meant working the lands and storing for winter, where keeping rats from the larder and cold from your joints determined who lived and who died. There wasn’t enough space then for useless things. Don’t get me wrong: back then, faith was far from a useless thing. Many people lived and died for faith.

That’s not the point I’m trying to make.

My craft is the tangible.

My craft is in nutrition, the chemistry that goes into the theobromine in chocolate making you feel good and the dehydration from a night of raucous drinking making you feel bad. A teaspoon of peppermint and some boiled water will settle your stomach, and rosemary will add lustre to your hair if it’s dark, or lemon to brighten the blonde.

I knit. I believe in weaving fibre to provide protection. A good scarf will keep a chill away, and after so many hours have gone into the creation of such a thing, the warmth of love will silence a Black Dog. Surely you’ve had a dark night or two where a soft blanket, made by your grandmother, eases your broken heart. A long journey in a biting winter can be gentled by threadbare gloves, gifted to you by your lover, your sibling, handed down through generations, or simply included as thanks for a far grander purchase. These things hold in them goodness as well as function, and that is where I work, that is why I work. Overlooking these things that are so substantial and intrinsic to my being is why it took me so long to understand. I put the weight in faith, and as a result I slipped and slid into the beliefs of those around me: here Wicca, there Asatru, short brief bursts of Buddhism and Catholicism and Vodoun and Thelema. They didn’t work, and I didn’t understand why.

I think I had to finally be alone to find my own way, and come to peace in myself.

I am a witch, but I don’t work magic.

I am a witch. I work my craft.

A Thought

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I am the girl who would offer her throat to the wolf with the red roses.

As it is, I have offered my throat to rats and dogs,
and gentle men,
and all have done with it as they willed.

None of them were wolves.

I would like to think now that I am not so foolish as to confuse beasts with men,
or hounds with their greater kin;

But I was foolish then,
and foolish now,
and perhaps foolish will I ever be.


I think it wise to play the fool,
and so I’ll offer my throat
to the next wolf to offer me
pretty red roses.

A Ramble: On Feeling Autistic Disruption

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I spoke to a friend about what it’s like to be autistic yesterday. We were discussing what it’s like to have circumstances change and how that throws things off for us.

I think of being autistic as being like one of those sculptures that looks like a misshapen mess unless you look at it from a certain angle. An optical illusion. Our sense of self is perceived from all possible angles- we are whole and complete, but sometimes we see ourselves from the messy angles, where all the wires and bits that stick out don’t make a coherent form. When our world is at peace and undisturbed, we are looking at life from the angle where it makes sense, where the objects and lines pull together to make something whole. When we are disrupted, that perception shifts, and what was once clear form becomes mere noise.

People entering our space, touching us without our consent, making painful noises, having confusing facial expressions… This can shift our fragile sense of stability. While yes, we are the whole sculpture, messy angles and sensible angles, our world only makes sense when it’s pulled together. When we come at it from the wrong angle, it’s just… Wrong. Upsetting. Confusing.

If we spend a long enough time in this space, it becomes distressing. Someone entering our home for an extended stay, uncomfortable clothing, loud places… These things can turn our world and leave us feeling misshapen and full of holes. We aren’t, though. We’re a whole being… Sometimes we just aren’t standing in the right spot to feel it.

Life Management for the Management Impaired

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Hello lovelies!

I thought I’d share some of my time-management stuff. I have a blog about Chittering Acres Studio in the making but it’s not ready yet, and I felt like writing a thing. I don’t know whether it’ll be helpful for anyone else, but my last post (not here) with the simple cross-off-when-done task list was quite unexpectedly popular. So, here’s how I function now that my life has changed considerably. I’m now living at home with family again, and my routine has merged with their routine. Along with that comes my uni work and a need to exert more control over my money and spending habits, since I don’t have the nice cushion of a partner to fall back on.

budget

The first image is my budget. Right now it’s a bit tight because I had to have my beloved cat put down, and vet bills are a pain in the arse. I keep it simple- things I need, things I need to pay off, and things that happen every fortnight like board and putting money aside for food if I’m out of the house. I get paid every two weeks, so I make sure to keep that in mind when working out the numbers- I don’t work out the whole month unless I have something that needs to be worked out specifically, in which case I put that in a sheet to the side. An example of something that spreads out over more than one pay period is the assorted debts. I have their general info in the main section, and then I work out how long it will take me to pay off, and in what increments. If I pay one off before the others (as you can see with the bag) the money I’d have otherwise put towards it goes towards the others instead of slipping back into my spare money pile.

Routine

The other two pictures are of the word documents I use to organise my weekly routine and my uni assignments. The weekly routine one is old because I’m neurotic about strangers knowing my movements. Never upload to the internet the times you plan to be out of the house or otherwise vulnerable, predators will take advantage of it.
My weekly routine is full of things I might not necessarily do in green. As you can see, all of my gym and exercise stuff is in green. I was never sure how many spoons I would have on any given day, so I wrote down all the possible things I might like to do should I have the ability. Other necessary tasks that I couldn’t miss out on are highlighted in purple. If I’d had other non-uni-related weekly happenings, they’d be there in blue, but as it is I’m a bit of a shut in, so the only weekly necessity I have is… Well, uni. I worked out what time of day would be best for these by tracking what times of day I spent alert and on the computer most, and what times left me the least disturbed by other people in the house. As you can see, it’s the same time every day thanks to the weekly routines of my family.

Routine2

The third picture is how I keep track of assignments. When they’re due, what parts to work on when, and when different sections of the semester start and end. I didn’t manage to capture it but I also have “Results Released” elsewhere in the document. Assignments that are yet to be done are in plain text while assignments I’ve completed are scratched out. I also change the colour of the days to grey to show which dates have passed- making it really easy to see any assignments I’ve missed or which are late. I have… More of those than I’d like.

All of these were created in either Microsoft Word or Outlook and are simple enough. I don’t have a great grasp of Outlook and I only use the default settings when making tables in Word.

Try it for yourself, and see how you find it! Good luck.🙂