Mental illness

Be Aware! Autism!

April is Autism Awareness Month.

 

Remember to be unaware of autism between 1 May and 31 March!

 

Some activists are trying to change the narrative to “autism acceptance month.” I can’t say I disagree, because yes, I am “aware” of autism. I am also aware of rabid dogs, my allergy to orange peel, and of the slugs in our garden. I’d argue, however, that “autism,” as in the word itself, is already widely accepted. Autistic people, not so much.

Among many other fun things, about which I’ll write some other time, autism is a communication disorder.

#ActuallyAutistic people are only acceptable to most neurotypicals (NTs) when our lives are either a motivational “success” story or a tragedy.

 

Autism is accepted when it’s either undetectable or crippling

We don’t understand and we don’t know what we’ve done or what you mean. When we ask questions, we do so to learn how to make you more comfortable. We adapt our behaviour and reshape ourselves based on this feedback. This costs us a lot of energy and destroys our sense of self. If you don’t tell us what you want us to be, we won’t know. We won’t earn the “you don’t look autistic” prize. (I told Husby that the next time we hear this he should say “Bjørn, please perform An Autism for the lady.”)

How to earn a burnout

So I went and gave myself a burnout, because I don’t learn.

I’ve sent the next Why Odin Drinks story to my editor and decided to tackle the genre that I’ve always found the most difficult: romance. I’ve done a lot of reading first, both of craft books and various sorts of other authors’ romances, noting what I did or didn’t like. I settled on sweet (nothing sexual happens on the page) m/m (it didn’t work, gay men have too many cocks to spend the night cuddling without at least one’s interest getting aroused, so it’s sweet-with-heat now). I started writing the first draft and here’s where I made the same mistake I always make: I stopped watching what I was doing.

I can, as in I am able to, work approximately three hours a day. Unfortunately, tasks that for most people are either unnoticeable or, at worst, irritating chores constitute work for me. Folding the laundry; cleaning the bathroom; cooking something more complicated than an egg; taking a shower; often simply reading. Therapy, obviously. Unfortunately writing is also on that list.

It’s escapism, I love doing it, and it exhausts my energy without me noticing, because I don’t want to notice. If you love your work, it isn’t work anymore, we all know that. So I’ve spent two weeks drafting my romance, navigating the complications and changing the plot as I went, and accidentally completing NaNoWriMo (fifty thousand words – an average romance novel clocks at 60-80 thousand) within two weeks. I wrote every day, of course – “you’re only a real writer if you write every day!” Then, to nobody’s surprise but mine, I crashed. Badly.

Spooning around

First things first: the blog tour organised by Rachel’s Random Resources is now over, it went swimmingly, and I recommend Rachel’s services to everyone who needs to get thoroughly blog toured. Thanks so much to everyone involved for giving me your time and space on your blogs!

A blog tour in itself is a very strange experience. Thirty people – three a day – reviewed the book, posted excerpts, there was a giveaway (congratulations if you’ve won!), interviewed me. Even though I mostly retweeted and shared other people’s articles, I actually felt like I was really touring, unsure where I was on the given day, have I remembered to thank the blogger yet, copying links, worrying that I’ll oversaturate the internet with myself… I wonder if Kim Kardashian ever feels this way?

I can’t figure out why I can absolutely imagine appearing on Graham Norton (with Travis Fimmel and Jason Momoa, I’m sitting in the middle, thanks Graham bae xx), but being asked “what is your favourite book and why” throws me into a slight breakdown. It’s The Hours by Michael Cunningham, but whyyyyyyy other than “it’s sooooooooo good”?! How do I answer this in a sufficiently intellectual way? Where is my coffee? Who are those people? Is that a light I see? Mum?

And now I need a break.

 

Spoonie life

The things I wrote about in the previous post got resolved, mostly, but they took their toll.

I did not get surgimacated. We went to see the doctor, who looked, harrumphed, confirmed that indeed it looks like I might need surgery, then tried to schedule me for November. I pride myself on being infallibly polite, but for once I didn’t manage and let out through clenched teeth that this means I can celebrate the second anniversary of the first failed surgery on September 6. Now I am getting surgimacated on July 30.

The electricity is back and oh boy, I did not know that I could feel a twang of excitement when I press the light switch and the lights in the kitchen switch ON. And! They switch OFF when I press again! What kind of luxury?!

That draft of Children that I was finishing at breakneck pace before the end of June broke me somewhat. I’ve written myself into a semi-burnout. Now that the tour is over and our electricity functions life doubled up. We will be moving within a few months, which means that a lot of the things I’ve planned to do must go on hold. I withdrew from an anthology, I will not be working on the Storytellers audiobook anytime soon, I will hopefully probably maybe finish the soundtrack for the novel sometime in the future… We don’t even have that house yet, we’re not packing anything, the most exhausting thing right now is waiting and trying to decide how to set up the furniture in the living room. I still took weeks to write this blog post, even though it is neither particularly informative nor life-enhancing. Because in addition to being incredibly attractive and an Artistè, I am also a spoonie.

Write what you know: depression and anxiety

You’re broken, the darkness taunted him. You don’t know how to live like normal people. No wonder nobody loves you. When you die nobody will remember you. That will be your legacy, said the darkness, its disembodied voice filled with fake pity.The lead protagonist of my novel Storytellers, a blacksmith called Gunnar, suffers from depression, social anxiety, and possibly a form of PTSD. Today we would be able to steer him gently towards a medical professional of some sort – that is, if he managed to break through the internalised stigma of having to be a Strong Man Who Needs No Help Ever. But Gunnar was born in 1888, the novel takes place in 1920, and all he knows about his condition is that 1) it makes him “not normal” and 2) he can never, ever tell anybody about it.

Back then

In 1917, Freud “believed that a person’s unconscious anger over his loss leads to self-hatred and self-destructive behavior. He felt that psychoanalysis could help a person resolve these unconscious conflicts, reducing self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. Other doctors during this time, however, saw depression as a brain disorder”. (Source: verywellmind). As time passed, around 1920 “treatments for severe depression were generally not enough to help patients, leading many people desperate for relief to have lobotomies, which are surgeries to destroy the frontal portion of the brain”. Another technique used back then were electroshocks.

Gunnar lives on the outskirts of a small town. The local doctor, despite trying to keep up with the medical news, wouldn’t be able to administer electroshocks or lobotomy. In any case, he would first have to know what Gunnar suffers from, but the blacksmith can’t find words to describe how he feels. His depression comes and goes, and he refers to it as “the darkness”. His social anxiety manifests in ways that he doesn’t realise are even related to people – he thinks he’s afraid of objects, not understanding he is afraid of what would happen (according to his subconscious) if he accidentally broke or stained something that belonged to somebody else.

Fight for Valhalla

TW: mentions of rape, suicide, mental illness

First, a disclaimer: I have nothing in common with this project other than the fact I am very happy to see it’s happening. Here’s the IndieGoGo campaign page. Please consider supporting the movie.

I have often seen kids, I mean – Internet users arguing on various forums about which of them is more Valhalla-worthy. As we all know, Valhalla is the enormous hall in Asgard, where the bravest of the warriors chosen by Odin dwell until Ragnarök, spending their days fighting, eating, drinking, being resurrected, I think I got the order incorrectly but nevermind. A large fraction of people tend to understand all this very literally, envisioning medieval warriors with axes and shields – and nothing more modern than that. They then get into heated discussions about whether uncle Sam who fought in Afghanistan for two years is going to Valhalla if he didn’t actually kill anybody and he came back alive. (Some also get into heated discussions about whether killing others in The Witcher counts.)

First of all, for the sake of uncle Sam I hope he isn’t going to Valhalla, because PTSD is a real thing and being forced to spend an eternity fighting and killing all over again isn’t going to make uncle Sam happy at all.

I\’ll be back right after this break

A young (ahem) writer reads about promotion, building a brand, social media presence, regularly updated blog/website. The young writer makes a list of things he is able to do on top of the actual writing. And then the young writer gets really, really ill and everything goes to hell.

As you may have heard, I have a book coming out soon. I’ve prepared a marketing plan, started work on the soundtrack, the final – hopefully – version is still with my editor and should be here soon so that I can send it to the proofreader. (By the way, I will be writing about the whole process soon.) The cover is ready. The text is almost ready.

I am not ready.

Deconstructing \’Vikings\’: Floki

Warning: contains multiple spoilers for Vikings seasons 1-5!!!

If you’ve been watching the History Channel’s Vikings series, you couldn’t have possibly not noticed Floki (later referred to as Flóki), the humble boat-builder who loves to brag, the biggest believer in the Gods, the fan of make-up and his wife Britney Spears. I mean, Helga. As so often with Vikings, Flóki is based on an actual person, Hrafna-Flóki Vilgerðarson (Raven-Flóki, son of Vilgerd).

Okay, spoilers ahead, click the button below before proceeding…

Writing while depressed

I’m writing about depression, because they say “write what you know”. But this advice probably applies to most of us who suffer from various sorts of chronic or recurring illness.

A while ago, I saw a recommendation for a book. I will not quote the title or the author for obvious reasons. The gist of the advice provided was “I know it’s difficult, but you just need to work harder and everything will be hunky dory” coupled with “…and if you don’t work hard enough, then it’s your own fault, enjoy your depression”. (Oh, and “buy my books”.) I managed to get to page 11, therefore I am not qualified to give the full masterpiece a 1-star review. On page 11 the author took someone’s suicide note and applied his wisdom to it, noting – I am paraphrasing, don’t google that – that perhaps if the dead author in question had access to useful resources, such as that book, everything might have been fine. The quotes that appear on previous pages can be summed up with “oh, I get depressed, but that’s awesome because it gives me so much insight into myself and improves my creativity, I am so grateful for depression!”.

This is not depression. It’s called navel-gazing. For a person suffering from actual depression this book is actively dangerous.

Depression is an illness that often kills.

Again, there’s no need to quote names of people who were famous, successful, appeared perfectly happy, had money, family, whatever else you could possibly dream of, then died of depression. Their loved ones – and people who have never experienced depression – called them cowards for committing suicide. They didn’t understand that it wasn’t “committing suicide” any more than dying of cancer is “committing suicide”. Death is the final result of the untreated depression and is often brought forward by the sort of good advice provided in the book I mentioned above.

So…what is a creative person supposed to do when they’re depressed?

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