Month In Review: July 2018

This month, my therapist said very blankly, “You’re depressed.” He’s right. I’m still depressed. I’m having a bit of an identity crisis as well. This review is a little late into August, but that’s okay. I’ll have a recap of August soon too. Let’s get into what I remember about July.

A celebration: I’m still here and am definitely climbing out of my rock bottom. Slowly, very slowly, reaching up to the fresh air again.

A change: Preparing for moving again. Preparing for my family moving out of province. My mental health changing because of the stress and changes.

A conflict: I’m still struggling with the right dosage for my medication. I’m also trying to balance my health management with my creative projects, which has been hard to maintain.

A relief: I’ve found a medication dosage and frequency that works for my health, along with some short term therapy.

A regret: Lack of commitment to all my projects.

A random memory: I don’t have one. This is the part that upsets me the most. I don’t… really remember anything.

August means back to work, back to school, and back out in the world again. I’m trying to keep up.

Announcement: Updates to Services, Website, and Patreon

It’s been quiet around here the last month! I’m not going to beat around the bush. I have two announcements.

Services

My editing sale has now ended! Thank you to everyone who supported my (lazy) marketing and contacted me. There will be another sale in the future, though I’m not sure of when.

I will be closed indefinitely to new clients on all projects. The soonest I may re-open my services will be October.

My available services will be changing in October, along with the rates.

Website

My blogging schedule is changing as we go into August, and then the fall and into the new year. Since I’m doing a college program from September to May, I’ll be busier! School work, part-time work, socialising… My online presence is not important compared to those.

Additionally, I will be moving to a new website (name and URL not decided yet), but that shouldn’t affect the availability of my content. It’s time that I let coryldork/CorylDork. I will let everyone know when I’m preparing to move digital abodes!

Patreon

I’ll be changing the tiers during August. To my current patrons, thank you so much for your support thus far! I’m still getting into the swing of things, and learning how many spoons I have for creating different things. Your patience, encouragement, and support have meant an incalculable amount to me.

Month In Review: June 2018

My motivation for June wasn’t the best. It felt like I lost a few weeks to my mental health. In my review for May, I mentioned some goals I had for June—and I didn’t achieve any of them. So here’s a bit on what I did instead. (Spoiler: not a lot.)

A celebration: I applied for a college certificate program. I start in September! It’s an 8-month art and design course.

A change: More renovation work at the house means lots of changes to my surroundings. The upcoming school program is also a change I need to prepare for.

A conflict: I’m still struggling with the right dosage for my medication. I’m also trying to balance my health management with my creative projects, which has been hard to maintain.

A relief: The time I’ve spent at the gym has helped with my health (mental and physical health).

A regret: My creative projects—art, writing, the blog—have not gotten the attention I wish I could have given them.

A random memory: There’s a young bunny that likes our yard and I see it outside at 8am and 8pm every time I’m looking out the window those times. It makes me happy and reminds me of my pet bunny. I’m glad the wildlife likes the property.

I have only a few goals for July: my book, my art, and my health. I’ll try and keep the blog updated! But it won’t be as active as my Patreon, where I’ll be posting more about my writing and drawings. Also: back into therapy!

Life After University

In June 2017, I officially graduated from the University of Windsor and received my Bachelor of Arts! The degree is still sitting in the envelope, unframed, and resting under my bed because I have yet to go and get it framed. Just before I got my degree, I left Windsor (in May 2017) and moved back in with my dad. Life after university has been new and different.

But it’s been one hell of a year. Let’s review.

In the summer of 2017, I ended a longterm relationship. I also started medication after self-assessing that I have bipolar—which I do! The fall of 2017 saw me take driving lessons as well as attend a mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy program. Winter was rough. But then, in February of 2018, I got my G2 licence, which meant I could drive without a co-driver. Freedom!

This has been the first full year—12 months—that I haven’t been invested on school. Summer break, a few months, didn’t count. I always looked ahead to the next semester. I don’t just mean university, either. Since I started attending educational institutions, I haven’t been out of them for more than three months. Until now.

Life after university: what’s next?

First and foremost, I’ll continue offering editing and design services. I love working with writers so much that I can’t see myself quitting the freelancer gig for a while. But I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life.

I thought I would figure out a path for myself in university. I thought that, if I took lots of different classes in what interested me, I’d find something that would connect. My degree had a lot of variety in it. Since I studied Spanish language, linguistics and second language learning, English literature, and creative writing, there were many careers I could go into. But none of them seemed to pull me in.

All through university, I kept telling myself and my friends, “I should have gone to art school.” So I’ve applied to an 8-month art program at a college. I hope I get in, but that means even more life changes. Moving again, not having a house to fall back on since my dad is moving too, and embarking on a separate industry.

Who would have thought that life after university meant considering more post-secondary school? School that wasn’t a graduate degree. I want to go to college! It’s what I should have done from the start! I kind of regret my bachelor’s degree, but I know it was still very valuable. Both the experiences and the credential are beneficial to me. But it isn’t what I thought I would do after high school.

It’s weird to not be in school, considering I’ve grown up in school all through my developmental years. Isn’t that ridiculous to think about? From around the age of 4 until 18, and further, I’ve been structured into a school system of some form. I’m scared as hell. It’s common for people my age to not know what their purpose is. It’s also common to take a while to figure out my “place” in life. I’m worried I’ll never figure it out, and that I’ll always be looking for the next thing. So I don’t know what’s next, aside from the possibility—and desire—to return to school once more.

Making Reading Private and Personal

A bookshelf that is not my "to be read" shelf.

At the start of this year, I was in a bit of a reading slump. I didn’t have much interest in any of the books I was looking forward to reading, so I switched to different books and solved my slump. But since then, I haven’t been posting what I’ve been reading (aside from tweeting about two new releases!). I do have a Goodreads account, and I have taken the time to post ratings and reviews after I finished reading a book. I also updated my status while reading, as a means of trying to make myself accountable and read a certain number of books per month.

But I’m not doing that anymore.

A few months ago, I made the decision to keep my “to be read” shelf private. I didn’t want to update on Goodreads anymore, or tweet every time I started and finished a book. This came while I was reading a collection of short stories, which I didn’t love or hate. I didn’t want to review and rate the book. Then I realised I didn’t want to do that with the next book I planned to read.

Having a TBR shelf so public, with the intention of rating and reviewing, put too much pressure on me. I felt like I needed to read the books for the purpose of reviewing them, rather than just reading! Reading was no longer a leisure activity. I started getting overly critical and nit-picky with books. It was exhausting and felt like I was studying my English degree again.

It also felt needlessly competitive, sort of? Like I needed to read faster, read more books, rate books as soon as possible, and review books with a critical essay. Reading wasn’t fun anymore when I felt like people were watching my opinion of the book. Sometimes I read books for the fun of it, and I don’t have a lot to say about them. Some books are just books. I don’t need to critique them all, and I know that, but that was the attitude I had for displaying books I was reading or planning to read. I just wanted to read!

Books can become a personal thing, whether you’re writing or reading them. So keeping the books private and to myself was a step toward that again. I don’t want to read books in order to discuss how good or bad they are. Maybe that’s why I’m not a book blogger or YouTuber—those folks do a lot of work with reviewing books! I’ve thought about adding book reviews to my blog (I posted a few way back in the day), but I’ve decided I don’t want to.

Now, with my TBR just the shelf by my bed or the downloads in my Kindle app or the private shelf in my local library account, I feel better. Reading is personal again. I can read as slowly as I naturally do. My opinions are kept to myself and I can read what I want, rather than what I think I should be reading. (*cough* like new releases that I can’t afford and my library doesn’t get for months after the pub date.)

I’ve returned to the bliss of reading quietly by myself, like I did as a kid. 🙂

via GIPHY

Month In Review: May 2018

May wasn’t the best month for me. I didn’t have the right medication dose and frequency, so I was struggling with the wrong dose and then adjusting to the proper one once I got it. My moods were all over the place. I’ve also been having nightmares more often, which wake me up early in the morning or in the middle of the night, and then I dissociate until I can ground myself in reality again. If you read my last post, about ugly bullet journal spreads, my planning was subpar. May didn’t have any major stresses, but it was a lot of personal issues relating back to my moods that influenced the month. Ah, the joys of having mental illness… But let’s take a quick look at other parts of May.

A celebration: I launched a Patreon! This will be for sneak peeks, behind the scenes, and exclusive content as thanks for support—and also, mostly, as motivation for me.

A change: For the last 2 weeks of May, I took a social media hiatus, which will continue into June. I have an addictive personality (thanks, bipolar!) and social media can become addicting to me. This was a needed and welcome change.

A conflict: I had issues with my prescription, so I wasn’t at the appropriate dosage for a few weeks. Then, I needed to adjust to the proper amount. I struggled with the adjustment and getting into a schedule/routine.

A relief: I got a job! Working for my own business is a job, but I got another part-time job that will hopefully help me over the next while.

A regret: Less writing than I wish I had done! This is a big pattern of regrets and problems for me. I’m not prioritising my writing as much as I’m prioritising other things.

A random memory: We had a massive wind storm in Ontario at the start of the month. It rained, and then the sun shone while the wind blew through in my town. I was out for a walk (returning a library book) and on my way home when I heard a tree cracking. I stopped and looked around—and then the tree fell down in front of me to block the whole road. A spider also fell on me in the wind right before the tree fell. The tree scared me more than the spider.

I’m feeling more hopeful for June. Some of my plans include signing up for a gym membership, finally finishing edits for The Pilgrimage, starting beta reading and sensitivity reading for The Pilgrimage, and making some adjustments to my website! Offline, the yard needs a lot of work, so I’ll be outside reclaiming the property from the overgrowth. I also have an announcement at the start of June, so stay tuned for that. I won’t be looking forward to the heat of summer, but a new month is a great time to start fresh with goals. Let’s hope I don’t burn out or get sunburned!

When My Mental Illness Is Bad

When My Mental Illness Is Bad

Mental illness isn’t a solitary, isolated, and vacuum-sealed experience. Mentally ill people, like myself, have friends, family, and peers. We interact with strangers. We can make mistakes and have messy behaviour, just like everyone else. Sometimes, mental illness is bad—or at least it makes us feel that way. When I say mental illness is bad, I don’t mean mental illness is a problem that needs to be fixed, or that mental illness is something immoral that needs to be punished. What I mean is that mental illness and its symptoms can have a negative impact on people. When talking about mental illness, it’s important to be honest without reinforcing stigma. But it’s also just as important not to dismiss or romanticise parts of mental illness. Sometimes, my mental illness is bad, and I end up doing hurtful things to myself and the people around me.

I have bipolar type II, with hypomanic and depressive phases. I also have complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). They’re not “pretty” or “easy” mental illnesses. Along with being complex and individual, they’re messy and difficult to manage.

This is going to be about my personal experience and symptoms. They are bad to me. They make my life harder, and they can be harmful to me and the people around me. I sometimes fear for my life when the symptoms get intense. Please do not take this as reflective of everyone with mental illness. If you can identify with what I say, then that’s okay—but if you’re neurotypical and reading this, remember that I am just one person.

Symptoms that my mental illness is bad

It’s hard to feel human when my mental illness makes me feel like an immoral person. Like what I’m doing and how I’m behaving are wrong, rather than difficult and symptomatic of a deeper problem. Maybe I’m overthinking how much these can affect other people, but I know I’ve lashed out or been incredibly irresponsible with some of these symptoms present.

Anger/irritation

I lash out a lot. When I get frustrated, I can get very impassioned and heated. It’s not nice to be around me. My hypomania often goes from hyper to angry, not happy or over-the-moon as the stereotype can be. Anger is not a bad feeling to have, but it’s very easy for me to disrespect the people around me when I get irritated.

Self-harm

I want to hurt myself. This is not good. Urges or desires to hurt myself are a sure sign that I’m not in a good place.

Lack of sleep

When I’m hypomanic, I don’t feel tired and I don’t feel the need to go to sleep. Not sleeping means that I’m hurting my body. It affects my reaction time, so driving and walking become dangerous. It also changes my routine and schedule. My self-care and work can be severely affected if I’m not resting. It’s irresponsible, mostly.

Delusions of grandeur

I become convinced that I can undertake projects and make plans that are, without a doubt, beyond my capabilities. This ends up wasting my time and resources, while also potentially wasting other people’s time and resources. If I start getting invested in a project or goal that originates from a delusion, I don’t follow through. It doesn’t get completed. I put a strain on my money and friendships.

Hallucinations

These are the scariest. Most of my hallucinations are visual and they set off anxiety. When they’re auditory hallucinations, I’m even more afraid. I hear things that don’t have a source outside my head, even if they sound like they’re external. My behaviour changes significantly, and I can end up lashing out or slipping into paranoid thinking.


These are all signs that my mental health isn’t being managed and maintained well. That’s what I mean when my mental illness is bad: it’s not being treated properly. I’m blessed to be able to have counselling and medication to treat my mental illnesses. But when I get to this severity? I’m in trouble. They can’t be managed by a crisis intervention. I feel just a level below crisis, or like it’s less concentrated and intense than a crisis, when my mental illness is bad like this. But it’s a little too much for me to handle on my own.

How I can improve

Talking about these issues requires self-awareness. Without being aware of my own behaviour, whether it’s from my mental illnesses or not, I can’t make an attempt to manage and improve myself. The mental health community needs to give space for these discussions as well. We need permission to converse about our harmful behaviour without being villainised for experiencing it. Mentally ill people, especially those with mood disorders like mine, have a reason for why they act certain ways. It doesn’t mean they should be given a free pass to continue that behaviour. It means that we need to be aware of the context.

If I flip my lid, I need to reflect on that. Why did I react that way? Was it appropriate? How is the rest of my behaviour, in terms of symptoms?

This also means I need to learn how to follow-through with correcting my behaviour and apologising if I do end up hurting someone. I need to be able to have the grace and forgiveness to apologise to myself, too. I need to be able to say to someone, “Hey, it was wrong of me to behave that way, and I sincerely apologise for my behaviour. My mental health has been poor, so I’ll be taking some time to address it and my symptoms—including the rage I directed at you and the irresponsibility of my actions.”

I am one person, and as Kelly Kapoor said so intelligently about managing her one-person department, I am not easy to manage. It’s especially true when my mental health is bad.

Launching A Patreon

After some deliberating, I’ve decided to launch a Patreon for my blog, writing, and art!

Why Patreon?

I played with the idea of placing advertisements on my blog, but I wanted to keep this website as clear and focused as possible on my content. I can’t describe how frustrated I get when I’m visiting a blog, trying to read a post or look at pictures, and I have to scroll through advertisements in order to find the content. Not just scroll past ads to get to the content, but to dig for it amongst the clutter.

I didn’t want that experience for my blog. It felt inaccessible and off-brand for me. So to monetise my work (because a blog is work, writing is work, and art is work), I settled on Patreon.

It’s free to set up. It’s also a platform I’m familiar with. But most importantly, it’s something I need to stick to in order to gain the rewards from it. I hope to get some support for my creative endeavours, notably my artwork. I haven’t had much motivation to create and share my art. Recently, I realised why: I didn’t have an audience for it, and I didn’t value my efforts.

With Patreon, I feel so much more motivated to deliver content, regardless of patrons and how many I have. It’s an external form of accountability.

It’s also a space that I want to grow and focus on. As such, I’ll be announcing blog posts, writing updates, and artwork there before I post to any other social media. While I will continue tweeting, instagramming, pinning, and facebooking, Patreon will come first.

You can follow me for free to get those first updates. I will love you and be eternally grateful if you pledge, too! Exclusive content is available at tier one, the Cait Siths, for $1 a month, so you don’t need to pledge much to get behind-the-scenes.

Click below to reach my Patreon page. I hope to see you there!

Patreon Become A Patron Button

Month In Review: April 2018

April felt incredibly long, but not sluggish like March. I think I experienced all four seasons’ worth of weather—winter, fall, summer, and spring. But mostly winter. I had lots of small projects to work on, so I was fairly busy, but thankfully not overwhelmed. I can’t reveal everything I did this month, but much of it relates back to my artistic creating!

A celebration: I managed to get over the hardest parts of my revision of The Pilgrimage! Chapters 5 to 9 needed to be completely rewritten from nothing, and I finished them!

A change: The status of my employment changed! This is a good change.

A conflict: It still felt like winter all month long. It snowed for a week straight at one point and I was so done with it. I love winter so much, but when I lasts from November to the end of April? Half a year of winter? No fucking thank you.

A relief: I spent a week out of town and it ended up feeling like a mini-vacation. I traveled 2 hours away from my hometown and where I stayed was filled with grass, sunshine, and the beginning of spring!

A regret: The Pilgrimage didn’t get finished this month. I’ve been trying to finish it for a year now. I’m trying not to beat myself up over it, but I’m eager to finish so I can start Avatar Five, another fantasy novel-length project.

A random memory: I went to a dog park with my pal and his family dog (Alaskan Malamute, I love her), and we got a little lost on the way home. We were walking in a path and I almost stepped on a gartner snake. They’re relatively harmless to humans, so I paused and gave it some distance. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a snake in the wild, but I recognised it as the same kind that used to hang around my old house. (My friend is scared of snakes and went ahead with the pupper.)

Overall, April was a full month. I came home to warmer weather, made a pact to get back into jogging now that I can, and I’m feeling optimistic about May.

My Spectrum Identity Struggles

This post is going to get very personal and very much about me, so if you don’t connect with it, that’s okay. Welcome to a diary-esque post!

I am on two spectrums: romantic attraction and gender identity.

In the last year, I’ve discovered that I fall in the aromantic spectrum. I am gray-romantic and in the aromantic spectrum (aro-spec) because my romantic feelings are on par with platonic feelings. There is no such thing as “just friends” when it comes to how I feel about my friends or the non-family people who I love. I love them the same way that I’ve loved people I’ve dated. I wrote a blog post exploring my experience with this: Questioning Part 2.

My identity as gender non-conforming means exactly that: I don’t conform to a gender. I’m not non-binary, I’m not cisgender, and I’m not genderfluid or genderqueer. My gender fluctuates, but not fluidly–it’s really all over the place. I’ll feel like I’m a binary gender as either a boy or a girl, or I’m agender, or I’m bigender as both a boy and girl in varying degrees of boyishness and girlishness. (The fact that I ascribe to a binary means I don’t feel comfortable being called non-binary.) I’m transgender by virtue of the fact that I don’t agree with the gender I was assigned at birth all the time.

So those are brief summaries of my experience on the spectrums of gender and romanticism.

But being in the spectrum, where there is loads of variation, is a bit of a strain on me. I don’t “fit” anywhere nicely. I don’t feel fluid. Fluids can fit into bounds of some kind. Water fills cups, etc.

Spectrum is a little harder. I feel like a rainbow–the whole rainbow, not just a few colours, and not just the ones that are visible to human eye. A rainbow can’t fit into a cup, y’know?

One issue I have being gray-romantic/aro-spec is people mistake it for asexuality very often. And one thing with gender non-conformity is that people will label it as non-binary. People misunderstand and lump together a lot of identities because they “seem similar enough” (see also: bi and pan). And that’s one of my biggest problems of being on a spectrum: it’s devalued compared to “picking a side” but it’s not as wiggly and “free” as being fluid.

I like being able to say “It depends,” because I have the freedom to choose from all the different options that make me comfortable. It’s not the same as being unsure or saying “I don’t know”–I do know, but, as I said, it depends.

It’s hard to find a community, too. That’s the biggest problem I’m having. I’m sometimes agender, or bigender, or boy, or girl; I’m transgender, but not transitioning; my romantic feelings are present, so I’m not aromantic, but they aren’t the same as romantic people.

I want to be a cookie in a cookie cut plate of cookies, y’know? I want to be with other aro cookies and bigender cookies, but we’re not from the same batch of cookie dough. I’m a tasty snack on my own, but one cookie isn’t always enough and it’s lonely to be a unique cookie.