Victory Conditions

Panic attacks suck.

At one point I had them daily, often multiple times, and for hours each time – but that was a long time ago.  I’m much better now.

I want to talk for a minute about what that really means. What improvement really looks like. Because it doesn’t look like I thought it would, and I don’t see that talked about as much as I would like to.

So here are four vignettes from the last year or so, all of which I consider victories.


I’m at Planned Parenthood, and I am not holding my shit together.  I’m not as triggered by exams as I used to be, so normally this annual bullshit is not a huge issue, but this time I have reason to believe it is going to be a lot worse, involving things that are, like, turbo triggering.  Also, I still have a lot of lingering hostility over some bad shit that went down at a Planned Parenthood many years ago, so I don’t feel safe at their clinics.  I wasn’t expecting it to be as bad as it is, but it’s so bad this time.  I drop the pen three times signing in, my hands are shaking so badly.

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Dreams: The Boy Lost in the Goblin Market

Before I can talk about things, I have to bore you with the second dream, which is actually really sexy and you should read it.  It’s also really sad, though nobody dies and there were no injured kittens or anything.

The second dream was similar to the first in many ways.

Things were really beautiful at first.

I was a strapping, handsome young man serving a very, very powerful and well-placed wizard. I lived with him and his apprentice, who was an incredibly powerful girl of about fifteen. I was having lots of very good, very loving, very kinky sex with both of them.

My main purpose was as a focus object. I had no magical skill, but I had another unique talent: I was a vessel, a human familiar. A reservoir for magical energy. I could serve a as a kind of bridge for my master and his apprentice, combining their power through me. I could help to steady energy flow during magic, and I could serve as a sort of power bank. In a pinch, I could intercept hostile magic and drain away most or all of its power, meaning I served as a sort of bodyguard to both of them, protecting them from magical attack.

Just imagine that this lovely lady is a lovely dude.

Photo by Grendelkhan, from Wikipedia.
The fact that I was not able to find a decent creative-commons pic of a MAN in a slave collar is a cranky-as-hell conversation for another time.

Basically, I was a human familiar and bodyguard with a talent that needed to be used, just as much as a wizard’s magic needs to be used. If they did not use magic regularly, it was harmful to them. It would burn them out from the inside trying to hold it. If I did not have it channeled through me regularly, if my talent was not used, it was harmful to me, and I began to pine and fade.

I was very, very important to what they did, and I was part of a healthy, working partnership. I loved them both very dearly. Equally, but in different ways.

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Dreams: The Underground Tower and the Child Who Lived There

Around the first week of January of this year I had a pair of dreams, one night apart, that have tugged at me ever since. I finally found the personal journal entries where I wrote about them, and found that they are as relevant now as they were then. I want to share them with you because they’re so beautiful, and because there are things I need to talk about that relate to them both, and I think I’m ready to do that now.

The second dream is here.

I lived in an underground wizard’s tower. Like a deep, deep stone-lined shaft with lovely arched entryways leading into a warren of corridors and rooms. It was huge. There was a waterfall down one side, and a meditation garden at the bottom full of mossy rocks big as bulls, and a lily pool, and small statues hiding in the roots of the twisted trees that grew there. Though the sun never reached more than halfway down the central shaft, it was never dark. Lights hung among the branches or glowed near paths and benches. It was immensely peaceful and quite lovely.

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Dreams: The Wolf-Girl and the House on Fire

I often have highly-symbolic, narrative dreams.  I’m told that’s common with bipolar disorder, but people like ascribing things to mental illnesses, so I’m not sure how much stock to put in that.

Night before last I dreamed I was at some sort of combination SF/F convention and home and garden expo thing held inside a really big mall.  All the “shops” were suites where people basically lived, doing their thing.

There was a huge glassed-in house — a really nice one — right in the middle of the three-story open area in the center of the mall.  I don’t know why, but I knew I had to go live there.  I didn’t want to, though.  It was furnished and looked comfortable, but the walls were see-through, and there were people going in and out all the time.

I couldn’t get into any of the other suites.  The doors were locked, or they wouldn’t let me in.  I didn’t have anywhere to go, and was getting pretty frustrated, when some guy came up and said I could go into his room with his friends where they were having a party with drums and dancing, and I was welcome to come and stay there if I would dress for the occasion.

Not having any alternative, I agreed, and went to get dressed.

Furry puppy!  Squish squish!

Photo: Wolf by Metassus on Flickr.

I got my black wolf-skin and put it on.  I dropped to all fours and trotted back.  I could see my reflection in the glass walls of the house, the glass walls of the elevator, and the glass below the rails.  I looked like a wolf trotting, only the occasional flash of knee or elbow to break the illusion.  I thought I looked pretty good.

I went back to the guy, who was waiting for me.

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On Gifts

Shunning, Shaming, Renaming is a moving piece by Rachel Cohen-Rottenburg about the power of reclaiming your identity while navigating disability and ostracism. I recommend you read it now.

There seems to be a desire on the part of abled people to try to balance the unpleasantness of disability with a belief that it somehow confers gifts equal or exceeding the burden of illness.  There seems to be a tendency to conflate a person’s mental illness and their gifts, whatever those are, as though the former caused the latter, as though they were inseparable.

There’s also a tendency to say that adversity brings enlightenment – often true – and that therefore adversity is, in itself, a positive thing, even when that takes the form of being severely disabled.  Even when that takes the form of being suicidal.  People want to believe that misfortune bears gifts.  Worse still is when these sentiments are expressed with envy.

I have a big problem with that.

Pirate maps are awesome.

I accomplished this in spite of depression.

The fact that I can bring beauty and goodness out of badness is something beautiful and good about me, not beautiful and good about badness.  It is a skill I developed out of necessity – if I had not, I would get nothing out of it.  If you must fight bears, it’s good to learn to use their hides and bones as armor and weapons.  Better still is not having to fight bears. Continue reading

“Men” by Nir Arieli

This suite of photos by Nir Arieli “places men in traditionally feminine spaces and postures, illuminating the human characteristics that have, over time, become decidedly feminine traits.”

For the most part I don’t find the pictures, the settings, or the people in them particularly gendered, but for someone with more traditional views of masculinity and femininity this might be challenging. I like them more every time I look at them.

You know those papers are going to attract cats, right?

Hanno, portrait by Nir Arieli.

Arieli, like all good portrait artists, has the ability to bring out the raw humanity of his subjects. Hanno is my favorite. Ariel and Kayode make me especially happy, and are the only two that, to me, contain undeniably coded-as-feminine elements: the sequined shawl and the explosions of cherry blossoms.

Matt, though, is probably the best portrait in the group. That one is hard to look at. Not because there’s any gender stuff going on, but because it’s a confrontationally emotional and nakedly human portrait, and that sort of thing is nearly always difficult to look at directly.

My hope is that someday, portraits like this won’t be perceived as feminine, because softness, openness, and vulnerability won’t be perceived as exclusively feminine traits.

Respecting Ignorance: Nope.

Once again from the turgid sea of content that is Tumblr, I bring you something relevant to my interests.

The (lovely and you should be following her) Iridessence got asked the following question.

In response to your “Respect Gender Pronouns” post. I can respect the proper pronouns, but not everyone knows them or is able to tell what someone is. I don’t like it when people get seriously offended when they are called the wrong pronoun by someone that they don’t even know. How is that person supposed to know what you want to be called?

Can there be respect for ignorance too? For those that are old fashioned or just plain unaware of new pronouns?

Respect ignorance.  That’ll be a bumper sticker any minute now.

Iridessence’s excellent answer: “You should probably ask a trans person, since even if it were my place to answer, I’m not sure how to.”

It didn’t actually address the asker’s concerns, though, so here’s my answer, edited slightly for clarity.

Respect Gender Pronouns patch from TheChurchofHotCoffee on Etsy.

This awesome patch and many others are available from TheChurchofHotCoffee on Etsy.

I’m female-leaning genderfluid who was born female and passes as female. It ain’t my place to speak for everyone, and I have a shitton of privilege and am sort of waffly on where exactly I fit in, so I don’t know if I can rightly put forth an opinion on behalf of trans* folks, but I have to say, as a member of other marginalized groups:

“Can there be respect for ignorance, too?”

NO.  Indulgence and possibly understanding, and respect for the people themselves, but for the actual ignorance, no, not ever, NEVER, respect.  You do not respect ignorance.  Ignorance is the water that passively allows the poison of hate to fucking spread, and as it is harmful, it is not something that compels respect. Continue reading