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Okay, ALSO chronic fatigue

So… it’s still chronic fatigue. It just looks like it knocked out my adrenals for a few days. So, yeah. Still this bs puzzle to solve.

I wanted this to be the end. MCAS should be bad enough, yeah? Adrenal insufficiency bad enough. Hashimotos, dystonia, brain fog, ADHD executive dysfunction, blah, blah, blah. I keep coming back to the vagus nerve. It turned my adrenals back on today. Vagus nerve stimulation to both tragus of the ear for 1/2 hour. Knocked me out, and when I woke up I was shaking from adrenaline rushing through me as the adrenals did their thing, brought my blood pressure back up, turned on all the systems like a reboot to an organic computer.

I’ve been experimenting with vagus nerve stimulation for years since I was living out of my car with screaming face pain and chemical sensitivity (which turned out to be MCAS). It was the only thing that allowed me to get back in the house. I thought it was focused on the immune system because of all the allergies and MCAS. I thought the dystonia was part of the immune system problem because of how it showed up when I was knocked out by allergies. But those adrenals are connected to the vagus nerve — all organs are. The immune system, the digestive system, olfactory — the whole sensory issue thing with skin numbing, lack of temperature sensory data. It’s all connected to the vagus nerve.

I actually stopped vagus nerve stimulation some months back because I was only noticing how it made me tired and seemed to knock out things that were currently working. I found it counterproductive, especially when the MCAS was raging. Now… now I just see it pointing to the problem.

There are chronic fatigue specialists out there. A whole crew in the hospital in Boston my dad used to work at. I just don’t know if I can survive the stress of trips to Boston, never mind be able to get in with such a program. But I think I need to do something, soon. If there’s a deadline on my adrenals, where without constant stimulation they can fail permanently, I want to get this figured out before my secondary adrenal insufficiency can become primary. The MCAS raging in my system was ensuring adrenaline was flooding me. Treating the MCAS has stopped the adrenaline. It might be why my adrenals are fluctuating now without anything to remind them to wake up.

It’s all theory. I’m not a doctor or scientist, just a very exhausted patient 11 years into this mystery keeping me from living my life. But chronic fatigue isn’t just the label they slap on patients too stubborn to get better anymore. It’s an actual specialty with research and new answers. And the vagus nerve seems to be in the middle of a lot of that research.

There’s that bastard, hope, still clinging on by the fingernails, no matter how bad this goes, how depressing each dead end leads. Shouldn’t treating all those other problems be enough? Nothing feels like enough…

Another Adrenal Crisis

Hey peeps, thought I’d check in and let you know how I’m doing. Things were in a weird place for some months. I was getting treatment for the MCAS, some amazing meds that I absolutely noticed were working. And there came a point where I felt it — the MCAS switched off. It wasn’t in the background running 24-7. It was under control, quiet. And I was thinking fine, okay, it’s a forever illness, it’s going to flare off and on and that will suck, but everything else should be fine, right? But it wasn’t. I was just so damn tired all the time. The chronic fatigue had gotten worse without the constant battle happening in my body from the mast cells. It didn’t make sense.

So I asked for a higher dose of the ADHD meds, hoping that the stim would deal with the chronic fatigue. And it did, for the most part, except for the hours each day the chronic fatigue would win, sometimes entire days gone to being exhausted. My working memory was failing again, and I was thinking of putting up another executive functioning board because thinking and staying focused were getting so difficult again. Got my thyroid checked — my numbers had slipped and I was hypothyroid again, so we upped my thyroid dose. Again, expecting energy, return of that working memory, but no. Tried progesterone — my hormones were all low. Maybe it was something in there. Progesterone made me want to sleep all the damn time, even as it was clearly helping other things, like my mood.

Nothing was making sense, and I was between doctor appointments, just trying to figure out why I was getting tireder and tireder. Everything I was doing was supposed to help with energy. I was getting plenty of sleep, taking the right supplements and meds, my labs were where they’re supposed to be, so why was I still dragging? Was this just what happens after being sick 11 years and now “healthy” in an older body? I’m not that old, but supposedly hypermobility can lead to chronic fatigue just naturally, no known treatment of the moment. But I had been so much better just half a year ago…

Then I had a day that sparked a memory and set me on the right path.

Friday, after a good 9 hours of sleep, I got up and went into my little studio/office to work on the computer. The day before, I had spent the day standing at the desk, but Friday I needed to sit. I was exhausted. Everything was demanding I go back to bed, but I refused to lose an entire day, so I pushed on. And at some point, while staring at the computer, wondering why everything I was doing was so damn slow, I noticed that my eyesight was dim, and darkness was crowding the edges of my vision, as if I were moments from fainting. Checked my blood pressure — I was creeping into pre-hypertension instead of my usual normal to low, and my pulse was flying. Weird, but that could all be from the ADHD meds. Checked my blood glucose: even 80. Perfectly fine, except for a complete absence of hunger that felt odd. No MCAS symptoms, no allergies, no reason for the response. I was taking all my meds as I should, including my life saving cortisol.

Hours after that, making myself stand because it seemed to help clear the darkness from my vision a bit, I found myself moments from bursting into tears, bizarrely emotional, completely broken down and I couldn’t figure out why. My brain kept telling me that this couldn’t be normal. It didn’t matter that I was on all the right meds, that I was 11 years older, etc: something was wrong and it wasn’t aging or “chronic fatigue”. Something was seriously wrong.

Eventually, cuz my brain was wrecked by this point, I remembered the last time my vision got like that beyond random dizzy spells when standing. It was when my adrenals failed the first time, a few years into the illness, during treatment for Lyme disease. It hadn’t been a secondary, pituitary knocking out only the cortisol problem that first time. It had been a full blown failure of my adrenals, and with the loss of cortisol production, I had also lost aldosterone production. Something that wasn’t noticed until the day after I was prescribed hydrocortisone, leaving me rushing at a crawl, hugging a wall to stay on my feet, my vision dark and tunneling, to get to the pharmacy before they closed because I was losing all the liquid in my body faster than I could put it in.

It had been terrifying that first time, something in my system very much aware that I was going to die — quickly— without intervention. And that never happened again. Any other time I’ve found myself in an adrenal crisis, it was only ever low cortisol.

Aldosterone keeps the electrolytes balanced in the body, specifically sodium and potassium. Lately I’ve been craving salt, unsure why my intake was changing since I wasn’t active, wasn’t going out in the heat, etc. But after years of this yo-yo-ing, being fine than feeling near death, I wasn’t paying attention. Partially because my brain had been feeling like a sieve, unable to hold thoughts again. I couldn’t write again, my mood kept fluctuating, and I was so damn tired. Everything felt hopeless as I hit this wall that didn’t belong there. A part of me very well knew that there was a level of health I could clearly remember that I was reaching toward. It was absolutely in my grasp — I should be functioning, everything was addressed! — yet something else was wrong.

So after realizing that this was very much adrenal, even if I was getting enough cortisol, I made myself eat some potassium full fruit and doused all my water with salt, including pouring salt into my hand and eating it raw. Hunger returned enough to eat properly soon after, and I ate some wonderfully preservative-laced foods that increased my sodium swiftly. The next day, certain that I had found the problem (but also the weekend and unwilling to go to the ER if avoidable), I asked my partner to take me to get some licorice candy — the real stuff — while I wait for my online order of licorice root powder to get to me.

I got better. Felt sick first — still feel kinda sick, the next day after adding the licorice — as everything started shifting, changing. All these basic functions turned back on, my body suddenly producing saliva again, sounds and scents roaring back into the world at full blast, able to feel my skin, how dry it is, the temperature in the air, my fingers and toes. The constant lower back pain disappeared, even as I was jumping at noises, my startle reflex returned after too many months to count. That reflex felt like something knocking on my nervous system, an internal jolt of energy that demanded everything wake up, start working!

Last summer, my endo said that I had hit the one year mark of treatment, and would only need to be seen once a year for upkeep. She warned me my adrenals might fail, even though I only had secondary adrenal insufficiency, but it had seemed so unlikely. Apparently not so much.

So yeah, I’m back in the recovery stage of things as my body remembers how to do basic things all over again (again), but I suspect things should go faster this time around with everything else basically treated. *knock on wood* I should get some electrolyte drinks… There’s a proper med they might try to put me on (Fludrocortisone), but I remember the half life being too short, with long gaps of fluctuating aldosterone levels, and preferring licorice root over it in the long run. There’s also adrenal cortef, that I’m going to be considering again to supply the other hormones my body is underproducing… I was on all this stuff back when this illness was new to me. At some point the poverty and the years of screaming face pain and unchecked MCAS and untreated adrenal insufficiency just broke me and I forgot so much.

I had thought it had been a poor prescription of licorice root the first time my adrenals failed. Adrenal failure is so rare, but if you have too much licorice, you can literally knock your adrenals out, the same way if you have too much prednisone or hydrocortisone. The body becomes dependent and, once removed, it fails. It’s because licorice contains glycyrrhiza, and although how it exactly works is still in question, it seems to supplement aldosterone and cortisol in those who are either still producing or supplementing cortisol. This is why most licorice candy is flavored with anise oil: over eat it and it’s deadly. I had been prescribed licorice root back then because it was clear something was wrong with my adrenals, but because of the poor communication with my doctor at the time (who ended up out of the practice shortly after), I stopped taking it because I couldn’t afford all the supplements they were prescribing. Stopping led to an adrenal crisis… but the problem was, I hadn’t been taking enough licorice to cause it, and poor communication from a slew of temp doctors after (and a dangerously useless PCP) led to me to assume for years that I was dealing with the mythological adrenal fatigue instead of being one of the rare people who has adrenal insufficiency.

And that’s still hard to get my head around as I get older and learn all the “rare” things I have that are my normal. I went through life assuming my every talent and limit are comparable to everyone else, and then, when learning of my disability, assumed, okay, my limits are worse. They’re why I’m struggling so much and shit just seems so easy for everybody else. But even when struggling, I can do things with ease others would take years to learn, and I keep collecting all these rare illnesses, so I guess rare is a spectrum in multiple directions with this body of mine.

I’m hoping my talents can win for a bit going forward. The last 4 years have felt all about the limits, to be real. I don’t know how many times I’m supposed to get wiped out by something and still expect to get back up and walk it off. This has been a damn long journey, and I still feel like I’m waiting to be allowed to start living my life instead of dealing with all this health bullshit. I don’t even want to claim that this is the last thing and I’m going to be fine, because seriously, I have been wrong so many times now. Why would something like the adrenals and thyroid, two supposedly perfectly treated now, both divebomb the last few months? I don’t even know if having expectations and hope aren’t just a form of trauma and self ableism at this point because it all gets crushed so quickly by reality being completely unreasonable. But that could just be the low adrenals talking atm, and tomorrow — next week/a month/how ever long it takes — will be me back to my cheerful, healthy self. Guess it’s another a wait and see thing.



ep 12: Scene 4 : Splintered Leadership updated to Demon Bonded!

Gonna be real, I’ve forgotten so much of writing has to do with pacing. Like, my brain wants to focus on all the things it’s noticing it’s struggling with, aka, memory related. It wants to build a visual scene so I can pin it all down (cuz my inner screen is mostly blank), and it takes layers and layers of drafts to finally paint that picture with words. (Hoping it’s not generic or something I did before and forgot.) And it wants to remember all the things because, since the MCAS wiped out my working memory and memory retention hardcore through 2020-2022, that underlying fear gets a lot of attention. Even as I’m writing this part of the story, just getting words down, my brain is all about these visual and memory details cuz it thinks that’s what’s important.

But it’s not. That’s just window dressing. The real war happening is where I’m coming up with all these fun, exciting ideas on the fly and figuring out what to show, what to tell, what to hold back to grow interest and suspense, but hopefully not confusion. This is all the decision fatigue of writing that goes into pacing as you count all the questions you’re leaving to be answered, and try to guess how long until your reader doesn’t care if it’s answered and just leaves. And legit, I don’t know if I’ve found the flow yet.

This is a complicated set of scenes, which is why I put this story down when my brain broke. I’m introducing a bunch of characters, an entirely different area, a magic system, multiple morality systems, people with goals and intentions and interactions that have absolutely nothing to do with our main character — but all through his point of view. It’s difficult because this could be a play Ky is watching for how little it has to do with him, beyond the shrapnel of Tobias’s demons. While at the same time, he’s the very reason this play is happening, these people are meeting, decisions are being made, an organization is in crisis, etc. He set things in motion while completely detached. But I have to make it matter to/through him, otherwise… why are we here?

Everything up to this point put Ky in the center. Now he’s bringing that center into an already established world, but he’s not landing center. He’s landing off to the side like the nobody he is to the coven. It is such a change of everything, and it’s only as I’m writing it that I can see how I need to adjust, where to focus, etc. Cuz I can’t know until it hits right (or wrong and I can correct).

I know it’s going to take time to get back to that skill set, that flow and confidence in writing… But I’m impatient. I just want things to work the first time so I can tell the story best. But like everything that is mistaken for talent, it’s really just hard work and repetition, doing the thing again and again until it looks easy. It’s remembering that the things we do well aren’t necessarily easy, we’re just too interested and invested to give up when it’s difficult. It has to be a satisfying challenge, otherwise one can turn showing up into the challenge instead, which is a problem all its own…

ep 12: Scene 3 : A Coven of Decadence updated to Demon Bonded!

Fleshed this scene out a little bit more before going on to scene 4. Went back to read some of the previous episodes, trying to remember what has already been revealed, what needs to be held for more tension, etc. You would think after years away, especially with the way my memory got so bad, that I wouldn’t remember this story. But it’s all there. In the same way muscle memory holds certain info that you can access with the right situations and movements, once that brain switch is flipped, it’s all there. Hopefully a little more interesting this time around.

I know they’re exaggerated, much like cartoon characters — this story was always an anime in my head, but when self publishing in this genre, there’s an expectation of covers with realistic looking people. I like these villains. I mean, I’m hoping Ky or somebody will eventually kill them off for the good of everyone, but these peeps are interesting, especially Imogen. She has plans, much like Anselm did, and goodness, don’t they all just assume they’re going to get the literal impossible with enough will and terrible acts? It makes for interesting story telling.

ep 12: Scene 3 + 4 updated to Demon Bonded!

Well, the new MCAS meds are working. My brain isn’t battling to organize itself while in a soup of chemical warfare from over-reactive mast cells, and writing is no longer the hardest thing ever. I can even hold a thought in my head long enough to write it down. It probably sounds ridiculous, but this illness kicked my ass in ways I still struggle to comprehend and explain, because it happened to my brain, impairing my ability to understand what was happening in the moment.

So, here we go. I’m going to focus on Demon Bonded for now and try to knock episode 12 out. This was a more complicated episode for this story to begin with, so many characters and their motivations to flesh out side by side with our main character. Politics are complicated, basically, and for some annoying reason I decided I wanted a political side to this — at least a bureaucratic political side. No one is running for anything. They just kinda kill their way to the top (like real politics, yeah? >_>;;; ) anywho, I’m excited to be writing again and have my brain working properly for the first time in ages. I’m still battling a lot of chronic fatigue, but my brain is working, so I’m focusing on the good.

Enjoy, peeps! ^.^

New MCAS Meds!

Hey, peeps, just wanted to check in and give a mini life update and, you know, intentions of how it’s going to fit into writing in the future.

One of my docs started me out on a med called cromolyn sodium because of persistent GI issues. We had figured out I have hypermobility a month or so ago, which as a lifelong, genetic thing, was likely the source of a lot of GI issues, especially the super slow gut motility. I was on about it because it seems to be tightly linked to the return of the chronic fatigue that’s been taking over my life since the start of 2024. Between trying to balance the two issues, this new med was added in, introduced to me a bit like an H2 antihistamine that would help my gut. It is so much more than an antihistamine (because, for one, it’s not an antihistamine at all). It’s a mast cell stabilizer.

I’d been put on a natural mast cell stabilizer (Quercetin) to see how it would go, along with a ton of antihistamines for H1 and H2, but nothing really toted for MCAS. Partially because of the big question of if insurance will cover it. For whatever reason, it’s pricey business to treat MCAS, even though I don’t believe any of the treatments are particularly new (but I don’t want to get into the dystopia of the US health insurance situation). Insurance is currently paying for this dose at 3 times a day (4 times would be ideal, tho). Things were getting increasingly better the last months since adding in the quercetin and trying some remedies (but not cures) to the whole gut motility issues. But starting this sodium cromolyn stuff… It’s beyond any expectations I’ve had, and I’m really still coming to terms with the changes considering it’s only been a handful of days.

My stomach is no longer this background distress of boiling — something that has been with me for so long, I only noticed it was happening when the med soothed it away. I’m no longer full of extreme anxiety, another background issue that is so hard to quantify after so long. I mean, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety back when I was diagnosed with PTSD in my late 20’s, and those were conditions with symptoms I first remember noticing in early tweens. Anxiety is a part of my base wiring at this point, and to have it suddenly stop has been, well, life altering. My mind is so silent. There isn’t a constant monologue or song or chaos of internal noise (which I now realize must have been chemicals being sent out from chronically degranulating mast cells). It is such a deep peace, that after so much noise it almost feels spiritual. Like fresh, cooling snow engulfing a brain on fire for years.

I can focus, for the most part, because my brain is so still. I can focus on a screen — and my eyes seem to be doing okay with screenwork, at the moment. My executive functions aren’t at 100% atm, tho, and the chronic fatigue absolutely took over shortly after starting this new med. If my guess is correct, the MCAS reaction is a “stimulant” to my body, and by now turning it off at a more complete level (I’m hoping one day for remission!) I’m not getting that jolt to my system. My pulse has literally slowed down to everyone else’s normal when starting this new med. It’s no longer racing randomly in the 100-130 range while barely doing anything. So my guess is I’m not getting that same norepinephrine boost to dopamine conversion that a racing heart was giving me, and I’m going to need to adjust my ADHD meds (which double as my chronic fatigue meds). But after that…

Peeps, hope is damn hard for me. The last years I’ve been spending all my time trying to learn acceptance. Acceptance of limits, of a complete lack of control with health, acceptance of not knowing what may happen… Hope was really harmful to me at times because I was using it to ignore reality and the consequences I was gaining from pushing my body when it couldn’t do the things I was determined to do. Hope was the thing that allowed me to deny my disability and not seek help when needed, etc, because surely, eventually, I was going to figure this out. I had no idea how to pace myself with hope, because there was no acceptance of reality to balance out that hope, and it was self destructive. I can’t fully remember the last proper newsletter I sent out, but that it was years ago, and it was full of hope as I explained why I was going to destroy myself and my eyes on writing because what was the point of doing nothing in the face of chronic illness? Bluntly, I’m not good at being chronically ill, while I’ve been chronically ill for many years now.

So, when I talk about my hope to get back to writing in this context, now, after having symptoms alleviate that I’ve been dealing with for years before I even understood the MCAS was likely active and impacting me, after spending the most recent months to years seeking that balance and acceptance with reality, I think that it’s more measured. More realistic. There are a lot of things in life I want to catch up on, writing being one of them.

I don’t suspect that I will be able to keep the pace I did before — because when I started writing, it was basically all I could do. My arms and head were too heavy for my body, and the fatigue and fevers kept me bed-bound, and all there was was a laptop and my desire to escape the reality of what my body was going through by writing fun, dark fantasies. It was my fuel when nothing else was working, and it kept me going — but as such, it became an intensely unbalanced relationship with my time and energy. My answer was to break from it completely (because what is balance?). I’m going to have to find a way to write and not have it take over everything, which, with my mind quieting, feels far more achievable. My ocd isn’t exactly gone, per-say, but it’s not active or demanding me to act. I’m not glued to a screen (even though focused on a screen).

It’s going to be a learning curve, tbh, because it’s going to be brand new to me and this new brain chemistry of mine. There’s the real possibility that this med might stop working, or the MCAS might flare and become stronger than the med at times, and I’ll have to learn to adapt to that and practice a different level of self care when it comes. But for now, yeah, I’ve been thinking about writing for the first time in ages. I’ve got a lot of free time (cuz still disabled and chronically ill) and the fatigue has put the computer right in front of me with a brain no longer on fire. I’m curious to see where this will lead.

I’m keeping this informal, because I’m not ready yet. It’s only been 2 full days since starting this med, and the first day I tempted my heat sensitivity out in 80 degree temps and lost, getting a fever for pushing things. My fatigue is super strong, and I don’t know if I want to wrestle with taking a ton of notes on my old books right now to start writing a new episode. I just want to enjoy the stillness for a bit and see if this change is going to take root and stay. And from there, I’ll get to learn what this new version of me is going to want out of life beyond waiting to get better.

Wishing you all the best! ^.^ 

AI Art book covers, Capitalism, Elitism and Inequality Justified through Meritocracy in Self Publishing

So the AI art fear mongering continues the war drums on the poor, and I thought it might be time to actually talk about my opinions on this as I try to collect my brain back into something that can return to writing without being a neurotic mess. So, of course, I’m going to pick the stance that pisses everybody off, cuz who would I be otherwise?

A little background. I taught myself digital art when I got Painter back when living in my adoptive parents’ moldy basement as a teen. While the black mold ate away at my immune system and I thought I was going crazy with my brain burning, I made art every day, figuring out each new tech advance I could afford, while taking care of my mom who was dying of cancer and later my dad with dementia. As an adult, I couldn’t art. I had to work and make a steady income. I was disabled, and my neurosis in regards to digital art was really bad. I would spend 60 hours barely sleeping, making highly realistic fantasy characters, and I was always grumpy from it. I didn’t realize at the time, but it was impacting my eyesight, and the more eyestrain, the more it impacted my mood. When I got sick in my 30’s from a mysterious illness that turned out to be MCAS triggered by mold exposure and Lyme Disease, I was bedbound a lot. I used the time to start a self publishing business, writing something not fanfics for the first time, and learning what it took to make book covers for my genre.

About 9-10 years in, my eyesight started failing. The computer screen and my inability to realize I wasn’t blinking enough when working (it’s some sort of hyperfocus mode in my autistic brain) was causing damage, along with inflammation from the untreated MCAS. When my eyesight started failing, I thought that was it. I’d never be able to make another cover for my books again. I’d have to hire out — and as someone who has been disabled for nearly 20 years now, with my disability income being poverty — that is then immediately put into rent, and only rent — I knew it was impossible. I would never be able to put out another book again with a nice cover. I’d never be able to compete in the marketplace. I had lost momentum as a writer because the sickness was taking out my executive functioning, and I hadn’t been able to publish or even check in regularly. The algorithm would ignore me — as it should, because this is how the algorithm on Amazon works. I won’t pretend we live in a bubble: those who cannot afford the means to better themselves will never gain access to increasing their income. This is a reality for many. We don’t live in a utopia of equality and safety nets; people die from poverty every day.

You know what’s not a reality? Artists suddenly incapable of making new art now that AI art exists. Fears that jobs — contracted, promised jobs — are suddenly disappearing because AI art exists. Is an artist owed a job? I was an artist for years, and I had skills I built up, skills that fucked my eyes up from working with computer screens. I broke myself being an artist, and you know what? I was never rich from it. I was never promised stability. I didn’t become an artist because I was looking at a stable career; I became an artist because I loved to create art and I was ill, and I had a ton of time on my hands with few prospects. That’s the same reason I became a writer — not for the money. I had no skills as a writer. I was learning as I went, hoping I might one day make money. I did, eventually, but it was completely determined by my ability to produce work — being sick meant no income. No means to live beyond a supplemented income that is never enough to pay rent in my area (rent has doubled here just the last couple years and my income has absolutely not).

Artists aren’t all paid well. It is not a career anyone goes into assuming they are going to be financially set. I’m getting back into traditional art because it’s the easiest on my eyes, and I’m not thinking I’m going to “strike it rich”. Artists aren’t paid their time, and the ones who are — who fought to get there, or were lucky to be dropped in a situation where it was just automatic — doesn’t mean they were ever owed it. Because we’ve been around. We’ve been competing within a global market for years, which has brought prices down. Competing with hobbyists who just do it for fun and hey, throw a couple $10s their way. Fiver used to be $5. It was a race to the bottom. But does that mean those in other countries with a different economic system are immoral? Bad because they need to make a living too? No, that would be nonsense. It means our economic system is broken, and the people within it — merely trying to survive — don’t want to die from poverty while working their asses off and only making poverty.

Surviving Capitalism

So let’s talk about survival of the fittest in what is supposedly an empathetic species called humanity. It’s not a match, is it? If you claim to give a fuck about others, why are you only supporting some? Didn’t you realize it’s not just artists starving? Didn’t you realize that these individuals being blamed aren’t the ones that created this problem, but are just living in the shit trying to get out? (What, using AI art kills puppies every time? Are you sure, or are you just exaggerating out of some internal fear of change?)

Capitalism is about survival of the fittest, while giving the wealthy the means to survive and gain more wealth, and ensuring the poor don’t have access to those means so they don’t survive. (It’s money. Money is the means to survive in a capitalistic society for those who have the privilege of not understanding that.) Poverty is a promise of everything always being harder until you either 1) manage to overcome poverty, something extremely rare no matter how many Cinderella stories they force feed us. Or 2) die, but not before passing on that poverty. Because it’s generational. Wealth inequality is generational inequality. That means money goes to the kids, and so does debt. That means when you can’t break out of poverty for your family, you’re leaving them in poverty for their family to come. And that is emotionally crippling to work so hard and not be able to lift your kids out of this mess. It’s why parents invest in the horrendously overpriced cost of education, just in case it might work. But it’s just debt, and doesn’t overcome classism.

This is not a failure of individuals, no matter what everyone loves to insist. It is a design of the system of inequality. It is a promise from a government that enforces inequality. Have you ever tried to get on services for poverty in the US? It’s near impossible. They make it so convoluted, with automatic denials at every turn, to keep people from getting help. So they can claim less people are suffering, but instead it’s just a dead bureaucracy ignoring the cries of the poor. That’s a government not afraid of its people, because its people are too busy blaming the poor instead of demanding change. Parts of my country are considered 3rd world conditions, while the US touts it’s amazing wealth and “access” to healthcare no one can afford, etc. You have programmers living in tent cities, while the government claims everything is fine. It’s fine for the wealthy. They’re not living in tent cities (but charging rent that prevents others from having affordable homes).

But this is a Meritocracy!

Did you think you were living in a meritocracy? That’s the big lie they love to sell people. Inequality isn’t “real”, it’s nature based economics because some people have skills “deserving” of high pay, while others don’t. And hey, some artists, they “deserve” the big bucks. They “deserve” to not have competition. Some fuckwit sold a banana on a wall? They “deserved” it, were “owed” it because they were smart enough to play the game the “right” way. They were smart enough, so their merit was rewarded. Those CEOs are “skilled” enough, so their merit is rewarded. Retail workers? They don’t “deserve” a living wage cuz they didn’t pay for their knowledge. They just have skills that we don’t need, right? That’s why shopping is so great without anyone working in the store. Sure sure.

They might as well be calling everyone not making a living wage a whore, huh, cuz those must be everyday skills not valued by society. And hey, it’s much easier to jail people who don’t make a living wage — prisons make more money off the jailing of the poor than the working poor make working.

So how do these high earners know they’re so smart? They could afford to go to the most prestigious of colleges. Those colleges taught them the magic of networking with others in high society, keeping the ranks tight, reinforcing social inequality that reinforces wealth inequality. Hey, Academia decides what intelligence is; they must only let the smartest in. The cost of entry has nothing to do with it. What, a few poors could get in to those colleges? Don’t worry, they’re the tokens so we can claim the system isn’t unequal. They won the lottery of inequality, so classism totally doesn’t exist. They were just “skilled” enough, so they get the elevator up into places with limited spots. It’s their “merit”, right? Merit with limits that only a few are allowed through — that’s what merit is, right? Removing competition by raising people up to a different level and giving them all the things they refuse to give everyone not on that level… Don’t think that’s merit.

Every business book or productivity book wants to tell us if we just have more skills, we can sell our labor for more. Just be the best machine. Don’t get sick, don’t get old, don’t get tired, don’t be filled with existential dread, don’t care about the environmental and social consequences of your actions as you try to dig out of poverty. Hustle. Get more side gigs. Otherwise it’s YOUR fault inequality exists. You, the individual, just wasn’t good enough, and that’s why you’re not being rewarded financially in a way that allows you to survive.

Meritocracy is the shield of inequality. It’s what those who just scraped by use to bury their survivor’s guilt in, while everyone else is screaming unfair in the pit of poverty. You deserve to be better at the sacrifice of those around you because you are “worthy”, while others aren’t. Sure. How else do people justify inherited wealth and inherited debt? At this point they’re conceptualizing good and evil, reincarnation, whatever the fuck they can to justify why some are born with more money than they will ever, ever need, and others die hours after birth because of the absolute poverty of their community. God must have decided they’re better than everyone else. That must be it.

Self Publishing with Tools

So here we are, in a society of inequality. And here comes a new tool — one still only available to those who can get online and utilize it. AI art. An equalizer of one of those merits, those skills some are “god given” and others aren’t.

People using AI art are competing in a system of inequality to survive (aka capitalism). They are using the tools available, with their own intelligence and daring to do what it takes to care for themselves and their family. Every AI book cover out there isn’t some giant, nameless company making money off the work of others. It’s DIYers who can’t afford a cover artist, who can’t afford the hours and money to learn Photoshop like I did. It’s people from all over the world competing in a global marketplace, trying to figure out how to make the returns from their labor be a living wage instead of a pittance. Book covers are packaging to the product of the book, and not everyone is an artist, is a graphic designer, can look at a trend and understand it, and reproduce it the way I can. My brain has gifts (and glitches) not everyone has. It would be damn hypocritical for me, an artist who has worked as a cover artist for others, as well as for myself, to want every author out there to do things a certain way so that I personally benefit from their choices.

Other authors aren’t writing for me to make money — they need to survive. I am not owed.

I am not owed a cover job. I was never owed people to come to me for art work when they couldn’t do it. And I was never going to be owed the money from those who couldn’t afford me. People steal my books all the time, and I know they were never going to pay. This AI thing isn’t remotely as personal — no one is stealing from me. I’m not owed anything from them. It’s just basic competition in a marketplace. I am not here to block the access of other authors from entering the self publishing market and competing on an even footing by using AI covers. That would make me a fucking monster to claim that I had a right, just because I was able to learn how to make digital art, that everyone else had to do it the same way. (That’s the whole argument to student debt forgiveness, btw. Fucking self indulgent, narcissistic bullshit to claim that one’s personal struggle means generations should suffer. Bullshit. This government wants the educated to be poor so they can’t compete with the rich or choose not to work the jobs that refuse to pay.) Fuck, should I force all authors to get sick too, be disabled, start a business when every day wondering if you’re going to drop dead from a mysterious illness? What kind of nonsense. I’m not owed shit from people working to survive.

People in an unequal society thinking they’re owed something, are usually those who have not gained empathy from seeing the harsh reality. They think they’re owed a shield to poverty, to the fears of potential poverty, even. Ha! They think they’re owed stability when, my fuck, what a joke. We’ve got genocides and wars happening on this planet, but hey, some people are owed something cuz a gig economy is totally supposed to be “stable”. I can’t fucking comprehend the elitism of the very concepts being spewed out there as if it’s protecting the rights of artists by preventing competition in a competitive market. WTF? Who in the world thinks like that…? Unless they’re so comfortable they never had to question that a job, like being an artist. might not be a steady income, and that there were other artists out there better that they had to compete with.

You Don’t Need Permission to Survive

So as an artist, as an author, as a disabled person trying to get out of poverty with every little bit of energy I can scrape together, this is my takeaway. Use the tools available to you to better yourself and your family, and don’t let anyone try to shame you for it. These people screaming for equality by hamstringing the abilities of the poor (who can’t afford cover artists) don’t actually care about the real world we’re living in. What, we were promised the world wouldn’t change? That it would always have to be the same inequality in the same presentation? Should we go back to searching for fresh water every day instead of doing anything else? Maybe hand breaking laundry boiling? What a privilege it was to be gifted a laundry machine from my inlaws instead of going to the laundry-mat. Tools better our lives in such amazing ways. The only problem is they’re only available to those who have the money to access them, and as such, the digital economy is still a limited access economy for the poor.

As an artist, I know damn well art is a luxury, one not everyone can afford. So now it’s more affordable, classisms is getting a shake, and the rage keeps burning that something has been taken, and something is “owed”. My fuck, imagine having the luxury to care about the philosophical nature of AI art when people are literally trying to prevent other from using it to survive? What an amazing, fucked up species we are. This isn’t a bubble. Inequality is not some pipe dream nightmare. We are all living in the fray (unless privileged enough not to be). At least book covers won’t all have the same cover models anymore, and I absolutely can get behind that.

Changing a system doesn’t start with blaming the victims

In parting, eat the rich, not the poor. AI art is a tool for artists to streamline their work process, not just for people dipping their toes into cover design. It benefits artist; the ones choosing to make it be a competition might as well be fighting against the vacuum cleaner or the automobile for the good it will do in the long run. It’s already the new normal, and people have to catch up with the tools available to them. That doesn’t make them immoral, and it sure doesn’t make them responsible for the inequality we’re all living in. This inequality has been here long before we were, and targeting one small group of people who have no control in any of it is just cruel and pointless. If you’re worried you’re going to die in poverty from losing your job, welcome to capitalism, where nothing is free and lives are worth nothing. Changing a system doesn’t start with blaming the victims.

Well, I fixed something

I fixed the update thingy that I really should have done much earlier, but I wasn’t around earlier. There’s been a lot happening, and also absolutely nothing happening, and I just couldn’t get to this website thing. I still need to figure out how to make this website compatible with Safari, which might mean a whole new template (which I’m dreading the very thought of.) But for now I just want to simplify everything and see if certain elements in the current template are causing the issue or not. The table element I was dealing with for the updates was one such element, so that’s at least dealt with in this long check list of wtf is causing issues with the website.

Hey, peeps. I’ll have a proper greeting later. Sorry it’s been so long. My memory just isn’t great, and I’ve got to make a habit with this writing thing otherwise I’m just going to forget it all exists. So here I am, restarting that habit tonight. See you all soon.

Mental Health is a Universal Right

That’s the theme of this year’s World Mental Health Awareness Day. As much as mental health tends to be referred to as diagnosis and something that comes from within, I’m someone who has a combination of situations that reveals it’s more complicated, and absolutely universal. So, while the world is on fire once again, I want to talk about external factors of mental health.

We didn’t evolve to survive the modern world. Our technology has surpassed our evolutionary capabilities. And with the ability to industrialize and “scale up” every model we create, we not only didn’t evolve to survive this current world, no one is designing it. There are no intentions beyond a few as to how they want the world to be (usually driven by how much money and influence they want to gain) and the many — the majority — aren’t represented in that vision. There is no grand plan, no puzzle pieces being fit together to craft the ideal picture. It’s just humanity doing what it wants, sometimes with limits, sometimes without. And we all have to live with the consequences, just in varying degrees of comfort.

Our civilization is chaos, and we didn’t evolve to survive it. But we’re here. Adapting.

Some can turn to the Internet for connection, or television for distraction, while these same elements can bombard through marketing and algorithm to sell people bad mental health so that they will “engage” with “content”. This can change who they are in the world as they’re traumatized by shock and awe experiments news media networks use to ensure the traumatized come back to forever watch for the next attack. Their motivations can be changed as someone stops thinking about personal dreams and instead starts fearing every potential minefield of being an adult responsible for themselves and others in an unstable world while feeling like they have no power. The Internet in the palm of one’s hand means there’s no escape if you’re addicted to video games, or raging about topics online, or to checking your finances or news, catastrophizing about fears, or needing external validation as communities deteriorate while people spend most of their hours at work, not at home or investing in their neighborhoods.

Humanity didn’t evolve to the culture of stress it is contributing to as every real horror of the globe and imagined potential horror is pumped into their screens 24-7. Our empathy mirror is forced to go through the motions again and again, only ever seeing the horrors and never the good, until some just burn out completely and they’re changed. Hardened, colder, yet happy to survive… even as happiness feels less.

Our brains weren’t meant to have so many images of vast wealth and success staring back at us from so many screens, like these mansions are just the house over instead of behind gated acres miles away. We weren’t meant to have to decipher what is a visual lie 24-7, an illusion of wealth and stability as influencers sell us a lifestyle they can’t afford while seeking pseudo relationships with the working class to pay for it. When the majority of people live in credit card debt and many paycheck to paycheck, no mirror on their screens is there to let them know they didn’t fail. Poverty isn’t an individual failure; their government chose poverty for many so a few could be ultra rich.

Humanity lacks self awareness of the damage it creates externally and internally, of the norms that we participate in that are damaging. We fail to see our expectations don’t match reality because a false reality has be sold to us from so many, in every direction, and at some point we adopt the lie and only see that as truth. There are so many students left with horrendous debt for an education that slyly failed to inform them that there wasn’t a job waiting for their newly earned skills, and next year there will be more, and more, because out education system wasn’t designed to be a job placement system, no matter how much colleges will claim otherwise to fill their dorms.

We fail to see the value of our time in this existence as we’re taken from home and installed as labor for the profit of one, simply for the right to live. We haven’t evolved to this; we have adapted down to damaging conditions, failing to see the extent of what we’re doing even as the one planet we can survive on falters.

I took out the word “Human” in “Mental Health is a Universal Human Right” because I think it’s important to realize that it’s not just about us. Humanity sees everything through its filter, but in taking over the responsibility of transforming this globe full of diverse life, we have tried to release our accountability, and I think that’s bullshit. I, from a place of very little power, still hold myself accountable for my impact, even if the current way of living doesn’t give me many options on how to change it. And I can do that, because I work on my mental health most days.

It’s my job. I gained tools to do it when I gained enough self awareness to understand that this is my job: taking care of me so that I can be better for everyone in my life. I’m not allowed to catastrophize anymore. Not allowed to feed my fears and put myself down and talk shit about how I can’t be something that I literally cannot be, because I am exactly who I am. Always. Even when it’s different the next moment; that’s the only me I can be in the moment. It’s pretty hard to fuck that up.

We are all exactly as much and as little as we can be in the moment. Self awareness gives us that grace during the chaos. And it’s a lot of chaos out there, especially when you’re staring at a screen being exposed to far more than anyone with the base senses of a human would ever be exposed to without technology.

So, for mental health day (and any day you need a mental health fix), I recommend checking out of screens for a mental health check in. See the world around you. Ground. Feel connected instead of the disconnect sold to us. Find you in the chaos and love. 💕

If you can’t. If you find yourself trying, but your brain fills with all these reasons why you can’t, stop and listen. Write them down and examine those reasons. Some might be very good reasons, and that’s okay. Even if you can’t, you can still start gaining self awareness by just questioning if it’s true. If you really won’t survive turning off the screen for 24 hours. The more self awareness gained, the more you can start to see who is pulling you, and their intentions of how they want to use you on those screens. How you’ve absorbed their message as your own without even realizing it. And how it’s okay to have your own intentions for your time, for your thoughts. It’s okay to be you in your head. The only one judging is you.

I had to go through a lot of PTSD therapy to reach where I am today, and I’m far from amazingly resilient. I just realized that what I was being sold as resilient — being able to hold an entire globe’s problems in my nervous system and cope — was ridiculously unrealistic. We didn’t evolve to be able to do that, so why do we hold ourselves to this standard that the perfect version of ourselves can do that? Nonsense.

Mindfulness is really helpful, just avoid the cults (cuz of course there are cults in the mindfulness sphere.) CBT therapy can also be helpful, but it might not give you as much insight into yourself as just asking those questions and writing down the answers when you feel stuck in a loop, unable to break free from a damaging habit or thought. Self awareness is a relationship with the self, not just an awareness. Understanding is where we start, even as we’re all in a relationship with ourselves, aware or not. The better the relationship, the better our mental health gets because we stop blaming ourselves for things that were never in our control in the first place.

Good luck today, and every day, peeps. ^.^

June 22 2023

Checking In

Just wanted to let you all know I’m still alive and up to creative mischief. The new meds are working, and I’m pretty much back to my old self (whoever that is @_@).

We got a surprise leak in our garbage disposal, water in the basement, and my reactions were… fine. Allergy fine, not mast cells over reacting and making my entire existence miserable. Although I got a big whiff of smoke yesterday evening, and that caused the other reaction, and it was pretty shit for a bit.

It’s such a contrast — one I had no idea was even possible. Because I guess for most people allergies are just, you know, a runny nose and feeling kind of sleepy, a little fuzzy. Not the insanity I’ve gone through all these years. There was a difference, but my ignorance shouldn’t have made those who treat allergies so ignorant, yeah? Like, I was really good at communicating my symptoms, but the medical world just didn’t understand what those symptoms fit into then.

Text based games

Anywho, I’m back to coding up the database, currently looking at the interactive novels and text based game side of things. Because my eyes are so much better, I think I could handle at least fighting with an AI art program for a bit to get art backgrounds for the text based games I want to make. I don’t think they’re sophisticated enough for character art — consistent character art that will look like the same character. But backgrounds? Sure. They’re easy enough to edit if things don’t look quite right.

The main thing is I’m looking for writing that doesn’t ask me to edit extensively the way my current writing does. A script is visually easier for me to handle because of how it’s naturally broken up, as well as far less focused on certain elements of a story, such as building an atmosphere. The imagery can take some of the burden — the whole “a picture says a 1000 words” thing. And it’s not that I don’t enjoy building atmosphere and such, so much as, editing is shit on my eyes still. Editing this is shit on my eyes. Reading glasses might change that, but it’s not happening soon, and that’s okay. I’m looking at options instead of passively waiting.

Coming to terms with my ever changing limits has really pushed me to find smarter solutions to things. Affording reading glasses with prism lenses is a long way off after years of being ill, so I need to get back into this writing thing, accepting these limits and looking for ways to navigate as I am, instead of how I used to be. There’s also just so much life I’m trying to get back to. A decade of illness interrupting — actually, far longer. It’s been since a teen living in my adoptive family’s moldy basement, wondering why it felt like my brain was on fire.

There is very little “stable” that I’ve experienced that I know to get back to. When I look back, it’s PTSD from a traumatic home life, followed by years of foster families, and then recovering when adopted… then becoming ill from this condition and watching my adoptive parents both die, my mom right after I graduated high school, and my dad a handful of years later, most of those years me taking care of him while he had dementia. All those years after that were panic, homeless, working to survive without a degree because I couldn’t take care of a parent and finish college, and there was no safety net once they were gone. Not when this condition was 100% active with no one knowing what it was or how to deal with it (but very good at gaslighting a young person who was doing everything to try and get healthy and stable.)

A new pace to life

My relationship with time has to change. It already has with space — I’m doing well getting the years of exhaustion out of my house, cleaning up the piles that have been waiting to be addressed.

I actually took down the backroom cleanroom this week. I plan on painting it next month — getting a big 5 gallons of paint and tackling the hallway and 2 walls of the kitchen as well. I had done some nice decorating of half the kitchen last year after I had built my art storage cupboards, but the old dingy blue paint on the other walls has been here through a lot of renters. It’s the same paint in some of the closets, revealing it was some version of original before other people came in and painted.

That back room will likely never be my bedroom again, not with the way the air flows in this house, but it can at least be a great space for art storage and painting large canvases. I want to make some tables for the kitchen the way I did for my bedroom, just a simple desk/counter thing that forms an L on one of the corners of the room. It’s such a small space, but the design would give more surface area as well as more walking space compared to the big table we have in there now that takes over everything (even though it’s too small to actually eat in the kitchen.)

Sawdust is absolutely one of the triggers that sets of this condition, the same way smoke is, and ammonia, heat — the summer weather turns me rosy cheeked and straining to breathe. Oh, and I discovered the scent of cedar is a trigger. Fuck well-made furniture for storing clothes, because it is all cedar and kills me. It means getting these supposedly simple projects done isn’t actually that simple. Even if cut to size, I need to sand and seal anything wood that comes into the house, and that means sawdust. And if the sealer is shit, or worn down from cleaning, I have to go through the process again cuz the raw wood does come through and the scent triggers the condition (learned this firsthand with my desk).

But… my reactions are better. They stop now, instead of going on for weeks to months of misery. The meds work, and as long as I don’t become allergic to the meds (something unfortunately very common with MCAS) it should be good. I can’t wait for things to maybe go bad again. This is the time I have now, and there is so much I want to do.

Making time for arting

It’s kinda weird to talk about art on this site. It used to be my thing before the illness knocked me down and I started writing to cope. I went to school for art and music. College was to help me recover from my adoptive mother passing and trying to figure out what I was going to do after spending so much time thinking of her health and aligning everything I did around it. But… there was a lot of mold in the college classrooms. The calculus room and history, in particular, I remember always getting sick…

But yeah, art held a lot of healing for me, especially therapeutically in regards to PTSD. The same with writing — there are a few ways to hack into the subconscious of the mind without needing to be dreaming, and writing and making art can put you into that trance like state. Something happens in the nervous system while there, and then when you come out of it, not only do you get those benefits, but you have something to show for your efforts that can be shared. A bit of the hero’s journey as you delve into the dark, deep woods of the psyche.

I’ve been playing with UV resin and mixing my own watercolor paints. I always wanted to make my own watercolors, but just never did… Chronic illness makes everything so much harder than it needs to be. It makes you need to do things immediately, or know it will likely never happen, which makes the pace of life even more difficult. Rushing, bursting the little energy you can all at once before the inevitable breaking and crash. It’s a destructive pattern, but it’s required when it’s all you can do. So I’m enjoying relearning what it means to rest instead of being broken, to pace and remember what time actually is, how to experience it, how to experience being in a body not suffering all the damn time.

They’re mostly pearlescent colors. Metallics, and some that have little bits of glitter. It’s kind of a big deal for me, not only because I’m finally making the watercolors (and doing it in a far cheaper way than buying them), but I’m making shiny, sparkly things that just a month ago would have been impossible on my eyes.

I saved a lot of things out of stubbornness. I didn’t think I was going to actually get to this place of getting better, but I refused to give up… And, if I’m being brutally honest, it takes a lot of energy to throw away your dreams when you’re already tired all the time. Most of the art stuff I have stored in the back room is expired, especially paint mediums and such. I’m going to be throwing out a lot still, but now it feels okay because it’s to make room for new. It’s not about holding on, stagnant, but growing into the person I get to finally become after all this.

At some point, my life is just going to be about living it. I won’t be focused on the past because all I had was the past when ill in the moment. I had given up on the future completely, and was doing everything to escape the now of being in an pained, exhausted body. Now there’s room for something else when I look forward.

I don’t know what I’m going to want to write as I grow into who I’m becoming. There are some stories that I need to finish telling. I just don’t know if I want to live in such unhappy moments just to create contrast to the happy ones in some of these stories. Because my writing is so connected to exploring trauma, there’s a bit of a war happening inside me about what’s allowed to change, what needs to be honored, etc. So I’m glad for this pause, for this chance to really look at what I want out of writing now that it’s less about surviving the misery of the past or of chronic illness, and more about creating something new to think about.

It’s time to have fun again with writing. Editing isn’t fun — although developmental draft editing is probably the most fun. You ever stumble across a story someone else has made, or a show, etc, and just want to tweak it into something so much better? That’s developmental draft editing, but it’s with your own work. Where you make a rough draft and poke and prod and tear it to pieces and move things around until you’ve developed the potential instead of what was there.

It’s a great creative process my brain adores. And I think that’s why I like the idea of text based games with multiple paths; you get to lean into that process and reward yourself and the reader/player with all these different, interesting stories born from one set inspiration.

I think that’s probably enough of my rambling for now. How funny to think I didn’t have anything to say, yet here are all the words claiming otherwise.