permission to protect myself

I haven’t written much for a while because I felt like I was (and am) going through all these untranslateable internal processes and I didn’t wanna puke these messy words all over the internet. There’s this strange thing about writing / blogging / zining / existing in public that creates this illusion of no boundaries. I realized maybe it’s my habit of over-sharing that makes people feel entitled to my time, to my energy, to my advice, to more information, to everything (or maybe that is self-blame, and I am in fact entitled to my own personal boundaries no matter what I write). I don’t know. I’ve made myself too vulnerable over the years. I guess that’s what kept me going for a while, but it’s not useful anymore. I’ve been learning how to communicate my boundaries for years, but it still feels like no one’s listening. I hid my blog for six months because I couldn’t handle readers’ expectations of me, couldn’t handle feeling like people were writing at me like I was a therapist or a confessional, or like we were suddenly best friends when I didn’t even know them. I couldn’t handle feeling like I was being looked at but not seen. I still can’t.

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Hello Kitty Tarot cards taped to my door. The Devil, Justice, Strength.

I was recently diagnosed with complex-PTSD, which helps clarify all kinds of stuff in my life, and it also makes me want to retreat from certain spaces to focus on my recovery. I’ve said about a thousand times over the years that I need to “focus on my recovery” but I could hardly ever figure out what that meant, and my feelings of obligation to keep all that stuff documented, to share it, to validate all my weirdo pals and strangers, actually just led to this really gross lack of boundaries and an inability to take care of myself. I realized I was using writing as therapy for a long time because more meaningful, competent mental health care (beyond meds) was not accessible to me and, once again, that was useful for a time, it kept me alive, but it’s not enough anymore. I also realized blogging about my mental illnesses, as much as I wanted to share these processes, was hurting me way more than I was able to admit. So, yeah, not only did I hide my blog while figuring out what to do next, I also deleted more than 1,000 comments and 50 entries because I just wanted to get rid of all that discomfort. I’ve been writing out of such anger and pain and I don’t want to do that anymore. I kinda wish I’d written down all the kind words y’all shared with me, but I mostly just remember the harassment. (There is no longer an option to leave comments here. Self-protection, etc.)

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A stack of Telegram, my first book, which you can still get here.

I still have a bunch of zines available at schoolformaps.etsy.com, and I’m working on a new one, all about recovery & boundaries & self-protection & letting go & embodying my values and stuff. I’m still learning how to accept that as my chronic pain condition worsens, and as I try to heal all this stuff, a lot of zinester-type things (fests, readings, gatherings, conversations, whatever) are becoming more & more inaccessible to me. I still wanna make zines, but I’ve also got to mourn the things I used to be able to do that I can’t anymore (and practice the things I can do now that I couldn’t in the past!). There are very real physical and psychic barriers keeping me away, but I’m finding more ways to survive, and to do so much more than just survive. I’ll tell you all (well, some) about it someday.

Self-protectingly (Not) Yours,
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borderline personality disorder, psych wards, & friendship

content note: suicide, self-injury, overdose, psych wards, ableism, transphobia, the usual

I’m writing a zine about suicide, borderline personality disorder, & friendship, but I’m struggling because, gosh, I’ve been writing about these things for such a long time & it feels almost impossible to offer any new insights or hope. I’m also trying write about the ableism & transphobia I experienced on the inpatient psych ward at CAMH (Centre for Addiction & Mental Health in Toronto, Ontario) in May, but I am so sick of writing about gender & ableism & madphobia! I’m so sick of feeling trapped with it all.

Anyway. I’m sharing an excerpt below. Maybe you’ll relate, maybe it’ll explain some of my weirdnesses, I don’t know.

“Lately, I’ve been examining the possibility that it’s my borderline tendencies destroying my friendships, making me feel disconnected, harmed, and scorned. The DSM-5 notes: ‘conflicted close relationships marked by mistrust, neediness, and anxious preoccupation with real or imagined abandonment; extremes of idealization and devaluation and alternating between over involvement and withdrawal.’

Each time I reread those words, I feel like Arthur in Velvet Goldmine jumping up and down, pointing at the TV, shouting, “That’s me! That’s me!”

While I still believe that many of the hurts and traumas I’ve experienced through friendships and communities over the years are very real and very painful, and have had serious negative consequences on my life and my psyche today, I also know that some of what’s going on is my crazy brain and its inability to understand humans, friends, as complicated, complex, contradictory, and magical beings – despite so often declaring myself as such.

This kind of simplistic, all-or-nothing black-and-white good-or bad (binaries!) thinking is a destructive force in my daily life, and it limits how close I can get with my friends, new or old; it limits my possibilities of loving and feeling loved, caring and feeling cared for, and of simply feeling good in each moment.”

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A page from I Hate You Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality by Jerold J. Kreisman MD and Hal Straus

“The system is shit,” the last doctor I spoke to at CAMH told me. I’m glad I kept a diary; reading my messy handwriting, I’m reminded of how much I’ve forgotten so quickly, the daily minutiae of psych ward life, the tiny bits of magic I tried to find nonetheless.

I’ve been admitted to hospitals four times in the last month and a half (twice I went to the ER & was sent home, once I was brought unconscious by ambulance to the ER, and then I was transferred to the psych ward for about a week). In April, I went to the CAMH ER. When the intake nurse started filling out my forms without asking me questions, I interrupted to tell her not to check the ‘female’ box, but to scribble in ‘non-binary, “they” pronouns’ blah blah boring shit I’m sick of talking about.

She cheerfully said, “Non-binary! I’ve never heard that term before! What does it mean?”

“It means I’m not a girl and not a boy,” I mumbled. “With so many gender options on your forms, working in this kind of environment, this term really shouldn’t be new to you.”

“Hey, I’m here to learn, too!”

I took a deep breath.

“I know. But you’re the one getting paid for this, and I’m the one in a suicidal crisis. Your education is coming at the expense of my mental health and your lack of knowledge directly harms queers and trans* folks coming to the ER. I don’t have it in me to teach you right now.”

When I came back to the ER a month later, I pretended to be a girl because I didn’t want a repeat performance of the nurse who thought I’d be an excellent learning experience – but “Non-Binary” was already on my file now, and they confronted me when they brought me into a private room, so I explained myself, but it seemed pointless.

The psychiatrist at CAMH told me she might be able to send me down to the women’s unit, and refer me to women’s only group therapy sessions. I told her that I’m not a woman and wouldn’t be comfortable there; I reminded her that I’d already tried to explain that pretending to be a gender I am not is partly what’s killing me. But she told me the women’s unit would be the best place for me (thankfully, she didn’t actually send me there after all). She told me, “As long as you make it clear to everyone there that you’re female-assigned-at-birth and don’t have a penis, your presence shouldn’t trigger anybody.” I was too exhausted to tell her that it’s this kind of gender essentialism that makes me wanna die, this hopelessness of the mental health care system that makes me wanna die, that she was exhibiting such Transphobia 101 that I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry (I did neither, I was numb), and that being in such a space would in fact be triggering for me and damaging to my psyche and my recovery.

Within two hours, I’d changed my mind from wanting to find a safe place to sleep, to wanting to give up entirely. I wrote my suicide note while the psychiatrist filled out my discharge forms. I walked home and overdosed about an hour later. I was brought by ambulance to another emergency room, fell into a coma for twenty hours, and don’t remember much. Later, I found myself on the inpatient psych ward. I actually didn’t know I’d been in a coma until a few days later, because none of the doctors or nurses told me what had happened, and my memory had been erased.

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When a nurse came to my room to bring me a bag with a change of clothes and my cane that my sweetheart had dropped off, she tried to confiscate my cane. Apparently, my sweetheart had tried to warn me via text that the nurse looked iffy about my cane, and to prepare for trouble, but my phone was locked up in the nurse’s station so I didn’t get the message.

She told me I couldn’t use my cane because I might use it as a weapon. I tried to remain calm and explain to her why I need to use my cane, and how confused I was that a hospital of all places would confiscate mobility aids, but she wasn’t listening, and I began yelling. Two more nurses came to my room to back her up. They stood too close to me, and I did begin to feel violent. My cane was folded when they gave it to me, and I unfolded it and used it immediately.

I remember them telling me to calm down and stop telling, that I was annoying the other patients who had just gone to bed. This made me feel the need to yell louder. “I DON’T CARE IF I’M KEEPING EVERYBODY AWAKE! I WANT THEM TO KNOW THAT THIS IS HAPPENING! IF SOMETHING SIMILAR HAPPENS TO THEM I WANT THEM TO KNOW THAT THEY AREN’T ALONE.” Eventually, my screaming became indecipherable; I mostly wasn’t screaming words anymore, just hopeless noise. I told the nurses that if I wanted to hurt them, I’d use my hands, not my cane. I became belligerent, noisy, triggered. The nurses left me alone to scream at the walls and the floor. They let me keep my cane. I thrashed my cane all over the room, breaking nothing, of course, just scuffing up the cheap black metal of it, watching it crumple and bloom again each time it hit my desk, my chair, my bed, the walls, the floor. I curled up in a ball on the floor and screamed until I slept.

Nobody mentioned it the next day, but whenever the nurse who tried to confiscate my cane was back on the ward, she’d refuse to make eye contact with me. I took names to file a report. I found out later that the staff are supposed to offer a walker to anyone who needs a mobility aid, because sometimes people do indeed use their canes as weapons (it sure is tempting!), but since I didn’t have my cane with me when I was admitted (because I was unconscious when I was admitted), they thought I was lying about my disability and didn’t really need it.

I spoke to yet another doctor the day I left and asked her how to get ahold of my file. “Of course!” she said. “You’re perpetually curious!”

Borderliningly Yours,
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P.S.: I have a new zine! Telegram #34 is about trauma. It’s not just about PTSD, but also about finding ways to exist in public with these messes and these stories, harm caused by one’s own communities, chronic pain, loss, getting sober and staying sober for three years, madphobia, in/accessibilities, and the im/possibilities of recovery and healing. Magic and Tarot, too, because they keep me going. It’s not gonna be the most fun read. You’ll probably feel uncomfortable. But maybe you’ll know what I’m talking about and maybe we can get through this together-ish.

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just another genderqueer femme with a cane

I got a cane today! I’m pretty excited about it because it’s already making walking a whole lot easier for me. My chronic pain condition has been progressing, and I knew this was inevitable, but I kept putting off buying a cane for all kinds of reasons. Despite having days where I literally cannot walk, I still thought maybe it’d fade and I’d go back to regular old wrist pain, instead of this spine-neck-hips-knees-tailbone mess, thought I’d just keep taking my painkillers and blot it out. But last night, coming home from the Heels on Wheels Glitter Roadshow Toronto tour stop, I had to use my umbrella as a cane, and I’m not sure how I would’ve gotten home without it. It was extremely difficult to walk from the nearest bus stop to my front door, and I kinda wished I had a friend with a wagon to pull me home. As I walked along the edge of Trinity Bellwoods, a racoon walked alongside me, and another racoon greeted me at my door. They’re good luck for broke fuck-ups, right? (They are to me.)

I’ve been hiding my limps from my friends, and nobody but my sweetheart has seen my crooked hobble-crawl I use at home, or all the dirty dishes stacked up in my sink because I can’t stand pain-free, or at least pain-lower, long enough to do the dishes. One of the reasons I don’t go to shows anymore is because I can’t stand or dance, and seats are often not provided. Chronic pain affects every moment of my life, every decision, every mood. Sometimes my legs give out beneath me. Sometimes I can’t afford transit and I can’t walk so I stay home. As I write this, my spine has tingling needles & pins, and a soreness beats through the right side of my tailbone, hip, knee, and shin.

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I also worried (and still worry) about how folks on the street’ll treat me, or at events, or whatever. I’ve identified as disabled for a few years, and I’ve written extensively about my mental illnesses and chronic pain. And I still feel like I’m annoying buzzkill when I make accessibility requests. In fact, I’ve tabled at zinefests where I made an accessibility request due to my chronic pain condition, and arrived just to find that my requests hadn’t been fulfilled after all. I don’t go to those zinefests anymore.

Now that I use a cane, and sometimes use knee braces and wrist braces as well, I’ll be among the visibly disabled, and that’ll be a new experience for me. I’ve often felt like conversations about invisible illnesses have shuffled conversations about visible disabilities under the rug. Sometimes it feels like one group is given “visibility” over another. I want both of these conversations to continue, and I’m grateful to be a part of them. (Grateful for pain and illnesses? Yep!) It took me a long time to decide to identify as disabled, but now I do.

As my condition worsens, I’m becoming aware that some of the spaces that are physically accessible to me today aren’t going to be in the future. I’ve been mentally preparing for this, but haven’t talked to anybody about it much because I thought somehow I could sneak away from that part. But I can’t. It’s already happening.

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I want my cane to be my magical wand that grants me the ability to walk when I want to. I hope it’ll feel good by my side. My cane is foldable, so I can carry it in my backpack, and of course I’ve already got Hello Kitty and Lisa Frank stickers on it. I created a ritual to welcome my cane into my life, and to welcome myself into this part of my life.

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Caningly Yours,
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Things I’ve Tried to Stay Alive

content warning: self-injury, suicide, overdoses, sexual assault

I’ve made myself extremely vulnerable over the years with the details & stories I’ve shared in my zines & on my blog. I feel like I’ve over-shared to an immense degree, but it felt crucial at the time; it’s kept me alive thus far, and it’s inspired friends & strangers to share their own stories, to practice vulnerability and embrace their own weirdnesses, and perhaps it’s inspired conversations, changes, actions, etc. But lately, it feels so dangerous. I’m not sure if all this over-sharing is helpful for me anymore, or harmful. All the encouragement & kind words from strangers have been amazing, but I’ve also been dealing with a lot of stuff that feels like it’s destroying my psyche.

When I started my blog, it was meant simply to encourage us to be weird, to share; it was just a simple act of encouragement. One of my favourite things to do is encourage others. That’s what I wanted. When I started this blog, I was living in a different city, I had different ideas & experiences than I have now, and fuck, I was living as a different gender. This blog actually brings me a lot of negativity, though; the comments are moderated because people write mean shit in them, and I don’t want them to be public, I don’t want them to harm anyone else. But they hurt me. I remember each and every one of them. I remember the people who told me I’m not allowed to be a feminist, the people who told me that I have contributed absolutely nothing tangible or intangible to the world, and folks who have told me that it’s not okay to ask for the help & support that I need; I know those words are untrue, but they stay with me.

I’ve been chronically depressed and chronically suicidal since I was 8. I started self-injuring when I was in Grade Four, and it hasn’t stopped. Writing about all of this publicly has been necessary, but it also means I’ve opened myself up to the opinions of folks with such a dangerous lack of compassion, such a lack of positivity, that I don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t know what my future writing is gonna look like, or how I’m gonna share it. I’ll find a way; writing is the only thing keeping me alive. I’m about to share a whole bunch of personal shit below, and then I’m gonna stop. I’m sharing it because I feel like I need to, and I’m sharing it in the hopes that maybe some of the more kinder, delicate, crazy people who’re reading my blog might have more ideas. I don’t want to to kill myself; I want such intense changes in my life that I do not know how to begin. But I can’t avoid it anymore.

Thanks for reading.

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My diary, with pressed flowers, August 2013

Things I’ve Tried to Stay Alive

– 15 different psych meds (ages 11-28, excluding ages 14-18) (including single-meds and multiple cocktail-meds)
– longer-term (2 months) & short-term (1-3 weeks) inpatient hospitalizations
– no meds, several times (cold turkey)
– alcohol (currently approx. 1,000 days sober)
– various therapies (CBT, DBT, group, individual, short-term, longer-term)
– psychiatry
– seeing a neurologist (who ended up sexually assaulting me)
– massage, reiki, physical/naturopathy treatments
– self-help books
– art & creativity books
– mental health workbooks
– on & off various birth controls (Alesse pills & Depo-Provera shots)
– on & off pain meds (Tylenol 3)
– anxiety meds as needed (Xanax)
– sleeping meds as needed (Zopiclone, Trazodone)
– multiple overdoses (Trazodone, Lithium, Seroquel)
– pot
– tea
– coffee
– walking, spending time outdoors
– learning about plants & herbs
– various vitamins & supplements (B12, D, valerian, Devil’s Claw)
– Rescue Remedy
– writing: zines, diaries, letters, fiction, blogs
– self-injury (cutting, mostly my arms & legs, sometimes my stomach, once my face)
– changes in appearance (shaved head, unshaved body, tattoos, femme, tomboy, goth, etc…)
– multiple emergency rooms
– crisis lines, crisis counselling
– weird, possibly traumatic therapies in my childhood
– too much time online & also quitting the internet (deleting accounts, discontinuing internet access, etc.)
– mindfulness
– meditation
– writing workshops
– radical / disability / self-care / etc. workshops
– stretching & exercising
– bike-riding
– painting
– starting mental illness discussion groups
– practicing vulnerability
– femme as self-care & magic
– changing my gender
– traveling, touring, reading my zines out loud, tabling at zinefests
– speaking on panels
– (self-)publishing two books
– making crafts (knitting, sewing, screenprinting, making bike streamers…)
– crafternoons
– fucking everybody & fucking nobody (being a slut & being celibate)
– being vegetarian, then being vegan, now eating everything ever
– living alone, living with roommates, living with partners
– moving a lot (31 places in 28 years, including detention centres, group homes, & psych wards)
– living with 2 cats, and living with no cats
– witchcraft, reading Tarot cards, prayer, etc.
– volunteering, working, being on disability
– organizing
– online dating
– Y membership (yoga, water aerobics)
– mad pride
– Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous

Things I Haven’t Tried (Yet)

– murder
– acupuncture
– traveling further away, traveling within Canada
– long-term therapy (preferably queer-friendly, trans/*-competent)
– staying in one Home for an extended period

Things I’m Currently Trying

At the moment, I’m in short-term therapy at Planned Parenthood. I’ve been given five free sessions. I have three sessions left. It is scary on so many levels. Mostly it hasn’t been helpful at all, but it has been radically better than every other mental health care treatment I’ve had access to thus far. I’m hoping they’ll be able to put me on a waitlist for long-term therapy. I’m taking a bunch of meds, a bunch of vitamins, I’m creating a new daily life in my new home, I’m attempting some really difficult changes. I feel so fucking desperate, angry, sad, hopeful, violent, scared. I feel completely unable to take care of myself, but I’m trying anyway. I want to be quiet, I want to take up less space in certain circles, I want to be by myself, I want…

Know Hope,
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Introvert Studio, know home

(content warning: self-injury, suicidal ideation, all the stuff i write about always)

Hello, hello, I went on tour and then I came back to Toronto and I had a mental health suicidal-feelings crisis, narrowly escaped the psych ward, and moved into a bachelorex (my genderqueer word for bachelor/ette) apartment that I’ve named Introvert Studio and now I am mostly being slow, quiet, self-reflective, casting spells & setting new-year-new-home intentions, and recovering from burnout and an almost nervous breakdown. I’d like to catch up for a bit, and then go back and hide in my little cozy corner again.

I’ve been telling folks that I write about “the illusion of community.” I have a hard time trusting that community can be real. I still wanna keep on trying to create my own little weirdo artist introvert community, but I’ve had a really hard time, especially over the last few months, with just feeling really exhausted with organizing, and punx, and feminists, and everybody, and I’ve been trying to figure out what/ where/ who my community is, trying to create a personal definition of what “community” is to me. There are a few communities in which I can participate but don’t actually feel like I belong: queer community, zine community, etc… But I don’t know if I want to, or to what extent I want to.

When I went back to my hometown after tour, the contrast hit me really hard and I broke down. In my doctor’s office, I burst into tears, told him that doctors & landlords have too much control in my life, I want to kill myself, blah blah. In my diary, I wrote, If I hate doctors and landlords and cops so much, but I also hate punks and anarchists and feminists, so much, what’s left? I started writing a list (of course) of which “communities” I could be a part of, & what made me not want to. On tour, I whined about all the mean shit riot grrrls have said to/about me, and felt better when folks came up to me after the reading to be, like, Yeah, I used to think they were cool, but now they just seem gross, and so on. I talked about nostalgia as violence. I talked about the feminists who called me misogynist and “denying-my-womanhood” and told me I wasn’t allowed to be a feminist anymore, and how I’m still bitter and angry about it, and how I lost A LOT of friends when I came out as genderqueer, and how tiring & disappointing it is. I didn’t know if I wanted to keep writing or quit everything.

I asked myself if I could consider myself part of a “Writer/Literary” community, but decided, no, because lotsa those folks lack the class analyses & gender analyses that I need in my daily life, and lotsa capital W-Writers have a big hate-on for self-publishing. I decided that Punk / Anarchist / Organizing / Activist communities are sooo extremely unwelcoming & inaccessible to folks with mental illnesses, and have been thinking a lot about how they are structured to prevent folks with mental illnesses from being able to participate.

I got really symptomatic over the last few months and felt unable to talk about it or do anything about it. I wanted to die. I felt like there was a ton of visibility for zines about “self-care” and “vulnerability” and “mental health,” & that’s nice, but when I am actually experiencing the symptoms of my mental illnesses (paranoia, especially, but other things, too, like all the destructive & self-destructive things), it wasn’t cool to talk about it, and when I actually tried to take care of myself and set boundaries, nobody actually wanted to give me time to take care of myself or respect my boundaries at all, and it was so very overwhelming. Every time I got a message on Etsy that a zine was taking longer time than expected to arrive via snail mail, I wanted to set all my zines on fire and just quit it all forever.

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Fun-A-Day 2014. The Daily Doily. Ten of Keys via The Collective Tarot.

Being on tour mostly made me feel really good, and I was very very very lucky to be with these new friends of mine who I really like and feel comfortable talking to and like I don’t have to hide so many parts of myself from. But coming home was so hard, I got so burned out. I forgot about post-tour depression. One day, I hid myself in the bathroom with a razorblade and cut up my arm 213 times. When the cuts started to heal, I went back to the bathroom and cut myself 119 times. It never feels like enough. I keep staining my favourite clothes with self-injury blood. And it feels like it’s not okay to tell that to anybody when all the “mental health zines” I’m finding seem to just be about, like, growing herbs and things-in-jars in your kitchen, and Mindfulness, and stuff that doesn’t help me anymore.

I got out all my books about Borderline Personality Disorder and Recovering From Self-Injury, and all that stuff just seemed like such impossible bullshit, and they felt like they were written to shame me; they had lists of reasons not to cut yourself that contained things like, “You might make people around you feel bad,” and “You’ll have to wear long sleeves on the beach.” I want you to know that I don’t care if I make people around me feel bad anymore, and I feel safer when I’m with people who have visible scars. I wish my friends didn’t have to wear long sleeves everyday to avoid dealing with the daily bullshit we get when we have visible scars.

Things I’m Exhausted With: exhaustion, bullshit white cis feminism, folks who don’t understand that my mental illnesses & chronic pain are real disabilities that make me incapable of doing a lot of things that they (you) do, organizing, capitalism, anarchism, white cis people who think art should be free or trade-only, folks on Etsy who think I can go to the post office every damned day, passive-aggressive criticism that seeks harming individuals over valid criticism that seeks to create positive changes, acting nice when I don’t want to, folks who don’t respect my boundaries when I make them very clear, call-out culture, unheated apartments…

Things I’m Excited About: my new home, meaningful friendships & one-on-one friend dates, alone-time, writing, JazzFM all day everyday, artists who are alive & making things, continuing to make zines but in different ways &/or forms, my lavender pea-coat, nail polish in every shade of purple, art art art, tea, context, fun-a-day, silence, solitude, friends who know that not all silences are awkward, creating a forever-home, cozy punx, winter survival…

I’m recovering now, again, and finding ways to deal with the messes I just wrote about. I’m changing my priorities. I’m really happy to be in my new home, and grateful for the queer community connections that made it possible for me to find a really dreamy place that I can actually afford. I want to get a lot of this negative stuff out, to write out my frustrations with various subcultures & communities and all their double standards and un/spoken rules and inaccessibility, etc. I do feel more hopeful today than I’ve felt for a while. I’m working on various projects, but doing so in a way that I’m not exhausting myself like I did throughout 2012 & 2013. I want this year to be different. My Etsy shop, schoolformaps.etsy.com, is open again, and I did this rad interview you might wanna read. I told my pals that my plans for 2014 are to make no plans. I want: silence, solitude, care, & art.

My goal is to be still long enough to let my nail polish dry.

Introvertedly Yours,
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How to Support the Writer & Artist In Your Life

{An extended version of this piece is available as a zine!}

1. Respect Our Time. Writers and artists work hard, but unless you’re a writer or artist yourself, this may be difficult, or even impossible, to see. Some writers or artists will tell you that a Higher Power or Great Creator works through them; others will tell you that it is all hard labour; still others will tell you it’s a little bit of both. For me, it’s a messy combination of hard work, self-discipline, and desire, with inspiration, anger, and caffeine. Only a very few, if anyone at all, has witnessed my writing process from scratch to completion. Without being a writer or artist yourself, you can’t understand the hours, moods, or frustrations that go into writing the smallest things, like a blog entry, to the bigger things, like a novel. Writers and artists are used to being interrupted with requests to do the laundry, cook dinner, tidy the apartment, talk about nothing, etc. Don’t do this! The slightest intrusion in our thought process, a hand on our shoulder when we didn’t know you were standing behind us, can distract us from the story we’re trying to tell and scare off our words like a swarm of chickadees being chased off by the neighbourhood cat. We don’t call you when you’re at work. We don’t come into your office or your storefront and remind you to take out the garbage and respond to your emails. So, respect our time; sometimes you just need to leave us alone!

2. Pay Us For Our Work. Most workers get paid for their labour; we frequently do not. We accept writing and art-making as our full-time/overtime job with little to no pay, no benefits, no vacations, no holidays. Many of us work psychically destructive jobs to pay the bills and we make time outside of those jobs for art; others of us, myself included, are on social assistance, and struggle to pay the rent and get some food; we’re lucky indeed when we’re able to buy books, zines, and other arts from our friends and community members, and we do it whenever we can. Money is complicated; we struggle to make our art available at a price that is both fair and worthwhile to us as creative creatures, and fair and accessible to you, our oft-broke friends, acquaintances, and lovers of words. Many writers and other artists whose works are online, including myself, have a donation button on our websites – if you’v got the cash and you’re feeling generous, donate! I like to think of it as online-busking; here I am, sharing my words, hoping for some spare change as you pass by. When you pay us for our words, we write more! When you pay us for our illustrations, we draw more! Spend your money with intention and care; make your art with intention and care. I have a mantra: Will Trade For $$$.

3. Introduce Us to Other Writers and Artists in Your Life. Writing and art-making can be unspeakably lonely! (And unspeakably lovely – I frequently typo the two.) Our communities of writers and artists are splintered and fragmented, not only because of geographical distances, but also because cliques and social power/capital (& lack thereof) exist, mental illnesses exist, shyness exists, and poverty exists; insomnia and fatigue and fear and illnesses exist, inaccessible spaces exist; these experiences and more affect the way we relate and interact with other writers and artists, within our own cities and without. We do indeed need to spend plenty of time alone, but we need to spend time with other writers and artists, too! We need to talk, plan, daydream, organize, collaborate, and encourage. So, set us up. Exchange names, emails, snail mail addresses, ideas. Bring us to events. Invite us into your homes. Tell your friends about us. Have a Quiet Party. Help us build and sustain our oft-disconnected communities.

4. Share, Stock, and Review Our Work. Many of us spend the greater portion of our days in quiet, lonely corners, working away without any kind of immediate feedback or encouragement. It can feel like we’re writing and art-making within a vacuum. It can feel like nobody cares. And for those of us who are self-publishing or working with extremely DIY endeavours, we need lots of support; not just kind words and respect, but tangible support. Not only do we need you to pay for our work, we need you to share it as well. How can you do this? There are so many ways! You can post links to our blogs, Etsy shops, and Facebook fanpages; tweet with us or about us on Twitter; write reviews on your blogs, GoodReads, and Amazon; request our books at your local library; donate our zines to zine libraries or buy them for zine libraries; contact us for interviews; tell your local indie bookstores about us; if you work at a library or bookstore or have connections with them, get our work in stock and promote the hell out of it! And remember to always credit us when you share our work!

5. Organize! Book Events For Us. Attempting to find accessible spaces and contacts to book events can be a frustrating process, and interrupts the time usually devoted to writing and art-making; also, many of us weirdo artists are simply not good at what is commonly referred to as “networking”. Thus, we need help. When you help us organize events, you provide much-needed support in the form of time, energy, and talking-to-people; the events you organize for us create an important gathering spot for writers, artists, and our friends and community members, they help us “make a name” for ourselves, and they help generate an income and new supporters of our work. Organizing events is crucial! It’s a bothersome task, for sure, and sometimes discouraging, but it can also create genuine magic. If you can’t organize an event, but you can give us a couch to sleep on when we’re in your town, fill up our thermoses with coffee, or give us a ride to the bus station or airport, please do so!

6. Respect Our Boundaries. This is similar to respecting our time, but needs its own note because I cannot emphasize it enough. Much talk within the zine & art communities I participate in has been given to setting and respecting boundaries, but when you get right down to it, a lot of us are good at discussing & intellectualizing & philosophizing about boundaries, and not so good at actually creating and respecting them. Sometimes it feels like no matter how many times I clearly state my boundaries, my pals wanna break them; they expect more than I can give. An example of one of my boundaries is this: When you email me, a) don’t expect me to respond right away unless it’s an emergency, and b) don’t message me on any other social networking sites to tell me that you emailed me. Message received. Be patient. Another one of my boundaries is this: If you accidentally misgender me, apologize once and then shut up about it. I don’t care if you feel awkward or sad about it; I feel worse. I don’t talk to cis people about gender unless I’m being paid for it. Go talk it out with somebody else if you’re still having feelings.

7. Take Us Out or Cook Us A Meal. Sometimes I get lost in my writing and it’s not until I allow myself to pause and think that I realize I’m really hungry and I have to pee. It’s easy to forget about these mundane body things when we’re working; it’s equally easy to remember and just not take care of ourselves because we think our art is more important, and we must be at least a tiny bit self-destructive to keep making good art, right? We could discuss that question forever, but what I really want to say is – I like burritos and pizza, so feel free to take me out! If you have a roommate who’s an artist, or you live with your sweetheart who’s an artist, cook them a meal! Make lots so we can heat up leftovers! Make yummy things like kale and quinoa and fish that’ll be good for our bodies and brains! Pour us a tall glass of water to remind us we can’t live off coffee alone! The recovering alcoholic writer/artist in your life also appreciates a fancy root beer!

8. Tell Us You Love Us. Many of us writers and artists are miserable creatures; we are self-absorbed and self-hating, we feel dissatisfied with everything, and we are constantly asking ourselves, “Why bother?” Last week, I wrote about 10,000 words of my next novel and contacted spaces in California in which to do zine readings and workshops, three days ago I proposed a new collaborative workshop project with a dear friend, yesterday I thought about giving up writing altogether and swallowing all my psych meds, and today I’ve written 2,000 words and begun planning a Winter Survival Freaky Queerdo zine reading tour; “ups & downs” is too small a phrase to communicate how my artistic messed up brain works. The truth is, we need constant reminders that we are loved and appreciated, that our art and our selves are valued and cared for. It can be hard to say, “I love you,” especially to friends, but try it! Write it on a postcard, sign it on an email. Practice saying it out loud, perhaps while you are sharing a hug or talking on the phone if eye contact makes you feel uncomfortable. Practice accepting love and feeling loved, too.

9. Ask Us How You Can Help. Asking for help is hard. Many of us simply won’t do it. Try asking the writer or artist in your life what kind of help we need. Maybe we need a bunch of bananas and yogurt but can’t make it out to the grocery store today; maybe we need you to read a draft of the zine we’re working on and tell us if there are any typos. Make your support visible and tangible (at the same time, be sure to make your own boundaries clear – you don’t want us to rely on you for everything!).

Tip for Writers & Artists

Define “support.” Nobody can offer you support if they don’t know what that means! When you’re feeling unsupported, as many of us often do, try to write a list of what you need. Try to tell your friends what you need. Maybe you want someone to email you and check-in with you to make sure you’re still working on your project and feeling good about it (or maybe you want the opposite); maybe you need a coffee date with a friend as an excuse to get out of the house and generate new inspirations; maybe you need your friends to show up at your events instead of just telling you it’s a good idea and then staying home the day of. What does “support” mean to you? Write it down and share it.

None of us can survive without writing and art, so treat us well, support us, and pay us for our work!

If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments!

Supportingly Yours,
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P.S.: I have new zines! Telegram #’s 30 & 31 are now available at schoolformaps.etsy.com. Issue 30 is about making stories tangible, finding reasons to live and not join The 27 Club, and my stuff being stolen when I was in Seattle. Issue 31 is about broke-femme identity, self-care & magic & ritual, chronic pain, glam rock, and winter survival.

P.P.S.: I’m going on tour! Two tours, actually.

In mid-December, me & a few pals are doing a Winter Survival Freaky Queerdo Tour; we’ll be reading zines, singing songs, and having discussions throughout Ontario and Québec. We’re gonna do an event-a-day in Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Kingston, Ottawa, Montréal, and Peterborough. Stay tuned for details and/or contact me at schoolformaps@gmail.com if you wanna book us for a house show.

In February, I’ll be touring California! I’ll be reading in San Francisco on February 13th and tabling at LA Zinefest on February 16th. I’d really like to spend more time in San Francisco, as well as do readings and/or host workshops in the Bay Area (between February 10th-14th before I head to Los Angeles) so, again, if you wanna book me for a zine reading at your house or in your event space, please contact me at schoolformaps@gmail.com.

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Writing = Working / A Discussion of Support & $upport

Okay, let’s talk about MONEY! It’s awkward, I know. But I’ve got a lot of feelings about art, work, and money, so here we go…

I need support to keep on writing: Many different kinds of support, and that does indeed include the financial kind. I recently added a donation button to the right sidebar of my blog, with a note:

♥ WRITING = WORKING ♥

WRITING is ART & ART is WORK. I spend all day every day writing, and it keeps me alive but it doesn’t pay the bills. Please consider supporting my work not only by reading, commenting, & sharing, but by contributing a little bit of money as well. As always, I am immensely grateful & appreciative of your support!

$upportMarandaElizabethbyBriannaDearest
$upport by Brianna Dearest

I believe artists should be paid for their work, and that we’d be capable of making MORE and BETTER art if we were reasonably financially compensated. I don’t like feeling obligated to give away my words & energy & time for free, and I don’t like being expected to do so when I’m just barely scraping by on my disability cheques. I think it’s okay to want things – coffee, books, trinkets, art, yummy food, etc. – and that we shouldn’t be shamed for wanting/needing things, or for wanting/needing the money to acquire these things. My writing doesn’t provide a predictable, steady income, but it does indeed give me just a little bit to keep on going.

Life as a disabled writer without a formal education can be really difficult, pals! I’ve had a lot of bad luck this year, which has gotten me much deeper in debt than I could’ve predicted – but I’ve also had a lot of truly amazing experiences, and begun new creative projects, new chapters of my life, if I may use that terrible cliché. Chronic pain and major depression have been getting me down, but I’ve been continuing to write anyway because there’s absolutely nothing else that I want to do. I’m feeling ridiculously inspired, and hardly have the time to work on all my ideas, but I’m figuring it out. Unfortunately, it’s often a lack of money holding me back. Monthly disability cheques keep me way the fuck below the poverty line, and I can’t dig myself out.

I spend my money with intention. I buy food that makes me feel good, and books that inspire and encourage me by folks who I believe deserve my money; I buy art directly from artists when I can, to make sure they make as much as they can. I contribute money, even in the tiniest amounts (I recently gave $3 to a fundraising campaign for a book because I really wanted to donate but that was all I had) to crowdfunding campaigns, I buy lotsa zines at zinefests and through Etsy and snail mail, I write a lot of letters, and I try to share my visibility with other writers & artists who need it.

Friends and strangers have been so generous! I’ve spent much of my life, more than a decade, involved in various zine communities. It’s kept me alive, for real, but it’s also filled me with guilt about my need for cash – I’ve been surrounded by a lot of zinesters who tell me the ‘Art Should Be Free’ speech (as I’ve written about in previous blog entries). Cool story, yeah, but lots of us cannot afford to give our art away for free. I can’t! Not often, anyway. And now that I find myself involved in other literary & artistic communities, I find it more and more problematic to expect things for free. I think it’s way better to offer support in the form of cash whenever possible. I don’t think you owe me anything, no, not at all, but here we are stuck in a capitalist society where, despite the value of our art and our politics, despite the ways we are indeed working hard to change the world, we need to eat, pay bills, send mail, and take care of ourselves.

Money is not inherently bad! We can spend it with intention, and save it with intention. We can support one another with cash when hugs and letters and kind thoughts aren’t enough.

Supportingly Yours,
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