Depression Quest

In all the ridiculous #GamerGate hype, it was never mentioned just how damned important and accurate the game that started it all happens to be.

http://www.depressionquest.com/dqfinal.html#

There’s a trigger warning at the beginning for a reason, but I challenge anyone who lives with depression not to play it and suspect that the creators were somehow able to spend five minutes in our brains.

The woman who helped create this is the one #GamerGate was trying to get to kill herself. Don’t believe me, read their own words. That blog highlights the “good” parts, but also links directly to the chat logs that kicked off the whole fiasco. #GamerGate was awful for a lot of reasons, but I’m starting to think that obscuring this game was one of the worst. More eyes on it would have given people a better understanding of what we go through and a better way to empathize, and those assholes stole it from us. Fuck you, #GamerGate. From the bottom of my miserable black hole of a heart, FUCK. YOU.

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The Day I Don’t Brain So Well

EDIT: I think I know why disruptive kids responded well to me now. I understand the struggle. “Don’t worry, kid. I respond to criticism by violently shoving the world away and hiding in a ball of self-devaluating misery too.” When they weren’t in fight-or-flight mode due to their anxiety, those kids revealed themselves to be kind, understanding, creative and intelligent individuals. More evidence, to me, that we need to tailor learning to the child.

Here is a day in the life of a person with manic depression who skips a mood stabilizer AND a sleep medication because she didn’t count them right and account for the pharmacy being closed over the weekend.

It starts early. Right around the time the clock hit 00:00 on the new day, I knew sleep was going to be a tricky bastard. Unfortunately for me, even when I find it, it slips away as easily as a hard twitch of my legs or a light jostle from my partner. So I tried the old trick of staying up to the point of exhaustion.

I wasn’t even doing much. Fiddling with the DS, watching Pawn Stars on and off. Eventually, I switched over to Netflix to throw on a show I’d watched over and over to fall asleep to. But suddenly the show was SO FASCINATING. The episodes have been rerun to death, but suddenly the punch lines were making me chuckle myself out of the one point sleep haze nearly overcame my fried brain, and BOOM! Awake. Eye-poppingly awake.

Back to the hypnotic shift between handheld game system and show. Four AM passed…six AM. I had to sleep. I had Stuff To Do the next day. I laid down, closed my eyes, and drifted. It was like hopping back and forth across some line I couldn’t quite fully cross into. My sleep was off-balance. At one point, I apparently fed my partner my shoulder, and he pushed me lightly out of smothering distance. Awake. His legs shoved across my side of the bed. Mildly annoyed and awake.

He woke up soon after, and we laid around and did couple stuff. The friend I clean for in exchange for garage space called, needing someone to drop one of his sons off at a babysitter before I came in to clean. I rushed through getting ready and drove over.

I’ve always had this theory that the cuter the kids are, the more stubborn and rebellious they tend to be. I used to proctor for one of my mother’s third grade classes, and she found out I had a knack for getting trouble children to settle down. She passed the info along to a fellow teacher, who had one student who would oppose everything she said, shriek, and generally be a horror. She asked if I would be willing to proctor for her since no one else wanted to because of this one kid. I agreed, feeling assured of my skills after dealing with my mother’s unruly class.

I walked in expecting some burly, sneering skinheaded third grader with prison tats or something after all the fuss they made over him. Instead, I found myself standing over the desk of a fair-skinned, button-cute brunette boy with big, puppy brown eyes. I thought someone was putting me on. Then class started. I realized right away what the problem was. The teacher was instigating, probably unintentionally. Expecting him to be a problem, she would often turn her attention to him and snap at him to sit up straight or pay attention or stop fiddling with something. Her tone was harsh, and it fell on the kid very often. He would start to get more and more stressed, his face reddening and his antagonizing actions ramping up in response. That was when the screaming matches between them would start, and I’ll tell you that kid about pierced my eardrum shrieking right next to me. He’d slam things around, throw things, and ultimately drop out of any reach of reasoning.

Once I was able to get him to myself, though, he responded pretty well to an even tone and politely asking him to follow instructions. He even brought things to classes to show me and would light up when I walked in. I don’t know if it was just a good cop/bad cop situation with my perhaps overly sweet, imploring actions versus the teacher embarrassing and pre-empting bad behavior, but I was able to keep him out of the office that week and on task with the testing.

After him came myriad friends’ children who were adorable little mogwai they apparently fed exclusively after midnight. One of them, a tow-headed boy with an angelic smile, pinched me so hard on the neck that people were snickering about my “hickey” for a month afterward. From the first time I met Jack, I knew he was no different.

I moved away when one of my friends was pregnant. She had him while I was in the new city, and I only got to see him a couple times before I moved back for good. Once, my friend had entertained both of us by playing “fetch” with him. He would throw a ball, Jack would grab it and run it back, and one of us would ruffle his already-thick blonde curls, take the ball, and repeat the process. All three of us were in fits of laughter by the end. Jack is an adorable child with a lot of energy and a contrarian nature.

So when I was tasked with A. Waking him up from a nap and B. Trying to get him to do anything else after being woken up from said nap, I was sufficiently daunted. The thing with me when I’m on the way up the Bipolar ladder, though, is my personality fits really well with a willful three-year-old’s. I am well-practiced in fighting the “I don’t wanna”s in my own brain, so a three-year-old was basically just a version of that I could pick up and tote around if I needed to. Waking him up and getting him to grandma’s could be as simple as bracing myself for the shrieks, dressing him like a doll, and stuffing him into the carseat.

I decided to take a less combative approach and just tickle him awake. You can literally never wake up angry if someone is tickling you awake. You may get angry afterwards, especially if you live alone and someone broke in and randomly started tickling you, but you will at least wake up laughing. It worked like a charm. My subsequent game of “I can’t find your feet to put on socks!”, however, backfired. He curled up into a ball and fought the socks every step. I finally wrestled them on, telling him it was against the rules when he tried to kick them off (the rules of what, I don’t know, but apparently he did), and was stuck with kid-in-a-ball-who-is-now-playfully-not-cooperating. So I scooped him up and deposited him on the couch in front of his favorite monster truck show. I asked if he wanted to pick out something to drink, and he nodded and wandered over to the fridge. I opened it, he took a cursory glance, murmured, “Just milk” and headed back to the couch.

I grabbed the milk, and he popped back in to say “Just chocolate milk”. This is where the best part of being an Auntie as opposed to a Mommy comes in. Chocolate milk? Fuck yeah! The chocolatiest. I mixed it up right, handed it to him, and went back into the kitchen to wash some dishes until it was time to leave.

His face got stormy when I went to gather him up, but he didn’t fuss. I found a couple pairs of shoes that looked like they were his and asked which ones he wanted. He pointed to one pair, and I held each out in turn as he put his feet in. He was still holding the chocolate milk, and I told him to drink what he wanted because we had to go. He locked eyes with me and stood stock-still. The milk level didn’t change. I sensed a dig-in. I told him I was going to count to five, and he should drink as much chocolate milk as he could until then. I proceeded a drawn-out count, and he just looked at me. I got to five and gently tried to take the cup. He resisted for a second, still giving me the business, but finally chugged half of the remainder of milk and gave it up.

We finally made it to the car with ten minutes remaining before he was supposed to be at his grandma’s. I found the game his brother had installed on my Kindle for him and brought it up, then passed the device back to him and started the car. I roughly knew the area from a high school friend who had lived on the same street, and I thought I would be able to track down the address from what I vaguely remembered of my conversation with my friend and Jack’s own knowledge of his grandma’s house.

Some time after this, I got two different responses to trusting Jack to find his grandma’s: My friend, Jack’s father, frowned and said, “Jack knows where his grandma lives. Of course you should have trusted him.” His wife just smiled and shook her head at me, amused. “No, that was definitely a bad idea.”

It was definitely a bad idea. Jack tugged me along back and forth across the road to two different houses. The first was answered by a very confused and slightly scared-looking kid of around ten. I immediately said we had the wrong place and scooted Jack back to the car. I asked him where his grandma’s was. He pointed to another house. I grilled him, asking was he sure? Had he been there before? He solemnly nodded each time, as he had before. I sighed and led him to the next house. Thankfully, no one answered the door.

Finally, I deposited back in the car and drove back to his house. I haven’t had a cell phone in something over a year, yet I still hadn’t anticipated what a hassle driving to a location based on a vague description and the whim of a three-year-old could be. I called his grandma, who was luckily understanding, and got an actual address.

When we got there, Jack dug in again. The difficult part of being an Auntie? Kids don’t want to leave you because you spoil them and sometimes their parents/guardians hate that. His grandma just chuckled and said he must really like me. I ended up having to close the door on a full-on red-faced toddler fit, and I felt guilty for a bit.

With all the trouble, I had used up my time. I had to get the car back for my partner. I stopped back by my friends’ to drop off the car seat and at least touch up a couple things, then rushed home.

The rest of the day was spent alternating among distractions. It’s difficult for me to be alone sometimes, but I often isolate myself when I’m unsure of my mood to avoid embarrassing situations. Too often, I get lost in my head while around other people and come off as standoffish. If I’m manic, I’ll talk until I run out of breath, refill, and then talk some more. Sometimes I’m antagonistic without real intent. Others I just run off on tangents and speak in metaphors. After my head injuries, I often tangle up my sentences, lose words, transpose stories. Being alone is better than risking having an understanding audience.

There are times, though, when I’ll hit that golden stage of hypomania where everything is effervescent, and I am scintillating. I’m fun and happy and just want everything around me to be the same, and it rubs off on people. It’s rare, but it’s lovely. Colors are never so beautiful, and the world is never so welcoming and full of promise and adventure.

It took some time, but I was able to re-stabilize on medication. Brain chemistry always ends up being a dangerous thing to play with. My brain is full of wormholes, and any tweak in the chemicals I feed it can send me shooting down one or another into unknown universes where anything could happen. Finding the decent one among them isn’t worth risking the horrors of the others. For now, stability is the only goal. Perhaps one day I’ll seek that permanent golden state where nothing can touch me, but life needs to even out first. First comes solid ground–then adventure.

Bury It

Rusty as ancient hinges, the earth groaned over into night. Bugs scissored various appendages, creaking out a hymn that was muffled by the silence of the boneyard. Even the growls of the corpse and soft curses of the woman wrestling it toward an open grave hovered only around the odd pair. The air of the place was cotton.

She had bound the hands of the creature and muzzled it like a dog. Behind the leather straps, its exposed teeth worked viciously, gnashing at nothing. Her fingers dug reeking pits into the rotting flesh of the thing’s arms as she pushed it along. It was falling apart, but it was strong.

And she had to bury it.

So on they trudged, the thing struggling and snapping and rolling the one eye only half-sagged into decay, her sweating and dogged. On toward the hole scrabbled into the soft ground.

It found purchase once on a tombstone when she blindly steered it into another’s resting place. The groan constantly dribbling through its desiccated lungs rose into a hoarse shriek, and it kicked almost instinctively against the marble block. Her own cry of surprise ripped itself from her throat as they toppled over to the side.

She fell with her arm across its putrid abdomen, almost spooning the creature. In a flash, it struck her skull with its own mostly exposed one, lunging for a piece of her face, and she blinked out.

She woke to nuzzling against her chest. Still mostly drifting in unconsciousness, a dreamy half-smile stole across her face. She reached up to stroke a hank of hair and slimy scalp from the dead thing trying to chew into her breastbone. Reality iced her veins, and she shuddered away in fits of kicks and gags.

It struggled on the ground, streaking the grass with gore. Once her breath stopped hitching and resumed the mildly wheezy pant of determined panic, she rose to her feet. Humping its way along, the corpse found said feet and got to work rubbing its muzzled mouth against them. Her lips peeled from her teeth in disgust, and she took a few awkward steps back before throwing her entire body into a kick to its ribs. The bloated belly burst with the sound of a slowly deflating balloon. Undeterred, the thing snapped at the foot she had to wrench from its caved side.

She stepped to the side of it and gave it an expression that was half pity. “You can’t just do us both a favor and disappear, can you?”

It howled in reply.

She snarled ferally and bent to wrestle it back to its decrepit feet. “Well fuck you too, then.”

Only minor scuffles plagued them the rest of the way. She pitched it over into the hole without an ounce of pity. “Rot.”

Her hands echoed the word in hisses as she scooped loose dirt over the bucking remains. Rot…rot…rot…rot… until it was buried. She paused on all fours over the mound of fragrant earth and panted spitefully.

After a moment, her sides switched their bellows-like heave to a manic twitch as she laughed. She pounded her fists into the grave, denting the slightly concave mound. She howled. She cried. She dry-heaved. She at last scrubbed her face with muddy, gory hands and stood silently at the edge.

A few grains of dirt trickled subtly down the sides of the mound. She thought she might have seen it heave a little, but she’d also been sure she’d gone raving mad awhile ago. Who knew what she’d seen. Who knew if any of this was even real.

Her face taughtened suddenly, and she spat on the mound. It pitted the dirt, and she was sure this time she saw it buckle ever so slightly upward in the forever living dead thing’s attempt to reach the surface again.

She blurted a titter that was not a little unbalanced and turned from the mound. Many down, some to go. The numbers weren’t important. She just had to get them buried as quickly as possible. Surely once they’d rotted, whatever weird strength they had would leave their bones. They’d vanish into the ground and cease their endless chewing.

As she left the graveyard, she’d almost have whistled if she could. Had she, she would have unwittingly found nothing but the discordant tune of moans and shifting dirt her ear would no longer discern fluttering hoarsely from her dry lips. To her, the night was silent and sweet and the burials were still unfinished. A hand newly broken free reached for her, but she was gone.

————

Never will I ever post a story here, but sometimes a nice little vignette is just what’s needed to force myself to look at a situation differently.

You do what you can when faced with survival. It’s the moral of every zombie story, hidden under some fun gore and ass-kicking if it’s the film or graphic novel type. Moral citizens attempt to uphold morals, and the main antagonists are usually not the undead but the criminals held in check only by society. The undead become a backdrop to human struggle, more of a catalyst than a real threat. Different stories deal with this issue differently, but it is almost always central.

And if you don’t know how to stop something from killing you, what do you do but bury it? It’ll claw its way free eventually, but sometimes you just need to buy yourself some time. Regroup, make a plan, return to execute it. I’ve had to buy myself years, and the debt is coming up. I’m still not sure what my plan is.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to face everything that’s happened and conquer my fear of trust. It’s not today. Today, I’ll just settle for a little peace. Rest my battle-weary bones in the dust and know no more for awhile.

Making Pain Pretty

My latest project has involved soda cans. I passingly saw something on Pinterest about cutting up soda cans for pendants. Being insanely broke and in no shortage of empty soda cans, this sounded like an excellent idea for materials. I collected a few cans to experiment on, picked up a pair of shears from Menard’s, and went to work.

I’d been wanting to teach myself to rivet for awhile, but the opportunity had never really presented itself. Since I figured I’d want to tuck the edges of my aluminum pendant over to avoid creating a razor pendant of death, rivets would probably feature heavily in the piece. I practiced a few on some pieces of aluminum I’d cut up to test the new shears. When I was satisfied that I could make a passable rivet, I sketched my design.

I listen to music that matches my mood when I sketch. Both are forms of catharsis, and the design reflected it. Jagged edges and trailing triangular cutouts. A negative mood, one I’d purposely decided to channel into a design.

Being bipolar, it’s become easy to tell when I’m sinking into a chronic negative mood–depression. For myriad reasons, I am not currently taking medication. This means I get the full brunt of the hopelessness, paranoia, fatigue, aches, and assorted anguish that accompanies depression. I have not fared well in past battles with the beast. Lately, I’ve been trying to find mentally and physically healthy ways to cope. I’m still not consistent with it. It, like everything else in my life at the moment, is a work in progress. But one I can use to benefit another–my jewelry.

I sketched a few ideas inside the design, scribbled some others next to it with random arrows and questionable legibility, then outlined the basic shape I would need for the aluminum in fine-tipped Sharpie and traced it onto a clean sheet of paper. I cut the outline out, adding triangular flaps at the straight edges I could fold over, then rubber cemented it to a rectangular sheet from a pop can. I cut the design out of the aluminum with my shears and tapped divots into the larger ends of the triangles with my ‘.’ metal stamp. I drilled them and started to make the cuts with my jeweler’s saw. The sound a jeweler’s saw blade makes on thin aluminum sheet is roughly the same as shaking a metal jar full of nails. By the end of the cutouts, my hand was numb and my ears wished they were.

image

I didn’t decide on what I wanted behind the cutouts right away. I played with different ideas before deciding on poetry. Then I had to find materials–perfect excuse to rummage through my city for a good used book store. I’d remembered the library often having carts of used books for a dollar and under, so I started there. Instead of finding a small cart of nothing interesting, I found out the library had opened up a whole section of cheap used books. What should have been smash-and-grab material hunting turned into a shopping spree. I found a book of poetry with lovely yellowed pages and about five other things I didn’t need, reassured my boyfriend that yes I was coming home this century, and headed out to prep everything.

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The texturing on the copper triangles was achieved with a utilitarian hammer and a jeweler’s screwdriver. I noticed some of it flattened when I riveted the pieces to the design, so I had to go back and re-texture some areas. The triangles were cut from copper scraps that had begun to tarnish, so I took my roughest sandpaper to them to take the finish off and rough them up pretty. I wanted something interesting for the top rivet, so I grabbed a random brass bead and tried to rivet it and some more copper scraps to the top. I gripped it too hard with the pliers and squished half of it. Instead of scrapping it, I decided to see what happened when I hammered it the rest of the way flat. It looked like a nautilus shell, but the hole was too big now. I cut a small star from a brass scrap, drilled it, and used it to help rivet the bead to the piece.

A couple more places needed rivets to hold the pieces of aluminum together better. Then came the lacquer. Dear god the lacquer. Four straight days I spent applying, re-applying, checking, and applying some more lacquer. I wanted that scrap of poetry completely sealed in. Finally, I sprayed the last coat and prepared to wait yet another day before I could do anything else.

I wasn’t sure what to do for the chain. I considered throwing a jump ring bail on it and calling it a day, but it deserved better. I’d almost scrapped it three times–this pendant was a survivor. I had an idea for a chain with hammered wrapped loops, but it would have been several more hours of labor for a result I wasn’t really sure about. My third idea was a mixed chain. I wanted chaos–all kinds of chains going every which way. I found a pair of earrings with thick dangles of chain and a headband with shot elastic made of braided leather and chain. I cannibalized a chainmaille experiment for some jump rings and voila–a necklace made 100% from recycled materials.

And now a sketch I drew in a drowning bog of a mood is a piece of jewelry that survived many mishaps and was recreated from items slated for the dump. If that isn’t a statement…

See the finished piece here.

Invoke the Shadow of Doom

Yesterday, I finally posted my forging project from class on Etsy (seen here). I have trouble coming up with projects on the spot, so a classroom setting ended up being a little awkward for me. It didn’t help that the curriculum was scattered; we not only didn’t stick to the schedule, we ended up not even completing some of the projects. All told, it was an expensive and somewhat disappointing experience, but it is what started me off in metalwork–a facet of jewelry making that allows for much more expression than simple beading or wire wrap. One that allows for inspiration from any source.

My fallback in awkward situations has always been music. I used it in middle school to psych myself up for another day among bullies and still-tentative friends, escaped in it back home with my temperamental drunk of a stepfather (cliche, I know), and lulled myself to sleep with it when nothing else would silence my rampant thoughts. It’s also served as inspiration for stories, sketches, any number of creative ventures.

So when called upon to draw up designs I could transfer to metal, I obviously immediately panicked, made up some excuse, and bolted outside for some nicotine therapy. While sucking down a death stick, my brain radio started up with some Dax Riggs.

I’d been following his music since I’d found out as a little gothy kid (I can explain: abuse and the early stages of manic depression, which from twelve to fourteen manifested as just plain depression) that a band called Acid Bath was a thing. It was dark, sludgy metal with crazy lyrics, but the vocals were very different from any other harder forms of rock I’d heard. At times, Dax’s voice was a caustic roar, and others a grimy, haunting warble. It was melodic metal, if you can believe it. I fell madly in love with the juxtaposition of the screaming guitars and rich, beautiful voice and the darkly poetic lyrics (which is why I later moved on to symphonic metal). Then I found out that the band had broken up after two albums.

Devastated, I sought out other projects by the band members. The guitarist had gone on to form Goatwhore (erm…), but the vocalist I had been so captivated by was making a different sort of music altogether. It wasn’t until many years later, when my tastes began to branch out, that I revisited Dax’s later bodies of work.

One of his songs–the one that played in my head the day I drew up the hand–had about the most metal-sounding name you could imagine, though it is a soft, mesmerizing song: “I Hear Satan”. A closer look at the lyrics reveals that, rather than a schizophrenic hallucination, the song centers around the desolation of war. It seems to be neither supporting nor denigrating, simply commenting:

“Invoke the shadow of doom
Hold onto your black balloon
There is no flower in bloom
Ghost formed in death town
Blood, kings, and clowns
Dancing in the ashes of the moon

I hear Satan

I hear Satan in the basement of the Pentagon”

The first line was what inspired the hand. After hastily tossing my short once I had a clear idea of what my design was to be, I ran inside to sketch. I wanted a hand for the ‘invocation’ and the colors of war for decoration–irridescent red for fire and silvery dark gray for smoke. I wanted a hand calling the blood and darkness of war into existence, but also as a stop sign of sorts to express the sentiment that I felt ran beneath the song.

Deb, our instructor and the owner of the shop, cut a length of sterling silver wire and one of copper, and I set to work. I formed the hand, botched it the first time, straightened it out with a pair of nylon-covered flatnose pliers, and re-formed it. Then I cut up the copper wire and formed the spirals for the fingertips and a design for the palm. I soldered the silver wire to itself at the bottom of the palm, then soldered each copper design in place. I hammered the wire flat, textured it, and cut another length of wire to wrap the crystals I had painstakingly picked from the Swarovski rack in the store.

I packed up the piece for a show after making a bail from a bit of silver filled wire and stringing the pendant on some leather cording. Upon unpacking, I realized the damn thing had split at the solder point on the bottom of the palm. So it was back to the soldering board to fix it, then to the hammer again, then to sandpaper to remove the flux residue. Finally, it was finished, it was strong, and it was glittering and gorgeous.

But most importantly, it conveyed my message perfectly: beauty from pain. Beauty from ugliness. Beauty even in cruelty. An invocation and a supplication in one. Emotion and poetry in one darkly glimmering image. I had found another art, one of many muses, and my creative side long-buried beneath years of horrors.

All through metal.