Writing and scribbles and disconnect

It’s been quite some time since I wrote on my blog. The simple fact of the matter is that I’ve been incredibly unwell. I still am. The only time I have left the house has been to walk the dog. I have been to the supermarket twice in three months. I think I went out with my daughter twice too. I let her daddy take her places, and to her grandma for days at a time because mummy can’t move, can’t cope with anything outside of her head. The real world is too much hard work. I read  blogs from all you lovely people and it’s like I can’t engage my brain with what is going on that I’m reading. I’m completely disconnected from the world.

Suddenly it’s nearly my birthday and the end of summer. Where did it go?

I’ll tell you where it went (you’ll have to click on pic – can’t get it bigger for some reason).

archive of our own

Yep, 257,739 words later and my fanfic is not nearly finished. I’m on my fourth Word document of which there’s an awful lot more that didn’t make it into the story. I started at the end of June – that’s two month’s worth of writing every single day. I think I’m putting out one of the longest stories about Cullen Rutherford and a female Inquisitor from BioWare’s Dragon Age: Inquisition that exists anywhere.

It is probably all complete crap as well.

Every day I spend eight to ten hours a day, sometimes longer, doing nothing but writing. I  have a compulsion to publish – I literally neeeeeeed to publish a chapter a day, even if I know I haven’t edited it properly. I almost faint at the thought of not putting up something, anything on the site. And if I don’t publish then I am agitated beyond belief until I can get behind my laptop, put some music  on and ignore everything but the characters playing out their lives in my head and translating that to Word.

All I do is type, spell check, sense check, publish. Every day.  I have this tension between my eyes I have never noticed before because of the amount of staring I’ve done at my screen. My wrists and shoulders hurt because of the amount of typing I do, and my back is slowly getting ruined by the amount of slumping on the sofa I’m engaging in.

I write sometimes through till 2, 3 or 4 in the morning, having maybe three hours of rubbish sleep. I dream about the story, waking up with my phone clutched in my hand so I can go back to the chapters and read them again. There is simply no room in my head for anything else but this demand my brain has for me to keep going with my story.

Then I get obsessed. Why don’t people say anything ? Was that chapter just a pile of shit? Why hasn’t anyone liked my work today? Who are all these people looking at my story then not leaving anything at all? If someone un-bookmarks me it’s like I’ve been stabbed through the heart.

Someone commented negatively – oh no I need to have more sex in the story. Oh wait, less sex in the story. More violence, more angst, less fluff. No, there needs to be more fluff, they should be in love, the story needs to move on, no it needs to do this. It becomes crippling. What was something that I did for fun and distraction has suddenly become stressful and competitive. I’ve lost all confidence in myself. Yet I still continue.

I get frustrated and edgy with anything that takes me out of the alternative reality that I am living in – it’s outright panic sometimes that I am being taken away from my story. Geez, even writing this blog is making me feel a bit like, when can I get back to my story? It’s ridiculous. But I can’t help it.

Everyone that is, except my daughter. But even then, I have neglected her. In more sane moments I have sat there, holding her, weeping, guilt overwhelming me that I have not spent time with her that I should. She is fed, watered, changed, clothed, kept clean. But my emotional distance from everything around me is so great at the moment, I am pretty sure she doesn’t know me at all.

She’s fifteen months now, toddling around like she’s a miniature walking undead. She’s a daddy’s girl. Because daddy gives her attention that mummy simply can’t. The majority of my brain can’t engage. The tiny part of me that is well has her heart breaking that her daughter prefers her daddy to her mummy.

I had an appointment today with the government doctor who assesses me to see if my long-term sick benefits continue. When I  described my average day there was no hiding his concern, particularly when he said it was a clear-cut case and I should not be working right now. For a Dutch government benefits official to say that, you know there’s something wrong with you.

The funny thing was that my husband and I had a heart to heart the day before – first time in months – and I said how much I just missed going to work, going out after work for dinner, or eating at home, exercising, then crawling into bed with a book before going to sleep. That routine and self-fulfillment that working gives you is lacking in my life. Yet if I were to try working right now I’d end up in an even worse state than I am now. I can’t bloody well win.

The only benefit is that I’ve lost around 20 kilo/three stoneish and only have another two stone to go. It’s nice to fit into clothes again. The only downside is that I don’t eat at all. I have survived on two litres of diet coke, the same again in water and the odd bit of chicken or beef.

When I write it out and when I talk to the doctor about it, I realise how abnormal it is. But I can’t stop. Why? The alternative would see me dead. It is better that I exist somehow until my circumstances change, than sit there in my car wondering where the nearest cliff is so I can drive off it. For my husband and I this is the lesser of two evils. It’s been almost impossible for him too. We made it to the zoo the other day, which was fun. So I am trying to get out a bit more.

So that’s the bad side. But there is a good side.

I really do, on a good day, enjoy it. And I am a bit frustrated with myself because I know if I took more time then I’d actually have quite a decent story on my hands. I have always loved writing and in this genre I think I’ve found my niche. Fanfiction has provided me with a means to start exploring my writing and writing style. Not for a minute do I think I’ll be the next Robin Hobb but it’s become my own thing. It’s nice to have a thing for yourself.

I’ve also explored the issue of trauma and how it impacts on a relationship. The main male character has PTSD (genuinely accepted in the fandom as true and BioWare have always referenced Cullen as having experienced significant trauma as a result of torture). The main female character also has trauma as well and I wanted to explore some of the issues I face myself through them. It has been really therapeutic.

It makes my story intensely personal to me as well – I mean, it is for all authors, but I think when you start writing about things that have happened to  you and your state of mind at the time it really becomes something else. There is something about writing about an anxiety attack and putting it out there for people to read about that becomes empowering for me. I have no idea why – it just seems to work. It does then leave me vulnerable too but it’s worth it.

There are lots of authors and editors among our Tumblr mental health community and I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts on what is normal and what isn’t normal because I”m pretty sure wanting to lock myself away in a mountain cabin with no one else to bother me so I can write for days with no sleep is not normal.

How do you deal with it so you don’t exclude all else? And where do you go to read up on things to make yourself a better writer? How do you not make it too personal if you write about your own experiences as a form of therapy? Is there ever a way of stepping back from it all?

I have tons of story ideas now, both fanfic and fantasy and I have decided to try and focus myself more on writing.

My husband reads it and helps me with the plot line. Sometimes we have fun with it, and it became easier when he played the game too and knew what I was on about. It hasn’t been an entirely bad experience for our relationship. But often he has hated the story and wished my laptop to combust so I don’t have anything to type on. Even then, I’d find a way.

Still, here it is. If anyone on the offchance fancies giving it a critique and plouging through so many words I’d be happy to hear it. It’s fun writing about two people in love. It makes me feel all nice and squishy inside. It’s far too long and too repetitive on certain themes but I like the story itself so far.

But, as my husband says, it’s my story and my Cullen and my Inquisitor. Does it matter what people really think so long as I’m pleased with it?! I shall keep telling myself that for the time being.

Cullen x Mage Trevelyan – A Dragon Age: Inquisition fanfic

writings and scribbles and dragons

OK I’m quite giddy about this as I’ve discovered a whole new outlet that is not actually anything to do with mental health, to the point where I just want to talk about my new obsession a bit in a safe space (i.e. no one trying to psychoanalyse my decisions and actions and stick them under yet another mental health tag).

PS if you are yet to play any of the Dragon Age games, there are no spoilers in here.

Firstly, as I’ve mentioned before, I am a long-time gamer from childhood when my brother and I would fight over the Atari to see who got to play Space Invaders next. This has carried on into adulthood and is an integral part of my life. I have learned to be proud of it and not ashamed. How could I not be proud; if I didn’t game then I wouldn’t have a) left my abusive ex and b) met my now awesomeness DH. I’ve a lot to be thankful for because of developments in technology.

I am an avid reader of fantasy and historical romance, and I adore fantasy RPGs. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I was working my way through Dragon Age: Inquisition. I finally finished it a couple of weeks ago and actually felt bereft! There’s obviously only so much you can go into as a games developer, and the potential outcomes are infinite. So the game finished and there were huge holes for me in the story, as well as being omg about not being able to end up on the battlements with Cullen at the end of a long day 😉

Now, with World of Warcraft (WoW) I was never into the lore really as I enjoyed the gaming experience with all my friends. Dragon Age (DA) was the polar opposite, where even the smallest decisions you made five years ago had a huge impact when you played later. Just to clarify there are three games – Dragon Age: Origin being the first, Dragon Age II the second and then the release of Dragon Age: Inquisition (DA:I) at the end of 2014 depending on where you lived in the world. There’s also a fair amount of associated DLC which I have skipped (although for DA:I I may make an exception). All made by BioWare who also made Mass Effect. I think I read recently that there were 40 potential outcomes to the end of DA:I which makes it an immense game. Not to mention the beauty of the  Dragon Age Keep where you can import custom world states based on key decisions made in the earlier two games – and change it around in future run throughs. How .incredibly awesome can you get? Every game is therefore quite different if you want it to be.

For me, however, what both games do amazingly well, abeit in very different ways, is create a culture of community which makes them stand out from the likes of Skyrim etc. In WoW you can actually have loads of real life online friends, and in DA you get to create your character exactly how you want, building your companions and utlilising your advisors. The greatest thing is the relationships within the game, who you choose to be friends with, make enemies with and who to sleep with.

I’m not massively into long battles. I play RPGs because of the story. I tend to game on casual or normal as having protracted drawn-out battles with archdemons is completely boring for me. And that’s again where DA:I hits the nail so well. The story is so compelling. And, for a girl addicted to romance, the romances are awesome. I mentioned who my Inquisitor ended up with and of course there’s only one person – the incredibly sexy Cullen Rutherford. I really couldn’t give a shit if I fall into the stereotypical female type of adoring the idea of a knight in shining armour sweeping his lady off her feet. Yes, I’m a child of Disney. And no, I couldn’t care less about how cheesy it may be. It’s compelling and awesome and makes me want to swoon in delight. Oh BioWare hit it on the nail. Every time he and my Inqusitor ended up in a cutscene I just melted in the middle.

Romance is fabulous. Romance and sexy in the best RPG ever is mindblowing.

So, here’s the thing. When I finally finished the playthrough I just wasn’t satisfied with the story. There was so much missing, which was understandable – this is a game not the Wheel of Time – but it didn’t leave me feeling like I’d properly finished. My Inquisitor was so firmly in my head I just had this overwhelming need to figure out how to fill the gaps – and even adapt the original gameplay.

Tentatively, I explored fan fiction. I had never read any before, unless struggling halfway through 50 Shades of Grey and then throwing it away in disgust counts. I thought it was all anime and Twilight, and terribly written sex scenes. So it was with great trepidation that I started to see what had been written about DA. I was floored; there was so much out there, from the very first Origins game to stuff covering the latest release of DA:I DLC – which had only just come out. There was some crappy writing, sure, but I was amazed at how much great writing existed. It was so interesting to read how others had perceived the main characters in the game; how they saw their Inquisitor and what relationships they had built as a result. There are loads of people like me – needed to know more about their characters and the story in general, looking to fill the gaps.

There’s also a huuuuge amount of rather explicit material which ranges from downright laughable to EL James needing to take notes on how to write good sex stories into fiction (sorry for going on about this again – I just found the whole 50 Shades thing so ghastly). I was also surprised to see the amount of people who had Cullen in a gay relationship and actually that was interesting, to think about why developers still shy away from including gay characters in very traditional hetro male roles. Gay men can have knights in shining armour too if they want, no? I hope BioWare take note of this in future games. Oh and interestingly, I read somewhere that there was three times more fan fiction devoted to Cullen relationships than any other character in the game. I’m glad I’m not the only one 😀

Anyway, it has been a really interesting journey through the world of fan fiction to find out more about the game, the characters and also build my own story in my head. I know that there are stores of people in the grip of mania writing whole books in a week and, I must be honest, I have felt that way, even frustrated to the point where I couldn’t write because I needed to do the dishes. So, literally burning with the need to tell the story of Lea and Cullen, I started to write. I spent 15 years writing for a career and this has been far and away the easiest thing I have ever tackled. I am not a creative person when it comes to art or music, but I feel that writing is where my artistry lies. It’s not just a skill, it’s a craft to tell a good story. Not that I am suggesting I write the best stories ever – this one as my first attempt at fiction is probably a pile of crap – but I have to begin somewhere.

The words flow onto my screen, I can see my characters in my head, what they are thinking, how they move, how they react. I can see the landscapes where the story develops, the way the clouds move towards the horizon, the way trees rustle in the wind as they move past. I see the convoluted plots develop, the enemies rising and attacking. The emotions in battle; fear, anger, lust, joy, contradicting yet working together. I feel the pain when someone dies; the quiet sadness and unshed tears, the sheer want for that person till the end of time and continually whispering ‘I miss you’ in their minds.

That, and a lot more. I’m not them, but I can see their story. That’s about the best way I can describe it. I found it actually good fun to write a sex scene in the book and had great fun reading through various examples (think granite mountain) – who would have thought that would be anything other than a completely cringey experience!

Who knows; perhaps it’s the bipolar singing to me. But you know what, I don’t actually care if it is. I am enjoying this penning words to paper (and eternally grateful to BioWare for providing such an amazing framework) and not everything with this illness is a bad thing. I feel the best I have for some years and I hope to feel a bit of closure when I finally finish! Sixteen thousand words and counting and I only just left the starter zone. Haha 🙂

Writing as therapy. I’m only sorry I didn’t find it before. It sure beats having more drugs forced onto me.

Hola

Well, it’s been a week or so since I last had a freak out about things. We’re currently in the middle of a heatwave here in The Netherlands and I’ve found that having several fans going at once 24 hours a day does much to block out the noise of the idiots upstairs. So things have been better in that regard.

My baby turned one a month or so ago. I didn’t find it as awful as I thought it would be, parents and in-laws notwithstanding. She gets more beautiful, awesome and temper-tantruming by the day which always makes me laugh rather than freak out. I find that I’m finally taking pleasure in her growing up and doing stuff, instead of being stuck in hospital at her bedside in intensive care as a newborn, or feeling that I missed out and failed her the first seven months of her life. I’ve not quite moved on yet but I am slowly getting there, and really notice it in her reactions to me now as well. We are much closer and I love it. She’s my little shadow.

I also had to go back to the useless psychiatrist who still didn’t have a clue about my dosage or really what I was about full stop. It wasn’t quite as bad as last time as she seemed to slightly give a shit about me as a human this time round. But to say I have zero confidence in her would be an understatement. I also had to attend the appointment on my own as DH had to work and she couldn’t wait to get me out of the door. Which suited me fine; my case worker always attends those sessions as well and he’s fantastic so I felt quite ok about it all. He was the one who got my prescription correct and really understood what I was getting at when trying to explain certain scenarios I have found stuck in a loop in my head.

What she did do which was alter my lithium so I now take 400mg in the morning and 400mg in the evening. I noticed that I was really struggling in the afternoons, to the point of refusing to move sometimes. We’ve switched it round so my dosage is more spread out and I am also getting fewer side effects now too. Even though it’s only been a couple of days I really notice the difference so that’s good.

We also discussed the rapid escalation I have to noise sensitivity, so I go from normal to suicidal at a rate of seconds if too much sound encroaches on my airspace. I’ve been doing a lot of headset on, but that only works when I’m not caring for my daughter of course. I still cannot tolerate any level of stress without freaking out. This also applies to when my daughter refuses food or won’t sleep, for example. I was getting better but that seems to have gone backwards a bit.

So until my mood stabilises, which I think the lithium is helping with greatly right now, they can’t do any treatment of whatever else it is – which is what they have said since I began treatment nearly 3 years ago so nothing new there. They were upping my psychotherapy when I fell pregnant and had to stop. So it’s been paused for nearly two years now and I am not sure what else they intend.

What this useless woman is also still hinting at is whether I have bipolar or not. She actually asked me whether I thought I had it and for a few seconds I was like wtaf, why the hell are you asking me? You’re the doctor! So I could only reply saying yes, as this was very different to the behaviour I had displayed before we moved – bipolar dominated everything in me before – and I got my diagnosis and your colleague on the floor above you told me categorically it was bipolar 1 not BPD. Dumbass.

Urgh.

What I didn’t have the opportunity to point out was that I had been doing rather well pre-pregnancy and that a huge amount of this had been bought on by the trauma of the difficult pregnancy, labour and then spell in intensive care. I’m pretty sure it bought out latent whatevers in terms of PTSD and has aggravated that significantly. There are several excellent bloggers on here who have made me realise what a massive impact going through pregnancy and childbirth can have on  your mental health.

Whether I get listened to is another matter but, whatever. The way I see it is that I have to do this to get my benefits and my lithium, and I’ll mark time till I get a better psychiatrist.They tend to rotate every year or so, I just have to bide my time. If she tries to change my diagnosis I will demand a second opinion.

Given that it’s my health up for debate here, I feel remarkably sanguine about the whole thing. What will happen will happen. I got a letter from the agency that pays benefits the other day saying I will switch from unemployment benefit to long-term sick in the middle of next month which I see as a good sign. I don’t have to pretend to want to work any more. No idea how it all works, but DH is in charge of that so I can relax.

I had a good day today. I walked to the supermarket, leaving DH who had the day off with the daughter and dog. I realised that, even with neighbours I could happily shoot on sight, I am actually very content right now we finally have our own space back and for the first time, I can be the mother I want to be with no one over my shoulder. The weather is super toasty, my baby is doing wonderfully well and I have such a great husband. We are completely stony broke but I actually appreciate things so much more than when I was able to buy whatever I wanted. I’m more thoughtful about things and the lithium controls that impuse urge to spend, spend spend.

I have been trying to do small things to make positive changes in my life. I’ve struggled with illness on and off the last few weeks so had to park running for now, but I intend on starting up again once the weather is less oppressive. Instead, I’ve changed my diet and cut out almost all carbs and sugar in an attempt to kick-start my weight loss. And it is amazing! I used to do this before to help me improve my diet and basically ditch donuts and chocolate, and so far a week in I’ve lost around 7 pounds and have way more energy than before. I am not uber-extreme as I do have sauces like ketchup and eat sweet potato etc – and I can’t live without Diet Coke right now – but I hope this will help me get back on the straight and narrow. When I was diagnosed hypothyroid I switched to a gluten-free diet and noticed a huge difference in bloat, weight and general cognition. So that’s my aim over the next few months is to getting to eat healthily and properly.

I am a bit wary as last time I lost a lot of weight I stopped eating – something that happens in every manic phase – and I lose a lot of weight. So DH and I are watching me closely to see if there are any signs of that but so far so good.

The other thing I have discovered is fan fiction. I’m going to write about that in a separate blog but in a nutshell I’ve been writing quite a bit since completing Dragon Age: Inquisition. I  have always wanted to write a proper fantasy story and the tale of my inquisitor caught my imagination like nothing has before and I found an outlet to share it. I’m also a sucker for a good love story – man Cullen is just the hottest character BioWare could have come up with – and it is so cool to craft my own fantasy romance 🙂

I have been writing a lot late at night. You could call it manic but I don’t think so. The signs are not there. There’s no starting and not finishing projects, obsessing madly over completely random things and the impulsive behaviour isn’t there. I only write when I have downtime i.e. my baby has been taken care of and is asleep or with someone else. Otherwise I do stuff with her and put this to one side. And sleep has been fairly lacking, but it is so hot I can’t get much rest anyway so I’m taking advantage of it. And sleeping during the day when my daughter sleeps helps too.

Don’t get me wrong – I could if I was able to write nonstop for weeks at a time about this story that has intrigued me  and I am always thinking what direction it’s going in next. But I can control it. Writing has made me feel alive again and I’m absolutely loving the outlet it gives me.

Useless woman thinks I am disassociating and I don’t agree. When I mentioned what I was doing – because I recognise that it isn’t normal to sit up eight days in a row to write and write and write with about 3 hours sleep a night – she immediately said disassociation which was rather frustrating. I just found it thoroughly enjoyable.

See here’s the thing. My psychologist tells me to stop associating everything with my illnesses. My psychiatrist doesn’t do anything but associate everything I do with my mental health. I feel like I can’t just BE. What is so bad about having my alternate universe to escape to? It isn’t actually any different than gaming for days on end. Why can’t I just enjoy this story telling that I want to do? It won’t last forever. I’m fed up of scrutinising everything and not just allowed to explore my own life without an axe of mental illness over my head.

In other news, I finally made it to a playgroup and it was actually ok. DH came with me which made it much easier. I still struggle to leave the house and do stuff like that on my own but it is getting easier.

Oh and DH and I also made it away for a weekend sans child! We went to Rock am Ring in Germany and it was fucking awesome. We only went for 2 days to save money on accommodation but we were one of the fortunate ones to catch Foo Fighters before they had to cancel their tour. I turned into Mama Smurf, going a bright electric blue for the event and DH got loads of ideas about the new vinyl business he is starting up. And it was fun to just drink a few beers and enjoy time with each other (DH doesn’t drink, bonus for me on not having to drive to and from the hotel). German festivals are awesome, so laid back and relaxed. DH quite rightly pointed out the difference in atmosphere compared to the UK, where everyone just releases all that pent up straight-lacedness and ends up in a huge fight, whereas in Germany even the drunk and drugged up people were so polite to each other. No undercurrents of aggression and it was so relaxing for me. The weather was also fantastic – I’m waaaay too old to be slumming it in the mud and rain just for the sake of the festival atmosphere 😀 in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed that in my life.

So, name of the game going forward – continue to lose weight, get some more regular exercise, sit out the heatwave and play as much as possible with my baby. And ignore what I can’t change i.e. wankers upstairs and useless police forces. Just work on our escape route in the long term and in the short term plan lots of nice one-night trips away!Rock and

It’s just me and my dog….

Or it will be when the in laws vacate their apartment to go to this big family party. Not long to go. DH has already left to attend it and see all his cousins, with daughter in tow.

What should I do with myself? I have tidied up and done all the laundry, went round the shops already and poochie has had a walk.  I find I have a few hours of spare time ON MY OWN for the first time since, really since before I gave birth.

And I am not quite sure what to do with myself. This spare time is weighing heavily on me.

I feel bad because it was a big family party and I should have gone. I know I am not well right now but still, I know DH would have liked it if I were there even though he went specifically with the intention to give me a break.

I shall tell you what I want to do. And then I will report back and see if I ended up doing any of it.

1. Move the Xbox into the living room so I can upload Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2 into my Keep. And then, at long last, I can have the Inquisition exactly the way I want it. I stopped midway through to replay both of the earlier games as the story just wasn’t right otherwise and it was upsetting me. The old games were on our old Xbox which is now somewhere in Xbox heaven. Then set everything up so I can game later.

2. Get a shower. I like being clean and showering every day but it has been such an effort recently. It’s also tied in with…

3. Do my hair. Which requires me to bleach my roots and then attack the whole thing again with Directons Vermillion Red. I couldn’t afford Manic Panic this time round so I hope this works. Let’s hope it doesn’t go pink again. I am fed up of being blonde. I don’t suit it and that was never the intention. So back to trying to do nice things for myself like enjoy my hair colour.

4. Snuggle in bed with the pooch and start losing myself in Dragon Age: Inquisition. I’m a huge fan of RPGs and especially fantasy. And this game for me is the ultimate experience. Bring on my love affair with Cullen hehe. I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned love story. It’s like my favourite historical romance rolled up in the best fantasy story and the closest I’ll ever get to living it out.

I want to skip 3. Actually I want to skip all of it and just get into bed and not move. Everything is such a monumental effort at the moment. And I am sucky in the afternoon so that doesn’t help. But I did stand there and look at the washing up – only a few things – and have a panic attack at the thought of doing it. I had to go and lie down rather than clear up. The thought of putting a sponge in my hand seemed like a step too far.

When did such simple things become such hard work? I was thinking that living with a mental illness is like doing  laundry. It is something you have to plough through, something you really want to avoid doing and it seems never ending.

So with that cheery attitude, let’s see how I get on! I know I will feel better once I have done my hair. I just need to do it. Fingers crossed 🙂

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