oh, you’re done lingering, I guess

The Mind Flayer is a raging ass bitch.

I was wrong. I’m not Will Byers. I don’t have Spidey Senses. There is no crafty, diabolical sneakiness at work here. There is no “waiting to pounce.” It’s just the depression bursting in like the damn Kool-Aid man screaming, “Oh yeah! Oh YEAH! Guess what? You’re going to be flesh goo now!

On Sunday, when my son woke up from his nap, I suddenly could not stop crying. It truly came out of nowhere. There was no nagging, no sense of quiet foreboding. One minute Kiddo was asking for his music, the next minute I’m sobbing with snot running down my chin, texting my husband to come home please because I fell down into the deep dark place.

The most frustrating thing about it is that I could not, in the moment, explain WHY I was so upset. When my husband did come home, he kept asking what was wrong. He even threw out some good ideas, but it didn’t help me stop or really feel any better. It’s like there were too many emotions for me to process.

This has happened before. I remember distinctly the first time it happened.

It was January of 2018 (and YES, it just dawned on me that it was almost exactly two years ago). By that time, I was pretty deep into anxiety and depression but I hadn’t been able to recognize it in myself yet. Mostly because my postpartum depression didn’t look like what comes on the standard checklists. For one, I didn’t feel detached from my kid – I was OVERLY attached. I hated, hated being away from him. I felt like I was missing everything – every new babble, every new facial expression, every new connection he made. I thought it meant he wasn’t connecting with me. I genuinely thought he would forget me. I hated going to work each day. I hated work for being the thing that kept me from my kid. I hated that I felt like I had to work in order to keep our lives going, to help put food on the table and keep our house and all those things that money provides. I usually cried in the mornings before work, but one day, it hit a new level. I was on my way out the door, crying and holding the baby, husband following behind. As I was handing back the baby, my husband tried to say comforting, something to the effect of “it’s going to be okay.” I shook my head and responded with “you just don’t understand.” I couldn’t explain it. Logically, I told myself, my behavior made no sense. Mothers go back to work all the time and they were fine. I constantly wondered what the hell was wrong with me. Holding the kid, my husband asked me to try explain it to him, and it was just too much. There was too much FEELING. I was so indescribably sad and angry and now frustrated that I had to try to explain myself but knew that I couldn’t possibly make any real sense. It boiled over. I remember actually balling my hands into fists, jumping up and down, and screaming “you don’t understand, you don’t understand, you CAN’T!” There I was, 32 years old and literally throwing a temper tantrum. And then I remember the horrified look on my husband’s face. He had never looked at me that way before: a combination of shock and helplessness. A new wave of feelings washed over me then: shame and humiliation. Still silently crying, I went to the bathroom and stared at my stupid, drippy face. I eventually tried to fix my make-up and went to work.

Sunday was not that bad. Really. But it was bad-adjacent. I knew I had to stop trying to process my feels and just get out of them, so I started doing mindless tasks. I put away dishes. I dusted (it was disgusting). I Marie Kondo’d the crap out of our bookshelf. On Monday, I called my therapist.

I feel more hate rolling in. I hate that this is coming back. I hate that it keeps me from playing with my kid. I hate that he’s old enough to notice this time. I hate that to some extent, the Mind Flayer may never entirely go away forever. And I really hate knowing that there’s a risk it may come for my kids someday.

It’s going to be okay, guys. That’s the one cool thing about this go around. I can say (and hear) “it’s going to be okay” and believe it. With genuine confidence.

the mind flayer

To clarify: I’m not saying I have full-blown depression again.

I know what that feels like and this ain’t it. No, what I’m saying is that I can feel the depression…lurking. We’re like Will and the Mind Flayer from season 3 of Stranger Things. And I’m Will in this metaphor, just in case you had any doubts. I can sense the depression is nearby, waiting to pounce. Or, since we’re calling it the MindFlayer, waiting to pump me full of chemicals until I explode into a pile of flesh goo that then becomes absorbed into the MindFlayer’s fifty foot tall fleshy goo form.

(Aside: I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that Noah Schnapp was WOEFULLY underused in season 3 of Stranger Things. The kid is an acting beast. We all know he can do more than be a glorified Spidey Sense.)

My Depression Flayer has been lying surprisingly low for the last month. I thought for sure that the holiday times would provoke it, but not yet. I had an almost scary ultrasound followed by a completely normal follow-up ultrasound, and I thought FOR SURE it would rise up during the intervening two weeks. Nope.

In the meantime, CONSTANT VIGILANCE.

did I tell you guys about that thing I had?

So, I had a thing for awhile. And I didn’t know I had it for…well, awhile. And then when I figured it out, I dealt with it for another year-ish, realizing to some extent that it’s never going to entirely go away.

Kids, I had postpartum depression and anxiety.

It was…horrible. Like really horrible. Hor-ree-bleh. Once I got my diagnosis, I didn’t exactly hide what was going on. I gave it a name. I told other people the name. But I didn’t really talk to a ton of people about what it was like. What it felt like. What it made my brain do.

Now I feel like it’s time.

See, I’m pregnant again. (first: YAY! but also…well, keep reading). I’m at risk of the horrible thing happening. Again. In fact, it’s starting to creep up on me already.

Two weeks ago, I was driving home after work, listening to It’s Been a Minute with Sam Sanders. They end every podcast with people who call in to share the best part of their week. I typically enjoy this segment but this time I rolled my eyes. I had not had the best week. The morning sickness had been coming at all hours of the day. I had to run out of meetings at work to go retch in the bathroom. Even the mere notion of certain foods made me gag. As the cheery parade of voices bubbled through my car speakers, I thought to myself, “the best part of my week was eating dry toast without throwing up.” And then immediately after that, I heard a voice in my brain say, “you stupid bitch, you can’t even handle the first trimester. You’re going to royally fuck up everything once THIS kid gets here.” I gasped and locked my hands on the steering wheel. I recognized that voice. I had heard it before. That’s what my PPD was: the darkest things I didn’t know I could think of myself automatically pouring from my brain.

Two weeks ago, I went to brunch with a really good friend at a place that was small and sweet and a little bougie. It was great. We started talking kiddos and she asked if I felt ready to have two. It wasn’t a real question – it was one of those cute topic transitions: “So…are you ready to have two??” Wink, smile, wink.

I smiled and said “Yes, I definitely think so.” At the same time, my brain said “The fuck you are.” My smile froze.“Run,” said my brain and snapped by body into fight-or-flight mode. As my friend, with all the best intentions in the world, talked about her experiences with two and recommendations about preschool and day care, the blood drained out of my brain and drummed in my chest. “Run.” My wrists started to turn numb. “Run.” I pretended to look at my decaf coffee while whatever rational part of my brain was left tried desperately to turn the voice off. The ensuing brain battle was making my eyes burn with tears.

The tears helped, I think, though they just brimmed in my eyeballs instead of falling. I was able to breathe again. I was able to enjoy my friend’s company and some delicious ratatouille toast. But I haven’t been able to shake the knowledge that the darkness is lurking in my brain, waiting for a chance.

I need to take some proactive measures here.

So I’m going to write. I’m going to write about what it was like then. And what it’s like now. It’s going to suck. I’m going to hate it. But hopefully I’ll find some trends or signs I can watch out for. Or maybe it will just help me feel better in some small way. I already know writing can do that for me.

Buckle up, folks, it’s gonna get awkward.

 

imposter syndrome: whiplash

I had some sci-fi microfiction published!! WHEE! Check it out! Thank you to Alex Massey and Story Seed Vault! A second story will be forthcoming! ALL THE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!!

140

Ok, that was the high I was riding last night. Today, I am in fear of the 150+ comments on the short story I submitted to my writing workshop. It is truly the very first short story I have ever finished. I have Disneyland fanfic that I started EIGHT YEARS AGO which is sitting on a back burner. On a very low simmer. Think like the “warm” setting on a Crock-Pot. And it’s going to stay there. Maybe forever. (Oh God, did I just admit to having Disneyland fanfic???)

Back to the short story that I did finish. I like it a lot but also, I hate it fiercely. I like it because it’s aspirational. It’s a fairy tale re-telling. And I love those. It’s what I WISH I could write. It’s what I wish could BE. But mostly, I just think it sucks. Because it’s not actually me. It feels like singing. I suck at singing. It feels like I’m singing at a concert to my favorite song, but someone hears me over the band and says “oh, what’s THAT noise?” and then I turn red and want to die a little bit. That’s what this story feels like.

I have another story (NOT DISNEYLAND FANFIC, JUST SHUT UP ABOUT THAT, OKAY?) that really does feel like me but I wasn’t able to finish it before the due date. In the last draft, it took a REAL dark turn. Not like horror spec fic dark but like the capacity-for-malice-and-cruelty-that-lurks-in-every-human-heart dark. And it kind of knocked me out and I needed to step away.

So yeah, I’m going to read these comments eventually. But right now, I’m just going to hide. Maybe in a cave. Or a hole. Send cookies.

imposter syndrome: the impostering

Welp. Another day, another rejection. But there may be some light at the end of the tunnel here…

I signed up for a writing workshop! Led by Alyssa Wong! I’m really excited! Exclamation point!

I’m actually completely terrified. After this last rejection, I’m starting to wonder if there is any point in trying to get better at something for which I seem not to have any innate ability.

Ok, I know I’m a decent writer. Just let me sit here in my sadness and be sad. Just for a MINUTE.

Rejection Pile 1: “Caravan Migration”

This was my entry into the Escape Pod Flash Fiction 2018 contest. I wrote it specifically for the contest with its 500 word count limit. Since it was rejected, I still hold the rights.  However, it is posted on the Escape Pod forums and that’s enough to disqualify it as an original work for other publications, so I can’t really do anything new with this story. So here it is.

Disclaimer: I know the title is cheeky. I know the transitions are rough.

Beep-beep-beep. “ATENCIÓN. Brecha en el sector 5. Las muestras 28-2 y 28-7.” The waystation warning system sent adrenaline rushing through Sofie. The specimens in Group 28 emerged early; this would be her first capture. She squinted, searching for signs of 28-2 and 28-7. She saw a flash of orange and drew her snare from its holster–they had taken flight. The two monarch butterflies hovered just out of reach. Sofie gingerly stretched out her net but lost her balance and fell. Laughter rang out from a crowd of braceros watching nearby. She huffed and pushed herself back to her feet. The insects hadn’t moved. Embarrassed, she stuck out her arm, flicked her wrist and caught them. The crowd cheered.

Sofie started working at the Phoenix Waystation when Group 28 had been caterpillars. Now they were in chrysalids, basking in the sunlight from the open roof. The Great Famine had devastated agricultural hubs like Sofie’s hometown of Delicia, killing tens of thousands of people along with all North American bee populations. When the U.S. and Mexican governments revived a century-old guest worker initiative, Sofie jumped at the chance. She laughed aloud in orientation when she learned that the bracero program was designed to support monarchs, the last major pollinator in the hemisphere, in their migration to Michoacan. She had left behind everything she knew and crossed the border to help a bunch of bugs cross back.

Another beep-beep-beep. “ATENCIÓN. Una tormenta de polvo se acerca. El techo está cerrando.” Lights flashed as the automated roof began to close. Sofie frowned. This was the third storm in two days and the winds were increasingly brutal. Suddenly, someone cried out; the ceiling over Sector 5 was not moving. The braceros raced to the controls to see what was wrong. Sofie started to follow but the sound of scraping metal from above stopped her. One of the aluminum joists had snapped. Sofie looked around frantically and her eyes landed on 28-2 and 28-7. She thought of the others in their chrysalids preparing to fly to Michoacan. She thought of her parents, of Delicia. Bracing herself, Sofie ran up the emergency stairs to the waystation catwalk. She stood on her tiptoes and pulled herself onto the lowest ceiling beam. At that moment, the storm engulfed her with wailing gusts of dirt. Dangling not unlike a caterpillar, she crawled from beam to beam until she reached the broken joist. She stretched out her hand but missed. She grasped blindly for her net. Clutching it in her hand, she reached once more. The net caught hold and she heaved. The roar of the storm was silenced as the roof slid shut, only to be replaced seconds later by a chorus of gritos rocketing from the braceros below. Trembling, Sofie allowed herself a smile.

A week later, all butterfly groups in the Phoenix Waystation had emerged. Sofie watched wistfully as a cloud of black and orange wings drifted through the open roof, fellow migrants beginning their journey home.

Escape Pod Flash Fiction 2018

So I entered the Escape Pod Flash Fiction contest for this year and I am proud to say…

I DID NOT COME IN LAST!

Second to last in my group. *wink*

I’m taking it. There was a word cap at 500(!) which is SO hard, especially when I don’t really know what I’m doing. Plus I wrote my entry after getting a rejection letter that a different story I wrote was too “static,” and I might have let that get in my head. Plus I gave it a cheeky title: “Caravan Migration.” Plus it wasn’t about space because I don’t know anything space and a LOT of the other entries were about space.

YAY NOT LAST!

imposter syndrome: infinity war

Other people’s success is not my failure.

Other people’s success is not my failure.

Other people’s success is not my failure.

As I continue to field rejections for my short story submissions, I am hiding from Facebook at all costs. Why, you may ask? Well, the Facebook newsfeed algorithms are a funny thing. I can go for months only seeing posts from the same 20 people out of the over 200 with whom I am Facebook friends. But see, Facebook starts to pick up on things I’m doing in my life. Like when I was pregnant and it decided I wanted to read all the stories about miscarriages and women dying after giving birth. Now, it’s picking up that I’m writing more. So while I’m struggling to figure out what the hell it is I’m actually doing, Facebook decides to show me that a distant-ish colleague, who is my age and in my same field (not related to speculative fiction whatsoever), has published a sci-fi book. The first in a series, actually. Which is AMAZING. It’s incredible. But it makes me feel like an idiot.

So I’m trying to tell myself over and over again that other people’s success is not my failure.

I’ve always been the type of person who needs to have my own “thing.” If someone else is doing something, I take that to mean there is no room for me. My sister is the singer so I decided at the ripe old age of 8 that music wasn’t going to be my “thing.” In fifth grade, my class was tie-dying t-shirts for science camp. The teacher gave us instructions on how to tie them with rubber bands to make a cool design, and I realized everyone’s t-shirt was going to look the same “thing.” So I started making up ways to twist and tie the rubber bands so my shirt would look different. As a teenager, I ignored the Harry Potter books for several years because they were the “thing” everyone else was reading, so naturally, I couldn’t. And now, that same annoying part of my brain is trying to tell me that if someone else my age and in my current field is writing spec fic, then I shouldn’t. That part of my brain is trying really hard to tell me that I need to go find a new “thing.” But here’s the kicker this time, my dudes: I don’t want to.

Because other people’s success is not my failure. Right?

Now my brain is in an epic battle royale between the part that is saying “this thing has been done, go find a new thing” and “you have something to offer here, don’t give up.”

WHO WILL PREVAIL??

(It would really, really help if someone would throw me a damn bone and publish a story. Kthxbye)

 

dear amy schumer. on a slightly bigger stage.

I entered the City of Tempe Community Writing Contest and came in second in the Adult Non-Fiction category. I submitted a less frenzied version of a piece about my dad which I wrote a couple of years back.

Here it is, for your reading pleasure. FYI, if you are new here, this is kind of a doozy.

Also, I did not spell Amy Schumer incorrectly. Someone else did. After I proofed the final version for publication. Because I can’t have nice things.

Tempe Community Writing Contest 2018

this is such a copout

The Daily Prompt today is “rush” and so naturally, all I can think of is Paula Abdul. I don’t even know the words to this song. I just know the “rush, rush” part. And I’m not writing anything real for you today because I have a tension headache and my stomach hurts and NO ONE BROUGHT ME ANY DONUTS. I mean, that’s basically most days but I particularly wanted one today.

 

Rush

via Daily Prompt: Rush