It’s All Gone a Little Mental ‘Round Here

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Disclaimer: The title… I’ve been watching a lot of Life on Mars lately. Gene Hunt is in my head and I’m totally okay with that. Also I was inspired to actually post this behemoth because of Erika’s amazing blog post on puzzles and anxiety.

Recently Bell held a “Bell Let’s Talk” Day to support mental health awareness. It raised well over six million dollars and for 24 hours it had people talking about their experiences with mental health. There is controversy surrounding where some of that money is going though, namely CAMH and Dr. Zucker and some of his practices. I won’t get into that here, I’m not equipped to talk about it but here are some links that I encourage you to read and make your own decisions.

Obviously it’s too late now to take that money back if you disagree but there’s still the option of moving forward to talk about mental health. We need it when we still have people like this complete idiot from Fox News saying “bipolar disorder is a fad.”

I’ve been “out” about my diagnosis for a while now. I have rapid-cycling bipolar II disorder as well as anxiety issues. I’ve been diagnosed since I was 19 and had symptoms as early as 12.

Bipolar II Disorder defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes (highs and lows), with no full-blown manic or mixed episodes requiring hospitalization that would make it type I. There is also Cyclothemia which is like bipolar II but less severe. During a hypomanic episode, you may feel euphoric, and be highly productive. You seek out high-risk pleasurable activities and have a decreased need for sleep. You talk fast but it makes total sense to you. The world seems crystal clear and all the answers are right there waiting.

Rapid cycling occurs when a person has four or more episodes of major depression, mania, hypomania, or mixed states, all within a year.

Hypomania can seem pretty good and lots of people; I include myself here, don’t want to medicate at first or treat the illness and lose the “good things.” I feel very creative when I’m manic, and I feel like I can write an award-winning novel. I stay up for as long as I can and consume a lot of caffeine, “working.” First time I watched Torchwood I was manic and I watched the entire two seasons in one sitting.

I suspect this is why I love Torchwood so much. Only good reason to love the cheesy bits as much as I do.

I was supposed to go to work but I didn’t. I didn’t even call in, just didn’t show up for two shifts. I almost lost my job because of it. A week later I walked out of work when I took an anxiety attack. Again no explanation but somehow I kept my job (my bosses were so understanding).

I don’t see people talking about this. When hypomania turns into full-blown mania you can require hospitalization. You can believe you’re a superhero and try to jump off a building because you believe you can fly. You may run around in the middle of the night screaming how much you love your neighbours like a drunk college student, but completely sober. You believe you are the best possible thing in the world and can take on everything. Mania is dangerous to the person and to everyone around them but people don’t talk about it. Sometimes this lasts a day, sometimes two weeks. This is often the face movies take when they show bipolar disorder.

Stephen Fry made a wonderful documentary on bipolar disorder called the Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. In it he shows the realistic side of bipolar disorder as someone who suffers from it. It’s well worth the hour it takes to watch it:

Stephen Fry: The secret life of the manic depressive from Keenan Laskin on Vimeo.

Now that I’m medicated and managing the illness these episodes of both hypomania and depression still happen but less frequently and with less severity. Often they are caused by both good and bad stress, so excitement about an upcoming convention or dreading a review at work can equally trigger an episode, and it may last a day or two instead of a week.

Before I was diagnosed I had sprees where I maxed out credit cards; I quit jobs rudely in the middle of the night and I drank dangerously more than I should have. I started smoking at 21 while I was manic. I ruined friendships, and made others question my trustworthiness and loyalty. It’s not just the mania, all those ups must come down and they come down hard. I had thoughts of suicide after I came down from that manic episode where I quit my job and took up smoking. I slept for four days straight and couldn’t leave my bed without bursting into tears. It lasted for almost two weeks, one of the longest bouts of depression I have ever had. I was sure the world was ending and it was starting with me. Part of it was because of what I had done and a large part of it was that I was depressed.

It scared me into seeing a therapist. I went to two before someone identified I was bipolar not just depressed. (Anti-depressants can trigger mania in those with bipolar disorder so I’m glad I was correctly prescribed medications.) Medication doesn’t always work and bipolar patients, especially those suffering from a manic episode, have a low compliance record. Would you want to take away the wonderful, euphoric feeling you’re experiencing right now because someone tells you that you’ll crash eventually? It’s a high without drugs and often drugs enter into the picture as well. It takes numerous attempts to get the right cocktail (if it’s ever found) and then it has to be adjusted periodically.

Right now I take Lithium, Lamotrigine and Propranolol. The latter is to get rid of the hand tremors caused by the first two and help with anxiety. They have done a number on my short-term memory, prevent me from taking ibuprofen, require me to drink almost twice what the daily requirement is of water and require frequent blood work. Also, I like to think they’re at least partially to blame for how difficult it is to lose weight, but they work. Doctors don’t even know how Lithium works exactly but it’s been the ‘gold standard’ for treating bipolar disorder. Lamotrigine was originally used to treat epilepsy but it also helps with brain chemistry and mania.

I’m lucky enough to have a great support team: a knowledgeable doctor who wants me to be part of my treatment, a wonderful and supportive partner who reminds me to take my meds, stands firm when I’m manic and is a shoulder to cry on when I’m depressed and friends that help pick me up when I’m down. I also have to brag a bit in that I get to work in a place where my employers know about this illness and do not treat me different for it. Lots of people can’t or won’t disclose their conditions to their employers and that’s okay too as long as they can still get the treatment they need. My job understands that some of my sick days will be used for mental health reasons, so while I’m not vomiting with a fever I’m in no position to be at work.

I’ve heard the line before; hell I’ve said it. “I can’t call in sick, I don’t look sick.” That’s the problem that mental health presents us with, we present to the world as “normal” most of the time. We don’t physically show our illness. Even when we’re so depressed we just want it all to end we can look like we’re just having a bad day.

Never tell someone with a mental illness that they need to look on the bright side.

robot hugs comic

So why am I bringing this up, other than to educate?

Mostly because I am routinely asked what bipolar disorder is. It’s a misunderstood mental illness, and one that is beginning to show up in pop culture in both good and not so good ways.

TV shows are featuring main characters with it and movies like Silver Linings Playbook and TV shows like Homeland are making people aware of bipolar disorder as an illness. The problem is that no one person experiences it exactly the same as another and it can come about because of genetics, environment and experience. Most popular media also falsely assume that to get the girl or solve the problem the main character must take their meds. Medications do not always work. You should see if they are right for you, but they may not always work. There are numerous other coping strategies people use to get through life with or without medication.

Look at all the influential people that also suffer from bipolar disorder on many different levels. Some relevant to my fandoms include: Carrie Fisher, Spike Milligan, David Walliams, Tony Slattery, & Terry Hall.

Some people are quivering messes all the time, some people have major episodes less frequently and some people get by suffering silently. Some people walk down the street and live a “normal” life and few people are the wiser.

I just want people to understand what this disease is that I live with every day. I don’t want to be treated differently because of it; I just want understanding that there will be days that I’m not like the usual Katrina. My bad days are really bad and although my good days can be beyond excellent they can be the cause of the horrible days. I take my medication as prescribed but I still suffer sometimes. Occasionally I do miss the hypomania and the energy even though I know it’s bad for me. I spend a lot of time worrying that the really good day I’m having is the precursor to mania or that it’ll trigger something that’ll lead to depression. I’m not a plot twist or a trope in a movie.

Don’t stop talking about mental health just because a company has stopped throwing money at it. Talk about it, ask questions! Only stop talking because you’re listening to someone else.

Nevermind the Essays, Here Comes the End of the Year Blog Post (with music)

The end of 2014 is fast approaching and with it inevitably will come end of the year blogs, “keeping to your goal” tips and articles that look forward to 2015 with a certain degree of cynicism. The following has most of the first and a bit of the latter but I can assure you it will contain no weight loss tips. It will, however, contain a picture of me (Kat) and Pepsi (my cat) they will not be labelled and thus I apologize if you can’t tell the difference.

Pepsicomputer

This year hasn’t exactly been an easy one for me. I came into 2014 without a job and no real leads for finding one. The hotel I had been working at closed down and everyone lost their jobs. The building, once apartments in the 70s and then hotel suites now exist as one and two bedroom apartment/condos. I was (and still am) done with hospitality and had my mind set on one of two options: administrative or back to working with animals. I had many sleepless nights as anyone who has been unemployed can attest to, finding a job is depressing and boring and worrying. Everyday without a job can feel like a step towards being that way permanently. I constantly thought, “what if I don’t find something? What if I have to settle for something bottom of the barrel just to make ends meet?”

Job wise I eventually found something, a job I never even considered for myself but that fits like a glove with an amazing work environment. It’s not working with animals but sometimes all the other perks make up for that fact. It allowed me to wipe that worry out of my mind and take stock at what I wanted to do, and not what I needed to do.

pepsimonorailcat

This has been the year of lost and found. Of looking around, realizing I’m terrified about what’s around me and looking inside to find something to shield myself with. A lot of the internal soul-searching has happened in this year mostly focused on trying to “fix” bits of me that I didn’t like, ie: my ability to give up the moment the going gets tough, my ability to avoid groups of people I didn’t know like they have the plague and my fear of new things.

I found Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the mandolin; I’m not good at them but I still enjoy pretending I am. Despite the hardships both have posed I’ve been confident that someday I’ll be less than horrible in them. I’m enjoying learning and failing. I discovered new fandoms and wonderful people within them welcomed me in when I said how much I loved what they loved. I went to my first NHL game, saw Book of Mormon in Los Angeles at the Pantages and I went to my first convention by myself, Vancon, a Supernatural convention in Vancouver. I made friends at that convention that I talk to everyday and plan to go stay with one of them when I go to another Supernatural convention in Seattle next year.

richmevancon

I found music, which now seems to permeate every waking moment that I can have it playing. A day hasn’t gone by since I bought my turntable where at least one record hasn’t played on it. I found the assurance that I can be who I want to be. I’ve always believed a person should dress the way they want to but seeing it in practice inspired me to actually do what I want to do. Wearing clothes that feel comfortable and inspire me makes a huge difference in the way I walk, talk and interact with other people. It’s funny to think a pair of Doc Martens can influence your life but they do for me.

In 2014 we lost good people who shouldn’t have had to go both on a famous level and a personal level. Fans of Rik Mayall amazed me at their passion. They came together to have watch parties, create successful petitions to name a bench in his honor and demand TV channels run memorial retrospectives. As a community this year we stood up and said what needed to be said and mourned together through twitter, tumblr, facebook and in person across the world.



Rik Mayall Memorial Bench in Hammersmith, London brought about by a fan petition and a lot of determination.

As this year ends we look forward. There’s still lots to look forward to and that’s half the fun of living right, remembering you’re alive?

I’ll let Joe Strummer say it better:

“Don’t forget you’re alive. ‘Cause sometimes when you walk around the city and you’re in a bad mood, you can think, hey, wait a minute, we’re alive! We don’t know what the next second will bring and what a fantastic thing this is. This can get easily forgotten in the routine of life, and that’s something I’m trying to bring to my attention at all times. Don’t forget you’re alive. We’re not dead, you know. This is the greatest thing.”

It’s going to seem cheesy but the part I look forward to most in 2015 is friends. I’ve always considered myself fairly anti-social but maybe I just wasn’t willing to make that step and strike up a conversation. I have an amazingly supportive partner in Chris who also does the podcast thing and who shares in some of my interests and somehow manages to listen to me talk on and on about the others. Interacting with people who share some, most or almost none of the same interests as me is the best part of my day.

I have a novel started that I’m excited to complete with characters brought to life through gorgeous artwork.

I look forward to continuing to podcast as part of Verity! Podcast and I hope it continues to receive the kind of comments it has up until now where people feel inspired to start their own podcasts or give their opinions about the show. A fandom can only be as good as the stuff people put back into it and that’s one reason Doctor Who fandom is so fantastic.

Lastly, aside from good health I look forward to discovering more in the things I enjoy and annoying others when I constantly talk about it. With music I have so much yet to listen to and question. I’ve barely even scratched the surface of early punk music and there’s still so much after that.

I’ve learned something very important to me this year. Whenever you start a new hobby or realize your love for something is more than just casual you go through a stage where everyone knows more than you. It’s humbling and frustrating but you keep listening, keep watching and keep reading. You learn so much and by sharing your love for this thing and your “new to you” discoveries you let others know you want to learn. I’ve found people who like what you like will start to recommend things that they like because we all want to share

So I’ve compiled a playlist that influenced me in 2014. This is me sharing what I like in the hopes that one of these songs will spark something for you like it did for me. Each song led me to another artist or another song or made me change an opinion I had. Like a lot of punk bands it all started with the Sex Pistols for me then took off from there. I only included a couple songs by them but honestly I recommend all their songs.

Remember: Any Chance to Experiment is Good!

Spotify & Grooveshark are slightly different playlists (neither site had everything I wanted to include) but below the cut I included the YouTube links for both listings. It goes without saying the best thing to do is buy the artist’s work (digital, CD, vinyl) to support them or go see them live, if possible.

What did you discover this year? Did you make any conscious decisions to change things? Do you have New Year Resolutions planned? Leave a note in the comments.

Continue reading

Random fandom: Bandom

I had never considered that music could be part of fandom.

Call me crazy or ignorant, but to me fandom was TV, film, books or hobbies. It was things created for you or by you that you can watch or read; music is neither of those things. In a fandom you gain inspiration, you make friends because of it, you pass your love of it to your children, and your life will most likely change because of it. It was a disagreement that made me to stop and review my opinion. On a podcast we discussed whether David Tennant fans were still Doctor Who fans even if they were only watching for him. Strangely I started off saying that no, they weren’t Doctor Who fans and then I began to reconsider my answer.

This was no different. The more I tried to prove why music wasn’t fandom, the more I realized it was. My first reaction was that maybe there was simply another term for it.

I was already on tumblr living the life of a multi-fandom fangirl when I stumbled over Bandom. It was something I was aware of but no more than general knowledge. The term itself is a very interesting one, as this very informative article points out, it can often mean two different things:

1.   A fandom about bands or;
2.  A specific type of fandom consisting usually of one of three bands:
My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, & Panic! At the Disco.

Now I think defining a term based on just three bands is very exclusive and from the number of One Direction posts I see in the same vein I would try to include them as well. After all fandom isn’t just SuperWhoLock or Harry Potter they are just some of the loudest voices.

Although “bandom” is a great term and it makes for a great tag on fanfiction sites, it’s just a wrapping for what appeared to be another piece of fandom. Wrapping up an orange doesn’t mean it isn’t fruit anymore.

I have attempted to acknowledge when I have opinions that aren’t fully realized. Acknowledging that I held such a narrow viewpoint of fandom I set about trying to understand what I was missing.

Music has been somewhat of a foreign concept to me. The more I try to “get it” the more I fail. Sometimes you need to realize that you need to keep your mind open and accept random opportunities that may lead to you realizing you were completely wrong.

That opportunity to see music in a new light came a few years ago when I was introduced to the film 24 Hour Party People. I had seen John Simm as the Master in Doctor Who and I was intrigued to watch other things he had done. My wonderful partner offered up this film where Simm plays Bernard Sumner, the lead guitarist of Joy Division and later guitarist and vocalist of New Order.

Although I didn’t know anything about the bands talked about in the movie before I watched it, it seemed like a good opportunity. It also seemed safe because even if I hated the music I knew I liked Simm as an actor. I like to stress when I write about fandom that you don’t always jump into the pool from the diving board. Sometimes you have to be tempted into the waters by someone you trust because they know you’ll enjoy it. Sometimes an actor you like is the perfect pair of life jacket in those unknown waters.

A movie about music is a strange intro point to music I know, but it showed something that I had never seen before, fiction or otherwise. It showed that bands were real people and had real setbacks. That loving a band was more than just loving a personality or a song. It was about loving a musical product, whatever it was, and identifying with the bit of each musician it carried with it. Successful musicians (however you define successful) carry a message among those notes brought about by a collective mind. I’m learning the extent of that now. I’m learning how I knew absolutely nothing about music.

The moment you become aware of your own faults is both a wonderful and terrifying moment. I shudder to think that at one point music existed in amazingly broad categories for me: rock, country, rap, jazz and classical. When someone asked me what kind of music I liked I would say, “pretty much everything… except rap and country.” I loved my fair share of songs and I can name bands I like, but I never looked into them or sought out information about them. I only ever considered the output and never thought about the people who created that output or what their influences are.

For my NaNoWriMo novel that I wrote about here, I looked into music even more. I’ve been exploring and researching a tiny slice of music history. Namely Canada and the UK in the mid 70s and their blooming punk scenes. As I usually do when I find something interesting, I surround myself in it.

Naturally, I talk about it at work and a co-worker helped me to stumble upon the fact that these two music scenes, despite their distance did draw so much inspiration from such an unlikely place: a group from New York that was commercially floundering, but hitting all the right notes for beginning bands, the Ramones. The Ramones influenced a slew of bands including Teenage Head in Canada who later influenced the Tragically Hip, the Sex Pistols and the Clash in the UK who became two of the most iconic punk bands to date. Musical influence is one of the first things journalists ask a new band. It is like asking a writer what their inspiration is or where they developed their writing style.

Wanting to write television because you adore Doctor Who is no different from learning to play bass with the help of a Ramones album. Listening to a record or mp3 and wanting to make music is the perfect example of something you love going beyond all your senses and tricking you into thinking you can do something you otherwise thought you couldn’t.

That to me is the definition of fandom.

I was in a place where I didn’t understand all the pieces necessary to judge for myself whether music could be a fandom. After all, the term fandom is so broad that I think naturally we try to narrow it a little. We aren’t just residents of Earth, we have a nationality; we have our own tribes and families. The concept of being part of an elite group is treated with more reverence than being part of a big group. We want to be part of something small and special and that means making as many rules and conditions and placing them on something to keep people out.

Aside from bandom, the only other terms that repeatedly pop up when looking into fandom’s view of music are terms like “deadheads” the name given to Grateful Dead fans and “Beatlemaniacs” for fans of the Beatles.

However, in a broad sense we’ve had fandom for genres of music for ages. Look at someone who adores Doctor Who and wears the K-9 and TARDIS pins, the scarf, and the sonic screwdriver with their everyday clothes. Now compare them to the punks who wear leather or denim jackets, band pins and patches and safety pins wherever they can fit them. Where are the differences? (And there’s the fact that Peter Capaldi used to be in a punk band…) It’s just another tribe that we identify with to feel special and different. Saying bandom is a fandom about bands is redundant because bands are already part of fandom.

Maybe I’m the only one who has had this conundrum.

What I know, at this moment, is that seeing John Simm on stage singing with the real, proper Bernard Sumner is amazing. See for yourself and tell me they aren’t having fun.

If you liked the music, check them out on iTunes or your local music/record shop.

What about you? Is music part of the general “fandom” experience? Is bandom a better term? Leave a comment.

NaNoWriMo Changed My Life

First of all, congrats to the winners of NaNoWriMo 2014! You made it! You survived!

Now for everyone else, you may be wondering what NaNoWriMo is. If you’ve heard someone talking about NaNoWriMo in the past month you’ve probably wondered what all the fuss was about.

NaNoWriMo is the short form for National Novel Writing Month. To win, a person has to write at least 50,000 words in the month of November. The story doesn’t have to be finished, it can even be hand-written, but it needs to be at least 50,000 words. It’s for everyone who has even thought about writing a novel and needed a kick in the butt to start doing it.

What does 50,000 words look like? Well mine is about 100 pages in Microsoft word with size 12 font, and according to nanowrimo.org it’s about the length of The Great Gatsby. That is a lot of writing all at once but spread over 30 days that’s only about 1,667 words per day, four hundred words longer than this blog post. It’s a difficult but doable goal for everyone, even people with busy lifestyles. The trick is you have to write every day. The first week will be a breeze, you’ll be happily writing and then the second week comes along and you start making excuses, the plot bunnies scamper away and the writer’s block comes on like the flu. Anyone who has tried to break a habit or develop a habit knows this all too well. You just have to keep at it.

It only took me four years to get there. I first heard about NaNoWriMo in 2010 and as I love to write I immediately signed up. I made it to 2746 words and quit. I gave up because I had entered week three and in my mind there was no way I was going to make it. The same thing happened in 2011 and 2012. Last year I made it to just over 8000 words before I gave up so I was determined I would do it this year.

This year I won NaNoWriMo with 50,110 words in 28 days.

My story is only half-written and after a weekend off to celebrate I’m back at it in hopes of writing something worthy of publishing. I have something I feel is worth publishing.

I set out to write a story with absolutely no ideas in mind. I had no character names, ideas or settings in my brain when I first stared at that blank manuscript. Originally I thought I’d write fanfiction; I had plans for an epic crossover piece between Doctor Who and the Young Ones but I quickly realized I couldn’t commit to that for that long. Then I thought maybe go with science fiction, thinking I could write my own time travel story or maybe something to do with aliens picking up a kid and raising him as their own. That wouldn’t work, that was silly; although I would adore reading a story like that, I couldn’t write it. I was back to square one.

I remembered a lesson an English teacher in high school had tried to instill in us; write about what you know, so I started there. My main character became first: a 35-year-old woman who was raised in a small Nova Scotia town with dreams of going to the United Kingdom. Gee, wherever did I get that idea? Rather than writing her at that age I went back and started her as a 16 year old, that age seemed like more fun. Suddenly I had a character.

Earlier this year I had begun listening to different types of music and beginning to find I really liked early punk music like the Sex Pistols and the Clash. A friend had given me a punk mixtape just after Gallifrey One in February (the best Doctor Who convention ever) and I had been listening to it on repeat almost every morning on my way to work. I was starting to branch out from it when November rolled around. I decided my unnamed character would be really into punk rock; she became Sydney, Syd for short who would fall in love with a guy named John. This character trait gave me a great reason to dive in and start listening to as much as I could. I read all I could about the different streams of Canadian, American and British punk music in the 70s and very early 80s and how different bands influenced each other. I wanted to know as much as my character would know and suddenly I found I fell in love with it all just like she did. She started to develop into a weird version of me as if I’d had access to the bands I was now listening to back in high school.

Highly recommend these books if you’re interested:
Perfect Youth by Sam Sutherland
The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club by Peter Hook
Please Kill Me by Gillian McCain & Legs McNeil

I only had thirty days to get this done which meant I couldn’t read everything. So I started to reach out to friends that I knew who were knowledgeable in the subjects I didn’t know much about. Everyone I spoke with was more than happy to help me. My character had Dutch relatives so I asked a friend about names and familiar terms that may exist in Amsterdam. I asked about the transit systems in present day Manchester versus what was in place in 1995 when part of the story is set. I asked everyone who even remotely liked punk rock for recommendations of who to listen to and listened to everything I could get my hands on just like Sydney would. It’s amazing how willing friends are to talk about things they love and know. If you ask the right questions you can tap into years of knowledge that we all accumulate because we obsess and become passionate about certain things.

I started to realize that I didn’t talk to other people about their passions nearly enough. When I did I learned so much more about my friends and co-workers. In return friends and coworkers wished me luck, encouraged me, asked me how the story was progressing; then I felt I had people to be accountable to when I didn’t want to write. I’m sure if you’ve ever read a weight loss or quit smoking blog all these elements will seem very familiar to you. I let this writing touch every aspect of my life.

I can’t recommend NaNoWriMo highly enough, but you don’t have to wait until November and you don’t have to write. Pick a month and aim to write 50,000 words in that month, draw thirty pictures, write a blog post a day but just do something. Pick a topic that has always interested you and aim to learn as much as you can to build it into a story. I can only hope to repeat this experience until Sydney’s story has been told and I hope someone will read this and realize they have a Sydney of their own waiting to enlighten them about an aspect of their life into which they’ve been afraid to delve. I hope to be able to plug my own book on this very blog someday soon.

Do you have a hobby, a genre of music, maybe a comic book series you’re just waiting to get into? Leave a comment.

Until then enjoy some Clash and Sex Pistols:

You’re Going to Fail, That’s How We Level Up.

Apologies! This has nothing to do with fandom unless exercising or reading is your fandom. I had a thought and needed to tell the world and that is how the internet is meant to be used. – Kat

Lately I find myself watching Masterchef or similar cuisine battle shows and cruising the Internet looking at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) sites (after job applications of course). It’s not that different from this time last year really, except I wouldn’t have been looking at BJJ sites and I don’t have a job.

I’ve learned a lot in this span of unemployment, which I hope, ends soon. I decided early on that I would challenge this whole notion I had of myself that I couldn’t be physically active. I’ve never been physically active. With the exception of a brief stint (two weeks max) playing rugby and floor hockey as a pre-teen I’ve never “done” sports. My family didn’t have the money, my family almost never had a vehicle and I just didn’t have the interest to go and get sweaty and kick a ball around when I could come home and read. I had a brief love affair with karate when a friend was in it but money became the deciding factor and I lived through her instead of joining myself.

Reading became my oasis then and it still is. I already knew how to read; as of now I’ve been reading for over twenty-four years and I think I’m damn good at it. Now I wanted to be good at exercising. Now I have time, some money, access to public transit, resources for research and many options. I decided enough was enough and set about doing healthy things like eating better and ditching fast food. I was going to enjoy this “exercise” that everyone I looked up to seem to do. I joined the YMCA and set about being a runner. I didn’t realize then but I was clay. The clay that now was running in the gym couldn’t hold a shape when I tried and where I wanted a beautiful vase I ended up with something that, maybe, could be an ashtray?

It wasn’t my body’s fault; not really, it had no idea what the hell I was doing to it. Running?! Lifting weights?! This was surely torture! It wanted to go home and cry. Go hand a book to someone who can’t read and demand they read it. Don’t allow them to sound out words or fumble for pronunciations, make them believe they need to do it now and properly. They will probably get frustrated, won’t get very far and they may even give up but there’s a great chance they won’t enjoy the experience. It makes perfect sense though doesn’t it?

So why couldn’t I understand that? That’s what I did to myself! Running on a treadmill was my book but I couldn’t read. There is so much pressure in this world, especially from the Internet, to exercise and do it well and maybe even enjoy it. I’m not thinking of the weight-loss groups. I’m thinking of the professionals that say we need to do it in some way, the friends who enjoy exercising, and the inspirational stories we hear from the media. They tell us we should exercise because it’s good for us, and it is! Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying you shouldn’t exercise; I’m saying that not everyone is the same. I’m saying that if you have never exercised don’t beat yourself up for being horrible at exercising at first.

Some of us aren’t in good shape and have never exercised and that’s okay.

As Ralph Wiggum says “my legs don’t know how to be as long as yours!”

You may laugh and think: ‘I know that, it’s common sense! I have to keep going and I won’t be good at it the first time but someday I will.’ There are different types of people in this world. How will you cope with that failure when your brain tells you that it’s pointless? What about when that failure happens for the eighth or ninth time? What if you’re the type of person who prepares for everything and have ever since you passed your first test and now you fail on that treadmill every time?

Picture that kid that always got picked last but spent hours in the library. Picture the kid with his or her inhaler. Picture the student who never wanted to play soccer and that was all his school offered so he or she opted not to exercise. They decide enough is enough for whatever reason and Google “beginner workouts.” A certain type of person will read the pages and pages that the internet spits out at them. They’ll learn about the right shoes and the right clothes and which gyms give you a discount during which month. It makes them feel secure because they are doing what they do best. They are researching, analyzing, absorbing the data and making decisions.

You can read running tips until you’re blue in the face and not understand it. You will understand many things about it and you might be better prepared than someone who just starts running one morning, but you still probably won’t have the coping mechanisms needed to pull yourself back up when you fail horribly at running. Don’t say you won’t fail though because it’s as likely as a Wilhelm scream in a Star Wars movie. There is an excellent chance that you won’t run nearly as fast as you thought you would or as far as you want to. Does this mean you should give up? No, the opposite! I’m in this step right now.

That physical exercise journey I mentioned at the beginning of this article? Joining Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was just the first step on that journey, but I hadn’t expected that in less than two months I would be thinking of all my physical activity up to this point or rather lack thereof.

I went into BJJ after reading a lot of material and watching a lot of videos. I researched every gym in my area and knew what to wear during that first class, what to expect and that I wouldn’t be the best in the class. I hoped I would have some innate talent though and hoped that I wouldn’t make an idiot of myself. I also hoped that the other people in class wouldn’t be mean and laugh at me. One out of three ain’t bad. The other guys in the class were very nice and treated me as an absolute beginner as did a great instructor.

Guess what, two months later I’m still an absolute beginner. It’s been two months and I still have trouble with a lot of things. People have come in since then and done better than me. Am I frustrated? Of course I am. Today I broke down crying after class because I just can’t seem to do what everyone else is doing. Have I questioned why I’m even doing this when I suck so badly at it? Yes I have. Did I quit? No, I didn’t. I’ve come close though and that’s the reason this idea, this concept dawned on me. I have over twenty years of reading experience and I’m great at it. I have zero years exercise experience so that’s why my body has no sweet clue what it’s doing. I can research, watch techniques and read motivational pictures but it won’t get any better. I can’t control every variable. I have to keep trying even if I get upset.


Image: jokideo.com

If you love something like a sport or physical activity, don’t let it go. The movies lied. It won’t come back to you and you’ll only end up chasing it or wishing you had. To get better at jiu-jitsu you need to do jiu-jitsu. To get better at Zumba you need to go to Zumba. You have to read to get better at reading and sometimes doing something we are really good at won’t help us get better at other things.

Maybe this is common knowledge to everyone but it took me twenty-seven years to realize this terrifying fact. If you suck at exercising or whatever sport you’ve chosen to spend your time and money on but you are trying as best you can, keep trying. It’s okay to get help but you need to keep doing it to get the experience. Remember all the things you take for granted and do very well every day. You might not remember all the failures to help you get to that point as you might have been very young but there were failures. You kept trying then and you can keep trying now and someday you’ll reach an okay level and the frustration will fade a little and the failures will seem a little less embarrassing.

That’s in the future! Now stop reading this and go do that something! (I hear Verity! Podcast makes a wonderful exercise accompaniment.)

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being a Fangirl

Hi, I’m Katrina and I’m a fangirl.

That’s a loaded word isn’t it? Fangirl.

I’m here to make the statement that more of us fangirl than we realize and more of us should fangirl than currently do. Don’t worry, it’s not an illness and even if it were we wouldn’t want to cure it.
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With Fandom, A Picture is Worth a Thousand Memories

Written August 2013 on my tumblr. My first proper essay about fandom and it’s impact on me.

An essay about coming home to a fandom that changed my life, all because of one picture.

It’s a little crazy how something like a television show can trickle into your life and leave such a long lasting impression so that, years later, when you rediscover it feels like a reunion. This has happened twice with Queer as Folk (US) and each time it is akin to stepping back into your childhood home with perhaps more sexual content, drug use and gay politics.

Then again I’ve never been to your childhood home so I may be completely off the mark.

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