Daily Chance to do Good: HUGHCON!!!

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If you’ve attended a science fiction convention in the past 20+ years on the east coast, your path is very likely to have crossed with this man’s..

hugh-chair

…Yes, he travels with that chair.

…….Ok, not really.  But he totally could, and no one would  question it.

Why, you ask?

Because this gentleman  is Hugh Casey, one of the finest people you’ll ever find in (or out of) the world of science fiction fandom.  As his bio states, Hugh is…

A long-time con-goer, he’s been a member of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society (PSFS) since the early-’90’s, where he served, at various times, as President, Vice-President, and on the Board of Directors. He’s also served as Chairman and Vice-Chair for PHILCON, Philly’s regional SF con, as well as it’s head of programming for several years …. He is a filmmaker with his own production company, Parents Basement Productions, and his short films “Teddy’s Big Escape” and “Young Geeks In Love” can be found on YouTube. He is also a writer, director, actor, blogger, photographer, event manager and promoter, and more. He tries to live by Clarke’s Law, “Specialization is for insects”.

(His bio neglects to mention, of course, that Hugh was a Guest of Awesome at Pi-Con in 2010.  Perhaps no one has earned that title more than Hugh!)

Now, east coast fandom hasn’t seen as much of Hugh in the past few years because of his fight with, and now recovery from, cancer.  To help out with his financial needs, a bunch of his friends have organized…HUGHCON!!

hughcon.jpg

“What izzit what izzit WHAT IZZIT???” you ask?

HUghCon is a fundraiser where all proceeds will go to Hugh!  Throughout the day/evening, attendees will be treated to the music of Philadelphia’s own Star Trek tribute band, The Roddenberries, as well as the musical tapestry that is This Way to the Egress!  (If you’re not familiar with them, there are some music links at the bottom of this post.)

Attendees will also have the opportunity to bid on some fantastic silent auction items such as a copy of the book Who Killed Amanda Palmer (signed by photographer Kyle Cassidy, writer Neil Gaiman, and musician Amanda Palmer!), a first edition of the board game Conquest of the Empire (unopened, circa 1984), a geektastic gift basket of goodies from the Pennsylvania Browncoats, and much more!  Book, jewelry, and garb vendors will be on hand for your gift buying needs, with a portion of those proceeds going to Hugh as well.

SO MUCH STUFF, Y’ALL!!

Admission for the event is $15 pre-sale ($16.20 with tax), $20 at the door. The best part of this event?  You can buy a ticket even if you can’t go to the event, and that money goes directly to Hugh!!  So even though I can’t go because of prior obligations and, ya know, Philly being 12 hours away, I’m delighted I could still purchase a ticket and help support this love-filled event for this fantastic man.

You should, too!  It’ll make you feel good!  🙂  Go HERE! http://hughcon.brownpapertickets.com/

For the most up-to-date information on HughCon, check out their Facebook event page – https://www.facebook.com/events/911674232296899/.

Thanks for reading.  Please share if you’re so inclined!  And, really, go take a peek at the FB page..there’s so much awesome being planned to support Hugh, one of the best people and brightest stars in fandom.  ❤

The Roddenberries music: https://soundcloud.com/the-roddenberries

This Way to the Egress music: http://thiswaytotheegress.com

hughcon-poster

banishing the bad

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t explain that correctly.”

Although the comment isn’t directed at me, I can’t help but hear the comment, note how instead of blaming the person doing the task incorrectly, our person in charge is taking responsibility as she corrects the problem.

I continue to paint the wall in front of me, but my thoughts are of another work site, where I was in the process of repainting a skull and replacing it on a facade.

“Wow.  That’s horrible,” my  boss says from below my ladder.

It wasn’t what I was used to.  At all.  If it had been said to someone else, I might have protested his words.  But it was said to me, and I wanted to do a good job, so I tried to laugh it off and figure out what about the task was wrong.

This was one of my first days working for him.  It set the tone for the next seven years – criticism, sometimes couched in ‘oh you know I’m kidding’, and praise/compliments mostly offered when there was no other audience but me.

I love having the opportunity to help create scenes, environments.  Usually that’s within the walls of a haunted house.  I’d fallen in love with this haunt and I was eager for the opportunity to work here as often as possible.  Indeed, it was this haunt that had set me on the path to becoming “Halloween Girl” more so than any other haunt project or commitment I’d taken on up to that point in my life.

Part of the appeal was that I was working for a friend.

I didn’t know at the time that I was actually working for a narcissist.

What that means, for me, is that I spent those years on a roller coaster of praise and abuse.  I could do anything; I was mostly useless. I was one of his best friends; the more I hurt, the more he wanted to hurt me.  The people that worked this haunt were a family; I wasn’t supposed to talk to them about much of anything. The stories and the rules changed depending on the audience, and while hindsight makes it all very clear, the day to day process of living with it is bewildering.

Here’s the really hard thing:  This all happened me to before the average person knew the definition of  ‘narcissistic personality disorder.’ On one hand, when I walked away from that job, I knew I would be cyberstalked, so it changed many of the ways I handle myself online (including why I am being admittedly vague, and even still I’m having a hard time hitting ‘publish’), and I grew to learn that people that were paying attention weren’t believing the smear campaign that still goes on to this day.  Which is typical for a narcissist.

More deeply rooted, and the bigger surprise, was the unexpected PTSD.  I found that had lost a lot of my confidence, my ability to trust my coworkers.  When Bones and I started our haunt and were building the show, I struggled a lot with an unexpected need for reassurance.  And when I started working at the theatre, I discovered that I was shocked to hear people treating each other with respect.  That it was ok to take a break.  That the way I used to treat my fellow crew members was actually the *norm* rather than something to be mocked.  That mistakes weren’t met with, “Wow, that’s horrible,” or other demeaning critical comments, or compliments at the moment followed by negativity muttered to other ears.

I am lucky in that I’ve worked with people that understand why I have PTSD.  They’ve known the players in my story. They’ve been able to  tell by the look on my face when I’ve stopped hearing them and started hearing the past.  Sometimes I feel like every job offers one more bit of healing. And sometimes it’s really hard to not just walk around hugging people that are being genuinely kind to each other on a work site.

 

 

stitching out stigma

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In the mid 1990s, I started having severe panic attacks.  It’s tempting to think of that as the first time anxiety kicked my ass, but looking back at my childhood, I strongly suspect this would be a very naive assumption on my part.  Still, it wasn’t until my early 20s that I discovered what it’s like to be out of control of one’s body and brain, hyperventilating until my lips turned blue and all I could think was, ‘It would be so easy to stop breathing.’  I learned that my version of ‘fight or flight’ was to try to leap out of cars to escape whatever trigger had set off my most recent fit of panic.  At its very worst, I was having panic attacks several times a week and exhibiting symptoms akin to MS.

I learned that therapists – at least back then – were not inclined to believe one’s self-diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.  I argued with my therapist until he finally went over a list of symptoms and reluctantly admitted that I was probably right…so hey, do you want medication for that?

I said no thank you and I figured out ways to live with this inner tension.  It’s like having a particularly harsh inner barometer.  You don’t dare let yourself get too stressed out, because if you do? Bam, you start shaking and you can’t breathe.

I’ve spent years at this point getting this under control.  For the most part, it manifest in small ways now, like night terrors; or, if I delay in answering an email or responding to a voice mail, the steadily increasing levels of anxiety about that make it very difficult to ever respond.  (When The Bloggess talks about her repeated decision to just open a new email account because she can’t deal with what she’s not responded to?  I can see why that would be tempting!)

There’s so much stigma about depression and anxiety.  People have criticized me for being at all open/public about my struggles, saying that if they were hiring managers, they would never hire me.  I’ve lost friendships because, at my worst, people have found it hard to watch that struggle and not be able to help.

Still, I’m open about it because I think it’s important to talk about these things.  The Bloggess does it brilliantly.  So does Wil Wheaton.  And their posts have helped me, and so I hope that I might help others as I learn to help myself.

Enter Stitching Out Stigma.

A woman in the UK, Natalie,  came up with the idea of a quilt project made up of cross stitch and embroidery squares created by people dealing with varied mental illnesses.  Due to Facebook, Twitter and varied articles in varied magazines and newspapers, that ambitious thought extended to people internationally, and it was through that network of articles that I heard about the quilt last summer.

Most of the participants are in and around the UK, but I really wanted to be a part of this project…in part, I wanted to do it as a nod to the Bloggess, whose words have helped me so much.  So I decided to use the quote she, and Wil, and so many others use on Twitter..

 

depression lies

The design isn’t exactly what I envisioned, and if I ever actually mapped things out before I started stitching, it would have worked out better, but…la, there it is!  I sent it off to England and I waited nervously to hear if it arrived safely or not.

…It did. 🙂  It’s one of around 45 squares that have been sent in for the project, and some of the squares have been on exhibit at varied events over the past few months..

Gabalfa Mental Health Clinic – May 15, 2015

sos 1

Newport Mind Mental Health Event – October 9, 2015, South Wales

(Because not every square had arrived yet, the quilt wasn’t being assembled, so squares were placed into a notebook along with their accompanying stories.)

This month, the quilt is starting to be assembled, and the variety and beauty of what’s been contributed just astounds me.  A gallery of the completed squares can be found here, but I’m going to post a bunch of assembly pictures because I’m so full of wow over it. (It looks like the team sewing the quilt together is going to get some news coverage,too.) The goal is to have this finished by January 2016, to be put on display in a new purpose built Mental Health Unit in Wales.

 

 

 

in which i fail miserably at walking

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I’ve spent the past several weeks volunteering as a crew member for a local production of “Evita,” as well as attending meetings for a future production.  Because one of my meetings was the afternoon before a show, I had decided to go into town early, meander towards my meeting, and then explore a bit of the city before I had to be back at the theatre.

It’s amazing how quickly plans can go wonky.

Bones dropped me off by a coffee shop and had just pulled away from the curb when the sidewalk apparently twisted away from my foot, causing me to wrench my ankle and fall to the ground.

Walking has never been my best trick.

I struggled back to a standing position.  Tried to walk.  Couldn’t.

Well, hell.

I clung to a wall and tried to figure out what hurt.  The ankle absolutely hurt..but honestly?  I’ve twisted my right ankle so many times and in so many ways that generally speaking it doesn’t usually phase me for more than a few seconds.

This was something more.

The child that lives in my brain couldn’t process what was going on.  It felt like I had seriously hurt the muscles in the arch of my foot, making it wicked hard to put weight on my foot.  The only time I’d felt pain close to this was when I thought I’d broken my left ankle several years ago.  But hey, I didn’t want to vomit, so I knew it wasn’t that bad.

I frantically texted Bones as I kept attempting unsuccessfully to walk.  He offered to come back for me, but I am stubborn and decided I would will myself to be ok.  (…The texts Bones received were, of course, not nearly as confident as what I’ve just written here.)

So I stood, half leaning on the wall, half trying to figure out how to walk again.  An older woman walked past me, stopped, turned, and looked at me.  I prepared myself for the obvious question she was about to ask.

“Do you know where *mumble* Street is?”

Ok, so I didn’t expect that question.

“I’m sorry, I don’t have any idea,” I panted at her.  Disappointed, she walked away.

I took a deep breath and tried to put weight on my foot again.  This time, I had better success.  I texted an update to Bones and limped to the next open door, which happened to be an old school sort of used bookstore.  Piles of books and cigar boxes (?) littered the shelves and floor.  I looked around, sorta wanting to investigate, sorta afraid I’d knock things over, sorta wondering why there was no one else in the store.

“Can I help you?”

An older gentleman holding a laptop was in the doorway behind me.

“Um…no, not really. I just…wanted to look around.”

He continued to stand there, looking annoyed.

I looked around the front of the store one more time. “OK!  So.  I….I’ll be back later.”

He stepped aside so I could hobble-escape past him.  I decided this was quite enough adventure for one day, and so I started to make my way to my meeting, where a friend loaned me an ankle brace that helped me get through the rest of my evening.

Of course…of course…my friend Jenny and I had signed up to do a 5K that was scheduled for two days after my latest failure to walk.  She suggested we might want to cancel.  But, ya know.  Stubborn.

Two days later, we headed to Lansing for the Race to Restore.  This lovely little event is a fundraiser to help maintain tombstones in Mt Hope cemetery, and the 5K consisted of two loops through the cemetery.  (I can’t actually explain the expression on my face in the following picture.)

Event photo for Race to Restore

The first loop wasn’t bad. I had warned Jenny that we would not be breaking any records today (which is a shame because there were so few of us that we maaaaaybe could have actually placed in our age groups had we not been hindered by my gimpiness).   Jenny is a great friend and insisted she wasn’t there to be speedy.

Which is good, because on the second loop, my ankle gave out on me and I fell pretty much flat on my face for – once again – no damned good reason whatsoever.

I was tempted to just…stay there for a while and feel sorry for myself.  But.  There’s not much that is as motivating to me as looking up and seeing someone on a walkie looking at me worriedly, so with images of ambulances dancing in my head, I struggled to my feet and pretended I was ok.

As it turned out, now I had a gimpy right ankle and a tweaked left knee…and no medal.  😦 Our time was a glorious 1 hour and 9 minutes, which is…ridiculously bad.  But!  We finished.  Because I’m stubborn.

The following is a bit of the text discussion between Bones and me:

Capture

..And this, y’all, is why I’m not an athlete.

But!  I have one more 5K this year, in a few weeks.  I may not make my personal best, but at least I’m sure to do better than I did this weekend. :/

 

 

 

 

in which i start a (probably short-lived) obsession with 5k walks

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..Mostly because I got a medal at my first one.
……Which is a whole lot less impressive than it sounds, I assure you.

Last spring, my friend Jeanne was talking about participating in a 5K run/walk, Alive and Running. This is an event for suicide awareness, which is near and dear to my heart, and so I tenatively said I’d probably very possibly maybe join her.

(Geminis are the consummate hedgers.)

I changed my mind many times over the next 5 months. I’m not a runner.  I don’t actually enjoy walking..I’d rather ride my bike.  OTOH, I’m very goal driven, and when I was a kid, I used to do the CROP walk.  I can’t remember if I ever raised much money – probably not – and I definitely remember hating the last mile or there of the walk every year. (I remember it being, like, 20 miles, but I suspect it was only 5.) Still, by God, I did it, and so I should be able to walk 5K (3.1mi).

I drove to the event and instantly panicked because I couldn’t find Jeanne and I felt completely out of place. I’m not a runner, I’m not an athlete, and I’m certainly not in the kind of shape I’d like to be.  I’d been thinking a lot about this post by Kyle, and it helped me not get back into the car and go the heck home.  But I didn’t.  Yay me.  🙂

Found Jeanne and her crew just before the start of the race/walk.  Her husband was the only one of us that was running, which helped my brain…but goodness, I confess I struggled for the first half.  Between my wonky ankles and my plantar fasciatis flare-ups, I was in a fair bit of pain.  We slowed down a little, which helped, and pushing through it did help as well.  Still, how frustrating.  😦

Final time was 58:30; I came in 230 out of 262.  I’m not sure where that puts me as far as walkers go; there’s obviously room for improvement.

Still, I’m not unhappy with my results.    And I’m planning to do a few more of these events this year.

…And I totally wore my medal all day. Which helped me not mind so much that I was icing my feet afterwards because ow.

yay medal!!!

how easily we are humbled

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A few weeks ago, I broke my glasses.

The fear of broken frames is why I wore metal frames for so many  years.  I went back to plastic because Bones suggested I’d look good in catseye frames, and he was right.  I’ve not been gentle to these things, and I’m frankly surprised they didn’t break sooner…although I’m incredibly grateful it didn’t happen while I was in China last year.

Initially we thought we could repair them.  This shows you just how long it’s been since I’ve dealt with broken frames.  The superglue repair worked for about 1-1/2 days.

My getting an eye exam and new glasses isn’t a financial priority – at least, not for me.   When you need bifocals, there’s really no such thing as a cheap pair of glasses. I was pretty sure I could make due with contacts, my old glasses, and reading glasses.

I was very wrong.

My last exam, over 2 years ago now, put me at a -6.75 in my right eye and a -5.75 in my left, with a +1.25 bifocal adjustment.  If you’re over 40 and you wear bifocals, that all makes sense to you.  If you don’t, it’s Greek, so let me explain.  This means I’m pretty significantly nearsighted.  Even with my glasses, I do not have 20/20 vision and I can’t read street signs and such as well as other people.  If I am wearing regular glasses, I can read only if I look under my frames.  This is in part why I wear huge bifocals..it forces me to actually use the reading correction.

If I am wearing contacts, I can’t read a computer screen, a menu, a book, without reading glasses.  This means retraining my brain to NOT use glasses if I’m trying to see beyond the computer screen, which is more frustrating than it sounds. I see halos at night, so I can’t wear contacts at night and drive.  Also, there’s a good chance most places will have to order my contacts because my script is *just* at the point of being uncommon enough to not be kept in stock.

If I am wearing non-bifocals, I can only read if I (a) look beneath my lenses or (b) put reading glasses on over my glasses.  This doesn’t seem to make sense, but it works.  Mostly.  I mean, it cuts back significantly on what I can see distance-wise.  Thanks to computer screen settings, I can enlarge the font to allow me to mostly see without my readers..I think I was up to 170% and it still wasn’t super clear but it was workable.  Sadly, it means that if my computer opens a new tab, I’m back to not being able to read the screen.

What I learned was that my script has changed.  Even with my glasses and readers, I was unable to do things such as see spilled beads and be able to pick them up.  I didn’t do very much cross stitching because I was struggling in general to see detail.  I’ve had headaches and eye strain every night from my brain being taxed to process all these varied focal points.  Because I don’t wear contacts very often, my eyes had some issues wearing them every day. (Although hey, without having huge frames on my face, I was forced to actually look at myself in the morning – which I tend to not want to do – and that encouraged me to wear makeup. So!  Small positives.)

After maybe a week of struggling like this, I ended up ordering some bifocals via Zenni Optical, tweaking my script up to -7/-6/+2.  They arrived last night and it is, frankly, almost making me weep to be able to see well again.  I just had no idea how bad my vision really is. I feel much more compassion for people that struggle with problems more serious than mine.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few  years wearing my old glasses while I cross stitch because that allows me to watch TV and still be able to see to stitch.  My bifocals don’t really allow me to see that much detail.   And I’ve been struggling to even browse shelves in bookstores because the focal point is kinda weird.  This is *heartbreaking* and it’s not something I’ve admitted to anyone until right now.  I’d probably do better with transitional lenses, to be honest, but that raises the price of glasses even more for me.

It’s kinda hard to admit to my vision problems.  I’m doing so because I’ve never seen anyone else describe what it’s like to need bifocals beyond, “Oh, I put readers on over my glasses to get me through.”  This is a part of aging I didn’t anticipate being as difficult as it is.

And if I ever leave the country again, I’m absolutely bringing a back-up pair of glasses.  Because I can’t imagine dealing with this while away from home.

Depression lies.

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Earlier tonight, the news of Robin Williams’ death hit the internet. Amidst the hope that this was yet another hoax news story was the murmur that maybe Robin’s death was a suicide.

Hoax? No. Suicide? Yes.

Twitter is flooded with recommendations of where to get help if you, too, struggle with depression. My view of Facebook is peppered with people’s bewildered reaction to this death. And I’m here on the sofa with my kitty, Leeloo, thinking about how we today respond to depression and suicide.

@TheBloggess: It only take a moment to lose the war with depression. Be vigilant. Be brave. You do not fight alone. We’re here. #depressionlies

Jenny’s very frank blogs about her struggles with depression and anxiety have helped me a lot, in that they give me something I can show to Bones and say, “Here. It’s like this.” And I am, frankly, lucky as hell that he listens, he doesn’t judge, and even when I describe what it’s been like at its very worst, he doesn’t judge me.

Which sounds like an obvious. Of course he doesn’t judge. He loves me. But I dated someone whose response to my depression – when I was really struggling and fully planning on going to bed and staying there for a few days – his response was, “Yeah. Why don’t you do that?” So I did. For the rest of the week.

Surprisingly, that wasn’t the incident that led to him being an ex boyfriend. Yaaaay depression.

Wil Wheaton has been resharing his blogs about depression – one is here – and has added his voice to the choir of people saying yes, we need to talk about depression.

It was only a few years ago that a friend of mine cautioned me about openly writing about depression. She thought it would hurt my chances at finding a job. “I wouldn’t hire you if I saw that,” she told me.

I’m pleased to say that she was wrong. I was hired as a temp, I told my boss about my anxiety disorder and my depression, and not only did that boss help me find someone to talk to, she also advocated hard to get me hired on full time.

I hope that we are learning better how to talk about depression, and how to respond to depression..that we are figuring out suicide is not cowardly and it’s not weak, it’s the action of someone that is tired of struggling with the things Life throws at a person. If you’ve never been that tired, I’m so very glad. I wouldn’t wish that feeling on anyone.

I’m thinking of Robin with love and sorrow tonight. I’m sorry he fell to that feeling of Done. It only takes a moment of Done for depression to ‘win.’

Depression lies.

ETA: One resource not getting a lot of airtime but I think is worth sharing: http://www.7cupsoftea.com
Need someone to listen? Try there.