Whatcha Reading? April 2016

I surprised myself by still managing to read three books this month despite traveling. Philadelphia was absolutely amazing, and as I predicted last month, I stepped into the Mütter Museum and immediately teared up.

DR. MÜTTER’S MARVELS by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

51ymxNCFYSL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

This book is amazing. I picked it up on a whim a year or so ago without really knowing what it was about. I expected a sort of biographical read about medicine and history, but what I got was an immersive exploration about not only Dr. Mütter’s life, but the lives of many of the professors and doctors at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

And yes, at the end, when Mütter meets his untimely death (hey, it’s not a spoiler considering he’s long dead at this point), I sobbed. It’s all so unfair.

Stepping into what he essentially bullied the College of Physicians of Philadelphia to construct to house his collection was an astonishing moment. Though it’s not the original building, the fact that I was looking at specimens and wax casts that have survived two hundred years was breathtaking. Yes, I assume some find them gross and disturbing, but I wanted nothing more than to sit and sketch all the skulls and figures and instruments.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of a medical history fanatic. An enthusiast.

Wicked Ever After by Delilah S. Dawson

51dWof989HL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

While on the plane, I began (and finished) the final book in Delilah S. Dawson’s Blud series. Wicked Ever After catches back up with Trish and Criminy, and includes a tale of love, loss, betrayal, learning to let go, and of course, really hot blood-drinking vampire magicians.

It’s a bit bittersweet. I met Delilah just before Wicked as They Come launched (in fact, I was the fire dancer at her launch party). Seeing the series come full-circle has been a neat experience. This one is eBook only, and I miss not having one for my shelf, but I did enjoy the ride.

The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig

51E8S+UfVCL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Have I mentioned how much I love the Miriam Black series?

Another great, fast-paced read. I’m attempting to get more action-oriented books in my head in the hopes it’ll help me write action. I’m more of an atmosphere gal, so the fact that my WIP has three fight scenes in five chapters is throwing me a bit.

But a challenge is good, right?

Miriam kicks ass and takes names. I love the back and forth, past and present storytelling aspect of this book. I love how everything ties together. I did have a moment of confusion because it’s been a while since I’ve read Blackbirds, but I caught up quickly enough. Good stuff, this one. Unfortunately, I have no idea when The Thunderbird is coming out, which I believe is the last book.

 

I’m starting May with Delilah S. Dawson’s Strike (the sequel to Hit) and an absolute determination to carve through my TBR before buying more books. Which, of course, is exactly what I did in Philly. But I only bought one.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books

Whatcha Reading? March 2016

Truth be told, I didn’t read as much as I wanted to this month. Work kept from words (but money means I can buy more books!), but I did enjoy what I devoured.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

A Darker Shade final for Irene

Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

I’ve had this book for a while (and it’s sequel I bought the day it came out), but I finally gave in and read this on the insistence of a friend. I’m not usually one for fantasy, but parallel words, working magic, smugglers and thieves? Yes, please.

I loved it. Couldn’t put it down. I was lucky enough to meet Victoria a couple months ago at a book event, and she’s pretty freaking awesome as a person in addition to boasting one of the finest talents for world-building, voice, and basically everything. She’s got the Word Magic.

One of my favorite literary things is the combination of magic and science. This is more in the realm of physics than my medical tendancies dictate, but I love that the parallel worlds make sense within their own existence and within the connections to each other.

So it should come as no surprise to you that the next book I read was the next in the series.

Barnes and Noble

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

A Gathering of Shadows Final

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

Can we talk about the cover art for a minute? I love them. So graphic, so simplistic, so impactful.

This round I loved how detailed Red London (and the world outside it) is. I loved the inclusion of other cultures, the different dynamics in the magic system (in use and in belief), and again–couldn’t put it down.

I texted said friend the day I finished it, equally elated, pissed, and a shade jealous. It’s going to be a long year until book 3, but damn, am I looking forward to it.

Barnes and Noble

Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

13108221.jpg

I read the first Miriam Black book, Blackbirds, a year or two ago, and I absolutely loved it. I generally don’t go for first-person present, but Wendig is fast-paced, hard-hitting, and Miriam is a straight up badass chick.

Occasionally, I don’t know why it takes me SO LONG to continue in a series I enjoy. Also, more fucking gorgeous cover art. Damn. I picked up books 2 and 3 (The Cormorant) on sale.

Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

But this whole “settling down thing” that Louis has going for her just isn’t working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around. Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis–who’s on the road half the time in his truck–is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.

It just isn’t going well. Still, she’s keeping her psychic ability–to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them–in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she’s keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.

Then comes one bad day that turns it all on her ear.

I had a moment of sympathy when this one started with Miriam as a checkstand clerk. Boy, do I know THAT life. And I’ve dreamed many a day (and night) of doing exactly what Miriam does: saying Fuck You and walking away.

But Miriam has bigger fish to fry when she stumbles into the future victim of a serial killer, and well… Miriam just has to change fate. Again.

I’m eager to see where this series goes. I already have the next book, and I’m eager to get started.

Barnes and Noble

I ended March by picking up Doctor Mutter’s Marvels by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. I wanted a change of pace from fiction, and I’m paying a visit to the Mutter Museum in mid-April, so I wanted to properly fangirl. If you’ve been here for any amount of time, you know I’m obsessed with medical history, specifically late 1700 to early 1900. Those Victorians, I tell you what.

I’m really, really enjoying it. In fact, I might just be a little in love with Thomas Dent Mutter.

Between The Grand Philadelphia Adventure and The Day Job, I’m not sure how much I’ll manage in April, but I’m so looking forward to vacation and unwinding.

What did you read this month?

Until next time,

signature

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

Pride+Prejudice+Zombies: A Review

Jane Austen and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. I’ve never liked Pride and Prejudice (not the first time I read it, not the second). Actually, I prefer Sense and Sensibility, but in general, my feelings about Jane Austen’s work reflect her feelings about the Bronte sisters’ work: she didn’t dig it.

I wasn’t too keen on the idea of throwing zombies into the mix either, but what can you do? I didn’t read that version, either, but I did take my little sister to see the movie over Valentine’s Day Weekend. If there’s one thing I can get behind, it’s celebrating a holiday I don’t care about with a movie about killing the undead.

Pride+Prejudice+Zombies was as hilariously horrible as I expected it to be. Men and women are sent to China (for the poor) or Japan (for the elite) to learn to the art of fighting and combat. The costumes were lovely, the scenery perfect. Point: at least Jane, Lizzie, and the other girls wore respectable (if not entirely historically accurate) clothing. There was a shade too much decolletage, but what did I expect? At least they stuck to full-length dresses and not skimpy “battle attire.”Plus, the knife holsters were an excellent addition.

The storyline was not what I expected. It’s vaguely like Austen’s novel, and Lizzie still gets to be the snarky delight she is, but they didn’t really develop the other characters. I’m not sure if they were relying on viewers having read the original zombie-free version. There was also a glaring lack of transition. The narrative bounced back and forth like a loose brain. The casting was hit-and-miss: Matt Smith was an excellent and thoroughly annoying Mr. Collins, Lily James was a great Lizzie Bennett. I wanted Lady Catherine (Lena Headey) to be a villain, but she was not. I had been convinced she had a legion of zombies set to keep Lizzie and Darcy apart.

Jack Huston was the BEST Wickham I’ve seen. Well, the best version of Wickham.

And I know this is going to be shallow, but I felt that Darcy could have been… more handsome. Bingely was super pretty. Darcy… meh. Maybe it was the styling. I liked him way more as the crow-man in Maleficent.

I do feel like they gave us an homage to the BBC version, starring Collin Firth, as this Darcy also has a dramatic swan-dive into a pond, from which he rises in a dripping puffy shirt. I might have cackled in the middle of the theater. Okay, I did.

Darcy confessing his “inappropriate” and “horrifying” feelings for Elizabeth was definitely improved matching verbal sparring with a literal knife fight. It was probably my favorite moment in the whole thing.

The highlight of the film was how well they maintained Lizzie’s character. I might not like Pride and Prejudice, but I’ve always appreciated Elizabeth’s steadfastness and confidence in herself. The addition of zombies only allowed her to be stronger. Counterbalancing Darcy’s earlier… demand that Lizzie marry him, at the end, he asks not for her to be his wife, but if she’d allow him to be her husband.

Alright, maybe that was my favorite part of the movie.

I’m a bit upset I paid so much to see it in theaters, but my sister enjoyed it, so it was worth the cost. If you missed it on the big screen, well, you didn’t miss much. I’d wait to rent it. A dollar feels like a more reasonable price.

What did you think? More over, what do you think Jane Austen would think

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews, Uncategorized

Whatcha Reading? February 2016

I’m sure I’ll think of a better name for these posts at some point, but I thought it would be interesting to talk a bit about the books I’ve read each month. I know people are always looking for things to read (I know I am), and while reviews are great and incredibly important to authors, I’d be here forever if I did an in-depth review on everything. Instead, here’s a brief tour of February’s books!

Finding Center by Katherine Locke

514WyR7GlfL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_

I’ve never really been one for romance, but I absolutely adore Katherine Locke’s District Ballet Company series. I read Turning Pointe and Finding Center when they first released, and though I’d pre-ordered Finding Center, I didn’t get around to reading it until now. Sometimes I forget I have an eReader and even more books to go through.

The romance is flavoring on top of book devoted to portraying mental illness, therapy, and recovery in a positive light. It’s an incredibly accurate depiction, and the writing is gorgeous.

Zed and ballet are my two greatest loves

It took all of Aly’s strength to get them back after a tragic accident ripped them from her six years ago. A long road to recovery led to her return, dancing full-time for the District Ballet Company and carrying Zed’s child. But Aly is slipping. Each day becomes a fight to keep her career from crumbling under the weight of younger talent, the scrutiny of the public eye and the limitations of her ever-changing body. A fight she fears she’s losing.

I’m scared Aly is broken to her core

Zed recognizes the signs, but he doesn’t know how to fix her. The accident left him with his own demons, and while he wants nothing more than to take care of the woman he loves, it’s getting harder the farther downward she spirals. When Aly’s life is threatened and Zed’s injuries prevent him from saving her, he’s never felt so useless, so afraid he’s not capable of being the man Aly and their child needs.

With new life comes new hope. And with their fractured lives already hanging by a thread, Aly and Zed must discover if they have what it takes—both together and apart—to rebuild and carry on.

The prequel novella, Turning Pointe, is free if you want to check it out, which you do.

Second Line and Chasing Ghosts by Kira Butler

These two short stories are part of Kira’s Short Fictions and Curiosities series. I enjoy serialized fiction, and there’s a new story posted every month, for FREE.

Chasing Ghosts was essentially a dash through a time-capsual manor, where everything was left in media res. Second Line was a beautiful ghost story set against Katrina-ravenged New Orleans. I enjoyed both very much, and I can’t wait to read what’s up next.

The Damsel and the Daggerman by Delilah S. Dawson

17258798

Remember when I said I sometimes forget I have an eReader? It’s always a nice surprise to find a Blud book I haven’t read.

Bad boy knife-thrower Marco Taresque is the hottest and most dangerous performer in the caravan. He keeps to himself until a pesky female journalist arrives, anxious to interview him about his checkered past—his last assistant disappeared under mysterious and bloody circumstances, earning him the nickname “The Deadly Daggerman.”

Unsinkable journalist and adventurer Jacinda Harville doesn’t take no for an answer, and she’s determined to wear down Marco no matter how threatening—or incredibly desirable—he might appear. He agrees to an interview—but only if she’ll let him strap her to a spinning table and throw knives at her body. How can she say no? And how can she resist him when he leans close for a kiss that strikes her more sharply than any blade? It’s the first time she’s let a man get the better of her, and she’s determined it will be the last…

Like all of Delilah’s Blud books, Damsel doesn’t disappoint. There’s a nice subversion of tropes, more caravan adventures, and some infuriating and sexy banter. Bonus: you don’t have to read any of the novellas in order.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

91sZo16sffL.jpg

This one I wasn’t sure about. Weird West, much like romance, isn’t exactly in my wheelhouse. When I found I was on the Diversity in Weird West panel, I pulled Wake from my shelf so I wouldn’t feel like a total poser. Touted as Lonesome Dove meets Buffy, I was sure what to expect.

Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She’s a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don’t call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand.

And just like that, Nettie can see.

But her newfound ability is a blessing and a curse. Even if she doesn’t understand what’s under her own skin, she can sense what everyone else is hiding — at least physically. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead to her true kin… if the monsters along the way don’t kill her first.

I should have expected an insanely intense ride. Nettie, a biracial, genderqueer bronc wrangler turned monster hunter, has an incredibly strong voice, and the pacing is phenominal. I can’t remember the last time I finished a book so quickly. Just go read it, okay? The sequel, Horde of Crows, comes out later this year, and I can’t wait.

The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude (ARC)

9780544640412_p0_v2_s192x300

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen that I was commissioned to design eight character cards for this book. Though I spoke with Sarah about design, inspiration, and the personalities of her characters, I wasn’t going to get the chance to read it until May.

Until an ARC fell into my outstreched claws.

Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night. 

Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.

The May Queen Murders, much like Wake of Vultures, blew me away. The setting echoes M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, with plenty of twists and surprises along the way. I’m kinda of mad at myself for failing to puzzle out the mystery. Okay, I’m really mad at myself. It was great read, full of suspense and superstition, and it was so refreshing to see a Mexican-American main character. There’s plenty of diversity, and of course, my favorite–murder.

It’s available for pre-order, so get on it.

Follow @SarahEJude on Twitter to check out the character cards, and stay tuned to find out how you can get a set of your own.

And that’s it! That’s everything I’ve read in February. I think. This month is starting off with Cecilia Dominic’s The Mountain’s Shadow, and hopefully many more.

What did you read this month?

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Reviews

AnachroCon 2016 Track Schedule!

I’m so thrilled to be back at AnachroCon this year, and I cannot WAIT to spend the weekend meeting new people and gushing about the things I love! If you want to see me, here’s my tracklisting for the weekend:

Friday:
3:00 p.m.: Spiritualism and Horror: Connections
5:00 p.m.: Horror Television: Penny Dreadful, Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural
8:00 p.m.: Ghost Story Readings/Tellings

Saturday:
10:00 a.m.: Crimson Peak and the Gothic Horror Romance
11:00 a.m.: Stoker and Poe: Influences on Contemporary Fiction
3:00 p.m.: Magic, Miracles, and Medicine: Healing and Experimentation in Alternate History
4:00 p.m.: Diversity in the Weird West
5:00 p.m.: Research in Alternate History

If at any point this weekend you want to find me, 90% of the time I’ll be in Dunwoody 2, either sitting at the table or sitting in the audience. For the full schedule of events, including Victorian Astronomy, signings, and tea dueling, you can download the schedule here.

I’m so excited to be back, and I hope to see you there!

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

Courting Casualties, Ep.9: A Brief History of Grave Robbing

Before being a doctor or surgeon was a respected trade, the need for cadavers for study created The Resurrection Men.

Play in iTunes

Courting Casualties is produced by me, Meghan Harker.

Since I was little, I’ve been obsessed with monsters, and that remains true today. I specialize in Victoriana, and I’m currently working on my own Gothic horror novel.

In the modern world, I’m the Horror Writer for GirlsInCapes.com, where I talk about horror in books, television, and film. I also write for CriminalElement.com, where I talk about American Horror Story and Hemlock Grove.

You can find me on twitter @ExquisitelyOdd, or on my website, ExquisitelyOdd.com. I’m also on Instagram at Meghan_Harker, where I post in-progress and completed artwork.

In case you were curious, I draw monsters, too.

The music in this episode is Vanes, composed by Kevin MacLeod and used under the Creative Commons license. If you enjoyed this show, please consider subscribing. Reviews are also appreciated.

Thank you for listening, and as always,

signature

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Courting Casualties, Podcasts

I Have a Shop!

Do you like my artwork? Do you like cool stuff?

Now you can buy my artwork ON cool stuff!

I’ve opened a Society6, where you can find art prints, cell phone cases, and eventually other items. I’m both excited and terrified, but if you don’t challenge yourself to do the things that scary you, you’re not really living, right?

Click here to see the shop, or click SHOP in the menu bar.

I’ve got a couple of last year’s Drawlloween sketches up, a few of my Pinup Monster girls, and a couple cute Monster Girls. Swing by, leave a heart, share with your friends!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Art, Mourning, and Immortality

Yesterday marked Edgar Allan Poe’s 207th birthday. Every year, I write a note on Facebook or Twitter (I think last year there was even a blog) thanking him for sharing his works, for influencing my own. How I try to honor his gift in my life and in my work.

Monday marked a week since David Bowie died (which is still bizarre to say/type/consider or accept as factual statement). I woke up to a text from my sister apologizing for the “sad news” I was going to hear and–in a run-on statement–asking if I could pick her up from school. Another text just read “David Bowie WHYYY?” I didn’t bother putting my contacts in and pulled up Twitter to find out that a man I’d adored since I was child was no longer with us.

I can’t remember being so greatly saddened by a celebrity death. I guess Bowie is, technically, my first. An mourning an artist is a strange state. I spent Monday in a haze, intermitantly sobbing, debating if I could watch Labyrinth (I couldn’t), and trying to imagine what the world would be like now that it had lost some of its glitter. Everyone dies, so it’s not like I didn’t expect it one day, in the distant future, but if anyone was going to be immortal, it’d be him.

Labyrinth was my first introduction to Bowie. We had it recorded on a VHS off the television, then I finally got the official VHS one year for Christmas. I wore both out. I’ve since upgraded to DVD, including the 25th Anniversary version. Let’s be honest, I’ll burn those copies out, too. I watch it at least once a year.

It’s always been a dream of mine to one day write my own version of Labyrinth.

I used to dance around to Rebel, Rebel while putting on makeup. There were, of course, periods of time where I didn’t think of Bowie, or listen to his songs. When he released Next Day a couple of years ago, I was not so secretly hoping for a tour. Not a big tour. Just the major cities. The man was in his 60s, still young. I’d have paid anything to see that show.

And then Blackstar happened. I saw the link for the Lazarus video on Facebook and didn’t click it. And then he was gone.

I know I would have seen the signs if I’d looked. Maybe. There’s still part of me that would have been in reasonable denial. Afterall, The Goblin King isn’t bound by the rules of mortals.

Underground popped up on shuffle the other day, and I ugly-cried in my car. I did better with As The World Falls Down. Work Radio added Let’s Dance to their mix along with Under Pressure. I stopped yesterday afternoon to just listen, despite being half an hour past the end of my shift.

It’s strange to mourn someone you only knew through their art, especially when the world as whole is mourning with you. There’s some comfort in that shared pain, makes you feel less… silly for crying over someone you never met. I didn’t know David Jones, but David Bowie taught me the importance of embracing my strangeness. If David Bowie could make being David Bowie cool, then I could do anything.

So Tuesday, I put on glitter and faced the world and did whatever I wanted to do because I wanted to do it.

In a little over a week, he’s gotten a lightning bolt-shaped constallation named after him. Other artists and actors and people are coming forward to share stories. He finally had a Number 1 album in America. He turned his death into something so artistically powerful, you can’t help but marvel at it.

In the end, he did achieve immortality. Art allows everyone to live forever.

I’ve been struggling over the last couple weeks with completing the plot for The Current Project. Turns out what I needed was Bowie. If this book makes it into the world, I hope you find him in it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Mystery Diagnosis and EDs

I usually don’t talk about the really personal stuff. I’ve spoken about my depression and anxiety and my attempts at better self-care. I’ve written about dealing with death. I’ve mentioned, occasionally, my recovery and progress.

About seven months ago (back in May), out of the blue, I developed an extreme skin sensitivity. I thought it was an allergic reaction–turns out it’s an autoimmune condition known as Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis, or LCV. Since May, I’ve been to three different doctors, on five rounds of medication, had 15 vials of blood drawn, a chest x-ray, and a biopsy. My bloodwork is normal, which is both great (cause nothing’s wrong with me) and terrible (cause nothing’s wrong with me.)

Initally, I was told to wait it out. That the symptoms would go away. And they did, for about two months. This most recent flair, however, devastated me. The pain in my joints made walking difficult–which doesn’t help when your Day Job is walking around and moving. My ankle swelled to the point where I was on bedrest for four days. My skin went from ant-bite pain to continuous electroshock agony. Seriously, even my dog’s ear brushing my ankle felt like death.

I became so physically sick, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. Luckily, I’d managed to get in with a doctor right after Christmas. I’d have been hospitalized otherwise because there was no way I could “stick it out” until May or February. My mother had to drive me to the appointment because I couldn’t.

I’m doing better now. I still hurt, but not nearly as bad. In dealing with my diagnosis (as it is), I’ve run the course of “Why me?” and “This isn’t fair” to “Why can’t they figure this out?” and “I just want to look normal.” I want to wear my new swing dress and my new heels, but I can’t because my ankle is a mess and my legs, a horrorshow.

I’ve heard “It could be worse” more times than I’d like.

Yes. It could be worse, but I’m entitled to how I feel. Just because it “isn’t worse” doesn’t mean I can’t be upset about it. It doesn’t negate my lack of self-confidence, it doesn’t mean my pain is less real. My skin is on fire. My blood vessels are combusting. So far, these last three months have been the worst I’ve endured in my life. Combine my not knowing if the vessels blowing in my skin will soon be the vessels blowing in my organs on top of seasonal depression and anxiety, and well… I went dark.

I’ve never been that level of terrified before, and I never want to feel that way again.

And then you level “It could be worse” with “Well, you didn’t eat for four days, so you’ll lose weight. Whatever works, right?”

Wrong.

Prednisone is a great drug.It’s saved many of my friends. It tastes like hell, but it’s the “cure” for LCV. The downside to prednisone: bloating, weight gain, increased appetite, mood swings, irritability, etc. My GP suggested I weigh myself every day to curtail the symptoms, which, as a gal in recovery from an eating disorder, is definitely a mindfuck.

I have a tendancy to disregard how healthy/strong I feel in favor of a number on a scale.

Like many girls, I developed my ED in high school. I wouldn’t binge and purge, I just wouldn’t eat. And then I’d go to band practice after school and pass out on the field because I didn’t eat. They’d force feed me Gatorade, but no one really did anything. As a result, I have to make myself eat. I have an app on my phone to log what I put in my mouth because if I don’t, I won’t eat enough, and I want to make sure what I’m eating is healthy. I make it a goal to eat every 3-4 hours, snack or meal.

I’ve been working on my weight and getting healthier on and off. I’d been doing well until the first round of prednisone, wherein I packed on 15 pounds in addition to what I’d lost.

When I became sick, I fell into the cycle of “you’re sick because you didn’t eat and now you’re sick because you did.” For the first time in my life, I actually made myself throw up because I was convinced I’d feel better. It was horrific, and then: “Well, you’ll be skinny. Whatever works.”

Since they increased my dose, I’ve gained 4 pounds in three days. I know it’s bloating. I know it’s the medication. And yet I still feel deeply upset with myself. Before the increase, I was maintaining, if not losing. I’d worked hard to keep myself healthy. Seeing the numbers increase shook me, compounded with the echo of “whatever works.”

Last night, while making a protein smoothie with a new mix I’m trying out, I was given a lecture about what I’m eating and how many calories I’m consuming. It wasn’t a positive chat–it was a personal attack.

Food shaming happens frequently in this house, and it’s one of the most disgusting things I’ve heard. When I first started trying to lose weight, I joined Weight Watchers. The moment the leader told me that “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” I fucking quit. My goal is to NOT feel guilty about making the choice to eat.

Sometimes you just need a piece of chocolate. And that’s okay.

I haven’t been able to do much the last month: I can’t go to the gym because I can’t walk for more than 20 minutes without pain and climbing stairs is out of the question. My knees swell. I miss the gym. I miss doing a lot of things. So I focus instead on eating well: protein and veg at every meal, healthy snacks, lots of water.

And yeah, maybe last night I had pizza for dinner. It’s not going to kill me.

But the toxicity will. I’m at the end of the seasonal depression. I made it through. I’m hoping my LCV will soon get under control. I have to relearn to deal with food in a safe and healthy way.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that I’ll always be “in recovery.” I’m never going to wake up and suddenly be free from my ED. Maybe it won’t have to be such a conscious choice for me, but I’ll always need to be reminded to eat. If my LCV is chronic (which I’m thinking it might be), then I’ll always need to watch my sodium to prevent flares.

Maybe one day I will wake up and my LCV will be gone. It happens. It’s possible. Right now, I’m dealing with the emotional fallout of suddenly having an autoimmune disorder. I’m ignoring the people who tell me I shouldn’t feel the way I do because “others have it worse.” I refuse to let myself be food shamed.

If I’m 100% honest, I’m not sure how to fight all of this, but I know I’m not alone, and neither are you. I’m not asking for sympathy; I’m looking for catharsis. Fight Things is hard. Talking about them makes it a bit easier, for me, enduring this trial, and hopefully for you, if you’re going through something similar.

You’re allowed to feel however you feel. There’s nothing wrong with being upset at upsetting situations. Make sure self-care is your priority.

I’m going to make a protein shake, take my meds, and do something I love.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Writing

A Glass Half-Empty: Dealing with Depression during THE HOLIDAYS

It’s not exactly a secret that THE HOLIDAYS are hard for me. They’re difficult for a lot of people. There’s something deeply unsettling about the inability to be happy, which compounds itself when JOY and HAPPINESS and CHEER are basically shoved down your throat. I survived Thanksgiving, and I thought it was okay until a few weeks ago. The depression and anxiety reared up and hit me HARD.

What was supposed to be a nice afternoon of Me Time ended up being a two-hour breakdown in my car in front of a Barnes and Noble.

I reached out to two of my dearest friends, who both helped me calm down enough to at least be able to drive home. I felt wretched. I felt useless. Even knowing it was just in my head, just the season, just a reaction, didn’t make me feel better. I felt weak. And I hate feeling weak.

I was urged to simplify. To say no. I cut out Facebook and Twitter. I deleted the apps from my phone and limited my internet time to an hour in the morning and an hour at night. I do still have jobs, and email communication is essential. I have submit invoices and articles. I have a forum on Facebook where I figure out if I have class or not. It’s been tough being without dance class. After the show in September, the studio flooded. The floors were destroyed. Then one thing after another happened, and well… now it’s December.

I was never much for Facebook in general, but I do feel relieved to not have it in my life. There’s so much… STUFF there, and it’s not a place I want to give my time.

Katie Locke, another of my dear friends, wrote a great post about making Twitter her space again. Immediately, I weeded through the number of people I follow on Twitter and Facebook and unfollowed or unfriended anyone I didn’t speak to, or haven’t spoken to in years, or people whose presence I no longer wanted in my life. It’s okay to not want people in your life. You control your online experience. It’s not personal, unless you want it take it that way.

I came back to Twitter, but I post far less.

I tried to take care of myself by saying no. No to going out, no to taking on more than I already claimed. If I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t. I took on nothing I didn’t have to, which included driving other people around and bothering to put on pants. In fact, I did the scariest thing I could think of: I quit. It’s certainly nothing new. I’ve quit before. I’ve quit writing. This time, I quit querying. I didn’t send out more in reaction to rejection.

I just stopped.

And weirdly, some of the pressure I felt just evaporated. I hadn’t realized how much stress I was putting on myself. I was digging myself into the ground.

Edit: I’d like to note that just because I’m not currently sending new queries right now doesn’t mean I’m done forever. I want to send them feeling like myself, doing a thing I love.

I shifted my focus to art. I’ve been drawing a lot more since #Drawlloween, which, sadly, I never finished. I missed it. Inking helped me slow down because it’s something that demands my concentration. It’s precise and delicate and I have to breathe in order to steady my hand and control the lines.

I wanted to make Victorian Christmas cards for a few of my friends, and one Victorian Hanukkah card because one of my dear friends is Jewish.

Very slowly, I’m picking up the pieces. I’m trying to take care of my mental health. I love art. I have the best friends a girl could ask for. I’m going for walks when I feel unsettled. I talk to my close friends, who know what’s going on, who don’t mind listening to me cry and helping me pick myself back up.

Monday, I checked things off my list: two freelance articles (written and submitted), laundry done, cleaned my desktop, updated my bio, went to the store for envelopes and stationary. I’m 1/8th of the way into a super secret commission project. I’m still podcasting and I have more ideas for future radio-things.

Delilah Dawson held a twitter chat the other day about dealing with depression as a writer. She’s far more articulate than I am.

Writing is still hard. It’s hard to channel someone charismatic and charming when you just want to get through the day. I might be one of those people who just needs December off. That’s okay. I have to take care of myself. With that knowledge comes the realization that saying no is sort of what happened to this blog.

I don’t have a week’s worth of material to post about. That’s okay. It’s fine that I don’t generate weekly content. I post episodes of Courting Casualties, I update my appearances (I’ll be at AnachroCon 2016!), and if I have nothing to say, well, that’s fine. If you like my writing, I’m over CriminalElement.com and GirlsInCapes.com. I have a tongue-in-cheek Christmas gift-giving guide coming on and CE just posted my latest American Horror Story reaction.

I’ll try to cross-post or link articles here as well, sort of like one-stop shopping.

I can weather this storm. I deserve to take care of myself. I deserve not to feel crappy. If you’re depressed, you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized