July 28, 2010 at 3:48 pm (Mental illness)

This is part of an interview of a pibolar sufferer on Yes and Yes:

How old were you when you realized that you experienced life and emotions different than other people? When I was diagnosed and looking back at my life. For instance, when I was in kindergarten, my teacher had two favorite students, and would always tell them how sweet and smart they were. I remember consciously thinking, “Those kids think they’re so smart, but the things they know aren’t important things. The things I know are important, and I’ll show them when I grow up.” I was delusional. Sadly, I continued to feel this way until I was diagnosed. I really thought I was destined for amazing things, even after being a teenage mom, having 3 kids with 3 different dads, not continuing my education, working at Wal-Mart, and making all kinds of bad choices (I have some horrible tattoos).

This is a section of an application I (Felicity) wrote not so long ago:

My earliest memory as a writer is sitting in a Year Two classroom hearing the teacher praise two of the icky boys for writing their first punctuated stories. I scowled and said to myself, “I KNOW I’m better at writing than they are.”


I don’t think I’m bipolar, but there’s a certain amount of evidence suggesting I’m inclined toward delusions (there’s one school of thought that says creative types need delusions or they’ll never get anywhere – which obviously has truth in it). I recently decided to reevaluate my life into something that doesn’t cause crushing disappointment quite as often. According to Ian Irvine, a writer needs to write for 10,000 hours before they’re good at writing. According to my own records, I’m halfway, and need to continue writing at my current rate for another five years before I get to 10K.

So I wrote a five-year plan, painting a picture for myself that might make the next few years bearable. The basic summary is:

Save money, have a kid, buy a house, have another kid, get published.

In that order.

So if I focus more on the non-writing aspects of my life (which I have considerably more control over – and which are easier in terms of making progress) then maybe I won’t need delusions as much. Maybe.

I won’t stop sending books to publishers, but I might slow down, and take longer on making improvements.

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Hope is the hardest drug to kick

June 18, 2010 at 6:03 pm (Mental illness)

Scientists have pointed out that emotions and brain chemicals are so closely linked that one can lead to another – eg taking a pill in the morning can cause you to yell at your dad that night (you honestly believe it’s because he burnt dinner, but it’s really because of the pill).

A mental disorder means the chemicals are screwed up. So I work really hard not to yell at people when I’m sure they deserve it – because they’re not the real reason I feel bad (almost always).

But when I get incorrect positive emotions, it really sucks.

Last night I was so sure Publisher B would call today that I found it hard to sleep. I was aware it was irrational, but I couldn’t shake the feeling.

And so here we are, at 6pm. Unsurprisingly, nothing happened.


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How to not be manic

May 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm (Mental illness, Writing Ranting)

I handled yesterday’s workload quite well, although I’m exhausted from not sleeping right (this morning I woke almost two hours early and couldn’t get back to sleep). I feel cold (the heater is on) and hungry (despite eating plenty) and my eye is twitching at a rate of about once an hour (yesterday it was twitching every fifteen minutes while I was at work).

Today I don’t have students at all, so it’s a great opportunity to stop being manic. I’m tempted to do heaps of stuff – write, do something big from the awesomeness list, swim a kilometre, or clean the house – but instead I’m going to do nothing.

No washing. No dishes. No cooking. No exercise (I have one day off a week – may as well make it today). No writing. No new awesomeness (unless I really feel like it, and it doesn’t involve leaving the house).

I’m going to watch no-brainer TV, tease my cats, and take photos of my fish. And probably have a nap. Hopefully after this I’ll be safe to drive again (I tend to crash – literally – when I work too much).

As of this morning, I’m allowed to eat chocolate again. But I’m going to try not to binge again until I’m well inside the healthy weight range. My rule now is to stick to 50 grams of chocolate, plus whatever I’m offered (so I can eat at parties, etc). That’s a maximum, of course 🙂 (Or 100 grams lollies, because they don’t metabolise into fat as quickly as. . . well, fat.)

After three days with absolutely no chocolate or junk food, I now weigh 80.5. It could be a lot worse. I’m waiting for Auntie Flo to visit, then after that I’ll launch a major offensive. I stumbled across a patently incorrect BMI calculator that said I only need to weigh 78 kilos to be in the healthy weight range, so that’s what I’ll go for in this offensive. Two and a half (or three) kilos in three weeks should be achievable.

Oh! And I’m getting a new student in about a fortnight (which is great timing, because I’m about to lose three-quarters of my income due to my two adult students finishing their courses).

I’ll post fish photos over at http://twittertales.wordpress.com as soon as this entry is done.


I just (after writing the above, then falling asleep) heard back from Publisher A (who I thought might be sick of me now, but who I emailed to ask if I could send them “Farting My ABCs”). They said,

We’d be happy to have a look at your pungent new offering!
Please email direct to me and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
So I guess I’ll break my own rules and do that right now 🙂 After another hasty edit to celebrate, of course!
They usually take five months to reply, which means that if I get into the editing week thing, October will be all about this publisher (which is nice, since they’ve helped me SO MUCH in the past).

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Bottom Feeders Rule

May 13, 2010 at 9:44 am (general life, Mental illness)

On Monday I went to a fish shop to see if they had a fish that might eat the ominous white fuzz that’s been growing in my tank. Their main comment was, “Woah, that’s WEIRD, man!” which wasn’t super helpful. I asked to look at a sucker fish, but they were clear that the sucker fish only eats algae, so I reluctantly left it there.

The thing is, that sucker fish was BEAUTIFUL. It was a bristlenose catfish, and in Gollum’s immortal words, “I wants it!”

Algae-eating fish are generally recommended, so I figured I’d wait a bit (to make sure the white fuzz wasn’t killing everyone), and then probably cave in and get one.

Yesterday, as I mentioned, I had a lot of work (preceded by a day of even more work). Shortly after writing yesterday’s blog I felt my mania beginning to fade, and decided on Ae Cunning Plan – to buy a bristlenose catfish, stat! This is a fine example of mania leading to over-sponteneity, over-optimism, and selfishness (since this lot of fish haven’t even outlived the last lot yet, so the chance of death is high).

So I went to the Belco Markets Pet Barn (my favourite fish shop, definitely) to buy a bristlenose. (I’d called earlier that day about the white fuzz, and they suggested it might be because of overfeeding, but they weren’t sure.) Bristlenoses also need special food, and special wood (plastic wood just doesn’t cut it). I bought a beautiful wood-with-plant arrangement, and a tiny, perfect catfish. Before I left the store, however, one of the staff arrived back from lunch – someone everyone else described as “the fish guru”. So I asked him about the white fuzz, saying I had neon tetras, a plant, and a fighting fish. He asked several questions, then made a startling declaration.

It’s snail eggs.

I have a tiny snail that came in with the first plant (I’d noticed it, but never suspected it of foul play). Apparently they breed way more efficiently than rabbits.

“But there’s this really cool fish over here,” he says, and shows me another bottom feeder, a pakistan, that eats snail eggs.

So I bought two cleaning fish – one that eats bad plants, and one that eats bad animals. Brilliant!

And because they’re semitropical, they’re beautifully shaded. The bristlenose is shaped like a comma, with a fast-flicking tail and beautifully-drawn tiny white dots all over his back. He likes to suck on the glass with his sucker-mouth, which is just as bizarre as I could hope for. Every so often he’ll actually swim a little way, then THOOK! he’s flat against the glass again, like a cartoon character who’s just run into a brick wall. Here’s some bristlenose pictures (not mine):

The carniverous one has beautiful leopard spots stretched into stripes. My fighting fish is a similar size (perhaps three cm long), and is utterly fascinated. The new fish alternates between hiding/peering out of our fake hollow log, and rushing about, madly sucking at the wall.

I spent considerable time thinking about how to name them. They’re so incredible, so naming them after a person should be flattering – but “bottom feeder” is such a negative term. What to do?

I considered calling them Flollop and Buck (after the way they move), Jack and Jill, Gollum and Smeagol. . . or naming them after politicians. In the end, and based on the carnivore’s manic behaviour and the catfish’s ability to disappear so completely at least three hundred times a day – we named the carnivore Sherlock Holmes and the catfish Watson.

Someday I’ll get a picture of whatever breed Sherlock is.

And now for something completely different.

I stumbled across a brilliant writing competition. It’s run by Publisher A (who still hasn’t replied to my email inquiry, but this could be a way to get back into their good graces – assuming I have indeed used them up), and the prize isn’t money or publication – it’s editing. But of course the chance of publication is much improved by the process, since it’s THEIR editors working with you – and for a whole week. The best book for it is “Waking Dead Mountain” or “The Monster Apprentice” (“Sol the Sea Princess” would be good except it needs a rewrite of the opening chapters), both of which are tied up with publishers.

But just in case it helped, I emailed Publisher E. They replied, and said they hadn’t been able to open the file I sent it with, so they’d asked me to resend it. . . last year. (FYI: This is the third time one of my books has been lost – and by three different publishers.)

It doesn’t particularly matter whether they stuffed up or I did, the important thing is that I can send a beautifully polished and ready manuscript to this great competition – which closes next week. Time to send my publication attempts in a new direction.

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Back to the writing board

May 12, 2010 at 10:40 am (Mental illness, Writing Ranting)

Publisher A hasn’t replied yet (the ones who may or may not be sick of me), but Publisher B (“Stormhunter” and “Monster Apprentice”) has. I expected them to say, “Oh dear, has it been that long? We’ll get right on to that!” (lies, all lies) but they went one further and said, “We’re really busy at the moment with this sales thing.”

So. . .  nothing will be happening for at least another month or three.

In the meantime, I have two adult students who need huge amounts of help at the moment, so I’m working a LOT. The good thing is that they finish in a matter of weeks, so this is a crisis rather than a regular thing (I generally handle crisis far better than everyday stress). The bad thing is that when I work a lot, I tend to crash my car or make other serious life errors.

Last week, every hour was torture, and I cried a lot. This week my brain chemicals have done me a favour and gone manic – just in time for the heaviest week of all. Since I only go mildly manic, it’s a reasonably good way to cope with life (particularly since I always observe myself carefully and predict when the crash will happen – I’m betting on Friday). The worst part is not being able to get to sleep (too busy buzzing about things to do), not being able to focus on what I’m doing (always focused on the next thing, and the next thing), and of course the high risk of injury to myself/others, or suddenly plunging into uncontrollable violence, swearing, or crying.

Normally my work limit in a day is three hours with students (I quite often push to four by not doing anything else that day, by having breaks, by having two hours in one location, or by having a student at my house). Yesterday I had over seven hours with students. If you add an hour of writing, half an hour of exercise, and all the driving between students, I worked for eleven hours. Because of being manic, I handled it fine. Today I have six hours of tutoring (plus exercise, writing, and driving), and I think I can stay manic enough to handle it. Tomorrow’s just three hours, so I should be tired but okay. And Friday I don’t have students, but do have a birthday party to go to. But on Friday I’m allowed chocolate again (I’m going three days without any junk food of any kind – today is day two), so I’ll have something to lean on if things get bad.

As with many mental illnesses, someone who is manic is able to think rationally (logic just feels utterly incorrect). Other than the creeping dread of the consequences, I really enjoy being manic – it’s deeply satisfying to be able to do a full day’s work for once. It’s a whole lot like being a normal person for a while.

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May 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm (Mental illness, Writing Ranting)

Today turned out weird. I’m not sure what to make of it.

“Farting my ABCs” was rejected (darn), but although it was clearly still a form letter, it was a friendlier form letter than the other one (so perhaps that publisher has a range of form letters – that’s a positive sign, while not actually being at all useful). Obviously this is bad news, but I actually find rejections always perk me up. I can edit (fun, especially after an eight-month break) and send it to someone new.

In the same lot of mail I received a kind of prize for “winning” the national Novel Writing Month (ie, I did successfully wrote 50,000 words in a month). Every winner who wanted to could get one properly-printed copy of their book from Create Space. So, although the editing is far from over, I have a shiny physical object with my name and photo on the cover, and my words filling the inside.

I also impulse-bought a fish toy – one of those logs with holes for the fish to swim through – and the fish to go with it. The previous plant died (apparently it’s the nature of that type of plant) so I bought another (allegedly hardier). The log is so my tetras have somewhere to hide if this plant dies, too. Right now they’re acclimatising to my tank – VERY slowly, so they don’t die of shock (I believe that’s what killed Sam and Frodo).

I’m delighted to have more than one fish once more, but also nervous. Since some difficult-to-grab remnants of the previous plant are still drifting about, and Gandalf (the fighting fish) still has odd colouring, I wonder if I’ve doomed five more lives. But all I can do is be super careful of the tetras and hope for the best (Gandalf is definitely stable, and moves around quite happily).

I’m also slightly faint with hunger. When I get tired enough, my vision tends to waver and/or cause brief hallucinations (mistaking a tree for an elephant, etc). Today I saw a sign that said, “We sell boxes” and read it as, “We sell blokes.” Hmm.

I also had a rather weird errand to run – but that’s all part of Secret # 6 and I can’t talk about it for at least twenty-four more hours.

Oh! And the http://twittertales.wordpress.com blog hit a new high in sheer numbers yesterday, and I think it’ll go even higher today.

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. . . Monday Morning

April 26, 2010 at 10:11 am (funny, general life, Mental illness)

I hate public holidays. No mail. (For a while this morning I felt quite good, because a new week had begun and publishers would be back at work. And then I remembered it’s a public holiday. Oh, foccacia.) Plus I generally lose income, because I work casually (or I have to work, like today, which is silly too). Those who read http://twittertales.wordpress.com will know I crashed especially badly last Friday. It felt very chemical (rather than “I am legitimately sad”) even at the time, so it’s probably to do with switching contraceptives. I’ll keep an eye out at this time next month.

Today I weigh 80.7. The weight loss has slowed to an agonising crawl (which is also how I’m currently moving around, since I’m feeling hungry again) but at least it’s going SOMEWHERE. Each day I expect a nice surprise (because I’ve earned it) but it hasn’t happened yet. When I do get under 80, I’m going to the lollyshop in Gungahlin – the one near Cockington Green.

On the up side, yesterday I put my cat in a fish tank. For those too lazy to click over to http://twittertales.wordpress.com, here’s all the pictures I took:

That may just have been the best two minutes I ever spent.

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Friday Afternoon

April 23, 2010 at 12:56 pm (Mental illness, Writing Ranting)

It’s Friday afternoon, which means two things: excitement, and depression. The excitement is because I know that publishing execs have meetings to make the final decisions on whether to publish books or not, and it seems to me they’d have those meetings on Friday – and then call the authors they’d chosen to accept. The depression is because the weekend comes next, where there’s a guaranteed lack of answer for two days before the mail starts up again.

I’ve done very little writing the last few weeks, due to the Daily Awesomeness Plan (new obsessions take a lot of brain space that’s usually occupied by writing), being sick last week, and spending time exercising (half an hour every day). But I wrote for seven hours yesterday (finishing the first draft of next month’s twittertale – a post-apocalyptic tale inspired by a TV show I won’t mention by name because if I don’t mention it the spoilers won’t be noticed) and I’ve spent three hours writing so far today.

I’m perilously close to finishing my final solo edit of last year’s “National Novel Writing Month” book. One of my friends is already helping me edit it. After that I’ll most likely enlist a professional editor, then send the book to its first rejection. Oh! I mean its first possible-publisher. Excuse me.

I’m not sure what to think of the book’s chances. It has more of an action focus than my other books (generally people say I need more action) and the beginning and end are rather good (in my opinion) but the rest of the book can be summed up as, “Hero runs away a lot.” Still, it’s a plot that has worked for many others before me. Who knows? Maybe this is what readers want.

I am a little excited, I confess. It’s a new book, after all!

Maybe I’ll be twelth time lucky. Apparently people who write books sometimes do publish them.

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April 22, 2010 at 3:44 pm (Mental illness)

I forgot to mention in the baby-related posts that it’s apparently okay to take zoloft (my anti-depressant of choice) while breastfeeding. That is FABULOUS news. I’m very fond of Zoloft, but I mostly like to take it during periods when life is especially exciting. Even just the knowledge that I’ll have that choice is very comforting.

I find it so hard to believe that publishers take so long to make their acquisitions decisions (even as I am the proof). Whenever I begin a new book, I can predict that I’ll spend at least a year editing, then have to wait six months to a year before I get a SINGLE response. So that blank page won’t pay me back for literally years (I wrote “Stormhunter” six years ago).

That’s horrifying.

It’s moments like these – when I appear to be on the brink of success – that I want to curl into the foetal position until somebody offers me a contract.

Of course, I also know that I’d starve before I got a reply.

In other news, here’s a rare picture of my two cats within a metre of each other. You can sense the ambiance rather clearly.

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Substitute Addictions

April 9, 2010 at 10:04 am (general life, Mental illness)

I have a problem with chocolate. I know that. I always will have a problem with chocolate. I know that too. All I can do is keep it under control.

Probably the main reason for my chocolate problem is that I need some way of expressing how angry I am most of the time. People who know me will know that I don’t swear (except ironically) or lift my voice or slap them for no reason. That’s all thanks to chocolate. For me, stuffing my face with chocolate is the healthiest thing to do. But rumour has it there are better options.

Yesterday was a reasonably difficult day. I had to fast until about midday, I had to go to an unfamiliar place for expensive medical tests (and expose my giant belly to the nice lady, not that she commented), I felt responsible for the death of another living being, various people owed me hundreds of dollars, and when I weighed myself (hoping to get something encouraging) the results were ominously underwhelming.

So I bought more fish. And a heater. The fish shop confirmed my notion that buying more neon tetras was the right thing to do (and in fact if I’d done it sooner instead of being cautious, Frodo1 might still be alive), and the heater also helped to assuage my conscience. I now have five neon tetras, and have also been able to observe that I was wrong – Sam’s colouring was just fine all along.

The tetras in their bag were very interesting to Sam (the original tetra) and Gandalf (the fighting fish).

The danios reacted by running laps around the tank, and by returning to their old habit of attacking their reflections. But they haven’t bitten the tetras, so it’s all good (they have chased them a bit, but that’s okay). Fish aren’t known for behaving in a cute manner, but it WAS cute to see all the tetras interacting through the clear plastic. Once I let them into the main tank, it was as if I’d scattered a handful of glitter into the water.

I also felt much better for playing “Dance Dance Revolution” yesterday as my Daily Awesomeness (“Unusual exercise”, which I plan to post this weekend). I thought I might be sore today, so I also rode my exercise bike for five minutes yesterday evening. The bike faces the fish tank, which makes it slightly less boring, and I’ve found that five minutes of riding makes me feel good without making me stink.

So my three potential new addictions are:

1. Buying new things for the fish (tetras like plants, and almost all fish like filters).

2. Buying. . . anything. Because only powerful people spend money, so it feels good every time.

3. Exercise. (Hilarious, I know.)

I also read a piece of advice on Donald Miller’s blog that was very interesting. The advice was given to men who want to attract women (yes I read the whole article, why do you ask?), and it was that you should build your self-esteem by being good at something.

I really like the idea of having some concrete way to feel better about myself, even though I recognise that actual skill takes a LONG time. I’m good at writing, I speak Indonesian with 90% fluency, I’m good at solving unusual problems, I’m good at Daily Awesomeness (I’ve always been the person who hears someone say, “Gee I’d like to. . . ” and then does whatever it is on their behalf), I’m good at tutoring, and I’m good at running a household. My focus is on writing, Daily Awesomeness, and running a household. That’s probably enough to do, but if I change my mind I think I’ll start getting good at playing acoustic guitar.

PS Today is fabulous – I have no work except writing, I’m basically at home (except for fun grocery shopping related to the cheese party I’m hosting tomorrow night) and I weighed myself and found I weighed 82.6 – that’s almost a kilo less than on Tuesday, and it proves that I AM now able to lose weight at my normal rate (2 kilos the first week, and 1 kilo after that, except sometimes when my cycle messes things up). Two of the three people who owed me money have now paid, and I should find out today (a) how much repairing our car needs, and (b) the results of yesterday’s tests.

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