I'm being cagey about the identity of the conference because of reasons. Suffice it to say I spent three days getting my radical on with people who, hmm, could be said to identify as "psychiatric survivors" – people whom the mental health system has done profound harm and violated their human rights – from around the world, many (most?) of whom might be described as activists and there in that capacity, some of whom are also clinicians or ex-clinicians or psychology researchers. Lots of very explicit intersectionalism and inclusivism. Very emotionally intense, super intellectually stimulating, enormously morally compelling.
Since the default assumption at the conference was that attendees were psychiatric survivors, I was "out" about not being a psychiatric survivor myself but a mental health professional and there as an ally. That was... a very hard experience to describe. To do such a thing, and do it ethically, is extremely demanding of energy, because it entails such a high level of self-monitoring and attention to others, at literally every second. Yet at the same time, it was so wildly validating of my ethical values as a person and a clinician, in ways I hadn't even realized I was hungry for, it felt very spiritually nourishing and emotionally supportive. I realized after the second day that just in the program book and in the presentations I'd attended, that I'd heard the word "humanistic" more times in those two days than I'd heard it used by anybody not me in the previous five years. Or maybe more. I'm a humanistic therapist, and I'm literally welling up again just reflecting on that, and how clinically-philosophically isolated this reveals me to have been. And, my god, the first, like, three times the term went zipping by I thought, Hey, do they know what that means, technically, to a therapist? Ah, they're probably just using it as a synonym for "humanely", as lay people usually do. And it became clear that, no, at least some of the people using the term really did mean it clinically. And I was like Oh. They don't need me to explain it to them. They already know. Which, is, like, the fundamental unit of being understood. Talk about your being called in from the cold.
I went to this conference thinking of myself as an ally, someone there to support another people as they do their thing – an in a really important sense, that is exactly right – but to my surprise, I discovered that these people, despite not being clinicians, were clinically my people. I wound up doing a hell of a lot more personal sharing than I would ever have expected – certainly vastly, vastly more than I have ever done in a mental health professionals context. It was like, I suddenly realized I was in an environment in which I could talk about how furious I am that I am forced to use diagnoses on patients without their consent, how frustrated I am by how the bureacratic systems in which I must work compromise the integrity of the treatment I try to provide, how disgusted I often am by the conduct of colleagues and mental health institutions (I discovered the wonderful expression, "psychiatric hate-speech"), how indignant I am at all sorts of idiocy and injustice and unfairness in the system – all the things I am so careful never to say because of how poorly my colleagues may take it. (Not my imagination: The last session I attended drew quite a number of clinicians, who were all "AND FOR ANOTHER THING!"; the presenter afterwards told me she had presented the same talk at a conference on the philosophy of psychiatry for an audience that was half psychiatrists, and, in contrast, they were furious with her for her temerity.)
I got to have conversations about capitalism and disability, culture and identity, the history of psychiatry, the history of nationalism, what you can and can't do inside the health care system, other countries' nationalized (or not, where mental health is concerned) health care, and how money affects mental health care; I heard a slew of what I would call "mental health radical coming out stories". I met someone who is as into the history of the DSM as I am, and someone who has written an academic article about the ethical and clinical problems of diagnosis. I got politely chewed out once, early on, for using oppressive language, and then immediately apologized to for it, them saying ruefully that they have "a chip on [their] shoulder" about mental health care professionals and shouldn't have talked to me like that, and I assured them I was there to be chewed out and have my vocabulary corrected and was fine with it; I'm pretty sure they were way more upset about what they said to me than I was, and I feel bad about putting them in that position by my ignorance – but we've exchanged phone numbers and I'm hoping I might yet make it up to them.
There was a point where somebody asked me something like whether I had been learning a lot at the conference so far, and I thought a moment and replied that I had, but, "I am at this conference not just to learn things. I am here because, as a person and a clinician, these are my values."
So it was an experience that was weirdly simultaneously hard and easy. If you had asked me four days ago I would have said that it's probably impossible for an experience to require a very high level of scrupulous self-monitoring and yet feel welcoming of and safe for emotional vulnerability and risktaking. Yet that was precisely my experience.
It was demanding and beautiful and powerful and huggy and astonishing and uplifting and I'm exhausted and weepy and have like twenty new best friends.
Last year I wan't in a good place. I was lonely and stressed, isolated as hell. I'd had a shitty year. I didn't even tell my coworkers it was my birthday at an all day meeting. I got home, my roommate had gotten me a cake, and I cried. Then we watched Stranger Things all night and it turned out much better for a birthday. But last year wasn't so good for me. I wasn’t writing, I was stressed a lot, I was worried for my family and worried about living up to their expectations. I was volunteering just to get out of the house, mostly just talking to malnourished kittens and not other humans. I was doubting myself as a roommate, a friend, a worker, a writer, a person.
This year? I'm in 3 D&D groups, I meet up with friends for board games every weekend, and I have so many friends sometimes we exceed the limits of our board games. I got really into Critical Role and that’s brought me to even more friends. I've had two awesome new roommates, one who was sad about moving out to be closer to her job, one who currently lives with me and my long time roommate. I'm full time at my job and working on not being so stressed. I have the tattoo I wanted for six years. I'm going goth. I'm networking. I got a classmate a job. These are all huge and important things.
There’s still stuff I want to change about my life, I’m still stressed at times, I still have doubts. But where I'm at right now? Is so much better than where I was last year. Last year I felt like a mess, I was incredibly lonely, and I was being crushed under the weight of stress about my job. This year, I have a lot to be proud of, a lot to be happy about, and the drive to move forward and pursue the things I want.
I want to save money. I want to get a new used car in a year if that’s necessary, or paint my current car if it keeps running. I want more tattoos. I want to keep going goth. I want to move into a bigger apartment and get a cat. I want to exercise regularly. Most of all I want to be writing scripts again.
A lot can, and has, changed in a year. If we’ve talked at all here, you’ve been a part of that, small or large. Thank you all.
Uncanny Magazine -- whose editors have personal relationships to disability -- picked up the mantle of "create a wonderful anthology themed by marginal creators" from Lightspeed.
Even if you can't contribute money, Uncanny is posting free essays from SF writers about the connection between SF and disability. The essays are wonderful, and I've learned something from every one of them.
I kept meaning to post a highlight entry, and wowza beatrice_otter has done it for me!
So, go read this post and read wonderful essays
I'll leave you with this handy keyboard tip.
When I realize I want to delete a lot of text in the middle, I start a new line before and after. That way I can use the triple-click or keyboard commands without fussing with selecting between words.
Via email, I received birthday greetings from my dentist--or rather, from the modern "Dental Group" that has bought his practice now that he's semi-retired.
Much to my surprise, it didn't say "Eat lots of sticky cake today, more business for us!"
Contains: shame, sexual violence, shame, internalized misogyny, eating disorder, shame.
I don't know if I'll ever be able to finish it.
Which is to say, I am at a conference. So far it's been a really good conference.
Imma gonna fall over into my bed momentarily.
ETA 8/17/17 21:16: Still conferencing. I move that henceforth anything called a "BBQ" must serve something cooked with barbecue sauce; absence that criterion, it is a "cookout".
Someone at the conference gave me copy of this drawing which I hadn't seen before, and which made me tear up.
Bootstrapping problem: I still have to decide whether or not to try to get there in time tomorrow for the morning talks, or catch some additional Zs; the problem is I am now so exhausted my judgment is not just impaired but kind of non-functional. Normally, I'm pretty good at blowing things off to get more rest. This is, however, effectively a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, of which I would like to make the most.
The reports look at the impact of technology on society. They're piecse extend beyond the gee whiz to always consider technology's political impacts as well as social justice concerns.
What initially caught my eye is their sensible assistive tech reporting. No inspirational nonsense, no "this one gadget will change everyone's life!"
( two samples that spoke to me )
I find their weekly newsletter handy, as it's got has just the right amount of teaser text plus links to the full stories.
The HIV Crisis In The Deaf Community
This excellent article highlights big troubles.
Just one story:
A gay Deaf man new to DC attempts to set up an interpreted appoint at a queer friendly clinic; after waiting for 45 minutes he's escorted to a room with a video relay interpreter:
Some context: Since Washington DC is home to Gallaudet University, they have a very large and skilled interpreter workforce. ( Two videos with ASL, captions, and audio )
All I wanted to do was to set up an appointment at a later date with the doctor and a live ASL interpreter. That’s all I want.
She looked at the note, smiled, and wrote, “We don’t do that here. ASL interpreters are expensive. This is a cheaper alternative.”
I looked at the note, shook my head, “No.” I got the feeling that this was not going to be a “Deaf-friendly” nor “Deaf accessible” and got up and started to leave when she grabbed my arm. I looked at her quizzically with her writing furiously on the note. She wrote, “You do qualify for our services but you have to understand, we can’t afford it.”
I looked at her disappointedly and wrote: “I find it ironic that the HIV-positive community is knowledgeable with the ADA law and uses it to the betterment for the community and yet can’t provide for their own.”quote ends
Friday August 18
Wereweird: Lycanthropy, Animism, and Animal-Transformation in Weird Fiction
Cody Goodfellow, KH Vaughan (moderator), Stephen Graham Jones, Sonya Taaffe
Throughout the history of Weird Fiction, the idea of transformation has held sway—with roots from the werewolf legends of the French countryside to the Wendigo myths of the Pacific Northwest, the idea of the human becoming something less (or more) than human has held our collective imaginations. Here, we will discuss the idea of transformation in folklore and our continued fascination with it.
Paul LaFarge, Livia Llewellyn, Peter Rawlik, Sonya Taaffe (moderator), Joe Zannella
At first, the concept seems to be a contradiction. Lovecraft was robustly asexual with barely any interest in the subject in his writing or real-life. And yet, erotic Lovecraftian stories, films, and anime have been extremely popular. Is it possible to combine the two and create an entirely new offspring? Our panelists think so and will not only defend their conclusions but offer their recommendations.
Saturday August 19
Dark Crimes: The Weird in Noir Fiction
Paul Di Filippo, Cody Goodfellow, Lois Gresh, Peter Rawlik, Rory Raven (moderator), Sonya Taaffe
Both Weird Fiction and Crime Fiction function around the idea that we cannot trust what we once thought infallible—our very sense of self and place in the world. What philosophies drive these seemingly different strains of literature together and what unites both in their bleak view of the cosmos mankind inhabits? This panel explores the bleak cosmic horror of man as written by Himes, Thompson, and Chandler.
Voices in Weird Poetry
Frank Coffman, Darrell Schweitzer, Donald Sidney-Fryer, Sonya Taaffe (moderator), Starry Wizdom
Weird poetry has been gaining ground over the past few years and continues to gather interest among scholars, writers, and readers. Who are some of these emerging voices? How might the emergence of this new energy in the medium stir interest in past works, and create a platform to expand interest in poetic works in the future?
Sunday August 20
Ruthanna Emrys, Jon Padgett, Peter Straub, Sonya Taaffe
I will also be in attendance at the opening reception for the exhibits "Greetings and Salutations: Lovecraft on the Road" and "Caitlin R. Kiernan Papers" at the John Hay Library tomorrow night and with significant luck will manage to drag myself out of bed on Thursday in time for the noon showing of David Rudkin and Alan Clarke's Penda's Fen (1974) at the Black Box Theater. Then I will spend the following week sleeping. Anybody in this friendlist I'm likely to see at the world's premier festival of weird fiction, academia, and art?
spatch met me after my doctor's appointment this afternoon and we walked over to the Boston Public Market so that I could get my now-traditional bagel with smoked salmon from the Boston Smoked Fish Co. and he could get shakalatkes from Inna's Kitchen. I wanted to visit the Holocaust Memorial afterward, because last night—for the second time this summer, after twenty-two years without incident—it was vandalized. We walked out the back of the market and into a press conference. An Auschwitz survivor and co-founder of the memorial was speaking; he was followed by Jewish community leaders, an imam, a cantor who recited the Holocaust-specific version of the El Malei Rachamim. We walked through the memorial afterward, my first time in years. It is six towers of glass, their panels etched with numbers like concentration camp tattoos; steam rises continually through each tower and the words of survivors are written in the glass. It mentions things that other remembrances of the Holocaust often elide: the equally targeted genocide of the Romani, Jewish uprisings and partisan groups, that the U.S. knew about the camps as early as 1942. I had forgotten to bring a stone to leave as at a grave, but the memorial provides its own. There were a lot of people there.
Then we met my mother in Harvard Square (the woman behind the counter at Esmerelda—not Esmerelda herself, older middle-aged and deft with a pair of needle-nose pliers—replaced the broken clasp of my necklace for free) and she told us about 45's neo-Nazi-defending both-sides double-down.
So I will go to Providence this weekend and represent queer Jewish fish people and that's all there is to it.
P.S. Courtesy of Rob, for fans of Gravity Falls (2012–16): with the blessing of series creator and voice actor Alex Hirsch, Grunkle Stan punches Nazis.
Concentrating on my breath helps me relax and it also reminds me that everyone on the planet is also a breathing body. This commonality calms the terror attendant on our current moment. My ideology, my fears, my impairments aren’t magicked away, but I am always a breathing body, just like everyone else.
It’s called meditation practice because that concentration is a skill. While I’m meditating I find myself thinking about the past or planning for the future. This is the magic moment. When I notice I’m thinking, I softly name it, and then return to my breathing.
I learned to meditate via an 8-week MBSR class, mindfulness based stress reduction, offered by my therapist. Since then, I’ve loved using Insight Timer, the meditation tool for iOS and Android. You do have to create a login, but they haven't spammed me. Insight Timer has tons of useful features, but at its most basic it’s got a great timer, with lovely bells, background white noise, and finely adjustable intervals. When you’re online, Insight offers hundreds of guided meditations, including introductory lessons for absolute beginners. (Other audio available: yoga guidance, Dharma talks, affirmations.) Excellent search functions let me bookmark (for example) just the 10–19 minutes long, secular, male voice, meditations designed for pain.
All of the audio content is also available from this web site.
On the plus side, I’m getting more skilled at getting rid of them using the Shorts of Bat Entanglement. Although I did think for a while that I had activated the Portal function again, as the bat appeared to have completely vanished in the attic stairwell. However, just as I was coming back upstairs from reopening all the inside doors, I spotted the little bugger resting on the floor in a dim nook behind a couple of Kestrell’s books. With patience, care, and ruthless ignoring of the offended shrieking noises, I managed to fully entangle the bat in the shorts. It was then a relatively straightforward manner to bring it out to the backyard and release it. After a moment to recover, it flew off into the jungle, and I returned to a (hopefully) bat-free house.
In the silver lining department, everyone else seems to have slept through this.
Oh wait -- it just occurred to me. I can blame April for this! Her birthday gift of a (metal) bat to Kestrell yesterday clearly summoned this live bat through sympathetic magic! :-)
I downloaded a couple to take up north with me when I disappear at the end of the week until September.
We did ask Connie about how the delay in getting my third dose will affect the effectiveness of the treatment and they just don't have data for that. She and Dr Day are optimistic that this won't be a problem. We also talk to her about getting pain meds to help with the pain of laying on the table for so long. She's concerned with how the pain meds will affect my breathing. On her suggestion, I'm trying Vicodin tonight to see how I feel. If it goes well I'll take another Vicodin before the procedure. If it doesn't, I'll do what I have been doing and gut it out.
1. Carly Pildis, "My Family Is Black and Jewish. Here's What Charlottesville Means to Me." I find this paragraph particularly acute: "It's how I know that America is both our sanctuary and where our neighbors were brought in chains. It is both our home and a place we can never fully trust. We have more freedom than ever before but the swastika still haunts the doorstep of our synagogue. We love America but wonder if our kids are really safe at our local JCC."
2. Jelani Cobb, "The Battle of Charlottesville." Crystallizes a lot of things I have seen people saying and thinking—including me, but more elegantly—and then goes one analytical step further. "It is a moment of indeterminate morality, one in which the centrifugal forces of contempt, resentment, and racial superiority are pitted against the ideal of common humanity and the possibility of a civic society. We have entered a new phase of the Trump era."
3. In terms of amplifying voices in Charlottesville, I have found both butchsaffron and eshusplayground to be valuable perspectives. I'm not even on Tumblr. News moves faster off Dreamwidth, whee.
4. I discovered Erynn Brook's "White Feelings: 0-60 for Charlottesville" via more than one white person who said it was useful to them. It strikes me as a good example of the snarkily worded but sincerely intended anti-racist primer; I have reservations mostly about its elision of Jews. On that front, see this post and its follow-up. This one is also related.
5. The murdered counter-protester has been named; so has the man who drove the car into her. The White House winks and nods and barely even dogwhistles at this point, but I am hoping the local law will bolt the terrorist to the wall. Let there be consequences. Not just private ones like a sock in the jaw, but formal, legal ones like convictions for terrorism. Free speech is one thing, but hate speech another, and violence is something else entirely.
6. I wanted to link this cycle days ago: twenty-one poets writing for the Statue of Liberty in the age of Trump.
7. As people keep talking about appropriate responses to neo-Nazi, neo-Confederate violence, I keep thinking of the speech delivered by Anton Walbrook to Roger Livesey in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). The German refugee is talking to the English gentleman, to the English audience, about the facts of fighting Nazis. Both the scriptwriter and the actor may be speaking through him. Jewish, stateless Pressburger had left Berlin in a life-saving hurry in 1933; Walbrook took his chance in 1936, Austrian, half-Jewish, and queer. They knew whereof Theo Kretschmar-Schuldorff spoke. I couldn't find a very good clip of the scene, but here it is:
I read your broadcast up to the point where you describe the collapse of France. You commented on Nazi methods, foul fighting, bombing refugees, machine-gunning hospitals, lifeboats, lightships, bailed-out pilots and so on, by saying that you despised them, that you would be ashamed to fight on their side and that you would sooner accept defeat than victory if it could only be won by those methods . . . Clive! If you let yourself be defeated by them, just because you are too fair to hit back the same way they hit at you, there won't be any methods but Nazi methods! If you preach the Rules of the Game while they use every foul and filthy trick against you, they'll laugh at you! They think you're weak, decadent! I thought so myself in 1919 . . . I don't think you won [the last war]. We lost it. But you lost something, too. You forgot to learn the moral. Because victory was yours, you failed to learn your lesson twenty years ago, and you have to pay the school fees again! Some of you will learn quicker than the others. Some will never learn it. Because you have been educated to be a gentleman and a sportsman—in peace and in war. But, Clive, dear old Clive, this is not a gentleman's war. This time you are fighting for your very existence against the most devilish idea ever created by a human brain—Nazism. And if you lose there won't be a return match next year, perhaps not even for a hundred years! You mustn't mind me, an alien, saying all this. But who can describe hydrophobia better than one who has been bitten—and is now immune?