An update.

Hello my friends!  If you’re here it’s because you care, personally or professionally, and I deeply appreciate both.  I am also grateful for the buzz surrounding the World Fantasy Award nomination.  While I’m not on social media to see it directly, my husband has told me that there have been many supportive comments, and that means a lot to me.

Item # 2 on the agenda: if you have interacted with me at all in the last month, I’d like to apologize if you left feeling drained, confused, or vaguely unsettled.  My mental health is as bad as it’s ever been.  If you’ve interacted with me recently, you’ve been talking to a person who is in the process of drowning and trying to subtly use you as a flotation device without your maybe noticing.  That’s not really a thing.  I realize that now.  I’m sorry.

I’m redoubling my efforts to tackle this on my own, because my relationships are extraordinarily precious to me and the thought of damaging them makes me feel even worse.  By “on my own” I mean, not leaning on people who are not professionals.  I have spent a few weeks in vain trying to contact my last therapist; she seems to have left the last place she was working, and her voicemail box is full and not accepting new messages.  (My demons say, “she quit her job and withdrew from society after working with you.”  Very funny, demons.)  This means I have to start from scratch, but I’ve made appointments with four different therapists over the next few weeks to try to find another good match.

Some good professional news: I did manage to put the finishing touches on Impostor Syndrome in time for it to come out on schedule next spring, and I’ve already got another book in the pipeline to get back to work on once I’ve got my energy and focus a bit more under control.

On the physical health side, there’s more good news.  We have finally, finally isolated the cause of my headaches.  It is the cataracts, but it isn’t so much light-related as it is related to the compensatory thing my brain is doing.  Imagine looking through your windshield and having a smudge right in front of your face.  Assuming the wipers didn’t take care of it, you’d keep craning your neck this way and that trying to peer around it, right?  Well, imagine the smudge was a tiny dot on the very center of the actual lens of both eyes.  There’s nowhere to “lean” to get away from that, and yet your brain keeps trying.

Amazingly, mine mostly succeeds.  If I am looking at something stationary (say, a computer screen) my brain actually does pretty well at compensating.  But something like driving, which causes me to constantly shift my focus, means my brain is having to readjust its magical compensation-trick over and over and over again.  Eventually it just burns out and I’m left lying in a dark room wishing for an anvil to drop from the sky and end my misery.

The fix: cataract surgery.  The doctors are finally starting to agree on that.  I have one more appointment in October, and then they will probably be willing to commit to a surgery date.

So, solutions, both mental and physical, are in the pipeline.  It’s just a terribly long wait, and in the meantime I am miserable!  Huzzah!

But everything is temporary.  Everything.  Kind of a poignant thought in times of happiness, but a lifesaver in times like these.  What I’m feeling now will, eventually, be one of those memories I can look back on and say, “Thank God I’m not there anymore.”  Sometimes I think that’s what times like these are for.  So that we can remember, in good times, not to take them for granted.

I love you all and look forward to the day when we can have fun together, when I can be a shoulder for you, or just be a general presence in your lives.  No ETA yet, but we’ll get there.

Why I Won’t Be At the Nebulas.

I’ve tweeted a few times, but I wanted to make a more formal statement that people could find more easily.  The heading could also be “Why My Website Is Out of Date” or “Why I Haven’t Answered Your Letter Yet.”

As many of you know, I have Borderline Personality Disorder.  I’ve been in treatment since around 2004, and have had it pretty much licked since about 2013.  So much so that in the back of my mind I thought I was “cured” and could go about living my life the way “normal” people do, and let all my various medicinal self-care rituals slide, bit by bit.

Then November happened.  For a month or so we were focusing mostly on dealing with my intrusive thoughts of suicide.  I am not a suicide risk–because of my children it is not an action I would ever perform no matter how much I desired it–but it’s amazing how much one’s life can be disrupted when every thought is answered with “What’s the point?”  We got through that, and things were looking up.  Had a wonderful trip to Detroit, Toronto, and Ottawa in January for my birthday.  Then I finally finished the very belated draft of my third novel.

And then all hell broke loose.  We’re still not sure what’s going on.  There are physical symptoms at play too, and we’re trying to untangle cause/effect.  It’s possible there’s something physically wrong, and the stress of it is making my mental state more fragile.  It’s also possible that the BPD relapse has caused so much continuous stress that it has begun to affect various body systems.  We’re doing all the things wise people do, making all the appointments, etc.

But I don’t feel safe traveling and socializing professionally when both my physical and mental health have, over the last month or more, consistently unraveled at even the slightest introduction of stress.  Right now we are metaphorically installing padded bumpers in my life on all the sharp corners until I remember how to walk straight again.  Reducing responsibilities, simplifying my social life, all of that.

The bright side is that I’ve been here before, and I actually know all the steps I need to take to get better.  But it’s also a situation where a lot of those steps are things I can’t do until I’m at least a little better.  So it becomes a sort of triage situation.  And I don’t know how long it will take.

As of this moment I feel optimistic about 4th Street Fantasy in June, but I’m almost certain I won’t be worth much of a damn to anyone but me before then.  My apologies to anyone to whom I made commitments, and to any people who worry I don’t love them anymore.  The love is still there, but it’s packed away in boxes until such time as the simple daily maintenance of existence doesn’t feel quite so grueling.

Have no fear; I’ll definitely see you on the other side.

How My Stylist Joined the Resistance.

In a very nearby alternate universe, I’d be sporting the Sinead O’Connor look right about now.  How you narrowly missed this fashion atrocity is a bit of a story.

Having snowy-bleached hair that still looks like hair, especially at a decent length, is not something most of us can accomplish at home in the bathroom.  So to achieve my current look (which has, at this point, become part of my “brand” and allows folks to pick me out of a crowd at conventions), I’ve been spending a whopping $200 a month at the Doves Studio in Santa Monica.  “It’s cheaper than therapy,” was always my excuse, “and does as much if not more for my self-esteem.”

And it’s strangely true.  Since 2014, my platinum hair has been a sort of magic feather (a la Dumbo).  My new look not only pleased me aesthetically, but served as a symbol of the “new me” and of my recovery from 2013’s suicidal depression.  Even on days when I hated everything else about me, I still loved my hair.  Seeing how much the new hair color boosted my mood, we’ve never questioned the expense.

Then November 8th happened.

Suddenly the world was burning down around me, and I was spending $200 a month on … hair?  I told my husband that I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror anymore, couldn’t enjoy it.  So I decided I was going to buzz it all off after ConFusion, reducing my hair expenses to $0 a month, and donate the money to ACLU and the Sierra Club every month instead.

It’s amazing how hard this decision was to make.  It seems like the obvious choice, right?  What does it matter what I look like, when civil rights and the environment are threatened?

Okay, but here’s a secret: I’ve done this before, when I was a decade younger and hotter… and it looked terrible even then. We’re talking tragically, embarrassingly bad.  This is not false modesty, friends; the next time I went to the anthropology class I’d been taking, so proud of my daring style, my classmates averted their eyes as though I’d showed up with a sudden oozing rash.  No one said anything.  I’d had hair down to my waist and it was suddenly gone, and my classmates were unanimously silent on the subject.  Pretended they didn’t notice.  As though I’d shown up with one less limb than I’d had the day before and they were afraid to even ask.

That, my friends, is the sign of a bad fashion choice.

So the memory of this made my $0-a-month hair plan slightly less attractive to me, I’ll admit.  But I was still determined.  Even when my husband expressed concerns for how a sudden loss of my magic-feather hair might affect my mental health, I was still determined.  Even when a suitor, unaware of my plans, wrote me a three-stanza poem about… you guessed it, my hair, I was still determined.  The only genuine qualm I felt about the whole thing was when I broke the news to my stylist Andrea during what I’d planned to be my second-to-last hair appointment.

I explained to Andrea why I was doing what I was doing, and she was very undersrtanding.  As an intelligent, principled young woman of color she was as outraged about the new regime as I was, but my choice of gesture obviously pained her, and not just because she’d be losing a client (she’s greatly in demand).  For two years she’d been bleaching this stuff, treating it, helping me grow it out and shape it.  She loved my hair.  Every month she went into new ecstasies about its inexplicable strength and resilience in the face of all we were doing to it.  It was her baby, her canvas, her piece de resistance.  Once I caught her gazing at it adoringly while she was blowing another client’s hair dry.  And so that day it genuinely hurt me, on her behalf, to take away something that gave her so much pride.

Well.  On January 18th I went in for what I thought was going to be my last hair appointment.  Andrea met me by the front desk and, as she helped me into my salon cape, she said, “I talked to my managers.  I don’t want you to have to choose between the Resistance and getting your hair done here, so from now on, you pay the $30 model fee, and that’s it.”

[insert line break of pure astonishment]

So essentially, for the time being, my stylist Andrea is donating $100 a month each to the Sierra Club and ACLU.  The donation comes from my card, and it’s in my name, but it’s Andrea who’s taking the hit.

Obviously I can’t let her do this forever.  In the fall, when my youngest is finally out of day care, I’m going to go back to paying Andrea full price and also increase my “Resistance funding” on top of that.

Meanwhile, so long as Andrea and I are both still living in Los Angeles, you’d better believe that no one else is ever touching my hair.