(tw: very brief mention of CSA and abuse)
I started writing this on Friday, but gave myself the weekend to think about it, to decide whether or not I should post it, whether or not I want to make this choice. But I think I need to, so I can start Monday with a clean slate. Even if I’m fucking weirding myself out. Three blog posts in one month? I swear I’m not a pod person. I am, however, fucking up my website migration, since I’d already ported all my blog content over three posts ago and fixed everything to match the new layout. I’m not doing this right. I’m really not.
What I am doing, however, is thinking a lot.
And about all the wrong things.
I had a lot of time to mull things over this weekend. A lot of time to write this and fine-tune it and make a decision, too, as I realized something:
I no longer live inside my books.
Normally, my books are my escape. An often grimdark escape from an equally grimdark reality, but it’s my grimdark where I control that darkness and use it to explore beautiful and hurtful things, and where I and people like me get to exist as ourselves instead of colonized versions of ourselves. My books are a world that’s almost constantly occupying my mind; characters bicker and banter inside my head. A single song can inspire entire cinematic scenes played out in realistic detail that will then evolve into some new plot twist or moment of emotion pivotal to connecting with a character. There’s always a subroutine going in my head even when I’m doing other things, this wetware machine computing permutations and tesselations and fractal iterations until I used to be able to store entire complex interlaced plotlines in my head without needing to take notes, and they were always evolving until they were ready to fall into place in the right configuration.
But lately, that machine has short-circuited. Fried. The wires have crossed. My internal operating system has been compromised by insidious malware that’s taken me out of my world and put me in a place where I can barely function at all, and writing feels like something I once knew how to do until someone went and uninstalled the program.
I could blame it on the fact that I’m not actively writing a book right now, because I’m buried in edits. I could blame it on the fact that I’ve picked up enough freelance work lately that I’m pretty much working two full-time jobs while I find my way back to financial stability after an unexpected crisis at the end of 2015, and my daily output as far as productive work is enough to burn anyone out. And yeah, those are definitely, definitely factors. But they’re not what’s draining my emotional energy. And they’re not what’s infecting the wetware in my brain until I live in a space that isn’t healthy for me, and all my subprocessing power is taken up by things that aren’t constructive for pursuing my stories, and my career.
Frankly, lately I’ve been consumed by the discussions that have explored the experiences of numerous marginalized people, often people like me with shared lived experiences, primarily but not always in the book community. A lot of it has been productive and interesting; it’s given me a lot to turn over and examine about myself, my interactions with society, and society itself–as well as about problematic representation in books. It’s also given me people to identify with and connect to, when so often I’ve felt deeply isolated as a queer, multiracial, neuroatypical, sometimes gender-ambiguous man and survivor of CSA, rape, and relationship abuse. It’s given me the framework I need to learn how to do better, be better in providing support and boosting voices across marginalizations both my own and not; it’s also led to me stumbling into some places and people who mean well but are deeply and inherently harmful, but that’s a talk and a struggle for another day.
And a lot of what’s been going on hasn’t been productive, even if it’s working its way there through some harsh growing pains. Especially lately, when suddenly everything is escalating to the point where it would likely be appropriate to slap Willy Wonka’s face up here with his nice little hat and shiny cheeks (I won’t). Every day the overlapping messes get bigger, and expand to swallow more people. Every day people take sides, and other people fear what will happen if they disagree, and tiptoe over eggshells made up of the cracked bits of their current and future reputations in the publishing industry. Every day the lines get more and more muddled, until no one knows what anyone’s talking about in specific anymore, only that everyone’s hurting and everyone’s waiting for their hurt to be addressed and heard the loudest before they address or hear someone else’s pain; no one wants to be wrong. It’s not something I really blame anyone for.
But I blame myself for getting pulled too deep into it. For going from observing to participating, because so much of it reflects my lived experiences and I wanted to share with people and seek + offer solidarity and understanding and perspective; I want to learn from people and, in learning, acquire the tools and language I need to find a healthier place in my relationship with my marginalizations and how I interact with others and how they interact with me. In moderation, that’s great. When it becomes the new world I live in, until even when I’m away from it it consumes my thoughts…it’s not. Especially with how painful it is right now. Shots are flying in all directions in a constant realtime deluge, people of one marginalization are hurting people from others, and when you exist across many it’s hard not to get caught by stray bullets from friends, foes, and strangers alike when everything they say hits hard at the core of your being. Everyone’s angry about something. They have every right to be. I’m angry with some people too, though it’s not anything I’ve aired publicly and the people I’m angry with either don’t know or don’t really care. I’ve chosen not to invest my energy in them, because nothing I say or do will get through to them and make them realize they can’t excuse their behavior and their prejudices on the basis of considering themselves a generally good person or being told they’re a good person by people who share their privilege and have never known the experiences of the people they’ve hurt and alienated.
The thing is, if I’m not investing my emotional energy and time in people who have hurt me directly…why is indirect involvement in the massive tangle of ongoing conflicts taking up so much of my mental capacity, capability, and reserves?
I can barely finish work when my clients expect it. My attention span is scattered and I struggle to stay on task. My short-term memory is shot. I can’t make the cognitive connections I used to be able to. My sleep is restless and troubled. My migraines are starting to become more frequent. I’m forgetting words. I am always lowkey on the edge of anxiety, with that hard full feeling in my head that says I am living in a constant defensive state, the kind of alert animal panic mode I learned in my young life and home environment, warning me to be on guard and ready to flee when the other shoe drops. My stories are just disconnected words on a page that don’t even feel like they belong to me; I barely scraped my edits for one publisher in on time, and I haven’t touched edits on two other publisher books in over a week because I don’t have the spoons for them even though they’re almost done. I don’t feel comfortable in my own space, though I tried various things to help–from weekend breaks to bringing a lot of my RL friends over onto this social media space to make it feel more like mine. It didn’t work. Every subprocessor in my brain is still always trying to parse all these conflicting opinions and ideologies in context with my own lived and learned experience to form my own reasoning, thoughts, opinions, ideas, perspectives, meaning; every synaptic connection is taken up with the need to find a solution to a problem that’s bigger than me, bigger than my entire lifetime.
And I know the reason I can’t look away. It’s not Train Wreck Syndrome. (It’s a little Train Wreck Syndrome. It’s oddly addictive, and every time you think it can’t get worse, it does; just like the current U.S. election cycle, it feels like watching your familiar world come down in a rain of fire–and you don’t know if you should watch to be aware, or cover your eyes from the carnage, or try to help pull people out of the flames. Not to mention the validation inherent in the call-and-response nature of the medium can be addictive, too. Right. Back on track as to the real reason.) It’s because these things matter, and I want to fix them so badly that I can’t stop hoping something will come up that will change it even though I know it’s impossible for that to happen overnight and it won’t stop these things from hurting me and the people around me.
I’ve talked about my need to fix things before. About my need for things and people to make sense, and how I get caught in stressy logic loops trying to make emotional fleshthings make sense when they just don’t. Fleshthings aren’t rational. A society of fleshthings isn’t rational. There is no monolithic human machine that follows predictable, easily comprehensible patterns. And in trying to understand–particularly in trying to understand the hurtful explosions going on lately and how quickly they’ve multiplied into accusations beyond anything that publicly visible material can support–and make sense out of the conflicting actions of all the fleshthings around me, I’ve let myself get swallowed up and chewed to bits. Because I’m once again trying to make sense of something that can’t be rationalized into simple logic, and this time it’s a problem far larger than trying to connect with any one person across the awkward space of the infinity of each self-contained human universe. More than anything, I let myself be consumed by the helplessness and futility and anger I’ve felt in struggling with this.
And I can’t do it anymore.
I can’t keep losing myself in these conversations, in these messes, in this constant escalation. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think what’s going on right now and what’s been going on in various forms of discussion isn’t useful, even if it’s painful. These things are important. They need to be analyzed, discussed, shared, solved.
Just right now, none of those analyses, discussions, shares, or solutions need to come from me.
I’m not a particularly widespread or particularly valuable voice in the POC, queer, and neuroatypical communities. I’m aware of that. There are plenty of other people speaking, discussing, analyzing far better than I can. My silence will be no great loss. The only loss will be inside me; in feeling like I surrendered on a battle I can’t win and stopped contributing to the uplifting of marginalized voices. In feeling like I let the helplessness and futility and anger take over. In feeling like I let myself be silenced–because make no mistake, a lot of what goes on in these conflicts is about silencing people who are just begging for acknowledgement and validation of their pain.
But in all these things I’m constantly trying to fix…I rarely stop and take the time to recognize what’s going sideways in me, and fix that. I rarely take my own advice about self-care. I try, and then something happens and I start stressing again, and get diverted again.
I need to try again.
If I’m going to fix something, I need to fix me.
Because I miss the worlds I used to live in. I miss the way my brain used to work, in a mess of creative, fluid, powerful tangles that boiled and twisted into something chaotic and strange and emotional and horrifying and beautiful and macabre and heartbreakingly sweet–leaping from one idea to the next, forging connections, spinning new people into life during those wonderful periods when depression gives me room to live, breathe, be. I can’t forget that those people, who speak in brown and feminist and queer and trans and neuroatypical voices, are just as important to this discourse as sharing dissections and analyses and real-life experiences. Because I can contribute through books that reflect the stories of people who need to see themselves in those books, and show their lives in ways that matter. That help. That boost. That say “This is your pain; this is my pain, too, and I acknowledge it and want to see better for us; to see a fictional world that lets us be real and human and fully realized, and lets our stories shape the changing perceptions of society.”
But I need to get back to writing those books, to caring about them, to immersing myself in them, for them to be able to make a difference.
So…I’m shutting off my social media. For more than the weekend or a week or however long I tend to disappear for my shorter mental health days. I doubt I’ll actually deactivate, but there will be no going silent but still lurking; there will be no occasionally responding to DMs or PMs. I am closing it all. Logging it out. Uninstalling from all devices. Turning off email notifications. It’s a complete blackout. I may even install internet nanny apps on myself. My handles may be there, but I am not; the house is standing, but the rooms are empty of all but the shelves lined with records of moments past.
When I’ll be back? I don’t know. Probably when I finish all my edits, when I get myself properly immersed in a new story to find my mojo and slip back into my world again in a way that feels right, and when I finish my new website–which will also come with talking about my second pen name for SFF and announcing the good news that I’ve put off for over a frigging month now, which is just daft but is part and parcel of work and everything else overwhelming me. But if I haven’t had the spoons for writing, I haven’t had the spoons for programming in PHP and CSS, either. And I can’t remember the last time I felt capable of picking up my graphics tablet and opening Painter and trying to make something beautiful. I’d like to have room and energy for that again. And I think when I come back I may do what I was talking about on Twitter earlier with going back to (carefully) reviewing books on GoodReads, but that’s something to consider when I’m ready to be social again.
So I guess the catalyst for when I’ll be back is when I’m ready to unveil the new website. That may take two weeks. It may take a month. It will take as long as it takes, because I know I won’t be ready to even finish it until I’m in a place where I can function as myself again, instead of as this tangle of aching, tired self-analysis that can’t seem to shut off.
Yeah. Shutting off has always been a problem of mine. It’s why I’m an insomniac. It’s why I dig deep into things and can’t leave it at just surface. It’s why I’m rarely able to forget when someone does something hurtful, even when I try to forgive. It’s why I can’t forget my own fuckups, either, and constantly turn over how I could have handled a situation better. It’s why I can’t stop trying to solve even unsolvable problems. My anxiety doesn’t help that. In fact, my anxiety feeds on that, keeping my thoughts always running at full speed and in a thousand tangential directions of what-if, how, why. That microprocessor in my brain is always overclocked, and always parsing an infinite stream of data.
I just need to change what I feed into it right now. So if I can’t shut myself off, I can at least shut off something that, as much as it has allowed me to meet wonderful friends and network with amazing educators and gain a platform for my authorial career, is currently a detriment to my mental, emotional, and even physical health. It’s not the first time I’ve had to self-extract like this, even if sometimes it’s involved extracting myself from individual people who are feeding me that constant detrimental data stream and needing too much of my time, energy, and emotional investment on parsing and processing unhealthy things–not just extracting myself from situations or environments. Sometimes it’s just something you have to do, when you recognize that you’ve fallen into a mode that’s eroding away at your reserves. And if I can be honest, I think I’ve been quietly turning over the idea of shutting down social media 100% since I read this post, which resonated so much it ached.
I love y’all. I do. I just need to be away for a while, and out of cyberspace and back into meatspace and a stable headspace. It’s entirely possible I’ll realize I shouldn’t be here at all and should just deactivate and stick to my blog and GR reviews, but we’ll see when that day comes. Right now the idea of deactivating is kind of appealing. I grew up in a chaotic environment in which potential and unpredictable violence was always a threat, and I had to live on my guard; I’m not sure I can be in a space and a community that puts me back in that same state when I fought so hard to get away from it. Because honestly, right now? It feels like half the book community, including people I trusted to be better than that, are saying “your existence isn’t valid, your lived experiences don’t matter, don’t you dare infringe on my enjoyment of a thing by saying it hurts and devalues you; if you point out that I’ve hurt you, you’re just being mean” on more than one front–and I’ve had enough of that for a goddamn lifetime.
My early life was one surrounded by people who should have supported me and instead pushed me in a corner and made me small; my own mother used to brag about how she almost aborted me and still wished I didn’t exist. These discussions that are distracting me so much, taking up so much of my mental space struggling to find a solution? They’re about whether or not I am allowed to exist in fiction. And even more, whether or not I’m allowed to exist in a way that accurately and deeply reflects the realism of my life experiences, instead of a fantasy that’s been co-opted by privilege to suit their tastes. That is why I get so stuck on needing to find a solution. Because this is not just a problem of ideology and sociology, but a struggle for the right to exist, and I want an answer to that struggle. Because while people in the book community are telling people that stories about POC, about LGBTQIA, about NNT, about disability are about them but not for them…the people whose lives these things actually reflect are struggling to be heard, to tell our own stories in our own voices.
And we’re being told by these people, these people who colonized our realities and co-opted them into fantasy, that they wish we didn’t exist. That we don’t belong in our own stories. Which makes me not want to write my own stories for fear that they’ll be shuffled aside, and that’s a roadblock I’m not here for.
I’m not here to be colonized and then told to get out of what was mine in the first place. I’m not here for settlers taking my space and making it theirs, then pointedly reminding me how unwelcome I am because my brown queer neuroatypical femme maleness doesn’t fit the decor they painted over the ruins they plowed. I’m not here to watch debates about whether or not I have the right to exist in literature taking place in a space that I had once considered supportive and educational, especially not when those debates hurt people I care about, people I connect to.
So maybe me tapping out means leaving that space to the settlers. But it also means protecting my own space, and that’s what I need to do more than anything. My wetware has been compromised, my thoughts have been colonized, and I’m making a choice to make my space my own again. So I’m out. I am self-extracting.
So I can continue writing the books that allow me and others to exist in a space that gives us life–instead of taking that life away, claiming ownership, packaging it up, and mass-producing it as a commodity.
There’s always email, if you need me. email@example.com. Light it up.
But as for me? I’m going dark.
And if you see me on Twitter or Facebook before at least May or so, fucking kick me.