Talking About Mental Health

I’ve talked about mental health on this blog quite a lot over the years. I haven’t done it as much over the last couple years, but then again, I haven’t talked about *much* on this blog over that time. The reason for that is, ironically, mental health. (Or the lack thereof, honestly.)

Today on Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat it’s #BellLetsTalk day. I’ve mentioned this before because it’s important to me. I chose to move to Canada almost five years ago, and finding there’s a very public day devoted to mental health awareness surprised and pleased me. (Every tweet/RT/post/etc. including “#BellLetsTalk” means another 5 cents donated to mental health initiatives in Canada.)

I will give my usual caveat that EVERY DAY should be a day for talking about mental health. Ending the stigma around mental illness is a job for more than one day, but the more money we can tweet into this effort, the more resources organizations will have to put toward this all year round, so I hope you’ll all get out there and use the hashtag–you don’t even have to be in Canada! (I think there’s a way to participate via text messages and calling too.)

So once again, I’m here to do my little part and tell my own story. I hope hearing me talk about my own struggle will help others know they’re not alone. Because you’re not. I suffer from mental illness, and I am not ashamed. (Or at least I try really hard not to be. It’s still difficult to get past the stigma sometimes, but I think I’ve come a long way.) So on with the show…


A couple years ago I realized I really needed some help. It had been many years since I’d been on medication, but I was struggling mightily—missing work, lacking joy in even the things I love the most (podcasting, of course), so I did what I always tell other people to do—talk to someone. For me, that someone was my doctor. (I am so lucky and pleased to have a doctor I like and trust and who trusts *me* to know my own mind and body and make decisions for myself.) We tried a variety of different medications to help address my depression and anxiety. I think over the course of one year I tried five or six different meds. Some of them didn’t work. Some of them worked but had debilitating side effects. I got discouraged and kinda gave up.

So for a while I stepped away from regular medication, in part to let my body and brain re-set after all that bouncing around from med to med. (Though I still had [and have] some as-needed meds for anxiety.) I managed to get by for about a year this way, but it was really just “getting by”. And then eventually that “getting by” started to slip to not-quite-getting-by.

I went back to my doctor.

Now I’m on some new meds that seem to be working (and without super-awful side effects! yay!). It’s early yet, but I’m hopeful.

[Note: The writing of this blog post was literally just interrupted by my reminder to take my Cipralex. LOL at timing!]

Anyway, my mental health is the number one factor in determining when I have the energy to write outside of my day job. I would love to promise more regular content here, but I don’t know how my mental health will hold up. But as I said, I’m hopeful, and I have a few things I wrote for podcasts that I might be able to re-purpose for blog posts, just to keep things moving while I work up to fulfilling the last of my Patreon reward posts.

So once again, I’ll just say to anyone out there that’s struggling: you are not alone. I hope you’ll reach out and find some help.

And to everyone, whether you’re struggling or not, please take a moment today to use the #BellLetsTalk hashtag. Each time I see it come through my feed, my heart lifts a little bit. I have to imagine it’s doing the same for others. Seems like a pretty easy way to spread joy while raising money for a worthy cause.

Finally, mega-thanks to my spouse Steven and all my friends, family, and internet pals who have stuck with me through all this and provided constant understanding and support. I love you all so very very much.

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2018 Awards Eligibility Post

First of all I just noticed how long it’s been since I’ve posted anything here, and I’m fighting hard not to feel great guilt or at least chagrin. 2018 brought some huge personal challenges that included mental and physical health issues — both of which have gotten worse and not better. (I’m working with several doctors to turn that around, but so far it’s not really happening.)

Anyway, despite all that, I managed to have a pretty productive year in the world of podcasting, and I’ve got a bunch of stuff that is technically eligible for awards. I don’t actually think most of these warrant nominations, and some of the ones I *do* think are worthy are exceedingly unlikely to be recognized, but that is not really the point of this. I encourage you all to go read Melissa F. Olson’s Awards Eligibility Post and take special note of the bit where she talks about why these kinds of posts are important. Those thoughts are as applicable to podcasters as they are to writers.

So without further ado, here’s the list!


Uncanny Magazine is eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine.


Everything else I do (unsurprisingly) falls into the Hugo Award category for Best Fancast:

Verity! – My first podcast, in which 6 women, in 5 time zones, from 4 countries, on 3 continents, in 2 hemispheres, talk about 1 thing: Doctor Who. (We’ve been nominated twice before, and it was a huge honour.)

Lazy Doctor Who – My spouse, Steven, and I are making our way through “the pilgrimage” — watching every episode of Doctor Who in order. And we’re podcasting about it. It’s “lazy” because we do it from our couch and only do it when we have time and feel like it.

The Audio Guide to Babylon 5 – I am so proud of this podcast, which Chip and Shannon Sudderth and I completed in 2018. We watched the whole five-year arc of Babylon 5 and did a podcast episode about each episode. It makes me feel all fuzzy to look back and see what we accomplished together.

In The Village – This is another “completed” podcast effort. Steven and I watched all 17 episodes of The Prisoner to celebrate its 50th anniversary. We did not agree on many things, but we had a grand time doing it. I have never fallen in love with a tv show harder and faster than I did with The Prisoner so it was sheer delight to do a podcast about it.

Earp Chirp – in 2018, my Albertan pals Annette and Kirsten and I launched this podcast devoted to Wynonna Earp, a show that is both shot and set in our home province. It’s a loose, instant-reaction-style podcast recorded on the same couch used for Lazy Doctor Who. In addition to our general observations, we comment on the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of the Albertanisms on the show. It’s important to note that Steven is our Crackerjack Producer.


I also contribute frequently to a couple of podcasts that are also eligible in other(?) Hugo categories:

The Incomparable Jason Snell has brought together a fabulous crew of geeks to talk about many geekalicious topics, from books to tv to movies to comics to video games to music to board games to…Thanksgiving dinner? I’m one of the most frequent panelists on the show, so it would be cool to see it get a nod. I’m pretty sure this would fall under Best Related Work, as I think it’s not eligible for fancast due to financial restrictions.

Total Party Kill – This D&D podcast on The Incomparable Podcast Network sees some of the panelists play a variety of tabletop roleplaying games. I’m on nearly all the episodes, and I edit lots and lots of them, so I spend a lot of time and effort and love on this one. I’m not totally sure if it’s a “fancast” or if it would qualify under Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form. (If anyone has expertise in this area, feel free to clarify in the comments.)

And that, as they say, is that! Unless I’ve forgotten something, which is entirely possible.

Just Work Through It

Okay, so that’s not always good advice. It’s often impossible to just work through it—whatever “it” may be. But occasionally, for me, it not only keeps life on track—it actually helps.

These last *mumble mumble* months (years?) have been pretty rough in the brain chemistry department. And as I work with doctors and lifestyle changes to try to sort things out, it can be quite a roller-coaster of non-productivity and keeping-afloat and oh-my-god-I-let-everything-slide-now-I’m-screwed.

I’m trying to get better at remembering that there’s a weird limbo-area where I am most certainly not feeling well, but I can still Get Things Done. And when I lean into that (instead of leaning into the couch, as is my wont), my mental health actually improves. (Marginally, but I’ll take any little bit of improvement.)

It’s not easy to remember that, so this is a very public reminder to myself. At the risk of going all corporate:

Just do it.

Corporeal Musings

Sometimes when the automatic faucet at work takes an extra moment to turn on, I worry. For that split-second, I wonder if I’ve become insubstantial.

But then, as I’m washing my hands, I’m a little sad. If I was insubstantial, I wouldn’t have to…well…do anything. That sounds really nice these days.

Though I suppose that depends on whether I’m invisible too. If I was visible, I’d probably be able to be useful and productive in some way. (After people stop freaking out and waving their hands through me. I bet that’d get annoying real fast.) If they know I’m there, they’ll probably want me to contribute.

I could still proofread. I’d just need someone to hang out with me and jot down the errors I find.

If I had a voice, I could still podcast. I’d just need someone to set up the mic for me and press Record. Oooh! And I wouldn’t have to worry about bumping my head on the microphone anymore! (That happens more than you might think.)

I’d need to do prep for the podcasts, but with help, I should be able to do that too. Again, someone to press play on Netflix or turn pages in a book. No more videogames, though. I’d have to rely on YouTube playthroughs.

Though now I’m wondering about furniture. Can I still lie on the couch or in bed? Probably not. Which would make sitting next to someone or in front of a mic pretty tough.

Wait. The floor still holds me up for some reason?

Ok. Inconsistent internal logic finally derailed this train of thought. That’s probably just as well. My break is over.


I wrote this at work last week and forgot to post it. Then over the weekend I was in a public restroom, and an automatic sink wouldn’t work for me at all. After my typical “Oh shit, I’m insubstantial!” thought, I switched to a different one, and it worked.

But then

When I was drying my hands, the original sink turned on.

So now I’m pretty sure I’m a time-traveler.

Baseline: No

I suck at turning things down. Things are fun! Especially when those fun things involve fun people. And most of the people I know are fun people. And they do many fun things. Sometimes they invite me to do fun things along with them. I often say yes!

I say yes too much.

I also plan my own fun things. Sometimes too much.

For example, this past weekend was a super-fun thing! Steven and I went to Calgary for a couple of nights and watched the Oilers play the Flames (ok, so the fact that we lost was less-than-fun, but it was fun overall), did some shopping, drove through Alberta’s badlands, and went to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller to look at dinosaurs. We even took time to watch some Doctor Who and record a podcast. All fun!

But hoo boy, does fun take its toll. Stress is stress whether it’s because of good things or bad things. When I planned that trip, I had no idea how wrecked I’d be at the end of last week. (Answer: Very Wrecked) So my fun weekend was less fun than it would have been and pretty much depleted even my reserve tanks of coherence and energy.

If I do my usual thing over the next couple weeks, those tanks will never refill. I know this, but I rarely act on it. I’m trying to treat myself better these days, so:

Dear world full of fun and interesting people,

No.

No, I will not join you for your fun and interesting thing. (Not unless it can wait a couple of weeks.)

Love,

Me

***

The one exception I did make was to schedule a short recording session for Beginner’s Puck because A) that probably should have been on the calendar anyway, so it’s pseudo-grandfathered in, and B) I have So Much hockey stuff to talk about! I went to an Oilers Game Day Live! And the Oilers game (in Calgary)! And holy buttons, that recent EBUG story! EBUGs are our thing!

So yeah. That’s a reasonable excuse, but for all other items, I’m gonna heed Nancy Reagan and “just say no.”

Change Is A-Comin’

whistles Scorpions’ “Wind of Change”

So I think it’s safe to say that over the last year or two, this space, in conjunction with my Patreon page, hasn’t exactly been a success. My original goal in launching a Patreon was (as I stated in a nifty video I am still rather proud of) to energize and motivate me to write more–to flex the mental muscles of my critical faculties. I think it worked for a while.

Lately, not so much.

I’ve written before about reasons why things have gone more radio silent here, and about some of the personal mental blocks I have about accepting money for blog posts. My life has changed a lot since I started here, so I think it’s okay that this space (and my Patreon) should change with it.

I’m still not sure exactly what form those changes will take, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I like having this as a creative space that’s all my own. I adore all my podcasts and the people I do them with, but they’re joint efforts. It’s neat to have a sandbox in which I can build whatever castles I want.

On the Patreon side, I still like the specific and direct connection that provides to the folks who are kind enough to help support me. And to be very real, after doing taxes this year, the extra dollars are and would be Very Welcome.

One thing I’m sure of is that the reward structure for my Patreon will be changing. I no longer feel the need to do so much critical writing. Those muscles get exercised an awful lot anyway: I spend a ton of time consuming and commenting on media–I just do it in audio form. I get plenty of practice creating polished writing in my day job. And to be frank, the requirement to deliver something specific that my patrons have requested in exchange for their dollars? That’s triggered my anxiety much more than I ever thought it would.

For the moment, I’ve removed the reward levels.* I’ll probably replace them with something that’s easier for me to fulfill–exclusive content most likely. Maybe I’ll think up some fun goals. Not sure yet. I might even move to a monthly donation model rather than charging per-post. If you have thoughts about this, don’t hesitate to let me know! (Comments here, on Patreon, Twitter, etc.)

I’ve become so comfortable and adept at capturing audio, I might start dropping brief ramblings here in mp3 format. Or doing little videos (probably ones that require MUCH less work than that one on my Patreon page). I want this to be a place where I can do a little bit of whatever I feel like, with fewer self-imposed rails.

So if that doesn’t sound like something you’re interested in, this is your notification to un-bookmark this site or cancel your Patreon pledge. I will hold exactly no ill will!

Change can be good and is often necessary. This is definitely the latter, and I hope it’ll be the former as well. Whatever comes, I’m happy to have you along for the ride.

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*I still have some more patron-posts to write, and I am absolutely gonna deliver those. I’ve already started writing notes! Graeme and Donald, yours are on the way! If you’re one of my patrons who never requested anything particular (or I wasn’t able to source what you asked for and let you know that), it’s not too late! Just drop me a line on Patreon and let me know what you’d like!

Dear Self

This post is for me, but I suspect I have a few friends/readers out there who might find it helpful, so I’m sharing it publically. 

Dear Self,

It’s ok to be sick. It’s ok to be anxious. It’s ok to be sad.

And when you’ve been these things for weeks and weeks on end, it’s ok to stop for a little while. Taking a break or a sick day is not an admission of failure. It does not mean you’re weak. It’s doing what is required in order to get through and move forward.

Even when you feel like you could do just one more thing, or go into work for just a few hours (which, let’s face it, will turn into the whole day), it’s still important to stop and rest. If you push yourself and keep going, you’re just borrowing that energy and that productivity from tomorrow or the next day.

Yeah, it sucks, and yeah it feels like you’re letting everyone down, but guess what? You’re not. That’s your dumb brain lying to you. Anyone who cares about you or relies on you in any way doesn’t want you to help them out right now if it’s ultimately not healthy for you.

You’re important, but you’re not that important.

So take a chill pill (literally if you have to) and lie down and read that book you’ve been wanting to read Just For Fun. Watch another episode of a TV show you are not watching for a podcast. If your head stops hurting, go see that movie you’ve been wanting to see for weeks.

Rest. Recharge. Recuperate. Get better.

You deserve it.

Yes, really.  You do.