zenithblue: (hysteria)
I'm reading Freud again for the first time since my undergraduate career--Studies in Hysteria. I'm always interested in cutting back to Freud's own work, as opposed to some of the more strained interpretive leaps his followers have made. Freud tends to get a lot of flack from critics because he was wrong about so many things, and, more often, because his work has long out-lived its shelf-life in terms of therapeutic usefulness (Oedipal nonsense and penis envy being rather less useful in the long term than an early modernist gentleman might have anticipated). That said, Herr Doktor was really pretty revolutionary in some regards. While some of his systems and equations don't quite hold up, his is the first modern construction of trauma. He has an understanding of pain as an event that must be processed actively, or else it will come out through the body in some grotesque manner. That doesn't seem so far wrong to me.

Okay, yes, hysteria as a disease is a patriarchal artifact, a pathologizing of women's bodies. Freud as a man immersed in his own time was not interested in deconstructing that myth; he was interested in finding ways to treat patients. And megalomaniac he might have been, but how many people--how many women--did he empower to own their own pain? He notoriously hijacked the personal narratives of many of his patients. But did he also allow them access to language they didn't know they were allowed to use? Did he also allow them to see themselves as human beings with internal worlds as vital and as real as their male counterparts?
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Suddenly, in the middle of Powells, weighted down by the books in my basket, everything re-aligned itself and I was left to marvel at how much stress can make you forget yourself. Most the reading I'd been doing in the previous months, since the upheaval and uprooting and reschooling, had served the absolutely linked functions of survival and distraction. The fiction had impacted thinly, the reading a function of habit more than devotion. Which was not to say the reading had been poor, or wasted; but I was suddenly recalled to the bottomless passions the best fiction opened to me when I was awake enough to let it.

Yes I know this is overwrought. I'm reading Ann Radcliffe right now. Cut me some slack.


Mar. 3rd, 2008 09:32 pm
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Of the 360 warm/hot days of the Texan year, I picked the nastiest, wettest, coldest one to get locked out of my house. It wasn't even my fault; my key didn't work in the back door lock, which I didn't know, since I never really use the back door. But now that the doggerson is back there, I managed at 10 AM to get myself stuck outside with no cell phone, no jacket, and no computer. Luckily I had my Wollstonecraft so I went to class and shivered for two hours, then got on the school computer and e-mailed Hodge in Houston who called the landlord who called the locksmith. Finally at 5:30 PM I was allowed back into my house, after a full day of shivering and misery. This was the suckiest day I have had in a year.

In further bad news, the doggerson has no microchip. I'm in a tizzy because I don't know if I can afford to keep him, but he's more or less the perfect dog for me temperament-wise. I'm trying not to panic. It's only been one weekend that he's been here, and there's time for his family to find him. I got some flea treatment so now I can shut him in the garage for the night--I felt bad that he was stuck outside for the rainstorm last night, but I really don't want my cats getting anything from him.

Now I'm supposed to work on homework--I'm supposed to write a happy ending to No Exit, which frankly I just don't much feel up for. I might just have a bath and read some shojo manga instead.

I'm going to Portland on Friday, and because I'm so stressed right now it's becoming hard for me to look forward to. It just seems like a lot of work, when I want to have a few days to do nothing. Well, since I'm staying with [profile] drawgirl I should be able to balance a major slack binge with some fun and excitement. Would it be totally lame if I spent part of my vacation in Portland re-playing Final Fantasy VII? And if it is lame, do I even care?
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...is that I now have a playlist entitled "Anthems" on my iTunes.
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As much as I complained about it at the time, I'm currently really missing Kaiser Permanente's habit of passing out anti-anxiety meds like so much candy. Easy-to-get klonapin sounds like it'd hit the spot right about now.

I will say, I feel absolved of all the vague guilt I've ever felt about my previous forays into mental unhealth. At Reed my easiest classes were harder than my hardest classes here, and I took four a semester instead of three, and also worked twelve hours a week on top of it. No wonder I had a meltdown per semester. I mean, the not-sleeping and erratic eating sure didn't help (which probably has to do with why I'm not having a meltdown right now, because I've decided in my old age that sleep is totally awesome). I'm not saying I'm not a maudlin little freak; I'm just saying it wasn't all my maudlin, freaky fault.

So: yeah, no meltdown yet, but as I mentioned to [profile] lagizma the other day, it's the time of the semester where my pee smells like coffee. Maybe I should just cut out the middle-man and pour the coffee straight into the toilet. I am wound a little bit tight right now and my to-do list now has totally stupid items on it like "eat dinner" and "have you left the house today?" because otherwise these things might not happen. Bear with me, people. It's just a few more weeks of this.
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Well I'm happy to report that the Austin late night public access stations are almost...almost!...as fruitful for the insomniac panic-attack patient as their Portland counterparts. Admittedly, we have no von Hummer (a fact which causes me to beat my breast in an agony of loss) here in the southwest. But I have managed to find an marvelously puerile show involving numerous puppets representing what seem to be Olmec deities, mostly insulting the stoned college kids calling in to the show.

Tomorrow is going to suck so much.
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When I was very small, I used to love to look at my father's tattoos. They were the grubby blue of a bic pen, a record of time spent in a California jailhouse for crimes never specified. Dad himself had been drunk, and the very large man who insisted upon tattooing him had also been very drunk, and so a number of the tattoos were illegible hieroglyphs. There was a recognizable heart, though, and something that even very young I recognized as either an ankh or a blurred cross. Something about having a visible reminder that my father pre-existed me, that he'd lived through something and it was marked on his flesh, was fascinating for me. It was like one of his elaborate (questionably true) stories of childhood or adolescence, only illustrated.

A few years later, when I entered school, I realized none of my friends' fathers had tattoos of any kind. None of my uncles did either. No other men in my life had ink on their skin. Briefly I wondered what that meant about my family, our place in the world (already precarious enough--by seven I had a hair-trigger understanding of class and felt my own alienation pretty starkly). For a very brief time, I was ashamed of the blurry ink that showed something about us that no one would talk about.

At ten, I encountered a book called Amy's Eyes, and in the first few pages of the story, a struggling tailor deposits his infant daughter at an orphanage so that he might go to sea to earn some money. With her he leaves a doll, the Captain, a sharp-dressed naval captain stitched from bits of cloth. Before Amy's father leaves her, he realizes some part of the Captain seems unfinished:

"One night he had come home after an evening at a public house, singing, drinking, and talking with friends, and it had all of a sudden come upon him that the Captain, then unfinished and with no clothing yet, could use a tattoo. It is an old urge among sailors to want a tattoo, and there is probably more to it than the vanity of being decorated. A tattoo is a token of memory and identity, and it is some small comfort after four months at sea, perhaps, to glance at the name of a loved on bordered around with flowers, or in time of trial to remember the tattooed motto 'Death Before Dishonor,' or when the ship is sinking to think on a graceful script that spells out 'Mother,' or to contemplate, in bitter moments, the picture of a heart thrust through with a dagger. So Amy's father gave the Captain a tattoo on his right forearm...It pictured a needle and thread, and touched in red and blue ink gave indelible notice that this was not a mere sailor before the mast, but a doll to take command high upon the poop deck, a doll of some significance."

The next day I announced to my relatively unsurprised parents that I was going to get lots of tattoos when I grew up. My father tried to tell me little girls didn't get tattoos and I informed him that I wouldn't be a little girl with tattoos, I was going to be a woman with tattoos. And also, I informed him, "Mr. Prison Tatts shouldn't cast any stones."

The tramp stamp on my back was a thing I got after my first round of depressions left me with a bipolar diagnosis. Part of my just liked the celestial motif, and it was simple as that. The symbolism I imparted to it, though, was that the sun contained all the other heavenly creatures within. That all the different phases of the sky were there, encompassed in one symbol. All the different moods. It was a way for me to accept all these shifting selves and sensations.

These days of course I'm a bit more stable. But the tattoo is a reminder of all mutability and all consistency as well: day becomes night, the phases of the moon change, summer edges on into winter, it's always moving but through the same motions. And of course I can't just look down and see it (it's on my back), but I like knowing it's back there, and I like catching glimpses of it when I change or when I get out of the shower. It's enough.

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1. Move is slowly coming together. Cats need health certificates, and I'm slowly trying to acclimate Jack to the car (he's terrified of it and yowls frantically every time it starts moving. Meanwhile, Bodhi's just like "Hey this is cool, but can I have a phone book to sit on? I can't see out the windows.")  [profile] hplovescats and I need to plan our route and start making motel reservations that are pet friendly. Oh, that's the other update: Hodge is moving down with me now instead of next year. I feel kind of guilty uprooting him. That said, he's from Austin and his family is there, and I don't think this is the worst move we could be making. Also, we're hoping the Austin post-production industry will be fruitful for him.

2. I totally love my sister-out-law, who we'll from here on out call Sis in a privacy-protecting gesture. She is adorable. She's four years younger than we are and she's an artist and designer, but also a big old geek who watches buttloads of Fruits Basket and Inu-Yasha. Also she is helping us find a house. She's been driving around Austin peeking into windows of rentals and reporting back to us. Tomorrow she's going to actually go inside and if she feels good about the house we'll probably sign a contract (since she has awesome taste and knows what we want). I'm really excited to live near her, because she's fun and I've always wanted a sister and I'm totally too shy to tell her I think of her sort of like my sister but I do.

3. Our 4th was fun. We have patio furniture now! After three years of us whining every summer, "Hey, we should really get some patio furniture," [profile] drawgirl finally invested in some and it is totally awesome. We have places to rest our asses, and also shade! So we sat outside and grilled and drank. Then we blew stuff up in the streets.

4. Left a message at infinity tattoo. No one has called me back yet. I am going armed with about 20 Rischa sketches from [profile] drawgirl and a few ideas. I'm hoping we have time to finish a partial sleeve before I take off. That's right, I'm gonna do it. I used to have this fear I was suddenly going to become vanilla in my old age. Considering my aging process has consistently taken me away from soccer mom-dom, I'm not going to worry about it anymore. Also: if I'm going to end up a soccer mom, I will be the soccer mom with the best fucking tattoo and the most pimping hybrid minivan. And the other soccer moms will have secret crushes on me. Rock.

5. I was super domestic this last week. I resized a gigantic old t-shirt (my Reed O-Week shirt with the Trojan horse waiting outside Eliot Hall, which is maybe the dorkiest thing I own? No, that's a lie.) so now it looks super hot on me. And I made my first pie. It was a vegan pie and I'm not so sure the crust turned out but the banana-chocolate filling was tasty. I should have taken a picture of me in the shirt with the pie so you'd see how Doris Day I was.

6. Still sad about the move. Still having wild mood swings. But hanging in there. It's all good.
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The two women that live to the left of me are sisters. The house they live in is the house they were born in. They are middle-aged, one fat and one bone-thin with a long grey braid down her back. The thin one with the braid works every day. She drives a pick-up truck and exudes that brusque competency that middle-aged pickup-diving women tend to. The other one, the fat one, is tall and unkempt. It's not really that she's fat so much as that she billows, her clothes far too big and untucked and stained, her hair frequently uncombed, and so somehow it seems like her flesh too is chaotic.

We found out early on that the plump sister is a paranoid schizophrenic. She seems painfully awkward every time you talk to her, but sometimes something will be so urgent for her that she'll try, she'll approach you and start raggedly talking about rats or sewer pipes or something, and you just try to follow where she's going with it, not because you're afraid of whatever she's warning you about, but because you've heard her in the backyard crying hysterically and if something is that important and that terrible it seems like you should shut up for a minute and listen. Our neighbor across the street was the one who verified our suspicions; apparently, the plump sister had warned her that the FBI was going through her trash and could read her mind based on the dog food cans they found there (never mind that the across the street neighbor doesn't have a dog).

One afternoon she stopped Hodge and me on the street and accused him of coming out of the house one afternoon and staring at her. Just standing in front of her and staring. Both of us just stood there holding hands and sort of shifting our weight. She finally got flustered and went back to her gardening.

We live for the most part pretty comfortably next to them, and have even sort of grown a little fond I think. When we first moved in we dubbed them the Lesbian Witch Sisters (not in front of them, obviously, and not in earnest). They have an incredible garden in the backyard. The schizophrenic and I have talked about cats a few times, and animals. She's bitched me out about our yard a few times (we're not exactly super-gardeners), but in general we're all right. There are days when she won't look up at you or say hello, but when she does she sometimes smiles really big.

Anyway, yesterday the working sister came over to the house and told Hodge that the police had taken her sister in for "evaluation," whatever that means. There had been a couple of cops over at the house, and she didn't want people to gossip about it so she was trying to let everyone on either side know.

The cops? Evaluation? What the hell? I know it's not my business, but it seems sort of fucked up that the cops can show up and escort a mentally ill woman who spends every waking moment in her own damn garden away. I don't understand what happened. But she's going to miss her crocuses, which are blossoming nicely. It just all feels wrong and sad.
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People in my family don't talk about my Uncle Donnie. He was the youngest of all Grandpa's brothers. He served in Vietnam. Then he came back, possibly shot a bunch of people (the story is fuzzy here), and killed himself in his garage (the story is decidedly less fuzzy on this point). My dad was about six.

When I was younger, the only way my dad would talk about him was in terms of cowardice. Only a fucking coward would do that. It was many years before I realized he didn't really believe it, but couldn't bring himself to think of how hideously Donnie's loved ones, and his country, had failed him. My dad didn't want to have to claim Donnie as a victim of the war. But he was.

So on the way home, when I heard NPR's coverage on the problems GIs have had getting mental health help I had a hissy fit.

Welcome to the bullshit we sign these young men up for. Surprise, America, they come back damaged, and you refuse to give up the resources to help fix them.

What I don't understand is why people are surprised. "But, but, but, the military said they had services in place for people!" Fuck you. Fuck you, you ignorant, illiterate piece of shit. LEARN SOME FUCKING HISTORY before you send children across the ocean to suffer for something YOU HAVEN'T EVEN BOTHERED TO READ UP ON. The military doesn't give a shit about "mental health." "Mental health" problems are more or less regarded the same way my father once regarded Uncle Donnie, only without the broken heart. You are a coward if you can't handle it. This is not new. This is not a recent development. This is at very minimum one hundred years of social-military fucking history.
My cousin, when her schizophrenia symptoms started to bubble up, was told by the military health care system she'd have to "suck it up." They told. A schizophrenic. To suck it up. They didn't want to have to set her up with meds and therapy, so they solved the problem very rationally with good! Military! Discipline! Thank god this happened before wartime. Thank god she missed that boat. Now she just has to worry about raising a troubled son singlehanded while her husband dodges bombs in the desert (while also begging her military doctor for meds on a month-by-month basis). Well, that's a relief.

The people who didn't see this coming are the same people who (astonishingly) did not see social/political upheaval in Iraq as the logical result of us toppling their infrastructure. They're the same people who did not think, "Okay, so we take out Saddam, and then what?" back in 2002 when we were first discussing this miserable war. And now they're acting like they were misled by the stupid son of a bitch in the White House. Misled? No. Illiterate, ignorant, and unable to perform basic critical thinking skills? Sure. Don't tell me you felt like you were lied to. You should have spotted it. You should have thought about it.



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