Tag Archives: blood-splatter-tastic

Of Chronic Illness and Unicorns

Life is like riding on a magical flying unicorn.

Getting a chronic illness is like that unicorn getting a puncture or losing an engine or something.

Okay, that didn’t make a lot of sense.

I originally devised this analogy with a hot air balloon, but then I thought about how fun it would be to draw unicorns with rainbows and stars and stuff, and I had a long and sensible think about how important it was to me to be clear so my audience would understand me which, in hindsight, wasn’t all that long and sensible, and now I’m finding that the unicorn is far too square to be hammered through this round hole, and what I’m trying to say is that this whole analogy is going down.

But that’s kind of the point.

When you get a chronic illness, your life becomes a nonsensical descending unicorn and the only way to keep it in the air is to carve off big heavy chucks of yourself and throw them away.

If you’re not too ill, you might be able to keep your career afloat, but only if you throw out half your social life and all your hobbies. Or perhaps you choose to throw out half your job; you work part-time but you keep on top of your groceries and housework and you get to see your friends just as often as before.

But if you’re very ill, if doctors slap adjectives like “severe” on whatever it is you have, your unicorn might not be able to carry much at all.

I threw out a job. I threw out study. But it kept getting worse. The unicorn got shot—

—so I rarely left the house, but then it caught fire—

—and I gave up all housework.

For two years, I had the adjective “severe” and a very unhappy unicorn.

I still had my partner. He supported us financially, did all the housework, and helped me when I was sick. But we no longer had a normal twentysomethings relationship. Our friends were taking each other out to bars, having cheeky shower sex, taking selfies while skydiving, bathing in smashed avocado, and firebombing napkin factories. (Or something. Being housebound leaves you a bit out of touch, so I had to extrapolate from sitcoms, social media and inter-generational war opinion pieces). We were different. My partner held my hand in waiting rooms and only slipped into my shower to stop me collapsing in the heat.

People told us how surprised they were that he didn’t leave me and how wonderful he was for staying.

(He is, of course, wonderful).

Because I was such a burden.

The guilt was worse than my illness. Which—to clarify for anyone who hasn’t been so physically destroyed that they’ve spent an entire day perfectly still, not able to move to get food, water, visit the bathroom, text anyone for help, or turn on Netflix—is really saying something.

I apologised to my partner non-stop. Every time he did a chore, got back from work, or paid a bill I hadn’t contributed to, I told him how sorry I was.

But it wasn’t enough. It didn’t soothe the guilt.

I started apologising for no reason, just because I suddenly remembered my broken body, just because he comforted me, just because I still existed. I woke him in the stupid hours of the morning to beg forgiveness. If I had been capable of leaving the house, I would have followed him all day, popping up in a flurry of ImsosorryImsosorrys during bathroom breaks and conference calls. And actually I have a phone and am resourceful enough to achieve a similar effect while lying half-dead on the couch at home.

In short, I was overwhelmingly annoying.

He sat down to talk to me about it.

I could see he wanted to reassure me, and I saw the whole conversation play out in my head. He would say all the nice things I’d heard before, that we were getting by without me working, that it was only a little more housework than he would do if he was living alone, that it wasn’t a problem to schedule his day around my doctor’s appointments. And, ace in the hole, none of this awfulness was my fault anyway.

And I knew that I would pull a face and nod and say okay, but not really be convinced.

Because I would know, deep down, that he would only say all this because when you care about someone you don’t want them to feel like they’re weighing you down. (Even if they are). And maybe because, if you really care, you think it’s worth carrying their associated awfulness.

But the conversation didn’t go like that.

He told me that I make him laugh every day. He told me I am fun. Even when I am housebound. Even when I have to lie perfectly still and can only communicate through facial expressions. He told me I make space for him to be himself. He told me he likes to hear what I have to say about things, and that I make him look at the world differently. He told me that he wants to be around me.

Instead of denying I was a burden, he told me I was carrying him too.

It was special and wonderful and surprising. A big heap of surprising. A fully-functional-unicorn-load of surprising.

I hadn’t realised I had all those things on my unicorn. Right up until then, I believed that if my ability to earn money and do other useful labour fell and smashed into a million pieces, there wouldn’t be anything worthwhile left of me.

But now maybe I do.

Sometimes. Almost.

At least I try to believe it, which doesn’t mean I succeed all the time, but I’m getting better with practice.

And I think that there are a lot of people like me out there who have papered over their self-worth with jobs and projects and busy-ness, telling themselves it’s all integral to who they are.

It’s not.

Nothing is secure. Not your job, not your body, not your abilities.

But you don’t need any of it to be someone.

I am no longer plagued by the adjective “severe”. It took time, but now I can look after myself, prepare food, leave the house and work from home. Commuting is tricky, and I need lots of breaks and sick days, but that’s still a lot of easy reasons to value myself. Sometime I even forget I’m sick, but I always try as hard as I can to remember what I am underneath.

Because I like a challenge. Because while it’s great my partner likes me, it’s my opinion that matters. Because the future isn’t guaranteed.

Because a magical unicorn isn’t going to do it for me.

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One of the illustrations from this story, Analogy Unicorn, is available in my store now!

If you love my stories and comics, check out my Patreon page. You can support my work and get unique rewards!

And don’t forget you can follow me for updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest.

How to View Your Own Work (tips for creators)

 

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If you love my stories and comics, check out my Patreon page. You can support my work and get unique rewards!

And don’t forget you can follow me for updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I now also have Google+ and Pinterest, but am not great at using them. If you’re on either, maybe chuck me a pity follow.

How to Get a Cat: An Illustrated Guide

For the last couple of years, I have sat at home all day alone.

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Chronic illness can do that to you. It hasn’t been too bad, really. I don’t live alone, so I have company for non-working hours, and some wonderful friends and family members visit and take me out on my good days. A lot of people with my illness have it much worse.

But still.

Being alone wears you down.

(Even a super introvert with social anxiety disorder and occasional agoraphobic leanings, like me.)

So, easy solution, I got a cat.

We were renting and weren’t allowed pets, so it only required us to spend all our current and future money to find a house, sign over our souls and move, just before Christmas, the worst time of the year to do anything other than eat gingerbread. It was no trouble at all.

I like cats. I had a cat when I was growing up whom I loved to bits.

Although, actually, it was me who ended up in bits. That cat was a psychopath. When I was eight she invented a game where she would lurk outside the bathroom when she heard the shower. She would pick a natural bottleneck—a doorway, the hall—and wait for me to emerge, vulnerable, wrapped only in my towel.

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Sometimes that’s all she would do. Just watch me as I edged past her, staring with pouncing eyes, knowing I was nervous. Other times…

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Remembering this, I thought a great deal about the type of cat that would be best for us. And it turned out my partner and I had met a lot of other types of cat over the years that we didn’t think would suit.

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We didn’t want the kind of cat that hates people so much it lives on top of bookshelves whenever anyone is around.

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We didn’t want the type of cat that pretends to like you, but acts as though it will catch fire if you actually touch it.

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We didn’t want the type of cat that murders animals larger than itself in the dead of night, then eats their entrails. I know people who live with this type of cat, and since the Possum Incident, they haven’t been the same.

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Armed with a clear picture of what we didn’t want (literally, see cat types 1-3 above), we walked out of the shelter with the complete opposite. The most clingy, affectionate cat to ever exist.

He needs to be close to people, either sitting tucked under your chin or participating in whatever you are doing, at all times. For the few days after we took him home, he only stopped cuddling and kneading on my throat for eating or pooping (his eating or pooping, not mine).

He’s getting better at separation, but he can’t handle being left out of things. He follows me from room to room. He watches as I brush my teeth. He pounces on books and my computer so he can play with them too. When we do the dishes, he claims the rinse water as his personal paddling pool. Tiny, prickling claws are involved in every activity, and if you try to stop him, he climbs you with them.

It’s kind of like living with an affectionate cactus. Or wearing a scarf made of hedgehogs.

It’s very different to my previous experiences with cats. Showering with my old cat in the house was like starring in a B-grade slasher movie. My new cat turns showering into one of those romances that are supposed to be swoonworthy but are just super, super creepy. He won’t let me shut him out of the bathroom. He sits in front of the shower glass, sometimes with his face pressed up close, sometimes playing with the water droplets he sees running down my side of the glass that he can never catch. Sometimes, if he can paw the door open a crack, he jumps in.

(I let him in the first time because I thought it would teach him a Valuable Lesson about consequences and personal space. It didn’t. Now he thinks darting in and out under the sprinkling water is part of the game.)

As a human, that kind of thing gets you restraining orders. As a cat, it gets him whatever he wants.

He’s a whole new type of irritating cat.

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But I love him.

And I’m not alone.

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You can find four of the illustrations from this story in my store! The Floor is Made of Lava Cat, the No Touchies Cat, the Murder Cat, and the Extra Strength Co-dependent Cat.

If you love my stories and comics, check out my Patreon page. You can support my work and get unique rewards!

And don’t forget you can follow me for updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. (I recommend Instagram if you would like to see pictures of my cat playing the sink).

BIG NEWS

justmarried1Probably, anyway, because I made this in advance and scheduled it to appear at just the right time. But I’m sure I would have had a free minute with an internet connection to delete it if anything untoward occurred and messed everything up, so if you can see this, it’s safe to assume that I am now married, half-way through my third drink and up to my elbows in cake.

I will busy taking the hobbits to Isengard-gard-gar-gar-gar exploring New Zealand for a few weeks, but have scheduled some things so that you won’t miss me too much and …

… hang on.

justmarried2Wait. Not you guys. I’m sorry, but the big heart-frames weren’t for you.

justmarried3Stop it. You’re supposed to be the evil monsters.justmarried4Guys no.justmarried5GUYS NO.end broadcastNsfw difliculties

A Quest to Emergency: Follow Up

My partner loved what I wrote about his injury. He was delighted to find himself in a starring role in a blog-story and to have his ant-war cartoonised. But he quickly began to regret turning down my offer or re-writing the injury part with dragons. He didn’t make a big deal about it, but I could tell he felt he had missed his opportunity to be immortalised in a daring action-filled escapade.

I understood. Ants are just not as cool as dragons.

So I drew it for him as a surprise gift.

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This is what true love looks like.

A Quest to Emergency (Alternative Title: If this ever happens to me, I’m going to lie and say it was dragons)

Last week I got a call from my partner while he was at work.

“I’m okay, but I’ve had an accident!” he said.

My mind went straight to:

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The reality, I established after a few minutes of agitated conversation, was more like:

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He had dislocated his knee. He was waiting for the ambulance to arrive, and he stayed on the phone with me until the pain got so bad that he was having trouble not screaming. I told him not to worry, the paramedics would be there soon and I would find him at the hospital, and then he hung up.

I had no idea how I would get to the hospital.

It’s a good forty minute drive, and I am not well. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) not only keeps me physically and cognitively exhausted, but also smacks me down ten times as hard if I try to push past my (very pitiful) limits. It lets me build up a crippling energy debt, and then it comes to collect. As you can imagine, it makes it (at best) difficult or even (at worst) dangerous for me to drive. I had sold my car a few months earlier. Now I was stranded.

I was used to CFS making me feel helpless, but this time I only felt rage.

My partner was injured, and I wanted to be there. After the surgery I had a couple of years ago, he had been with me every moment he was allowed. For a week he paid exorbitant hospital parking fees, ate cheap food from nearby take-away places, napped in a chair in my room and only went home when I had gone to sleep. Now I couldn’t even pick him up from hospital.

I was vaguely aware that there must be a rational way to sort this all out without making myself sick. Perhaps one of his work colleagues who had stayed with him would take him home. I didn’t have to personally go in. But I did have to, because that’s what you do when the person you love is hurt.

I decided that CFS wasn’t having this one.

I pulled out my Zombie Apocalypse List of friends. You know the friends I’m talking about. These are the friends who, when you really need something, just say ‘okay’ and help you. Everyone needs at least one of these people to call when the zombie apocalypse starts.

So I called one of my Zombie Apocalypse List friends and explained that I needed him to drop everything and drive me to the other side of the city and back because my partner had a non-life-threatening injury. I said that I really needed this.

He said, ‘Okay.’

Twenty minutes later we were on our way. I spent the whole trip monologing about the insanity of the cheap romance novel I am in the process of disemboweling to make paper roses for my upcoming wedding.

Just to clarify, I do not intend that as a generalisation of the entire romance genre. But this specific book was arrest-level crazy. Someone needed to sit those characters (and probably the author) down and have a serious talk with them about a) making life decisions, b) contraceptives and c) consent. There wasn’t actual rape, but there was rapey kissing, where one character forcibly kissed another who was saying ‘NO’ loudly and fighting to get away. The author seemed to think this was romantic, but it made me throw up a little bit in my mouth. Needless to say this scene is not making it to my wedding, even reincarnated as a paper rose.

My Zombie Apocalypse List friend listened calmly, understanding both the ick-factor involved in rapey kissing and that being tangential is just how I dispel nervous energy. I was very impressed and upgraded him to my Help, I Need to Bury a Body List. When I later told him this, he said that he could not in good conscience help me bury a body when a bathtub full of lye would do a much better job of removing physical evidence.

Duly noted.

We got to the hospital and promptly got lost. This was unfortunate because at this point I was definitely down to borrowed energy. We wandered around while I, using my health as collateral, built up a bigger and bigger energy debt. This meant that at the time I could push through, but the next afternoon I couldn’t move from the couch. I was so exhausted that standing up made me want to cry. Usually my loving, caring partner would do what he could to help me, but this time he was stuck on the same couch recovering from a dislocated knee. It’s a miracle we didn’t starve to death.

Maybe my CFS had a bit of a chuckle about all this. Maybe it even thinks it won this round. But you know what, CFS?

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In the end we found the emergency department (it was the big, red part of the building with lots of ambulances parked in front of it that we had already walked past several times) just as my partner, mellow from pain-killers, was given the all-clear and turfed out of his wheelie-bed.

We finally heard his story in full.

Apparently he was lying on the ground to examine some cables.

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He rolled over to get up, but his foot got caught on something.

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The rolling action popped his knee out.

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He waited half an hour for an ambulance (dislocated knees are not a high priority). He quickly realised that all this had occurred on top of an ant nest.

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But he couldn’t relocate because it hurt too much to move, so he engaged in a vicious war with the ants in which his only weapon was his bum.

…which he used to crush the ants. Not gas them or mesmerise them with a sexy dance or whatever else popped into your mind.

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See? Crushing them.

If you judge a war by its casualties, then he won. Hundreds of dead ants were later shaken from his pants. But if you judge it by any other means—such as who ends up with the land or dignity (or both) that was in dispute—then he lost.

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It’s a truly terrible injury story. I offered to improve it with a car chase and some dragons, but he seems happy with his ants.

My First Near Death Experience

I’ve been so bored. Thanks to chronic fatigue I live on my couch reading books, knitting and feeling terrible that I cannot participate in life the way I used to. So I’ve decided I should write something, something that I might have fun with that has nothing to do with my couch or my illness.

I get blood noses a lot.

This is an excellent topic, because whenever I draw a picture with blood-splatters I become ridiculously giggly and gleeful. I’m hoping that when they read this my friends and family won’t find this information disturbing and will instead shake their heads and think of it fondly as just another of my little quirks.

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Please?

The blood nose issue was most pronounced when I was in school, although I had a stressful time in my first year of uni and ended up with a significant blood nose every day for about a month. One of those days my nose bleed lightly all day, and by ten o’clock at night I was light-headed and woozy and probably should have sought medical attention but didn’t (eighteen-year-olds are, of course, known for making sensible decisions regarding personal safety). During this month, every time I tried to practice clarinet for my performance exam my nose turned into the elevator scene from The Shining movie.

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Perhaps it was an omen. That exam did not go well.

It could be very handy in school, though, and I managed to escape a number of lessons with tissues clamped to my face. My exits were most spectacular from classrooms that had run out of tissues. One time, I cupped my hands under my nose and they filled up and ran over before the teacher managed to usher me out the door. And then all I would have to do was exaggerate the time it took to stop, and voila! I could miss whole Maths lessons. Thank you, nose.

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But it wasn’t all fun and games. My first blood nose was a horrifying experience. I was seven and, up until that day, I wasn’t aware that blood noses happened. The teacher sent me to the first aid room where I was instructed to clamp tissues to my nose, and then I was left by myself to wait for it to finish.

It had nearly stopped when all hell broke loose. I felt something weird, warm and large in my nose. It came out into the tissue, a lumpy bloody mess.

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I panicked.

I knew what it must be. It was one of my internal organs. What else could it be? It was a slimy red lump and it came out from the inside of my body. Of course it was an organ. I was pretty sure it wasn’t my heart, but maybe it was my liver or a lung.

(Okay, so I clearly wasn’t the sharpest child. Most of my childhood felt dreamlike and drifting, because I didn’t understand most of what was happening around me and had worryingly little inclination to figure it out. At the time of my first blood nose, I only had a vague understanding that people were made up of tubes and wobbly-bits, and probably no awareness at all before that day that I might be made up of tubes and wobbly-bits. All things considered, I did a pretty good job of deducing that it wasn’t my heart. Seven-year-old me should get some credit for that.)

I sat for a minute, staring at it, and waited to drop dead.

But I didn’t die. I was pleased, but mostly confused. Although unaware of the actual probabilities of expelling my liver out of my nostrils, I was fairly confident that a person couldn’t expect to stay alive for long if it happened.

I began to worry about what adults would say when they returned to find me holding my liver in a bloody tissue in my hands. What if they said that having your liver drop out of your nose was always one hundred per cent fatal? I didn’t want to have to die to fit with the facts.

Surely if no one ever found out that I should be dead then I would be fine.

So I threw the damning tissue in the bin in the corner of the first aid room. But I was still worried that when someone emptied the bin they would find it and know. I was convinced that the minute my liver- or lung-less state was discovered I would drop dead. I half-emptied a tissue box into the bin on top of it, making sure it was covered.

And then I went back to class and never told anyone about any of it.

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For years (yes, years) I was plagued by the uneasy memory of the internal organ that fell out. I often wondered which one it was and in what ways its loss was affecting my health.

And then one day I found out that blood noses sometimes make big, wobbly blood clots in your nostrils. I was almost disappointed.