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Silence Killed the Dinosaurs started out as a whim. It continued as a way to help me cope through the worst of my chronic fatigue syndrome. Now I would like it to be a little more.
I have been thinking about how to write this for a few weeks, and I have made a couple of false starts. It’s all been wrong.
So I’ll start by telling you this:
I have set up a Patreon page to support my writing and illustrating for Silence Killed the Dinosaurs.
For those who don’t know, Patreon is a crowdfunding site designed specially for creators who have a constant output (i.e., writing, art, comics, music, podcasts, etc.). Instead of a big one-off fund-raising goal, patrons opt to pledge a smaller amount (as little as a $1) each month.
Don’t worry, Silence Killed the Dinosaurs will remain free to anyone who wishes to see it.
But if you like my work and think it’s worth a couple of dollars every now and then, please consider becoming my patron. There are some cool extras and rewards available for those of you who do.
If you don’t want to (or can’t afford to) support me that way but would still like to help out, please consider sharing my work around on social media and telling friends about it. I would really appreciate it.
If you don’t want to do that either, we’re still cool. But maybe leave a comment and tell me the picture I did for my Patreon banner is totally kick-arse. Because it is. Go look at it. That thing took me ages to get right.
And now that has been said, I’ll tell you some news:
My chronic fatigue syndrome has improved.
I’m not better, but I am better than I was six months ago. I might improve more over the next six months. I might not. I don’t know.
I am still not well enough to drive, catch a bus or find employment. But I have more energy and fewer migraines. I can help around the house. And, more relevant for you, I can concentrate better and for longer, meaning I can write and draw more.
Maybe I’ll never be well enough work as a librarian like I had planned and studied for before I got sick. But there’s more to me than my university degree and plenty of other things out there. Maybe I could be a professional writer/illustrator.
Which brings me to something else that I want to say but could never get the lead up right (and still can’t):
All this—Silence Killed the Dinosaurs, you guys—saved me.
Maybe that’s a soppy, silly thing to say on the internet, but I don’t care. It’s true. Probably you didn’t mean to. Probably you didn’t even notice. It’s still true. You saved me and it means everything.
I was so sick that I barely left the house. I ached all over all the time. I was too tired to think. On bad days I spent the entire day lying down. On really bad days I would not eat food or drink water until my partner returned from work in the evening because I was unable to stand and go to the kitchen.
But I wrote and I drew. Not always a lot. Not always well. Not at all on bad days. But I never stopped, even when it felt hopeless.
And you guys.
I little while back I wrote about the awkward conversations I have about not ‘doing’ anything. It was written to be entertaining, and I like to think it was, but it didn’t come from an entertaining place. Chronic fatigue syndrome had been getting me down. I felt like I was achieving nothing and that I was worthless.
But then I got heaps of comments from you guys telling me that of course I do something—I do this.
The idea needed some time to simmer. It didn’t just tip me into a new way of thinking and a new way of doing things, but I thought about it a lot over the last couple of months. And then when I visited New Zealand I filled out my occupation on those customs cards. You do two; one for the country you leave before you get on the plane and another for the country you are going to while you are on the plane. Somewhere in the air things clicked into place. I left Australia unemployed, but I arrived in New Zealand a writer.
Putting it down in words like that was weirdly hard to do—especially as there weren’t enough little boxes to fit /illustrator—but I was brave and I did it.
I consider my life saved.
And now I’m going to go do some scary things with it, like putting my work out there and finding new ways to challenge myself creatively. Please hang around while I do it. We’ll tell jokes and I’ll draw dinosaurs. It’ll be fun, I promise.
The last thing I wanted to say was just this:
Comic-me (awkward mid-sentence tangent that shouldn’t be happening two hyphenated words into the story: I have decided to refer to my drawn-self as ‘comic-me’ rather than ‘cartoon-me’ because it can be misread as I am comic, i.e. amusing, and I’m okay with that) is getting a makeover.
You know the classic high school movie makeover scene? That’s the scene where a designated cool-person exchanges a nerd-girl’s glasses for contacts (or just takes them away and leaves the poor nerd-girl to walk into things and get reading-headaches) magically transforming the nerd-girl into a cool-person worthy of having friends and being treated like a human being.
Well, I wear glasses now, so we’re about to do the reverse.
Reverse implies I start cool, put on glasses and get nerdy. In reality I start kind of nerdy, put on glasses and then I stay the same level of nerdy with the same personality and the same questionable social skills, but I feel a bit happier with how I look.
(Which is how successful makeovers work in the real world. I hope all you high-school-movie-screen-writers out there are paying attention.)
Here we go!
I need the glasses because I have moderate astigmatism. My left eye is almost okay, but my right eye isn’t. My right eye is that awful group-project partner you always end up with for university assignments who doesn’t do much, gets in the way, drags down your grade, ends up passing because of all your hard work and is the subject of your pencil-stabbing fantasies for the rest of the semester.
Annoyed is the wrong word.
Wearing my old glasses slots in on my list of everyday things I have an unreasonably intense dislike of just above the term ‘happy snaps’ and a little below folding fitted sheets. There must be some narrow-frame perks that I can’t see (/joke. Get it?) because some people seem to like them. But I would rather not wear glasses at all than wear my old glasses with the narrow frames.
And in fact this is what I did for years. I just didn’t wear them, except for reading. It was a surprisingly successful solution. It even saved me money on blu-rays and granted me immunity from getting carried away about otherwise mediocre video games with awesome graphics.
But sometimes you catch yourself wondering what pores look like.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise the answer was to just get different glasses. I worked it out a couple of months ago and immediately went out and picked out the biggest frames I could find in the shop.
And I thought it was time to make the relationship comic-official.
I’m glad that palaeontologists decided to go with Brontosaurus in 2015. Apatosaurus just isn’t long term relationship material.
P.S. When this hit the focus groups (i.e., when I came up with the idea at 2am and woke up my partner by giggling uncontrollably and generally making a lot of noise and fuss for 2am so that he would ask what I was doing) it became apparent that not everyone just casually knows that “Brontosaurus” means “Thunder Lizard”. It does.
P.P.S Apatosaurus means “Deceptive Lizard”. Just saying.
My apology comes on two fronts. First, I’m sorry to people who ask me this question.
You don’t really know me and you’re trying to maintain conversation through the inevitable lull. You pull out the old faithful “so, what do you do?” expecting a good fifteen minutes where you can just coast on me nattering about how being a vet or a lawyer or a real estate agent or whatever is just great and is really taking off for me right now and blah blah blah. You probably feel a bit good about yourself for offering me a hefty turn in the conversational spotlight.
But it doesn’t go that way. Because I’m not a vet or a lawyer or a real estate agent. I’m not even a whatever.
And even if you have the guts (and I love these people, please have the guts) to keep the conversational ball rolling without changing the subject or jumping out the nearest window (and even though I don’t love the people who do this, I can sympathise), it doesn’t get any better.
Because I end up sad-bombing the conversation.
Second, I am sorry for asking that question.
Because I know it’s bad. And I can see it in a person’s face when that was the wrong question. They go very still while they mentally navigate the minefield ahead, looking for the best route, or they give me this quick, sad look like I’ve betrayed them in some unforgivable way. It’s the same look our pet Jack Russel gave us whenever we filled the plastic baby’s bath and got out the dog-shampoo.
Maybe because they are worried that I won’t think what they do is good enough. Maybe they think they should be doing more. Maybe they just don’t want to sad-bomb me.
And I always want to fix it.
But I just met the person, or don’t know them very well, and maybe if I was a charismatic extravert I could go back on it, derail that train I just set in motion. But I can’t. I don’t know how. I ride it to the end of the line because I’m an introvert with social anxiety disorder and terrible at small talk.
So I’m sorry.
But I think the world would be better and people would be happier if “so, what’s your favourite dinosaur?” was an acceptable conversation starter, and “so, what do you do?” wasn’t.
Lately my depression has been close to the surface. It whispers things to me and manipulates me. It tries to make me believe that I am worthless. I want to write about it properly, but everything I put down seems wrong, and I end up in tangles.
To have it swoop in and steal the words off the tip of my tongue makes me feel powerless. Loss of voice—silence—is a big deal for me. When I was a child my social anxiety was so strong that I often felt physically unable to speak in front people I didn’t already know well and feel comfortable with. So even if I can’t yet find a way to talk through it properly, I would like to put something about it up here.
I have a Gryffindor notebook that my sister bought me from Harry Potter World which I like to scribble in. With the help of my lovely assistant and trusty stead—doesn’t she look gorgeous in that silver dress?—I would like to show you my most recent scribble.
As you can see, some fairly standard depression imagery going on there. Darkness pouring down.
I didn’t have any words of my own to describe it or to cope with it, so I borrowed some. We live in a big, connected world, and chances are someone else has just what you need. This is humanity’s great advantage. We communicate.
So there are words, and if you can remember it when your brain has gone dark, it helps.
The Bloggess (hilarious, big-hearted, giant-metal-chicken-owning internet rockstar) says ‘depression lies’, and she’s right. It lies. It lies and it lies and it lies until all you’ve got are the lies and you can’t tell anymore which way is up.
So I’m trying to hold on to the knowledge that depression lies, and using that as my compass, the pictures turns around … Lovely assistant, if you would be so kind.
The page is still half-covered. The light and dark are in exactly the same proportions as before; it’s not gone. But now the warm parchment colour is on top, and I am anchored.
“Where have you been these last few months? We’ve been suffering without regular posts filled with your sparkling wit and hilarious cartoons!”
I know. I know, guys. I’m so sorry for abandoning you to several dull, me-less months. But I’ve had stuff on.
“What important stuff could someone who has chronic fatigue syndrome, who barely leaves the house, who doesn’t have a job and who continually tells us she’s terrified of her social life possibly have on?” I hear you say. “I mean, you’re actually inventing a conversation with imaginary fans you don’t really have. Surely, that’s rock bottom.”
… All true, but too harsh, guys.
“Oh … We’re sorry.”
Don’t worry about it. Let’s just say we’ve found the line and we’ll try not to cross it again.
What stuff have I had on? Well, a couple of weeks ago I proposed to my partner.
I wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure story about my partner arriving home to find me gone. The first page was clipped to the front door for him to find, and then he had to make choices which would lead him to other pages. I organised a number of perils for him to face, including dinosaurs, the Loch Ness Monster, a severed arm, a Furby* and a ballerina zombie. All pathways of the story converged on finding me and the last page, which had the final decision of the story: “Will you marry me?”
I know. SO ROMANTIC. Who wouldn’t want to marry me after having their hand imaginarily bitten off by the spinosaurus that was hiding in the fridge? I should write romance novels. He said yes. Everything was downright magical for about a day until people started asking what our wedding plans were, and then I came to an awful realisation.
I don’t like weddings.
Oh, marriage I’m ok with. Sure, it’s not for everyone, but I think it can nice if you and your partner have an equal, supportive relationship. (In fact, I like the idea so much that I think more people should be able to get married; can I get a hell yeah for achieving marriage equality in Australia by the end of 2015?)
There’s so much stuff in weddings that people think they need because that’s just how weddings are, but all you actually need to achieve with a wedding is a) get married, and optionally, b) celebrate with family and friends. Everything else is frosting. Which is fine if you like frosting (and are rich enough to pay for it), but we don’t (and aren’t).
We want cake and celebration. We don’t want fuss and glitz, and under no circumstances will I be put on speaker-phone. But ultimately as long we’re married by the end of it I think we’ll call it a win.
* If you don’t know what a Furby is, then you can read what Wikipedia has to say about them, but I find their account unsatisfactory as it completely ignores the saccharine, demonic horror of the toys. Think Funzo from the Simpsons.