How fandom loves: Let’s be weird together

The weirdness in me honors the weirdness in you - Supernatural fandom

{Author’s Note: This post expands on something I said at an Ad Astra panel that I felt needed to be shared. There’s so much grossness out there regarding mental health and fandom, separately and together; I figured we could use a little love. Enjoy, comment, share. Mwah.}

From the outside, fandom can look stupid and awful. It can look like a gaggle of overweight, undermatured collectors who read too many comics in their mom’s basements. It can look like codependent interneters with nothing better to do than whine about their depression. It can look like oversensitive idealists attacking the “real world”’s views of gender, sex, race, and ability. A misanthropic mess of squabbling, nitpicking, ignorant children. It can look like a lot of things. not many of them good.

But from the inside, the view is remarkably different.

First, we first fell in love with a story. Before we Tumbled, cosplayed, or fanficced—maybe even before we shipped—we saw something beautiful on the screen or on the page, and we absorbed it into the fabric of our being. Not long after, a little voice inside whispered, “You are not alone.” And because we were outsiders, treated as less-than, othered, marginalized, we didn’t believe it, but we kept watching and reading and crying and laughing and soon we wanted to believe it. We needed to share our love of the story. That’s when we took those first tentative baby steps into the world of fandom. We sought out places where others gathered, unsure if we belonged, clutching our dearest plush to our emblazoned T-shirts, eyes widening at the wonderous temples that have been built to the stories that showed us who we are.

And then we fell in love again.

As we started goobing out with other story lovers, we got to know each other. Over time, we discovered that the thing(s) that make(s) us weird, awkward, different, broken, flawed out there were not only common in here, but normal. They had them, too. We were shocked to be seen and welcomed, heard and validated. To realize these people cared about us because, between the stories and the struggles, we’re the same. People who love us.

Our people.

This is the special beauty of fandom. It’s an understanding that connects us in ways we may never experience outside the community. It creates an organic support structure—a way to help without pretense. If you struggle with hyperfocus that makes you forget to eat, and I struggle with anorexia, we can have lunch and swap theories about Neville being the Chosen One. If I’m lost in depression, you can come watch Guardians of the Galaxy with me so I feel loved without having to talk. We’re afforded endless opportunities to see and support because we have this framework of storylove around us.

No, the fandom community isn’t perfect, and yes, there are problems. But that’s true for any group. What makes fandom so precious is that, even when it’s tense and feelings are hurt, the core of our relationship is always the love of a story. We’re on the same team.

We’re fans. Fandom is about love—for our stories and for each other. As long as we remember that, no power in the ‘verse can stop us.

Limited back of the month - fandom crossover - slippedstitchstudios

The problem is not NaNoWriMo; it’s your attitude about NaNoWriMo that’s the problem

I want to tell you guys a secret. Ready?

The point of NaNoWriMo is not to win.

*waits for gasping to stop*

The point is to use this time/goal boundary set to create a writing habit and get the ball rolling to build momentum for doing the larger work. It’s not going to make you a bestseller. It’s not even going to make you a great writer. What 50,000 words in 30 days is is a big chunk of motivation, inspiration, and “see, you can do this” to get you to write the rest of the book. It’s learning to treat writing as work instead of magic. It’s testing your strengths and finding your weaknesses as a writer. It’s challenging your preconceived ideas about what you’re capable of. It’s proving to you that words on a page – no matter how shitty – are better than words in your head.

“Winning” and “losing” NaNo isn’t about your wordcount. It’s about your attitude.

You win when you understand your writer-self better. You win by writing something you can use, something you’re proud of, something that means something to you. You win by claiming the label of “writer” for yourself. You win by rising to a new level of creativity and worksmanship. You win by writing.

The only way you lose is if you let fear win – if you stop writing.



Evicting the demons: Self-harm, self-awareness, and self-advocation

To write love on her arms by princezzhana-d32y5s9 via Deviant Art

I just got off the phone with my doctor who told me to stop taking my hormonal birth control immediately after I confessed to her the explosive rage and frequent self-harm compulsion I’ve been having over the last week.  I’d been off the pill for eight months due to my surgery but had to go back on it to control my endometriosis, a mass of cells the size of an almond squatting on my ovary and causing shooting pain.  The high levels of estrogen I’d been on in the previous year made it practically disappear, but after being hormone-free for so long, it’d grown back, so back I went.

I wasn’t prepared for the hurricane of side effects.

Conditions I’d assumed were “normal” for me after taking the pill for over twelve years suddenly reared their heads as massive problems.  I gained 15 pounds.  Couldn’t get enough sleep.  Felt alternately deadened and hyper-sensitive.  Broke out like a teenager.  Totally lost interest in sex.  In the people I love.  In my heart’s work.  But those seemed dealable.  I suspected my lowered, darkened mood and weird physical issues of the last month were linked to the influx of hormones, but I didn’t realize how profoundly it impacted me until this week.

The thing that made me pick up the phone, what told me something was fucked the fuck up was/is the intense, almost seductive desire to plunge a pencil into the soft flesh of my inner wrist and drag it up to the elbow.  To shear the excess fat from my middle with kitchen scissors.  To punish my body for my spirit’s weakness without regard to the pain – perhaps because of the pain.  The need to hurt myself ripped through me like a hurricane for a day, for two, for three.

That scared me into asking for help.

This morning, I gave voice to my 99%-certain conviction that the birth control was doing these evil things to me.  And fortunately, my doctors (all of them), agree.

With the immediate cessation of the pill, things will get easier/better soon.  The demons will back down and let me retake control of my ship.  It’s just a matter of time, patience, awareness, and self-care in the meanwhile.

There’s no need to be too concerned for my safety, my loves.  I promise.  One of the things I’ve discovered in the crucible of depression is that I’m too big a coward to actually follow through on any of those fantasies.  My sense of self-preservation is mercifully still greater than my self-loathing.

Before I go, I just want to say this:  I’m only one story, ongoing and, in many ways, fortunate.  I know many of you out there fight this self-harm battle.  I know that talking about it is difficult because there aren’t words to describe the fury and shame.  I know that it’s not always as easy to dispose of as throwing out some pills.  I know advocating for yourself can be harder than picking up the razor.

But you can do it.  And you don’t have to do it alone.  Talk to someone who understands.  Reach out when you think it’s impossible.

You have your own fights to win.  You are the hero of your own story, and you are stronger than the compulsion that haunts you.