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[icon] 2017 in review: We thrive at the end of the world - A Kjorteo draws near!
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Subject:2017 in review: We thrive at the end of the world
Time:08:25 pm
(Subtitle is a lyric taken from a song from an upcoming album I'm working on. Details within.)

The year is drawing to a close, and that's... good? I think? There were a lot of ups and downs, but the world is kind of still in the middle of a major storm right now, and I'm okay with being one year closer to everything hopefully passing. Still, I had some great times, some major accomplishments, and some lovely memories with all of you in spite of it all.

In Last year's post, I set it up to name Epitaph the official theme song for that entry, in hopes that this year would be Searching For Friends. Looking back on this year, I think that's about right.

There were a lot of downs this year, both with the world and with my own head, and I suppose we have to start there. I don't really want to dwell on these things, but they happened and they have to be addressed. You don't have to read this part. It's dark and full of not-fun geopolitical and mental health stuff. Trigger warning for suicide mentions. Ctrl-F for "It is now safe to start reading again" if you want to skip; I understand.

Still with me? You brave souls. I'm so sorry.

Yes, 2017 was a complete garbage fire on the world news front, as expected. Our government is working on so many different needlessly and cartoonishly evil schemes to ruin everything that even Captain Planet villains are like "Whoa now, this is kind of unrealistic. Maybe you should, like, at least have a reason to legally require all puppies to be kicked? What even is your motivation in this scene I mean come on."

My quip of the year came at at a doctor's appointment, when the doctor was filling out the referral paperwork and briefly got confused by dates.
"Let's see... it's still 2017, right?"
"Unfortunately."

Oh, right, doctors. See, the funny thing about being on HRT is you basically get to go through puberty again, in that the mind and body alike are changing, reacting, and growing in new ways in response to the changes in the system. I warned you all that I was quite literally hormonal, and had no way of predicting what that would entail. To be honest, I was expecting a return of my previously-really-bad temper and hostility issues, because my last puberty turned me into a grouchy little shit. Maybe that was the testosterone, though. I definitely got a reaction this time, but it wasn't that.

Well, okay, I have had my moments, but I at least don't think I've gone full on Katie Kaboom. (If I have, please tell me. I was that person before. I never want to be that person again. I need to be warned when I'm going down that path.)

Instead, the combination of Puberty II: But With Estrogen This Time + it still being 2017 = onset of sudden and severe anxiety issues. Some of you who have known me long enough might have been around for the LiveJournal post I made on election night last year. That, as you probably could expect even if you weren't there, was not a fun night. It turns out in hindsight that what I was experiencing--the intense nausea, the fitful mixture of exhaustion and restlessness, such that I couldn't sleep in my own bed after hours of trying but passed out on the floor shortly after getting up, the feeling like I had a cold for like a week afterward--that was a panic attack. I hadn't had one of those before, so I never knew. It turns out they're not very fun.

Now, having had a panic attack on that particular election night is not a sign of an anxiety disorder. That's... pretty normal for a lot of people, actually. No, the troubling part was when I kept having them. I mistook the second one for food poisoning, because there wasn't any election-night-level external doom and because of the nausea. (Something on the news about North Korea, I guess? But I mean there's always bad and scary news, and it never used to affect me this strongly.) By the third attack, I knew something was wrong. So I went in to get treatment, which involved lots of therapy.

I'm better now, in that I don't get the actual full-blown nausea-and-passing-out-on-the-floor panic attacks anymore. This is great news, especially considering that I'd get stomach cramps and feel like I was coming down from an illness for like a week after every time I had one. If that was just my life now, that... probably would have raised "is this even worth it"-style quality of life concerns, eventually.

(That's what happened to Kurt Cobain, you know. He had scoliosis, and his stance/posture from playing his guitar left-handed exacerbated that and led to a pinched nerve, which led to chronic debilitating stomach pain. He turned to heroin and then to a shotgun not because he was a hard-partying rock star, or even a fucked-in-the-head rock star, but because every day was sheer physical stomach agony and he just wanted it to stop.)

For the record, I have no plans to end my life or anything, and I didn't even at the height of all of this. Still, let's just say I at least understood where Cobain was coming from for a second, there, and I was starting to get worried.

But nope, we're good.

Speaking of getting worried, though, "not getting actual panic attacks anymore" doesn't mean I don't still get anxious. I still get scared. The problem at this point is that I've kind of forgotten how to handle the fear, you know? Stress happens, even to normal people. People without anxiety issues get anxiety, too. But that's just a mood to them. With me, anything less than 100% calm leads to "oh God please don't tell me the anxiety is back" concern. Once I had a few panic attacks, there were alarm bells in my head every time my brain so much as looked in the general direction of being worried about anything. This, of course, makes the anxiety worse the more I'm anxious it will get worse, in a lovely self-fulfilling feedback loop. They say there's nothing to fear but fear itself, but it turns out that fear itself is pretty traumatizing.

And, again, it's 2017, where even normal people have a lot to be concerned about. This year has been a workout for every defense mechanism I learned in therapy, let's just say that.

I once told a friend of mine the following in IM:

Celine Kalante, [18.06.17 14:07]
There's going to be a day where I look back on the years we're in now like "God damn, it was tough but we pulled through. We really can survive anything, huh."


Later on, when I was having a far worse day and everything was terrible, I told that same friend this:

Celine Kalante, [20.06.17 20:30]
I don't know how long things are going to keep being this awful, plus my issues at the same time, which is like the best timing in the word to have them I swear and just.. blurgh. ANYWAY. Point is, I don't know how long it will be until things get better. Maybe two years, maybe four, maybe eight or more if we're unlucky but... I think... God, it's so easy to fall into despair but I *think* this will pass someday.

Celine Kalante, [20.06.17 20:31]
And when it does....

Celine Kalante, [20.06.17 20:33]
... I know me. And I know how I get when I'm like this. I am a self-deprecating despair machine. I'm not... I'm not capable of thinking I'm strong enough to survive the apocalypse. I think life will go on and eventually I'll make it to the point where things get better because what's the alternative, suicide? Nah, no I'm good. ... But I won't be able to process it as "Wow, I got through that. I must be strong." I'll try to downplay it, even find a way to spin it into a negative. Well clearly if I'm here and I'm okay then it must not have been that bad _and_ I must have just been whiny and overreacting about it the whole time since it clearly wasn't that bad. That's what I'm going to try to do, I know it.

Celine Kalante, [20.06.17 20:33]
... Please don't let me.


Fast forward to today, and... sure enough, things are still very very bad but maybe not quite to the extent I was making out here? It feels like I was having a bad day and being perhaps a touch melodramatic about the whole thing. But I did totally call that that was how future me was going to look back on that moment, so... I don't know. Past me wanted that plea to survive beyond my present "well I'm feeling better now so clearly it must have been nothing" phase, so out of respect for my own wishes, I'll just leave that here, I guess.

(Also, this part is going to sound like a tacked-on postscript because it is. This just happened a couple days ago, as I was revising the final draft of this post, as one final Fuck You from 2017. It turns out my dad just got melanoma again. The good news is it's treatable, the doctors are on the case, and he's going to be aggressively monitored every other month or so from here on out. I have no doubt he's in good hands. Still, the fact that this isn't his first time, and that his first wasn't even that long ago, is... certainly not good news. So, uh, we'll see how that goes, I guess. I'm trying not to think about that too hard right now, though it's difficult not to.)

It is now safe to start reading again.

So, I've had some incentive to work on taking care of myself and my mental health this year. When I was still in therapy for the anxiety (welcome back, by the way,) one of the first things my therapist said was to get the fuck off Twitter, which I did. Apologies for all the [Microblogging] I've been doing over here, but believe me, it's better than how I was when I had to go to the SCREAM ZONE every time I wanted to post a quick little Pokemon GO screenshot.

I also dropped Tumblr while I was at it, and then LiveJournal had its whole thing, so Dreamwidth (and Weasyl) are now the last remaining places I currently post stuff online. On one hand, it's never a good feeling to abandon an entire social network and everyone you knew exclusively on that network, but on the other... nah, good riddance. Twitter and Tumblr especially were like having a daily Mental Health Worsener running in your home, the way one might have an air conditioner with poisons in the filter.

Thus, we arrive at one of the major themes of my 2017: self-improvement. Cutting out toxicity for the sake of my sanity is always a positive step, but I spent as much of the year as I could bettering myself in other ways as well.

The biggest news on that front, of course, is my transitioning. It almost doesn't feel like I have a lot to report because it's all been so gradual, but then I look back on where I was in my 2016 recap entry, and wow have I come a long way in one year.

This time last year, I was unsure if I wanted hormone therapy but was at least on Finasteride to stop balding from getting any worse while I thought about it. In 2017, I went ahead and got on full-blown HRT, changed my name to Celine Kalante Love _____ [I'd rather not post my RL last name on the internet], and gotten the ball rolling on getting that name legally changed. I've filed everything with the courts and the local paper, and my final hearing to sign off on it and make everything official is on January 3. I'm fully out, to friends, family, coworkers, everyone.

People call me "Celine" IRL now, which I'm still so strongly not used to that it admittedly gives me some second-guessing and cold feet sometimes, but... that's just nerves, I think. You know me. Coming out at work and to my immediate family only happened around Thanksgiving, so I'm still at the point where a lot of this feels new and scary. I do enjoy getting to wear prettier tops and let my hair down at work, though. <3

Everyone has been incredibly positive and supportive, including the people I was most worried about (family, coworkers and bosses, etc.) My parents have a Christmas tradition of addressing some of my gifts in character as if they were from our dogs, complete with poor spelling and backwards letters because they're dogs and writing is hard without opposable thumbs or human intelligence. This year, one of my presents looked like this:



Chile is a very old dog at this point, and probably on his way out. We thought for sure he had about two or three days to live when I was visiting for Thanksgiving, because he'd stopped eating at that point. Then he magically started again, and has made it at least this long thanks to that. Who knows with him at this point, but... let's just say there's a nonzero chance this was the last year I'll be getting presents from Chile. That realization mixed with being accepted as "sistr sileen" was overwhelming, and I came very close to crying right there in front of everyone.

I never would have made it this far if it weren't for your support, by the way. Not only did my very lovely and amazing friends help me through the worst of my anxiety, but they also cheered me on as I was going through all these physical and social changes, comforted me when I was down, and just... everything. I could not ask for a better support group.

I could have called this a year of self-improvement just from focusing on my mental health and transitioning alone, but I've also been trying to learn skills. There's an article I read once which... I'll be honest, there's quite a lot about the general tone I take exception to, which is why I'm not linking it, but the overall core point means well. (It's targeted at "how can I get women to like me" types and posits that the goal should instead be, "How can I become the kind of person that women like.") More importantly, it makes a very good case for learning a skill as a measurable means of self-improvement. Maybe you always thought it would be neat if you could draw, or play the guitar, or speak French, or whatever. Their suggestion is: do that. Take one year and focus on learning something proficiently enough to impress people with it. You get a nice self-esteem boost from being able to do that, and, hey, you can impress people.

In my case, I had two skills I've been wanting to pick up, and this was the year I got serious about both of them.

I'm currently sitting on a 358 day streak of learning Spanish in DuoLingo. It claims I'm 56% fluent so far, which... seems kind of low, honestly? I'd have guessed more like 40%, as far as how much of it I know when I see it in the wild. Still, I'm excited even for that much. It feels good to see one of the numerous Spanish-language signs around here and even have a chance of knowing what it says. I'm opening an entire world of communication, or at least I will be when I get further along.

I also started learning the keyboard with an app called Yousician, where I'm currently high level 6 on the Classical track and just-barely-started level 6 on the Pop track. The ultimate end goal is to be able to freestyle. I want to be able to have a tune in my head, know what the notes I'm imagining are, and play it on the piano without having to waste time hunting and discerning every note one at a time by trial and error. It would speed up my songwriting so much if I could do that. I still can't, but I haven't given up yet.

Yousician seems to be focusing more on the performance side so far. I'm learning speed, dexterity, and... let's be honest; memorizing all the exact hand positions and changes so I can perform this one specific particular song it wants me to do, before moving onto the next. I still can't read sheet music. (Yousician has an "enhanced view" option for playing which has utterly and irreparably spoiled me.) I definitely can't recognize my own compositions and freestyle them. If anything, it feels more like I've merely gotten good at Piano Hero (or at least specific songs in it) than learned the theory side.

Still, when you look at something like this (which is harder than it looks--note the occasional hand changes) and know that I did that, that's... I do feel good about that. Proud. So, much like the Spanish, I'll keep it up and I'm excited to see where it goes.

If that does make composing easier someday, I'm sure that would be an immense relief to [personal profile] davidn, who is patiently tolerating my current style as we work together on another album. Yes, that's another thing that happened this year; after beating PMD: Explorers and fawning over it after the fact, I was so inspired by that little feel trip that I'm now working on a concept album for it. All tracks and titles subject to change, a lot of these are tentative working titles or even "I don't actually have anything yet but there should be a song here called ___ about ___" placeholders, but so far it looks like this:

Album title: Beyond Time and Darkness

Tracks:
1) A Tale that Spans Time... [instrumental]
2) The Thief of Time
3) A Paralyzed World
4) So This Is the Sunrise
5) The Hidden Land
6) The Last Adventure
7) ...and Darkness [instrumental]
8) There's Still Time
9) Heart of the Wasteland
10) In the Future of Darkness

Don't hold your breath waiting for this; it's not coming out in 2018, or probably even 2019. My composing process is still very slow, and David is still working on Buried Souls. But it's coming someday, even if it's years down the line, and that's another thing I'm very excited about.

One thing that isn't coming along quite so much, or at least not as much in an immediately visible fashion, is my writing. I said in my recap writeup for last year that I'd started a short smut fic to blow off steam, then that grew into a massive project in its own right. Most of the early parts of the year went toward that.

This kind of multitasking is actually not bad news for writers, mind. The key for editing things is to put time and distance between passes. You'll never see all the glaring errors in something you just finished writing, but they become very obvious even in the morning, let alone weeks or months later. I spent most of the early parts of this year working on the other story, and I got as far as the rough draft and one complete editing pass. Now I'm ready to let that cool off while I go back to the novel again, having renewed my interest in it during the break.

Of course, by the end of the year, I needed to put just about all my writing on hold to work on my gameblogging awards nominations, final post, and now this year in review. These are all very long posts, as you have undoubtedly noticed.

Oh, well. More work on both of them next year! I'm no longer confident enough to make promises about either writing project being finished next year, but I will most assuredly work on them.

Still, it's worth being proud of what happened over here on Dreamwidth. For the record, this post you're reading right now is the 87th Dreamwidth post I made this year. In 2016... I wasn't on Dreamwidth properly then, but if you count the imported LiveJournal entries from my main and game blogs combined, you get... 6. Maybe just a bit of a difference, there?

I blame credit [personal profile] xyzzysqrl for starting a lot of this, but LiveJournal gets an assist for shooting itself in the foot at the same time Twitter and Tumblr toxicity reached uninhabitable levels, forcing the issue of everyone fleeing here. Then I stole Xyzzy's idea of posting book report-style entries for the games I've played and beaten/abandoned, then a couple other people stole that from me, and somehow we accidentally made a loud and active gameblogging community here.

My SoulSiliver Let's Play has been a runaway smash success, sometimes hitting 40 or more comments per post. Even my lesser entries attract more discussion than I would have expected. And, once again, that's all thanks to you. You post and comment and contribute, and thus, you are the reason I am so giddy with how much life there is in this site, something we really haven't experienced since LiveJournal was popular back in the mid-2000s.

That's why I bothered to put in the efforts for something like that massive awards post. Well, that and the personal triumph, as well. I will admit that even if no one else in the world read those, I still think they were worth doing for my own reference. I have essentially made a permanent positive reminder of what I've done this year, gamewise. If I ever start to wonder what was good about 2017, I need only look at the Rita category and remember that this was the year I got those games done. I need only to look at every other category and remember that this was the year I got to play and complete those. Even a hell year IRL was a hell of a year for all the characters I've met and stories I've experienced.

It was also a good year because you were in it. I know I'm drumming on this point a lot, but it is impossible to overstate just how grateful I am to have my friends and loved ones in my life. You people tended to me, and continue to tend to me, when I was suffering from anxiety and the fact that it's 2017. You supported me, and continue to support me, through my transitioning. You cheered me on, and continue to cheer me on, when I post updates to projects I'm working on even though God knows I have enough of them already. You brought, and continue to bring, my comments section to life.

This year was a geopolitical disaster but--somehow--it was a personal victory. Don't get me wrong; there's a storm out there. It's big and it's scary and it's dangerous. I'm scared, too. The damage and loss of life are catastrophic. Like you, I can only bunker down and brace myself until it passes.

But what a bunker we've created. I can't control the storm engulfing the rest of the world, but I can control the shelter we've made in our little corner of it, and there is no place I'd rather be. We have good friends and good company. We have a cozy fire and can snuggle for warmth. This year was a victory for the First Church of Bluebell, only I'd also like to add intimacy to that post's mention of humor as our survival tactics of choice. We hugged and loved our way through this year, and God only knows where I'd have been in the height of my anxiety without that.

That's why one of my major resolutions for next year is to keep clinging to that warm and open heart, and the belief that love will see us through this. Actually, a lot of my resolutions are some variant of "See that thing I've been doing? Keep doing that." Keep up with the Spanish and music lessons. Keep up with putting what I can away into savings, because you never know. Keep gameblogging, because it makes me feel better about my own accomplishments, and contributes to the community we've somehow built here. There's always room for improvement, of course. I need more sleep, I need to drop a few pounds, etc. But... I feel like I could be in a far worse position for most of the major goals.

Well, okay, there is one concrete goal I need to set and hold myself to and generally be better about: cleaning. I may be a packrat, but I've been living in what really does look like a midden for far too long. I believe I have a good idea for a system in place, to slowly turn my habitat from a tornado ground zero photo to something I'm not embarrassed to live in. If I can just pick up after whatever I brought in with me today, just so the mess doesn't get any worse, and then maybe do the tiniest bit of cleaning on top of that? Like, five minutes a day. One minute a day. Hell, if I pick up literally one old wrapper and put it in the trash, paired with controlling what I'm adding, then technically the place will be in a better state tonight than it was when I woke up this morning, and therefore I'm on the right track. Extrapolate that over time, and eventually things get clean?

That's the plan, anyway. I tried it once before, and it did seem to be working when I did. I trailed off and stopped for some reason, but the blueprint is in place. I just need to do it. In addition to that, I'd also like to just keep working on stuff--maybe I can get a couple Beyond Time & Darkness songs finished, maybe I can conclude the SoulSilver LP, maybe I can get back to the novel, etc.

In conclusion, I love you all. You are the reason we not only made it through 2017, but we somehow even had a good time, in spite of it all.

Against all odds, Happy New Year, everyone.

This is a cross-posted entry that originated from https://kjorteo.dreamwidth.org/407470.html.
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[icon] 2017 in review: We thrive at the end of the world - A Kjorteo draws near!
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