A little background story for my OldTown character OK-Google. It’s been a while since I felt inspired to write. Enjoy!
I remember (Part 1)
I remember a time before the bombs fell.
I remember a garden, a plastic swimmingpool, a sister.
I remember my parents laughing as we were playing in the water.
I was four years old when one day my father came into the school to pick me up. Something was wrong, I felt it. He didn’t say much but just talked to my teacher and we went home. Mommy was home, packing bags. She was scared. Dad told me to pack one bag with toys for me and Marieke.
I was Katrien Wessanen.
We had a good life in the suburbs of Delft. My parents were scientists. Later my dad told me they had been Bio-engineers.
The bags were packed. Mom went to the other school to pick up Marieke. We never saw them again.
Dad got a message and said we had to go. We would meet mom on the road. We needed to be as far away as we could from Rotterdam. Eindhoven would be safe. Their work had a bunker there. I didn’t know what a bunker was but it sounded exciting.
We were already on the road and almost at Eindhoven when the news hit. People started to panic. They never had a chance. Mom and Marieke got stuck in traffic. I hope it was swift.
When I got older dad showed me pictures of the bomb hitting Rotterdam. I often wondered how something so deadly could be so beautiful at the same time.
Life in the bunker had its challenges. It was years before the first ones dared to go outside. Dad kept teaching me things about the old world. “Remember Katrien. This is our past, never forget our past”. He showed me so much on a tablet. Day after day, year after year. What things had been like and I remembered. My brain just took it in, gave it a little spot, filed it away. I thought this was normal. It had always been like that for me, but the other children were different.
It was ten years after the bombs dropped when they told me how different I was. They must have done it when I was a baby, or maybe even before I was born. Their first experiment was a succes in a way that it didn’t come out damaged. Her name was Marieke. No, I was the real succes. I had the upgrade. After I found out, I never looked the same way at my father again.
Was I his daughter or his science project? I never dared to ask him.
The first day I went outside I was scared. This was not the world I knew or remembered. It was all gone. This world was not safe, especially not for a young woman. But I still had my father who would take care of me. We used to make small trips to scavenge materials, parts and other usefull things. Still he kept teaching me and I filed it all away.
I hadn’t noticed he had gotten sick. Just one day I looked at him and saw he was different. He denied it but was lying. It took him two weeks to die.
An “uncle” offered to take care of me.
At first it wasn’t too bad. He did teach me to take care of myself and survive in a way.
It wasn’t until he sold me to a group of scavengers that Katrien Wessanen died and OK-Google was born.
I have actually contemplated for a while if I would write this post. Sometimes it feels like when you talk about it or write it down it becomes real and up to that point you can try to ignore it.
I have the tendency of pushing myself physically all the time. There’s a reason for this. Some time ago (years, I don’t know exactly when) my body stopped coöperating with me. It started to spasm out of control and become painfull. I have always been quite flexible, even when I was a big girl. I always thought I was just lucky, turns out there’s a name for it. Hypermobile. The flexibility is the upside, the downside is that my joints started to spasm out. At the time of writing I can say that i have subluxed about -any- joint in my body, including ones that are inside my hands and feet, even my ribs. Sometimes one little movement is all that’s needed to so this. For instance.. taking off pants and moving my leg a little to the side subluxed my hip. Leaning wrongly on my arm subluxhed my elbow. Trying to scratch my back and pushing a little on my elbow because I couldn’t reach the spot subluxed my shoulder. Don’t get me started on my knees. First times were a bit painful but after a while I seem to get used to it.
When I started my job in the factory I had terrible pains throughout my body. I took a lot of painkillers to make everything bearable because I refused to give up. I think I took on average 6 painkillers a day for quite some time. Slowly I felt how my body got stronger and as I was developing more muscle my joints started to behave better. Now I even take extra proteine suplements for more muscle development. Both because I think it looks pretty and because it’s a nessecity for me to avoid more subluxed joints and pain.
Of course I looked on line at what it could be what causes this. I have other things too, like elastic skin at some places and my skin is velvet soft. I have Raynaud’s Syndrome. All these things point to a certain “dissease” for which there is no cure and which people have to adapt to live with. Of course I don’t know for sure, I don’t dare go to the doctor with this, both because it’s not easy to get a diagnose for it and even if I get it, it makes it so final. Now I can still partially ignore stuff and just try to work with my body.
So why do I push myself so much with physical things? Because I don’t know if I will be able to do this at a later time. This is the fittest and the strongest I have been in my life and I will make the very best of this period for as long as possible.
So christmas was a bit rougher than I had wanted and it inspired me to think about what was going on and how it effects me. Why was I feeling that way and how could I make it better.
I’m a very active person. At times I don’t realise this but it’s true, especially when I open my eyes and look around. I get ideas and just poke people and drag them along. This is normal for me. If I want to do something I get out there, plan it, make it happen.
So when I don’t do this and wait, nothing happends. I just sit there and see the world pass by with people doing stuff without me. I don’t know if this is because they’re so used to me doing the poking or they just forget or don’t care enough to include me in something. When this happends it hurts a lot. It makes me feel very alone and unloved (or unliked or however you want to call it). So when I noticed this I just made sure that I always do things because that feeling absolutely sucks.
So what did I miss? That feeling when someone comes to you and says.. “come.. we’re going to do this and that and I arranged everything, you just have to get in the car and enjoy the day”. That feeling as if someone is wrapping a warm blanket of care and love around you and you don’t have to actively do something to get it.
I’m relieved to say that it’s not like this never happends. It does. New year was a very good example of that and it was sorely needed too. My cousin did the “blanket wrapping” and i loved every minute of it. She knows how thankful I am for what she did.
It makes it easier to take charge again and make sure I’m included in fun stuff with all the people who don’t realise how this at times works for me. Because I need those social connections as in the end these are the things that pull me through the worst emotional patches.
And what a year it was.
After the long road of getting to know myself and learning to deal with all the stuff in my head, shaping my body in a more fit vehicle for my brain it was time to make a few new steps.
First and most important was getting off welfare in july. Not that i always make enough money but in general i do make enough now to support myself without any help of the government (yeah, except for max rent aid and max health insurance aid, or i would be living in the street). It means no more strict rules, no more being afraid i’m doing something wrong and i’ll lose my income. It also means living of 750-1000 euro a month, which is not a lot, but I manage. Not only that, due to my extreme budgetting skills I feel richer than ever. The little voice in my head at times still screams in panic but I know i’ll be fine and this voice of reason is starting to win most of the time.
At work stuff is just great. I like what i’m doing, i work hard, joke a lot and i’m well liked by colleages, my bosses and my agency alike. That feels really good. It makes me feel less insecure about things and I more and more have this “i got this” vibe. Even though it’s on flex basis, they have told me that they’re so happy with me that i really don’t have to worry about any contract stuff unless something goes massively wrong.
Healthwise i’m fitter and stronger than i have been in the last 20 years. I have less pain and dislocate less stuff than before, because of my ever growing muscles. I’m perfectly on point food-wise, getting my body everything it needs to be strong and healthy. Yeah, i spaz out once in a while on the sugar and sweets but not in the extreme. I got started on meds to battle the chemical imbalance that’s still there and for the first time in years i don’t feel that tight knot in my stomach which is my, or better said, was my anxiety. It had crept up on me over the years and i had no idea about the impact it had, until it was gone.
This is also the year I had feelings for someone again. Of course it’s all very complicated but the thought alone just makes me smile. Going through it is a long process of wondering what the hell i’m doing and feeling and trying to step over insecurities i hoped i no longer had but obviously still posess. At the moment I doubt anything will come of it, but I think I at least made a friend.
I started to study Astrophysics. Sure it’s on EDX but the science is real. I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to deal with the math and physics but my brain is a marvelous tool of which i have yet to find the limit of what it can do. At this moment of writing i’m halfway the first out of 4 certificates. I’m getting more comfortable that I can indeed do this and (also due to the meds) i’m feeling less anxious about starting on the test questions.
One of the bad things this year, is that it feels like the world is on fire. There is so much bad stuff happening that it’s pulling me down more than i would like to admit. I can’t carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, so i’m desperately trying to let it go and focus on me and my surroundings. It’s working, partially. I just make sure i’m a good person and always set a good example for others.
Larpwise I got into Vampire in Tilburg, did an awesome larp in Berlin at the WoD conference (and dancing with the clans), and did Vortex Adventures. I also did more volentary things there, mostly on a whim at the events and behind the scenes (finance control). I had been planning to do more larps but in the end it just didn’t work out in timing. I did do quite a lot of specials, specifically for the faction Air, which were a lot of fun.
And finally travel. In may I went to Berlin for the WoD convention. I can honestly say that it changed my life. Grabbing back into my past and connecting with fellow roleplayers to look at the future. Meeting my Heroes, Justin Achilli and Mark Rein-Hagen and so many other awesome people who are playing and working with the World of Darkness.
In the summer I went to Bristol, which was nice and relaxing and visiting the Dr. Who experience was just awesome. Castlefest was the usual warm hug in the summer. Together with my parents I went to Gambia and Senegal in the fall. It was both awesome and very challenging. I love sharing these experiences with my parents and hope there will still be more trips we make together.
Reading this back, I realise what an awesome success year this has been. Sure i had a lot of challenges and a lot of bad days and a lot of crying and wondering what the hell i’m doing but look at this… just look at it. <3
About a week ago I went to the pharmacy and got my pills. It’s a very light dose of anti-depressants and also works against anxiety and OCD called Escitalopram. Usually the start dose is 10mg but I’m on 5mg a day. After about 10 days I should be able to feel some changes the papers that came with the medicine said.
After 4 days I woke up and found something missing. It was that knot in my stomach which just always seemed to be there so I hadn’t really noticed it anymore until it had started to unravel. I sat down and wondered what it was, than realised that it was my anxiety. It had grown so slowly and was so ever present that I hadn’t noticed just how present it was. Now, almost 7 days later it’s almost completely gone. I feel rather chill and honestly it feels rather amazing. My mood has lifted out of the deeper depths it had been sinking into.
I was afraid that besides lifting the bad parts of my mood, it would also shave the top of the good parts of my mood, but so far this hasn’t happened. I do feel slightly nausious in the evenings after I have taken my little pill, which means I have no need for snacks or something. So I also don’t have to be afraid for the other side effects, gain weight. I do feel a little more fuzzy than usual, though I just see it like having a few more “blond moments” in a day than usual. Most of the time it just makes me giggle at myself.
So this, so far, is a win. This was a very good decision and we’ll see how it’ll go from here.
There has been stuff going through my mind that I would like to write down here. It just kept going on and on but not crystalising into a post. The last few weeks feel like that while I slowly felt my emotions starting to get the better of me.
My first conclusion last night, was that I’m way too good at pretending I’m fine, that all is well and all is under control.
I’m quite proud of what I have accomplished so far in the last few years, though the truth is that I have only learned to live and cope with the oddities of my head. While I have tried to keep very tight control of everything and improve myself at the same time and cope with winter, something had to give, and it did.
The last few weeks I have tried to use every trick I had to prevent myself from slipping away emotionally but I wasn’t able to stop the slow decline. So when I sat crying behind my computer last night, I made up my mind and decided on a new approach. After I made my decision I tried to talk to a friend. He obviously is used to me having everything under control and since in core this situation is also already under control again I couldn’t find the support I did need at that moment. Luckily I did get the reassurance I needed from someone else and after a while I did feel better.
A big part of me still screams “don’t bother people with your shit, they won’t like that.” so it makes it extra hard to reach out when I do really really need someone to talk to.
The resolution: I went to my doctor and made the step to get medication. At this moment I don’t think more therapy will give me more or better coping mechanisms than I have now and they just are not enough to cope.
So winters suck and I’m trying a new way to deal with them.
It’s no secret that I’m an incredible controlfreak. I always feel that when I do something myself I know it’ll be up to my standards (which are often ludicrously high due to being a perfectionist) or more easily described as “done right”. But it’s not only in those cases where I hold on to my control very tightly, it’s even worse when it has to do with my weight.
Up till a few years ago I was rather fat and quite unhealthy. I was in a bad place for way too long and not taking care of myself at all. I would never have admitted it back than, I was majorly in denial about it all. I can talk about it now, as it’s mostly behind me.
Except for my anxiety about my weight. No, I don’t have unhealthy weight issues, but I do realise i’m rather anxious about it. I never… ever want to go back to being how I was 10 years ago. It was bad, depressing and at times humiliating. I remember how we had to do some promotional work in an amusement park and I was too big to get on the rollercoaster. They tried to close the safety buckle but it wasn’t big enough. After 2 tries they told me it didn’t fit and I had to leave the cart. Everybody was watching. I just nodded and got out. I grabbed my bag and walked to the exit while everybody was looking at the fat girl who didn’t fit. When I turned the corner I couldn’t fight my tears anymore.
Still it took me some time to flip that switch and do something about it.
So I’m a total control freak with my food. I still log it for calories most of the time and I wear a fitness tracker to have a general idea how much I did in a day as to see how much fuel my body needs (or on a bad day, how much bad stuff I’m allowed to eat to not gain weight). I weight my food, both because I like to know exactly how many calories my portions are, and because I never want to throw away any food (or go hungry for that matter).
Sometimes that little voice in my head yells at me that this is not normal behaviour. I’m too uptight, I’m too anxious, I try to keep control of the situation too tightly. But this way I handle food works for me it seems, as I have been generally the same weight for over 2 years now, even with my body changing and gaining more muscle still due to my physical job.
Yet I am trying. Not with the food thing (yet), but with handing over control and just trusting the other person with it. It sounds a lot easier than it actually was and I do believe that the person in question understood the gravity of it for me even if it was about something seemingly small. That felt kinda wonderful to be honest so I might have to just try this more often in the future.
So back from the trip to Gambia. I had a lot of time to think about some stuff. Besides this, i’ve been lucky to be included in a group for Old Town larp which will motivate me to do more with my creative side.
So I set a few goals for myself between now and somewhere the upcoming year.
1. Design and make a cool post apoc costume which fits inside the theme of the group. I have never done such a thing. In honesty, my larp costumes are a bit boring and bland, even though last year I did put some little extra details on it. Upside is that it fits very well and i’m able to move very freely in it. So this really is a challenge and the bar is set pretty high.
Deadline: july 2018
2. Get my body to a level of fitness i’m content with. I’m almost there, just the last few bits. I’m proud of my abs (though they’re hidden behind the inheritance of having been big) and my biceps. Most of the time i feel fit and strong, though at other times my body just hurts more than i like. I will have to get my sweet tooth under control and probably set up a routine for myself to dance and do some excersizes more at home, as my work already provides me with quite a lot of walking and lifing (which got me to the level of fitness i’m at right now).
deadline: July 2018 (because I want to be able to have a costume which also reveals more than i’m used to.)
3. Get my astrophysics certificates. During the trip in Gambia i was only able to read scientific articles and read in the essay book of Stephen Hawking i brought with me and it just made me eager for more knowledge and get going with the next lessons of the course. I want to finish all 4 certificates, than look at other possibilities.
Deadline: jan 1st 2019
I can do this.
Sometimes, it takes quite some time to come to a realisation about yourself. One of the first signs in this one i had in Berlin, where we did an excersize about touching and trust before a larp. Shaking hands went fine. Touching shoulders was fine. Some touched my lower arms. It came to a point where i became so uncomfortable i asked the one i was doing the excersize with to stop (which he immediately did). The next step was a hug and weirdly enough i had a lot less trouble with that.
Cue the “me too” meme on the internet about women and sexual intimidation, haressement and assault. It was spoken about in a larp group as well and the topic of larpers and hugs was spoken about. I don’t mind hugging my friends. Even better, i really like hugging my friends because i don’t see them often and a lot of the time i miss them when our normal lives take so much of our time.
Than there’s the people you hardly or don’t know. For some time it felt like you also had to hug them too, because that was normal. Larpers are social people so they give eachother a hug.
It made me feel more and more uncomfortable, as it felt like for me total strangers, or vague aquaintences thought it was normal to hug me. It even felt like they expected me to give them a hug and it just generally made me feel bad.
In that larp group and right here is actually the first time i talked about this and i feel quite relieved.
The whole “me too” movement has made me think extra about concent, which is very important and which i will implement even more in my life in relations to others.
Yesterday I had an interesting experience. I’ll be traveling soon to Africa and I need some extra vaccinations. My parents were going to take care of that with their doctor but I have the feeling the underestimated the inflexibility of my flexible work regarding trying to fix an appointment. So the travel date was getting closer and closer and still no appointment.
Another week filled up where i wouldn’t be able to get the shots anymore and I started to panic. I just had one day that i could actually use to contact the doctor and make my appointment for next week. I couldn’t reach my parents to let them know, but decided to proceed and get my own appointment anyway, as there would be the risk that i wouldn’t be able to get one at all in time.
So i called the doc and they would call me back before a certain hour. They didn’t. I understand that this was the most busy day of the week and all the reasons but my stress levels went absolutely through the roof. Half hour after the designated time i gave them a call, completely stressed out and close to tears. I tried to remain as calm as possible and explained the situation. The assistant understood and i was able to set my appointment. I felt so utterly relieved after that.
I understand my parents wanted to arrange stuff but it just didn’t work for me. Stuff that is this important i need to take care of myself, or it turned out I will get seriously stressed when I have the feeling time is passing by and nothing is happening and deadlines are approaching and there’s a risk of stuff going seriously wrong. Pro-active works for me. It makes me feel a lot less stressed even though I’m not always happy that I have to be the one to arrange things.
I guess there will come a time when I will be able to let this go a bit more but for now this need to be in control is quite big.