Ashe Elton Parker

A Writer of LGBTQ+ Characters in Speculative Fiction

Author: Ashe Elton Parker (page 2 of 25)

Dear VHA, An Open Letter

Dear Veterans’ Health Administration,

You know me as one of your patients. I won’t provide my real name, but I will say that I am a Transgender patient, and I have a bone to pick with you.

The VHA's boast

The VHA’s boast.

The picture above is something I’ve seen posted at my local VA Hospital’s outpatient mental health building. They move the sign about; sometimes it’s in the entryway, other times it’s positioned somewhere inside, where we can see it as we enter. I didn’t take a picture of the entire poster, because the only part that concerns me is the portion which I included. Allow me to write it here, just to be clear. Clarity is important here, at least for me.

“Excellent care has no boundaries. VHA is committed to serving Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Veterans.”

Now, I know this sign was approved somewhere in the hierarchy of the Veterans’ Administration, so that’s not at issue. What is a problem is the fact that, as of the date of this post, Transgender Veterans, whom you claim to serve without boundaries, do, in fact, have a major boundary in their health care through the VA system.

This boundary?

We have no access to surgical options for our health care. Specifically, Male-to-Female Transgender Veterans cannot have sex reassignment surgery to correct their condition, and Female-to-Male Veterans cannot receive mastectomies and whatever other surgery is available for correcting our condition.

As I said, a big boundary.

Now, I know, I know, this was posted in the outpatient mental health building. That, to me, means nothing, for two reasons. First, because of the claim of “no boundaries.” What about denying surgical options to Transgender Veterans translates to “no boundaries”? That’s like saying, “We care about you, but don’t really accept these specific needs you have.” Why can’t Transgender Veterans have sex reassignment surgery and mastectomies? You gave that option to Active Transgender members of the military a few months ago. When will we Transgender Veterans have this option? Why couldn’t you approve this option for us at the same time you gave the actively-serving members of the military this option?

This is hypocritical of you.

Second, the claim, in the statement, comes from the “VHA.” The Veterans’ Health Administration, not “Veteran’s Mental Health Administration”. That means it comes from the overall service, not just whatever branch there may be which oversees our mental health care, if things are so divided. So that means the VHA is actively denying what can be life-saving health care to Transgender Veterans. I’m pretty easy-going, but not all Transgender individuals can make themselves be as “comfortable” in their birth-bodies as I can make myself be. Add gender dysphoria on top of some other mental dysfunctions, and that’s a recipe for suicide for a Transgender Veteran.

This is hardly “Excellent” care. Truly excellent care would offer us the surgical option many of us require.

In short, I find your commitment to serving we Transgender Veterans to be deeply lacking. I also find it extremely hypocritical for the VHA to brag about the “Excellent care” and its “commitment to serving” us when we do not in fact receive that excellent care or have that commitment.

Signed,

An Unhappy Transgender Veteran

Making Sense of the Insensible

On Wednesday of last week, I became a little philosophical after quite a number of hours awake (30+). As one afflicted with bipolar disorder, this sometimes happens, though not always with the philosophical turn.

But something had been on my mind since that morning. Once again, my mom had affirmed her belief that “what goes around comes around” and I was struck—again—by how simplistic a view of life this is.

Now I’ve heard about Karma, but “what goes around comes around” seems to be a simplistic view of even that. From my (admittedly limited) understanding, I’ve never gotten the impression that Karma will unfailingly swing around and bite the offender in the butt in this life. My impression of Karma is that, yes, sometimes it takes a direct approach and hits the offender in this life, but that it’s more likely to mean that the offender, in the afterlife or next life will suffer for the offenses they gave in this life, as a way for them to learn the lesson they failed to learn before. I could be wrong, but this is the impression I’ve had of what Karma is for a long time. Since my teen years at least.

When my mom says “I’m a firm believer in what goes around comes around,” she always means, without fail, that she expects that the offender will experience some sort of bad luck or unhappy event in this life. Their comeuppance is on the way. She may not know when, but she’s absolutely certain it will happen.

And that, to me, is a very simplistic view of life.

The fact is, life is not that simple. Life is by its very nature uncertain. It’s insensible—sense cannot be made from it. Not any real, true, firm and unalterable sense. Sure, we can make sense of some things, but these are all little things, minor things—like, I can make sense of my mom from my own understanding of myself and the choices I’ve made that have brought me to a point where I can see into her a lot more clearly than I think she realizes. But even that doesn’t give me the ability to understand everything about life. I can make some sense of it all, but not complete sense.

And that’s because the world is complicated and uncertain. And I accept that life has those qualities. All I can do is my best to understand what I can. But for people like my mom, those complications and uncertainties are frightening. So she, and they, seek a simple way to understand it.

We all want to understand life. But I’ve realized something about this search for understanding of life. There are two basic ways to “understand” life. One can take either a simplistic view, such as “what goes around comes around,” or one can set out to really work on gaining a deeper understanding of oneself, the world, and life. This requires a number of things, chiefly the willingness to be mindful of oneself.

Now, it’s no secret I write. And I freely admit my writing is, at its core, little more than me seeking understanding of life. I’m trying to make sense of the insensible with my writing. But! It is far more complex than tacking on a simplistic “what goes around comes around” view of life and being satisfied with that. I could never be satisfied with such a simplistic view of life. Life is far more complicated and uncertain than that. Life doesn’t tie things up that neatly, not even when it seems to be offering a neatly-wrapped package tied up with a pretty ribbon.

Life is messy. Life is insensible. No one can make complete and total sense out of life, because it is always uncertain. There are any number of philosophies we can adopt or adhere to in order to try and make sense of life, but the fact is, those philosophies are only the beginning. Clinging to them as the end-all and be-all of Understanding is a dead-end. Yes, it can be comforting to adopt the focused view of life religion and philosophy seem to offer, but if that’s only as far as it goes, it’s not doing much good.

I realized one major difference between myself and my mom on Wednesday. My life philosophy changes day by day. Sometimes only a little, sometimes a great deal. But it’s always in flux. Mom’s life philosophy is, to me, frighteningly static. And, I think it has been most of my life. Where she clings to the mere beginnings of comprehension, I have made efforts, in part because of my mental illness, and in part because I simply want to do so, to push myself away from those beginnings. I started doing this back in 1988, when I wrote my first Star Trek “novel” in a series of pocket folders with prongs, on college ruled notebook paper. Back then, I didn’t realize just what sort of inner journey I was embarking upon; all I knew was that it felt good to write, and I enjoyed it immensely, and it gave me a better escape from the difficulties of my life than even reading had up to that point offered. But it taught me to really look at people, to gain a deeper understanding of their motivations. Through my writing, I’ve gained a far deeper, more complete and complex, and much more nuanced understanding of life than I think my mom has ever had.

And even with that, I still can’t make sense of it. But that’s okay. I don’t need life to make sense in order to be comfortable with it. All I need to do is keep doing my best to learn, and I don’t intend to ever stop doing that.

Using Scapple

I bought the Scapple application pretty much as soon as it came out. I needed more help with organizing my outlining process, because up until this point, I was writing random plot points in a text file in Scrivener, which wasn’t doing much to help me. I’ve discovered that seeing my plot points in a text file tends to drive up my anxiety. So, when Scapple came out, I eagerly purchased the program to help me with my outlining process.

When I first got Scapple, I developed a pretty simplistic method of organizing the plot points. Simplistic, but ultimately more complicated. Now, Scapple is mindmapping software, but I use it to organize the plot points I type up. Usually, I do this by determining all the pov characters and assigning a specific note design to each of them, then I proceed to go through and make plot points related to specific characters, tying them to each other with the connecting options available in Scapple (click on Mots example below for a larger image). What I end up is two to five columns of plot points that end up being a total mess.

MOTS plotpoint image

But that method wouldn’t work for a project like my first Jodalur Investigative Division project, which is a mystery. This meant I had to develop a different method of entering the plot points. Ultimately, what I decided on was a more linear format. I follow the main plot instead of individual characters (click on JID1 example below for a larger image). These main plot points are connected by a solid line with an arrow on it, while the subpoints, which reveal information about the scene are connected by dotted lines without arrows.

JID1_Masks plotpoint image-001

This method has turned out to be much easier for me to keep track of. I like that I have everything I need for a particular plot point all in one spot. I think I’ll be using this method of mapping out my stories for all my projects.

Pondering Something

Sorry there haven’t been any posts for the past few weeks. Two of the past few weeks, I just didn’t care about the site at all. Bipolar getting in the way again. The other week (the one between), I was down with a pretty severe cold. I wrote during the cold, and I don’t know how, and the fiction’s strong, but I couldn’t think of any decent topics for my blog during any of those weeks. Well, at least not something that would have ended up being maudlin or gripey. And I mean gripey. If I’m going to gripe about something, I prefer it to have a point. None of these gripey posts would have had a point besides bemoaning the fact of my depression and physical illness.

So.

Over the past several weeks since my Decisions About the Site post, I’ve been debating one major change. Major for me, that is. A time or two, I’ve mentioned in passing that I also write gay romances under another pen name. I created a pen name for my romance writing years ago, with some help. It was much more along the lines of “If I ever go back into writing romances, I’ll use this as my pen name for them” and nothing so organized as me sitting down and brainstroming pen names. I took my name from Spanish classes through high school, with my last name’s initial, and the random surname a Central American exchange student in one of my other classes wrote after it and voila! I had my romance story pen name, which, when I started writing gay romances (the name was originally intended as the nom de plume of het romances) I promptly attached to those stories.

So there you have it. I write PG-13 fantasy and science fantasy, and explicit gay romance. I do not go into graphic detail of sex scenes in my fantasy and science fantasy, and most of my gay romances cannot in any way be termed “sweet” (a designation in het romances which indicates there’s maybe kissing, and, if that much, it’s simple and sweet). I’ve even written quite a few squick factor stories, even though I have lines there I will not cross at all.

Which I think makes it understandable why I’ve wanted keep these genres separated in every way possible.

This, however, has gotten much more difficult since my Creative Mind has decided to pretty swiftly and smoothly swing between the PG-13 stuff and the gay romances. I cannot predict, from one day to the next, what I’ll be working on in any given creative period. This makes it difficult to keep up with a separate site for my gay romances, which I created when in the midst of writing them exclusively and have not been able to keep up with since the fantasy stuff swung back in. Oh, I can return to that site for an occasional post and some site-updating and whatnot, but for the most part that site is ignored.

Now, my history with the gay romances is not all sunshine and roses. I started writing the contemporary gay romances early in 2009, and wrote them pretty much exclusively through 2012. But 2012 was Writing Hell Year for me. I did not want to be writing gay romances exclusively any more, and those were the only ideas I’d consistently gotten for the three years leading up to 2012. This meant that by 2012, I was pretty much spiritually debilitated by the genre I was writing. I spent most of 2012 in a writing downswing because I did not want to be writing the gay romances and could not get any fantasy ideas. There was a bit of a bright spot in August or September, when I wrote a fantasy short, but besides that, I was in despair of ever writing fantasy again. So, at the end of November, when I managed to scrape up just over 50k words of a gay romance for Nano, I shelved all my writing. I simply could not write any more if all that I was going to be able to write was gay romances.

And, by this time, I knew that gay romances could be rather lucrative if I published them. I had no interest in doing so. I hated writing that genre by the end of 2012, and wanted nothing more to do with it at all. Feh.

So I shelved my writing. I existed for about two weeks in a kind of relieved haze. Then, suddenly, in the middle of December, I conceived the initial notion for TPOM1. I saw a blond youth standing in front of his bedridden ailing father, being told he was being sent to the Priests because he hadn’t decided on a career to pursue and his parents were fed up with his indecisiveness and his father wanted to atone for not following any of the gods. That was Géta there, and I was so happy to have a fantasy idea that looked like not just one novel, but a whole bloody trilogy, I leapt back into writing without hesitation.

For most of 2013, I focused on fantasy and science fantasy. Whenever gay romances reared up, I tried to fight them off, but ended up writing on them just to get them to shut up, then promptly swung back into the fantasy stuff. 2013 and 2014, I wanted nothing to do with the gay romances. I detested them. So much so that I couldn’t bear to look at those I’d already written and left abandoned unless absolutely forced to by my Creative Mind. 2015 was a little better, but I spent a fair amount of it in mostly non-creative writing downswings. I think now, that’s because I was resisting my Creative Mind on the gay romances.

This year, it’s been easier. I’m not fighting the gay romances. I’ve gained confidence that my mind won’t focus on them exclusively. I’ve seen a “pattern” develop. No, it’s not regular; my bipolar won’t let it be. But I’ve noticed how I’ll spend some days writing gay romances, and more time with the fantasy stuff.

But that means the blog I created for the gay romances gets neglected. I’ve also got a Twitter account under my gay romance pseudonym.

I think I’ve finally come to terms with the gay romances. I’m able to read them. I can write on them without feeling like I’m tearing myself in half. I’ve reached a point where I’m just as happy to get a gay romance idea as I’ve always been to get a fantasy idea.

So now I’m deciding what I should do with my neglected gay romance blog. I’m not sure merging it with this site would be a good idea, bu it’s impossible to keep such things secret and separate forever. People will find out eventually, especially if I am ever able to publish any of my writing from both genres.

So I am seriously considering merging the two together. I want to decide this before I do any major overhaul of this site, so that I can plan what I’ll do for the gay romance side of my writing. Keep the blogs separate, but link the two? Bring the gay romance stuff over to this blog and wipe out the old gay romance blog completely? If I merge them on this site, do I demote both pen names to sections on the site while using a different name for the overall site?

Decisions, decisions.

The Saga of the Camp Nano Project

I’m doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month. Up until the last week of last month, I wasn’t sure I’d be doing it. I’ve been expecting a writing downswing to hit. It hasn’t yet, so I’m going with the flow and writing.

My original intent was to work on a story set on Obryn. This was a new project that spoke up about two weeks ago as I neared the end of Dagjhir’s first book. The MC of the new project will appear in his life later on, and the new story is her backstory. I originally intended when I realized she’d be appearing later just to gloss over her backstory, but I wanted to know the story of how she ended up heading to the capitol in the first place. This combined with a character concept who’d been drifting around my mind for a few weeks, and a new antagonist with a vendetta.

So I was all ready to write on this story for Camp Nano. I’d been writing on it already, and was somewhere close to my goal of having 15 plot cards ahead of where I’m writing done, and I was pleased with the wip as it had already gone. Once I had the basics of this story, it leapt to my mind nearly complete, so I was making a lot of progress on all aspects of it, including worldbuilding for it.

Then my enthusiasm for it fizzled out. Rather suddenly, too. I started one day with eagerness to work on it, made no progress on it despite that, then fell to reading old incomplete projects in search of something better to do. In fact, I thought this might be the beginning of a writing downswing. Then someone who’d returned to FM made a post about her return, and it hit another vague story idea that had been floating around for about a month.

Abruptly, I had three characters and the basics of a new plot with a great deal of enthusiasm for the new idea. This, by the way, happened on Nano Eve—June 30th. Which meant I had nothing. And this story was set on a whole new world.

But it’s what I had enthusiasm for. I set up a new file for it in Scrivener, naming the world Rumere and set to getting the notes in my head down. I named the goddesses, my characters believe in, the country, listed characters, sketched the mages’ uniform, and got two plot cards on it just on Thursday. On Friday, I spent the day away from home and sketched another outfit—civilian woman’s—and came home to write a scene.

12 July 2016 UPDATE: Well, the original project I had for this kind of fell through. It wasn’t completely well thought out, so my creative mind decided it was time to focus on something that was better thought out. I’m now working on a different project and have changed my Nano. I’ve updated the links below.

So I’m working on various projects for my Camp Nano project this month.

Writing Dilemma

Recently, I read and commented on a blog post about How to Write Protagonists of Colour When You’re White. If you don’t want to read the article or scroll all the way down to the comments to find mine, I’ll post it here:

This. I needed this article. I’ve been debating writing PoC and Indigenous characters in my own stories, and having doubts of my ability to do so. The very first question you posed in your article made me really think about it for the first time, and made me realize my reasoning was dubious at best; at worst, it’s insensitive and racist. Reading the entire article enlightened me to the justifications I’d been employing.

“Thank you. You opened my eyes to my own limitations and a good way of helping get more sincere and accurate books about PoC and Indigenous people onto shelves and into the hands of readers–by reading and boosting the visibility of those WRITTEN BY People of Color and Indigenous people.

I’ll be completely honest here. There’s a part of me that’s been screaming, But I don’t write contemporary characters! They’re all set on secondary worlds!

But I do tend to draw on real-world cultures to create the cultures for most of my fantasy worlds. For instance, I’ve got a story set in a culture somewhat based on Ancient Egypt. I’ve changed the pantheon a bit, but outlined a river-based country set in a desert; they bury their dead rulers in caves carved out of cliffs and the river system floods annually as rains come in over the mountains from the east. People in this type of region would naturally be brown-skinned. If I’m not writing characters of color, what do I do with this entire story series? I’ll write on it, because it’s impossible to stop my creative mind from leading me back around to it eventually, and forcing myself to not write something is as emotionally and spiritually debilitating as writing something I have ideas for but wish to write. But should I sell the stories if I ever complete them?

And then there’s Chraest, one of my science fantasy worlds. I have written previously and planned on writing characters of color. My justification for it before was that the humans are very far removed from our cultures here. Their ancestors landed on Chraest, and the native intelligent race enslaved them all, and some even proceeded to “collect” slaves of certain specific “types”—like redheads with green eyes and freckles, or people of a particular Asian appearance. Eventually, some members of the native intelligence come around to the conception that slavery is bad and free their slaves, which starts a movement. They and their freed humans are eventually exiled to the continent Chraest’s native race had pretty much denuded and abandoned, and the natives who’d freed their slaves accessed the remains of the ancient human spacecraft to collect information and whatever else they could to help the freed humans settle the denuded continent. Some humans kept the mindset of the collectors and segregated themselves as “pure,” a concept that continues to cause tension and strife among the Chraest-born free humans throughout the years. What do I do with these stories?

I want to add diverse characters where they have an opportunity to exist. I do not want to do it in such a way that is offensive to People of Color and Indigenous People. I also don’t want to allow myself to justify my writing of diverse characters. But what do I do with the worlds, the stories, and the ideas that include characters of color? I won’t stop having them, and I’ll write them, if only to lay them to rest for a period of time. Do I share them? Do I sell them (if I get that far)?

I just don’t know.

Decisions About the Site

When I started my hiatus from this blog back in February, I was in the middle of slowly changing the site around a bit. Mostly in regards to my Projects section. I thought, at the time, that the reason why I was feeling disinterested in my site was because I didn’t like how it was set up. To be quite honest, I found the original way I had it set up too labor-intensive. I also didn’t really like having so much of my work on display, even if it was only excerpts. In an effort to try and make the site a bit more self-sustaining and less strenuous on my attention and time, I decided to remove the excerpts and started a redesign of the entire Projects section.

Well, I’m now not sure just what I want to do with it. One of the things I want to do is go through it and see what I was doing and at what point I stopped. I may decide to keep it in the format it’s in right now, with projects sorted by which world they’re on, or I may do a complete overhaul and figure out something different to do.

Part of my issue is that a lot of my projects are long ones. Trilogies at the very least, if not longer series. And, with the way my creative mind ducks out periodically and randomly hyperfocuses on things without my will, most of these will be in the works for years to come. For example, my creative mind is currently hyperfocused on something I haven’t touched since June of 15. I could not predict my mind would return to this project, and I don’t know how long I’ll be working on it. I’m just going with the flow here.

Add to that issue the fact I’ve got about 14 worlds with stories in various states of progress on them. Yes. I said 14. Could even be more at this point, I haven’t counted them in a while, and I’ve added one or two new worlds since then. I’m seriously tempted to throw up a full project list on my website to show what’s going on in my writing.

So, that’s what’s going on with the site. I’m hoping to get some work done on it in the next few months, but that really depends on where my creative mind goes and how much time I have.

We’re Not Going Away

I spent most of Sunday internalizing the Orlando shooting for the most part. I made some limited commentary and retweeted a thing or two on Twitter about it, but largely remained silent. This here, now, is my reaction to it. Sometimes it takes me a while to process things.

With regards to the shooting itself, the targets the shooter chose, and the fact it happened at all, I’m not really surprised. I’ve been rather expecting something like this to happen since we got marriage rights. The legislative efforts of various lawmakers are just the polite version of transphobia and homophobia. There are many more people outside of the government who, like the shooter, have access to weaponry they can use to kill multiple people at once, and the lack of mental stability which makes doing so seem like a reasonable way to express one’s fear and hatred of the LGBT+ community.

But all this is beside the point. The point is, the LGBT+ community has value. If it didn’t, if it were still hidden and secret and underground, it would be easy for society at large to ignore us and the contributions we make to that society. Society did this before, for decades, as it tried to crush us out of any sort of public existence. It wanted us to conform, to hide ourselves. It wanted us to accept its definition of LGBT+ people as valueless if they refused to do so.

If the LGBT+ community did not in fact have any value at all, we would not be getting noticed like we are. Society at large—the religious right, the conservative politicians, the closed-minded bigots who hate us for their own reasons—wouldn’t be fighting back so hard against the advances we’ve made for our equal rights. We have political clout now, enough to make the president of our country command schools to allow trans students to use the locker rooms and restrooms which coincide with their gender identity. We’ve won the right to marry. A community without any sort of value doesn’t get these rights. It remains hidden, secret, conforms to the status quo, and thus tacitly agrees to the opinion that it is a valueless community which has nothing to offer society at large.

But now, our contributions are recognized. Not just politically either. We’re recognizing LGBT+ art and literature. We’re working to gain wider and better representation in media overall, particularly in film and TV. We’ve established places where we can feel welcome, included, and valued as individuals. We annually have rallies, throughout the summer, celebrating our very existence and our pride in that existence. We have a history, are living an active and vibrant present, and are proving to everyone who hates and fears us that we have a future. We’re telling society at large that we’re not going away.

This shooting in Orlando wounded us. But it also made us stronger and more determined. Some—many—of us may be afraid, but we have the courage to continue fighting. We’ve won too much to stop now. We’re here to stay.

We’re not going away.

Conflict

From 1988 ’til 2008—the first twenty years of my writing habit—I wrote okay stories. They were only okay because I had a bad habit: I cut out the conflict before it had a chance to affect the characters and storyline. Oh, I could make a short get off the ground, but anything longer—all my novels—had that issue. I would outline a conflict, then gloss over it, or solve it too quickly. As a result, most of my stories consisted of one conflict after another, each solved before I moved on to the next one. There was no complexity in my writing.

You see, it was really easy for me to envision throwing a monster or other external conflict at my characters. But when it came to internal and interpersonal conflict for them, I killed the conflict before it could do much to my characters or the story. And, for me, complexity in any story, whether one I’m reading or writing, comes when internal and interpersonal conflicts are included.

Yeah, it’s possible to write a good story where everyone gets along, but it’s not as good as a story with interpersonal conflict. All my characters from early writing come off as Mary Sues. Where I did try to insert interpersonal conflict, I negated it shortly thereafter. This was further compounded by my belief that all interpersonal conflict consisted of was arguments between characters, or physical fights. I didn’t realize that there were more subtle forms of interpersonal conflict.

I was worse with internal conflict. Much of my longer work completely lacked internal conflict. My characters had no doubts. They lacked fear—even of and in situations where they should have been terrified. They had utmost confidence they’d get through whatever difficulties they encountered.

Oh, and for most of my writing up until the turn of the century, I didn’t understand just what conflict was. I thought it was only what attacked the character from the outside. I mean, I’d encountered conflict in my reading, but I didn’t comprehend what conflict was. When I did write other kinds of conflict into my stories, I did it on an “instinctual” level, not really understanding things, and that, I think, is why I cut it off like I did. I didn’t see what it was, so I didn’t know how to use it.

It took me having a breakdown into bipolar disorder, stabilizing on a good medication regimen, reading old books on writing that I’d had before (and apparently not paid much attention to), chatting with writer friends online, and reading my old favorite stories by other authors with a more alert eye for internal and interpersonal conflicts for me to be able to include it in my stories. I finally gained the ability to discern the different types of conflict.

By this time, I was into writing gay romances pretty steadily, and I decided to use them to learn how to insert real conflict into my characters’ lives. The gay romances, in my mind, were perfect for this because they didn’t have any of the little extra things that fantasy stories have for bringing in outside conflict. I had a halfway decent handle on external conflict in my fantasy stuff—it wasn’t perfect, but it was there, and it was consistent throughout my longer pieces. The conflict these stories lacked were internal and interpersonal conflict. But those things were what I knew I could use the gay romances to learn to include, because they’re mostly about internal and interpersonal conflicts.

It took about three years of writing the gay romances—well, two, if I don’t include Hell Year Of Writing—for me to learn to see all forms of conflict in any given story. Now before I start new stories, I look at every angle I can see to find possible points of conflict. I continue doing this as I write the story, and my stories are much better for it—more interesting, more nuanced, and much, much more complicated and entertaining.

Veritigo

About three weeks ago, I awoke with the condition of vertigo. I was largely unconcerned with it at first because it was most prominent when I was rising from bed and laying down at night; it never lasted long, and the room usually righted itself within about 15-30 seconds after I settled on my feet or in my bed. Occasionally, I’d have a moment where the room tilted if I moved too suddenly, or if I held my head in a position looking down with my head tilted a bit to the side (I was unaware of just how often I did this until the vertigo came). It came upon me on Sunday or Monday, and when it didn’t clear up by the end of the week, I decided to go in to the VA’s ER on Saturday morning, as I’d risen earlier than usual and knew that getting in before 8:30AM was advisable, especially on a weekend.

So I checked in, they did the blood pressure/temperature/pulse/oxygenation readings, and left me in a familiar room near the entrance from the waiting room, around the corner from the doors. When the doc came to me, I explained my condition, and she performed a test to diagnose the condition. This test involved me laying down on my back with my head off the foot of the bed in another little exam room. Once on my back, she had me turn my head to the right, at which point the world spun. She then had me roll onto my left side until the vertigo went away, then helped me sit up again. She told me that if it had not passed so quickly, it would have indicated a stroke. Apparently, stroke victims suffer consistent vertigo from the time of onset. The fact that mine passed within a minute of the change of position of my head indicated it was more than likely something dislodged in my inner ear, and this was correctable.

As it was explained to me by the ER doc, there are crystals in the inner ear, and they can become misaligned, and this can cause intermittent vertigo. This was verified by the physical therapist I saw just this past Friday.

The ER doc gave me some Meclizine and sent me on my way after promising to put in a referral for me to see the physical therapist. On Wednesday, I received a letter inviting me to a walk-in clinic for the physical therapist regarding my vertigo, and I went in on, as I mentioned, Friday. Incidentally, I had an appointment for another visit regarding my arm at 1:00PM, this referred by my primary care doc after I contacted her regarding a few days of stiffness and excruciating pain to the point I couldn’t sleep; she never did send the medication she promised to put a scrip in for (LOL). Anyway, I went in early on Friday—around 11:00—and checked in to the walk in clinic for the vertigo.

I hadn’t long to wait. The physical therapist came out and I went back to a little exam room with him. I’ve forgotten his name, but he explained what caused my vertigo and did a test to verify I had vertigo. This involved laying down on my back on the exam bed with my head off the end and him observing my eyes for something he called “tapping,” if I remember right (I could be misremembering, but I’ll call it “tapping” for the time being). First he had me look to the left, and he didn’t see this indicator of vertigo. When, however, he had me turn my head to the right, everything whirled, and he saw the “tapping.” He helped me sit up, said the ER doc’s diagnosis of it being caused by issues in my right ear was correct, then had me move to a chair so he could give me instructions on how to correct the condition, demonstrating as he explained. Since we weren’t in his office, and he didn’t have access to the printouts he usually would have had—and he told me it would be clearer if he demonstrated—he told me to take a video of him, which I did.

Basically, for this exercise, I’m to sit at the middle point on the side of my bed. First, I’m to look up to the left, let the vertigo (if any) pass and wait 30 seconds, then lay down to the right, keeping my head in that position, let vertigo (if any) pass, and stay that way for 30 more seconds. Then I sit up. Next, I look up to the right, let vertigo pass, wait 30 seconds, and lay down on my left, let vertigo pass, wait 30 seconds, and sit up. That’s one time. I’m to do this 5 times twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, for two weeks. He was very clear on the fact that, like with antibiotics, I must do this for the prescribed number of days, even if I feel better, to ensure the misalignment in the inner ear is fully corrected.

I’ve already noticed a change just since my visit, as if some of what he had me do put things back into alignment. Still, I’m following his instructions and doing the exercise for the next two weeks.

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