This is my personal background to why Caduceus and Caleb’s talk in Ep041 hit me so hard. The transcript is here. It’s also about how Critical Role has gotten me through hell, and why this blog exists. It’s a heavy read that takes a fair amount of emotional energy.
CW: death, mental illness, medical trauma
I know when it started by the date on the pictures from the big trip I took a month after it started happening. Just before the migraines got bad. I got a weird severe headache in May of 2015. I left work to see a doctor. It was so disorienting and hurt so much. My dear grandma had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer three month earlier. But I had so many plans. I cashed in all my PTO to go on a once in a lifetime opportunity to see Italy. We walked or biked 20 miles almost every day for three weeks. I was full of energy and life, of ambition for a stressful and rewarding job back home.
It got worse when I got back. It’s tiring to be in pain all the time. It got harder to go dancing, which had become the center of my social world. In early October 2015, a friend told me about this show called Critical Role. Something to pass the time. Something to think about that wasn’t pain, or worry about my job performance, or growing fears for my future.
The photo from the going away party says the job I loved forced me out as too disabled in August of 2016. They didn’t let me give two weeks’ notice to clean things up for the next person. They just told me to leave in a couple days. The horrible demon in HR acted like she was giving me a gift. I didn’t know how to stop crying.
I joined Twitter for the Critter community in July 2016. I started this blog that November. The puzzle pieces of whatever this show was and meant were better than thinking about myself. It was some small stupid thing I could put back into a world that didn’t seem to want me, useless and broken, any more.
The next 2+ years are a blur of bad doctors and horrible drugs that were way worse than what they were supposed to treat. I picked up an eating disorder from one. Others utterly destroyed whatever mental health the headaches hadn’t. The comfort Matt meant with his Raven Queen talking with Percy in Ep057 missed him but hit me hard. I held onto that scene and those words in the hospital the first time I hit level 10 pain. I’ve worn a skull amulet since. My grandma died in February 2017, two weeks after CR C1 Ep085 “A Bard’s Lament.” I wrote my analysis of Percy’s mental health in the hallway drinking party of Ep084 knowing my own family’s impending grief and loss. Link.
I picked up more books on Buddhism because it was the only thing that had been in my life that felt like it had anything useful to say about what to do when everything is awful. The books I had didn’t couch it in flowery, obfuscating language. They didn’t pretend it happened out of some awful being’s love. They didn’t say I should like it or to be grateful. They said everything is awful, and everything is suffering because we don’t know enough to avoid it. The best we could do is to know more, try to be a bit better, and come to terms with how our own negativity makes it worse. Not for the goal of not suffering, but to learn to be happy in spite of it. I don’t know if I’m any good at following this advice.
For all the shit, and all in the pain, I know it’s put me in a place to help a couple people who needed it. Acquaintances, now friends, who would have been homeless otherwise because of disability and being queer. I carve out my weird little niche as an artist making queer, nerdy, punk patches. I started writing what seems to be the first history of Pride flags, so we don’t lose what these symbols meant or who made them to time. I started writing poetry again, and regular articles for The Asexual.
So, when I say that Caduceus hit me hard in a place that really needed a touch stone and a warm hug of a person, this is the context. I’ve had scraps of these thoughts, but not the words for them.
0:15:52 Caduceus, ponderously: “There are times I think about the cruelties of the world, the things that have been put upon me and my family, and I would hate for that to be a plan. And there are times when, like today, I’m very grateful for being in the right place at the right time to make sure that the right people are becoming strong in the ways they need to be. And I don’t think it excuses the pain, I don’t think that you have to… I don’t know, I don’t think you have to… not care about it, or fight it with everything you’ve got, but… uh, I think the world is shaping you into something important, and I want to make sure you get to wherever you need to be.”
I’m going to put those words in the shrine of my heart next to Matt’s Raven Queen and Derrick Brown’s poetry. Something to hold onto when I need to cry that says the pain is awful, and it doesn’t have an aim, but it can shape you into who you need to be to help other people. So maybe it, too, serves a purpose in the connected web of causation we find ourselves suspended in. With Melora and Avandra and the Raven Queen tugging at the lines in their ways. Maybe that’s enough.
So as always, if you enjoy the work, and you have the change, consider buying me a coffee (ko-fi.com/otdderamin). I’ve been working on these while struggling to adjust to disability. Donating helps me justify spending time on these projects.