[VIDEO BLOG] Off My Chest

Trashy joins me in this vlog as I talk about my career as an independent artist and webcomic creator, followed by a reading from one of my old books.

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Buckle up, my friends, because I have quite the post for you today!

To accompany all the personal changes I have been through over the past few years, I have included photos of my evolution over the course of my life to break up the text in this post. Some of this gets a little heavy. You may need a box of tissues. If you end up with snot on your shirt-sleeves — I did warn you.

I have been working with the same therapist every 2-4 weeks since my ADHD diagnosis in early 2019. The relationship-focused portions of this blog were read to her prior to being posted, for the purposes of feedback and refinement.

I also cleared with Stephen what I have written about our relationship.

“There [they] [go]. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.” – Hunter S. Thompson, sorta.

Jenny, the little asshole. First grade, most likely 1987. Same haircut?! (Age 7)

Jenny, the little asshole. First grade, likely 1987. Same haircut?! (Age 7)

I believe all my profiles have been changed to state that I am agender. The definition of agender varies from person to person, but for me, it means that I see myself outside the concept of gender entirely. I compared it to inquiring the gender of a table lamp. (I am aware some non-English languages have gendered nouns.) Unfortunately, several people found equating myself with an inanimate object to be extremely offensive. I do not have any strong preference regarding pronouns; really it/they/she, or any other non-masculine pronouns are fine.

You could be an asshole and use he, I suppose, but I do not care that much.

For myself, being able to say, “This is who I am,” is the important part.

Photo in a park in Clear Lake, Texas, 1999. (Age 19)

Photo in a park in Clear Lake, Texas, 1999. (Age 19)

Being treated like a girl or woman has always felt wrong, and I have been rebelling against it for as long as I can remember. When I have taken gender-evaluating personality tests, my scores have invariably been skewed heavily on the masculine side. I feel no desire to be male, however. I am simply me. I am comfortable with being referred to as she due to my female biology. But I do appreciate people that take the time to view me in a more nuanced way.

It’s not like I own a hundred blazers styled after men’s suits, right? Or I have avoided “feminine” bags all my adult life, getting salty when someone refers to my EDC bag as a purse. Or I feel like a fish out of water every time I wear a dress. Or I outright reject most of the cultural performance of femininity.

I know gender-nonconforming women exist. Trust me, this is not that. It is difficult to describe how comfortable and free I felt after my double-mastectomy. And I was surprised by how repulsed I was at the idea of wearing fake breasts. I will do so for certain clothing that requires it to fit correctly, and if an acting role needs me to appear feminine, but breasts will never be more than dress-up.

My body is female, but I am not a woman. Not a man. Not on that chart.

The concept is a big ask for some people, but that is where I am.

Bugs Bunny dancing in drag.

In the past, I have joked about this GIF representing my gender, but it is not much of a joke. The expression of gender is a complicated social construct that varies across human civilizations. Bugs Bunny’s joyful rejection of propriety, and enthusiasm for subverting expectations, is very much something I identify with. Questioning the status quo is not a means to an end, but it is the end itself. My goal is not to make you think about me, but to prompt you to think differently about yourself. And is that not one of the intrinsic functions of effective art?

Bugs is a chaotically-good modern manifestation of the trickster archetype.

My depression has lifted significantly since unburdening myself of the things I have held back for so long, going public about the traumatic experiences and the harassment I have endured, and finally figuring out who I am. It yielded to anger and grief over the fact that I essentially pissed away half my life struggling to be a square peg in a round hole. The end result was a shadow of a person, slowly being drained of colour, vitality, and the will to live. I narrowly survived it.

Many old photos are like looking at a stranger. In a few, I see myself.

Photo in a private residence in Houston, 2001. (Age 21)

Photo in a private residence in Houston, 2001. (Age 21)

I was asked recently what I “want” with regards to speaking out about certain individuals in particular. I compared it to walking with a rock in your shoe. Though tolerable for a while — maybe even a long time — the discomfort sooner or later becomes unbearable. Your options then become to stop moving forward entirely, or to stop moving briefly so that you may cast the rock out and continue.

As I learned more information the rocks grew bigger and bigger.

For myself, being able to say, “This happened,” is the important part. Certain individuals want to pretend that what they did to me never happened. They want to pretend that they never knew me. I will not allow it. These things happened. I exist. My story is written in blood and ink. No one has the power to erase it.

I wanted — I want — to feel heard. That is all.

Photo in a park in League City, Texas, 2003. (Age 23)

Photo in a park in League City, Texas, 2003. (Age 23)

Whether they choose to acknowledge it or not, certain individuals’ personal relationships with me caused, like a line of falling dominoes, cascading negative consequences to my development and my mental health. If, in the end, I meant nothing to them, that does not negate or reduce their significance to me.

Every single one of the individuals I have spoken out against could have apologized to me like a normal, well-adjusted human being, and things would never have escalated to this point in the first place. I suppose when you assume everyone is as egotistical and unpleasant as you are, the idea that one could, you know, just admit you made a mistake and ask politely that I remove the name from the post(s) never even occurred as a possibility. Too late for that now.

At least Douglas has never threatened me for speaking my piece. I can respect that. Everyone else — not so much. They gambled that I would fall apart and fail, they lost that bet, and now they are big mad that their little punching bag started fighting back. I have done my best to help people over and over, and for what?

I am out of fucks to give and truth is on my side. I got receipts.

blah blah blah

In the case of Cory Strode, his “guidance,” behaviour as a mentor, coddling, enabling, flattery, and self-serving Nice Guy™ manipulation indirectly caused me to never seek real mental health care or real diagnoses until I was 39 years old. His fetishization and objectification of me, as an artist and a sexually-desirable woman, along with his perpetual reassurances of how different and special I was, caused me to mostly skip the process of self-questioning and self-discovery that young adults normally go through. I was not mature enough at 18-19 years old to recognize this guy is full of shit, and I was essentially trapped in an adolescent state until his influence on me broke in 2016. His sexual relationship with me as a teenager, and his intrusion into my home as an adult, traumatized me deeply. For as much empathy as Cory thinks he has, he seems weirdly unable to see how a naive, 19 year-old girl might feel taken advantage of by a much older man.

At Akon 18 in Dallas, Texas, 2007. My last convention until 2015. (Age 27)

At Akon 18 in Dallas, Texas, 2007. My last convention until 2015. (Age 27)

Cory, you never loved me, you loved me making you feel good about yourself. Just because you are nice and kind don’t mean you ain’t using people. You may have bought me shit, but you did it because you wanted something. You wanted to pat yourself on the back. You wanted my compliments and praise. You hoped with persistence you might have sex. You hoped if you gave enough you might groom yourself the perfect wife, or at least a friend you can brag about.

You act like a manipulative loser while seeing yourself like a fucking Saint.

People who unconditionally love you fucking own it when they make a mistake. People who unconditionally love you prioritize the pain they have caused, and the relationship, above their own ego and pride. People who unconditionally love you do not bail on the relationship or blame-shift because their self-image collapses with the faintest criticism or disapproval. People who unconditionally love you are willing to hear and speak the truth, even when it is hard — especially when it is hard — because truth is the bedrock of trust, vulnerability, and connection.

You deliberately lied about me to avoid feeling bad about what you did.

“I love you only when you make me feel good,” is not real love. Transactional relationships are not real love. Lies to be nice are not kindness. They are just lies. I would rather stand alone in a pit of snakes and be vilified for speaking the truth, than be adored for how far I can wedge my face up into people’s buttholes while telling them their shit tastes like chocolate cake. Being nice and kind to avoid criticism and confrontation is inauthentic and fucking fake-ass coward shit.

*cracks knuckles* All right, now we are gonna get really real

blah blah blah

Douglas Paszkiewicz — the creator of MULTIPLE MAJOR AWARDS — SO MANY AWARDS — NOMINATED Arsenic Lullaby. Douglas Pasz, as he calls himself now, because I may be one of the few people who put in the actual effort to pronounce and spell his last name correctly. Douglas’s schtick online is telling everyone else how dumb and stupid and wrong they are from behind the safety of a keyboard, while being a raging dumpster fire in real life himself. Always listen to Doug!

Most people just roll their eyes and ignore him — but I am not most people.

The post above is from the January of 2020, before the pandemic began.

“I’m not going to bother learning why the convention changed the name and logo, I’m just going to publicly shit on an organization that has been nothing but generous to me for twenty years because I still feel slighted about a plane ticket comped for another artists’ wife.” Douglas, I did not choose the new name or that lighting bolt, but I am the one that did the best I could to combine them to use as a social media icon. I am the one who spent at least 40-50 hours of my own time, unpaid, in January and February of 2020 building and updating a new website for a convention that did not happen. I am the one that deleted your dumb Grampa Simpson GIF reply. This convention is run by volunteers. You know that.

The very same people you are insulting in that post broke convention policy to comp your expenses for the fall 2018 show, because everyone felt bad about you missing the spring show for an emergency. I even offered to anonymously pay for your travel expenses, if the convention could not, despite the fact that you treat me like trash. Do you never tire of this? Do you ever really listen to yourself?

OLD MAN YELLS AT CLOUD

In the case of Douglas Paszkiewicz, while he dismissed me publicly as “this woman I dated for nine months,” to me, he was — and will always be — the man who inserted himself into the most pivotal, important decision of my life. I was in the process of a new start; brimming with hope, energy, and excitement. I was in the process of emerging from years of soul-crushing depression and loneliness. I was in the process of relaunching my independent career and business. And this inimitable, little frog-eyed gremlin of a man smelling of stale cigarette smoke, with the rare ability to genuinely make me laugh and the rare talent to genuinely impress me, apparated before me at precisely the right — or wrong? — moment and place in time. I am an atheist, and more generally, a materialist. I do not believe in woo. But my initial encounter with Douglas was so bizarre and unlike anything I had ever experienced before that I had to ask myself whether it was really a coincidence. He noticed it too, which is how the roller-coaster began.

I loved that beautiful, stubborn asshole with all of my heart. Like, damn.

Douglas Paszkiewicz and Jin Wicked

Douglas: “We look like two people who have already gelled together and have been working as a team for years!” Douglas tells me he is crazy about me for a month, only-sorta-jokes about having me move in with him after a week. Gets angry and argumentative when I expect him to act like a boyfriend. Okay.

YES, I realize what you must be thinking right now. When Douglas eventually accused me of “stalking” him, a friend’s wife asked to see his photo. Her response was, quote, “I don’t get it.” My taste in men is, shall we say, extremely specific. I am attracted to almost no one. My therapist has repeatedly asked me if I am gay. (I am not.) I wanted to fuck this idiot until he couldn’t walk. Baked him cookies and meals. Gave all I had to navigating his moving goal posts and rules.

I have never felt greater satisfaction than when I could make Douglas laugh. Even when he was acting like a crotchety, miserable old man, I have never been so happy to simply quietly be in someone’s presence to the degree that I felt with him. Call me a loser, laugh at me, whatever — I do not give a fuck anymore. It is the truth. This man’s hands looked like mine, and it meant everything to me.

Douglas was reserved, but I cherished every bit of himself he shared.

Read the 6 February 2020 post about my relationship with Douglas here.

He tells me he loves me right before Christmas. Calls me “Jennifer Paszkiewicz.” Promises me that I will “win” his colouring contest, and that after the holidays, we will not be a “secret” anymore. Later in January, he walks it all back.

In my last phone call with Douglas, I did not intend to end our relationship. I wanted a real apology and a real explanation for broken promises. I wanted to be with him more often than once a month. I wanted to be an active and visible part of his life. Normal things to expect from someone who says they love you. Our conversation turned into an argument, I lost control of my words, he hung up on me, and that was that. Only a few days later, Douglas was right! “I told you so!” “Women!!!” “We’re just not compatible.” Motherfucker, you did not even try.

Douglas refused to discuss a compromise for us to spend more time together instead of breaking-up. He untagged himself from our only two photos together. He gave me a pile of restrictive post-breakup rules. When I could not stop reeling from confusion and pain, he finally blocked me on social media. Like none of it ever happened. If he did not want to be with me, why so damn angry? If he did want to be with me, why treat me like that? I was so distraught and heartbroken. My previous worst break-up, I was dumped for an ex; at least it made sense.

I have never hurt so badly; especially without understanding why.

For the first few months after our break-up, I emailed and texted Douglas frequently, begging to reconcile, or at least understand what the fuck happened. After mid-2016 or so, I contacted him once in a while, usually around convention time, mainly trying to establish a friendship. I admired him and his work, even if he did not want to be with me. Many of my messages to him were about Al and Steve, his friends, who had gravitated to me on their own. In mid-2018, Douglas accepted about $400 from me through his online store and Patreon. I learned he needed help through a mutual friend. I discovered strong circumstantial evidence that he was monitoring me online. When I finally confronted him via email about everything, later in 2018, he published a blog accusing me of “stalking” him.

His blog post kicked off an “anonymous” smear campaign against me.

These are the actions of a man deeply hurt and taking it out on everyone else.

Douglas utterly destroyed me, and it is through the process of dissecting his words, examining the rubble of my relationship with him, and rebuilding myself, that I have reached this point. Clawing and grasping to understand how my own actions contributed to something so unusual slipping through my fingers, why it got away, and prove him wrong about me, were the driving motivations to dig to the source of my issues and get better. Douglas said many upsetting things to me that were unnecessary and even abusive, but he also said things that were true. And because his opinion mattered to me, I listened. Douglas’s part is inextricable from my story. I am not sure how long it would have taken to get here without him. I am not entirely confident I would have ever gotten here at all.

“Do not talk about me, do not talk about us, act like we never happened,” was monstrously cruel. Not only did it make me feel like my entire time with Douglas meant nothing to him, it also robbed me of the primary way I emotionally process the things that happen to me — through my art, comics, and writing. Of course, eventually I realized that he has no authority to censor me or my work.

If I come across as more forgiving of Douglas than Cory or Stephanie, that is because of the three, Douglas is the most honest and self-aware about himself. There were times, in person, where I could sense I was with the real Douglas. He oscillates between periods of insight and lashing out in self-defense. I witnessed him fighting his demons, and second-guessing his decisions, in a way the other two never seemed to. He did not hurt me out of malice, but because he did not know how to not hurt me. (That does not make it okay!) He was cognizant of his repetitive self-destructive cycles. It would be hypocritical of me to judge him for being in a similar state as myself. Neither the way Douglas treated me, or the way I treated him after we split, is acceptable. But it is understandable.

I did not want to change him. I wanted us to get better, together.

I wanted an equal partner I could work in tandem with, to become greater than the sum of our parts. Like Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky-Crumb, though I did not learn about Crumb’s wife until later. Even Douglas admitted we were “pretty great together.” He denied it later, but he recognized our creative symbiosis.

Doing all this with someone felt more fulfilling than doing it for myself.

I was so energized by the idea of sharing all my hard work and success with Douglas, that on top of the agony of our break-up, losing that goal was the first major blow to my motivation. I sputtered along powered by spite for a while, but I am neither angry nor vindictive enough to get much mileage out of spite in the long run. More recently, evolving past the psychological need to prove myself to anyone has left me asking: Why am I doing this at all? Becoming interested in politics again has helped, somewhat, but I am still sorely lacking inspiration.

My drawings of Douglas and I were the genesis of my current cartooning style.

My drawings of Douglas and I were the genesis of my current cartooning style.

Douglas repeatedly accused me of attempting to rush our relationship, but sometimes you just know, you know? I have a good record of recognizing the people I am able to cohabitate with. Because of my autism, I have to consciously accommodate everyone, which in practice has made me extremely adaptable and accepting of people with unusual lifestyles or needs. Douglas used the fact that I cannot have biological children to manufacture drama and distance whenever we started to grow closer. That is not personality incompatibility, that is sabotaging the relationship out of fear of being potentially embarrassed and hurt.

Douglas said things over the phone or text that he knew would upset me, then got angry I was “pushing his buttons” when I reacted predictably poorly. Ignoring for a hot minute that that is abusive, it was, again, sabotaging the relationship. I tried to explain this to him, in an effort to improve our communication, but it was pointless. Douglas was too invested in his forgone conclusion. He decided how things would end nearly from the beginning. We never even had a chance.

I did my best to love him. Douglas did his best to prevent it.

When I moved to Saint Paul, I rented an apartment large enough for us both. Douglas often complained about needing to “get out” of Milwaukee. The six hour drive between us was unsustainable. Minnesota offers better public services than Wisconsin, especially medical care. Douglas had friends here in Saint Paul, and was familiar with the city. We could share living expenses. It was not a great leap. I was trying to help us both. I ended up living daily with his ghost.

Me: "You made me look mean." Douglas: "No... formidable."

Me: “You made me look mean.” Douglas: “No… formidable.”

I do not buy the notion that you have to love yourself to be deserving of love from others. But if you hate yourself, then it logically follows that there must be something wrong with anyone who loves you. And at that point, you have set yourself up to fail. Self-honesty, not self-love, is the exit key to that prison.

The pursuit of self-honesty leads to inner peace, fearlessness, humility, healthy boundaries, and unflappable confidence. You will become a ship too steady to be rocked by every little pissant wave and thunderstorm thrown your way.

Let me tell you from experience: The journey is worth it.

Things loaded into the cab of my truck for my first trip to Milwaukee, 2015.

Things loaded into the cab of my truck for my first trip to Milwaukee, 2015.

Douglas has a blog post he wrote, long ago, about suicide that he shares each Christmas season. It has been several years since I last read it, so please excuse my rough summarization. The core message is that, if you are on the edge, to do whatever it takes to bring yourself enough pleasure to avoid pulling that trigger. Cigarettes, drugs, sex, anything less self-destructive than actual self-destruction. And, especially in the first few months after we broke up, when it felt like my life was spinning out of control and Cory was closing on me like a vice — anything was the memory of Douglas gently chastising me for eating wrapped candy from a stranger at a flea market. Anything was the memory of collapsing into his chest while I laughed myself to tears at a YouTube video, and the physical sensation of his hand in a cotton glove, pressed on my arm to keep me upright. Anything was the memory of him pranking me with hard-boiled eggs while I was making cookie dough in his kitchen; of him declaring he would not eat “bachelor cookies” baked in his toaster oven; of him tousling my hair as I fought to stay awake while the timer ticked away on the final trays. Anything was the memory of him insistently paying me back the dollar he borrowed to buy a small container of ancient nails at an estate sale. Anything was the memory of his face I glimpsed, in a window, eyebrows furrowed and mouth twisted into a scowl as he watched me drive away to Saint Paul. Anything was the memory of that first trip to Milwaukee, where in piles of sketches, books, and rusted tools, I briefly had everything I wanted.

Is that healthy? No. Do I have many happy memories, generally? Also no.

I was never suicidal, but some nights I sure felt like I was dying.

For Douglas, I may be no more than another female in his Rolodex of “poor choices and mistakes.” But for me, he was the closest I have come to intimately sharing the most important thing in my life — my work — with another artist, er, illustrator whose work also resonated with me. I do not have memories like this with anyone else — these crystallized moments where it felt like all the planets and stars were aligned, and maybe, just maybe, it was my turn for things to finally work out. It is unavoidable: that loss is going to bleed into my art.

Preliminary sketch for "Reap the Whirlwind" Krampus artwork, 2015.

Preliminary sketch for “Reap the Whirlwind” Krampus artwork, 2015.

I do not have the language to describe to you the feelings that his sketches elicited in me; how I wanted to swim in the curves of blue pencil lines, or warm myself in the chaotic energy of red. I do not have the language to fully explain to you how completely natural it felt drawing his characters and colouring his lines, as if they were my own. I have known, and I know, hundreds of artists. I have been in relationships with other artists before. But have I never experienced that kind of connection with anyone else. I do not expect to ever again. And I realize this makes me sound batshit fucking insane, so just let me have this one.

How does one grieve losing something like that? I still struggle with it.

"Reap the Whirlwind" lines by Douglas Paszkiewicz, colour by Jin Wicked, 2015.

“Reap the Whirlwind” lines by Douglas Paszkiewicz, colour by Jin Wicked, 2015.

The last time I saw Douglas in person was — I think — at Grand Rapids Comic-Con in Michigan, in November of 2019. I submitted an application to it because I knew he attended every year, and I wanted to test if the individual(s) behind the “Jin Wicked Veritas” page would succeed in having me banned. Spoiler: I learned later that they never even tried. I was also friends with another creator expected to be a guest. I have to say I think because the final morning of the convention, after Steve and I stepped into a crowded elevator headed up from the parking garage, I saw someone who looked like Douglas in my peripheral vision. He was wearing a hoodie, and appeared to be trying to melt into the elevator wall. Our eyes met for a fraction of a second, and I turned away to ask Steve if he had our badges. After leaving the elevator, I glanced behind me, and Douglas was already gone; scurried away faster than a cockroach. If that really was him? I could have confronted him at his booth at any point during the entire convention, but I did not. And I could have confronted him at his booth at any point during San Diego Comic-Con, but I did not. I am aware that I did something wrong by contacting Douglas when I should not have, but this “fear” of me goes way beyond anything rational. I was in that elevator with Steve. The guy who used to be his friend. The only “contact” I had had with Douglas, for more than a year by then, was being “anonymously” smeared online because of a blog he posted. If he, or anyone, believed I am dangerous, why provoke me like that? It makes no sense.

Me alone at the Milwaukee Zoo on 4 October 2015. I also visited Lake Michigan by myself. Douglas:

Me alone at the Milwaukee Zoo on 4 October 2015. I also visited Lake Michigan by myself. Douglas: “Take a picture of a zebra for me.” Avoidant, much?

Douglas, are you really afraid of me, or are you afraid of acknowledging how thoroughly you shattered my heart? Are you really afraid of me, or are you afraid of what I represent in the back recesses of your mind? Do you have any remorse for enthusiastically making yourself a part of the biggest change of my life, and then using the fact that my life was in upheaval to justify treating me cruelly and erratically until I snapped? Did you need to distort my desperate floundering to figure out what happened, and later overtures to be your friend, into “stalking” in order to resolve your guilt? Why did you feel safe monitoring me, selling art and books to me, and firing off accusations and insults from afar, but you could not endure being physically near me in a crowded, well-lit room full of people?

Would me smiling at you and saying, “Hello!” be that terrifying? Why?

Are you really sure it was me you have been running away from?

Douglas, I am sorry that I hurt you. I have never had, nor do I have now, the desire to hurt you on purpose in any way. All my anger was vented when I went public about this last year. I am not angry about your #MeToo blog post, or any involvement you had in the “Jin Wicked Veritas” pages, anymore. It was wrong for me to continue contacting you after you asked me to stop, and I am sorry that my actions made you feel those responses were necessary. I am sorry that my communication frightened you. I am sorry that you have suffered, and that I have contributed to your suffering. I am sorry that I only made things worse with my clumsy attempts to help you. I am sorry that I have had to resort to writing this, and dragging everything into the light, for my own well-being. More than anything, I have always wanted, and will always want, for you to be happy.

Douglas, you are a diamond; roughly-hewn and faceted by your own trials, tribulations, and inner turmoil. Flaws do not make diamonds less beautiful, but unique. You are a one-of-a-kind man of cleverness, talent, and vision. My wish for you is that, if you have not already, you someday free yourself from the cycles of self-destruction, and the collateral suffering that they inflict upon the people who care about you. My wish for you is that, if you have not already, you someday learn how to wholeheartedly apologize, and forgive both others and yourself. You deserve care, love, happiness, and respect. I hope that your life is abundant with energy drinks, Mr. Pibb, grape soda, gummi bears, cookies, breakfast sandwiches, old drafting tools, a working hot water heater, and everything else that your heart may desire. If I ever happen to come across a functional centrolinead, you will get a surprise package in the mail from me, whether you like it or not.

You unknowingly gave me something very special, and I needed to understand why you abruptly yanked it away. I needed to be “allowed” to write about it. All I ever required from you was kindness, patience, and the sense that it was safe to freely express myself. You remained true to yourself as an independent creator, and were living the life that I wanted/want to achieve. I looked up to you.

You owed me nothing, but is that really all you felt I deserved?

Douglas, I care about you. Even at the angriest and most frustrated I have ever been with you, I still cared about you. Even when you confused, confounded, and hurt me, I still cared about you. Even when you slammed your heart shut, and by doing so crushed mine, I still cared about you. Even when you posted my pain for all the world to ridicule in retaliation for your own, I still cared about you. Caring about you does not mean accepting being treated poorly, or failing to stand up for myself. Caring about you has not prevented me from doing what should be done, and moving forward with my life as best I could. But I still care. And I will always care. I will care until my final breath. That is my nature. That is who I am. If caring makes me mock-worthy, I could not give less of a fuck who laughs.

I care about everyone who has played an important part in my life.

I care about the entire fucking Earth and everyone on it. I just care! A lot!

Douglas, you are AT LEAST as crazy as I am, you gloriously-exasperating bastard. You infuriatingly-likeable wretch. You charmingly-self-piteous slob. You… you…

maddeningly-enigmatic old codger… hardheaded… bugger… you…

…ahem. But I digress.

Because of how I was created, my ability to communicate has often been wanting. When I am frustrated, the intention of what I actually want to say is sometimes scrambled between my brain and the words that come out. I have put a tremendous amount of effort into slowing down and speaking more mindfully in the past two years. I am no longer afflicted by the nervous anxiety and insecurity that were side-effects of not knowing myself. Nothing excuses my behaviour, but regardless, I have never purposefully hurt you — with words, or in any other way. I do not want to hear secondhand about you becoming ill or dying, at some time in the future, without the knowledge that I at least tried to make things right.

I will never regret looking the fool, to avoid the actual foolishness of regret. I should loathe you for all that you have done to me, but in the end I cannot help but care. I forgave you long ago so that I could enjoy the happy memories I have of our time together. Your words cannot hurt me anymore. I cannot help but see the whole Douglas: flaws, strengths, and all. Please understand that any criticism I have levelled at you, today or in the past, stems from the desire to see you not just survive, but thrive. It tore me up watching you undermine yourself.

I am not asking you for more than, “Hello.” I am not asking you for more than pleasantries if we should bump into each other at a convention. I am not asking you for more than to please stop running away. I know I am being selfish, but I just want to see you smile. Anything beyond that is 100% your decision.

It feels like the world is ending, so one last time: Douglas, I miss you.

With cigarillo in a brown vintage leather patchwork jacket, 2020. (Age 40)

With cigarillo in a brown vintage leather patchwork jacket, 2020. (Age 40)

I do not know what Douglas is doing now. I hope he is healthy, well-fed, and safe. If he finally accomplished his white-picket-fence American Dream, then I, without reservation, am happy for him. Part of me will forever be sad about the failure of my relationship with Douglas. If we had not become intimate, we might have shared a meaningful friendship. We might have been able to collaborate as colleagues. Our now-mutuals immediately clicked with me in some of the most comfortable and effortless friendships I have ever made. Because of me, Douglas slipped away from them; like the AWOL last piece of a jigsaw puzzle, the picture incomplete. That was never my intention, and I feel sad about that, too.

The possibility that Douglas despises and fears me makes me feel sad. The possibility that I will never see him smile or tell a joke again makes me feel sad. The artwork and prints that I shredded in a fit, and I can never have back, make me feel sad. The dollar bill he repaid me, which I kept in my safe for years, until finally using it to buy a bag of chips from a vending machine, is honestly pretty funny but also makes me feel sad. For the most part, I am a content and happy person, but this is a source of sadness that I have had to learn to live with.

My life has been filled with loss, but this one has always felt so distinct.

I still struggle with it. Maybe I will always will. I do not know.

Ms. BlueHair, if you ever read this — I would never have written what I did if it had occurred to me for a second that you would see it. That was not about you at all. I was regurgitating how Douglas describes his ex-girlfriends and women in his writing, because I was angry with him for that. In reality, watching you get hurt over and over caused me a great deal of distress, which I did not have the ability to communicate to you or manage effectively. I am sorry I caused you additional pain. I am sorry I could not offer any explanation when you were upset with me. It was wrong of me to involve you in my personal conflict, and I am sorry.

Pencil sketch with Cthulhu drawn on 6 March 2016.

Pencil sketch with Cthulhu drawn on 6 March 2016.

Independent of the outcome of this, and my other recent posts, disclosing my past and learning to correctly articulate my feelings has been a crucial milestone for my artistic process, personal development, and growth. Feeling unpermitted to say the things I have needed to say, particularly while I have been monitoring an increasing volume of suspicious activity across my websites since the fall of 2020, has been a persistent source of unease and even physical illness. Are these person(s) circling vultures, watching for my demise? Are these person(s) worried about me? Curious? Feeling threatened? I have my circumstantial evidence and my theories, but I cannot know. My remedy, therefore, is to tear this bandage off and reveal all to unbiased eyes, where my words cannot be selectively covered by black boxes to mean anything other than what I intend. Much has changed in the last year, Douglas, including me. Speak to me, or don’t, but I have laid out all my cards upon the table. I have nothing to hide, and I am not afraid. Going forward, I will have the peace of knowing that I have left nothing unsaid. No matter how you, Douglas, or anyone else chooses to respond, or not — neither myself, or my work, will fade away quietly as you might have hoped. You cannot erase yourself from my story. You have only the power to write yourself a different ending.

There is an ending I would prefer — obviously. But that is your decision to make, Douglas. Have you done any soul-searching about how you treated me? Have you considered that, perhaps, you misjudged me? Has five years been enough time to observe me and learn who I really am? Do you truly care so little about me that you can stand back and watch others try to destroy me because of a blog you posted, when you almost certainly know the truth? Is that what you want?

Is that really the ending you want? For you? For me? For both of us?

I suspect that it is not. But I admit: I could be wrong.

Stephen assisting at my booth at Chapel Con in Albert Lea, MN, 2017.

Stephen assisting at my booth at Chapel Con in Albert Lea, MN, 2017.

In other changes, Stephen and I have ended our relationship as anything more than friends, permanently. We have been little more than roommates for quite a while now. I love Stephen, and I thought that perhaps I could be happy that way, this time, but in the end I cannot. There has to be an exchange of a specific kind of kinetic energy for me to maintain a lasting physical attraction to anyone, and however rare it might be, a relationship without it drains the life out of me.

I have also been bailing out Stephen as he lurches from crisis-to-crisis, nearly from the beginning of our relationship. Emotionally, financially, psychologically; I am depleted. I am not able to support him anymore. Stephen initially utilized his relationship with me as an escape route from the unhappy, ten-year relationship he was in. After five years of angst and drama surrounding his ex-girlfriend and her family, alcohol abuse until 2018, car problems, being fired or quitting multiple jobs, extended periods of unemployment, breathtakingly-bad long-term financial decisions, inability to reliably pay bills in-full or on-time, spendthrift behaviour, filling up the apartment with bins and boxes of “store inventory” i.e. comics and toys, constant noise and television watching, lack of concern for my needs and personal space especially when I am working, our conversations consisting mostly of Stephen complaining about someone and/or something, daily weed use that he promised and failed to quit, and broken promises about taking care of his health, I am tapped out. What am I getting of this relationship, you ask? Hugs. I get lots of hugs. Which was enough, for a while. Stephen brings home food, and does the laundry often. But he also leaves trash everywhere in random places, and I feel like I live in an episode of Hoarders. I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I feel more like a back-up retirement plan and a status symbol than a partner. We have broken up over these issues multiple times. We have had conversations about these issues dozens of times. Any improvements last maybe a week.

How long can someone watch me struggle and just… be okay with that?

I attempted to end our relationship in the summer of 2020, but was unable to because of the pandemic, and the issue that Stephen did not have a vehicle. He depended on me to drive him to work, which I had no choice about, if I wanted to receive his share of the rent. Partly due to that, over the fall I descended into my most severe depression in years. I did the legwork and loaned him the money to get car insurance and an old beater car at the end of 2020, before my surgeries. Stephen has paid me back the money he owes me, but he cannot replace the energy and time I have wasted managing his problems, on top of my own.

I share some culpability for allowing this to continue for so long.

Everything that I have accomplished since 2017, I have done while dragging Stephen’s failure to take responsibility for himself behind me, like an anchor. I have given of myself until there is almost nothing left over the past six years. I am the proverbial crab in a bucket, being ever-pulled back down inside.

Stephen has a good heart, and our relationship has been a period of intense change and personal growth for both of us, but this is where our paths diverge for good. I have become so drained by our relationship that my creativity and passion are dying. If I do not course-correct now, the rest of me will die.

Perhaps writing this will serve as the kick in the pants Stephen needs to finally get his shit together, because nothing else has, including the threat of losing, “the love of his life” as he enjoys calling me. He has had five years to begin acting like a responsible adult while I addressed my own issues. That is quite enough.

Stephen, I will always be here for you as a friend. But you create most of your problems. I have told you this. Other family and friends have told you this. When, if ever, are you going to take responsibility for your choices and your life?

You are too old to be living this way, and you are running out of time.

I am frugal. I take care of myself. I work hard. I do these things with minimal to no complaint. I ask only for the same. Life is unlikely to get much easier from this point on, and anyone wishing to run with me needs to care more about grit and perseverance than comfort. These traits, and honesty, are what matter to me.

I am not a trophy, a toy, or an infinite resource to be exploited.

I am a person. I deserve to be treated with respect.

I can sense another crossroads or turning point coming for me soon. Whether connected to the books I am working on now, or something else, I do not know. My creative flame is barely more than smouldering ashes at the moment, and it is not a state of being I can tolerate indefinitely. I grow from being challenged and being challenging, on experiencing novel-to-me hypotheses and perspectives, on intellectual curiosity, and on outwitting others and being outwitted. That is mostly missing from my life at the moment. Signs are pointing me toward becoming involved in the Twin Cities acting, comedy, and improv communities.

Gigs and roles are being posted again, and I want to try an open mic night.

Photo of me before weightloss in 2012, side-by-side with photo of me before strength training in 2021.

Left, 2012 (Age 32) / Right, 2021 (Age 41)

On 9 May, I caused a bit of a kerfuffle on my social media by uploading the nakedest photo I have ever shared. To recap, the photo on the left is from 2012, not yet at the nearly 180lbs I ultimately reached by the beginning of 2015. The photo on the right is me now, at around 110lbs. Working a draining, physical full-time job and the pandemic derailed my previous effort to get swole. Recovered from my surgeries, and COVID-19 vaccinated — I am ready to try again.

Below is a woman named Claire Max. She started with less body fat than I have in my lower torso and upper thighs, but it is encouraging to know this is possible with a year of consistent work. My personal goal would have a bit more bulk in the legs, but this is close to what I would like to achieve and maintain.

Food will be one of my biggest obstacles, as I am still having problems eating.

My body and strength goals.

My pecs need serious attention. In the right light, you can see all my ribs.

One of the serendipitous things about no longer having breast tissue of any kind is that future fat loss will have to come from elsewhere on my body. Ask almost any woman intentionally trying to lose weight: one usually has to go through significant breast shrinkage before seeing results on the rest of the body.

I find Hybrid Calisthenics helpful for at-home routines, combined with what I learned previously at the gym. I brought my stair-stepper and elastic bands back out to build myself up to lifting heavy again. (The physical therapist said I am all right to go, but I must be careful.) I am making a focused effort to be able to do push-ups for the first time in my life. I may even throw a punch, inshallah.

"Celeste and the Aurora Borealis" Mix-and-match jewelry collection for my personal wear. Click to view more detailed photos on my Instagram.

"Celeste and the Aurora Borealis" Mix-and-match jewelry collection for my personal wear. Click to view more detailed photos on my Instagram.

I added some fitness-related items and protein to my Amazon wishlist. You will see many beading and jewelry-making items there, too. I created a collection of new and updated jewelry for myself while I was powering my way through the emotional and psychological muck this year. I also dusted off my DSLR and photography equipment. It feels good to pick up these dropped threads.

An incredibly generous soul gifted me a large format scanner on my birthday.

There is not much else going on health-wise, except that I got new glasses. I have something called a pterygium forming in my left eye. After a lecture about UV rays from my eye doctor, I decided to upgrade to Transitions lenses. I also have to use a warmed compress and moisturizing eye drops. Exciting.

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Jin Wicked knows!

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Jin Wicked knows!

On 15 May, I stopped by my first comic book convention since the pandemic began. The MCBF held a small event compliant with health and safety restrictions. I stayed for a couple of hours to catch up with everyone and take pictures for the social media pages. At the beginning of this year, I shipped my twentyish-year-old hat to Clearwater Hats to have it refurbished, for lack of a better description. (The people who originally made my hat have retired, and the company is under new ownership.) I donned my refreshed hat for the “Spring Fling,” and a few readers stopped me while I was wandering to chat. It was a good day.

I am sure my feelings will change with enough time, but right now I have no desire to return to exhibiting at conventions. Hauling books and merch, wrestling with banners, hustling behind a table for eight or more hours, repeating my sales pitch over and over until my voice is hoarse? It is too much. I have also had my fill of the competitiveness, fragile egos, and bitching about who-gets-what. Even after a year off, I am still burnt out. I enjoy volunteering — setting up chairs and tables, socializing with my fellow volunteers and creatives, taking pictures, and even sweeping up afterward. I am not under any pressure to be entertaining or perform for people. I do not have to endure flirting and awkward, uncomfortable conversations. Crowdfunding, e-commerce, and social media have always been a better investment for me, anyway. So I will cover other artists’ breaks, fetch hot dogs, and do whatever else needs to get done behind the scenes, until I feel ready to exhibit again. I am tentatively booking limited events for 2022.

While there are wonderful people involved on an individual level, the comics industry as a whole has revealed itself to be toxic as fuck. I am grateful that it has never been central to my business strategy, and that I do not rely on it.

I am not in “competition” with anyone except past versions of myself.

Left, Houston 2015 (Age 35) / Right, Saint Paul 2021 (Age 41) - My growing convention badge collection and drawing desk. The grumpy face in the left photo was drawn by Douglas in my sketchbook at the party where we met. "We're all going to die anyway," is from Douglas's work. The notecard was from Cory.

Left, Houston 2015 (Age 35) / Right, Saint Paul 2021 (Age 41) – My growing convention badge collection and drawing desk. The grumpy face in the left photo was drawn by Douglas in my sketchbook at the party where we met. “We’re all going to die anyway,” is from Douglas’s work. The notecard was from Cory.

Recently, I noticed quite a few more grey hairs have popped up in my bangs. They are almost white, and I like the way they catch light at certain angles. My makeup box has gathered dust, as I find myself using it less and less. I am tired of the dog-and-pony show. I am tired of glossy, formulaic celebrities. I am tired of the endless churn of recycled pop culture. I am tired of forced nostalgia and phoney positivity. I am tired of being bombarded by empty consumerism and commodified sex. I am tired of disposable junk that is not easily repaired.

I am tired of the gig-and-grind economy that endeavours to monetize every moment of life itself. I am tired of the worship of Mammon by “Christians” who were warned explicitly by Jesus against it. I am tired of all the hypocrites.

Beauty, to me, is unfiltered reality. The essential work. The foundation upon which all else is built. Show me the people with lines in their faces, and dirt and grease on their hands. Show me the people with bodies bent and broken by hard labour. Show me the people on the front lines in their communities, walking the walk, fighting the good fight to make the world a better place for everyone.

These are the people most deserving of society’s admiration.

While I am certain they are nice, talented people, I do not care who is drawing and/or writing the fifty-thousandth adaptation of Batman. I am not impressed by bank account balances and fancy cars. I am not impressed by status. I do not care who you believe you are, or what you believe you have accomplished.

Show me character, creativity, passion, and the contents of your heart.

I am fascinated by, and starting to explore in more depth, Jungian analytical psychology — especially the concepts of psychic death and shadow work. I also pulled out my copy of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying to revisit. Outside of a classroom, where does one physically find people interested in subjects like this? Where does one find people contemplating “big picture” questions?

Are there book clubs? Social groups I do not know about? Where does one find the unexpected? Where does one find innovation? Where does one go to find invigorating discussion and debate? I am searching for these things.

Off My Chest by Jin Wicked

This illustration, Off My Chest, was finally completed utilizing an experimental technique (for me) combining pencil, ink, and watercolour. It was so experimental that the first attempt back in January resulted in an unsalvageable mess, and had to be trashed. It is perhaps a little too metaphorical for my life in the intervening months. This will be the first illustration in my eventual second art book.

I may, or may not, make prints of this. I have not decided yet.

The original artwork is available in my Etsy shop.

"Berserk" by Kentaro Miura, manga panel of Guts and Schierke.

On 19 May, the publisher of Berserk announced on Twitter that Kentaro Miura had passed away suddenly on 6 May, at the age of only 54. Miura was a master of fine detail, mood, line work, and expression. There are very few artists in this world whose work makes an impression on me in the way his did. It hit me hard.

I spent over an hour ugly-crying at my computer desk that night.

I know it may seem silly to be so attached to someone I never met and knew little about personally, but in many ways I seem to be able to emotionally connect more with art than people. Berserk is a grisly dark fantasy story about characters that suffer excruciating tragedy in a bleak and unforgiving world, who openly defy their “fate,” and somehow always find the strength to keep going. The characters are as complex and rich as Miura’s exquisite artwork. Miura was truly a living legend. Berserk’s influence has reached anime, films, games, and beyond.

Nothing in this life is “flawless,” but for its medium, Berserk is about as close as any artistic human endeavour may ever come. It is flawed in the same ways that humans themselves are flawed; visibly evolving and growing over its lifetime. It occasionally pushes the boundaries of what is acceptable; sometimes touching, sometimes shocking. In a story full of horrifying violence, its quiet moments are the ones that stick with you. In a story full of literal monsters, it has some of the most human characters ever put to paper. There is nothing else quite like it.

The creative world is much poorer for having lost Kentaro Miura. It is very possible that the stresses endemic to being a mangaka contributed to his early death. Let his death serve as a reminder that artists are human, too, and that the unrelenting pressures of crushing deadlines can be, all-too-literally, deadly.

"Poison Elves" by Drew Hayes, Issue No. 3 published by Sirius Entertainment, 1995.

Miura’s death turned my mind to another comic creator taken from the world far too soon: Drew Hayes, the creator of Poison Elves, who passed away at age 37 in 2007. Poison Elves was hugely influential on my work with pen and ink, and I was blessed to enjoy a brief long-distance friendship with Drew in the late 1990s. My multiple ear piercings were inspired by, and eventually became my own personal memorial to, Drew and Poison Elves. One hope I maintain, with the advancement of my career, is that I am eventually in a position to help keep memories of Drew and the legacy of Poison Elves alive. He was there for me, with encouragement and support, at a critical time in my life. I feel like that is the least I can do.

Take care of yourselves. Take no one and nothing for granted.

None of us are promised a tomorrow.

Photo at Como Lake in Saint Paul, MN, 2021. Credit: Ben Cooper (Age 41)

Photo at Como Lake in Saint Paul, MN, 2021. Credit: Ben Cooper (Age 41)

We’re all gonna die anyway.

CATEGORY:

[VIDEO BLOG] Unapologetically Me

Content Warning: Body/Gender Dysphoria, Child Abuse, Adult Abuse, Grooming, Bullying, Harassment, Disability/Mental Health Issues

FYI: It took me four days and 12+ hours of redos to record this.

Please Support my Work
http://patreon.com/jinwicked
http://jinwicked.etsy.com/

Hello, everybody!

Today is Sunday, April 18th.

I’m Jin Wicked, and this is “Obsessively Ambitious,” the video portion of my personal blog. I hope this finds you well.

It has been about half a year since I talked to you. A long time. Depression really sunk its claws back into me last fall, and I just did not have the spoons to dress up and put myself on camera for these last few months.

And I still don’t, honestly, but I want to talk to you today anyway. I feel like it is very important that the things I have had to say recently come from my mouth, instead of words on a screen. Then they can accuse me of libel and slander.

Please excuse me for writing this in advance to make things a bit easier on me.

Since late in 2019, I had been having chronic pain and other problems that eventually lead to a hysterectomy at the beginning of this year. That went well, and after I recovered, I had – as you can probably see – a double-mastectomy. I still can’t lift much, but after a minor setback, I’m starting to move and do things more normally again. I’m looking forward to getting back into the gym.

My mother died of breast cancer at age 59. I was her daytime caregiver for the last few months of her life, and it was an experience that left me scarred in some ways that will never fully heal. My family breast cancer risk is quite high, and the level of monitoring recommended was not doable for me. I got the whole lump-ultrasound-biopsy scare on my one and only mammogram. Once was enough.

And while I have always “performed” being a woman because I thought it was what I was supposed to do, inside I have always seen myself as more of an “it” than a “she,” or even a “he.” I hated having breasts, I hated what they reminded me of every time I looked in the mirror, and it feels pretty incredible to have the internal and external images of myself actually be in sync with each other.

At 41 years old, I finally feel like I belong in my own body.

In early 2019, I figured out that I have ADHD, and I started medication for that. It has been very helpful for me. But the more I continued to make progress in some areas, the more other problem areas began to stand out.

And it was near the end of 2020 when I finally connected the dots and figured out that I am on the autism spectrum, making an entire lifetime of confusion and struggle suddenly make a whole lot more fucking sense.

I have been “camouflaging” and trying to be something I am not all my life.

It is exhausting. I am exhausted.

Because I have spent so much of life consciously training myself to be accepted by, and meet the social expectations of neurotypical people, my autism diagnosis set off a lengthy process of figuring out which parts of “me” are really me.

It has also lead me to a place of self-acceptance where I don’t feel like I “need” Jin Wicked anymore. My diagnosis gave me permission to finally just be myself. I can improve my communication skills, I can hide my tics and stims, I can learn to compensate for mind-blindness, but I will never be neurotypical. No one is going to hand me a “Congratulations, you’re normal!” trophy if I sell a certain number of books or reach a certain number of Facebook followers. I’m not broken. I just am. So in some ways, I feel like the dog that caught the car. I found the answers I have been searching for since I was a child, and I asked myself – now what? And the answer that finally came was to write. I need to put my memories in order, and write my autobiography. I have to write; drawing is too slow.

And when I started to write, I had this horrifying realization, as my own words stared back at me – from about the age of three onward, I have been bouncing around like a pinball from trauma to trauma. I have been doing the best I could to “be good” and be what other people wanted, while nearly all the adults who were supposed to care for me failed to help or even made things worse.

I started getting my ass kicked by my parents as soon as I could speak fluently, and that’s been the story of my life since. Abuse, bullying, judgment, and nothing I did ever really being good enough. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. The times and places I have felt truly safe and able to be myself have been few and far between. Those who have wholeheartedly accepted me are lifesavers.

Parents: you can’t beat or discipline developmental disorders out of a child.

When I first set out on this path of trying to make sense of my past and figure out who I am, in 2014, I reconnected with a lot of people I had not spoken to in years. One of them was a man named Cory Strode, fifteen years older than me, who had entrenched himself as an “unconditionally loving” caretaker, guide, and mentor-type figure in my life. For years he was my main source of advice.

Which sounds like a noble thing, but if you are genuinely trying to help a young person that you know is emotionally, mentally, psychologically, and physically vulnerable – you should absolutely not have, or desire, sex with that person.

That is a predatory relationship dynamic at its core. And no healthy adult man should want a partner he has to parent. Who finds that attractive?

The Lion, the Witch, and the Audacity of this bitch...

Cory Strode, does "loving each other" include devaluing and smearing a woman who worked, unpaid, on a comic with you for two years, to mutual friends?

Cory Strode, does “loving each other” include devaluing and smearing a woman who worked, unpaid, on a comic with you for two years, to mutual friends?

As I neared my 30s, closer to the age Cory was when I initially met him, I started to feel exploited by this man. I got angry, and we did not speak for years.

In 2014, in the midst of a breakdown, I thought to myself: maybe I was wrong. This person was good to me. He always told me how much he cared and wanted to help me. So I returned to this toxic relationship, and I ignored my body when my anxiety skyrocketed and being near him made me uncomfortable. I allowed him to tell me who I was, and what was wrong with me, because he presented himself as acting in my best interests. Cory treated me like an investment, and like a merit badge, not a person. He wanted to be the one to “take me under his wing,” and congratulate himself for my growth and successes. He called himself my best friend, while pushing beyond acceptable “friendship” boundaries and often making inappropriate comments about being attracted to me.

And when he finally crossed a line and left me feeling horribly violated and unsafe in my own home, I got the good ol’ devalue and discard. I never knew her! She’s crazy! She’s a narcissist! I didn’t want those fucking sour-ass grapes, anyway!

The Lion, the Witch, and the Audacity of this bitch...

Cory Strode, does "loving each other" include victim-blaming and lying about your relationship history with a woman who you had sex with, when she was a vulnerable teenager, in 1999? And

Cory Strode, does “loving each other” include victim-blaming and lying about your relationship history with a woman who you had sex with, when she was a vulnerable teenager, in 1999? And “helped” by moving her into your home?

Cory and his friends, including “Krayz” Joe Rider and the world-famous Archie colourist Stephanie Cofell, have bullied, mocked, threatened, and lied about me ever since. Except that I’m the one that has openly acknowledged my faults, and who has been actively working to improve myself for over six years. Weird.

It has taken me twenty years, and returning to that relationship, to finally acknowledge and accept how I have been unknowingly groomed, manipulated, and traumatized by Cory Strode’s actions and influence on all my adult life.

In the process of getting divorced, I met and was in a relationship for approximately nine months with a comics industry colleague named Douglas Paszkiewicz. I was physically attracted to him in a way I had only experienced once before in my life. My enthusiasm was probably too much, but I’m autistic. When I am excited about something, I only go “to 11.” I badly wanted someone that I creatively meshed with, someone I could be a huge nerd about inking with, someone I could table at conventions and share expenses with, and someone I could quietly “be alone together” with while we worked. Someone who liked to dig around in thrift shops, and who lived the same lifestyle. Someone that would be an equal partner instead of treating me like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. We had complementary strengths and weaknesses; he comes from an old school 90s way of doing things, and I am a creature of the Internet. He even lifts, bro! His work instantly impressed me with its cleverness and unique visuals. Our humour and our art styles blended well. It was perfect. Logical. Everything was there.

Except Douglas wanted the “man brings home the bacon, wife waiting at home in pearls, with 2.5 kids and a white picket fence” deal. Not the life he was living.

And for nine months, Douglas controlled me with countless “rules,” forbid me from talking about him or our relationship, undermined my confidence at every opportunity, and utterly destroyed me with his anger and hot-and-cold behaviour toward me. Some days he would tease me with what he knew I wanted. Some days I could barely get a response from him. Things that were all right one day would make him furious the next. Nothing remained the same long enough for me to adapt. Ironically, I probably would have fared better if I had simply “been myself” and mostly ignored him to do my own work, like would have happened eventually anyway. I was devastated, and driven mad by my inability to make sense of him and the circumstances that lead to our breakup.

I continued to write to him, a lot, long after he told me to stop. That was unacceptable and wrong of me. It was also a uniquely bad reaction to how I was treated. My brain kept rehashing arguments and all of the contradictory things he said. I could not make his actions make sense. I could not make his words make sense. I could not understand: why? WHY?! I had never been so confused.

Why pursue a relationship with someone you learned is an autobiographer the night you met, only to spit fire when they try to include you in their work?

Why pursue a relationship with someone you learned within the first week can’t have children, when you want children, just to watch them torment themself?

Given those two things, why make declarations of love you know you don’t actually mean, and make promises you have no intention of keeping?

He was so, so angry. And there were times when I could sense the pain inside him, where that anger sprang from. I recognized the struggle of constantly being at war with yourself; I know it very, very well. I wanted to give him comfort, and maybe a little peace, if I could. Sometimes the way he held me made me feel like I was a life preserver thrown to a drowning man. And I know now I am making this about me, and my feelings, but when I couldn’t absorb any more of his anger and finally left him “like he said I would,” I felt like a monster. In a life of doing hard things, it is one of the hardest I things I have ever done.

Only a few months later, my father committed suicide, Cory “cleaned up” my apartment, and I got sucked into Steve’s drama. I found out from my ex-husband that Douglas contacted one of my friends back in Houston, and frightened her by telling her that I want to have sex with her fiancé. I started tracking IP addresses I suspected were related to him on my sites. I sent him a couple of Christmas cards wishing him well. I bought artwork when I learned he needed money.

In October of 2018, after accepting several hundred dollars from me over the summer through his online store and Patreon, Douglas published a blog with my emails and text messages portraying me as a stalker. You are welcome to look it up for yourself if you like, and make your own judgment. I don’t care. He had to censor the messages he posted to make himself appear more sympathetic, and avoid disclosing any of the things he did to keep me so distraught for so long. Most of Douglas‘s choices do not make sense to me in the context of a person who saw me as an actual threat. But I believe Douglas was afraid of me. I don’t understand it, but I regret it. I’m sorry I hurt someone who hurts so much.

I have not contacted him or looked at his website since October of 2018.

Soon after Douglas‘s blog was posted, a Facebook page and WordPress site appeared, using stolen images from my real social media, trying to terrorize me and ruin my reputation. Douglas had to have been involved on some level. I know he knew about it, because Steve called him on the phone and asked him directly. I have proof that Cory’s friend Stephanie participated, and Cory was sharing it.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Audacity of this bitch...

Cory Strode, does "loving each other" include deliberately spreading half-truths and lies in secret about a woman struggling to recover from trauma?

Cory Strode, does “loving each other” include deliberately spreading half-truths and lies in secret about a woman struggling to recover from trauma?

These people have consistently devalued and underestimated me, down to the arrogant assumption that I would not be able to identify them.

I was afraid for my physical safety. As soon as I could, I left my job at the time, which I have never financially recovered from. I had my locks changed. I filed police reports. I publicly ignored the pages, and I silently collected evidence.

These pages posted things meant to scare me, like ambiguously stating they had more stories to “expose” about me, or claiming to be in contact with my friends back in Houston, or that they were contacting conventions around the country about me. They contacted one of my clients with a neglected commission.

They mocked me for grieving my relationship with Douglas, as if I should feel shame for caring about someone. I am not ashamed of loving someone. Even if he didn’t want to be with me, I wanted Douglas to be fed and have a roof over his head. I wanted him to be okay. I wanted him to know that someone appreciated everything he puts into his work. Did I go about that in the correct way? No, I did not. Did he treat me well? No, he did not. I can regret my actions, but I will not view love as something to be ashamed of. Don’t put your hangups on me.

These pages made the mistake of posting things that I couldn’t be gaslit about, like accusing me of stalking my ex-husband. Let me call him up! “Hey, Matt, am I stalking you?” “No, why do you ask?” Not all divorces end in hatred, sorry.

Once I felt confident I was not in any physical danger, it all became funny and extremely pathetic. These people were cowards, hiding behind a bungled attempt to remain anonymous, projecting everything they hated about themselves onto me. They were advertising their own fears and insecurities on a 50ft billboard. None of it was about me at all. That was a watershed realization for me.

And then I felt an overwhelming sense of pity for them. How meaningless and miserable does your life have to be that you feel the need to run a stupid-looking “hate” page and hide your names like a bunch of chickenshit middle-schoolers? Even at my lowest, I have never felt the urge to do something that dumb. Calling me stupid, while leaving personal info in the images uploaded. Eventually, I quit looking at all. They kept the smear campaign up for about a year and a half.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Audacity of this bitch...

Cory Strode, does "loving each other" include attempting to defame, discredit, and humiliate a woman you harmed so that you can avoid accountability?

Cory Strode, does “loving each other” include attempting to defame, discredit, and humiliate a woman you harmed so that you can avoid accountability?

In early 2020, I was finally ready to speak out, and I posted a blog about my relationship with Douglas. I named names, and posted screenshots of the abuse and harassment directed toward me. In late 2020, yet another effort was made to control and gaslight me. Cory’s friend Stephanie had a lawyer send me a demand letter threatening to sue. They accused me of fabricating the messages she sent me, along with the other evidence I gathered. They accused me of lying about things I know happened. Threaten all you want, but I’m done being bullied.

I feel bad for the lawyer. He seems like a genuinely good person.

Cory, Joe, and Stephanie have a lot invested in writing me off as crazy.

I am an honest person. I have never disputed the validity of the messages from me that Douglas posted. I personally find him to be a bit paranoid, and I disagree with his conclusions. He seemed to often find malice where none actually existed. Not just with me, but others. Regardless, I learned to live with what I had done, and I never dreamed of purposefully harming him by denying reality.

I am on the autism spectrum. I am often too blunt or too honest, and make observations that people do not want to hear. I frequently stick my foot in my mouth, and say well-intentioned things in the worst way possible. But I’m aware I do this, I don’t get defensive about it, I’m always willing to explain myself, and I don’t say things to intentionally hurt people. I become fixated on ideas and topics I am excited about. That does not make me dangerous. I habitually “camouflage” to navigate a world of neurotypical people. That does not make me fake.

I have ADHD. I struggle with executive functions, like keeping my apartment clean, being on time for appointments, and prioritizing work. That does not make me dishonest or lazy. I am easily distracted, and have poor “working memory.” That does not mean I am uninterested. I often get lost in my own thoughts. That does not mean I do not care about yours. I need you to say what you mean, and explain yourself when I have trouble understanding. Sometimes I need to be told things more than once. Sometimes I echo things back to confirm I have heard you correctly. None of these mean I am not listening. I am trying, I promise.

I have OCD. I get stuck in Hellish cycles of destroying and remaking my own work over minuscule “flaws.” I get paralyzed in anticipation of these cycles. I hate touching prepared food with my hands, and I eat things like pizza – sometimes even sandwiches – with a knife and fork. I own ten pairs of identical pants, and I wear nearly the same outfit day-to-day. I bite my lips, chew on cables, and pick apart the stuffing in pillows. Everything I own has a particular (though not usually obvious to others) order. I hoard food when I can, after living through hurricanes on the Gulf coast and periods of going hungry. I keep emergency medical supplies and small tools with me. I repetitively check doors and locks because of traumas other people have inflicted on me. This often means checking and re-checking doors a dozen or more times, until I am behind schedule or late. These behaviours are odd, yes, but they mostly harm only myself.

I have Depression – mostly due to the anxiety, fatigue, and isolation caused by my other conditions. I have been fighting to maintain the will to live since I was a teenager. Most often, this has manifested as losing my appetite, forcing myself to eat, sleeping too much, and being unable to enjoy things. I’m not bitter, envious, or resentful about those that are better off than me. Happiness is not a zero sum game. But I have lost about 8lbs since November, not including 2lbs of breasts. Over the course of this pandemic, it feels like any naive hope I had that humanity would ultimately work together for its own benefit has been completely shattered. I have no idea how we will overcome existential threats like climate change, when we cannot even stop shooting each other for a single day. I have never sincerely wanted to harm another person, no matter how badly they hurt me. I don’t take any joy from the suffering of others. Depression does not make me psychotic.

I have PTSD. I had to push through feelings of being physically ill to write about my relationship with Cory. I had to fight the urge to throw up in order to scan and post his photos. I wrote what I wrote because the pain of holding everything back finally became greater than the pain of writing about, and possible consequences of telling, my story. This man was a fully-formed adult, with higher education in psychology, an ex-wife, and a child closer to my age than he was when he met me — a needy teenager with a background of abuse, undiagnosed developmental disorders, no adults I felt I could trust, and no life experience outside my parents’ home. He knew exactly how vulnerable I was. Despite claiming to care about me, he consistently prioritized gratifying his own ego, and thinking with his dick, over my actual well-being. I wasn’t “too crazy” for Cory when I looked up to him as a source of advice and guidance for almost all my adult life. I wasn’t “too crazy” for Cory until I gained enough genuine independence and maturity to say, “What you did to me? Not okay.” I’ve been with plenty of men I wasn’t actually into, and had plenty of sex I didn’t actually want, in my life but nobody — nobody — has made me feel fetishized, objectified, and dehumanized like Cory Strode.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Audacity of this bitch...

Cory Strode, does "loving each other" include making up fake stories where you are the innocent hero, gaslighting and further traumatizing your victim?

Cory Strode, does “loving each other” include making up fake stories where you are the innocent hero, gaslighting and further traumatizing your victim?

None of my disabilities excuse the abuse and hatred directed toward me. I have lived a full and emotionally-rich life in spite of them. Most of my suffering has come not from my disabilities, but by how I have been treated by others.

I did not ask for, or make a choice, to be autistic. I have known something was “off” about me since I was a child, and I have spent my whole life trying to fix it or fit in. I am used to eating crow. I have developed a taste for crow; it’s easier for me to swallow than empty, candy-coated lies. Lies don’t nourish growth. Lies don’t nourish improvement. Lies don’t accomplish anything but comfort, and I don’t particularly enjoy being comfortable. I don’t owe people that harmed me my silence. I don’t owe anyone’s tissue-paper ego, fake public image, or desire to “just move on,” anything. I’m not perfect, but at least I’m genuine. I stand by my statements. I have been open about my personal struggles since I began drawing autobiographical comics in 2003. I have been doing my best to be a good person in a world I, more often than not, do not understand – a world that sometimes feels suffocating in its cruelty, hatred, and callousness.

It is exhausting. I am exhausted.

At the moment I am taking some time for myself to digest everything that has happened, posting mostly on Patreon while I recover, and continuing to work on both my autobiography and first art book. When I am eventually ready to put my hat back on, it will be because it is who I am, not who I am hiding.

Thank you.

CATEGORY:

Cory Strode: The Wrong People

As of today, 27 March 2021, I am in possession of allegations by two third-party sources that Cory Strode has repeatedly lied to or misled others about the details of our relationship(s) such as how we met, when we met, where we met, whether we were intimate, etc. He has also been making defamatory statements about my professional reputation as a comics creator. The comment below was privately-messaged by Mr. Strode to one of the concerned third-parties when they asked him about me. The third-party’s messages to me follow in screenshots below.

Cory Strode making defamatory statements about the comics industry career of Jin Wicked.

Mr. Strode knows that I prefer to stay indie/self-published. I do not want “gigs,” have never pursued “gigs,” I turn down almost all commission requests, and in the past two years I have turned down offers to be included in comic anthologies, work as an inker, and even illustrate a children’s book. I would much rather work a day job than pour all my blood and sweat into other people’s material. Making art is too intimate a process for me to do work-for-hire. His statement is a lie.

Disparaging someone with then-undiagnosed ADHD for having trouble making deadlines and finishing projects, when you know that person is actively struggling to improve themselves, is also a great look. I suspected I had ADHD in 2015. Due to Cory Strode positioning himself as my “unconditionally loving” caretaker, and his education in psychology, when he told me I did not have ADHD I dropped it. Almost four years passed before I finally got medication and treatment.

Publicly, he refuses to acknowledge or engage in any subject having to do with me, presenting himself as “above the fray” regarding controversy or drama.

Cory Strode falsely portraying himself as above engaging in any controversy or drama.

Mr. Strode with me on 16 May 2015, the night before MSP Comicon 2015.

Cory Strode less than an hour before he scolds me like a child about my once-per-month, if even that, and special occasion cigarillo/cigar smoking.

Cory Strode less than an hour before he scolds me like a child about my once-per-month, if even that, and special occasion cigarillo/cigar smoking.

Privately, he lies about his personal history with me, and uses the “abuse does not matter because she’s craAaAazy” defense to undermine my credibility.

Cory Strode engaging in victim-blaming and lying about our personal relationship history.

Mr. Strode with me on 17 May 2015, while in his personal vehicle.

Cory Strode driving to MSP Comicon 2015 with his little "fixer-upper."

Cory Strode driving to MSP Comicon 2015 with his little “fixer-upper.”

One of these third-parties has provided validation of what I already suspected, that Cory Strode was actively disseminating the “Veritas” page. This lines up with the documentation I have provided of the “Veritas” Facebook page showing up in the “recommended pages” connected to Mr. Strode’s podcast Facebook page.

Cory Strode disseminating the anonymous fear-and-smear campaign run against me for approximately two years.

To be absolutely, 100% perfectly, unambigiously clear:

It is my personal opinion that Mr. Strode deploys his over-the-top helpfulness, “empathy,” and “nice guy” persona to manipulate the individuals in his orbit for the purposes of creating attachment and inflating his own ego. Based on his own admissions to me over the years, he has a pattern of dating younger women, and women in vulnerable positions, who are highly likely to be or become dependent on him. I was one of those women. When I queried about his dating habits at one point, his response was that he “doesn’t discriminate based on age.” Mr. Strode is an insufferable braggart who fancies himself a great altruist, while harbouring resentment toward anyone who expresses insufficient gratitude toward him.

Mr. Strode with me on 11 June 2016, after having lunch at the Hi-Lo Diner.

Cory Strode almost exactly one month before violating the safety and sanctity of my home and intimate spaces, leaving me feeling raped and traumatized.

Cory Strode almost exactly one month before violating the safety and sanctity of my home and intimate spaces, leaving me feeling raped and traumatized.

My personal relationship with Mr. Strode began long-distance over the Internet, when I was 18 and he was in his mid-30s. Mr. Strode has a Bachelor’s degree in psychology, and was aware at that time of my abusive childhood, miserable home situation, and emotional/psychological instability. He enthusiastically took a flight to Houston, where I lived with my family, in 1999 to see me in person and have physical/sexual contact with me. In 2000 he “helped” me “escape” by temporarily moving me into his home in Chaska where, being on my own for the first time and scared, we briefly resumed our sexual relationship. It is my personal opinion that, deliberately or not, Mr. Strode took advantage of my loneliness, naivete, and lack of life experience to amuse and gratify himself. I was visibly more immature and impulsive than my peers in my teens and early 20s. I was finally diagnosed with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder at age 39 and 40, respectively.

In the months leading up to and following my return to Minnesota in 2015, Mr. Strode continually over-stepped personal boundaries with favours and gifts, used excessive fawning and flattery to manipulate me, made me uncomfortable with his obvious attraction to and sexual desire for me, deliberately got me intoxicated in situations where I would be reliant on him, latched onto my resurgent comics career and personal progress as a mechanism to congratulate himself, made me feel like his personal “show pony” at conventions and events, allegedly lied about my past and our relationship history to mutual friends, and groomed me into a state of debilitating anxiety and learned helplessness. When he finally went too far by “cleaning up my apartment” and left me feeling raped, traumatized, and unsafe in my own home, and in my personal opinion I no longer served my purpose to make him feel better about himself, he discarded me.

Mr. Rider and Mr. Strode with me on 10 October 2015, at MSP Fallcon 2015.

MSP Fallcon 2015: Joe Rider (left) staring at my breasts while Cory Strode (right) makes kissy faces at me. My eye makeup is smeared from crying/drinking.

MSP Fallcon 2015: Joe Rider (left) staring at my breasts while Cory Strode (right) makes kissy faces at me. My eye makeup is smeared from crying/drinking.

Mr. Strode continued churning out podcasts while I struggled to recover.

My attempts to address with Mr. Strode my feelings of being taken advantage of and violated by him have resulted in denial, minimization, and gaslighting.

Speaking to others and writing about my experiences with Mr. Strode has made me the target of abuse, defamation, harassment, mockery, and threats from Joe Rider, Stephanie Cofell, and anonymous others. In November of 2020, Stephanie Cofell threatened me with a civil lawsuit and/or criminal action, falsely accusing me of lying, falsely accusing me of fabricating the abusive messages written by her that I posted in my previous #MeToo blog, and attempting to silence me regarding the inappropriate nature of Mr. Strode and Mr. Rider’s actions.

You can read more in my previous #MeToo blog about Douglas Paszkiewicz.

Fears for my personal safety resulting from the “Jin Wicked Veritas” pages triggered disruption and a profound decrease in my quality of life, including the loss of a stable, well-paid job that made accommodations for my disabilities and scheduling requirements as a convention exhibitor. As an autistic person, stability is essential to my ability to function successfully, and I have never fully recovered from the loss of that job. The injury to my emotional, psychological, and physical health caused by the actions of Cory Strode, Stephanie Cofell, Joe Rider, and others has exacerbated the symptoms of my disabilities, deteriorated my ability to generate income through my self-employed activity, and derailed progress on my personal goals. I have suffered damage to my professional reputation as both a direct result of defamatory statements made about me, and an indirect result of my reduced ability to function. I have wasted countless uncompensated hours dealing with all this, including documentation, filing police reports, changing my locks, seeking new employment, and ultimately having to locate a lawyer and obtain legal counsel. I am exploring my options in regards to these losses.

Mr. Rider and Mr. Strode with me on 15 May 2016, at MSP Comicon 2016. Mr. Rider coaxes me to sit on his lap, while Mr. Strode declares his envy.

Mr. Rider and Mr. Strode with me on 15 May 2016, at MSP Comicon 2016. Dancing at the close of their “livestreaming” for 15 hours. Mr. Rider touches me while I am dancing. Pay close attention to how Mr. Strode looks at me, especially around the 1:40 mark, and the look he gives the camera afterward. Now imagine being looked at this way all the time, every time you see this person, when you are simply trying to be a good friend. Imagine being looked at this way this while you eat. While you shop. While you do anything. Imagine having any paper you so much as scribble on be instantly scooped up like it belongs in a museum.

Imagine not being able to have a “bad day” without this person badgering you with messages asking what they can do for you. Imagine not being able to say a single “negative” thing about yourself without this person correcting you. Imagine being suffocated by adulation about how beautiful, creative, special, and talented you are until it becomes meaningless. Imagine this person informing you that you “need” to be loved unconditionally, and he has promised himself that he would be the one to love you. Imagine this person maneuvering himself into becoming your caretaker, manager, and therapist, constantly “helping” you by “explaining” who you are, what is wrong with you, why you do things, and what you should do.

Imagine this person mentioning how good he is at sex at every opportunity.

Imagine this person egging you on to drink alcohol at every opportunity.

Imagine all of this while feeling, subconsciously, that this person arranged a situation where you were completely dependent on him, and then exploited it to parade you around and have sex with you, while you were barely an adult and he knew you were ridiculously vulnerable. Imagine being a confused, frightened, and painfully-sheltered 19 year-old autistic girl with no experience living on her own, or even experience with a real adult relationship, suddenly given flowers, gifts, and “kindness,” and unsure how to respond. Imagine this person, a mid-30s age man, being sexually attracted to that level of immaturity. Imagine your clearest memory of living with this person being how astonished he was with your ability to cleanly-shave your crotch bald using a disposable razor. Imagine, twenty years later, this person “kindly” sharing that he forgave you long ago for saying “mean things” when you quit speaking; i.e. that you felt taken advantage of by him in the past. Imagine this person telling you over and over how much he cares.

Imagine, somehow, for some reason, finding yourself apologizing to him.

Imagine this person letting himself into your home while you are at work all day, without your knowledge or consent; cooking food you do not want, doing cleaning you do not want, misplacing things, handling your bedding, handling your laundry including your dirty underwear, leaving love letters and mints on your pillows.

Imagine this person, who claims to “unconditionally love” you, discarding you like a piece of trash when you confront him about his behaviour. Imagine this person then trying to secretly destroy you, rather than acknowledge the reality of what he has done and admit any wrongdoing. Imagine having an ego that fragile.

These men do not find me “craAaAazy” when I do what they want.

With regards to “proof,” there are references to “cows on the highway” in episodes of the “Kray Z Comics and Stories” podcast that I appeared in. Those “jokes” are about Mr. Strode’s trip to Houston, Texas, in 1999. There were cows that had wandered onto and blocked part of the feeder lanes on the Gulf Freeway (I-45) while he was travelling to his hotel in the Webster/Clear Lake area, south of the Houston metro, from the airport. I lied to my parents about seeing “The Matrix” twice in a row to explain the time I spent in Mr. Strode’s hotel room.

“The Matrix” was released on 31 March 1999, and appears to have run a little over two months. Based on statements from a friend who moved out-of-state in April, and when I started working at the Michael’s on Bay Area Blvd, that would place Mr. Strode’s romantic visit to me most likely in early May. Approximately two months after I turned 19 years-old. He was 34 or 35 years-old.

While he was visiting me, I took Mr. Strode to the Half Price Books off E NASA Pkwy, which, if I remember correctly, was located in the older shopping centre on FM 270/Egret Bay Blvd at that time. I also took him to an IHOP in the same area, which seems to have moved as well. There is a Motel 6 that appears to have its main office in a shuttered IHOP building, next to the Waffle House at 959 NASA Road 1. This trip was when Mr. Strode learned that Waffle House is “a real place,” and not a fictional restaurant created for movies and television. I believe he has made comments about this on the “Kray Z Comics and Stories” podcast.

I am still friends with the man (only a few years older than me) that I began dating after “breaking up” with Mr. Strode, a month or two after his visit, in 1999. He recalls being concerned when I told him about my relationship with Mr. Strode. It was common for me to engage in magical thinking during that time of my life. When I “broke up” with Mr. Strode, I told him that the new man had “poisoned” me with his kiss. Mr. Strode was undeniably aware of how immature I was.

At some point in 1999, Cory Strode’s “Weekly News Update” mailing list was hijacked by a person calling himself “The Demon Etrigan.” This happened because Mr. Strode sent the emails from standard email software, with all of the recipients as CCs, not BCCs. The messages were somewhat threatening and Mr. Strode was quite distressed. Though this person was utilizing an “anonymous” Yahoo! email address, through the email headers I was able to trace the IP address of origin back to the individual’s place of employment and ultimately identify him.

At some point in 1999, Mr. Strode gifted me with a copy of the Playstation instruction booklet for Final Fantasy VI personalized with my name and sketched on by Yoshitaka Amano. I still have this. Mr. Strode bragged that to get it, he had to first mail the booklet to Neil Gaiman, who then mailed to Yoshitaka Amano in Japan, who then returned it to Neil Gaiman, who then returned it to Mr. Strode. I had no idea who Neil Gaiman was, or why Mr. Strode bragged about him.

After Mr. Strode “helped” me “escape” to Minnesota in early 2000, I went with him several times to the Hot Comics owned by Joe Rider, on White Bear Ave. Mr. Rider paid me in cash, under the table, to help bag and board comic books. I was also given the imported “Captain Harlock” and “Queen Emeraldas” action figures, issued by Jesnet in 1998, upon request. One third-party, who recalled seeing me at Hot Comics in 2000, made a comment to me in 2018 about my obnoxiously childish behaviour back then. I can draw an approximate floor plan of the store, which was long-closed by the time I returned to Minnesota in 2015. Immediately to the right of the entrance was the check-out counter, and the opposite corner to the left was furnished with couches and/or large chairs. There was a television up on top of a cabinet or shelving, which they used to watch Dennis Miller stand-up comedy or wrestling videos. There was a Taco Bell nearby where Mr. Strode purchased food; I was surprised to see them accept a personal cheque.

The exact circumstances and location of this memory are somewhat hazy, but I think this occurred one evening after spending the day at Hot Comics. Mr. Strode took me out to a restaurant with a large group of people, mostly older men. Joe Rider might have been with us. The group was situated at a long table. There was one black man in the group, and Mr. Strode goaded me into asking him, “[NAME], what is a Nubian?” in a toddler-like voice. I had not heard that word before, and no one would tell me what it meant beforehand. Everyone laughed uproariously, except for the black man, who chuckled and sighed. I was uncertain of what I had done, but I felt bad. I have been told by a friend that this question was one of Mr. Strode’s favourite quotes from the movie “Chasing Amy.” I believe that I have identified the black man. The restaurant could be Best Steak House.

Though I am still searching documents to identify the wedding that Mr. Strode took me to as his +1, I remember the first name of the woman, and very vaguely what she looked like. She was an acquaintance or friend of Mr. Strode’s; possibly a coworker. Part of what motivated me to move to Minnesota was the assurance from Mr. Strode that this woman would be able to help me have my art displayed in a gallery setting. The wedding was held in a large, extravagant home, and Mr. Strode made sure to point out the framed Salvidor Dalí sketches hanging in the stairwell. They were either original artwork or signed lithographs.

Mr. Strode drove a Geo Metro hatchback, which he referred to as a “pregnant roller skate.” My mental image of the car is dark navy blue or hunter green.

Mr. Strode often bragged about shopping at The J. Peterman Company.

Mr. Strode took me out for brunch at the Hotel Sofitel Minneapolis, where he talked at length about Brie. A third-party might have met with us there.

Mr. Strode took me to, most likely, M. Elizabeth Salon for a haircut. The interior is familiar, and I remember them selling products that began with the letter “A.”

Mr. Strode took me to Pandora’s Cup, which I later revisited with my friend Jon.

Mr. Strode took me to a comedy club; most likely ACME Comedy Company.

Mr. Strode took me to a Nine Inch Nails concert at the Target Center on 17 Apr 2000. I am still trying to locate my ticket stub, but our seats were on the upper level and to the left of the stage. I would guess in the 208-210 sections.

I am still friends with the man (also only a few years older than me) I began a three-year relationship with while I was living in Minneapolis. Prior to his arrival, I disclosed to him my bizarre and uncomfortable sexual encounters with Mr. Strode while I was briefly living in his home. He also saw the photos that Mr. Strode took of me while I wore lingerie in a Walmart and, I believe, Chaska City Square Park. Along with images of me playing video games while sitting on Mr. Strode’s living room floor with my bare ass exposed, these are the photos which Mr. Strode made a “joke” about keeping to masturbate with after we were no longer intimate. I tried for many years to pretend that none of it happened.

I can describe Mr. Strode’s naked body, genitals, and other details of a more intimate nature, if it becomes necessary to ascertain my truthfulness.

I have an employment record from the period I lived in Minnesota in 2000, photographs, and multiple third-parties that I have remained friends with since that time. I am incapable of keeping secrets, and I have told many, many, many people about my experiences with Mr. Strode over the past twenty years. None of the events have ever changed; only my understanding of them as I grew older, gained more life experience, and reconnected with Mr. Strode at age 34.

When Mr. Strode met me, I was an adult in only the “technically legal” sense.

Mr. Rider on 12 March 2018, making my trauma into a running joke.

'Krayz' Joe Rider being an unrepentant asshole.

Krayz Joe Rider being an unrepentant asshole.

Joe Rider has made “mints on pillows” jokes as recently as 8 March 2021.

Cory Strode’s other frequent podcast co-host and the illustrator of his webcomic, Daniel Mohr, sexually assaulted a woman on stage with his puppet in August of 2019. He was forced to apologize after arguing with witnesses about it.

Only the best people for the “Kray Z Comics and Stories” podcast!

My diagnoses are, according to the therapist I began seeing in early 2019:

Autism Spectrum Disorder, High-Functioning
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Major Depressive Disorder, Recurrent Episode, Severe
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Unspecified
Panic Disorder

I have no history of self-injurious behaviours such as cutting or actual suicide attempts. I have no history of violence except for an isolated “meltdown” incident in response to relentless psychological and verbal abuse from my parents when I was 14 years-old, where I never intended to harm anyone, and ultimately no one was physically harmed. I have no history of criminality beyond allegedly “rolling” through a stop sign once, and if memory serves, one or two speeding tickets.

I am able to form secure, stable attachments with healthy individuals. I have many lifelong friends. I am on cordial terms with almost all of my past romantic partners. I was with my ex-husband for twelve years, and ours was an amicable divorce that did not even require a lawyer. I have been with my current partner for almost five years, except for a few hiccups due to his ex-girlfriend and employment issues. I do not seem to experience “envy” or “jealousy.”

My developmental disorders do not make me crazy, dangerous, or unhinged. Nor do they excuse or justify the abusive, hateful, exploitative, and sadistic ways in which I have been treated. They do not invalidate my claims or experiences.

The truth is the truth, even when it makes someone uncomfortable.

Over the course of my life, I have done well adapting and consciously learning to navigate social situations. But I am at an extreme disadvantage when I encounter novel situations and personality types that I have no experience with. This made me easy prey for the self-serving efforts of Mr. Strode and Mr. Paszkiewicz.

While my continued attempts to contact Douglas Paszkiewicz after our breakup may technically meet the definition of “stalking,” the content of my messages and the motivation behind them was inconsistent with typical stalking. I honestly did not understand how my messages could be viewed as threatening. A phone call from a police officer, or even a conversation from one of our mutual friends whom I trusted, to help me understand that Mr. Paszkiewicz was frightened of me would have given me the perspective needed to change my behaviour. I have evidence that Mr. Paszkiewicz was monitoring this blog and my social media, prolonging my confusion and distress. Mr. Paszkiewicz did nothing, as far as I know, to address the situation for almost three years, even sending mixed signals by accepting my money and mailing me extra gift items. Mr. Paszkiewicz only “spoke out” when I finally wised up to him, told him he cannot control me, and said I was done.

I am truly sorry for the pain I have caused Mr. Paszkiewicz. I can sense he is someone who struggles and suffers greatly. Indeed, that is why I tried so hard to reach him in the first place. But his accusations against me read like the temper-tantrum of a man angry that his private attention-spigot ran dry. His scornful blog post and the “Veritas” pages felt like bait designed to reel me back in. Ms. Cofell and Mr. Strode then inserted themselves to avenge their own grievances.

The judgements of cowards and liars are merely farts in a windstorm.

I am in the process of writing my complete and exhaustive autobiography, including the details of my intimate relationship with Mr. Strode, and assembling the definitive timeline of my life with documentation and independent verification whenever possible. I will not allow other people to attempt to tell me who and/or what I am any longer. This is something I must do for my own health. Thank you for your patience while I am working on this difficult but necessary project.

Please email me if you have any additional information about Cory Strode.

Cory Strode is also known online as Cory!! Strode, Solitaire Rose, Uncle Rat Bastard, and is the self-proclaimed “Best-Dressed Man in Comics.”

Update 28 March 2021: Below is what another ex-mutual-friend recalls being told by Cory Strode regarding my personal history and past relationship(s) with him.

Cory Strode being the nicest guy "nice guy"ever.

I was born in Texas and lived in Minnesota for roughly a year in 2000, as written previously. When I left Minnesota, I briefly attempted to live in Buffalo, NY, due to its proximity to Toronto, ON. I was unable to find a job there and, running out of money, I returned to Texas in 2001. I was in a relationship with a Canadian man living in Toronto for approximately two more years after returning to Texas.

My relationship with my ex-husband began in September of 2003. I ended my friendship with Cory Strode the first time around 2008-2009 (I am still working to narrow/verify this), after a particularly loathsome run of Cory making derogatory and ignorant “jokes” about people from the southern US. At 28 or 29 years old, this was also when I first attempted to confront him about the inappropriateness of our past sexual relationship. My ex-husband and I did not get married until 2010. Everything that Cory Strode allegedly says about me here is a lie.

Update 30 March 2021: «« CONTENT WARNING »» I have published a roughly-written, full timeline of my relationship(s) with Cory Strode over on my personal Facebook account for the time being. «« CONTENT WARNING »»

Here is the “sanitized” version of the events described in detail at the link above. It was published in January of 2017, before I was subjected to years of additional abuse and re-tramautization. Note that I mention the “blacklist” and “burning bridges” comments made by Stephanie to me, and the reference to Steve.

2000: Photo of me in Minneapolis by Jon Heller at “Cory’s” coffee shop.
2000: Photo of me in Minneapolis by Jon Heller at graffiti I spotted w/Cory.
2016-07-13: Blog published trying to accept/rationalize what Cory did.
2016-08-11: Facebook post referencing being free of Cory’s influence.
2016-08-15: Facebook post referencing re-cleaning/re-washing everything.
2016-08-16: Facebook post referencing re-cleaning/re-washing everything.
2016-10-03: Blog published referencing statements made by Cory and Douglas.
2016-10-20: Artwork posted illustrating the trauma inflicted on me by Cory.
2016-12-26: Facebook post responding to Stephanie’s DM after she blocked me.
2016-12-26: Blog published responding to Cory’s and Stephanie’s abuse.
2017-01-03: Facebook post referencing (#33) how Cory treated me.
2017-01-24: Facebook post regarding my relationship with Cory.
2017-11-25: Facebook post referencing destroying Cory’s dinner table.
2019-05-17: Artwork I gifted to Cory, purchased back at MCBA charity sale.

Update 01 April 2021: What even is this life?

seriously dude wtf

Update 03 April 2021: Documentation regarding LionCon in Saint Cloud, MN.

The arrangements for this event were made prior to Mr. Strode “cleaning up my apartment” for me, which occured on 10 July 2016. This event took place on 27 August 2016. I made a request to the convention management to have my booth moved as far away from Mr. Strode’s as possible, but I was told that the floor plan was finalized and changes could not be made. I do not “no show” events. I made the decision to tough it out. I did not expect Mr. Strode to accost me, or make Al and myself unwilling participants in his “livestreaming” activities all day.

Cory Strode, Stephanie Cofell, and her husband playing board games and forcing me to be in the background of their livestream after Cory "apologized" to me.

Cory Strode, Stephanie Cofell, and her husband playing board games and forcing me to be in the background of their livestream after Cory “apologized” to me.

Al notices the camera at the 13:00 mark, waves to the camera at the 24:00 mark, and says something to me around the 28:00 mark. At around 30 seconds in, Al moves his body to block me from view of the camera, and the customer at my table looks over at Mr. Strode when we comment on what they are doing.

This occurs a short time after Mr. Strode physically approached me at the pipe-and-drape between our booths, blubbering and sobbing in a mocking non-apology for his inappropriate relationship with me when I was a teenager and invasion of my home, causing me to exit the show floor and become physically ill.

Below is the private message that Stephanie Cofell sent me twice, to both my personal and business page inbox, about four months later when I “unfriended” her on Facebook. She blocked my personal account before I even had a chance to respond. I responded to her allegations of lying about my age publicly here at the time, I responded to her other comments more generally in this blog post, and I mentioned the “blacklist” and “burning bridges” comments here in 2017.

Abusive and threatening Facebook message sent to me by Stephanie Cofell after "unfriending" her on Facebook.

This is one of the messages that I have been falsely accused of “faking.”

Message originally sent 26 December 2016. Video recorded on 06 November 2020. I added a dummy Facebook account as an admin to my business page to record this, since Ms. Cofell has blocked my personal account. This person has not only treated me abusively, but threatened to sue me for revealing it.

Update 03 April 2021: Documentation regarding my history with Cory Strode.

Me at age 18, in my childhood bedroom. What I looked like around the time Cory Strode met me online as a mid-30s age man. Surrounded by books, games, and toys.

Me at age 18, in my childhood bedroom, where I lived until Cory Strode “helped” me move to Minnesota. What I looked like around the time he met me online, as a mid-30s age, college-educated man. Surrounded by fantasy books, games, and toys. I was about 10 years old when Mr. Strode’s son was born, and 11 years old when he divorced from his wife. His son is closer to my age than he is.

"Thunder" 7" × 5" coloured pencil on toned textured paper. If I remember correctly, Cory Strode told me his parents liked wolves. This was drawn, framed by me while working at the Michael's on Bay Area Blvd (when I began custom framing), and then mailed to him/them as a gift. File dated 19 May 1999.

“Thunder” 7″ × 5″ coloured pencil on toned textured paper. If I remember correctly, Cory Strode told me his parents liked wolves. This was drawn, framed by me while working at the Michael’s on Bay Area Blvd (when I began custom framing), and then mailed to him/them as a gift. File dated 19 May 1999.

This is the website I built for Cory Strode in 1999, registered 31 May 1999.

This is the website I built for Cory Strode in 1999, registered 31 May 1999.

Me at age 20, at the Michael's in Richfield, MN. Shortly before I would load everything I own in a U-Haul truck and drive it to Buffalo, NY during a blizzard.

Me at age 20, at the Michael’s in Richfield, MN. Shortly before I would load everything I own in a U-Haul truck and drive it to Buffalo, NY, during a blizzard.

Cory Strode in a "Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break" comic strip in 2003.

Cory Strode in a “Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break” comic strip in 2003.

Cory Strode at the Dave & Buster's on Richmond Ave in Houston, Texas, in 2004 for my 24th birthday party. A fan/reader of mine donated frequent flyer miles.

Cory Strode at the Dave & Buster’s on Richmond Ave in Houston, Texas, in 2004 for my 24th birthday party. A fan/reader of mine donated frequent flyer miles.

Cory Strode at the Agora Coffee Shop in Houston, Texas, in 2004.

Cory Strode at the Agora Coffee Shop in Houston, Texas, in 2004.

Cory Strode playing poker with my room-mate at that time (left) and two other friends (right) at the Agora Coffee Shop in Houston, Texas, in 2004.

Cory Strode playing poker with my room-mate at that time (left) and two other friends (right) at the Agora Coffee Shop in Houston, Texas, in 2004.

Cory Strode when I took him, at his request, to visit NASA/The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center during his 2004 trip to Houston, Texas. That was, again, do not forget: paid for with frequent flyer miles from one of my fans/readers.

Cory Strode when I took him, at his request, to visit NASA/The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center during his 2004 trip to Houston, Texas. That was, again, do not forget: paid for with frequent flyer miles from one of my fans/readers.

I can neither confirm nor deny if Cory Strode is now claiming credit for creation of the NASA X-38 experimental re-entry vehicle program.

I can neither confirm nor deny if Cory Strode is now claiming credit for creation of the NASA X-38 experimental re-entry vehicle program.

Cory Strode when I took him, at his request, to a pier on the Galveston seawall to see the ocean/Gulf of Mexico during his 2004 trip to Houston, Texas.

Cory Strode when I took him, at his request, to a pier on the Galveston seawall to see the ocean/Gulf of Mexico during his 2004 trip to Houston, Texas.

Cory Strode at a pier restaurant on the seawall in Galveston, Texas, in 2004.

Cory Strode at a pier restaurant on the seawall in Galveston, Texas, in 2004.

Cory Strode playing poker with my room-mate at that time, in my home, where he slept on my couch (visible here) during his 2004 trip to Houston, Texas.

Cory Strode playing poker with my room-mate at that time, in my home, where he slept on my couch (visible here) during his 2004 trip to Houston, Texas.

Cory Strode with written commentary inside, and a cartoon of himself on the cover of one of my books (middle bottom image.) This particular copy was being hawked by Joe Rider at a markup, AFTER they threatened me with a lawsuit.

Cory Strode with written commentary inside, and a cartoon of himself on the cover of one of my books (middle bottom image.) This particular copy was being hawked by Joe Rider at a markup, AFTER they threatened me with a lawsuit.

Updated cover/format for the original "Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break: Volume One," 24 August 2005, when the book was moved from CafePress to Lulu.

Updated cover/format for the original “Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break: Volume One,” 24 August 2005, when the book was moved from CafePress to Lulu.

Dedication page "Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break: Volume One," 24 August 2005.

Dedication page, “Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break: Volume One,” Lulu 2005.

Cory Strode's written contribution/afterword to "Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break: Volume One," Lulu 2005. Original CafePress version published in 2004.

Cory Strode’s written contribution/afterword to “Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break: Volume One,” Lulu 2005. Original CafePress version published in 2004.

Cory Strode's written contribution/afterword to "Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break: Volume One," Lulu 2005. Original CafePress version published in 2004.

Cory Strode’s written contribution/afterword to “Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break: Volume One,” Lulu 2005. Original CafePress version published in 2004.

Cory Strode in a "Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break" comic strip in 2005.

Cory Strode in a “Crap I Drew on My Lunch Break” comic strip in 2005.

Sample page from "Asylum on 5th Street," the webcomic I drew for about two years and 80 pages, until I quit, written by Cory Strode. A monkey in a fez! Ha ha ha! Pie! Ha ha ha! Photographing naked women without their consent! Ha ha ha!

Sample page from “Asylum on 5th Street,” the webcomic I drew for about two years and 80 pages, until I quit, written by Cory Strode. A monkey in a fez! Ha ha ha! Pie! Ha ha ha! Photographing naked women without their consent! Ha ha ha! This was page #63, drawn in 2005. He will recycle the monkey-in-a-fez for his webcomic drawn by the sexual-assault-puppet-man. GOOD STUFF.

When I first start working on this title, Cory will ask me, “Ink wash? Ink wash? Can you do ink wash???” like a fucking broken record for WEEKS. No, he never paid me for this, and I never really made money off of it. Why do you ask?!

Promotional image for "Solitaire Rose Radio" Episode #23, 20 November 2014.

Promotional image for “Solitaire Rose Radio” Episode #23, 20 November 2014.

"Dollar Late" strip drawn in early 2015. Cory Strode has re-instated himself into his "unconditionally loving" caregiver/mentor/therapist/wannabe-kingmaker role, and I am literally portraying myself as an emotionally vulnerable child.

“Dollar Late” strip drawn in early 2015. Cory Strode has re-instated himself into his “unconditionally loving” caregiver/mentor/therapist/wannabe-kingmaker role, and I am literally portraying myself as an emotionally vulnerable child.

Drawing of "martyr" Cory Strode made with Sharpie marker on 16 March 2016.

Drawing of “martyr” Cory Strode made with Sharpie marker on 16 March 2015.

Cory Strode and Joe Rider, who declared themselves my "cheerleaders."

Joe Rider and Cory Strode, who declared themselves my “cheerleaders.”

Cory Strode with me on 20 September 2015, while in my personal vehicle. From the day I drove him to Duluth, Minnesota, because he was upset about the death of a resident at his group home. What a selfish, psychotic bitch, am I right?!

Cory Strode with me on 20 September 2015, while in my personal vehicle. From the day I drove him to Duluth, Minnesota, because he was upset about the death of a resident at his group home. What a selfish, psychotic bitch, am I right?!

Cory Strode in a

Cory Strode in Duluth, Minnesota, while I was shooting with my DSLR.

Cory Strode in a "Have Tablet Will Scribble" comic strip in 2015.

Cory Strode in a “Have Tablet Will Scribble” comic strip in 2015.

Promotional image for our booths located together at MSP Comicon 2016.

Promotional image for our booths located together at MSP Comicon 2016.

Cory Strode and I watching 4th of July fireworks together on the grass at Lake Minnetonka, less than a week before he will completely turn my life upside-down by choosing to grossly violate my privacy, trust, and sense of safety in a way that no one else has before or since. He will then choose to devalue, diminish, and discard me, eventually attempting to destroy me through an online smear campaign. He is willing to ruin my life to avoid any accountability.

ALL I WANTED WAS A REAL FUCKING APOLOGY AND GENUINE REMORSE.

F U C K   Y O U

via GIPHY

CATEGORY:

Walking the Gauntlet, Vol 2

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak with a lawyer regarding the “defamation” case against me. I have also distributed the digital archive of 100+ documents, police reports, screenshots, video, and other evidence I collected to multiple trusted third-parties, in the event that something happens to me.

If you were involved with the JIN WICKED VERITAS page and you provide me with any additional evidence and/or testimony that I do not already have linking Stephanie Cofell, Cory Strode, or Joe Rider to either the Facebook page or the WordPress blog, I will refrain from identifying you or taking any future action(s) against you. Proceeding to a trial may mean you are exposed regardless.

Click for larger image. My “Priority Mail” copy never arrived.

On Wednesday I saw an OB/GYN. Barring any disruptions due to COVID-19, I have a hysterectomy scheduled for January to address the chronic pain and other issues I have been experiencing. It is my hope that once I have recovered fully from that surgery, I will be able to pursue having my breasts removed.

I have lost 3-4lbs in the last two weeks. I find it difficult to even enjoy food at this time, and I am forcing myself to eat the minimum amount of calories I know I need to remain healthy. I am alive almost solely to prove motherfuckers wrong. For the remainder of this year, I will be taking a step back from my social media, except Patreon, to focus on completing the remaining illustrations for my upcoming art book. I am also working on a wearable-art project.

Thank you to my customers, readers, and Patreon subscribers, as always.

CATEGORY:

Walking the Gauntlet

On Monday I received a “demand letter” from a lawyer representing Stephanie Cofell, threatening a civil defamation lawsuit and potential criminal investigation if I do not remove this blog post, and remove mentions of her, Cory Strode, and Joe Rider from my social media. She is alleging that the messages I posted from her are “fake,” including a private message she sent me directly herself, and screenshots from her phone that included her name in the EXIF data.

I KNOW what is real. I KNOW what she sent me. I STILL have it.

Nothing says, “I am definitely not an unhinged narcissistic person,” like hiring a lawyer to threaten financial losses to a desperately poor individual that you have been attacking and trash-talking for years, during the darkest part of a worldwide pandemic and the worst civil unrest since the 1960s. These are clearly the actions of a sane, rational person, and not the crazed woman with a personal vendetta against me that I described in the posts that she is demanding I remove.

The blog post in question is based on my first-hand experiences, details and information that I felt were trustworthy from third parties, and both direct and circumstantial evidence that I accumulated myself. I would not have published what I did if I were not confident in the conclusions that I reached.

The idea that I would knowingly fabricate something just to “defame” someone when, overall, publishing that post has brought me more drama and grief than any kind of “reward,” is ridiculous. I spoke out because I am tired of people hurting me, then trying to gaslight me and label me as crazy afterward.

I profoundly regret not filing criminal trespass (?) charges when Cory Strode chose to let himself in my home and touch my intimate items. At the time I only wanted to be left alone, but that decision to “let it go” has done nothing but indirectly cause me additional trauma over and over again.

The truth is not defamation. I am perfectly happy to take a polygraph test. I am happy to submit all my documents for computer forensic analysis. Let’s subpoena the Facebook and Messenger records for her account. I spoke out because I have been regularly talking to a therapist, in part, because I need someone to help me with the confusion, distress, and trauma these people have caused me.

I have endured people assigning malice and motives to me that I never had.

I have endured “armchair psychologists” attempting to diagnose/treat me.

I endured an almost two-year-long “anonymous” defamation campaign, and yet somehow I am the one being threatened with a defamation lawsuit for publishing the evidence I have of those involved, and speaking out about it. Unreal.

Haven’t I suffered enough?! I have nothing.

I live barely at, or below, the poverty line. I have nothing to sue for.

For the past several weeks, if not months by now, I have been openly wrestling with bouts of borderline-suicidal depression. I am highly suspicious of what appears to be an attempt to kick me while I am already down.

I have also had enough of being bullied, intimidated, and threatened. I am currently seeking legal resources for people in poverty, as well as inquiring what I may be covered for under my existing insurance policies. If any lawyer reading this wishes to donate time to assist me in this matter, please contact me.

I would also appreciate any journalist leads that might cover this story.

I am willing to attach my name to my statements, unlike those, including Stephanie, who spent almost two years trying to defame me and destroy my professional reputation under a thin veneer of “anonymity.”

I am an autobiographer and my life — warts and all — is an open book. When someone makes a conscious decision to interact with me, they do so with the knowledge that I draw and write in extreme detail about my experiences.

I will stand up for myself, even if it means defending myself in court.

In “health” news, in reference to my previous post, the therapist I have been working with since early 2019 is on board with an autism-spectrum diagnosis for me. It is an idea I had brought up a few times in the past, and she told me she has had similar thoughts about me over time. (She reads much of my writing in addition to our talks.) I will be going into her office later this month for further evaluations. I have been having increasing trouble again with behaviours like compulsively, repeatedly locking, checking, and re-locking doors, etc.

Autism and ADHD Overlap

An autism diagnosis does not change my current course of treatment (ADHD medication and therapy), however it does release me from the self-imposed idea that “normal” (neurotypical) is an attainable goal for me. Another way of putting it might be: giving myself permission to own my awkwardness and weirdness. I can learn to interact with others and the world more effectively, but I will never “bootstraps” my way to a Not Autistic Anymore trophy. Which is what I have, unknowingly, been trying to do for most of my self-aware life.

It also gives me a better framework for understanding my meltdowns and shutdowns, and an effective vocabulary for expressing my needs to others. I am exhausted almost all of the time. Maintaining an “average” American life requires a tremendous amount of focus and effort from me, and I am frequently confused, over-stimulated, and overwhelmed. For good and for ill, I possess many childlike traits: I tend to take statements very literally, trust people’s word, and assume “adults” have my best interest at heart. We learn not to take candy from the stranger in a van, but I cannot recognize subtle social signs of danger.

ADHD and Autism Overlap

Though I understand, it is difficult to not feel a little failed by my parents and teachers while I was growing up. In the early 1980s there was simply less awareness — and to an extent there still is, in girls.

Parents: You cannot beat/berate/scream/punish these behaviours away.

Like I also mentioned in October, I have been in a great deal of physical pain recently. After multiple visits to the doctor, I was diagnosed with simple ovarian cyst(s) and a decent-sized uterine fibroid. The pain is low-to-high; some days it has felt like a knife being wriggled around in my abdomen. A few times it has been so severe I thought I had a burst appendix. I see a specialist soon.

Today I had a small benign cyst removed from my scalp. I have another scheduled in January. They cause a lot of pain and tenderness, and headaches localized to that area. I was impressed with the dermatologist; she was very fast and used a tiny incision. I had a slightly larger cyst removed years ago that left my bed pillow looking like a murder scene the next day, and a noticeable scar.

Lastly, I get my first mammogram in December. I have not noticed anything suspicious, but I do experience breast pain frequently. While I tested negative for BRCA1 and BRCA2, I am hoping that I may still be eligible for prophylactic double mastectomy. I have a strong family history of breast cancer, and my own mother developed and died of it before 60. I do not have any emotional attachment to my breasts as a display of “femininity,” and would be quite happy to be rid of them entirely before they try to kill me. I would be happy to be rid of them, generally. If I have to live in the Apocalypse, might as well look the part.

CATEGORY:

Writer Wrong

While I was in the process of writing my recent #MeToo story, I was tagged, along with 39 other women, in a Facebook post made by Dirk Manning. He is a writer and colleague with whom I have had a superficial-level, professional friendship (mainly via Facebook) for about three years now. I have drawn a few pieces of artwork featuring him, we met very briefly in person for the first time at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, and we live-streamed one karaoke song together at Grand Rapids Comic-Con last November. In this Facebook post, Dirk detailed what had learned about the unique struggles that women face in the comics industry, how he was working on himself to be a more proactive ally going forward, and urging men in general to “do better.”

I was the first person to respond to that post, hoping to have an ally in Dirk, due to my own feelings of being diminished and bullied out of the industry by my ex-boyfriend and his cohorts. Publicly, Dirk responded in a very supportive way to my comments. In private, however, he persistently blew off repeated attempts to talk to him about what I was going through, at both conventions named above, and in our limited private conversations on Facebook.

I saw Dirk for a matter of minutes at San Diego Comic-Con. I thought it might be fun to live-blog together; he wanted me to introduce him and Twiztid, if I remember correctly, on Facebook Live. I knew very little about the group, and the request made me feel like a prop, so I declined. He gave me a giant hug, and told me how great it was to finally meet me. We took a couple of selfies, he pushed a goodie bag filled with promotional items in my hands, and I tried to grab his attention for a few minutes to explain why I cared so much about being there. I was unsuccessful. He invited me to a concert before I left his booth, but I declined that as well, uninterested and a bit baffled.

At Grand Rapids Comic-Con, which was not especially busy, we tabled across the aisle from each other. Again he seemed perpetually distracted, and shut out the few efforts I made to speak to him seriously. He called me friend, told me he was proud of me, apologized for not being more available, and said the kind of things one would expect a friend to say. But his aura in person is that of a brick wall; “used car salesman” is the phrase I hear most often from others. Even at my most “Jin Wicked”est I like to think people can sense the humanity beneath; that it is only one facet of me, as a complex human being. Dirk feels like nothing. I cannot read this man. An empty suit of platitudes and hair gel. He has so thoroughly buried any authenticity, if he has it, that it may as well not exist. He did participate in karaoke with me, which I enjoyed, and after the convention I was curious to figure out what the his ‘deal’ was.

With his permission, I drew a picture of us inspired by the karaoke, which he encouraged me to share to his Facebook group to “get more much-deserved fans.” I eye-rolled a bit at that statement, but did not comment on it then.

Circling around to the now-infamous Facebook post from the beginning of this blog; unbeknownst to me, and apparently for many years now, Dirk has been dogged by allegations of various misdeeds. His post, in fact, may have been a preemptive effort to head several off as they gained steam. After I stopped paying attention to the comments on his post, having fallen off my Facebook radar, women began replying to hold him accountable for how he had treated several of them. The allegations were serious enough that, when it was clear he was going to simply ignore them and hope they go away, I copied one of their comments and shared it on my own Timeline. I also sent him a private message asking for an explanation, which he has never responded to, or as far as I know even looked at. I felt incredibly betrayed by someone, as said, I believed to be an ally. And who had repeatedly called me a friend.

The women who had been involved with him started organizing their effort to be heard, and eventually compiled a document with many of their stories. It was shared with me. While it is not my place to disclose what I have read, I can tell you that they were all remarkably similar, and not that different from my own experiences with my ex-boyfriend and others. I can also tell you that I spent several days quite sick, literally, because of it, and reliving some of my own traumatic experiences through them. I believe them.

Only one woman has come forward outside Facebook, that I know of.

Added 6/19/20: The story of another one of Dirk Manning’s targets/victims.

When Dirk simply failed to respond for several days, I unfriended him from all of my social media accounts out of disgust. He issued a very vague “apology” after things escalated, which failed to express real remorse, or acknowledge the scope of what he is accused of and his victim’s pain in any palpable way. He returned to business-as-usual, eventually blocking me, his accusers, and most of the people who have visibly spoken out against him on social media. His constant drum-beating of “promote the positive” and “ignore negativity” has taken on a very sinister perspective for me, given what I now know.

I am in the process of removing all photos, videos, and work related to Dirk, and anything that promotes him and/or his books, from my own social media and websites. I will not knowingly work with his associates, or any publishing companies that continue to give him work. My relative independence allows me to do this with very few repercussions, I admit. Others have severed their professional relationships with him at much greater cost to themselves.

Having spent much of the last few years feeling powerless, disbelieved, and unheard myself, after how I was treated by my ex-boyfriend in the industry, I have struggled to let this go. I was left wondering about the sincerity of each compliment; the boisterous hugs, the false concern, the smiles, and whether I was simply another potential conquest to him. My heart breaks for those he has allegedly used and discarded. And it is clear, from what I have read, that he does not regard his female co-creators as equals. I do not believe that he ever saw me as one, though I feel more patronized than denigrated.

Do not lift women up only to wear them like feathers in your cap.

I was not prepared for the levels of casual misogyny and simmering hostility toward women that I have encountered from some, as I attempted to move into the traditional comics industry from the more diverse and inclusive world of web comics. “Welcome to being a woman,” I have sadly been told. There is no sense of justice for me, or for other women used in this way. Your options are only to give up, suck it up, or fight to have a voice louder than those who would silence you. Fighting is the only option I can ultimately live with.

On my first Free Comic Book Day, as I sat at my table, drawing, I overheard a woman telling her daughter while pointing toward me, “Look, women can be comic artists, too!” That moment has stuck with me as the events of the last few years have unfolded. I understand that I have a responsibility not just to myself, but to those who come after me. That responsibility includes standing up for both myself and others. I do not always succeed, but I do my best.

Their stories, my stories, are written in ink. They will not be erased.

CATEGORY: