Emotional Breakdowns, Myoku Needs a Tag, The Heartwood Trilogy, Writing Journey, Writing!

On Micah’s Quiet BPD

TW: Discussion of self-harm, suicidal ideation, substance use/abuse, trauma and abuse

I came to the realization yesterday that I coded Micah particularly in The Heartwood Trilogy with features of Quiet borderline personality disorder, also known as BPD and not to be confused with bipolar disorder. BPD has some unofficial subtypes that include quiet/discouraged, petulant, impulsive, and self-destructive. The subtypes are useful to an extent but it’s important to note that the overall experience of an individual with BPD might move between any and all of its symptom set and not just a particular subtype. Subtypes are also not a feature in the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (5th Edition, Revised). What that indicates to us is that while there is a common belief that BPD can present several different ways, we don’t want to use subtypes if it muddies the water or invalidates someone’s experience with this issue.

Micah’s BPD traits felt like a huge shock to me as I was putting together a graphic featuring mental health representation in the trilogy for Mental Health Awareness Month. I was listing Andrew’s issues and it was easy and straightforward and then came back to Micah a few times looking at his behaviors and issues and wondering why I couldn’t quite fit them into like, depression, anxiety, trauma. Well, I mean, turns out I can.

Some Background on Borderline

Borderline personality disorder is a fascinating diagnosis that I’ve seen a lot of in my time. I’ve been drawn to unstable, volatile and passionate personalities since I was in middle school partly because it interests me and captivates my attention, partly because of my own hyper-stable home environment that allows me to launch out into the world with a sense of self and confidence, and partly because I’m extremely empathetic. I am something of a foil to borderline traits.

When I got into working in the psych hospital in 2017, I started coming across coworkers and psychiatrists discussing “borderline traits” or “she’s so BPD” and thus began building my firsthand knowledge of the tendency for folks with BPD to end up self-harming or suicidal, which was true for what I knew about BPD from my adolescence. When I moved on to working at a residential in 2021, we had to avoid using BPD as a diagnostic label when we knew someone was going to get that diagnosis because as a personality disorder we don’t allow for use of them until a person is 18 and over. Not that that makes a fucking lick of difference, but I digress.

Folks who end up with a diagnosis of borderline tend to have the common experience of an unstable childhood. Whether that be parental conflict, parental violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse from parents, siblings, relatives, or babysitters, or a parent with BPD, these all lend toward developing an unclear worldview and quite a few behavioral survival tactics.

A lot of those survival strategies include manipulation, emotional lability, fawning behaviors that go along with having a “favorite person” who the person with BPD designates as a safe person and can create something of an intense obsession with them, a fear of abandonment from their experience with unstable relationships in childhood, and a tendency to punish oneself or seek attention through self-harm or other self-destructive or risky behaviors. I want to really stress that attention-seeking is another survival strategy developed often from cold, distant, or distracted parenting that makes a child feel like they have to act out to get their needs met.

In order to avoid abandonment, folks with BPD can end up appearing codependent or clingy toward a partner because there’s this constant underlying belief that you don’t have worth of your own unless you’re in relation with others.

Because of my personality, my training in DBT which was designed by Marsha Linehan for use with folks with borderline personality disorder, and my personal interest in working with folks with trauma and personality disorders, I have a lot of folks with BPD on my caseload, and probably always will.

I always admire the ability to intensely feel, to identify how wildly emotional you are, and I feel a deep sense of empathy for when someone feels overwhelmed by their emotions, frustrated that their emotions are getting in their way, and frustrated that others don’t consider their emotions a valid lived experience. I had the privilege of being deeply validated by my parents throughout my life whether it was an ADHD quirk, social anxiety, or performance anxiety, so I consider it a responsibility of mine to validate others and to always challenge myself to understand myriad of perspectives and experiences even if they differ wildly from my own.

How About Micah?

Micah Stillwater is a half-Fae 40-year-old whose mother is a wicked faerie Queen ruling over a redwood forest tucked into the Hoh rainforest in Washington. Micah spent 20 years of his life living in faerieland among cruel, treacherous, dangerous Folk who treated him as less than, calling him halfling, manipulating him to get closer to the Queen, and stomping out his magic.

Micah’s mother weaponized his human father’s safety to force Micah to be compliant and docile. The more he smiled, the more he did as he was told, the safer Julian would be. When Micah acted out, when he expressed himself, when he went against the Queen, it was Julian who paid for it.

So, what we see throughout the trilogy is Micah in a safe environment trying to navigate his emotions and his relationships with this insanely unsafe foundation under him leading him to be fearful of hurting others, of causing others displeasure, of his emotions bringing about harm to his father or himself. Micah cries a lot, he gets attached quickly, he tends toward fawning behaviors, and tends to attach to a favorite person — Julian, then Chamomile, then Andrew. Micah has a history of self-harm and tends to do it in order to ground himself or dispel the fog of his feelings, and also to punish himself for whatever it is he feels he’s fucked up – letting his dad get kidnapped, Andrew leaving, etc. Both of these reasons are common for folks who get stuck in secretive self-harming behaviors and is sort of the other end of the spectrum from folks who self-harm to make a statement to people around them.

Micah’s relationship with Ingrid is a perfect example of BPD traits in action. Micah came to Minnesota with her as she was one of his few safe people, but 15 years into his time in Minnesota, he decided he needed to cut tie with his Fae side altogether as Ingrid’s ambivalence about humans abusing Fae-spelled foods grew. He split on her, got into an argument, and stopped talking to her for five years except in very controlled circumstances such as when he saw her at Amore. Despite her begging and reasoning and his obvious affection for her, for some time it felt safer for him not to have a relationship with her at all. It’s likely what happened during their argument is that Ingrid’s ambivalence felt very invalidating for Micah as a half-human with a father who was forcibly addicted to Fae-spelled foods. He saw no other choice but to cut her off since she staunchly refused to take his position into account and make systemic changes around Lilydale, like he ends up doing.

During Rend Me, Julian calls Micah codependent and says that Micah tends to try to rescue others. This sort of emotional caretaking is common with BPD folks who might have had younger siblings or people affected more notably by abuse than they perceive themselves to be. There’s also an underlying belief that you aren’t worthy on your own except in what you do for others which once again is common when you’re devalued by your primary caregivers unless you’re essentially fulfilling a role whether it’s good grades, behaving yourself, staying calm, doing chores, etc.

We also see in Rend Me why Micah doesn’t drink, as he struggles to be able to do so in a leisurely way and it causes him to lash out more, increases suicidal thoughts, and makes him more emotional and depressed. All his hard work controlling all his emotions at all times and maintaining tenuously good relationships goes out the window when he drinks. The Redwoods would have treated intoxication very differently than human society as well, and it’s harder to get a faerie drunk, but Micah being half-Fae means that he’s more sensitive to intoxication and this was used against him when he was growing up, creating an even more complex relationship with alcohol in particular for him. When he came to Minnesota, he got a community college degree before getting an MBA, where he was expected to drink and party. Thus, as he got older and pulled back from that culture, he essentially stopped drinking altogether as he wanted to be sober to manage his dad’s mental health.

What differentiates quiet BPD from more self-destructive, conflictual types of BPD is the tendency to internalize feelings, internalize emotional meltdowns by dissociating or downplaying yourself, engage in fawning/caretaking/codependent relationships more than frequently splitting or being in conflictual, on-and-off relationships, and shut down when you receive criticism rather than becoming defensive or combative, which are all things Micah does until he begins to really confront his own patterns of behavior and comes into his sense of power.

Andrew is actually a perfect person to help Micah navigate his BPD symptoms because Andrew is very emotionally level-headed, he’s introspective, he is a good communicator, and he’s not afraid to set boundaries with a sense of kindness and compassion which helps Micah not feel like the boundary is a rejection. These are all things we can do to help people in our lives who might be insecure about losing the approval of others.

When Andrew found out about Micah self-harming, he responded with compassion and empathy. This was such a complete surprise to Micah because of his experience with judgment, criticism and rejection, and is a positive step toward undoing shame responses which tend to provoke secrecy and do not often decrease harmful behaviors.

As a leader, Micah might always be prone toward compassion, nonconfrontation, feeling guilty for having to issue directives to his people, and struggling to be assertive. Micah might in times of stress become more volatile and lash out. But as he tunes into these issues with himself he’s able to name them, confront them in the moment, and develop more effective ways of communicating. You can see that happening in Promise Me as Micah figures out how to ask Andrew for what he needs as he’s sorting through the threats against Lilydale.

In Conclusion

Quiet BPD might seem more “palatable” to the general public than more externalizing forms of the disorder, because you seem likeable and kind and empathetic rather than argumentative or reckless. It’s important to note that these features are both true for a person and a result of learned behaviors from being mistreated as a child. All BPD is is an attempt to protect yourself and that’s literally what organisms have to do to stay alive. It’s an essential truth and not a single living soul is above needing to take measures to survive.

The goal for discussions around BPD should not be to “eliminate” the disorder as childhood trauma can’t be undone no matter how much more competent a person feels dealing with it. The goal of any mental health struggle is to arm people with tools to cope with their “vulnerabilities” as I like to call them, meaning areas that tend to trip us up, cause incongruencies with what we want to be like versus what we are like, and harmful behaviors that have a particularly strong draw to us compared to others.

As I write this, it becomes fairly transparent to me that Micah is BPD-coded. It’s part of what makes him so raw and believable throughout the story, at least to me. It’s a reminder that personality disorders are rooted in trauma and when we throw around terms like “antisocial” or “moody” colloquially it can really damage our ability to see people as complex humans interacting with their histories and environments. It definitely illuminates a lot of my complex feelings about Micah in The Heartwood Trilogy for sure, and I hope it does for you too.

Emotional Breakdowns, The Heartwood Trilogy, Writing Journey


Well, I survived the preorder week of hell and GOT MY PERIOD TODAY which would explain why I was so wretchedly anxious and sad beforehand so that SUCKS.

But now I’m not, even though I had a dastardly day of pitching because I let my dad talk me into trying at Uncle Hugo’s, even though that 70 year old autistic man had NO interest in buying Deny Me hahaha. I mean, actually, Moon Palace was really nice and I’ll probably do some events there next year. And I got to tell my dad all the cool stuff that’s been going on around my release and he wanted me to read some of the awesome reviews I’ve gotten. And of course he’s been very kind about the not-so-awesome reviews I’ve gotten (most of which seem to be for completely individualized reasons which I do of course respect) and talked about.

I got into sticker-making last weekend partly as a means to cope with the wait for my book to come out and also because I decided to take part in a market at Nine Keys Apothecary a few weeks before my book reading there haha. So I was like “ok yeah I can sell my book but bitches love stickers” and…here we are.

So let’s see, I know Next Chapter is going to carry a few of my books, as is The Paperback Exchange. Moon Palace might, and I also emailed them, and Dream Haven, and Next Chapter about events. Tomorrow I’m gonna be on a book podcast!

Oh yeah and The Kiss is gonna be on the cover of a magazine in October??? what the butt

my silly baby boys, look how we fly

Art!, Emotional Breakdowns, Original Characters, Writing Journey

mikara pt 2

Yes I did copy and paste this whole blog post from December but Bestie Vic wanted another Ingrid drawing and then THIS EXPLODED INTO BEING

Ffffff so sexy

Such progress literally I haven’t grown this much as an artist in such a short time in…ever?

Had to do a quick drawing project when this showed up on my timehop today.

Yes. Yes she will.

Her boob window came from Ingrid’s original FHV uniform from Nikkei

Eheheh I forgot she had wings for a second dear god

Some other similarly toned Ingrids

Art!, Emotional Breakdowns, Myoku Needs a Tag, Original Characters

serious boys

It’s been a rough and emotion few weeks
And it shows haha.

My portraits are…real dark.

This one was from last week because I was hooked on a Chevelle song, tale as old as time am I right.
And I think someone I followed on Instagram posted real glowy eyes so I popped em in at the end.

all. this. time. felt slow. we’re alone. underground. where we’ll grow. endlessly.

Here are two Chevelle drawings from the mid to early 2000s. I know Micah in that one is probably 2004, Sotoka’s most likely 2005 or 2006.

Honestly this other one I thought of during a session so I don’t know specifically why it came to me buuut. It wasn’t even going to be Andrew at first, but it didn’t seem like Micah’s vibe so I switched them haha.

It’s called

Murder on My Mind

Yahahaha it made me think of this one. Which is definitely from 2003.

Emotional Breakdowns, MicahxAndrew, Myoku Needs a Tag, Original Characters, Other Peoples' Work!, The Heartwood Trilogy

honing skills

i added some lovely lines and it makes me happy
this fine line portrait turned out soooo preeeetty
this is really fugly but it was lineart practice
shin soohyuk is the most magnificent and unusual character of all time and i want to tuck him into bed and smooch his forehead

but also i don’t know how he can be so delicate, so yesterday i spent the day studying him and actuallly ducking traced him like i’m a fucking 10 year old to try to understand his weird wonderful anatomy better.

i fucking can’t
Emotional Breakdowns, MicahxAndrew, Original Characters, The Heartwood Trilogy, Writing Journey


Well…the worst case scenario has happened. My dad planted the idea in me to turn Lilydale into a series and…well, that’s working out.

So that’s most of the art that I’ve been doing lately, but honestly what art could I possibly need to do ever again tbh, they’re perfect

And THEN…I was getting underway with it and the anthem band for MicahxAndrew, All Time Low, released a new single and IT. IS. A SPIRITUAL. EXPERIENCE for me.

I literally told Ryan that the fact that this song came out while much of the plot of this second one was planned and the new single matched the theme PRECISELY…like something about that is so unreal and implausible that…that’s the shit that moves me.

So here’s an image dump of illustrations since I started Superior.

Don’t worry, this part of their story is only TWO OUTTA THREE hehe

Maybe, probably. We’ll see haha.

Micah’s sad and angry in this one, ft. Sleepwalking lyrics
Andrew on a snowmobile is an image Micah and I mutually find very sexy. But we know how I feel about drawing machines. Anyway, more Sleepwalking lyrics.
This one I did at the tail end of Lilydale and I 100% imagine this is engagement photos for them.
This was initially supposed to be an Inktober prompt but it did not remain on theme, but I loooove the vivid colors and the sketchtasticness
Ingrid goes full mom mode in Superior
Here’s an amusing and super awkward now v then for Micah and Ingrid but now she’s taller than him as a faerie
HHHH I’m choking
Another tail end of Lilydale one, SO KAWAII KYAAAA
Inktober prompt “empty” from Micah’s drunken night out

Emotional Breakdowns, Myoku Needs a Tag

just a cute micah + a then and now

I was starting to realize how that fancy Micah painting I did earlier this year looks good (kind of awkward though), but isn’t really comparable to other Micah portraits I’ve done over the years. So I endeavored to make a more anime style one that compared better thinking it would take several days plus, but…I did it in like a few hours. It’s super hecking cute. That’s all I have to post about, but I am kind of working on some other nostalgia rot of Andrew+Micah+Ingrid+Lucy how they used to be versus how they appear in Lilydale. I just haven’t gotten it to a satisfying point yet.

I did it! But the final product is just Micah and Andy haha.

Art!, Emotia, Emotional Breakdowns

what little hope i have i hold for you

The mood has finally struck. This image came to my head a few days ago when I realized it’s been quite a bit since my last Emotia painting when I realized the last one was before Ronan was born. A lot of milestones have been reached since “I am Growing.” For example, I had a baby haha. But I’ve also had another surgery since then. I also finished grad school. And the love of my life is in one of his hardest periods since I’ve known him right now.

Ryan joked when I was talking about the feather that it was Emily Dickinson, but it is.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Emily Dickinson

I’ve thought about this poem a lot since we analyzed it back in high school because we talked about how delicate and easily crushed it makes hope sound. But I’ve never understood that better than now as it seems my family is in a period where every time a new hope is born it gets blown away in a Gale.

So I’ve had to put it in a cage, and it makes it harder to reach, but it’s still there glowing softly in my chest.

I’m also a therapist now, and it’s been an interesting time to be holding brand new and grown up wounds for my clients in a period when a lot of new wounds have been cut in my family.

The other “interesting” dynamic to everything has been that honestly at least recently, the misfortune hasn’t been strictly my own but that of my loved one so I’ve had to explore to what extent I hold their pain as my own and how to navigate that space while establishing myself as a professional. FINALLY.

I am at my second job since graduating in May but it’s been feeling really good and hopeful at Oak Ridge as a straight-up therapist. Someone said something to Ryan about friends from work for me and I was like ah no, I have neither friends nor enemies at work and it’s great. I show up, work, and go home. And the work is helping people navigate their own labyrinths and that feels great as well. I have some really wonderful clients who have really connected with me.

Anyway, as for the other imagery in the new Emotia, the Ronan tattoo is pretty self explanatory. I wanted to incorporate him in this painting since for Ryan and I both, he’s been a steady source of joy and togetherness. He had some bad Two weeks when he got sick for the first time after starting daycare, but aside from that it’s been a true privilege to watch him grow and learn.

Ah yes, and my leg. After a year and a month I still have nerve damage and regular nerve pain as well as chronic back pain from my herniated disc. Yes the cyst was traumatizing and Ronan’s birth with the C-section were traumatizing but not anywhere near how devastating my back injury was. Not only in its effect on my day to day life, but its lasting impact and to what extent it made me question my own strength and my body’s ability to carry on. The lightning looks pretty dope though huh.

Honestly this Emotia kind of created itself. The idea came about yesterday and I worked on it throughout the day and into today without much hesitation. I’m not sure it’s necessarily quite as refined as some of the otehrs but the symbolism is all there and the art is the quality I wanted it to be.

And with that, here’s all the earlier ones! Most recent to the oldest.

February 2016

Art!, Emotional Breakdowns, Error, Manga, MicahxAndrew, Myoku Needs a Tag, Original Characters, Writing Journey

quarantine/riots/manga DONE

Shocking all of us, I FUCKIN FINISHED Code: Compromised (best name I could come up with). It rounded out at 298 pages, infuriatingly. Haha. It’s not super high quality, overall I’d say though the images are better and more artful and obviously more skilled than when I was 18, realistically the paneling and bubbles are about like they were when I was a teenager.

I think the concept was super solid and the plot was really tightly knit, not trying to do too much, and the development of Micah and Andrew’s relationship was really tender and balanced (even if it oogs my husband out because Andrew’s older than Micah, sorry, I have my kinks, if you can even call “age difference” that…the teacher/student thing maybe, but age is shrugs.)

I go back and forth on whether I want to plunge into a “real” draft of it but I know I’d want to use my computer tablet for that, and having the time to do that seems like a distant dream.

I have to give an invisible blog shout out to All Time Low for their new album Wake Up Sunshine literally being the anthem for this whole story. It was fun to use a really old band’s new work to create my first new work in a really long time. I haven’t figured out how to best document like, I don’t know, the growth of these two since they came around in middle school. I know soon I want to add a page for this story to My Mental Breakdown but that’s another thing I have a hard time imagining squeezing into my stupid adult life.

The weirdest part about this project is that I’m really happy I finished a story but it was almost physically painful how obsessed, compelled I felt to work on this. At times in the last few months I was neglecting not only my child but my husband too and that was…weird. Writing feels like its cost has increased greatly since I was a carefree high school student. And the funny thing is that I don’t even feel “wowed” by this project’s quality, but if I’d put out 298 quality pages I think I’d be dead now.

So, more resolution on this project to come, but in the meantime, IT REALLY IS DONE! wow!

Here’s some art!

One of my favorite lines from ATL – “cause I’m not too far, and you’re my favorite place.”
Hands down my favorite page in the whole thing, and the upside down bi flag was coincidental; its’ a sunrise too hahaha. IT’S SO CUTE THOUGH GODDAMN

i had my headphones on and my husband just texted me from the living room that i was breathing very heavily, i guess these guys make me pretty hot haha
After musing on the accidental bi flag in the last page I threw this together today. I realized it is actually Pride month. But most people are keeping their mouths shut about it since there’s not going to be a Pride festival right now and the country has been literally up in flames for the last two weeks. So I think they’re realizing their Pride is not…super appropriate in light of Black people being murdered by the police. Yeah, current events in the captions of anime boys hugging!
k so apparently Harry Styles revolutionized the fashion world and like, the song that he was wearing a crop top in is some 70s trash garbage, but I thought Micah would be excited at the opportunity to wear a crop top, so I did this haha.

Lastly I wanted a statement to live on my blog forever about recent events. A lot of white people are having potentially their first encounters with white guilt so Black Lives Matter is currently a very trendy slogan to get behind, in addition to many white people stating for the first time that they’re mad about racism. As someone who went through their teens blissfully unaware of the diversity around them, before stepping into a very whitewashed community for a year, before stepping deliberately back into a diverse neighborhood in South Minneapolis without fully grasping how I was still contributing to systemized racism and also basking in my white privilege, who then read Counseling the Culturally Diverse by David Sue, who then felt super guilty for glamorizing diversity and being a bit exhibitionist about diversity in my art, who has then backed off from pretending like I have a place to speak about or be part of the Black community, who has then come to some sense of peace about things, who has now realized many people did not go through all this…I have done a lot of smh at the white community around me, well-meaning as they are.

Many of my friends, Black and white alike, were in the cities protesting following the murder of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white fucker of a police officer who is now being charged by our amazing Keith Ellison for second and third degree murder. Riots ravaged my nearby city. Shit got destroyed. Uncle Hugo’s was burned to the ground. I was…quiet, withdrawn and depressed, wanting to flee the country as snapshots from apocalyptic games, movies, books flashed in my head, thinking about my innocent albeit white male son growing up in a crumbling country. Since then it seems like there is some really important systemic change that’s beginning to happen, and a lot of organizations, like BLM, have received amazing charity funding that they’ve been scrounging for for ages. And I’m really glad for that. But I know with most traumatic events, the people who weren’t “hurt” by it will move on with their lives. And I wanted to make a statement and a commitment to not forget that I always have and always will support powerful movements like Black Lives Matter. And I am committed to raising my white male child to make this world a better place for his Black brothers and sisters, to know that he has privilege, to encourage him to use it to improve the lives of those who have less privilege than him.

On this blog, Black Lives always have, and always will Matter.