Making Space for Mental Illness

I have anxiety and depression. 

I am also autistic, acutely asthmatic, have a chronic pain condition, and most likely one or more autoimmune conditions. I have learned over the years how to give my body grace for it’s many symptoms. 

I know for instance, that if I wheeze when I stand up, I have to take it easy and avoid chemical triggers, if my fatigue makes me want to cry that I need to rest until it lets up, if I am sensory overwhelmed or unable to speak to withdraw from stimulus and to fill my day with sensory pleasing activities as well as self regulating stims, and if my body is on fire with pain to be still and treat it as best I can.

I have learned through trial and error that trying to bull through these symptoms will only cause my overall health to spiral. There is no use in being in denial, or pushing through unless I have no choice. It only hurts me….and if I am in a self recriminating mindset, it makes me less productive too. 

I have a lot more difficulty being gracious with my self about my anxiety and depression. Once these two show up I tend to fall into a pattern of negative self talk and fighting myself to try and force these feelings away. 

I understand why, my family history of weaponized mental illness plus internalized saneism and ableism that taught me practically from birth how to be ashamed of my feelings, but not how to process or deal with them. 

Here I am, a breath away from 41(i think) and still struggling with how to treat my mental illness with as much grace as I have learned to give the rest of my body/self. I want to change this, I want to lovingly embrace these parts of me that are not inherently wrong, are not defective, which is only my inherent me-ness plus the imprint a lifetime of othering and toxic familial relationships left on that base shape.  A perfectly fine mix of strengths and weaknesses. 

So now I am trying to change that, I want to give my body the grace to work through it’s emotional symptoms as I do it’s “physical” symptoms. I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what that looks like. I’ve never even imagined what it might look like to not struggle under the weight of this internalized saneism and ableism. 

I don’t know…but I think the first step is in letting myself feel my feelings without the internal dialogue telling myself what a useless waste I am for being terrified or depressed all the time. I think for me the first step is allowing these feelings pass over me as another aspect of me. Not for attention, or excuses(because privileged people should never use our mental illness as an excuse for our oppressive behaviour), not to wallow in them self servingly, but because denying them and trying to shout them down is never going to work. 

I feel like there must be a middle road for me between denial and drowning in them.

Because denial has never worked foe me. It’s time to try some semi-radical self acceptance. Hopefully some day, as I am able to work through this, a next step will become clear. 

Hopefully some day, I will be able to breathe a little easier. 

Advertisements

A Midwestern Ghost Story

A Midwestern Ghost Story

I am a ghost in this hospital. Everyone looks away, through me entirely, or shudders in disgust. The cold air wraps around around my spine, whispering sweet negativity. 

Hospitals make me uncomfortable. The same noticeably neurodivergent and obviously gender non-conforming or non passing traits that make me “weird”, awkward, and uncomfortable for random civilians, makes me automatically suspicious to many self proclaimed authority figures, usually including doctors and nurses. Their scowls and scrunched disapproving faces in turn make me feel more anxious and deeply, fundamentally, wrong. I pick, flap, flail, and vocalize nervously to cope, which makes me seem even more questionable, more suspect.  

I make myself as small as possible as I move through these halls, as unremarkable as possible. If given a choice between invisibility and open disgust I choose the former…not everyone is lucky enough to have a choice.

As an adult I have never had a doctor that didn’t obviously dislike me, not even the nerdy cis woman I talked to about Stargate Atlantis and Fringe for twenty minutes. I had thought that perhaps women doctors would be more receptive to my asking questions, to my me-ness, but that hasn’t proven true for me. 

My last GP gritted his teeth and sneered at me any time I asked a question about my own health care. The last time I saw him he “broke up with me” for irreconcilable differences. It was for the best undoubtedly. 

But how can I get good health care when my doctor loathes me? assumes I am drug seeking because my body language doesn’t meet their expectations? because I find eye contact with angry strangers nearly impossible? 

Well, I don’t, and I haven’t, to be totally honest. I just haven’t, and I am not the only one. IBPOC have an even steeper uphill battle to getting health care that actually helps them. They are fighting hundreds of years of dehumanizing and dismissive systemic racism, both generalized and specific to the field of medicine on top of judgement from any other marginalized aspects of their identity. Visibly disabled people, the mentally ill, immigrants, nonchristians, displaced people, those who are chemically dependent, among many others struggle with getting any health care, much less sufficient health care due specifically to the bias of health care providers. 

After a life time of bad experiences, even being in a hospital for visitation makes me feel alien and anxious, self doubting. It takes a moment to work up the bravery to speak to any of the employees. I’m always mildly shocked if they are actually helpful. 

This trip was surprisingly ok. Thank the fates for that little kindness. Next time I’m likely to not be that lucky, many of us in this country won’t be. 

Healcare should not be a privilege

living without chronic pain and illness should not be a privilege 

yet here we are in a world running, most harmfully, the way it was designed, and only really helping those who are both willing and able to play along in a deadly game. 

Happy Anniversary and Thank You

For all your amazing support

Two years ago(almost exactly) I started out on this official writing journey, at the encouragement of my loves, scared to death and sure I would fail. Finally I decided, I didn’t want to be the sort of person who never tried to fulfill their dreams, and being out of options as a chronically ill person who was newly unable to work outside the home, I had to make something happen. I could not sit for the rest of my life dwelling on my misery and hating myself the way I was inclined to. I’d seen in my own family how that ended. I had to try and fulfill the dream.

dreams are hard right? or they wouldn’t be called dreams 

I had two patrons, both part of my chosen family network, 11$. That 11 dollars was the beginning of me remembering my value, of discovering how healing it is to be even a small part of someone else’s healing. 

Truly a soul soothing balm 

So… 

I don’t know how to thank you exactly

when I traveled the wayward flail and chuckle of childhood imagination

and landed, barely on my feet, beside you

arms held out inviting  

into this intergalactic fantasy 

into me and mine 

My heart

and you said yes! 

…you said yes…

thank you

“heat vision” picture of myself , a white demidude, wearing my son, who is black/biracial, in a buckle style baby carrier on my back. Our faces are bright pink, our hair and clothes yellow, and the baby carrier straps, kindle I’m holding, and my glasses are blue indicating the heat everything is emiting. The picture and the heat vision gives the picture a Terminator type feel. On the right hand side there is a vertical bar showing w hat temperature ranges each color represents.

Resisting or Resistance

We call the summer of 1969 the summer of love, at least in part because it was a time of social upheaval and protests, many, many protesting the rampant civil inequality of that era. 

I wonder then if our children’s children will, without understood irony, call this the summer of Freedom. 

The full power of the American propaganda machine smoothly transforming the desperate, powerful, furious fight, flight, and flail of oppressed people pushed to the very edge of society, to the very edge of their own lives by a government and social system working as designed, into a plucky story of American heroism and can do attitude. 

If that happens it will be yet another offensive harmful lie in a long line of offensive lies. Most the people have spoken, and most the people are mildly offended, or primarily offended that they have to see it, that it is out in public. After all, we have become so good at keeping our bloody and racist history behind closed doors and in strained whispers, it hardly seems appropriate. 

But the bones of this country have not changed. It was born a predator and a vulture, and no doubt it will die a predator and a vulture too. 

We white people have a moral duty to fight in every way we can, not just in the ways that are comfortable. Those of us who have privilege need to be using it in every way we can to protect those that don’t have those protections. It is literally the least we can do. 

We must break out of our comfort zone, lay down the weight of individualism and apathy we were raised on, listen to IBPOC who have been leading the charge all along, center marginalized voices, and use every resource we have. Every single one. 

It’s time for my people to get uncomfortable, way fucking past time. 

Maybe Just a Transformation Spell

Not long before I realized I was transgender, I stumbled onto and became fascinated with transition blogs. I spent hours combing through testosterone result logs and read one tearful admission of relief after another. 

I can’t remember why I thought I was so interested before I realized how deeply in every grain of my being, I neeeeeeded that. 

I read each one with my heart pounding and a stomach full of stone. 

I may have gone on like that indefinitely, but inevitably the bubble of cognitive dissonance had to break. 

and I came tumbling down. 

Back then there was a photographer, French if I remember right, who took sexy pictures of trans men for their own empowerment at any point in their transition process…even if they were choosing not to transition at all. He had a website called XXX boys. I scoured that website for weeks. Months. An eternity.

All these pictures of beautiful men who have a small sliver of shared history with me. 

The first time I felt like there may be a place in the human race I might actually fit. 

I sat in the basement in raw amazed joy, chain smoking and writing dear john letters to the person they made me think I was. 

I was free.

or something like it. 

—-

Tonight I’m watching Queer Eye. It’s far from perfect.

still. time stretches…stomach in knots for more reasons than I can lay out in an easily digestible mini essay. 

watching a trans man learn to dress his new body. 

oh bitter sweet

I’ll never have that. 

watching young gay men frolic…envious. 

My twenties were spent trying to jam myself into a woman mold that would never fit. 

I’m not sure what I am feeling, regret? wistfulness? 

I don’t know, but here I am 

alive and well-ish 

with my own origin story that’s just as real 

and that will just have to do. 

For Pride Inclusion

It’s Pride month here in the not so Shiney U.S. of A. It’s a month of celebrating who we are in the queer community. It’s also a time that highlights how many people who fall under the lgbt2qiaa umbrella are still fighting for acceptance and inclusion. 

Sometimes the othering happens because of other aspects of a person’s identity. QTPOC are excluded through racist covert and overt othering, microaggressions, appropriation, violence, and erasure. Disabled queer and trans people often have difficulty, or can’t participate at all in community events, because of lack of accessibility on many different fronts. 

Othertimes the othering is caused by more widely accepted members of the queer community. Multisexual, trans, nonbinary, intersex, asexual, and aromantic people are just some of the identities within the lgbt2qiaa communities that struggle with acceptance within our own supposed community. Erasure, denial, and dismissal wage a seemingly silent and socially violent war inside a community that should be safe for everyone. 

So it’s Pride month, but what does that mean for those of us that don’t fit so easily into the assimilation narrative of white middle class married lesbians and white cis fashion/party gays? All of us have different answers to that question. Some people skip Pride and celebrate in their own ways, some people swear it all off entirely, some of us go to the celebrations anyway feeling a mix of excitement and tension, never knowing what all might happen. 

As for my family, we are going. Usually the experience has mixed results, some moments of euphoria, some sneers and dismissive looks. It won’t feel entirely safe, it will probably feel a bit like a good day at work. Showing up and being seen, proving our existence at all times, even on a very good day, is still labor. A drain on our limited resources, rather than a reaffirming and refreshing break from reality.

We will remind people and ourselves, that there are many ways to be queer, and that our way is not only valid, but perfect for us…and dang it we will have a wonderful time. 

Don’t forget fellow humans, your way of being queer/lgbt2qiaa is perfect for you too. *love* 

Pride Month Reverie

Over the last year I have been reflecting on the ways my gender, sexuality, and neurodiversity have impacted my life paths even when I didn’t realize it. 

The way that dirty looks and whispered curses in one on one interactions translate to systemic othering, poor quality service, lackluster medical care, an assumption or implication of my sole fault always no matter how hard I tried to be accountable, honest, and fundamentally good. 

I could go on I suppose, but for this piece the details aren’t even specifically important…what I am parsing today is, I suppose… the way I internalized that systemic othering. It’s taken me forty years to learn to understand when and how I am responsible for my lived experience…and what things have impacted that self perception. 

Surprisingly (or not) learning to dismantle the lifelong lesson that I was always at fault, always wrong, and always bad™ has also taught me to be less of a coward when I am actually wrong, when I do make mistakes, when I am harmful.It has taught me to strive towards being truly accountable rather than avoiding blame.

Of course I am sometimes in the wrong, harmful, we all are sometimes and in some ways.

There are different axis of oppression and privilege that impact how we as QT people are treated. IBPOC especially are forced to carry even more assumed responsibility, more assumed guilt, more assumptions in general, that other them both systemically and personally. 

This pressure to push us to the fringes of life will inevitably impact multiply marginalized and IBPOC the most harshly. 

It’s been so important for me to learn when I am being treated unfairly due to systemic bias, and deserve to hold a boundary, when I am being treated fairly and need to hold myself accountable as well, and furthermore when I may be being treated unfairly but am being protected from the full brunt of that societal bias by the privileges that I hold in conjunction with my oppressions. 

This life seems exhausting lately, lack of stability and resources pay a toll that piles up after awhile. Many of us, in various degrees of vulnerability are feeling the weight of the world more heavily. 

Hopefully we are able to persist, thrive even…my more vulnerable loved ones, peers, community members deserve to live without fear. We all deserve to live without fear and oppression. 

This weekend we will go to Pride as a family, undoubtedly we will still get some sneers and stares as an openly and proudly trans, multisexual, neurodivergent, interracial family, but we will go, and claim our space, be visible. 

We will be love, and live

and it will be divine dammit.