Submerging writer’s grant

While I would not trade my mental wellness for anything (it’s pretty nice wanting to live, and pretty nice not planning your own death), with the departure of my illness my will to write creatively also seems to have fizzled. For more than 20 years I pretty much had one primary life outlook, and I observed with the eyes and ears of someone who couldn’t make the choice that suicide was off the table. That is a specific outlook, I think. It was one that felt natural to write with.

When I navigate my spaces now, there’s no running poet track, where I’m trying to capture every detail in my memory to write about it later. There’s not even a running blogger track. It’s like I’ve been stripped of one of the only things I’ve ever been good at (or at least happy with).

I declared I was going to apply for this writer’s grant and I sat down to write it, but it was hopeless. How do I defend my request of thousands of dollars so I can write? I think most writers struggle with that, of course, but the more I tried to write this application, the more I realized I kind of don’t care. And I don’t really have a ton to say right now.

It’s also weird because for a while I had all these things that seemed so NEWSWORTHY to write about. A ton of heartbreak, depression, and then my gender transition. I was able to write about these things compellingly enough that they stuck with people. But now it’s like, I’m pretty happy, I’m in a healthy relationship and I feel like I’ve said everything I want to say about transitioning at this point in my life. Old. News. I hope those things were not the most interesting thing about me, but sometimes I suspect they are.

I don’t really want to sound whiny, because again, it’s not like I want to go back, but my worldview was the same for 20 years and then it got shifted and everything I’m good at isn’t even a thing anymore. It’s a lot sometimes.

Maybe I can still write, but I need to squeeze it out of me. Maybe it’s just not going to be easy anymore.

Or maybe I’ll find something new to say.

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When depression deprives you of sadness

For the past couple of years, I haven’t cried very much. This is notable only in that before the past couple of years, I was a big crier. Good things, bad things. When I was seven I cried of happiness at my parents’ wedding. Everyone was like, what? Aren’t you seven?

I would hear some bad news and I would even WANT to cry and I’d be trying to squeeze it out of my eyes and nothing happened. I just felt the little tug in my cheeks and that’s it. I noticed the change over time and eventually I just decided, you know what, it’s probably because of testosterone! I looked it up and a few other trans men have expressed the same thing. So that must be it!

Well, since the second week of January, my grandma died, a family friend died in a fire, and today happened (the anniversary of my good friend killing himself). These are all very sad things. And you know what? I have cried. A lot. I watched that episode of Friends where Ross becomes a father and I teared up. That hasn’t happened in YEARS.

What has changed since the second week of January? I started taking my new medication.

It makes me wonder, you know, if I couldn’t cry just because I was so depressed.

I have noted to several people that I’m feeling sadness for the first time in my life without feeling depression. Whenever something bad happened BEFORE, I would just internalize it and consider it a reason to die or at LEAST a reason to hide in my bed all day. But my grandma died and I saw my grandfather crying (which by the way is the greatest heartbreak–they were together for 70 years) and I wasn’t even thinking of myself. I was finally, at long last, able to give and feel freely.

So many people who’ve never had depression just kind of think of depression as being sad all the time. This could not be further from the truth. It is an emptiness. Sure, a symptom of mild depression is crying spells, but that is definitely not the only experience. Depression is calling in to work because even going pee sounds impossible. Depression is not drinking water because you hope you’ll die from dehydration. On the other hand, sadness is expression–it’s life.

Depression is ceasing. Sadness is spilling. 

I feel so lucky I’ve found the medicine I did. It sucks it took two decades but it’s worth it now, to feel for others and give and give as much as I can.

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The list of things I’ve been told to watch

I got a new Netflix account. It’s my very own–I’m not borrowing from a friend of a friend and I’m not secretly using an ex-girlfriend’s anymore! I’m an adult.

This is also a rite of passage into pop culture. I’ve honestly been very underexposed to TV and movies since I started high school, which was like ten years ago. I’m a decade behind.

It’s a running joke with some of my friends that they ask me “Have you seen–” and before they finish their sentence, I say “No.” It’s a very safe bet. I’ve honestly seen maybe 20 movies in the last decade, and that’s probably generous. I don’t even know how many movies other people watch normally, but I feel VERY out of the loop.

It’s the same with TV shows. I watched the first season of True Detective because I thought it would get me laid (it didn’t), and I’ve seen the series Broad City a good amount of times. End of list.

So I asked my loyal Facebook friends who haven’t unfollowed me yet: what should I watch?

Here is the list they came up with, in no particular order:

  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Balto!
  • Zootopia
  • In the Loop
  • 13th
  • Spotlight
  • Fruitvale Station
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Boyhood
  • Samsara
  • Life Is Beautiful
  • World’s Greatest Dad
  • The Fundamentals of Crying
  • Waking Life
  • Stardust
  • Shameless
  • Rectify
  • Homeland
  • North by Northwest
  • Murdoch Mysteries
  • Triplets of Belleville
  • Coffee and Cigarettes
  • Easy Rider
  • Down by Law
  • Chinatown
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  • Basquiat
  • The Ninth Gate
  • Pi
  • Time Force
  • Power Rangers RPM
  • Across the Universe
  • Amelie
  • I Know That Voice
  • Charlie Countryman
  • Dear Zachary
  • Trainspotting
  • Cloudburst
  • Grace and Frankie
  • Cloud Atlas
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

I haven’t googled all of them yet, but I might weed some out in the event I find that they are scary or even a “thriller” since I cannot handle suspense of any kind.

I don’t know for sure what to do with this list, but maybe I’ll do reviews or something. Would that be boring? I don’t know, honestly. But we will see I guess! 🙂 Thanks to those who participated. Let me know if you think of any others. (I’ve seriously seen nothing, so don’t hold back).

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“What do you do for fun?”

Lately I’ve been in social situations where I’ve been asked, for some reason or another, what I do for fun.

When you only hang out with people who know you well, you don’t get asked that. It’s really convenient. I prefer it.

It was the worst when the new-therapist-I-tried asked me that. I of course spilled my guts about a bunch of serious stuff, but then she stops me and is like, “What do you do for fun?”

Can’t she have asked me what’s my worst childhood memory instead? That’d be so much easier!

An easy one to say is “oh, I’m a writer…” but that’s only partially true. Am I truly writing when I have free time and I’m bored? No, I’m usually just writing because I need to spill my guts out and I’ve already exhausted all my friend-resources. That’s hardly a hobby; it’s taking a shower with an audience.

I usually say “Oh, and I bowl!” as a second hobby. But that’s hardly a hobby too. I bowl once a week for my league; it’s organized.

One time a few months ago my therapist said to me, “I think suicide is your hobby.”

You should have SEEN how pissed that made me. Here I am, I thought, suffering with mental illness, and my therapist is chalking it up to just being bored.

I still don’t think suicide is a hobby but I WILL admit she’s getting somewhere. It DID occupy many of my hours of the last decade. And now that my new med is taking suicide off the table for me in a new way, I kind of don’t know what to do with myself sometimes.

I can go get a beer with a friend, be social, but how often can you do that before it becomes too much of a routine to rely on drinking to occupy your time?

Let’s face it. I need a hobby.

I know a ton of stuff I want to work on, like self improvement stuff. There are all these things I wish I did more of, like read, for example. When was the last time I read a novel cover to cover? Jesus, what kind of English major am I???

Here are a few things I could do instead of nothing:

  • read
  • come up with a list of movies and watch them (I just got my very first Netflix account!)
  • cultivate my spotify playlist
  • learn how to take care of my truck
  • practice karaoke songs
  • watch videos teaching me how to do things
  • plan surprises for people I love
  • write letters to my grandpa

I think that’s a good list. It’s almost like I need a second wind like every hour though. It’s really nice to not default to the Depression Chamber every single evening but that doesn’t mean I’m motivated to do things.

Is there a movie I should see? Let’s start with that one. Hmu. (You could even leave a comment below–what??)

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Here’s the thing about realizing you’re a selfish prick

You can only go up from here.

You can only go up from here.

I wrote my last post with a great weight of sadness. No, not depression–just sadness. It’s just that I don’t want to be self-serving. I want to give and give.

Perhaps coming from selfish origin, this came up when I was considering killing myself: when I die, I want people to think of me as a giver, as a selfless human, as someone who loved his friends and family and lover with the deepest, admirable amount.

As we know, anyone who kills themselves is not thought of as “selfless.” I don’t like it when people judge victims of depression and call them “selfish” and spit at their name. I don’t find that particularly helpful for anybody. But truly, the act of ending your own life because of your own pain–while being aware of the harm it would cause to others–is ultimately not particularly selfless. I think we can agree on that.

But still. When you spend hours each day imagining your eulogy, you give yourself some thought. What note does your life-tune end on?

I want to be better. And the good news is, in a lot of ways, I can only go up from here. I for sure have a few redeeming qualities, but let’s not get too distracted. I want to put others before myself. I want to care for others. I want to do so without concentration or effort–that it just OCCURS to me to love beyond my own sphere.

I just watched a show called The Good Place. I don’t really watch anything at all, so this is notable. I watched the whole first season (are there other seasons? idk). It’s about a woman who is a real asshole her whole life but somehow ends up in The Good Place (“heaven”) when she dies. She is very confused the whole show and considers herself a mistake, but doesn’t want to go to The Bad Place so she attempts to do a bunch of good deeds to make the cut, basically. Well, without giving away the ending too much, the “points” she’s trying to win are ineffective when her INTENTIONS are self-serving.

In other words, when she only held the door open for her neighborhood’s residents when it somehow benefited her in the end, it didn’t really count in the universe’s judgment.

I bring this up because I don’t really have any post-life intentions in mind. The imagining of my funeral is just a tool. I’m not really like, “I’ll only get into heaven if I do good things,” I’m just like, I want to give back. I want to change my heart to look to help others instead of just trying to barely survive. I think that’s a lot more doable now that I’m not desperate for life. Now that it’s possible, let’s move forward.

Yesterday I felt pretty sad, but feeling sorry for myself is ultimately pretty unhelpful. So I wrote a concise version of my to-dos at the end of that post from yesterday on a small whiteboard in my bedroom. I can’t really enter the room without looking at it. I hope it serves as a reminder, even for a short time, that I have a lot of work to do so let’s get to it, huh?

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What they don’t tell you about depression recovery

Being wildly depressed and actively suicidal for such a long period of time as I had leaves the road behind you smoldering.

Anyone I’ve interacted with in that time and was honest with about how poorly I was doing has been affected by me and my actions. Anyone I’d leaned on for support or desperately clung to has taken on some of my burden. The aftermath is war-torn.

Some of my friends are no longer my friends. Relationships have been severely damaged. People are tired of me. Some people aren’t, and some people don’t really seem to bothered. But I feel like almost everyone I care for deeply has grown tired of me.

I think of all the desperate calls for help I’ve left on my shapchat story or all the people I’ve canceled on our plans with. I think of how as far as give-and-take goes, all I could do was TAKE TAKE TAKE because I had nothing to give to anyone. The exchange was all one-sided.

What they don’t tell you about depression recovery is that if you were bad at existing with depression (even if it wasn’t entirely in your control), you have to now live with your actions and you don’t even have the convenience of killing yourself. Now it’s like, how many times can I apologize to the people I love before it sounds like a tired buzz? How many people do I just cut ties with because the damage is so severe it just doesn’t matter? How many realizations do I have to go through about the next three months and yet ALSO try to practice enough self care to not hate myself in the process?

For the first time in over a decade, suicide is not an option. It’s a victory. But now I miss it because it’s easier than dealing with all the unsightly holes in my personality.

It sounds selfish and that’s the root of it all. Depression has made me selfish. It’s made me self-serving. And yes I’m self-aware more than most people I know, but that means NOTHING if I can’t/don’t change anything or make significant progress in doing so.

This is what I’ve been struggling with today. Before I’d stay in my bed all day because I didn’t want to live. Now I’ve stayed in bed all day because I don’t want to live with myself. I feel like the worst person who’s existed. That can’t be true, because I’m not Trump (#BriefComicRelief), but it’s a really hard thing to justify why I’m not dead in the first place. This recovery so far has only manifested in literal survival. “Tip of the iceberg” comes to mind. I thought the entire battle was just overcoming my drive to end myself, but I think that was actually only 8% of the problem.

If you’re reading this and you agree with me, even if it’s just a small part of you, I beg that you have patience with me. I don’t even know where to fucking start.

Here are some action items, though, because I have to turn this post around somehow:

  • Delete my snapchat (which only serves the purpose of self-torture)
  • Stop engaging in political discussions for now (I find them draining and also they make me very angry and I don’t like who I am when I’m angry) (I realize not everyone has this luxury to stop engaging and I’m sorry for that, but I need to step back)
  • Give everyone in my life some healing space (this must be done without bitterness for it to work)
  • Give more of my text-replies a full 60 seconds before I respond (I’ve done a lot of responding fully informed by my immediate reaction-feeling and not very much on anything else)
  • Feel a little more grateful, a little less sorry (I’ve started doing this some more already, but thanking people for their patience instead of apologizing for my existence is probably a better way to go about it)
  • Initiate contact with people with the focus on them, now that I don’t need to come with desperation and crisis (thanks Lamictal)
  • Offer favors outside of myself (trying to push some good into the world to counteract the black hole sponge effect)
  • Gently ask for what I need instead of demanding it (when suicide is always on the line, people felt pressure to cave into my needs)
  • Forgive myself (this is going to be the hardest one, as I feel like I’ve ruined everything with everyone)

If I dare ask for one more thing from anyone who’s listening and cares, it’s that you understand I was ill. And now I’m getting better. And I want to do better and be better and be as good of a person in your life as you were for me.

Being unwilling to kill myself is not enough to be truly living. Now the real work begins.

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Change the course of Februaries

Last Sunday, I think I dipped to my lowest low. A week ago I had conviction for dying in a way I hadn’t before. I won’t go into it in any more detail than that. But it was a wild day. I cannot believe it was only a week ago.

Since that Sunday, I’ve felt pretty great. Of the 168 hours that have passed since last Sunday, I was probably only suffering for 24 of them total. What joy! This is compared to a 160/168 hours of suffering ratio that I’ve had pretty consistently since like October or so. Twenty-four is a dream.

Now that I’m (cautiously) feeling optimistic about the future of my mood and my mortality, it’s time to catch up. It’s time to clean up all the spilled milk of the last three months. Now that I’m capable, it’s time for unabashed self-care, and one of the ways is to prepare for the month of February, it its entirety.

If you love me and your birthday is in February–fear not. I am happy you exist. But the month itself is a black hole, no offense.

As you’ve heard time and time again, two of my friends died in the same month in the same year from suicide. One of those people was a trans brother, a dear friend from high school. Both friends were shining lights of the universe, and now they’ve both ceased to exist in my world. February brings very difficult anniversaries and memories.

It’s not just suicide; it’s about how February is the shortest month of the year and yet perseveres as the longest-feeling month of the year. In Minnesota it is dark and dreary–there are typically few days of temperatures over a solid 15 degrees. It’s a time for vitamin D3-deprived Minnesotans to walk around like hungry zombies, for single-and-also-miserable people to cry on the 14th, for rent to be the same amount but fewer days are lived in your space. It’s basically just a bogus 4 weeks, tbh.

On the 20th, the anniversary of the day my trans brother took his life, it hits the heart too much. Last year around that time I was just starting to date my current girlfriend. I texted like six of my friends and asked them to hang out with me so I wouldn’t be alone on the arguably worst day of the year for me. All six, for reasons that are probably very innocent, bailed. My now-girlfriend came over and held me close and it held me together.

In the past couple of years I’ve just kind of braced myself for the month but done little to try to actually set myself up for success. This year I want to do it differently.

Just because these lives ended in this month doesn’t mean mine has to.

I mean that figuratively and literally both. I don’t have to stop in my tracks and dive so far into sadness. Being sad won’t bring him back–it won’t even bring me closer to him, unless I’m trying to just connect with his final hours. Fuck that. I’ve always seen so much of myself in him, but I am not the same. Sometimes it takes a lot of reminders. But I gotta show up for myself, you know?

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s normal and healthy (in moderation) to be sad about the deaths of those we have loved dearly. As long as I’m moving forward, whether it’s a downward slope or upward slope, sadness is appropriate. What gets dicey is feeling like my world is ending just because it ended for someone else.

For February version 2017, I made two very intentional, thoughtful goals for myself (taken from that linked post):

  • Do something for Aidan. February 20th is my friend Aidan’s anniversary of his passing and I happen to have the day off from work for President’s Day (??). I think that’s a good opportunity to try and volunteer or at least write about him. Something like that.
  • Express daily gratitude in some way. I want to do something like make a FB post or write a blog or send a grateful message to someone every single day in February. It’s the shortest month of the year, so I think I can manage.

How can I turn this grief into something productive–not in the capitalistic sense but in the sense that I must turn this energy into something that will not destroy me. I must take extra care of myself. What am I going to do for him? I don’t know yet. But it will be something I prioritize.

As for the second goal, I think this might be hard since this isn’t my normal habit, to intentionally express gratitude this way (my current version is pretty intermittent), but I hope I make this a thing. I hope I realize even in the bowels of February that this is good for me, and I can only benefit from that kind of act. Maybe if I make a clever hashtag out of it, it will work.

(That was simultaneously a jab at myself, a facetious statement and also a stroke of inspiration. We’ll see what happens).

PREPARE for February. I once wrote this poem about Februaries, which is the inspiration for this blog post’s title. It’s from my first little book of poems, and even though I wrote it “so long ago” I still think it’s among my favorite I’ve written:



we’d write poems with shoulders touching
with long hair we didn’t want
it’d be years before we’d cut it
in another life.

the last word you said to me was indeed
I’d made vague plans to meet you in three weekends
your invitation declined
in favor of getting laid in St. Paul
I said I was sick and I was.

under a February moon
someone told me of your ended life
and later they asked if I wanted to know
how you did it–
and I said no.

if forgiveness is found in a casket let me know
if I had just said yes
if I had come when you said come
I could have changed the course of Februaries.

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