“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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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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Does mental stability = maturity?

Cw: suicide stuff

While I’m in between therapists and while I’m transitioning to a new mood stabilizer (TMI yet?), I am struggling to stay afloat sometimes. The good news is, unlike the past two months almost, I’m not sad every waking moment! Yes! It’s awesome. I can actually function most of the time. Incredible.

But then I get triggered by something (triggered in like a legit way, like something that triggers a traumatic experience/memory), or I become upset by something, or I become moderately offended. And then what happens? I lose my fucking shit. I have no ability to process. I can’t calm down my emotions. I dive.

It got me thinking, because it seems like I’m a kid again. When I get sad, I get very dependent. I rely on my girlfriend (bless her heart) or my friends to help hold me upright. I become incorrigible. Those same friends will offer actually very good advice, and I’ll be stubborn and act like a literal 5-year-old about it.

It’s like I’ve aged backwards in maturity. I don’t even remember feeling this way as a kid—I’ve always considered myself pretty mature for whatever age I was at for a long time. But my depression has made it harder to cope with everyday things, and unlike childhood, where things can be put on pause kinda, adulthood demands you pretty much keep up the pace regardless of your invisible-but-very-real mental illness.

But like, I used to have coping mechanisms, didn’t I? I used to be moody but stable? Like things would trigger me and it would get me down, but I would respond to help (right?). I would respond to people who’ve graciously given me their time and energy. Now it just seems like I want to quit all the time. A thing goes wrong, and instead of calmly being like, “Okay, this thing went wrong, and that’s unfortunate; let’s move forward,” I’m like “I can’t wait to go home so I can hang myself.” And it’s not really ironic. I go from 0 to -100 in the span of a moment.

I think the dependency is the hardest part though. I have this weird compulsion when I’m sad to tell everyone about how sad I am. I’m typically extremely open on the internet, and I used to post sad things on Twitter and stuff, but I literally always regret when I do that. I mean, employers check your Twitter. It’s not a secret. I probs shouldn’t post hella scary-sad things in a public place. It doesn’t make me look very ~employable~ even if I’m actually kind of an asset ;).

Anyway, to replace Sad Tweeting, I’ve taken up Sad Snapping on Snapchat. I’ll take a series of dramatic (but genuine) snaps and post them on my story. I watch who looks at them. I’m a mess. I overthink everything. I feel like a teenager. This is what a teenager would do. Again with the lack of maturity.

Here’s what I think when I’m stable:

Maturity and dependence are not related.

Sure, a child is immature (by nature) and they are also dependent on their guardians. But they just happen at the same time—they are not intertwined in the way I often think of them.

I’m dependent because I have a mental illness—a thing I cannot magically remove. I can work on things to improve my symptoms, but this seems like a pretty chronic thing and I may have it forever, amen. But that doesn’t mean I’m immature my whole life. It just means I need help and I usually ask for it.

The way in which I ask, though, can probably improve. The people I call upon can be more selective. I should spread the wealth. I don’t think that Sad Snapping really hurts anything, but maybe I could try reaching out to three people who are emotionally available instead of hoping someone will take pity on my pathetic plea for attention? My girlfriend is not on call to save my life every other night?

Maturity is something else entirely. I just tried to define it but I don’t think I can. Do you have a definition for maturity? It’s really hard to talk about without being able-ist. Lmk if you have thoughts on that.

Tl;dr: no.

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Relinquishing boobs is no gravy train

I bring forth this cheeky and lighthearted title to mask my immense disappointment.

If I may, I’d like to talk about my top surgery consultation from this afternoon. I’m mostly writing this because I am having a hard time articulating what went wrong exactly. A friend even went with me and I wonder if she saw anything go wrong. What I do know is that I felt like shit after this appointment. It seems rather hopeless, even though it probably isn’t.

I will start with one thing I’ve figured out so far. The surgeon was not gentle when it came to my body and my body image. When it came to physical examination, she didn’t really tell or ask me if she could touch my chest–she just kind of did. And then she went on and on about how I really need to lose weight or she will have to leave a bunch of breast tissue so I don’t look “dented.” She explained the process and it makes logical sense but there was nothing kind or gentle about it. It felt judged for being fat.

And like, I have gained weight. My driver’s license says one thing and the scale says another. She was pinching the slight fat rolls that have accumulated near the front of my arm pit and she said, “You’ll want to get as close to your goal weight as possible so I have something to work with.” And it was just devastating. Maybe everything she said was true but I felt like a walrus. She went on and on about it. I felt disgusting. She was going back and forth about how she could do the equivalent of a tummy tuck for certain parts of my chest while she’s doing the breast removal–something I never asked for. It’s hard enough being vulnerable with an open medical gown and having a stranger touch your unwanted breast tissue, poking it, pinching it, squeezing it. That’s bad enough. But then receiving a bunch of evidence that you are indeed fat and you need to get your life together–well, my heart can’t take it.

So that was the first thing I can articulate.

Secondly, I have some advice for anyone who’s seeking top surgery: do not break up with your therapist the day before your top surgery consultation. You need a letter from a therapist saying you indeed should proceed with top surgery because being transgender has become medicalized to be a disorder and you apparently need ~proof~ from NOT ONLY a doctor BUT ALSO a therapist.

I see a number of things that are problematic about this, one of which is that not every trans person needs to see a therapist. I, for example, see a therapist because I’m depressed. We do talk about gender, but hardly more than anyone else? It’s not like an irrelevant part of my life, but it’s by no means the focal point. Why do people need a letter from a therapist AND a doctor?

And this process is not this particular surgeon’s fault, it’s just the way it works to get covered by insurance. I should be over the moon that it’s even possible. I feel like I should be grateful it’s something I can move forward with. But I do not feel that way right now.

The surgeon did talk about how removal of breast tissue is a very important decision, how it’s very rare but some people do change their minds, how this [problematic] process is in place to protect me because what if I want boobs again someday?

Hella barf. I’m sorry, but I would not have dragged my ass to that plastic surgeon office if I didn’t know this was good for me. People can do all sorts of plastic surgery without needing permission from two health providers. But because it’s boobs, a highly sexualized body part, we gotta protect them and make it harder.

Absolute bullshit.

Also the first words this surgeon said to me when she walked into the exam room were “You didn’t bring your paperwork!” Like, nice to meet you too? Jesus Christ. It wasn’t a good start and I felt pretty much increasingly worse as the appointment went on. Even the nurse ahead of time asked me, “So when did you start ~going as male~?” To someone not particularly well-versed in queer careful language, this may seem innocent. But really it implies that I’m not male, and I’m just putting on a costume each morning and playing a boy all day.

I am sorry this post is so negative. But I’m truly disappointed. I was nervous for the appointment but I thought it would go WELL. I thought it would generate hope. Now it just feels like this process is way too hard and maybe I just shouldn’t do it. I’m apparently too fat to get good results anyway.

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Exactly what recovering from a depressive episode feels like

For almost exactly one week, I wasn’t doing very well.

The above is a euphemism for the following: I planned my own death in almost every waking moment of a week’s time. I thought this would be the end of me. I cried in my bed because I thought I’d have to break up with my girlfriend so she wouldn’t feel as bad when I died. I missed two days of work, canceled my own birthday party, scared a ton of people and thought what is truly temporary to be permanent.

When I’m not depressed, I don’t think of dying as an option. When I AM depressed, it is the only option, and every other thing I do is just procrastinating before I eventually go through with it.

It’s probably impossible to understand unless you’ve been there, and even if you’ve been there, maybe you’ve forgotten because it’s been a long time.

I think normally I live mostly in the future, like I am always thinking/worrying about what will happen to me if such-and-such happens. I also think a lot of the past (necessary when you’re trying to heal from some PTSD). It’s safe to say I don’t spend a lot of time in the present.

They always say you should live in the NOW, the PRESENT, and that’s actually exactly what I do when I’m suicidal. There is only now, and now feels the worst I’ve ever felt. The past doesn’t matter, and why would we consider the future when there isn’t one? I’ve never been more in the present than I am when I’m planning how I’m going to die.

When I recover, which I ALWAYS do, I usually feel embarrassed first. I spent [amount of time] in a deep hole like the whole world wasn’t continuing per normal. I feel a little shy around the friends I was shaking and begging to save me in various ways. I feel guilty for freaking out when there was nothing to freak out about.

If you’ve spent a very intense amount of time, in my latest case, a whole week, in a coma of self-loathing, and you’ve planned how you will give your belongings away when you die, maybe started drafting your suicide note and made decisions on how it will be carried out, and then you’re suddenly better again? It’s fucking weird. Your body assumed it would not be existing pretty quick here, and then it did. It persevered, somehow, and you’re still alive.

It’s like being told by a doctor that you have 3 months to live, but 3 months go by and you’re still around. Each moment suddenly becomes a curiosity. Maybe you’re grateful, maybe you’re scared, but it feels a little unsure. Like you cheated the system. The only difference is that a doctor didn’t tell you shit, and you were actually in control the whole time.

Now you both have to and get to go on, and you have to try to make the best of it. Hopefully you learned something, or were at least reminded of a lesson you should have learned 10 years ago.

One of the hardest parts about surviving through this is that I want to judge everything about it. I want to judge myself so harshly. I picture other people judging it too–whether they are actually judging is not clear, but in my imagination, I’m a joke–and I am pretty hard on myself about it. When I feel THAT down, I don’t really think of the future so much that I don’t think of consequences. I don’t even just mean the consequences of suicide, I mean the consequences of feeling so bad, the consequences of freaking out at my best friend on FB chat or drinking too much or any of that. I operate under the assumption that I’ll be dead soon anyway, so my actions don’t even really matter.

And THEN, I don’t die! I live through it! And I have to live beyond the stupid things I did when I thought the world was ending. And then I somehow have to try and not judge it too harshly, because I will go nuts if I do.

Thanks to everyone who helped me get through it this time around.

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Resilience through an amazing life

A year ago I:

  • Had double pneumonia. I was beyond sick. I couldn’t get out of bed. I had it for like six weeks before considering going to the doctor (which I couldn’t afford). I started taking antibiotics and they took a long time to work. It was unreal. All I did was sleep and lose touch with my friends.
  • Was poor. Not just poor in the general middle class everybody-is-poor sense, but using SNAP (food stamps) and relying on kind aunts to supplement my feeble income to get by at all. Giving gifts for the holidays was not a thing. Eating ramen and salty things from the dollar menu at Taco Bell was.
  • Was single. There was some girl who dated me and then I got sick and we lost touch. I still don’t know what happened there. I wasn’t just single, but lonely. I wasn’t sure that I was lovable. My heart was still broken from a delightful woman who I had no business dating.
  • Had just been in the hospital. In early October of last year, I checked myself in. Not very many people know that, but I was ready 2 die. It seemed like I had hit rock bottom (when in fact I’m just a bottom feeder and I’m always at rock bottom lulz). The cost of this hospital visit financially was ridiculous, and I had to face my father, who cried in the psych ward lobby. How does one forget that?

This covers just a snapshot of where I was at a year ago, early December last year. With all my privilege, I had a pretty shitty life. I had friends but felt isolated. My poverty was all-consuming. It’s hard to think about ambition and advancing when you feel like there’s no hope.

Where am I at this year at this time? I:

  • Am kind of healthy? I even have “fantastic” blood pressure (direct quote from my nurse two weeks ago). Yeah I could lose a little weight, eat a little less McDonald’s. But I certainly don’t have pneumonia, and I have more support to get medical attention if I ever need it. I even have paid sick time.
  • Have a great job that pays me fairly. I work 40 hours a week and when I go home, I am home and not at work. I love the people I work with. I have a retirement savings plan. I have insurance that I carry myself. I am not on SNAP and in fact I support people who help give food-insecure people resources. I get to write all day. I have a fantastic boss. Everything is so much better when you’re not completely fucking broke.
  • Have an amazing, beautiful, supportive girlfriend. Can I talk about her enough? No. We’ve been together for ten months and I feel like I’ve grown as a person and as a partner SO MUCH. She is a blessing to know, much less be loved by.
  • Have stayed out of the hospital. I have a terrific, life-changing therapist. We are working through stuff I didn’t even know I needed to work through. I tell everyone I know about her because I think she’s a magical miracle-worker.

My life is more or less the opposite, measured by the above metrics, as it was one year ago. And yet, yesterday I made plans to die. Not just vaguely suicidal, but developing a course of action. My girlfriend called me and I’m fine but like, what? I had CONVICTION.

It’s tricky because I want to be REAL with you but I don’t know how REAL to be. How can I face you, you who helps make my life great, and say, “yeah, I’m on meds, I have a great therapist, great supportive network who gives me affirmation and validation constantly, and yet I’m ready to check out.”

It makes me think about resilience, but resilience through what? My difficult circumstances? No. My life is cool. I’m in love and I can support myself and I have this cute truck that makes me feel more confident. I can buy myself Pad Thai (instant happiness) when I’m feeling like treating myself. I feel like I’m always meeting great people. On Friday evening I sang Karaoke for the first time, a goal I’ve had for years and a 2016 New Year’s resolution I feared I wouldn’t actually be able to accomplish (it took me until December but hey!). I’m driven and I’m starting to make scary adult phone calls without having to give myself a pep talk first. Maybe I’ll even get to the dentist soon.

Resilience through what?

When the tool to get through resilience (your mind and body) is the thing you need to get through, that’s something else entirely. I don’t have the answers. I don’t even know the right questions. But I love you, and I’m sorry.

My doctor once referred to my mental illness as “hard-to-treat depression.” I think about that sometimes. I often think he’s right, but I’m also like, does that mean it won’t be treated? Does that mean I have to learn to live with this?

How can I be so in love, feel so lucky, and feel so desperate to end it?

But I keep somehow surviving. If I had died any time I wanted to, I’d be dead before I turned 10. I wouldn’t know any of you. I still have so much work to do. I have things to write and feminism to spread and capitalism to end. I have Trump to criticize and call out. I have memes to laugh loudly at. I have a dog to one day own. I have a girlfriend to love. I have a sister to be there for. I have a BUNCH of friends to be grateful for.

It’s not helpful to say to someone who’s depressed, “You have so much going for you,” because they probably know already. It’s obvious. But that doesn’t mean I’m well. I’m just serotonin deprived, or something.

Thanks for listening.

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