Friday, August 31, 2012

Pouring Out My Brain

Today is a heavy sigh kind of day. It's Friday night, and I'm a little worn out from a double session at the gym today, preceded immediately by 6 hours of torturous work in a retail environment. I'm not in the mood to go out, but I wouldn't really be opposed if I were to get invited tonight. But that call will never come. I have a few things that need to be done, but it seems so late already that I'm afraid to actually start anything. And maybe I'd just like to relax and enjoy some time to myself, though not really to myself since my parents are upstairs, and I don't have a door, meaning I can hear everything that's going on up there anyway. I don't think I get a chance to really be alone very often, and maybe that would help me to feel less lonely. It sounds strange, but being by myself gives me time to recharge and to process what has happened. I feel like I can't keep up with my life when I don't have this opportunity. There are other things that interfere as well, but this might be the most troubling one. I seemed to be doing a lot better when I had my own place and could make my own rules about my living situation. And I didn't have to worry about someone being there when I didn't want them to be. I could know what to expect when I got home, recharge for even a few minutes or an hour, and be ready to go about my evening. Public transportation here is almost non-existent, so I literally always have to get a ride to go anywhere other than the shopping plaza near my house, which is still probably a little over a mile away.

There is no sense of community here either, not in the way that I need it. It's weird not having any trans or queer friends. I have what I would consider gay friends and acquaintances, but they don't quite get the concept of queer. As far as I can tell, I might be one of the only people in the county who does. Probably multiple counties. I miss being able to talk about queer things and am just bored by conversations and jokes that rely on stereotypes about men and women. And yet I am sometimes forced to use this same stereotypes to make connections with customers when I could honestly care less.

I think I lied. I forgot to mention something, so I didn't do it on purpose. The other day, a transwoman came into the store. I needed to use her ID to look up her credit card and complete the purchase. The ID was still in her birth name, and I treated her just like I would have any other woman coming through the line. I know she may not have noticed. She might have prayed for things to go smoothly, to not get any weird looks, to just be able to get in and get out without having someone questioning her identity or mocking her as she walked away. I know the look that someone gets in these situations. I wish I could have told her that I understand. I wanted to have some way of sharing with her that I got it and that there was someone else in this fucking shithole town who deals with the same thing on an almost daily basis. But I didn't want to draw attention to her. And I don't think she would have wanted me to do that either, but it still might have been nice for both of us. This is what I meant about losing my queer visibility. Not being able to make that instant connection. Not being able to look at another short-haired, obviously female-bodied person and exchange stories without saying a word. Just blending in and exchanging glances with people whose eyes have no stories to tell, who don't want their eyes to have a story to tell.

Without a whole community of transmen and people who get them, I find myself very lost up here. I'm all about education, but I don't want every interaction I have to be a lecture on gender theory. Sometimes I just want to be in a room full of people who get it. It's like trying to play a game of basketball but stopping all the time because your teammates don't really know the rules. There's no flow. No rhythm. And it's awkward.

It's not even ten o'clock. If I were in Pittsburgh, I'd be with my trans friends, most likely, or sitting next to the boy who wouldn't have broken up with me because I moved away. Because I wouldn't have moved away. I hate doing this to myself. If. It doesn't exist, so there isn't much point indulging in fantasies about a life that doesn't exist, at least not anymore. I would probably be having an easier time if I had been ready to leave. But there was so much that I didn't get to do. I was in the middle of so many important things. And I got blindsided. I had to leave against my will and with virtually no time to get my shit together. Maybe leaving home for college was so easy because I had all that time to get ready. Maybe planning to leave was easy because I would have been ready. I would have found a way to become ready. That never happened, and I still don't know how to handle it. I don't know how to get past what I assume is the feeling of regret/loss. I have a hard time letting things go. And an even harder time letting people go. I don't want this to be the end of things. But it just has to be. And it hurts every single day. I keep seeing and thinking about things that remind me of my friends and my old life. And I don't even feel like I could possibly be the same person, with the life that I am living now. I get tastes every now and then when I visit. It feels like the city is calling me back and telling me that everything is waiting for me to pick up right where I left off. It feels like everything will be the same. The comfort of a warm blanket and the arms of people who know you intimately, who can know you when you are unable to know yourself. I wonder if I will ever have that again, but more importantly, I mourn over the fact that I will never have anything like it ever again. Because each hug is different and each person radiates something different into my life. I can still feel the ripples, but they are fading, and I fear that I won't remember how beautiful it is to be loved.

I am losing my understanding of the experiences of love/intimacy because I live without them. I'm afraid that I will be so damaged by the experiences of the last few months (and years) that I'll never be able to fix myself, meaning that moving to a new city will leave me feeling exactly the same.

I'm still toying with the idea of going out tonight. But I'm leaning towards no because if I were to go, I'd really like to be able to do it myself. Maybe this thought kept coming back to me because my brain is trying to tell me what I need to do. But not all of my brain is telling me this. Other parts are afraid of going out. Am I afraid of going out because I have no connection or because I don't want to have a connection to this place? Will not having one make it easier to leave? It's ironic that misery can be comfortable. Or at least more comfortable than some things, like the unknown.

I just want to have a real conversation with someone again. To feel like we are really communicating something to one another instead of exchanging pleasantries and talking about things because we are afraid to be silent around one another. I won't go out tonight. Maybe I will next time, but I think I always say that. I don't want to have to pretend when I go out. Maybe I don't have to. But I'm always worried that a problem will arise, and I won't be able to get out of it, and no one else will know what to do. Or maybe I'm just fishing for excuses now. That last part sounds like something my brother would say.

I'm worried about stopping the writing again. Silence. Nothingness. Moving on to doing nothing. At least this might serve some purpose. I can't even tell if I am more or less agitated by doing this, writing when I can't stop thinking and/or when there is nothing else to do.

"do" is a word that made the list of jobs/career paths I've considered in the past year and a half flash in front of my eyes. PA, teacher, pharmacist, doctor, researcher (in different fields), personal trainer, businessman, entertainer. over and over again. i'm pretty sure art school was in there somewhere too. Social work. You name it. I have probably considered it. I don't know what the fuck to do. I wonder if I am any closer. I need to do something soon. If I don't, I may never do anything, and I would like to believe that doing something is better than doing nothing. Something queer. That always comes up as well. I wish I knew what made the most sense. I wish this were a decision based on logic or some magical equation. But life just doesn't work that way, or maybe it does and I don't know the equation. I suppose most people factor in money. And maybe time. But then everything kind of ends up the same when I think about it. I need to stop thinking about everything, all the time. There's no time to live with all of this thinking.

There's no time to live with all of this thinking. Interesting.

I'm terrified about having to take the bus tomorrow because I think I will miss it. And I don't know which route it takes or how early I need to be there. What will most likely happen is that I will leave ridiculously early and still be paranoid. And then I'll be too stressed out from the ride to handle a 5-hour shift on a Saturday night. I wish I weren't able to predict this. At least buses here are cheap, even if they only run until 4 PM tomorrow. I don't exactly hate this place. I just hate the way it works. And how people are morons. There seem to be way more of them here than anywhere else I've ever been. I'm honestly not surprised, but I wish I didn't have to deal with them every day. Morons with a lot of money, talking down to me. At least I treat them with respect. Even in real life, I treat idiots with respect. Idiots can still be nice people. (Please see the sarcasm here. I'm not really this much of a jerk.) I think I only use these terms when the combination is mean AND stupid. I suppose I get upset when people yell at me because of THEIR OWN dumb mistakes. It's fine if you yell about mine. Well, no it isn't, but at least I can understand that.

I have that feeling in my chest again. I think it has been there all day. But it's like something is sitting on my chest or compressing my insides. All the fucking time. And I know this isn't normal because I have a fading memory of the few weeks where I didn't feel like this. There were probably other times years ago, but those are difficult to recall.

I don't understand my own feelings all the time. I spend a lot of time trying to figure them out, and I get worried that this means I don't really know who I am. Then I think to myself, who does? This is really all over the place, isn't it? Makes sense to me.

I might not even be done tonight, but I think I am for now. Maybe I'll find something else to write about when I can't fall asleep later. When. Not if.

Monday, August 27, 2012

On Journeys...and some other stuff

I think I am in the process of learning that whatever is happening in this present moment is important. More specifically, I am learning that life--or any part of it--should not be treated as a means to an end...since, really, that means you are just preparing for death. I definitely grew up always looking ahead to something, feeling like I would finally arrive at "where I am supposed to be" right on schedule. What seems to be making this part of my life tolerable is this knowledge that what I am doing now is important, not because it is aimed at attaining the next step in the journey but because it is an important part of that journey itself. This part of my life does matter, and I've probably had such a difficult time with all of it because I don't believe I've ever lived without believing that what I was doing was all just to get somewhere else. Maybe things will be different if I start doing things to be here instead, metaphorically speaking.

I need to remember it, so I might as well say it again. No part of your life is simply a means to an end. Even a simple shower, which most people would say is aimed at getting you clean and ready to go out the door in the morning, can be an experience. What if it were just something nice that you could enjoy, without having to worry about what comes next? Why does it matter what comes next? Why would it matter if you were to treat every stage of your life like it means something and is where you are supposed to be? I've spent so long dreaming of the future. I've spent so long being depressed over not having that future, when I haven't even gotten through the present or taken the time to understand what I need to be doing in it. This whole thought process is what I need to be doing.

And there is no next step, at least no clearly defined next step like there had always been. I'm sure my peers had this figured out a few months after graduation...or maybe they still don't because they are still going through steps. Still jumping through hoops to get to where everyone has told them they want to be.

My trip to DC was incredible, and I learned exactly what I needed to learn from it. It was a test, and I think my friends knew that as well. It was so easy to talk with people there. It felt like living, if that makes any sense. I got to see the power of real friendship again, and I miss that. I got to see people going out of their way to be a friend to people that really needed it. I got to be a part of a community that was ready to accept me without hesitation. I got to be a part of a drag show with hundreds of lesbians in the crowd, with a few in the front row literally screaming and grabbing over the railing at me. I got to watch a video of my performance for the first time in so many months without feeling like I let myself down. I hadn't felt such a tremendous surge of positive energy about performing or even going anywhere/doing anything in so fucking long. I felt like I could handle the whole process of moving and starting my life. I felt like I could tackle anything, even something I've been afraid of for the past two years, something that I didn't think I'd ever be able to do.

And now I'm questioning things yet again. I just want to be sure. I had a talk with Aidan about why I didn't go to medical school. There are a few reasons I've only recently discovered, one being that I didn't want to admit that I wasn't ready for that level of maturity at the time. But I've honestly been terrified that I wouldn't be able to do it and live a full life outside of my career. I want to still be able to do all of the things that I enjoy, and I've again learned that that might be possible. I don't have to do it the way everyone else does it, and that is interesting. I have also been afraid that I just won't be good at it. Or that I won't be capable of handling something like that. But maybe not knowing is worse. I know that this just pushes my decision back again, but maybe it's worth thinking about. Maybe it would also allow me to do all of the other things I enjoy without struggling so much. I'm not done thinking about it. That's another thing I've had to learn the hard way--that you can't always find an answer. I want to be able to go to sleep knowing that things are solved, but that's not possible, and it's kept me awake for over twenty years. It probably won't stop, but I think it might be getting better.

Ken Las Vegas said he looks forward to the day when he can meet me in person. That was probably one of the best compliments ever, and it makes me feel like I am doing something right, finally. I keep wondering if I'll ever be able to have that kind of effect on people or if I already have. I'm positive there are people I greatly admire who have no idea how important they have been in my life. I've never even met some of them. I hope they know somehow.

The dynamics of any work environment are also extremely interesting. In a few months, I've gone from a know-nothing to someone who can be trusted with quite a bit of responsibility. I am taken seriously, and I am also invited out to join a group of co-workers for drinks, parties, etc. I managed to successfully integrate (I first chose the word infiltrate since it seems like there is some deception going on whenever I successfully accomplish a social goal) into both environments. I belong. And it's crazy. I very rarely get to feel like that. There were years in drumline where I never really felt that way, but then again, some people were trying to make that happen. So maybe that wasn't my fault. I'll never really know.

I don't feel ecstatic about everything in my life. I'm not manic right now. I don't feel like I can conquer the world, but I might be able to do the things I want to do. And maybe not feeling like shit and not feeling terrific, being somewhere in between, is being normal. I feel like I'm seeing things as they are without passing judgment. The essence of mindfulness. I guess it can be learned.

Monday, August 13, 2012


I've discovered what might be a large part of the problem, but maybe it's also a solution. My refusal to be ordinary--to accept that I'm just another average person destined to live a life of mediocrity--is killing me. If I were okay with living like this, being in this place forever, maybe I'd be happier. If I simply realized that I'm never going to be anything great, I could let go of my emotional baggage and get on with that being ordinary business. But I still believe, for some reason, that if I let go of this desire to do something somewhat important or meaningful, it'll never happen anyway. Or maybe it'll be like getting a free dessert when you're not even hungry. I don't know.
I may have come entirely full circle. Or not.
This indecisiveness is a trap.
I hate this because now I don't even care enough to continue writing about everything that's happening in my head.
I cannot see good things. Every time I think of anything in the future, I am immediately hit with dozens of negatives, and even if I try, I can't see the good in any situation.
But I guess you don't get over depression just by trying harder. It doesn't just get better on its own.
I need to stop all of this nonsense, but I can't.
I'm trying not to let this invade the one thing that makes me happy, but I feel like it's already starting to.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I see the difference in tone in my writing between the medicated and non-medicated portions of my life in the last 8 months. I guess I really wasn't as miserable.


I'm scared of leaving, and I'm scared of not leaving. I'm terrified that I'll leave and not know how to handle it. I won't know where to go, and I'm worried that I'll be too overwhelmed to even try to go anywhere, meet anyone, do anything, etc. I'm worried about moving in with people I've never met before. I'm worried that I'll be even more lonely than I already am. As far as staying here is concerned, I'm worried that I'll never leave. I'm worried that something terrible will happen in January. I'm worried that I'll snap before then. I don't know if I can do this, and I don't want to be dealing with it at all. I wish I had words to describe the combined physical and emotional feelings I'm fighting right now. I just don't want to do any of this anymore. I very rarely feel any sort of positive emotion. I keep asking for help. But it doesn't matter. I can't even keep my thoughts straight enough to finish a sentence here without pausing and having them wander all over the place.

I don't want to be here in January because I don't want to have to be afraid of two people I'm living with. I can barely handle the one. I ended up breaking the bathroom mirror yesterday, and the only reason I can come up with is that I was going to end up doing something much worse. I don't want to be in a place where I have this little control of my circumstances, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to get to a new place and have it either. Control needs to be gained in every situation. It's not something that's just there. And if I'm not in the position to gain control, I'm screwed.

I just keep getting the feeling that this isn't going to end well. I'm not even sure what I mean by the word "this". It could be a number of things, but I don't have very many good feelings about anything. I keep coming back to the realization that there is something wrong with me that cannot be fixed and that I'm never going to be okay. And I wonder if I will be able to live the rest of my life knowing that about myself.

Every time I even try to pursue a line of thinking to get me out of this mess, I end up stopping myself because I feel that it just doesn't matter. There are so few things I care about right now. But I want to care. I know that some part of me does, but there is a part of me that's making me not care or that feels like it useless to care. There's the part of me that keeps saying I'll get over it and tomorrow will be better, but it never really is. Maybe I'm fine for an hour or two or when I can find a way to completely forget about my life, but I cannot honestly think about my life in any way without feeling terrible. And I go through my day feeling terrible and questioning every good thing that happens to me.

I'm trying to remember if I really did feel better on medication. But I don't know. Maybe I was feeling better because I was in a better place or because I had something to consume me, but I don't know. I was still on medication the first two months or so I was here, and I really felt like I was making progress. And then I stopped. And then I just started to feel worse. I don't know if those two are related since a few more shitty things happened to me around the same time I stopped.

And now I am worried because I don't have a doctor for my T, and I don't have one for my fucked up head, and I can't find either or afford either.

I don't want to be this. This isn't right. It isn't fair that the only thing I seem to be able to think about is my misery. And it pushes everything else out of the way.
I feel like I'm always struggling to breathe, like there is always a tremendous weight pressing down on my chest.

I get the feeling that I won't be able to leave here until I have this under control. But I don't know if that's possible.

No matter how much I want certain things, I can't have them. I can't even try to have them. I've given up on so many things because it's better than just wishing and hoping. I've trusted too many people to help me that promised they would, and I just don't believe it anymore. I don't want to care about these things because I just keep feeling disappointed. And I end up feeling more trapped.

Trapped. Anxious. Terrified. Restless. Angry. Frustrated. Miserable. Lonely. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I want to stop pretending to be okay and actually be okay. But if I stop pretending to be okay, even more people will hate me, and I've already found this out through experience and am still fucking dealing with the consequences of allowing myself the one fucking time to completely break down and try to put my life back together.

I really just can't do this myself, and no one here seems to be able to care about that. No one seems to want to see what's really happening to me.

Like the time my brother told me, drunk and sitting down in the bathroom, that he was going to do something and he wasn't going to be able to stop himself. I told my mother. She refused to make anything of it. And now here we are.

I looked her in the eye the other night and told her I was serious over and over again. I know I was begging for her to just get me some help already. But it's never going to happen. I guess I understand not wanting to believe your son is fucked up, crazy, and will never amount to anything because of it.

I wonder whatever happened to all of that potential.
What the fuck is happening and why?
I keep thinking that this isn't normal, but maybe it is for me, in which case there is really nothing anyone can do.

I really wish I could focus on something else. I want to write about something else and really feel it. I don't want to be teased by one or two good days just to be taken down even further than before.

I want to throw up all of my insides.
I want all of this to fucking end already.

No matter how much I know that people care, I don't feel a god damned thing. I can't feel anything but pain. I'm just fucking numb to happiness and love. I keep doing the things that make me happy and trying to be around the people that care, hoping I'll be able to fake it till I make it or something like that, but I end up feeling so much worse because NOTHING IS WORKING.

And I am writing this because I need to show somebody. And there is only one person I can think to show this to, other than the people already reading it, and I know she's going to feel like shit reading it and blame herself. I want more than anything in the world to be okay for her and for everyone that cares about me, more than I want to be okay for myself. I'm not sure I care about myself at all. I don't hate myself. I just hate my life. And I don't know if that makes sense. Or maybe I do hate myself and don't know it. I used to be able to name things about myself that I liked and be able to smile and understand why they were true. But I name the same things and only become miserable because all of these things have gotten me absolutely nowhere. I might as well never have tried. I might as well never have been any sort of special.

I came back here to try to start over but I ended up back in the past and more miserable than ever, and things looked so promising a few months ago. Now I'm questioning whether I want to even mention this to anyone else at all. I don't want to worry someone over something that probably won't improve anyway. You kind of have to be in an environment that's conducive to improvement. And while there are a few wonderful things about being here, there are a few terrible things too, and I can't fix any of them. And I feel worse and worse every time and more desperate every time.

I keep writing, hoping I'll feel better, but it never works.

How much more of me is there really left to destroy?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Starting to Do Things

I don't know how to write a statement of research interests and goals. I should probably contact people from the specific schools to which I am applying because I have no idea if I am doing this the right way. I just needed to do something, and I think writing this has allowed me to step back and figure out why I want to do what I want to do and why it makes sense for me to go for this degree. Technically, it would be in Kinesiology, but some schools don't have programs in that, and everything would fall under the Neuroscience heading. Anyway, I started writing the story of how I got to this point and how my interest in research has been somewhat rekindled. I'm not sure if there needs to be more or less of anything, but I like it. I'm sure it will change, but I don't know where I need to go from here with it.

I began my journey into the healthcare field without much of a thought. Everyone always assumed that I would become a doctor, and I did too. I was smart, and I had a passion for science and helping people, and that was enough for me at the time. Everything was going fine. But then the questions came. But these weren’t questions about the career I wanted to pursue. They were questions about my core identity as a person. Suddenly, all of my plans for the perfect future began to unravel.
In my medical school personal statement, I made a remark that sent up a red flag to my advisor: I said I didn’t want to fix people. I want to be able to give people the tools to claim agency in their own lives—to take control of their health with their own hands as I had done. A few more conversations and dozens of pages of introspective journaling helped me discover that medical school wasn’t going to be right for me, at least at that point in my life.
My original goal was to take a year off from school, save some money, evaluate what I wanted to do, and then go on my way about being an adult with a fancy degree, etc. But the job never came, and the more options I discovered for my future, the more paralyzed I became. I was frozen. My circumstances, combined with constant worries about my dwindling finances and personal relationships, eventually disrupted my ability to function entirely. I spent four days in a psychiatric ward under constant supervision, and there was no great epiphany when I left. I felt better, but things were terrible, and they continued to be terrible. A month or so after losing my job, I lost my home. After six years of independence and building a life and a community for myself, I left Pittsburgh with nothing but a few garbage bags worth of clothes and the random trinkets I had amassed from college. I moved back home with my parents, into the same bedroom I swore I would never inhabit again six years earlier. I took a look at the college degrees that had come in the mail. I had never seen them in person until that point. I wanted to burn them.
Every week or so, I would have a new idea about what I wanted to do with my life. But each time, I would find dozens of reasons that I would fail, whether it be my Asperger’s or this or that limitation I have in my background. But my not-so-glorious revelation came to me in little spurts, over the course of the months I spent getting to know my family and my hometown all over again.
I realized that through all the turmoil, two things had remained constant, though the depression played a significant role in delaying this realization: my passion for the science of the human brain and my obsession with physical activity and movement. When nothing else mattered or made sense, science was still beautiful. When I could not force myself to speak to another soul or look my own boyfriend in the eye, I could take my body to the gym and lose myself in the rhythm of my workout. I did not see it at the time, but these are the things that have given my life meaning ever since I can remember. I defined my college days by my involvement in drumline—the study of music through moving and feeling in perfect synchrony with my peers. And my fondest and most vivid memories from childhood are of playing sports, climbing walls, and just moving my body—pushing it—as far as I could.
In January, I met a man who helped me discover the impact that my experiences have had on my own thinking. I began writing articles on mind-body fitness, among other things, for immediately after returning from my stay at Resolve Crisis Center. My own writing about the brain’s ability to influence the body, positive psychology, meditation, and even my pieces on the basic biology of exercise and the human brain acted as the first bit of therapy. The words I found to relate these ideas to others helped me to see how much I believed in them myself—how much I needed to believe in them in order to keep living.
When I lost my home, I felt like I had lost everything. And it took until what most would consider a short time ago for me to pick up where I had left off. My mother, down nearly 150 pounds from her heaviest weight only two years ago, has learned to embrace the challenge of exercise in precisely the same way as I have, and it moved me to tears when I started joining her in her own exercise routine. We work together, challenge each other, and my experiences with my first individual trainer have been absolutely inspiring. And when I am inspired, the nerd in me rejoices and cannot be tamed.
I began to think further about the ideas I had been developing with What if we were able to design a personalized exercise program that used data from the client’s own functioning brain? Obviously, this would be an expensive approach, but more realistic research questions and practical applications can definitely be drawn from the initial question. If we knew more about how the human brain responds to exercise in the long term and the short term, we could develop more effective training programs that not only target the muscles of the body but help to enhance the function of the brain as well, creating a positive-feedback loop. The impact of exercise on mood, longevity, and life satisfaction is well-known, but unlocking the minute details of how we attain these results will be the key to unlocking many more mysteries of brain function, perhaps the most promising of which are adult neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. My specific interest is in learning about how the various mental, physical, and social components of human physical activity influence brain function over time in normal versus diseased populations, emphasizing the role of exercise in inducing neurogenesis. I am also interested in the neurological basis of health behaviors, and whether certain neural profiles are more likely to result in a physically active lifestyle. Exercise has been a release for me for as long as I can remember, and I have long believed that the symptoms of my Asperger’s syndrome are much more manageable because of my active lifestyle. Exercise is about coordination, concentration, completing specific tasks, and in many cases, becoming a part of a group and learning the social rules that go along with membership in that group. It would be fascinating to take a look at how the brain of an AS person responds to physical activity in comparison to that of a neurotypical individual. Research into this area might unlock more about the mystery of autism as well as provide valuable data to inform future treatment plans that include exercise therapy as a physical and social aid.