Friday, February 28, 2014

Revisiting Previously Incoherent/Incomplete Thoughts

Having just come back from the gym, I can feel the difference in the way I experience myself and everything around me. Before coming to write, I did a little research to prove to myself that my perception has some basis in reality, finding a few articles pertaining to how exercise benefits people with autism spectrum disorders. Though I was unable to access the full articles, the abstracts alone confirmed some of the notions I have long held about how such activities can lead to improved executive functioning, as well as increased bodily awareness and sensory integration. Let me put that into a more personal perspective.

I try to go to the gym at times when there aren't too many people around. I'm not as focused when I am working out around people I don't know that well, and I feel that a good deal of my mental energy is taken up trying to deal with their presence. When I am nearly alone or around people who don't set off my internal alarms, I can concentrate on the movement of my own body parts, the way it feels to have the blood rush to the active muscles, the feedback I am receiving from each and every moving part of the artfully crafted machine that I call myself. In these moments, without entirely realizing it, I am learning to separate the internal world from the external. Perhaps it is more about making these distinctions than "losing oneself" in the workout. It is as if I am truly finding myself as my brain integrates sensory information in an endorphin-saturated physiological environment. Self and other become more clear following a workout. Since so much less energy needs to be devoted to negotiating the space between me and the rest of the world, the necessary energy can be routed to the parts of my brain that deal with planning, organization, and just getting shit done in general and living my life the way I intend to live it.

This brought me to thinking about choice. Ordinarily, I don't think I have the ability to relinquish choice. Every response is a decision to fight against instinct, however automatic that response may have become over time. Routine is an escape from the never-ending responsibility to live a calculated life.

And since my brain has a funny way of connecting everything to everything else, routine became connected with change, as one might expect, but change got me thinking about time. And my body. And learning to be okay with age. I am certainly beginning to show signs of age in my face, and my hair is looking pretty pathetic these days, and while I sometimes stare at what has happened to me for embarrassingly long periods of time when confronted with the mirror outside my bedroom door, I am learning to love the look of having known the world.

And through this thought I have reached the topic of love. These are the most intangible of the words to me, slipping down through the ever-deepening cracks between my fingers and falling gently to the ground. And as I have learned to accept that I am falling with them, I appreciate the significance of these words, however trite they have come to be in modern usage: Love, actively and unconditionally. It is not so much a process of learning for me as it is a processing of letting go--of unlearning the bitterness with which we are taught to respond to anger, pain, and mistakes. It is at the same time the biggest and smallest thing in the entire world.

And as I begin to relax for the night, the thoughts begin to swirl again--a clear display of my brain trying to fight against the abominable notion of relaxation, of doing anything other than trying to solve every known (and unknown) problem in the universe. The concepts start to merge, and I think about falling in a whole new way like falling into your gender as if you stumbled over it in the middle of the street and maybe it looked so miraculous and revolutionary that you just had to stay down there on the ground and take it all in.

And I think of the conflicting emotions. Feeling connected and alone at the same time. Loved but terribly hopeless. Wanting to cry and boiling inside.

Ready to fly.
But I want you there.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


After having so much time off this month due to my own illness, my client's surgery, and snow from the sky that keeps on shitting, I am really not adjusting well to being back at work. Today was one of the hardest days I have had, not so much in working with my client--though that was difficult--but in being able to recover from the day in general. I felt dizzy leaving. Hazy even. I could barely manage eating when I got home because I felt so lethargic that I could not move. I passed out for a few hours, woke up with a fever, but still found it very hard to move. Now I still have the fever, but since I passed out earlier, I'm awake now. I still feel mentally exhausted, but I know I will have serious trouble sleeping again. My stomach has been bothering me all day. Today emptied me out completely.

Let's just say that working directly multiple disabilities special education will probably not be a long term career option for me. I know the kind of work that energizes me instead of drains me. But for now, I'm doing a good thing. And it is helping me build a different kind of strength.

I am working on finalizing my plans and telling the ones I love. I am afraid in much the same way I was afraid of coming out the first time (and the second). I know I will be met with rejection at first. People will try to tell me that I am not ready, that I should not leave. That I am making a mistake.

But I'll never know unless I try.

I still want to know why I am so scared. But perhaps being scared is a good thing. I am much more scared than last time, and we all know how that ended.

Monday, February 17, 2014


I don't have many nights like this, when all the parts of my brain figure out how to sync up with one another, slowing the passage of time enough for me to view my life with unparalleled clarity, as if it were spread out like a treasure map across my bedroom floor. I can see the routes that lead from one experience to another--the exits I have taken along the way. But there are things that I don't see.

Dead ends.

Because I am unable to focus on (or more accurately, obsess about) any one occurrence, I can literally FEEL the connections amongst them all, from the day I first visited the Warhol museum with the Rainbow Alliance my freshman year to the day I was "baptized" in the River Bradford to each and every sleepless night of writing until I couldn't feel my fingers anymore. I can see those stifling summer nights in the smallest bedroom of the Crew House, the hours I would spend as a child playing in my own intricate universe of meticulously developed characters, and the overarching theme of confusion that defined my social self for the majority of my life. From this distance, it has become obvious that there was always a next step. Not an escape or a way or even a destination. Just something else.

Even now, the feeling is fading. This is the perspective I have always desired, and it seems to come at the strangest times. For a few moments, I was not miserable. I wasn't particularly happy. I was just...aware. Aware of the present. Mindful, if you will. I somehow understood exactly how all of my life experiences--from the most instantaneous to the ever-present--have come to make me the person I am today. I understood how they would continue to take me into my future. I understood and accepted that this--THIS right here, right now--is IT. No dress rehearsal. Not preparing for something else. I saw the world, my world, for what is was and still thought it was beautiful enough to keep going. My pain was just as beautiful as the sweetest triumph I have ever known. For a little while, I could not feel loss. I could not feel regret. No guilt or shame or longing for anything more.

The feeling has mostly subsided. The fears, lists of things to do and things forgotten, worries about what comes next and what could have gone better, feelings of loss and feelings of worrying about loss that has not yet occurred are all coming back to me. But somehow, having had that brief respite, I feel just a little bit better.

I feel that I am slowly growing less afraid of what is to come. I feel more secure in my ability to regulate my own life. It is frightening to know that I am 100 percent responsible for the decision on What Comes Next because I was equally responsible for the decision that took me on a six-week journey into Maryland, followed by a six-month journey into severe depression. At no other time in my life could I have claimed to be in complete control of my fate. I ended up going to the first and only college I ever visited, I halted my application process to medical school at the urging of my adviser (though financial circumstances also played a significant role in that decision), and I ended up having to leave Pittsburgh against my will entirely.

The fear is taking over again, it seems. Mingled with the childhood fears of never being anything worthwhile and failing at life in general are fears that this next step might not be quite right for me. However, a strong feeling seems to be developing within me: the feeling that, even if everything turns out to be horribly wrong--this move is necessary in order for me to discover the right thing to do. I know I will not be able to figure it out as long as I still feel stuck, and there seems to be only one way for me to shake that feeling.

Very soon, I'm about to give up everything I know. Again. It's fucking terrifying. But I feel that the time has come to stop living like I am an accessory to someone else's life and start figuring out what kind of person I really am when I am forced to stand on my own two feet. I got a glimpse of that last summer, and I started to really like the person I was becoming. I felt feelings that I hadn't felt in so long that I thought they had long since died. And that's exactly why it was so crushing to have to leave. Because I felt like I would never get the chance to feel them again. I really did think that was the end of everything good.

Then something even worse happened, which oddly enough made me realize that there was still a fuckload of good left to experience in this world, even if the price to pay had to be intermittent misery. One of the best friends I have ever known died a few months ago. He took his own life at a time so close to when I was considering doing the same. And I got to see all the people who knew the true value of his presence--all the people who would never be the same because of him. The people who were better because of having known him. I got to see 30-something people brave absurd winter weather conditions to squeeze in elbow to elbow around a table in a church basement following his funeral service...and LAUGH. Just be happy about all the wonderful things that we got to do with him while he was still here and marvel at how, even in his death, he was able to bring us all closer together. If happiness can be found in spite of death and even through it, then it can surely be found anywhere.

I know I will struggle. I will doubt myself and feel like a failure. I will feel scared and alone, even when nothing could be further from the truth. But I am finally getting ready to allow myself to take the risk to experience the good. I am learning that the fear and sadness do not have to be more important than the excitement. I am starting to really believe that I AM one of the strongest people I have ever known. It's almost like I feel like I've got this. And I have so many people to thank for allowing me to come to this realization, albeit very slowly.

"I'm so excited. I talked to the guys a lot about this last night. And I feel like people are genuinely excited for me. Things are going to be awesome. It might be really hard at first with my family, and I'm not saying that I have chosen a path that will be easy. But I know that I am making the right call. My life is just beginning. I'm excited, but I'm scared. The unknown. I have so many anxieties/questions that will soon be addressed. And I think I am ready for this. Almost born. Almost there." (March 7, 2010)