Saturday, December 5, 2015

On Being Born in the Wrong Body

As a transgender man, my relationship with my body is more than a bit complicated. I remember the discomfort I began to feel as my body changed during my first adolescence--how it gathered enough strength over those first few years to force me to retreat so far into my own internal universe that I had no relationship with my body and very little interest in the bodies of those around me. I didn't know physical love or what that even meant, most likely because I could never physically love myself. These feelings persisted through the first half of my undergraduate career, where my utter asexuality and complete lack of connection to my own gender identity made me an awkward loner at best. When I finally did begin to transition, at first socially then physically but a few months later, I started to notice things about myself. I began to take pride in my appearance. And as my body grew to fit me more and more, not only did the rest of the world finally start to see my personality, I began to see more of the world. I finally started to feel like I was living. Of course, these days, the simple pleasures of one's early days in transition have faded, and the relationship has grown ever more complicated as I struggle to maintain my own version of masculinity into true adulthood, without succumbing to heteronormative (or even homonormative) pressures. Still, even as I approach my sixth year on testosterone, there are days when I am uncomfortable in my own skin.

We've all heard this narrative before. It's a narrative that gets recycled and regurgitated by each new generation of trans-identified individuals who wish to gain access to hormone therapy. Though we have acknowledged for some time now that this idea of "being born in the wrong body" is an oversimplification of the phenomenon of gender dysphoria, we still revert to the idea in an attempt to expedite physical transformation. I'd like to take a deeper look at how such phrasing is damaging to legitimate gender equality.

Firstly, this "wrong-body narrative" very plainly makes the assumption that there is a right body for a trans person--or any person-- to have. This assumption not only fosters the idea that shame is the appropriate response, but it heavily relies on the idea that sex is inextricably linked to gender and overemphasizes the importance of the physical and medical aspects of transition. If my female body is wrong because of the person I am, what makes that so? Who has the right to determine what is wrong for a female body? If it is wrong for a female body to possess a masculine soul? What if another person's version of femininity included taking testosterone injections and the preference for adhering to feminine pronouns? Our wrong-body narrative is firmly rooted in a heteronormative two-sex/two-gender framework. This framework creates a fear of diverting from the model during counseling and being denied access to hormones and/or surgery, which obscures identities, reinforces stereotypes, and creates an environment where trans people are at the mercy of predominantly cisgender people and their views of what it means to be trans, instead of allowing the trans person's views to dominate the discussion.

By continuing to rely on this model, we force many into questioning whether they are "trans enough" to fit into a community that is purportedly about rejecting dominant views on what it means to be a particular gender. In addition, therapists whose sole experience is with this narrative will have difficulty helping clients who cannot or do not wish to medically transition. Instead, we need to assure people that their identities are valid regardless of access or to desire to physically transform. We need to create a culture of positivity around trans identities, not just trans bodies that match up with heteronormative ideals. This will foster a sense of self-worth that isn't tied to the outcome of medical intervention.

We can highlight dysphoria as a major issue without resorting to this drastic oversimplification, for doing so can also lead the trans person in question to believe that medical transition is the solution to all of their problems. It may take more words, but it is far better to give a true explanation of the complexity of gender dysphoria, which presents itself in varying degrees in a number of (but not in all) trans people.

Dysphoria can simply be defined as a "profound state of unease or dissatisfaction" with accompanying psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, etc. While being trans itself is not a mental disorder, this overwhelming state of dissatisfaction with one's physical and social presence is why many seek treatment. In the beginning, my dysphoria controlled my life, and I too prepared myself with the typical answers required in order to gain access to medical care as quickly as possible. And perhaps I even believed the answers I carefully reproduced for a time. But I can tell you that my opinion of myself and my acceptance of others dramatically improved when I stumbled upon one very critical idea: There is no right or wrong way to have a body.

Claiming that there is something psychologically wrong with someone who desires to exert control over their own body is attempting to police their body--to exert heteronormative control over them. While I do believe everyone should be counseled regarding the possible outcomes and effects of medical transition, I don't believe that everyone needs extensive therapy. Therapy is the attempt to treat or cure; counseling is the attempt to educate and guide. Those two shouldn't be confused either.

My transgender body is just as right now as it was before. It is and was right because it is and has always been mine. It is and has always been me. And there is nothing wrong with me. It is the right body because it has seen me through this process of physical transformation, has carried me through this life and all of its experiences both pleasant and painful, and it is the only one I will ever have. I am not a mistake, and I am not broken. I have built such an amazing life out of this body, and I refuse to believe that acceptance or love must be given in spite of it rather than because of it. No other person, no television commercial, no religious doctrine will tell me that either this body or this mind of mine is wrong.

So maybe I need to do some rephrasing. There is no wrong way to have a body. But there is a right way. And for all of you questioning where your journey will take you and what to do next, know that the right way is believing that your body was made for you, no matter what anyone else may tell you, and no matter how different it may look years from now. You have always been in the right body. Medical transition is simply one way of showing the world that you believe it.

Sunday, November 15, 2015


I left the house by myself for the first time today. 

And I helped an old lady having car trouble on the way home. 

The little things really are the big things. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

One Month in Morgantown

This morning has been overwhelmingly educational for me, not because I am remarkably different in any way, but because he was different--when it mattered.

Truthfully, I haven't been doing all that well in this new town. I still have yet to leave the house by myself. I'm not sure I can even work the front door properly. I've been floating chaotically through these weeks, dealing with my own insecurities on top of his increasingly debilitating headaches. Meltdowns hadn't been a problem for a long time, but Halloween was the start of a very bad cycle, it seems. I could go into all of the reasons why I am struggling and how they snowball to the extent that it leaves me in a constant state of pure terror, but that wasn't my point. Everybody gets that about me. But this morning, there was no screaming. He didn't tell me there was no reason for me to be feeling the way I am. He just talked to me, calmly, no matter how argumentative or whiny I became. And it may have taken a little bit, but he did his best not to make the situation worse. It's not that he ever intentionally tried to, but it always seemed to happen. I'm still recovering from that meltdown, which resulted in an alteration of our plans for the day. That is, I'm not venturing out for a six-hour journey by myself today. But maybe Monday. (I doubt Sunday bus service will make any trip on my own feasible.) But I'm okay with that.

The different response to my problem makes me realize just how hard both of us have been working to do and be better. When he tries this hard, I want to try even harder. And with how stressful the rest of life has been, we haven't had much time to just appreciate each other and give each other the attention we deserve when there ISN'T a crisis occurring. Right now, I'm starting to realize things I may have forgotten over the years. I remember that love is hard. Well, real love. Love is easy when everything is going well--when you have all the money you need and maybe a little more, when you're both healthy and fully functional, when you have a comfortable schedule or routine, when you aren't being pulled in a hundred directions, and when you have a clear plan for your future. I remember that, when things go wrong, real love is about more than hugs and kisses and flowers on the table. I remember that, sometimes, real love is about dealing with frustration, anger, disappointment, and more in the context of the relationship. It's about wading through the painful parts together so that the good parts can stay good. None of this is anything revolutionary. But when you live every day of your life with someone, you want it to be that picture-perfect relationship. You want the highlight reel to be every moment of every day, and when it's not, you panic. You panic because you realize that you don't have great models for healthy relationships in your life, and you certainly aren't going to get them from mainstream media, so you often question whether you would even know if things are alright. You panic because your past tells you that any bad thing that happens means that he's thinking of leaving you and just hasn't found a way to tell you yet. You panic because you wonder what you could have done instead of thinking about how to do better. You get the idea.

But today, in the aftermath of a truly painful experience, I can say that things are working. Things are genuinely GOOD. I think my fears will stay with me for a long time. I still have flashbacks. But things are changing. And maybe a month of chaos is enough already. I don't exactly know how to implement the kind of routine I want to have in place, but I know that that would eliminate a lot of other problems. And help me deal with the ones that it can't.

My foot is asleep, and I'm in a bathtub. This is awkward.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Old Feelings

RetailI still don't have a computer, so I suppose typing on my phone while my fiancĂ© tries to sleep off yet another debilitating migraine--a more-than-daily occurrence for the last several months that has dramatically disrupted our lives--will suffice. 

We've been in our new home for two weeks. It doesn't feel like it's been that long, but being sick for a few days and then randomly facing a bout of depression that causes you to sleep for another two might be to blame. Anyway, I'm learning more and more that dichotomous emotions can exist in one person at the exact same time. On the one hand, I feel a multitude of positive emotions related to this move. We are in our new home at last, after all that we have been through both together and separately over the last few months. We are making the place our own. It's the first place that's really felt like home since Dawson. I forgot how long ago that really was. But the feeling of comfort seems to come and go, and it has nothing to do with the actual house at all.

I may be in a new place, but I have to face the same problems I did before. And I don't often feel like i have any new tools with which to face them. I still feel so stuck. Useless. I feel like I will never be anything more. Like I'll never get the chance to be or do what I really want. And I'm afraid that, as more time passes, those fears become more legitimate. I thought that coming here would bring me more opportunities, which is what I always think when I move to a completely new place, or even relatively new. Things seemed promising at first. But nothing but rejection, again. 

So where do I stand exactly? My bank account is almost 800 dollars overdrawn, I haven't worked in my field since college, the jobs I have had have mostly been retail jobs where I've worked part-time for barely above minimum wage, my Sallie Mae loans are still in default, and with all of this, it seems pretty unlikely that I could ever go back to school or get a better job to even attempt to work on going back to school. People tell me to just keep trying, but obviously that hasn't been working. I still want to know at what point it makes more sense to just give up. It's hard not to be depressed, especially when you add to that that I have almost no friends of my own down here and that it's still almost impossible for me to get around at all, let alone on my own time. Sometimes it would be nice to just be able to get to the store or to the gym without each one having to be an all day adventure. 

I stil feel very much lost. I feel like I have no direction, and I have no idea what to do to fix anything or to feel better. 

I feel like my lack of control in its various forms is what really makes me feel so horrible. And, being me, I obsess about it. I can't tell you how many hours of the day at least one of those things is on my mind. Usually, one thought just leads to the span of about twenty seconds. Put on repeat for the rest of the day. 

Today hasn't been as bad as the last few days, but I'm still struggling because of feeling stuck. But I suppose I feel good for now and somewhat hopeful, and I consider that a blessing. 

I worry that I'm just that type of person that can't be helped. I mean, I know the things that tend to make me feel better, but I don't always have the ability to do them when I want or need to, which only worsens the situation. I don't know how to be okay with not being in control of anything. I feel like things will continue to deteriorate if I don't figure this out soon.

But there I go again, always obsessing over the negative and forgetting about the positive altogether. I'm unbelievably happy that we have this beautiful new place with our puppies. We have nice furniture and a decent backyard. We have enough room for everything and then some. We are able to fall asleep next to one another every night. I promised before that I would never take this for granted again. And I am not. But there is a difference between what you have with another person and what you have with yourself. And both are important to me. Without one, I'm not a complete person. 

I recognize all that is going on. But there doesn't seem to be anything I can do to control the way I feel. I can only control my behavior and to some extent my thoughts. But the gut feelings that give rise to those thoughts are pretty potent, and they aren't easily extinguished. They don't even need words to do the damage that they do. 

There's always more to be said, even if it is the same thing over and over again. But someone important needs me right now, and that will always take precedence over my own self-loathing, if that's even an appropriate term to use anymore. I actually like myself. But apparently not many others see what I am worth, unless I'm completely wrong about that too. Here's to hoping I'll figure something out soon. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Econo Lodge

I have so many events and feelings I need to process in writing, but I won't have a place to do that for a little while. Life is weird. That's about as far as I've gotten with everything. I need a space where I can sit and write and even just have time to think. Spending the last five weeks bouncing from couch to hotel to couch to random person's bed has been exhausting, mentally and physically. When I can finally sit in my own living room again, I will be much more at peace with the world. But I think bouncing around has helped me to avoid feeling depressed about my life, at least as far as my career is concerned. I guess I'm not giving up yet, but I don't know. Part of me feels that I need to learn to accept that this might be the best there is for me. Maybe I just need to let go. I don't want to go into a new town with all these negative thoughts. I've managed to beat everything else, but this is the one thing that keeps dragging me back down. I wish I weren't typing this on my phone in a hotel room. I'm not getting out anything I need to say. Soon. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015


glass and notebooks and blood and phone calls
text messages and secret plans
broken bodies and hearts and trust and homes
puzzle pieces and night clubs and couches
friends and ex-friends and everyone else
tears and music and diamond rings
teddy bears and crayons and sex
466 miles, sometimes
cold pillows and puppy kisses
empty water bottles and Family Guy and journal entries
sweat and protein
wild and wonderful
money and time
still fear
but still
still love.
still time.


It's the blueness of the sheets that hits me every night when I struggle to let go of the fears that keep me tied to the conscious world. That blueness seems so far away now, like those memories of visiting the ocean--letting it speak to me one last time--before driving back into the wilderness. I'd give anything to be wrapped in that coolness again, smelling all the smells that signal life is somewhere nearby. Instead I face the redness each time I walk into the room and it's like a stop sign flashing in my mind. But stop signs don't last forever. Eventually, you take your foot off the brake. You accelerate. You leave the redness behind.

I sit here idling, dreaming of the day I can see and feel and smell blueness again, once and for all and forever.

Friday, August 14, 2015

More Changes

I haven't been able to calm down for two days. It's a restless sort of terrified feeling that is fueled by many different things. It's hard to even know where to begin, but I need to say something.

I spent a good deal of time thinking of a way to move by September, and my opportunity presented itself yesterday morning, when a sublet became available in my future city. The plan was to move on my own, start working, and wait it out until we could move to a larger place together. It wasn't a definite plan because, let's face it, nothing can be these days. But it was enough of a direction for me. I seized the opportunity. Once the guarantor paperwork is filled out and I pay the deposit next Friday, it's finalized. But I spent all day agonizing because it seems that we will be moving separately at first. I suppose it makes more sense to take it slow, and being in the same town will definitely make things easier, but it's still an impossible feeling to completely control. I want to jump back into things like before. I want everything to be right again so desperately. Except I want to do things better, which means that we can't just jump into things and expect everything to be okay. It's going to be slow at first. It's going to be a rebuilding of the trust that had been broken. It's going to be learning to love each other all over again and in new and different ways. And that is kind of exciting. But it's hard when you just want that comfortable life that you had before--the falling asleep together every night, the waking up with the one you love right beside you, the always being able to look forward to seeing his face at the end of the day. And the little things like watching TV together, reading side-by-side, talking about the future, cuddling, being cute in an almost disgusting way, having weekend adventures. I miss all of that as well.

I skipped over a lot of things, but you get the general idea. I'm moving. I'm moving to a brand new place, all on my own, and I've never done that before. At least in Annapolis, I knew my roommate. This time, I don't know the two people with whom I'll be sharing the apartment. I do have a private bathroom, and the place has amenities out the ass, but it's still terrifying. I know this is a step forward for me. But I'm so scared, and I feel like crying all the time lately. I am torn inside because I know what I want, and I can't have it, at least not yet, and I have to make this decision. I know it's the right thing to do to get ahead, and it's also the right thing to do to be able to work on our relationship, but it still feels overwhelming. I keep wondering if these feelings are normal. I'm excited, for sure. But today I've been a wreck. I couldn't sleep at all last night, and my nap earlier today didn't last nearly long enough. I want the pain in my stomach to finally go away. It started to feel like it would when I would be waiting for him. It's not like there is that much of a difference between my situation here and the one I will be moving to, with respect to the relationship. The distance will no longer be a factor. But not being able to see his face every night before bed, when he is right there in the same town--that's going to be brutal.

But ultimately, this move is about moving forward on more than one front. It may not be an ideal situation, but it is still a step in the right direction in terms of our relationship. But that's not the only important thing I'm taking care of by doing this. I'm taking the leap so I can find a job that has the potential for professional growth, which may take some time, but a humiliating/menial job in a city with people I know and closer to so many people I love is better than one in an area where I feel isolated almost all the time. Being able to control my own space, for the most part, will also be a huge relief. This is also an important step because I need to keep in the practice of taking care of my own affairs. I haven't been cooking as much here, which bothers me, because I'm usually so much better about what I put into my body, but I am trying not to be too critical of myself. It's a chance for me to start functioning in the real world again. It's terrifying. I'm afraid of failing, of course. I'm confident. I'm actually more confident than I have ever been about my own abilities. But I cannot shake the fear of the unknown and the anxiety that comes with knowing that there is still a chance that despite all my best efforts, I will fail again.

I feel like I need continual reassurance that I'm doing the right thing. I may be doing this on my own, but that doesn't mean I won't need some sort of support. I'm scared of being in a new place all on my own. I don't know who wouldn't be. I wish I weren't doing this alone. And I may not be for long. But that doesn't mean that I can't. So even when I have doubts, I have to trust that I am going to be okay, no matter what happens.

It's been over a month, and I've survived. I've overcome obstacles that used to seem insurmountable. Normally, when I don't sleep, I don't function well at all the next day. I started panicking when I knew I wasn't going to be able to fall asleep. I had been awake for nearly 24 hours and still had an 8-hour shift plus the journey home to endure. I fought with myself quite a bit. I dreaded going to work. I feared I would not last without having a meltdown. I feared that it would all just be too much. I didn't want to continue feeling like I did. I just wanted to run away by sleeping in. But I went. I somehow forced myself to deal with the situation. I had to tell myself I was doing this for a reason, no matter how miserable the job is or how shitty I feel. I have a goal, and I need the money to achieve that goal. I have a responsibility to see this through. And I did it. I worked the whole day without having any trouble, other than feeling ridiculously tired. The nap this afternoon,though short, did feel pretty amazing after that.

Also, it's been over a month, and I haven't had a meltdown. I haven't screamed. There's been a lot of crying and a lot of intense emotional pain that has caused physical pain. The anxiety is constant, unfortunately. Maybe it's more to do with the disconnect between where I want to be and where I am. I'm not sure.  But I'm coping. I'm learning to live with these feelings, which are pretty intense at times. I feel like that's an understatement. But you get the point. I've had so much shit happen to me emotionally over the past month and a half, and I haven't broken down. A few months ago, just being in the same room with other people would have sent me over the edge. Being late for an appointment would have completely destroyed my entire day, and I'd spend the whole rest of the night crying in bed, unable to move. I don't know how that person ever came to be. I knew the whole time that I wasn't myself. But I couldn't stop anything from happening.

Sometimes I still have some of those same feelings, but I'm in control this time. At some point, I will write in depth about how I felt during those months. I know there are a ton of posts from that time, but being able to analyze it from the other side might offer more insight into just how debilitating my condition had become. But I'm not up for that right now.

I guess I should finally get to what made me want to write in the first place. Walking over to my desk to take some medicine, I got hit with the realization of how different everything is right now. In my mind flashed images of our old bed, followed immediately by images of this one. Blue sheets versus red sheets. Alive versus eerily quiet. Even the lighting makes the place feel different. I just look at myself and all of my things and can't believe we aren't in the place where I felt like we belonged. It really was home. And for some reason, this doesn't have that feeling anymore. It's always going to be home. It's always going to be a loving, welcoming place. But it's a different kind of feeling. It's a home that I can still be a part of, but it's not the same as the home you have helped to create. And I really don't think my new apartment is going to totally feel like home either. I'm scared of that empty feeling following me, which has a lot more to do with being alone, but you never know what can happen. I will do my best to make the place my own. I had more to say but I got lost in thought and it disappeared.

I may consider anxiety medication again. But for now, I can handle this, as unpleasant as it feels most of the time. I struggle with this because part of me feels that I shouldn't have to feel like this all the time if there is a solution. But side effects are a real problem for me, as I have learned, and I just don't know if I am ready to take that risk again, especially because your typical anxiety meds don't do anything for me. Maybe the anxiety will resolve itself when my situation improves. It's wishful thinking more than anything, but hoping won't kill me.

I will be okay. I am doing the right thing. This is a step forward on all fronts. I won't give up.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

On Sacrifice

I want to hold you and kiss you and make everything better. Knowing that I can't fix things for you or help in any significant way--other than to offer my unconditional love and support--makes me feel like a terrible partner. But this isn't about me. I know this is my blog, and I can talk about my feelings all I want. I can say that I feel inadequate, that I wish I could give every penny I had just to make things right for you, that it hurts me so much to see you hurting that it's causing me just as much physical pain as missing you does. Maybe even more. Even if it seems selfish of me to talk about my own feelings in this situation, I know that the feelings themselves are the most unselfish kind I have ever experienced. I'm thinking so much less about myself these days, but not in a bad way. I'm making sure to have enough to cover my needs and plan a little ahead, but for the most part, all I want to do is help, comfort, soothe, and heal. This is the nature of the person that you thought had vanished a long time ago. But now that I've gotten that out of the way, for real, this isn't about me.

I promise that one day soon you will not have to worry about these things ever again. You will be able to relax--to not have to think about it every minute of every day. There are so many more things I want to promise you, if you will let me. I struggle with saying certain things here because I don't know what's appropriate and what's not, so I'm being intentionally vague.

So maybe it's better if I stick with my own situation in such a public domain. But your situation is my situation too.

The words are getting stuck. They want to force themselves out, but I am afraid. I'm not entirely sure why, but I am.

I'm afraid and nervous. I'm confused. I'm hopeful. I'm kind of excited. I don't really know how to handle all of these feelings at the same time. I am trying to focus on the positives in my life and look to the future, but the negatives still need to be addressed before that future can be fully realized.

I had a phone interview this evening that went very well, and I have an interview next Friday for a position that's actually in my field. Both opportunities are in Morgantown. I've looked into short-term/month-to-month rentals starting as early as the first week of September because I won't hesitate to move should I be offered either of these positions. Part of me wants to make the move anyway and do what I have been doing here should I fail to obtain either one: get anything in the meantime and just start saving for a better life, continuing to look for more relevant employment. I'm leaning more and more towards that. I'm feeling the urgency. I'll have enough to make the move and to be comfortable for about a month, and that should be more than enough time to get some sort of job, even if it is as miserable as the one I have now. I feel like this pain in my stomach would lessen a great deal if I could take that step towards independence. It'll be scary doing it alone, but I know that I have to, at first. I need to be the one that can provide that security of a place to stay and food to eat. It's my turn, and I don't want to fail.

I'm crying because I still want to give you everything and cannot. Sacrificing is hard, but not being able to sacrifice when you desperately want to is even harder. A lot harder.

I still have a lot to say, but I need a break. Otherwise, this is going to get even more repetitive.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Over a Month Down

I've been writing a lot on paper lately. Some of the things I have going on in my head aren't at the point where they can be shared with the world, and I'm starting to realize that some of them are just for me, no matter how much I feel like I need to share them with others. It's been a challenge trying to hold everything in. I don't know if I would say that things have gotten easier to handle emotionally, but I keep feeling more positive every day. I have my moments, but those are the times that my skills are really being tested. I think I've done a pretty good job so far. I had a major crisis on Tuesday night, and I was able to solve that problem with a little bit of guidance. That would have completely ruined me this time last year. So much of this situation would have. So even though it's Friday night and my weekend plans have been erased already, I'm feeling okay. I had a long day at work, took a nap, figured out a little more about what's happening in my near future, and am handling the pressure of being here pretty well. I have a long weekend--a really long weekend--ahead of me to decompress from the workweek, and I should be ready to go again by Wednesday. (I also have an interview on Monday for a much better, less bullshitty job, so I'm looking forward to that as well.)

We talked longer than we have in about a week last night. I could feel the pain and the anger and the frustration, and all I wanted to do was be there to take it away, but part of me knows that I am responsible for so much of it. I know he is trying hard not to resent me, and it's one of my greatest fears that he'll never be able to get past that. But I have to let time do its work and continue to be open, receptive, and supportive. I cannot blame him for any of his feelings. The situation is complicated, and our relationship is only one part of a much larger and more complex clusterfuck, for lack of a better word. I've never felt this way before. I don't have much, and while I want to hoard what I have away so I can remove myself from this area as quickly as possible, I have a much stronger urge to use what I do have to help him. I've never been able to sacrifice like this before. Have I really been such a selfish person my entire life? And the strange part is that it makes me feel good, all things considered, to be able to give and expect nothing in return. I feel like he deserves it after all the times he has done the same for me. I know this is what I am supposed to be doing. When I go to work at this nightmarish job every day, I'm not thinking about what I can buy or what adventures I might be able to take. I'm thinking of how every little bit I make is going to help both of us into a better life. I only wish I could offer more than what I am able to right now.

That's why I decided to sell my suit. I never thought I would be willing to part with it. It was my first really outstanding creation, and it's been with me through a lot. I feel like it's an important part of me. I love being able to look at it and feel all of the experiences and memories again. But I've ultimately decided that this is more important to me than drag. There will always be other suits. And maybe this is a good way to symbolize that it's time to move forward. The suit does say "Time 4 Change", after all. And I think it is. Whatever money I do get will get me that much closer to the life I want to lead. Again, it's hard to believe that I am the person making these choices. (I've even considered selling my iPad since it is the most valuable thing I own, but I use it way too much for that to be practical.)

I've learned that being able to leave this place on my own and get a job in my future city is an extremely important part of this process. I may not be able to go through all of the steps on my own, but financing such a venture is a majority of the battle, and I already know that I am capable of that. I just have to do the work and wait for my efforts to be rewarded. Having this goal in mind has helped me refocus quite a bit because, honestly, there was a point yesterday where things were a lot more uncertain. I'm not saying that everything is completely clear, but being able to set my sights on something is important for my motivation and ability to sustain whatever it is that I am doing.

I'm learning that that's another one of those Asperger's things that I just have to work around. For as intelligent as I am, I've got pretty shitty executive functioning skills, at least when it comes to managing my own life. I don't know why I can help other people prioritize but have such a hard time doing the same thing for myself. I'm still working on ways to trick myself and get myself past the hurdles. Here are some of my major problems. It's not an exhaustive list, but it's a start:

1. I have a hard time prioritizing tasks. Everything seems equally important.
2. Numbering tasks in order of priority is sometimes helpful, but then I run into trouble if I just can't accomplish one. Then I don't seem to be able to move past it to the next one.
3. I have trouble starting on a new task when another one is in progress.
4. Even when I know exactly what I need to do, I sometimes still freeze. It's like being stuck on the edge of a swimming pool indefinitely. You know you need to jump and are going to do it but you just can't figure out why you won't.
5. If I can't see the concrete steps involved, it's significantly harder for me to get anything done.
6. Similarly, if I can't see a concrete goal at the end or concrete reassurances or reminders throughout a particularly long process--especially if it's something I don't want to be doing in the first place--I lose drive and focus.
7. Stress, feeling out of control, not having a finite endpoint--all of these things make accomplishing anything much more difficult. I can't get organized in my head enough to even begin sometimes.

I've been doing so much better with these things, but I know there is still room for improvement. The fact that I have been able to make myself go to this job that I hate more than any other job I have ever worked (a lot of that may have to do with the circumstance, but I also feel like they are asking a hell of a lot of me for eight bucks an hour) is a testament to my ability to make sacrifices and stay focused in order to get something that I really want. But I need to constantly look at apartments and jobs in the place I really do want to be. I feel like I recalculate everything on a daily basis. I have to give myself visual reminders all the time. That's why it helps when we talk or FaceTime. Seeing him is a reminder for me in a lot of ways. It reminds me of what I have to look forward to. It reminds me also of what happened in the past and how I need to put in my work to make sure it never happens again. It reminds me of the person I want to be and the future I want to have, not just for us, but really for myself. For some reason, just talking about nothing for an hour or so makes me feel like I've got this, no matter what life throws at me.

I don't want people to get the wrong impression. It's not that I am solely focused on relationship things. I'm also doing all that I can to get my educational, financial, and personal goals off the ground. But it helps me to think about everything as part of the same package. After all, the relationship goals wouldn't matter much without taking care of the other ones. So I'm working my ass off, doing my research, preparing for different situations that might arise, and all that fun stuff. I've just been a lot more vocal about my relationship, and I don't think anyone can blame me for that. It's the most fulfilling part of my life. And I feel like I am the last person that would have come to that conclusion. I always envisioned myself as that sort of career-focused person. I realize now that it's not a bad thing. I'm not in a very fulfilling career right now, but I think I have learned over the years that you are not entirely defined by what you do. Your job doesn't determine your worth as a person or the happiness you can derive from everyday life. I don't know if I would have learned these lessons had I taken the traditional route through life. I feel like this post is headed in a very different direction now.

I never would have learned the value of money had I not experienced what it is like to be exceptionally poor. I never would have learned anything about how the real world works--how people are sometimes trapped in roles they don't want. I never would have learned that there is a hell of a lot more to being successful and mobile than just hard work. I never would have seen the corruption, the disparities, the injustices that so many people who grew up in upper middle-class households never have to think about. Along the way, I have lost so many different kinds of privilege, and I'm proud to have learned all the lessons I have. I've learned never to judge people based on one aspect of their lives. What would people say about me knowing that I essentially pack boxes for a living? That I have been in and out of work for the past several years? Would people expect to meet someone with my education, my experience, or my intelligence walking by me as I'm covered in dirt dragging around a pallet full of lawn chairs? Do you know how differently people treat me when I walk around in a suit as compared to when I walk around at work? As much as I can appreciate all that I have learned, it's still incredibly depressing to go from being a researcher with a promising career ahead of him to unloading trucks for next-to-nothing. How many other people have ended up just like this? I know I am not the only one. But I also know that this is not the end for me, so as depressing as it may seem now, I'm just working my way through Right Now, getting ready for What Comes Next. If I could be there tomorrow, I wouldn't hesitate for an instant. But time doesn't work that way, does it?

Another interesting thing happened tonight. My best friend from Kindergarten/early elementary school found me on Facebook. She still lives in the area and wants to do something one of these days. I have so many feelings that I don't even know how to deal with them all. I'm overwhelmingly happy that she did find me and took the time to tell me that she still thinks about those times and how great they were. How she will always be grateful for those years we shared. And that really means a lot to me. I feel the same way. And sometimes I wish I could go back to those days, as I'm sure we all do, because the worst thing that could happen on most days was that you ran out of graham crackers or it got too dark to keep playing outside.

I'm incredibly impatient with my current situation, and that's really helping me work on my impulse control. The hardest part of impulse control for me is delaying gratification or enduring something undesirable to achieve a better outcome. So obviously you can see how this situation is a little torturous at times. But every day that I make it is another win for me. Every situation I endure--every time I stop myself from engaging in self-pity, bitching, obsessing, etc.--I get stronger. Everything I do and endure here has a purpose. If I didn't believe that, I probably wouldn't have even lasted this long.

So tonight, I'm a little sad and lost with what to do with myself, but I'm actually alright. I think I'll relax and watch some Family Guy. I will try not to think about tomorrow or the next day or the next month. I will just focus on what I can do right now to make myself a little happier than before.

Still not giving up.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Three Weeks

We've been apart for three weeks, though it feels more like it has been three months. Every day feels harder than the last, which is the opposite of what I expected. I think we're both hoping for a financial miracle so we can move forward the way we want to before September. We don't even really have the money to visit each other. The weekends have been the hardest for me. I feel very confused about the situation I am in with Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Social Security. I'm trying not to think about that because I can't really solve that until Monday anyway.

There was a point today where I fell back into believing that I wasn't going to be able to do this. But it lasted all of 5 minutes--10 at the most. Things really are changing. And that makes me so happy. I can't wait to apply these skills in a life situation that's a little less depressing. Hopefully, we won't have to wait too long. In the meantime, I'll keep working on it.

I don't know what to do with myself at the moment. It's late, but thanks to another accidental nap, I'm wide awake. I wish there were someone to talk to. That's what's difficult most of the time. I take care of the business I need to take care of, go to the gym, have started working, and that's it. I haven't gone out to do anything here, mostly because I don't know anyone anymore and because I don't believe going to a bar alone--or even at all right now--is in my best interest. I'm definitely lonely, but it gives me a lot of time to think, which is sometimes good and sometimes not.

It's weird how much I crave to be around other people now. I'm not really concerned about how uncomfortable it could be. I just want to feel like I am part of something again. I feel like I want to cry. That may happen at some point tonight, but it has been a few days since the last occurrence, so that's some progress, I suppose.

When we talked about how we plan to solve this, I felt relieved. I felt hopeful. I think we both learned that we really do want the same thing, and we're both willing to work to get it. We're both really struggling right now in a lot of ways. But I think it's going to be okay. I know it won't be long until we can put this behind us. I'll never forget the lessons I have learned these past few weeks. The same can be said for the ones I know I will learn in the coming weeks. But I'm ready for this chapter to end already.

It's still really hard to focus a lot of the time, but not impossible. I don't know whether that has more to do with how much I miss him or the fact that I haven't been on Ritalin in about a month. I'm still really hesitant about any medication at this time because I want to see what I am capable of accomplishing on my own now that my mind is so much clearer. I've learned in these three weeks that being strong for yourself is so much harder than being helpless and miserable all the time. It's so much harder to believe that you are in charge of your own destiny. Compared to this, it was easy to feel disabled and incapable. I could relinquish responsibility. But in doing that, I also gave up the most important parts of myself. Even though this is more difficult than I ever imagined it could be--okay, maybe it is exactly as difficult as I thought because, let's face it, I knew how much this would suck before I ever left Pittsburgh--I would choose this over and over again. I CAN choose this, and that's what is so liberating. I can choose to take control of my situation. I'm ready for what comes next. And I will try not to worry about things I can't control.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


This is a work of FICTION, though it is based on some events that happened in real life. I wanted to play with the scenario in a creative way. Some of these things happened. Some did not. Please do not make assumptions about which ones are which. Treat this ENTIRELY as a work of FICTION, and try to appreciate it as such. Thank you. Also, I get that it's corny and hastily written. That wasn't the point of the exercise. So back off. :P

He sat with a fistful of shattered glass and broken promises, smoking the last of a pack of cigarettes he found a few hours before realizing he had no choice but to question his own sanity over the last several months and possibly years. He still considered himself a scientist, even though he hadn't seen the inside of a lab in about as long as he had ever worked in one. But he never mentioned this. When people asked him what he did for a living, he usually avoided eye contact and tried to delay responding with "nothing" for as long as he could. And every time he had to answer the question, another piece of him plummeted to the Earth, like a meteorite or confetti or that dead body in the movie Con-Air.

He wondered now whether that had anything to do with his current situation, but for all he knew, the broken glass he left behind could have been the work of a would-be burglar he had caught in the act, and the inevitable struggle would have rendered him a hero instead of the mental patient he learned to define himself as. If only he could remember how or why it started, he might be able to convince himself that his mind had a perfectly rational and reasonable explanation for choosing to abandon him on the most important night of his life. As he choked on the toxins making their way into his respiratory system, he glanced down at the white bracelet on his wrist. Some part of him believed that he would never be able to remove his ivory letter--not until he solved the mystery of what happened on the 5th of July.

The police told Benjamin that his husband found him lying in a pile of the collected remains of every glass surface in the apartment--from the TV to the coffee table to the vase that held the flame-colored roses meant to cheer him up on a particularly lousy summer afternoon. He didn't remember much of that conversation, or the one where his husband threw him out of the house for good without so much as a pair of shoes or a can of soup. Ben couldn't blame him. He cooperated as much as anyone could have with police officers with an apparent moral obligation to contribute to the degeneration of what little sanity or emotional stability he still had tucked away inside of him. He didn't know there were so many ways to call someone worthless in such a short amount of time. They must have a training on that at the academy, he thought. However, he refrained from making any comment at all because he, quite wisely, assumed that a mental institution was a far better place than prison for someone like him.

He survived his stay in the psych ward by writing letters to his husband--letters he could never send thanks to a hastily-filed restraining order that prevented him from making any contact whatsoever or calling 67 Hadley Street his home ever again. He wrote the letters mostly as a way to process his own feelings. The confinement drove him crazy, which sounds a little ironic considering the nature of the facility, but Ben wasn't the kind of man that liked to sit still. He was an avid runner, cyclist, weightlifter, and recreational athlete that had once had quite a promising future in athletics, until he decided to stop pretending to be a woman some years beforehand.

So he kept his pen moving when his body could not. He wrote until the cuts on his hands would start to bleed. And then he just kept writing, not seeing the use in clearing away the blood running down his fingers and pooling at the very point where pen met paper. Every word was still visible behind its rust-colored pond. The darkest ones seemed to be the most real.

You'd think that there would be more to Ben's story in the hospital, but in truth, he was tired of being on medication for problems he wasn't even sure were real anymore. He had begun to question his own reality in the weeks prior to the incident. He felt less and less like himself until his mind must have just let go completely. This was the best explanation he could come up with, and eventually, the doctors stopped trying to force the pills down his throat, and after some more time, they stopped coming to his room altogether. He was on his own, and he had realized that from the beginning. When he was no longer afraid of the withdrawal symptoms and could stop replaying his fantasy of blowing his brain matter into a Rorschach mural on the bathroom wall, he signed himself out of the hospital.

Two hours later, he stood 51 feet away from the very bottom step of house number 67, where he could still hear his 3-month-old puppy crying from behind the red brick walls. He knew he should have walked away at that point, but the thought of living without his dog--even on the streets of East Cleveland with winter approaching--was another razor-sharp shard of broken plasma TV resting ever so gently on his brainstem, having already pierced the skin, just waiting for the right moment, perhaps a twitch of panic, to make contact with the place that made him breathe. These were his thoughts, not mine, by the way. That's just the way he was. Everything was either dramatic or non-existent. No wonder.

At 33 feet, he saw his husband's car--or ex-husband's, maybe, since he wasn't really sure what the situation meant, though he probably should have been smart enough to figure that out, being a brilliant biologist and all. It was too late to run. He had already been seen, and fear of getting flattened by an F-350 with the redneck pride flag printed across its back window urged him to move even closer to the man who was more likely to have him arrested with each additional foot he advanced.

"You shouldn't be here."
"I live here..."
"Not anymore you don't."
"I just need some things."
"You can have your shoes. But you can't come inside."
"I...I can't leave. Please talk to me."
"I have nothing to say to you. Ever again."
"I just...Baby, please. I can't. Please talk to me. I can't do this."
"I don't care where you go. That's up to you. But you cannot stay here."

He didn't know what else to say. His mind was stuck in an infinite loop of can't-won't-scream-cry-panic. His knees forgot what they were designed to do, and he hit the ground hard, catching himself on more fractured glass than pavement, reopening wounds he thought were well on their way to healing. He lifted his hand to see that he had tiny pieces of mirror embedded in his palm, and at that moment more than any other, as his husband walked past him into the house without another syllable, he felt like eating his own reflection. One shard at a time.

He sat and allowed himself to bleed and cry until his body had had enough of these things, and around the same time, the screen-door skin of the house seemed to rupture, spewing out crimson bags of shoes, medicines, clothes, and the inevitable glitter-glass that covered everything on the property, inside and out.

Blood-red hands, blood-red bags, and blood-red eyes walked up the street, attached to a man whose body and mind should have stopped betraying him years before, if life were to be fair in any fucking way. (Again, his words. Not mine. Maybe he should've written this instead.) He didn't know what to do, where to go, or when he would ever find a place to call home again. But, for whatever reason, he walked. It might have been pure instinct at that point, his neocortex having shut down almost completely for the second time in an all-too-brief-yet-never-ending span of time. But had he not taken those first zombie-like shuffles away from his past, he would have never tripped over the chance to find his future.

Benjamin continued to bleed for a long time after that. I'm told that he and his husband are back together again and that they have a 3-year-old daughter named Annabelle. Ben's hands are permanently scarred, not only because of the initial disaster and the subsequent reinjury, but because, for a long time, Ben picked at his wounds until they bled just as fiercely as they did that very first night. He did this every day for quite some time, often without realizing it. And the day he stopped ripping away scab after scab was the day his husband finally called.

Tears fell to the pages of Ben's tattered journal as he listened to the song to which they danced on the night of their wedding, and before he hung up the phone--on what would be the anniversary of the death of their old life together--his husband didn't ask Ben to come home. He said that it was time for both of them to go home.

Sixty-seven minutes later, you could hear the makeup sex two blocks over. (What's another few dozen kids in therapy, right?) It was hot and sweaty and filled with all the best kinds of screaming and way too many different kinds of crying. And that's being discreet. I could have also told you about the biting and the scratching and the broken headboard and the various bodily fluids that ended up defying gravity in the end.

Marcus looked at the scars all over his partner's hands (and body), following the trail from one to the next with his lips, like he was sucking the venom out of a lethal snake bite.

"Your scars make you so much more beautiful," he said to Ben.

Ben smiled with tears forming in the corners of eyes that seemed to have aged a dozen years since the last time they shared a bed together. He spoke softly but with more conviction than he could ever remember: "So do yours. I'm just sorry that I had to be the one to give them to you."

"You never have to be sorry, Ben. I don't blame you for what happened. And it's like we said: We're both more beautiful for having these marks, whether they have formed on the body or the soul. I wouldn't trade these scars for anything." As he said these last words, he moved his hand right towards his partner's heart, just above the place where a new scar would one day form. And he knew he would love that one too.

"Do you really mean that? I mean, you know my mind wasn't in the right place when it happened, but that doesn't mean I am not responsible for so, so much pain in your life...And I can't promise that I won't cause you more pain."

Marcus paused for a long time after that. He breathed slowly, never breaking eye contact with the man whose stormy seas had made him such a well-conditioned sailor. "I never expected you not to cause me pain. That's kind of a given with marriage. But you were gone for a long time--long before your episode or whatever we want to call it now. I lost the man I married, for whatever reason, to a shell of a person that needed life support in a way that I just couldn't provide. It was killing me too, and saying goodbye felt like they pulled the plug on me instead. I felt like I said goodbye over and over again every single night when I had to crawl into this bed with nothing but an empty space next to me...It never stopped smelling like you."

"What made it stop?"
"What do you mean, Ben?"
"I mean, like, how did you know when you stopped having to say goodbye? How did you--"
"How did I know the man I married had finally come back to me?"
"You found it again."
"Found what?"
"Your smile."


Today, I recognized that I have started to feel more than one emotion, which I know is one of those really healthy things. I'm still extraordinarily optimistic about where things are going with my mental health and my life, more generally. But at the same time, I am sad about having to be so far away from the person I love. I'm also really stressed out because the psych hospital stole my T, the Food Stamps office messed up AGAIN, my back has been getting worse again, I'm lonely as all hell, and I'm still looking for things with which to occupy most of my time.

I finally told him that I didn't think this was working the way we intended it to. We're both miserable as hell being away from one another. If the point was to learn whether or not we were able to focus more on improving ourselves as individuals by being apart from one another, I think we've learned that, rather than helping us, this is a major distraction and contributing factor to our respective levels of unhappiness. There are a host of reasons why I think we'd be better off working this out in the context of the relationship. One of the major ones I've been dwelling on the last few days is that I think now we both know what happens when we become codependent. We know what it feels like to lose ourselves completely. And we know what happens when we both aren't dealing with our problems effectively. In addition, I think we have more than gotten the point when it comes to appreciating what you have before it's gone. I still wonder how much longer we will have to put ourselves through this. I think I've gained the perspective I need to accomplish what I need to. I think I have regained it more than anything. I've come so far to the other side, in fact, that I think being here is going to set me back more than help me. I am happy that I am mostly resistant to people making sure every little need I have is met. But it's hard to keep that up without feeling guilty. It seems the only way parents know how to show love is by doing things for you or trying to take care of you. But that's just not what I need right now. I need to work on my life in more of a real-life situation. This seems more like a time-out from real life to me. And I really don't believe I need that anymore. I'm strong enough to just get on with it already. And I'm the kind of person who believes you never know until you try.

I was much more into this option of staying in Wilkes-Barre when I was afraid I wouldn't be able to survive on my own in Pittsburgh. I thought that this is what I needed. And maybe I did need it for a few days. But I've always been a fast learner. I've always been able to pick up my own pieces, sometimes a little more quickly than others, and I usually know when it's time for me to move forward. This time in particular, I've felt more capable than ever before. I feel like my mind came back to me. I've always known how to be this person. All those other times when my life turned into complete chaos have finally proven their worth. Every time it happens, it gets easier and easier to handle. I know more of what to do each time.

I don't exactly know how I snapped out of things so quickly. Was it largely the medication? Was it the situation that caused me to finally wake up from the fog I had been living in? Was it that time in the hospital spent doing nothing but thinking and writing and forcing myself to practice CBT like I never have before? Was it the culminating event of months worth of effort and practice and failure? Maybe it was a little bit of everything. I am grateful, regardless. I will never let myself believe I am broken again. I refuse to be a victim. I choose to live. And really live, not just float through life passively.

This disability stuff is about to come to an end. I still have a nine-month trial work period, which will be helpful in the beginning, but I would rather get a job in Pittsburgh, truthfully. I would rather do this in a scenario close to the one I desire. I am perfectly capable of doing it in these less-than-desirable circumstances, but why the hell would I want to if I know it could be done a different, less painful way?

I've come up with some alternative solutions in my head, some of which require more time here than others. As much as I know what I want, I am willing to do whatever it takes. If that means staying here indefinitely, I can handle it. It's going to suck if it has to be that way, but sometimes that's just the way things are. Most people know this without having to be told. For some reason, I always have to remind myself of the simplest things. My brain's a little weird. But I like it, most of the time.

For some reason, this thought came to my head just now: "I will never hide my body from you again." And I know it's true.

I'll probably have more to say soon, but I want to move on to something else for a little while. I don't want to get caught up in a loop. The fact that I am even able to say that and stop myself is pretty fucking awesome. Just saying.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Weekend Reflections

My head is buzzing, and I feel really distracted right now. I am attempting to focus on doing what I need to do, both long term and in the moment, but ever since the middle of the day yesterday, I've been having a lot of trouble. I keep thinking that this isn't the place for me to do what I need to do, and it seems like a lot of things are trying to convince me of that, even when I try to force myself to forge ahead and believe otherwise.

It is lonely here, and most of the friends I had are alcoholics. And the others...Well, let's just say that I have been trying to contact people since the first night I got back here. I'm definitely making an effort to be more social. It just hasn't been working out, which is actually a lot more discouraging than I thought it would be. I thought it would be easy to just focus 100% on myself and what I need to do to get to a place where I am completely comfortable, at least a good portion of the time. But it's actually much more difficult to remain focused when I feel this isolated.

As much as I love my family, they really aren't about the same lifestyle I am, and that's really hard. I have to go out of my way mentally just to make sure I don't give in. We just have different priorities, and that's completely okay. It's just not very helpful right now. I feel like I am at a point where I need a certain kind of support, and instead of being able to get what I need, I have to fight off the kinds of support I don't need.

I don't want it to be a chore to stay at a baseline level of independence and comfort. I just want that to be a fact of life. My brain is starting to feel more cluttered here every day, and perhaps that is because I haven't been able to talk to people as much as I did when things first happened. I feel much more disconnected from my support network.

I'm starting to see that the purpose of coming here is pretty limited in scope. I need to learn how to function independently, and though that has been pretty taxing due to outside influences, I've been doing a pretty good job at managing my own affairs. I need to save money so that I can put myself in a better position with regard to student loans. I am also realizing that I need to save money to leave when the time is right. I know for a fact that it will be incredibly difficult--if not impossible--for me to figure out any very long-term plans while I am here. As much as I fight it, the feeling of being stuck is hard to escape. It's not bringing me down or preventing me from doing anything, but it is a weight on my shoulders I with which I wish I did not have to contend.

I feel that the biggest detriment to my well-being at this point is my seemingly complete disconnection from my social support network. I will do the best I can to resist the negative thoughts, but I do fear that they will eventually become too much if I don't find a way to remedy the situation. I am definitely starting to have my doubts about the relative pros and cons of being in this place. However, this might be the only way for things to really improve between us. I don't know if we would both be strong enough to not see each other every day if I were closer. Part of me wonders what is so horrible about that, if we are both committed to working on ourselves. But I also realize that time is an important factor in all of this. I know more healing needs to take place, and we need time for the changes we have implemented to play themselves out.

I don't blame anyone for this, but I do feel angry about how unfair it is that I am the one losing contact with friends, losing my home, etc. It seems like things are pretty well stacked against me. I know I can take it, but it is so draining. I keep wondering how much longer I will have to be this strong. This is the third time I have had to come back here, and while I want to stress again how much I love my family and will never fully be able to repay them for all the support they have given me--even when I haven't always deserved it--I do lose a lot of myself being here. And that's another thing I am fighting. Again, I can take it. But it's hard. And it's exhausting. I guess maybe I just want SOMETHING to feel comfortable about this.

I'd give anything to be out with the people I care about tonight. It's been so long since I've been genuinely excited to do something without being terrified of being in a social setting. And now that I finally have those feelings back, I can't take action. It seems kind of cruel.

I started crying a lot earlier. I had to listen to the same two or three songs that have been helping me through this. I desperately want to talk to someone in person. As much as all of this hurts, I know why I am here. I know what I need to do. This is only a small part of my life. Everything will be okay. I won't give up. I will not let any of this bring me down. I have so many reasons to work for the things I want. I am learning what really being strong for yourself and the person you love means. I'm definitely not in an ideal situation, but I need to make the best of where I am and try to achieve my goals. If I can get closer to them here, than I know I can make it anywhere. I won't be broken this easily. This will all be worth it soon enough. Love is so much more powerful and motivating than I ever thought it could be, in all of its forms. I need to remind myself of this constantly.

I won't give up.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Time Dilation

I smiled about us more than I cried today. Even so, it feels like I have been here for a month already, though it's really been four days. It's hard not to feel lonely here when pretty much all of my friends are back in Pittsburgh. I see pictures and posts every day that help me feel a little more connected to them in some ways, but in other ways, they make me feel even further away.

I applied to probably sixty or seventy more jobs today just in case the home healthcare agency doesn't call me back for a second interview next week. I'm not particularly concerned with what the job is at this point. I just need something to keep myself occupied and start bringing in money to get life crap sorted out.

I didn't do much else today except work out. I was thinking of going back to the gym for a leg workout tonight, but I think my back still needs a little TLC. It's frustrating to me, but I would rather not experience what I did a few months ago. If this doesn't get better by Monday, though, it's back to the doctor for me. I'm trying to avoid surgery at all costs.

It's still hard to be alone at night, when you want to be cuddled up close to the person you love. I think I might not make it very much longer without crying, but that's okay. The crying means I still care enough to be hurt. Fortunately, I still care enough to make the effort too.

I guess I really didn't have much to say after all. Some nights aren't that great for words.

It's still way too quiet here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Different Response

Today happened, and sometimes, that's as much as I can say. I still feel empty a lot of the time, but that doesn't prevent me from doing what I need to do in order to better myself and my circumstances. I learned that today when I encountered a pretty frustrating situation at my intake appointment.

My appointment was scheduled for 1:00 PM, but I didn't speak with anyone until 2:00 PM. The PA in charge of my intake session was not exactly helpful, and by that, I mean that he explained nothing whatsoever of the services they offered, didn't ask questions about my situation, and seemed to stop listening the moment I mentioned I wasn't interested in pursuing medication options at this time. From my past experience, intake sessions generally last well over an hour, as the interviewers typically try to gauge your needs and match you with an appropriate provider or program. I wasn't even in that man's office ten minutes before he sent me down the hall to someone else to fill out a pile of forms. I was extremely uncomfortable, but halfway through signing things, I had had enough. I stopped the woman in charge of working on my file "update", which was actually not what was supposed to be happening at all since I had never been there before. I told her that I was feeling pretty uncomfortable with signing forms and being pushed through the process without being offered any explanations or options and without discussing a plan for care. She apologized, which is when she realized that I had been sent to the wrong place, and we eventually got together with the woman who was assigned to be my therapist. Because I had chosen this route, I was able to get an appointment much sooner. Had I not said anything, my first session would not have been until September. The plan is to meet that day and discuss further treatment options. In addition to all of this chaos, the delay caused me to be late to an interview I had scheduled for 2:45 PM. I simply called ahead, had my mom bring my suit, changed in the car, and went about the interview without a problem.

Two weeks ago, I never would have been able to do any of these things. My day would have been ruined, and I would have blindly followed the instructions of people I knew weren't doing their jobs appropriately. I wouldn't have been able to compose myself enough to tackle an interview. I wouldn't have even been able to summon up the courage to make the phone call saying I was going to be late. I'm nearly crying now realizing that things really are changing. I am myself again, and I am getting better at being that every day. Part of me is so happy about this. The other part is in so much pain because it realizes that, no matter how much progress I make in a short amount of time, I cannot simply return to the life I had before when I feel better. It will take time for the hurt and fear I have caused to be resolved. It will take time, and that is so hard to handle right now. I miss him all the time. I am happy with the person I am becoming. I am not depressed about my life. I feel confident and capable. But I can't shake that feeling of emptiness. Because I love him--because we really do love each other--this isn't the kind of thing that is going to stop hurting until we are finally both okay enough to reunite. Managing these feelings of pain and loneliness is the most difficult part of this by far. Everything else is coming back to me. Living with purpose is apparently a lot like riding a bike. You never really forget how to love yourself.

The only thing I can do is work on myself and allow time to heal these wounds. I know I am ready, but it will take time for others to believe in me as much as I do. It will take time for that trust to be rebuilt. And it will take time for him to get where he needs to be as well. And that's something I didn't think much about until we talked earlier tonight. I always thought he was doing alright, maybe because I was doing so poorly in comparison. But, in reality, we were both living co-dependently. We weren't functioning well as individuals. Hearing him admit that he was having some problems too helped me to realize that I am not to blame for everything that happens. I'm just so glad that he is going to be focusing on himself now too. And being able to be there for one another, even this far apart, is going to be so important.

It's getting to be that time of night where I feel the pain more intensely than at any other time. I've been trying to get in touch with some old friends from the area, but people are pretty busy these days, and others just haven't responded at all or will be partaking in activities that aren't in my best interests right now. I may be a little more on my own than I imagined, and that is hard too. But I have to stay focused even when loneliness tries to overwhelm me. I am here for a reason, and I won't let anything else get in the way anymore. This is so important to me. This is the most important time in my life and the most critical thing I have ever undertaken, for so many reasons. This is the start of something so much bigger and better, and once we are able to be confident in our own lives, the rest will fall into place. I'm pretty impatient, but I am learning to handle that too. I am learning to accept that this is the way that this must be done. I will keep believing, even when it feels impossible. I won't give up.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Between Then and Now

It hasn't even been a full two weeks, but I have like months have gone by given how much different everything seems, within my own mind and without. I left the hospital on Sunday wearing the same shorts I had been the night everything happened, though they did get washed once during that period of time, thank God. I remember being in such a daze walking outdoors for the first time in more than a week. I don't think I was really able to feel anything at that point. The car ride back to Lawrenceville was longer than I expected it to be. Whether that had more to do with our hitting every red light between McKeesport and the city or the time dilation caused by severe emotional experiences, I can't be certain.

My parents got out of the car, and I expected to sit there while they gathered what they could of my belongings. I was about to start crying because I heard my puppy barking all the way inside the house, but before a single tear could fall, my mother told me to come outside. I didn't know what to do at first. I stepped out cautiously, terrified to move too suddenly. We were about ten feet from one another, but in those first few seconds, the distance seemed much greater. Then he spoke. He told me, "It's okay," but it took more than once for me to understand what was actually going on. We hugged for a long time, but not long enough for me. In that moment, I never wanted to let go. It took everything not to fall to the ground crying. I feel like that's the moment everything really changed inside me. I almost cried when not an hour later I was able to make him hunch over with laughter. It felt so good to hear that again.

Things were a lot clearer a few days ago than they are now. I'm struggling with putting all the events of the past few days together in a coherent, concise way. Even if things are a bit fragmented, it's important that I at least make this effort.

We tried to delay leaving as long as possibly, probably not consciously. It felt like there were so many things that simultaneously needed to be said and never had to . The dogs nearly all fell over when they finally saw me. Apparently, Bam-Bam had escaped three times trying to find me over that week.

The house seemed the same but somehow not at all. It felt further away from me too, as a physical place. But I could still sense the pain and fear that I caused. It was hard to look at the place I had learned to call home, knowing that it could never be that for me again. It was also very hard to look at a casserole dish full of rhinestones that had been mixed together. He stopped to pull out several pieces of broken glass before setting the tray back down. We hugged so many more times. And it was harder and harder to let go each time.

I didn't want to say this at all, but maybe it is important that I do. The thing that hurt most about the whole encounter was seeing him without his ring. I know he noticed that I was still wearing mine. I'm not sure what he thought about that, and perhaps I'll never know.

"I love you. And I am not angry. I don't blame you for anything that happened." Those were the words that started a conversation that has been going on for days, most of the time not needing any words at all to keep it going. Those words and countless instances of both of us repeating "it's okay" to one another. And I still have to tell myself that every day.

I had such a hard time sleeping Sunday night. I couldn't think about anything else, so I started typing up the letters I had been writing to him in the hospital, which were half letter and half journal entry, give or take a few percentage points. They were long, and in addition to helping me feel deeply connected, they reminded me of why I needed to be where I am now. They reminded me that I needed to view this as a positive step forward for both of us.

It was around four in the morning when I got out of bed, after lying there for several hours with Comedy Central on in the background. I grabbed my phone to listen to a song that hadn't left my mind all week, and I noticed I had gotten a response to my message about 25 minutes previous to that. I opened up the message and found screenshots of the lyrics to the song I was just about to listen to, and I collapsed into my bed again. There were a few more messages shared that night, but it still took me so long to fall asleep. It was well past light outside before my body finally gave in.

Yesterday was my first full day back here, and I spent most of it distracting myself with applying for jobs. I listened to music and continued to cry when I wasn't doing that. We FaceTimed for about half an hour, and the image was so clear that I felt like I was right there with him. I'm not sure whether that made it easier or harder to handle. Several times during the conversation, I broke down. I saw how tired he looked. I saw how much this has been hurting him too. I asked if he were going to talk to someone as well, and it made me happy to hear when he answered in the affirmative. We were able to laugh at times. But we both seemed to look at each other knowing that things were going to get a lot harder before getting easier. But I also saw in his face the willingness to believe in the power of love to survive anything. And I have never before found another person with that much faith or strength. I cried for a little while after we finally hung up, after we both realized that we needed to get out and do things before we got stuck in bed all night just thinking and crying. After I got up, I listened to music and continued to write.

My efforts yesterday seemed to pay off today when I woke up to four phone calls about job opportunities. I had to decline one of them because there is no way for me to make the hour commute each way on my own. I have another interview tomorrow, and I am waiting for the other two to continue playing phone tag with me. I also have my intake appointment at CCS tomorrow, the agency for which I used to work during the 2013/2014 school year. I had an easier time keeping myself busy today. I went to a tabata boot camp workout this evening, and though my back started to bother me because I haven't done anything with it in almost two weeks, I was able to push through about 75% of it. I know I will be fine in a few days. I'm planning on getting a chest/upper back workout in tonight as well. It actually felt good to be around the old studio again. I smiled and laughed with people for the first time in almost two weeks. They made me feel like everything was going to be okay--like I was in the right place for the time being. That feeling has been hard to maintain since leaving the studio a few hours ago, but I'll hopefully get a chance to renew it when I go back tomorrow night.

It's dark now, and my head hurts from all the crying I've done today too. But I believe in myself. I believe in us. And my faith in so many things has been restored. I feel like the same person that moved out to Pittsburgh last spring. I feel like the fog has been lifted. I feel like I have a sense of purpose again. I feel ambitious and hopeful. I am determined. And I am able to control the negative thoughts that creep in on me throughout the day. I am able to take action when I need to in order to prevent myself from spiraling downward. I feel like I'm finally in the driver's seat again. I'm medication-free for the first time in nearly a year, and I feel more like myself than I have in nearly just as long.

I could tell things were finally going right again when I got out of bed, looked at my phone, took a few minutes to compose myself, and immediately called all four potential employers back. I didn't think about how scared I was. I didn't get overwhelmed. I just did what I needed to do. I fell back into bed to cry a few times today, but I didn't hang out there and dwell on my misery. I forced myself to keep moving. I reminded myself again of why I am here. I reminded myself why this is so important. And though it hasn't been easy, I have been surviving. I have been doing things for myself, and I even cleaned our whole kitchen because I just couldn't take shit being EVERYWHERE in a place that I would be calling my home for the next however-long. (This isn't a typical thing here, but we just got our hot water fixed today, and my mother has a thing about doing dishes if the water is not scalding hot.)

I'm not always okay. Being apart is painful, and it will keep being painful. But I have a responsibility to take care of myself. Part of being a functional adult is learning how to deal with pain and delay gratification, learning how to acknowledge and feel the pain without letting it break you or take control of your every behavior. And I think I've been doing pretty well with that. I'm excited to see just how much more I really am able to handle in the coming weeks. I am so ready to be myself again. I AM being myself again. I just wish more people were able to see that in action. They will, in time. Right now, I'm just really proud of myself.

I am proud of myself for being able to make the decision to go back to the hospital on my own. I am proud of myself for making the decision to come back to Larksville to deal with my mental health needs. I am proud of myself for making the commitment to see this through no matter what. I'm so proud that I can say I am the kind of person that will never give up. I am so proud to be able to say that I am who I am and that I have been through all that I have. I am proud of my own story, finally and forever. My life is a fucking miracle. I am so lucky to be right where I am, to have all that I do, and to be loved the way that I am. I will not take this opportunity for granted. I will not waste my time in making sure that I will be prepared to live the rest of my life the way I want to live it. And I will never be ashamed of having to step backwards in order to take care of myself.

Sometimes it takes hitting the absolute bottom for you to realize how insignificant your previous pain is in comparison. Sometimes it takes getting to that point in order for you to realize what others have been telling you all along. Everything seems to have clicked recently. And I am running with it. I'm not afraid. That's not always true, but the key is that I am able to act in spite of my fear. I am not an easy person to break. This much I have learned.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Self-Acceptance Exercise.

While in the hospital last week, I found a page in one of the workbooks that was an exercise in self-acceptance. You were required to finish the sentence as quickly as possible, even if it didn't always make sense or some of your answers seemed to be in conflict. Here's how that went:

It's not easy for me to be self-accepting when I: fail.

It's not easy for me to admit that: the past cannot be changed.

One of my emotions I have trouble accepting is: depression.

One of the thoughts I tend to push out of my mind is: the thought of hurting myself.

One of the things about my body I have trouble accepting is: that I am small.

If I were more accepting of my body: I would try harder.

If I were more accepting of the things I have done: I would not be as depressed.

If I were accepting of my feelings: I could move on.

If I were more honest about my wants and needs: I could have them met.

The scary thing about being self-accepting is: knowing your limitations.

If other people saw me being more self-accepting: they would like me more.

The good thing about being self-accepting might be: I could finally become independent.

I am becoming aware of: my own abilities and shortcomings.

I am beginning to feel: somewhat better and more hopeful.

As I learn to stop denying my experiences: I make room for new ones.

As I breathe deeply and allow myself to experience self-acceptance: I can let things be.

I decided to try the same exercise again tonight, a week removed from doing it while an inpatient at UPMC McKeesport. The results are interesting to me.

It's not easy for me to be self-accepting when I: am afraid.

It's not easy for me to admit that: things might need to be this way.

One of my emotions I have trouble accepting is: fear.

One of the thoughts I tend to push out of my mind is: that I can't do this.

One of the things about my body I have trouble accepting is: my hair loss.

If I were more accepting of my body: I would appear more confident.

If I were more accepting of the things I have done: I could move on.

If I were accepting of my feelings: I would believe in myself.

If I were more honest about my wants and needs: People would be able to help me get them fulfilled.

The scary thing about being self-accepting is: being alone with your flaws.

If other people saw me being more self-accepting: they would give me a chance.

The good thing about being self-accepting might be: that I can finally grow from my mistakes.

I am becoming aware of: how possible this is.

I am beginning to feel: alive.

As I learn to stop denying my experiences: I see reality more clearly.

As I breathe deeply and allow myself to experience self-acceptance: I feel ready to keep going.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Moving Forward on this Holiday

I suppose the best time for me to try to write about this is when I am slightly intoxicated since I can't seem to get any words out when I am completely sober. Tonight has been interesting to say the least.

I went to the gym, as is the usual case for me on any given day, though I have had a few rough patches the last few weeks where I have failed to move from bed for several days at a time. Anyway, today was the fourth of July, which was fine when I was in the gym imagining the visual displays that corresponded with the multitude of sounds I heard throughout the evening while working out. But as the night wore on, I couldn't ignore the history the day and I had shared. Instead of waiting downtown with thousands of drunk and disorderly citizens, I opted not to catch my bus home and walk down to Cruze to see my fiance and my friends, hoping to have a long night of fun with them before turning in and trying to resume normal life. But he brought it up before I got the chance to. He wanted to go have fun without me, which normally is not a problem,  but today, in addition to being one of the worst personal days I experience as a general rule, is also a day where I had struggled to even get out of bed in the morning. I know I don't have very many friends. The last thing I want to hear is that you want to go out with all of our mutual friends to have fun while I sit at home and do nothing but contemplate my own misery. I would have been perfectly fine with going out separate ways to have fun tonight, but even that was a problem for some reason. Every decision I made seemed to be inadequate and childish to you. You say that you don't want to take care of me, and when I tell you that you don't have to, you refuse to listen to me and insist that what I am saying is crazy and out of line. I feel like I can never win. I feel like you think I am stupid. Or at least you treat me that way a lot of the time. If you treat me like I am incapable of making my own choices, how will I ever know which choices result in the best outcomes? I love you more than anything. I want you to know how much I really do love you and want you to experience all the pleasure you can in this world. But I also want you to know that I need to experience that too, and it isn't always convenient for me. Sometimes I feel connected to people, and sometimes I do not. Sometimes I understand the social implications of a situation, and sometimes I do not. But the point is that I try. And that there are real people involved in my trying. And I really do need help in figuring out what the fuck is going on. No matter how smart I am, no matter how clever or creative I am, no matter how charismatic I may seem to the untrained ear or eye, I am still at an extreme disadvantage. I am AUTISTIC. I do not understand many of the things that you take for granted about human relationships. And you may think I am stupid for this, but I assure you I am not. My brain is actually pretty amazing. I can read four times faster than the average person. I have an impeccable short term memory. I have a natural gift for writing, even though I am a terrible public speaker. I feel emotions far more intensely than most people do. My brain is constantly working overtime, trying to process every little detail about every little thing that crosses the path of my consciousness. It's fucking exhausting. I want to turn it off sometimes, but I just can't. I barely have time to breathe. But still I am viewed as selfish because tonight, it just so happened that I was able to be okay at the same time that my partner wanted to do something in public with friends, and he wanted nothing to do with me. I understand needing alone time. That is why I suggested going to a different after-hours bar than the one you had planned on, but still, you thought that was a bad idea for me. You screamed at me for that too. I have the ability to make my own decisions. I am not a child, and if I want to drunk by myself in an after-hours club, I have every right to do so without judgment from anyone else. If you get to do it, than I do too. It does not matter what medication I am on. What matters is the choice I myself have made. I am not a child, I repeat. I understand the consequences of my actions. If you want to go drink by yourself for a night, I should have the same right to do so.

I am not mad. I love you. I just wish you could actually see things from my perspective. I am not trying to deprive you of your alone time. I merely wanted you to see what that looks like to someone who is always alone and who very rarely gets to experience what it is like to be amongst a group of people who believe the same things and are in the same mindset to celebrate. You deserve your own time just as much as anyone. But I still deserve the chance to explain to you how that can sometimes conflict with my needs. Even so, this conflict is perfectly okay. That's bound to happen in relationships. What is not okay is trying to control another person because you think that his or her cognitive disability makes him or her incapable of making adult choices. As for me--and me alone--I will tell you firsthand if I can or can't make a decision. This is just how I am.

I only wanted to go out tonight because I wanted to be with friends and enjoy the holiday like others before me have enjoyed it. I wanted to create new memories of the fourth of July because for the past ten years, I have had to deal with nothing but pain and heartbreak. I wanted to move forward and for once enjoy the occasion. I thought waiting until my boyfriend and I were alone at the bar would be a good time, but he thought it would be a good time to tell me that he needed space from me. I don't blame him for this. Everyone deserves his or her own personal space, especially when one works in a bar. But I thought he would be more understanding of my needs in the same situation. I guess I never explained how I felt in the first place. That may have something to do with it.

The truth is that I do not get subtleties. I am frequently the last person to get a joke, I may not understand exactly when you want me to hold you or tell you everything is going to be okay. I often don't get subtle sarcasm, though I can dish it better than most. You may think that I am brilliant or incredibly creative, but there are things that I will never understand. Basic conversation is one of them. I don't know what to say to people. I don't know how to maintain relationships or be close with others. I just know how to exchange information factually and sometimes ironically, I have the same emotions as neurotypical people, but I feel them far more intensely. I'm always at a level 10. I know I am not making much sense right now, but I do hope that someone eventually learns that this thought process is unique. That I am not like others. And that that is okay. We all arrive at our respective destinations at the appropriate times. Please understand this as you go about your day.

I am autistic. I may not have common sense, but I can work with any functional MRI machine and tell you which parts of the brain are more or less active in a given scenario. I can also tell you thousands of bits of seemingly useless information, but none of that seems to matter because I am ultimately a writer. I can't speak for shit. I stutter and mumble and cry into corners when I have to make a vocal statement. But I can write. I can make you feel with a few keystrokes here or there. And this is how I plan to make my truer scientific presence felt. I have not given up on myself. I have not given up on the true medium of science. I haven't even given up on humanity. Please try to understand me as we move forward in our journey. There is so much more we need to learn. I am ready and willing to progress. Are you?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

June 2, 2015

Today was another mostly useless day for me. I couldn't bring myself to function in any way until almost 5:30, and even after that, I wasn't much better. I'm upset because I am tired of feeling this way, but it's made worse by the fact that I've known this medication hasn't been working for months, and my psychiatrist decided it made sense to only see me once every four months when I expressed concerns to him at our very first meeting. I missed my therapy appointment today as well, but I don't really get anything out of those sessions. Maybe I just haven't been seeing her long enough. I'm not sure what I'm really supposed to take away or when I am supposed to start feeling something--something other than misery or terror.

I'm overwhelmed all the time, and increasingly so. A few years ago, I wouldn't have had a care in the world with the amount of responsibilities I have now, but I can barely function from day to day. I'm upset that this is where I am at nearly 27.

My priorities are changing. I'm taking a step back from drag, with a few shows here and there just to keep some money in my personal account, and I'm trying to move forward with my real life. I've been hiding behind this pretend person for way too long. The immediate satisfaction may be greater, but I know there are things more important to me that I've neglected.

I saw my brother for the first time since he was released in February. I really enjoyed myself this weekend, though there were a few awkward moments. I miss him--and my parents--already. They seem to be functioning just fine, which is great. The problem is that I am starting to feel like I used to. I feel like I just don't fit in, like there's no place for me anymore.

I still feel useless. But I am hopeful. I got two calls today about personal training jobs, but I missed them because I couldn't talk or get out of bed. They both said they would call back tomorrow.

The rest of my thoughts don't seem to want to surface right now.