20th anniversary of a specific trauma

For 20 years, I’ve been churning and mulling over, obsessing and ruminating about, writing and re-writing the events surrounding my first hospitalization which happened around this time of year in 1999, when I was 17.  Up until the age of 30, it had a hold on me in that way that trauma can stay with a person:  it was my biggest source of shame and fear, I felt like it defined my past and if only I had avoided it, maybe my mental health wouldn’t have gotten so derailed for so long.  It was a super sore spot that for some reason I just kept picking at, revisiting, but wasn’t getting anywhere with.

I’m 37 now, and I’ve been seeing it much differently, with the help of my therapist.  It was extreme and drastic, for sure, but it led to me getting real help that I desperately needed – without that help, my mental state could have festered and bubbled badly for much longer, in a much darker place; who knows what might have happened.  Not that I didn’t suffer for way too long regardless.  I did!  But some systems were in place that helped me feel not so alone, even through those times where I despised those systems.

I’m writing kinda vaguely here…    I voluntarily admitted myself to a psychiatric unit because I thought I was bipolar and I stopped being able to sleep, and things were getting wonky.  I was indeed diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as well as having gone through a psychotic break.  I was there for 3 weeks, even though I kept thinking I could leave at any minute, if I could just figure my way out.  I was put on medications, and later on, different ones and different ones and different ones.  So many different ones.  I got disillusioned with drugs and eventually weened myself off of everything because they ultimately didn’t make any sense.  They did do me some good at some points in time, but not much.

The thing that helped more than anything else, ever in my life, was getting assigned a therapist.  I was required to attend 20 sessions after my hospitalization; I ended up going so many more times than that; if not specifically with her because she moved away, then to the therapist she referred me to.  In fact, I’m still seeing this therapist (with a break of a bunch of years in between, during that time where I wrote off meds and all other psychological interventions).

I was talking recently with a friend about therapy, (It seems like all of my friends are currently in therapy…) and I referred to the fact that my parents facilitated me being in therapy from such a young age (and by young, I mean 18) as “early intervention.”  I know that term usually refers to 3-5 year-old’s who might be on the spectrum or might have a learning disability or a speech delay.  But, sadly, when it comes to emotions and figuring out how to communicate them, age 18 is still pretty much “early intervention,” in my opinion.  Things are definitely getting better, but not fast enough!  And when I said that out loud to my friend, it hit me how lucky I was.  I always went to therapy willingly – at some times, it felt like the only thing I had to look forward to.  Usually it felt like the progress was not quantifiable.  Was it doing anything?  What good was it?  Was it worth it?  I still pretty much always loved going, even if logically I wasn’t so sure.

My therapist has told me that among her clients who have gone through psychosis, I’m the only one who has ever wanted to revisit it (for me, there are 3 instances).  Everyone else just wants to put it behind them.  I don’t understand that; and I’ve ended up doing a lot more than just revisiting it.  I think there’s a lot of worth there.  It feels like a gold mine in an alternate universe.  The more I write, the more I can mine it later, for future purposes.  I’m not sure what those purposes are, exactly, yet, but I want the raw material to be intact as much as possible.

In the spirit of that, here’s one short snippet, that I first wrote in 2001:

“I’m going to be leaving tomorrow,” I announced at our afternoon community meeting.  I figured that since I wanted to come here, I was allowed to tell them when I wanted to leave.  I was getting sick of this charade.  The day before, I had told the nurse that I wanted to go home, expecting to find my parents there when I woke up.  When nothing came of that, I panicked, but then I realized the key was for me to get myself out.  I was going to have to stand up to everyone and announce my intentions.  I had to take control.  Everyone, including the staff workers, stared at me without saying a word.  That made me uneasy, especially when my statement went untouched, and the meeting continued with staff member Bob saying, “If no one has anything else to say, it’s time to go to the gym.”  It’s alright, it’s alright.  They’re just testing me.”

There’s a lot more where that came from.  Maybe one day I’ll share it with a wider audience.


Guest post – Caelan (my spouse!)

So I’ve been blogging for a while now, and I haven’t said a whole lot about my spouse, basically out of respect for their privacy.  But they actually have a lot to say!  Here’s just a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes:

Over the last 6 years that Kameron has been recording his gender transition journey, I have always appeared in his writing as the supportive spouse. That’s a role I have been happy to fill. Happy to be part of a couple t hat goes against the standard narrative of couples perceived as “same-sex” who split when one comes out as transmasculine/trans male. I never felt that Kameron’s transition challenged my sexual orientation—I am that rare non-binary unicorn who discovers their identity all at once, albeit belatedly. I never thought I was a lesbian, if anything other people read me as asexual. As I came into my own queer sexuality and genderqueer identity, I was falling for a pansexual gender non-conforming guy (I have no idea how he would define himself, this is how I experienced him). I embraced the po-mo complexity of my attraction to his particular queer blend of femininity and masculinity.

For me, being genderqueer gave me permission to play with my gender presentation. I had fun thrifting to build a wardrobe that reflected the spectrum of my gender expression—t-shirts from the boys section, day-glo green femme sweaters, bright blue doc marten boots, mini-skirts, baggy pants and flannel shirts. I felt more confident taking up space, and attracting the attention of other gender non-conforming queer people. But once I found myself romantically involved with someone (before Kameron), my partner assumed that I was “the more feminine one.” I felt pressured to present more femininely to heighten their tenuous, new expression of masculinity.

Now when I look back at the past 13 years of my life, I question whether I presented femininely because I internalized that pressure and carried it forward into my relationship with Kameron. Was this shift an unconscious assimilation to ease moving through the world? Or did I truly want to grow my hair out, wear skirts/dresses, and feel included in feminist spaces?! What a mindfuck! Being genderfluid makes life hella complicated. I have identified as a genderqueer femme, but that feels too limiting now. My gender expression has shifted again in the last 3 years toward a more masculine presentation. I feel more comfortable with how others see me now but I am sure that I am still perceived as a queer woman. The pendulum has simply swayed from femme to butch.

While Kameron’s transition didn’t threaten my sexual orientation, I did find myself at times feeling like I was getting left behind. I started to have strange pangs of jealousy—I had a much larger chest and have felt dysphoric about it since it first developed, but I wasn’t the one getting top surgery. I was the one sitting in a waiting room and I was the one keeping track of how much blood was accumulating in his drains, taking time off to help him with early recovery. Where were these ugly resentments coming from? I was so dissociated from my feelings and my body that it took years of watching Kameron’s transition unfold for me to start exploring my gender identity more.

It’s funny that we didn’t talk much about our gender identities with each other, I cocooned myself a bit and started parsing out what felt good and what didn’t. “She” was icky, so I asked Kameron, some close friends & family members, and co-workers to start using “they/them/theirs” for me. Ah, a sigh of relief. Then more discomfort would surface, I couldn’t wear bras anymore, not even sports bras. I threw them all away and got advice from Kameron

on various binder options. Another sigh of relief. Then a sudden surge of agitation when a friend starting dating someone with my given name. I had already been obsessively browsing Celtic baby name websites but now I felt an urgency to rename myself. Overall, I feel more comfortable with my gender now, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. I have started low-dose testosterone (shout out to Planned Parenthood for using an informed consent model) and am scheduling a top surgery consult soon. I am hoping that these steps will help alleviate my dysphoria, as it feels ever present now that I have stopped compartmentalizing it. These flooding feelings has been difficult to manage, and I’m currently battling a flare up of past restrictive eating habits.

For the longest time I couldn’t bear the attention of physically and socially transitioning. And I didn’t feel trans enough. I questioned why I had to do the emotional labor of explicitly coming out to be seen as non-binary. This has been an ongoing test of my tolerance for vulnerability. I need to be my authentic self for me, but the acknowledgement of others is overwhelming. I am a private person, I don’t have a blog, I keep a written journal. I guard my inner world with ferociousness and have a hard time trusting others. So far most people have been supportive and reached out to let me know so, but others have quietly noted signifiers (like changing my name on social media accounts) without comment. While the attention is exhausting (mostly due to my anxiety in these interactions), the silence of others is more painful. These silences have spurred me to have more in-depth conversations with those who do reach out, to push shame away and invite friends in.


Two year anniversary of my most recent hospitalization

I’ve been hospitalized a total of 3 times for mania and psychosis; for some reason, the anniversary of this one, this time around, is hitting me pretty hard.  Every year in November, I make a post to remember and acknowledge my first hospitalization, because it was so traumatic, and it’s stayed with me even now, 20 years after the fact.  These two other, more recent ones were much easier to get past / work through.  In fact, I’d even say that this most recent one was even cathartic, in a positive sense (not so much for my loved ones, I know!)  But personally, it helped me heal from the other two times.  And the fact that I didn’t boomerang into a deep, dark depression afterward… that I was able to take as much time off as I needed and kind of come back around gradually, organically, meant the world to me.

It’s been a very rainy May so far.  It reminds me of looking out the windows of the hospital; it was rainy a lot of the time then too.  It was my brother’s birthday, and then Mother’s Day, and right after that, I was admitted to the hospital.  The Lilac Festival was going on; there are lilacs in bloom right now.  We have a lilac bush; I can see the flowers from our dining room window.

Last year during this week, I was preoccupied with a trip to Massachusetts to visit our friends.  I didn’t think about the fact that we’d be away during this week.  It occurred to me while we were on the trip, I think.  I remember being hyper-aware of everything blooming at that time, exactly.  We smelled lots of flowers while we walked around different parts of Boston and Salem.  Things weren’t in bloom when we left, but suddenly, bam!, they were, when we got back.

_________________________________________________________

I’ve been super stable, mental health-wise, for a long time now.  I’d say I re-stabilized by September of 2017, and I’ve been good since then.  Great, even.  Super productive with creative projects.  Anxiety has been at an all time low.  I have energy.  My mood is very very very even-keeled.  Iike, maybe a little too much.  Meaning, there’s so little variety in how I feel, from day to day.  But… I’ll take it.  I haven’t felt any compulsions.  I haven’t been having obsessive thoughts.  The only down-side to my mental landscape, in an ongoing way, is that I sleep a LOT.  And I have trouble waking up in the mornings.  I usually sleep 10-11 hours a day, on average.  Which is most likely a side effect of the medication I’m on.  (Seroquel.)  But, also, as the years have gone on, I’m also realizing it just might be how much sleep is actually optimal for me.  I generally slept that much, if I was able to, long before starting this medication.  And I used to beat myself up about it, like I was being lazy and unproductive.  And whenever I’ve had to get on an earlier schedule, such as during summers, for work, my mood, energy levels, and motivation have always suffered.  Probably because I wasn’t sleeping as much as I seem to need to.

So I’ve decided to give myself a break.  It works out much better if I let myself sleep as much as I tend to need to (as opposed to how much I think I should want to, I guess?), life goes much more smoothly.

Huh, I went on an unexpected tangent about sleep!  I meant to write about my most recent hospitalization.  Actually, I’ve already written, in a word document, as much as I could remember from my week-long stay.  It was jam packed with activities; it was action packed.  So maybe I’ll just cut and paste a slice of life from that time.  …I just pulled it up to find an excerpt I could put here, but it’s total nonsense!  No one paragraph makes any sense within itself.  Also I burst out laughing a bunch of times.  I think it’s not quite ready for consumption yet.  But it might be, one day, as part of a larger project…


5 years of writing here

WordPress sent me a notification today letting me know that it’s my 5th anniversary of blogging here.  So I’m scrambling to do a celebratory post!

When I started this blog, I was trying soooo hard to navigate my gender identity and to find a community.  I’d say the first year or two was spent feeling like my blog was not enough, just continually putting myself out there and obsessing about how to connect with others through this method.  I spent hours, daily, reading as many other blogs as I could find, about gender.  After about 2 years, I think I started to feel secure in my writing voice, if not quite my gender yet.  I really settled into writing regularly, and I got so much enjoyment out of it – this more than any other creative endeavor, for a long time.  I’d say that within the past year, that’s shifted again, and I’ve felt pretty disenfranchised.  I get way more “views” than ever before, mostly thanks to this singular post:  28 risks of chest binding.  People love a good scare.  They love to google things that could go wrong.  I’m definitely proud of that post – I put a lot of work into that one.  And I do love the fact that once they find my blog through that route, it seems like the majority of people poke around a little more and go deeper.  (This is based on what I can tell from “stats.”)  But the sense of community I felt so strongly has dwindled over time.  People have stopped posting / I have stopped finding new blogs to read.  There are a few mainstays that I haven’t quite kept up with; I’d like to remedy that…

The way I decided to celebrate this milestone is to pick 5 blog posts that I think got overlooked (one per year).  Either I put a lot of emotional energy into them and didn’t get much feedback, or maybe I just think they’re worth checking out – they withstand the test of time, something like that…

2013:  From whimsical musings to invasive rumintations on transitioning – This was my 10th post ever, and I really think I zeroed in on the psychological push-pull of not feeling like either gender for the first time here.  I even used some of what I wrote here much later, in an essay that is forthcoming as part of an anthology published by Columbia University Press.  For real!  The date keeps being pushed back, but it will be within a year – I’m sure I’ll have updates as that approaches.

2014:  The Soft Sell (upping the ante) – This was my 30th post.  It was mostly about:  despite the fact I may have been solidifying my gender identity more and more, I was waaaay behind in telling a lot of the people in my life about it.  The blog was a great outlet to be semi-private but also just feel it out as I went.  The term “the soft sell” came from my therapist – that was her reaction to me telling her the half-assed way I had come out to my parents.  When she said that, all I could picture was the members from Soft Cell, one of my fave bands.  That has always stayed with me.  Hah.

2015:  I came out to the principal of my school (workplace) – This post was definitely not overlooked, but I still think it’s worth highlighting.  I came out to her waaaaay before I actually actively came out at work, and I strongly feel like the fact that I did that, that I put those roots down, gave me hope toward my final destination.  It also breaks down the divide I feel between the “janitor” and the “queer” parts of my identity – this blog has continually felt out where that line is, where it crosses, where they are distinct, etc.  I just really like this post because it addresses a lot of that stuff head-on.

2016:  Drag king stories #5 – This is definitely my favorite entry within this ongoing series I’ve been doing.  I wrote it in honor of Prince’s death (the actual show took place in June of 2012) – the fact that I got to emulate Prince at a really well attended event meant the world to me, and the fact that I performed one of the songs with my drag partner/buddy’mentor made it all the more special.  We were both regular drag performers at a gay bar in 2006 and 2007.  Before I could articulate where I wanted to go with my gender, I got to act it out in all kinds of fun and creative ways, harnessing music and dance and costuming and make-up.  Being a drag performer was a big step in my journey – this post really showcases that, I think.

2017:  Jeepster (working title: I got an oil change and got my mind blown) – this is a real oddball post.  I’ve always said that the three things this blog is about are: gender, being a janitor, and mental health, and this one here really crystalizes a mental state that was temporary (thankfully!)  I had just recently gotten through the thick of a manic episode, and the residual disorganization / megaorganization is still very much apparent in the writing here.  I think I want to highlight it because I’m currently working on a 16+ page piece where I just try to remember as much as I can about my most recent hospitalization.  This is a companion piece.

And I’m gonna cop out and not do 2018 because the year’s not done yet!  Plus, it’s my 5th anniversary, so I’m highlighting 5 posts.  Makes sense.  Here’s to 5 more years!


Friends and family need to stop framing our transition as a death (open letter style)

Dear friends and family of trans-people,

It can be super challenging, on multiple levels, when a loved one comes out to you, especially if it never occurred to you that they might be transgender.  You might not know where to turn, or what resources to access to help you navigate the changes they (and you) will be going through.  There ARE resources though, plenty of them, and support groups (if not locally in your area, then definitely on the internet).  It is not up to the transgender person to be your sounding board, your therapist, your coach, or your educator.  In addition, as you work through it in your own way, please put a damper on the “transition as death” narrative.  It is trite, outdated, and toxic.

If you feel like you are mourning a death, that’s fine – all feelings are valid (etc.)  But why would this be something you need to work out publicly?  We are very much alive.  Almost always, transition is actually close to the opposite of death – it’s a time to finally feel out who we actually are.  We may have felt like a “half-person” or a “shell of a person” or, to put it in those same grim terms, like a “walking dead person.”  I know I did prior to transition, quite a bit.  Coming out was a celebration of life.  I feel like I have so much more to live for now.

When you claim that the person you knew has died, you are implying that the person we are becoming is not worth getting to know, or that we have slighted you, tricked you, we are to blame for your feelings of loss.  And, actually, we aren’t even “becoming” a different person.  We are the same person, just finally in technicolor, finally kaleidoscopic, however you want to look at it.  If you took the time to see how much we settle into ourselves, how often our worst mental-health issues start to soften around the edges, how we can be more present in the moment, more peaceful, more calm, then you might understand that it is so far from a death that the analogy is utterly ridiculous and laughable.

Please reflect on the ramifications of claiming we have died.
Sincerely, Kameron

And now for some hard evidence!  Two sources that have been recently on my radar have had me in hyper cringe mode as they talked about the “death” of their transgender loved one.

First, an episode of the podcast Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People:  I generally love this podcast, and in fact, I’ve written about it before, because there have been 2 prevous episodes highlighting transgender narratives.  If you wanna check that blog post out, it is:  Beautiful / Anonymous:  Trans-related episodes.

Episode #116, sensationalistically entitled She Killed My Father is a much harder pill to swallow.  The gist is that the caller is an only child, the adult child of a transwoman who came out later in life (in her fifties), much to the surprise of those around her.

Caller:  “Sometimes it feels like this person killed my father.  And in a way, that’s right.  You know, I, well, think about it this way:  When you lose… my father, as a male, does not exist anymore.  This person is gone.  And normally when that happens, you have this grieving period, you have this ritual, this ceremony, you can go to this funeral or this memorial service and people bring you food and people give you cards and people just give you your space and they really support you and they let you process that.  But for me, um… especially with my dad… I don’t have a dad anymore, and this person came in and said, ‘Your dad’s gone.  Now it’s me….'”

Chris:  “Wow.  This is, this is, by far, out of all the calls we’ve ever done, one that is so much to wrap one’s brain around.”

Blaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!  To be fair, I am just isolating this one thing, and of course it’s way more complex as we hear more of her story:  Her father is also bipolar, and has issues with boundaries, always wanting to be more of a “buddy” than a parent, stuff like that.  But really, nothing excuses this framework the caller has set up so starkly.  Can’t get past it!

The second instance I’ve recently come across is in a book called, At The Broken Places:  A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces.  This book is co-authored by both mother and son, and it is in many ways a difficult but worthwhile read.  It’s rich in its depth and complexity.  Both authors are not afraid to show their wounds and flaws, and, to be sure, some of that is cringe-worthy.

She (the mother, Mary Collins) delicately sidesteps the specific “my daughter has died” scenario, but she has an entire chapter entitled “Mapping Modern Grief,” and there’s plenty of comparisons to the death of her father at a young age, as well as, “I am grieving the loss of my daughter,” “I understood my daughter would never return,” and this mindboggling way of looking at it:  “My emotional journey with Donald seems to more closely mirror more nebulous losses, such as moving away from someone I will never see again.”

Not as in-your-face with the death imagery, but just as chafing, on an emotional level.


Mx. Zine

A couple of weeks ago, a new zine, made by non-binary people, launched.  This first issue’s theme is sexuality and romance, and it can be purchased here, on Etsy:  Mx. Zine

The cost is sliding scale / pay what you want, and all profits will be donated to Trans Lifelife (a crisis helpline for trans people) and/or Black & Pink (queer prison abolitionists).  How cool is that?!

I just got mine in the mail, and I highly recommend it.  It’s 16 pages of poetry, photography, drawings, mini-comics, and prose.  It’s on really nice paper and is in color.  I first found out about it from AJ, a member of a facebook group that I’m also a part of.  I reached out and asked them a few questions to get a better sense of the scope of the project.

Kam:  What is your role in the group, and how did you get involved? 

AJ:  I don’t have an official name for my role in Mx., but I’m somewhere between an organizer and editor. I’d had the idea for a collaborative project made only by non-binary people, and had quite a bit of support from the community, and was able to gather a group of interested NBs. I laid out the basics, but a lot of the details were fine-tuned by suggestions and polls. Then people submitted their content, and I arranged it into the final product! 

Kam:  What are some of the long-term goals for this project? 

AJ:  I really hope this will head in the direction of a queer based distro, where we’d also distribute music, art, and other zines. I’d love to see the proceeds from that go towards getting radical queer and feminist literature into the hands of young queers.  

Kam:  Do you come from a writing / publishing background?  Have you made zines before? 

AJ:  I do a lot of writing for fun, but it’s not exactly a background. I’ve made several small zines before, but this was the first big project. 

Kam:  What are some ways newcomers can get involved? 

AJ:  Join our Facebook group! It’s a general group for recruiting and updating on upcoming projects. Our next issue will be along the lines of Queer Liberation and Revolution, and we’d love to hear from new contributors! https://www.facebook.com/groups/mxzine/  

Kam:  What are the pros and cons, in your opinion, in using a printed medium when so much around us is digital / digitized? 

AJ:  I’m definitely one who prefers holding what I’m reading, but also it can be a lot easier to get out if we’re going through a distro (which I’ve been working on trying to do). I also find people more likely to pass around and share zines rather than sending files. People who might not have a computer, or who have a hard time reading from them also benefit from physical copies.  

There are definitely benefits to having it digital as well, and it makes it accessible to more people. People can zoom in for larger text or invert the colors if that helps them. We’re also making a text-only document with image descriptions that will be available upon request.  

Kam:  How did the title for the zine get selected? 

AJ:  The title Mx. was decided by a poll in our Facebook group. I wish I could tell you who suggested it, but I’m not sure. The runner-up was “Enbious Vibes,” which I also liked a lot.  

 Kam:  Do you yourself identify as non-binary?   

AJ:  Yes! (In fact, everyone who collaborated on the zine identifies somewhere outside the binary.)  I label my gender simply as “Queer.” I’ve bounced around with different labels since I was thirteen, but I feel this describes me best, at least at this point in my life. I don’t like trying to use more specific labels (e.g. genderfluid, demi-boy/girl), since so many people define them differently. I do love that there is so much new terminology floating around, and there can be a lot of personal empowerment in choosing a specific classifier for yourself, and then fine-tuning its description to best suit your experience. Me personally, I feel empowered by emphasizing the blurry lines of gender. 

Thanks to AJ for the interview, and, again, get yourself a copy!!!  Here:   Mx. Zine


Getting to know each other #6

Thank you to Self Made Originality for including me in another round of the Liebster Award!  It’s been a while.  Looking back, the last time I had a go-around was 2 years ago!  So, the way this chain-style, community based award system goes is, if you’re chosen, you then choose a bunch of other blogs you like, and it branches out from there.  I imagine the pattern of these awards swirling, dead-ending, and splintering/multiplying, over time, forever and ever.  It’s a great opportunity to find out about other blogs and connect with one another.

I tend to not follow the rules completely, but if I do nominate you, here’s how it’s supposed to go:

1. Acknowledge the blogger who nominated you and display the award logo.

2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.

3. Nominate bloggers who you think are deserving of the award but also help promote newer bloggers with less followers.

4. Tell the bloggers you nominated them, in a comment on their blog.

5. Give them 11 questions of your own.

So, when answering the questions posed, I’m going to do a combination of questions from a couple of sources, just answering the ones I feel like answering (if I nominated you, go ahead and answer these, and/or make up your own to answer.  And if you wanna display the award logo, just google image search “Liebster Award.”)

  1. What inspires you most when writing/blogging?  Real life experiences, and a self-imposed “quota.”  Basically, if I haven’t written 2 blog posts in a month, minimum, I start wracking my brain for something to write about!
  2. Are you religious?  No.
  3. If not, why not / What holds you back?  I grew up in a religious household and went to church regularly.  (Episcopal church.)  As I got older, I found other things to fill that same space in my soul.  Volunteering for various things and creative endeavors let me explore spirituality without the rigid rituals.
  4. Did you enjoy your education?  (high school, university, etc.)  No, I did not.  I would not trade it for a different path at this point because who knows where I would be without that structure.  But I would say my high school and college years were the worst, in terms of mental health issues, loneliness, and just feeling very very lost.
  5. What is your dream job?  Honestly, the job I have right now is pretty ideal.  I don’thave to interact with people much at all, I listen to podcasts and radio shows all day, I stay physically fit…  I guess my dream job would be phasing out working full time and making a living out of working part time, plus DJing and/or writing.
  6. Boxers or briefs?  Boxer briefs.  Although, today I wore boxers (one out of only a handful of days I’ve worn boxers, and it was pretty great.
  7. What important values do you live by?  Everything in moderation, avoid debt, help others when you have energy and it feels good (otherwise don’t worry about it), try to leave a record of things that are important, connecting with people is one of the most worthwhile things to put energy into (even if it’s often hard), just do your thing.

That’s about all I got for now.

Check out these awesome blogs:

Shawn 512

Valprehension

Demisexual and Proud

Cairtheand (Androgendernaut)

Parker Dell

I Man King

Life Post-Dysphoria

One other thing I wanna mention:  I used to pore over many many blogs.  I probably spent between 1 and 2 hours every day, reading other blogs that were written by people who identifiy as transgender.  And in recent months, that has tapered off.  I’ve tried to pinpoint why, exactly.  Maybe I’m not searching for myself in others’ experiences as much as I used to?  I have made it, in a lot of ways, to the other side of my journey (getting on hormones, getting top surgery, legally changing my name, coming out at work, etc.)?

Maybe.  I guess what I mean to say is that I miss connecting with other bloggers through shared experiences.  And I’m not totally sure why I’ve slowly gravitated elsewhere – it seems like a natural progression, at this point.  As of now, it hasn’t affected my interest in writing blog posts.  I hope that doesn’t waver, and I do hope I again become interested in checking in with other bloggers more frequently!


Recent books I’ve read with mental health content

Back in November, I lamented about not being able to find much writing out there that really portrays what can go on in someone’s head while they are in the middle of a psychotic episode.  In the past few weeks, two such books sorta fell into my lap, so I want to mention them!

My spouse picked up a book called Mental:  Lithium, Love, and Losing My Mind from the library last weekend.  They pointed it out to me, like, eh?  You’ll want to read this!  This weekend, I was super sick, and I binge read it in 2 days, while trying to stay warm on the couch.  It was compelling for so many different reasons, one major one being that I could relate to so much of it.  The author, Jaime Lowe, was also hospitalized for a good chunk of her senior year of high school, and she also just took the pills without much reflection for years and years.  Like, it’s something that is a thing now.  (Although, for me, it was Depakote, and not Lithium.)  She had another manic / psychotic episode when she tried to get off Lithium at age 25.  I successfully(?) did get off all my pills in my early 20s, and that was my new normal for a long time, until I had 2 subsequent manic / psychotic episodes in my 30s.  She had to switch off of Lithium because it was killing her kidneys, and she had a really hard time stomaching Depakoke, but she finally did get through it.

Having to switch sent her on a spiritual journey to learn about Lithium as not just a psychotropic drug but as an element, super common in nature.  Which made the book encompass much more than just her mental health trajectory.  The best thing about it though, was how thoroughly and deeply she gets back into that headspace of being so completely out of her mind.  The slightest suggestion toward a minuscule thing could send her on an all-day (or longer) journey to do and/or be that thing.  She devastated every aspect of her life that second time around.  I was surprised by the fact that everyone around her wanted to keep her out of the hospital for a second time because she was no longer an adolescent and the adult ward was apparently to be avoided at all costs.  As a result, she was in that state much longer – days, weeks…  I was brought to the hospital like, BAM!  So fast my head didn’t get a chance to spin out too far too fast with too many repercussions.

The second book I’m reading with a portrayal of a breakdown is called The Petting Zoo, by Jim Carroll (of The Basketball Diaries fame).  He wrote this book in 2010, and according to the forward by Patti Smith, he died at his desk while writing.  He had finished it at the time of his death, but it was still in the editing process.  A few people had their hands in trying to edit as close to Jim’s style as possible.  It’s fiction.  It’s hard for me to get through (probably largely because it’s fiction – I almost always gravitate toward non-fiction and memoir).  The book opens with the main character, Billy, in the midst of a manic frenzy.  I didn’t know the book would be about that at all – nothing about that on the back cover summary – I bought it on a whim from a record store that was going out of business.  So it was interesting to get thrown into that unexpectedly, but I gotta say it felt lacking in… something.

Billy has some kind of crisis over an art opening at the MET and how what he saw of this one artist affects how he’s approaching his art for his own upcoming show.  He careens off down the steps, on his own, into the Central Park Zoo, more specifically a side spectacle, an outdated petting zoo.  From there, he flees down the street, in his tuxedo and fancy shoes, to a building that reminds him of an Aztec temple.  He then hits his head and his eye on branches or something and starts shouting something about a knife.  He has a momentary black-out and the cops pick him up.  At which point he comes back to reality, and that’s it.  Although the aftermath ends up taking longer, red tape and everything.  He has to stay overnight in a mental ward, which is just kind of looked at as a novelty, a curiosity, a stop-over.

In conclusion, real life is zanier (or at least more compelling to me) than fiction.


As that specific trauma dissipates further…

Every year around this time, I revisit the first time I was hospitalized, which was Veteran’s Day weekend in 1999.  It used to feel like the worst thing that ever happened to me.  And, in terms of fallout, I still think that it was – it just no longer feels that way.

Two years after this hospitalization, I wrote an essay for a class, including every little thing I could remember about the experience.  A few months ago, I gave that document to my therapist to read over.  I didn’t necessarily want to delve into it or have her probe me about it.  I just wanted for her to have read it.  And she really only said one thing:  “There were always questions about whether you had been in a psychotic state or not.  This definitely shows that you were.”  And, strangely, I was satisfied with that.  As if I could lay to rest whether I needed to be there or not.  For the most part…

I’m currently giving my most recent hospitalization (from 6 months ago) the same treatment, as best as I can remember.  I’m up to 2,500 words so far, and only about 15% done.  I don’t have any plans for it other than just something that I want to do for myself.  We’ll see.  I feel like there’s not much writing out there that really portrays what can go on in someone’s head while they are in the middle of psychosis.  (If anyone has any recommendations, let me know!)  That does not mean I have lofty goals for where I could take this writing; it’s just a motivating factor, something that pushes me to try to capture it as best as I can.

I just did a cursory search, and a couple of books that stand out as worth checking out are:
Stress Fracture: A Memoir of Psychosis and Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Here are the other posts I have made, yearly:

Continuing to work through a specific trauma – Four years ago, I wrote about how I finally gained access to the medical records from my hospital stay, and how I started to process things differently with the help of my therapist.

That specific trauma is still there – Three years ago, I wrote about finally bringing that record into therapy and how it felt to have her go through it.  I was starting to realize that maybe I didn’t need to pick it all apart; maybe my perspective was shifting naturally, over time.

That specific trauma is no longer a big deal – Two years ago, I wrote about how much time has changed things, and it no longer felt like a big deal.  The fact that I had been hospitalized again, that year, surprisingly helped me find ways to heal, rather than adding more baggage onto the feeling of it.

Anniversaries, traumas, deaths, and name change – Then last year, I wrote about how other things were going on, and I really didn’t have the space or time to reflect.  Which was perfectly fine.  Between the election results, working on getting my name legally changed, and other emotional markers, it just didn’t come up.

This year, I am thinking about it, but it is more in terms of “one of the times I was hospitalized,” rather than, “a traumatic event – the worst thing that ever happened to me,” etc.

 

I’ve been thinking of all the little occurrences that go into the bigger story.  Like, for example, in that state, my mind was so malleable and adaptable that it seemed like, theoretically, anything could be true and just as easily, not true all at once.  Which is one of the reasons I avoided watching any TV.  (There were two TVs on the unit – one played music and had legalese constantly scrolling, in both Spanish and English – like a “know your rights” kind of thing.  The other TV had a remote and listing of channels, and we could watch whatever we wanted, 24/7.)  At one point I did sit down, and there was a documentary on about pineapples.  (Er, rather I’m sure the documentary was on something more broad, but I saw the pineapple part.  I started yelling about the unlikelihood about these pineapples growing.  Don’t pineapples grow on trees like sensible fruits?  What were these miniature pineapples growing up from fronds in the dirt?!  A patient who knew-all immediately matched the intensity I was spewing, and argued for the realness of these pineapples.

A few months later, my spouse’s aunt was visiting from Hawaii, and sure enough, she grows pineapples on her property and sure enough, she had pics to prove it.  I can now accept it fully.


We’re Still Here: An All-Trans Comics Anthology

A few days ago, I found out about an upcoming project called We’re Still Here:  An All-Trans Comics Anthology, edited by Tara Avery and Jeanne Thornton.  It is slated to be released in January, pending enough funding through their kickstarter campaign.  When I first checked it out, it had been “live” for one day, and had already reached $15,000 of it’s $17,000 goal. Today, a mere 5 days later?!!!  It’s at $35,126 – more than double of that goal!!!

That means, I’m assuming, that the artists are going to get paid even more $$.  They were going to be getting paid $25 per page – I wonder if that’ll get raised to $50 / page.  Hopefully!

I pre-ordered my copy and cannot wait to get to read it in its entirety!

In the meantime, I asked one of the authors, whom I met online through a Facebook group, how they got started / how they found out about contributing.

Me: How did you get into graphic arts? Do you have formal training or are you mostly self-taught?

Kyri:I have been drawing since I was old enough to have motor control to move a crayon around, and telling stories for almost as long as that. My early focus was on animals, but I branched out to people, stories, and comics in late elementary school when I discovered manga. That’s held on for the long haul. I went to a liberal arts school instead of a traditional art school, which turned out better for comics anyway because I could minor in creative writing. I focused mostly on printmaking in college, which translates really well to comics – a lot of thinking in sharp black and whites and the graphic quality of lines, and how a reproduced image reaches large audiences.

Me:  How did you first hear about this project?

Kyri: I’m part of a comic creator’s group in Boston, the Boston Comics Roundtable, and someone there signal boosted the open call for submissions – I can’t for the life of me remember who. I almost didn’t send in a submission packet, and actually ended up submitting something a week late, because I was a little intimidated by the people in charge and the people who were already part of the project. I’m so glad I pushed past my fears, though, and I’m really excited to be published alongside all these fantastic trans artists

Me:How did you narrow down the story that you wanted to tell? Is it your “quintessential” coming-out story, of sorts, or something more tangential?

Kyri:I knew when I first saw the open call and the concept for the anthology that I wanted to do something about my bodily experience with both gender dysphoria and chronic illness. I have fibromyalgia and hypermobile joints, and it really affects how I’m able to present on any given day. Binding can really hurt my ribcage if I’m not careful, and sometimes the compression just ends up hurting my muscles because of the constant contact, even if I’m binding correctly. Being chronically ill also means I’m not as fit as I once was, and the extra weight means I get misgendered constantly, even when I am attempting to present androgynous/masculine. I think that most people tend to think of the thin attractive model of androgyny when they think of what it means to be agender or demigender, and there’s just not enough discussion around diversity of trans bodies outside of our community. There’s also this pervasive and weird idea that you can only be “one thing” so convincing people I’m both trans AND have an invisible disability is an ordeal sometimes. I wanted to do something to touch on all of that, and ended up with an autobio comic in which my body is compared to a house.

Kyri Lorenz:  Hailing from the mountains of Northern Colorado, Kyri Lorenz is an agender jack-of-all-trades creator with a long history of meddling with concepts of nature and identity. If it involves creation and inspiration, Kyri is there, getting their mitts all over it and learning how best to make it serve their whims. Most of the time, this is easy and the technique or medium is more than happy to comply. Sometimes, it takes a little more finagling, but there’s always something to show for it at the end.

They got their BA in Visual Arts from Hollins University in Roanoke, VA, and are currently living and working in Cambridge, MA. See more of their work at kyrianne.com.

There is still roughly one month left to pre-order your copy, and to get additional perks if you’re into that.  Just click on this donate link!  DONATE NOW.