Daily Archives: May 9, 2015

If I’m a Stranger Now, I Will Be a Stranger Forever (Reflections on Testosterone)

A cursive lettered tattoo that reads, "Courage"

My favorite tattoo and my simplest one, too. A reminder.

I was at a poetry reading when an older butch woman sat down next to me and started to talk to me about her experiences in the lesbian communities of San Francisco.

Typical Bay Area. Queers chatting up queers. And for a little while, it was just an ordinary conversation for two gays in the Bay.

But then I looked at her. I mean, really looked at her. I saw the creases in the corners of her eyes, the years settling into her smile, her pixie cut graying.

“I wonder who I’ll be when I’m her age,” I innocently thought to myself. “I wonder how I’ll look…”

That’s when I panicked. I faked an important text message, pretending that some urgent situation had suddenly arisen. I picked up my things, said a hurried goodbye, and took a long, solitary walk on a hiking trail nearby.

It wasn’t getting older that scared me, per se, but the thought that I might spend the rest of my life being seen as a woman, as something I was not. It was the idea that I would be trapped in a body that felt alien to me well into old age, and with it, bearing a lifetime of misgendering, dysphoria, and invisibility.

I had a tendency to only think of my life in terms of the here and now – something of a survival skill I’d perfected after years of living with bipolar disorder.

But the thought that I would endure this kind of pain for life, the pain of being alien to oneself and misgendered by everyone else, made me realize that my transition wasn’t just about the here and now.

I could survive in this body today, but what about five years from now? Ten years from now? Twenty?

Could I really do that? When I reach the end of the line, counting down the days in my old age, when I look in the mirror, who do I want to see staring back at me?

And while I could nurse my wounds each time I heard “she,” and I could pick myself up when my dysphoria knocked me down, and I could swallow my pain and shelf it for a more convenient time, it finally occurred to me that it was not something I could keep doing for the rest of my life.

Today, maybe. Tomorrow, maybe. But all the tomorrows to come, all of the days I have left?

As adamant as I was about staying put, fear shackling me in place, I’d forgotten how the world still moves forward, with or without me.

And it was there in the woods, the smell of eucalyptus hanging in the air around me and my heart pounding through my bound chest, that I promised myself that I would put the gears into motion.

I promised myself I would get on testosterone.

/

Transition is not always simple, and not always certain.

Sometimes transition is guesswork – discarding what you are not to get closer and closer to what you are. Sometimes transition is not precise, just in the way that the beautiful pictures in our minds are never quite as beautiful when we manifest them on the page.

Being non-binary, neither a man nor a woman, is something like that. It’s knowing what I am not, and creating new spaces, new expressions, new ways of being to get closer to what I am.

I avoided testosterone for a long time. I thought, “Why should I have to choose? Can’t I just be?” It took years before I understood that not taking testosterone was just as much a choice.

There is risk in not acting. There is risk in staying the same.

Just because it isn’t precise, that doesn’t make the endeavor less worthwhile.

So I take another step. I throw another dart with the hopes it’ll strike near the target. I pick up the brush and let it kiss the canvas.

Gender has always been intangible. And when dealing with the intangible, we use what tools we have to articulate our truth – the closest approximation.

/

This September, I am starting testosterone.

I know, I know. I’m genderqueer. “If you’re not a man and you’re not a woman, what’s the difference?” they might ask. “Why do this?”

Because standing still and wishing away the pain will not douse the fire.

Because if I’m a stranger now, I will be a stranger forever.

Because all I can do is stumble my way through and hope that, on the other side of this, there is a reflection staring back that no longer scares me.

Because they will not bury me with breasts. Because they will not bury me under a false name like they did to Leelah. Because they will not mistake me for a woman at my funeral. Because they will not bury me in someone else’s body when I die.

Because of all the tomorrows that are coming.

 Sam Dylan Finch is a queer activist and feminist writer, based in the SF Bay. He is the founder of Let’s Queer Things Up!, his blog and labor of love. With a passion for impacting change through personal narrative, Sam writes about his struggles and triumphs as genderqueer and bipolar with the hopes of teaching others about his identity and community. When he isn’t writing, he’s probably eating takeout and dancing to Taylor Swift.

Connect with SDF: Website ; Facebook ; Twitter ; Tumblr


Impaled By A Spoke On My Own Mood Cycle

I did not get to sleep easily last night. I was sleepy but my body ached and brain would not shut up. I finally took a shower hoping that might either revive or relax me. I slept. I woke every hour or two, but that’s the sucky norm. When the alarm went off, I didn’t even hit snooze. I killed it. I had all these ideas about hitting a couple of yard sales before I had to pick up the spawn, easier to do things without kid in tow, plus kind of a reward. Oh, nooo, the mental health gods would not allow that. I might get some enjoyment out of life.

So I started out with good intentions but then I got to the cobblestone street where the block sale was and PANICKED. I mean, I freaked out. My brain went into red alert and told me my tires were flat, I just hit that bump too hard and now the car is falling into the street, all the people are staring, I can’t get out of the car…Then came the rationalization…”Maybe this is the fates’ way of telling me not to spend a dime, keep it all for gas and such…Yes, all $12.

I grabbed my kid. Thanks to my sister being thoughtful and ya know, gainfully employed, I was presented with some purple irises, a card, and an awesome t-shirt for Mother’s Day. Did not expect that, so it was a nice surprise.

To my amazement once home and in the bubble, I started to force myself to do little things around the house. Watch a bit of a show, pause, work, return to show and have a smoke, rinse, lather, repeat. But I folded five baskets of clothes, did the dishes, and I am cooking my supper. I even let my kid play outside, but she kept bickering with her little friends and running in and out so I put the kibosh on that as my formerly calmed anxiety started to climb again. Since then she has gone out of her way to bicker with me on every tiny thing, including the date on the calendar. I am exhausted by this child.

And while earlier, thinking, “I’m pretty low but I am doing all this stuff tha overwhelmed me yesterday so maybe I just needed a do nothing day to rest and reboot.” Few hours with a bickering bored child, loud neighbors, ringing phones…And panic bubbles up and my mood crashes. Which with the gloom and rain was bound to happen anyway. Kenny nicknamed me Nicarus a long time ago and in a way, it feels perfect for bipolar. When I am feeling good or at least high functioning, I am indeed Icarus flying to close to the sun. The depressions and anxieties scorch my wings to ash.

Much like being impaled on a spoke of a bicycle, only it’s my mood cycle. Lovely.

JEBUS. Spook just yelled to get into the bathroom ‘cos the toilet is broke and I went into frozen panic, cos the floor is cracking and caving in there and I thought, oh, god, it’s dropped through to the ground…But no, it’s just a broken toilet lid so while inconvenient, at least not catastrophic. Not that the panic attack cares.

I’ve hit my wall. I tried. Today was just a wash. Got some things done, but it wasn’t stellar by any means. I am going to eat my supper, retire to my crypt, maybe watch some crime shows or try reading Jonathan Kellerman. I am going to give myself permission to relax and rest up because after tomorrow…It’s time to do the dish dweller thing all over again.

On a side note, still no goat horns growing from my nostrils while taking the Latuda. I don’t suppose it’s been long enough to make a correct call but something feels quite…off. Not like bad side effects off (though weight gain, when being bitched at about your weight, is kind of a catch 22 the fuckers flog you with) but…Just off. Between that and Prozac I should be borderline manic. Instead I just keep circling the drain. It’s not my favorite.

I want my life back. Then I wonder, outside the of the high functioning bouncing off walls manic episodes that lasted four or five months…Have I ever had a life outside the depressions and anxiety attacks? I think I did, but then again, it’s easy to live when you’re manic and think nothing can take you down. The other end of the spectrum is when the darkness takes over and you think so much as a wisp of air will take you down. Talk about a lifetime of the tightrope act.


F*ck This Sh*t & I Love You Goodbye

Thomas Dolby singing “I Love You Goodbye” from Astronauts and Heretics,one of my all-time favorite albums. Yesterday I woke up bright and perky only to find a bummer of a Facebook message in my in-box. It was from someone I had … Continue reading

Friends

cat friends

This is a post I have published twice. I rewrote it a bit and am publishing it again. I just keep running into people with this same problem and I am hoping this will help. So please bear with me if you’ve seen this….

I hear a lot of my mentally ill friends online talk about “friends”. Mainly, it’s about how they don’t have any. I feel I have a pretty good circle of friends, but of course, I am 55 and had a lot of time to collect them. But when you’re depressed it’s easy (as you know) to feel lonely and without anyone to talk to.

I have sort of a system I have of dealing with friends and I thought I’d share it with you. Now I’m not saying you should do this and it might not be relevant to your situation. But because it is such a big topic among us, I thought maybe something in here would spark an idea for you.

I’m talking about real life friends…the kind you meet. Internet friends are fine, but they cannot be your whole life. You need people around you to be there when you’re down, and to be there when you’re ready to get out and go somewhere. Having said that, I did meet my very best friend of ten years online. We belonged to a writer’s group. We did meet in person and have had many wonderful adventures. If you can find someone who has a mental illness, that’s a great way to feel right at home. They’re a great source of immediate understanding. However (at the risk of sounding hypocritical) be careful here. Don’t sacrifice your own mental health. A friendship is a give and take. If someone ALWAYS pulls you down, it may be time to gracefully exit.

Okay, here goes: I was very depressed and felt like my friend situation was a bit out of control. I had friends I had not seen in forever, friends I had alienated with my behavior, friends from high school, you name it. Only a couple of these people were what I would call close friends. Because I wasn’t thinking too clearly, I decided to make a list. I sat down with a piece of paper (later used my phone) and listed everyone I thought had friend potential. I included friendly relatives I liked, old friends I had lost contact with, neighbors, old church friends,whoever I could come up with. I came up with about 8 people.

So I started at the top and even though I was depressed, I thought about that friend. What did she like to do? Did she have kids we could talk about? In my case, the top of the list was my best friend. I had to make amends for my poor manic behavior. (I went over this in a previous entry.) So I contacted her and said hi and we chatted. That went well even though I didn’t feel too great. Then I put a note in my phone to call her in a week or so. And when I felt better I proceeded to the second person on the list. I knew her very well (she has bipolar also), so I invited her over for cookies. I was in my pajamas when she came with no make-up. But we had a good time chatting and I felt better. I then, again, made a note to call her again in a week or so.

Now I was depressed and certainly didn’t feel like going anywhere. But I figured I could get the contacts going a little bit.

The next friend I sent a card to and told her I had been feeling down, but missed her. And guess what, she called me.

So I moved all the way down the list, a little at a time. By the time I had gotten to the bottom of my list, reminders started kicking in to call people again and chat. I got brave and invited one over for coffee. I actually put some clothes on for that one.

I worked this system from deep depression to my current stronger recovery. I still work it today. My friend list has grown to 18 friends and 4 relatives. Now that I am feeling better, I am doing all sorts of things with them and going out. A couple I only see about twice a year, but most of them I rotate through and really keep up with. Eighteen might seem like a lot of friends, but it comes in handy. When I’m down, I can rotate it around so not everyone gets all the moaning. I’ve moaned too much to the same person before and it ended in disaster.

I also made the decision to let these people know about my bipolar. I started out by telling them I had been fighting depression. Everyone is familiar with depression, so that was no big shock. Then as I could, I worked in the bipolar. So far, I’ve had no problems. I wanted to disclose my illness so people didn’t take it personally if I cancelled on them. And if I needed to be down in bed for a while, they understood it was not about them. I hope not to trouble anyone by manic behavior, but if I do, I can at least apologize and explain more about bipolar.

So where did I get my friends? I figured you might like to know as you’re probably skeptical I have so many. These aren’t just people I know….they are people I can call and go out to eat or to the movies with. Here goes: I met my friends 1) through the internet 2) on Craig’s List! 3) met 4 through church and have known them thirty years (am in a support group with them) 4) met two at my old job before I went out on disability 5) best friend from high school 6) met my first year of teaching 7) guy friend from high school 8) young person with MI I mentor 9) from bipolar speaking training 10) from weight loss clinic 11) from recent church retreat 12) one from bipolar support group 13) one I met through Girlfriend Social (I have not gotten to know her yet). This all doesn’t equal 18 because some I met at the same place and are repeats.

I have two “friends” I text on occasion but never ask out. They are too busy, so I don’t know if they are really friends or not.

I hope that doesn’t sound like bragging cause it’s not intended to. I don’t have any miracle skills or traits that make me a great friend. BUT I keep contact with these people and do things with them. I share my ups and downs and ask about theirs. I laugh with them. With several of them I do hobbies…such as baking. I think you would be surprised at how few people bother to keep up friendships. That is why YOU will keep friends…because you bother to call them!

So now every Thursday (I have a reminder in my phone) I glance down my list and see who I need to make contact with. Should I invite this one to dinner? How about a movie? Maybe one is sick and I go make a visit. Maybe someone just needs a friendly text to say hi. Maybe this one is a friend I only see on occasion, so I make a note in my phone a ways out to contact her.

My list changes all the time. I am always looking for new friends.

People also fall off the list. I have a “three contacts” rule. If I get in touch with them three times with no response, they are gone. One girl fell off the list because I cancelled on her so much she never returned my calls anymore. And one aunt I would call often died. A couple of ladies I met with just didn’t click.

Now you have to be thick-skinned with people. It’s really hard to do when you are depressed, but keep it in mind. If someone doesn’t get back to you, it doesn’t mean they hate you and you are a terrible person.Try again. If you are overly sensitive to everything, it’ll be tough to make and keep friends. But as your depression starts to lift, it will get easier.

All of you are in different ages and stages of your life, so meeting people may be harder or easier for you. But try school, church, support groups, meet up groups, websites like girlfriendsocial, or whatever you can think of. Try to be as brave as you can…ask someone sitting by you in school to meet you for coffee. If they say no, don’t worry about it. It was good practice.

I hope you get out there and meet some friends. Let me know how it is going. And if you need more ideas on how to get started or where to meet people I am here.

[email protected]

many hugs, lily

Well, There It Goes

We finally dropped a ball last night.  We had plans to go to dinner and celebrate my middle daughter doing so well on the ACT.  Bob came in from picking her up from drumline tryouts saying he had a text from the dance teacher asking where Rachel was for practice.  Well, dance is on Tuesdays and Sundays, usually.  But with Mother’s Day being this Sunday, they had scheduled a practice last night to cover for it  Luckily my oldest is home so she took her to dance while we went on with our dinner plans.  But we had both forgotten it completely.

I used to be able to keep up with all of this stuff in my head.  But my head isn’t as sharp as it used to be with all the meds I’m taking.  My memory is just about shot.  I have a whole Disney World vacation that has all but disappeared from my mind because I was so sick at the time.  I don’t remember as  much of my youngest one’s babyhood as I do my older ones.  Much of the past ten years is a blur except for very specific instances   To write this blog I had to rely on my journal I kept sporadically.  So there is and always will be that as either a symptom or a side effect of my meds.  We’re not sure which.

Anyway.  HEre’s to all of us mamas simply trying to keep all the balls in the air.   Happy Mother’s Day!


butch eye for the gender divide

Move over, queer eye for the straight guy.

(scheduled post)

butchI’ve noticed, over the years, that I seem to be able to explain men to women and women to men to some extent. I don’t think it’s necessarily a butch, or even a queer thing, but “inclusive of all humans’ eye for the gender divide” just doesn’t make for a catchy title. Butch women, femme men and trans* people are often assumed to be the ones who understand gender best; sometimes that’s true and sometimes not.

It boils down to very few words at all, to whit (and possibly even to woo):
Women – men don’t read subtlety the way you do. Clear requests work better than dropping hints.
Men – as easy to read as you are, women don’t understand you. What you perceive as a hint, is actually a firm demand.

There we go, I’ve managed to stereotype binary genders. Go me. The disclaimer is that not everyone is like that at all. The truth is that society has done such a brilliant job of conditioning humanity, that there are more people like that than not. And *kicks warriors’ asses hard* nobody bloody well needs liberating, just educating.

Here is the PhD version:
Gender is a spectrum, not a binary.
People should be able to be whoever and whatever they choose.
Stop getting uptight about it all and don’t use any of it as an excuse to treat anybody like shit.
All of the above includes people all along the spectrum, including the current binary options.

Education causes informed choices. Simple.

What we all want, I think, is to be seen – really seen. That acknowledgement is about as much understanding as one human being can have for another, and it’s enough. Beautifully, securely and fascinatingly enough.

No hate, motherfuckers.

Lost Girl

I’ve been sans kid for 13.5 hours now. My mood tanked so I’ve had no idea what to do with myself all day and night. I even called my sister to talk and of course, now mom is on a tirade about how I must be drunk if I’m all chatty kathy. This is why you must NEVER deviate from flat affect or depressive, assumptions will be made, fingers will be pointed. I don’t know what to do other than be a mom, sue me. I tried reading. Got one chapter in. I tried watching the shows I normally gorge on. Just start and pause, because my brain isn’t in it. So I play some word poker on Neopets, try to distract my brain with spelling. Epic fail in ten minute bouts. I am still binge watching Weeds but it’s falling flat. I found the new Wednesday 13 album and gave it a glimpse with the ears.  He still hot in a creepy gravel voiced way but my mind isn’t enjoying it like it used to. I mean, it came out months ago and I knew it and I am just now getting around to hearing it?

What the fuck else can depression rob me of? And no, I am not blaming everything on depression, but it sure as hell IS a large factor inasmuch as it sucks the joy out of everything, not just the parts of life I find hard or may not want to deal with. Wednesday is my guy, ffs. I betrayed him with my apathy and anxiety laden music fear. (Of course, it could be trauma from all the Toto, Styx, and Starship R has forced on my ears, maybe they just WANT to shun music now.)

I’ve done fuck all today. I did finally clean the cat boxes and after eighteen hours, cooked myself something to eat. I’ve made googly eyes at the cats to show mommy still loves them even if I am off in some dark corner.

I’m fucking lost. I swore I’d never become one of those parents whose identity was entirely being a mom to their kid. Yet here I am. Oddly were she here, I’d probably have a dozen things I’d want to do but couldn’t because she’s so needy and demanding. Now I have blank slate and time and…I’ve got nothing. Nada. It sucks. I spent all week dreading the dish interaction and demands, I finally get a day and night to vegetate and I’m lost girl minus awesome vampire fangs.

I also did something utterly out of character today. Around 11:30 a.m. I laid down and took a nap. I woke up three or four times, but it was the barely coherent “I hear background noise but I’m not emerging yet” thing. Then at 1:15 pm I woke and got up and felt less tired yet no less lost or more motivated. It’s not even ten p.m. now and I am pondering the sanctuary of my crypt. I keep berating myself because somehow it must be my fault to have had all these ideas to do when I got a break from being mommy and yet now…I don’t even know where to start because my body aches and my brain is scattered and I am…just fucking lost.

It’s weird because earlier, I thought, I should just start writing again. I’ve been working on the same book for 8 years (yes, it’s sad, but it seems to morph with every mood/anxiety cycle) so I have material and direction. I thought with the focalin, it’d be a lock. I was wrong. And maybe the start of the Latuda explains it to a point. Or maybe I’m just a dried up husk who can’t write any more because my depression has devoured my will to live, let alone be creative and do something enjoyable.

I talked to stepmonster tonight.My brother is still seeing Dr. Chihuahua and they put him on Risperdal. EEEEEEVIL shit. He’s already on Prozac, Trileptal, and Vistaril. Jebus. They didn’t even diagnose him beyond “mild depression and anxiety” and there they are shoving drugs down his gullet most of which he probably doesn’t need. Hell, no one needs Risperdal, that shit’s toxic. (Sorry if it works for you, but my experience was hellish, as ha been that of most people I’ve known who took it.) My brother won’t take the meds properly which explains why he has “fits”. Once the drug wears off, you’re going to go batshit. Adding more meds he isn’t gonna take just makes Dr Chihuahua look inept. But what do I know, I’m just a 20 year guinea pig of psych meds and side effects.

Morning. I will deal with dishes and such in the morning. For now…I think I need to shut the brain off. It’s starting to hurt, in a head achey way. I’m tapped out. When petting a furry adorable kitten doesn’t revive your soul and spirit…You need a reboot and if that fails, a firing squad. How can anyone not be cheered up by kitties?

I get to that point and it sticks, I hope the isporkapegacorn impales me.