Daily Archives: July 21, 2015

5 Things I Learned When I Blogged Every Week For An Entire Year

My blog turned one year old and I have SO MANY FEELINGS.

When I reflect back on this last year, my heart swells ten sizes and I feel the urge to hug every single one of my readers.

I can still remember being that twentysomething who had just graduated from undergrad with those degrees (you know the ones – the ones that everyone says will not result in any kind of job… haha, joke’s on you). At the time, I had no idea what to do with myself and felt completely unprepared to enter into the world as a college grad.

Not yet ready to be a grownup working 9-5, I did what plenty of people in my situation do – I went to graduate school.

I left everything behind and took a flight from Detroit, MI, all the way to the San Francisco Bay Area to go to my dream school. And realizing I still had a few months to go before classes actually started, I decided to take up blogging as my hobby.

This surprises most people. For some reason, people think that in creating this blog, I had a master plan to become a lucrative, famous blogger. But in reality, I was just anxious to be living in a new place, and had a lot of time on my hands.

Like, so much time on my hands, because I couldn’t figure out how the train system worked (which train will take me downtown? UGH I GIVE UP), so I stayed in my apartment and ate ice cream and watched Netflix.

With an abundance of time and nervous energy, I figured I might as well be writing. After all, my Facebook statuses were turning into novels, and I think my friends will agree that I was in desperate need of a soap box so I could stop preaching to them all the time.

I honestly believed back then that my blog was going to be a space where a couple of dedicated friends (and their creepy mutual friends) decided to read my weird opinions about politics and pop culture.

Almost 6 million views later, all I can really say is, “Whoops.” ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I’ve learned a lot in this last year of blogging and it seems fitting, on the birthday of Let’s Queer Things Up!, to share some of those magical lessons with the readers who made this platform possible.

Then afterward, we’re going to hug it out, okay?

Please?

  1. Maybe, just maybe, one person can change the world – or at least shift the conversation.

The image features a student standing on a desk saying,  When I started blogging, I had no idea that writers like myself had the ability to make things happen. I always figured blogging was primarily shouting into the void, especially for newbies who haven’t built an audience yet. But I can tell you, without a doubt, that just one voice is enough to make an impact.

In October of 2014, I wrote an article, “Amanda Bynes, Robin Williams, and the Spectacle of Mental Illness.” I was fed up with the way people with mental illnesses were treated, and it frightened me that this kind of ableism was on display for the whole world to see.

I had seen headline after headline about celebrity breakdowns, and I was tired of the complete and utter lack of compassion for folks who were struggling.

Up until that point, my blog was averaging, at most, 1000 views per week. But I woke up one morning to find that my blog had amassed half a million views before breakfast. I didn’t think it was possible but, lo and behold, a virtually unknown blogger had gone viral.

After that, the headlines did a complete 180. Suddenly every major news outlet was singing a different tune – one of compassion and understanding for Amanda Bynes. The conversation had shifted. Not long after that, Bynes came out and told the world via Twitter that she was grappling with bipolar disorder.

Boom.

I didn’t single-handedly cause this, to be sure. But I was a part of the shift in this international conversation that challenged people to be more compassionate. I was part of a movement to humanize people with mental illness. My voice alone reached millions of people and, yes, it made a difference.

I know now that sometimes all it takes is one courageous person, just one, standing up for what’s right. That person can be me, that person can be you. So why not us?

 

  1. Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.

I’ve had to deal with my fair share of jerks on the internet. I could be saying something so sincere, so earnest… and still get that ugly tweet telling me how I’m apparently the worst human that ever lived. And as a sensitive people-pleaser who writes from a really vulnerable place, it can be difficult to cope with the negativity.

I never want to suggest that we should just roll over and accept online harassment. I also don’t take it as a sign that I’m “doing something right,” as if this is an expected and even desirable outcome of speaking my mind.

But I will say that it’s helped me to keep in mind that some folks on the internet will always have something shitty to say, no matter how brilliant or witty you are (I like to think I’m a little bit of both, but I could be wrong).

I mean, go to any of your favorite public figure’s Twitter mentions. How can someone talk shit to Margaret Cho, for example? How can you tell Lorde or Betty White that they suck? But people do this! Because haters gonna hate.

So I just shake it off, I shake it off.

 

  1. Your struggles can be your strengths.

When people talk about my work, the first thing they usually mention is how open I’ve been about a lot of difficult struggles that I’ve had in my life. Folks wonder why anyone would choose to be so vulnerable on the internet. And I’ll admit, it is a really scary thing. But it’s also been the most empowering decision I’ve ever made.

Taking my scars and using them to teach and empower others has been an amazing way to reclaim my struggles. I took what used to haunt me and I made it into something that can set me free. It feels amazing.

I stood up and said, “Yes, I am trans. Yes, I have bipolar disorder and anxiety. I am not ashamed. And you don’t need to be ashamed, either.”

If you had told me years ago that I would be sharing this journey with millions of people, I’m not sure that I would’ve believed you. But now, in being honest and embracing myself, I’ve found so much strength in being unapologetic about who I am.

And to think – my journey could be affirming for someone else! My words could be a teachable moment to make someone else’s road a little easier to travel! That’s a privilege and an unexpected gift.

Writing a really good article that helps people basically feels like Christmas every damn week. I’m able to give something to the community that has given so much to me.

So no, I don’t regret wearing my heart on my sleeve. It’s scary as hell but it’s so worth it.

 

  1. You are not alone.

The image features Ariana Grande saying,

The thousands of emails I received in this last year have convinced me that we – trans folks, neuroatypical folks, marginalized folks of every sort – are not alone. We often feel alone, because we find ourselves isolated and disconnected from the larger community.

But actually, there are a lot of us. Like, millions of us, waiting to connect with each other.

On the days when I’m feeling particularly despondent, I remind myself that there are countless activists and organizations that are working, day in and day out, to make this world a better place. And if I’m feeling isolated, many of these folks are just a click away.

On a bad day, I’ll let myself fall into this rabbit hole of affirmation, inspiration, and support. I read Jes Baker’s blog and suddenly my body is more marvelous to me than ever before; I read an article by Melissa Fabello and suddenly the gospel of Feminism is as electric as ever; I explore Genderfork and am reminded of the diverse beauty in my own community; I read something at Everyday Feminism and I realize just how many people are fighting for good in this world.

Isn’t the internet a magical fucking place?

Nowadays, I go to bed at night feeling comforted, knowing that these folks exist and that I’m not alone in all this.

There are a lot of jokes about “Tumblr feminism” and “social justice warriors” but, y’all, I’ve seen the life-changing stuff that happens when people use their voice for good in this world. I’m completely sold on internet activism. Changing the world from behind a computer screen is not only possible, but it’s also one of the most accessible ways to reach people when they need us most.

A year ago, I felt so isolated in my struggles; now, I feel connected to an entire web of amazing people doing amazing things, including you, readers, who remind me of why this work is so important and are doing AMAZING work of your own.

We’re in this together!

If you’re ever finding yourself crushed by the weight of the world, poke around the net. Your people are out there. And they’re waiting for you, I promise.

 

  1. You can’t count yourself out just yet.

The image features Amy Poehler exclaiming,

I find it hard to believe that just a few years ago, I had hit rock-bottom with my depression, and was convinced that my life would never be meaningful or worthwhile.

To say I had “had it” is an understatement. I was on my way out.

Sometimes when we’re bogged down by depression and it’s all we’ve ever known, we count ourselves out – we think that we’re destined for a life of failure, desperation, hurt.

I’m not here to tell you that “things get better,” because I really can’t say for sure. But I will tell you that for many folks, we count ourselves out before we ever truly had the chance to shine or even live. We convince ourselves that we already know what the future looks like and that the future is set in stone.

It may be. But it isn’t always.

If I had let that despondent voice dictate what I did with my life, I wouldn’t be here today. And I definitely wouldn’t be doing the work that I’m doing now – writing for magazines, connecting with folks who need support, and educating people on the issues that really matter.

I never saw it coming – not in a million years – but I’m grateful every single day that I survived, that I hung in there, that I gave my future self the chance to experience all of this. I never thought I would make a difference. But against all odds, I have.

You never know what life has in store. I hate to be a bucket of exhausting, useless clichés, but seriously, none of us can see the future and sometimes, that future will surprise us.

So don’t count yourself out just yet.

* * *

This past year has been, far and away, one of the most unexpectedly awesome years of my life. While I entered into this project completely unsure of myself, I stand before you (well, sit before you I guess, behind this computer) a much happier and more self-assured person.

Being about to share my thoughts, however weird and ranty they were, with such a caring and curious audience has been an absolute honor. I have no idea what the future holds for LQTU, but this is a journey that I’m so grateful to have undertaken and thrilled to continue.

So I want to wrap up this entry by saying “thank you.” Thank you to the readers who supported the site, either through donations or with your encouraging comments and critically important feedback. Though most of us have not (yet) met in person, I am glad that I can call so many of you my friends.

The lessons I’ve learned have been invaluable and are lessons I will carry with me for a lifetime. And I’m excited – so, so excited – for everything I have yet to learn as we continue queering things up here on the site and beyond (see what I did there?).

I hope this entry could give you a little inspiration and a little more insight into the story behind the blog. If for nothing else, I hope it’s a reminder of how powerful we are when we work together. Look at this brilliant thing we’ve built together! I’m so proud of us.

The image features two people hugging.

Phew. Now that I’ve gotten all that off of my chest… group hug?

 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

Join our (rad, amazing) community at LQTU’s official Facebook page!


No Pain

(Hm.  I wrote a post this morning and now it seems that it didn’t publish.  I suppose I will start over again)

Not having any more pain today.  Still some bruising and a little spotting that is so much less bleeding than I have been doing.  Hopefully that means I am well on my way to recovery.

Finally resolved our issues with the wifi–the computer guy took out the stick Bob installed and installed a different one, and it ran fine, according to him.  So we are taking the other one back since it didn’t work properly.  I don’t know what was wrong with the one Bob bought, but the computer guy also cleaned out 10 gigs of malware, adware, spyware, and other garbage on his way to resolving the problem.  So that was good, too.

I need to get started reading and writing again.  I think I will start with my poetry books since I cracked open the novel I have left and it really, really looks bad.  It’s about the time just past the Civil War in Arkansas and looks just bad.  I hate that because the author is a professional acquaintance of mine, and I was hoping for better from him.  We will see.


Countdown to Quitting

Last week my therapist and I reviewed the Pros & Cons of Quitting DBT Group.  She came up with a few ideas on both sides that I hadn’t thought of, but most importantly she pointed out that I seemed unsure of what to do, and while I can always quit at any time it might […]

Encouraging Thunder Award

Thank you to Gentle Kindness for nominating me for the Encouraging Thunder Award. I appreciate it so much! Thank you.

I sadly have no blogs to nominate but will add some soon.

My voice is blogging is to be able to fully express how I am feeling day to day. I want others to understand that it’s ok to feel the way you do and others are feeling that way as well.

encouraging-thunder-e1427793461525


Nothing To Do

Being pretty much housebound during the day is wearing thin on me. I’m not really sure what to do with myself. I think that I’ve said that like a million times.

All I do is smoke and try to take the edge off of my stress about doing nothing.

I’m so jealous of people with jobs or school or real hobbies. I mean ya I paint but my creativity has been shit lately too.

Sounds like depression to you? I know I am still having feelings about my friend dying but it seems to be leaking into everything. I am just sad and bored.

I feel like I should be just feeling grateful for what I do have and sucking it up. So you can add guilty to the feelings I have too.

This sucks.


Obecalp

About 2 weeks ago, my doc upped my Welbutrin dose from 300mgs to 450mgs because we’re trying to stay on top of my depression and this was the only compromise medication-wise that I’d make because I didn’t wanna change any of my other meds or add new ones.

Welbutrin (bupropion) is kind of a neat drug. It tends to give me a little extra energy and it prevents me from smoking (mostly). Other people sometimes find it helpful for issues like weight management and sexual dysfunction. I think John Oliver once referred to it as the “happy, horny, skinny drug,” though he was mostly lampooning its off-label overuse. Including my dad before he died, all of my immediate family members have been on Welbutrin at one time or another, all for different reasons related to depression. I know I mentioned in the LBD that antidepressants are usually ineffective in treating bipolar depression and can even have some hazardous effects, but that’s not always the case. Partly ’cause everyone responds to meds a little differently and partly because, at least in my case, combining Welbutrin with a mood stabilizer and anxiety meds seems to be a workable balance. The Welbutrin handles the grogginess I experience with my other meds and my other meds seem to keep the Welbutrin from making me hypomanic. (It’s more nuanced than that, but I’m not getting into it.)

So when my doc offered to increase my Welbutrin as a means of handling my worsening depression, I went for it because I wasn’t comfortable with my other medication options. Increasing my olanzapine makes me really tired and I oversleep. I was not keen on introducing Depakote – an anti-seizure med which also works as a mood stabilizer – either because the last couple of times I took anti-seizure meds, they made me stupid. That’s really my biggest fear. Some medications make you a little slow. One of the notable side effects of many psych meds is having difficulty finding the word you’re looking for when you’re speaking or writing. This is a really big deal to me because I’m not good at most things. Language is kind of all I have and there’s an easily roused part of me that would rather be sick than stupid.

Last week, during therapy, after I’d been on the increased dose for about 5 days, my doctor mentioned that a newly documented side effect of Welbutrin is that hard to find words thing. I asked her if it was one of those side effects that tend to go away as you adjust or if it’s just part of the nature of the drug. She said it was likely the latter and I told her I wished she hadn’t shared that with me ’cause now I’m hyperaware of everything I say and write, constantly checking things to make sure my vocabulary didn’t shrink.

The annoying thing about this situation is that it doesn’t matter if my lingual capabilities are taking a hit or not, I just assume they are. It’s this reverse placebo type thing…or just the power of suggestion and and I’m suggestible. We bipolar folk are notoriously hard to medicate and it’s not just for one reason. This is a complicated illness.

I think a lot of us have this warped notion of losing ourselves to wellness. At least for me, I see such a radical difference between myself as I am untreated vs. myself with a fairly controlled mental illness, I naturally assume that getting from the former to the latter requires a deep sacrifice on a fundamental level. Instinctively, I always assume the thing I’m sacrificing is of value, I almost never think of this shit as shedding symptoms of my illness via modern medicine. I also cling to fears that are irrational because the idea that everything is gonna be OK consistently strikes me as completely ludicrous.

There are some parts of my life that are a bit too black and white. If I can’t do something I deem important perfectly, I’d rather not do it at all. I take the adage, “anything worth doing is worth doing well” and stretch into a preposterous shape. I’ve been like that since I was a kid. I understand that I’m frequently my own roadblock. I contemplate this nonsense as I’m constructing yet more roadblocks. If I can’t write good songs, I shouldn’t even play instruments. If I can’t write good stories, I should turn off my computer. I also have a very strained relationship with mascara ’cause my eyelashes are like a foot long so if I accidentally clump my enviable fringes, I wash that eye off and start over. I will do this even if I’m running late. These things are a shitty combination of obsession and self-defeatism. It’s gross. I hate it.

My doctor asked me to give it about a month before I make any decisions about changing my medication dosage. So that’s like, a little over 2 more weeks. I don’t get dizzy anymore. I’m starting to adjust. It’s easier. But I’m still paranoid. I’ve been reading over some of my older posts and thinking, “Why don’t I write like that anymore?” when there’s no real discernible difference between the talents I had last October and the ones I have now (’cause they’re the fucking same, Laura).

Even if I operate a little differently at the moment, my first assumption is that my meds are messing with me, not the more likely scenario that it’s super fucking hard to do things when you’re depressed. Why is that? Why am I like that? Why do I have such a complicated relationship with help?

So, fine, I’ll stick out out mistrustfully for the next ~2 weeks. If I’m still in this big, dumb depression, if it stays the same or gets bigger and dumber, then I’m gonna have to revisit this Welbutrin thing with my doc. No sense in being sad and stupid.

-LB

Tagged: bipolar disorder, depression, help, language, meds, mental health, off-label, paranoia, self-esteem, vanity, wellness

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Albert Einstein is credited with saying that the definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over and expect different results. So I have been doing the same things over and over and yes, you’ve guessed it; … Continue reading

another pair of wings for my coatstand

image

He had a sticker on his bakkie, “drugs are for people who can’t handle reality,” because he couldn’t.

The phone rang and a voice I wasn’t sure of, said a name I use for someone else. I was shocked at the news, whoever owned it, and when it became clear, the shock was harder, sharper. My soul went back, two decades almost exactly. I lived in a room with little in it, he sang when he walked up the stairs towards it. My friend, my heart’s friend, the angel with broken wings. We walked hand in hand and gave plants new names and we shared the moon. On a whim, we would go from the town to the city, to a walled place with guns waiting. The journey was so much slower on the way back, and so much faster too. We were blood brothers, we were safe.

It rained all night last night, all day today and it’ll rain all night tonight. Tears first, fast, then the dull daze of shock returning. My broken man with the name of an angel, Yagharek’s wingless, scarred spine. The man with secrets and sorrows, the man who died alone. I’ll grieve him hard as mountains, desolate. Two decades claw at my neck, hunting the jugular, tearing holes in the sky.

Darling, darling broken angel, dead before he died. I won’t forget your smile, or your hand in mine.

image

Nothing But Death  (Pablo Neruda)

There are cemeteries that are lonely,
graves full of bones that do not make a sound,
the heart moving through a tunnel,
in it darkness, darkness, darkness,
like a shipwreck we die going into ourselves,
as though we were drowning inside our hearts,
as though we lived falling out of the skin into the soul.

And there are corpses,
feet made of cold and sticky clay,
death is inside the bones,
like a barking where there are no dogs,
coming out from bells somewhere, from graves somewhere,
growing in the damp air like tears of rain.

Sometimes I see alone
coffins under sail,
embarking with the pale dead, with women that have dead hair,
with bakers who are as white as angels,
and pensive young girls married to notary publics,
caskets sailing up the vertical river of the dead,
the river of dark purple,
moving upstream with sails filled out by the sound of death,
filled by the sound of death which is silence.

Death arrives among all that sound
like a shoe with no foot in it, like a suit with no man in it,
comes and knocks, using a ring with no stone in it, with no
finger in it,
comes and shouts with no mouth, with no tongue, with no
throat.
Nevertheless its steps can be heard
and its clothing makes a hushed sound, like a tree.

I’m not sure, I understand only a little, I can hardly see,
but it seems to me that its singing has the color of damp violets,
of violets that are at home in the earth,
because the face of death is green,
and the look death gives is green,
with the penetrating dampness of a violet leaf
and the somber color of embittered winter.

But death also goes through the world dressed as a broom,
lapping the floor, looking for dead bodies,
death is inside the broom,
the broom is the tongue of death looking for corpses,
it is the needle of death looking for thread.

Death is inside the folding cots:
it spends its life sleeping on the slow mattresses,
in the black blankets, and suddenly breathes out:
it blows out a mournful sound that swells the sheets,
and the beds go sailing toward a port
where death is waiting, dressed like an admiral.

Translated by Robert Bly

Keep the Sunny Side Up With Affirmations

What do you think of affirmations? I hate them. I’m sure some of you just gasped and thought what a bad attitude I have. Maybe I do. Maybe I should say some affirmations to change that. Oh hell, I’ll never get around to doing that. Oops! Even more bad attitude. Why don’t I like affirmations? […]

The post Keep the Sunny Side Up With Affirmations appeared first on Insights From A Bipolar Bear.

Welcome to Sarah Emmerling (Em), our 1000th follower!

party

Well, people we did it! We hit 1000 followers! Sarah Emmerling (Em), was the one who took us over. Congratulations and thanks to her.

Thank you for all of you out there who have stood by me and read the good, bad, and the ridiculous. Love to you all,

lily