Daily Archives: February 21, 2016

Memories of Grandpa

Today is the 21st anniversary of my grandpa’s death.  Everyone in the family had to have some sort of collection: grandma’s clowns, mom’s mice.  Grandpa’s collection was model trains.  As a child I watched trains go by while I was at recess, and would count the cars as they flew past, disappointed when the bell […]

Malignant Narcissistic Abuse – Understanding the Enemy’s Devices

In order to understand what this is about, click on the original link and read, then make sure to look at the meme collection, which had my mouth hanging open, it is so affirming of my own lived experience of being an ACoN (Adult Child of a Narcissist).

One thing in the meme collection that I must take issue with is the statement that taking on narcissistic traits, if one grows up in such a home, is voluntary. It is not. If the only coping mechanisms you have ever known are drama, tantrums, accusations, the silent treatment, etc, it takes time to figure out that these are dysfunctional and abusive. And since Adult Children of Narcissists (ACoNs) often are drawn into adult relationships with narcissists, the story tends to perpetuate itself down the generations. After all, when we meet someone who “feels like we have known them all our lives,” well, we probably have, because they “feel like home,” our family of origin.

The first thing we must learn is insight: it isn’t our fault, we are not defective, we do not deserve to be treated like a mouse being tortured by a cat.

Some people are fortunate to realize that something is very wrong–usually after multiple failed relationships, suicide attempts, or other catastrophic life events–and seek help, sometimes from the right person, like a good therapist, and sometimes from….someone who “feels like home,” claiming that they want to help, but really being a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as we unfortunately see with some religious leaders. I have even had a narc therapist! She had a hand in destroying my marriage. I sat there mesmerized while she smiled and preened, not realizing what it was about her that was so familiar (she was like my mother, who used to court my boyfriends), until it was too late. She stood up, announced that it was her opinion that we should divorce, and left us sitting on her couch looking at the floor.

Memoir Notes

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Support and Non-Support Groups

My family has never been big on support groups. When my father had multiple myeloma (which killed him after 15 years), he turned down any opportunities he was given to join cancer support groups with names like Make Today Count. He preferred to go it alone. He was stubborn.

So am I.

I have actually been to support groups for mental illness once or twice, but they were never a success or, I guess, just never right for me.

The first one was when I was in college. That one was a bust because I wasn’t really ready to address my problems and because I had the ability to appear “normal” for an hour at a time while sitting cross-legged on the floor. I couldn’t do that now. (The floor-sitting part.)

The second time was after I saw a brochure for a group called High Flyers and Low Landers, which met in the church I was going to at the time. (I don’t think the organization still exists. The church is still there.)

It was a very odd experience. Everyone had a book, many with needlepoint covers. It was their bible, though not the Bible, which I know many people needlepoint covers for, or at least did back then.

The meetings consisted of a little ritual. One person read a passage from the book. Then each person in the circle had to tell an event that happened to them in the past week. The recital had to be in a specific format: what happened, what symptoms the person experienced (dry mouth, racing thoughts – there was a list), how the person would have handled it before reading the book, and how the person did handle it. There was much quoting of the book and certain specific phrases that everyone had to use.

Some of the quotations were helpful, or at least true. (People do things that annoy us, not to annoy us.) But as I recall, those were the only sorts of comments the people in the circle were allowed to make. Not “How did that work out?” or “What did your mother do next?” or “I hate when people get passive-aggressive.”

It was just too weird and formulaic for me, so I never went back. (As I was leaving, I offered someone a mint. Everyone laughed and said, “Dry mouth!”)

Since I don’t seem to do so well in actual support groups, I recently thought I would check out some virtual ones. I’m not going to name the groups I joined or where I found them, because all of them stressed privacy and confidentiality.

What I found was both support and non-support.

Some of the groups were associated with national organizations or publications, and they pretty much stuck to sharing articles about scientific research or political news about mental illness, along with lists of resources, hotlines, and the like.

So far, so good.

Other groups were more like traditional support groups, with members asking questions or relating accounts of what had happened or how they felt. There were administrators who tried to keep the members to more or less stick to the topic and rules of the group (give trigger warnings, no suicide threats, or whatever).

Some of the groups were peaceful. People asked standard questions (Who’s on this med? Should I take something else too?) and received fairly standard answers (Worked for me. Didn’t work for me. Ask your doctor.) People related similar events and how they handled them, or asked for more specifics so they could understand the situation better. People posted assorted uplifting memes and affirmations.

Then there was the other sort. People did not know how to use trigger warnings or simply didn’t bother. Others shared people’s posts without removing identifying information. Some posted truly vulgar jokes that had nothing whatsoever to do with bipolar disorder. Negativity overflowed. Arguments raged. (Some of the topics were “Bipolar is not an excuse for bad behavior” and “Don’t buy into the drug companies’ propaganda by taking meds.”) There was the online equivalent of name-calling and shouting. People reported other people to the admins. People accused people of reporting people to the admins.

The administrators did try to keep a handle on these groups, but couldn’t always, most likely because they were busy with their own lives and issues and difficulties.

It got so bad that I took to lurking instead of participating. Every week or so I would go back to take a peek and check on the drama llamas. Mostly they were still running around spitting. I think I had helpful things to add to the discussions and times when I needed help with feelings, but I just couldn’t trust enough to jump back in. I know other people left these groups for similar reasons, and some were blocked or banned or given warnings about their behavior.

In general, I have this to say about online support groups. You’d do well to sit back and watch their interactions before you try participating on anything but a “Congratulations! You got a job!” level. If the group seems truly helpful – supportive – then dive in. You may be able to give and receive help.

But non-support is exhausting. And I’m too stubborn to put up with it.


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: acting "normal", bipolar disorder, mental health, mental illness, mutual support, my experiences, online support groups, social skills, support systems, trigger warning

Support and Non-Support Groups

My family has never been big on support groups. When my father had multiple myeloma (which killed him after 15 years), he turned down any opportunities he was given to join cancer support groups with names like Make Today Count. He preferred to go it alone. He was stubborn.

So am I.

I have actually been to support groups for mental illness once or twice, but they were never a success or, I guess, just never right for me.

The first one was when I was in college. That one was a bust because I wasn’t really ready to address my problems and because I had the ability to appear “normal” for an hour at a time while sitting cross-legged on the floor. I couldn’t do that now. (The floor-sitting part.)

The second time was after I saw a brochure for a group called High Flyers and Low Landers, which met in the church I was going to at the time. (I don’t think the organization still exists. The church is still there.)

It was a very odd experience. Everyone had a book, many with needlepoint covers. It was their bible, though not the Bible, which I know many people needlepoint covers for, or at least did back then.

The meetings consisted of a little ritual. One person read a passage from the book. Then each person in the circle had to tell an event that happened to them in the past week. The recital had to be in a specific format: what happened, what symptoms the person experienced (dry mouth, racing thoughts – there was a list), how the person would have handled it before reading the book, and how the person did handle it. There was much quoting of the book and certain specific phrases that everyone had to use.

Some of the quotations were helpful, or at least true. (People do things that annoy us, not to annoy us.) But as I recall, those were the only sorts of comments the people in the circle were allowed to make. Not “How did that work out?” or “What did your mother do next?” or “I hate when people get passive-aggressive.”

It was just too weird and formulaic for me, so I never went back. (As I was leaving, I offered someone a mint. Everyone laughed and said, “Dry mouth!”)

Since I don’t seem to do so well in actual support groups, I recently thought I would check out some virtual ones. I’m not going to name the groups I joined or where I found them, because all of them stressed privacy and confidentiality.

What I found was both support and non-support.

Some of the groups were associated with national organizations or publications, and they pretty much stuck to sharing articles about scientific research or political news about mental illness, along with lists of resources, hotlines, and the like.

So far, so good.

Other groups were more like traditional support groups, with members asking questions or relating accounts of what had happened or how they felt. There were administrators who tried to keep the members to more or less stick to the topic and rules of the group (give trigger warnings, no suicide threats, or whatever).

Some of the groups were peaceful. People asked standard questions (Who’s on this med? Should I take something else too?) and received fairly standard answers (Worked for me. Didn’t work for me. Ask your doctor.) People related similar events and how they handled them, or asked for more specifics so they could understand the situation better. People posted assorted uplifting memes and affirmations.

Then there was the other sort. People did not know how to use trigger warnings or simply didn’t bother. Others shared people’s posts without removing identifying information. Some posted truly vulgar jokes that had nothing whatsoever to do with bipolar disorder. Negativity overflowed. Arguments raged. (Some of the topics were “Bipolar is not an excuse for bad behavior” and “Don’t buy into the drug companies’ propaganda by taking meds.”) There was the online equivalent of name-calling and shouting. People reported other people to the admins. People accused people of reporting people to the admins.

The administrators did try to keep a handle on these groups, but couldn’t always, most likely because they were busy with their own lives and issues and difficulties.

It got so bad that I took to lurking instead of participating. Every week or so I would go back to take a peek and check on the drama llamas. Mostly they were still running around spitting. I think I had helpful things to add to the discussions and times when I needed help with feelings, but I just couldn’t trust enough to jump back in. I know other people left these groups for similar reasons, and some were blocked or banned or given warnings about their behavior.

In general, I have this to say about online support groups. You’d do well to sit back and watch their interactions before you try participating on anything but a “Congratulations! You got a job!” level. If the group seems truly helpful – supportive – then dive in. You may be able to give and receive help.

But non-support is exhausting. And I’m too stubborn to put up with it.


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: acting "normal", bipolar disorder, mental health, mental illness, mutual support, my experiences, online support groups, social skills, support systems, trigger warning

Lifestyle Changes and Weight Loss Goals

I want to lose about 10-15 pounds. To do that I've been trying to become more conscious of what I'm eating. I recently started working with a new doctor on lifestyle changes. She believes that there are two types of food. Foods that heal and foods that harm. I can dig that. There is certainly a connection between certain diseases and the foods we eat.

One of the many changes my new doctor suggested is that I stop drinking milk and eating milk-related products. No yogurt, no cheese. This was tough. I used to eat a Greek yogurt for breakfast every morning like clockwork. Well, I needed something to replace the yogurt so I googled healthy breakfasts.

BREAKFAST

This is chia seed pudding. It's made of almond milk, chia seeds, and maple syrup. 
It tasted okay. But I'll definitely have to get used to the consistency and hopefully I
eat it more, as it is packed with nutrients. Chia is known as a superfood.


These beauties are egg muffins
They were super easy to make and tasted just like miniature omelets.
I put spinach and diced red and green peppers in mine. But you can add any filling you want.
I've seen some with bacon.

Speaking of omelets... 
For about a week I was obsessed with them 
and they were the only thing I was making for breakfast.


In addition to breakfast, I wanted to also make healthy choices for lunch, dinner, and snacks.


LUNCH/DINNER

I love plantains. I know they're not the healthiest thing I could eat, since they're fried, 
but they're oh-so-good! I paired them with green beans, black beans, and jerk chicken.
I marinated the chicken in a store-bought jerk seasoning,


SNACKS

I made a visit to the year-round, in-door farmers' market. I was impressed with the wide selection of fruits and vegetables they had. I'm trying to snack mostly on fruits and veggies and not junk food.


I've found snack prepping extremely helpful. I measured (literally, with a measuring cup) out a serving size and then put the goodies in Tupperware or Ziploc baggies. Here I have apples, kiwi, strawberries and blueberries, trail mix (cashews, almonds, and cranberries), and carrots. Not shown are my red pepper strips. I eat the carrots and red peppers with hummus.


In the past month, I've already lost about 5 pounds, I just want to lose 10-15 more. I have an ideal weight in mind. Last month I tried to do a 30-day fat loss challenge. It included a meal plan and a 5-day per week workout plan. I only lasted a week. Then I came down with a cold and a terrible cough. Threw me off the workout regime. But to be honest, the meal plan was hard to follow. The food was good but the portion sizes were small. I know I have to change my portion sizes if I want to lose weight. But I was constantly hungry that one week I participated in the fat loss program. However, I wish I could have stuck it out. The other participants posted their before and after photos to Instagram and they got some amazing results in four weeks. I need to get back into my groove of exercising. What are your fitness and health goals?


Lifestyle Changes and Weight Loss Goals

I want to lose about 10-15 pounds. To do that I've been trying to become more conscious of what I'm eating. I recently started working with a new doctor on lifestyle changes. She believes that there are two types of food. Foods that heal and foods that harm. I can dig that. There is certainly a connection between certain diseases and the foods we eat.

One of the many changes my new doctor suggested is that I stop drinking milk and eating milk-related products. No yogurt, no cheese. This was tough. I used to eat a Greek yogurt for breakfast every morning like clockwork. Well, I needed something to replace the yogurt so I googled healthy breakfasts.

BREAKFAST

This is chia seed pudding. It's made of almond milk, chia seeds, and maple syrup. 
It tasted okay. But I'll definitely have to get used to the consistency and hopefully I
eat it more, as it is packed with nutrients. Chia is known as a superfood.


These beauties are egg muffins
They were super easy to make and tasted just like miniature omelets.
I put spinach and diced red and green peppers in mine. But you can add any filling you want.
I've seen some with bacon.

Speaking of omelets... 
For about a week I was obsessed with them 
and they were the only thing I was making for breakfast.


In addition to breakfast, I wanted to also make healthy choices for lunch, dinner, and snacks.


LUNCH/DINNER

I love plantains. I know they're not the healthiest thing I could eat, since they're fried, 
but they're oh-so-good! I paired them with green beans, black beans, and jerk chicken.
I marinated the chicken in a store-bought jerk seasoning,


SNACKS

I made a visit to the year-round, in-door farmers' market. I was impressed with the wide selection of fruits and vegetables they had. I'm trying to snack mostly on fruits and veggies and not junk food.


I've found snack prepping extremely helpful. I measured (literally, with a measuring cup) out a serving size and then put the goodies in Tupperware or Ziploc baggies. Here I have apples, kiwi, strawberries and blueberries, trail mix (cashews, almonds, and cranberries), and carrots. Not shown are my red pepper strips. I eat the carrots and red peppers with hummus.


In the past month, I've already lost about 5 pounds, I just want to lose 10-15 more. I have an ideal weight in mind. Last month I tried to do a 30-day fat loss challenge. It included a meal plan and a 5-day per week workout plan. I only lasted a week. Then I came down with a cold and a terrible cough. Threw me off the workout regime. But to be honest, the meal plan was hard to follow. The food was good but the portion sizes were small. I know I have to change my portion sizes if I want to lose weight. But I was constantly hungry that one week I participated in the fat loss program. However, I wish I could have stuck it out. The other participants posted their before and after photos to Instagram and they got some amazing results in four weeks. I need to get back into my groove of exercising. What are your fitness and health goals?


Lifestyle Changes and Weight Loss Goals

I want to lose about 10-15 pounds. To do that I've been trying to become more conscious of what I'm eating. I recently started working with a new doctor on lifestyle changes. She believes that there are two types of food. Foods that heal and foods that harm. I can dig that. There is certainly a connection between certain diseases and the foods we eat.

One of the many changes my new doctor suggested is that I stop drinking milk and eating milk-related products. No yogurt, no cheese. This was tough. I used to eat a Greek yogurt for breakfast every morning like clockwork. Well, I needed something to replace the yogurt so I googled healthy breakfasts.

BREAKFAST

This is chia seed pudding. It's made of almond milk, chia seeds, and maple syrup. 
It tasted okay. But I'll definitely have to get used to the consistency and hopefully I
eat it more, as it is packed with nutrients. Chia is known as a superfood.


These beauties are egg muffins
They were super easy to make and tasted just like miniature omelets.
I put spinach and diced red and green peppers in mine. But you can add any filling you want.
I've seen some with bacon.

Speaking of omelets... 
For about a week I was obsessed with them 
and they were the only thing I was making for breakfast.


In addition to breakfast, I wanted to also make healthy choices for lunch, dinner, and snacks.


LUNCH/DINNER

I love plantains. I know they're not the healthiest thing I could eat, since they're fried, 
but they're oh-so-good! I paired them with green beans, black beans, and jerk chicken.
I marinated the chicken in a store-bought jerk seasoning,


SNACKS

I made a visit to the year-round, in-door farmers' market. I was impressed with the wide selection of fruits and vegetables they had. I'm trying to snack mostly on fruits and veggies and not junk food.


I've found snack prepping extremely helpful. I measured (literally, with a measuring cup) out a serving size and then put the goodies in Tupperware or Ziploc baggies. Here I have apples, kiwi, strawberries and blueberries, trail mix (cashews, almonds, and cranberries), and carrots. Not shown are my red pepper strips. I eat the carrots and red peppers with hummus.


In the past month, I've already lost about 5 pounds, I just want to lose 10-15 more. I have an ideal weight in mind. Last month I tried to do a 30-day fat loss challenge. It included a meal plan and a 5-day per week workout plan. I only lasted a week. Then I came down with a cold and a terrible cough. Threw me off the workout regime. But to be honest, the meal plan was hard to follow. The food was good but the portion sizes were small. I know I have to change my portion sizes if I want to lose weight. But I was constantly hungry that one week I participated in the fat loss program. However, I wish I could have stuck it out. The other participants posted their before and after photos to Instagram and they got some amazing results in four weeks. I need to get back into my groove of exercising. What are your fitness and health goals?


Admitted

“Do you think you need to be admitted?” My psychiatrist asks, looking at me very seriously. “Yes.” My reply is fast. Too fast. Faster than I had time to think of the repercussions of my words. Things were bad, but were they admission bad? A few thoughts about tossing myself off of my 6th floor […]

Let The Games Begin

It’s a little early for the spring festivities to start, but with the nice weather we had last week I’m not only out of the depression, I feel like I’ve been CATAPULTED out of the depression. While I wouldn’t call this hypomania, I can feel something like it stirring under the surface, manifesting itself in a strangely upbeat mood punctuated by irritability and a touch of agitation (think “happy feet” without music). Needless to say, I’m not the least bit upset about this turn of events, not only because it feels good to not be depressed but because I can FEEL—period.

I’ve never wanted to admit it, but as good as my medication regimen is, it does have the tendency to flatten me out a bit too much emotionally. I’ve missed the passion I used to have and I wish there were some way I could have it without all the crap that comes with being bipolar. Just the taste of it, like I’m experiencing now, is tantalizing and I want more of it. It’s been sooooo long. Besides, along with the great mood comes less anxiety: I’m not waking up freaking out every damn morning, even on days when Will’s feeling icky. Of course, that could be because I believe he’s being very well cared for by hospice, and I have weapons at my disposal to make him feel better when things aren’t going well. That takes a lot off my mind. Maybe more than I think.

I had a great therapy session with Kathy yesterday, too. It was the first one in which I didn’t need Kleenex! I’ve got to hand it to her: she has this way of planting seeds that bloom at some of the most amazing times. For example, at one point I found myself on the topic of my irritation with one person who, on the rare occasion when I have to take them somewhere, has this annoying habit of fussing around in their handbag for minutes on end before they fasten their seat belt. Well, my rule is that I don’t even turn the key in the ignition until everyone is buckled up, and I’ve warned this individual on multiple occasions to stop dilly-dallying so we can just GO already.

In the course of the discussion that followed this confession, it came to me that the real reason for my impatience is that I don’t really enjoy spending time with this person and want the encounter to be over with as quickly as possible. I can take them in limited doses, and they can even be (somewhat) delightful at times; but traveling with them in a car is a brass-plated pain in the ass. Sure glad I don’t have to do that very often.

Another good thing that’s happening along with the advent of a lighter mood: my memory is getting sharper. I even remembered some of the things I’ve told Kathy in the past so I didn’t have to repeat myself, as I often do. WHOOP WHOOP! Who knows, maybe one day soon I’ll be able to read books and remember phone numbers again. And if I could do that, maybe I could even get a part-time job to supplement my Social Security sometime down the road.

But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself there…for now, it’s enough that I’m out of my two-months-long downtime and back on the upswing. It’s going to be spring soon; the daffodils are starting to poke their little heads up above the cold wet soil, and I heard a rumor that cherry blossoms are starting to appear. Let the games begin!

 

 

 

 


To Be Transgender, Mentally Ill, And Still Alive

Content Note: Mentions of suicide, trans/homophobia, saneism

Nearly every day for the past five months, give or take, I’ve had a moment when I glance out the window onto my street and think to myself, “I was never supposed to be here.”

This feeling isn’t new to me – I’ve dealt with “survivor’s guilt” in some form for years now – but the feeling intensified when I moved to my new apartment.

You know, the apartment that I feel like I don’t deserve for some reason or another.

Here’s the honest truth: People like me? Mentally ill queer kids, the ones that get their homophobia or transphobia with a side of psychosis? The ones whose trauma isn’t just a meal but comes with an appetizer and a fucking dessert?

This world isn’t made for us.

How would I know that? I’ve lived it.

And I don’t think I would have been so persistent about ending my life all those years ago if this were a world that saw me, validated me, affirmed me. If this were a world that had a place for me. If this were a world that held space for me.

I know this because it took me years to sit beside the window instead of dangling out of it, held in place only by someone’s hand clinging desperately to my shirt collar, because to be queer was one thing but to be queer and crazy was another thing entirely.

There has never been a moment when I’ve forgotten that I am both. I’m not allowed to forget.

I remember it when the psychiatrist advises that I not pursue hormones because I could just be manic and not trans; I remember it when another trans person says to me, “I’m glad that gender identity disorder is no longer in the DSM. It’s not like trans people are crazy.”

But I am.

I remember it when I recall the mere inch that came between myself and my own death.

The names of those I knew and could’ve known that ended their lives still swirl around my brain, and all I can think about is how I’m here and they aren’t, and how senseless all of this feels.

Yes, I’m here. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

Sometimes the guilt is so painful that I’m convinced that some part of me is fractured – that if you peered inside, it’s almost certain that something in me is irreparably broken. That being a survivor that has watched people like me die, over and over, has left me in a permanent state of grief.

I am in a permanent state of grief.

When I have flashbacks to the moment I woke up, realizing I was still here, I find myself trembling and shaken, wondering why the world steals the light of so many queers but somehow left mine intact.

Why, after making self-annihilation my hobby for a time, should I be rendered whole in a world that despises our wholeness?

Why did I survive?

And it’s not that I believe that my life wasn’t worth sparing. It’s just that, when you watch your comrades, your community, your friends dying all around you, you can’t help but wonder why it was them and not you.

Well-meaning friends tell me, “Remember to be grateful, too.”

But what they don’t understand is that there will always be another mentally ill trans kid like me, ready to follow through on what I failed to finish.

And I can’t just feel grateful when I know, in the back of my mind, that that kid is still out there.

Maybe I feel guilty for being alive because I’m conditioned to believe that people like me aren’t meant to exist in the first place.

Every day since my attempt there’s a scene that plays out in my head, where I’m banging on the closet door, trying to stop that kid from repeating my mistakes, begging them to let me in, begging them to stay, knowing that I can’t promise them that it will get better but I can do everything in my power to create a space for us.

Just one space.

Well-meaning friends say, “Yes, it’s horrifying, but you can’t dwell on that.”

Why can’t I dwell on that?

Do you know the overwhelming trauma of existing in a world that teaches you, from day one, to resist everything that you are?

And why should they act horrified when we destroy ourselves – why should they act surprised – as if that’s not what the world was asking of us all along?

They ask me not to dwell on this as if trauma is a garment you wear, as if we can forget who we are. Please listen when I say this: I can’t forget.

Well-meaning friends ask me, “Why do you write?”

But the better question is why I stayed.

And I stayed for the same reason that I write: Because so long as this world isn’t made for us, I have to keep fighting for a better world.