Daily Archives: July 17, 2016

Let’s Talk About The Transgender Community, Body Positivity, and Fatphobia.

Y’all, I did this super scary thing where I talked, unscripted, for half an hour about the intersections of fatphobia and transness, along with sharing SO many feelings that I have about body positivity.

I did this with the amazing Elizabeth Cooper, founder of the Queer Body Love Speaker Series! You can learn more about it by clicking this link right here.

Their introduction to my interview is super generous and makes me feel important! Check it out:
Sam Dylan Finch

More people have recommended Sam Dylan Finch as a speaker for this series than anyone else. He’s the most famous advocate for trans inclusivity within the body positive movement, and in this candid interview he shares about his own experience as a non-binary trans person who has both learned from and has critiques of the body positive movement. This topic of navigating a fatphobic, transphobic society is SO important and has something to contribute to us all.

Interview highlights:

  • Why “every body is a bikini body” body positive beach photoshoots are exclusive (and how to reframe such projects to be trans inclusive)
  • 2 impactful lessons Sam has learned from body positivity
  • Why Sam literally sits in front of a mirror staring at his body (this is a unique exercise I haven’t heard of before)
  • How to deprogram internalized voices of oppression
  • The difference between dysphoria and dysmorphia 
  • What it means for Sam to be a non-binary trans person & how this relates to his relationship to his body

I’m not sure if I’d call myself famous (read: I would not call myself famous), BUT OKAY ELIZABETH. I am flattered!

If you sign up on the website – which just involves sharing your email address – you’ll gain access not only to my interview, but to dozens of other interviews from queer folks and queer-competent clinicians, talking about the many complexities of queer body image!

And before you tell me, “Sam! You’re only saying this because they paid you,” umm, EXCUSE ME. I did this for free!

I did this because I genuinely believe these are some of the most important conversions to be having right now, in a society which tells transgender people in particular that they are inherently broken, and as fatphobia and gendered ideals fuel disordered eating in our community.

And if you’re not interested in watching my face make weird expressions while I talk about this, or if it’s simply not an accessible format for you, there’s also a transcript available so you can simply read what I (and all the other speakers!) had to say.

It’s rare that I put myself on video without a script to talk about these things, but this was a unique occasion in which I wanted to connect directly with folks who, like me, are trying to navigate body positivity – which is a profoundly cis-centric movement – while also being transgender or non-binary.

So really, go sign up! I promise it’s not a scam (well, if it is, we can be victims together, okay, because I totally signed up too). It’s just a bunch of queer people who want to talk about our bodies in a way that we seldom have the space to do.

And be sure to spread the word! I can think of countless queer and trans people who need access to these conversations. Let’s bring everyone to the table. Let’s support and uplift one another in our journeys toward self-acceptance.

See you there!


Faith-Full Sunday – “The Heart of Worship”

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship And it’s all about You, It’s all about You, Jesus I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it When it’s all about You, It’s all about You, Jesus” Yesterday a friend … Continue reading

Burning Bush

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I encountered stand of Indian Paintbrush growing right in the middle of a Rabbit Bush, out in my favorite forest camp on the Coconino Plateau in Northern Arizona.

It put me in mind of the story of Moses and the Burning Bush.
As the Chumash (the Five Books of Moses) tells it, Moses had fled from Egypt after killing a man who was beating a Hebrew.  Although Moses had been adopted by the “baht Melekh” (Pharaoh’s daughter), it had become known that he was a Hebrew by birth; therefore, to kill an employee of Pharaoh would certainly result in something bad, even though the man he killed was a Hebrew “taskmaster,” as the Book says, exactly like the Jewish Capos that Hitler (may his name be erased) set over the Jews, Catholics, Gypsies, homosexuals, and disabled people in the concentration camps.

This being the case, Moses fled to Midian.  There wasn’t anything special about Midian that drew him there, or so he thought, but about the middle of the day he came to a well.  Now, it’s known that in any of the Hebrew writings, wells symbolize the wisdom of the Divine Feminine, called the Shekhina.  Many times, a woman who is destined to be an important man’s soulmate is present, or is revealed at, a well.  Rivka (Rebecca), who was destined to become the soulmate of Yitzkhak (Isaac), was discovered at a well, as you will remember.  And Miriam had a well that followed the Hebrews through the desert, providing them with water during their forty-year journey.  It disappeared upon her death, leaving the Israelites high and dry.

When Moses arrived at the Midianite well, he discovered several shepherd girls hanging around with their flocks of sheep.  He asked them what was up with that, and they replied mournfully that the well was stopped up with a boulder, and they couldn’t water their sheep until the rotten men shepherds came, towards evening, and moved the rock aside.  But their sheep were thirsty now!

Moses, outraged by this injustice, moved the huge rock off the mouth of the well, and the girls watered their sheep.

One of the girls, Tzipporah (Zipporah, in lousy translation), had such a beautiful soul that Moses snatched her up and kissed her!  She immediately flew (this the meaning of her name, which is “bird”) to her father’s house and asked if she could invite Moe to dinner.  When Yitro (Jethro, also called Ruel) heard what Moshe (Moses) had done for the shepherdesses, of course he invited Moshe to dinner, and also gave him Tzipporah to wife.

Moshe worked for his father in law for a few years. After a while he got the feeling that he should head back to Egypt, so he gathered up a very pregnant Tzipporah, heaved Jr onto a donkey, and off they went through the desert, having adventures that I will not mention here, except to say that after one of them he sent Tzipporah and their infant son back to Midian, and continued on alone.

As he was trudging through the desert he spied a bush on fire.  He thought that was odd, so he turned from his path and drew closer to see what that was all about.

The first thing he noticed was that even though the bush was certainly on fire, it was not being consumed.  He thought that was the strangest thing he had ever seen, but things got stranger still.

A voice boomed out of the Burning Bush and said,

“Moshe, Moshe!  Take off your sandals, for you are standing on sacred ground!” 

This is the basis of the Law that Hebrews must take our shoes off when we go to the Holy Temple, whose ruins still sit on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, although those who currently occupy it try continually to deny that both the Holy Temples and the Holocaust never existed.

After Moshe removed his sandals and approached the Burning Bush once again, he was commanded to be the First Rabbi, and convey to the people who were to become the Children of Israel the Law which the Great Spirit would teach him.  Being the most humble man there ever was, Moshe demured, citing a speech impediment.  God said fine then, your brother Aharon (Aaron) will be your mouthpiece.  I’ll tell you, you tell Aharon, and he’ll tell the People.  Now get out of here and do your job.

Moshe says, “I will, but who shall I say sent me?  The People will think I’m arrogant and won’t believe me if I just tell them stuff myself.  I need to tell them who sent me!”

“Fine.  Tell them, Ekyeh asher Ekyeh sent you (I Am Because I Am).  Now scram before I make an ash out of you!”

Moshe lit a shuck (ran away fast) out of there, and as he approached Egypt he met his brother Aharon, who was coming to look for him, to invite him to have lamb with pita and wine.

TBC, at some point….


Back-to-work anxieties

I’m going back to work. Starting the week of July 25th I will be re-entering the workforce for the first time in over a year. I’m going back to work. The words fill me with excitement and anxiety. I’m excited about feeling like a contributing member of society again. I’m excited about having something that […]

Looking Back – But How Far?

“Look at where you are now compared to where you were when we started. Look how far you’ve come.” This is what my therapist frequently tells me. And she’s right.

When I first came to see her I was a total mess. It is a measure of my progress that I no longer refer to myself as “pathetic.” it has been months – years –since I have used that word to describe myself.

And she is right to point out my progress. Not only am I no longer the despondent, distraught, weeping mess that came to her, I am now a person who has acquired coping skills – at least a few – that I can use in everyday life without much prompting from her.

Silver pocket clock in wooden box isolated on whiteBut when I look back at how far I’ve come, how far back should I look?

Do I look back to my childhood, when there was something wrong with me that I didn’t understand? Do I look back to the everyday traumas that a typical person would have dealt with, if not easily, then at least adequately, that often left me a crumpled figure in the corner weeping copiously and, yes, pathetic.

Since those days, I’ve learned what my disorder is, and have learned to anticipate and deal with some of those everyday traumas.

Do I look back to my teenage years, when I had little clue how to make and keep friends? When I was an outcast for my oddities?

Since then I have rediscovered old friends and made new ones that love and support me, many of whom are just as odd as I am.

Do I look back to my college days, when the bright promise of my intellect was dulled by my inner turmoil, when I missed out on opportunities because I was not capable of reaching out to grasp them?

Since then I have tried to make the most of opportunities that come my way, and to use my talents as best I can.

Do I look back to my first significant other and how that relationship shredded what I had managed to accumulate of self-esteem and confidence?

Since then I have been trying to recover as much as I can of what I lost. And I now have a stable, supportive, long-term relationship.

Do I look back to the days when I first lived independently, teetering on the edge of financial disaster? The days when I could barely function in the world of work and living, when the loss of a job put me deep in the Pit of Despair?

Since then, I have learned to accept help from others and to know that the Pit of Despair is not my permanent home.

Do I reflect on the job that sustained me for many years, until my emotional state became so fragile that I was no longer reliable enough to do it?

Since then I have gotten work that I can do reliably and found a niche for myself in the world of work.

Do I look back to that dreadful time when my brain broke, I became unable to work at all, unable to take care of myself, unable to function in anything like normalcy?

Since then, I have been rebuilding my life – not as good as new, but the best I can.

Admittedly, the distance I’ve come since then has been vast. I can’t take the credit for it, however. Medications, therapy, a support system, a supportive husband, lots of reading about depression and anxiety and feminist issues and bipolar disorder have helped me survive and helped me grow.

Like many people with bipolar disorder I often have the sense that all along I was faking it, that during the periods when I seemed to be functioning best, I was actually pretending. Sometimes I think that’s what I’m doing now.

What’s that they say? Fake it till you make it?

But how do you know when you’ve made it?

I guess it’s when you look back and remember, but no longer viscerally feel, what you went through. I still have unanswered questions, unresolved conflicts, and unanswered puzzles from all those former times.

I no longer think that I will get answers to all of them. I suppose their purpose now is simply to be mile markers, measuring the distance I have come. I can look back if I choose to, or not. I can look back at who and what I was, or as my therapist says, how far I’ve come. But I’m not pathetic anymore.

So this is how far I’ve come. Can I look back without fear? Without despair? Sometimes I can. And that’s not something I’ve always been able to say. It’s progress.

 


Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: bipolar disorder, childhood depression, coping mechanisms, depression, mental health, mental illness

A letter to my younger self

Dear Amy,

I want you to know there will be times in your life when you will struggle with a mental illness called bipolar disorder.  I know it sounds complicated and the truth is-it is complex because we are talking about your brain.  But if you learn everything you can about how to manage your symptoms and find a good treatment plan you will do great.

But I want you to know fighting your way back to health will be the hardest thing you ever do.  There is such a stigma with mental illness a lot of people are not going to understand.  You will find out who your real friends are and who you can rely on.

More than anything be true to yourself.  You don’t have to publicize you live with bipolar disorder unless you want too.  But you MUST be honest with yourself about your illness.  Some people can survive and thrive without medications, but you are not one of them.  In fact, most people with bipolar disorder need medications and there is no shame in that. 

 Whatever you do-don’t deny there is a problem.  It will set you back in life to pretend this serious illness will magically disappear on its own.  When is the last time you ever heard a brain tumor disappearing without intervention?  As much as you want it to go away, you can’t wish this away.  The sooner you accept it the faster you can get well and live your life.

You are going to need help along the way.  Doctors and therapists can be tremendous support on the road wellness.  But remember they are also human and not perfect.  They will make mistakes sometimes.  You have to find the right fit for you and never be afraid to ask questions or even disagree with providers.  The best ones will welcome an open dialogue.

In life we don’t get to choose what we get and what we don’t.  You are going to feel frustrated at times and you may have moments when you think, “what’s the point?”  But I want you to hold on to hope and never give up trying.

There will be times when you reflect back and thank your mother for giving you the gift of faith.  You may not be overtly assertive about your relationship with God, but you will get down on your knees and pray for God to get you through the tough times.  Without your faith you won’t make it because you will have some very difficult times and that will require a great deal of faith.

You will get a good handle on bipolar disorder and once you do the sky is the limit.  So don’t ever let anyone tell you to keep your dreams small.  You are good at dreaming big and I want you to keep doing that as long as you live.

Finally, take one day at a time.  Everything you need will be provided for you, maybe not what you want but what you need.  And when you figure all this stuff out don’t forget to reach back and help other people.  Because at the end of the day that’s what life is all about.

Your friend,

Your older self


My Nalgene is Where I Hide My Crazy

Tomorrow I’m leaving for a camping trip in the Adirondack Mountains with a bunch of fellow teachers that I have never met (it’s kind of a long story…the teachers are not the important part).  The important part of this story is that none of them will know about all the drugs I take because I found a super-ninja-pill-disguiser that will allow me to masquerade as a normal, healthy adult.  CHECK IT OUT!

Look.  This is a normal, run-of-the-mill Nalgene water bottle, right?  It shows I’m a little hard core and like to stay hydrated.  That’s it.  Nothing to see here – move along people.

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You’re probably sitting there at your computer thinking, “Wow, what a boring water bottle.  Who writes about water bottles?  I’m clicking on a different post.”  But wait!  Watch this witchery!  Out of nowhere, BAM – there’s a false cap!  It has four pill compartments hiding in what looks like an otherwise normal lid.

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*thunderous applause, gasps, and how-did-she-do-thats*

It’s like they hired Houdini to work for Nalgene, and he made my pills disappear.  I’m so happy.

Now I’ll have my pills with me wherever I go.  This means no missing doses, no worrying about having a panic attack while I’m in the woods (or anywhere!), and no trying to hide away from people while fumbling with incriminating orange bottles.  There will be no more awkward questions!  If someone sees my false top (which, HA, would be ridiculous because it’s VIRTUALLY INVISIBLE), I can just say, “Oh, I keep vitamins and stuff in there.”  I’ll put one vitamin in so that it’s not a lie.  They don’t need to know that “and stuff” means “the cocktail of drugs that keeps my head from exploding all over this frickin forest.”

It’s like I’m crazy, but I’m secretly crazy.  I’m very excited about this water bottle.  It’s so amazing that I feel I should make a speech in honor of this marvelous invention.  I know!   Let’s toast to it.  Are you holding a beverage?  Find a beverage.  Please hold it up to your screen in a toasting fashion.  I’m holding up my water bottle to you, dear reader.  Let’s toast to secrets being kept for as long as we want them kept secrets, and to places (like the mountains) that make life infinitely more worth living.

*long drink*