Daily Archives: June 3, 2017

Silent Lately

I haven’t written in a while, nor have I read or commented on others’ posts. I used to write brief reviews after reading a book. Recently, I’ve simply left stars on Amazon and Good Reads. Why? Because I simply needed…

Reblog – My Friend Biasini

Originally posted on HorseAddict:
You and your horse. His strength and beauty. Your knowledge and patience and determination and understanding and love. That’s what fuses the two of you onto this marvelous partnership that makes you wonder, “What can heaven…

Shake And Break

Tuesday through Friday were a total wash, write off days. The ones where you’re so far under the depressive abyss you function minimally even if you want more than anything to ‘snap out of it’. Didn’t happen, desire to do so be damned. Often, this is the price I pay for uber functional days like Monday. I kicked ass that day, accomplished a ton and then…four days of nothing but shambling like a zombie. Last night was telling as I allowed my kid to sleep with me. Always a mistake because even in a full size bed she sleeps with one knee out and no matter which way I turned, it was in my gut or my back. So I didn’t sleep well, was up a couple of times, and that bummed me out because I wanted to get up and go to a few yard sales, see if it picked up my spirits. Not getting decent sleep is a big intention killer for me. I don’t need a lot, just a few hours not popping up like a demented jack in the box.

To my chagrin, I woke when it was light outside…and it wasn’t even 6 a.m. So I snoozed until 7:30 then bladder and child dictated I get out of bed. I wasn’t feeling the ‘let’s get going’ vibe. It was all I could do to FORCE myself into a shower after 4 days and I only did that because my scalp was so itchy and my hair so nasty, I couldn’t handle it anymore. Then came the horror of choosing clothes and actually getting my kid out the door.

First yard sale…BAM. Found a Vellux blanket, perfect condition, one dollar. And that sent my mood into the stratosphere because I have been trying to find a Vellux for years, they are so soft and warm…And ONE DOLLAR? Hells, yea! So that lifted my mood and we went to several more but my good friend (and by that, I mean, mortal enemy) anxiety peeked in and screamed BOO. All the roadwork around town had me convinced I had a flat tire and panxiety started chewing on me because I can’t change a flat and I’m not sure I even have a spare and…and…and… Ya know, anxiety making me its bitch, the usual.

Kept going, though. Even stopped by the shop to see R. The new job laid him off after 5 weeks of work, he is livid because the shop can’t bring in enough money to feed my cats some months, he needs a ‘real job’. I feel for him, I really do. For all of my bitching and moaning, I realize…he was putting me in a situation that stressed me out with all the ‘find this part and find that part’. He’s kind of a twonk at times, but most of my ranting…is on me. Because I can’t handle being put under pressure and having expectations put on me. I have the legit condition to explain it, too, it’s not selective anxiety, but nonetheless…I own it. And I do feel empathy for him. Here he thought he has a great new job, perhaps paying less than he wants, but he was working his ass off for them and one day they say, layoffs are coming, the next, the boss says no, we have more work for you, then that guy gets sick and the next guy waits until end of shift Friday to tell him he’s laid off for a week or two…Guess even the so called beautiful people get shanked on occasion.

So…we finished yard sales, then we went to get household supplies, came home, and now the spawn is running with her posse. I had to take her bike away from her. She wasn’t focusing yesterday and ran into a car bumper and fell into some grass. Grateful she wasn’t hurt but she should never ever have been close to a car on her bicycle and she knows that. If she won’t listen to me and obey the bicycle rules presented to her…I can’t trust her not to hurt herself. And having encountered bicycling children myself who pay no attention and ride right toward my moving car…I can’t fathom the guilt of a driver who hit a kid on a bike even if it was the kid’s fault. Spook doesn’t seem to care as long as she gets to play. I’d like to call her resilient but she just has no sense of conscience.

Though at the store I spent fifty bucks (food, cat supplies, cleaning stuff) and the cashier said something about “your mom had to work three hours to spend fifteen minutes at the store.” And of course, the instant shame of being on disability comes, but I also know I help at the shop so it’s not like I’m sitting home on X Box and smoking weed. Might as well be. My kid basically yelled, “My mom doesn’t work, she doesn’t have a job.” I was livid, especially because I’ve heard this manager/cashier go off about people on disability/food stamps/even told me once I was too lenient on my kid. Well, I wasn’t today, no meant no, and for that…my kid made me feel half an inch tall, like everything is handed to me and I pay nothing, it costs me nothing.

I told her to get in the car and said not a word for ten minutes. To her credit, she didn’t say a word until I told her she could speak. Maybe it’s more my own shame for not working than it was a 7 year old’s big mouth but she needs to learn not to mouth, to show some respect, and not every aspect of our lives have to be discussed with random people in public.

Anyway…that’s been my day so far. The joy of yard sales replaced with the panxiety of a brain telling me the car has a flat. The public humiliation at the hands of my own child.

I’m not down the rabbit hole, though. Only been 3 days on Cymbalta but today I took it first thing rather than take all meds at once. I’ve moved the lithium to bedtime in case it makes me sleepy and I always eat supper so I shouldn’t get nausea. The Wellbutrin and Lamictal I can work in around that.

But hey, I got up, got out, and accomplished stuff. It’s an improvement after four days of inertia and wanting to cease to exist. Then again, even a toothache is better than that.


My Meetup!

Well folks I didn’t chicken out, as much as I wanted to.  I went to the Meetup I started!  This is a big deal for this Introvert.  It’s weird, being an Introvert, yet wanting and needing more social contact.  I want it, but I don’t want to leave the house.  Quite a conundrum.  Anyhoo, I went to the Meetup.  Nineteen people were signed up for it (there are 109 members!!) and I had a big table reserved and I was so scared that I’d be sitting at this big table with my little Meetup sign and no one would show up.  However!  Thirteen people showed up and they were all very nice and it was lively and fun and not too scary at all!  We came up with a nice long list of proposed activities which I came home and promptly scheduled (some of them, at least – about six weeks’ worth).  So, I am proud of myself.  I think this is a big part of my recovery, socializing.  It might not seem like a big deal to most people, but to this Bipolar Introverted Introvert, it’s a big deal.

On the studying front, I have somewhat gotten over the overwhelmed and defeated feeling and worked on my studying.  I took a practice test this week and got a 68% (last test was a 50%, passing is 70%).  So I feel a lot better about my studies!   I also applied for about five jobs, as I see my savings dwindle, I feel like I need to get proactive about looking for a job, even though I haven’t passed the Certified Ethical Hacker certification yet.  I just put in my cover letter that I am studying for it.  What the hell?  I have to try.

Peaches and Herb have made lots of progress in the one little week that I’ve had them.  They figured out how to build their nest, and they’re mating!  Yeah!  On with the babies!!  No eggs yet.

Well that’s about all that’s happening in my world, how’re things in yours?  Peaches (& Herb) say peach out!  BPOF.


Filed under: Bipolar, Bipolar and Studying, Bipolar and Work, Bipolar Introvert Tagged: Bipolar, Bipolar Disorder, Blogging, Depression, Hope, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Psychology, Reader

Brain’s immune cells linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia (!!!)

This is incredible! Microglia, which are the immune cells that are in the brain, actually over express (meaning they make more of the proteins that the genes code for than normal cells) genes that are involved in the development of Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and depression !!! Why would immune cells over express genes involved in neurodegenerative and mental illnesses? How would this lead to developing these diseases? Wouldn’t neurons have to over express these genes?

Anyway, this is fascinating, and more pieces of the puzzle ought to be forthcoming and these will give us a better picture of whats happening at the molecular level in the development of these illnesses. 

I have bolder some of the seminal information in this article. Feel free to read the whole thing. 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170531132645.htmMay 31, 2017

Source: Salk Institute

Summary: Scientists conducted a vast microglia survey, revealing links to neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric illnesses.

Salk and UC San Diego scientists conducted a vast survey of microglia (pictured here), revealing links to neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric illnesses.

Scientists have, for the first time, characterized the molecular markers that make the brain’s front lines of immune defense — cells called microglia — unique. In the process, they discovered further evidence that microglia may play roles in a variety of neurodegenerative and psychiatric illnesses, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases as well as schizophrenia, autism and depression.

“Microglia are the immune cells of the brain, but how they function in the human brain is not well understood,” says Rusty Gage, professor in Salk’s Laboratory of Genetics, the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Disease, and a senior author of the new work. “Our work not only provides links to diseases but offers a jumping off point to better understand the basic biology of these cells.”

Genes that have previously been linked to neurological diseases are turned on at higher levels in microglia compared to other brain cells, the team reported in Science on May 25, 2017. While the link between microglia and a number of disorders has been explored in the past, the new study offers a molecular basis for this connection.
“These studies represent the first systematic effort to molecularly decode microglia,” says Christopher Glass, a Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Professor of Medicine at University of California San Diego, also senior author of the paper. “Our findings provide the foundations for understanding the underlying mechanisms that determine beneficial or pathological functions of these cells.”
Microglia are a type of macrophage, white blood cells found throughout the body that can destroy pathogens or other foreign materials. They’re known to be highly responsive to their surroundings and respond to changes in the brain by releasing pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory signals. They also prune back the connections between neurons when cells are damaged or diseased. But microglia are notoriously hard to study. They can’t be easily grown in a culture dish and quickly die outside of a living brain.
Nicole Coufal, a pediatric critical care doctor at UC San Diego, who also works in the Gage lab at Salk, wanted to make microglia from stem cells. But she realized there wasn’t any way to identify whether the resulting cells were truly microglia.

“There was not a unique marker that differentiated microglia from circulating macrophages in the rest of the body,” she says.
David Gosselin and Dylan Skola in the Glass lab, together with Coufal and their collaborators, set out to characterize the molecular characteristics of microglia. They worked with neurosurgeons at UC San Diego to collect brain tissue from 19 patients, all of who were having brain surgery for epilepsy, a brain tumor or a stroke. They isolated microglia from areas of tissue that were unaffected by disease, as well as from mouse brains, and then set out to study the cells. The work was made possible by a multidisciplinary collaboration between bench scientists, bioinformaticians and clinicians.
The team used a variety of molecular and biochemical tests — performed within hours of the cells being collected — to characterize which genes are turned on and off in microglia, how the DNA is marked up by regulatory molecules, and how these patterns change when the cells are cultured.
Microglia, they found, have hundreds of genes that are more highly expressed than other types of macrophages, as well as distinct patterns of gene expression compared to other types of brain cells. After the cells were cultured, however, the gene patterns of the microglia began to change. Within just six hours, more than 2,000 genes had their expression turned down by at least fourfold. The results underscore how dependent microglia are on their surroundings in the brain, and why researchers have struggled to culture them.

Next, the researchers analyzed whether any of the genes that were upregulated in microglia compared to other cells had been previously implicated in disease. Genes linked to a variety of neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases, they found, were highly expressed in microglia.
“A really high proportion of genes linked to multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and schizophrenia are much more highly expressed in microglia than the rest of the brain,” says Coufal. “That suggests there’s some kind of link between microglia and the diseases.”

For Alzheimer’s, more than half of the genes known to affect a person’s risk of developing the disease were expressed more highly in microglia than other brain cells.
In mice, however, many of the disease genes weren’t as highly expressed in microglia. “That tells us that maybe mice aren’t the best model organisms for some of these diseases,” Coufal says.
More work is needed to understand exactly how microglia may be altered in people with diseases, but the new molecular profile of microglia offers a way for researchers to begin trying to better culture the cells, or coax stem cells to develop into microglia for future studies.


My Toastmasters Humiliation & Kay R. Jamison Blurb Bliss

This is what I’m going for, T.S. Eliot!   Last Wednesday at Toastmasters, I turned on my laptop and spent a considerable amount of time placing it in the perfect position to record my speech #2. I was so freaking nervous that I spaced out on pressing the “record” button so I can’t share the … Continue reading My Toastmasters Humiliation & Kay R. Jamison Blurb Bliss

Let’s Talk About Space, Privilege, and Priorities

The last few years have been a total whirlwind for me. As Let’s Queer Things Up just celebrated its third birthday (yay!), I’ve been reflecting a lot about the work that I do, the spaces I do that work in, and the intentionality behind what I’m doing. I want to shed a little light on the big picture here, as well as my vision for this platform (and the work I do outside of it) moving forward.

LQTU started as a personal blog. I wanted to carve out a small space for myself to share my experiences as a transgender, non-binary, gay, and mentally ill person. Having grown up in the age of FreeWebs and LiveJournal, my idea for this space was finding validation as a person whose lived experiences were seldom seen or acknowledged, and to find community in that process.

I didn’t expect that the blog would go viral. And I definitely didn’t expect that, to date, we would have a Facebook community of over 22,000 people. I didn’t know I would have the amazing opportunities that I do now, writing for many social justice platforms, being published in books and anthologies, and being able to share my journey with some amazing folks out there.

I didn’t recognize my own power. And most of all, what I didn’t know going into this was the kind of responsibility that would fall on my shoulders when I became so visible in the community and beyond it.

Lately, folks have reached out to challenge me and ask how I’m making use of that responsibility. Particularly, as a person with privileges around race, class, and education (to name a few), folks in the community have rightfully pushed back to ask me what kind of intention I’m putting into what I do. So I want to share some of that intention — especially because when you encounter a piece of mine on the internet, the context around it is not apparent.

It’s also my hope that this inspires my other privileged queer content creators to join me in putting some serious thought into how they take up space. Because if we’re not doing this work mindfully, we have no business doing it.

First off, I want to define my spaces. Let’s Queer Things Up (the website you’re currently perusing!) is still a personal blog. For a short time, we sought out guest contributors to bring in more diverse perspectives — but I quickly decided that I couldn’t justify not paying marginalized contributors for their labor. Social capital rarely translates to financial capital; this left me in a difficult position of not wanting to center my privileges, but also not wanting to speak on behalf of marginalized folks.

This is the predicament, I think, for many marginalized writers. Many of us have privilege in some form or another, and we want to share our experiences, but also don’t want to center our experiences. This is not an easy thing to navigate. Staying in your lane is central to social justice work — and it requires constant self-reflection and unlearning. This is a process that has no finite ending point; it is constant work, and work that I’m still doing.

Which is a big reason why the Facebook community was originally built. It actually has a much farther reach and significantly more engagement than the blog itself (in other words, more folks participate there than on this site), which meant I could boost the signal on important work that other folks in the community are doing. I opened up the Facebook community as a way to challenge my readers to consider perspectives other than my own.

I maintained this blog separately, then, as a space to get to know me and to process my experiences. Truthfully, I’m still trying to figure out how to do this responsibly — and I’ve been in dialogue with numerous marginalized bloggers, in conversation about the ethics of blogging in social justice spaces, navigating power, privilege, and space.

Our personal experiences do not exist outside of current systems. So how can we speak for ourselves without reinforcing those existing power dynamics? Is that even possible to do effectively? And how, exactly?

There aren’t easy answers to this. Anyone could look at anything someone writes and ask why they haven’t covered every possible perspective or marginalization. The question then becomes, “How can I write this, for myself and for my community, but still ensure that I’m not erasing other folks and also not speaking over or for them?”

This has been a question I’ve been grappling with throughout my career, especially as I become more and more visible in this work.

Until I feel confident in my answer (who knows when that will be), I’ve pulled back from blogging quite a bit. I personally decided to step back and publish less here, and focus my work on other platforms like Everyday Feminism, The Establishment, and Rewire, where my work was edited by folks who are firmly committed to being as intersectional as possible — and called me on my shit when it didn’t measure up. That has been a learning process far more valuable than what I’ve gained by blogging solo.

If you’re familiar with my work, you’ll notice a big shift in what I’ve written recently as I continue to tangle with these questions.

This piece at The Establishment, for example, exemplifies the direction my writing has ultimately taken — divulging personal experience while also endeavoring to acknowledge how that perspective is situated in larger systems of oppression. I’ve also tried to shift more into a memoir/prose-poetry style at times, like this piece at Unapologetic Feminism, which I believe helps create more defined boundaries about what I can and can’t speak to.

Many of you know this, but I also began working as an editor. My belief was that I could use my expertise to help uplift other marginalized writers, and advocate for opportunities and access. Even in that work, there’s always the question of space. There will always be the question of space.

So in the last year, I have strictly worked with platforms that were founded and run by a QTPoC-majority (Everyday Feminism and RESIST specifically), doing this because I believe that no platform that is centering marginalized folks should have a privileged majority. These platforms had a firm commitment to not diminishing the voices of oppressed folks — and that’s why I specifically sought out work with these folks.

Writers like myself who have visibility are in the unique and difficult position of publicly evolving. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that when I started writing, I didn’t do so with a lot of intention or consideration of the big picture. I think if you find writing online to be easy, you’re probably not putting enough thought behind how you’re doing it.

In the last few months especially, people have asked me about my “big picture” — what it looks like, who I show up for, and how I show up in the world.

And I love these questions. I love them because they challenge me to align my actions with my values. I love them because I know it comes from a place of folks believing in my capacity to do shit and do it right. I love these questions because we should be asking everyone with social capital to be thoughtful about how they’re leveraging it, especially if they’re privileged in some way.

More than anything, folks have asked me how I, as a white trans person, am showing up for queer and trans folks of color. I’ve answered these questions privately, sometimes posting on Facebook to address it publicly, but I haven’t written about it here until now — in part because I wanted to have a more cohesive plan moving forward instead of just publishing a list of empty promises, and in part because I was unsure of how to have this conversation in a way that didn’t position me as a Super Duper Great Anti-Racist Ally™.

Someone recently and rightfully pointed out to me that by quietly sharing articles by QTPoC, occasionally posting on the Facebook community about race, calling folks out here and there, and not making my stance crystal clear here on the blog for folks to access, I’ve ended up creating a lot of silence and complacency around this. Folks only see glimpses of what I stand for, rather than knowing without a doubt what I stand for and what actions I’m taking.

Like many white queers, at times I wind up showing up when it’s convenient, rather than really thinking through what I’m doing and making sure it’s an integral and consistent part of the work, instead of something I duck in and out of.

And that’s why I’m opening up this conversation — I want to engage with my readership and my community, and think through the ways in which I can be more intentional about supporting marginalized folks, and especially QTPoC who have done so much to support this work that I do.

Let’s talk about the concrete stuff first.

Right now, I’ve got my sights set on the Facebook community, because it’s by far the most visible. Specifically, I’m putting together a small team to take on a larger role in managing the community.

There’s so much potential to utilize this space to bring greater visibility to shit that really matters, and so I’m inviting folks to shape the community into a more radical reflection that extends beyond my limited perspective. I’m tapping into the funds from my Patreon to start making this happen, to ensure that these folks will receive some kind of compensation, as well as using my own funds to do this.

To be clear, I’m not asking these folks to do the emotional labor of moderating; I’m asking them to curate and share resources that they think are important, as well as finding ways to create better systems of accountability to ensure that I’m prioritizing those most marginalized in my community. I’m creating shared access to an audience that, previously, I was the only one managing. In this way, the space can begin to decenter my perspective and start to broaden the issues that we cover and the voices we amplify.

Additionally, I’m working on putting my support behind specific platforms. This is in the form of donations (in particular, I’ve recently shifted some of my Patreon donations to RaceBaitR and Rest for Resistance, which I highly encourage folks to donate directly to). While I don’t have a lot of financial capital right now, once I secure full-time work, all of my Patreon funds will shift towards supporting other platforms doing this work, particular folks at the intersections of anti-Blackness and queerness.

I’ve also reached out to different organizations and Facebook communities to learn how I can best support them. Right now, my focus is directly promoting their content and converting traffic to them, boosting the signal on this vital work — especially for pages and activists who have a much smaller following than I do.

(If you have suggestions about activists, communities, or online platforms I should be supporting, please tweet me @SamDylanFinch!)

I’ll also keep up with the personal ethics I’ve set for myself. I won’t be speaking on panels that do not have a POC-majority, just as I won’t work for organizations or write for platforms that do not have an explicit (and proven) commitment to those most marginalized. I will explicitly challenge and name organizations and platforms that continue to keep those most marginalized at the bottom rungs of the ladder rather than represented at all levels and in all roles.

I will continue to pass along speaking engagements, writing gigs, and other opportunities that I have to folks who traditionally don’t have access to these things. I will share my professional relationships and expertise to help more and more marginalized writers access better opportunities. And I will only write on topics which I have lived experience of, continuing to be as thoughtful as possible about how I frame those pieces.

And I’ll be listening — with an open inbox and an open mind — to the feedback that I get, recognizing that I will mess up, and that I’m responsible for doing the labor to make it right.

I know a lot of writers who tell me that they didn’t ask to be visible, and therefore they aren’t responsible for how they use that visibility. I disagree with that completely. I realize that navigating this can be messy and difficult, and involves a lot of growing pains, but I think anyone who has access to social capital has an ethical obligation to think critically about how they’re using it.

And in the end, that’s why I’m opening up a dialogue with my readers about this — particularly because from the beginning, I’ve noticed a lot of privileged white queers in my community that put my work on a pedestal, while making no effort to seek out other voices — like queer and trans folks of color, working class queers, undocumented queers, fat queers — because they conflate queerness with whiteness, with economic privilege, with thinness, with a particular privileged and disconnected experience of queerness as if our queerness makes us all the same (intersectionality, anyone?).

I know what that looks like in action, too, because as I’ve navigated these public spaces, I’ve seen myself reinforce that same idea when I’m not being purposeful about how I do the work — that the “queer community” I write to is somehow a reflection of myself, rather than making a sincere effort to expand and diversify perspectives rather than centering my own. I am constantly undoing this assumption as it comes to the surface in my own work.

I know that I have to follow up and do the work now. I’m hoping that this will act as an impetus for other folks, especially white queer content creators like myself, to also step up and be publicly and explicitly accountable for how they inhabit spaces online and who they’re showing up for (and most importantly, who they aren’t).

I know this work is messy, and I know it requires that we not just sit in our discomfort, but fully inhabit it and peel it back layer-by-layer. I know it can reveal some really uncomfortable truths about ourselves — believe me, in my last few years of doing this, I’ve seen some really ugly truths about myself. The unlearning never stops. The work never ends.

But that’s because oppression and injustice doesn’t take a break, either — and you can choose to let it be background noise and tune it out, as so many folks often do, or you can tune in and fully acquaint yourself with it, choosing to do what’s right rather than what’s comfortable. You always have a choice, which is the most empowering and simultaneously horrifying thing about privilege; you have a choice that other marginalized folks never do.

That in mind, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about my choices. I want to invite other privileged folks in social justice spaces, especially those with visibility or access to resources, to consider their choices, too. Name your values. Examine your actions. Parse out the discrepancies.

And I want to invite my readership, particularly those furthest at the margins who have the energy and desire to engage, into a larger conversation about the community we’re building together. How can I show up for you? How can I make you feel seen?

Lastly, and most important of all, I want to thank the folks who continue to challenge me to think critically about how I move through the world. That labor is a gift — one that I wasn’t owed — and your belief in me and my capacity to do good and important work is something that I don’t take for granted.

I’m grateful to have the opportunity to take this thing that I’ve built these past few years and use it in just, equitable, and liberating ways. And I’m appreciative of the folks who stand behind me and cheer me on as I do it — but to do this work ethically, I know that my place in this work is not at the forefront.

There’s a place for everyone in this movement. But we have to carefully consider where, exactly, that place is, knowing when to step up and went to step aside. I’m grateful to finally be seen. But not if it obscures everyone else.