This is a beautiful website of my young friend Doug Leddin (interviewed here: https://bipolar1blog.com/2016/04/24/doug-leddin-interviewed-by-samina-raza/)
Here’s the video that took so much courage to admit to the world what he’d been going through, and that launched him into the limelight, and made him a mental health advocate!
The website below, is visually stunning, but much more than that, it is his story, our story of mental illness, hopefully progressing to Mental Health. Even with all the one steps forwards and two steps, we make progress.
Take a look, bloggers, a read, a perusal! It’s totally worth it!
Went to lunch with Jo today and overate. But we had fun talking and catching up on each other’s lives. Her more than me–she is always busy doing something and with me, not much changes. But we have good rapport and talked for a while about various and sundry.
Checked my classes and we already have a reading assignment due Sunday. I read the essay and will likely complete the assignment tomorrow while the kids are at school. I am too fat and sleepy to do it right now.
I feel too fat and sleepy to do much of anything right now. I wish I could get more energy to do things. I know my doctor doesn’t like when I’m too energized, but not being able to do even simple things is a huge drag. It makes me feel weak and incapable. Evne typing this right now is taking a huge amount of effort. Even though I’m not saying very much. I hope this is not a precursor to where this time period is heading.
Once upon a time, I wrote an article about how I wasn’t completely happy with my hormonal transition. Unsurprisingly, I got a lot of shit for it – because dog forbid I have complicated feelings about my body completely changing.
One commenter, I guess in an attempt to insult me, told me to get a therapist and that I was INSANE (emphasis theirs). What they didn’t realize was that they were correct about one thing – my feelings about my transition were absolutely informed by mental illness.
Frankly, I’m annoyed with neurotypical trans people judging my experience of transition – because comparing our experiences completely ignores the reality that I struggle in a way they never will.
What I didn’t mention in that article is that I was diagnosed with OCD after a spiral of obsession that all but drove me to the edge. And what was I obsessing about? My gender identity.
Some folks with OCD – particularly those with the pure obsessional form – find themselves obsessing about sexual orientation or gender identity. Imagine a straight person completely tormented by the idea of being gay (or a gay person obsessed with being straight), or a transgender person, like me, spending hours and hours in a panic, obsessed with the idea of being cisgender (and, yes, vice versa).
The thing about these obsessions is that there’s no concrete evidence that the obsession is grounded in reality.
I’d identified as transgender for four years, and up until the obsession started, felt secure and happy in my identity. I didn’t want to detransition – the thought of doing so horrified me. I was unbelievably opposed to living as a cis woman, which had never felt right in the first place. And my dysphoria was improving slowly but surely with my transition.
The obsession didn’t make any sense. It was just a track on loop that said, “What if, what if, what if?” But it felt like I couldn’t stop thinking about it, no matter what I did.
My therapist said that the obsession was triggered when I was supporting a friend through detransition (which I was happy to do – I love this person, and I support folks making whatever decisions they need to, including detransition!).
The fear that I might experience the despair that they were experiencing had set off an obsession – and it’s an obsession I still battle with months and months later.
When the obsession started, I was initially afraid to disclose to anyone that it was happening. I was afraid that they would invalidate my transgender identity, question the sincerity of my gender, or ostracize me from the community.
And I felt like I couldn’t tell clinicians, because I was afraid they would impede my access to top surgery, which I badly needed.
But imagine my relief when my therapist, who specialized in caring for the transgender population, recognized that my OCD was impacting my transition. I was able to access medication to help manage it – and from there, I connected with another transgender person with OCD, who had endured the same kind of obsessive spiral that I had.
Nowadays, the obsession comes and goes, and I feel more secure knowing that it isn’t a reflection of my identity but rather, an aspect of a disorder.
To be honest, when people commented on that previous article, telling me that I was less of a trans person because I had mixed feelings about my hormonal transition, I was angry. Angry because they had no idea the kind of hell that OCD put me through, making me irrationally obsess about the most fundamental part of who I am for nearly every waking hour of my day.
Lucky you, I wanted to say, that you’ve had nothing but positive transition experiences. Good for you?
The reality is that mentally ill trans people like me have a distinctly different experience of transition.
I’ve talked to trans people with generalized anxiety, who overthink and worry about every aspect of their transitions. I’ve talked to (and personally experienced) the detached, unstable sense of identity that trans people with borderline have coped with. I’ve talked to trans people with depression who, in the midst of an episode, felt too empty to connect with their transness. I’ve talked to mentally ill trans people who have had their gender identities completely written off as a delusion.
And I’ve written about survivors of trauma and mental illness who don’t even realize they are transgender until much later in life, because survival was their first priority – and because trauma can delay many aspects of self-actualization.
To be clear, being transgender is not a mental illness. But I absolutely believe that mental illness can impact our experiences of being transgender.
When neurotypical transgender people judge my experience of transition, I can only roll my eyes. What a privilege, to not live through the complexities, the complications, and the anguish of trying to manifest your truth through the trauma of mental illness, not to mention the actual barriers that prevent us from accessing care.
If we are acknowledging that things like race, class, and gender impact the oppression that transgender people have been dealt, I’m asking that neurotypical transgender people recognize that perhaps their experiences are different from mentally ill trans people – and that mental illness does not invalidate our identities, or make us less valid as transgender people.
I’m just going to say it, straight up: I think it’s ableist and fucked up to tell mentally ill transgender people like me that if they aren’t happy about transition or secure in themselves, they aren’t transgender at all.
I believe that we need to hold space for mentally ill trans people to navigate their identities. To stop saying that questioning, doubting, or fearing their transness makes them inherently less than – because that experience is not only normal for any and all trans people, but especially real for many trans people with mental illness.
We need to make room for mentally ill trans people (and really, all trans people) to be stressed about transition, fed up with transition, exhausted by transition – because we don’t always have the capacity to deal with these kinds of changes when we’re just trying to survive.
We also need to recognize that mentally ill trans people are some of the most vulnerable in our community, because struggling with any kind of dysphoria (emotional, social, physical), transphobia, or erasure only jeopardizes our health even further, endangering us.
And we absolutely need to acknowledge that there are mentally ill trans people who can’t transition or don’t want to – full stop.
So yes, irritating commenter, I’m insane. Har har, you got me. Mental illness has undoubtedly shaped my sense of self and my experience of transition, as it has for many trans people.
Chances are, with the prevalence of mental health struggles in our community, if you aren’t struggling with mental illness yourself, you know and love a trans person who is.
But if we continue to marginalize mentally ill trans people, I’d venture to say that we aren’t much better than the cisgender people who marginalize us.
In case you haven’t heard, Second Life is an online virtual world populated by millions of people across the globe. In the Second Life world you can be almost anyone you want to be, do almost anything you want to do, and have almost anything you want to have. Check out a previous article to get a more in depth…
One of the things I did when I returned from ArtFest was repurpose my old, barely-used sketchbooks into art journals. This is the one I’m in now. It’s small (9X6), so I thought I could use it for funky lists and teeny collage bits.
It’s been a hard summer, bipolar-wise. The rapid cycling twirls like a toddler in a tutu. The mixed states tumble around like Bingo balls. I’m a little dizzy from all that brain-flux. And discouraged.
I’ve learned a lot from all these years of Bipolar Bad-Assery and Radical Acceptance. I’m much kinder to myself and able to be whatever my brain chemistry dictates. But some days are just God-awful. Period.
So, I wanted to use my journal as a more deliberate form of therapy. I decided on trying An Alphabet of Gratitude.
Each spread has a side for a list of what I’m grateful for (all starting with the same letter) and a side to create some little piece of art relating to the list. I made pretty paper out of my parent’s old farm ledgers, painted the 26 spreads funky colors and textures, then started pondering the positives in my life.
There’s a lot. We all have tons of wonderful things, people, places, talents, events that are easy to forget in this weird world. And because I have a whole page to fill with all the same letter, some of my treasures get ridiculous and very specific, which tickles me. Laughing is a good thing for persistent bipolarism. Laughing is good for everything.
I work on it every day, writing down random loves and appreciation. It doesn’t take away The Black, but it does help me pull in The Light. I can sit with that feeling of thankfulness and let it soak into my dry and sere places. It’s enough to get me through to the next day, which is all I need. Because with twirling and tumbling, a shift in mood is only a letter away.
I would love to say having my kid back to school has cured me of all mental woes. Sadly…it offers some relief yet introduces new stressors. Not the least of which has been her anger issues of the last week where she balls her fists up, gets in your face, and screams or threatens you. I used to think, well, it’s just me she does it to, must be some parental defiance issue. Now she’s started doing it to her beloved devil girls and said at church tonight she even “got mad at God and almost lashed out”. Then she came home and lashed out at me some more.
I can see a psych referral in her future since the anger/tantrums are getting worse and expanding toward others.
The last 3 mornings I have used as self recovery time. I am not one for naps or coming home and going back to sleep but this week…Three mornings in a row I returned to fort blankie after getting the kid delivered to school and I snoozed.
And still have managed to get “petri dish” chores done. Like getting my cousin a pizza for his 18th bday (two days after the fact but whatevs.) I went to Aldi for groceries. I returned a lamp to the post office for R.
The most daunting was the trip into the public aid office to drop off our med card renewal. Stood there waiting for 15 minutes. Maybe ten people there but it felt crowded to me. I sweat buckets. My stomach churned in a spaztic colon way. My heart pounded. I got dizzy. It was disconcerting to have such extreme physical symptoms for something that was so simple.
What made it worthwhile was when I asked about an appointment and she said we’d get that done right now. She asked me two questions about the child support coming from state disbursement, told me the interview was over, and I’d hear from them. Well, hell, if all interviews were that quick and easy, it’d make the panic less. Maybe.
Family drama out the yin yang. My mom called me crying the other day as her brother, only remaining sibling (she was kid number ten) is in the hospital with cancer and it does not look good. Short of the one brother who got killed in a car wreck, mom has lost EVERY sibling to cancer. Good genetics are not on me and Spook’s side.
Dad and his woman showed up Saturday, bitching about my overgrown yard and how it was going to get me evicted. (When in fact, it was the landlord’s lazy ass employee who put down some weed killer, weed whacked a bit, and did not mow a square of grass as I requested.) My kid made a comment about, “Mommy wants a pet snake.” And yeah, I had a ball python (who froze to death when I was hospitalized and my jackass family turned te heat off in the apartment) at one time and I loved her and I want another snake even if I have to buy it for myself as a Christmas gift.
Dad tore into me about how I don’t have the money to feed myself properly.
Yes, I lost six pounds, I must be starving.
Such a dick. Not like I said I’d be getting a snake any time soon. Besides, once you’ve got the terrarium and heat rock/lighting, a small snake like my Ophelia would eat a mouse every three weeks, if that. As if my cats are fed that cheap!
Just such a benign thing for my kid to throw out there, his was an overreaction, a judgment, and not his fucking business anyway. Nor is my damned lawn.
My mom called to guilt trip me about how they have no food and (<insert unrelated bums>) were buying them groceries so my nephew would have food.
Yeah, totally on me that my sister lost her primary job (apparently telling your boss she’s not a nice person results in firing), mom decides the 18 year old with no job HAS to have a shiny 09 to cruise in which means two hundred bucks a month insurance…
I. don’t. get. my. family.
Sunday, Dad and his sasquatch were so seriously worried about my pending eviction due to the lawn they brought a mower to town and mowed the yard for me. Then said, “We’d charge anyone else forty bucks for that.”
I didn’t fucking ask them to do it.
The next day I had to go by to see my nephew at Mom’s and she informs me that my dad is going around telling her and my sister that I am in some sort of blind jealousy over this car she got for my nephew. Which just blindsided me because I hate newer cars. I am very content with the old Buick. There’s not a single feature on that newer car that I find appealing. So why my dad is saying I am jealous…Then she snapped at me not to mention to him that she told me cos then he’d be calling my sister and yelling at her for blabbing…
Surely, dear friends, you can see why I avoid my family at all costs. They are backstabbing, two faced asshats trying to start a war. I have enough drama trying to referee my kid’s social life, fuck all this family in fighting.
Dad further insulted me by asking me to bring Spook to see them. Well, they live 12 miles out of town, that’s 24 miles round trip, and I am getting good gas mileage but now that I have to take her to school daily…I can’t do it. Does he proffer a fiver? Offer to get me a gift card at the gas station? No. He just berates me for not having money saved up.
Now I didn’t graduate properly, I got a Good Enough Diploma, but I am pretty damned sure that it is IMPOSSIBLE to save if you’ve got more going out than coming in.
I wanna say he’s senile but the sad fact, my dad’s always been a dickbag. Like when I got the death trap hauled off. Ok, the guy gave me $75 bucks. Dad asked for it back, since he did pay for the car and things were so tight for them. (They were in the middle of a three thousand dollar bathroom remodel.) I thought since I’d just filled the gas tank he might toss me a ten or a twenty. Nope. Not my warm fuzzy father.
And kicker- mom said he doesn’t pick on my sister the way he does on me. How did I get to be so special? Oh, riiight, I am the shame of his world, what with my “nit wit” pension disability check.
I try to keep it all in check, I know these people, family or not, are nuttier than most psych wards combined. It gets irksome.
So far, though…No mega calamities, we’re getting into a routine. Summer exhausted me so I think the morning naps may continue until I get to where I don’t need them. I’m not a daylight sleeper so if I am able to go back to sleep after a trip outside and with sun streaming in…Yeah, I’m tapped.
Of course, it could also be dealing w R and his militant love for Trump which he won’t back down on at all. I keep telling him “I don’t like either candidate and you can’t make me, so let’s agree to disagree or I’m not coming around anymore.”
Last night he said, “Whatever, goodnight” and walked away. Pouting like a child because he can’t force me to go against my own beliefs.
Reticent of my entire school life when the rednecks tried to get me trade in my black clothes and heavy metal for flannel and a Banjo.
Epic fails of history!
Now…Back to watching Dead Of Summer. A series about a kid’s camp built on satanic ritual and lore just feels like the right thing to watch now.
Yesterday I decided that I didn’t want to be lonely today. Most days I can’t do anything about it. Family dinner night though I can be outgoing and ask if people are gonna come.
Tonight my MiL and SiL are both here and it’s nice to hear conversation going on in the house. Especially since I can quietly listen and just enjoy myself. Which I am gonna keep this post short so I can do just that!