[Author’s Note: Honestly, i’m working on getting into a regular posting routine. i really want to start posting at least once a week, if not more often. Lately, though, i’ve just been blocked up entirely for writing. i started a NaNoWriMo project again this year, and didn’t get very far at all. So here i am, trying to get things flowing again by just posting whatever the hell comes to me. i’ve got lots of thoughts and feelings, and they’re kind of a jumbled mess in my head right now. So, in a desperate attempt to actually impose a bit of order on this disaster area, perhaps the best thing to do is to just give an update on the state of affairs in my life right now in something approaching chronological order. Update: Well, this took me the past two days to actually get written, and it took me into some pretty dark territory. This also turned out to be really long, but i hope at least some of you will stick with me until the end, because i feel a need to share all of this. Trigger Warning: Suicide/Suicidal Ideation]
The obvious place to begin is at the beginning of this last month. i had another seizure. i had another seizure behind the wheel of a car. i crashed another car because i had a seizure behind the wheel. i crashed another car and totaled it because i had a seizure behind the wheel. This time it was my father’s 2006 Jetta TDI. i was driving his car that day because he and i had done some work on my 2002, but we had forgotten to reattach something when we closed it back up. i had to get to a counseling appointment that evening, and the fix was kind of a one-person job anyway, so he told me to go on while he finished it up.
i almost made it to Saddlebrooke.
As i passed 176, i started to feel that sort of dizzy, dissociative feeling that tends to precede a seizure. Unfortunately, i didn’t have enough time to do anything about it before the main event struck. i woke up to find myself surrounded by first responders, 180 feet off the highway in the bottom of a ravine. It is only through a stroke of sheer luck that i didn’t flip the vehicle, instead going straight down a sort of path down the hill. It was still obviously a pretty nasty ride–the bottom of the car was almost totally ripped out, and the airbags deployed when i stopped. i also banged up my knee and got a bruise on my thigh, along with a pretty bad bruise on the forehead that took a couple of days to clear up.
i can still see the broken car, lying wounded at the bottom of the ravine, hazard lights flashing in a sort of mute cry of anguish, when i close my eyes sometimes.
Needless to say, i didn’t make it to my counseling appointment, and i haven’t been able to make it to one since the accident, because i’m back to not driving until February. i had an appointment with my neurologist a few days later, and informed him that the seizure had occurred after i had only missed a single dose of medication. He said this was not normal at all. i asked him if there was any possibility that the seizure had broken through because i’ve been on the same medication for close to 15 years, and he agreed that that might be an issue. So we’re switching my medication to another one that he says should work better and should also come with fewer side effects once we get the therapeutic dosage built up and wean me off the old one.
So between the accident itself and other things that have been happening in my life, i’ve been pretty deeply depressed.
On top of it all, i’ve been having what i can only describe as a severe “crisis of faith” when it comes to my future in education, or at the very least in K-12 education. All of the various hoops i’m having to jump through are just par for the course, but they make it really difficult for me to allow my passion for literature (one of the big selling points for teaching for me) to really shine through, and even discounting all of that, so many of the students are just not buying what i’m selling. i’ve tried to make it relate to them, to bring the literature into current events and even things in their life, but the apathy level is remaining unchanged for a large plurality of those who i teach. So that’s discouraging me to begin with, and i realize that i’m discouraged and am trying not to make any rash decisions from a place of frustration alone.
But there’s more to this story.
About a month or so ago, i was approached by a student who wanted to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at our school and wanted to ask me to be the faculty sponsor. He was already a member of my D&D Club and recognized the HRC sticker on my laptop, so he had a feeling that i would be willing, or at least friendly to the idea. i agreed, and gave him a bit of guidance in creating a mission statement and focus for the group so that he could more effectively present it to the administration. He apparently took this as carte blanche to create posters and try to get administration to approve their posting in the halls.
So about two weeks ago, i got called into my building principal’s office. He had a copy of the poster the student had submitted and a number of questions. He also had, and still has, no idea that i am pansexual and Gender Fluid. He had, however, done some homework on GSAs after the student had submitted the posters, so his questions were educated and well-reasoned. He agreed that the GSA would be something that could benefit the school, but only in a very low-key and careful way. He was concerned about the very conservative, often outright homophobic attitudes and culture among many students in the school. He also urged me to be careful myself as the advisor in how much direct involvement i had with the group itself, especially when it came to the possibility of parent backlash.
i wanted to respond with something like this: “The conservative and homophobic culture of this school is one of the biggest reasons we need to have a GSA. We need to provide a safe space for our LGBT+ students, and they need a place where they can be themselves, or even come out. Moreover, studies have shown that when people actually know individuals of an identity that they do not understand, phobic attitudes tend to diminish or even disappear. A GSA might be exactly the sort of thing this school needs to help counter the ignorant culture that is so endemic to this area.”
What i actually said was this: “i understand, sir.”
More reason to retreat deeper into my personal closet. i began to have this feeling come over me that i would never really be able to be entirely my true self if i stayed in K-12 education. There will likely always be issues like homophobic parents to worry about and give me reason to stay in my closet and not risk exposure.
Then i went to Skepticon, and, like previous years, i had a great time. i got to see some really interesting talks given by speakers who in many cases i had not previously encountered. The nice thing about Skepticon is that they commit themselves to a pursuit of diversity in their guests and speakers. So some of the real standouts for me this year included ex-Muslim Heina Dadabhoy talking about cultural taboos, author Sheree Renee Thomas talking about writing and suicide prevention (ironically enough, given where this is headed), and queer activist Kayley Whalen talking about Transgender Day of Remembrance and issues (and dangers) faced by Trans* people. And i picked up a copy of Greta Christina’s latest book, Coming Out Atheist: How To Do It, How To Help Each Other, and Why. It was a good convention.
One of the other highlights of Skepticon this year was the “Dino Prom,” basically a dance. All manner of attire was encouraged at the dance, from formal, to casual, to cosplay. So i decided to go to it in a very Gender Fluid manner. i wore a button-down dress shirt with my Ravenclaw tie, a waist cincher, a long black skirt, black heels (that i made it an hour in before changing into low wedges that i had also brought along), and some relatively subtle make-up. The idea was to straddle the line between the two binary gender presentations.
It was a fun time, and it was the first time that i had really gone for an extended period of time in anything really approaching public while presenting as anything other than male or neutral-assumed-male. There is a picture of this outfit. Some of my readers have seen it. For reasons of maintaining the (apparently crumbling) pseudonymous nature of this blog, i will obviously not be posting it. The highlight of the evening was when Kayley Whalen complimented my outfit and told me i looked very feminine! That was a really good feeling.
My high from Skepticon (and attending my support group meetings after the close of the convention) crashed pretty hard into the cold reality of Monday morning and returning to work at school. Skepticon always has a tendency to stoke the fires of activism in my belly, and this year was no exception; it was actually the strongest it’s ever been. The situation in which i have found myself ever since beginning my gender journey has only served to create an even sharper contrast between my activist leanings and the closeted, inactive life i find myself leading in order to play it safe professionally. The truth of the matter is that if i could find a way to engage in activism that reflected my values and the truth of my existence, and would also pay me a living wage, i would probably jump at the opportunity without a second thought. i’ve been thinking A LOT about trying to find some sort of work along the lines of Atheism+, combining the drive for more secular values in government and society with other intersectional issues like LGBT+ rights and acceptance, feminism, etc. Unfortunately, i don’t know that an opportunity to work in this realm in a full time manner and still feed myself currently exists…
In any event, the force of the snapback dropped me firmly back into the depression i had briefly begun to rise out of, and then… Thanksgiving. Holidays suck, because holidays mean being stuck with family and not being able to escape. This Thanksgiving was no different. Instead of the usual guests from my father’s side of the family, this year we had my mother’s side of the family over, and this invariably brings out the worst in my mother. This time was no different, the fat-shaming and attacks on my introverted nature that have been historic issues with my mother came out of the woodwork in force. By the end of the week, i was barely speaking to anyone at all, because i had been stuck in energy-draining socializing with no reasonable escape for several days and hadn’t been able to recharge effectively.
On top of that, one of my uncles is a rather ignorant individual. He is, quite frankly, a racist, homophobic, classist conspiracy theorist who loves to make his opinions known. When he’s not waxing rhapsodic on one of those subjects, he can be endearing and downright funny, but get him on one of his tirades and he is positively insufferable. This is made all the worse for me by his homophobia, as i have not come out to him about anything. For example, at one point he was talking about how much he enjoyed watching the television show The Big Bang Theory. He mentioned what a talented actor Jim Parsons is, but then he had to go off on a tangent about Jim Parsons being gay and how that creeped him out. That was a lovely conversation to sit silently through, let me tell you…
At any rate, i came through Thanksgiving week alive, if practically mute, and after the guests left i was verbally attacked directly by my mother on the issue of the amount of time i spent looking at my cell phone during the course of the holiday break while others were around. It was the only really viable way i had to escape at least somewhat from the constant social time and get a tiny little energy boost from checking out of the situation in short bursts. The only other option was to go for the tried and true introvert method of hiding in the bathroom, but the aforementioned uncle also has the unfortunate habit of teasing me if i spend too much time in the bathroom, so it wasn’t the best way to go. Either way, the haranguing from my mother was just a great way to cap off such a lovely week.
Also, before they left, my other uncle told me that he thought i seemed like i was the happiest, or at least most content with life, that he had seen me in some time. If he only knew…
As my sister parted company with us to go through airport security, it occurred to me that my mother will most likely never cry as hard when we part company than she does every time my sister leaves town… even when they’ve moved out of state. On one hand, it probably shouldn’t bother me that much… she’s been a source of emotional and verbal abuse since i’ve been a child. On the other hand, like it or not, she’s still my mother, and there’s not much i can do about that.
But then i had to go and reinforce some of my mother’s words. On Sunday, i went to my support groups, and it was a good time. In fact, i probably talked more at one of the groups that night than i’ve talked at previous meetings. Afterward, however, as is our wont, we went out to dinner. This time it was at a restaurant with an eating challenge. The challenge was to eat a four-pound bacon cheeseburger and a pound of fries in under an hour. i wanted to try it, because i’ve done other food-related challenges at other restaurants, and i may still have a touch of lingering youthful invincibility that pops its head up every once in a while. So i decided to try it.
You all know how this is going to end, right? Well, it’s worse than you might think…
The food came out, and it was pretty impressive. The fries essentially filled a basket, and the burger took up an entire plate and was divided into nine sections slightly larger than a slider in diameter (but much taller). At the outset, it looked like it would be a manageable task. i only had to divide up the time by the number of mini-tasks contained by the challenge, in this case ten. It started out great; i had the fries done ahead of schedule, and i got through the first four sectors of the burger with little trouble. When i hit the fifth sector, at the geographic center of the burger where all the patties overlapped, my speed was severely reduced. i never really recovered from that slowdown, but i pushed myself anyway through Sectors 6 and 7, getting to Sector 8 with a mere 15 minutes remaining. In Sector 8, all of the wind went out of my sails. i felt horrible, and i just couldn’t manage to get another bite down. i tried to force myself once more before finally admitting defeat about three quarters of the way through the section.
After conceding, i proceeded to the restroom, but i didn’t just use the restroom for its standard function. i threw up. i fucking threw up. i ate so much food that i couldn’t hold it all down. As much as i joke about gluttony being my second favorite of the Seven Deadly Sins, i’ve never actually eaten so much that my stomach has forcibly ejected it because it was too much to contain. i became a living stereotype and practically reaffirmed every incident of fat shaming i’ve been subjected to in my entire life. After having such a nice day on Sunday, it basically soured the whole works and brought back all the depression and anxiety i had been feeling previously. And i kind of hated myself for it.
But the self-loathing i felt over that doesn’t hold a candle to what i’ve been feeling about a different situation i’ve gotten myself into. As i mentioned earlier, i’ve been in something of a writing drought this past month or so. Well it hasn’t just extended to personal writings. i’ve also been unable to produce for my practicum class that i’ve been taking this semester. There was one particularly massive paper in particular that has been looming over my shoulder for the past few weeks, and i haven’t been able to get it churned out. Every time i’ve sat down to write, my mind has just not been able to engage with the subject matter. After having written so much in this blog entry, i think a lot of the problem may have just been that i needed to get all of this shit out first before i could write good academic stuff. i hope that’s the case, at any rate. i’d rather it not be a side effect of the new medications i’m on for the epilepsy.
In any event, this all came to head for me on Monday, because said humongous paper was due, and despite the fact that i got a snow day due to short-lived sleet showers at bus time that morning, i still couldn’t manage to force myself to pump this thing out… and i’m usually a really good last-minute clutch writer in situations like that. But i couldn’t get it down, and the self-loathing i felt because i couldn’t manage to do the thing that i needed to do only made the mental block even worse. i finally wound up e-mailing the professor, letting her know the situation–the complete situation, including the seizure, accident, new meds, and depression–and asking if there was any way i could get an extension. It sounded like nothing more than lame excuses to me as i wrote it, but it was all the account of myself that i could give. i then spent the rest of the day despising myself and doing my best to relax and take care of myself despite that.
Yesterday morning i got an e-mail from the professor telling me that she was going to put me down as an Incomplete for the semester and work with me over Winter Break to try to get everything completed before the next class in the sequence is scheduled to start in January. i guess that’s as good a resolution as i could have hoped for…
Amid all of this overwhelming negativity, i’ve also come to a realization that is, quite frankly, incredibly amazing, and i’m still trying to wrap my head around it a bit. For a long time i’ve been thinking about the idea of the “family of choice”: the people in your life who you choose to be the closest people to you, who will support you no matter what, often moreso than your family of birth. It’s been a term that i’ve used primarily to describe the old core group of friends who i lived and spent time with in Columbia while i was up there, but the fact is that my family of choice is larger than that. The fact that i’ve been working on wrapping my head around over the past few weeks is that i have this amazing extended family of choice that spans a number of states.
It is odd, coming from a place of depression, to realize that there are actually a lot of people who are happy, excited even, to see me when they can… who will go out of their way and put themselves out in order to accommodate me or ensure that i can be present for a planned activity… who stop what they are doing and contact me to make sure that i am alright when i express even a small portion of what is roiling and churning inside me… who really do love me in a familial sense of the word, and will continue to do so and stand with me no matter what i might do or how horribly i might fuck up. It’s refreshing, especially when compared with the feeling i generally get from my family of birth. It has me positively floored, really, mostly because i can’t figure out why.
And that’s really the hell of my mental state lately. i expressed some of these feelings to one of my closest friends in the entire universe. She asked me to tell her what reasons i thought my family of choice might have for loving me and standing with me. i had trouble coming up with even one answer to that question. i am still struggling with it. The one reason i was able to come up with is that i am always willing to listen, even if it means i have to stop my world to do so. Aside from that, though… i don’t know. And this has really pushed me a little further into depression as i think about it. Because i have come to this world-changing, words-can’t-describe-how-awesome-it-really-is discovery, and not even that has shaken me out of this existential crisis. How much of an ungrateful asshole must i be?
So this is the life cocktail i’ve been sipping from for the past few weeks. And it comes with a garnish: suicidal ideation… or at least increased suicidal ideation. For as long as i can remember, i’ve had at least a touch of ideation operating in the background and popping into my head every once in a while. i haven’t had it this serious in a long while, though. Especially recently, i’ve just felt trapped in situations, mostly of my own making, and unprepared to face implications or fallout (especially as my mother is concerned) of the situations in which i have found myself. i am generally naturally inclined to choose flight over fight, and my response has been to consider flight from life even more. Sometimes, somewhat seriously. There have been several occasions when i’ve looked at the roof of the Hilton in Downtown Branson, and it has seemed kind of inviting. i’ve wondered how difficult the roof access would be to find. Riding in my parents’ car, i’ve thought about pulling the handle and bailing out into traffic. i’ve even toyed with the idea of writing a note, so that there would definitely be something left behind just in case i did something impulsive like that.
i write all of this now not to attempt to curry sympathy or shock, but to truly express the things that i have been feeling and bottling up inside myself for a long time. For those whose response might be that choosing to end my life is selfish or cowardly, i have to ask what saying something like that to me is supposed to accomplish if i already feel bad enough about myself to no longer really want to live inside my own head anymore. Just a little food for thought, i guess, regardless of what your personal thoughts are on the idea. Truthfully, though, it has been the awesome realizations about my extended family of choice that have kept me from making any serious plans.
In any event, i’ve been doing slightly better since hearing back from the professor, but the thoughts and anxiety are still there, just below the surface, almost as if they’re waiting for a new excuse to come out. i’m not really sure what the answer is. i definitely need to get back to counseling, but beyond that, i’m totally bewildered as to where my life is going, or even precisely who i am sometimes.