We Look Like You

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I’ve heard it a few times before.

“You don’t look like you’re crazy.”

But what exactly does mental illness look like?

I sat in my DBT group today and couldn’t stay focused. I spent some time looking around at our group of 10 people, 12 if you count the instructors (who, as Social Workers, most likely have diagnoses of their own, it’s pretty common) and we are all different shapes, sizes, ages, backgrounds and education levels. This class is taught in modules with a few of us switching out every month and with me on my 37th week, I’ve seen a lot of people come through here. We all look different, we all have different stories.

None of us “look crazy.”

Well, maybe a few of us, especially those of us with pink and purple hair, and bright pink unicorn covered skirts and sparkly rainbow Docs.

That’s me, maybe I look a little crazy.

The other day on mobility there was a huge mix up and I got stuck on the bus without a drop off scheduled. “It’s really important that I don’t miss my therapy appointment, is this fixable quickly?”

“What? Are you one of those bipolar people, turn into the she-hulk or something, start hitting people with trash cans?” I told him it wasn’t quite like that. He says, “I don’t know, you look like you’ve got a streak in ya.”

What exactly does that streak look like? And we won’t go into just how wrong that entire conversation was, fuck that nonsense.

But, mental illness doesn’t have a look, and I’m amazed that there are people who think it does. It’s part of the stigma that still attached. You’re crazy therefore you must be visibly ill, visibly disheveled, you must wear it like a scarlet letter.

What exactly does mental illness look like?

It looks just like me.

It looks just like my neighbor down the street.

It looks just like that law student.

It looks just like that therapist.

It looks just like that EMT.

It looks just like your doctor.

It looks just like you.

Head In The Sand

This is a Really Real Post.

I’ve had this post floating around in my head for most of the day.

Little bits and pieces of it coming to me, but for the most part I’ve been unsure how to put it into words. Now that I’m putting fingers to keys I keep writing and erasing because nothing I put seems to fit quite right. Nothing really gets to the point I’m trying to make.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t figured out what point I’m trying to make.

This week as soon as Wonder Woman shared the article pointing out that J.K. Rowling is a TERF, I deleted the Harry Potter game I had just started enjoying. I’m kinda bummed that I haven’t read some of the newer books, but now I never will. I won’t get into the politics of it, I won’t get into an argument about it, I just won’t support a person who follows that many people who hate my fiancee just for existing. I won’t support a person who very likely, herself, hates my fiancee just for existing.

For those who aren’t aware of the terminology, TERF is Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist. They have a lot of hatred towards trans people, trans women specifically. I don’t really want to spend this post writing about it, but feel free to do your own research.

Before I started dating Wonder Woman I wouldn’t have worried about this, though. It wouldn’t have been a blip on my radar.

Just like before I came out as some version of queer, I ate at Chick-fil-a, and didn’t think twice.

Just like before I lost my wife to suicide I used the phrases committed suicide and Russian Roulette and did the finger gun to the head bit.

Once we know better we do better, hopefully.

Sometimes, well, often, we learn more because the world hands us a big helping of life experience and we have to take our head out of the sand.

I’ve gotten a few messages from friends who feel that, because I’m trans-adjacent, I’m a good person to ask about Harry Potter this, or J.K. Rowling that. I appreciate that the discussion is being had. I’m glad they care enough to think about it instead of moving blindly forward with their head still buried. Please keep the discussion going. But the fact is, each of us has to decide what we’re comfortable with. Just because I deleted my game and won’t read the books I haven’t read yet, doesn’t mean you’ll make the same decision. And I won’t tell you to.

But I also won’t tell you it’s fine if you keep doing it.

I’m still not sure what my point is.

But it really pisses me off that now I need to figure out how to separate the author from the world I spent my pregnancy engrossed in. I have fond memories of reading those books, fond memories of falling asleep to the movies with my late wife.

But that doesn’t change what I’ve learned.

And now that I know better, I’ll do better.

How far?

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I’ve written about this before, but it’s been getting worse again and I feel like not enough people talk about this type of mental health. It seems too “strange” to put it into words, and also, everyone experiences it differently which makes it harder to find commonalities. The typical type of dissociation that everyone can relate to, is zoning out when driving and having no real memory of going from point A to point B, maybe even driving home when you meant to go to the store because you were so out of it and just automatically followed your normal route.

This is my experience of it.

It happens at least once a day right now, but sometimes twice, or even three times. Sometimes more, maybe, I didn’t always count. But, I’ve started keeping track on my DBT diary card.

How big are my hands? Definitely too big for my body.

How far away is my computer screen? Why is it across the room when I’m sitting right here?

Why are sounds echoing when the room hasn’t changed?

My face seems to flicker, it feels like trying to watch something on Pay Per View when you didn’t pay for it, back in the days when that was a thing.

A mouth feel like biting on Styrofoam, and a taste to go with it. I don’t actually know what Styrofoam tastes like, but this must be it.

Why is everything too small for my hands?

How far does my spoon have to travel from my bowl to my face? Feeding myself becomes a chore, no longer an automatic task.

Don’t forget to chew.

My thoughts are slowed, I feel as if my speech is too. Those around me say they can’t notice anything different.

Derealization.

Dissociation.

Having names for it helps. It is a known thing, just a shift in my perception of reality, nothing has actually changed. Knowing I don’t seem to act differently to anyone else helps too.

I’ve learned to just keep moving through it, not let it stop me from whatever I was doing. It seems to pass quicker that way.

Some people are able to identify triggers that bring these episodes on. I haven’t found any regular ones yet. I know that talking about it makes it try to happen, but I can often fight that. I’ve been holding it back the entire time I’ve been writing this. Sometimes it happens when I’m bored and lost in thought, other times when I’ve read too long at the computer, sometimes when I’m stressed, sometimes when I’m happy, sometimes none of those seem to apply.

For some people grounding helps bring them out of an episode. For me, ignoring it and moving forward helps better. Grounding or mindfulness exercises just makes me focus on it and gives it more power.

Is dissociation something you cope with? If you feel comfortable sharing, let me know what yours feels like and your coping methods.

Lets shine some light into all of those dark spaces and help end the stigma.

 

One Little Piece of Bone

This is a Really Real Widow Post.

Parker tripped off a step.

She was taking Siah out for a walk, something that fell on her shoulders far more often than mine, and Siah went the wrong way around the porch rail. Parker lost her footing and tripped off the edge of the porch.

She broke the tip of her bone, in a non weight bearing area that normally causes some pain but doesn’t even keep people off of their feet. Most people don’t even realize they broke it.

But hers never healed and 3 years ago today she went into surgery to have it removed and have some ligaments and tendons moved around so everything would heal properly.

I took some pictures and a video of her that day in the pre-surgery room.

She hated me taking her picture.

I’m kinda glad she did because it allowed me to get “the Parker look” on video.

She was still wearing the boot from surgery the day she died.

These next few weeks are a series of memories leading up to the day she died. These next few weeks are the final moments. The tension, the struggle. Things just weren’t right and I didn’t see it.

But it wasn’t my job to.

I can’t believe it’s been a full three years.

But I can’t believe it’s only been three years.

Time is a dichotomy.

I’ve felt this grief building in my gut since the beginning of the month, I knew it was coming.

But I’m not sad right now. I’m grieving for sure, but it’s not the gut punching sadness.

It’s hard to explain.

I miss her. I miss who she was and who she would be now.

I miss the Parker look when I would do something supremely unhelpful to the situation.

But I’m not sad. This isn’t that kind of grief.

I’m at peace with where life is right now.

But I also know that may change over the coming weeks as it gets closer to June 8th.

I hope she’s at peace where ever she is.

I don’t have a specific believe in an afterlife, but I don’t have a non-belief either. I know she’s somewhere even if it’s just the ashes in a box. She still exists either as matter or a soul, somewhere.

I hope she’s at peace, where ever that is.

She spent too much of her life not at peace.

One little piece of bone.

That’s all she broke.

 

 

Oh no . . . That’s today.

scientific calculator ii

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

Mentally, I still feel like shit.

But a little less like shit then I felt yesterday, so that’s a plus, I guess.

The difference between, I really want to die

and

I just don’t want to live.

And for those who have never been here, there’s a distinctive difference.

Today is a good day for that difference, because today I have a final exam to go take for my health class.

A final exam that I may not have shown up for yesterday, but today I’ll at least show up.

I all but aced my English class.  Two points shy of a perfect score.  I’m still waiting on a few grades to come back from health, but I think I’ll pull at least a b, depends on how I do on this final that I didn’t study for.

Yesterday was rough. I spent most of the day in bed with covers over my head. I got up to cook but didn’t clean and my sink is overflowing with dishes.

We had dill pickle chicken wings for dinner which were both amazing and time consuming. Even though I baked them, my house smells like fried food, which is kind of annoying.

When I’m depressed like that I’m also super triggery, although I hate the word trigger. But the wrong sound from a video game or the wrong scene in a movie will go straight through me and I’ll need to run and hide, or I’ll want to fight back against it. But I can’t find my words to ask Wonder Woman to turn the TV down or that I can’t handle that movie right now. Sometimes I’ll put headphones in so that I’m not a bother, so that I can just zone out into my own world at the computer.

Other times I run away to the bedroom, into my safe space. Under my down comforter with the covers pulled up over my head. Just enough light filters through that it’s not completely dark in there. The sound is muffled like when there’s a few feet of snow outside.

I feel safe.

I always quietly hope that Wonder Woman will eventually come and check on me even if I can’t quite tell her all of what is wrong.

She is part of my safe space.

I also hate that I just walk away without telling her that I’m going. Words are hard when I feel like that. I want to shrink into my own skin.

I don’t want to admit that I need to hide from the world and speaking it out loud makes it too real.

Makes it too noticeable.

Makes me feel like I’m over reacting.

Like I’m being a drama queen.

But today is better. Today the sounds aren’t quite as loud and I don’t need to run.

Today I don’t want to die.

I’m just not quite sure I’m ready to live.

Shining light on all my dark splotches

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

I just left therapy where we talked a lot about body image and why I am no longer able to be body positive like I once was.

I am pissed off at the body I inhabit.  I hate the skin that I am in.

At one point I worked out and I felt stronger, I lost weight, I felt I had control and was able to change the shape of this body of mine.

Now I have no control.

Medications have taken that control from me.

The same medication that reduced my suicidal thoughts has increased my weight and changed the distribution of my weight so that my abdomen is larger.

I am pissed off at the body I inhabit.  I hate the skin I am in.

I have an auto-inflammatory condition called hidradenitis suppurativa.

It causes painful abscesses, wounds, and tracts to develop in hair follicles and sweat glands in my underarms, breasts and groin.  When they heal they leave behind scar tissue.

My body is attacking itself.

I am pissed off at the body I inhabit. I hate the skin I am in.

Parker once asked me if I had to tell people I had HS. She was affirming that it was something to be ashamed of, something to hide.

I am afraid of sex, afraid of being seen naked because I’m fat and covered in sores and scar tissue. I can’t imagine that anyone, even Wonder Woman, would want to look at me. I hide my body. I have to fight against my own brain whenever I undress in front of her.

I am pissed off at the body I inhabit. I hate the skin I am in.

Even clothed I hate looking at myself in the mirror, my clothes no longer fit correctly, I’ve had to buy larger shirts. All I can see is my rolls and my fat. I see the parts of me that don’t fit in seats correctly.

“You’re pull up two chairs kinda big” is what my father once said.

I am pissed off at the body I inhabit. I hate the skin I am in.

I miss the days when I felt strong. I miss feeling beautiful.

I want to love the body I inhabit. Why can’t I love the skin I am in?

Maybe shining light on all of these dark thoughts is the beginning to loving myself again.

 

What If?

This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.

Anxiety is a bitch.

I’m in South Carolina this weekend, at my soon-to-be in-law’s, spending the Easter holiday with family.  But I’m anxious. What if I’m too much? What if I’m not enough? What if, what if, what if?

For the most part, I’m having fun.  Her mom is a wonderful person and it’s a blast to hear old family stories and learn about people I may never have a chance to meet.  It’s fun to learn where Wonder Woman came from.

But still I’m anxious.  

What if I say the wrong thing?  What if I act too weird? What if they don’t like me?

I asked Wonder Woman, before we got off the plane, “Will their opinion of me change how you feel about me?”  “Of course not!”

But anxiety is a bitch.

Soon we’ll head to Easter Dinner.  Nieces and Nephews and Sisters. More family, most of whom I’ve met before, but still I’m anxious.

What if I’m too much?  What if I’m not enough?

What if they’ve read all of the things I’ve posted on facebook and already decided that they can’t handle this much crazy?

What if none of this really matters anyway?

What if I just go and be myself and have a good time?

What if I just, for this once, stop worrying about all of the what if’s and instead focus on enjoying myself, being myself, and letting people take me or leave me as I am?

What if?

Happy Easter everyone!