Taking a cue from both TheBloggess and my own life currently, I will address mental and chronic illness and sex and love.
HOW HAS MENTAL ILLNESS AFFECTED YOU PERSONALLY? WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM IT THAT MIGHT HELP OTHERS?
I didn’t start to define myself as chronically ill until a couple of months ago. The term floated in and out of my consciousness a few times–my migraines has been worsening over the last few years, to the point that I had more migraines than days without–but I resisted. I’ve done the same with terms like depression and anxiety–embracing them as descriptors sometimes and rejecting them at others.
I deal with depression and anxiety, with migraines, high blood pressure, and early-onset arthritis. Sometimes these things feed into one another. The migraines apparently caused the high blood pressure, which caused more migraines, and so on. Being made to stay in bed upped both my depression and anxiety. I think the arthritis wanted to come hang out with my early gray hair (that showed up in my teens!), but stuck around to pile on with the migraine party (it settled in my neck).
For me, depression has come in waves. There have been points in my life when I’ve been fine. There have been other points when I have been paralyzed, almost, from the inside out. I’m in one of those points now. I find it difficult to actually leave my apartment. I can think about it, I can make plans to do it–but the actual doing terrifies me sometimes. Depression and anxiety lie: they tell me that even my closest friends sneer at me, think terrible things of me, hate me–even though those same friends have never been anything but happy to see me, kind and loving and full of laughter and support. And when I drop one thing, I often feel like I’ve dropped everything–even when that’s not true. It can lead to me dropping everything, though. And that can very easily, very quickly spiral into the deepest, darkest pit.
I’m fortunate that I have the community I do around me. I didn’t realize it when I started building it, but I have been working toward what polyamorous comic KimchiCuddles calls Kitchen Table Poly:
I have a fantastic wife. I have a fantastic boyfriend/Daddy. I have a fantastic lover. My wife has a wonderful girlfriend, and another flirty friend who is dating one of our best friends–someone we consider part of our polycule as a chosen sibling, because we’ve been friends that long and that closely.
I have learned that when the darkest darkness shows up, I not only can but also should call my wife home from work. I have only done that once–but she came, and that was enough, and she held me. I have learned that a cat’s purr is magic, and that it can be recreated online for free. I have learned that crying can be healing, and that sitting in the sunlight–just sitting, even for 20 minutes, even if I’m in my pajamas with my hair unbrushed–really can help. I have learned to just walk away from Facebook, politics, e-mail when they start to overwhelm–and I’ve learned to say when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
Every area of my life has been affected by both my mental and chronic illnesses. Where I used to deal with my depression and social anxiety by talking with people online/having lots of sex online, I have for the past year or two had almost zero energy for either. I’ve had very little social interaction with anyone not living with me, which has severely limited my world. I’m incredibly grateful to the few people who take the time out of their lives to reach out to me on social media or e-mail (though the phone ringing still scares the bejeezus out of me), even when I’m avoiding those platforms for other things. I’m grateful to the people who find me on Skype, who will come find me in my chosen MMO when I have the energy to get into it. I’m thankful for the days I can load the dishwasher, for the patience of my wife and boyfriend/Daddy as I find myself in a really disabled spot, and of my lover as he has to figure me out from a distance.
When I started to get some energy back, I found out that I couldn’t always have online sex with my long-distance lover–because of the arthritis in my neck. Or, more accurately, I could–but it would result in days of pain afterward in my shoulder. Using my dominant arm/hand means pain for days, even for masturbation. My wife, wonder that she is, offered to help in that department, but I pointed out that a) she’s not always home/awake when lover and I might want to play and b) it’s not necessarily fair to all involved to make her be involved in such a way–though it was very sweet of her to offer. This has been a huge adjustment for my lover and I to make. It can be very very frustrating to want and be unable.
I’ve had to learn that for me, right now, solid plans are nearly a no-go. I’ve got plans to get my grandma to see her nephew in another state–something that’s been in the works for years now and needs to happen before she dies (she was diagnosed as terminally ill with cancer a year ago and is somehow, miraculously less cancer-cell-ridden now than she was then, though not cured)–and that’s the most solid plan I have made right now. Everything else is soft, because even with medication, I don’t know when the next migraine will come. The preventative helps–but leaves me exhausted. I can take one that will help kill the pain in 2-4 hours as well once the first signs of migraine show up–but will also leave me nauseated. Choices, choices. Either way, not great for plans. I’m re-learning how to live my life.
I have dreams–dreams that involve being able to hold down a solid schedule. I don’t know if those dreams will have to change. I had hoped to create an interfaith center focused on sexuality and gender, but that seems ever more distant a dream right now. I may need to stick to research, to papers, to hinge on books and independent academia–dicey at best. But then, all academia is a dicey prospect, whether attached to an institution or not.
At the very least, I have options. And I do have hopes, dreams. If I cannot do what I first intended, perhaps I can inspire others in that path. And perhaps I can still do it. Perhaps I will become stronger, I will get out of this current low point, I will strengthen my neck and shoulder somehow, I will find a drug that doesn’t tire/nauseate me, I will find good therapy. My lover will move here, my kitchen table poly will be stronger, my sex life will get better, my boyfriend/Daddy’s arms will always be there, my wife will always hold me. These are the things I hold onto.