My therapist pointed out that when I see her, I’m really good at being in my head and not in my feelings.
I think I’m like that nearly always, which is part of my depression. I’ve learned to disconnect head and feelings, which hurts–but it hurts less than being in my feelings. When I’m in my feelings, I hurt. When I’m not, it’s…numb-hurt, muted hurt.
I think part of it getting worse is that I don’t have a way to dive into a thing anymore. I used to do that with school. School was a Thing In Which I Could Progress, a thing in which I could immerse myself and be surrounded by all these other voices–current and past, living and dead. I could excel in school because I could put all my focus there and none on myself. It felt good. And I was still doing something ‘appropriate’ and ‘worthy.’
Then I fucked it up.
My final semester of seminary, I TAed for a class. I was also supposed to be signed up to take the course for credit, but I didn’t realize that. I’d been given conflicting information: told that if I was signed up for credit, I couldn’t TA, told that if I got paid I couldn’t get credit, told I could get credit in place of getting paid, told I had to get paid even if I was getting credit. All of these things came from different people, and I tried to fact-check myself, and got what I thought was an answer, so I followed it…but it turned out not to be right.
At the end of the semester–after I’d already been given my school’s highest scholastic award, and after I’d already accepted payment for the TA position (and been in almost every class for that position, as well as my regularly scheduled classes, and written my thesis)–I found out that I either shouldn’t have received credit or shouldn’t have been paid. But if I didn’t receive credit, I couldn’t graduate, and my award would have to be taken away–and the school thought I’d well earned it.
I almost wish they’d taken it away and given it to someone else, because knowing what I know now…I want to give all the money back, but of course it was already spent on groceries/bills.
Anyway, there’s part of me that feels like I don’t deserve to go on to get my PhD/ThD, because I fucked that up.
And because school has always been a ‘safe space’for me in terms of being able to hide…with that option seemingly lost to me, I feel at loose ends. I’m not sure there’s anything out there for me. So…I don’t know what to do.
I haven’t written in a little over a month because I’ve been dealing with anger, with being angry.
It’s a scary place for me.
So I’ve been running away, hiding. Mentally abusing myself for feeling anger. Verbally abusing myself, when there’s no one around to hear it. It’s a thing I can’t stop. I’ll think of all the things I should be doing, and all those shoulds that I’m not doing (no matter the reasons), and then “I hate myself” will pop out of my mouth, or “I’m not a good person” or “I’m a terrible person.”
Being alone has been hard.
Being with people has been hard.
I keep assuming that all the people I care about who aren’t around me every day, who don’t see my physical and mental struggles every day, must hate me. I keep assuming they think I’m terrible and a fake.
I keep wanting to take time away from what little activism I do, because my first response to it is anger.
I do some of my best writing in anger.
It’s a white-hot flash, an energy buzzing over me. I hum with it, almost sing in the clarity as words flow from brain to keyboard.
Whether I write or not, though–whether I publish or not–once the flow stops, something else happens.
If I write, usually I feel good. Usually, I write well, and I write something that I think furthers the cause, or helps my audience understand better.
But then there’s a crash.
If I don’t write…if I just press it down, ignore it, try to move on…I’m sad. I usually wind up more depressed.
The solution seems to be to write–but I don’t want to be angry all the time. I have these flashes of things to write about all the time, and I’d love to write more. I just don’t want to be angry all the time.
I have a complicated history with anger.
Anger–rage, really–prefaced many of my step-dad’s worst abusive bouts.
Anger had center stage at my grandparents’ dinner table when my dad was home, as he and my grandpa shouted at each other, red-faced over politics and mashed potatoes.
Anger fueled the retorts that protected me from more physical abuse, but also shamed my family.
Anger has made me feel both impotent and powerful, both clouded and clear.
I can’t trust it.
Anger scares me.
Anger is an appropriate response to social injustice, particularly when one experiences that injustice.
Often, we as a society treat anger as something totally unacceptable, particularly in women and people of color. I’m a white woman. I ‘win’ on the white front, but not the woman front. It’s never been acceptable for me to be angry, even when it was appropriate.
In my depression, I am deeply angry at myself for disappointing everyone (myself included). Sometimes I’m angry at my family for how they treated me growing up, but mostly I turn that rage inward.
I don’t want to always be angry. Reading social justice things has become dicier for me lately, because I feel the flash of anger, and that flash too quickly reminds me of my self-anger and how I’m not doing enough.
I don’t want to respond to things out of anger always. I want to respond out of empathy and gentleness and compassion. Those are the things I admire. I’ve spent so long trying to do that, but the walls I’ve put in place are crumbling down, and now I don’t know how to rebuild them. I don’t know if I can. I don’t want to be my dad or my step-dad, always yelling, frowning, red-faced, wild-eyed.
I hope I can find peace with this soon, because I don’t know what to do with all of this anger.
This is something that’s been knocking around in my head for a little while. I’ve had my answer to the question for what feels like a long time. Now, I’m in the midst of an online protest–#FBBlackOut–so it seems a good time to talk about it.
First, what is #FBBlackOut, and why am I participating?
In simplest terms, this black-created, black-led protest seeks to hit Zuckerberg in the pocketbook by encouraging protesters to deactivate our accounts from 10/16/15 at 10:16am EST through 10/19/15 at 10:19am EST. Deactivation means Zuckerberg receives no ad revenue from said accounts.
It started because people of color feel unsafe on Facebook. From groups like the not-so-cleverly-named ‘Nate Higgers’ proliferating (and rarely being taken down because they supposedly “don’t go against Community Standards”)
(though for the first time I have ever seen, Facebook reversed decision on this one group–possibly at the pressure of several hundred users reporting the group at the same time?);
to such ridiculousness as showing the graphic and violent deaths of people of color over and over on auto-play on Facebook, but having the death of one white person immediately removed from the stream (because white death is more distressing?);
to people of color being banned/removed from Facebook for up to 30 days for saying “fuck white people” (a sentiment I, as a white person, can well understand, coming from people oppressed by my race);
and more. There’s rampant blackface, racial slurs, use of nooses and antisemitism and all sorts of derogatory, racist language and imagery on Facebook. Usually, reporting it results in an image like the first–a result of ‘Sorry, we can’t/won’t help you, because we don’t consider this to be hate.’ And though so many users–like myself–have ‘reviewed’ the process by telling Facebook that yes, this is indeed hate, it has seemed to have little impact.
I am participating in solidarity, because I am tired of seeing my siblings of color treated so terribly and made to feel unsafe on social media.
And I think all of us white people are complicit–even those of us who are actively working against racism. I know that makes it sound hopeless, but I don’t think it is.
The thing is, racism is systemic. It’s part and parcel of our current system of power. All our power structures rely on racism (and sexism/misogyny, and cisnormativity, and heteronormativity, and etc.–but this is about racism, and so I’m focused here for now) to function. If we took out racism, very quickly things would crumble and change. That’s pretty scary for those who are currently in charge. And it’s pretty beneficial to anyone with white skin, regardless of whether we’re working to change the system.
For example, I do anti-racism work. But if I go into a bank with a friend of color with the same or better qualifications, I stand a better chance of getting a home loan than that friend. It doesn’t matter that I do anti-racist work. My father, who is white and who leaves pretty angry racist comments on my Facebook wall with alarming regularity (despite believing himself non-racist), would stand the same (or possibly slightly better, due to being male) chance as me of obtaining that loan, and still better than my friend of color.
Also, when I walk down a street, no one clutches their purse in fear. How do they know I’m not the best pick-pocket around? They don’t; but conveniently, I’m not black. I also don’t get followed around stores by over-worried salespeople/management–they don’t think I’m there to steal, they assume I’m there to shop. Usually, if I need help, I can’t find anyone to help me. They’re either ignoring me or too busy harassing following the black customers.
I live in a predominantly white neighborhood. I’ve never had to fear the police marching through my streets in-step, knocking batons on the ground, spraying teargas and other chemicals long into the night without warning–without giving me and my loved ones (and any of the children and elderly in the area) time to clear out. But I have watched that happen in more than one neighborhood of color in St. Louis–most especially when the police shot and killed Mansur Ball-Bey.
I could keep giving more examples of how racism exists. I could keep pointing that out, but that doesn’t really answer the question.
Simply, in every example I (or anyone) could give, white people have power, and people of color do not, in the current system.
And even when we white people do anti-racism work, we’re still beneficiaries of a system that prizes white people over people of color.
And even when we opt to walk away from racism–well, that’s a privilege, isn’t it, to be able to put down that burden? People of color don’t get that option. Racism is always there, always present in their lives, and they can’t walk away from it. Us choosing to walk away? That’s us being complicit in the system of racism by exercising our privilege not to think about it or deal with it.
The good news is: we can keep fighting the system. Every one of us who joins the fight means one more set of hands/arms/brains/heart in the struggle to right this massive wrong. And that means we’re that much closer to overturning this systemic ill.
It’s long. It’s hard. It’s continuous. And it is important. So many people’s lives hang on us recognizing our complicity in racism and choosing to take up the work anyway of anti-racism.
On the one hand, such therapy can be expensive and is often not readily available. Some therapists aren’t covered by insurances plans. Some offer sliding scale fees, and some do not (based on their needs for keeping their practices going/themselves fed/etc.). Too many people consider therapy to be something for ‘privileged’ people, something that is frou-frou or extra. Many terrible stereotypes about therapy, therapists, and those of us who avail ourselves of mental health services exist and are perpetuated. These things all work to make therapy a luxury for many people, in the sense that it is not easily affordable/accessible for these people.
Personally, this cost keeps me up at night. I guilt myself for using resources to take care of myself when I’m not financially contributing to our living situation. And yet, taking the steps to take care of my mental health has been life-saving.
On the other hand, therapy is not the same thing as a luxury good such as an expensive car, watch, set of cook ware, mansion, TV, or any other thing. While these things are also not affordable/accessible for many people, they do not provide a healing service.
I’ve heard, far too often for my liking, pairings of “I can’t afford therapy” and “I’m buying an (or more than one) expensive item,” from people who are experiencing mental health issues. People get to choose how they spend their money and manage their mental health–but those two statements don’t logically fit together.
As well, as someone for whom mental health services are a need, such statements sound to me like the speaker does not believe the issues I’m (or any one else dealing with mental illness) working with/through are real. It sounds dangerously close to saying, “Why go to therapy when you could just do XYZ other thing?” or “Oh, you should just get over it.” That may not be the intent, but it is the impact.
I cannot buy my way to mental health. I am not positive that anyone can. Even in my fundamental Christian upbringing, I got that message:
Of course, the Titanic did sink–which makes this song a bit odd once I really stop to think about it–but that repetition of not being able to buy my way to happiness? of not being able to get myself to mental wellness via money? I was gifted that even in my super-Christian, super-fundamental background, courtesy of Amy Grant.
Even though I prick myself about the costs associated with therapy, I am grateful to know that I can’t buy my way to wellness. I wish I had better words to express this, in the moment, to the people in my life who have implied that therapy and luxury goods are of a kind.
Sometimes the bees are dormant, as if covered in snow. The buzz is there, but buried under feet of cold crystals. It can be ignored, talked over…for a while. But there will be a price to pay if I wait too long, because snow does eventually melt.
Other times, the bees are very active. Sometimes they’ve been swatted at by others, made angrier, ready to sting with no provocation. Sometimes they’re just…there…being angry bees…and it’s wise not to go near.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference, especially if I’ve been away or out of contact for a long time.
I’ve discovered that there are bigger bees and smaller bees; bees whose stings I notice immediately and those whose stings take a long time to show.
I thought some of this swelling was protective, and to a certain extent, it was–but it turns out it never needed to be there if the stinging hadn’t taken place.
I almost never want to go to this town of angry bees, but I keep getting pulled back. Responsibilities. Guilt. That one bright spot amid all the bees.
The bright spot plans to get out.
After that…I think that town will always be filled with angry bees for me.
What would you do if you were Supreme Ruler of the World for a week? Monday would be Education Reform Day, wherein I would eliminate student debt, make schooling free, and make sure all children (of all genders) have equal access to schooling. Tuesday would be Food Reform Day, wherein I would institute policies that subsidize locally-grown crops, de-subsidize mega-farms, and redistribute food wealth more evenly across the globe–both by eliminating food deserts, by helping struggling local farmers across the globe, and by eliminating slavery in food. Wednesday would be Water Purity Day, wherein I would insure every locality has continuing access to potable water, and that water is a free resource for all. Thursday would be Medically Accurate Sexual Health Education Day, wherein I would institute mandatory medically accurate and inclusive sexual health education from kindergarten on up in all schools. Friday would be Racial Integration Day, wherein I would institute mandatory racially inclusive history lessons in all schools–no more letting national pride rule the history books! Saturday would be Active Listening Day, wherein I would institute mandatory lessons on various sensitivities (emotional, cultural, mental health, religious, etc.) and how we address one another about them. Sunday would be Party Day, wherein I would likely hide in a closet with a book while everyone else ate cake, or perhaps I might bake the cake if I had enough energy left over.
Where do babies come from? Preferably other people. Or unicorns.
What’s your deepest, darkest secret? This question always trips me up, because I know I have secrets, but I come up blank when I see it! I guess my secrets are afraid of the question? Or maybe I either have really good personal boundaries or really poor ones, and this is my brain’s way of protecting myself? I probably have really poor ones. But also, I tend to be an open book–ask me things, and I answer. The trouble is that people usually don’t know to ask, and so some things never get asked. And that sounded more ominous than I meant it!
Do you ever sing when you’re by yourself? If so, what was the last song you sang? All the time, and usually made-up things. So I’ll take my wife’s name and make up some kind of nonsense rhyming scheme around it. Or my cat’s, or my boyfriend’s, or lover’s…. There’s a theme there. Well, I don’t know what my cat has to do with it. >.>
Here’s $20. What will you do with it? Awesome! Let’s put it in the pot for pizza for the polycule!
Quick: There’s a hungry-looking zombie standing in your front yard. What do you do? Yell out my last “I love yous” to my loved ones, because I’m slow; I’m about to be zombie-food. Also, this gives them warning to implement their various zombie-survival plans and decide whether they’re keeping me as a pet or double-tapping. They may have some confusion amongst themselves on this point. They’ll need the warning.
If you could master any talent/skill by the end of the week, what would it be? Anything? Hmm. You know what? I might want to be able to run really fast. Then maybe I won’t become zombie food…..
Last awkward moment? I was espousing my love of an advice website to a friend, and she then told me about her very poor experience with that website several years ago. Awkward!
Okay, this is the part where I’m supposed to come up with 11 questions, and then nominate some fabulous bloggers, too!
What does ‘home’ mean to you?
What time of day do you prefer?
How did we get so many languages?
What, if anything, do you collect?
What do you think about double rainbows?
Where do you see stardust in yourself?
What do you like for dessert?
Do you know the muffin man?
You wake up with no responsibilities, no aches/pains, and no plans for the day. What do you do?
Are you a crafty sort?
What is your music?
My Nominees, in no particular order:
Into the Nitty Gritty of a Male of Transgender Experience: Dysphoria
Whew! Okay, I think I made it through, and now it’s your turn–if you’d like to play along! Also, I’m really bad at knowing who has how many followers, so I apologize if I broke the rules. ♥ And I highly recommend anyone who wants, to just join in! Take my questions and run with them, create your own, etc. Thank you all for writing such wonderful things, stimulating my mind, and giving me solidarity/something to thing about/room to grow.
Cis people, we apparently need a guide for how to introduce our trans friends/relatives/acquaintances. I’m going to do my best here to put some guidelines together. I welcome suggestions, too.
The first thing to know: this guide comes in two parts. One part deals with people who knew/knew of the person before transition began and is either meeting them again or meeting them for the first time. The other part deals with people who meet the trans person after transition has begun/after they have come out as transgender to you.
Part I:How to introduce your trans friend to people who knew them/knew of them pre-transition
Do make sure you know your friend’s preferred identifiers (name, pronouns) before introductions begin.
Do not wait until everyone is standing in the ‘introduction circle’ to bring up the topic of transition.
Do check with your trans friend for comfort level pre-introductions: does your friend want to be introduced as a brand-new person (and is this possible)? How would your friend like to be introduced? What kinds of things is your friend comfortable with other people knowing about them/her/him?
When appropriate (after ascertaining your friend’s comfort level), do tell your relatives, non-trans friends (the people to whom you’re introducing your trans friend) ahead of time that your friend is transgender. Say something like, “Aaron is transgender and uses the name Abigail now,” or “The person you have known as Eva has transitioned and has changed his name to Jim.”
Do make sure your trans friend knows if you are not comfortable doing this sort of introduction. It is much better to know what kind of situation we’re walking into than to go in unaware and be met with potentially unsafe/unkind reactions.
This is the crux of the matter. Those who know someone as one gender and are either re-meeting them as another gender or are meeting them for the first time as a gender other than the one they expected may have unexpected and unsafe, volatile reactions to the trans person in the moment. This is not the fault of the trans person. It is the fault of many things, including poor education (biology, sexual health, religion), poor indoctrination, and systematic issues such as transphobia and misogyny. Not everyone will react volatilely, but the risk is high enough that if there is the option to curb that risk for our trans friends, then we should. This is one way we can put our cisgender privilege in service of our transgender siblings.