All In – Why I’ve Joined the Bernie or Bust Movement

There’s been another battle going on inside me, between the Revolutionary and the joint forces of anxiety and “practicality”. The Revolutionary is a diehard Bernie Sanders supporter who is dedicated not only to electing him President of the United States but more importantly to the political revolution he has sparked. He is the only 2016 candidate for President of the United States who is talking about the serious issues facing 99% of its citizens and has a consistent record of standing up for everyday people – particularly those who have been marginalized. He is the only candidate who has spoken up about the importance of accessible mental healthcare and has a plan to implement comprehensive universal healthcare. He has run a successful grassroots campaign that relies solely on small individual donations, drawn massive crowds to rallies, motivated thousands if not millions of young people to become engaged in determining the policies that affect us (largely via innovative use of social media), AND he has inspired other progressive candidates to run for political office.

If the Revolutionary could take sufficient control over my actions, I would be Phone Banking regularly, registering voters, participating in campaign events and doing other volunteer work… possibly even knocking on people’s doors to encourage them to vote for him (and other progressive candidates). I would have been posting about him fairly regularly on this blog, even though I hadn’t really intended it to be political (though it kind of is, with the mental health advocacy I’ve attempted, and even just by being candid about mental health issues). I would be researching and promoting progressive candidates who are running for other offices, particularly the U.S. (federal) House of Representatives and Senate; by the way, most of the current members of Congress (including the entire House) are up for re-election. Please check out BallotPedia to learn who’s running for what office(s) in your state.

But social anxiety has been keeping me home and keeping me relatively silent when opportunities to advocate for Bernie have come up. I fear being ostracized, bullied, possibly even attacked (physically or otherwise) – or drawn into an unhealthy codependent relationship. In my CBT sessions I find myself talking a lot about not knowing the “rules” for interacting with a group I want to join; I don’t know what to expect so I don’t know how to behave to maximize my likelihood of being accepted (or at least not abused). At the same time I want to be able to express myself freely, but recall that in groups my voice tends not to be heard (both literally and figuratively). That makes the prospect of attempting to join a group (or attend an event) all the less appealing: why take the risk and put in the work if I’m just going to go home feeling frustrated because my attempts to contribute/interact weren’t even acknowledged?

Then the depression speaks up – I think the “practicality” I mentioned earlier is really depression: “I should have done this earlier, it’s too late to make a difference, voter suppression is going to kill his campaign even if he is the popular choice, and besides what difference can I really make?” I’ve also been isolating myself because of depression; whether it’s because I truly lack the energy or not I just haven’t wanted to interact with people lately (unless I know there’s a good chance I’ll find it enjoyable, meaningful, or both). Joining groups involves too much risk without enough guarantee of reward, and interrupting someone’s day to call them or knock on their door is completely out of the question.

Umm… but if you feel up to doing such things, more power to you. I don’t mean to discourage anyone from actively engaging in Bernie’s campaign – quite the opposite, actually!

The Revolutionary isn’t giving up that easily. The Revolutionary remembers being annoyed with Democrats during the first Clinton administration and the second Bush administration because they (the Democrats) were constantly giving in to the Republicans’ demands. The Revolutionary remembers feeling a surge of pride when President Obama and other Democrats started standing up to the Republicans and promoting progressive policies and values. But the Republicans have been becoming increasingly extreme, to the point where it’s really in everyone’s best interest to avoid listening to them, and to vote them all out of office immediately. And the mainstream Democratic party seems to be trying to meet them in the middle again, apologizing to them again, at best paying lip service to progressives while making deals that benefit their wallets at everyone else’s expense.

During the Democratic Primary 2016 debates, whenever Hillary Clinton spoke, by the time she was done I wasn’t sure what the question was anymore. Sometimes aspects of her answer sounded good, but they also sounded a lot like what Bernie Sanders has been saying loud and clear through his actions as well as his words for longer than I’ve been alive. I could vote for Clinton if she’s the Democratic nominee – she would definitely be better than anyone the Republicans have to offer – but I have no idea what she would do… except probably get us involved in another expensive war. Oh, yeah, and maintain the status quo while playing lip service to progressive values – and maybe, if we do well in Congress, signing legislation that might actually lead to useful change.

“Enough is enough.”

The Revolutionary won’t settle for making sure there is “a Democrat” in the White House. I can’t live with 8 more years of the status quo. Don’t get me wrong, Obama has been an excellent president, especially considering the obstructionism he’s faced. But I don’t see Hillary building on the progress he’s made – at best I see her maintaining it.

The Revolutionary thinks the best case scenario the U.S. can face is for both parties – Republicans and Democrats – to tear themselves to shreds and burn. From the ashes a truly progressive party for and by everyday people will rise. Perhaps there will be other parties, too – to be honest I wouldn’t mind a true conservative party, because in my experience fair-minded conservatives tend to share perspectives that can be very useful for shaping effective policies.

Whatever their perspectives or party affiliations, the focus of our political leaders must be on the real issues: promptly and effectively addressing climate change, ensuring everyone has equal access to healthcare, reducing student loan debt, caring for our veterans, making sure everyone can have a quality education, making sure everyone can vote, ensuring civil rights (addressing systematic racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQIA policies, etc.), reducing wealth inequality, and so on. There’s something very important no one has brought up during this primary season and it’s bothering me quite a bit: the issue of why certain Americans (almost exclusively white heterosexual cis men) commit unspeakable acts of violence against other people (often women, children, and members of racial or religious minorities). The candidates can all talk until they’re blue in the face about whether and what regulations should be applied to guns and who should be held accountable and so on, but we need to address the cause(s) of gun violence – including suicide.

I want to see our political leaders, whatever parties they may form and general perspectives they may take, tackling these issues on a regular basis. And who better to lead us all than Bernie Sanders, who brought these issues into the public eye – or more accurately, brought us together under a common banner so we’re talking about them on a national level – through his campaign in the first place? (Despite the mainstream media blackout.)

So, this is it, I’m all in. “Bernie or Bust.” I will not be silenced in the name of “party unity.” I will vote for Bernie Sanders in my state’s Democratic primary and then again in November, even if I have to write him in. It’s a big risk, I know – and part of me is terrified of what could happen. But part of me is hopeful, too.

In all honesty, I really hope Bernie will get the Democratic nomination and then he’ll wipe the floor with whomever the Republicans put forward in November and we’ll have 8 years of awesome. I’m working to be able to help make that happen, and I encourage you to do so as well (find out how at BernieSanders.com).

But if he does not get the nomination, his supporters need to collectively decide what we’re going to do, so the vote doesn’t get split (too much). I say we all vote for him anyway, and there’s someone trying to help make sure that happens. Please check out their post on Facebook and email them at (no spaces): Bernie Revolutionist (at) g mail (dot) com with the subject “BERNIE SANDERS INDEPENDENT RUN.” Let’s make this a real revolution!

What I Can

Yesterday started out pretty rough. I felt very sad and hopeless, with minimal energy and attention span. I started doing things, but felt overwhelmed and had to stop.

And then I thought: Okay, I’m having a difficult time. I can’t do some of the things I wanted to do today. But what can I do?

I couldn’t phonebank for Bernie Sanders, but I could read about what it entails and make posts on Facebook. I couldn’t go shoe shopping in person, but I could look at and possibly order shoes online. I couldn’t win a game of Ticket to Ride: United Kingdom against Fox, but I could learn from my mistakes and accomplish most of the goals I set.

The more I did, the better I felt, and the more motivated I became. I feel so much better today!

Fade

TW: Suicidal Thoughts

The other day I was playing with my pet rats, two happy healthy adults who recently reached physical maturity. They were running around, climbing on me, burrowing under blankets, wrestling, and generally being adorable. I was so happy; it was a moment I want to save forever…

But I couldn’t be fully in it, because I knew it couldn’t last. They would need to go back in their “house,” I would need to go on with my day. Rats’ lives go by so fast; they typically only live about 2-3 years. My pair are already a year old. I’ve experienced the agony of watching creatures so small and innocent suffer from illness and die. I don’t want to feel it again, and yet I do; even in my best moments with them there’s the reminder and preemptive sorrow.

I thought I would rather give them away. As painful as it would be to lose them, at least my last memory of them would be as happy, healthy, and active, fully loving life. I wouldn’t have to watch them fade.

Then last night I was sitting with my husband (Fox). We were laughing as the rats were climbing over us, sometimes tickling us, and generally being adorable. I gave him a hug and said, “Life is good. We have each other, these cute little ones, a warm safe house, and plenty of food.”

And the sorrow came back, because I fear this, too, can’t last. I could lose Fox any time, any day, in a freak accident. We could lose the house for one reason or another. I feel like so much – electricity, gas, water – gets wasted, and we might run out. We might not always be able to pay for food… and sometimes I do go hungry because I can’t decide what to make for myself and don’t want to put the time or effort in.

I don’t want to feel that pain, and yet I do. It invades and supersedes whatever happiness I may be feeling. It keeps me from being fully in the moment, fully alive.

Last night I thought it would be better to die now, while all these things are here and it’s possible to be happy, then to be around when it all fades away and I’m left with nothing but my own soul-tearing sorrow. Pain I’m already feeling and can’t seem to shake. Images came to my mind – plans I can’t execute because thank goodness I don’t have the means.

Right now, as far as I know, everything is still intact. He’s fine at work, I’m currently in the house, and the rats are sleeping. One seems to be having some respiratory symptoms, but they’re still relatively minor. He’s probably okay, but it will be better if I – well, preferably we – take him to the vet.

Yet I feel like someone died, it’s all falling apart, and all I can do is stand here alone, watching the world fade.

Internal Dialogue

Resistance: “Ugh, the weather is gross! I don’t want to go out.” (for my music therapy session this afternoon)

Guilt: “You don’t want to go out because you’d rather play Skyrim. Think of all the people who have to go out and work today! Wakana is going out so she can meet with you in her office, you should do it too. Stop being so selfish!”

Pragmatism: “But we have the option of meeting over Skype, so we don’t have to go out. And it’s safer to avoid traveling in the current conditions. We know someone who got in an accident because of the weather last night. Do you want to risk getting hurt when you have a perfectly viable alternative?”

The Wounded One: “You two think ‘staying safe’ and playing Skyrim are more important than therapy! I need to work in therapy so I can heal!”

Compromise: “Yes, continuing our work in therapy is very important. We will definitely continue doing that work, and we can – and will, Resistance – do something toward it today. It might not be as much as you’d like, Wounded One, because Resistance feels very strongly on the matter, but it will be something, okay?

Compromise: “Guilt, our going out today will not do anything to help the people who ‘have to’ go out. If anything, we might make things more difficult for them by getting in the way. I agree with Pragmatism that it is better to stay home than take the risks associated with going out in this weather.”

Wounded One: “But my therapy!”

Compromise: “Wounded One, if we choose not to go out today, we are not giving up on therapy completely. Even if we were to terminate therapy – not that anyone’s suggesting we should! – that would not undo all the hard work we’ve done so far, nor would it reduce the benefits we’ve gained. We respect that this work is important to you and we have every intention of continuing it. We can make every effort to maximize the benefits we get from that work today… except for traveling in this weather. That’s the only thing we’re asking from you, permission to stay home and be safe. Is that okay?”

Resistance: “I don’t want to do the work today.”

Compromise: “But you agree that the work we’ve done so far has been helpful, yes?”

Resistance (reluctantly): “Well, I suppose so… You’re giving me a voice, that’s kinda nice.”

Compromise: “And it’s worth continuing…”

Resistance: “I guess… I’ll hang around and see what you people come up with.”

Compromise: “Great. So we’re staying home and using Skype to meet with Wakana. We’ll do what work in therapy we can, given the circumstances. Next week hopefully we’ll be able to go in and have better conditions for getting the most out of therapy. Okay everyone?”

The Wounded One and Pragmatism: “Okay!”

Resistance: “I don’t know how I feel about going in next week.”

Compromise: “We’ll talk about it then. We’re staying home today – that’s what you wanted.”

Resistance: (sighing) “Okay.”

Guilt: “You still shouldn’t use the extra time to play Skyrim. We have a thesis to work on and the house is a mess and -”

Compromise: “Okay, we’ll use it to do other things as well – there certainly are plenty of good things we can do with that time! And, well, there’s nothing wrong with taking some time to play Skyrim… it’s just better if we don’t spend the whole day doing it.”

The Healthy One with Good Communication: (crying tears of joy) “Wow, look at what you all accomplished today! This is a testament to all the hard work you’ve done together in therapy. I’m so proud of all of you. Keep it up!”

Compliance

My prescriber wants me to take a low dose of Clonazepam approximately 30 minutes before bed every night. She prescribed it after I told her about the anxiety I’ve been experiencing, and the fact that I haven’t been sleeping. I thought it was a sleep aid, but apparently it’s used to treat anxiety, panic disorder, seizure disorders, and bipolar. My more rational side says it was probably a miscommunication, but I think she intentionally misled me into thinking its primary purpose was to make me fall asleep more easily.

I might become dependent on it. Possible side effects include a ton of issues I’m already experiencing such as aches and pains, sore throat, depressive symptoms, irritability, difficulty sleeping…. and of course there’s the risk of it causing suicidal thoughts. That’s my biggest fear, especially this time of year. I’ve had my share of suicidal thoughts, thanks; I definitely don’t need to have them as a result of the medication I’m taking to recover from one of their primary causes.

I had an anxiety attack from just looking at the basic information about this drug, never mind the official list of side effects. It actually proved quite helpful in getting myself to sleep: I said, “we can lie down and try to sleep or we can take this medication” and next thing I knew I was curled up on my side under blankets, the phone OFF and my body starting to relax. I’m acutely aware of the fact that it’s completely within my ability and my rights to just not take the medication; I don’t even have to feel guilty because it only cost my insurance a couple dollars. But the good patient in me is saying I should comply with treatment and trust my prescriber.

I don’t know who to trust.

I’m tired.

No Rest

I’m doing everything I can to avoid going to sleep (it’s mid-morning and I’ve been awake for over 20 hours) and I’m trying to convince myself to at least lie down and close my eyes for a minute. “We can lean on pillows so we’re not fully reclined – or lie on our side.” “Just put the phone down for a minute, just try it, we’ll be okay.” “We need to sleep sometime…” “I’m so tired, can’t we just take a short nap? All I’m asking is an hour or two!”

It’s All In Your Head

ER

Chest pain, stabbing, waking me from sleep

Tightness, shallow breaths

No rest for me, no rest for me

No rest for me

It could be fatal

“Seek medical help immediately!”

So I go

I go full of doubt

I go full of fear

I go feeling guilty

“I’m just seeking attention”

“Sure,” the nurse says, “I can be accommodating.”

She smirks as she orders the EKG and takes my blood pressure

Just a little too tight

They go through the motions

Pee in this cup

We’ll give you an IV

At least she listened, chose the right vein, and got it in on the first try!

It hurt worse than the chest pain

But I bit my tongue

We waited for hours

As fluids slowly dripped into me

We waited for results – all normal

“The only thing wrong with you is your weight,” he said

Then he touched my leg “reassuringly”

I wanted to bare my teeth

“You have anxiety”

Really? I never would have guessed.

Here are your discharge papers. Follow up with your primary doctor.

The discharge papers say:

Well, it isn’t your heart. But it could be any of these other things…

… most of which could kill you.

If you feel chest pains

Go to the ER