Transgender Tuesday: Pronouns

I recently discovered Nonbinary.org, a site with tons of great information about non-binary gender. Allowing me to explore the Wiki is like letting a group of kids loose in the biggest, bestest playground ever! (Well… I was a kid in the 80s and 90s, when we’d run and climb all over the place.) There are over 14 different non-binary gender identities; the one I identify with most, genderfluid, has at least 75 variations. (On this particular site; most likely not an exhaustive list.) I love reading about various ways people experience and describe their genders! I find it fascinating and refreshing.

One page I find particularly useful is “Pronouns.” It includes a list of 80 different English pronoun sets, most of which are gender-neutral. “They” has been used as a gender-neutral singular pronoun to refer to people for a thousand years. People have been creating and proposing other gender-neutral pronoun sets since the mid-1800s. Many of the pronouns were originally created by authors for use in their stories set in societies with more or less than two genders. IMHO the list is worth perusing just to discover new worlds to explore books to read.

The page also has information about how to choose pronouns for oneself and announce them to others. It’s not easy for me to request that people use my pronouns and to correct them when they misgender me, so this is a valuable resource. I might look into acquiring a pronoun badge.

I’ve been using ze, zir, zir, zirs, zirself – as in: “I love hanging out with Ziya. Ze always laughs at my jokes. I can’t wait to see zir. Wow, zir hair has gotten long! It’s okay that I forgot my umbrella, I can duck under zirs. Sometimes my dear friend can be too hard on zirself.”

Interestingly enough, that exact combination isn’t listed on the site. If I want to conform (I don’t have to) I can simply change “ze” to “zie.” (“Zie always laughs at my jokes.”)

Or, I can switch to ze, em, zeir, zeirs, zeirself – “I love hanging out with Ziya. Ze always laughs at my jokes. I can’t wait to see em. Wow, zeir hair has gotten long! It’s okay that I forgot my umbrella, I can duck under zeirs. Sometimes my dear friend can be too hard on zeirself.”

I’m not too crazy about that. Sure, I get to keep “ze,” but I think I prefer “zir” to “zeir.” Maybe “zier” would work (initially a typo, but hey, why not!?) – except that it’s a name. I like the addition of “em,” but in that mix it seems to come out of nowhere. I have an irrational hatred of “zem.” There are other sets that use the “em” sound though, such as:

  • ey, em, eir, eirs, emself
  • le, lem, les, les, lesself
  • ne, nem, nir, nirs, nemself
  • they, them, their, theirs, themself

There’s also “per” – per, per, per, pers, perself. I love this set because it’s simple and refers to the word “person,” which is what I want to be identified as. I’m not a man or a woman, I’m a person. Whatever group you’re talking about isn’t (only) comprised of men and women, it’s a group of people! We have such nice, inclusive language – “person” and “people” – why oh why don’t officials use it?

Finally (on my short list) there’s id, idre, ids, ids, idself – “I love hanging out with Ziya. Id always laughs at my jokes. I can’t wait to see idre. Wow, ids hair has gotten long! It’s okay that I forgot my umbrella, I can duck under ids. Sometimes my dear friend can be too hard on idself.”

I’m madly in love with “idre,” but I can take or leave the rest. I prefer “ze” and “zir.” Maybe “Idre” would make a good name? I don’t know.

The point is, we can do this!!! There’s a very long list of pronouns anyone can choose from – and I imagine additions would be more than welcome. I’m also pretty sure the pronoun police won’t come after us if we mix and match. Hopefully. Don’t quote me on it; if they do come after you I’m not liable.

If you want to try out different pronoun sets, check out the Pronoun Dressing Room. You can select a set from the “Pronoun Closet” and edit individual pronouns (e.g. changing “zie” to “ze”). Your chosen name, pronouns, and preferred noun (e.g. “person”) are then inserted seamlessly into select passages from classic fiction, which you can read. It helped me come up with a custom set that fits perfectly – at least with my current mood…

Out of the Darkness: In Search of Solidarity

Last night was the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk in Boston. I wasn’t there – to be honest, it had completely fallen off my radar – but I saw one participant’s posts on Facebook. I spent much of the night taking note of their updates in my own impromptu vigil.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the Overnight is the fundraiser by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: a 16- to 18-mile walk that takes place from dusk to dawn. I’ve been suicidal, and I know people who struggle with suicidal ideation, who have attempted suicide, and/or have lost a loved one to suicide. It’s a cause that’s near and dear to my heart.

I have yet to participate in the Overnight, but one aspect of it I find particularly attractive is the Honor Beads. There are 9 different colors, 6 of which represent the loss of specific relationships (i.e. child, partner, parent, sibling, relative/friend, and first responder/military.). There are also colors for people who support the cause and/or know someone who struggles.

A green square with a string of beads in darker green. The words: "I wear green for my personal struggle. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. #OvernightWalk" in white.

Out of the Darkness Overnight image to share on social media. “I wear green for my personal struggle.”

I like that participants can choose to wear green honor beads to represent their own personal struggle. It’s a way to silently communicate: “I’ve been to hell and I’m still standing!” It’s possible to meet eyes with another person wearing green and know they’ve been there too. And if you’re still in hell, it might be easier to connect with others who can understand what you’re going through. Such visibility can be healing.

I first learned about the Overnight two years ago, during a time when I was actively struggling with suicidal thoughts and feelings. At the time I wrote: “Above all, I am walking for myself, because everything we do to promote mental health and prevent suicide benefits me directly. I am walking to save my own life.”

I was very disappointed when circumstances prevented me from being able to participate in the walk, but at least I was able to raise some money to support the cause. I don’t know how many people were inspired or encouraged when they saw me wearing the T-shirt, but one person thanked me.

Words cannot express how grateful I am for the hope, happiness, self-esteem, and health I have now. I no longer feel like my life needs saving; that is something I will not take for granted. (Because honestly, it’s not guaranteed.) I want to do whatever I can to “pay it forward” – to help others who are actively struggling.

Registration is currently open for the 2016 Overnights, which will take place in San Francisco May 21-22 and in New York June 4-5. I haven’t registered yet, but I’m seriously considering it. I’ve started talking to loved ones about forming a team.

I would love to hear from you if you’ve participated in an Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk: what was your experience? How do you recommend preparing (beyond info available on the website)? You’re welcome to leave a comment, or contact me if you want to write a guest post.

Sims 3 Legacy: Beyond the Veil

This is the fifth installment of my Sims 3 Legacy; I’m halfway to my goal of 10 generations! Today’s post picks up where Part 4 left off: with Oma pregnant very soon after her high school graduation.

Legacy Family

Oma gave birth to a boy (whom she named Patrick), followed soon after by a girl (Penny).

This served as a sort of wake up call for her uncle Nash: he wasn’t getting any younger, and he wanted to be sure his nieces’ children would have plenty of adults available to care for them. So, he reopened his workshop and built a second simbot, whom he named Kim.

Back-profile view of an older man (left) looking at a silver metal anthropomorphic robot (center).

Kim (right) tells Nash (left) about zir awesome features. Nash’s other, non-sentient inventions are visible in the background.

A man crouches with arms extended to a toddler with long hair, who is standing with hands extended toward the man's face. A robot stands holding a male toddler, who appears to be laughing.

Nash (center) teaches Penny to walk, while Kim (right foreground) tickles Patrick.

Nash died soon afterward, much to his chagrin. His love of inventing had been reawakened, there were new children to help raise… but he was out of time. Though his legacy wasn’t quite as world-changing as he’d wanted, Nash tried to take comfort in the fact that he had created a simbot who outlived him. Death claimed Nash as ze must do to all sims.

Oma had always been uniquely attuned to the reality beyond the grave, so it seemed only natural for her to become a ghost hunter. At first she was called upon to capture simple spirits who had lost their self-identity – and whom her clients found annoying. Most of these spirits turned out to be friendly, scared, or hurting. Oma discovered that, by catching and releasing them, she could enable these spirits to be at peace.

It is nighttime in a clearing surrounded by trees. A young woman in a yellow jumpsuit holds out a container. Above her, a bright green semi-transparent ghost-like shape rises out of the container.

Oma releases a recently-captured spirit into the night.

Oma quickly built a reputation as a successful ghost hunter, which brought a welcome influx of clients. She was increasingly called upon to eliminate ghostly presences that made her clients feel uneasy in their own homes, and that at times even threatened clients’ safety. These ghosts were sentient and took forms similar to the ones they’d had in life. Oma found they simply needed someone to be compassionate and reassure them that it was safe to let go of this existence.

The image features a man (left) who is purple, transparent, and wearing chain mail. He is shaking hands with a woman wearing a yellow jumpsuit (right).

Oma (right) shakes hands with a ghost (left) whom she has convinced to move on.

Meanwhile, Oma’s sister Olive graduated high school and joined a criminal organization in hopes of someday becoming a master thief. She had an affair with her superior (a fairy named Luis Case) and birthed a son (whom she named Paul). Olive has been working hard and rising in the ranks (despite numerous arrests).

A large family poses in front of a beach scene.

Patrick (left), Nicole (holding Paul), Kim (center), Olive, Oma (right), and Penny (seated in foreground) pose for a family photo at the summer festival.

Proud to have 3 grandchildren, Nicole spent much of her time caring for Patrick, Penny, and especially Paul. As the children became more independent, she dedicated increasing amounts of time to alchemy. Nicole created a large stock of elixirs, which should prove useful to current and future generations.

A woman with gray hair uses a long wooden spoon to stir the contents of an opaque cauldron. A large book lies open on a stand to her right.

Nicole stirs one of her many artfully-crafted elixirs.

When Death came for Nicole on Spooky Day, she greeted zir with grace and gratitude. Ze had given her children, who in turn gave her grandchildren. Now, after a long full life, ze offered her rest.

The family, though saddened, has been doing quite well. Kim – inspired by Nicole’s artistic brilliance – has developed a love of painting. Patrick has grown up to be quite the socialite; he loves making new friends and is always ready to throw a party. Penny loves everything having to do with music and works diligently to master a variety of instruments. Paul – brilliant, ambitious, and… a bit odd – is doing well in high school.

Several sims wearing formal wear pose in front of a snowy backdrop.

Paul (seated, front left), Oma (standing, left), Kim, Penny (center), Olive, and Patrick (right) pose for a family photo soon after Penny’s high school graduation.

A woman plays an electronic keyboard outdoors. Behind her, a large excavated area reveals a platform with an ornate door featuring images of the grim reaper.

Penny (center) plays her portable keyboard near the excavation site. A small group of sims (left) listen to her play. In the right background, a tourist converses with Death.

Family Tree

I have expanded the Legata family tree, pictured below, to include the newest generation. On the far left, the symbol for Nash is now crossed out to indicate that he is deceased. Kim is represented by a diamond (filled with black to indicate that ze is a simbot); a blue arrow points from Nash to Kim to show that Nash built zir. The symbol for Nicole is also crossed out to show that she is deceased.

The symbol for Oma (bottom center) is connected to the one for Quintin Beaulieu with a blue dotted line to indicate that they dated briefly. The symbol for Olive (next to Oma) is connected to the one for Luis Case with a pink dashed line to show that they had an affair – that is, Luis cheated on his girlfriend with Olive. The symbols for Luis and his sister Tanesha are filled with green to show that they are fairies. The symbols for their (divorced) parents are filled with gray to show that their supernatural status is unknown.

Finally, the symbols for Patrick, Penny, and Paul (far bottom) are filled with yellow to indicate that they – like their mothers, grandmother (Nicole), great-grandmother, and great-great grandmother (Lisa) – are all witches!

The Legata Family Tree, generations 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

The Legata Family Tree, generations 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

A Place for the Dead

The Legatas expanded Nash’s astronomy tower downward to create their own private catacombs. On the first level they interred Nash and Nicole, whose remains had been cremated. Their urns rest on a table, surrounded by flowers, with their portraits on the wall behind them.

A gray stone wall with two portraits on it, behind a dark table. On the table are two white urns with gold embellishments, one in front of each portrait.

The memorial to Nash (left) and Nicole (right), inside the newly-built Legata family catacombs.

Legacy House

I expanded the legacy house so all the bedrooms – 5 in total – are on the second floor. The bedrooms on the first floor have been converted: the one near the front of the house is now a playroom/nursery and features a porch opening out onto a playground. The bedroom in the right back corner of the house is now an alchemy lab, and the one in the back center is… essentially a hallway. A large addition to the front left of the house features a double staircase going up to the second floor. I added doorways to facilitate movement from room to room.

The first floor of the legacy house, with most walls cut away to show all the rooms. Kim reads in the livingroom (near the center of the house).

The first floor of the legacy house, with most walls cut away to show all the rooms. Kim reads in the living room (near the center of the house).

The second floor features two full bathrooms, five bedrooms, and plenty of hallway space. The hallway has easels for painting and is often the location of impromptu music performances. Two of the bedrooms are intended for one sim, and two feature double beds. The bedroom in the back left has three single beds – one for each of the children born in this generation.

The second floor of the legacy house, with most walls cut away to make all the rooms visible. The back center bedroom is dark because Olive is sleeping in it.

The second floor of the legacy house, with most walls cut away to make all the rooms visible. The back center bedroom is dark because Olive is sleeping in it.

A large 2-story house surrounded by a fence. A two-car garage is visible in the left front. There is a tower in the left rear, surrounded by graves. A fenced-in garden and playground are visible in the far right.

The legacy lot and surrounding countryside.

The Next Generation

Penny has started casually dating the young adult male sim behind and slightly to the right of her in the image where she’s playing piano. It seems likely she might start having children with him the next time I play… ;-)

Speaking of which, I’ve been feeling a lot less temptation to play The Sims 3. There’s definitely a correlation: the worse I feel, the more I play. The better I feel, the less I play – because I’m too busy doing other awesome real-world things. I also tend to feel worse as a result of playing The Sims 3, especially when it’s slow and glitching or I’ve made the mistake of giving my sims autonomy. The absolute worst is when I let it eat my whole day (or multiple days…).

So, yeah. I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot with my Sims 3 Legacy; I’m quite proud of it. I might even be able to just end it here: reread my posts, look at the succession of family portraits, pat myself on the back, and walk away. Of course, the more I think about it, the more tempted I am to boot it up as soon as I publish this blog post…

My point is, if I continue playing, it will be for the fun of playing the game. I might continue the Legacy Challenge. I might make a new game so I can explore aspects of my existing expansions that I still haven’t gotten to yet. I might just make ridiculous sims or build incredible houses. That’s kind of the point: it’s a sandbox game.

If I continue this legacy, I’ll definitely post about it. The posts will just be a lot less frequent.

A New Normal?

According to the current clinical depression screening tool on MoodNetwork.org, I am not depressed. I was so surprised by this result when I first got it, I answered all the questions again to make sure I hadn’t lied on any of them: Sad most of the time, check. Trouble falling asleep and waking early, check. Feeling tired, check. All these other questions… no, my appetite hasn’t changed, I’m actually more motivated and active than usual, and I DON’T FEEL WORTHLESS!!! (or suicidal). I feel… okay.

a checkmark in a green circle next to the words, "You are not depressed."

screenshot of my result from the depression screening: a checkmark in a green circle next to the words, “You are not depressed.”

I’ve been re-taking the screening for the past few days now, and I keep getting the same result. I’m not depressed. I’m not depressed. I’m not depressed. I’M NOT DEPRESSED!!!

Oh my GOD!!!

I know, I know, it’s just an online screening. It’s not a substitute for a mental health professional’s evaluation. Well, I met with two mental health professionals this week. My prescriber told me, “It seems like your antidote to feeling sad is keeping busy.” She agreed with my decision to stay at my current dose of lamotrigine (50 mg 2x/day) because I don’t want to try to medicate away my feelings. Wakana congratulated me, said that clearly the therapy and medication are working, and told me I’ve been making good progress.

I am not depressed. Part of me wants to scream “I’m cured!!!” – but I think that might be a little bit premature. (or complete bullshit.) I’m… better. I’m okay.

I’m standing at the edge of a cliff with a brand new glider on my back, watching everyone else glide around, and wondering, “Is this thing really safe?”

Wakana said, “baby steps.” She used the metaphor of easing oneself slowly into a pool – which I find ironic because to me that’s torture. I’d rather just jump in, get the “it’s cold!” shock over with all at once, and start swimming oh my god swimming it’s the best thing ever!!! I want to go right now! But, umm, I don’t have a pool. So, yeah, this isn’t swimming it’s life. Baby steps. (I have friends who have a pool, and they’ve invited me to come swim in the past. I should ask them if the offer still stands.)

I guess I’m taking baby steps. I’m (literally) taking thousands of steps (that is, walking) on the days when I meet with her… and I want to take more on the days when I don’t. I’ve been having great conversations with loved ones, including Mom. Composing, making art for the fun of it, spoiling our pet rats… being intimate with Fox…  (I love having my sex drive back – and it takes some… navigating…) In the next few weeks I plan to acquire clothes I feel good about wearing, start practicing music instruments regularly, declutter, meet with my adviser about internship possibilities, and start applying for internships and part-time jobs. I had to re-write this paragraph to sound positive and not “being hard on myself” for the things I “should” be doing; now I’m worried about trying to do too much and burning out before I even get started! But at least I can re-write it.

In the past, times when I’ve temporarily clawed my way out of the bottomless pit that is being clinically depressed have been the best days of my life. For example, my wedding: at that time I was still using the Burns Depression Checklist to keep track of my symptoms; on my wedding day my score was 6. That’s “normal but unhappy” (granted, only 1 point off from “no depression”). The best I ever felt – EVER – the best days of my life were what most people would (ostensibly) consider “unhappy.”

These are not the best days of my life. I’m tired. I’m sad. I’m achy. I miss my friends, especially Banji. Last night I had a nightmare (in which my husband died). I’m going to go crazy (and spend way too much time playing The Sims 3) if I don’t find some way to structure my time (besides playing The Sims 3). For a while I was starting blog posts, then deleting them. … I think you get the idea.

Today I scored a 10 on the Burns Depression Checklist, which is the highest score in the “normal but unhappy” range. (a score of 11 would indicate mild depression.) I think I answered honestly, despite the temptation to lower my score to fit with the previous assertion that “I’m not depressed.” It seems accurate to say that I’m unhappy.

But something’s changed. Like someone lifted a blanket off me and I can see the sun and feel the breeze and stand up tall and breathe. I feel more confident. Hopeful. Maybe… even… whole?

Moody Monday: Feedback

The Mood Network is a research study that enables people with mood disorders and our family members to work with doctors and researchers to find better treatments – not only by providing data, but by sharing our insights. I first blogged about it 3 weeks ago, calling it an opportunity for activism, critiquing its implementation, and encouraging readers to “light a fire under the researchers’ butts.”

Well, some pretty awesome things have happened since then. I was contacted the next day by the head of the Mood Network: Dr. Andrew A. Nierenberg, MD. He thanked me for my feedback and assured me that he would bring my suggestions to the rest of the team. I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical – but also pleased to have gotten his attention.

Then, on June 12th, Dr. Nierenberg commented on my first Moody Monday post:

Thanks so much for your interest and thoughtful comments about MoodNetwork.org. We are taking all of your feedback seriously and are in the process of implementing some of your suggestions. MoodNetwork will include surveys to do exactly what you suggest, i.e. to find out what is important to experts by experience. We will also have opportunities soon to not only to ask you and others about research priorities, but also will ask you about your experience in receiving care. We are also working on improving the forums and blogs – and yes, it does need a lot of love. Please be patient with us and thanks for joining.

It means a lot to me that the head of the Mood Network made a statement like that on a public site; it suggests to me that he and his team are serious about making those changes. I especially appreciate the specificity regarding which suggestions they intend to implement. (The new surveys and opportunities haven’t appeared yet.)

[Edit: there is a survey asking “what should we research?” The link to it appears in the menu on the mobile site, and in the left sidebar on the regular site.]

People have become a lot more active on the forums in the past few weeks. I’m enjoying the honest discussion, opportunities to see that others share some of my experiences and perspective (universality), and the feedback participants are providing about the site. If you are one of the active participants, thank you! (If you’ve joined or are considering joining, thank you!)

Most recently, two new categories have appeared on the forums: “Symptoms” and “Exercise.” I’m pleased to have more options, and very curious to see what people do with them.

One Emotion at a Time

Being sad sucks. However, I’ve noticed (since writing my last post) that when I’m sad, that’s it. I’m sad. I’m not also angry or feeling guilty or ashamed or secretly relieved and guilty for feeling that way or some crazy combination of the above. I might get frustrated that my sadness has nothing to do with my current situation and/or I can’t get it to go away. But at least I’m just sad.

This is a huge improvement for me! It’s such a relief to finally be able to feel one emotion at a time. Just sad. And best of all, the sadness doesn’t include feelings of worthlessness or despair.

I’ve finally figured out that there were aspects of my childhood that sucked, and I didn’t receive the support I needed, and I acted out, and adults didn’t respond the way I needed them to, so I did what any kid would do: I blamed myself. I internalized all the negativity around me. I thought that I was wrong, different, that no one could understand me. I’ve felt isolated for a very long time.

But it’s not my fault. I don’t even feel the need to blame (most of) the adults in my life because they were overwhelmed by their own problems. People didn’t handle or understand things the way we do now; most of the programs that could have helped me just didn’t exist. And even if they had existed, it’s not like my mom could have googled them.

The stuff I used to believe about myself just isn’t true. I can let go of it – and good riddance! The truth is, I’m just as worthy as anyone else. And I’m probably more similar to others than different.

I’m finally free to just be sad. Free to grieve normally, as should have happened the first time around. Free to let go and forgive.

I might feel sadder now than I’ve ever allowed myself to feel my entire life, but I’m healthier too. (And there are times when I feel other emotions, each more or less by itself.) This may be the healthiest I’ve ever been. It’s exciting.

Sometimes I Just Need to Sleep on You

Allow yourself to feel your emotions, she said. You’ll feel less tired when you’re not repressing them, she said.

Bull. Shit.

Okay, I let the sadness up. Happy? I even admitted to a pain that’s been brewing inside me for over half my lifetime (the fuck). What else do you want from me? Cotton candy? Let’s go, I’ll buy you some right now. I’m sick of this shit.

There is a thing gnawing on my insides. My stomach and my heart and my lungs. It’s big and ugly and it keeps growing. It’s turning my whole body nasty colors, from the inside out. It causes a deep ache and sometimes it stings and it’s always there.

Maybe I’m just hungry. I eat, it gets the food, but it’s still gnawing on me. Let’s go for a walk. Okay, I walk. Maybe I’m distracted from the pain for a while. It’s still there. You tell a joke. I laugh. It feels good. Maybe it loses its grip for a moment. But then I stop laughing, and it goes back to gnawing. When I cry, that’s it gnawing so loudly you can actually hear it. When I sleep it keeps me from resting fully and fills my mind with all sorts of crazy thoughts and dreams. When I wake – you guessed it! – still there.

I just want it out of me. Can you do that? I’ll give you anything. I’ll do anything. Just make it stop!