Memorial Day

Content Note: In this post I express views that are strongly anti-war, anti-violence, and anti-militarism. I mean no disrespect to veterans, active duty military personnel, or military families.

Memorial Day is traditionally a day to honor those who have died during military service, particularly in war. It originated after the Civil War.

The parade in my town passes my street, just a couple doors down from my house. I’ve marched in it, as have my father and my dog. I don’t remember the last time I actively attended, but I hear the drums, bagpipes, and sirens every year. They bring back memories – this year, of what may have been the last time all three of us were at the parade together.

It hurts.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about the people who give their lives and sacrifice their mental health – for what? Gone are the days when we engaged in wars that were actually for something. Now we just have ongoing military conflict that could more accurately be described as terrorism, wasting millions or billions of dollars on the kinds of weapons we claim to be trying to prevent, devastating entire countries, ruining the lives of millions, creating refugees, and creating the very terrorists we claim to be fighting. For what? Corporate greed and US imperialism.

Our military personnel and veterans die of friendly fire and suicide, in service not to our country, but to the greed of the wealthiest people in the world. We shouldn’t just remember our soldiers, we shouldn’t even just mourn, we need to stand up for them. Demand an end to this wasteful violence.

And in the meantime, do whatever we can to protect and improve their mental health. (Also physical health, making sure they have access to healthy food, safe affordable housing, and a fair income whether they choose to work or not, etc.)

I feel like I “dropped the ball” on Mental Health Awareness Month, but there are still a couple days left in May. Today I’d like to share 2 links that seem particularly appropriate:

Veterans & Active Duty

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has information and links to resources for veterans and active duty personnel that may be helpful in protecting one’s career, accessing mental health services, assisting fellow soldiers, and transitioning to civilian life.

Family Members & Caregivers

Members of military families, or probably any family, may benefit from the information and resources offered by NAMI. Please note that “the information here” is linked to in a separate column on the left side of the page.

Solidarity.

It’s been 2 weeks. Ron is still in the hospital; ze hopes to be released on Tuesday.

We’ve spoken on the phone several times; I’ve generally done my best to be supportive and our conversations have been mostly good.

I also visited zir once during the week. It felt a lot like how things had been around May Day, before the … crisis. I was happy to see zir and ze seemed calm, reasonable. We walked part of the grounds and sat on a somewhat secluded bench. Ze asked me to play a song on guitar, so I did, carefully focusing on the music. Then ze handed me a composition book and put zir arm around me, leaning in as I reviewed its contents. It felt good to be close, but at the same time there were alarms going off in my head. This was not what Fox and I had agreed would be appropriate for our first rendezvous, and I was allowing Ron to overstep the boundaries I’d promised to myself.

We talked and ze stroked my arm and hair and kissed me and it was wonderful. But then ze had both arms around me, essentially, and was leaning in …

“We shouldn’t get too into this right now,” I said, gently but firmly.

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TW: verbal, emotional, & sexual abuse; transphobia; description of manic symptoms

I should not have allowed Ron to drive home at 2am two weeks ago. I should have talked zir into going to the hospital.

I just … I’ve read about how traumatic mental health hospitalization can be. I volunteered on a locked adult psych ward – and I was terrified they’d figure out I should be there as a patient and prevent me from leaving. Ron talked about how horrible being hospitalized was, I’m not sure if that was before or since the last time I wrote about zir. On a personal level I’m generally inclined against seeking medical help – especially going to the hospital – unless absolutely necessary, like life or death … But I shouldn’t have fallen back on that. I risked Ron’s life, allowed zir to go untreated for another week – during which zir symptoms got worse and zir behavior became a risk to zirself and others – and allowed it to get to the point where ze was involuntarily committed (by someone else).

Worse, I subjected myself to nearly 48 hours of being ranted at, manipulated, and abused. I feel like it’s set me back at least a year, maybe two, in terms of my own mental health. I’ve spent the past week on an emotional roller coaster, replaying the most painful moments over again in my mind, and debating whether I have any right to describe someone else’s symptoms on my blog. Well, those symptoms interacted with my mental health issues to make it so there are times when I feel dead inside. I’m having self-harm thoughts and urges again. That’s mine to write about!

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Closure

“Were you surprised to see me on May Day?”

“Yeah. I didn’t expect to see you again – for years at least.”

I was back at the cafe where I’d first started hanging out with Mo, watching him sip a beer he’d brought in with him.

We had a pretty good conversation. He talked a bit about his travels, showed me too many pictures. We reminisced about the time we’d spent getting to know each other. I told him about my romantic relationship with Ron, which Mo had seen forming before I was aware of (or willing to admit to) my own feelings. And we talked about languages.

Then he brought up the elephant in the room: the reason why he’s moving. I’d found out from someone else, and Mo had said I should hear his side. So I agreed.

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Compassion / Pay It Forward

TW: mention of suicidal ideation

Ron had two really bad days in a row, and didn’t sleep in between. Ze told me ze was suicidal. On the first day I took time from my visit with Banji to have an extended phone conversation with Ron, anything to keep zir connected. On the second day I drove for five hours, successfully chaired a 90-minute meeting, reconnected with Fox after 5 days apart, then welcomed Ron into our home at 10:30pm. We decided to hang out in the back yard.

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I had a dream recently in which I was in a rage. My father was there, though it didn’t look like him. There was fire everywhere; I was yelling at my father, breaking things, threatening him. He kept moving away, dodging my blows, telling me to stop, but it only infuriated me more.

My accusations took the form of: “Why ______? That’s right – because you’re DEAD!!!” and I would swing at him again.

Finally, I had him cornered. There was a wall of earth behind him, curved like the inside of a clam shell, and fire completely surrounding us both.

I … I can’t bring myself to write the final accusation I made, which took the form of a yes/no question.

“I’m sorry!” he pleaded.

I took it to be a ‘yes,’ my worst fears confirmed.
He tried to get away, but I blocked him.

“How could you?”
“I’m sorry, so sorry,” he wept.

I … I don’t remember what came next. I think I woke from the dream. I couldn’t get back into it. And I don’t know how to respond. I’m just …

There’s a choice in that moment. I could be violent, which might be cathartic but would ultimately make me feel worse. And it would make me no better than him – the worst of him that is in me, honestly.

I could forgive him, treat him with compassion. But it just … I’m tired of forgiving, continuing to love someone after they’ve taken so much from me. It feels too soft, too incongruous with all this fire.

I could just walk away and let him burn. Or let him past me. But he’d still be out there somewhere and if this is anything like superhero comics he’ll come back as some kind of twisted villain. I need closure, dammit!

Just Say ‘No’ to Telepathy: Part 2

After the high that was Monday, I’ve spent the past couple days feeling completely exhausted. Physical tiredness I could deal with. Aches and pains are to be expected: my body isn’t used to me being so active, and I’m not exactly “young” anymore. What’s got me concerned is that I feel emotionally exhausted, like someone sucked a year of my life away. For a while I was wondering if maybe I’m sick (again) but no, that’s not it. I might get sick if I don’t take care of myself, but this is definitely emotional exhaustion.

The exhaustion is bad enough that I stayed home from my music therapy on Tuesday, and ended up doing a phone session with Wakana. She listened to me talk about how great it was to be surrounded by so many awesome people, and reflected my joy that I’ve “found my tribe” – and (possibly) my calling. (If only I could make money doing it.)

Then she, being my therapist, took the conversation in the last direction I would’ve liked it to go in. “I seem to remember you complaining that you don’t feel that connected with Fox lately. You’re both just kind of coexisting, you’re not connecting.”

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