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!

When I was feeling energized by my volunteer efforts, I couldn’t help thinking: “This isn’t going to last, and when I crash it’s gonna hurt. So I’m gonna make the most of it.” And, well, the crash has come. I’m exhausted. I’m starting to let the naysayers get to me – either dragging me down, or making me angry. And sometimes it feels like there’s no point….

I’m not sure when the transition started, but yesterday I had a huge anxiety attack that prevented me from going to the march I’d planned on attending. It really took me by surprise because I’d gotten used to being much more confident, almost like my anxiety had melted away. I almost felt like a different person… and yet there I was, back to panicking and sabotaging any possibility that I might have made it on time. Once I got to the office things went well. K was there being his usual ridiculous self and I finished the turf I’d been canvassing. I’d even recruited a couple new volunteers!

Today I’m just exhausted. I showed up feeling exhausted and made volunteer recruitment calls… they went okay. Then a couple of volunteers came so I tried to get them set up with phone banking. I felt bad because I was kind of ignoring Volunteer A to help Volunteer B. The latter had technical issues and decided to go home – ostensibly to phone bank using his own computer, but I have no way of knowing.

Volunteer A made calls for a little while, then asked if I would join him to canvass, “show him the ropes.” I agreed and we went out and I made a bunch of wrong turns and it was generally awkward – though he was fun to talk to and I think he felt the same about me. We didn’t get the best reception once we started knocking on doors, though.

And then there was one very nice older couple who support Bernie and are going to vote for him in the primary, but don’t think he’s going to win the nomination. (?) They were wonderful to talk to… until the wife asked me if I’ll vote for Hillary in the general election.

I made the mistake of answering honestly, and then all hell broke loose. They took back everything nice they’d said. They told me I don’t care about the direction of this country. They insulted me to my face. And worst of all, they refused to listen when I tried to defend myself. I got very angry and joined in their yelling match. It took me quite a while to calm down afterward.

I might have yelled some obscenities once we reached the sidewalk.

I feel horrible. So hurt that they attacked me like that, embarrassed that it happened right in front of a fellow volunteer, worried that our interaction might have turned them away from Bernie, and angry with myself for losing control. I might also be questioning… everything. All this passion, and where has it gotten me?

I did some phone banking after coming home. Mostly wrong numbers, no answers, and not homes. A couple of people laughed at me; one even said he felt sorry for me. (!) I identified some Bernie supporters, though, and a couple more volunteers. I hold on for the supporters and volunteers. I don’t know how much longer I can keep it up though.

It seems like I’m going to be running the office for the rest of the week. That basically means answering the door, signing volunteers in, training them, setting them up to phone bank, and sending them out to canvass. When I’m not doing those things I should be recruiting more volunteers or finding something else useful to do… but I think instead I’ll bring earbuds and watch YouTube videos.

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!

A Line Through Time

One of the worst things about my mood disorder is feeling disconnected from my past self/selves. I feel like I’ve lost something and I want it back, but I’m not even sure what it is. Most of my work with Wakana has focused on reclaiming aspects of my Self and my life experiences that I’d repressed, abandoned, or otherwise been ashamed of. It can be very painful It is excruciatingly painful, but with every step I feel closer to being whole.

Last night I decided to make a timeline of my relationships. I started with meeting Banji over 15 years ago and continued through college, my first full-time job, grad school, meeting Fox, Banji moving away, getting married, all the way to this year. I realized there was at least one major transition – including but not limited to beginning, losing, and ending relationships – in every calendar year since I graduated from college about 10 years ago.

There is a concentration of intense transitions from 2011 through 2013. As Banji was preparing to move away, I essentially proposed to Fox – despite only knowing him for a handful of months. Spring 2011 was the last time I facilitated music therapy sessions for actual clients. Banji moved over the summer. I applied for an internship and thought it was a sure thing, so I waited months to learn whether I’d been accepted… only to be rejected twice. By the end of that year I’d moved in with a friend from college.

I don’t have much written down about 2012. I spent a lot of time trying to find the right medication and psychiatrist, and ended up taking some meds that probably did more harm than good. I adopted a pair of rats early in the year, one of whom died about a month or two later, and I had to euthanize the other by the end of the year.

Banji moved much closer to home (but still 5 hours away) around the beginning of 2013. I followed suit by moving back in with Mom; I’ve barely seen or talked to my former roommate since. Mom got knee replacement surgery, my uncle died, I had to drop the classes I’d waited 2 years to take because they were triggering my worst symptoms, Fox moved in with me that summer, and we got married in the fall. Looking back on it in that context, I think I must have been crazy!

Some of the above transitions were out of my control, but others (like moving) I imposed on myself. I honestly don’t regret them; they were necessary for me to reach the point where I am now. But they definitely added to my stress and were not entirely beneficial to my mental health. I couldn’t do most of the things I was used to doing; I stopped doing things that had been meaningful to me. I made at least one decision that I do regret now. In hindsight I think my worst problem may have been the guilt and shame I felt because of the problems I was facing – particularly as they affected my pursuit of a career.

Things have been improving since last summer, when Fox and I started marriage counseling and finally gained access to the medication we need (thanks to the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare”). Fox has been working full time for several months now. I did well through a challenging semester on a sub-therapeutic dose of my medication. Now I’m on a therapeutic dose. We’re regularly using the skills we learned in marriage counseling (which our therapist terminated 2 months ago). Our relationship brings us both a lot of comfort and joy.

Of equal importance is that Banji and I have worked through at least some of the issues impacting our relationship; we’ve become closer as a result. We’ve adapted to the current physical distance between us. Whenever we meet in person, we blend continuing fun traditions from the past with planning for the life we intend to build together. We’re not where we want to be – living within a 10-minute drive of each other – but we’re hopeful.

I haven’t been putting off applying for internships because I’m afraid of rejection. I’m not even sure it’s accurate to say I’m afraid of success. Starting an internship would be Another Huge Transition: new relationships, new routines, new responsibilities, even a new role/identity. The dynamic between Fox and me would change – hopefully for the better, but it would still be a change.

This is something I actually have some control over; I am exercising my control. I am not procrastinating and I do not have anything to be ashamed of. I am choosing to postpone another huge world-shattering transition because I’ve learned that it’s harmful to have too many of them in such a short period of time. There’s a lot of pressure to start my internship as soon as possible, and a lot of benefits that could come from doing so. But there are also benefits to waiting, at least for few more months.

I need some time to breathe.

Priorities and Letting Go

I’m having some serious problems with my computer. I think I got a virus or other malware that made harmful changes to my operating system until it wouldn’t load correctly. Long story short, my efforts to repair it seem to have made a bigger mess. I’ve backed up all my essential files and made sure I can reinstall important programs (e.g. the software I use to compose music). The next step is to format my hard drives, then reinstall my operating system. If all goes well, it will be like having a new computer.

Which means I’ll lose all the progress I’d made in The Sims 3 and other favorite games. If I ever want to play The Sims 3 again, I’ll need to reinstall the base game, several expansions, tons of additional content, and all the updates. It will take several hours – possibly days. Then my only choice will be to start a new game, completely from scratch…

Or I can just walk away…

I’ll be honest, I’m not happy about this. I’d prefer for my computer to run smoothly and never have problems. But I’ve had this computer for over 5 years. The hardware is still in good shape, but the software is getting clunky. There are programs I don’t use (one of which interferes with The Sims 3 and other games), I’m way overdue to defragment my hard drive, and my files are kind of disorganized. I had a ton of bad, blurry, or redundant photos taking up space, things I meant to sort or delete and never did, a plethora of downloads… It’s a mess.

I actually welcome the opportunity to start anew, with a clean uncluttered desktop. I can be intentional regarding what I install, how I organize my files, etc. I can build a tool that will help me accomplish my dreams instead of distracting me from them (as much?).

With all the things I’ve been angry and anxious about lately, I’m grateful for my ability to be at peace with this. It’s not a medical, emotional, or financial crisis. I’m not going to lose important files I worked hard to create. And it’s provided some good opportunities. I spent the last few days going through old pictures and reminiscing. I watched the video from my wedding and found the sermon & vows to have even more meaning than they did on that day. I’ve learned a lot about how to protect oneself from malware and other unwanted software. I’ve started focusing more on my priorities: wellness, family, my career, making the world a better place.

Now I just need to let go. To trust that I have everything that’s important, I can live without (or replace) the files that will be erased, and I’m making the right decision for me based on what I know now. If I regret something later, I will have the resources and support I need to work through and release that regret. It’s okay, I’m okay. The world is so much more than this.

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.

Another Kind of Loss

I hate Father’s Day. The commercialism, especially, and the obligation to be cheerful and celebratory of something that has caused me so much pain… Fox’s dad invited us to a special restaurant in honor of Father’s Day and I wouldn’t miss it for anything, but thinking about it and listening to Fox talk about it is ripping my heart to shreds.

I know some people whose fathers died, but it happened when they were adults. Others whose dads left them, who never knew their father, who are estranged from their dads… But I can only think of one person I know whose father died when she was a child – I’m pretty sure she was a child – and to be honest I’m not sure she’d be willing to talk to me about it. We’re not that close.

I feel like there isn’t anyone who can really understand the grief Father’s Day brings up for me – the deep, aching loneliness of watching others celebrate something that has been lost to me for most of my life, and knowing they cannot possibly understand how I feel about it.

To make matters worse, I threw away a perfectly good friendship with the one person I’ve ever met who understood what I was going through.

This person joined my class in school a mere seven months after my father died. He was an orphan, living with a relative. I don’t remember how we got to know each other, or even if we ever talked about our experiences, just that we became very close. We shared an understanding with each other that neither of us could share with anyone else in the school. At recess and lunch we would spend as much time as we could together, just talking. Connected.

People made assumptions about our relationship that I thought were completely unfounded… but that had a kernel of truth: he had a crush on me. I did not share those feelings, but I agreed to a romantic relationship anyway. It lasted a weekend; the bullies descended upon me almost as soon as I set foot in school. I panicked and broke up with him. Then summer came, and we went our separate ways.

I’ve thought back on that parting with regret, but I’ve never really mourned it. Today may be the first time I’ve ever talked about this person with anyone. I think I can forgive myself: I was much younger then, and less assertive. I prioritized romantic relationships to a degree that was probably unhealthy, and I hadn’t yet learned how to salvage a friendship from disappointment. He may not have been able or willing to work with me, even if I had made the effort. It’s gone, it’s done, all that’s left to do is mourn.

I’m recognizing that I lost something that was important to me, and that would be even more valuable now: a friend who understands the pain of having lost a parent when I was very young.

To be honest, I’m not sure I want to try to get back in touch with this particular individual. I doubt I’d have much to say, other than “I’m sorry.” But I do want to find a group – at the moment I’m leaning toward online – for adults who lost one or both parents when they were young. Maybe then I’ll feel less isolated.