“Life takes you to unexpected places. Love brings you home.”

Right after I’d recommitted to finding an internship and completing my music therapy degree… a friend called and asked me to partner with him in a new business he had been laying the groundwork for for several months, and felt ready to launch. It’s a great opportunity to make a living writing about things I’m passionate about, and he seems to think it has the potential to be quite lucrative. I’ve already enjoyed writing a couple articles for it, and everyone I tell encourages me to go for it (well, except my mom, but she’s skeptical about pretty much everything). I’ll be honest, I’m a bit wary regarding the whole entrepreneurship thing myself – and I’ve made it clear I don’t have the funds to invest in this endeavor financially – but I’m also hopeful: it’s a chance to make more money than I probably would as a (beginning) music therapist, doing something I enjoy, without performing emotional labor. Well, at least it would involve considerably less emotional labor.

Around the same time this happened: my godmother was (still is) slowly recovering from complications from bariatric surgery (there’s a reason spell check wants to change that to “barbaric”); Banji’s dad was (still is) dealing with health issues brought on or exacerbated by treatment for yet another type of cancer (he’s had a few); Fox’s dad fell and had bleeding on the brain; and my mom was diagnosed with stage 1 uterine cancer. I could have maybe dealt with all the other bullshit, but my mother having cancer, after everything else, was the last straw. Since being diagnosed she’s had a hysterectomy and they’re confident they got everything and she’s recovering well enough… but we’re both still scared – or at least I am. My mother had (we’re gonna keep this past tense) my mother had cancer, WTF!!!

I just… can’t. I emailed my academic advisor, thanked him for the work he’d started trying to help me find an internship, and told him I need to put it on hold again because I’m dealing with family health issues. I feel like every time I’m starting to make progress on this, something happens to fuck with my head, I’m on an emotional roller coaster, I’m not ready to start this career that’s all about supporting people emotionally… and finally – FINALLY – I realized that maybe I’ll NEVER be ready. There’s no reason for me to believe things won’t keep happening to rock my boat, and I’ve found the best thing I can do is hang on until the storm passes… I can’t support people through shit like that on a professional level while I’m struggling with it myself. I mean I guess I could, but what would it do to me?

Maybe… and it’s still new enough that part of me doesn’t want to let go, but I think it’ll come around, eventually… maybe I don’t want to become a music therapist, or work in any “helping profession.” The idea of working in a field where I can just perform intellectual labor (maybe some physical labor, but minimal emotional labor) has never been more appealing. There have been signs, like when I flat out didn’t do an assignment for one of my graduate psychology classes because I realized it wouldn’t hurt my grade too much, and I didn’t feel like dealing with the personal/emotional shit it was bringing up. Or when I stopped working on my degree for 2 years to dabble in third-party politics. Or when people started telling me I come alive when I talk about this entrepreneurship opportunity (but not when I talk about finding a music therapy internship). When I think about it I’m like “but damn, I want to finish this degree, have the M.A. after my name that I went tens of thousands of dollars into debt for.” But, I dunno… maybe once we get this thing off the ground I’ll be able to pay off the debt in a couple years and then, well, I can probably still finish the degree, or get a different one, or just say “hey I’m successful in a career I enjoy, who needs a degree?”

(I had a dream in which I switched to music composition… and if I’m not mistaken they’re both “M.A. in Music with a concentration in __________” – so yeah, that might not be entirely unrealistic. But I don’t really feel enough motivation to focus on composition right now to make that work… Right? I mean, yeah, Banji’s moving back home and will be taking classes on the same campus and it would be awesome if we had classes at the same time: we could get dinner and study in the library together wearing matching [school name] sweatshirts and it’ll be almost kinda like being in undergrad together again instead this time we’ll both be commuters and… nah. Being a professional composer is a pipe dream. I haven’t even dabbled in it for years. Yes I know I majored in music because I fell in love with music theory, and I’d absolutely love to take another course in it… I’ve joked if someone’s complaining about having to take it I’ll offer to take it for them… but I just… It’s more debt, okay! I can’t ask that of my mom. Really… Yes I know there are scholarships I could apply for but… well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to see if it’s remotely feasible, and what the process would entail… I do miss composing, and it could help with branding for my new business…)

Omg what have I gotten myself into? The point is yeah, this is the second time it’s happened. I went into college majoring in psychology and minoring in music, then had a “mid-college crisis” in which I decided to major in music (but finish the psych major as well, I was so fucking close). Then I went into grad school for music therapy (I wanted to be a music therapist, really, it wasn’t that “trying to become a professional composer is unrealistic” – honestly!) and interestingly managed to satisfy all the requirements except the one that involves actually working full time as a music therapist. (Because of the application process, honest!) And I can’t help thinking I could just finish the degree this coming fall semester! if I didn’t have to get a fucking internship and work in the field WHAT AM I DOING? This is ridiculous.

If it’s even possible to switch to composition, I could probably satisfy the requirements in a heartbeat, and love it.

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20 years

I’m too young for it to be 20 years since my dad died.

I’m sad.

I’m angry. At the cancer. At tobacco companies. At the hospital. At Dad.

I’m angry about how the new chair of my state Green Party is treating me, and I’m about ready to be done with it all together, but I care too much about the people in my local and resigning feels like abandoning them. And I don’t know whether my feelings like I’m not a very good chair and they’d be better off with someone else are a realistic assessment of the situation, or the depression, because it’s been really bad lately.

I’m not sure to what degree the two are related, but they’re happening at the same time, and it’s frustrating the hell outta me.

20 years and I’m still trying to squash my emotions and continue with business as usual, and when that fails I’m playing video games until my eyes bleed. And when I do want to focus on this ridiculous mess of emotions, I can’t help thinking about what certain people in the state party leadership have said to me, how they’re slandering Ron & me, how they’re disrespecting me and my local.

I need space for me but I’m struggling to create that space.

I’m tired. I’m sad. I’m angry.

I’m grateful for my mom stepping up as a single parent to raise me. She’s been there through thick and thin. She’s still supporting me and Fox. And she’s been working hard, learning a lot, coming to respect me more as a person and an adult. Whatever my relationship with my dad (and my mom) could have been, I kinda mourn it but it also doesn’t really matter (and I get the impression it would be worse).

My relationship with Mom, now, is what’s important. It’s something we’ve struggled with, something we’ve fought through, something we’ve cried and argued over, something I’ve dragged kicking and screaming out of the mud, something we’ve both worked our asses off for … and we’ve come out the better, closer, for it. And there’s still a lot of work and growth and that’ll probably be a lifetime effort … but it’s there and it’s REAL and it’s OURS.

Each year I’ve been counting how long it’s been, and I think it was last year that I realized I wasn’t really mourning missing wishing I still had him in my life … I’ve been celebrating. 20 years of survival. 20 years of LIFE. 20 years of me and my mom not killing each other, lol. 20 years of us CREATING our own relationship and our own lives.

In my last music therapy session Wakana got me to sing about all this. I sang/said that I had pulled myself together from the ashes, and when they say ‘rise from the ashes’ they don’t say how hard it is to pull each individual ash in and make something new from it. But it’s what I do, it’s my nature, even though it hurts and even though I’m tired. Whatever happens, I rise. I rise. I rise. I rise.

And it’s not just her it’s my wonderful family and friends. Fox & Banji were both here for me big time yesterday. My uncle & aunt (Mom’s brother & sister-in-law) came to visit while Mom was away; they took me to dinner and lunch the next day and we had some wonderful conversation. And over the holidays it was so wonderful to spend time with my family and friends.

I felt alive in a way I hadn’t since getting caught up in all this political bullshit.

I felt whole again.

Still Wounded

I wrote a post about 5 days ago, but didn’t post it because I had to drive Fox somewhere.

I just want to give a quick update before I share the post: it turns out I was transferred to Fox’s prescriber at the same clinic where I’ve been going, so I was able to make an appointment with her (just in time to refill my meds). The “epic quest” was not so epic after all – thank God. (I’m still having trouble believing it.)

This turn of events was extra good because I was able to use my doctor’s appointment to address some problems that have been bothering me for a while. I apparently have arthritis in my knees; he sent me to get x-rays, which may result in physical therapy that will (hopefully) alleviate some of the pain so I can be active, healthy, and happy(er than I am when I’m sedentary). I’m also (hopefully) going to have a sleep study done to figure out what’s causing my chronic fatigue (you know, besides the depression), and blood work for good measure. My conversation with my doctor has me feeling more motivated to try and actually eat healthy foods, which is an important part of self-care.

Anyways, without further ado, here’s the post I wrote 5 days ago:

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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!

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.