Well fuck. I’ve been fucking around for too long and now the requirements for my graduate program have changed.

My understanding had been that I needed a thesis and an internship, and I could theoretically complete them in any order. The thesis could be informed by the internship, or completely separate. I’d started working on a thesis about a topic that’s very personal – perhaps overly so – but something I need to work through; everyone I’ve told has said it’s a great topic, relevant to the field, important for students and professionals alike to be aware of. I haven’t actually worked on it in ages – got hung up by the lit review, so never even finished writing the proposal – but I was just about to renew my focus on it when I found this out. I’d re-imagined it to be even more introspective, arts-based … almost kinda sacred. I was planning to run the new idea by my advisor sometime soon.

I guess it’s better I learned of the change when I did, than if I’d gotten any farther in the process. Now instead of writing a thesis, I need to complete a “culminating project” that has very specific requirements. I have to complete my internship first, then do 50 additional hours of supervised field work, and the project has to be directly related to whatever work I’m doing. I don’t even feel ready to apply for internships yet; I may not be able to get – much less complete – one within the next year. So it’s more time, more money, more work to get this fucking degree – that I’m not even sure I want to use anymore, I just want to fucking complete it so I can have something to show for my soul-crushing student debt. Add the fact that all the field work leading up to and including internship are required to be unpaid … if I have to do 50 additional hours of unpaid work to get my degree … what the fuck!?

I’m a bit of an emotional wreck.

My inner Vulcan is trying to convince me this could be a positive development. It provides additional motivation to apply for internships in a timely manner. It requires a professional rather than purely academic focus, which will better prepare me for a career – which is the whole point of majoring in this field, particularly at the graduate level.

I still have the option of completing a thesis, it’s just not required and it would be in addition to the “culminating project.” Ergo I can choose to resume the thesis work I had been doing, or I can continue ignoring it without any academic penalty. I can take the entire work in a completely different direction of my choosing, free from academic restraints. I may write a book or release an album or do something with video or all of the above or something I’m not thinking of right now. It can become an ongoing process, not something I need to complete within a year or two. And I don’t have to pay for graduate credits to do it.

Regarding the “culminating project” … I don’t know, I need to talk to my advisor to learn if the requirements for practicing music therapy in my state have changed (and more information about the “course” itself) but there are possibilities with it, too. I have some ideas about how to reconcile this career with the activism I’ve been engaged in, which I’ve heard is a current trend within the field. My “culminating project” could tie in directly with the kind of work I most want to do – even better than the thesis! And 50 hours isn’t really much if it’s stretched over a semester or two … I could probably do it in addition to my paying job. The “course instructor” will be my supervisor, so I may be able to work at a site as the only music therapist … if that’s the case, oh wow!

I have an idea forming – I’m not sure how to put it into words yet and there are some things I’ll need to talk to my significant others about regarding community hubs we’d love to create. But if we can make actual progress pursuing those dreams and the important factors fall into place … far from pulling me in disparate directions, it could bring everything together so beautifully …

And we’ll probably need at least a year or two to get our community hubs to the point where they could support something like this so … AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!

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I’ve been feeling kinda guilty since I posted Still Wounded. I feel like it’s not fair to Fox or Ron. They’re both wonderful people whom I love and who love me, who contribute to my happiness and well-being in beautiful and unique ways. I’m blessed to have both of them, and Banji, and my other family and friends in my life. (Yes, including Fox’s sister. We had a great time being roommates!)

I was struggling with Ron because ze doesn’t want to tell the other person ze’s in love with about the full nature of our relationship, and ze doesn’t think we can continue if/when this person decides she’s ready to have a romantic relationship with zir. (Right now they both consider themselves to be “friends” because they’re not physically/sexually romantic, but … it’s complicated.) I’m not happy with this situation and most folks I talk to agree that Ron should be honest with the other person. But when I confronted zir, ze made a fairly compelling argument for why complete honesty in this case, at this time, might do more harm than good.

I’ve come to realize that 1) I can’t control Ron, so whatever happens in zir other (“platonic”) relationship is on zir, and 2) if I base my happiness on what I want our relationship to develop into, I will be miserable.

So it’s been a bit painful, and it isn’t easy, but I’m refocusing myself. Ron’s interactions with me show that ze loves me and I can trust zir. I choose to focus on and cherish what we have NOW, which is fun and emotionally satisfying and mutually beneficial. We’re able to support and comfort each other and express ourselves with each other so beautifully. I know I’m growing as a result of this experience, and I think (hope) ze is, too. I can’t / don’t deny what I would like for the future (and ze’s said ze wants, too, but doesn’t see how it can be possible), and I know trying to stifle the sadness that comes up when I think of it isn’t healthy. But I remind myself to do kind of what they teach in mindfulness meditation: if you have a thought, observe it and let it go. I acknowledge and sometimes even entertain this dream, but I let it go.

I choose to focus on the here and NOW because, in reality, that’s all we have. I’ve lost too many loves to pretend otherwise. So whether a relationship has the potential to last a year or a lifetime, I’m going to savor, cherish, work with, and live in what we have now.

That includes my relationship with myself.

Can I please be a shapeshifter now?

Fuck. I was supposed to do things today, I like don’t even remember what they were – except that one was to get a short ‘androgynous’ haircut. I did other stuff, which I guess is good. But not the things that would’ve made packing for a 3-day family thing tonight much much easier. Or, you know, having it done already.

I cut an overdue phone conversation with Banji short to go pick Fox up. When we got home Mom was waiting for us. We had some good conversation; she’s helpful. But I was thirsty and starting to freak out that our fancy clothes were wrinkling in the wash. So I excused myself (not an easy task with Mom) and took care of it. I could tell I was on the edge, needed space from her.

I come out of the laundry room to Mom holding a blouse. It’s a thing with her. She has her ideas of what I should wear and tries to be helpful and I feel like she’s forcing her own style onto me. It’s worse now being openly genderfluid because feminine clothing tends to trigger my dysphoria.

90% of the time I go ‘gender neutral’: jeans cut for a person with big hips and thighs, a ‘unisex’ t-shirt or hoodie (or tank top), walking shoes that are marketed to men. Harder to do that with formal wear. So I’ve got my general “what to wear” anxiety on top of “fuck people are going to misgender me” anxiety on top of “I don’t even know if I’m going to feel more masculine or feminine” anxiety on top of “what will Fox’s family think if I go masculine?” anxiety. (I have a binder and a men’s dress shirt and I want to say I’m not afraid to wear them but honestly I kinda am.)

And apparently we’re sharing a room with his sister now, I thought it was gonna be just us (his parents are paying for it). So my hope that this would be a sort of extended ‘date night’ enjoying ‘us time’ away from our normal routine is … well, maybe not shattered, but more complicated. We can’t necessarily just retreat to our room if we need space (or want to do stuff that requires privacy) we have to coordinate with his sister. Who … how do I put this diplomatically? … well, she’s my husband’s sister.

My brain broke and it’s taking all my effort not to be an asshole.

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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The Epic Quest for a New Prescriber

At my last psychiatric appointment, my prescriber of nearly 3 years (an awesome advanced practice nurse) informed me that she’s retiring – and the community mental health clinic where I’ve been receiving care isn’t hiring a replacement. There wasn’t any offer to help me find a new prescriber or set me up with one. She just gave me a list of numbers to call, and sent me on my way.

I knew I should’ve started the search immediately, but I was stressed out by the idea so I did what I do best: I procrastinated. I got distracted. I focused on just about everything else. To be fair, “the incident” happened soon afterward; I needed time and energy to recover from that. (Things are going well, by the way, update pending.)

Two months have passed.

Somehow my lamotrigine & clonazepam prescription refill cycles got de-synchronized, so I’m in a kind of weird situation. I used the last lamotrigine refill a few days ago; “additional refills require authorization.” I have 26 full doses left, including today’s. There’s still one more refill on the clonazepam.

So it’s crunch time. I need to find some way to refill these medications – preferably before I run out or resort to cutting pills in half. I honestly fear for my life if I have a disruption in access to my meds – if not my physical life, my ability to continue my activism and maintain healthy relationships. Perhaps more importantly, I fear losing the ability to do the things I need to improve my life – such as completing my degree, finding a job that pays a living wage, consistently functioning well in that job, and learning how to keep my home from becoming an unlivable nightmare. Even more importantly, I fear losing the ability to take care of myself, which includes the ironically (read: cruelly) daunting task of accessing and engaging in treatment.

These fears are among the most potent triggers for my worst depressive symptoms.

Oh, and by the way, my state just cut funding to community mental health. Clinics are closing or cutting whatever (whomever) they must to try and stay afloat. My current clinic no longer serves clients with private insurance, and it had to let go of its front desk staff.

jiFfM

Star Trek: Next Generation characters Picard and Riker both facepalming. The text reads: “Double Faceplam. For when one facepalm doesn’t cut it.”

So, yesterday, I began The Search. My counselor (who helps me with behavioral approaches to wellness) had suggested that my primary care doctor could possibly authorize refills, so I called his office. They said he “might” be able to, “depending on [my] situation,” so I made an appointment. I’m hoping he can authorize a one month supply of the lamotrigine, and if necessary I can return to him for a three month supply of both medications. (Clonazepam is a controlled substance, so any ‘new’ prescriptions not filled within 30 days expire and need to be reauthorized – at least in my state.)

Even if my primary care doctor can help me, seeing him for psychiatric consultations is not sustainable. I don’t have, nor do I anticipate developing, the rapport I’d need to literally trust him with my brain. I need a specialist who really knows what they’re doing, especially if and when it becomes necessary to make adjustments to my medications. (Which may be soon, I’m still trying to figure out to what degree my current problems can be addressed through music therapy and changes in behavior, vs meds.)

Ideally I’d like to switch to the other prescriber at my current clinic, whom Fox has been seeing and seems to like. If not her, perhaps someone at another location in the same agency – surely that would provide some consistency of care, right? I called the intake office; the person who answered seemed surprised I hadn’t been referred to another prescriber. “Well, you might want to call the other numbers on your list, because we’re currently scheduling for September.” “September?” “Yes.” I hung up on them.

I started making some additional calls. Bad number. We don’t do that. We’re not accepting new clients. We’re currently at capacity, but may be hiring someone, you can check back.

newprescriber1

My to-do list item on Habitica.com with several steps checked, reflecting the efforts I put in yesterday.

There are several additional numbers on my list, but most of the clinics are in urban areas that may be … inconvenient … to access. Middle class suburban snobbery aside, I anticipate that these locations are even more likely to be “at capacity” or otherwise struggling to serve clients for whom they’re the only choice.

So I’m gonna try calling intake for my current clinic/agency back, see what they can do for me. (I realized later that September is only about a month and a half away.) Hopefully my doctor can set me up through August, maybe September as well; if there’s any interruption in my access to meds it will hopefully be short enough that I’ll be okay. And I’d rather have this set as a backup in case my doctor can’t help me and/or I can’t find a prescriber elsewhere; the longer I wait to make the appointment, the later it will be and the more likely this is to become devastating.

Finding the Words

It’s been five weeks since … I still don’t have a label for it. It just is.

Well I guess I could say “my old wounds got torn open, setting me back a year or two in my recovery to how I felt and functioned about 18-24+ months ago.” (‘Recovery’ – to the degree to which I find that term relevant – isn’t a unidirectional, continuously-getting-better process. It’s complicated and messy and all over the place. So this can’t be a setback, just an unexpected and more-difficult-than-anticipated part of the journey. Perhaps a necessary part? It’s certainly reminded me of how vulnerable I am – but also how resilient I am.)

I’m inclined to say “that’s a bit melodramatic” but, well, it’s my truth. Coming back from that hasn’t been easy. For a while I took a break from activism, particularly the being-a-leader-in-a-grassroots-organization stuff. I’ve been getting back into it, almost to the point where I feel like I’m “pulling my weight” again – putting in effective work commensurate with the roles I have. But I’m also addicted to Terraria, my apartment is as messy as ever (what an understatement!), and my relationship with Fox … let’s just say both my therapists seem to agree it should be my primary focus. And one basically suggested he should quit his job so he’ll have energy to put into our relationship.

It’s been about 3.5 weeks since I visited Ron in the hospital and 2.5 weeks since ze was released. Ze lost zir job and couldn’t go back to zir parents’ house because their terms were unreasonable to the point of being unhealthy, so ze is currently homeless. People are doing what they can to help and ze says ze feels better. Ze seems better too – most of the time. Sometimes zir “speech seems pressured” but it’s usually connected to particular topics, and it’s possible to move the conversation elsewhere. Ze listens to me.

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I forgot to refill my prescriptions until I ran out – of course on the day I was running late and had to rush out the door. I tried to put in the refill request for the clonazepam first, but was unsuccessful; somehow my prescriptions got de-synchronized so I was out of refills with that Rx number and I didn’t have the new one to put in. I was in crazy anxiety rush mode, so I didn’t try refilling the lamotrigine – even though it had 2 more refills with that Rx number.

I asked Fox to go to the pharmacy for me and he did, because he’s wonderful. He said (they said) they didn’t have anything in the system for me. I was tabling at a pride event and he had to leave for work and it was Sunday, so there wasn’t really any opportunity to follow through on anything.

On Monday I realized I should’ve tried to refill the lamotrigine, better to have one of my meds than neither, right? That was no problem, but I had to speak to a pharmacy representative to deal with the clonazepam. The person I talked to at the pharmacy had an irritating tone to her voice and was too nonchalant, like there was no problem with them not having the information necessary to make sure I have access to a medication that keeps me alive. She didn’t even try to be polite like saying ‘sorry’ – but she did offer to fax my prescriber. And she explained that the clonazepam prescription had expired because it’s a controlled substance, so it has to be filled within 30 days.

I walked to the pharmacy with my inner voices screaming, an irritable mess, barely holding myself together. By the time I got the lamotrigine my ears were ringing and my eyes were so full of static everything was in a darkened haze and I couldn’t think straight and everything felt completely WRONG. That was after missing one dose – and it’s not even that high a dose. I took the dose – better to at least take one of my meds, right? and everything cleared within minutes. The difference was noticeable to Ron over the phone.

I had to play phone tag with my prescriber for a couple days, but I was able to refill the clonazepam today. I didn’t notice as much as an effect when I took it, except that maybe I’m a bit calmer? And I was rather sleepy, I attributed it to waking early from a bad dream, but the medication is known to make people drowsy. Ron seemed surprised I’m able to function at all taking [my dose] of it every day.

To be honest, between what ze’s been telling me about it and what I’ve read online, I’m a bit wary about staying on the clonazepam. Apparently it’s habit forming and it’s better not to take it for extended periods of time. But my prescriber added it for a reason – I think because even with my mood stabilized I was still struggling with anxiety. And I don’t know if I wrote about this yet, but my prescriber is retiring, so I need to find a new one within the next month or two. I’d rather not change my meds until I’ve developed a good rapport with the new prescriber.

So, yay, I’m back on my meds! I anticipate that going a day without lamotrigine and two days without clonazepam will have thrown my levels off; it might take a while for them to get back to normal. And I’m a bit shaken by how profound my (withdrawal?) symptoms were before I took the lamotrigine. I’d come to accept that I’ll probably be taking these medications for the rest of my life, and I’d rather do so consistently than risk going back to how things were before I started taking them. Still, this was a rough reminder of how dependent I am.