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!

Sims 3 Legacy: Sim-Cyborg Relations

This is the fourth installment of my Sims 3 Legacy. It picks up where Part 3 left off: with Nash inventing and Nicole vigorously studying Alchemy in order to produce an elixir that can cure transformed sims.

Legacy Family

Nash and Nicole’s aunt Mira retired as soon as she reached the appropriate age – none of this “waiting until I’m about to die” nonsense her mother and sister did. This enabled Mira to fully enjoy her golden years receiving a hard-earned pension. She spent as much time as she could in werewolf form, finding a variety of rare and fascinating metals, gems, and insects. When not hunting, she went on dates with her girlfriend and helped raise her niece’s children.

The Door of Life and Death

The Riverview Association for Amateur Archaeologists (RAFAA) caught wind of some strange, seemingly sim-made protrusions coming out of the ground in a grassy, undeveloped area near the fish hatchery. When they excavated, they discovered a peculiar door that seemed to lead to nowhere. Perplexed, they withdrew to covertly observe what happens when sims interact with their discovery.

The site has since become a popular place to hang out, though a few outsiders have suddenly gone missing. To Nicole and her high school sweetheart, Savannah Drummond, it seemed the perfect place to go for a date. They were pleasantly surprised to learn that, by knocking on the door, they could talk to Death – without dying!

Nicole felt that Death owed her one for ruining her high school graduation ceremony. So, she requested a new life – a pregnancy – created from a combination of her and Savannah’s genes.

Death summons a bolt of light that strikes at Nicole's feet, causing her to become pregnant. Nicole's girlfriend, Savannah, watches nearby.

Death summons a bolt of light that strikes at Nicole’s feet, causing her to become pregnant. Nicole’s girlfriend, Savannah, watches nearby.

The thing is, such a merger defies the laws of nature – and that is risky. The two children Nicole conceived in this manner (on two separate occasions) “dance to the beat of their own drummer,” somewhat out of touch with the reality most sims agree on. Perhaps they are more in touch with another reality, such as that beyond the grave?

I gave Nicole’s daughters the “insane” trait to reflect that their ways of being in the world seem … a bit odd … to other sims. I share some of their tendencies, particularly talking to myself (or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that we talk among ourselves almost constantly very frequently “all the time” – and seldom agree have trouble coming to a consensus). Most notably (and refreshingly) they don’t lose focus whenever they are in the same room as a ghost; I guess seeing dead people is “normal” to them.

The Master Invention

While Nicole was negotiating with Death, her brother Nash was hard at work inventing. He moved his bed into his workshop to make it easier for him to stay up most of the night working on his craft.

His dedication finally paid off very soon after Nicole gave birth to her first child, Oma. After searching all of Riverview for rare materials (with the help of Mira) and working tirelessly in his lab, he finally created the invention that would define his career and change life for all simkind – hopefully for the better…

A robot sits on the edge of a crafting table, smiling with arms extended as though to give a hug, while the inventor who created him cheers. An unmade bed is visible to the left, several other inventions to the right.

a simbot!

Nash named the simbot Josiah and adopted zir into the family, where ze was fully accepted and loved. A good-humored virtuoso, Josiah learned to play guitar with ease and became an active member of a local rock band. When not practicing or performing, ze helped to care for Oma and her younger sister, Olive.

Josiah plays zir guitar

Josiah plays guitar

Josiah reads with Oma, a toddler

Josiah reads with Oma, a toddler

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Life in the Legata household was going well. The children were well cared-for, Nicole learned to create her elixir and used it to cure many sims of zombie-ism, and Nash turned to improving his handiness so he could keep Josiah in good health.

Josiah (far left, holding Olive), Mira (left center), Nicole (right center), Nash (right), and Oma (seated in foreground) pose together in front of a wintry backdrop.

Josiah (far left, holding Olive), Mira (left center), Nicole (right center), Nash (far right), and Oma (seated in foreground) pose together in front of a wintry backdrop.

Then Oma, ready to grow up into a teenager, had her birthday on the night of the full moon. When she went to blow out the candles, her cake mysteriously caught fire! At the same moment, Mira died of old age. Death seemed to gloat as ze claimed her, further influencing the life ze had helped create: Oma developed the “brooding” trait, which predisposes her to melancholy thoughts about existential issues. It reminds me of my tendency to ruminate, especially when my depression symptoms are stronger.

[I wish I’d taken a screenshot!]

During Mira’s funeral, Death visited once again – this time to claim Josiah. The simbot greeted Death graciously, but the rest of the family was devastated.

Josiah shakes hands with Death, surrounded by zir family members (who are crying). They stand atop a recently-filled grave, with two other tombstones visible in the right-background.

Josiah shakes hands with Death, surrounded by zir family members (who are crying). They stand atop a recently-filled grave, with two other tombstones visible in the right-background.

Aftermath

The loss of two family members hit the Legatas hard.

a man flails, suspended in a vertical beam of light in a nighttime, suburban scene

Nash is abducted by aliens in his own front yard!

Nash swore off inventing and lacked focus … until he was abducted by aliens. They ignited a his passion for – no! obsession with – all things having to do with outer space. He built a tower between Mira’s and Josiah’s graves, equipped it with the basics he needed to survive, topped it with telescopes, and retreated from everyday life. (This enabled him to master the logic skill, the third and final skill he needed for the lifetime wish: “Renaissance Sim.”) Though he has identified several celestial bodies, he has yet to find whatever it is he is looking for.

Oma sits cross-legged, deep in thought about her heartache. The graves of Mira, Lisa, and Melanie are visible through the window.

Oma sits cross-legged, deep in thought about her heartache. The graves of Mira, Lisa, and Melanie are visible through the window.

Oma spent hours contemplating both the meaning and the hollowness of reality. Though her brooding did not interfere with her school performance, it limited her ability to develop skills, socialize, and otherwise live a fulfilling life.

a young female sim, submerged to her neck, with an anxious facial expression, surrounded by nature

Suddenly finding herself in the middle of a body of water, Olive looks around anxiously.

Since becoming a teenager, Olive has been having sudden impulses to run out into the nearest body of water and swim. She suddenly realizes she is in deep water and becomes anxious and disoriented. Fortunately, she has thus far been able to find her way back to dry, solid ground. No one has been able to explain the reason for – or meaning of – these impulses.

Oma’s transition to young adulthood went smoothly enough, considering the circumstances. She graduated with honors at the top of her class. The family went to the Fall Festival immediately afterward to take a photo together and celebrate.

Nash, Nicole, Oma, and Olive pose in front of an autumn backdrop after Oma's graduation from high school.

Nash, Nicole, Oma, and Olive pose in front of an autumn backdrop after Oma’s graduation from high school.

Below is the updated version of the Legata family tree. Mira’s symbol (just right of center) is now crossed out to show that she is deceased. I added a diamond to represent Nash’s simbot, Josiah, in the lower left. It is filled with black to show that ze was a simbot, and crossed out to show that ze is also deceased. A blue arrow with the word “Invented” shows that Nash created Josiah.

I added the family tree of Nicole’s ex-girlfriend Savannah on the far right side of the Legata family tree. The symbols for Savannah, her father (Rex), mother (Windy), and youngest brother (Jaques) are filled with white to show that they are “normal,” non-magical sims. The symbol for her sister Hannah is filled with fuchsia to show that she is a vampire. The symbols for George Dean (upper left), Mira Legata, and Savannah’s brother Antwain are filled with reddish-brown to show that they are werewolves.

Death is represented near the middle of the family tree by a diamond (filled with gray to show that zir “supernatural status” is unknown). Red arrows point from Death to Oma and Olive to show that Death helped Nicole conceive them. Finally, the symbols for Oma and Olive (bottom center) are filled with yellow to show that they, like their mother (Nicole), grandmother (Melanie), and great-grandmother (Lisa), are witches!

The Legata Family Tree, generations 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The Legata Family Tree, generations 0, 1, 2, 3, and 4.

The Next Generation

Oma met a fellow witch named Quintin Beaulieu at the Fall Festival and quickly fell in love. She slept with him that very night. Several urgent visits to the bathroom later, Oma discovered that she is pregnant with her first child!

A young woman (left) talking to an older woman (right) whose eyes and mouth are opened wide. In the upper left corner is an image of a man and woman holding hands in bed, surrounded by a thought bubble that points to the young woman's head.

Nicole (right) is shocked to learn that Oma (center) is pregnant at such a young age. In the thought bubble (upper left corner) Oma remembers the night she spent with Quintin (left).

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.

Sims 3 Legacy: Meeting Death

This is the third installment of my Sims 3 Legacy. It picks up where Part 2 left off: with my founder (Lisa) ready to retire and her daughters (Melanie & Mira) well on their way to the tops of their respective career tracks.

Legacy Family

After a long and fulfilling life, Lisa Legata retired from her position as Star News Anchor. Death came for her within a few days. She greeted Death with open arms, and together they journeyed to the Great Beyond.

A female ghost (lower right) shakes hands with the Grim Reaper

Lisa Legata greets Death

A tall tombstone with purple flowers in front of it. To one side, one woman cries on another's shoulder.

Lisa’s daughters mourn her passing. Melanie (left) cries on Mira’s (right) shoulder.

Prior to her mother’s death, Melanie discovered that her second love interest had a girlfriend; that was why he was unresponsive to her romantic advances. Why he didn’t ask to “just be friends” as a result is beyond me (ironic, no?). As predicted, he became angry with her when she actually communicated her intentions to him. I could have had her apologize – an interaction that helped her become best friends with her original romantic interest – but I decided not to. He’s the one who should have apologized to her!

Several new friendships later, Melanie began dating a kind, eccentric, non-magical sim named Nikolas Brinson. They had two children together: a boy, followed some time later by a girl. Melanie named them Nash and Nicole, respectively. Nash is non-magical and inherited his father’s eccentricity. Nicole is a witch like her mother and grandmother; she shares her father’s compassion for all sims. Unfortunately, neither of Melanie’s children got to meet their grandmother.

Melanie (left), Mira (center), Nash (right), and Nicole (foreground) pose for a family portrait at the Spring Festival

Melanie (left), Mira (center), Nash (right), and Nicole (foreground) pose for a family portrait at the Spring Festival

Melanie successfully juggled raising children with continuing to climb the political career ladder. She became Leader of the Free World not long before reaching retirement age.

Meanwhile, Mira worked diligently to become an astronaut; she achieved her goal soon after aging up to become a full-fledged adult. As an astronaut Mira was only required to work one day a week; this gave her plenty of free time to explore all of Riverview as a werewolf and find all sorts of interesting metals, gems, and insects. Her garden thrived under her care. Soon after Nicole was born, Mira entered an exclusive, committed romantic relationship with her best friend.

As a child, Nash became obsessed with building strange contraptions out of scrap metal, often talking excitedly about his next new “invention.” He secluded himself in his workshop above the garage for entire days, seeming to prefer solitude. Since graduating high school he has registered as a “self-employed inventor” and engages in a tireless quest to make new discoveries.

As a child, Nash builds something in his workshop atop the two-car garage. Some of his other inventions are on display in the background.

As a child, Nash builds something in his workshop atop the two-car garage. Some of his other inventions are on display in the background.

Nicole had a “normal” childhood and adolescence, during which she dabbled in magic with far less dedication than her predecessors. She only discovered her love of Alchemy upon reaching young adulthood. Inspired by her grandmother’s Possible Solutions to Riverview’s Zombie Problem, Nicole is determined to use alchemy to cure as many transformed sims as possible. She has already cured one sim of zombie-ism using an elixir she purchased at the consignment store.

After serving as Leader of the Free World for quite some time, Melanie decided to retire. Death came for her within a day. She died of old age during Nicole’s high school graduation ceremony. Though deeply saddened, Mira, Nicole, and Nash took a graduation picture together before returning home to mourn.

Nash (left), Mira (center), and Nicole (right) pose in front of a wintry backdrop on Nicole's graduation day.

Nash (left), Mira (center), and Nicole (right) pose in front of a wintry backdrop on Nicole’s graduation day.

two identical tombstones in a wintry landscape. a lone woman stands, weeping, near one of them

Mira mourns alone by her sister’s grave

I expanded the Legata family tree to include Nikolas (far left), Nash (lower left), and Nicole (lower right). The symbols for Nikolas and Nash are filled with white to show that they are “normal,” non-magical sims. The symbol for Nicole is filled with yellow to show that she, like Melanie and Lisa, is a witch. The black dot to the lower right of Mira’s symbol (middle right) indicates that she does not have children. Lisa’s symbol (top right) and Melanie’s symbol (middle left) are crossed out to show that they are now deceased.

The Legata Family Tree, generations 0, 1, 2, and 3.

The Legata Family Tree, generations 0, 1, 2, and 3.

Legacy House

In addition to a two-car garage with Nash’s workshop above it, I added 3 bedrooms to the legacy house. Two of them are visible in the far right of the image below, with a small bathroom between them. The third is in the back of the house, accessible via the dining room.

The legacy house with walls cut away to reveal all the rooms. In the center, Melanie teaches Nicole to walk.

The legacy house with walls cut away to reveal all the rooms. In the center, Melanie teaches Nicole to walk.

the legacy lot in winter

the legacy lot in winter

The Next Generation

What will come of Nash’s inventing? Will Nicole take some time out from practicing Alchemy to bring in the next generation? Find out soon…

Take this. I’ve been carrying it for you for 16 years.

Insight by itself isn’t particularly useful. You need to actually do something with it in order to benefit. I’ve known for years that I never fully mourned my father’s death. That the knot in my shoulder probably has something to do with him. That I’m angry with him for hurting Mom and me, lying to us, and abandoning us. That I’m not going to recover from my depression until I forgive him.

But today was the first time I actively expressed those emotions to him. With Wakana’s support and guidance I propped up a stuffed animal to represent him and yelled and cried and stood with my hands on my hips and didn’t hold anything back. I wasn’t nice about it at all. I was brutally honest.

Something came out that took me by surprise. Something extremely familiar, yet completely unexpected: Disappointment. I’m disappointed in him. It seems absurd, what right does a daughter have to be disappointed in her father? Well, this daughter is all grown up. And yes, I’m disappointed in him.

When he married my mother, he made a promise. I’ve made that same promise to Fox, so I know how important it is and how difficult it can be to keep. But I’ve made a commitment to keeping that promise, to always working with Fox to keep that promise no matter what. My father broke his promise to my mother. I am very angry with him for that. I am very disappointed in him. These are my emotions that I feel, and I feel them toward him because of something he did.

When he helped to create me and took on the role of father, he made a promise. It might never have been spoken, but it was a set of expectations I had for him: that he would protect me, that he would live by the values he taught me, that he would be there when I needed him, that I could trust him. He broke his promise. He hurt me both physically and emotionally. He lied to me after teaching the importance of honesty. He was a hypocrite. He abandoned me. And he taught me to value and respect him more than I valued and respected my mother. For all her flaws, she deserves at least as much respect as him. He should have modeled that for me, but he did the opposite.

I am very, very disappointed in him.

Here’s the thing: I’d been directing that disappointment at myself. I’d taken on the guilt I imagine he would feel, were he alive to hear the things I said today. I took responsibility for his failings; I believed I was the one who’d committed the sin of betrayal; I thought I had to redeem myself and did everything I could to do so and felt crushing guilt when nothing I did was enough. Maybe it’s possible for a father to make it up to his daughter after disappointing her as my father disappointed me. Maybe. But for a daughter to make it up to herself? Impossible. Nothing I can do will make my disappointment in my father go away.

But now I am directing it at him. I am disappointed in him. I am giving him the responsibility I’ve been carrying for the things he did to hurt me. It’s his responsibility. He’s the owner of the guilt. He’s the one who, if he were alive, would have reason to feel like he has to do something to redeem himself. Not me.

I am the one in control, the one feeling the disappointment, the one with the ability to sentence or forgive. I am the Judge, the Warden, even. I was never on trial. He is.

I’ve expressed my anger, my rage, my disappointment, my hurt, my sorrow. I’ve yelled and cried. I’ve handed him the burden I’ve been carrying. It’s his burden, it was never mine; it belongs to him.

And under all of that, I love him. I’d been saying I wanted to punch him, but when I had the stuffed animal standing in for him I decided it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t need to become violent, to have that violence on my shoulders. I hugged him instead. I chose to express my love for him.

Now it is time to let go. To say goodbye. And to forgive.

Can I really just walk away from all of this?

Well, I have lots of people whom I love and who love me. I’m married. I’ve already lived 16 years without him, carrying a burden that was never mine. I’ve experienced success and I’m learning to tolerate failure, as much as I dislike it. I’ve been and will continue to develop my talents and skills. Some day I might even have meaningful employment. Children of my own. A legacy.

Yes, I can leave this burden in the sand. I can walk away from it. That is what I choose to do.

You disappointed me, Dad. You weren’t the father I needed you to be. But I know that you were human, and humans make mistakes. And I still love you, Dad. I’ll always love you. So I choose to forgive you. And I need to live my life. Goodbye.

Escape to Dragon Valley Pt. 1

I feel like I should write about the rest of the time I spent with Banji at her aunt’s house, but the words just aren’t coming right now. There was a lot of crying and other emotional vulnerability. We also had a lot of fun connecting (especially through music) and watched the entire first season of Elementary. The single best day IMHO was the one we spent outside around a fire talking, cooking hot dogs, and making s’mores.

As the visit came to a close, I found myself thinking more and more about my game in The Sims 3. I packed too much into the day I returned home, so by the end of it I had little energy (especially emotional energy) for anything social – even just talking or cuddling with Fox. I dove back into the game and haven’t really left it since. I’ve been playing it even more since Wakana gave me a list of things I need to do to get myself living life and interacting with people more; she asked me to call her at the start and end of each play session. I swear I didn’t lie when I agreed to do those things, I just promptly decided not to do them.

One thing Wakana asked me to do that I am inclined to follow up on is to write about my active game and what I get out of it. This post is the first of … some number, I have no idea … that will address the issue. I suppose I should mention that I’ve also been feeling very pressured to move more quickly on preparations for my legal marriage ceremony in less than a month. I want people (especially Mom) to back off but that doesn’t seem to be happening, so I hide in The Sims 3 instead of dealing with any of it.

My The Sims 3 family consists of a stay-at-home dad who’s going to become an elder very soon, an orchestra conductor who is painfully close to achieving her lifetime goal, a high school senior in a promising relationship who also has an imaginary friend, and a child genius. I’m at the point where I have a habit of abandoning my current game in favor of a new set of young adults, but I’m hoping that maybe I’ll stick with this family for multiple generations. Yet at the same time part of me thinks the best thing I could do for myself is drop The Sims 3 cold turkey, uninstall it and everything. There I typed it but I don’t want to do it, okay? I’m still holding out for a solution that lets me keep playing, just without sacrificing my whole life.

Last night I took a break from actually playing to create a timeline that combines all four sims’ memories into a sort of rudimentary narrative. This was more important to me than sleeping last night / this morning or doing anything useful today. There’s no point to creating something like that just to keep it to myself, so, well, enjoy. Please don’t hesitate to tell me what you think.

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Running Red

Banji and I arrived at her aunt’s house last night, after a full afternoon of driving through mountains covered with glorious yellows, oranges, and reds. We had a fun drive and good conversation and I think I even managed to stay awake through most of it! (though I did nod off a bit in the middle, oddly enough while listening to Led Zeppelin) It felt great to talk with her and her aunt once we’d arrived, though I’ll admit I felt a bit left out during some of their conversations about their family members.

I woke early this morning; my first reaction was to try and go back to sleep. My mind kept berating me about Schmoozer’s death, telling me it’s all my fault my adorable, sweet, uber friendly pet rat is dead. “Fine, if you’re going to torture me, I’ll get up.” So I did. And, genius that I am, I went online and looked at information about the Speaker of the House. I think it’s ridiculous that one person has so much power he can keep the government shut down indefinitely by refusing to allow his colleagues to vote on a bill. I wanted to create a petition asking for Boehner to be kicked out of that position and replaced with a non-partisan individual whose immediate job it would be to call the clean funding bill to a vote. But there is no higher authority to appeal to, and it seems most likely that if we could convince the House to “encourage” Boehner to resign, House Republicans would immediately elect someone worse.

I read an article that said the Tea Party is actually pleased with Boehner and that this shutdown is part of his career strategy. That’s right folks, starving mothers and babies, survivors of rape and domestic violence put out on the street, head start programs ground to a halt, hundreds of thousands of people without work or pay, parks and monuments closed, a lapse in veterans’ benefits, etc. etc. etc. … merely the pawns in Boehner’s game of chess. If he’s winning, he’s not going to listen to our petitions – unless perhaps there is a massive outcry by the people in his district, who can vote for his opponent in the next election. Without their votes, all the support and campaign funds from his party will be nothing. One district in Ohio may determine the fate of us all.

I decided to give myself a break from the futile & infuriating and do something useful. My student loans will go into repayment soon, so I thought I should take a look at my account and repayment options. The instructions I’d received were to select a repayment plan or apply for deferment before my loans enter repayment. Makes sense to me. But the site wouldn’t even let me view some of the options, much less make changes or try to defer repayment, because I’m still in a grace period. That’s right folks. I’m supposed to do something before the grace period ends, but I can’t do it because of the grace period. That makes so much sense!

Eventually I gave up on the Internet and decided to attempt an idea I had for a Celtic knotwork panel. Banji took a nap nearby, said the design looked good when I showed it to her, and used her smart phone. I felt really guilty for doing something that didn’t involve her, but I also really wanted to complete my design. It was like I literally couldn’t put it down.

But of course my mind wouldn’t let me just focus on the knotwork! It insisted on ruminating on Boehner and the Republicans and how effed up the federal government is. I felt so angry and at the same time so helpless; it’s really infuriating. I talked with Banji about it a bit but she didn’t really want to get into it too much, and really I think she’s taking the healthier course of action. So I fumed a bit, and I compulsively completed a very convoluted knotwork design, including tracing the outline in ultra fine black Sharpie and erasing most of the pencil lines. The perfectionist in me still wants to tweak some things, but overall I’m proud of my day’s work.

We left the house late enough that we only had 20 minutes to peruse the bookstore in town – a tradition that is important to Banji. Of course I was ambivalent about going until we got there, then once we were there I wished we had longer to look at ALL THE BOOKS!!! But maybe it was better we were so short on time because we got to look around and be entertained without spending inordinate amounts of money. Any longer would have been bad for the wallet and might not have actually been any more fun.

Dinner with Banji’s aunt, then we came back to the house and started chatting. I kept fading in and out, almost like I was bouncing between two realities. The one behind my eyelids was quite gory. I wanted to talk to Banji about it after her aunt had gone to bed, but I felt so weird trying to describe the images that were haunting me – precisely because they were so haunting. I couldn’t get myself to say anything about them. Banji was tired, too, so we agreed to call it a night and try to do creative things together in the morning.

I’ll describe the gory, unsettling, potentially triggering images behind a cut, so you can choose whether to read about them.

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The Forge

A video recently showed up on my Facebook feed; it is a message from Eric Lim (whose sister committed suicide) to anyone who’s hurting – essentially, to stay strong. Its central message is to use the pain as a source of strength, to turn “destruction into creation.” My initial impression was that it was too violent, and I didn’t like the message that the hits would never stop, nor that I should let myself be forged into something.

But the second time I watched it I could see past my emotional responses and appreciate how realistic a portrayal of emotional suffering – particularly from guilt – it is. I want someone to wave a magic wand and make it all go away, so I’ll be happy and healthy and whole again. But that’s not reality, and claiming that it is really wouldn’t help anyone. Pain and suffering are a part of life; some of us seem to have more of it than others. The point is that we’re not alone, and we don’t have to let it break us, and we’re not “abnormal” or “crazy.” As much as it sucks, my pain and the depths of my emotions and my ability to live with them are my greatest strength. My depression symptoms are actually the worst when I’m struggling not to feel.

I’m going to post two links to the video. The first is the initial context I viewed it in: a page on Upworthy. I really don’t like the way they portray it because their focus is on how heroic Eric is; they call him “superhuman.” They separate him from the rest of us, those who really struggle to see our pain this way, those who don’t feel like we can fight the monster. Good for him, but I’m the scum of the earth, what can I possibly do? I don’t want to be forged into something that can “hit back” – does that make me a horrible person? Clearly I don’t deserve the help offered near the end of the video.

Upworthy: "Put a cape on this guy, because the way he fights this monster is superhuman."

links to the video on Upworthy.com

The title of the Upworthy page creates a dichotomy: man vs. monster. The monster at least seems to be Eric’s sister’s suicide, a choice she made, an action she committed in a time of crisis. Some of us, who have at least considered and may have attempted suicide, may get the message that we are the monster the superhuman hero is fighting.

In other words, it pits the loved ones of those who lose their struggle with suicide against the people who actually contemplate, attempt, and/or “successfully” commit suicide. We are the monster. We are the thing that makes the people who “survive” us superhuman. The antagonist whose only purpose is to highlight the awesomeness of the hero.

I really don’t think that’s what Eric meant to do. I think he needed to work through his own pain and wanted to send a message of hope to us, the people contemplating suicide because we don’t think we can take any more hits from the monster. He speaks directly to us. The first thing he says at 1:00 is, “I love you,” and at 3:00 he says the core of his message for anybody hurting – I’ll let it speak for itself.

the Forge; two figures fighting in fire

links to foranybodyhurting.com

I’ll admit, as great as it is that Eric Lim was able to reach out to us through his own pain, I still feel like this is by and for people who are concerned about and/or affected by others committing suicide. So much – practically all – of the information and perspectives you find about suicide is from the perspective of outsiders, people who aren’t contemplating it for themselves and may have never contemplated it for themselves. Medical experts. Professionals. “Survivors.” I feel like I’m an exhibit at the zoo. All the information about me is by and for people outside the cage of suicidal ideation, who are looking in, studying me, and trying to figure out how to prevent me from exhibiting a certain behavior.

But my voice never gets heard. And more importantly, I never get to hear directly from other people like me. I tried searching for information on suicide from the perspective of people who have contemplated it, are contemplating it, and/or have attempted it. It is, at best, extremely hard to come by.

There’s an article in Health Sociology Review Vol 22 Issue 3 that looks promising, but I haven’t been able to access its full text because it’s too recent. I had to put in an inter-library loan request with my school library to gain access to an article, published in 1990, about feminist perspectives on studying suicide. I’m also struggling with two obstacles: 1) I’m sensitive about this topic, so I find it more difficult and more frustrating than usual to try and sort through potential (primarily online) sources of information, and 2) I often have trouble determining which search terms to use to get the most relevant results.

I also have another gripe about language. At Relay for Life, which raises money for the fight against cancer, very specific terms are used. A person becomes a “Survivor” the moment they are diagnosed with cancer and stays one, regardless of whether they are in remission, receiving treatment, or terminally ill but still breathing. Those of us who love people who currently have, or once had, or died from cancer are called “Caregivers.” We’re respected, but we leave the limelight to the people who actually have/had cancer.

Suicide (prevention) Land is a whole different story. For some reason people who might not have even known their loved one was contemplating suicide until it happened are called “survivors.” People have suicidal ideation. People attempt suicide. People commit suicide. People try to prevent suicide. But are there any clear terms to refer to all these people? Would such terms even be helpful?

I’m not even sure what terminology would apply to me. I know I don’t want to die anytime soon and I don’t have a plan, but sometimes I think and feel like dying is the best/only option and “I should kill myself.” I struggle with it almost every day. AND I’m still alive.

Fuck this shit. I’m a Suicide Survivor. A person who struggles with thoughts about suicide and/or self-harm and guess what? “I’m not dead yet!” I truly feel for people who have lost a loved one to suicide, it must be really horrible. I don’t mean to discount their pain. But until they’ve had to live from day to day with being the biggest danger to their own well-being – and all the stigma that comes with it! – they are not “Survivors.” No more than I am a Cancer Survivor, having never had cancer myself, just because I went through the agony of powerlessly watching while multiple loved ones died of it, in part due to patterns of behavior they enacted upon themselves (i.e. smoking cigarettes).

I respect the difference between feeling pain while loving someone with the disease, and being the person who has it. People talking about suicide / suicide prevention should do the same.