Awareness Wednesday

May is Mental Health Awareness Month (for another week and a half), so here are some links to sites and articles about mental health:

Mental Health America.net has resources and involvement opportunities

May 7th was Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day

Make the Connection has support and resources for veterans and their families

The Young Minds Advocacy Project works for legal and social change to help low-income youth access mental health resources

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month includes links to information and resources for people of color

Speak Out! a powerful statement by a Latina feminist mental health activist

Mental Health Awareness and the LGBT Community

Bisexual Mental Health

Transgender Mental Health

Transgender Tuesday: Closets

content note: brief description of thoughts about self-harm

I’ve been very depressed lately. I was woken up on Wednesday by the phone call informing me that my request for periodontal treatment had been denied. When I called to make my appeal, the person neutralized my language so “I’m in a lot of pain” became “I’m experiencing discomfort.” I felt powerless to advocate for myself because no matter what I said, she could submit whatever she wanted on my behalf and I wouldn’t even know. (I hadn’t yet received the letter with information on submitting a written appeal.)

I walked into Wakana’s office later that day, outwardly very calm and personable – but inwardly ready to explode! I told her I was scared of how calm I was and urged her to insert earplugs before allowing me to play on the drums and cymbal. We were all set up to make music when I told her I felt like cutting myself because I didn’t know how else to express the anger: I couldn’t kill people, I’d regret breaking things, but my skin would eventually heal. I said I wanted to get a tattoo in the spot I always think about cutting on; then I’d be less tempted to cut because I wouldn’t want to risk messing up the tattoo.

She said she thought I needed to make a statement… and that my feelings had little to do with my tooth. We talked for a while before I expressed my (ongoing) frustration with Mom: “I’m trying to have a healthy relationship with her, but she keeps hurting me! Even when I think things are going well between us, she always says or does something to hurt me. I can’t take it anymore!”

She told me, “Saying ‘can’t’ makes you a victim. Try saying ‘I won’t take it anymore.'” I tried it and felt a lot more powerful. Whether I allow my mother to continue abusing me is a choice; I can continue to take it – but I am unwilling to accept the consequences of that choice. I don’t want to take it anymore, so I won’t.

The consequences of that choice are terrifying. I was finally straightforward and honest with her on Sunday; I told her how I feel when she goes on and on talking about trivial matters, doesn’t listen to me, asks me to do random things for her she could do on her own, dumps all her emotional garbage on me, doesn’t respect my boundaries when I try to end a conversation. (Well, maybe I didn’t talk about all those things. I wanted to list my major complaints here.) She actually said, “So I’m a horrible person!” and hung up on me! Then she called me back. I told her she’s a wonderful person, and I want her to stop doing all this other crap so I can spend time with who she is beneath it all. She said I was wrong for telling her she could use the computer at the library (hers had just died), she didn’t raise me to be like that, if it were anybody else I’d be falling over myself to help them, etc. She said she thinks the problem is she’s doing too much for me and she’s going to cut me off and I have to pay rent and…

I realized why I let her do all this shit to me. If I don’t, I’m a horrible person and I might end up homeless, without a car, unable to afford therapy, etc. The next thing I knew, Fox had found a new computer for her online and I had agreed to accompany her when she went to the store to buy it. I spent the whole day with her yesterday, first getting the computer, then running a couple errands she hadn’t told me about before I was trapped in her car, then helping her set up the new computer. I was tired, cranky, and starving, but I remained pleasant and even got Fox to help after a long day at work. When it was time to go our separate ways, I said “I love you. Good night” and gave her a hug. She said “Good nigh… we need to…” I repeated “I love you, good night.” and left. Boundaries.

Today I woke up hating the world. I always wake up hating the world. I’m tired of waking up hating the world. I couldn’t get myself to go to the LGBTQIA+ groups on campus. I was too focused on my fight for something remotely resembling adequate healthcare. I’m too busy training to be my own lawyer to get dressed, drive places, talk to other human beings, eat, or do schoolwork.

I hate it. All of it. I want to see it burn.

The above has nothing to do with being transgender, except that I was misgendered in every single interaction that involved another person. (Except Fox and Banji.) At my piano midterm on Thursday I had 3 people using the wrong pronouns to talk what a pleasure I am to work with. (if only that had helped my grade!) Even in interactions that didn’t involve another person, I was asking an imaginary witness questions that required me to describe myself as the gender I was assigned at birth. It’s inescapable!

People don’t seem to see or hear me, they see and hear whatever fits with their expectations (or what’s convenient for them).

The Whole Truth of Coming Out of the Closet – In Comic Form explains the concept of closets quite well: “Closets are created by social and structural expectations about who we are supposed to be, and the consequences of defying that.” It shows how coming out is not a straightforward process, nor is it the same for everyone. There are some links after the comic that are great further reading.

It inspired me to draw this:

putting someone in the gender closet based on secondary sex characteristics - original artwork by Ziya

putting someone in the gender closet based on their appearance

The most important point – from my perspective at least – is that people don’t go into the closet. We don’t start out with everyone seeing and accepting us as we are, then decide (for whatever reason) that we’re going to hide some aspect(s) of our identity/identities. Other people build closets around us.

Sometimes even after we’ve come out to them.

Transgender Tuesday: Links and Spoons

Last week I shared some of the uncertainty I’ve been feeling about my transgender, non-binary gender identity. I’ve read a couple of articles since then that I think everyone should read. They’ve helped me feel more confident that I am what I say I am, regardless of how others treat me or what they might want me to do.

I’ve experienced some harmful effects of the 10 Myths About Non-Binary People It’s Time to Unlearn, especially the myth that we don’t exist. People have taken my gender less seriously or come up with their own explanations of it under the false belief (#2) that I’m “just” confused: for me it’s not so much confusion as that gender is complicated and I’m still working things out; even if I were confused that doesn’t justify disrespect.

Mom hits me with #3 “You are a new concept” and #7 “Your pronouns are ridiculous” all the effin time. She’d try and convince me that her generation is completely incapable of learning new things or adapting to new social realities. That seems highly unlikely to me, considering how much has changed in the past 60 years. The last time she told me using my pronouns is difficult, I told her I understand and just need her to try. Things seemed to be going well… until much later when she made a scathing remark about me spending money on therapy. (You know, the thing that’s slowly freeing me from generations of emotional neglect and abuse.) She’s since apologized but… It’s a process. I just keep telling myself it’s a process.

Sam Dylan Finch’s piece, 8 Things Non-Binary People Need to Know, was exactly what I needed to read; I could swear he wrote it in response to my post from last week! I wanted to quote and/or expand on specific parts that I can relate to strongly, really needed to hear, or find particularly meaningful… but if I did that I’d end up re-posting the whole thing!

I think it’s important that he included #4 “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.” Mental health is a very important issue for everyone and especially non-binary people. Talking to Wakana about my gender identity can be difficult (and frustrating) but I think, in time, it will help me benefit so much more from therapy.

Speaking of mental health, I’m learning to have much better respect for and adapt to my need to budget emotional energy, or spoons. I’ve been feeling very anxious about my piano midterm on Thursday (2 days! AAAAHHHH!!!). I have plans to meet with a classmate today and practice interventions, I have to pick Mom up from the airport this evening, and there are the 2 LGBTQ+ groups I’ve been meaning to join… Long before I went to bed last night, I was already feeling the all-too-familiar dread.

This morning I realized it’s going to be a very busy day and I probably shouldn’t try to do everything I had planned. I practiced some self management: I wrote down everything I have planned for today and prioritized. The meeting with my classmate and picking Mom up have to happen. I should try to catch my instructor during office hours and practice piano some more tonight.

The LGBTQ+ groups are technically optional. I was feeling very anxious about the one I haven’t been to at all yet because it’s brand new and it would be the first thing in my day. In the past I’ve found myself unable to get ready on time for such things, getting extremely stressed out, and not going after all. I just can’t afford to drop that many spoons. So, today, I decided to skip the stress and anxiety and wait to join that new group next week, when (hopefully) I’ll have less important and emotionally-charged things to worry about.

I really hate having to make that decision, especially since it interferes with my goals of being part of the LGBTQ+ community, getting support, and practicing being part of a group. But today it’s the best decision for me. I can use the anger it generates as energy to help myself get through this busy day.

The second group meets at a much better time for me and I feel more comfortable going to it. I’ve already had awkward one-on-one meetings with the facilitator; if there are other people there, it will probably be much better. Knowing that’s a possibility – I’m still free to make the choice that’s best for me when the time comes – feels good.

Transgender Tuesday

gender

Lately I’ve been questioning my gender identity, especially since I wrote about it the other day. The temptation to refer to myself as the gender I was assigned at birth, to allow others to use the labels and pronouns they attribute to me, and to give up on expressing my queer gender identity has been very strong. It doesn’t help that I’m invited to a gender-exclusive social gathering on Fox’s side of the family; just the fact that I’m considering attending raises the question of whether I have the right to call myself transgender.

There’s a voice in my head telling me I should “come out” already – to disclose which gender I was assigned at birth – but this blog is the one place where I’m relatively free from the social effects of gender. I feel like people relate to me as just another person, who doesn’t need to be labeled and treated a certain way based on secondary sex characteristics – which is exactly what I think everyday life should be like. If I don’t want to allow that in the one place where I have some control over such things, why should I do it anywhere?

Mostly it’s because I want to be accepted, to belong. I’m tired of feeling like an outsider. I expect that people are more likely to accept me if I conform to their gender expectations; identifying with the gender they insist on perceiving me as would make that so much easier!

genbenjan

But then I look back at some things I posted over 2 years ago, and realize that the ways I think about my gender haven’t changed:

For years I have felt my sense of my own gender change throughout a given day, depending on my current situation. … I think these “feelings” about my gender are a reflection of cultural understandings of masculinity and femininity that I have internalized. … In social situations I might adopt the gender role and expression most appropriate to fit in, though I find that difficult and uncomfortable when taken to either extreme. Alternatively, I might take on the gender role needed to balance what everyone else is doing: …

I am uncomfortable being referred to as the gender I was assigned at birth and that people still assign to me based on physical appearance, especially when that influences my behavior and/or how they treat me. It can have a negative effect on our ability to experience a genuine human connection as equals. I am also annoyed with having to disclose my “sex” in order to do register for services online or send emails to representatives in government. Why should I have to disclose information about my anatomy in order to express my opinions or use services on a website? (or do pretty much anything else?)

On being gender queer:

The biggest thing I’m struggling with is determining the extent to which I want to assert my gender queer identity. … To some extent I do identify with the gender I was assigned at birth because it corresponds to my biology. I love my body and don’t want to change it – most of the time. (If I could do so reversibly I totally would!) In some ways I can relate more strongly to others who share my biology than to those who do not, even if our gender identity and expression are not always the same. … I don’t want to be put in a box. … I don’t want to be socially and otherwise separated from people I can sometimes relate to better just because we have different biological “equipment.” … I’m trying to decide the extent to which I want to change my attire and/or hairstyle to be more androgynous (or, make them adaptable to the gender I want to express on a given day). … It’s so hard and I feel so alone. I need to find community.

All of the GenderQueer Confessions I linked to are still relevant.

What it all basically comes down to is: “My body is just a body. It doesn’t mean what you think it means.”

So far I’ve found this blog to be incredibly helpful for working through my mental health issues. I’m hopeful that it can be just as helpful for dealing with gender issues …

“Transgender Tuesdays” has a nice ring to it. The LGBTQ+ groups I’ve been meaning to join (since the beginning of the semester) meet on Tuesdays. So why not make a feature? I’ll share what I learn about being transgender, any resources I find, and my thoughts/experiences. I’ll also include others’ perspectives when I can; I’d love to have guest bloggers!

Medical Update

I ran out of Lamictal because my appointment with the APN on Friday was cancelled for reasons outside my control. The receptionist said the “other doctor” would refill my prescription that day. Nada.

I called today around 11am and the same receptionist said the APN would take care of the prescription within the hour. “I’ll call you.” Four hours later, no call. I called back at 3pm and she said “by the end of the day.” I had important things to do today, so I couldn’t sit around waiting for it. But, according to the voicemail I just listened to, it’s waiting at my pharmacy.

I called my dental insurance to find out if there was any update regarding my periodontal referral for my Endangered Molar. I had received authorization for a consultation only; the periodontist (whom I saw on January 22nd) had to request authorization to actually treat me.

The dental insurance representative said they hadn’t received any such request from the periodontist! It’s been almost four weeks! And to make matters worse, she tried calling the office three times and kept getting a busy signal. She said she’d leave a note for someone to try again later.

When I’d met with the periodontist, she seemed to be on my side. They said “we’ll call you to make an appointment,” so I was a good patient and waited. They made it seem like any delay would be because of the insurance. I trusted them! I feel betrayed.

In related news, I went to get a root canal on Root Canal Molar last week. The endodontist-in-training attempted to perform the root canal, but had difficulty accessing it for several reasons – including but not limited to my inability to open wide enough for her to reach the back top of my mouth. Apparently the tooth is also rotated toward my cheek, making it even harder to access. We both put in our best effort, but all she really ended up doing was beating me up.

We’re officially at 6 months since I started having unbearable toothaches, and I still have yet to receive treatment! The bone damage near those teeth keeps getting worse; I can see it as a growing dark area in the x-rays.

I have an appointment to go back and try the root canal again… In two weeks… But I’d really rather not. We’ll need at least a couple of painfully long visits just to complete the root canal, then another 2 or more for the crown – if it’s approved – and there’s a chance I may have a problem with it later and have to come back again…

No, just no! That’s not happening! I’d rather just get the damn thing pulled and be done with it! I don’t even want to replace it with anything.

So now I have to convince the endodontist-in-training to refer me for an extraction and wait for that to be approved… I just hope I can communicate with her directly – and that she’ll follow through in a timely manner – without jumping through a million hoops. I can’t tell you how often I’m tempted to try and pull both teeth out myself!

But wait, it gets better! The sleep study that contributed to my crisis two weeks ago failed to reveal whether I have sleep apnea! The doctor had called me to discuss the study and, when I told him I’d slept much worse than usual, suggested we try an in-home study. I agreed and he said someone would contact me to set it up…

I was just thinking it was time to call them and find out what happened, when I received a letter from my insurance company saying they were terminating treatment by an out-of-network provider. The letter didn’t say what treatment; in fact, there is a sentence that doesn’t make any sense because the [insert colourful phrase in gorram Chinese here] who prepared the form letter didn’t bother adding what I consider the most important information! The only clue I had was at the very end: “cc Obnoxious Sleep Center.”

I was very worried that they would turn around and make me pay for the on-site sleep study (that had proven to be a waste of time and fucked up my head). I had trouble focusing on other things all weekend, I was so angry! I hated the insurance company for sending me an unedited form letter – instead of calling me to address the issue and offer help. I also suspected the sleep center of lying to me, billing my insurance for treatment I hadn’t received, etc. In short, it all made me feel very unsafe.

I called my insurance about the letter today. It had been intended to inform me that the in-home sleep study was denied because they don’t think I need out-of-state treatment. I explained that I wouldn’t be treated out-of-state, both the sleep center and my home are in the state that’s currently paying for my healthcare. But apparently the company (parent company?) that would ultimately receive the funds is based in another state. My results might have to be processed in another state, etc. To be honest, I understand why they wouldn’t want to pay for that. I just wish they’d told me in a more straightforward way!

The doctor who is ostensibly treating me was and may still be trying to get the decision reversed. As far as I’m concerned he’s welcome to continue (or not); I’ll follow through with whatever works best for me. I now have a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers that may or may not be accurate contact info for in-state sleep specialists.

I’d almost rather not even bother! But if I do have a sleep disorder, treating it could go a long way toward helping me function better in my daily life. I need all the help I can get – especially with two emotionally-intense graduate-level classes. I just need to consider whether trying to access treatment is worth the disruption it’s causing to my everyday life…

I’m considering the possibility that I might be better off going untreated, at least until my classes are over. Then I don’t have to play phone tag, listen to musak while on hold, reschedule my life around appointments that only add to my difficulties, and constantly feel like I’m beating my head against a wall. I estimate that more than half of my current stress would be eliminated if I weren’t trying to access healthcare (particularly dental) at this point in time. I kind of need to stay on my psych meds (I think), but perhaps the rest of it should be put on hold.

On a much more positive note, I took some steps toward finding a potentially-therapeutic group experience today. I met with the leaders of the “coming out” counseling group and told them that I’m trans*. They admitted that they’ve been having trouble finding members and expressed concern because the couple of clients they do have are cis, coming out as lesbian or gay. They would want to have at least one other trans* person in the group so there would be someone I could relate to on that level.

I appreciate that, even though it is a bit disappointing. At least they’re willing to work with me to find a group that might work, whether it’s the “coming out” one or another focused on general interpersonal issues. I expressed my interest in the latter and they said “if you don’t hear from us in two weeks, give us a call.”

They also encouraged me to join the extracurricular LGBTQ+ group I’ve been considering; that helped me overcome my reservations and actually show up for it today.

The facilitator was sitting at a table, surrounded my empty chairs. I walked over, said “my, what a lively group we have today!” and sat across from him. We talked for a bit about random things (completely unrelated to sexual orientation and gender identity) and had several awkward pauses.

Then he asked what I was hoping to get from the group. I told him I want a safe place where people will see me as I am: queer. He said that’s exactly what he intends for it to be, and what it had been in previous weeks when people actually showed up. His words were welcoming, but he seemed skeptical regarding whether he would see me again.

I think I’m actually more encouraged to return than I might have been if there had been a group. I felt like I bonded with the facilitator, and that makes me want to come back. I felt safe there; knowing it’s a safe place will make it easier to be there as part of a group. I feel less like I’m inserting myself into someone else’s party and more like I’m helping to establish the group. Next week we’ll be starting on the same page.

Blessed Imbolc

Monday, February 2nd was the Pagan holy day (or sabbat) known as Imbolc, Imbolg, Candlemas, (Saint) Brigid’s Day, etc. My understanding is that it is a festival of lights celebrating the strengthening of the sun (e.g. days getting longer) and looking forward to  spring. In some areas the first signs of new life are beginning to show; where I live it is (I hope) the coldest and most wintry part of winter. This sabbat is a very well-timed reminder of the life that still thrives buried underneath all the snow, waiting to burst forth when the time is right. The Wheel of the Year continues to turn, and seasons will change.

My observance of Imbolc has thus far been limited to taking a few moments out of shoveling to just Be in the silently-falling, surprisingly peaceful, and beautiful snow. I felt the Child so full of wonder inside me, bursting with joy just to breathe in the cold air and see how everything sparkled. I used to love winter when snow meant a day off from school that I could spend building igloos and snowpeople, then come inside for hot chocolate. Now by the time the shoveling is done I’m usually too tired, achy, and grumpy to enjoy additional time in the snow. But I’m trying to get back some of that joy.

There’s been a lot of change in my life lately.  Classes starting up again is one of the best things that could have possibly happened for me. It’s given me structure, purpose, motivation, and a reason to get out of the house. I have opportunities to socialize with my classmates before, after, and sometimes even during class. I find that my attitude toward the classes has changed: where in the past I’ve felt self-conscious and deficient, I now feel like I have something unique to offer as well as opportunities to be creative and to learn. Being on campus opens other opportunities as well. In addition to the extracurricular social/support groups I plan on joining, there is also a psych counseling group for people who are in the process of “coming out” as LGBTQ+. It seems like it could be really helpful right about now, for multiple reasons.

I’ve also started decluttering and cleaning the apartment. I put old clothes aside to be donated and reorganized the rest of my wardrobe to fit in drawers instead of being thrown on the floor. I recycled and reorganized the kitchen to make it a pleasant place to cook and eat. I even cleaned part of the living room!

The process isn’t just about physical cleaning, it is an emotional restructuring and reclaiming of a space I’ve felt like I’ve had no control over. I needed Banji (my best friend) to witness all of it over Skype: the ambivalence, the temper tantrums, the catharsis of throwing things away, the pride in looking around the newly-cleaned space. I needed her encouragement to keep going. I needed her to hear my stories, to commiserate and celebrate with me. In return I did my best to be supportive of her doing schoolwork. I think I got the better end of the deal.

some backstory: About 5 weeks ago, I had a conversation with Wakana (my therapist) that I feel speaks for itself. I had been talking about how much more alive I feel when Banji is around, and how we’ve come to appreciate each other more since she moved away.
Wakana: “Are you in love with her?”
Ziya: “Yes. I have been for years…”

I remember being aware of such feelings even back in high school; the amount of attention I paid them kind of waxed and waned over the years. We’ve always been very close and valued our friendship highly. Even though we don’t express particularly romantic feelings toward each other, I’m pretty sure they’ve always been there. This was the first time I used that kind of language to talk about it with another person, though.

It’s been a bit of a landslide. I feel like a part of me that’s been hidden and silenced is finally bursting forth, fully alive! For the longest time I felt confused and guilty about valuing my time with Banji more than my time with Fox (my husband). I’ve wished there were traditions in our culture to give the same recognition and importance to close friendships as to romantic/sexual relationships. I’ve felt like I’m not being fully honest by calling her my “best friend” and making a huge deal out of my relationship with Fox in front of all our friends, both our families, the government, and Facebook. I feel like I slapped her in the face by telling her she was my “maid of honor” when I decided to marry Fox, instead of asking her to marry me.

Now all these feelings finally make sense! While I can’t take back my years of being dense, I can be more self-aware and genuine in the present and future. To be clear, that includes continuing my relationship with Fox: I love him and find joy, comfort, and opportunities for growth in our marriage. He accepts me as I am – even when I find it difficult to accept myself – and was actually the first to bring up an interest in polyamory. He wasn’t surprised or upset when I told him about being in love with Banji.

Taking to her about it was a bit more difficult because I was afraid of losing her (again). Above all I want our relationship to be a safe place where we can just relax and be fully ourselves, without any weird expectations that might come up if someone starts talking about “love.” Among the holiday insanity I tried talking about the importance of our relationship and the life I want to have with her – basically expanding on plans she initiated and that we’ve been talking about for years now – all without mentioning “love.” She said she sees the three of us as a polyamorous V with me in the middle, so I took it to mean we were on the same page. But were we really?

Finally, on Saturday – when I’d decluttered most of the kitchen and could no longer put off finding a home for some of the stuff from the wedding – I decided I just had to be honest about it. I told her I love her as a lifelong partner and that I don’t need anything about the way we relate to each other to change, but it’s important to me that she knows. She said she loves me too (squee!!!) and that she’s known for a while now (*facepalm*).

We talked a bit more but weren’t able to get into too deep a conversation because she had a lot of homework and a tight deadline. She said that in the past she hasn’t been sure whether to envy me for having boyfriends… or my boyfriends for the relationship they got to have with me. She also kept saying “it’s complicated.” I could hazard some guesses about what might make it complicated – beyond the obvious fact that polyamorous family structures are more complex than monogamous ones (oh, yeah, and we currently live a 5-hour drive apart) – but I’d rather talk with her about it. I worry that I might assume things that aren’t true, so I’m trying not to get too preoccupied with all of this. (oops)

In some ways it’s big and scary and new. It definitely flies in the face of dominant cultural norms. She’s expressed not caring what people think, nor feeling anyone needs to know. I don’t have to shout it from the rooftops (just my blog, lol) but I don’t want to hide it, either. I’ll admit to some anxiety about being discriminated against and/or ostracized from my recently-expanded family. I care about others’ approval – perhaps moreso than is healthy for someone as ‘outside the box’ as me. “But if that’s love / it comes at much too high a cost.” (Elphaba in Wicked: “Defying Gravity”) One of the things I’ve been working on in therapy is experiencing myself as someone who is worthy of my own love, without the need for others’ approval.

And, well, it has us talking about our relationship in ways we haven’t really before. She’s dropped some hints here and there, but I was being dense to escape feeling guilty about what she was – or kind of wasn’t – saying. *facepalm* Now I need to be more honest. I can’t be so enmeshed with her, primarily requesting her support in dealing with my other relationships (like Mom does to me). I respect her as a separate, awesome person with whom I’m dedicated to maintaining and growing our meaningful relationship.

In some ways I find it all very comforting. The earlier cognitive dissonance about these relationships has been resolved. I feel whole – or at least a lot closer to being whole. I feel secure knowing I don’t have to navigate whatever happens next on my own. I’ve got my two favorite people on either side of me. ❤

What a Wild Week

I couldn’t sleep Wednesday night because I was panicking over my debt and lack of income; I felt like I needed to find a job immediately or the world would end. So instead of sleeping I looked at all the local jobs online; aside from 1 or 2, most of the ones I’m remotely qualified for were unappealing. Still anxious but exhausted, I managed to fall asleep in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

On Thursday I dragged myself to a LGBTQ Safe Space training. I thought it would help me feel more comfortable joining that community and possibly help me get a job I was interested in. I really wish I hadn’t pressured myself to make a good first impression on top of attending the training, because of course it was emotionally intense. I was very anxious just to be there, and just when I was starting to feel safe and accepted by the group we did an activity that ended up being a huge emotional trigger for me. I couldn’t maintain my mask of “sanity” anymore and came out as depressed in front of a potential employer. It was devastating.

But at least I learned about some of the resources that are available to me.

Friday night was game night. The group we were with were mostly older men (age 50+); I was the second-youngest person there and the only biologically-female individual. We played the Game of Thrones board game; I played as Stark trying to defend my snow-covered lands and conquer the lands to the south. Except that I allowed my “ally” next door to talk me out of claiming the nearby territories I needed to have any hope of expansion, and a foe invaded my waters, threatening my homestead! I had to divert resources to defending my lands against possible attack and attempting to reclaim what had once been mine.

But, I found a way to sneak undetected past my “ally’s” lands and waters, to attack a castle that had been claimed by a foolish unsuspecting south-lander! Mwahahaha!!! I took him totally by surprise and won our skirmish quite easily. Shortly afterward, my “ally” finally claimed the castle I’d put off taking as part of our “agreement” and won the game, thus ending it. About time, too – it was after midnight.

As we were packing up the game, the foe whose castle I’d successfully stormed said my move was “sneaky and conniving  – typical of a woman!” I think some flames escaped my nose. (I doubt he would have said my move was typical of anything if he’d perceived me as male.)

“You did NOT just say that!” I replied, my body stiffening in anticipation of a fight.

I could tell everyone was watching us both closely, waiting to see what happened. I had a feeling that anything that did happen would end up being a spectacle for their amusement, possibly to joke about later. I needed to choose my words and actions very carefully.

“I’m going to give you a chance to take that back,” I said.

“It was a very clever move,” he replied, “Well played.”

“Thank you,” I smiled.

The show was over.

Mom and I had intended to leave at 10 am Saturday morning, but were on the road closer to 11:30. She drove through some really nasty weather so we could visit with family members who live about a 4-hour drive away. We got to spend a very pleasant evening with my aunt, uncle, and cousins.

Back to the hotel room late, and I still needed to apply for that job. My inner pessimist – or perhaps it’s a realist – kept saying I wasn’t going to get the job anyway, but I stubbornly ignored it. If I listen to it I’ll never apply for any job. The hours ticked by as I struggled to edit my resume on a tablet; oh, how I missed having a keyboard and mouse! It was so frustrating. But I got it done, and even managed to get a meager amount of sleep.

Up at 9 for free-from-the-hotel breakfast. Time to work on my cover letter (instead of swimming). First of all, I’m not entirely sure what’s supposed to go into a cover letter. Second of all, I was too tired to think, never mind to write a formal letter advertising myself. I got about 2 sentences written. Wasted time fussing over it that I could have spent playing with my cousin’s baby. Yuck. If I could re-live this past weekend, I would decide not to apply for the job, take care of my body, and fully enjoy every moment with my family. (Especially the baby; by the time I see him again he’ll be walking and talking.)

My aunt and uncle have all sorts of crazy health issues and she thinks his purpose for living is to take care of her with no regard for his own needs. I think my aunt feels very threatened by my uncle’s plans to receive double knee replacement surgery because she won’t be able to rely on him as much as she’s used to. (No one’s asking her to help him, just to be less demanding of him.) Mom spent an inordinate amount of time lecturing them both on what he’ll need and what he can realistically expect during recovery. (She didn’t mean to lecture, but that’s how it came across. She’s very concerned about her brother, and so am I.) By the time we left Sunday evening, the “conversation” had degraded into a shouting match and I had a splitting headache.

In the car, Mom couldn’t let it go. She kept repeating the same stuff they’d already been talking about to me. I calmly explained that I was very tired and needed to stop talking about their issues and even got to express some of my own feelings on the matter, and then we dropped it. I spent a good deal of the ride asleep, which was a double-edged sword. On the one hand it was kind of nice to get to rest, but on the other I feel guilty about leaving Mom to drive alone.

Home. Finished the cover letter with a lot of support from Fox. Sent cover letter and resume as PDFs at 1 am.

I basically spent all day Monday sleeping and making not-so-wise food choices. Mom called and said she had been vomiting.

On Tuesday I woke up at 8:30 am feeling queasy and needing to go to the bathroom. About a minute later I was very grateful that I’d run to the bathroom and thought to bring a garbage bag with me. I was also regretting several of my food choices from the day before.

The rest of the day was a lot of sleeping, running to the bathroom, regretting the one time I didn’t run to the bathroom, and being grateful to Fox for buying me some Gatorade. That stuff is amazing.

Yesterday I had a fever, but I was able to eat adult-sized portions of plain pasta without ill effect. I spent a lot of time sleeping and reading. At some point I woke up after a long nap to find my fever had broken. Fox and I were even able to cuddle for a while and watch Voyager. I ended the day by continuing to play a video game I hadn’t touched since early November.

Today I dragged myself out of bed and freshened up a bit in preparation for a Skype session with Wakana that never happened. She returned my call, saying she had overslept and asking if we could reschedule for this evening. I agreed, but I’m disappointed and a little hurt. There’s been a lot of stuff going on that I need to process and this time of year tends to be difficult for me. I need her support, and I need it to be reliable.