TW: verbal, emotional, & sexual abuse; transphobia; description of manic symptoms

I should not have allowed Ron to drive home at 2am two weeks ago. I should have talked zir into going to the hospital.

I just … I’ve read about how traumatic mental health hospitalization can be. I volunteered on a locked adult psych ward – and I was terrified they’d figure out I should be there as a patient and prevent me from leaving. Ron talked about how horrible being hospitalized was, I’m not sure if that was before or since the last time I wrote about zir. On a personal level I’m generally inclined against seeking medical help – especially going to the hospital – unless absolutely necessary, like life or death … But I shouldn’t have fallen back on that. I risked Ron’s life, allowed zir to go untreated for another week – during which zir symptoms got worse and zir behavior became a risk to zirself and others – and allowed it to get to the point where ze was involuntarily committed (by someone else).

Worse, I subjected myself to nearly 48 hours of being ranted at, manipulated, and abused. I feel like it’s set me back at least a year, maybe two, in terms of my own mental health. I’ve spent the past week on an emotional roller coaster, replaying the most painful moments over again in my mind, and debating whether I have any right to describe someone else’s symptoms on my blog. Well, those symptoms interacted with my mental health issues to make it so there are times when I feel dead inside. I’m having self-harm thoughts and urges again. That’s mine to write about!

Continue reading

Compassion / Pay It Forward

TW: mention of suicidal ideation

Ron had two really bad days in a row, and didn’t sleep in between. Ze told me ze was suicidal. On the first day I took time from my visit with Banji to have an extended phone conversation with Ron, anything to keep zir connected. On the second day I drove for five hours, successfully chaired a 90-minute meeting, reconnected with Fox after 5 days apart, then welcomed Ron into our home at 10:30pm. We decided to hang out in the back yard.

Continue reading

Still Abusive

TW: full text of a conversation with my mother, in which her responses are abusive (gaslighting)

It started with an online swimsuit sale. I’m not sure why my mother decided I need a new swimsuit – I think the ones I have are fine – but she “strongly encouraged” me to take advantage of the sale… and have her buy the items for me so she can get “points” (credit card reward program?). I haven’t completely overwritten my programming, so I agreed to do the online shopping in her apartment, even though I knew I should have known better.

Clothes shopping has always been triggering for me, and swimsuit shopping is the worst. I’ve been working hard to love my body the way it is, but the internalized fatphobia and body size-related insecurity that tortured me my whole life springs up anew when I simply cannot find clothing in my size.

And then there’s the whole being non-binary thing. At least with everyday clothes it’s possible to do some gender-bending: no one needs to know I wear “men’s” boxer-briefs and an undershirt instead of a bra. T-shirts are considered unisex. Socks and shoes – who cares?! So far I haven’t ventured into trying to find “men’s” pants that might fit me, mostly because they’re simply not designed for hips that are considerably larger than the attached waist. But finding a pair of jeans shaped to my body feels so good, I can keep wearing “women’s” pants without too much dysphoria. For now.

Swimsuits are very gendered. Just the fact that men are expected to run around bare-chested and women have to cover up sends my brain into a dysphoric frenzy. Ideally I would love to just swim naked – I had the opportunity to do that once and it was glorious! No gender performance, just diverse bodies. Everything floats when it’s not tied down by a swimsuit. I loved the sensation. I felt so free!

So I’m swimsuit shopping online with my mother. She’s sitting at the computer with me mostly behind her, looking at what she thinks I’ll like. Fortunately, we agreed that the “women’s” swim shorts this company offers are far superior to typical “women’s” swimsuit bottoms… but she was going to get a shorter length than I wanted (so I had to argue with her about that) and the ones I wanted were out of stock in my size (of course). I convinced her to add the swim leggings (way more coverage than I’d like, but still better than the alternatives). And I don’t remember if we added a couple pairs of “men’s” swim trunks together or I added them myself later, but either way they’ve been ordered. Maybe they’ll even fit! (A bit of a long shot, since the measurements are smaller than my hips.)

Then we started looking at tops. I would have been happy with a simple “shelf bra” tankini thing. They all have underwire or soft cups. Ugh. We get in an argument about it. I’m concerned because with a tankini one has to consider both chest (“bust”) and hip measurements, and mine are too different to have one size fit both properly. I think everything I own is too big on the bust and too small on the hips – I just try not to worry about it. We have another fight, I get her to let me sit at the computer and look at stuff myself, without having to try and convince her to click on each item for me. Nada.

I decided to look at bikini tops, thinking it might solve the hip-bust ratio problem. Bad idea. They’re all basically bras. I don’t know what I was expecting – maybe something more like a sports bra at least? But no, my dysphoria went through the roof. I eventually found and selected a couple “men’s” rash guards, which as far as I can tell are essentially fitted t-shirts designed for swimming?

Again, way more coverage than I wanted, but probably a million times more comfortable than the weird boob-obsessed gendered performance nonsense Mom probably would have bought for me.

So, it was pretty cool that this company/site had these options. And Mom was pretty cool about “letting” – god, I’m an adult, who they hell is she to decide what I’m “allowed” to wear or buy? – me get mostly “men’s” swimwear.

But look at me, writing over 700 words about swimsuit shopping! Throughout our interaction she kept saying little things that were bothering me: “You really need to give yourself more time to get places.” “I went in your apartment and thought ‘I just have to help them out,’ so I did your dishes.” “I don’t know how you’ve been handling your finances.”

That last one was the last straw. I used to keep my checkbook perfectly balanced. I used to have my own income, so I could save money every month and otherwise be a financially-responsible adult. But I don’t have my own income, and I haven’t figured out how to consistently track finances for two people (especially since Fox is the one who makes all our money and spends most of it). I’ve been reduced to checking our bank account balance once a month, to make sure we have enough in there to pay our credit card bill. I’m not happy with the situation; it feels wrong; I’m embarrassed by it. But between my mental health issues, the work I’ve been doing in therapy, volunteering full-time for the Bernie Sanders campaign (which I love), and being primary caregiver to our pet rats, I consider it an accomplishment that I manage to pay the credit card bills on time. And eat, occasionally. That requires constant vigilance.

So I walked out. “Please don’t walk out on me.” I barely even looked at her. I’d fallen mute. I couldn’t say or do anything. My legs just carried me out the door and down the stairs and into my apartment.

A little while later she was leaving the house, so I hugged her and apologized and told her I love her. She told me that she wasn’t pushing the bra-like tankini innards on me because of gender, but because she likes to have support for her anatomy. “You want some support,” she said to me. “No, you want some support,” I told her. “That doesn’t mean it’s what I want.” I escape the conversation – mostly because she needs to leave. Everything seems peachy.

She even called on her way wherever she was going to say she’s proud of me for all the work I’m doing on the campaign.

Wednesday.

On Wednesday she posted one of those image-with-text meme-like things on my Facebook wall:

I am not your friend. I am your parent. I will stalk you, lecture you, drive you insane, be your worst nightmare, & hunt you down when needed – because I love you.

I got very angry, hid it from my timeline, and proceeded to send her multiple text messages:

Posting threats on my Facebook wall is not going to improve our relationship – quite the opposite. You and dad and your in-laws and other family members already drove me insane; that’s why I’ve needed to work my ass off in therapy for the past 6 years.

You’re not my friend, you’re my parent – so ACT LIKE ONE. Get the therapy you need to be able to do it properly. Stop using me as your therapist. I’m not your friend or your therapist I’m your adult child. Respect that I’m an adult and respect my boundaries. Help me in the ways I ask you to; give me the advice I ask for; listen to me and support me! And think about how what you say might impact me before you say it.

I’m grateful for everything you do for me and I understand that it’s not easy. But enough is enough. If you think it’s okay to stalk me and knowingly do things to “drive me insane” then you need to make some effort to learn how to parent responsibly.

“I do these harmful things because I love you” is what abusers say.

The rest of the conversation proceeded in a rather alarming fashion (from my point of view) during which she did not apologize.

M: “I do not abuse you. You are taking things too seriously.”
Z:  “No, YOU are not taking me seriously enough. You never have.”
M: “Stalk you?”
Z:
M: “Not a threat. I thought it was cute. And told you that I love you. Something parents always say. We make many sacrifices for our children. We should talk later. Take things lighter. Love you.”

I freaked out and called Wakana. She got so upset with my mom, I had to ask her to stop yelling. She told me about a million times that I was not overreacting, I was having a healthy response, I need to separate emotionally from my mother, and I should unfriend my mother on Facebook. So that’s what I did, and that’s the text I sent Mom.

The next text I got from Mom was telling me I needed to move my car. We haven’t spoken since. No apology.

I’m not talking to her until she apologizes to me.

In the meantime, I got a nice short androgynous haircut that I love and everyone has complimented me on. I have a street to canvass and volunteers to call this afternoon. I’ll be working in the campaign office for a handful of hours this evening. And then we begin our GOTV (get out the vote) efforts in earnest. 9am-9pm Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. And, I imagine, the full time polls are open Tuesday. I signed up to be part of the voter protection team on Tuesday, so I will either be doing that or juggling it with work in the campaign office. It’s finals week on steroids. Crunch time.

If you can help us out go to map.berniesanders.com for local events and/or berniepb.com to phonebank. If your state’s primary is on Tuesday, visit canivote.org to look up your polling place and/or other useful information.

This is what’s been keeping me going. I need Bernie to win on Tuesday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transformation

Wow. I spent 2 days totaling 12 hours registering voters outside my town’s public library. 4 new democrats, 7 unaffiliated (who can declare party affiliation at the polls). I handed out several additional registration forms and information about my state’s and town’s upcoming primary.

Okay, the not-so-great stuff first:

  • I got a mild sunburn even though I was in the shade the whole time.
  • I spent most of my shift yesterday having a conversation with someone who talks like a Bernie supporter but actually supports Trump because she hates immigrants and people in the US who are undocumented. Despite being an otherwise reasonable, educated person, she would not listen to rational arguments about why a Trump presidency would be disastrous for her and “[her] people.”
    • That person seemed to be manipulating my voter registration efforts, worst of all by saying bad things about Latinos while people who looked like they might be Latino/a were walking by.
    • She said stuff about LGBTQIA people that made me feel uncomfortable – and misgendered me.
    • I didn’t know how to ask her to leave.
  • I seem to have developed a cyst in a most awkward location as a result of sitting for too long wearing tight jeans. It’s painful enough to affect how I walk. I’m reluctant to go to the doctor because 1) I might have to wait a long time for them to be able to see me 2) I don’t know if I’ll be able to set the boundary that I only want them to deal with that specific problem 3) the word “surgical” was included in the description of how the cyst is typically treated. (If you’re so inclined, please pray, send positive energy, etc. for it to heal on its own.)
  • I seem to have forgotten what “regular meals” are.

In much better news, I feel like I’ve transformed overnight. I had been “developing agoraphobic tendencies,” feeling unmotivated to do anything, intimidated by the idea of contacting voters or recruiting volunteers, and depressed that I was “wasting my life.”

Then I started working with the current regional manager for the campaign and everything changed. I spent 2 days outside where anyone could see me calling out to random strangers and talking to them about the primary. I dealt gracefully with people who said weird things to me, like implying that my efforts were futile or that I had “nothing better to do” with my time. (grr.) I received a number of compliments from people who were grateful for the convenience, found my information sheet informative, or found me helpful. I even got the satisfaction of knowing that high school students who are too young to vote are interested in it. I’d love to recruit some of them for Bernie’s campaign! (Dunno where/whether it’s legal for me to do that, though.)

After my shift yesterday, instead of being exhausted and wanting to get away from people, I was eager to get back to work for Bernie’s campaign. When doing voter registration I couldn’t represent the campaign – at least not officially – so I couldn’t wait to shed the illusion of “impartiality” and go talk to people who aren’t walking contradictions. I got to the office late because I needed to eat something, but then I spent a couple hours recruiting volunteers – many of whom were enthusiastic to have the opportunity to go knock on doors of potential voters.

Remember when I said knocking on the doors of strangers was the last thing I wanted to do? Now I can’t wait!

I also figure I should do it myself at least once before I get to be the one training people and sending them out Monday night.

I am so happy I’m alive because I get to do all this stuff! I love feeling so energized. I get to do something about all the things I’ve wanted to change in the US for years now; I get to act on the things I’m most passionate about. There’s a real, meaningful role for me to play – and I’m doing it right now.

I’m also thinking a bit about my career: The leadership opportunities I’m engaging in will look great on my resume. My current and upcoming regional managers, as well as the co-leader for my town, may be willing to serve as references. Resume and whatnot aside, the experience I’m getting is fantastic for my personal and professional growth. I feel so much more confident that I can do this stuff – because I’m doing it!!! This is fantastic!!!

I’m very fortunate in that I can decide this is the most important thing for me to do, and I can choose to pour all my time and energy into it. I’m determined to make a difference!

The Revolutionary Won – with Help

Fox and I just got home from an organizational meeting for the Bernie Sanders campaign in my state. I introduced myself in front of a group, shared why I support Bernie and admitted to some of the insecurities that have kept me from being more involved, attended training to be able to canvas and phonebank … and signed up to be a co-leader of the campaign in my town. Wait, what?

We were talking about stuff I’d been considering anyway. It was so motivating to hear the message: these things are important and we’re going to support you in doing them. And if I’m a leader I’ll be helping people organize who already share something in common with me: we’re all Bernie supporters (as my therapist assured me on Friday). There will be less pressure to reach out to people who may not share views or may even be hostile to them.

It was so cool to be surrounded by people – there were about 30 of us – of all different ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds who all believe in Bernie and the political revolution. We talked about how it’s particularly relevant to us as individuals, to our towns, and to our state as a whole. I felt energized, connected, powerful, like I can make a difference. It felt good.

It’s a first step. The other co-leader said he’d call me tomorrow so we can begin organizing. I’ll need to start figuring out how to do things like registering voters at local schools and securing meeting places and setting up events to canvas, phonebank, etc. It will be work… but it will be good to have something meaningful to do, something that will make a difference. And something social.

Fox helped me get out the door & figure out where to go. He reassured me when I felt uncomfortable. He cheered me on when I was outgoing and proactive. He backed off when it became clear that I was engaging fully and with confidence. It was everything I needed. And he said he’ll support me in my leadership position, which is really awesome.

Find out about events near you at Map.BernieSanders.com/

Also please check out feelthebern.org for information about where Bernie stands on the issues, how to vote, and how to get involved in the campaign.

All In – Why I’ve Joined the Bernie or Bust Movement

There’s been another battle going on inside me, between the Revolutionary and the joint forces of anxiety and “practicality”. The Revolutionary is a diehard Bernie Sanders supporter who is dedicated not only to electing him President of the United States but more importantly to the political revolution he has sparked. He is the only 2016 candidate for President of the United States who is talking about the serious issues facing 99% of its citizens and has a consistent record of standing up for everyday people – particularly those who have been marginalized. He is the only candidate who has spoken up about the importance of accessible mental healthcare and has a plan to implement comprehensive universal healthcare. He has run a successful grassroots campaign that relies solely on small individual donations, drawn massive crowds to rallies, motivated thousands if not millions of young people to become engaged in determining the policies that affect us (largely via innovative use of social media), AND he has inspired other progressive candidates to run for political office.

If the Revolutionary could take sufficient control over my actions, I would be Phone Banking regularly, registering voters, participating in campaign events and doing other volunteer work… possibly even knocking on people’s doors to encourage them to vote for him (and other progressive candidates). I would have been posting about him fairly regularly on this blog, even though I hadn’t really intended it to be political (though it kind of is, with the mental health advocacy I’ve attempted, and even just by being candid about mental health issues). I would be researching and promoting progressive candidates who are running for other offices, particularly the U.S. (federal) House of Representatives and Senate; by the way, most of the current members of Congress (including the entire House) are up for re-election. Please check out BallotPedia to learn who’s running for what office(s) in your state.

But social anxiety has been keeping me home and keeping me relatively silent when opportunities to advocate for Bernie have come up. I fear being ostracized, bullied, possibly even attacked (physically or otherwise) – or drawn into an unhealthy codependent relationship. In my CBT sessions I find myself talking a lot about not knowing the “rules” for interacting with a group I want to join; I don’t know what to expect so I don’t know how to behave to maximize my likelihood of being accepted (or at least not abused). At the same time I want to be able to express myself freely, but recall that in groups my voice tends not to be heard (both literally and figuratively). That makes the prospect of attempting to join a group (or attend an event) all the less appealing: why take the risk and put in the work if I’m just going to go home feeling frustrated because my attempts to contribute/interact weren’t even acknowledged?

Then the depression speaks up – I think the “practicality” I mentioned earlier is really depression: “I should have done this earlier, it’s too late to make a difference, voter suppression is going to kill his campaign even if he is the popular choice, and besides what difference can I really make?” I’ve also been isolating myself because of depression; whether it’s because I truly lack the energy or not I just haven’t wanted to interact with people lately (unless I know there’s a good chance I’ll find it enjoyable, meaningful, or both). Joining groups involves too much risk without enough guarantee of reward, and interrupting someone’s day to call them or knock on their door is completely out of the question.

Umm… but if you feel up to doing such things, more power to you. I don’t mean to discourage anyone from actively engaging in Bernie’s campaign – quite the opposite, actually!

The Revolutionary isn’t giving up that easily. The Revolutionary remembers being annoyed with Democrats during the first Clinton administration and the second Bush administration because they (the Democrats) were constantly giving in to the Republicans’ demands. The Revolutionary remembers feeling a surge of pride when President Obama and other Democrats started standing up to the Republicans and promoting progressive policies and values. But the Republicans have been becoming increasingly extreme, to the point where it’s really in everyone’s best interest to avoid listening to them, and to vote them all out of office immediately. And the mainstream Democratic party seems to be trying to meet them in the middle again, apologizing to them again, at best paying lip service to progressives while making deals that benefit their wallets at everyone else’s expense.

During the Democratic Primary 2016 debates, whenever Hillary Clinton spoke, by the time she was done I wasn’t sure what the question was anymore. Sometimes aspects of her answer sounded good, but they also sounded a lot like what Bernie Sanders has been saying loud and clear through his actions as well as his words for longer than I’ve been alive. I could vote for Clinton if she’s the Democratic nominee – she would definitely be better than anyone the Republicans have to offer – but I have no idea what she would do… except probably get us involved in another expensive war. Oh, yeah, and maintain the status quo while playing lip service to progressive values – and maybe, if we do well in Congress, signing legislation that might actually lead to useful change.

“Enough is enough.”

The Revolutionary won’t settle for making sure there is “a Democrat” in the White House. I can’t live with 8 more years of the status quo. Don’t get me wrong, Obama has been an excellent president, especially considering the obstructionism he’s faced. But I don’t see Hillary building on the progress he’s made – at best I see her maintaining it.

The Revolutionary thinks the best case scenario the U.S. can face is for both parties – Republicans and Democrats – to tear themselves to shreds and burn. From the ashes a truly progressive party for and by everyday people will rise. Perhaps there will be other parties, too – to be honest I wouldn’t mind a true conservative party, because in my experience fair-minded conservatives tend to share perspectives that can be very useful for shaping effective policies.

Whatever their perspectives or party affiliations, the focus of our political leaders must be on the real issues: promptly and effectively addressing climate change, ensuring everyone has equal access to healthcare, reducing student loan debt, caring for our veterans, making sure everyone can have a quality education, making sure everyone can vote, ensuring civil rights (addressing systematic racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQIA policies, etc.), reducing wealth inequality, and so on. There’s something very important no one has brought up during this primary season and it’s bothering me quite a bit: the issue of why certain Americans (almost exclusively white heterosexual cis men) commit unspeakable acts of violence against other people (often women, children, and members of racial or religious minorities). The candidates can all talk until they’re blue in the face about whether and what regulations should be applied to guns and who should be held accountable and so on, but we need to address the cause(s) of gun violence – including suicide.

I want to see our political leaders, whatever parties they may form and general perspectives they may take, tackling these issues on a regular basis. And who better to lead us all than Bernie Sanders, who brought these issues into the public eye – or more accurately, brought us together under a common banner so we’re talking about them on a national level – through his campaign in the first place? (Despite the mainstream media blackout.)

So, this is it, I’m all in. “Bernie or Bust.” I will not be silenced in the name of “party unity.” I will vote for Bernie Sanders in my state’s Democratic primary and then again in November, even if I have to write him in. It’s a big risk, I know – and part of me is terrified of what could happen. But part of me is hopeful, too.

In all honesty, I really hope Bernie will get the Democratic nomination and then he’ll wipe the floor with whomever the Republicans put forward in November and we’ll have 8 years of awesome. I’m working to be able to help make that happen, and I encourage you to do so as well (find out how at BernieSanders.com).

But if he does not get the nomination, his supporters need to collectively decide what we’re going to do, so the vote doesn’t get split (too much). I say we all vote for him anyway, and there’s someone trying to help make sure that happens. Please check out their post on Facebook and email them at (no spaces): Bernie Revolutionist (at) g mail (dot) com with the subject “BERNIE SANDERS INDEPENDENT RUN.” Let’s make this a real revolution!