Be Our Guest

[CW: description of thought processes that can trigger hoarding]

Fox and I spent pretty much every available second cleaning in preparation for Ron’s visit on Friday. It was quite the workout, and somewhat intense … but not quite as intense as I thought it might be. Maybe because I knew Fox was cleaning, too, and I’ve developed coping mechanisms. For example, I found a calendar with beautiful images that I might’ve been tempted to keep, but it’s obsolete (and damaged). So I looked through the images, showed one particularly beautiful one to Fox, then tossed the calendar. Minimal stress.

I’ve also decided to treat clutter like an addiction. Part of recovery (from what I’ve gathered, I’m not an expert by any means) is recognizing that while others may be able to engage in a certain behavior safely – even to their benefit – I cannot. For example, I’ve heard tips about reusing things like wrapping paper – but for me that’s a recipe for disaster. If I let myself think “I can reuse this” I will angst over every decision of what to/not to keep, hoard random items I don’t need, and drown in clutter. No. Maybe it would be ideal to reuse this wrapping paper, but I cannot keep it. Into the trash it goes. End of story.

I lost track of how many bags of garbage we filled, somewhere around 8. Maybe 12?

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I’m not a sidhe, I’m a dragon

I’ve been out of sorts since last Thursday. Mom and I went to visit with her brother’s family for the weekend; overall we had a very good time, but it took a lot out of me. We went to my cousin’s baby shower, a giant social gathering where I didn’t know most of the people and there weren’t assigned seats. I felt myself freezing up and becoming overwhelmed by anxiety. Somehow the anxiety took me by surprise; I guess since the depression is (mostly) better, I expected to feel less anxious, too? Thank goodness my (other) cousin introduced me to people. I got to meet 2 musicians and talk with them about music therapy – that was a lot of fun!

For some reason people – especially my mom – feel the need to talk about me in third person when I’m literally right next to them, even if they’re talking to me. I don’t get it. All I heard all weekend was “she,” a wall of it with razor sharp spikes flying right at me. When Mom and her siblings talk, there is no getting a word in… and I really really hate interrupting people to correct them on their pronoun use. I’ve learned that people don’t like being corrected on how they’re saying something, they want you to hear what they’re saying and respond appropriately. That makes it harder for me to stand up for myself.

illustrations of a masculine-presenting person being crowded out by feminine words (e.g.

cartoon by sleepyllama

If I thought I felt nervous at the baby shower, it was nothing compared to how anxious I get about trying to tell people I’m non-binary and “prefer” gender-neutral pronouns: they/them/their or ze/zir. My throat tightens and my jaw clenches, making it physically impossible for me to say anything.

Worse, there’s no opening for it in most social situations. I mean I guess when people ask me how I’ve been I can say, “Great! I’ve come to accept my non-binary gender identity and I’ve decided that I want people to refer to me using gender-neutral pronouns.” But other than that, it’s hard to figure out when and how to bring it up. People are used to assuming – from their perspective, “knowing” – a person’s gender based on appearance. It’s not something people usually talk about.

I wish I could have this conversation!
(image by Tony Toggles)

Between the baby shower and another cousin bringing his 2 young children to visit, there were a lot of interactions going on based on binary gender. Fox wasn’t invited to the baby shower, but people were surprised he didn’t come to hang out at the house with the other men. (If I’d wanted to hang out at the house with the men, there probably would have been some confusion and “encouragement” to go to the shower.) When we got back, the women assured the men that the “games” we played at the shower “wouldn’t have interested” them. I think guys are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves how interested they are in unscrambling words, thinking about things related to babies, and watching people open presents.

We don’t know what sex organs the new baby has yet, so there’s talk about “whether it’ll be a boy or a girl” and “if it’s a boy this; if it’s a girl, that.”

2-tier cake with the text

found on pinterest

Referring to my cousin’s two-year-old child, my aunt actually said, “He’s a boy, so he’ll need to toughen up.” We have no way of knowing how this child will identify by the time he’s an adult. Regardless of whether he’s a boy/man, gender norms that require him to be “tough” only hurt him and increase the likelihood that he might hurt others.

My aunt, uncle, cousins, and mom are awesome, friendly, kindhearted people. I went out of my way to spend a weekend with them – clearly I must like them, at least a little bit. Yet I didn’t feel safe asking them to change the ways in which they think and talk about me, even – especially! – when it was causing me emotional distress. My “coming out” would be too at odds with everything they were expressing about gender.

I’m not sure how I expected them to respond. Asking me to explain myself? Reasserting the gender they’ve assigned to me? I don’t think they’d be physically violent – but maybe annoyed? Saying they don’t understand? I tend to expect people to say they’ll try to use my pronouns but they might make mistakes; what’s important to me is that they’re willing to try.

image by Solomon Fletcher – shared here because it’s true of me, too

I tried to talk to Mom about it. I asked her to use my name instead of pronouns, as a sort of compromise. She said “I’m just talking, I’m not really thinking about it.” That hurt a lot, because to me it felt like she was prioritizing her ability to “babble” (her word, not mine) over respecting me as a person.

Then on Tuesday she started talking to me when she knew I had to leave for an appointment, wouldn’t leave me alone so I could finish getting ready, and almost made me late! I was furious with her and did my best to avoid her for over a day. I’ve been shutting out the world, feeling very grumpy. I felt so bad I couldn’t even go to a meeting for trans* people of all genders (at which I wouldn’t have known anyone). There were multiple factors (including concern about my safety) but the bottom line was I didn’t want to meet new people and otherwise be social, nor did I have the energy. I’m very disappointed because I really need a community right now and I’d rescheduled my music therapy session so I could go.

On Thursday Mom lured me out of hiding by offering me food. We talked a bit and agreed to respect each other more. She asked me to make more of an effort to respond when she tries to talk to me and to show appreciation for the help she gives me. And I was able to tell her that I need her not only to respect and use my pronouns, but to be an ally. During the conversation she talked to me about me (?) and used the wrong pronoun no less than 5 times.

“Ze,” I corrected, and she apologized.

Creating a Space for Me

I had every intention of getting to Banji’s parents’ house on time. I packed the night before, set an alarm, even got up in a reasonably timely fashion (largely due to Fox’s insistence), had breakfast, etc. But by the time I was out the door, it was almost the time I was supposed to arrive.

I pushed through feeling light headed and nauseous, overcame my guilt-driven urge to use my non-hands-free cell phone while driving, and got there in one piece. I moved quickly, expecting them to be ready to rush out the door, and prepared my apology.

But as I came in, I was greeted by smiles and open arms, as though I had just come home. There was no need for apology (they weren’t quite ready to go yet, either). We had a pleasant conversation, transferred my stuff to their car, and hit the road to Banji’s house.

Conversation was intermittent, especially later in the drive when I kept falling asleep as soon as the car started moving. But during the conversation, whenever I started to say something, Dad would turn down or even turn off the radio so I could be heard.

These little things – the warm greeting, them making an effort so I could be heard, never being rushed at rest stops – helped me to feel valued & respected. That means so much to me, especially when I find it hard to value and respect myself.

Finding the Right Psychiatrist

I’ve been doing it wrong. I thought I would go see a psychiatrist, and ze would know all about the different medications available and listen to me and figure out what would best help me. I found an organization covered by my insurance and started working with the person they assigned to me. I put random chemicals in my body, who knows what they’ve been doing. It’s so hard to tell whether they’re helping or hurting that I want to rip out my brain!

Wakana’s been ridiculously concerned about me. She asked me to sign a contract saying that if I’m thinking about hurting myself I won’t act on it without talking to her first. She’s basically given me permission to call her any time of day or night. That’s … wow. Frelling huge!

She also expressed an interest in working with Psychiatrist B. I gave her his number (well, the number at the organization that assigned him to me) and when I went to see him on Wednesday I gave him her number. On Friday I asked Wakana if she’d gotten his call.

“We spoke, actually. I thought he was being very arrogant and he wouldn’t talk to me about how you’re doing. He didn’t seem to take your suicidal and self-harm ideation seriously.” (Actually, he interrupted me in the middle of telling him about these sensitive topics to take a phone call from the org.’s billing dept.) “He kept saying it’s a clinic. People just go there for medication. He’s only there two days a week. If anything comes up he tells patients to go to the emergency room.”

Being hit with this reality really hurt. I just want the meds to work their magic and the pain to go away. But my problem isn’t a headache, it’s an extremely complex combination of maladaptive thought and behavioral patterns, disabling physical and emotional symptoms, unbearably stressful situations, and atypical brain chemistry. The medication might be helping the brain chemistry part, or it might not, or it might even be making things worse. I have literally no way of knowing, because how I feel and function on a given day depends on so many other factors that it’s impossible to isolate the effect of the meds (in research-ese: “There are too many confounding variables”). The American Psychiatric Association wasted their time making a new version of the DSM that the National Institute of Mental Health withdrew their support from and has devised no tests that would enable a healthcare provider to objectively observe and measure the effect these psychotropic substances are having on my brain!

That infuriates and terrifies me but now I’m kind of dependent on them. I don’t know. Maybe I could stop taking them and walk away. Maybe whatever effect that had on my brain would end up resulting in my death. I have no idea.

I need to find someone who will take every word I say to zir as seriously as Wakana does, if not even moreso. Someone who knows everything there is to know about every medication and how it interacts with every other. Someone who can juggle what information is available from scientific research with experience treating diverse clients; someone who is willing to try new or atypical approaches and will be responsive to my every symptom and concern throughout the process. I don’t care if you’ve been practicing psychiatry since before Freud was born, this is my body and the only brain I have. I need it to last me a good 70 more years or so. The depression is taking enough of a toll without the meds I’m taking to try and treat the depression fucking things up even more. I’m taking a huge risk; I can’t hit “undo” or “restart.” There is no option to save first, then exit without saving if something goes wrong, reload and try again. There’s just my life. I need whomever I work with to respect that and take it seriously.

Wakana doesn’t seem to think Psychiatrist B is capable of doing that. I was extremely angry with him when he interrupted me in the middle of trying to tell him about the symptoms I couldn’t bring up at our last meeting. It was very hard for me to organize and express my thoughts about what I’ve been experiencing – something that doesn’t lend itself to words to begin with, and that tends to be hindered when I don’t feel emotionally supported by the person I’m trying to share this information with (“lack of rapport”). I don’t know what to make of my body randomly twitching in response to certain sounds, especially if I’m tired or anxious or angry. I never experienced that until the first time I took a SSRI. It’s not like this is an experience people typically talk about; I can’t poll my neighbors or classmates or Facebook friends about “What makes you twitch as though Gimli has his axe embedded in your spine?” Don’t blow me off and tell me “it’s the depression.” If you’re going to say something like that, at least explain what you mean.

I need a psychiatrist who respects that I’m trusting zir with with more than my life. Someone who respects that I’m trusting zir with my Self. My thoughts, emotions, conscious experiences, self-perception, how I interpret and respond to everyone and everything around me. It’s all been affected, and for all I know I’d be a lot better off if I’d never started taking medication.

Love for Women Everywhere

This is an ode
To women around the world
Who have chosen this day
To Rise

My sisters who refuse to be seen and treated
As a commodity
Who demand that their rights
To their own bodies
Be Respected

Who have suffered abuse
Raped, beaten
Underpaid, hidden away
Their sexuality and their lives


This is an ode
To the Women who Rise
And those who are afraid to

Women bound by the chains
Of mental illness:
Depression, anxiety, eating disorders
Borderline personality disorder, codependency, substance abuse
And too many others to name

Women forced into the sex trade
Constrained to motherhood
Kept out of the public sphere
Their voices silenced


This is an ode
To the Women who Rise
And the men who stand with them

Love for women is not
Chocolate, roses, romance
Respect is not a pedestal
Or poetry

Love for women is Rising
Against violence
Forced conformity

Love for women is having courage and strength
To question society
And talk about the things
That scare us into complacency


This is an ode
To Women Around the World
Those who Rise
Those too afraid to
And the men who stand with them

in response to today’s prompt from The Daily Post:

It’s Valentine’s Day, so write an ode to someone or something you love. Bonus points for poetry!