Category Evolution

428 posts

Ramifications

I’ve written before about the financial decisions my parents made and how that impacted me as a child who was taught that it was better to suffer than be happy. To the point that to voice the desire to be happy meant your faith was questioned.

Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
— Matthew 5: 11-12 (KJV)

Or, in my parents translation:

You’ll know how good (#blessed) of a christian you are by how hard your life is: how much you’re being persecuted, and how many people are angry with you. If your life is full of suffering, that’s god showing his love to you. Take joy in that suffering because you will have the most treasures when you go to heaven.

In practical, lived experience terms, this looked like watching my parents choose homelessness because they believed god told them to pay a friend’s mortgage and they couldn’t do both. God got the credit for my grandparents saving us by pulling some strings for a place the day we had to move out.

This looked like being kicked out of churches every 2 years after leaving the cult because my parents would get in an argument about faith healing with the pastors and swiftly shown the door. This was proof that we were right and doing the right things.

This looked like watching my parents make financial decisions based on how much stress it caused them, which they interpreted as a sign from god that this was his way.

Heavenly treasure isn’t really a comfort to a child who instantly lost contact with every almost-new-friend they were making. It does nothing to quell the anxiety about how to keep track of 4 siblings on the streets. That promise felt more like a curse as I aged, but I was never able to see it that way because to do so was blasphemy and called my eternal salvation into question.

It’s not that it didn’t occur to my parents that maybe the choices they had were ways to provide for our family and live in relative security and comfort (which is also blessed by god!), they believed that was sacrilegious and we were called to suffer.

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:”
— 1 Peter 2:21 (KJV)

Or:

Because Jesus suffered for us, we are called to choose suffering; so we can be an example.

Add that to being raised inside extreme gender roles and taught (+ reinforced by experience) that it would be sinful for me to pursue a future that would make me happy, a future where I had autonomy and independence. Not only would that be sinful, but my life would be awful and my salvation rescinded, which makes for some really interesting results in adulthood.

By interesting I mean, the struggle is extremely real and it never had to be, but that was out of my control as a child and now I have to live with those consequences.

This is the crux of what I’ve been working on in therapy for the last 3.5 years now.

Between Spiritual Abuse and CPTSD, getting divorced, moving out on my own with no education or much in the way of job experience, life has been hard. Harder than it should be.

Magnitudes harder than it is for folks whose parents didn’t intentionally stunt their education to force them into a life of 1950s-meets-1800s in the 21st century after looking at their infant’s genitals and deciding that’s all they were good for.

I turn 29 this month and I feel like I’m suffocating from shame at my lack of education and abilities, and poverty; neither of which are my fault, but both of which I get to carry because of choices that unlike my parents, I did not get to make.

My parents chose to put me and my siblings at risk, they chose to keep basic life necessities out of reach, they chose to shame and guilt us for expressing needs and wants, they chose to punish and squelch any form of independence including employment, they chose to reinforce that my time and my energy is worth nothing by making me return payment to neighbors who wanted to hire me to watch their kids, they chose to spend 18 years of my life telling me that I am worthless and deserving of nothing.

And here I am at almost 30, working my ass off and making my chronic illness worse just to survive and yet constantly getting in my own way because the instant I make a decision that would better myself I panic. I internalized all of their choices because I had no exposure to anything else as a child, so clearly I was the one in the wrong.

Those lessons that my parents taught me? About how I need to follow in their exact footsteps, give to the point of harm, cast aside my dreams and stay at home to support other people? Even though I am extremely aware that they are all 100% lies, 100% abusive, and 100% meant to keep me in line with their plan that never ever included me? are still there.

They’re still powerful and strong and loud in my head every time I get rejected or ghosted on job applications. Reminding me that I wasn’t “meant” to do this. I wasn’t “meant” to be self sufficient, I was trained to be a helpmeet with no needs or wants.

I know better now, but those beliefs are still stuck to my core.

So it’s really devastating that when I do make choices to free myself (getting divorced, moving to CA, starting HRT, starting school, applying to jobs, doing the hustle), I spiral and fail because I haven’t yet learned the skills required to succeed. Unlike people who went to school and had jobs and income that was theirs to manage before being thrown into adulthood with debt and bills.

I am so good at what I do, and it’s so difficult to be able to survive well enough to do it. I’m trying to do all the right things, I go through the right motions – I apply to jobs, I write really good cover letters, I volunteer, I make friends, I was a year out from getting an AA! I have multiple income streams between patreon, and podcasting, and freelancing gigs. I work until I am exhausted and I am nowhere closer to being able to provide for myself let alone support others the way I desperately wish I could. *

*this also probably has to do with things I internalized as a child being taught about masculinity that I also need to hash out, but that’s a different topic for a different day.

Which is where the lies come back into play: that there must be something wrong with me or something I’m not doing, or maybe my parents were right all along, and maybe I am worthless and only meant for domestic duties because that was all I was ever allowed to be. I’ve been out for almost 11 years, and I have grown so much, but I’m still so far behind my peers. On bad days, I can’t help but wonder if that’s because I’m still wrong somehow, even though I know that’s a lie.

Every time I get close to “making it” something happens that strips it away. My politics aren’t pure enough, or my health plummets and ruins my ability to work and even function, or fascism intensifies….it’s a struggle to not see those coincidences as signs confirming my parents’ worldview.

When I get scared and triggered in the same way I did as a powerless child, I find myself defaulting back to those thought patterns…everything bad that happens to me is a punishment because I’m out of alignment with “gods will.” If I were in-line with “god’s will” then….these things would still happen (per my parents’ view) but I would be less scared about it?

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The faith arguments really don’t hold up for more than 10 seconds after I start thinking about them, but that doesn’t make them go away and it doesn’t make them feel any less real.

That is the most insidious part about spiritual abuse: just because the faith has been left and the arguments don’t hold up against basic questions, doesn’t mean that the roots of these beliefs went away. Especially if this was instilled through the entirety of childhood.

Simply knowing a belief is wrong doesn’t magically vanish it. Which I find rude.

If there is one thing I’ve learned in the almost 11 years I’ve been deconstructing here it’s that all of these have to be fought, and it’s not a one-time thing, they come back. For me, fighting looks like this. Exposing these lies to daylight by writing about them candidly weakens their power. Something about seeing them outside of my head makes the beliefs easier to let go of.

Maybe it’s a professional mistake to be so open about this type of fighting, but silence hasn’t saved me (or payed rent) and if I were to guess, I’m not the only person facing this type of dementor.


More Feelings I Guess

On the interwebs I’ve been doing some of the goofy “it’s been a decade, what’s the then/now of __________” memes. The decade of hair is one of my faves.

In a lot of ways I still struggle with feeling inadequate or incompetent because I feel behind my peers on so many levels. That sense of sheer overwhelm I felt when I started writing here in 2009 hasn’t ever fully dissipated, it’s just (drastically) changed shape. I don’t know that it will ever go away and I’m beginning to think that this sense of existential anxiety is probably not uncommon.

The last 10 years have sort of gone as expected but in completely unexpected ways.

10 years ago when I imagined my adult life I envisioned a reality where I didn’t have kids (), had my uterus out (), went to college (-ish), traveled around the country and planet (½✓), lived in an apartment in a city (), made art (), found a sense of belonging (), continued doing grassroots organizing (), had a meaningful and healthy social life (), and was accepted and loved for who I am and would become (✓✓✓).

I didn’t set out to become an advocate for the rights of homeschooled children.
I didn’t intend to become so outspoken about my upbringing
(and I really hoped it wouldn’t ever be relevant).
I never imagined I would get divorced or become estranged, let alone go to trade school, and also experience ALL THE THINGS at school.
I didn’t know how extremely queer I was, let alone that I would start HRT.
After spending my years in Maine mostly outside of local politics, I didn’t expect to move to CA and dive into housing abundance and community organizing (though it shouldn’t really have surprised me).

Now, I find myself sitting in an alcove in the airbnb I’m staying at in Akron, Ohio after walking through the snow for several hours; thinking about what my next steps will be going into the new year and starting another decade. What changes await me in the next decade? Who will I grow into? What will I do? What do I want to do and become?

These existential questions have been hanging over me since I dropped out of school. I haven’t had a lot of the bandwidth to answer them, I’ve spent so much energy just trying to survive let alone map out an idea for my future. In September I confided in my therapist something I’ve been afraid to admit out loud which is that: I didn’t see a future of myself past the age of 30 or so.

Now that I’m in Akron again that’s starting to change. I’m getting glimpses of a future where I can be and not just survive but have the opportunity and bandwidth to grow and thrive and make art and be an activist without having to spend as much energy worrying about getting displaced or not being able to buy groceries.

What I want most in the next decade is to become financially secure (either by freelancing, growing my patreon, and/or finding a job with good health benefits); I want to do more writing (here, professionally, and more patreon exclusives) and make more art (I started an etsy, want to make more comics, and get back into filmmaking); improve my health and get better at this low FODMAP thing (and start making resources around it, because let’s be honest, I can’t not); I want to learn spanish and brush up on my ASL; I want to continue to organize for change in whatever ways I can (because organizing is like breathing and I live for it).

I don’t know what the next year, let alone the next decade, is going to hold. I don’t know if we’ll have a habitable planet or a recognizable country by the end of it; but I’m taking comfort in the knowledge that I have friends and chosen family all over the world – I’m not alone, I bring passion and experience to improve wherever I inhabit and share with everyone I can, I will continue to trust my instincts and be guided by kindness and empathy.

I’m entering 2020 in a better place than I entered the 2010s. I will do everything in my power to enter the 2030s in the same way.

Ballet

As I’m laying in bed to write this I’m warding off an anxiety attack, nausea induced by adrenaline, and so much adrenaline. I started talking to myself a few minutes ago when I felt my body go tense and my chest tightened and I decided to take a hydroxyzine, take a hit, and use my inhaler to give myself a chance to breathe deeply and stop for a second (Still no luck finding a psychiatrist, and I really need some kind of anti-anxiety med right now).

I got freaked out because I have been a spiraling mess since I had to email my ballet teacher about not being able to perform and told my classmates in case my teacher missed the email. I’ve been out of class for a whole month because I have not had the physical capacity to practice or make it to class at 10:45am.

I realized I was getting anxious while I was trying to go to sleep tonight because tomorrow is Tuesday and I don’t know if I’ll be able to make it in again. I’m worried and anticipating that I’ll have to drop the class, the last day I can drop with a W is April 26th. I’m worried about what this means for my financial aid since that would drop me to 8.5 credits. I’m taking 9.5 this semester which is ~3/4 time…(I wonder if I could get my student organizing job to count as like 3 credits for union organizing, and then I’d be more okay?) I need to talk to disability services about that this week.

I’m really devastated that I can’t perform this semester. I’ve been wanting to get back into ballet for years and never had the opportunity or ability to do it until this year, only to have my body nope out on me. Ballet has always made me feel strong and graceful and grounded. The stretches are meditative and something about moving in unison with a group of people on stage is just satisfying.

I love how doing ballet feels. I just wish I would stop waking up too tired and in too much pain to be able to do it. Some part of me feels like I should just go do it anyway and push through the aches, but my body feels so precarious right now with my hormones and health and immune system up in the air.

The other portion of this anxiety is worrying about what happens if I show my face again. I’m embarrassed that I’ve missed so much class and been such a flake on the ONE THING I TOOK FOR SELFCARE (and at this point my back is starting to ache as if I am literally a hitting a nerve). I’m really angry about it. I feel betrayed by my body and disappointed in myself and I know it isn’t my fault, but I feel so ashamed.

I don’t want to face the reality of my meatcage right now, or ever, really. But if there’s one thing I learned over spring break (which was bookended by health problems) it’s that my body currently has no chill and it is running on almost nothing.

So maybe what I do is give myself this week back, to try and get into the groove of school (and queer prom!) without pushing myself (read: going to ballet in the morning when I need to make sure I’m still sleeping and eating). Then, maybe with my body’s nutrition getting sorted, some of the pain will subside enough to do ballet again next week?

This was a long way to get to talking myself out of pushing myself tomorrow, because it feels like pushing right now, and honestly…I need to not. MAYBE, just maybe, that makes me smart and not bad.

Talking About It

I have been sick all year.

I’ve been pretending I’m not because it’s the only coping mechanism I know and if I don’t stop doing things then I don’t feel pain and everything is fine.

Until it isn’t.

At some point I crash and my immune system disintegrates and I get sick with one thing after another. Not helping is that insurance is requiring me to lower my testosterone level in order to even try patches instead of injection, which meant that right after school started my Doctor had me lower my hormones.

First the nurse told me over the phone to decrease my dose from .5ml to .25ml which doesn’t seem like much but that takes me from 100mg to 50mg in one fell swoop and need I remind you, testosterone is an anabolic steroid? That sent my body into withdrawal for 3 weeks. They called me the next week to correct it after I complained about dying, and I was to lower my dose by 20mg every 2-3 weeks, so .4ml for 3 weeks, and .3ml for 3 weeks. I got to week 2 of the .3ml right over midterms and it was h e l l.

That was a mistake. I went in to see her two weeks ago after being so out of it I couldn’t go to school half of of the time and at that point she said she was going to consult with someone who had more experience with HRT. Turns out that I’ve felt so shitty because my hormones were dropping too fast, so now we’re back up to what I was taking for another 6 weeks and then dropping by 20mg for 6 weeks and then I don’t know.

More than that, I’ve been seeing my doctor about the same Auto-Immune-ish symptoms for over a year. I’ve been fatigued for as long as I can remember but that is intensifying dramatically. As is my Raynaud’s, dizziness, brain fog, muscle spasms, and insomnia. My bloodwork isn’t really telling us anything, but it’s triggered by stress and my cortisol release mechanism is on a hair trigger.

All of this has been making me super anxious which just compounds all of those problems (I can only laugh at the hilarity of stressing out about my stress disorder, IF ONLY I COULD STOP I WOULD BE FUCKING FINE. OMFG). So much so that for the last week and a half I’ve been beside myself, unable to sleep, unable to cope, just feeling like my body was made of adrenaline, until I managed to take half a xanax and have since started to slowly crawl back to okay.

Now I desperately need a psychiatrist and a doctor who can refer me to a rheumatologist.

I’ve been so devastated because two weeks ago I started really, understanding what it means for me to be disabled and sick. I dropped out of performing at the spring ballet recital because I haven’t been able to make it to practice due to pain. I have to manage my physical energy spoons judiciously and I fucking hate it.

I’m so frustrated because I’ve FINALLY gotten to the point where I feel alive and like I’m doing the things that bring me fulfillment and joy, and I am NOT casually okay with being dead anymore, and NOW my body is trying to murder me? NOW?!

R U D E

who gave it fucking permission?

I don’t have a resolution to this other than: I’m currently switching Doctors because like 8 people have told me I need to, including my therapist, and I’m working on finding a psychiatrist who can help with the anxiety spike, and I’m not dropping out but I am worried I’ll have to if I don’t get better.

I’m just so angry and hurt and feel betrayed and I feel like I need to grieve for myself but that’s a really confusing feeling. I have therapy on Wednesday at least.

10 years

The 28th marks both my golden birthday and my 10th escape-versary. I’ve felt the amount of introspection and existential questioning I feel like most people reserve for their 30th, but this year feels more significant somehow.

Ten years feels both like an eternity and also yesterday. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about where I came from and how I escaped. I haven’t really talked about what spurs me forward – all those things I told myself I’d never forget as a child.

The other day I was taking stock of where I am now, the choices I made to get here, and how they line up with the promises I made to myself when I was young and powerless:

When I was about 12, burnt out by losing myself to yet another pregnancy and overwhelmed by everything it meant to be the oldest daughter in a large family, I promised myself I wouldn’t forget what that felt like.
I promised myself that I would never inflict that feeling on other children and I’d stop it from happening if I could.

In 2013 I helped found the Coalition for Responsible Home Education to raise awareness about educational neglect and abuse in homeschooling environments and create protections for homeschooled students. We’re making progress.

When I was 17 I promised myself I would never birth kids, and that I would somehow become sterile before age 30. Last July, almost exactly a decade later I did that.

After I worked through the trauma of being told as a toddler, adolescent, and teenager that expressing anything but joy was wrong, I promised myself that I would stop hiding from my feelings and accept all of myself.

In 2013, I came out (publicly) as bi, nonbinary, and agnostic which was only the start of this journey. In 2016 I started seeing an actual therapist and started HRT. I’ve written and continue to write extensively (mostly on social media) about the battles in my brain because of this promise.

I don’t remember when, but I remember getting fed up with people I was surrounded by being resistant to personal change and growth. I promised myself I would always evolve and not become stagnant as I age.

I’ve torn my world down and rebuilt it from the ground up more times than I can count. I’ve gone from sheltered homeschooled girl who got married immediately after leaving home, to….a divorced, polyamorous, transmasc enby with…actual confidence. In 10 years.

When I was 17 and my parents pulled my college application out from under me, I promised myself I would at least try school someday.

In 2015 I stuck my toes in the water with Seattle’s ABE program, and in 2017 I enrolled full-time at Laney College. Now I’m just-shy-of-full-time in the Labor Studies program, creating institutional queer-supportive infrastructure, running for student senate, and working as a (paid) Student Organizer.

I don’t believe there’s a point at which I will be completely and fully healed from my childhood trauma. But 10 years of distance has brought a lot of growth in more ways than I thought possible. Life is really hard sometimes, but right now I’m appreciating exactly how far I’ve come.

I take it for granted that I have done a 180 in every way imaginable from the world I come from. I forget that’s not an experience many people have the impetus to go through. I see how far I have yet still to go, I see how much more I have to learn, and how many ways I could be better, and I know I’m not there yet.

But damn.

I decided to live the life I imagined.
I believed that I could, so I did.
I replaced my fear of the unknown with curiosity
And when I looked around?
Life was pretty amazing.


ETA: if you want to celebrate this milestone with me, you can help me meet my $1k/mo goal on patreon http://patreon.com/kiery, send a present http://a.co/7w9xQgD, or buy me a drink https://cash.me/$kieryn!

Taking Good Care of Myself Means Not Starving

I’ve been trying to take good care of myself over break, which has also meant trying to get my health situation in order. I’ve been dealing with chronic pain directly related to chronic stress since…for ever. We don’t know what it is, just that something is there.

Additionally, I haven’t stopped losing weight since starting testosterone. So I went to talk to my PCP about why my cholesterol is so high when I keep losing weight and don’t eat meat and the working theory is that my body is in starvation mode since HRT has made my metabolism skyrocket but my diet and eating habits haven’t changed to match. Pair that with being unable to eat when I’m stressed and forgetting to eat because of untreated ADHD and we have….where I am today.

The soonest time I could see a nutritionist is March so my therapist helped me come up with some plans, and then today my family took me to CostCo and now I have a drawer of snacks for the semester, and extra staples that I can freeze so there’s always a backup.

I realized while talking to my therapist how many layers of complicated my relationship to food is.

The Problems

First, there’s resentment. A lot of resentment. As the surrogate mom I was eventually the cooker of all meals and I hated the feeling of how my entire existence revolved around preparing meals, serving meals, and cleaning up after meals, for.ev.er. When I feel like I always have to cook or think about meals I start feeling trapped again, like I’m in a wheel I will never escape and I can never escape because for some reason bodies need food even when I get bored.

(I’m realizing now that I read this back that a lot of this is also similar to the ADHD thing of not being able to do things that aren’t interesting. This also explains why my desire to bake bread has come back with a vengeance but the thought of cooking 3 meals a day 7 days a week makes me hate life.)

Second, is fear of scarcity. My family gave so much to the church that we were often in short supply of food, especially as the family grew. As the eldest and the one with responsibility to make sure all the other children had their needs met, I always ate last, often after I’d dished out seconds to the other kids. When food was tight I ate less than I wanted or should have because it was more important that the younger kids ate (they were growing but somehow I was not). It got to the point where when the fridge was empty I would stop going into the kitchen because I couldn’t deal with the anxiety. I still do this.

To this day I have to always have ingredients for peanut butter and jelly available, and when I don’t I turn into a huge anxious ball until that’s fixed.

I also do this thing where, when I start getting low on something I’ll stop eating it so I don’t run out. I do this because I never felt secure in knowing there would be more later. The part where this gets me is that it’s often still my reality. I’ve spent a lot of time this semester trying to grapple with the fact that since getting bumped off CalFresh (which I’m re-applying for now) I have been food insecure and that’s contributed heavily to my lack of actually eating. Feeling like if I run out of something I can’t replace it means I will try not to run out of it, even if it means rationing or saving it until I’m at a place where I can replace it.

When you’re poor as fuck and your bills take 80% of your income, not eating seems like a smart, money saving choice. It’s just a really really bad one.

I think the food scarcity fear is the hardest obstacle because it’s escalated significantly by the reality of being poor. I know people have my back and will not let me starve (this is literally why my kitchen is stocked to the brim right now) but that anxiety, paired with the capitalist pressure to not spend money, and the lack of funds to even buy food anyway, just converges into a mess that fuels and justifies this eating disorder, and reinforces that I deserve this (I don’t).

Third, it’s self harm. It’s a way to take out anger or disappointment that doesn’t negatively impact anyone except myself (or that’s what I tell myself anyway). This is also often paired with the Scarcity Implosion, but sometimes I’m just angry, and when I’m angry or disappointed at myself (because I don’t know how to be angry at other people) I take that out on myself by not eating, because it’s somehow what I deserve for fucking up or not being good enough already. I also know this is bullshit but tell that to my brain when it’s livid.

Lastly, I just get distracted or don’t have the executive function to stay on top of it. Making food is boring when I’m working on literally anything else. Sometimes I’m just exhausted and I need food but I don’t have the actual capacity to choose a food to make or put into my face. When I get back from a day of having new information dumped into my brain, I’m not…in a state to prepare or even think about cooking a meal. I’m just exhausted.

What happens most often of course, is that all of these intermix and collide in a bunch of really exciting ways at any given point throughout the day, so all I really know is that I need help, but I can’t actually give much direction on how that isn’t “please move inside my brain, thanks, the galley is downstairs.”

The Plan

My therapist suggested I get “more food than I’ll think I’ll need”, and one of my friends shared the idea of having a backup stash, so I always have that backup and don’t have to worry about getting low. Something I also have a hard time with when I’m low spoons and tired is just coming up with something to eat, so the other day I sat down and made two lists: one for meals, and one for snacks. All things that are really low spoons or easy to make in bulk for heating and taking to school later.

I’ve also set reminders on my phone to eat every day at 9am and noon, I downloaded the Streaks app just so I can check off eating meals (because my brain loves getting points for shit, so if I can gamify something it will help). I also downloaded a food-diary app that also has a health/meds/activities log called mySymptoms. Because my Raynaud’s has been in a flare since May I added a Cold level to the symptom options and that’s been helpful. This doesn’t work super great because I suck at remembering to log things in the apps, but knowing that there is a log helps me remember to do things?

I’m also gonna try to make a sensical description of my income/expenses and apply for CalFresh again this week. If I can afford groceries without worrying a lot of the other things will be less intense.

(If you wanna be part of the Kieryn Doesn’t Starve Or Freeze Club, you can join me on patreon or just donate towards snacks on paypal or square)

2019 is for Self Compassion

Something my therapist has been encouraging me to remind myself of is that I deserve to take good care of myself.

So I’ve decided that in 2019 I’m going to take everything I’ve learned from this year and try to take good care of myself. I’m emphasizing good because if I just take care of myself I get what I’ve been doing all year which is giving myself enough love and sustenance to survive but nothing more than that. I’m here to tell you that was a terrible decision and it sucks and I deserve better from myself, so I’m going to try to do better next year.

For the first time in a while I actually have Specific Things I Want To Accomplish next year, that fall under my larger goal of taking good care of myself.

I want need to be able to pay rent.
Financial instability sucks and since I lost my contracting gig last January this year has been incredibly hard with being in school full time. I’ve been getting by between my patreon, side-gigs, and school scholarships, but none of those combined have been enough to cover more than my bills, groceries if I’m lucky. I’m stressed to the point of sickness and I haven’t been eating to save on going shopping, so that has to change this year.

Some of it already is, I have a part-time minimum-wage ($13.23/hr) job on campus doing organizing work, and I have another long-term side gig lined up, but neither of those are going to be enough to contribute to rent so I have to come up with something to do in between to make ends meet (while also in school).

My goal is to get my patreon to at least $1k/mo this year (in addition to working multiple jobs while in school and organizing). I don’t currently offer many perks besides warm fuzzies of knowing that I won’t die while working for social justice through art/writing/podcasts/on the ground activism, but my patreon is the reason I’ve been able to manage at all this year so the help really goes a long way (and I super appreciate it).

I want to stop being consumed entirely by school.
I feel like I lose myself and stop existing and being a person when school starts and all I can do is think about homework and worry. It’s exhausting and I don’t like it. I’ve worked so hard to get here and I have to climb so many mountains and I’d really like not to sacrifice my humanity for education, you know?

I’m laying a lot of groundwork for that with on-campus organizing, to make being there less stressful (bathrooms should be ready as soon as Peralta finds money for a locksmith), but I think what’s more important is what I’m doing around school, so my vague plans are these:

  • Have a bedtime routine – skin care, teeth, read something fun (not homework), unwind
  • Have a morning routine – Actually Make Breakfast while the coffee brews, have a lunch plan
  • Block out a time for homework on my calendar – then it will happen and I won’t stress about having time to do it? maybe? we’ll find out.

Along that vein my goal is to eat and rest better.
My sleep has been fucked all year and so has my eating (for various and somewhat entirely self-inflicted reasons) so I talked to my doctor about getting a nutritionist and doing a sleep study this year. I don’t know if I’m just stressed and that’s all or if there’s something bigger at play. I’m also not eating enough to keep up with my apparently skyrocketing metabolism and I’ve been losing more weight without even trying (I weigh the same as I did 12 years ago now and I’m not here for it). I’m hoping a nutritionist can help me figure out what I need to eat so I don’t inadvertently starve because my body thinks it’s a pubescent boy.

I feel like if I can get my sleeping and eating sorted that a lot of the other things will be able to get better from there?

I want to have more sex with more people.
I’ve been in a weird headspace all year with it and also with dating and I had an epiphany a bit back that none of that actually really mattered. I want to unpack more of that in a post of its own but the synopsis is: it’s a mindfuck going from being perceived straight, to lesbian, to straight again but this time it’s you who’s getting the checks, and also like, NONE OF THOSE PERCEPTIONS ARE TRUE (bi erasure ftw). But that’s not even the point really, the point is that it’s a weird mental place to be, between being socialized one way and perceived another – neither being correct -, and I talk over people because I’ve been shouted over for so long and it’s so weird being suddenly assigned a male space when that isn’t…. anyway.

I miss having fulfilling romantic relationships with more than one person and the people who I would want to date are the kind of people who already understand me. I don’t have to date someone I need to handhold through my transness. it’s fine.

Additionally, I can sex people and not have to date them???? This is something I want to also…try..more.

I haven’t started anything this year because I was eaten too much by school to have the time and spoons to invest in another relationship the way I would want to. This year my goal is to intentionally make room for that to happen.

I told my therapist about some of this earlier today, especially about how what I really need is rest. My homework this week is to spend the next 3-4 days doing nothing but resting and learning how to ask for help.

In 2019 my goal is to learn to be compassionate to myself in the same way that I am for other people.

And also maybe look into a metoidioplasty.

One Year of School

I have survived an entire year of college. This semester has been especially challenging, in more ways than the previous two were. I learned a lot about my limits and that just because it only takes 6 weeks to heal your stitches does not mean that you are better 6 weeks later.

I am currently exhausted, sick with some kind of respiratory virus that my doctor hypothesizes is likely from the push-crash of finals (apparently pushing = immuno-compromised and it happens a lot with people in school :P). But I’m also really fucking proud. I’ll write later about all the things I learned this year and what’s next and all that, but right now I want to talk about some of the things I’m really proud of.

  • The Lavender Project – this is the group on campus that consists of student(s – me, mostly), faculty, and staff that is dedicated to institutionalizing queer support structures at Laney. We planned Coming Out Week this year, where we had a ton of events and basically launched the Queer Brunch. We’re working on changing the bathrooms (just need to pay the locksmiths?), and I help by offering suggestions of things that are easy but super helpful (maps, for example).
  • The Laney Queers – I started the queer club this semester! Right now we basically just do brunches and trips to the museum. But we have a code of conduct, the constitution for our doocratic consensus based club is on the website for other clubs to borrow from, and I am compiling a list of counselors that are LGBT affirming.
  • The Social Justice Cohort – Laney announced a Labor Studies track (to learn organizing) and a Student Organizer job with the Student Justice Center. I’m one of the people in the cohort now! We are going to be focusing on ways to lower the barriers to education for undocumented students and will be going to workshops on DACA and AB540. We’ll hold educational workshops too and probably partner with the Laney Queers and The Lavender Project on events! The other cool thing is, this is a paid student worker position so I will get (more) job experience doing that thing I always do! I’m also working with an amazing group of people who appreciate my pup accessories so we’re obviously going to be great friends.
  • I’m building a coalition on campus. In some ways it feels like I’m starting something big. I’ve made friends with culinary, facilities, and the nurses. Everyone on campus is tired of how communication within peralta sucks and we all want to work together. I’m part of making that happen. It feels really good.
  • I’ve figured out how to navigate the bureaucracy and where some of the levers of power are. Mostly by running into walls like a roomba. I learned how to use DSPS this semester, so now I know I need to get a NEW accommodation letter before next semester. 😛
  • I’m proud of myself for leaning in to that thing that I am driven to do instead of trying to force something else to happen (Labor Studies AA instead of Machine Tech AS). I feel a little insecure about it still, but it also feels right.

Future.

Since the last post I’ve been able to sit with myself for a few minutes and think about where I go from here. 

I’ve decided that I am definitely going to focus on Labor Studies since Coming Out Week went so well and I got an email about the Student Organizing Cohort that the Ethnic Studies Department is doing at school (I have an interview for that this week). 

I have a meeting this week with Disability services to see about getting a medical withdrawal from shop so my incomplete does not give me an F for just not being physically capable to machine safely. As it turns out, losing an entire reproductive system takes a lot out of you even after your stitches are healed. Mixed with stress disorders and trauma it’s just…not happening.

I met with a counselor about changing majors, and ever since I decided to act on it, I’ve felt more at peace and in alignment with myself. I feel like this is the thing I should be doing, and I feel centered when I think about it. 

I also feel a bit nervous because I think it will be really challenging in good and frustrating ways, but hopefully in ways that I’m a little more equipped for.

Honestly after the news this week, going to school for an organizing AA, organizing on campus and in the East Bay, and doing the work to at least make this portion of the world less hostile is how I’m keeping myself from melting into despair.

Future?

My therapist asked me what it would look like if just asked myself what I had spoons to do each day and did that, instead of running myself into the ground trying to do everything. We talked about how when I started school I was set on finishing everything on time and thought I’d be able to do everything, but that isn’t actually how school works. It’s a series of choices of what you can and can’t get to, what you lose points on, and what you make extra pushes for.  

We talked about approaches – maybe instead of telling myself “if I get everything done I can do X” because it’s unrealistic and just cements the feeling of inadequacy, I start by taking stock of my bandwidth and asking what I need to do to lift myself up so then I can do whatever homework I need to get done.

English class has been more like a sociology course than anything else for me. As the token trans I take up the middle space in the classroom where everyone assumes I’m a dude, but I talk from the perspective of someone who was raised to be a woman. My voice gets heard by the cis dudes when I explain the ramifications of the oppression not-dudes face on a day to day basis, how that informs our lives, and how that informed Elaine Brown’s life. It’s frustrating because none of what I’m saying is new, it’s only being absorbed because my voice is deep and booming, if any of my femme counterparts made the same arguments they would be written off.

IT’S SO INFURIATING. But this is the power I have so I’m going to fucking wield it because apparently cis dudes only listen to people with deep voices and cis dudes aren’t doing the work of educating each other. But, as my therapist reminded me today, that isn’t my job.

So today the choice I’m making is to skip english class, because I know if I go to the class I won’t have the spoons to write the paper that’s overdue. I already know that english class is going to step on a bunch of triggers that are already exacerbated by the Kavanaugh confirmation, and I wouldn’t be able to recover.

I’m contemplating skipping all of school today, and sitting under this tree on the UC Berkeley campus until my laptop dies.

My body is reacting to the complete overwhelm of stress and anxiety with nausea and exhaustion. I am numb and tired. I am depleted. I have nothing to offer and no energy to take anything in. I am just going through the motions trying to get things done right now.

What’s haunting me that I haven’t gotten to in therapy yet, (because it’s buried under immediate problems) is that I don’t see a future for myself. I don’t feel like I have one. I can’t picture anything beyond the end of next year. So I’m having a hard time finding the motivation to finish my certificate, or find a job, or do anything besides sitting under this tree.

I feel like if I had somewhere I wanted to be, or something I wanted to have done, in like 10 years or so, that would help. I could make decisions based on things that brought me closer to it instead of just wandering aimlessly. But we don’t even have a functioning country right now. Even if we managed to survive (or overcome) the Christofascist takeover and the impending spread of fascism all over the world, our planet is dying.

I don’t know if there will be more than this dust sheet of a democracy existing in 2020, let alone if the planet will even make it to 2040 with all the efforts we tried to make with EPA standards and whatnot getting rolled back. How do I even gather enough hope to plan for a future when it seems like I’m going to be swallowed whole by the planet itself if the nazis don’t get me first?

I don’t know.

I don’t know and that’s why I’m under this tree unable to think. Trying to sit with myself in the uncomfortably familiar terror and dread. I remember this feeling when my parents told me that I was meant to follow in their footsteps. To make all the same mistakes they did. When they said I’d get married and have kids and homeschool and live as a reflection of them. There was no hope, no escape, no out, it was as god intended. If I was lucky enough, I would live to see the start of the end times, when the world catches on fire right before Jesus came back to save us with the rapture.

Right now, it feels a lot like that’s happening. It feels a lot like what my parents spent years of reading Revelations predicting and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t fucking with me. Not in the “The Bible Was Right And I Am A Christian Again Now!” way, but in the self-fulfilling prophecy that the Christian right has organized against climate change just like they’ve spent the last several decades gathering political power for this moment. We are several steps closer to their utopia, which looks an awful lot like hell for everyone else.

I’ve done a lot for one person in one lifetime.
All I want to do is be held and cry.
But the tears aren’t coming and all I can muster is numbness.
As grounding as it is to be sitting in dry grass, pushing the stress knots in my back against the roots of my tree friend, I can’t climb out of my head.

I don’t have answers, this is just where I’m at.

In the immediate future, I guess, I come to life when I organize, and when I talk about organizing to my therapist she notes that my demeanor changes and I stop being wracked with anxiety.

Organizing on campus is why I haven’t dropped out. It’s grounding, I’m great at it, and it’s fulfilling. I feel energized and empowered when I organize and I can channel a lot of emotion that otherwise lives in my body.

After this semester I’m gonna follow that. I’ll look into the labor studies program at Laney maybe. I could be a Union Organizer, which I recently learned is A Thing and it’s apparently not the same as “you are a machinist who organizes on the side”, as far as I can tell?

When I think about that, hope flickers again. So maybe that’s where I should go.