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Category: Depression and Mental Health

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.

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School is for Healing

I’ve been coming to grips with some stuff about what I’m studying lately, which is largely that 1: I really enjoy machining, but 2: I do not believe that I am capable of being a manual machinist in a traditional shop and I don’t see that as my future. 

It’s a weird sentence to write, sitting at a table in the student center waiting for my next class, but I haven’t been able to convince myself otherwise. I don’t have the physical stamina to operate heavy machinery, or the emotional stamina to be the only trans person in a shop. It’s hard enough being the only trans person in my english class. 

I’ve stopped and asked myself a lot over the last three semesters What am I even doing here? Why am I doing this to myself? What’s the point?  

I asked these questions before therapy today and then talked about it a bit at the end. Why do I keep going if all it seems to be doing is dredging up pain and trauma I haven’t dealt with and didn’t know about?  

And the answer is because the only way I can heal from the lies I was told about my worth, my abilities, about college and school, about learning, and teachers is to expose myself to it.

The only way I can recover is to face the terror every day and learn through experience that everything I was told for so long is bullshit.

I’m at school to learn what school is like, to learn how to learn, to learn how to navigate organized education, to learn that not every teacher is my mom reincarnated. I’m here to force myself to face a field of unknown mines and survive it. 

If I’m lucky I’ll finish my certificate, I’ll get an associates in something eventually, a nice perk would be placating capitalism. 

But I’m here to heal myself through exposure. Apparently. 

Maybe that’s valid too. 

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English 1A

I keep coming back to that part in the Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry asks why the Dementors seem to affect him more than other people, and Lupin explains that the Dementors feed on every good memory until all that’s left is trauma, they affect Harry the most because he has actual horrors in his life, things his classmates have never experienced. 

This is resonating with me a lot lately. I’m taking an English class which I was really excited about because I miss writing. Our teacher is having us read A Taste of Power and Gather Together In My Name, and our research essays are one of 6 topics that have to do with current social issues (prison industrial complex, healthcare, war on drugs, military industrial complex, electoral college, and the Berlin Conference of 1885 for “something different”). 

On one hand, I love this. I appreciate that he’s using this class as a way to get people to think more deeply about what’s happening in the world around us and how we’re impacted. 

On the other hand, this class has drudged up and revealed so much trauma. Every class has brought something to the surface, reading A Taste of Power reminds me of growing up in fundamentalism, and reading healthcare papers that dehumanize my existence is its own beast. 

I got a C+ on my first essay which was supposed to be a scene from something that happened in elementary school. I turned in, essentially, an unfinished draft. Trying to find something to write about that happened as part of school between the ages of 6 and 11 was not easy. I wrote about the day we started homeschooling, when I was 5 or whatever. I was devastated when I saw the grade. I re-read my paper and it objectively wasn’t great, I was upset because it was so much work to write.

While I was supposed to be working on that essay we were also watching The House I Live In and Sicko in class which both dredged up a lot of trauma and feelings that I wasn’t ready for, and made it impossible to finish by the time I needed to.

So last week I emailed asking for an extension on my research paper because between dredging up trauma in class, reading A Taste Of Power, and trying to research, I just could not write. 

Asking for the extension felt harder than writing, but I needed to do it. I needed to get over myself and ask for the accommodations I need to get through school with CPTSD and as-of-yet-untreated/diagnosed ADHD. I didn’t get the extension until we met during office hours and I vaguely explained my trauma and how my background being homeschooled makes navigating this infrastructure really difficult. 

He told me he’d never thought about how homeschooling affected college experiences and basically implied I’m the first student he’s had with all of these intersections, so he’ll work with me. It was an exhausting conversation even though it ended well. 

I’ve spent the better half of the month trying to cope with the feelings of inadequacy and failure because the class that was supposed to be fun and easy turned out to be the opposite. I’m frustrated because this is the class I wasn’t supposed to need help with. This was supposed to be the one that I did fine at because writing is like breathing to me. But no, instead this class steps on every mine and reveals new ones. Instead, we are doing so many things at once that tackle so many of the intersections I’m hyper-aware of that I don’t have the emotional stamina to keep up and make it to my other classes.

The class I was supposed to ace I’m getting C’s in, and I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t fucking with me. 

I feel very alone in my class in this way. My classmates know I’m a good writer, that I’ve spent the better part of my life writing, and they seek me out for feedback, which I really enjoy. Meanwhile, I’m falling behind everyone because of mental health issues that are making the pacing of this class feel like breakneck speed and I’m not doing as well as I thought I would be able to. My expectation of myself (and what I know I’m capable of) and what I am actually doing are two drastically different things and I’m honestly not taking that super well. 

I know that how I’m preforming in a class (that steps on all my triggers and thus impacts me differently than my classmates without CPTSD) has no bearing on how good of a writer I am, but it doesn’t really feel that way.

I know I’m better than what I’m managing to write, I just need time to work through all the trauma it’s bringing up. Which is why I went in, and why I talked to my teacher about it, and why I am now fucking exhausted.

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The more I’ve been wanting to write, the more I’ve been resisting sitting down and doing it.

Depression has been eating me alive lately. The world seems to have gotten dimmer since school let out, and it feels like we’ve plummeted off the edge of a cliff, we’re past the point of no return and I’m finding myself struggling to stay motivated, hopeful.

I’ve been talking to my therapist about organizing and how that’s the way I cope with the world. I see everything going to shit and I know I can’t change all of it, but I do know how to change small parts of it.

Most of the time this is enough to keep me going. I can get up in the morning if I can make a small corner of the space I inhabit a little bit better. But sometimes depression is stronger than that and I get halfway through the week and then I lose all sense of motivation and the numbness sets in. I look around at everything getting worse, I worry, I know we haven’t even begun to see the worst of it and I don’t entirely know how to prepare.

I grew up on the other side of this. It’s….weird. It’s painful. It’s exactly what I ran away from but on a much larger scale. It’s gonna get so much worse before it gets better, and I feel that in my bones and I can’t shake it.

But I can organize. I can change my little corner of the space I inhabit. I can make a little bit of a haven, a little bit of change, and that little bit adds to everyone else’s and eventually….a long time from now, it’ll lead back to okay.

 

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Disability

I started realizing that I need to come to terms with the physical effects of CPTSD throughout the last semester. I have to come to terms with my own disability.

And a lot of that starts by saying it out loud.

I really don’t want to.

I don’t want to admit that I am not able.

But my dudes.

I missed my last day of shop class because of pain I’ve had in my shoulder off and on for the last 4 years (after taking off the entire week before because I was so overwhelmed that everything was being triggered and I was not in a safe headspace to machine). On Tuesday I couldn’t tie my shoes without wincing let alone use a vertical mill to drill some holes in a block.

I am disabled.

My CPTSD isn’t a fun fact, it is a disability and it impacts me physically just as much as it does psychologically and mentally. That combined with my recently identified extreme likelihood of AD/HD has made getting through this last semester of school extremely difficult.

But I did it.

I made it through and I got help at school and from friends. I now have all of the accommodations and I’m seeing a psychiatrist next week to talk about how to treat learning disabilities. I’m starting Physical Therapy for my shoulder in June, because the intermittent massages I’ve been getting, while helpful, aren’t enough to get rid of Sir Knotsalot.

I’m trying hard not to overburden myself next semester and taking most classes later in the day (save Jazz, which is a morning class, but also it’s dance, so) when my brain is more able to focus.

I don’t have a point to end this on, I’m still trying to hold all of these pieces and deal with the limits of a body that’s held more stress than it deserves. It’s a feel, lemme tell you.

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School and C-PTSD

When I started this semester I knew that C/PTSD was something that counted as a disability that I could get help for on campus. I didn’t (still don’t) know exactly what the Disability Services Dept. could do to help, but I was going into specifically a non-emotional-labor intensive program in hopes to avoid the obvious minefields. So I figured I’d be fiiiiine.

 

 

ahahahahahahahahahahaha

 

 

 

no

 

 

 

 

So the last post I wrote was read by a bunch of Laney staff because they saw my proposal flyers to get students thinking about the future of Laney instead of its destruction. A lot of the people on the list were really nervous about it so I chimed in to de-escalate and clarify my intentions. Out of nowhere this one person who works in the library (the coalition on campus is run largely by library staff, apparently) reignited it by being needlessly aggressive, hostile, and dehumanizing towards me because of my trans-ness.

The library technician interrogated my intentions, barely veiling the ask “who put you up to this?” because apparently having a different opinion than some of the opaque players at school is some kind of crime, and once he realized I was trans (by everyone calling me he), decided to actively misgender and dehumanize me by calling me a “he/she”. After I corrected my pronouns, he sent out another email identifying me as her. This is gender violence that I’m pretty sure violates Laney’s non-discrimination policy, however, there is no Title IX person to report this man to. He said this on an email where all of his bosses saw it as well, so I assume that the head librarians are fine with this, as no one has indicated otherwise to me.

So I’m in a position right now, where because of a minor disagreement with some of the Laney faculty and the needlessly violent reaction from one of their staff, the one place with a “safe space” symbol on campus is a place I do not feel safe.

I skipped school last week because after hours of being patronized to like a child who was incapable of having their own thoughts outside of group-think, culminating in being dehumanized and banned from the email group for politely clarifying my stance which was apparently too far opposite The Coalition, I was so disassociated I barely knew where my body was in space.

My crime, AGAIN, was that I had a different way of organizing and posted a flyer that in no way mentioned the coalition at Laney. The only thing I did was take responsibility so people working at Laney didn’t waste energy being worried about something they didn’t need to worry about.

If you’ve been reading here long you probably have an idea of the mines that exploded when that went down because this last week has emotionally mirrored my childhood church experience in more ways than I want to acknowledge and I have had debilitating back pain since Monday because that is how CPTSD works.

My therapist is out of town this week so all of this is living in my body right now and I’m trying to process everything and get the anxiety out of my back so I can exist without being in total agony again. It’s hard to physically write shit on paper when my right shoulder is too tense to move. So everything is about to be dumped here, proceed with caution.


School is like church, and churches are basically loose cults. I’ve spent so much time in cults and cult like environments. I didn’t anticipate school being so churchlike and authoritarian. After being admonished and patronized to for hours over email, I was given a chance to redeem myself (while being cautioned to take heed[of???]) which was probably meant with good intentions but because of my past experience with loaded language, really just made the following trauma spiral that much worse.

Take Heed and Redeem Yourself are two VERY SPECIFIC phrases that go to very specific places in my brain and definitely contributed to the two-day spiral where I was so out of my body I could barely function.

There’s no way for people to know these things. I don’t fault them. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a world of fallout to deal with internally because people decide injecting cultish christianity into their day to day with other people is fine and dandy.

Religious Trauma is A Thing and I have it mixed in with CPTSD and depression.

I’ve been going between depression/despair and anger at all of it.

It’s been hard to acknowledge and accept the various tolls that CPTSD takes on me in relation to being in school. Like, being too disassociated to function and therefore not in a good place to be machining or welding, or being in too much physical pain to move (because stress decided to manifest itself into a knot in my shoulder) and unable to focus enough to even attend class.

These are the things that kept me home half of the last two weeks. I sometimes feel ridiculous or petty for seemingly innocuous things taking so much out of me. But I can’t help that. I can’t help that when someone tells me I should do something to redeem myself I get sent back straight into my childhood where everything was life or death, where I had been kicked out of communities for minor disagreements. I can’t stop my brain from making those connections. I can’t will my past to not exist and to not excruciatingly impact my present and future. I can only roll with it and hope I come out better on the other side.

I didn’t expect school to hit so much of it though.


The other thing I’m coming to grips with is the feelings of being on campus now, after that one person from the library just started attacking my character and dehumanizing me out of nowhere. I don’t feel safe going to the library, even though probably I wouldn’t be hurt – something about knowing that there are library staff who don’t see me as human because we had a minor disagreement and they know I’m trans, just terrifies me and makes me not want to be anywhere near where they could be.

I never really understood what it was like, to have this social problem in this setting. Like, it seems impractical to not go to the campus library for two years. But my lizard brain just screams danger loudly when I’m on campus now and it’s a lot. I feel powerless, even though I know I’m not. There’s just so much that feels familiar that I know isn’t, but convincing myself that school is different from church after being beaten over the head with authoritarian organizers makes it a lot harder.

I have a lot more nuanced thoughts on a lot of things and keep going back and forth between writing about the stadium more and having literally no spoons and wanting nothing to do with it because fuck everything.

I guess I could have been less harsh about the coalition’s points needing work – maybe couched it more – but I stand by my points. There are legitimate reasons to oppose the stadium, a lot of the things listed are not any of them. I think whatever happens needs a lot of care and nuance in the implementation.

I think what I really want to do is write about how loaded the word gentrification is and why it’s really bad at describing what problems are, and makes solving it that much harder.

Simultaneously, I just want to crawl into a hole forever.


I got my schedule for the next semester and I’m coming to grips with having less free time than I do now. A lot of that is accepting that this means I won’t be able to do any activism work for a semester and that I can’t use it as a tether to outside reality anymore and it’s terrifying.

I think there’s a part of me that’s worried that the little place I carved for myself in organizing where I make magic happen won’t be there when I get back? Writing this out though, I’m fairly certain that’s not how it works nor is likely to go down.

My life has a lot of overlap – my social/hobby/organizing lives are almost a circle which is super convenient. Everyone is generally in one or two (mental) places so I can keep track of things easily. This is the first time I’ve had like a real set of meatspace friends that I do things with on a regular basis. It didn’t…occur to me that I could have more than like, one set.

Because why would it? I’ve never been here before. This is the part where the inherent isolatory nature of my homeschooling experience comes to bite me. It didn’t really occur to me that I didn’t have to choose. Like, all my not-school friends and family won’t suddenly disappear if I get sucked into school for a while…it’s not like getting kicked out of church and people stop talking to you.

So I don’t really have to be worried that I will lose access everyone I care about if I allow myself to be entirely consumed by school…which has sort of been an anxiety I’ve had and haven’t wanted to admit to.

 

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Imaginary Numbers

School has stepped on a lot more things than I thought it would. Depression has been really strong this week, things build. There’s a really steep social learning curve I wasn’t prepared for. I don’t know how school settings work – I didn’t know how to pass things forwards and backwards until the first week of class, last week I learned how lockers work, this week I learned how to get up to speed after being out of class due to injury. All these things most people have navigated by now are totally new to me.

Math itself takes up a lot of trauma space in my brain. The math for the trades program I’m in is really helpful because it’s directly adjacent to the math I’m doing in all my other classes, but it’s super similar to my high school math books. Thursday it almost directly mirrored the math book that got thrown at my face, which sent me into a spiral for about 15 minutes in the classroom while I just started at my book in horror. The wind was knocked out of me for a minute, and I just had to sit and wait for the wave of feels to pass before depression and anger got loud again.

I have to keep reminding myself that when teachers try to get you to be an independent learner and collaborate with your classmates they don’t mean that you can’t ask them for help or resources. This is a really difficult nuance for me to understand. I still interpret school as something with no leeway. Like: if you miss something, you’re fucked because you should have come or whatever. With no room to make up for things. Which I know isn’t how it works, but I’ve never seen how it does work.

My education was  “If I miss it, I’m fucked” because I had no support at all. I was the only student and teacher of my class.  I’m trying to navigate college with the bulk of my educational experience being isolated and solitary. I’ve never had classmates to help me, I don’t know how to study in a group, I don’t know how to learn socially.

I learned on my bedroom floor, alone, with no one to see me struggle. I’ve never been in a learning environment where like…..I’ve inevitably had to show people I don’t know stuff (none of us do). Learning things is really vulnerable, and doing it in front of other people on a whiteboard sometimes is a lot. It’s a hard thing for people generally, but most of have at least been in a classroom like that before.

Giving a presentation on a whiteboard to a group of 20 on something I’m prepared for feels completely different than trying to correctly place a dimension line in front of 20 people who are also trying to learn dimension lines.

It’s a different level of vulnerability I guess, and I’m not used to it. I choose to be vulnerable a lot, whenever I write, when I choose to talk to people about trauma. I have a lot of practice being vulnerable in this way, so it becomes a strength. Feeling vulnerable in relation to school is significantly less familiar. But seeing it on paper, it’s not that different. In the same way I choose to be vulnerable when I write (like this), I’m still going to class every day, I’m making that same choice to be vulnerable, the feeling just lives in a different place in my brain in this context.


This week we have wrapped up most of our lectures and are getting into the lab. I was supposed to weld on Wednesday but was getting x-rayed from dislocating my elbow on Labor Day instead. We’ve split into three groups in Machine Shop: Drill Press, Tool Grinding, and Precision Measuring.

Getting things to be within .0001″ fucking terrifies me, I don’t know that I am capable of that at all, so I decided to do the Precision Measuring part first because I think that will make working on the machines and making shit a lot easier. At the very least, I’ll be way more confident in my measuring ability. I am not extremely confident in my abilities to be a perfectionist; but then again, I guess that’s literally why tolerances exist so maybe I won’t suck.

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Mountains

At 4pm I have the Compass math test at Laney. In the morning I need to drop off all of my income documentation from the last 2 years, my divorce decree, and an exception petition form because FAFSA awards aid by 2015 taxes, as if nothing major ever changes in the span of one year. After that I hightail it into SF for an advice session about freelancing, and then home, test, Machine Tech open house.

I went in on Monday to schedule the test assuming the closest would be a week out, but no. So I spent Tuesday getting my head back in math and working through quizzes on Khan academy and unearthing a massive pile of worms in the process.

I was working through rounding and got really fight or flighty, and then got to writing out what the greatest common factor looks like if you distribute it and at that point somewhere a mine exploded. Suddenly the entire time I’m spending trying to work through math problems I am also fighting a hugely intense battle that sounds a lot like:

Why are you even doing this? It’s not worth it, you’re not worth it

And I know those are lies so I press through, but they get louder. I manage to practice math for several hours before it gets too noisy, and make enough progress that I start passing tests because I remember how the process works again. And then imposter syndrome hits some more.

I spent half of today studying and half of it coming out of trauma space from trying to study. I feel like I climbed a mountain and took on two bears….for passing some basic pre-algebra quizzes.

I’ve gotten faster at realizing when I’m in that space where I live in my trauma instead of…not inside it. It still took me about an hour to go from realizing I needed to take a shower and go for a walk to get my head out of this space and reorient myself to actually doing so, but it only took me 4 hours of depression instead of two days.

I can identify my own tells now:

  • I feel like my shackles are raised and everything is personal
  • I feel like I’m about to lash out at any point and like I need to isolate myself
  • I get quiet and distant
  • There is an undercurrent of rage when I start talking about what’s bothering me (which means I’m obviously on to whatever it is that’s being stepped on)

When I suddenly feel like fight or flight out of the blue, it’s generally because something close enough to be associated in my brain happened that stepped on a trigger and some explosions went off.

I recently watched this anime called Mind Game; there’s a portion that depicts my brain when it’s triggered so perfectly: endless loops of the situation that happened, loud and inescapable. It weirdly helped me identify that the repetition of just…..the B roll of every time I was ridiculed for trying to do math as a kid, was coming from that place, not my current reality.

So I went out for a walk and explored a park on top of a parking deck, sorted out some thoughts, and felt much more grounded. I still feel like I just took on an army and I’m trying not to feel…like that’s uncalled for, because “it was only math”. It’s just that math….has a history, but I think I’ll be okay. 

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Just Ask

We’re back in the trauma-dump phase of therapy where I dump a bunch of things and then chew on some of it the rest of the week. Lately I’ve been learning about asking.

Asking is fucking terrifying. I don’t know how to ask for things I want, or for help, or things I actually need. It takes a lot of effort – more effort than just doing whatever the thing is – to ask for literally anything.

When I was a child, my parents wanted us all to be super well-behaved: an example for other kids/families. One of the ways they ensured that was by telling us we were never allowed to ask for anything, whatever it was that we wanted or needed had to be offered to us. This meant that we were perfect children while grocery shopping, but also that when we went to my grandparent’s houses, we weren’t allowed to even ask for food or water without being punished. One of my siblings once violated that rule and was yelled at and spanked for asking for a drink. Thankfully, my grandparents caught on to this quickly and worked around it so we didn’t dehydrate or starve.

Conversely, when I was asked questions, they were always thinly veiled demands. My wellbeing depended on being able to decipher what the intent behind the question was and answer that. This meant understanding that if someone asked what my preference was, I wasn’t supposed to give my actual preference, but the one they desired. Anytime I made the mistake of answering with my actual preference, or any way other than desired…I was punished.

Every interaction I have goes through this filter of What is the desired outcome? and what is required of me? So I’m really good at figuring out and answering these questions really quickly (guess who rolled high on perception), but when people stop and ask me, genuinely, what my preference is or if I want X….I actually don’t have an answer, because I often don’t know. The flipside of this, is because my brain interprets questions as demands and I was never allowed to have needs/wants/etc let alone voice them without repercussions, I have a really hard time letting myself ask, anything, ever.

It touches a bunch of things that make it a really difficult wall to climb, every. single. goddamn. time.

  • A lifetime of experience shutting out acknowledging my own desires makes figuring them out enough to articulate them really hard. The work to remember that I have needs and find out what they are is…a different thing entirely.
  • Somehow convincing myself that asking literally anything isn’t going to wind up with being emotionally abused. I have to work through a ton of screaming alarms in my head to get to the point where I actually ask something, because I have to remember people aren’t actually going to freak out about it.
  • The trained instinct to not be inconvenient or need (let alone want) anything from anyone, but always be available to people who want things from me. Which is a long way of saying everyone can take advantage of me, but I’m not allowed to inconvenience anyone by existing. This is a goddamn fucking mountain, let me tell you.
  • Justifying that whatever I want to ask is something worth asking, largely because of these mountains, but also because having to justify any (rare) ask is a habit of self-preservation. I will always have a reason or justification for whatever answer I give, or question I finally work up the courage to ask. No one usually wants this… >.>
  • About 18 years of intensely negative reinforcement surrounding asks

What this looks like in practice now is that my kneejerk response is to say yes to anything and take on more things than I can handle (I’m actually improving a little bit here) because the answer to “what is the desired result?” is “them not doing a thing” which means the solution is “I will do the thing.” The question of whether or not the thing needs doing (by me or no) actually didn’t occur to me until just now.

Sometimes I will be having an anxiety attack and it will take me about an hour to ask to be held, I float caveats and explanations around every question I ask and provide context, I go out of my way to tell people that I won’t take their response to a food question personally, if people ask me what my preference is for anything at any given point, or what I want done, I blank and literally don’t know how to answer, I think about questions all the time and decide not to ask them because I took too much time trying to form them, and everything circles back to simply not feeling like I deserve…. anything.

So. I uh, am trying and mostly failing with this asking thing, but not being yelled at when I finally do ask anything at all seems to be helping.

Next step: not waiting until I feel desperate enough that the energy it takes to ask is justifiable.

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Hiatus

You may have noticed that I really haven’t been able to do much of anything for several weeks at this point. My brain checked out two weeks ago thanks to burnout and I’m only slowly getting it back. It’s really frustrating because the world is still going to shit, I just am powerless to do anything about it because all my spoons got eaten. So, to try to recover my brain and restore my energy I’m taking a solid two weeks off activism and anything work-like.

I spent the last few therapy sessions talking about burnout and resting and how hard it is to do. Resting starts a constant internal battle where the physiological need to rest is actually a traumatic minefield because of how often I would be punished and put to work if I was caught resting when it wasn’t the designated time. I wished once that I would get sick, just so I could rest, because that was how exhausted I was and how much I was not allowed to sit down as a kid. So resting is actually a fuck ton of work. Resting is more work than activism and working, but I run myself ragged and then go splat when I forget to rest or don’t feel like fighting that day.

But at this point, for the last two and a half weeks, my body and my brain have just been screaming at me that they need to rest and recover. I need to reset. My therapist told me that working – in activism or otherwise – is an exchange of energy, and you need to be able to balance it, because if you give more than you’re taking in, it’s not healthy. Taking a break is important to restore all of the energy I’ve been spending and not replacing, and this will enable me to then have energy for things again.

Obviously, I guess. But it helped to hear it out loud and that sort of calmed the part of my brain that is still a teenager who’s freaked out about taking a break if they aren’t actively vomiting because someone will come yell at them for being lazy and unproductive and they should ignore, y’know, anything less than death-bed levels of damage and keep going.

So, I’m taking a break. I am going camping for three days after I take my shot on Sunday and I think the being in the middle of the woods with no internet to remind me the world is falling apart will be really really helpful. Beyond that, my plans for the two weeks are to: go through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain again, play through some video games, and maybe bike a bit.

Hopefully I’ll be able to come back in full swing, because there’s shit to do, I just can’t do it right now.

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