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Tag: therapy

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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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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Things I learned in therapy

My therapist guesses that starting T will help with my hormone induced dysphoria too (just need insurance again).

We opened up the jar of trauma that is my relationship with my body when I’m bleeding and realized I’ve never healed from that. Surprising no one, I know. But I realized that the terror that I feel as soon as fluctuations occur stem from the first time and thinking I was going to die and being unprepared while my mom called everyone in the phone book and I was hurt and scared and confused. In addition that, the voices in my head that push me to never rest stem from trying to survive my childhood and be one step ahead of my mom so she wouldn’t get set off. Jerk brain is just trying to keep me safe and help me survive the environment it’s known the longest, and logic isn’t going to convince it that it’s safe.

So we did this exercise where I found that part of me and told myself it’s okay, no one is allowed to yell at us, no one can hurt us anymore, I’ve got this. And something clicked. And I found out how much that moment hurt me, while I was bleeding and alone and I just kinda hugged the little versions of me that were coming out and terrified and have been scared this whole time.

Jerk brain has been so much quieter since Thursday.

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