Category Archives: Personal Story

Talking about this matters

Well, it’s the day after Thanksgiving. Now would be a great time to make a list of things and people that I am thankful for. The thing is, though, that I am so gracious for every person in my life that I could never be able to mention everybody by name… but I will make a few shout outs to people that I’m immensely thankful for.

Here is a small list of people that I’ve been thinking about-

  • The person who overheard me being sexually harassed and made a point to come over, tell me that it wasn’t okay, and offered to tell off the harasser for me. The person who told me that I was precious.
  • The person who let me in closer than he has ever let anybody in before, figuratively and literally, who was able to look me in the eye.
  • The person who wasn’t scared to share with me, who I was able to talk with for hours, who was going to change his own life and triumph. The person who believed in me before I ever did.
  • The person who shared his world with me, who smiled for me and who wanted to take care of me, the person who tried harder than anybody else ever tries despite every set backs, the person who made me feel like safety.
  • The person who clicked with me, who was like me, who opened up to me and trusted me. The person who was and still is the best badass ever.
  • The person who shared their life with me without even knowing me, who hugged me last, who kept in contact, who cried during my pain and celebrated my triumph, who called me a friend.
  • The person who let me in, who opened up. The person who made me laugh constantly, and who let me share my thoughts and feelings with, who noticed me and made sure to keep me floating. Who inspired everybody.
  • The person who I immediately loved, who I immediately clicked with. Who is precious to me, who looks so strong but can be delicate.
  • The person who told me that I was going to be okay. Thanks for the glorious laughs, too.
  • The person whose voice I’ll never forget. So resilient, so many layers, so much love. Who looked for the good things to be happy about, who shared my views, who wanted to sit with me.
  • The person who bought me bags of food and gave me a ride home just to make sure that I didn’t hurt.
  • The person who was honest, and loving, and caring. The person who was a mother to everybody but herself, but who finally stood up and made herself important, and who showed me what it’s like to do what you’ve always wanted to do (what I’ve always wanted to do).
  • The person who checks in on me just to let me know that they are here.
  • The person who is always herself, is always beautiful, is always kind, and who is beginning to inspire herself as well as everybody else.
  • The person who will always be there.

These people are a constant inspiration to me. I spoke about them a few times yesterday, at the in-laws’ house, to various relatives of my boyfriend. I told their jokes and stories, and dreaded the implied question.

Where did you meet them?

Everybody that I mentioned above I met during an inpatient stay at a mental hospital, during outpatient mental health care, or during group therapy.

And they were all fellow patients.

I could talk for pages about the wonderful professionals I have worked with. There have been countless persons who listened, who guided, and who gave me the tools I needed to succeed. I could talk about my every day friends and my family, and the years of assistance they have given me, their homes, their time, their care. These are the people who have literally saved me multiple times over, and whose help I could never repay them for completely. These are the helpers that deserve to be thanked, constantly.

But I also want to thank the other patients who were right there with me. These are the unlikely candidates for help; even some inpatient professionals urge patients to not rely on each other, “the blind leading the blind.” However, these are the people that are right there with me, who share in my experiences, who know what it’s like. And, during the hours when we aren’t in therapy or when we aren’t actively working on coping, these are the people who provide support, reprieve, and even more therapy (just without a degree, in most cases). There is so much care, and it is so easy and wonderful to bond with somebody in this way. After all, when we leave, we know that reality will hit us again, and that these are things that we just don’t or can’t talk about with the everyday person, that we have to retreat back into our silence.

But, because I’m sure it’s expected, I’ll give a brief example of somebody’s pain. These are the stories people expect of me when I talk about inpatient, the horror stories of a life gone awry, taken over by chemical imbalances and unseen demons. So for that sake, and for the sake of reality, I’ll share.

This is a person whose first memory is of a suicide attempt at eight years old, of shoelaces across the neck and crippling feelings of guilt. This is a person whose strongest childhood memories in general are feelings of depression, of crying, of pain. It isn’t that this person didn’t experience happiness, it’s just that this person can’t remember much anymore thanks to years of medication, and this is all that sticks. This is a person who, being the only inhabitant of a bunk bed, built a cave by putting blankets all around the bottom bunk so that they could live only in this area. This person started to love small and confined areas, and, in Junior High, slept inside a nest they had made in their closet- a nest that included a jump rope tied to where the clothes were supposed to hang with a noose tied at the end, for a just-in-case scenario. This person dressed to disappear, and to be hated. This person, one night, punched themselves in the arm to bring about a bruise, to punish themselves, a habit that would stick for a decade. This person found respite through online relationships and through pretending to be other. This person had a few friends in their actual reality who loved and who prodded and who coaxed them into opening up, just a little bit. This person dreamed of healing and of being a good influence, and so this person joined a group to counsel others. This person started opening up, started listening, and started becoming positive, and started to dream. Still, this person cried nearly every day from pressures at home, from feeling inadequate. This person began spending hours every day looking at pictures of emaciated persons, started to limit themselves to eating solid food once a day at the most, once a week at the least, always keeping below 400 calories. These would last for a month or two, and then the feelings would ebb, but then come back, in waves, every time the sadness came back. This person threw themselves into other people, into their post-graduation life, ignoring the night spent in a ball, crying, thought that it was just part of their normal being. Until the depression became unbearable, and the feelings of suicide came back. Therapy helped until the feelings were too strong, and then the first hospital stay. A diagnosis: Bipolar II. The anxiety attacks started, like a darkness coming in over the whole body, the shaking, the fear, the inability to move. Home was a respite, but it brought on delusions, a belief in a dark demon in the corner that wanted to cause pain. More medication, more therapy. A return to university that was full of extra morning hours spent finding a reason to live and get out of bed, a reason to not chug down everything under the sink and deal with the pain until there wasn’t any, until there wasn’t anything. More medication. More people. Another hospital stay. Different medication, different doctors, more time. A light, through support and some love, but a darkness that came back from disappointment. Loss of function. No more showering, no cleaning, no cooking. Barely breathing. Back to home, back to fuck-ups, shuffling around, hurting everybody. Being forced into the hospital for the first time. Back home, more fear, more fuck-ups, more hurting, choosing the hospital again. Eight days. A new diagnosis, one that actually fits and feels like liberty from an identity that wasn’t theirs: Major Depression Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder. An explanation. A new life. More pain, but an escape to where they could breathe, to where they could believe in themselves, more than anything. To lots of therapy and lots of support, but also to a good job, to friends and to love, and to some kind of life. To a life that seemed worth trying for. To an actual sense of steadiness, and of security, and of stability, that this person helped to create and worked for. To an end to self-injury, to promises to themselves, to a lot of effort. To months without depression or anxiety, to months without depression-tears. To seven months of functioning.

It’s November now, and I’ve been functioning for seven months. At twenty-two years old, I’m beginning to live and to try and to enjoy, and it’s the most beautiful feeling in the world.

But still, I cannot open my mouth to my future relatives and say “I met these wonderful people in a mental facility. I have a mental disorder. I have depression without reason or warning, and it took a lot of work to get me out of it, but I’m okay, and they are okay, and this isn’t rare. It’s everywhere, and it needs to be talked about.”

The stigma, in the end, is what suffocates us. It’s our community that is what saves us.

What saved me, in the end, was giving myself enough time with other people like me, with people who were trying. Was being able to see the truth: most people who live with a mental illness are successful, are wonderful, and who happen to have inner darkness or issues that they deal with. That the people who need help and who get it are the strongest, and that we are all, in the end, people. People who need each other. The voices I heard inpatient and in therapy are the strongest and the wisest. We aren’t the blind leading the blind; we are warriors who fight for ourselves and for each other.

So this is a post about support, and about love. About talking about things outside of therapy. I know that we talk about, that we already have to be brave enough. I know that we have to protect ourselves. But this is me putting this out there- I’m in my mental health journey that will never end, but I want to talk about life with depression, about coping, about being able to live with it. About treatment, about support. About the amazing people that I am in company with. About it’s okay to talk about it because my hope is that the kids in my life will grow up and not be afraid of their private pain, and that they will know that there are ways of treatment and ways of life. About ways where things can be enjoyed, and where reactions to things can be appropriate.

And, important for me and for many others: the treatment of these things doesn’t have to include a deity. It doesn’t mean “giving it up to [god here].” If that helps, great. But there is a full life without a deity, there is hope for atheists with mental illness. I am an atheist, and I have depression, and it’s not because of my lack of a god, and a god isn’t helping me at all. I have reasons to live beyond any kind of hope that a creator could give me. There is the hope that we can have in reality, in humanity, and in ourselves. There is so much to empower ourselves with, and this is important to talk about. Can we please just talk about this?

I didn’t want to write in here anymore, because I have been scared about repercussions, about reactions. But JT Eberhard is brave, and so I want to be, too. Thank you, JT, for being yourself. It is really the best thing you could ever do.

Preferences/Racism

French actresses Romane Bohringer and Aïssa Ma...
Who are you more attracted to? Why? Image via Wikipedia

While I usually write about things that I have my mind made up about, I would like to rather start this post with the purpose of trying to spark discussion and questions.

When it comes to choosing a partner, can you clearly define the line between “having a preference” and “being racist”?

For example: it is well-known amongst my friends that I just “don’t like white guys.” I wouldn’t say that I have never been attracted to a white guy, because, when I was very young, I did have an affinity for white boys. However, as I got older and gained more experience with all persons, I started becoming more attracted to “anything-but”. I tend to blame this on my interactions with white guys in my church’s youth group (obviously not too positive) and started to characterize white guys in general as having a gross feeling of entitlement over white women, as though, by virtue of our shared skin color and their penis-having, that I should feel attracted to them.

Things get more complicated, however, when I consider my “attraction” versus “those who I want to pursue.” I have only ever dated men who have at least one parent from Mexico, and tend to date men who are full-blooded Mexican. However, I have been attracted to a plethora of different kind of people, and tend to find men and women of all skin-colors (except Caucasian, of course) very attractive, regardless of whether that attraction reaches the level of sexual-attraction. I, in fact, often find that persons with the darkest of skin tones are the most attractive. I find that the people who I want to date have more qualities that I look for in a mate, and that the Mexican culture is something that I find attractive for my life.

(Full disclosure, however: in regards to finding people attractive based on their personalities, I found Ryan Gosling terribly, terribly attractive in “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” but not until he started being attracted to Emma Stone. Terribly attractive. Wanted to cry and tear my hair out, he was that attractive. Definitely not even in conjecture with his “Photoshopped” abs.)

I’m sure that psychologists, sociologists, etc. would have a field day with this information. But I’m more interested in the reactions of other people- is my distaste for white men racism, given that it is based on personality/actions of the general population? Or is it purely preference, as I have, in small doses, been attracted to white men? How are you attracted to people? Etc.

Hey, ya

So I realize that there is no reason why my writing should be dependent on positive feedback. That would be selfish and self-delusional. After all, I am extremely honest with myself; whatever I put on the Internet has a very small range of influence.

That being said: after the last few days, coming onto my Dashboard and seeing support that was Tumblr driven has, well, set me at ease. So thank you, Lawsonry, and every person who has shown me kindness since. I’m not sure how you found this, but I’m glad that you did.

(Actual content is forthcoming, I promise.)

My privilege is showing.

What I am about to write is important to me, and I think it’s very important to my blog for me to take note of my biases, my privileges, my experiences. I live with scientists, and have been posing the question to them recently: does your personal experience, your bias, your privileges, your experience, do these things factor into how you interpret or accept new data?” This is important to the field of science. And, turning it inwards, I note: this is important to life.

My background is not very interesting, nor is it very significant. I am a white female, born into an almost-middle-class, Southern Baptist family. The first year that my class was administered governmental standardized end-of-year tests (first grade, I believe?) I was the only student to score in the 99-percentile range (all of my scores were in the 99-percentile range). From this point on, I was treated as an intelligent child, which cushioned me from many of the hardships that children face from struggling with academics and being chastised for it. I was never treated as less capable (especially in math) because of my sex-chromosomes, though I did witness this happening often to other cis-females in the class. In fact, I was often asked to give private, after class tutoring to other girls who were struggling in math (never the boys, however). While I lived in very close proximity to a low-income city until I left for college, I actually lived in a city which is considered to be much safer, more quiet, more calm than its adjacent, surrounding neighbors. The most opposition I ever faced was some light bullying from older girls in Elementary School (stopped when my sister bravely stood up to them for me) and then again when I was teased for dressing like a boy in Junior High (from the same girl from before, again stopped when I mentioned that my same sister was currently serving time in a juvenile corrections facility. Apparently this implied threat of her eventual presence was more than enough). My own mind is what gave me more opposition in my life than any other person.

While I have faced incidences of relative injustice in my life (all very light, all very small) I have to admit that I have been very, well, privileged. I was born without fear of racism or racial discrimination, I was born without and have never experienced physical handicap, I was insulated from much gender discrimination by virtue of being considered “smart” (something with implications that is infuriating, of course), I was born outside of and have never lived in poverty, and my relative heterosexuality (I’m very queer and much more than incidentally attracted to women, though most people don’t know this because I have never acted on it) has insulated me from personally experiencing homophobia. Honestly, the only aspect of myself that puts me into a minority of any kind is the fact that I am an atheist, and it’s not like puts me at any threat of bodily harm, generally. Also, while I have faced some instances of being discriminated against due to mental-health-related issues, this has had very little effect on me.

I don’t even need to say that my life has been easy, relatively- it has been easy, and that’s that. Obviously I have faced difficulties in my life, but any sort of discrimination is not something that I come face-to-face with on a daily basis.

The fights and battles that I am interested in fighting are, largely, not my own. I fight for reproductive rights, because I believe that, without adequate reproductive rights, the people who are hurt the most are people who are of color, live in poverty, and have fully-functioning vaginae and uteri. I fight for queer rights, because there is no reason to discriminate against somebody based on their sexual/gender identity, their sexuality, or anything else that makes them supposedly “other.” I fight for people of color, not because they need a white person on their side, but because the inequalities have not been erased, because we still live in a society and a judiciary system that still perpetuates the problems and the stereotypes that give people of color more to fight against. I fight for disability rights and against ableism, because everybody should have equality of opportunity, and because the need is still there. I fight against poverty, nationally and globally, because it is a travesty on the part of the human race, and because it is connected to everything. I fight for education, because I think that it is the key to change and to progress.

I fight because I care. I fight because I am a humanist. I fight because it’s moral and ethical and true to my values.

But I have to understand- though I am willing to fight, I first have to listen.

So I invite people to share their stories. Their own experiences, the prejudice they have faced, their own privileges. I meant it when I said that education is the key to change and to progress, and it starts here.

The Importance of Numbers (Or, How in a Roundabout Way, I’m Pro-Life)

Official photo of Congresswoman Michele Bachma...
Nemesis #1 tbh

My politics are obviously not informed by faith (kind of difficult for that to be true when I don’t subscribe to any faith). But they are also not informed by my lack of faith; it would make no sense for my atheism to inform my politics beyond perhaps being one less thing to tell me how to think/feel/vote.

Though I am a proud feminist, I am not informed by my feminism. People might point out- “aren’t you pro-choice? Isn’t this because you want reproductive rights for women? Isn’t that feminism?” And I would say “my feminism is the part of my life that helps me make personal decisions and helps give me a drive for activism, but it does not tell me how to vote.”

I am obviously and definitely a secular humanist. If there were any kind of label that I subscribe to that informed my politics the most, it would probably be this. This is because, underlying what does inform my politics, what I am looking for are the answers to the question- “what is best for humanity?” (This can easily lend itself to “what is best for nature,” because humanity is kind of nature’s bitch, and we have to appease nature and treat nature with respect and kindness. Nature will go on without us very easily.) I think that the idea of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” is extremely misleading; one should not, in my opinion, call themselves “pro-life” if their concern for life stops the minute it exits the womb, if they care more about the potential for life than the actuality of it, if they vote in ways that aren’t informed about poverty, about education, about the death penalty, about the environment, about human rights. That is life, at least it is life in the United States, and that is what we vote for.

But what does inform my politics the most, what I look to before anything else, are facts, figures, statistics. Numbers. These are the tools that help me to grasp- what is the result of the availability of abortion, or what would the result be were there to be a lack of abortion availability? The same goes for science education, for environmental measures, for laws that have the ability to limit human rights to any one group of people. What matters to me is- what do the non-partisan fact-checkers say?

I was worried when Sarah Palin stepped onto the scene, but that was nothing compared to my fear of Michele Bachmann. The easy thing for people to say about my abhorrence for Bachmann is that I don’t like her because she has the evangelical, home-schooled thing going for her, something I obviously don’t agree with. While yes, it’s one thing that I could pick on her for, my annoyance isn’t with her faith, but with her lack of truth or reason. Out of all of the candidates for the Republican nomination in 2012, Bachmann has the worst record of stating any truths at all, and yet she is one of the top-runners for the nomination. Why? Because she “speaks our language,” which is the language of the United States Evangelical. Michele Bachmann is, of course, well-suited to become a favorite amongst the average citizen voter, because the average citizen voter is a Christian, and the average Christian’s vote is informed by faith and not verifiable fact. (I understand the argument “God is fact, and what he says is what’s important, and that’s fact for me.” But until you can supply empirical evidence to back up the claim that “God is fact,” it will still be a faith issue.

In theory, I have no problem with people letting faith be a big source of their political views and their voting record. What I have a problem with is people disregarding the importance of facts, numbers, statistics, truths, for anything. If an atheist voted for an atheist solely based on the candidates lack of faith, I would have a problem; the same with a woman voting for a woman based on her sex chromosomes, Democrat for a Democrat based on his party affiliation, etc.

I used to say that the important thing was for everybody to vote. I retract that statement. The important thing is for everybody to vote informed. Not informed by far-partisan media (such as The Daily Show, Fox News, MSNBC, etc.) but by non-partisan facts, statistics, numbers. That is my utopia.