Nobody Wants to Die Alone

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When I came out to my parents in 1995 my father told me that I would die alone, in the hospital of AIDS. That I had always wanted to lose weight and I would from AIDS. I would die alone in the hospital. That the friends I thought I had wouldn’t show up when I was dying. I was just out of high school and unsure of the world. These messages I have carried with me since then. Most people fear dying alone, I think. I took his falsehoods as fact. Dying alone was hard wired deep into my subconscious. It’s something that’s always in the back of my mind.

The fear is amplified by the fact that I don’t have children. I have been single for nearly ten years and these days I don’t want a relationship. So this only adds to the fear of being alone for the rest of my life. Honestly most of my life I have been alone. So I should be used to it by now but I’m not. It’s one thing to be alone in your life but another thing to die alone.

Death has always scared me senseless due to the fact that I don’t know what I believe in terms of the afterlife. Will I just turn to dust or will I move to the next stage of consciousness. I just don’t know. If I believed in the afterlife definitely then I would have some comfort at the idea of dying because eventually I will see my loved ones again. I have no clue what will happen when I die. I start to panic anytime I think about it.

I avoided anything related to death. Anytime a loved one died it brought it to the forefront of my mind and it always scared me to the core. This was especially true when my Mom died in 2012. After that I haven’t been able to get away from it. Recently I had a premonition that I was going to die. I was recently diagnosed with atrial flutter. As my doctor was taking longer than usual listening to my chest I started to worry. Then when she said I would need an EKG I for sure thought I was having a heart attack. Was this my time I thought. It was irrational but it felt real.

Thankfully my the rest of my heart seems to be normal, other than the flutter. In order to get my heart back into normal rhythm I have to have a procedure called cardioversion. I must take blood thinners to prevent blood clots in the heart. This is especially true when I have the procedure done. I was supposed to have it done this week but my blood wasn’t thinned enough. Now I have to wait another month, which is problematic because anytime I exert myself it makes me light headed.

My current health has brought my mortality to the front of the line. While the procedure is fairly safe there is risk of blood clots. If they leave the heart then I could have a stroke. What’s most scary is that they basically restart your heart using paddles on your chest. That’s just an image that I don’t want illustrated. So as I waited Friday morning in the hospital waiting room I saw families and friends waiting for loved ones. This triggered me horribly as I had no one to go with. I was alone. Ever since then it’s all I can think of. If something was to happen while I was under I would have died the way my father said. There isn’t anything more sad and tragic than to die alone.

I already struggle with being alone most the time. If it wasn’t for my therapist I wouldn’t see anyone regularly. I have few friends that I see in person. Sure I have friends on facebook but they’re not a substitute for people you hang out with. Many live out of state. Now my fear is amplified and I’m even more desperate for connection. Sadly making close friends isn’t like growing sea monkeys. There are no instant friendship, well not usually.

For now I have to cope with these feelings and fears the best I can. The night before the procedure I was overcome with anxiety from the fear of dying. I finally had to come to peace if it was my time there would be nothing I could do. I felt a sense of peace. That it won’t matter when I’m dead, I won’t feel anything like the loss of my loved ones. At least I hope not. I have suffered enough in this lifetime I hope that when I die I’m at peace finally. You’re forced to deal with mortality as you grow older. With each year you move closer to the front of the line. Then there’s the whole no guarantee aspect to life. Long life isn’t given to everyone. I don’t want to be that person, no one does. I have too much left to accomplish before I do. I feel like I have wasted time already. I want to leave something behind, like my comic book.

I have had the idea for over five years but my mental illness has kept me away from anything good. So I feel like I’m fighting against time both with my mortality and the disease. I have two major players constantly fighting me. So it’s a lot to cope with let alone the fear of death. It’s just another added level of complexity to my life and I have no choice but to deal with it.

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It’s Going to Be Okay

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A few months ago my psychiatrist started to tinker with my medicine, in the hopes of finding something that would relieve my depression. I have been on Zoloft for almost a year and I was still getting very depressed. I would cycle in and out of mini bouts of depressive episodes. Usually I was able to bounce back if I showered or got out of the house. After about a week of misery from not showering and living in a messy apartment I’m usually pushed to do something about it. My latest depressive episode has been completely different.

At first we tried Abilify but that made me gain over thirty pounds. Then we switched to Vraylar and that didn’t work. I tried Pristiq and that made me a zombie. Slowly my depression worsened over the last month. I could feel it creep up on me and I was unable to stop it. With the Pristiq making me numb it made the symptoms of depression even worse. I felt nothing, yet I was crippled and unable to do anything.

Usually I only leave the apartment to go to therapy, which is once a week but recently I have had heart issues and had to miss a few weeks. Then my therapist went on vacation. So I spent over a week not leaving my apartment. It got so bad that my neighbor noticed that I hadn’t been out of my apartment and became concerned enough to knock on my door. When I didn’t answer she left a note saying if she didn’t hear from me by the next day she was going to have the police do a wellness check. So I answered the door. The first time she knocked I was sleeping and thought she was my one neighbor who is pushy and nosey. It felt good that someone cared enough to check on me. I don’t really have people like that in my life.

I had no energy to do anything. I spent money I didn’t have on pizza delivery and hide in the darkness. My sleep schedule was completely off. I was going to bed around noon and wasn’t waking up until late in the evening. I became a vampire. I couldn’t control it. I was helpless and hopeless. My thoughts about suicide were just a matter of fact. I wasn’t really suicidal but when I had thoughts they were serious. It was like something was turned off in me and I had no emotion behind my thoughts. Like I was suffering greatly but it felt differently. I just didn’t care.

I was drowning in muck. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that I was in trouble but nothing escaped my windpipes. Not even a whisper. I was rotting from the inside out. I was living in complete chaos and I didn’t know how to get out. Until one night when I woke up with a massive panic attack. I couldn’t take it anymore. I had been suffering for two months and enough was enough. I thought about the relief that would come from being hospitalized and wondered why I hadn’t thought about that earlier. That’s the problem with depression you have tunnel vision. You can only see the misery and pain. As much as I hate being hospitalized I knew that in a few weeks I would feel better.

So I called an uber and packed up a small bag of clothes. Within thirty minutes I was at crisis services at community mental health. It’s a scary process as you are put in a room for hours. I can imagine that it’s like a waiting room on an alien ship for humans to be probed. The most scary aspect of the process is that they can send you anywhere in the state of Michigan for help. The first bed they find available is where you go. Unfortunately that’s the reality for anyone on Medicaid. It’s almost like having no insurance at all when it comes to mental health.

Unless you are going to kill yourself they won’t even consider hospitalizing you. So they deemed me safe enough for alternative treatment. Honestly I was at my worst shape I have been in since 2013, after my Mom died but that’s the system for you. I wasn’t eating, nor was I showering. My apartment was super messy and I had been isolating for weeks. I very easily could have done something in a snap decision. You basically have to lie and say you are going to kill yourself to get the help you need. The system makes it almost impossible to get help and they make you jump through flaming hoops.

I was referred to a partial hospitalization program. The nice thing about not being hospitalized is that I was able to spend my birthday week with my family, who I love with all my heart. It was the best week I have had since my Mom died in 2012. I got to see my nieces and nephew. We played video games, went swimming and watched fireworks on the fourth of July. It was something I really needed to push me through into the partial program. It gave me the strength needed to work on some tough issues, like my fear of leaving my apartment. I have gotten to the point where I don’t like staying in my apartment. Which is strange because for the longest time it’s the only place I felt safe. When I’m home I have no one to talk to or see. It’s just me. I’m alone with my thoughts, struggles and pain.

The Friday before I started the program, I started to have severe anxiety. It was unlike any panic attack that I had ever had. Usually when I have a panic attack I feel like the walls are closing in on me and the oxygen is escaping the room. This time I felt utterly scared for my life. I thought I was going crazy. It was an anxiety that I had never felt. It was severe and constant. I really thought I was dying. I wasn’t sure if it was anxiety or related to my heart. My worst fears came true and I wondered if this what it felt like when you have a stroke. I was desperate to be around people. Thankfully I was still at my sisters. I tried to spend as much time around my family as I could, that’s how unsafe I felt. That night I almost woke up my sister because I thought I was dying. I did everything I can to snap myself out of it. I splashed cold water on my face. Paced. Using my grounding exercises and nothing was working. The next day I told my sister and she gave me a xanax, which helped cut the severity but it was still unbearable.

That Sunday I knew I was going home and I started to panic. My family was outside preparing their boat for the lake. Normally I would stay in side but this time I was desperate to be around them. I went outside by them and sat under a big, old oak tree. My eleven year old niece sat beside me and we spent some quality time together. She showed me a morning dove in a building near by, they call her Thicky Nicky because she’s quite big. We spent a good thirty minutes trying to identify another bird who created a nest in one of those gigantic spools for wire. I soaked up as much time with her as possible but I felt a great sadness, knowing that I was going home soon.

After my Mom died to was severely codependent to my family. I was living in hell and couldn’t leave their side. I was afraid something would happen to me and it paralyzed me. My fear was that if I moved out that something bad would happen and I wouldn’t be there to take care of whatever happened. Last year I broke that cycle and moved into my own place. It’s been the hardest year of my life. I went from seeing the kids every day to barely seeing them. It broke my heart, especially knowing that they were growing up and I would miss those moments. So for a good year I have isolated. If it wasn’t for my weekly therapist appointments I wouldn’t leave the house, nor would I see anyone. I went from one extreme to the next. I locked everyone out because I couldn’t handle the grief from losing that deep connection. It was something that I had to do in order to be happy. I have suffered for most of my life and I just can’t suffer anymore.

So it came time to leave. I sat next to my niece and I held back the tears. As I got out of the car I started to sob, the pain was unbearable. I had to hold back from breaking down. I don’t know if I have ever felt more sad than that moment. It felt like a release of ever last ounce of sadness I had from the loss of my Mom to various other events in my life. I gave my sister a hugg and I ran into my apartment to sob. I felt so very alone in my messy apartment. I didn’t want to leave the best week in seven years but I had to in order to heal. I was sick and needed help.

Monday came along and I didn’t want to leave the apartment. I wanted to hide, as it was comfortable and all I knew. The first day I constantly looked at the clock hoping that 3pm would arrive. Though I dreaded coming home to my empty, chaotic apartment. It was a strange place to be. Each day my mental health has improved. I finished my first week and am already feeling better. The doctor at the program increased my medicine and that seems to be helping. I think that’s what caused the severe anxiety being off Zoloft. I’m really thankful to have such a great program to go to. It’s a relief to have structure and to be away from the loneliness of my apartment.

Recently I have started to have issues with my heart. It was discovered that I have atrial flutter, where the top part of the heart is out of rhythm. My heart beat flutters. At first I thought it was my asthma and being allergic to the cat I just got. One day I went to the grocery store. I didn’t do much walking but as I was checking out I almost fainted. The symptoms began to get worse to the point where I couldn’t walk to the kitchen without feeling light headed. I went to my doctor and she started to be concerned listening to my chest. When she said she wanted me to have an ekg I thought for sure I was dying aka having a heart attack. The hooked the cables up to my chest and the results showed that I had atrial flutter. I was put on blood thinner because with atrial flutter there is a risk of blood clots which could lead to having a stroke. The following week I went to a cardiologist and had an echo of my heart. Other than the atrial flutter my heart was okay.

To get my heart back into rhythm I have to have a cardioversion, which is an outpatient procedure where they send electrical currents to the heart. The doctor will deliver an electrical shock through two paddles. One is placed on your chest and the other on your back. Or both paddles can be placed on the front of your chest. The shock lasts less than a second, and briefly stops (resets) your heart rhythm.  Blood clots can form in your heart’s left atrium. Cardioversion may knock loose a blood clot in your left atrium. If the clot (embolus) travels to your brain, it can cause a stroke. To avoid this, your doctor may give you medicine (such as warfarin) to make your blood less likely to form blood clots. To get my heart back into rhythm I have to have a cardioversion, which is an outpatient procedure where they send electrical currents to the heart. The doctor will deliver an electrical shock through two paddles. One is placed on your chest and the other on your back. Or both paddles can be placed on the front of your chest. The shock lasts less than a second, and briefly stops (resets) your heart rhythm. 

So you can imagine how scary this would be. My biggest fear is to die. While complications of electric cardioversion are uncommon, it’s still a risk. The idea of them restarting my heart sends shivers to my bones. No matter how much fear I have I know that the procedure must be done because it’s hard for me to do anything. Not to mention that there is a risk of blood clots and taking a blood thinner puts me at risk of bleeding, especially if I fall. I thought the procedure was on Thursday morning, so I told the program that I wouldn’t attend. I fasted the night before and woke up early. I get to the hospital and they inform me that the procedure was for the next day. I wanted to go home and hide. I was so frustrated at the idea of doing this all over. Instead I pushed through and called the program to pick me up from the hospital. As much as I wanted to go home I didn’t really want to spend a whole day alone. I was glad to have a place to spend a good part of my day. I get home in the late afternoon and tried to not think of the fear I was dying. I had this irrational fear that I would die during the procedure.

I arrive at the hospital at 7am. I get to the hospital room and they start to prepare me. They took some blood to test how thinned my blood was and unfortunately my blood wasn’t thinned enough. The procedure was cancelled and postponed until my blood was thinned out. The doctor increased my medicine and now I have to wait. So that means another month of suffering, which is troublesome because I have pack up my apartment this month due to a remodel. This day was different. I went to the hospital cafeteria and had a big breakfast. I called the program and had them pick me up again. This time I didn’t want to go home.

I was so relieved to not be home, especially because I had to process what had happened. I ended up having a decent day. The program had pizza for lunch and it was delicious. I could live on pizza. I went home with the strength to pick up my living room and asked a friend to help me to take trash to the dumpster. My apartment is cleaner than it’s been in a while, probably months. Now I need to tackle my laundry. It’s been months since I have done it.

The biggest challenge that I am going to have is the lack of structure. I’m already dreading this weekend because I have nothing to do. I woke up in a panic at the idea of spending a few days in my apartment alone. I can feel the depression creep up and I haven’t felt that this week. I’ve learned that isolation only makes me worse. It’s my achilles heel. It traumatizes me as it brings up trigger of forced isolate when I was growing up. A time where I had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. So now anytime I’m alone I get transported to that time, thanks to my PTSD.

After I finish this partial hospitalization program this will be a big issue for me as I don’t want to go back to where I was and it will be easy for me to do. I’m not able to volunteer or work due to going for SSI disability. If I do the judge will deny me. I have been waiting over five years for this and I just can’t risk it. Having that income would be a lifesaver for me plus it would mean having Medicare. For the past four years I have lived off state disability which is only two hundred dollars a month, which is very miserable to live off of. Which contributes to the isolation because I don’t have a car or money to do much.

I’m looking at another year until I could get my benefits. I won’t have a court date until the end of the year and it’s yet to be scheduled. I’m not sure how I will manage this year but I don’t have a choice. I have started to look into alternative forms of treatments like ECT or medical marianna. I’m desperate for relief from my depression. I deserve wonderful things and more importantly happiness. I want to live the remaining years of my life content and happy. I have earned it.

The only choice I have is to continue to push myself and do what I need to do to survive. People tell me all the time that I’m stronger than I think. For me, it has nothing to do with the lack of strength. I’m one of the strongest people in this world. Anyone who deals with their trauma, pain and suffering are the strongest warriors on this earth. It’s about suffering and wanting relief. I use to think I was broken but I now realize that I’m made of steel. I just don’t want to die anymore.

Structure will be important to survive this year. Which means setting a normal sleeping schedule, including set times to take my medicine. Making lists and using my mental health hacks. Setting goals and pushing myself to get out of the house, even if it means going downstairs to the community room where there is cable tv. I don’t want to return to the last two months. I’m not sure I could survive another depressive episode like that again.

I deserve nothing but the best and I will stop at nothing to achieve it.

Depression is not Fake News

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People can’t accept a world where people suffer so deeply (without relief) so they create this fake world where the suffering isn’t real. They equate the typical bad day as the same as having chronic depression. If they spend a day in bed and are able to rebound so should everyone else. It’s like comparing having a cold to asthma. People would laugh at the suggestion that people with asthma should walk it off like what you do with the common cold. Yet people are quick to pass out the typical get over it philosophy. People with chronic depression aren’t able to escape their bad days.

Being alone is a very miserable life. When you tell people that you are alone they never truly believe you. They always can justify it based on their own personal experience. If they have people in their lives they can count on then everyone must. That’s just not the case with me, at least not anymore. That person used to be my Mom but that ended in 2012 when she died.

Now I’m just floating into outer space holding onto hope that a rocket will come my way. Sadly there isn’t a light for a million miles away. When you have depression you wear people out. They take it personal or they deny that the disease even exists. If you are like me, you’ve moved (ran) from city to city trying to find yourself. You do this until you can’t run anymore. Then you are left with a lot of emptiness, misery and pain.

It’d be bad enough to be alone but to be surrounded day after day of misery gets old. I go weeks without seeing anyone, other than my therapist. I don’t talk to anyone regularly. A few messages here and there from facebook friends. That’s it.

I have said it before but I have become an afterthought. Someone that people think of occasionally. I went from seeing my family regularly to not at all. Everything changed after my Mom died. When I say I have no one, I mean it. I could die and the only person would notice would be my therapist. There isn’t anything more sad and tragic than that.

If you had to live in constant pain and agony for the rest of your life could you handle it? With very little to no relief? I bet most couldn’t last a week with the darkness that depressed people endure. It affects every aspect of your life. It sucks the joy and life out of everything. Not to mention it warps your mind and constantly lies to you. So not only do you have to battle the disease, you have to fight with the demons (the past) that it brings up. Mind, body and soul are all affected.

People will finally care when I’m dead. That’s the only time when people can show they care for people with mental illness. They wait until it’s too late. I’m not there yet but I’m closer than I have ever been and that scares me senseless. I don’t really want to die, I just want the pain to end. If all that remains in my life is misery why would I choose any other option than suicide. Those who kill themselves don’t make rash decisions. It’s not just something that appears out of thin air. If you could experience what they endured, up until the end, you would treat people with mental illness differently. This might be tough to read but it’s the truth.

So what do others like me need? Support, continued and interrupted. If someone gets hospitalized over a suicide attempt they aren’t cured of the symptoms even though they are released. It’s been six months since my last hospitalization and I’m still on shaky grounds. I’m on the verge of going back and am doing everything I can to hold it together in the hopes of seeing my nieces and nephew next week for my birthday. The last six months I have had a handful of good days, where I got out of the house.

A support system isn’t built overnight and that’s unfortunate for someone with none outside the mental health system. I don’t have time to wait. I’m constantly racing against the clock. One more crack in my self esteem could be the one to send me over the edge. When you make new connections they tend to be overwhelmed with how much care you need or they take it personal when you have to cancel hanging out. I long for the days to be the person not seen as my mental illness. I don’t want solutions. I just want someone to make the effort and show up consistently.

The one person I had like that basically gave up on me because of my mental illness. I had a lesbian aunt that was always there for me. No matter what I knew she was there. It’s not like I went to her for support but it was nice to know she was on my side. This was until my mental health couldn’t be controlled like my family wanted. So rather than be there for me she decided that I was too much to handle by deleting and blocking me on Facebook. She didn’t say a word. Not even when I sent her an email questioning it. I was just ignored.

One side of the family doesn’t accept me because I’m queer and the other doesn’t because I have mental illness. The latter think I can live differently. That I should just get a job like everyone else and forget about my troubles. To give you an idea the kind of family I have I will tell you about the time I had a broke leg. I was around ten years old and was the monkey in the middle. I got tangled up and hurt my leg. I could barely walk and no one would believe me that something was wrong with my leg. They made me walk on it. It wasn’t until the next day that a doctor confirmed that my leg had been broken. I have had my loved ones do this all my life. No one believes me when I’m in pain. They have forced me to walk on a broken leg all my life. Whenever I fall I just go into a deeper downward spiral. For most of my live I have based my choices around what everyone else does. Trying to be a normal functioning member of society has led me to be alone in my forties. I can’t do it anymore. No one is left to support me. Now that I’m in my forties I’m seen as a lost cause. No one is listening to me.

I’m screaming at the top of my lungs to the few connections I have but because none of them are in real life it goes on deaf ears. I just don’t want the life I currently have and don’t see any relief anytime soon. I’m looking at another good year of waiting for a SSI court decision. I don’t have a car and very little money. With my heart issues lately I can’t even walk that far lately. So I’m stuck in my isolation. That’s the last thing I need right now but I don’t have any other choices right now.

Another year in this misery is daunting. I’m trying to hold on the best I can but it feels like I’m failing. I just wish the people in my life would believe me, take me serious. Instead of putting me in the faking it category or being too much to handle. A person doesn’t suffer this long out of choice.

I Feel So Lost

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This isn’t a new feeling for me. Many times in my life I have felt various levels of being lost. Lately I feel lost inside my mind. My mental health has locked me inside this massive dark forest. It’s pitch black and there is nothing but silence. Imagine the upside down in Stranger Things but with no light at all. I’ve spent enough time in this scary place to have it warp my mind. You become this scared creature who is twitchy and doesn’t know where to turn. My mind has turned against me and it lies to me. It’s like being put into a gigantic dryer and then forced to walk for miles.

On top of all of this, I also feel lost in life. What is my purpose and all those other deep questions. I ask myself all the time, what in the world am I doing? Most days I don’t have a clue. I’m desperate for purpose and it gives me tunnel vision. When I start to think of the suffering without any purpose my mind starts to wonder to dangerous places. The deeper I find myself lost in that dark void the more I start to consider other options.

This brings me to the other type of lost, being alone in this world. It’s like floating into outer space with nothing to tether to. You’re a million miles from earth and it’s become this small glowing dot in your horizon. I’ve become one of the old people I live with. Whose family has forgotten them. Well not forgotten just got wrapped up in the chaotic world. They just don’t have time for them. People take loved ones for granted. I’m in a similar boat. I don’t have any close friends like most do. When things go wrong I have no one to reach out to. If something was to happen to me (in my apartment) no one would know for weeks and there isn’t anything more sad than that. That’s when you know that you are alone.

That’s what mental illness does, it pushes people away. I have no one that I see regularly, other than my therapist. This just adds to the feeling lost. I’m working on new friendships but that takes time. I don’t get to do fun things with people. I spend my days alone, in a stuffy apartment. Until I get approved for SSI disability I have very little to do with myself, at least in terms of person to person connection. Plus being poor and without a car I’m limited to what I can do in terms of socially. My social gatherings are sporadic at beast. Usually my monthly transgender meeting. You can’t thrive off one day a month.

I have yet been able to find a balance with my mental health. The medicine I’m on doesn’t seem to be helping with the depression at all. My doctor is trying new combinations but so far the only thing that has started to work made me gain a bunch of weight, like thirty pounds. On top of all this I have recently been diagnosed with atrial flutter. I doesn’t take a lot of exertion for me to feel like I’m going to pass out. So right now walking a few blocks to the bus stop (to do things) is out of the question.

Lately my depression has gotten so out of hand that it’s become unbearable, even for me. I don’t do anything but hide in my apartment. Doing simple tasks like making dinner becomes unmanageable, especially if it means washing dishes when I have none cleaned. I will live off very little food at times because I don’t feel like going to the grocery store. It also affects me physically. I become lethargic and my energy bottoms out. Everything is a chore. So not only am I alone (most of the time) I am surrounded by these demons.

So I’m lost spiritually, physically and mentally. I’m trapped in this prison of suffering and I’m not sure how to get out. I’m trapped without a key or map. It’s one thing to feel lost in one aspect of your live but to have every aspect be affected is unmanageable. I wish I had just one person I could attach myself to. The only person I had was my Mom and she died in 2012. Someone I could count on. I have no one and that’s not exaggerating. I have people who love me but I’m just not in their radar. They have their own lives and struggles to deal with. I don’t blame them. This world is a topsy turvy place. I’m just collateral damage. That’s not a fun place to be.

I see people on Facebook with full lives, sharing moments with their friends and family. Going out to the movies or on vacation. Laughing and enjoying life. I’m desperate for that kind of life. I know I deserve it but it feels like this life is just out of reach. I have a good year of this level of suffering, of not having many options in terms of meaningfully, long term connection. I have my comic book but that still means spending all my time alone in my apartment and these days the depression zaps every last ounce of creative juices I have left. So everything in my life is a struggle, which again just ads another complex level to being lost.

Then there is the whole being lost in my identity. I could write a whole post about how I view my body and my gender, I’m MTF trans. Like I said there isn’t one area that I don’t feel some level of lost in and because I’m aware (and dealing with it) that means it’s even more painful. I no longer can bury it. That’s probably why this time in my life is so difficult because the shit has hit the fan.

I just hope I find the key fast. I don’t know how much time I have. With having my health scare this week it’s brought my mortality right to the front of the line. Not to mention when I’m at my lowest I start to think of ending it all. I fear there will be a day in the future when I completely turn off the switch that’s keeping me alive. I know that mental illness can eventually be terminal and because I’m aware enough it scares me senseless when I start to slip and slide down the depressive slope. I don’t really want to die. I just don’t want to suffer anymore. I want to enjoy the time I have left on this earth and create a legacy for when I’m gone. I don’t want to die as the miserable depressed person, who didn’t make something of their life. My life has to have more meaning then my illness.

So I just gotta keep on walking, crawling if I must. Even if it’s at a snail’s pace I’m still moving. Just keeping a commitment to go to therapy each week is a huge sign that I’m moving forward. I have had many times where I didn’t want to go but I forced myself. I knew what it would lead to. It’s the one bright spot in my life. Something to be proud of. I have been in therapy consistently since 2013, something I have never done. I have been with my therapist for over two years. I’m so blessed to have her in my life. I just wish I had others like her in my life, who weren’t tied to my healing.

Codependent to Codependency

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Prior to my Mom dying in 2012, I was extremely codependent. My foundation was built upon my family. I made them my world. I grew up in a dysfunctional family and my roots in codependency started at an early age. My environment was such that my Mom, sister and I had to hold onto each other for dear life to survive. We even called ourselves the three musketeers. My father was the spider and we were the flies. Eventually we were able to escape that spiderweb but we’d be forever tangled up together.

My childhood taught me that the only way to function was to be codependent. It was always the solution and the only way to live. Since I can remember my wellbeing has been dependent on other people. I couldn’t function without another person. That all changed when my Mom died. She was the glue that held our family together. After she died our family was never the same.

The death of my Mom sent me spiraling out of control, out into outer space. I went into danger mode for years after. I lived in constant fear that something bad was going to happen to my family, especially my two nieces and my family. That fear put me into a paralyzed state. I couldn’t leave my sister’s home in the fear that something bad would happen and I would be needed. That’s what happened in April of 2012, when we first learned that my Mom had cancer. I was awakened from a nap to the news that my Mom was coughing up blood and needed to go to the ER. To this day I still can remember the level of panic that I felt. I still flashback to that moment. Especially if something wakes me up suddenly.

The forced separation almost destroyed me. I couldn’t function without my Mom. A world without my Mom was a world that I didn’t want to be apart of. The first two years after my Mom died were hell. I almost didn’t make it. Thankfully I was able to get help and started on a long journey to healing. Even though I was able to function more I still was very codependent to my family. I held onto dear life to every moment that I had with my family the last seven years. I constantly envisioned something bad happening.

It wasn’t only the last year that again I was forced back into outer space. This time I had no one to catch me. I was alone. It was hard to break my codependency and it wasn’t my choice. These days I’m afraid of any type of connection due to the fear of abandonment. I’m not close to anyone. The only way I have been able to cope is to go inward, to shut everyone out. It’s only been recently that I have felt safe enough to venture out and it’s not been easy. I crave connection with others but it frightens me deeply. I put my feet in the water and the fear of a shark attack sends me running back to my safe zone.

I thought it was easier to isolate and push everyone away. The idea of falling apart like I did from the seperation of my family has kept me alone. I want a healthy relationship with dependency. I’m learning to build my foundation on solid ground but it’s going at a snail’s pace. I can quickly form attachments and that scares me when I meet someone I like. Especially because I have very little interaction with people. I meet someone I really bond with and feel less than when the person doesn’t keep in contact with me. I use to take it personal. Most the time I’m able to see the truth but it still hurts the same.

I don’t want to feel lost like that ever again. It’s extremely difficult to overcome years of unhealthy boundaries and attachments. I have to remind myself that I must focus on building my foundation, which I have been doing this last year. If you build it, they will come. It’s just tough waiting. I sometimes wonder if I will overcome this hurdle. Self care and love is something that I must practice daily and is the key to having healthy relationships.

Depression is a Thief

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Most days depression steals your energy. It brings you to a complete halt. One day you have spurts of energy and the next day you are dragging your feet. Simple tasks like brushing your teeth become like climbing Mount Everest. I’m not exaggerating either. Depression completely zaps you of your energy. Often times I feel like I’m cemented into the ground, unable to move. It’s a type of paralysation where I forget that I have the ability to move. In reality though depression steals more than your energy. It robs you of anything of value in your life.

Other than your energy, the main thing it steals is your enjoyment. It turns your life upside down and sucks the color out of the world around you. To others the world is full of life and color but to a depression mind everything is dull and grey. You stop enjoying the things that you used to love. Everything becomes a bore. I tend to watch the same sitcom over and over because I have very little attention span to watch a new show. I usually am doing something else while the tv is on as well. I’m unable to just sit there and only watch what is on the screen. You can imagine how difficult it might be to not have anything give you enjoyment. It’s a pretty miserable place. You hop from activity to activity, desperately trying to find something to catch your attention.

If depression zaps the life out of entertainment you can imagine what it does to activities that involve meaning, like my creativity. Anything related to my creativity becomes a chore and I hate doing chores. When I am at my worst I want nothing to do with my gifts. It becomes painful to look inward at the good parts of me. Depression has become the voice of all my naysayers. The ones who told me that I was worthless. Anytime I try to create I hear the voices. I’m usually only able to create for small periods of a time. This has been true with the comic book (about a drag queen superhero) that I’m working on. I have been working on this comic book for over five years. I have times where I can’t even look at my illustrations. I go months without making any progress. Without depression I most likely would have finished the first issue by now. I have waited so long that now others have released their own drag queen superheroes. If I had the energy to finish it in year one mine would have been the first and most original. Now the magic won’t be as fresh.

Which brings me to success. Depression is a dream killer. It sabotages any advancement that you might have, whether it be from a job or a personal project like my comic book. The best job I have ever had ended because of my depression. I was working for GE. I had great benefits and pay. I had the best manager I had ever had. When you are a hard worker oftentimes management will take advantage of you, especially in retail. Finally I was valued for my hard work, determination and loyalty. I was involved in LGBTQ networking group and was moving up on the ladder. I was on track to becoming a trainer but depression robbed me of that opportunity. I was hospitalized and put on short term disability. I never returned to that job. Instead I self destructed and moved back home.

I had aspirations in becoming an actor. I was in the theatre program at my local community college in my early twenties. My favorite type of theatre was musicals. I took voice lessons for years. The first year at school I had a bad depressive episode. I was just cast the lead in the main theatre production at school, which was a dream of mine. I was in bed for weeks and stopped going to class. The role had to be recast and I barely passed that semester. That was also my last semester in that program. I dreamed a dream and depression killed it.

Another aspect of my life depression has robbed me of are relationships. For example, today I was supposed to hang out with a new friend but I woke up feeling horrible and had to cancel. This happens all the time, which makes it difficult to maintain friendships. Nowadays I don’t have many friends nearby me so I really look forward to the opportunity to do something with a friend. The last two days were decent, when I had nothing planned. Now that I have cancelled I have a great sense of regret, which happens more time than not. On days like today I have little energy. My apartment is usually not kept up and if someone is coming over I feel a great amount of shame. If I have to leave my apartment just walking to the bus stop takes too much energy. Hanging out with someone means having to brush my teeth and shower. Then there is the anxiety if it’s a first time meeting, like today was. So you might can understand why this all is too much when you’re not feeling well.

Most people understand if you cancel a few invites to do something. After that they start to question the relationship. With a depression mind you live in slow motion and the rest of the world is on fast forward, though they only see themselves on regular time. There is still a lot of stigma towards mental illness and many people take it personal when you cancel on them. In reality it has nothing to do with them. Depression takes the fun out of everything. Not to mention that I have pushed people away out of fear and moved around from state to state. So now in my forties I have very few friends, outside of Facebook. The only person I see regularly is my therapist. If it weren’t for our appointments I would spend all my time alone.

Even just one aspect of depression is enough to drive a person mad but when you start to add all them up it makes life pretty miserable. Each day is a challenge. I have lived most of my life with depression and I’m tired of having my life stolen from me. I’m determined to stop this thief anyway I can. That means treating depression like the disease it is. Taking my medicine and making sure I keep my weekly therapy appointments. Pushing myself when I can and using mindfulness to get rid of the thieves when they are on my doorstep. It’s not easy but I have to try. Life can’t be this depressing.

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The Tough Act of Forgiveness

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A long time ago, my father told me that I needed to forgive and forget the bad things that happened to me. It was from that moment that my views on forgiveness changed. Attached to forgiveness was forgetting the bad things, which meant no validation for my struggles. It certainly didn’t mean any accountability from the people who hurt me. So I held onto these great hurts until it turned towards hate. Slowly those grudges started to poison me. Twenty years later it had ripped through my soul like a massive forest fire. All that was left was mountains of ash.

At the time my pain wasn’t being validated. The people who hurt me were getting away with murder and no one was doing anything about it. Not only were they not taking responsible the people in my family saw me as a black sheep for speaking out against these bad deeds. My family didn’t believe they had done anything that deserved forgiveness. So they glossed over the bad things that were happening in my family in order to hide the guilt and shame. Sometimes the monsters are inside your family and my family was full of them. So I locked them away and put the pain in a locked box. I then hid it so good that I didn’t realize it was there. All I could see was the anger, hurt and betrayal.

A few years ago I realized how damaging it was to hold onto the anger. It had destroyed me. I let what people did turn me into someone I wasn’t. I took on their bad behaviors and actions, and blamed myself. I have come to realize that forgiveness is for me. It’s letting go of all the bad feelings that aren’t serving me any good. Yes, what they did was wrong but it had nothing to do with me. Holding onto their actions and waiting for retribution has stunted my growth.

So I have started to work on my anger, which is a lot of work. Once you no longer hide behind anger you are left to deal with the real pain. It’s a torturous sift through piles of suffering and sorrow. Returning back to the place where the harm was caused and rewiring your brain as your current healthy self. For someone with PTSD this is a real struggle, as sometimes I don’t have a choice and get flashbacked to there instantly.

With trauma comes loss. It’s not just the bad acts itself but the aftermath. When I came out about the sexual abuse at the age of eighteen I lost a big part of my family. I was seen as a black sheep from that moment on. Cousins that I had grown up with now saw me as the problem versus the predator in our family causing all the harm. Not to mention the loss of my intermediate family when I came out during this time as well. I didn’t get kicked out but I was treated poorly by my parents. It was a dark time in my life.

In many ways, I have lived the whole forgive and forget. I was never asked for forgiveness by my parents for how horrible they treated me. After the first couple of years of hell, everyone stopped talking about me being gay. I stopped being told repeatedly that I was going to hell and we went back to forgetting that I was different. I love my Mom dearly and came to terms with things before she died but it’s still something I hold onto. The hurt that she never said she was sorry for the way she treated me when I needed her most. Eventually she didn’t care and realized that being queer was who I was. It wasn’t a fad like she thought, nor do I think she believed that I was going to hell anymore. So that was good. She even defended me to a cousin of hers who was making the typical religious comments about it being an abomination. So that was wonderful to hear. I just wish I could have heard those two simple words. That first year I was so alone. I went from having a very loving mother to one that rejected me. That abandonment has lasted me a lifetime and something I still struggle with.

I have since realized that she was a flawed human being with her own demons and struggles. She had a hard life too. My grandfather was an alcoholic and she had to work in the muck fields as a child. My father treated her terribly and divorced her after thirty years of marriage, leaving her with nothing. The healthy side of me realizes that she did what she did out of fear. She truly believed that I would go to hell and felt I needed to be saved. My Mom loved me deeply and knew what that meant. So I can see that side of it.

My father on the other hand is a different story. I want nothing to do with him and haven’t for a long while. He was patient zero in my hate. I have since replaced hate with pity. My father hasn’t changed. He’s still just as toxic as he was when I came out. I no longer take it personal for what he did to me. A person can’t give what they don’t possess. It’s not to say that I don’t feel a great sense of loss because I do. I long for the Dad I deserved all these years. I have waited a lifetime and it’s left me in the dust waiting.

These tough acts of forgiveness are extremely difficult, almost impossible at times. I have come to have this attitude of, is this worth holding onto? I sometimes think we freak out about the little things because it’s easier to let loose of the anger on the trivial things. When a new person in my life rejects me it’s the trigger of abandonment that causes me to spiral out of control, not the act itself. In reality it usually has nothing to do with me. For example, someone recently stopped being my friend because of my mental illness. I had known this person for four months. What I would have done in the past is broken down. I would have spiraled into a dark depression and it could have led to a hospitalization. This time it didn’t because I was able to differentiate between the trigger and the act. Yes it hurt and stung but I didn’t have enough invested to fall apart. What I would fall apart about is the real pain of admandoments and rejects of the past. More specifically my family.

I have even started taking this concept to little things as well. Like my anxiety. A month ago I took public transportation for people with disabilities. What I thought would be a thirty minute car ride turned into almost two hours, which meant being late to my appointment. I could feel my anxiety start to boil over and my first reaction was to give into it. Then I started to think about what holding onto this anger was doing to me. Going into a rage (which I wouldn’t have verbalized) would only hurt me, so I let it go. I even had more things happen that night and I didn’t hold onto those either. In the past, something like this would have carried over for days but this time I let it go for good and paid no more attention to it.

Sometimes this is very difficult and something I have to practice all the time. Currently I can do this on rare occasions but I’m building up the skill slowly. When it becomes difficult to practice is when an action is particular triggering and severe. For example, I had a friend I have known for over fifteen years make some very transphobic comments. It’s shaken me to the core. Not only were those comments made, the person wasn’t very nice either. I have always had people lash out on me like this. I used to take it personal but now I realize that I scare people because of my authenticity.

My first reaction is to cut him out of my life. It’s a real difficult time in my life and I have to be very careful with my environment because I want to move forward, not backwards. Boundaries have become extremely a crucial aspect to the healing process. No only did my friend say derogatory things to me, he also didn’t respect my boundaries. Nor did he care how it would make me feel. The biggest struggle with this situation is how do I trust someone like this, who seems to have deep prejudices about who I am inside. A big part of me wants to villainize him but I know that only means holding onto anger. I have a track record of giving people too many chances and aren’t always a good judge of character as I only see the good in people and look past the red flags.

It’s tough to sift through the small details, especially when emotions are attached to every single little piece you pick up. Again my first reaction is to cut the person out of my life. It’s easier to put the person out of sight, out of mind. Just wipe my hands of another person who hurt me. It’s really tough to balance taking care of yourself and giving people the benefit of the doubt, and time to make amends. I have worked hard to realize that I don’t deserve the way he’s treated me. I also no longer will tolerate that kind of behavior. So I will give him the opportunity to explain what happened to apologize. It’s going to be tough to do because I have years of triggers to deal with.

Anything related to discrimination towards the LGBTQ is particularly triggering. So this interaction has brought to light the way my family treated me when I came out in 1995. So to have some similar attitudes towards being transgender just adds another level of hurt. So a challenge will be figuring out what emotion is attached to the present action and the past.

I have to remember that forgiveness comes in time and can’t be forced. I hope that this friendship can be salvaged but if it can’t I won’t take it personal. The interaction had nothing to do with me. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that you have to keep them around. It’s really not for their benefit anyways. It’s about letting go of the hurt and pain. Realizing that holding onto the trauma isn’t healthy for you. It’s so much easier to be angry at someone than it is to feel the hurt. I want to hate my friend for how he treated me but I realize that it’s just a mask for the heartbreak. I never thought I would hear him say what he did about transgender people.

I have too much to worry about than to hold onto feelings that aren’t my own. Learning to let go of the significant stresses has allowed me to handle the bigger ones. My awareness of the situation has been increased dramatically. It’s given me the perspective to being in the moment, allowing me to be proactive to stop certain behaviors in its track.

We all have mountains to climb. I have climbed plenty in my time. I’ve learned that not every mountain I encounter is meant to be climbed. Then there are times that these mountains are really hills and are easily walked over. So I’m conserving my energy for the real work of forgiving myself.