Two years…

I deserve better blankTwo years ago I cried until I thought I could cry no more and still the tears kept coming. I cried until my eyes swelled shut and my head ached. I felt like my entire world had fallen in on me and there was nothing left but ruins. Like there was only one option left and that was to jump off my 7th storey balcony to the unforgiving pavement below. All that stopped me was the concern that it might not be high enough. What would happen if I ended up paralyzed? I wouldn’t be able to try again.

Luckily for me I’m a writer. I write about everything and this was no exception. I got on Facebook and a veritable flood of words was released. I lied and said I wasn’t planning to kill myself. Even so, what I said was worrying enough that my sister Jen called then drove me down to the hospital. My Mom traded off with her when Jen had to pick up her kids. It takes a long time to be seen for mental health issues but they do keep close track of you.

In some ways that day feels like the beginning of a whole different life but it wasn’t. I’d been struggling with my mental health for at least a year. My family doctor started me on Effexor the spring of 2015 and prescribed Ativan for my rare panic attacks. It was getting harder and harder to stay at work. Some days I’d grip the sides of the cash register or my arms in an attempt not to run screaming out the door. I had always been the fun loving person. I cracked jokes, sang along with the radio, hugged people who liked hugging, and joked with the regular customers. My manager joked that Happy was my theme song. All that slowly drained away as my focus turned inward, a silent struggle to keep running my life.

20180418_101120.jpgIt’s been two long years but I’m slowly rebuilding my life. I’m printing out my scrapbooking pages and am finally up to mid 2017. I’m starting to read again and am thinking, once again, about my novel. I’ve joined three groups and enjoy every one of them. I visit my family every week and try to get out once a month for karaoke (yes, I can sing LOL). It’s not the same life I had before. My attention span is negligible. I find two hour classes to be just long enough. Any more would be overwhelming. But I’m surrounded by friends and family. Life is good.

Am I back to normal? No. I’m currently taking twelve pills in order to function and still struggle with anxiety. Am I happy? Yes. And I think that’s the most important answer of them all.

building your life

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Looking at life from both sides…

I remember, years ago in Sociology, the teacher talked about three different kinds of parenting; authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Authoritarian were the strict parents, expecting respect and obedience and deciding what was best for the child. Permissive parents wanted to be their child’s friend to the point of making little to no rules. And Authoritative was a blend of the two, giving the child a say but making the final decision.

I thought about that class a couple of days ago while I read comments on a Facebook post. I watched parents from both sides expressing love for their children and child abuse by the opposing parents. It was easy to see who was authoritarian and who was authoritative.

The authoritative parents were listening to their child’s insistent claims of being the other gender. They were going to doctors, psychiatrists, and counselors to sort out what’s going on. They were listening to their child but weren’t changing anything until the professionals were called.

The authoritarian parents listened to their child’s insistent claims of being the other gender and quickly and firmly told the child, “no, you are a boy/girl. I don’t want to hear any more nonsense about this”. And, of course, the child stops talking about it for years and years until they either commit suicide or come out as an adult. But, in the meantime their parents are certain they are doing the right thing. “Children are too young for stuff like that” is a comment I see regularly. Comparing being trans to sexual abuse is another, even though they are completely different things.

The authoritarian parents ask questions like “My child wanted to be a dog. Should I have got her a collar and started feeding her on the floor?” My sister pretended to be a dog for a little while too. She had to eat at the table but could crawl around and bark as much as she wanted. I was a child myself so I don’t know how long it lasted. I’m going to guess not very long. Trans children, on the other hand, are adamant they’re the other gender (or somewhere in between) and they keep persisting. And once they transition, they stay that other gender, for the most part. It doesn’t matter if they change their mind because the only thing that happens when a child transitions is they change clothes and hair styles.

I have some sympathy for the authoritarian parents. It’s hard to listen to your child’s choices when they make such spectacularly bad decisions. You put the goldfish where?!? But then I remember Leelah Alcorn and how her parents denied her truth over and over again, even after she died. And these statistics:

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The pale blue bars show the authoritarian parents. They’re the parents who said “no, you are who we say you are”. The dark blue shows the authoritative parents. Now look at the difference, especially the last section which is attempted suicide, not just talking about it but doing it. 57 per cent, more than half of the unsupported kids versus 4 per cent for the supported kids. Is being in charge all the time worth losing your kid? Sure you get your chosen name on the gravestone instead of theirs but damn.

I know I have groups of people who don’t like me, they show up in my statistics. They either think Colin’s getting manipulated into being trans. That kiddo could give a lawyer a run for her money. Or that he’s so developmentally delayed that he simply agrees to everything I say. This would be a surprise for his teacher. You know what though? I don’t give a rat’s ass what they think. My kids are far more important.

Right now Colin’s wavering between being Colin or Emma. I have no idea how long this wavering will take and no idea what he will choose. Either way, it’s his decision, not mine. And as an authoritative parent, I will support him either way.

One year later…

This winter went on too long then, just when I thought I couldn’t stand another grey day, the trees burst forth in blossoms of lime green. I’d forgotten how soft they looked pressed against the sky. How brilliant the green contrasts against the blue. How the weeping willows look like they’re dancing with veils. How new leaves glisten in the sunshine.

This time last year I was convinced my life was over. There was nothing to live for… no one who cared. I was going to jump off my balcony and land in the dumpster seven floors below. My thoughts at the time was it would save my family money for a burial. Somehow I figured the truck would simply take my body away with the trash. Obviously I wasn’t in my right mind.

I wasn’t going to leave a letter, I didn’t think anyone cared enough to read it, but a former friend of mine convinced me to post a note on Facebook saying how I felt. I didn’t see the point and then he dared me to. If there wasn’t a point then it didn’t matter? Why didn’t I try?

So I did try. I posted and my sister almost immediately replied. So did my Mom and countless others. People did care. I did matter. I’d cried until my eyes swelled shut, I was a mess, and people still cared.

If life were a made for TV movie, everything would be perfect now. I’d be back to work, my relationship would have magically healed itself, and music would softly swell over a picturesque ending. But life doesn’t work that way.

I didn’t jump that day. Thankfully. But my soul… my self… shattered and it hasn’t magically fitted itself back together again. I’m still fragile. I take a handful of pills a day to function.

And yet…

Just like the softened new blossoms are distinct and real against a twilight sky, my thoughts coalesce and form into a whole. I might not be perfect but I’m me. And I’m glad to be here.

Be gentle with yourself…

Dear American friends,

Please be gentle with yourself today. You, as always, have the same inherent worth and dignity of every human being. You are valued, needed, and wanted no matter how you feel right now.

It might seem like it but the whole world is not against you. Yes, Trump got in but almost the same amount of people voted against him as for him. You are not alone.

Now is the time for grass roots organizations. Talk to friends on Facebook and form groups. Join your local PFLAG Meet with friends and queer up the PTA. If you have a gender creative child, make or join a gender creative playgroup (sign up and fill out the application in the link). Four years is a long time but it is not forever. You will make it through. You are stronger than you think.

If you are suicidal, please, please get help. No matter what, there is someone who cares. I care. I have a whole list of resources on my resource page that encompass the world. There’s even a texting option if you can’t bring yourself to talk.

Practise some self care. Have a shower, wash some dishes, have something to eat (even if it’s just cake). Brush your teeth, go for a walk around the block, colour a picture. Do something that makes your heart happy.

I am so sorry you’re having to go through this. Sadly, the idiots who voted for Trump will not be the ones dealing with the results (for the most part). But, hopefully, they’ll open their eyes over the next four years and vote better next time. Good luck, best wishes, and stay safe. You matter.

Love, Michelle
secretmom@email.com

An Evening of Hope…

It was Spirit Day and, in our city, also An Evening of Hope; a yearly event centered around the LGBTQ community. Every year it rains, as if the earth itself is remembering the lives lost. And every year there’s laughter, as we remember the ones still here.

crowds

Soggy yet bright and cheerful

metis-drum-circle

The evening opened with a Metis drumming circle

cupcakes

And plenty of baked goods 🙂

liberated-washrooms

The bathrooms were liberated for the evening

remembering-orlando

And Orlando was remembered with a great deal of ceremony (and some shuffling)

colin-making-pinsJeremy was in their glory at our UU congregation’s button making machine. They cracked jokes and hammered down buttons for almost two hours… until the baked goods were gone and the pouring rain made everyone cold and tired. Then we headed home to warm blankets, hot drinks and, in my case, Pride Kitty…

pride-smudge

I’m sure she’d be a real party animal.

Until next year… *hugs* and stay safe!

It’s been eighteen years…

CN: murder, suicide

Eighteen years ago I sat on my couch and cried inconsolably, newspaper on my lap, while Jeremy and their sister played. A young college student, Matthew Shepard, had just been brutally murdered by his peers, solely for being gay. They considered him a threat over who he loved.

I looked at my sweet toddler and wondered about their future. They were so loving, affectionate, and feminine and I worried for them. Were they going to end up gay? What would their future be like?

jeremy-in-1998

Jeremy ~ February 1998

Tears poured down my face while I hoped Matthew had woken up a little near the end, just enough to know he’d been rescued… that people had cared. Enough that he hadn’t died alone. I couldn’t bear the thought that he’d died alone. I could barely bear that he’d died at all. In that moment he wasn’t a stranger’s son but my own child’s future.

Jeremy cynically commented that they were surprised his murderers got charged way back then and I assured them that of course they did. They were charged and convicted. But I had to admit that their cynicism wasn’t out of place. I poured through the papers over those next few months, reading all the articles and hoping for charges… hoping the plea of “gay panic” wouldn’t be accepted. That love wouldn’t be used as an excuse to kill. And it wasn’t… but only barely.

Today my news feed seems to alternate between pictures of Matthew and a story by a young man who survived conversion therapy, despite several suicide attempts. He’d been told 50% of his class would kill themselves and admits that number ended up being correct. The youngest was 13 years old. Those children were placed in that camp by parents who couldn’t accept their children for who they are and were willing to accept a 50% survival rate as long as their child came home straight. They seem to feel it’s better to bury a dead queer than love a live one.

jeremy-in-2010

Jeremy ~ February 2010

A young trans friend of mine attempted suicide a couple of days ago. Another is contemplating it over top surgery. There were the Orlando shootings in June and, in Canada, the young artist Sophie Labelle gets death threats daily for daring to draw queer issues (mostly regarding the T in LGBTQIA). And if I hadn’t been a bit on the delusional side on how high you can jump and live, I wouldn’t be here either. I didn’t want to risk living through a seven storey drop (eight considering we live over the basement drop off) so, ironically, I’m still here too.

Eighteen years ago I’d hoped that our society would have changed dramatically for the better. It’s changed but not enough, not nearly enough. Today is beautiful, warm, and sunny but in my heart it’s raining. I am so tired of the deaths. Please help make it stop.

Seventy-two hours…

Content Note: frank discussion of suicidal thoughts

It was a gorgeous day. I carefully packed my bag for group therapy. Water, notebook, phone, sparkly pen, tissues. I didn’t usually bring Chapstick but was reasonably sure I was going to get admitted to the hospital. It went into the bag as well. I should have gone to group the day before but I’d been crying for most of the night and was too exhausted when my alarm went off. Today I was determined to go.

The therapy class was more of a holding class until space was available in the main group. Most of my classmates had already moved up (I was due to move on Monday) and only three of us were left. Everyone else was new. And quiet. My group spilled out everything in the introduction. This group shared first names and ages, nothing else. The instructor tried to start up a group conversation only to have it fizzle. Then she tried again.

“Yes?” she asked. Why was she staring at me? And when had I raised my hand? What should I say?

“I’m thinking about suicide,” I replied.

Apparently that.

“Thinking or planning?”

“Planning”

“Not every suicidal thought is serious,” she pointed out. “Sometimes people think about suicide but have no intentions of following through. Is this something you intend to do?”

Jeremy had brought in my fairy garden the night before so I didn’t need to go onto my balcony. Several nights earlier I’d messaged a friend in tears and sat chatting with her on Facebook until Jeremy came home, terrified I’d jump. And I couldn’t stop thinking that it would be like flying… and then nothing. I couldn’t keep living like that and, while I wanted to die, I didn’t want to hurt anyone. Someone was going to be hurt finding me and it was going to happen sometime soon.

“Yes,” I said quietly. Every single person in the room was staring at me.

“I can’t hear you,” she said.

Seriously? Like this wasn’t hard enough already.

“Yes,” I said a bit louder and nodded for emphasis. She informed me I needed to see her at the end of class.

Class ended, she arranged for someone to cover her next appointment, then set off with me through the back halls of the hospital… right back to where Karen and I started a month and a half earlier. Thankfully this time the waiting room speaker had been disabled. Once again we went through triage and to the nurse’s station.

“She needs to be put on a form one,” the instructor said urgently.

Form one? Oh, she’d discussed this in class. That was a seventy two hour involuntary admission. As long as there was a bed somewhere relatively quiet I didn’t care. I’d only been up for three hours at that point but I was already exhausted.

I saw a doctor next. All I remember is him handing me paperwork explaining my involuntary admission and that the number 42 was on top.

42 ~ the meaning of life. There wasn’t anyone to share that bit of information with. Security was on the other side of the room, carefully keeping an eye on me. A volunteer saw me hugging myself and gave me a sheet. A security guard told me I could have another one if I was still cold and warned me I’d lose my phone soon and to copy down any numbers I needed. I knew Jeremy’s number, and my parents still have the same number from my childhood, but I didn’t know Karen’s number.

The psychiatrist called me into a room. It was bright and had plexiglass windows in the middle and a door. She sat down and gestured to the seat in front of her. Had anything happened recently?

A madman shot up a bar.

But that was half a continent away in a different country and would bring up too many questions.

“My boyfriend and I broke up at the beginning of May,” I said hesitantly. Hesitant because I’d answered these questions multiple times before and pretty much knew what to expect.

“Who instigated the break up?”

“It was mutual,” I replied quickly. It hadn’t been but I didn’t particularly want to get into blaming. “It wasn’t a good time for a relationship, there was lots going on.”

“Like what?” she asked, leaning forward.

Great.

“We’re both struggling with mental health issues and [boyfriend] has some physical health issues too.”

“And what else? You said lots.”

“[Boyfriend]’s just starting his transition,” I replied. Maybe she would know what transition meant.

“What does that mean?”

And maybe not.

“Gender transition,” I replied.

“Oh… he’s going from male to female?”

“Umm no. He’s…” [Boyfriend] wouldn’t want to be described as female in any way but I couldn’t think of a way to explain.

“So he was born female. Did you know this ahead of time?”

I nodded and was relieved when she didn’t appear shocked like the last professional. Although leaning back in her seat wasn’t much of an improvement.

If I fall in love with a woman, would that be seen as wrong?

The questions went back to suicide and the final question, “If we released you, would you feel safe?”

It would be like flying… and then nothing. I remembered curling up in my chair, hugging my stuffed animal, scared to even go near my balcony and shook my head.

“Okay, follow me,” she left the room and gestured to a security guard, the same one who’d offered me a second sheet earlier.

This time he gave me pants, complete with a hole in the front, and a three armed shirt. I knew what the hole was for though I’d never worn pants with one before. The shirt left me baffled.

“Here,” he said as he took back the shirt and mimed putting it on. It wrapped around so that one arm went through two holes. Then he took all my belongings and gave me a pair of blue throwaway slippers with a seam across the soles.

I spent most of my time in emergency sleeping, which I’m sure relieved the guards. Actually, I know it did because one commented on it as he relieved the other.

“Whew,” the second guard said. “It sounds like an easy shift.”

One guard gave me a heated blanket when I started shaking and talked with me about books. He told me about a new movie too but my thoughts were too scattered and I couldn’t remember the title. It sounded interesting through.

I stayed in the emergency room hallway until 8pm, missing both lunch and dinner, before being wheeled to the psychiatric ward. It’s a small ward with a P shaped hallway, a TV room with plastic chairs, and a cafeteria that doubles as an entertainment room. The blinds are tucked away behind a window pane so no one can hang themselves. The mirrors are silvered metal. And there’s no bag in the garbage can. Meals are served at 8am, noon, and 5pm with a plastic fork and spoon. Have you ever buttered cold toast with a spoon before? It’s, umm, interesting. And chewy. The toast, not the spoon.

I’d been terrified of going into the ward. I knew I needed the help but had no idea what to expect other than, well my mind drew a blank. Honestly, while I hated being locked in… unable to leave, the ward itself wasn’t bad. The nurses were uniformly kind and the patients were friendly and understood “sorry, I’m getting overwhelmed… I’m going to have to go lie down”. I made three friends immediately and we hung out together, playing cards, colouring in those intricate adult colouring books, and singing. I’d been told that people don’t like to remember being in the psychiatric hospital but the other patients showed no sign of that. Multiple times I heard people conversing and reminiscing about previous visits. Remember so and so from two visits ago? He’s here now. Oh hi doctor! I was your patient during my last admission.

One thing that I love about this hospital is that the ward is mixed gender. During my stay there was one very effeminate gay young man who was much happier and comfortable hanging around the women and one young person struggling with gender dysphoria who had no idea what their gender was. Considering they commented on hacking off their long hair to buzz cut length because they’d have died if they didn’t, I think being forced into a women’s only section and female garb would have been very detrimental. And, yes, I did assure them it’s normal to be unsure of your gender and that it can take years to sort out.

some won't come and that's okay

People say that you learn who your real friends are when you hit your lowest point and that is so true. One of my friends, who I trusted completely and was positive would always be there, walked away from me completely during this time. It was a heartbreak and one I’ve sobbed about more than once. However that friend’s abrupt departure was more than offset by the number of people who walked in. The friends sharing messages of hope and love. My fellow patients who repeatedly commented on my kindness and showed me kindness of their own. And the anonymous person who left a spray of daisies on my bed the day I left the hospital.

I have no idea about the future. Right now I’m considered emotionally fragile by the psychiatric team, too fragile for the group I was to attend. But I’m feeling better now than I have in years and am ready to take each day one step at a time.

coming home

Me leaving the hospital after a week’s stay with one of my anonymous flowers.