Friday, December 23, 2016

12-23-2016 Entry: All This Pain is an Illusion

Hello my darling readers. It is a snowy day here in Minnesota and I fortunately have the day off in anticipation of the holiday this Sunday. I also have Monday off too, which is pretty awesome because who doesn’t like a 4 day weekend? In a lot of ways life has started to look up over the past week or two. There have been dips and moments that were lost to sadness or loneliness, but they have been fewer and further between than in recent months.

I think the main reason things have gotten better over the past two weeks has been because I’ve decided that I’m done with this depression shit. I know, it’s not like I really chose it or the circumstances that brought it to life to begin with, but I really feel like I’m done with it. It’s hard to explain but in more practical terms that you might understand I’ve decided that finding happiness or relief in every given moment that I can must become my number one priority. I have to change the patterns of thought that have developed, and I have to change the chemistry of my brain so that neural pathways that once brought laughter and happiness are reactivated.

I cannot allow depression and suicidal thoughts to beat me down anymore. I have to fight back against them quickly and early on, which is something I’ve been struggling to do in recent months. I’ve simply allowed depression to run the show, and depression is a terrible fucking show director unless you are wanting to see a tragedy, and I really don’t want my life to become one. No, I can’t allow depression to take hold anymore. I can’t let it tell me what I’m worth (nothing), who loves me (no one) or what my future looks like (an empty void of sadness, heartbreak, and pain) anymore, because if I do then it’s only a matter of time before depression is right. I know that this isn’t going to be easy, and I know that there are going to be days I fail (yesterday was one), but I refuse to allow one day of failure define my ongoing battle with depression. No, the battle must be fought and it must be an organized effort, which is something I’ve failed to do (organize).

The first thing I must do is understand why this recent bought of depression came into my life to begin with. I thought for a long time that it was still tied to my divorce, which was tied to my decision to transition, and while that is true in part, that reasoning is mostly a farce put on by the depression. It didn’t want me to understand the true source of it. It didn’t want to be seen, because if it is seen then it can be dealt with directly. No, this round of depression has much more to do with the sexual assault than anything else. It had so much more to do with the PTSD symptoms I’ve been struggling with than any regrets over my marriage ending.

You see, the depression had a major trump card in this game of self-worth that it and I had been playing. It had the one thing that could overpower anything we tried to use as a coping mechanism. It didn’t matter how much therapy we had, how many friends we had, how well we did with school, how rewarding our work was, how well we did with sobriety, how much we drank when we did, or how close we were to our family (both blood and queer family) because none of that mattered in the shadow of the guilt we experienced over the sexual assault.

Our friends love us and care so much about us!
-You called her when you knew it was a bad idea and she hurt you without you even fighting back.
We are learning so much in school and at our job! Can’t wait to be a therapist!
-How can you help other people when you couldn’t even help yourself? You’re pathetic, no one would want you as their therapist.
We have so many good things in our life, and so much potential for growth and happiness.
-It happened when you were a kid, and again when you were an adult; it will happen again.
(looking in the mirror) We are so pretty these days, and our kindness and confidence will continue to attract people who love us.
-You are too soft. They have only ever wanted things from you and wanted to hurt you. They will take what they want and leave because they don’t care about you. No one can be trusted.

Those were the thoughts that kept me down when I wanted so badly to be up on my feet. It was easy to drown those thoughts out with distraction like socializing with people, going to work, going to school, studying, getting lost in a video game, or drinking, but they were always there in the quiet moments between all of that. They were there when we laid in bed trying to fall asleep. They were there as we drove from one place to another. They were there all the time, waiting for their opportunity to come out and torment me. I tried so hard to keep myself distracted, to find ANYTHING at all that would make the thoughts go away, to make the guilt go away, and when I inevitably failed there was that one permanent solution to the problem: suicide.

What I failed to understand, however, was that it wasn’t about finding distraction. It wasn’t about losing myself in something (aka dissociating) that made me forget the guilt. It was about learning to silence the guilt during those moments of quiet when the walls started crashing in on me. It was about finding peace within that storm of anger, sadness, guilt, and pain. It was about understanding that my desire to isolate and not reach out to people or talk to them unless I had to was just perpetuating my misery. It didn’t matter how much distraction I found or how many outside things I tried to dull the pain of my guilt about the assault, it would always be there, waiting for me. Realizing that at various points over the past few months only furthered depression’s grip over my life, but it didn’t have to.

I kept thinking I had to run from it. I kept thinking the only way to “get over” my trauma was to distance myself from it and try to find a normal life again, but I was wrong. I didn’t need to “get over” the trauma, I needed to accept it, to hold it in my arms, to hug it, to love it, and remind it that there is a future filled with potential, and the only way I could do that is if I stopped running from those quiet moments and stopped allowing them to overpower me.

Rather than letting the quiet moments sneak up on me, I needed to deliberately go into them through meditation. I had to put myself in the quiet moments and allow the thoughts to come up where they could be examined in the light of consciousness and not the dark of depression. Once I did that I could see them for what they were, a response to trauma and a defensive response at that. If you isolate, no one can hurt you. If you keep people at arm’s length then they can’t exploit any vulnerability. And in addition, if you aren’t aware you are doing it, you can’t feel guilty about your social failures.

 Instead of: I’m pushing all of my friends away and not reaching out like I used to, it becomes, they aren’t around because they know I’m broken, and it’s better that way because they’d just want something from me anyways.
Instead of: forcing myself into isolation is hurting me and causing me to lose all hope for a happy future, it becomes, It’s safer to just stay home, and I don’t have anything to offer anyone, anyways; I don’t matter.

So when I put myself in that place of quiet, knowing that I had to wrestle with the elusive creature of depression, what I really found was a mirror. I was the elusive creature of depression. I was the one doing this to myself, but I had to be careful not to become angry at that reflection. There was a reason I was doing it to myself and there was a reason I couldn’t see that for so long. I needed to do it in order to survive the trauma. I had to protect myself, just as I had to protect myself as a child when I was sexually violated again and again. I had to isolate. I had to push everyone away. I had to stop trusting in the goodness of people. I had to stop putting myself out there where I’d be at risk, and the fastest way to do that is convince myself I’m not worthy of being put out there at all. If no one cares about me, then no one can hurt me. If I don’t depend on anyone, then no one can let me down, betray my trust, or exploit my vulnerability.

Yes, I would have to take on the burden of isolation, guilt, and self-hatred, but the means justified the end if we could find healing from this terrible experience. Except, that healing never really came. It’s still there. Even as life gets better there is this gaping wound inside of my heart and soul that just refuses to close. The wound wants me to keep isolating, to keep pushing people away, to keep driving myself to the point of suicide, but I know that I can’t keep doing that. It hasn’t helped me heal, and in some ways has created other wounds that now need healing. What I must do to find that healing is learn how to regain my peace, regain my balance, regain my confidence, and regain my trust in others. That is what I must dedicate my time to now, but I can’t do it by looking outside anymore. No one and nothing is going to heal this wound for me, I have to do it on my own by remembering my true nature, our true nature. We did not come to this life to be overcome by the selfishness of others, but to shine brightly in the darkness so love and beauty can win the day.

This isn’t a tragedy you are reading about here. This isn’t the end and it’s certainly not the climax. We are deliberate creators who have the potential to realize all of our goals and dreams if we can remember our balance and true nature as eternal beings. This is not our first time in the physical world, and it is unlikely to be the last. If it is, however, it’s going to be a life worth remember, not one worth mourning the loss of. We are eternal and all this pain is an illusion.
"Parabola"

We barely remember who or what came before this precious moment
We are choosing to be here right now
Hold on, stay inside...

This holy reality, this holy experience
Choosing to be here in...
This body, this body holding me
Be my reminder here that I am not alone in...
This body, this body holding me, feeling eternal
All this pain is an illusion

Alive!

In this holy reality, in this holy experience
Choosing to be here in...
This body, this body holding me
Be my reminder here that I am not alone in...
This body, this body holding me, feeling eternal
All this pain is an illusion

Twirling round with this familiar parable
Spinning, weaving round each new experience
Recognize this as a holy gift and celebrate this chance to be alive and breathing
A chance to be alive and breathing

This body holding me reminds me of my own mortality
Embrace this moment, remember, we are eternal
All this pain is an illusion
-TOOL-


-Emmz


(This was taken two days ago at my grad school Christmas party with one of my very best friends. IDK what I'd do without her these days, she means the world to me)


Monday, December 12, 2016

12-12-2016 Entry: Hello Suicide, My Old Friend, I've Come to Talk with You Again

I don’t know if I’ve ever told anyone on this blog, but for me the desire to write has always come from a place of such incredible sadness that it cannot be put into words. It’s always the sadness that drives my creativity. I don’t know why that is. I know other writers can express themselves from a place of humor and happiness , but I’m just not like them. Sure, I’m sarcastic and playful, but at the heart of everything creative I’ve ever written is a deep and dark sorrow trying to express itself.

Well, right now, my darling readers that is all I seem to know: deep, dark, sorrow. I haven’t published an entry in two months because the last two months have been among the worst two months of my life. It feels tiresome to review all that has happened, not when I’ve already written that entry (I didn’t publish it for reasons that are hard to explain, but I will publish it when the time is right, I promise) but one highlight was that I spent a week in the psyche ward because of how suicidal I was. That week in the psyche ward came shortly after the entry I last publish about pre-transition relationships. It seems the approach of the anniversary of my marriage ending was too much to bear with grad school and overtime at work piled on top (there was more but you’ll have to wait for that unpublished entry for those details).

Now I just don’t know what to do with myself. I’m circling that suicide drain again and I really don’t want to go back to the hospital. Sometimes, during the day, when I’m around my friends I feel happy, like everything is okay, but by time I get home to my empty and cold house all of that seems to fade away into the silence around me and I’m left alone with my sorrow. I knew that when I decided to transition I was going to have to destroy my old life, but I had hoped to do that by replacing piece after piece gently with something better. Instead, I had the foundation ripped out from under me and I’ve been forced to watch everything that I once was collapse around me into a giant heap of rubble.

Eventually I find the strength to pick that rubble up and start building anew but the moment I start to think I might have things under control again there is a figurative earthquake that topples my efforts and I’m forced to decide if I want to start again. How many times can a person hit bottom before there are no more bottoms to hit? Does it require death? Is this just going to keep getting worse and worse as time goes on unless I put an end to it?

People always wonder why anyone would do something like commit suicide, and they often try to rationalize it away. Oh, they were just really sick, or they didn’t see their potential. Or maybe they take the less friendly route and suggest that they were too weak or foolish to ask for the help they needed… but what about those people who realize their potential, take every effort to cure their mental illness, and seek all the help they need? What about them? Why do they still commit suicide? Well I can tell you. It’s because they are tired. They are tired of being strong. They are tired of chasing a potential that doesn’t fulfill. They are tired of asking for help or trying ways to cure their mental illness. They are just tired of being alive.

That’s how I feel now. How I have been feeling for a few months now. I’m just tired of being alive. Tired of fighting the dreadful shit that keeps happening in my life. I’m tired of seeking help, of asking for help, of getting help. I’m tired of taking meds or self-medicating with drinking to combat my sorrow. I’m tired of the solitude, the panic attacks, the flashbacks, the memories of my marriage that keep scrapping through my mind until I don’t want to think anymore. I’m tired of being alone. I’m tired of being told that I won’t be alone forever or that things will eventually get better. I’m so tired, my darlings.

It kills me that I can finally look in the mirror and see a reflection I understand, a reflection I like, and a reflection I can be proud of, but also know that that reflection cost me nearly everything, and then some. I finally know who I am, what I am, why I am the way I am, but the journey to get to this place has taken nearly everything out of me. I feel like I’ve reached the summit of some enormous mountain that I vowed to climb and I get to look down at the world knowing I succeeded just as the life starts to slip from my body.

Is this the end? Is this where our story ends? Two years after it began and here I am, thinking about how death is the only thing that makes any sense. I don’t want to be alive anymore. I’m finally happy with who I am and I don’t want to live anymore?? What kind of fucking tragedy is that? Emma, transfem extraordinaire, finishes her transition, becomes the beautiful girl she always wanted to be, only to be so overcome with isolation, sorrow, and regret that she takes a bottle of sleeping pills to throw it all away?

Surely that can’t be how this all ends. Surely there has to be some relief to this gauntlet of life I’ve been fighting through, but what happens when I run out of the energy to fight before the relief comes? Will the gauntlet end then? Will I finally find some semblance of contentment in life again? Things weren’t perfect with my ex-wife but at least we had each other in our times of sorrow, and we even had happiness. I have so many memories of happiness with her, so many fond recollections of the silliest things that still bring a smile to my face, but all of that is in the past. I’ve found a way to forgive her. I’ve found a way to overcome my resentment. I’ve even found a way to be happy for her, but I cannot for the life of me find a way to stop these happy memories from haunting me. Every day I remember something from our life together, and they are happy things, but they make me cry and there is only isolation to comfort me. In those quiet moments of desperate sorrow all I can think is, “Was all of this even worth it?”

I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if it was worth it or not. If I had to decide today, if today was the day I died, then the answer would be no. I would have taken another year and a half of unfulfilled marriage and the burden of living as a man over this.

I know that’s not pretty. I know that’s not what people want to hear. They want to hear that transition is filled with joy and nothing ever goes awry, but that’s not the reality, at least not mine. My transition has been a dual experience of fulfilling joy at getting to be the person I want to be, and the crushing despair of having everything fall apart. It’s been the dual experience of smiling at myself in the mirror because I can finally see the real me, and having unbelievable difficulties with discrimination, dating, and employment.  It has been a dual experience of getting to be seen, accepted, and understood as the girl I knew I always was, and having to watch my marriage come unraveled as my wife (very reasonably) couldn’t stay with me because I was that girl. I’ve gotten to experience the wonder of being hired for a job where my identity was not only accepted, but celebrated; and I’ve experienced losing my job because an old white guy was a transphobe and didn’t want me around anymore because I made him uncomfortable.

I’ve gotten to experience the largest reading audience I have ever attracted by talking about my transition, and I’ve also had my writing ambitions as a fiction author collapse completely because of how much time and effort I spent on these entries. I’ve been featured on television for tens of thousands of people to hear a small part of my story, and I’ve also found out firsthand how invisible you can feel when people just assume you are a woman and have nothing to offer. I’ve gotten to experience how amazing it can be for a girl to be attracted to me because I was also a girl, and I’ve gotten to experience what it is like to be cat-called, sexually harassed, and even sexually assaulted because I was a girl (you know, because girls are objects for pleasure, not people who deserve respect and decency right?).

I’ve gotten to meet some amazingly wonderful people who have greatly enriched my life, and I’ve met some of the most despicable and disgustingly hateful people who would rather see me burn at the stake than use the women’s bathroom with them. I’ve been called a friend, a mentor, and a teacher, and I’ve also been called a fag, a child molester, a man in a dress, a freak, and a very sick person (not as in ill, but as in fundamentally flawed in a wrong kind of way).

So no, my darlings, I can’t say that my transition has been all roses, unicorns, and rainbows. There have been plenty of those, but they have been overshadowed almost immediately from some awful thing that the gods have decided I need to endure. Transitioning has been the hardest fucking thing I have ever done, and sometimes I wonder why I chose to do it. I often wonder if I could have lived my whole life as Robert, but the answer is only yes if I had gone through with suicide like I wanted to before the dream that started all of this. I know that I couldn’t have lived as Robert for much longer than I did, but the question I’m struggling with now is how much longer can I live as Emma before it becomes too much?

I feel like I’m nearing the end of my rope, like one more bad thing happening will be the gust of wind that sends me flying into the abyss. There is only so much disappointment a person can endure and there is only so much strength offered by a reflection that matches what’s on the inside. I might be a pretty girl (possibly only in my mind) but what use is being a pretty girl when it costs you almost everything, and your life becomes a thousand times harder, not to mention lonelier, as a result?

I don’t really know what I’m getting at with this entry other than to vent some of my sorrow so it’s not all bottled up inside me, choking the life out of me. I do feel somewhat better having written this. The desire to not exist has subsided some, so I guess there is that. I'm honestly not even sure how many of you are still reading my blog. absent as I've been. Maybe my words will just echo in the emptiness of the internet, who knows?

All I know is it’s about damn time for Emma, transfem extraordinaire, to catch an extraordinary break, one she won’t inevitably fuck up because she’s so depressed and lonely that she makes terrible life choices. Surely a year and a half of getting shit all over is more than enough for anyone to have to bear… right? Please???


-Emmz

(I used to post pictures of me at the end, so here is a recent one)