TW: Suicide mentions; Rape
This is long. Sort of stream of conscious. Could be better structured but not capable at this time. 1st off I’m ok.
I know a lot of people who turned 40 this year or who will.
A few amongst us have said the same thing. We can’t believe we made it. Glad you’re here. I love you. Keep going. It’s hard. People don’t get it. Proud of you. Hang in there. We are all medicated and aware of our mental health.
Some have said, I’m here for you if you need to talk. I am not in a space to reciprocate that offer at this time.
Sometimes it’s like basic survival. I’ve been in that mode for a long time. Head barely above water. But I’m used to it. I know that may sound sad. I’m used to it. Even when I’m most tired, I still paddle and stay afloat. We all float down here.
I realize that to have a standard of living based on survival, which to me has meant breathing, is a low bar. It seemed normal. I always just think it’s temporary. Things change all the time. If/when I can’t change my circumstances, at least I can change my mind. But after talking with friends who are family today, I realize that there’s some sort of cognitive distortion taking place. Like I’m not thinking as clearly as I thought. I’m not in a mental crisis. I’m not suicidal. I feel pretty motivated as far as film stuff goes. But I haven’t had a regular (W2) job in years. My last paid gig was in April. I ran out of my personal money last October. I’ve borrowed from 5 people since then and that got me to April. I’ve slowly over the past 6 months gotten rid of all my bills except my phone bill. My phone was cut off last Wed. I’ve never had my phone cut off ever in my life. And like I said earlier, I just turned 40.
Last week my producing partner and I attended a 2-day workshop at YouTube Space LA to learn about industry stuff. Learn how to pitch our web series, talk with Producers, work with a low budget, amongst other things. We met people who have shows on the air currently, got a lot of advice, met other queer content creators. I applied for this workshop in April. It was a big deal to be accepted. I didn’t have money to get there so 2 of my friends, Dora and Victoria, gave me $25 to take the trains/subway to get to LA. At the workshop, we were fed 5 full meals with snacks in between, free drinks at the coffee bar, and we ended the 2nd day with a nice food spread and an open bar. Nice. We made good contacts, and potentially many new friends 🙂 Best of all we feel like we have more of a good support system in LA for our future shoots.
I stayed with Amanda, my producing partner for 4 days. I got back to San Diego late last night via a ride home from a friend who was at LA Pride. Lucky me. I’m staying with my friends, Dora and Victoria, who I have been with on and off with for 10 months now.
I start freelance computer work tomorrow with one of their family members. I have less than $2 right now in change, but I’ve had less. Like plenty of times in my life. I have a roof over my head. Not in danger of being on the street. I can go up north to Citrus Heights, to a house I lived in with my Aunt for very little rent. She travels a lot, has her own life, and is not home much. But it’s lonely there. My cousin, who is one of my best friends, used to live 5 minutes away but he’s doing a worldwide travel trip and won’t be back for at least another year.
Tonight my friends set me down for a talk. It was really emotional. They worry about me. I didn’t know how much until tonight. Because in my head, I’ve been fine. Especially this trip. After being sick on my birthday and for about a week after, I felt clearer about things, I thought. I’ve been gearing up for the next phase of my life. Find work, find a place of my own. That’s been the idea but it’s been an idea.
I let my Cal Fresh lapse. I didn’t renew it so yeh, now no food or means to buy food. I do have a little food here. I don’t eat much. My friends won’t let me starve. I go to the county office tomorrow. Hopefully will have food stamps by the end of the week. If you make less than $2,010 a month you are eligible. As a single person, monthly benefits, average out to $6 a day. It’s enough. Not much. But enough.
The thing is my friends are worried about me and I didn’t know I was causing them stress. I didn’t know the extent of it because I’ve been fine and inside motivated to change my life for the better. But of course they are stressed out, because they love me and I’m here. They see me struggling and want to help but at this point, they feel like they are not really helping, that they are enabling me. [Perhaps] I’m not trying as hard as I can because they are a safe place to land. I don’t have family to go to. Like I said, I have a room to stay at up north at my Aunt’s but honestly I know I can’t be/live alone. I can’t. I know my mental health would rapidly decline. My head is above water now but that’s because I’m here and they don’t judge me and they understand what I’m going through. But this is too much for them. And I understand that. They have to take care of themselves.
Last week two high profile people committed to suicide, Kate Spade and later in the week, Anthony Bourdain. Closer to home, Friday, June 1st, someone Victoria and Dora know personally, in the wee hours of the morning, drove on the freeway, walked herself into oncoming traffic in front of a big rig truck, and was killed. We don’t think it was a suicide but I do think it was a psychotic break that led to her death. As you can imagine her friends and family are reeling. She seemed well. Great mom, loving family, new boyfriend. My friends are understandably afraid for me.
They asked to speak with me tonight. We set down and talked for over an hour. Things have to change if I stay here. I have to reapply for Cal Fresh so I can have food. I have to find a therapist and be under psychiatric care. I haven’t had a regular therapist or psychiatrist in almost 3 years. But I always find a way to get my psyc medication. I’ve been med compliant since 2005 (13 years) after 1st being diagnosed and not believing the diagnosis of Bipolar 1 in 2004. What led to my being med compliant is that in 2005 I had a manic episode and a lot of stuff happened. At one point I saw a nice car with keys in the ignition and I was stepping into it to take it for a ride when I guy called out, Hey! I stepped out, said I’m sorry. I thought it was a gift. I saw a friend shortly after, he noticed I was off (I had been off my meds for 7 months) and he and 2 other friends took me to the hospital. I was transferred to another hospital (Alvarado) and I was raped by another patient. I told the nurses on staff. I was given things to take a shower. I didn’t report it to the police. I didn’t tell people til months after because who would believe me? I was in a locked psychiatric ward diagnosed with Bipolar 1, a psychotic break with spiritual delusions. My doctor told me that people like me would be in and out of hospitals on all kinds of medication, but each time would have to start on new ones. I’d ruin my life and the lives of those around me, and I had a choice. So I took all the meds they gave me. And after about 3 years of being a good little zombie I found a psychiatrist that slowly helped me reduce my dosages and meds. That took about 4 more years. But yeh, since 2005 I’ve taken my meds because I didn’t want to be stuck in a hospital where I could be raped and nothing could be done. I was going through a hard time 6 years later and made the decision to check myself in as one last attempt not to end my life. It was hard and yes it was brave but I was fighting for my life. I wanted to try. I’m still here.
Tonight, Dora and Victoria, brought up the good point that there is more to self-care than taking my mood stabilizer. I mess around with my BP (blood pressure) meds all the time. I’m currently out again. I missed a doctor’s appointment when I was in LA and couldn’t get back here. They pointed out that I could have a heart attack. I could die. I didn’t think of it like that. Mostly it’s enough that I make it through each day. That I am breathing. That I’m alive. But again, low bar. So I have to do better. I have to make plans to work and decide an end date to being here. It has been decided that I have to check in every day. Dora will help me with planning.
One of their concerns has been that I have no set plans for my future. I live day to day or week to week, month to month. Another reason school was good because after 4 months I was on to something else and I had something to show for the time I spent and I was good at it and people in my life were proud of me. In our society, attending college/university is respected.
Now, I shuffle back and forth from LA to San Diego but I’ve mostly been in LA. I currently can’t be there because I know it’s not healthy for me.
To some reading this, maybe you’re thinking, why don’t you get a job? Dora and Victoria made the very good point that they’d do anything they could, take whatever job, to make sure they could eat and have a roof over their head. If I could do the film stuff, why can’t I get a job? It’s a good question! And the only answer I have is because at this time, the film stuff is my lifeline. I’ve had many jobs. I’ve been good for awhile, then miserable.
I’ve wanted to direct since I was 16! and I never went for it fully. Because I was scared. Because I was told that I needed to make money and have a job with good pay with insurance, (even though most all of my medical stuff falls under pre-existing condition). It was drilled into my head to take care of myself, not be a burden, be a responsible adult, contribute to society. Is it irony that I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to support myself/sustain a living if I went in to film, when doing everything else that others said/suggested for me, has for me led to months, adding up to years, of poverty, homelessness, illness anyways?
The morning I turned 16 I rode my bike to the movie theater closest to my house. The beginning of my movie career 🙂 My senior year in high school, I worked at 2 movie theaters, went to school, wrote and directed 2 one-act plays, and was production manager on 2 other school productions. I came out that year. I had my first reciprocal relationship, with a dreamy girl who I truly loved and yet.. 3 weeks before my 17th birthday, which was maybe 5 weeks from graduation, I had my first suicide attempt. I didn’t leave a note.
Some of you reading this know I had a shit time with my mother growing up. I was close to being “free” but couldn’t live in that situation anymore. No one in my life knew I was struggling so bad as to actually attempt to end my life. She threatened me enough throughout my life that I felt like it was her or me. [Funny? side note: The only reason I didn’t kill my mom was that I didn’t want my teachers to know. I didn’t want them to be disappointed in me] My friend, J, who is still my friend today and always will be, found out about my suicide attempt soon after because she had a dream and told me about it. I had to tell her what I did.
So yeh, I can see why my friends are worried. I feel fine right now. I’m tired but I feel okay. Like seriously not at all suicidal. I met cool people a few days ago that will help us with Forward and a few other projects we want to do this year. My Producer and I had a meeting yesterday and we want to film for 2 days in August and wrap this project up. That’s a motivation. A thing to live for. Besides that project, there are others, my art is going well, blah blah. I want to point out that when I schedule my shoots, I schedule 8-10hrs because I can’t sustain 12,14,16 hour days and be healthy. And when you work in the entertainment industry 12, 14, 16 hr days are standard so that’s also why I’m not hustling to work in production long-term other than short projects. I have an issue with mania (Bipolar 1). I’ll just keep going and going and going and I won’t stop and I won’t sleep because who needs sleep?! I don’t like sleep. And this mentality leads to distorted thinking and coud lead to a psychotic break with reality and hospitalizations. And I know I don’t have it in me to recover and rebuild again. I’ve done it 3 times and that’s it for me. So I’m as careful as I can be because I know I can not do it again.
My last hospitalization was in December 2011. I was renting a room at Victoria’s other house and called a friend to meet me and take me to the hospital. Victoria and Dora had no idea I was in trouble. I had a job, I was a straight-A student, had a nice room in a nice house, had a therapist, wrote a book that semester (that I still haven’t published). My teachers loved me, my friends loved me, I did yoga every day, meditated, took care of the front and backyard etc. My therapist told me I got more done before 11am than most people got done all day. But I was miserable inside. I got all these things done but I felt like I was walking though quicksand. Now I know that’s called high functioning depression. When I checked myself into the hospital it was a big deal. I refused the depression diagnosis because I wasn’t suicidal, I just didn’t care if I was alive or about anything I was doing. I felt I had no real desire to live. I could do it, but it didn’t matter. Now I know the word for that: apathy.
So yeh I can see why my friends are worried. Why there were tears tonight. And we were talking about the recent suicides a bit. In no way am I surprised by any suicide. Celebrity or otherwise because I know how it is. I don’t have to imagine. It only really messes me up when I think about kids killing themselves or attempting to or wanting to, because I think about what a shitty society we live in that our future, our babies, our young, would rather die than live and create with us. But I know mental illness is real. This is what happens sometimes.
I know people judge people like me, as weak or selfish or lazy, or whatever else people think, and I feel bad about that sometimes, but over the past 8 or 9 months, I mostly don’t give a fuck about the judgments people have because they just don’t get it. They just can’t understand. If it’s really bad I do know to reach out, call an access line, call a friend. I have plenty of people who have offered to listen. And I’ve been the one staying up with friends many nights who are in that state of despair. I know I am loved. I’m grateful. I know that there are resources to access. Ultimately, it’s up to me.
I monitor myself. I know, or think I do, what I can do. But what about a practical means to support myself? Why this resistance, which is really fear, of being stuck and unhappy, and spending more time working to pay for a box to live in, that I spend so little time in anyways? This type of thinking is maybe what Dora means by cognitive distortion. So yeh, a therapist is on the table. I need professional help and so that’s the plan for this week. Seek out mental health services. Even though the waiting lists are ridiculously long. And try not to think about the 2019 budget slashes for mental health services, that some of my family members voted for. Fuck every Trump voter. Because we’re all fucked now.
I was a responsible young adult who worked 12 hr days 4-5 days a week for almost 9 years. Those were my 20s. I started medical transition 9 years ago and decided to go to school so I could feel safe and supported while I made a new life. Those were my 30s. I worked while in school. I was homeless on and off for 2 years during that time but I worked hard and pushed through it. I was proud/am proud of that. I don’t have it in me at this time to go back to school. Last Spring I had to stop going even though it was what I wanted to do (seemingly). My family was proud, most of my peers were cool, my Professors were great, but I was crying every single day, couldn’t concentrate, wasn’t sleeping. It took me 2 or 3 hours to get out of the house, and still be late to classes. To be on campus and still be late to classes. I saw a counselor, and went to the gym, and rode my bike pretty much every day, and had a stable living situation, and just everything I needed really, but I was still crying every day.
I felt an urgency to get out into the world and make movies. Movies with LGBTQ protagonists because we need to see our authentic lives and stories on screen. We need to see us living, not dying all the time, being murdered, being attacked. That happens enough in real life but it’s not who we are. And those who are not LGBTQ need to see these stories too. I’m made for this. I know it.
My thought process has been: well, you’ve done all these other things, for approval, trying to live and maintain a respectable life, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve never given that attention and dedication to your dream. You’ve played it safe. You need to go for it and do it no matter what. No matter what! And then I met Rachel (writer) and Amanda (producer/actor). Truly awesome people who are now and 2 of my best friends, and it was a green light go.
What happened with Forward this Spring happens to all filmmakers. Every single one of us has had technical issues, crew issues, weather issues etc. crop up. Ours is not a unique situation. I know we will continue and complete this project and move on. Currently, none of us have personal money. Rachel lives at home, Amanda works and still barely covers her bills every month. I have friends/family who help. They have family who helps. Again, our situations aren’t unique. The thing is, I know in order to do what I want to do career-wise, I need to take care of the basics, food and shelter, and that is where I am at now.
I wrote this out to get it out. I wrote this out because after talking with Victoria and Dora tonight I know I have no idea how to plan for things. I’ve been surviving but certainly not thriving and I care but obviously not enough to have prevented this state of poverty.
Mental health wise my last therapist advised 20-25 hrs a week at max. While in school 15-20. School gave me a flexible schedule. Filmmaking gives me a flexible schedule because I schedule myself. It’s not paying. One day it will. I have zero doubt. Until then, I need to figure out why I haven’t cared enough? about myself to take care of myself. And change.
I feel very tired. I guess I’ll have to admit that I am semi-functionally depressed. It was good that they spoke with me tonight because it’s made me realize what’s been going on in my head, though I’m not in crisis, is not normal or healthy.
Thanks for reading.