Taking Care, Caring, Self-Care

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.

All Sides Now

I never really talk about it online besides hinting at it because I don’t want to be discriminated against more than I already have been in my life, but because of Carrie Fisher and some brave folks out there, like Jenifer Lewis, and like the woman who started the #medicatedandmighty tag, I’m becoming more willing.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar I in May 2004, a few days before my 26th birthday. On my chart it said I had a psychotic episode with spiritual delusions. I basically thought everyone should love each other and love the earth and I should walk around spreading love and light. But I am a literal person and that’s what I did. I walked and walked and walked all around my neighborhood to the point of exhaustion. I couldn’t feed myself and I couldn’t sleep and I ended up in the hospital. I was taken to Del Amo Hospital (Torrance, CA) and I was placed in the Del Rey Unit. In my head or whatever I was told this wasn’t about me, this was for the people around me. To chill and don’t worry so much. I felt safe. I was in a hospital of Love and was aligned with the King (del rey). King of Love, which I interpreted as God at the time. So no problem, I was ok, and things were fine. Just a bit of a hiccup. I honestly felt it was a spiritual emergence that turned into an emergency and in a different culture I wouldn’t have been drugged and pushed back out into the world to carry on like my whole world hadn’t been shaken to the root.

When I got out of there I took my meds for about 6 months to get people off my back and to get back to work. Because I didn’t believe the diagnosis and I was off the meds, I ended up back in the hospital again in June 2005. And it was a really bad experience. I realized that I had actually been manic for at least 3 months. The doctors told me that people who have Bipolar disorder usually went on and off their meds and their lives were ruined and they hurt their friends and family members and did I want that for myself. I said no. I’ve been med compliant going on 13 years and it’s been a journey. I was on tons of medication when I left. At least 6 pills. I found a psychiatrist a year or so later to help take me off of them and it took about 3-4 years to do so. I’ve been on one mood-stabilizer since and it helps.

I was in the hospital one last time in December of 2011. After I had the fall out with my dad when his mom passed, I was completely suicidal because I had lost my mom (rejection) a couple years before, and now my dad. I checked myself in because I had no will to live and thought maybe they could help me. I thought I’d give it one last effort.

What got me out of there that time was, we had a group meeting where we had to find something worth living for. I couldn’t think of anything. One of the patient’s marriage had just ended. He and his husband had been together for over 9 years and he had been a house-husband so he had no skills to get a job, no family support, his husband had moved on quickly!, and his heart was broken. He was looking through People Magazine? and saw a picture of Chely Wright (the first out country music singer) and her wife on their wedding day and that made him feel hopeful that he could have that again someday. It was a reason for him to live. I thought he was so brave to say that to us, and share with us, when we were all a bunch of strangers, stuck in a psych ward.

I hadn’t “come out” in the hospital because I could pass as straight *shudders* and didn’t want any hassle. That made me feel a bit cowardly in comparison to him. I begin to think about why I was there. What brought me to this place at this time? I had been depressed because of the relationship with my parents or lack thereof and also all the news of people, kids, toddlers!, being murdered for being perceived as gay, being bullied, assaulted in all kinds of horrible ways, and killing themselves for simply being who they are. I started thinking about the past year and a half and all the kids who had been bullied/committed suicide, and how no one outside of the community really knew or cared. Or so I thought. It was such a lonely feeling. What could I do? What could I do about any of it.

I could live.

I decided if I could help make a world that made sure that no other kid took their life because of their sexuality or gender or parent’s rejection, society’s rejection, etc. that it would be enough. It is/was my reason to live.

Chely Wright being out and open and happily married changed the guy’s life and changed mine by extension, reinforcing what I already knew. Visibility matters, representation matters, and media shapes culture. We need to see ourselves and see ourselves happy and healthy, so we can know that it’s possible. That we aren’t evil, unnatural, bad, or any of those things that heterosexual people say, that kill us on the inside and make it so it seems okay to take our lives away from us in such brutal ways.

The confrontation I had with my dad last week and the horrible things that my parents said and did to me and my brother, caught up with me full force last night. I’m not suicidal at all but I am grieving, angry, distracted, moody, tired.

Dealing with a chronic mental illness is an everyday challenge and sometimes I feel completely drained and over trying. Because it’s never-ending. There’s always this incessant self-monitoring going on, and a bit of shame. Since ’45, the state of our country, the threats against (my)health care, the environment, law, shite with my family, it’s been really scary and overwhelming. And I’ve been super angry. I have never been physically violent against another person as an adult though. I purposely haven’t. That calmness that people perceive in me, that willingness to listen, to be patient, to be considerate, are choices I make. That stereotype of violence and the stigma that goes along with people knowing, really does my head in. I have attempted to end my life. I have hurt myself. I want to get away from that. It’s tough though because no matter where I go, I am there.

*********

I’ve been in school since Spring 2010 and it’s been a safe place because I’m good at it. I have 2 degrees, one in Social Behavioral Sciences, with an emphasis in Child Development, and one in American Sign Language Studies. I am a semester away from graduating with a BA in Film Production. What’s been cool about school 😉 is that I love learning. At the end of the term, there is something to show for what I’ve been doing with my time, professors like me, I get to be social with people, my family and friends are supportive, and maybe proud? of me, and it’s flexible. If I can’t make it to class because I’m having a bad day, it’s not going to shake the foundation of my life/livelihood, and working on campus has built-in benefits because I’ve been allowed to miss work because school comes first. Everyone around seems to want me (us students) to graduate and move on.

But I can’t do school right now. My concentration and heart aren’t in it. And I’m in this space of the unknown. It’s a bit scary. And the poverty ya’ll, the poverty that I’ve dealt with since the diagnosis (which stripped me of my ability to be financially independent with any consistency) is awful, embarrassing, and limiting.
BUT
what I can do right now is live my purpose and work to create media, live and express my truth, so that it may help people, our kids, our future, and our rainbow tribe, know that we can be in the world and live. That we are valuable and an essential part of creation and that some of us will work for this until our last breaths.

When people talk about the gay agenda I’m like, yes, I absolutely have one. This is it. And I’m not going to apologize or be less than I am because people are ignorant and lack compassion.

I’m out of steam for now. Thank you all who read this in its entirety 

I made big strides today 🙂

For anyone who needs help, reach out:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-8255

 

Lexa Lives: 11 Weeks Post 307

TV Related: 11 weeks ago today, Lexa (my favorite TV character of all time) was killed in a horrible way.
Less than 90s of screen time, after consummating her relationship with Clarke, this great warrior was killed by a stray bullet meant for Clarke, shot by her father figure, who disapproved of their relationship.
I had seen this almost exact thing 14 years before on BtVs when Tara was killed by a stray bullet.
We continue to see these stories play out on TV. The bigger problem is that we see and live these stories in real life. People killing people for not being straight. Parents killing their children for not being straight. Parents abusing their kids, rejecting their kids, kicking them out on the street.
We live in a world where kids kill themselves because they are not accepted and loved as they are. How can we call ourselves civilized when we live in a world where our children kill themselves? I was one of those queer kids. I will always speak and fight for us. I will always speak out and fight for our children.
The fallout from Lexa’s death has been so much more than I can convey. This fandom has accomplished so much in the past 11 weeks. I am so damn proud to be a part of this movement. 

Television is a powerful medium that changes culture. At least now all current major TV content creators are aware of the Dead Lesbian Trope and the Bury Your Gays Trope. This is a great start. Thank goodness for social media, which is an amazing tool to connect with others all over the world to create social change.

If you are inclined, please consider donating to The Trevor Project.
The Trevor Project serves more than 100,000 LGBTQ youth every year with their life-saving programs that include the Trevor Lifeline, TrevorChat, Ask Trevor and TrevorSpace.

Blake Brockington, We Speak Your Name

I cried when I saw the news that Blake had died. The first article I read on Tuesday didn’t offer much information. It just said that the community was mourning. I had to search around a bit to find out how he died. He took his own life.

Today I came across a Huffington piece about Blake and his life.  His death has hit me hard. I am mourning all that he was and would’ve been and also for all the other teens who have taken their lives, especially in the last couple months. It’s just so sad. Our kids are killing themselves and I have no idea what to do about it.

I was suicidal in my teens. I was in an incredible amount of emotional pain. And I have had similar feelings at certain periods in my adult life. Though as an adult, it has been more about weariness. Tired in my bones and in my soul.
One of my doctor’s called it depression.
I called it, apathy. Whatever the term, I didn’t want to be here on earth anymore. The thing that pulled me out of it that winter of 2011 was literally my love for lgbt people. Someone I knew was going through a breakup with his husband of 12 years. We were in the hospital together and we were in a group session and had to come up with one thing to look forward to in our life. There was a People magazine around and the guy going through the breakup, picked an article about country star Chely Wright getting married and said that it made him feel hopeful about his future, that he would find a man who he loved and loved him and one day be married. I started tearing up and just felt this overwhelming sense of love and gratitude for the beauty of us as lgbt folk. Like I know so many brave and loving souls and I want to see us in the movies, on stage, in music, in day to day to life, just everywhere loving and living our lives without fear of violence and discrimination. That love for us was enough to clear my head for me to meet with my doctor and try to live some more.

When I got out of the hospital, the “It Gets Better” campaign was flourishing and that helped to. I don’t know if you remember or know but in Fall of 2011 is when we lost like 5 or more? gay teens (middle school-first year in college) to suicide in the first two weeks of the Fall semester. It was devastating and still is. Every time I hear about a kid committing suicide it hurts.

This is all I want to say for now. Here’s a link from a blog post I wrote when I got out of the hospital 39 months ago. I am sharing it at this time because I feel that I need to. Maybe it’ll help someone.

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. LGBT youth can also reach out to The Trevor Project Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386.

And here are a few pictures of Blake. Rest in Peace young warrior.