Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Post of Various Topics

First of all, it wouldn't feel quite right to write a post today without acknowledging that it's Transgender Day of Visibility. I don't feel knowledgeable enough to write much more than that, but I did want to mention it.

And on another queer issue...

This is the last day in Bi Health Awareness Month, with this year's focus on mental health. I'd meant to write about that earlier, but...I guess it's a bit too close to home? I don't know why I haven't written about it, really. I haven't even read up on it as much as I've wanted to. But I did write about it a bit in the diary/sketchbook I started recently, and wanted to share:

"Rates of depression are high among queers, and for a while I dismissed that [in relation to me]. But now I wonder if denying that I'm bi for so long took a toll on me. I certainly know that encountering ignorant opinions of bisexuality can have hurt me enough to make me wish I were monosexual. It still hurts, even though at heart I'm happy to be bi.

"I like being bi because it means I was born into a community, it gives me a place I belong. But that's not all of it..."

Pages from the journal

I'm certainly not saying that I think I'm depressed because I'm bi, or that being in the closet for so long is solely responsible for putting me where I am now. But I suspect that attitudes towards bisexuals (one of which I once had..."it's not real!"), having been closeted to myself, and perhaps a natural inclination towards depression/anxiety on my part all play with each other in my head with unpleasant results. So I've been mulling it over, and thought that it worth sharing, particularly given the month.

This page in my journal is currently unfinished. I'll wind up drawing something pretty over what I've written, as I've done on many other pages. The whole journal is a work in progress, which much backtracking. I also didn't finish my thought on why I like being bi because I ran out of space, but really I'm not sure what else to say aside from that having a community is comforting, though I do know there's more to it than that. I might write more on that later in my journal, or I might not. Depends on whether I feel the need.

Oh yes, and the second page you see...there's simply the text "I want green growing things in my bedroom" with a hanging garden drawn in. It recently occurred to me that having greenery in my bedroom might make me happier. So I've been thinking about how to make that happen, what plants would thrive in my window and elsewhere...that turns out to be a cheerful project. :) Though it did keep me up the other night/day/whatever (my sleep schedule has been super messed up) when my brain wouldn't let go of the subject even when I desperately needed to sleep. Darn hyperfocusing brain. lol At least it was focusing on something pleasant this time.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sun

Lately I've been thinking about the sun and what it means to me as a symbol. This post might have been better timed a few days ago when Ostara (Pagan-speak for spring equinox) and a solar eclipse occurred on the same day, but that fact sort of occurred to me too late to make it happen.

In one word, what the sun means to me as a symbol: hope.

I've dedicated a couple of pages to this subject in a new journal/sketchbook that I started recently. I've written a few things on the page...

Giver of Life  
A future
Hope
Light
Renewal
Rebirth

"Even the darkest night will end
And the sun will rise!"
~Les Misérables

"Darkness must pass
A new day will come
And when the sun shines
It will shine out the clearer"
~J.R.R. Tolkien

The page in question...with suns, text, and spirals

The page is still under construction, possibly halfway to completion. There are a lot of pages where I start an idea, memory, question, or whatever...and spend some time sitting on it before I decide where to go. It turns out to be very therapeutic, and I find it particularly satisfying to write about something painful and then draw a nice sun over it. Since, you know, tomorrow will (hopefully) be a brighter day. Or, at least, I know the sun will rise again. (Until it eventually dies and in the process devours the earth...sorry, did I just get a bit morbid? Fortunately we don't have to worry about that any time in the near future.)

Oh yes, and as to the Tolkien quote...I made the mistake of trusting something online claiming that it's Tolkien, and I assumed it was a poem of his. It's actually from the movie The Two Towers, something Sam said...but I don't think that Tolkien actually wrote those words, simply based on using this nifty site to search for keywords in his books. So...yeah. Don't trust the internet. (I write on the internet.) Also, the Les Misérables quote was attributed to Victor Hugo, but at least I did do my research there and found that while it's from the musical/opera/whatever (which I freaking love) it doesn't seem to be something Hugo wrote himself.

But back to the subject of suns...or symbols...

Is there something in particular that means "hope" to you? What? And why, if there is a why?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Girl Scout Memories

For whatever reason, maybe it's to do with the Girl Scout cookies that have been in the house lately (the Thin Mints are really great with Nutella...just thought I'd mention that detail) I felt like dragging up my old Girl Scout uniforms, and in particular my vests. I wanted to revisit the badges I earned, but to my surprise it wound up being the patches on the back that I was more interested in.

I guess I should mention the difference between badges and patches. Badges are earned by doing certain things and ideally learning a new skill set (or in the case of Brownies, it's Try-its and all I had to do was try), whereas the patches on the back of the uniform were usually more to commemorate something that's been done...though they can also be to remember certain achievements.

(Things might be different now...? I don't know. I know things were changing in Girl Scouts when I left.)

Although I might take a closer look at the front of the vests later to try to remember what was what, I found it was the patches on back that held more memories for me.

My Mother is a Leader

My mom was my troop leader when I was a Brownie, Junior, and I think some of my time as a Cadette...I had a different leader by the time I became a Senior, but I don't remember exactly when that switch happened. Despite her long time as my leader this patch was only on my Brownie vest with the date 1995-1996, so maybe I just decided to leave room on my later vests for other things. Since, after all, everyone knew who my mom was. (Sorry, does that sound a little arrogant? I guess I was a bit proud that my mom was my leader, and that she had a leadership role in things getting done even outside of our troop.)

Flag Ceremony

I was pretty proud of myself as Brownie when I learned how to take part in raising and lowering the flag(s). It seems like this would have been a Try-it, but it was a patch. One of two flag ceremony patches on that vest, actually, I guess I was pretty proud of myself.

And since I'm talking about things I was proud of...I took some of pride in how well I could sew patches onto my uniform. These days I take those skills for granted, I guess because I've had them for so long, but at the time it was new to me and I was so happy that no one could even tell what color thread I used. And not everyone took such care with sewing their patches on.

Let's Read

I don't remember the story behind this one. But I guess I loved to read even when I was young. Well, I did get a taste for books as a toddler chewing on my mom's special edition copy of The Hobbit...

End of the Oregon Trail

There's a...I think museum...dedicated to the Oregon trail in Oregon City. As a GS event a bunch of troops got together and walked the last mile or so of the trail, learned about the trail in the museum place (I got to do needlework and make butter!), and then camped out on the lawn in front of the building.

My troop was the only one to do this while wearing period appropriate clothing. I'm sure I still have my pretty floral bonnet around somewhere.

Camp Arrowhead

Just, just...I don't know what to say. I freaking loved that place. In the Columbia River Gorge, huge fir trees...lost of trails...dangit now I want to go back there. That place was so important to me growing up. I think I actually feel almost homesick for it now, is that weird?

There was also Camp Mountaindale, where I'd go for day camp each year, it was a really important place for me too. I guess it had lots of lemon balm, because the smell of that plant always reminds me of Mountaindale.

Hiking

My troops tended to do a lot of camping when mom was my leader. It's no surprise that I picked up this hiking patch somewhere along the way.

Southern Vancouver Island Area, Girl Guides

I think it was the only trip I took where my mom wasn't my leader, I visited Victoria in Canada. We stayed in a building that belonged to local Girl Guides, and I guess we got this patch from them during our stay.

We visited the Butchart Gardens, rode a double decker bus, visited a local government building, and while at a museum I discovered that there'd been a town named Sarita. That was just some of the fun we had. There were also two local Girl Guides who seemed to be doppelgangers (personality wise, that is) of a pair of best friends in our troop. That slightly weirded the four of them out, and greatly amused the rest of us.

Pins

Three pins on the front of my vest. As I recall the top and bottom pins stayed with me all the way from Brownie to Senior, and although they were important I can't remember for certain what they meant. (And I don't want to make guesses since I don't want someone to stumble across this post and then give others bad info about Girl Scouts that they picked up from me.) The pin in the middle, though, saying PA, refers to the fact that I'd become a Program Aid, meaning that I was an older GS helping with the younger ones and learning leadership skills in the process. I took some pride in that one.

There were also patches to celebrate things like selling a certain number of cookies, but even though those were great achievements it's more patches like those above that I pause over when I look at my vests.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Birthday

I've been kind of torn on how to write about my birthday. I'd prefer to act like my life is great, but it really isn't. And I'm finally admitting to myself that I'm not improving with the anxiety and depression exactly as much as I'd been pretending that I was, even though I am learning healthier ways to think, as I've written about before.

So...mixed feelings. At the same time, birthday was great.

I was able to spend the day with Murray, and as my present he took me to a gun range where I got to shoot (well, with a gun that shoots a laser) in a simulator. My first shooting lesson was in the woods shooting at targets we'd brought, and as a second lesson this was pretty good. Apparently I'm a decent shot, too.

After that was delicious food, movies, and we may or may not have fallen asleep together on the futon in my parents' living room.

Dragon!
There was also pecan pie in place of cake, my family singing me happy birthday, and I got an awesome dragon wrapped around a sword from my parents. It's something to hang on the wall, though I haven't gotten around to putting it up. And although it didn't arrive in time for my birthday, Tall One ordered a Jayne's hat for me that I'm looking forward to wearing. I've been wanting one ever since I watched a particular episode in a certain TV show a few months back.

(If you don't know what a Jayne's hat is, watch Firefly.)

Then I finished up the day by staying up way too late with my Game of Thrones book that I can't believe I haven't read before now.

It's good that, even though I still don't know what to do about the anxiety/depression often, I can still have fun days.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Care Package

I recently came across the idea of The Coping Toolbox (though I'm more inclined to call it my Care Package), which is basically a collection of things that should help someone feel better when they're "feeling anxious, panicky, or distressed"...to quote the place where I found the idea. Even though I'm feeling better overall, I figured this might be something good to put together for myself.

Care Package

Last night I put together a list of things that would go in my care package, and after putting it together I wanted to share what I came up with.

Love note to myself (thinking about writing one feels weird but may be therapeutic)
Love poem from Murray (I remember he wrote one I liked a while back...need to find it...)
Chocolate
Cat toy (I used the one that I used to keep on my altar...what, doesn't everyone keep cat toys on their altar?)
List of exercises (since exercise can help depression/anxiety)
Favorite QC comics (like this one)
Small notepad
Pen
Coloring pencils
Bubbles
Sun charm (not sure if I have one...)
Essential oil(s) (peppermint!)
Small black cat eraser (because black cats are awesome and I happened to find it when looking around)
Nicely scented massage thingy that Murray gave me a while back
The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

...though, I may wind up moving that book out of my "box" and back onto my night stand. That'll give me easier access to it.

I feel a little strange making a care package for myself, but I know that having something like this may have helped me in the past. That being the case, I figure that I may as well make it now. And since I still have ups and downs, it could be useful. Though I'm not sure how long the chocolate will last.

Not everything that's on the above list is in my care package, and not everything that found its way into the package was on my original list. I guess you could call it a work in progress. Who knows, I may eventually move it into an actual box instead of using the Victoria's Secret bag that happened to be handily available.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Knowing Myself

For a while I thought myself comfortable with the fact that I'm bi. Anyways, that's what I told myself, and at heart I think that I really am. I even like it (when I haven't been reading biphobic comments online). Also good is that I've learned so much about people and even myself since realizing I'm part of the queer world, and I'm often happy to be part of this community.

But...yes, there was a "but" coming.

It took me until I was twenty-two, almost twenty-three, to finally really admit to myself that I'm bi. (That was only a few years ago, I'm turning twenty-six this month.) I'm sure a large part of what took me so long to go from insisting "I'm straight, duh, never mind that I feel the same around this hot girl as I do with a cute guy" to "OMG I like someone but SHE'S A GIRL!" then "I'm mostly straight..." and finally "I guess I'm bi" may be because it completely upset my understanding of myself. After all, if there's one person in the world I should know, that ought to be me. Right? And to have not known something as basic as my sexual orientation...that really shook me up.

What I'm realizing now is that, since I now know how little I knew myself so recently, I don't know how well I really understand myself now. And that's unsettling. I mean, I think I know myself pretty well...but do I? Really?

This could be why I have a fascination with bisexuality. And, yes, I guess I really am fascinated by it, and with how anyone in the queer world comes out to themselves. Not only am I looking at a world that I should have been part of during my teens, but my sexual orientation is a constant reminder that I don't know how well I really know myself. And like a physical injury, that uncertainty is something I keep poking to see if it's gone away yet. And what's the only way I know to poke at it? By thinking about how long it took me to figure out my sexual orientation, and that I'm part of the bi world.

*poke poke*

(I wrote the *poking* just for fun, but am leaving it because it's funny. Or maybe that's just me. I may have a weird sense of humor.)

...I find myself unsure how to wrap this up. I guess I'm still figuring myself out, and looking at my relationship with my sexual orientation is the best way to see how it can take me a while to come to terms with who I am...even when who I am turns out to be pretty awesome.

Hopefully my next few posts will be less introspection and more talking about fun stuff going on around me. I guess that'll depend on my state of mind and what's going on, but I'll try. This blog is beginning to feel too angsty.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Reflections and Discoveries

This post will be me sharing some of my progress and reflections by sharing snippets from my diary (with editing) in the past few months. I'm saying that now so that you can skip this post if you'd rather stick to my more cheerful and amusing posts.

Yes it's pretty personal subject, but there are aspects I can talk about. And since I've been in the habit of keeping things to myself, if there are areas that I am comfortable writing about I figure I may as well do that. And I don't think that I can describe some of my reflections better than I have at times in my diaries, plus reading them is the easiest way to take a look at my progress.

December 11th, 2014 Thursday 1:12am

I've realized that, in a way, I don't remember just how bad my anxiety was last summer. I know how bad it was, but...I guess in a way it isn't real, or I almost want to say that it's like it happened to someone else. Even though I'm still recovering. Even though I remember a few of the panic attacks, I know that for a while I always had adrenaline going for some hours after waking up. I know I had to force myself to take Celexa. I know I spent much of the time terrified and telling myself to calm down. Heck, I even avoided caffeine, since the last thing I needed was a stimulant. I know I was so scared to be alone for a while, that I turned to Facebook and the internet to avoid being totally alone. (I think I still use them for that, and it may be why I have trouble going to bed now.) I know I clung to Murray like I didn't want to let go, even though I was just going from the kitchen to the bathroom. And I didn't want to let go, even though we'd still be in the same apartment.

I know, and remember the events, but don't remember the emotions well, though I know what they were if I think about it. Probably a good thing, though. I can't actually remember how often I had the panic attacks, though.

(Note that the next entry contains a spoiler for character development in the TV show Babylon 5. Just thought I'd mention it.)

December 25th, 2014 Thursday 4:37am
Christmas

It's amazing how one can find oneself in stories.

An example is in Babylon 5. Doctor Franklin defines himself by what he isn't, and he can easily list the things he's not. But he can't say what he is, and has to put a lot of effort into running from that.

I can easily say what I'm not, but I can't say what I am. In terms of my good qualities.

Franklin uses stims to hide. What do I use?

Then there is The Left Hand of Darkness

"To oppose something is to maintain it. ... You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road." 

If I want to be a different sort of person, a person who doesn't judge herself harshly and doesn't often feel like a failure, I need a different goal. But what?

What I used to hide: I hid from my emotions by thinking too much about them.

How I can walk a different road: allow myself to feel. Yes I keep going on about this, but I still find it a pretty amazing discovery.

Sun

I may get into the habit of sharing sunny photos simply because I like them.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Feeling and Talking

I've already written a bit about it being pointed out to me that my defense mechanism is intellectualizing. Basically, I try to think my way out of emotions, which isn't a good way to handle things. It's not the worst way to deal with problems, but it certainly isn't the best either. I decided that the best way to handle this is to not read up on intellectualizing so that I could think about how to handle it (that this was my first instinct probably proves that it's a real problem), but to just let myself feel.

And...it's taken me to some surprising and unexpected places.

For one thing, I understand my emotions better now. Before I tried just letting myself feel, I would have found this to be really counter intuitive. It still feels strange, but good. Also, now that I actually acknowledge my emotions, I can respond to them, or handle them, better.

The next step, I think, is to not judge myself for my emotions. No, I'm not a bad person for feeling depressed or having anxiety, and I need to get out of the habit of just telling myself to shrug it off when something hurts me. If I feel like crying, I should let myself cry rather than saying "Oh come on it's just PMS now knock it off." And if an emotion feels uncomfortable, the solution isn't to think it away, that doesn't work. The best response is just to accept the emotion.

So...yeah. Me and my emotions. Shouldn't they be simpler than this?

Another thing I've been working on is learning to communicate. I'm not sure if being more open is due in part to me understanding my emotions somewhat better, or to my therapist pointing out that my speech disorder could have left some trauma.

Short version of the speech disorder story: it was virtually impossible to understand me when I was little, I couldn't even say my own name correctly in my early teens because of that pesky "r" in it, and it's only in the past few years that people stopped thinking that I'm from some other country when I open my mouth. Imagine if people in your hometown often ask if you're from another continent.

I'm starting to open up about things I've kept to myself, and...it's amazing. It's not always easy, I'm running up against the fact that it frequently doesn't even occur to me to share thing, say things, or ask things...even when they're on my mind. But I'm making progress there, and it feels good. Perhaps the best part of that is feeling closer to my boyfriend, now that I'm finally sharing things that I've kept to myself during the past...roughly three and a half years of our relationship. Like, you know, the anxiety disorder that I kept to myself for almost three years.

So, yeah. I'm finally getting on talking terms with my emotions, and I'm beginning to learn how to talk. Which feels good, even though I'm still struggling with anxiety and depression.

Painted sun

I decided to edit this post to add a sun since it reminds me that there's always a new day with a new start. And, it's just something happy.