Recovery is a fickle bitch.

Monday January 30, 2017 3:06 pm

Recovery, much like life is a fickle, fickle bitch. I find myself on a constant rollercoaster these days. I swing from having good days, where I feel healthy and normal. I spent my days writing, watching TV, reading and playing piano. I sit in my room and feel guilty for not working, for not being in school perusing my career at a school I love so much. I think of myself as being lazy and a bit unmotivated. I question whether my dad thinks I am being lazy for not working, that I am on vacation time, where nothing matters and the days fly by. Then I am stampeded by the bad days. The days where I sleep for 17 hours and can’t get out of bed. I leave my bed to use the bathroom, shower and eat a single meal. Besides those actions my sleeping mask shuts out the light that turns to darkness as I lay motionless in my bed. It’s the days that I feel like a slate wiped clean, and utterly empty that I am reminded that I am sick. It’s the nights when I drink alone in the darkness, and take a razor to my skin that I realize how sick I am. When I toss and wake to the morning to remember the night before because of the bandage I placed on my arm hours before is when reality comes crashing down, I am ill.

I am in week 2 of therapy with a new caring therapist. She is beautiful, nurturing and competent. I see her on Tuesdays at 12 and Wednesdays at 2. I see my psychiatrist on Fridays at 1. I am getting a lot of help, but we are beginning even at this early stage to wonder if it is enough for me. There is talk of beginning a day program 5 days a week to help me get the coping mechanisms I need to function in the world. The nights are just so hard for me. When the darkness settles, a switch turns in my brain to self destruct mode. I feel lonely and barren of connection and emotion and coping skills. I have been sober for 2 days and haven’t cut in 3. These may seem small but especially the drinking is a very big deal, especially considering I have a full bottle in the fridge. I am trying to get better. I was triggered by some unseen childhood trauma that I am not ready to face as my brain has blocked the memories the other night and called helpline after helpline to avoid cutting myself. I finally reached someone who listened to me and was empathetic, I felt heard and understood. They applauded me for reaching out and trying so hard to get help when I was struggling so much. I ended up cutting anyway, but I am trying. I am clawing my way out of this hellish hole that is all consuming.

I know I made the right decision by not being in school, I am a delicate flower as I call myself, and I wouldn’t be able to handle that stress. So I suppose I will just have to hang tight and cling to dear life and try to stay afloat, but most importantly, alive.

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I don’t fit in a box, I’m not a fucking pizza!

January 24,2017 9:11pm

It’s been 2 years since I came out as trans. 565 days on testosterone. The oily liquid that I pump into my thigh via a long needle once every Thursday has changed my features, lowered my voice, made me hairy, horny and happy. It’s funny that as of yesterday, the actual anniversary I seem to have come full circle to where I am in discovering my gender identity.

When I first came out this time 2 years ago I was a lost 24 year girl, who was awakened to the reality that I was trans. I lived my life happily as female, enjoying makeup, looking pretty, getting ready and dressing up. Sure, my idea of dressing up was an adidas track jacket and spandex skirt paired with adidas sambas or converse, but I still liked it to a degree. When I first came out, I knew I was trans but not in what sense, I didn’t know if I was gender fluid or ftm ( female to male.) It took 7 months of intensive therapy to uncover that I no longer connected with my birth name, my female pronouns didn’t suit me, and over a year to realize I didn’t want boobs anymore. I thought in the beginning that I was gender fluid, meaning some days I felt feminine and some other days I felt masculine. But the overall feeling of my identity was mostly male. As time has gone on I have begun to occasionally, and now seriously, question if the label of FTM that I adapted fits me anymore.

When I first started this blog my first entires were about how I hated my name and how I wasn’t sure who I was. Now that I am on testosterone  for a year and 6 months and had surgery I have a clear sense of who I am, but that doesn’t mean that some days haven’t been hazy. The haze seems to have settled back in the forefront of my vision. I now wonder if I am truly just gender fluid and mainly on the trasmasculine spectrum. The problem is I still like feel feminine and “like a girl” sometimes. In the middle of my gender journey ( which is ongoing) I felt eventually identified as  100% male but the problem then, and the problem now still is I am not seen as who I am. I am misgenreded every day, never being seen by the public as the man that I have so identified myself to be. See, even when I type that “the man” doesn’t feel quite right.

I know I am not a girl, that ship has sailed. Somedays I love my masculine face and the clothes I wear, I feel confident and at home. But other days, I love wearing leggings and a comfy sweatshirt and a snapback. I like the way my eyes look when I wear black eyeliner, something I have only done maybe 5 times in the past 2 years. I miss wearing makeup, a lot. I miss wearing foundation and blush and eyeshadow. I was good at makeup and it was fun to paint my face and give off different vibes based on how I felt that day.

I think what I need to figure out is how far I am willing to go to express myself through my gender presentation and expression. I have a nose ring, both ears pierced, a high voice and freshly dyed pink hair. I always wanted to have pink streaks in my hair. From the time I was in a 6th grade art class I said “ I’m going to move to New York and be an actress and have pink streaks in my hair!” I’ve experimented with red and blue streaks, but I’ve never dyed my whole head. But last night at 1:30am I decided after a week or so of debating, to just do it. So I went out in the rain, took the train and bought a pink splat hair color kit. Now that I got my hair cut in addition to my hair being pink and my bangs blue, I resemble an egg, because I am basically bald, with magenta hair. I was always afraid to dye my whole head a certain color because I didn’t want to look like a freak. And since coming out as trans I didn’t want to dye my hair or do streaks because I didn’t want to be perceived as “gay.” Apparently, I have no fucks to give because my hair basically glows in the dark.

2 years later and I am circling around creating myself and becoming who I want to be again. Do I want to say I solely identify as male? Or do I want to allow myself to be and say I am gender fluid and express my feminine and male sides when they come out without judgment on either end? I guess the good thing that plays in my favor is this: I am still perceived as female by the public that does not know me. So  say, I wanted to wear a full face of makeup I would just be perceived as a very androgynous alt girl. The people who know and love me might be confused AF as to what’s going on. I don’t want people thinking I “changed my mind and am going back.” I still identify as male but I think it’s time to move forward and embrace my femininity and stop trying to fight it. Dying my hair pink I think is a good step on my journey to becoming me. I hope that someday I will have the confidence to wear makeup and a dress again. I don’t want society to tell me who I have to be. I don’t like that because I said I identified as male, there was another set of rules I had to embrace and now the things I did before are now off limits. Thats not fair, I don’t fit in a box, I’m not a fucking pizza! I’m a person, who has multiples facets to them. If it weren’t for society telling everyone who they can and need to be I wouldn’t even be writing this because I would wear my dresses and eyeliner and nobody would care.

So I guess, what I am realizing is, while I look and sound the way I do, it’s time to experiment. I will face more ridicule if I have a beard and am wearing a dress and lipstick. Better have fun now before the time comes that I will be tied down to one gender. When it comes to that point, having a beard and low voice, I will have a clearer picture of who I am. I want to be seen as male, I want my voice to drop, I want to be called he and him, because thats how I identify. But whether or not that paints the whole picture of me…? I’m thinking not so much anymore. I’m too creative and messy to be just one gender, so I will just continue doing me and being me and see where it takes me. I am sick of feeling like I have to fit what it means to be the perfect man, I just want to be MY version of what a man is, and if that means matte lipstick and pink hair, then so be it!

Hospitalization: I want to live.

I’ve fallen into a hole and haven’t been able to climb out of it. My fingernails are covered in dirt as I struggle to get out of this pit of despair I have fallen into. I am a fighter. I am fighting for my life every day I have walked this earth, more recently the last year, and even more specifically the last 2 months.

The week started off pretty bad. I was triggered by my sexual assault. A book I was reading about a young trans teen was sexually assaulted for the same reason that I was, because some fuckers were trying to figure out what anatomy they had. I ended up cutting myself over 30 times that night, on my forearms, wrists and thigh. I scared myself because for the first time I cut vertically, I say it was because I wanted to see more blood, but if I am honest with myself I know part of the reason I did that was because I had a severe case of the “fuck it’s” and didn’t care if I accidentally bled out. So to say the least the week didn’t start off well. I then spent the entirety of Wednesday contemplating suicide and decided whether I wanted to go, to press harder that night and eventually reach my half formed goal of bleeding out. I decided against it, because I realized I still had some fight in me. I think I just ended up cutting instead. I went 4 days without cutting, the longest I’ve gone in over a month. Then Saturday based on a chain of events, partly due to money, I cut vertically again with the half intention of not caring if I bleed out on my queen sized bed in my Brooklyn apartment.

There is a difference I realized between the fuck it’s and actually wanting to die and intentionally trying to die. I was concerned enough that I would try to hurt myself even more than the night before so on Sunday January 22, I checked myself in The Brooklyn Hospital. I checked in around 1:20pm and was promptly placed in the ER on a 1 to 1, which is suicide watch where a nurse sits with you every second to make sure you don’t try to hurt yourself. The nurses were amazing, I felt taken care of and a sense of protection. I did however, feel like I was being babysat and felt like a failure for being a 26 year old man having people watch my every move. Around 5:42 pm I was transferred to my own room. I requested a private room because of my transgender status. I wasn’t comfortable sharing a room with a male or female as I look androgynous at this point in my transition and honestly, don’t feel like I fit clearly in either box at this point. I got dinner, and made conversation with my favorite nurse, Adolph. A young 30 something african american woman. We laughed and made jokes, talking about pizza, grilled cheese, hurricane sandy and other things. All my nurses with the exception of 2, one of which fell asleep, snoring while I was laying in my bed were incredible. My room was a freezer, probably about 30 degrees, my nurse was wrapped in a blanket like a nun and I had 2 blankets on. I was woken around 4am to the caring hands of a nurse tucking me into my third blanket.

The thing about being placed on suicide watch is everyone tells you how much life is worth living, they spout knowledge and hope saying, you’re too young and pretty to want to do this to yourself. They told me that I wasn’t crazy which lead me to semi believe them and form the new opinion that while yes, I do have many diagonseses, I am in a somewhat healthy spot. I always laugh when they ask me if I hear voices or see things that aren’t there, and scoff when I am asked if I am homicidal. Which is kind of a dick move because there are people that feel that way. So I guess one of the biggest lessons I learned what is that I’m not crazy. I was able to laugh and joke and carry on coherent conversations. Which given the horror stories of nurses being spit on, chairs thrown or piss cans being thrown on them, I would say I was doing pretty well.

I realized I have too much to live for. About a month ago I made a 3 and a half page list taking note of all the reasons I shouldn’t kill myself. My list varies from a few people that I know would be devastated, to cupcakes, pizza, the opportunity to not be able to help others, playing piano, hot showers and rainy days litter my list in colorful colors by my felt tip pens.

For those of that have depression will be able to understand this statement, there is a clear cut difference between actually wanting to die and imagining it and reaching a point of carelessness if that were in fact to happen. What is referred to as suicidal ideation litters my mind. What if I jumped in front of that train? Ran into traffic, slit my wrists so that I bled out, jumped out of the 31st floor of building I am inhabiting? These are fully formed thoughts but with lack of intention.

I am glad I went to the hospital, because for one night I was safe from my mind. I wasn’t transferred to a psych facility because I wasn’t a threat to myself. My psychiatrist said he wasn’t concerned that I was going to go home and slit my wrists with the exacto knife that sits in the pringle cup next to bed.

I guess the 25 hours I spent being continually watched gave me perspective that I want to live. I was going to fight it if they made me go to a psych facility. You see, I have this bandaid theory about the hospital situations I’ve been in, as this is the second time I’ve voluntarily checked in for my mental health and sucicidal ideation. I look as hospitals as a band aid that cover the safety part of my recovery, I can’t hurt myself, which is great. But that isn’t the bigger problem. The bigger problem needs to be discovered through therapy, to find out why I am hurting myself, was I assaulted as a kid? How has my moms unfortunate death and sexual assault shaped me into who I am? Thats where the healing has to be, not under some 24 hour lock down facility with cardboard veggie burgers and small juice cups that are gone in 3 sips.

I am a fighter, I am covered in blood, I have soot on my face, my body is broken and bruised, but I continue to stand tall in the face of mental illness and trauma.

When The Bracelets Come Off (tw: self harm)

January 15,2017 9:48am

When the bracelets come off I know something sinister is about to take place. I can go a full day without even thinking about cutting, or maybe it passes though my mind as I see my arms. But I don’t think about it as much as I used to do. But once I’ve had 3 or 4 drinks in me and my bracelets come off I know I am going to hurt. The weird thing is sometimes it’s not a conscious decision, I just look down and see myself taking my jewelry off. The ritual begins as soon as they are off. I inspect my wrists, feeling the risen cuts usually fresh from the night before or a day before. I plan where I’m going to cut, between which lines that are healed enough, or start somewhere new. I usually cut in-between the lines. My wrists look awful, there is no hiding or pretending that they aren’t self harm scars. My leg looks like a barcode with long scars cut in straight lines, my wrists look the same.

I am ashamed that the world has to visibly see the pain I am in. A physical representation of the turmoil that plagues my mind on a daily basis. I wish I could go back restart and maybe not cut on such a visible place next time. The 2 tattoos that are on my wrists are framed by my cuts, always sure not to touch the art that adorns my body. Sadly a few cuts have spilled into the tattoo I got in memory of my mom, something shameful and sad. I want to be proud to show people my beautiful tattoo and now I can’t because of my arms. What a shame.

The crazy thing I find is how different it feels to cut sober or drunk. I’ve cut sober maybe 4 times total. I get drunk and cut, thats my pattern. When I’m sober I wince and want to yell out in pain because it burns and stings. But when I’m drunk my toes curl in pain but not like when I’m sober. Whats even more fucked is that taking off the bandage the next morning hurts more than the actual cutting. I hope that I can rid myself of this horrible, self destructive habit thats developed over the past month.

The Split

Saturday January 14,2017 3:59 pm

So there is something in my life that has emerged or rather come to my attention recently. I was diagnosed as having bipolar 2 back when I was 22, so almost 6 years ago. My life was ruled by hypomanic episodes, severe bouts of depression and feeling suicidal to being manic where I couldn’t stop talking, my mind wouldn’t slow down, acting impulsively like stealing and sleeping with numerous people. My life was a fucking roller coaster which I did not pay to ride. I was ruled by my bipolar. I didn’t feel normal and found it hard to get through some days, I found myself crying for no reason and feeling numb and empty. I felt disconnected from the world and like a crazy person.

Now 6 years later I was given another diagnosis (not in replacement of but rather in addition to) of borderline personality disorder. I would like to clarify right now that the word “personality disorder” sounds much more dramatic and fatal as it actually is—not to downplay how truly horrendous bpd and other personality disorder are. Personality disorder just means the way you experience feelings is vastly different from the norm. You feel things more instensly than others (bpd) or maybe you have lack of feelings which is what anti social personality disorder, which is better known as sociopathy.

Now that I have this diagnosis my whole life makes sense. I remember when I diagnosed with bipolar my life seemed to fall apart and crumble, but I felt relief because I finally had a name to the symptoms that are wreaking havoc on my life. Now that I have this additional diagnosis I have the complete picture of who I am. Bpd is characterized as having the following symptoms: unstable relationships with people that are long withstanding (as in like, all my  friggin relationships are messed up with people) feelings of emptiness, suicidial ideation or self harm, intense abandonment issues— thinking everyone in your life is just going to pack up and leave you eventually. As if that isn’t enough frequent mood swings lasting from a few minutes to hours, impulsive behavior such as promiscuity or stealing, unstable sense of self, dissociation and depersonalization all accompany this disorder.

I think for me the worst symptom that plagues me and other sufferers with bpd report is attachment issues. There is a term in the bpd community called “fp” which stands for favorite person or favourite for all my brits out there! A fp is a person in your life who you idolize and put before all others in your life. This person is a God among men- they can do no wrong. You hang on to every word they say and you need constantly contact and validation with them. One of the worst parts of bpd is the fact that you can turn into a complete raging psycho when people don’t respond to texts immediately. I once went on a 15 day cutting streak because some person- who eventually abandoned me- didn’t text me back for 13 hours. Communication and connection are two very important pieces of bpd. Another horrible symptom of bpd is called “splitting” which is when you go from idolizing someone to hating them and cutting them out of your life. For example I had an fp, someone who at one point I hung on to their every word and looked forward to hearing that text ding from them. Now we haven’t talked in almost a month and unfourtanetly I have completely split on them- I want nothing to do with them, they mean nothing to me anymore- they could block me and I wouldn’t care at this point.

Now, the reason I entitled this article “the split” is because my bipolar used to rule my life. But now things have changed to how bpd affects my life. The long term mood swings that would last weeks are now ruled by short term mood swings. A couple of weeks ago in a period of about 5 minuets I went from being depressed, to cutting myself multiple times, to getting excited about the taco dip I was eating. Now I am on an even faster roller coaster which I wish I wasn’t tall enough to ride. Now at this point in my life, at almost 27 years of age, bpd is my main challenge. I have recently in the past month begun cutting myself- a symptom of bpd. That was never an issue before. And now all the pieces fit together- my fear of everyone leaving me no matter how much they have showed me they aren’t going to, the alcohol abuse, idolizing someone in a short amount of time after knowing them and the splitting. My life has been split between dealing with the symptoms of my bipolar to my bpd.

Sadly meds don’t fix bpd otherwise I would be on that shit in a heartbeat. My bipolar has been stabilized by a mix of mood stabilizers, anti anxiety and anti depressants. So now, the focus of my life is learning better coping skills like not cutting or drinking so much and interpersonal relations. I need to find a way to find the evidence that people are not going to leave me and assume everyone hates me and is bothered by my presence. I can’t say one is worse than the other because they both suck, and paired together it’s a deadly pair. But I am committed to recovery and getting better. Bpd is not “curable” per se but you can do expensive therapy to lessen the symptoms of abandonment issues and such. I just hope there is a day when I can say I am healthier and no longer ruled by either of my disorders.

 

Getting life on track

Saturday January 14, 2017 8:48am

It’s 8:48 am and I excitedly await 6pm. I’m going to dinner with one of my classmates who I feel a deep connection with. I’m ready to spill my guts to I person I am fond of and trust. I’m ready to chat about school and why I made the decision to walk away from it.

Yesterday was the first day I didn’t get drunk or cut, a major accomplishment since I have cut the last 3 days in a row. My wrist is still puffy and red but I am glad I am healing instead of waiting for new wounds to heal.

My life since being back has consisted of writing new songs on my beautiful shiny new piano, making a trip to the library where I check out 10 books to read for pleasure— a nice break from the old necessity of having to check out plays to research roles and expand my knowledge of various playwrights. I’ve been watching netflix and just trying to take it easy. As little stress as possible is my goal. I’ve bought a few candle and continue to keep in contact with my friends from far way who I have met online. They have become my life line, the only constant communication and connection in my life.

I’ve had 3 therapy sessions in the past week and a half where we tackled my self harm and abandonment issues. I feel like I am finally starting to see the gap in reality and the illogical part of my brain that tells me people are going to leave me. I am able to see that my brain tricks me by ignoring all evidence and proof that the person who means most to me is going to disappear without a trace. My fp ( favorite person) has done nothing but support and care for me, yet I feel he is going to run away and abandon me. I learned through therapy that isn’t the case- he won’t leave me and isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

My therapist constantly lauds me for my extensive effort to better myself and get healthier. He says that most people aren’t capable of being so self aware that they need help, and instead live their lives in silent misery. Where as me on the other hand, dropped out of a prestigious acting school to get my shit under control. Him saying that brings me little comfort but deep down I am grateful and pleased. My mental health has always been a priority of mine as I have voluntarily been going to therapy since I was 16. At first I went to deal with my eating disorder that was slowly developing in reaction to my abusive alcoholic mom, god rest her soul. Then I went to a new therapist to also deal with my mom but to deal with my bipolar disorder and skewed body image. Then I went to another therapist where I dealt soley with my gender identity and came to the startling realization that I am transgender man. I’ve had other therapists beyond that that I don’t want to get into. The point is, my mental health has always been a priority, but now it is the sole focus of my existence.

I am excited to meet my new therapist on Tuesday but also quite nervous. Will she be nice? How fast will it take her to realize I am intelligent, focused, determined, kind caring and wounded? When will we tackle my sexual abuse and my mom? Will she understand my deep emotional pain and be able to help me get healthier and wipe my slate clean and start over again? I am hungry for change, to be on a new playing field of life. As usual with life, things are unknown and hang in the balance of time. There is no way of predicting how therapy will go or the new DBT group I will eventually start going to. For now my focus is on not cutting or drinking excessively in my room at night alone as that has been my daily habit for the past 2 months.

I am excited for my life to begin unfolding in to the way it is meant to be lived, with happiness and joy instead of this fluctuating constant state of hurt, pain, disappointment and fear.

The journey home to a new me.

January 3,2017, 1:37pm
Here I sit at gate D47 after paying a $125 baggage fee waiting for my flight home for my new life to begin. I am a bit shaken by my last encounter with my angry dad over the excessive baggage fee. If I would have removed 6 pounds from my bag, it would have been only $25. I am mad at myself because I used the wrong card so I probably won’t be able to afford my metro card. Fuck. Will I be able to buy groceries? Dumb decision, Rilen, DUMB! Regardless, I am seemingly calm, probably because I have nicotine coursing through my veins as I just smoked my second to last cancer stick.

I am nervous and excited to go home. My flight leaves at 2:55. The gate is quiet, about 20 people scattered about, chatting on their cell phones, quietly listening to music, or like the guy next to me, munching on a piece of hard candy. I don’t know what to expect when I get home. A messy room, an empty fridge, unkept bed and no clean towels. Beyond the physical state of my cozy Brooklyn apartment, I have no idea what to expect of my new life that has just begun. I am on the road to recovery. I will begin intensive therapy, 4 times a week to tackle my self harm, and borderline personality disorder symptoms that permeate my life. I am crossing the bridge into a new me, the life of a professional out of work actor. I am nervous to go on auditions, but due to a new wardrobe I am confident that I will look great walking into those rooms. A shred of guilt nags at me as two of the sweaters I bought are a bit too tight around my hips. My muffin top spills over the top. I am still impatiently waiting for T to smooth out my hips and for the day I finally have the will to stop drinking mountain dew. 20 pounds lighter and that sweater will fit perfectly. When I go on a date I will be one fashionable bitch, clad in my new boots and sweaters. The new me is beginning to be shaped.

I don’t know what lies ahead for me. I did buy myself a piano which I am so excited to receive by mail later this week. I haven’t played piano in almost 2 years, haven’t written a song in over 3. I was walking down the street with a friend last night and was excitedly chattering about all the material I have to write songs about now, my moms death, being trans, being sexually assaulted, having mental illness— so much to draw on. My therapist says she doesn’t think I should have a job right away because I am still a delicate mess.

The exacto knife still sits in my $125 bag that is currently being inspected by gloved fingers.I wonder what they will think when they see it is shoved in a box of large bandaids, will they know? I hope I never have to use that knife again to peel back the layers of my skin in order to feel something deep that is buried in my soul. I hope that this 2 day, no-cutting streak can continue and I don’t add to the collection of straight lines that scar my wrists and forearms. Self inflicted pain and proof of it is hidden underneath bracelets I made. I am ashamed, I am wounded. I wonder what people in auditions will think when they see my wrists as I hold up the sides to an audition. Perhaps I will wear makeup? Or even still wear my bracelets? So many unknowns that only time will reveal. My goals are to get through this flight and take it day by day. I want to focus on piano, and learning spanish again and keep writing. Beyond that and therapy I have no plans. I will work when I am cleared to but I intend to keep busy regardless. Perhaps the bar around the corner will hire me as a bartender when I am ready? Or I will get a job serving in the city? So many unknowns.