Reclaiming my Body

“How am I reclaiming my body?” I am asked by my friend, Haley for a challenge she started. This challenge is the whole reason you are even reading this right now. I ponder the question. A few answers pop up, then push them away thinking they are too personal, so I say I will go to back to thinking about it later. I mindlessly watch Tv, zone out, but the tantalizing question keeps whispering in my ear and finally an hour later I finally confront it.

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Just now- posting that first picture of my mostly naked body…I could stop typing right now is reclaiming my body because I feel like I am going to throw up and my body is hurdling through space and my head is spinning. Am I going to post this? My grotesque body for the world to see? We will see if this post ends up on the internet. But I digress and push all feeling of utter detestation, distaste and revulsion for my body and I’ll post what I originally wrote:

I reclaim my body everyday that I no longer cut it’s beautiful, unique shade of carmel- honey-brown-sugar and in return, the counter on my phone applauds me by tallying another day clean. I reclaim my body with every morsel of food I eat to nourish my body. Is it fun to have to force yourself to eat sometimes? Or realize it’s 10pm and you’ve gotten though another day without food and find satisfaction in that, but also sadness because it’s not fair to yourself? Absolfuckinglutly not. With every sip of water I drink my body silently thanks me. Every cigarette I don’t smoke anymore and pollute my lungs with is a victory after 7 years of wasted money, stinking clothes and rotting breath. I reclaim my body when I remind myself that it is mine and nobody else’s and that *I* am in control from here on out. It’s revolutionary when I have the small “it wasn’t your fault” moments and feel that I no longer have to feel like a victim- they are few and far between but those are moments to be cherished. I reclaim my body when I see myself as more than my physical body and include my beautiful, brilliant, creative, afflicted mind as part as my whole self. I am not the sum of my physical parts.

Even in the moments when I all I can see are is damaged parts; the fat, hideousness, disgust, shame, laziness, loneliness, mental illness and sickness that swallow me whole, I try to salvage the idea that I am not a failure. I am intelligent, well spoken, educated and have an alacrity and appetite to learn more and more about the topics that interest me. I always say, (especially when it comes to dating) “I would rather be respected for my mind than my body.” Body shapes and sizes are ephemeral, intelligence is forever.

I reclaimed my body and soul when I declared my trans identity and express that in a plethora of ways because of the fluidity of my gender expression is infitie. On August 8, 2016 I surgically reclaimed my physical body.

I reclaim my body when I write because all the neurons and synapses in my brain are firing at once. When words surge at the speed of light out of my fingertips and onto a page and simultaneously thoughts erupt out of my brain like lava exploding out of a volcano–I must find a way to express myself because spoken words won’t suffice. My body is reclaimed when I speak about my mental illness because I can use my brain, (a seemingly endless mocking dichotomy of strength and weakness) as a beacon of hope for others because I am articulate, open and honest. I can show my scars, tell my stories, share the trauma and what lead me to who I am today. I use my lips that I once hated because people, men, used to make sexual comments about them to share my message of hope.

I am reclaiming my body when I go to therapy 2 times a week to work on the skewed and sometimes illogical beliefs I hold about myself and my body. I am challenged by a brilliant therapist to really look at myself and thoughts and notions about myself and the world and question if what I am thinking or feeling is coming from an emotional place or a place of logic.

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I am in a perpetual state of evolution.

#ReclaimingMyBody

Bipolar Manic Episode *Uckery.

Edit: I also feel like this post could be called: A desent into madness, lets take a journey together!

August 10, 2018 2:53

On July 20, 2018 is when I had my first night of 4 hours of sleep. The lowest amount of sleep I got was 48 minutes of sleep on Tuesday in which I had a full 14+ hour day. Second after that was this past Monday I had 3 hours and 40 min of sleep. So its been 12 days of less than 4 hours of sleep a night.its been 22 days and last night was the first time I got 8 hours of sleep. (I’m done with numbers now, I promise.) Eventually sometime last week I lost an entire week of sleep- don’t know how much I’ve lost now, but who cares- point is, I’m fucked and bipolar blows and insomnia can suck it.

Why such little sleep? Because of an ongoing, seemingly endless, (sometimes draining) Bipolar hypomanic episode. You see I struggle with Bipolar II (vs. bipolar I which is signified by full blown manic episodes which sometimes mean: no sleep for days at a time, psychosis, delusions, hallucinations– basically the shit that gets you hospitalized and REALLY fucks your life up.) Instead I have “lesser” episodes (which at this point, this fuckery has been going on for almost 3 weeks. So, please, try telling me that right now this is a “less severe” episode.)  Although I do know that in some areas of my symptoms things could be worse and certain symptoms that were present at the start of my episode have since subsided. Basically here is what my hypo manic episodes look like for me (but I just use the word ‘manic’- but  from a clinical standpoint I wanted to clarify for you the difference between hypo manic and manic episodes.

  • Impulsivity- perhaps to steal, promiscuity aka the want or need to sleep with all of the Bronx and parts of Queens, drink, occasionally the URGE to spend money (but I don’t act on that specifaclly one)
  • Pressured speech– feeling the inability to stop talking, constantly interrupting people and not being able to slow down my speech

The main way I describe my mania is this: It’s as if someone is standing behind me pushing me, rather shoving me forward while I try to stay still.

  • My mind races
  • I can’t sleep or if I do (usually 4-5 hours) I am able to function completely normally with no hint of being tired. As in I can pull off 15-18 hour days without a hitch. Sure I might be like “Jesus why am I organizing my closet right now, its 3 am go to bed kid” but yet, physically I don’t feel tired. Sometimes my mind gets tired but even then, I cannot sleep.
  • I can hyper-focus which is also a symptom of AD/HD meaning I can (just as it says) hyper focus which means I can seemingly zoom in on an activity for hours at a time. Yesterdays hyper focus of the day was downloading a shit load of songs and listening to music for like, 2 hours straight on youtube.
  • And the weird one; making lists. Like legit- writing lists. Bullet. Pointed. Lists. Of what, you ask? I don’t even fucking know man but when I do, it seems hella important.
  • decreased appetite and having to literally remind/force myself to eat because I can get through the days without eating much.
  • Racing heart 
  • Elevated mood, I can turn into Nice Nancy, who thanks all the cashiers and wishes them a great weekend and rest of their shift! Which is something I don’t necessarily do.
  • And most importantly: Increased creativity! Sometimes (not this episode) I will write songs or just write in general (maybe thats why you are reading this right now? Who knows?)

Essentially all these symptoms just mean none of this stuff listed above is present, or to the extreme degree they are in my daily life- they are disruptive to my daily functioning.

I wish I could say I have honestly 100%  given up trying to make sense of why this happens and try to cope with these disruptions but thats not 100% true. I would like to know how it it physically and mentally possible that I am able to function off 4 hours, or like I said 48 min of sleep ( and that to me is honestly frightening) and feel totally fine and not affected. The only reason I know how much sleep I get is because of my handy-dandy fitbit, which is such a helpful mental health tool for me. Long gone are the days where I constantly check to see (much to my dismay how little)  I’ve walked only to realized I’ve only walked .27 miles or something (thats a lie- I walk more than that. However, also sometimes I don’t leave the house at all for days at a time and I live alone which is magical- most of the time it really is, but it can get lonely.)

Sometimes these episodes are brought on by a clear cause, this one I can attribute to staying up until 6:30 in the morning talking to someone and then thats when it all began to crumble and it just been a god damn shit show since then. I believe this stretch is potentially being elongated because of a number of other factors going on in my life right now, namely the status of my relationship with my boyfriend who I am currently taking some time apart from so we can both focus on our mental health because we are both kind of messes (case in point!) and also I have financial burdens and my living situation is a mess because I’m broke as a bitch! But other times, like I think maybe back in January when I had another long lasting episode that lasted about 2 weeks just came out of nowhere, but we are slowly nearing a month which sucks major balls.

I honestly just want to sleep consitently and not feel altered. Sometimes I feel okay, like I’m not bouncing off the walls (these periods don’t last too long- a few hours maybe if I can focus on a TV show) But as of yesterday (and right now as I write) I have a killer headache which I realized literally 15 minuets ago might be caffeine withdrawal because I didn’t drink soda yesterday ( or really eat) because it’s just too hot to drink anything but Powerade and water because I have been so active (I legit took 3 showers the other day because I kept sweating through my clothing because I CAN’T STOP RUNNING AROUND AND DOING THINGS!)

SO, I guess what a manic episode can look like is someone (most people picture a little boy, but adults have AD/HD as well)  bouncing off the walls and won’t shut the hell up. With many mental illness there is usually co-mordbidy (simply meaning you usually have more than one diagnosis leading you to potentially hate your life an inch more and board the struggle bus more often than others who have one diagnoses) and a lot of the symptoms overlap. So some of the things I deal with daily are exasperated and heightened, however manic episodes are horrendously more disruptive in my daily life than my AD/HD.

I guess all I can say at this point at 3:27pm is I have a headache and I just want to feel like “me” again. And what does “me” look like? Essentially just a lot more sedated and my mind isn’t racing too much. I don’t have a need to keep doing things. I’d like to just sit here, maybe take a nap (“Hah! yeah right bitch!” screams my brain at the mere thought of casual sleep) and just exist peacefully. I wish I wouldn’t have called for an hour trying to find an issue of Variety magazine centered around trans actors at 10 am today calling every CVS, Walgreens and every Barnes and Noble in NYC trying to find it. Only to have a friend actually CALL Variety in NYC in which he was informed that they don’t sell variety in NYC, just Long Island so, that was a cool relization (see, thats what hyper focus looks like- an incessant need to carry out goal oriented tasks- see! THAT makes sense, I should have put that up there when I listed the symptoms. Oh well.)

Luckily I have an incredible psychiatrist who cares so deeply about me and is fighting alongside me to help me control this pharmacologically and end this vicious cycle and firstly allow me to sleep, while at the same time (using the same meds) to end this hellish episode. I guess my only fear I have that just popped into my head is I hope there isn’t a downswing and fall. Because sometimes (and not too common with me- I think?? I don’t remember?) there is a goddamn crash and burn like the Hindenburg and you’re all the sudden depressed, suicidal, maybe drinking even more (if thats your bag) Let’s hope that does not happen because my brain has already been traumatized these past few weeks, and we don’t need the pendulum to swing.

So my dear friend, I hope this gave you a closer look into what a bipolar episode from one persons point of view looks like. If you want to see my rad video I mad describing this (vocally in words, obviously) on my youtube channel including delicious text effects (yay!) here is the link to my video.

Warmly,

your mentally ill, but- fighting- like- a- fucking- warrior friend,

Rilen

My Room Is Illuminated and Bright. A story of personal growth and overcoming self harm.

I woke up this morning to this this Facebook reminder. When I looked at it I smiled and was briefly reminded of how much this day was a catalyst to where my life is now. Now less than an hour later, on the 1 train headed to the Apple store, I feel sick to my stomach. I feel sad. You see, I had to just count on my fingers how many days it had been a year ago (when this post was made) that I first started self harming. At this point a year ago it was a week straight; my troubles started December 8, 2016. This is a day that I remember like an anniversary, like one would remember a birthday or death (perhaps this was a rebirth?) On this 1 train at 1:21 pm I am listening to my playlist “December 2016” which consists of all the sad songs I used to listen to for almost 10 months. Just as a little taste some of the songs on this pit-of-despair-in-music-form playlist I’ve got:

⁃ Hurt, Johnny Cash (a personal fav when the self loathing of cutting came in)

⁃ Under The Knife, Icon For Hire ( I think we can all guess what that’s about)

⁃ Creep, Radiohead

⁃ Hurts Like Hell (which, shockingly enough is NOT about cutting- it’s about people leaving you)

…Anyway. You get the hint. #sad #angst

SO! On December 8, 2016 I began to cut, on December 16 school let out for Christmas break, and Christmas Eve I left acting training.

It wasn’t another 4 months until my violent, life threatening behavior ended and I stopped hurting myself in March 2017. I can greatly attribute my recovery to my constant cognizance that what I was doing was dangerous, in addition to my willingness to go to therapy 4 times a week. Now I’m down to 3 because I don’t need to meet with my psychiatrist weekly anymore- we are now on a 3 month in-between period to touch base.

It’s sad because that moment in the status above mentioned a teacher grabbing my face and saying those words to me “you are worthy of love and belonging” was in response to me simply saying I probably wouldn’t return for the third year of training (a whole semester away from where we were now in training.) What I was really saying was “I know I don’t have you as a teacher next semester in the first place, I know I would have you again next year but I can’t do this anymore. Goodbye.” Same thing happened when my classmates and I went out for drinks after class was finished for Christmas break- I knew in my heart that I wasn’t coming back. I sat there, detached at the schools haunting grounds, mildly dissociated trying to quietly let on I was leaving.

I guess word spread among the staff at Atlantic because I soon revived a message from the student affairs director on December 23 and then eventually we had a phone call on Christmas Eve discussing my “options” even though we both knew it would be in my best interest to leave the rigorous training program that I was no longer mentally capable of meeting the demands required for success in the program. It’s funny, I was going through my old phone a few days ago and found the exchange between this human and I over Christmas break:

Looking at the conversation I see the resistance, anger and embarrassment I was harboring at the fact that she had found out what I had been doing to my body. It’s clear the amount of shame that I had considering this is the woman that took me to the hospital in the middle of a school day and ended up saving my life when I came to her and told her that I had tried committing suicide the night before back in September 2015 .During our phone conversation on Christmas Eve with her I decided to leave school. So there I was, in the north woods of my Wisconsin lake house in 18 degree weather, I felt as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I KNEW it was the right choice. I wrote a blog post that was called “Christmas Eve Drop Out” that I posted on Facebook and my WordPress blog. That night my post was read over 100 times and I received over 30 comments from people, some current classmates, some classmates in the grade below me who I never got a chance to know, family friends, teachers, and some private messages etc. In that moment I felt loved and supported. Part of my post:

“I had deep undercurrents of sadness and a sense of mistrust in myself and my ability to succeed at this school. By the final two weeks of school I had cut myself near 100 times on my wrists and legs as a way to deal with my feelings that I couldn’t express. I made it through to the final day just barely, missing classes became a pattern for me which is a no no at my school. I had begun to fall down the rabbit hole each night that I took a razor to my skin and inflicted such pain on myself.

I am lost and weak. I have lost who I am. Yesterday I wrote saying ” An inferno of sadness as engulfed my soul.” In this moment however, I don’t feel that way. I see a light in the corner, a light that I am actively chasing to eventually illuminate my whole room. This is the reset button. I will leave school to undergo intensive psychotherapy and get the help I desperately need but more importantly, want…. It is time that I stand  (shakily) on my two feet and walk into the light of recovery. It’s time to rebuild. “

After I came home from the lake house it was time for an action plan. We looked into hospitalization back in New York because I refused to move back to Wisconsin- cutting or not New York is my home. My therapist was in way over her head and told me she couldn’t help me anymore. Luckily that’s when Callen Lorde came in and saved my life. Callen Lorde is an LGBT community health center in Manhattan– the place I make the 2 hour commute 3 times a week to better myself.

So. That’s all in the past, yes? Well happily the answer IS yes. I haven’t cut myself in 286 days (and for those of you that are mathematically challenged *not judging, so I am* OR too lazy to figure out how long that is- it’s 9 months.) I still have sooooo many clinical diagnoses that are listed in the charts by the many mental health professionals I see, but guess what? I am working on it. Although these conditions will never go away, I am finally in a very stable place where my days aren’t soiled with the acrid taste of regret (usually alchohol) and sorrow that used to wake me in the mornings (and by mornings I mean like, 2 pm because I was a depressed mess.)

I have written about my past of self harm and depression extensively on my blog ‘The Rilen Files’ on WordPress (shameless plug. )Most notably the post called “56 Little Marks” that has a (horrifying) 486 views where I document the 56 scars left on my body that still remain a year after my 3 month fall apart-who-the-fuck-am-I-help! period in my life. Below is the beginning of the post (a good read if I may say so myself)

It’s nice that I’ve gained allies throughout that horrific time in my life. I’ve sustained friendships that have weathered my tornado. Friends I’ve met online across the world on different continents who I talk to daily,and trust inherently. Not your every day Joe Shmoe could’ve been sucked in and devoured by my sea of despair because they simply weren’t strong enough or had the compassion to deal. Cuz seriously, what the hell would YOU do if someone was texting you at 3M, drunk, depressed and (sometimes) angry telling you they a) have a knife next to them and either they want to cut themselves or b) they are already bleeding????I don’t even know how I would react to that.

So, to those friends, and therapists (that will never be able to read this- unless I decide to take the whole session to read this novel) thank you. Thank you for your friendship and unwavering love.

It’s been a year and then some but as 2018 approaches in (counts on fingers again- I told you I wasn’t kidding) 16 days, despite the haze that used to cover my eyes and cloud my thoughts, the darkness that consumed me, the vicious thoughts and voice in my head that whispered and sometimes screamed at me to cut deeper and give up, I am excited to see what wonderful opportunities are headed my way. On December 24,2016 I wrote “ I see a light in the corner, a light that I am actively chasing to eventually illuminate my whole room.”

And now on December 14,2017

My room is illuminated and bright.

Now Is The Summer of My Discontent

July 7, 2017 1:57am

I try to turn my pain into hope for others. While this can be fulfilling at times, it can be exhausting for me. Try to keep a smile on my face and add levity to my situation but everyday it seems to get harder and harder. 10. 10 mental illnesses I am now diagnosed with. bipolar.borderline.ptsd.ocd.gad.complex grief.soical anxiety.adhd.edenos.body dysmprphia. Maybe that’s 11. I’m too tired to count.

I know suicide isn’t the option because I am able to help others though my pain, I still believe I have a purpose. But I get tired of fighting sometimes. Like now, my brain, body and soul is tired of fighting- of putting on a brave face for the “public” in a vain attempt to selflessly help others. I don’t lie, I don’t put on airs. I don’t try to act happier than I am but I am tired. I am 96 days clean of self harm. 96. When I think of that in number 96 is a temperature I hate, it’s too hot for me. I wish I could give up, cave and give in, remind myself that I am alive and here. My days are filled with lonlieness and dissociation. I drink and drink but I find it harder each day to get drunk and fully turn off. Instead my brain decides to dissociate and detach from reality and any semblance of being human.My face becomes emotionless, my words mean nothing and I am unable to communicate let alone feel. My sadness engulfes me, maybe thats what keeps me going. My sadness. My sadness gives me fuel to keep going because at least I know I am alive.

I wish I had something profound to say, like this is just a phase, things will get better. People tell me I am in a rough patch, but truth be told, I have been in a rough patch for 3 years. My mom died, I realized I was trans, I was raped, I began cutting, I dropped out of school- it doesn’t end. Now trauma from childhood assault begins to plague me and memories and nightmares begin to haunt my dreams. Restless from lack of sleep I toss and tun in my firm bed. I try to forget but my brain isn’t allowing me to. I want to rest, to feel whole and complete again. I wonder, what does it feel like to feel whole and not addled with pain and hurt? What does it mean to be happy and full? The only thing these days that gives me purpose is acting. Every time I get called in to audition I feel like I a doing something right. Like I am meant to be here for a reason. That when I step into that room in front of a table and someone hears me speak, I get to do what I love for 90 seconds. Those 90 seconds are mine to shine, to let my light shine and glow. I am reminded why I am here when I get to perform. The promise of being able to support myself solely though acting keeps me going and I allow myself to fall into fantasies of success and money. Not even fame, or recognition, but content–purpose.

I haven’t felt so low since December- February when I was self harming everyday. I don’t know what it will take to “snap me out of this.” Therapy 3 times a week instead of two? I don’t have the answers.

Chutes and Ladders

Monday February 27,2917 6:31pm

Recovery is complicated. For some reason when I think of recovery I think of it as a straight line going up with no kinks, just an arrow going up. What I am learning is that recovery is much more complicated than that. While the general direction might be up (if you are lucky and putting the work in) there are a lot of squiggles and knots along the way. When I was in AA, recovery was looked at a day by day thing. Every second by second, as long as you don’t pick up. But then there are the stories of success where people just decided on X day they would stop drinking. When I got sober on February 22,2017, I didn’t drink for 8 months. It was that Monday that I said I am done. We were told in AA that it’s okay to slip up, it’s not the end of the world,but why does it feel like such utter failure when you relapse when its a process?

I have been clean from cutting for 4 days. I am learning to be gentle with myself and say THAT is recovery. Sure, I’m sure soon something or someone will trigger me, whether it be loneliness, depression, isolation or whatever,I am almost certain I will cut again. But I need to realize that at this moment, I am in recovery and bettering myself. Recovery is like Chutes and Ladders. You climb up the ladder (4 days clean) but then you fall down a little bit, but eventually get back up and go further next time. Maybe instead of looking at recovery as a fixed point “I will never cut again” perhaps, I need to look at it in smaller bites. Perhaps it should be, “I haven’t cut in 4 days, that is incredible considering my record used to be 2 days a week ago.” I think the main part in recovery is patience.

I have been manic for the last week since my moms 3 year anniversary. I have been impulsively spending, among other things I am too shy and ashamed to admit to. It seems with me my problems are like a whack-a-mole. One problem gets slightly better and another pops up. I struggle with an eating disorder and have been falling back into those pattern specifically if I am drinking. It’s like, the depression starts to dissipate but then KA-BLAM BITCH! Another problems bitch slaps you in the face. I have felt relatively normal this past week, not crippled by depression mostly because I have been up, because of my mania.

I just hope someday…I’m not sure. I hope things will be easier and I will stop falling down the ladder so far everything, instead of starting at the beginning each time I make smaller slips. But I need to be kind and say I am trying my hardest. I am in therapy 3-4 times a week, I reach out when I need help, I write, I sing, I listen to music. I am trying. But half the time I feel like a loser. To hear the concern and disappointment in my dads voice on the phone when I tell him of my latest relapse or shennagains hurts me more than when I cut my skin open. I want to make him proud of me, I want to be the perfect son who is financially independent and responsible. Instead my days are ruled by depression and now lately mania. Recovery is difficult, but I will keep fighting until I reach the top of the ladder even if I stand shakily at the top, I will get there with the knowledge that there may not be complete recovery.