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

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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.

A Life Lead in Confusion

Tuesday February 7,2017 10:35pm

My life is lead in confusion. I am confused about my gender, my trauma history, why I drink, why I cut, why I am so mentally ill, why I have no friends, why I feel empty. I am surrounded by endless thoughts of what, why, how come? I wish I had answers to all the questions my mind asks of me, instead I walk around in a haze, stumbling around trying to find the door that holds my secrets and unsolved truths.

I want to be understood, I want to be loved, I want to once again, feel whole. I want to have people in my immediate surroundings who I can spend time with instead of seeing blurred faces through a computer screen. I long for someone to touch, to hold and be held by. I want to sit in my sweatpants and watch sappy romantic comedies with a friend while shoving our faces with popcorn. I want to feel so fulfilled and purposeful in life that I am bursting with life, unable to hold in my joy that I could get up and break into song at any moment. I want to greet my days with purpose instead of shades of grey that paint my days. It’s only been 2 months since I’ve been out of school and I feel disheartened. I wonder, will I ever make it as an actor or will this be my life forever? Living off my dad and lying around, like an amorphous blob in my bed.

When will I look in the mirror and be happy and not see double chins and fat hips? When will my legs gain their strength and tone again? Do I want to continue hrt and become looking more and more male, or do I want to slow down and stay how I am, in the middle? I don’t fit with others and I don’t fit with myself ,there is turmoil and unrest deeply settled in my soul. My withering soul that longs to spark back to life. To feel free, love, understood, apart of SOMETHING. So much, if not all of my life I have been alone and felt disconnected, I now wonder if this because of my disorder, or is that just me? Forced to walk beside my own shadow? I don’t have the answer to all of these pitiful questions and it plagues me. I want clarity, I want to take of my splattered glasses that are covered with fog and dirt and see clearly. To feel complete and needed. I make youtube videos to help others and help myself, but I wonder, who is really helping me? I have a mental health team that encourages me and understands, supports, empthathizes and sympathizes with me, but am I really interconnected with anyone? Or am I just a flag flapping alone in a field?

I don’t know what I want most in my life, if its to feel included and understood? Or to just feel whole and content within myself? I don’t have any answers at this point. I am lost.

10:46

A Christmas Eve Drop Out

It’s 5:40 pm in Tomahawk Wisconsin. I traveled from Waukesha to Tomahawk, a couple hundred miles beginning at 7:18am this morning. So far today I have taken a nap, drank a dark and stormy, had 2 pizza puffs, listened to sad music, dropped out of school and played with my dog.

I sit here writing in the basement of my dads vacation home, aware of my blessings. A Bose sound system blaring Johnny Cash’s rendition of hurt “ I hurt myself today 
To see if I still feel .I focus on the pain, the only thing that’s real ” clothes covering my back, a scarf at my neck, a dog at my toes. Bandages cover my wrists, a hat covers my head.I am grateful.

I left one of the nations most prestigious and rigorous acting schools today, but this isn’t the first time, but this will be the last. What was supposed to be only a month hiatus has now turned into an eternity of time where I will no longer be a student at the Atlantic again. When I first moved to new york in August 2014, I began the acting conservatory 4 months after my mom tragically and unexpectedly died. I entered school, lost and broken down, but determined to make my new york dreams come true. 1 week into the school year I did a jumping jack and tore my ACL. I had to leave new york to have knee surgery.I moved my things back to Wisconsin to under go surgery. Over the time I was home in WI, I came to the realization that I was transgender and began hormone replacement therapy.

I went back to school again for fall 2015 with a new out look on life, my emotional healing had been done and I was in a better place with my moms death and my knee was fully healed. 2 days into the school year, I was sexually assaulted on September 5, 2015. My whole life crumbled down. On September 19, I tried killing myself and spent a week in a pscyh ward upstate new york. I battled dissociation, cutting, drinking and losing any sense of self and safety I had for the first half of the semester. I some how was able to make it through the days at school, somehow still able to memorize lines, smile and laugh. I decided I would spend the entirety of my winter break to fly back to WI in order to undergo intensive therapy to go over the trauma that I underwent. I went to therapy twice a week for over a month. I rehashed every detail of my assault and grew stronger from it even though with each memory of his touch that flooded back into my senses I felt broken again.

I got though the second semester much better than the first. My teachers noticed a difference and so did I. I rarely dissociated and was able to do some meaningful work that I will forever be proud of. Now, if we rewind 15 weeks ago at the beginning of this school year and how I got here, seemingly no singular event has triggered me to leave this time.

I started the year hopeful and excited to see what was actually possible now that I had my life seemingly put together. I was excited to meet the first years, a few I had the privilege of to get to know quite well. I loved my group, a dynamic jumble of people from all over the world with an immense amount of talent. At times I felt like a true ant among giants. I felt working with some people so utterly small and insignificant. I thought from the moment I started my second class on the first day that I wasn’t good enough to go there or continue. I thought I sucked and wasn’t good enough to show up and do the work that was being asked of me. I proved myself wrong. I did some of the best work that I have ever done in my life in my final semester at the Atlantic. I achieved things in scenes I had only dreamed of being capable of. But this story doesn’t end on such a happy note though does it?

Despite making strides in my acting, I was still restricted and struggling with my various mental illness. I was crippled by anxiety and unable to speak in one of my classes called “speech.” I have been diagnosed as having bipolar since I was 22 and more recently have a name for the disorder that plagues my life on a daily basis, which is what brings me to the end of my time at the school I love so much; borderline personality disorder. I had deep undercurrents of sadness and a sense of mistrust in myself and my ability to suceed 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 rest button. I will leave school to undergo intensive psychotherapy and get the help I desperately need but more importantly, want.

I believe I am put on this earth for 2 reasons. 1 is to act and 2, (and what I think is more important,) is to help others. God gave me many gifts, the ability to write, speak and write songs. I am aware I have been helping people by the tens of thousands of views I have on my youtube videos.The daily messages of gratitue of people reaching out to me saying thank you for making my video. I need to get better so I can accomplish both of these things. I want to be a beacon of help to those around me that don’t have the voice I have. I want to break the stigma that mental illness is not a death sentence, without proper help it sure as shit can be, but help is out there. I refuse to be held down by my illness anymore. It is time that I stand  (shakily) on my two feet and walk into the light of recovery. As much as I have to do this for me, I believe I have to do this for others so I can help more in the future.

Thank you to all my classmates for your love and support. Thank you to my teachers who love me endlessly.  firmly believe I have more teachers phone numbers than classmates because of how loved I am. I am blessed.

It’s time to rebuild.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Tumblr helped me discover my gender and sexual identity AKA, Tumblr made me GAY!

Thursday March 26,2015/Monday March 30


Without Tumblr I don’t think I would be as gay and I mean that in a good way. Actually, I mean that in a GREAT way!

After all, what could be more liberating than being your true self?

Without Tumblr and the freedom to express myself freely on the internet, I don’t know that I would have an outlet to express myself in the way I want. I solidified my transgender identity on Tumblr and I continue to explore my gender identity. In addition to that, I can freely express my sexuality and I am proud of my sexuality- cuz I can face it now, I AM GAY AS HELL! (How I fooled myself or thought otherwise is beyond me!)

The clearest example of me being okay with being gay is the rainbow bracelet I have on my wrist with the words pride on it- a year ago there is no way in hell I would have had the balls to wear this!

I can honestly say that in the past 3 months Tumblr has helped me immensely in terms of exploring my gender identity and where I fall on the transgender spectrum.

You are probably sitting there thinking, what the hell is this person talking about? How can some dumb-ass website where people share pictures of cats and Taylor Swift change someones life in a profound way, let alone allow them express and explore their sexuality AND decide they are TRANS??  Well, the simple and perhaps obvious answer is because of the anonymity! Tumblr has given me ( and millions of other people around the world) the courage to post whatever I like. I have 430 followers on Tumblr and not a single soul on that site do I actually know in real life! Which is funny, because in some aspects, I am more honest and myself on Tumblr than I am in real life- which is the whole point of this entry! I refuse to share my username with people in my life life ( not that anyone has asked anyway) because it is my sacred space despite being available to the masses and the fact that I gain new followers on a daily basis!

I have to give some serious credit to Swedish sex-pot model, Erika Linder. If it were not for her, I

A)I would not be where I am in terms of my understanding of my gender identity,thus I would B) not even be writing this article in the first place!

Erika is an androgynous model, meaning she has the unique gift of being able to fluidly transition from male to female while she models. So sometimes she is hired as a male model (which is when she is THE SEXIEST PERSON IN THE ENTIRE FUCKING WORLD!!!) and she is also hired as a female model. Because of her beauty and androgyny, little ole me was sitting around a couple of months ago envious of this beautiful creature I peered at though my computer screen. How could someone so beautiful be neither male or female but be the perfect mix of both?

My whole life I never felt like I fit into the box that society says a woman is supposed to fit in. I have always wondered and yearned to know what it would be like to feel comfortable dressing and looking the way a piece of me has ways felt inside, which is like a boy. It’s funny because lately I have looked back at pictures and old facebook status posts from high school and even farther back and noticed little “red flags” of me grappling with my gender. Little things like me wearing mens pants and declaring its “man pants Monday” when in reality, I wanted everyday to be man pants day! Or when I would wear boy short underwear because they were close to boxers, but still feminine enough that it was considered “normal.” So when I saw Erika Linder, this gorgeous woman with her short hair, her pouty face and expressive eyes flawlessly modeling male clothing, I thought to myself- wow, how great would it be to be androgynous! I should try to do something like that! What really inspired me the most however was Erika’s quote on her twitter that states “I have too much imagination to be just one gender” What a concept!

And so it began. A few days later On January 23, 2015 I went to cost cutters and paid $17 to cut 3 inches off of my hair and chopped it off to the point where my hair fell above my jaw line. I was happy- I looked like a boy in my eyes. Perhaps to the outside world I looked like a lesbian. Or maybe I just looked like a girl with short hair. Either way, I was happy, and that is what matters. A simple thing like cutting my hair was the beginning of what will continue to be a life long journey of self discovery!

After I cut my hair I stopped carrying around a purse, I decreed that purses were not for me and that I hated how feminine they were. Why should I have to carry around this cumbersome bag with me just because I have a vagina? So I switched to a “mens” wallet which in turn drastically changed the clothes that I began to wear. Because I no longer carried a purse, the pants I wore began to change because now I had to put my belongings in my pockets. I did not have to buy any new pants luckily but the way I wear my clothes in different now. My closet is a bit unbalanced between mens clothing and women- surprisingly a lot of the clothes that I have unpacked right now ( a lot of my clothes are in boxes because I moved a couple of moths ago) are mens. In my closet I have it divided between women and mens clothing depending on how I feel on a certain day, it is easy for me to pick an outfit. My mens clothes are darker in hues- dark blues, greens, reds, grey and blacks. And then on the other side I have 2 pink sweatshirts and a few other “girly” clothes.

Now you are probably like, what the fuck does ANY of this have to do with Tumblr? Everything my dear friend, everything! Without the help of the internet, youtube, Tumblr, books and articles I would not feel comfortable with who I am, let alone know HOW to define myself! In the age of the internet I feel I am able to freely express who I am. Whether that is a picture of a beautiful woman or a dog, I can post whatever the hell I want. I don’t have to be ashamed if I see a picture of a chicks ass or bangin’ bod and find that more attractive than a guys six pack abs.

I grew up in a predominantly white, upper-middle class, catholic, republican town where being gay is not talked about. I went to a catholic high school, where if you were gay you were closeted. I knew I wasn’t straight, or had an inkling back in middle school and was seriously questioning my sexuality by freshman year and throughout college. I finally came out to myself as bisexual when I was 18.

In the past few months, the internet has taught me that it is okay to be gay, but even more pertinent, it is okay to be transgender.  Remember how I just said being gay was not really discussed, well neither was being transgender. Let’s face it, a lot of people still don’t know what the term even means- which is fine, our time is coming! You see how I said “our?” I say “our” because I consider myself part of the transgender community– a label that not many people close to me know about and a label I am still getting used to. I heard about transgenderism back in high school and always knew that the label fit me, but pushed it away because it was too painful to face.

Youtube and Tumblr, more specifically demonstrated to me that being trans is okay! It taught me that being trans isn’t gross, abnormal, weird, psycho, nasty, immoral, disgusting or wrong. There are millions of Tumblr users and millions of trans people peppered all over the world. The fact that I am able to simply access and see real peoples stories and accounts of beings trans has been an indispensable resource for me. I am able to type in “ftm”, “trans”, “transgender” and thousands of posts will pop up! Whether it is pictures, videos texts posts, rants, hormone replacement updates- anything– it is all readily accessible and at my fingertips.

I never knew that there was a whole community out there for people that felt like me and they were facing the same questions and struggling with the same shit I am. The same everyday problems that cis people don’t have to think about. Questions like, how do I get my friends and family to call me by my chosen name? How do I bind properly and what is the best company to buy from? How do I even know if I am transgender???

I am happy that I feel I have found my place. I have a long way to go. But from the support of friends and family, and some of my Tumblr followers, I feel like I am on the right path- so thank you! So in the end, I guess this is a big thank you to the internet and a testament that good can come from the digital age that we live in.

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Just call me Ri.

January 31, 9:48 PM

He will never understand. They will never understand. Nobody will ever understand.

I set myself up for fucking failure by asking a stupid question at a dumb time. I cautiously took a deep breath, and let the question explode out of my lips. “So, what do you think about me changing my name?” Huff. Eye roll. “For acting you know. I want something more original…” silence. A few minutes pass. “ I mean, not legally or anything. Just like, a nickname that has nothing to do with my birth name?” After my first question he tuned me out. Allie is on some stupid whim and wants to change her name. blah, blah, blah. 

I can’t remember a time in recent history that I have felt so crushed and denied as a person. I feel like I was just thrown away into the trash and ignored while I took a tiny step into baring my soul. I understand that he does not know what I am going though. The confusion, anger, sadness and curiosity that I am feeling. For the past 2 weeks I have been voraciously reading, checking out books, scouring Tumblr and Youtube for people like me. For people that feel the same way I do. For people that are confused as fuck as to what their gender is…I spent over 3 hours today making 7 lists about gender. I forced myself to begin to map out what it means (or rather what society says ) to “be” a man, or “be” a woman. I listed what characteristics and stereotypes are associated with each gender, in hopes that I will be able to define myself more clearly to see where I measure up within these norms.

There has not been a day since 2 weeks ago that I have been not been obsessed about gender. I am scared. I am scared of these labels that are big and seem so final. Petrified of what lies ahead for me. Nervous that in order for me to be happy or feel whole is to change my name, the way I dress, the way I walk, and the way I talk. If he dismisses me for bringing up the idea that I might want to be called a different name— a name that I didn’t even disclose to him,how could be possibly understand that deep down—way down, a part of me identifies as male?

This is uncharted territory. I don’t know how much more freaking research I can do into these topics until I can just say; accept it kid! Accept that you are different and deal with it. You are transgender. Sure you don’t want to have surgery but face it; you are queer in every sense of the word. I am longing to just talk to someone who gets it. I don’t want to explain, I don’t want to defend— I just want to talk, and be me. He will never understand. They, will never understand.

So for now on, Just call me, Rilen. Or Ri for short.

Non-Binary Bliss!

January 28,2015

Well, these past 2 weeks have been a whirlwind.

I ditched the purse and went with a wallet, I chopped my hair off into a more androgynous style and I ordered my first binder today!!

Never in my life have I felt so confused, conflicted and confident. After I cut my hair, I felt beautiful, sexy and confident. I like that while my hair is still somewhat feminine, I have found ways to style it to be more androgynous and that is when I feel my best. I am obsessed with hats- thank you Wal-Mart for selling winter hat beanies for only $2! I proudly sport a hat with my new short hair cut which frames my round face accented by my millions of freckles.
I did have a bit of of a talk with one of my friends about this whole gender confusion thing. I ended up crying eventually because I didn’t necessarily feel that they understood how confused and out of place I feel.

I think I can officially identify as being gender fluid. I always thought this label loosely fit me. But within these past 2 weeks I feel like it DEFINETLY fits me. These past 2 weeks I have felt masculine 90% of the time and I LOVE it! I have finally chilled out and just realized and gave myself permission to just be. I still have some discovering to do in terms of my gender identity but I feel like these past weeks have been in hyperdrive and I have to remind myself that maybe I won’t figure it out tomorrow or the next day…Maybe it won’t just fall into my lap. Perhaps I won’t wake up next week and be able to declare, yes I am trans and I need to start thinking about transitioning and what that would mean for my future. I have to remind myself to calm down and wait and hope that things will fall into place, eventually. Right now I think I just need to keep doing what I am doing. I need to keep feeling what I am feeling instead of pushing it away and thinking that how I feel is “Wrong” or “unnatural” or just simply deny that this could be where my life is headed.

I am jazzed that I bought my first binder today! I just ordered it about an hour ago and I am SUUUUPER GIDDY! I want to jump around and shout- which isn’t exactly a possibility because of my knee, but whatever–the intention is there. I am excited and curious to see where this takes me! Perhaps this will open new doors of discovery for me and I will delve deeper into my gender expression and what feels comfortable for me. The only thing that really blows about this is I don’t feel I can talk to anyone about this because they won’t understand. I tried talking to my friend the other night when I had a mini breakdown, and like I said, I don’t think they really understood how I felt. I kept saying that something doesn’t feel right and something is off but they kept telling me to stop putting myself into a box and stop feeling the need to “define” myself. Yes, labels are what others use to define us. But I have found that, at least for me, I need to have some sort of label for myself. I don’t give a shit what anyone else wants to label me as, whether thats being confused, trans, gay, gross, immoral or whatever! I want to know what I am so I can feel comfortable with me.

Peace and Love!