Not the usual kind of post…

[WARNING: this post talks about my struggles with triggering subjects, including but not limited to depression, self-esteem, cutting, suicide, and bad relationships. Only read if you feel such subjects aren’t going to be harmful to yourself. Your own health and care and safety are far more important than whatever rambling words I’ve typed.]

Dear Cyber-Friends,

On the surface, I have a pretty awesome life; I’ve never had debt, I have decent jobs, I now have a good car, I pretty much always have somewhere to live and food to eat, I have friends and family who love me and support me when I ask for it, I have a computer and a smart phone and books and movies and an ipod full of music… There’s a lot of obvious comforts and benefits in my life. Not to mention things like being unattached to any location so I can travel whenever I want (jobs allowing) which a lot of people seem to find quite enviable, and having the ability and privilege to be independent, and apparently having some talent at artistic things like writing and painting.

On the flip side, I’ve also struggled with things like having a short and violent temper, having untreated depression, thinking I’m worthless and invisible, self-harming, finding meaning and direction in life, coping with the unexpected death of someone I grew up with as a teenager, isolating behavior, social anxiety, introversion, extreme trust issues, a history of bad and borderline abusive romantic relationships… A lot of those things are connected, and pretty much all of them have been/are being handled on my own — without the help of trained professionals or medication, or even much discussion with said friends and family.

I think a lot of the reason I’ve never gotten help or even opened up all that much about the internal things I deal with is due to those trust issues and that self-image of not being worth someone else’s care/time/attention. Everyone has shit in their life they deal with. My suicidal moments haven’t played out to actual action and my moments self-destructive behavior has been contained enough not to interfere beyond my own mind and body, so to the slightly damaged logic of my meaner side equals all that to being not bad off enough to bother anyone else with my own issues. Besides which, talking about my less-than-happy bits means being vulnerable and trusting not to use that to hurt me, and so far the track record on that working out in my favor has been spotty.

Even typing this post is hard to do, and the thought of actually publishing it terrifies me because then I’ll be admitting how broken I feel inside sometimes. I work hard to keep it hidden from everyone, and I honestly don’t think I could even tell you why or how I became convinced at such a bone-deep level that I had to pretend to be perfect, but for some reason I hold myself to an impossibly high standard. Exposing the parts of me that don’t live up to it, no matter how much I know those who love me already know about them, is one of the hardest things I could possibly do. I want to delete this whole post, but for some reason being honest right now feels really important and necessary. Which means I probably won’t be reading this over again before I post — something I usually do to make my typical long run-on sentences broken down into coherent thoughts — so if this post is a bit of a rambling mess, that’s why. Welcome to how my brain composes writing.

I don’t know what point I’m trying to make here. Maybe I just wanted to use my little corner of the internet to confess that I haven’t been feeling very stable lately. I’ve been using physical exhaustion (cross-country skiing) as a way to cope — I push myself beyond what I think I can do so I end up too tired at the end to feel anything but the “high” of exercise, while also satisfying the part of me that demands self-punishment by doing something a little more constructive than cutting. It helps to purge the build-up of frustration and anger and depression which cause my short temper, and allows me time and reason to be outside, which helps build a sense of contentment.

But the holidays are here at the ranch, which means I haven’t had that outlet all week, and probably won’t get it again for another week. I haven’t been dealing with it well, which is to say I’ve been cutting and drinking and isolating myself and listening to angry music and crying. Not to mention getting progressively more annoyed, frustrated, and generally pissed off with basically everything, but especially the people who already take more energy to deal with. I simply don’t have the energy to spare for dealing with them right now, because I’m using it all to keep myself alive and get through this period. I cling to the knowledge that my emotions tend to cycle, so every darker time like this is always book-ended with brighter times. It helps. It helps me survive it, anyway. It doesn’t really help make it any better to go through.

I have a really hard time letting anyone see me when I’m like this. I get very edgy knowing people are around, and I just want to feel safe — which for me means being alone, or at least anonymous. The last thing in the world I want is people being physically around me, people I don’t know very well questioning me, or generally interacting with others physically or verbally. So I spend a lot of time with headphones on, and I spend a lot of time on the internet. Internet friends are, at the very least, a welcome distraction. Sometimes they even help me feel better, if only for a brief bright moment.

Family is tricky, because I don’t want them to worry about me, so I don’t want them to know how screwed up I feel. When I was a teenager and wanted to kill myself, I didn’t because I decided I would wait until my parents and siblings had died, so I wouldn’t be hurting them. Since I felt dead already and just wanted to stop existing, it seemed like the least I could do to simply hold on long enough not to cause those who would miss me any extra pain. Even now, in my darker moments, I wonder if anyone would really notice or care if I were simply gone. I know my Mum would, and probably my Dad and sister and even my brother, and maybe a few others, but I have a hard time understanding why anyone loves or cares about me, the real me, so it’s difficult to convince myself I matter.

Being alone is easier to deal with — even when I feel lonely and isolated — than trying to understand and deal with people caring about me. I just can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that I might be important to someone else. I mean, I’m important to me because I have to be, but I honestly can’t figure out what there is about me that would make anyone else care. If you’re not immediate family, telling me you love me and being serious about it is a sure-fire way to make me at the very least confused, if not actually freaked out and running. Partly because of bad past experiences, but partly just because if you think that I’m worth loving there’s clearly either something wrong with you or you just have no idea who I really am, and either way isn’t promising. Much better to just avoid all that and be on my own, where I can be as crazy as I need to be without fear of judgement or of causing pain.

Big chances to the outer life are good — for a while I can cruse on the excitement and newness, which gives me the extra energy to be social and optimistic. But it’s not really my natural resting state, so to speak, so eventually I revert back to introvert and depression, unless I put a lot of effort and awareness into self-care. The moment I let that awareness slip into laziness, all the issues I’ve pushed back pounce again, and it’s back to fighting to survive long enough to regain equilibrium, while expanding all extra energy into not letting the mask of strength slip enough to let those around me see how much I’m hurting. I think half the reason I’m being a nomad with seasonal jobs is so I know I’m only committing to a few months at a time before the next new thing. Having an end date in sight gives me sometime to aim for when things get dark.

I’d been talking about doing a Europe trip with a couple of the roommates here at the ranch once the season ends. I’ve been rethinking that plan this last week; I feel like I’d rather spend the majority of my time between seasonal jobs doing something on my own, being away from the constant interaction this lifestyle demands. It would help me recover enough to get through another season, and maybe I could even save up enough money to do a bigger trip later. Also, I’ve been feeling a strong urge to make going to the parts of Europe I’m drawn to into a sole trip, with more of a personal pilgrimage focus than just tramping around with a couple people half a decade younger than me.

The idea of traveling on my own is very soothing to that part of me that feels constantly on edge when I’m around people. Thinking about it brings a feeling of calm to the constant agitation, which seems like a pretty good sign that it’s a good call. I haven’t talked to the roommates about my possible change of heart about the plan yet, because I’m still not sure which way I’m gonna end up going on it. I’m not sure what I’ll decide to do this spring. I have a job interview for next summer already, though.

The whole point of the way I’m trying to live right now is to have freedom. I want to live life on my own terms as much as is very possible for anyone. I’ve always been pretty fiercely independent, even at my most co-dependent, and I’ve finally gotten over my own fears enough to act on it. I don’t want to start compromising that just yet, so right now I think that means traveling solo between jobs, and doing my own thing during jobs. I don’t hold on to other people well, so I lose touch as soon as I leave, and I think I’m actually pretty happy with that. I’m not a social creature. I think I want to just drift through the lives around me, and not hold on. I want to be free that way.

There’s more I could say, but this seems like a good stopping place. I’m only going to get less coherent as it gets later, for one thing. And I feel like I’ve lost the plot somewhat of what I was trying to say — which I’m not even sure what that was in the first place, so…


Take care of yourself. It’s the kindest act you can do.

I love you all.


“A scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.”

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Most of the time, I try to be pretty cheerful and positive on this blog. This is not always an accurate picture of who I am in physical life. (I prefer calling it my physical life instead of my “real” life, because the internet can be just as much a real part of life as the physical bits.)

I’m sure that’s pretty true of most blogs; still, though, I want to talk a little about why I make that particular choice with this blog. However, first I want to mention why I’m going to talk about it.

Over the past year, give or take a bit, and especially the past month or two, I’ve become part of an online family of friends. Two in particular — real life sisters — have been through a few ordeals of their own recently. They have been amazing through the parts of it I’ve heard about. The vulnerability, honesty, and openness that they have shown in dealing with trauma is nothing short of awe-inspiring bravery. Their strength has encouraged me to start sharing a little more than I normally do.

By exposing the parts of ourselves that are most wounded, perhaps we can start to heal. By telling our stories, perhaps others will feel less alone in their own. By recognizing and naming the bad, perhaps we can start to build the good.

My own family hasn’t been the greatest at doing this. They kept a lot of secrets that I had no clue about, stuff they just didn’t talk about. For example, I didn’t know depression was prevalent in both sides of the family females until I was breaking down weeping after years of silent struggle. Imagine what a difference that could have made, if I hadn’t felt like something was broken in me for so long, if I hadn’t felt so alone in my pain.

Not talking about the negative things isn’t healthy, and it isn’t helpful. If everyone else keeps the bad stuff hidden and not talked about, it just leads to feeling isolated when we go through it ourselves. Those who have the strength and courage need to drag it kicking and screaming into the open, point at it and proclaim “this is real, this happens, this happened to me”. Only then can those without the strength begin to do the same.

So, on to my personal story…

This blog has become a kind of therapy, giving myself an exercise to find positive things to say and to think about. Here is why that is so important for me:

I struggle pretty much daily with anger and depression. I have for, well, about as long as I can remember. Even as a small kid, I had a lot of anger and a short temper — ask any of my family and they can tell you the stories.

Looking back, I can recognize the isolation and frustration I felt then, the fears and worries, the things that were just part of life to me. I didn’t know how else to be, what other options there were. I didn’t have any control or channels. Those things came much later, and with much deliberate work.

Teenagehood made things worse in a lot of ways. It’s always a difficult transition for anyone, I think, and it was no different for me. The depression got worse as the isolation and frustration got more prominent. The resulting anger turned more inward, bursting out in not-always-expected directions. And there were other things — like my best friend and first love dying — that made everything more intense and difficult to deal with.

The first part of my twentiesomethings were spent living alone, in a city; two things I had no previous experience with. I won’t say I wasn’t ready for it, because I don’t think I could really ever have been ready for it without actually having done it.

I made a lot of choices that I look back on as stupid mistakes, but I recognize that they were part of a learning curve. They made me the person I am now. I am lucky that nothing worse happened, and I recognize how much worse things could have been. For the record, I like who I am now. Mostly. Basically.

Still, I eventually hit my own personal rock bottom. I was in a living situation where I felt unwelcome and unsafe, in a relationship where I felt unappreciated and used, isolated once again from friends, and working at a job that was stressful and miserable. I was being emotionally abused and tormented, to the point where I couldn’t recognize what was true or not, and conditioned to blame myself for all wrongs. I was seriously considering killing myself. I needed help, and I needed out.

Two-and-a-bit years ago, I got those things: I moved back to living with my parents. Not in the house or even the state I grew up in, but in a place that I was still familiar with and felt like a second home. I spent some time recovering, having the safety and freedom to start to process all that had happened while on my own, good and bad.

Then I started to push myself in new ways. I started making long-term commitments to projects, like my photo blog and massage school and bardic training, that I would never have seen through before. I started finishing those things. It was a first, and it felt good. Unreal, a little, but good. I’m proud of myself for those things.

I went back to the city to visit friends, and started to realize how much I’d changed, how far I’d come since I left. I started to feel whole unto myself, for the first time that I can remember.

It’s a struggle, almost every day, to hold on to those positive feelings. There are always things to trigger old thought patterns, years of behavior and social influence, that hurt me. It is so important to have tools to counter those things: good friends, healthy habits, outlets, distractions, commitments with positive reinforcement. This blog is one of my tools. I didn’t realize it for a while, but I recognize it now.

It’s so easy to slip back into being negative, into being harsh or depressed or scared or apathetic. There are a lot of reasons out there to be that way. Sometimes it can even a healthy choice to be that way. It can certainly be a reasonable one.

But for me, for now, it’s a healthier choice to stay positive and reinforce cheerfulness here on my blog. It gives me a chance to practice having an up-beat voice in my head, countering all those worn-out endless loops of criticism. And I have other places to let out the occasional rant and rage, or breakdowns and depression. This place is not for those things.

I hope you all have a positive, cheerful experience in your day, and healthy outlets for dealing with the rest. Whatever your situation, I wish you care and safety.

Be gentle with yourself, and take time to smell the flowers!



Pass The Tissues, Please…

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Third Star is one of the most beautiful movies about death and friendship and life I’ve ever seen. The Welsh film is directed by Hattie Dalton and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Burke, J.J. Feild, and Adam Roberson.

The basic story is that four friends are taking one last trip to Barafundle Bay before one of their number — James, played by Benedict Cumberbatch — dies of cancer. He’s just celebrated his 29th birthday, and everyone knows he won’t be around for another.

They take a special cross-country wheeled chair, because he’s too weak to walk the several day journey, and they take his medications and morphine and some special things like a tree one of them grew from seed and wants to plant at the Bay.

The film progresses a little like a road-trip movie — without the car — with montages of travel across the beautiful Pembrokeshire landscape breaking up each segment of events; a fight at a pub, an encounter with a beachcomber, and so on.

The interactions between the characters really play off perfectly as a group of friends who’ve known each other forever; they joke, they fight, they tease, they carry on. Nothing feels forced or overdone, it all seems genuine. I love seeing relationships done right in movies!

The moments of each scene in Third Star really counterpoint each other well, too. As in real life, the tragic parts mix and blend with humor. Life continues in the face of sadness, and there are absurdities happening even when it feels like nothing will ever be funny again. Death and dying bring out the whole gambit of emotions, from anger to sorrow to laughter. So it goes.

I’ve gone through losing my best friend at too early an age. It was under entirely different circumstances, but some things are true no matter what the trappings. I could understand what they were feeling in this film, because I’ve been to a similar place. The most beautiful part of Third Star to me were how they were able to accurately capture that surreal time in life when a loved one is dying and surrounded by friends.

This is a quiet and understated sort of story, which is exactly as it should be. It’s showing intimate things, both death and friendship, and the strain and relation those things have on those experiencing them. This film feels honest. There’s nothing noble about what these people are going through, but there’s nothing ordinary about it either. It’s real and it’s what happens, the good and the bad and the strange.

This story really hit home for me, especially right at the end. Yet I didn’t find it to be sad or depressing. I did cry, quite a bit, but it was good tears. It was kind of… death affirming, I suppose, though that might not be quite what I mean.

You’ll have to watch it to find out.

(And yes, the title is a Peter Pan reference.)



How Punk Cabaret Saved My Life; or, A love letter to the Dresden Dolls.

I first heard Amanda Palmer when I was seventeen, in Portland, in a place called SMYRC. It was “Coin-Operated Boy”, and it was played as a rehearsal for performance in a drag show.

I don’t remember the name of the person performing, and I never got to see the final version. I didn’t even know the name of the song or the artist at the time. But it represented something magical and new and irresistible to me, something I was desperately searching for and grasping at in that phase of my life.

I deduced the name of the song later, written as graffiti on a shower curtain. When I got home, I looked it up online, and discovered the Dresden Dolls.

Shortly thereafter, a friend asked me to make back-up copies of her CD collection. One of them happened to be the self-titled Dresden Doll album, which of course had “Coin-Operated Boy”. I made a copy for myself. I listened to it obsessively. I needed it. It expressed things I hadn’t thought could be put into words, much less sung in such a powerful primal empathic way.

I hadn’t heard of Punk Cabaret yet. I hadn’t seen pictures of Amanda Palmer or Brian Viglione. I didn’t know I wasn’t alone. The songs gave me my first hint that others felt, could feel, the way I did.

Some backstory:

(WARNING: this talks about trigger issues, including drug use, teenage death, self-injury, suicide, and being a queer youth. Read at your own risk.)

I grew up in a small, conservative, religious town. I was raised by libertarian, non-religious, quietly hippy parents. I was taught open-mindedness and curiosity and acceptance, and I was also taught to keep a low profile and get along with people who were nothing like how I had been raised to be without drawing attention to myself. It was, in short, the mixed messages of “Be yourself but don’t stand out.” “Be proud to be strange, but look and act like you fit in.”

I was understandable unhappy and confused and felt isolated much of the time. To compound the problem, I was the youngest of three, and there was a sizable age difference between my siblings and I, both of whom were much closer in age to each other. Growing up, they’d had each other and various friends. I was pretty much on my own, tagging along when allowed.

But there was one who was close to my age, also the youngest, and also homeschooled as I and my siblings were. She belonged to a family whose siblings were interspersed in ages with myself and my siblings, whose parents were friends with our parents, and whose home was half a mile from our home. Our families were inseparable.

She went on to go to public school, and we grew apart. But she would spend her summers hanging out with me, and telling me all the things she couldn’t talk about with anyone else, because she knew I would never betray her trust by repeating anything. She was two years older than me, and I was in awe of her. As I became older, this naturally developed into a secret crush — my first.

She was going to High School, and spending more time with my sister, with whom she could drink and get high and whatever else makes someone four years older so attractive. But I was still the one she’d pick to cruise around at night with, because I didn’t expect or want anything more than to be near her, and because I would still keep her secrets and never judge her. I was in love, and never spoke a word.

I knew, or thought I knew, that she didn’t return the emotion. I didn’t expect anything more from my love than giving it silently. I wished only for her happiness, however and with whomever she achieved it. I knew from her confessions that she was desperately unhappy and wanted more than anything to leave our hometown and her parents behind, and never look back.

She turned eighteen.

Three days later, she died.

It was drug related, but not an overdose.

My world froze, dropped away from beneath my feet, lost all meaning, ended.

During the same week, we had her funeral and my brother’s wedding reception.

Two weeks after her death, I turned sweet sixteen. I was still numb.

Before her death, I had signed up for a camp tailored for unschooled kids like myself. I was still planning on going, but I wrote to the camp so that the staff would know what had happened less than three months prior to my being there. I went by train for the first time, traveling alone also for the first time in my life. I had spend what was left of the summer (her birthday and mine were both in July) in a state of shock. Most nights had been sleepless, spend in the only comfort to be had by driving aimlessly in her truck with her other close friend and her older brother, both of whom grieved in silent shock as I did, and wishing we could inflict personal bodily harm on the teenager whom we knew had given her the drugs.

So. I went to the camp. I was alone and away from those affected by her death. I was still numb and feeling isolated.

Suddenly I was thrust into another world. One full of life and creativity and joy and expression and all the high drama of teenhood. And all were as unique and free as I had been told to be all my life, without the oppression of having to hide it so as not to stir up trouble in the small town. It was a different kind of shock, and one that broke through a little and started to shake me up in a way I desperately needed.

I felt like a cold stranger looking into a world of warmth and friendship, and wanting desperately to cross the barrier of separation, being actively invited to in fact, and having no clue how to do it. But it was a start.

I cried all the way home after, and the bleak depression set in again until I adjusted to being home, and then I just felt alternatively numb and angry — the usual, at that point.

The next year, I arranged to spend the week after camp with some new camp-friends who lived in Portland. One of them had been emailing me, helping me stave off suicide and deal with the self-inflicted injury I’d started doing to myself. I honestly can’t remember if I started doing it before or after the summer she died. But I was doing it now, and I needed assurance and coping and help, and the camp-friend provided it. I was to stay with said friend for the week after camp as a way to slowly ease back into the “real world” after the immersion into “camp world”.

This was how I ended up at SMYRC — which stand for Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center — and how I saw that rehearsal performance, and how I ended up in the apartment with the graffiti shower curtain. This is how I found the Dresden Dolls.

It was only by listening to their music, by the raw emotion of Amanda Palmer’s voice and piano playing, that I started to feel less like that isolated numb stranger. I started to feel like maybe there was a place I belonged after all. My experiences felt validated. I felt seen.

Part of why I had stayed feeling so numb and isolated after the death was because I had never told anyone about being in love with her. People didn’t know the extent of my pain and loss, and I didn’t have the words or courage to tell them. The first people I told were those from the camp and Portland, simply because I knew they didn’t have any other version of the story than mine. They hadn’t lost her too, so my grief felt like less of an intrusion on their own grief. But they still all had their own stories, their own troubles and issues, and I was just one of many.

The intimate nature of listening to music got through to me more than another person ever could. With a song, you can project whatever meaning you might need upon the lyrics. You can experience a reflection of your own emotions. A reflection, naturally, is a step removed from the raw feeling. That step can be crucial when dealing with something so vast it can swallow you whole and paralyze you. It turns it into pieces, and pieces can be dealt with a little at a time.

As I listened to the Dresden Dolls, a part of me was quietly deciding that a world which contains this kind of art might be worth living in. So I kept living, and started to look for more things that felt like that. A lot of the things I attached to at that point expressed a lot of pain, a worlds of hurt, but within them was so much creativity. It was a new face of depression that I’d never seen before, turning it into something beautiful in a raw ugly way. It was so appealing. I turned into the darkness, and found light.

This July will be the ten year anniversary of her death. I’ve grown so much since that time. But without those moments I’ve written about, I wouldn’t have gotten here. I still cry, but I laugh too. I’m not as angry. I still stay quiet when I should probably speak up, but it feels more like a choice and less like fear. Most days, I don’t want to kill myself. Most days, I don’t hurt myself. I see so much to love in the world now.

I still turn to the light I found in the darkness, and try to shine it to the world.