Suicidal thoughts, a faulty system, and societal shaming, oh my: why getting help is easier said than done.

I’m sort of proud of this post. It’s a little too close to home for me to be entirely proud but I’m settling for a little proud. I’ve re-posted it before but I’ve been caught up in my life and essentially just trying to hang on as the hot mess express barrels through it so I haven’t been writing. I want to get back to it and thought what better inspiration than a post I really enjoyed writing?

via Suicidal thoughts, a faulty system, and societal shaming, oh my: why getting help is easier said than done.

My ex came out 6 years into our 7 year relationship (interview III).

This is a follow-up piece. You can find…

the first post in the series here.
the second post in the series here.
the first interview in the series here.
the last interview before this one here.

Me: Hey.

Michael: Hay. The beginning stages of horse shit.

Me: Huh?!

Michael: Think about it. Horses eat hay and…

18527261_10209187970242639_965695857254557158_oMe: Okay I think I’ve got it. No more segways. And I swear, if you bring up Paul Blart Mall
Cop. Cause I know that’s where you’re going and I don’t want to talk about King of Queens again. You need to move on.

Michael: I wasn’t going to do that…

Me: We were together too long. I could just interview you in my mind and get the same answers.

Let’s talk about the whole coming out relatively late thing, age 30. You’re a counselor. How do you think that impacted you?

Michael: I think I was afraid longer. My family is very conservative and they don’t agree with it. Fear is why I waited 2 or 3 years after I came out to you to tell them and I didn’t even tell them on purpose. My mom asked me and I said yes. And my dad found out somehow (I think my mom was worried about me and told him).

Me: What do you think made your mom ask you?

Michael: We’re close and she was wondering for a while and she wanted to know if it was true.

Me: But you know I did subtly prep her when I was worried about your well-being and called to tell her I think she needed to drive the hour to check on you.

She asked me why you were so anxious and since I couldn’t say, Oh, he is bisexual and since your family follows pundits like Rush Limbaugh, he’s afraid he won’t be accepted, I told her that you didn’t feel like you had social support for some things in your life because, as the youngest child and only one to graduate college, you felt pressure to act like you had everything together. I tried to keep it ambiguous but to impress on her the seriousness of the situation.

Michael: Yeah. I know. I don’t care about that. I am glad you did it the way you did it, knowing what I would want, because it was easier to tell her when she knew how anxious I was and how afraid I was to show them who I really am. It was like a weight off my shoulders because since our family doesn’t talk about things, I don’t know if we would have ever gotten there.

18527116_10209188452654699_3109046233448553177_o (1)
I included this one because I thought it fit given it looks like I’m excited I just found out I’m going to hear some gossip… and because Michael looks really photogenic here… He’s single, ladies and gentlemen. Ok, probably too weird.

Me: Okay so tell me how your family is doing now. Who knows?

Michael: Just my mom and dad.

Me: Why not your brother, sister, and nephews?

Michael: I feel like they’re more closed-minded than my parents. I honestly do. If it’s outside of their comfort zone, they don’t get it and don’t really want to explore the idea. My parents try to get it I think.

Me: When do you think you’ll tell them and how?

Michael: I don’t know. I haven’t thought about that. But I just feel like I would do it when it’s inevitable, like bringing a guy to Christmas and they’d figure it out. I still worry about that one though. I don’t know why. I am afraid that maybe my sister wouldn’t want me around my nephews, maybe, but I don’t know if she would though. I don’t think so but I’m afraid it could happen.

Me: What do you know of their opinions on this topic?

Michael: Nothing. They just don’t talk about it. Like at all. It’s just not a topic of conversation.

Me: How does it impact you that they don’t know?

Michael: It’s still hanging over my head. And I try to act like it isn’t because I don’t want to tell them but it’s hard to ignore. I feel like I’m still living that double life, like that secret life. And yeah with my parents, it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders–

Me: Are you talking to me through your Apple watch while showering?!

Michael:Yeah!

Me: Technology is weird. I’m just going to leave that one alone.

Michael: But I just don’t feel like I will be relieved after telling them.

Me: But you didn’t think you’d be relieved after telling your mom and dad before they knew.

Michael: True. I think it kind of helped that they had an idea. Kind of like you hinting at it to my mom so it wasn’t such a shock. I don’t think my brother and sister have any clue.

Me: Yeah, I don’t know if that is a good way to do it or not. I just made a judgment call and was trying to put your well-being first without taking away your right to privacy and make that big decision on your own. I took a lot of tums when your mom and I were texting because I was just fraught with guilt and anxiety about what I should and shouldn’t say. I just kind of tried to not deny anything or go out of my way to convince her you aren’t because I didn’t want to make it worse when you did tell her.

So I know this is really different for your family. How is your dad responding to it now versus how he did initially?

17492995_10208739703236244_8982091458121934150_o
This is Michael with my mom. We’d already broken up and I think she already knew at this point. He wanted to tell my family first to sort of test how it went because if they didn’t accept him, he didn’t want to tell his family.

Michael: When he came down to see me that day you were worried about me and I was going through that stuff, my mom told me he knew while he was standing right there. And I thought she meant about my anxiety and she said he knows everything. And I just thought, oh shit, this is awkward. We were in my apartment and we just had a discussion. She told me before that huge talk, in my room while he was in the living room, that when he found out he told her he’d suspected it for a while.

He didn’t talk about my sexuality directly but he said he knows what’s going on and it doesn’t change anything. He still loves me and supports me. I think my parents try really hard to be supportive now and sensitive, like not accidentally saying something that could offend me. I really appreciate that. I think it says a lot that he is being really mindful.

Me: Yeah, I’m really proud of your parents. I know they have had less exposure to LGBT+ topics or experiences but they handled it how I expected they would handle it. I know not all people are this fortunate but I had a good feeling your parents would love you more than it might scare them initially. They love you pretty unconditionally. When your mom told me she knew, I just tried to kind of be supportive and acknowledge that line that probably isn’t as politically correct because in our ideal world, people are immediately accepting and it is no different than heterosexuality. And as much as I hope we get there one day, I think we have to be realistic where we’re at now.

I’m comfortable with LGBT+ topics and it was still an adjustment for me because it was so personal. So I tried to make sure she knew that I had had to process it and it was okay to feel conflicted as she got used to the idea. For me it wasn’t so much about who you were going to be sleeping with. It was about the sudden sense of change and just reforming my relationship with you around this new and really important information…

…did she say why he suspected it or if they talked to each other about it before they knew?

Michael: No, she didn’t. I don’t know if they would have talked about it.

Me: I don’t know how you didn’t ask. I mean to each his own but I’d want every detail so I could analyze.

Michael: Ok, I will so you can analyze for me [laughing].

Me: You don’t have to but… I will do it.

Maybe you should just show up to a family function with a shirt that says, I’m gonna make American gay again. MAGA, bitches. Did I tell you I bought you a magnet that says Make American Gay Again? I’ll give it to you when I see you next.

[As he is getting ready and singing] Why don’t we talk later?

Michael: Okay, I’ll ask my mom those questions and get back to you.15235410_10207780456055664_8615438083598685341_o

Me: K. Send me a picture of your co-worker’s planner. So I can go have planner envy. Just take pictures of all of it. The outside. Everything. Just go up to her and be like, I know this is random but Imma need a picture for my ex-girlfriend who–

Michael: Who turned me?

Me: I hate you. Byyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeee.

Michael: Love you. Kiss my puppies. Byeeeee.

Michael’s piece–if he stops procrastinating, Michael–should be up tomorrow morning. If you’re curious to hear what he has to say about what it’s like to come out at 30 in Trump’s corner of the world, with friends and family who love him and support Trump, check it out.

Suicidal thoughts, a faulty system, and societal shaming, oh my: why getting help is easier said than done.

If you’re reading this on your phone, I suggest turning it on its side and reading it that way because it looks better and is much more palatable.

I know I already posted the interview today but I saw this article and had to link to it because I have been seeing a lot of people echo this in regards to their personal experiences and I think we don’t discuss it enough as a society. It seems as if we always have enough energy and time to make simplistic statements about how suicide is 4.pnga “permanent solution to a temporary problem” and those struggling with suicidal ideation simply need to “get help” as if there is some infallible checklist and, if they just complete it, they won’t commit suicide.

I think about suicide, a lot, and I think the reason people are eager to write it off with a simple fix-all suggestion but don’t have the same attention and interest in taking an honest look at the state of mental health in our society, is the same thing I have realized in a dragged-out, exhaustive few years of trying to help myself and get help for suicidal ideation: suicide is such a complicated thing and trying to understand it requires going down the rabbit hole. There you find yourself caught in an overwhelming, chaotic Wonderland that unsews the fabric of your mind and resews it asymmetrically.

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While I do enjoy the concept of Wonderland, I can appreciate why people prefer the simple reasoning of “if a person feels suicidal, then he just has to do this and he won’t be suicidal anymore” to a world that turns all of that reasoning upside down and inside out to the point you can’t form any definitive opinions on it–because there are no set logical rules that govern suicidal ideation. You have to be really comfortable with ambiguity and willing to accept the dissatisfaction of not being able to write out a solution and file it away as a job well done–or you just have to experience suicidal thoughts and what it is like to try to do anything about them.

This article is important and I think you should read it so I won’t go further than my personal experience because I could ramble and turn this over in my mind a hundred times today, which I probably will. But what I will say is that my experience corroborates the questions and argument Sarah Schuster is making. All aspects of my life–in terms of getting an advanced education, being an athlete all through college, exercising, taking medication regularly–fit the description of things people say you can do to ward off mental illness. I did them and enjoyed it–and they didn’t work. They don’t magically ward off depression like some silver bullet because suicide is so much bigger than what my extracurriculars were in high school and college, what is on my resume now, or what I do on the weekends. We sell these easier narrative that mental illness is the fault of the individual–they aren’t self-disciplined enough, they are snowflakes, dramatic, all of things that give society a pass from seeing this really pervasive and severe thing that drastically affects people’s lives. But time and time again we see depression doesn’t discriminate and you can try to avoid it, and some people succeed, but you choose it no more than you’d choose to be born into a violent home. It’s just there and it’s all you’ve ever seen and it gets a bracingly strong grip on you before you get the chance to choose.

I have an extensive history of trauma. I started showing mental health symptoms in college when it just felt like my legs were cut out from under me. Suddenly the way I had metaphorically walked in my life had to be entirely different. The way I experienced the world and my vantage point was entirely different. And the problem was, like most people who experience mental illness, I didn’t have any background in that and had no idea how to fix myself. I kept trying to will myself to be able to do everything like I always had, to be this well-rounded and just very capable and whole person, all while being certain I had never actually been that person. So I would promise people things and take on responsibilities I believed I could manage–because I had been able to do it my entire life and because I so passionately wanted to. And I still haven’t found an answer to that.

I have a really, really strong passion for life and certain things. When I get glimpses of my actual self between episodes of mental illness, I burn with and emit heat, passion, and enthusiasm for the things that are important to me. But it doesn’t matter how much you love the water and how much experience you have boating or how much you want to embrace the blessing of wind and sail–if there is a substantial hole in your schooner, you’re not going to get very far. Depression is my hole. It is the hole in which I hide and this spiritual, mental, and emotional puncture from which all of the effort, energy, will, belief, and passion I want to channel towards things sometimes leaks and other times pours. And I have tried a lot of ways to fix that hole. And sometimes, if I am lucky, I can repair it just long enough to believe the sinking is behind me and to get a taste of what it feels like to sail on a gorgeous, windy day. But my mental illness is acid; give it time and it will erode or eat or find some way to destroy any repair.

So in spite of the fact that I was about to complete my second master’s degree and third degree in the eight years since I had graduated high school, one day when I was on my way to my graduate assistantship, I needed to abruptly find somewhere to pull over on a 3side street like you do when somebody is about to vomit in your car. I put my head against the steering wheel and felt as if somebody kicked me in the gut and was squeezing my heart so hard I thought I’d burst, ear drums and all. All along, the part of me that doesn’t fit the stereotype of depression was sitting on my shoulder telling me to calm down (because of course it would be so easy from her worldview). I tried to make reason outweigh the physical sensations telling me I was standing in a pit as all of the pillars I had tried to build in my life crashed deafeningly down into a heap of ruin.

I tried to call my ex and he was at work so he didn’t answer. So I called my mom who was with my cousin, five hours away in my hometown. They were having lunch and she answered the phone with a laugh in her voice and said, “hey baby!” which is what she calls me when she’s feeling good because I’m the second and youngest child. Because I feel so much pressure to carry out this facade that I don’t need anything and have it together in a family where it has been common for my brother and cousins to drop out of high school, I wasn’t and still do not tell my family how much I struggle because I don’t want to burden them or wallow in the privilege I have accrued since I went to college, making my problems seem laughable and weak in comparison to their own.

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This is the work of artist Camille Rose Garcia, the illustrator for a new edition of Alice in Wonderland published by HarperCollins.

Needless to say, she was not expecting that call. I put my head against the cracked steering wheel of my car and I sobbed and hyperventilated, not being able to determine what my next step should be so I could get back to work and be functional like everybody else. It felt as if there was some bacteria rapidly eating away at my brain. If you asked me to tell you where the epicenter of that bacteria is, I could without hesitation point to the part of my head where I swear I can physically feel it at times. Somehow–and I can’t remember how–I managed to call the campus psychiatrist I had been seeing for months and make an emergency appointment. Surprised to see me in that raw of a state, he told me I needed to skip my evening class, in spite of the fact that I had a group presentation, and go to the emergency room immediately. I agreed to go but said I didn’t want to abandon my group so first I was able to give them my materials for the presentation’s activity and what they needed to be able to do the presentation without me, all with a suffocating heap of regret, guilt, and shame.

Then I went to the hospital where I sat from 5pm to 4am and was seen by a doctor who, clearly, had to stop more immediate problems like actual bleeding, and emptily asked if I had a plan and all of your basic suicide checklist questions. Then a social worker who was equally professional and distant came in and talked to me about how I was doing, if I had calmed down, what was upsetting me and my plans for going home, getting a good night’s rest, accepting where I was and beginning to rebuild from there. By this time, ashamed and feeling as if I should, I gave them the lighter versions of where I was emotionally. I had tried to convey how seriously and painfully this situation was hitting me but when their concern did not seem to match the intensity of my belief that I was better off dead and just needed to actualize the inevitable, I resigned and toned it down to say what I knew needed to be said so they could feel as if they had done everything needed to avoid liability. Two women from this volunteer crisis organization came in and talked to me. They were much more genuine and made me sign a plan that they would call me at the same time every day and if I didn’t answer, they or the social worker would call the police and send them to my apartment for a wellness check. It felt as if I had broken curfew and was grounded and couldn’t be trusted; which, given the potential danger they thought I could pose on myself, was fair. But it also made me feel as worthless and an inappropriate burden as I thought. They gave me materials to think about a daily outpatient 8-5 therapy program to properly address my illness and said we could talk about it the following day.

Nobody ever called me. Ever. Thankfully I lived with my ex who was finishing up his training to be a clinical and mental health counselor. He called the hospital and the numbers we had been provided and they were all dead ends. I just slept for a few days until I could trust my hands to not give in to these strong desires and then, like a coward, I slunk back into my work and my life. I’ve been in the neighborhood of that severe a moment point a few times since. I’ve called and chatted and communicated with the emergency services numbers. A few times they talked to me long enough that I was so distracted by the conversation I relaxed and could sleep off the heightened anxiety. There have been other times I waited so long I gave up and did something like emotionally drag myself out of the house for a walk to avoid what I thought was inevitable if I was alone. Other times I walked away from reaching out feeling just as misunderstood and dismissed as I felt that day at the hospital. (It varies and although it should certainly receive more support in order to do its job, it is a wonderful resource and I encourage you to use it if you need to do so; I might not be here without it. I don’t know).

What I will say is a card or a handout or a phone number, as much as we want to feel comforted by the delusion that is all we need to fix suicidal people, is only part of the answer for most of us and it is so much more daunting than you could know if you haven’t been there (and I mean there as in more than the what-if questions we ask about our lives and worth and suicide at some point in our lives). It’s hard and the hardest part about it, is I feel as if I live in a world that thinks I am weird and broken and of less value 2because I am this way and as if I am stuck on my pain and not willing or able to move past it like others. In my opinion, that is why people kill themselves. It is because they are trapped on the top floor of a burning building but people walk by on their lunch hour without feeling the oppressive heat from it because, in their world which is supposed to be the grounded world, there is no fire. And when you are trapped in a burning building that is rapidly chasing you to the top and there are no fire crews or emergency services coming to get out, and everybody thinks a pail of water will do for your imaginary spark, you sit there and try to decide between the agony of burning alive or taking your chances and escaping it, even if that means you probably won’t survive.

I clearly had more on my mind than I thought today and it just kind of poured out of me as I tried to write what I anticipated would be a two paragraph plug for this article and its finer points. If you feel this way and to you the world is burning, know that I believe you and I acknowledge how scary and blisteringly, scorchingly painful this moment is for you. And I hope you find a way to delay your fire long enough to put it out. If you need to spit out your own suicidal thoughts manifesto like I just did, I’ll read it if you need to say it to somebody.

We Tell Suicidal People to ‘Get Help.’ But What Happens When They Do?

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A Mighty feature by Sarah Schuster.

Again, if you need help: if you just type suicide in google, the first hit should be your country’s suicide hotline (which is of course incredibly sensible). If you’re in the United States, you can start here. 

My ex came out 6 years into our relationship (interview).

I strongly recommend you read the blog post that goes before this (it’s actually split into two shorter entries. Click here to read the first one.

 

Me (awkward because we’ve been on the phone for 30 minutes now): …hi.

Michael: Sup.

Me: This is the most awkward conversation I think we’ve ever had and that includes when you told me you were questioning.

Michael: Want me to talk in a Trump voice so it’s great? What do you want to know about me that you don’t already know?

Me: Is there anything you think I don’t know that you would be comfortable telling me? I feel like if it is important, I know it.

Michael: I think I’ve known longer than what I probably told you… that I was just in denial of my own sexuality but also didn’t want to accept it because I knew it would hurt you. But then I realized it was hurting you from not telling you and hurting me as well.

Me: Can you explain more how it hurt you?

Michael: I think being in denial just limited my options in what I should do. I loved you during that time but like you said before, I didn’t embrace it in fear I wouldn’t have support or anybody left because I was afraid I would lose you. So I didn’t give myself the chance to do anything about it and instead had this thing I was afraid of.

Me: Did you ever try to tell me and change your mind before I knew?

Michael: Yeah. I tried to play it off like I was joking but now looking back it was just my way of slowly accepting and testing the waters to see how you would respond. Like do 15128973_10207765738727740_3747544522836714370_oyou remember when we were watching Will & Grace junior year and I acted like I was confessing to be gay? I don’t think I knew at that time but I was playing with it.

Me: How did you expect me to react when you imagined telling me?

Michael: I was afraid you’d throw something at me–get upset, and walk out and never talk to me ever again. Just get really pissed off and that would have devastated me because the one person I knew I could trust and who would support me leaving would make me feel like I lost everything. I thought even if my parents might not accept me when I finally told them, I’d still have you so it would be okay.

Me: Wait, you thought I would get physically aggressive?

Michael: No. I don’t mean that. I mean I do but I don’t. What I mean is I always had it built up in my head like it was going to be this big, scary thing and that’s just what I imagined. I was anxious about it so what I imagined was worse than I knew it would be.

Me: How long do you think you knew before I knew?

Michael: I think I knew maybe six months before I told you, so maybe around January to March 2015 I knew.

Me: What was the tipping point? Was it gradual or did it hit you all at once?

Michael: I think when I realized, I noticed I was checking out men too, just noticing them.

Me: Did you ever think about just living with it and marrying me and not telling me? We were getting to the point where we were starting to deal with the inevitable engagement questions.

Michael: Yes. I didn’t want to hurt you and I loved you and thought we would be together for forever so I was just going to keep it to myself. But then I realized that over the course of our relationship, there were a lot of…

Me: Murky?

Michael: Yes, murky times where I didn’t know if the conversations I was having with women were cheating or not cheating but they felt wrong. But I still kept feeling like I needed to do it. Then I started having them with men. It seemed like I just kept gravitating towards that our whole relationship.

Me: What do you think made you do it before it involved men?

Michael: I think I knew and have always known but was in denial and thought if I talked to women online then I could prove to myself I was straight.

73616_454161377905_773892_nMe: Were you physically attracted to me then?

Michael: Yes. But I wasn’t sure if it was just you.

Me: So if you were dating a woman, why do you think you needed to do that to make sure you were interested in women?

Michael: It’s hard to explain. Maybe I was trying to make sure I wasn’t just attracted because of our emotional relationship and that I was attracted to women in general.

Me: Makes sense. That’s what I think you told me before. I’m going to change gears if you are okay with that. Let’s talk about when you came out.

Michael: You were the first person. I didn’t even tell Matt. I think he had an idea but I never said it to anybody else.

Me: Can you walk me through how it happened when I found out?

Michael: I remember when you came across some of the conversations I was having. We were searching for your car keys and you picked up my Ipod touch. When it lit up from being picked up, it had all of these message notifications on the home screen and that’s how you knew. It was really hard. I felt like my life was ending but also it felt relieving, like a weight was lifting off my shoulders, all while the world was crashing down. If that makes sense.

Me: What do you think of how I responded?

Michael: I think you responded a lot better than I thought you would.

Me: Even though I was mad about the secret conversations?

Michael: Yeah. I remember a lot of crying, mostly mine, and you were really, really angry and hurt because it was cheating to you. That’s what you were focused on. You rose your voice about the cheating and were hurt. You didn’t seem to even notice it wasn’t all women.

Me: How did I respond when you told me you might like men?

Michael: It was like an angry aha moment, like that explains everything but you were afraid and when you get afraid, you get angry. I got the death glare and I think after we talked some, you walked stormed off because you needed to process. It was like you knew but when it was actually there and it might change everything, you needed time to process. You didn’t want to say much until you had I think. On some level though, I think you were relieved.

I think before, you thought I was just doing something I don’t know shitty because this had happened a few times earlier years in our relationship and it was happening again. You were more understanding when you realized why I was maybe doing it. As much as you didn’t want to believe it, you were more understanding and you seemed more supportive and aware.

Me: Did you expect me, being mad about the sort of cheating, to tell everybody and “out” you?

Michael: That was another fear of mine when I imagined telling you but I knew you could do it but that you’d understand and wouldn’t do it to me. No matter what. You might tell somebody in confidence to talk and process but I didn’t think you’d blow it wide open.

 

There is a second part of this interview that you can follow here. Also, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below or email them at atlasgriffin12@gmail.com.

My Blogtober Project.

This entry is a follow-up to a previous entry which you can find here (I recommend reading it first or this won’t make as much sense).

14567480_10207527117322354_4177760255090210184_oWith that being said, he is a big reason I want to do OUTtober and Blogtober together this month. It made me realize that while I can get heated about things like same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights, I have a lot to learn and still have some subconscious biases that I need to continue to address. Because of this, I want to use this project as a learning opportunity and a means of becoming a better friend, peer, and community member. Although we are from different geographic areas, we both come from backgrounds where LGBT rights and social issues are not given the recognition or respect they should receive. As social media has shown us, there are plenty of people will never behave towards the LGBT community with any decency or respect. There are also, however, a lot of people who are prejudiced (which is still wrong) because it is unfamiliar to them and they haven’t had to grapple with it.

I don’t have a ton of readers. Quite frankly, I don’t know how regularly people read my blog and I’m okay with that. This experience, I hope, will check some biases which I may still have and also help me determine how I can better handle conversations with others who may not be as accepting. I am going to have some guest posts from members of the LGBT community, a set of interviews with Michael where we talk about his experience being in a “straight” relationship and questioning, and I’ll be reading and summarizing some articles on LGBT topics for students selecting colleges, how LGBTQ is defined, and an introductory understanding to the LGBT community for individuals who may be unfamiliar with it.

rainbow color patch on area rug
Photo by Sanketh Rao on Pexels.com

My goal is to post an LGBT-related entry every day for October. If you manage to see this, wonderful and I hope it helps us both to learn. If there is something you notice that you think I could do differently, if you agree or disagree, if you have questions, please let me know! Also, if you happen to be less comfortable or familiar with LGBT topics and have something you want to talk about or learn about, chances are I could benefit from learning about it too and can ask others or research online to find the answer. If you don’t feel comfortable commenting here, please feel free to reach out to me via my contact form at the top of the blog or emailing me at atlasgriffin12@gmail.com.

Thank you and I hope you check out my interview entry with Michael which will post tomorrow at 9am EST. Please consider commenting below. I would love to hear your thoughts (regardless of what they are; I’m always open to feedback).

Happy Blogtober!

 

Important context for upcoming interview with former significant other who came out 6 years into our relationship.

Michael and I were together for seven years. He was and remains one of my best friends. He was my college sweetheart, my first sexual partner, and became a very close member of my family. After we graduated college, he moved to a new state with me where I got my first master’s degree and then completed the coursework for a second while he worked on an MA in clinical and mental health counseling. A first-generation college student, he was also the first person in his family to pursue a master’s degree and it was a challenging road we both walked together. Although we had broken up months before, when I went to his graduation, it was hard not to tear up because of not only how proud I was but how it felt to see him accomplish something which I had also poured my heart into. Needless to say, our bond runs deep and we have history.

man and woman forming heart hand shape
Photo by juan mendez on Pexels.com

But we also have had some challenges (as he will explain in his guest post and I will share in my own).

Six years into our relationship, he began questioning his sexuality and seven years in, we ended our relationship so he could have the room to explore. Up to the sixth year, I still very much wanted to be with him and it was really hard for me to both support him in this huge, life-changing moment and process ending the most serious relationship I had ever had.  I think we both believe our relationship ended that summer but we tried really hard for another year.

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Although we both did things that weren’t our best moments in life and didn’t end things how we ideally would have, we both acknowledge that our former partner at some point did things or had moments–doubts, thoughts, actions–that weren’t perfect, some of which we have shared and some of which we have decided to let rest. It took some time but it became very clear we were meant to help one another through some formative moments in our lives. I like to hash things out and dishonesty grates at me. It is acidic and wears a hole in my stomach, whether or not I am the one who is being dishonest. I cannot stand to ignore elephants in the room. I need to identify them, categorize, and tag them so I can check in later. Michael is more of know what’s important and avoid confrontation sort of person.

There are things we could discuss and we both know that but our relationship has changed so radically, it doesn’t matter anymore. His identity has completely turned our relationship on its side and as much as it gave me a brutal mental whiplash in the beginning, it has helped wash away moments where we weren’t perfect and also made me realize while I was familiar with LGBTQ issues, it was never as personal and complicated for me as it was right after I found out.

This entry has a short follow-up. Please visit this link to check it out here.

 

Although this is a personal subject, Michael and I both put it out there knowing people may have opinions and that’s okay. If you have just general comments, feedback on the post/project, questions, etc., I would love to hear them. If you aren’t comfortable submitting them as comments, you can complete the contact form at the top of my page or you can email me at atlasgriffin12@gmail.com.

Walking beside me in the dark.

I stand next to this twin of mine. This twin that looks as much like me as a sewer does a stream. It is bent over under the burden of an invisible weight. I hold my cane behind my back and debate going it alone. It has the nose of Cyrano with a stout end. Mine is nothing special but normal all the same. Its ears droop and it drags along in a tired sort of way. I stand upright wearing my a silver wrist watch and finely laced black leather shoes. I wear a crisp peacoat tailored to my tall frame while it is draped in an ill-fitting sheet with a ghostly silhouette. There is nothing gentle or feminine about it, nothing bold or masculine. This is not my twin whose beige skin is broken along like the cracks of a concrete wall, broken and to the mercy of any passersby. This is not my twin that walks beside me, always chained to me where our feet meet the sidewalk. This is not my shadow.

Aiming for sport.

Sometimes I’m the lion, and sometimes I’m the doe. When you make me mad, when I’m passionate about something, when my blood is racing so fast it’s roaring like a hundred white rapids, I’m the lion. My curly hair rests, curl over curl, twenty rolling masses protecting my vulnerable neck and masking my exposed heart. But my hide won’t be thick forever, sometime I have to lay down in the sun. The heat wears on me and before I know it my lashes are caressing one another. My paws grow too heavy to pick up and I’m rooted where I stand. I’m tamed and I fall heavily, like a building drawn too far into the sky. Pride is strong and stubborn but it is short lived.

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And then I’m the doe, prancing around dead leaves and snow melting on my nose. All at once I’m intentional, nervous, and vulnerable. I look so innocent, standing there. I don’t make much noise but you watch me none the less. At first you enjoy it, you’re entranced. You want to draw closer and pet me, run your hands along my long back. You watch my every movement, the mucsles on my legs running smoothly like water in a shallow river. No sound, no rocks to hinder it.

But then it grows cold and that river turns to ice. The seasons change and you’re not a boy anymore. My grace doesn’t matter to you. You forget the fact that I mean no harm; it’s erased from your mind as if you never knew it. You forget that first snowfall and the joy of the first flurries settling on the ground. You pull out your gun and you shoot me, a bullet to the heart.

And all at once, you’ve taken everything I ever was, a proud yet vulnerable thing. And with one fatal blow, you turned both hearts into shrapnel. Because when you were a boy somebody let you play with a gun and pretend to shoot imaginary pigeons. And when you grew, you forgot who you were shooting at, who you were hurting. You drew me in because you loved me, because I loved you, because you made me feel wild and tame at the same time, and just when I walked into the clearing, you punctured me with lead.

 

This is a throwback, something I wrote nine years ago.

Don’t lose your faith in me baby.

Music is my favorite form of medicine. It’s what I do to process. When I’m not doing well, sometimes I need to just embrace the suck and let the storm run its course. Other times, I have to pull myself out of it. The problem is, there are two parts of me: what I like to think is the real me and the weakest and most vulnerable part of me. While I am both, when I get caught really deep in an episode, it feels like the latter part of me pushes the real me out, kind of like a reverse invasion of the body snatchers. The part of me I need in order to feel better, to know I’m more than crud, is just gone.

I thought recently about how I wish I could say certain things to say to myself that I believe when I’m not depressed. I parrot them but it doesn’t work because I know I don’t mean it in those moments. I sit in those episodes sometimes and get too comfy in that ball of shame, isolation, and immense disappointment in myself and everything I do. I will completely forget what it is like to believe in myself, to believe I have any future, or to believe I could possibly be worth anything other than simply eroding away. When I get better, it’s like this clear glass goes up: I remember how I felt and I can describe it but I can’t reach through the glass. I can’t feel or touch those parts of me. I thought if I don’t believe myself in those moments, maybe a playlist that says the things I know a more functional part of me wants to say to myself would help.

This playlist is just essentially the real me recorded as a reminder when I need evidence that I’m more than how I feel in that moment. It’s basically just me talking to myself, and a little bit of the depression talking back.  Some of the songs I personally see in ways they weren’t intended to mean so some of it may not to quite fit but for some strange reason, it means enough to me to throw me a lifeline for a little bit longer. For example, some of the songs are about romantic relationships and clearly I’m not in love with myself. That seems like the opposite of depression. It is really clear in some cases and not at all in others but I thought if it helps somebody else, great. You might also want to consider making your own if you haven’t. Give it a listen.

 

Zero and three thousand pounds of gravity.

This is the third in a multi-post piece. I recommend you read it first here. 

It was disorienting for me and I had more of a reaction than I understood, was less able to be impartial than I wanted to, and I just became somebody I don’t recognize. I don’t say that to excuse myself. This was no invasion of the body snatchers. It was definitely me and I am culpable for my behavior and conscious it speaks to my character, but I’m grasping at straws when I try to figure out what she (aka I) was doing. Being around her reminds me of that.

She was also somebody I let hug me, one of the few people because letting people put their hands around you and be that close to the most vulnerable parts of your body is counter-intuitive for me. I balk when anybody hugs me because it takes a moment for the rational piece of me to catch up with the instinctive part that is frozen between some subtle form of fight-or-flight where I back up and wall the person off with my hands.

I let her hug me because our friendship was hard-earned. Neither of us clicked initially and it was one of those relationships I had to develop over time by listening and sharing (something which feels like streaking to me) and identifying shared experiences. And one of those shared experiences is anxiety, hers and mine. She is probably one of the only people who I have ever felt really got how I felt and what it was like for me. I never told her or indicated that in any way, but she was. And when they split up, it tapped into years of family trauma and broken marriages, people moving out in the middle of the night, ripping pictures off of walls on Christmas Eve and going nose-to-nose in spittingly blind, tumultuous rage. Their separation was nothing like that and I knew that, but I got extremely emotional one night when they had a moment and it just threw off my equilibrium. It was too much to process and overwhelmed me. It activated too many sensors, opened too many dusty boxes, and rubbed too many forgotten scars–for no reason other than it had the end of a relationship in common. I have no idea why all of my previous experiences bled into that one, or what I did to let them.

I tried to gain my footing, the way you try to keep your balance walking across those fun house bridges with the many spinning black cylinders at your feet. And that footing was to be the worst version of myself and for that I will never be able to do anything but know it happened and, to myself, own my own behaviors. Anyways, her anxiety means something to me and, knowing how salient feelings of anxiety have been to me for the past two years, I was uncomfortable with the idea of making her uncomfortable, assuming I might. I had thought about apologizing. I started I don’t know how many letters. But I always thought maybe what was intended to be a sincere gesture was just me looking for a reason to absolve myself of my own actions. So I threw the papers away each time. Maybe it is so long over and, like my feelings then, I am on an entirely different wavelength and inappropriately restless with something which everybody else is past. And I can appreciate that. I am anything if emotionally and inter-personally normal. It would be selfish to apologize if it meant bringing up old wounds, right? I never decided and being at the wedding, I was not assuming I would be a focal point of tension but the idea that I could create tension for her, and through her, my friend getting married, I really did not want to go. That anxiety and tension in me built parallel to a hell of a lot of other anxieties in my life until I RSVP’d. I tried to focus on the positive and be excited. I am very happy for my friend. She deserved a wonderful day and I wanted her to know that was important to me. We never actually outright talked about her bridal party and part of me wonders if over the game of telephone, things got misconstrued and it was never a point of anxiety for her. When we went kayaking on our own and first “treat yo’self” day, she told me if we were as close when she got engaged as we were then, she would probably ask me to be in her bridal party. Honestly, I didn’t think too far into it, probably because I was kayaking. She got engaged two months later but in the midst of that, this really important relationship in our social group ripped wide open and changed everything. To be honest, I forgot she ever said that until it popped in my mind recently.

I was anxious about making people uncomfortable, I was uncomfortable (I’m already awkward in ALL social situations), and I was ashamed and insecure that, if all of these worries about me overreacting were true, that I was going to be at this event where people saw me as partially a monster, and maybe I am. I don’t want to be. I try not to be but I’m human and I’ve done some shitty things I wish I could take back.

The morning of the wedding, I got up and showered several hours before I needed to. I was excited and looking forward to the event. I planned to be supportive and I did not plan to walk up to my former friend because I didn’t want to bother her but if I came up to me, I planned to tell her she looked beautiful and I was glad she seemed happy. And all of that remained but sometimes even unrelated anxieties take over and I just lock down emotionally. I went from being happy to hearing my significant other ran into them in the hallway of our hotel and, suddenly all of it being real and that I was going to be in this room with all of this tension I felt hit me. I have gone out of my way to hide what has been going on but in August 2016, I was having such strong PTSD and depressive symptoms I stopped being able to function one day on the way to work. I pulled over on a street I didn’t know, put my head against the steering wheel, and froze mentally. I was no longer in command of my extremities and suddenly managing to sit back up and move my arms to 5 and 9 on the steering wheel felt like rocket science. Long story short, I ended up going to see my psychiatrist instead of work and he was concerned enough he had my then boyfriend take me to the emergency room. I had no means of hurting myself and hadn’t been planning on it but it came over me as suddenly and hard as a realization that I’m in a tall building and everything below me has long caught fire so the only thing I can do to keep from burning alive is jump. And I wanted to jump so badly it hurt, like when you long desperately for something you once had but it slipped through your fingers. I haven’t been in that bad of a position since but I have been really playing with the duller and razor sharp edges of suicidal ideation and intent since and triggers or stressors, like that morning, just made that itch stronger.

This post is a work in progress  but I wanted to make it public since I am linking the entries. When I finish it, there will be more to this post and another link to the next.