Elephant in the Therapy Room

Back in undergrad when I last had insurance and access to the on-campus mental health services, I just never brought up religion or anything that might sound a little too ~woo~ to say to someone evaluating your state of mind. There was some online back and forth that ‘xyz clearly means you’re delusional’ around that time, and I just didn’t have the energy to deal with that while trying to go in for help with depression. It also didn’t exactly help that any attempts on my own to look into the interplay between psychology and religion that didn’t deal with delusions were Christian focused therapy services. (I’m sure that can help someone, just not me.)

I mentioned in “Ghosts of Hypomania” that I have a particular brainweird event from back in high school that initially didn’t seem noteworthy, but in the years since, it’s gotten harder to say it wasn’t awfully similar to hypomania. There may have been other instances that seem to meet hypomania’s requirements a little more closely since, which is why that 3 day window is still relevant. I’m still trawling my memory while preparing for the intake to see if it’s For Sure hypomania (probably bipolar II) or Almost hypomania (probably cyclothymia), but I don’t want to cover everything about hypomania in this post.

{For those who haven’t been trying to figure out if they too have experienced this: Hypomania hits most mania symptoms, so I’m not being particularly careful about someone using mania or a linked source focusing on manic episodes instead of specifying hypomania.}

I stumbled onto ~sadiepickles’ post about creating a Mania Manual, had the free time, and clicked on her example. There’s several bullet points under Sample Signs of Mania that I should return to, but what instantly stood out under Grandiose Beliefs was the first bullet point, “Increased religious beliefs or spirituality”. Rather than spend a lot of time creating a personalized meme reaction, I just wrote it out in a post:

Was anyone going to tell me – “increased focus on religion or religious activities” is included in (hypo)mania* symptom lists

Or was I just supposed to read that – as an offhand comment in someone’s post – on my own?

* Even outside of delusions with religious themes, in terms of more religious participation. Might have something to do with mixed episodes for some (possibly coping).

Link 1: Religious Factors in Bipolar Disorder. Pretty good overview in terms of different presentation, touching on delusions, and noting that cultural norms are important to keep in mind. Some may like their sources for more info.

Link 2: The relationship between religious involvement and clinical status of patients with bipolar disorder. (Full public access to the study at the link.) Part of the conclusion, “Compared to patients with bipolar disorder in depressed, manic, or euthymic states, patients in mixed states have more active private religious lives.”

Link 3: Why spirituality may be important to your quality of life. Pretty much what it says on the tin (basically, has the potential as a coping mechanism), and it does note that hyperreligiosity may impact the usefulness of spirituality as a tool in bipolar management.

So, religion has the potential to be useful for some people when it comes to coping, but it also may feature into how symptoms present. How do you tell these apart? Well, I’d suggest ignoring the people cracking jokes about ‘believing an old man in the sky’ because ‘all religion is delusional, period’. (Despite trying to talk about all religions, the references were pretty clearly Christian. Do people recovering from Christianity need a place to vent? Sure, but maybe not where other people are trying to figure out if they’re experiencing delusions.)

Advice that’s more likely to be helpful came from ~relatable-psychosis: “With delusions and the like, cultural and religious background are to be taken into account and one is to go over whether or not what they’re experiencing and how they’re responding to it is culturally sanctioned, IE whether or not what you’re experiencing is considered abnormal to your community. […] Factors like conviction, functional impairment, and uniqueness would be taken into consideration” (source; also mentioned in this post and this post).

I’m aware that some religious Christians (and cultural Christians in different religions) are already a little lost when I bring up something that, for lack of a better term in informal conversation, gets lumped under the Pagan umbrella. (Not to mention those who lose any tact about religions other than Christianity when they get some anonymity online.) But that’s not really the comparison point I should be making. Are my beliefs considered ‘abnormal’ within Pagan spaces? Not really. It’s not a guarantee that everyone that gets sorted under Pagan will share every single belief, but ruling out delusions with religious themes goes a significant way towards ruling out psychosis, which points to mania instead of hypomania in what I can find so far.

In terms of a potential diagnosis, that seems neat and tidy, but I wasn’t prepared to feel so rattled by trying to take stock of my beliefs in relation to community acceptability and outliers. Sneeze in the wrong online space, and someone can start throwing around ‘delusional’ and ‘crazy’, especially when whether incorporeal entities can communicate with humans (and how) comes up. What about discussions about Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG) and interpreting communication accurately where there’s no tradition specific priest and/or diviner to verify (probably a solitary)? From what I remember when those were fresh topics of discussion, most Pagan bloggers were taking the default position that they were obviously sane and it was a matter of tradition differences about the acceptable divination and confirmation processes (or ignoring people who disagreed about other topics looking for an easy insult).

It’s not to say that resources out there about checking your interpretation and when to use/share UPG aren’t valuable or helpful. It’s just that when Step 1 assumes you trust that your perception lines up with reality, things get a bit shaken up when you’re trying to gauge whether you’ve had delusions or hallucinations (Bipolar Psychosis overview). It’s one thing to mostly rule out delusions (unless someone outside the Pagan community really goes for delusions of reference when it comes to communication), but it’s another thing to wonder about hallucinations. In order of most common to least:

  • Auditory – I’ve heard my name while in an empty room on a handful of occasions, but afaik, it’s a rather common fluke that brains can do. It hasn’t been related to an attempt at communicating with Anyone (or involved commands/directions to do anything).
  • Visual – I’m confident the one instance was a byproduct of being tired or an illusion while getting ready for bed (instead of an outright hallucination).
  • Tactile – I don’t know how to explain away the physical feeling that’s fairly consistent in range of location and perception that’s a “Someone wants my attention” ping. It only occurs in relation to incorporeal communication, and it’s only happened ‘in my room’ (across two dorms, my assigned room at two hotels, and my bedroom at this current home, which translates to happening on and off for about seven years).
  • Olfactory – None.
  • Taste – None.

I suppose I just wasn’t prepared for the vulnerable feeling of not being sure if I can trust myself. The strong draw to structured prayer and holiday schedules back in undergrad. I had that incident where I thought I just got a batch of miscommunication (Jotnar holy days, Tribes, and all that). The peculiar Faces (aspects of deities, not literal faces) and UPG.  All the different waves of Leaving, and Who’s circled back around on and off. Reigniting feelings over ‘I got something out of it, but it was wrong’ mentioned in “Echoes of Faith” (with the added worry that I wasn’t just operating with wrong info, it may not have even been real).

What if a solitary practice that includes UPG has too much room for personal error? (Let alone touching on PC Paganism and Modern Paganism….) What if a majority self-created path is too open to grandiose thinking? Where’s the line between ‘it’s alright to have a unique personal path’ and #actuallydelusional? Is it alright as long as I’m not claiming to be a leader (encouraging anyone to act similarly) or offering divination (claiming to have a clear line of communication with the divine)? Is it alright because deities have encouraged seeking professional help, self care, and haven’t hindered mental health management?

Honestly, I’m pretty sure some anxious part of my brain is just picking this apart and reading too much into events that haven’t involved me harming myself or anyone else, being a threat, personal distress, or throwing up a functional obstacle to life. Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe it’s a smidge odd, but not altogether abnormal (Is it Normal to ‘Hear Voices’?). Maybe it’s weird, but it’s at least non-threatening, neutral, and doesn’t occur with more serious symptoms (Hallucination Types, Causes, and Examples). Maybe the connection between bipolar symptoms during episodes and one’s interpretations of religious experiences aren’t cut and dry, and it’s okay to still apply personal religious meaning to what’s happened over the years (“The Awful Rowing toward God”: Interpretation of Religious Experiences by Individuals with Bipolar Disorder).

In Between

I’ve been posting about it on tumblr since I made the appointment over a month ago, at least, but I am in the limbo land between the first consultation where blood was taken for labs and the follow-up discussing the results. (I didn’t realize someone might be concerned after I talked about the first death anniversary of my grandfather in the past week, but this is not life-threatening like that [cancer]. I suspect I have PCOS.)

I sort of had suspicions back in my teens, but I didn’t really know that there were side effects and symptoms that might actually need to be monitored (making a confirmation of a diagnosis helpful in figuring out if I’m really at risk). I didn’t fully realize just how much gender baggage I was carrying around in relation to this until I started looking into more symptoms, what diagnostics might be used, and had to face a really stark reminder about the body I inhabit (specifically, how it’s interpreted by others).

I am very aware that someone ticked off the little F on my birth certificate. (Lovely reminder that Ray v Himes is still working its way through the courts and doesn’t yet help those born in Ohio.) After dealing with staff who didn’t bother to read what I’d written on their forms (on their provided lines for a preferred name and gender), on the paper I provided with important info not asked for on the forms (pronouns, a brief explanation of words used to describe my gender experience, medical history), or listen to what I told them (“my gender is not female”), I’ve got to admit that even seeing just this General Practitioner (GP) sets off an uncomfortable amount of dysphoria. (The look on her face when I admitted to having never seen a gynecologist…)

Add in trying to get a diagnosis for PCOS, and it’s just more than I was prepared for. Online resources focus so much on the infertility, ‘normalizing’ menstruation, getting rid of the ‘non-feminine’ symptoms, TTC/ttc (trying to conceive), and tend to assume the only people who experience PCOS are cisgender women(*). I don’t want to minimize that these are important symptoms for some women, but as someone who hadn’t yet realized that I was trans and didn’t know what gender dysphoria was, it was incredibly uncomfortable trying to interact with PCOS info back when I first got the suspicion because of this.

I was expecting to have to make my case about not making up potentially having PCOS, but GP actually didn’t ask very many questions. (The nurse asked ahead of time when I last menstruated, so GP’s first words to me herself were, “Have you always had facial hair?”, followed by, “Have you experienced unexpected weight gain?”, and then, “Yeah, we’re ordering labs.”) Everything was going along somewhat tolerably until she mentioned a final confirmation after the labs, since some of the results would rule out conditions with overlapping PCOS symptoms – a vaginal ultrasound to see if there are cysts on the ovaries.

<sarcasm>Note the textual distance that’s preparation for potentially needing to dissociate from my body.</sarcasm> Setting my dysphoria off the charts is counter-productive to GP wanting to recheck my blood pressure (maybe I have ‘white coat syndrome’, maybe it’s actually high), but I honestly don’t think she’d believe me. (I have an offline venting space for frustrations around being a fat patient who was advised to lose weight “because even a 15-20 lb loss will improve your blood pressure”. But that’s a block of salt for another day.)

(*) Most resources assume those with PCOS are perisex cis women. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I encountered talk of PCOS being a hormonal intersex condition (from someone in the intersex community), as opposed to a chromosomal, gonadal, or genital type that people more commonly think of when they hear ‘intersex’. I can grasp the reasoning in abstract way, but I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that I, personally, might be intersex. Still, I’ve got to admit that it’s a relief to think of PCOS as ‘hormonal intersex’ instead of ‘malfunctioning perisex female’, which is kinda how some people frame it.

Echoes of Faith

I read Sat’s post Loss of Faith: Polytheism Edition [link] in the cross-post on tumblr, thought ‘Mood’, and reblogged it over there under #shadow work. And then, it wormed its way into the mental category of ‘do not ignore’.

Because, well, some of what I wrote about The Burning and all of the [multiple, overlapping] Leaving(s) sound like it didn’t really have much of an effect on me. Some of it started somewhere in 2015, some of it didn’t kick into high gear until 2016 (Senior year/Graduation), and it wasn’t until the past few years that some components of the Leaving actually sunk in emotionally.

I suspect it might’ve been easier to talk about if I had gotten angry – a proper swearing and venting entry in a Gdoc that I could pour out of my system, even if no one else saw it – but I didn’t. I went numb, I shuffled the updates into a mental queue and left them there, and I was hit with a nostalgic sadness sometimes, way after midnight. I was incredibly embarrassed, and it was an anger-tinged shame more so than a good anger to clean out the emotional system. (Who exactly wants to admit to feeling gullible once the trick is revealed in the end?)

It was the diversity of intensity of interaction and different types of devotional relationships that kept me from feeling like I “qualified” to talk about feeling abandoned. Person 1 had been around casually for years, while Person 2 had just barely dropped by and been put into lockdown so I never built a relationship, f’ex. Neither really felt like They were ‘here’ enough to have actually abandoned me, but the sheer collective weight of all these less intense examples were a noticeable loss.

What did I do? Threw some content into some of Their tags over on tumblr, transferred sideblog content before officially deleting them, completely abandoned some tags, scheduled out final posts for Some, felt awkwardly alone struggling to interact with the devotees of Others (who appeared far happier and much closer with Them), felt stifled by a few of Their gag orders (until a recent anonymous spectrosexuality survey allowed a brief loosening, which led to sadness, regret, shame, and crying). I mostly just ignored certain feelings until enough time passed that I probably wasn’t going to ‘act irrationally’ while interacting with anyone else.

This isn’t exactly new news, but there’s a bit of a bias towards introductions and 101 material on some parts of pagan/polytheist tumblr. New people come in with – to borrow from polyam phrasing – NRE, or new relationship energy. Some people (as they’re allowed to do on their own blogs) focus on the happy parts: I think So-and-so helped me with this, here’s a picture of my altar and/or shrine for when I did my Oathing to Whoever, a heartfelt prayer overflowing with gratitude, and so much love whether spirit consorts, godspouses, etc or not. (It’s just so overwhelmingly positive.)

It felt like I was somehow doing something wrong because I needed to say goodbye to People instead of hello. It felt uncomfortable (like I was a killjoy) to interact with devotees who expressed a deep sense of loving-care with some of the People Who had hurt me. It felt like I had somehow fucked up the basics of interacting with a Deity when so many were Leaving. It felt a bit lonely when I was being given instructions to dismantle shrines, rehome objects, get rid of prayers, etc. when other people were trying to set them up.

I had heard vague rumors about some people experiencing abusive behavior from a Deity, but I was honestly blindsided by the boundary-crossing I experienced. (It didn’t look like an Earth-to-Astral crossover that was easily recognizable, and it manifested in ways that I wasn’t prepared for due to my lack of a ‘godradio’). If I hadn’t had other People Who were willing to step in, enforce changed wards, and do the heavy lifting of keeping the People involved away initially, I might’ve been SOL entirely on my own.

That this was in the midst of The Burning and Leaving didn’t exactly help because I lost some of the more intensive, closer devotional relationships I had been hoping would survive all the Leaving. But, once you feel like you can’t trust Someone or the divination They’re using to communicate with, it’s also surprisingly easy to let go. (And yet, we circle back around to Their other [current] devotees, and there’s not an easy way to handle the weird post-relationship feelings. Because Deities aren’t like human exes and ending a devotional relationship isn’t quite like a breakup.)

While importing sideblogs to WP before the 2018 Tumblr Purge went into effect, I made a note in one of my ‘personal venting docs’ in Dec 2018 while going through old sideblogs and old WP content:

In trying to find a silver lining: Rather than rushing to post about something, I did learn to wait and make sure it was still applicable, even if it does mean there were gaps in activity [on WP] and information that I don’t know what to do with after Someone had Left. I feel foolish for letting outside influence bleed into what I was doing, but I’ve learned how to double check that something actually applies to me with better accuracy.

Condensed venting: The thing that almost hurts is that I got a lot out of what now looks murky in hindsight – either Someone struggled with correcting my perception of Their Face, or for Reasons, They wanted to encourage me along a certain path for a while but had no intentions of delivering on that path in this lifetime.

It’s one thing for a pantheon to not be interested, or for me to not have the devotional clearance to interact with Someone, but it’s another thing to feel like I uselessly poured my time, attention, and devotion (some may say, love) into interaction and a relationship.

Honestly, I don’t have a nice and tidy conclusion for this. Instead of ‘once bitten, twice shy’, I feel like I’m several times bitten and now commitment avoidant. At one point in time, I very much wanted to feel like there was something coming from my People (affection, love, something more than bare tolerance???), but I’m a bit afraid I’ve lost the ability to recognize that.

Like, They wanted a Tool with few emotional connections, and now They’ve made one. What a coincidence that this aligns with some of Them wanting me to not rely on ‘the fickleness of love’ for being the initiation for offerings, service, devotion, what have you. Duty, honor, and a sense of wanting to keep your word have all made appearances while trying to interpret divination about this. (Since there are multiple People still around, it’s not an across the board thing. Some aren’t quite in the ‘love is fickle, let’s nix that’ camp.)

I don’t particularly have a grand solution for the community and ‘I can’t avoid interacting with fellow human devotees’ aspect either. I was always much more of an observer, who occasionally liked posts, than an active member of any online space. The main thing was that I just felt more of a drive to share original content and actually talk about myself, I guess. I suppose I can ease back into that, as a starting point.

Broceanic Honoring

Alright, so Poseidon has a particular Face that comes and goes (Brocean) and wants to be acknowledged about once a month (Monthly Brocean). What exactly can I do for Him when He’s in such a particular upg, not quite traditional guise? I try to keep the following in mind (Brocean & Night-Blooming Cereus):

I am the ocean and the gentle lap of the waves against the sand. I am the give and take of the tide, knowing when to compromise and when to hold firm. I move around rather than trying to force my way through. I don’t have to be immovable, stoic, and emotionless. I feel, express emotions, am gentle. The ocean isn’t always calm, but that doesn’t mean I can only feel anger or a particular slice of the actual emotional spectrum. I can be the cool water and the warm sun.

A bit ironically, my Sleipnir tag also applies to this post because there’s an element of shadow work to acknowledging emotions and working on emotional expression. The fact that an emotion is there doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad or you’re a bad person. It’s like having a ‘check ___’ light come on in a car, which can be helpful to make sure you’re still in driving condition, and it’s trying to continue to drive while ignoring that light (and the possible outcome of running out of whatever) that backfires. (Source for the analogy.)

Ignoring an emotion, bottling it all away,  or trying to only limit yourself to certain emotions isn’t healthy. It’s not healthy to try to swallow down all of your anger, sadness, and emotions that don’t fit the “light, love, positivity” group, but it’s also not healthy to only let yourself feel anger, sadness, etc. I say this as someone who’s had apathy and depression smother my emotional range into numbness, who’s had certain emotions break through the apathy a little too intensely, who may or may not be battling compassion fatigue, and who has had to prod at how socialization affects emotional expression. (Just quick examples: Don’t get angry, cry, or talk back, or it’ll just be “that time of the month”. Don’t cry; “man up”.)

I’m certainly not a poster child for healthy and safe emotional expression, and I still have to work on coping mechanisms that aren’t self-injurious, but that’s not the end of the world. There are certainly other humans in very similar boats. My freeform writing about water and emotions (above) focuses on gentleness because that’s the direction I currently need. I’d also guess that I don’t currently need this lesson from a Goddess because water and emotions are not inherently feminine, but it may just be that I already had an existing connection to Njord (hence this Face of Poseidon).

In the Norse pantheon, there’s Ran and Her nine daughters with Aegir in terms of Oceanic Goddesses, but I’ve never been cleared for interaction with any of Them because They come across as “remember I am Wild and can kill you” and I already learned the lesson of how dangerous water can be when I almost drowned as a kid. This doesn’t mean someone else might not get a tough love approach from one of Them, but this is an area where I don’t see myself doing well with that. Some people get thrown into the deep end of the pool and figure out how to swim, and other people go through the same experience and drown.

I don’t need the wild and stormy tempest to learn how to feel my anger. I don’t need rough handling and sharp edges because I can accomplish that on my own. I’ve punished myself in order to feel and tried to hurt myself into not-feeling what I was feeling, and the idea of gentleness towards my body and emotions (self-care) is the scarier option. The only way some of this emotional expression works is that I let myself do something that will not be seen by anyone else to reduce self-censorship (not even here), but I can share a tactic that works for me (no guarantee it’ll work for anyone else).

Because I’m a bottler and I have a history of not letting myself cry (stys suck), I sometimes need to go out of my way to get the tears flowing because it’s literally unhealthy on a physical level to never cry, not to mention the emotional regulation from hormones, neurochemicals, and all that. I’m not sure if it’s generational, a by-product of growing up with Fandom and self-identifying with certain characters, or simply a ‘safe’ fictional space, but I think through Angst plots for fanfiction or original fiction in order to help myself cry. I know, #emo. I don’t really write these AUs or outright new plots down compared to other plots because it’s not about being in Writer Mode, it’s just about relaxing into the emotional waves and not fighting the tears.

Writing Projects NOS

I’ve been chipping away at chapter uploading here (backdating) and on tumblr because I fell out of the habit of posting progress after tumblr’s policy update, figuring out imports, and trying to get back to blogging. I don’t particularly want to have a separate writing project tag here for each story or fanfic I work on, but I don’t want to ignore them just because Someone didn’t claim them. So I’m putting them off “Other Writing Projects” (new submenu) for now.

Writing Projects

-> Kintsugi

-> Darkling (series) – Part One: Ophiuchus

-> Other Writing Projects

–>> Veela – Le Coeur du Soldat: Soldier’s Heart (series) – Part One: Step 1: Honesty

–>> Rats – Grey Shades of Love

The big difference in terms of how I may write about these stories here is that I’m not going to do the full intro, chapter specific, and excerpts in individual posts route as the stories upload. If they’re mentioned at all, it’s just whatever I may think is relevant (f’ex, from “Rats”, Transmogrification Potion as HRT proxy because there’s no way that trans witches, wizards, and wixen somehow magically do not exist in the Wizarding world).

Monthly Brocean

In “Brocean”, I introduced a Face of Poseidon, but I wasn’t really sure about how to go about acknowledging Him after He showed up, so I went poking around a blog, Baring the Aegis, that I found helpful back before this blog existed when Hestia was around.

I wound up with three days of importance: 1) one of the days with Poseidon’s name attached to it in the Hellenic month, day 8 after the Noumenia (dark moon + 7 = basically the 1st Qtr), 2) the end of the month (Deipnon), and 3) the beginning of the month (Noumenia). It’s not a straight forward Hellenic practice because I didn’t have to acknowledge Agathos Daimon or any yearly holy days for Anyone. This falls a bit too close to the minimum for Hellenics, which winds up pulling in general acknowledgement of the Hellenic pantheon, and I wasn’t cleared for that category of Hellenic interaction.

This means that the Deipnon wasn’t actually observed with sacrifices or offerings to Hekate, but more along the lines of being an ideal time for cleaning and cleansing the home, any physical shrine spaces, and renewing wards. For someone with an online shrine space more so than physical ones, it’s also an ideal time for blog maintenance and cleaning e-shrines. Rather than giving offerings to several Theoi, the Noumenia was more just the start of the Hellenic month (important for orientation when counting the days to Poseidon’s day).

Now (almost 2 years later), it can be helpful to have the 1st Qtr as a monthly baseline for remembering and acknowledging Poseidon, but I don’t have to limit myself to only doing activities or emotional work on that day. (The process of acknowledging my emotions when they’re happening means I have to roll with when they come up (and they don’t exactly schedule that).) I’m also allowed to still have designated cleansing and physical cleaning days during the month. Using the Hellenic timing of Deipnon and Noumenia might be helpful, but I don’t have to get caught up in doing those specific rituals.

Butch

Due to how I rearranged my posting schedule here, I’ve technically not yet posted my review of Stone Butch Blues (it’s scheduled for later in Feb). I had kept a few personal notes in a separate draft that I thought might clutter up the #reviews and opinions post, but then – surprise, surprise – the personal bit got too personal, so I focused on other drafts.

Personal History

I didn’t experience bullying or physical attacks where ‘butch’ or any related words used to refer to masc lesbians were involved while growing up. I’m pretty relieved that I haven’t experienced the rape that Jess does in the story [1]. My experiences growing up over 30 years after the setting of Stone Butch Blues that included living in a rural area in my teens are obviously different (my classmates worked on their family farms, in 4-H, in FFA, hunted, and wore enough camo that I didn’t stand out as different).

And yet, I can’t say I was sheltered from ‘butch’ and related words. My grandmother was the first person I remember using ‘dyke’ to refer to me in a warning about others potentially using it if I wore a certain ‘masculine’ outfit with such short hair. (My mother chalked it up to generational differences, and sometimes, I had to agree. I wasn’t forced to wear dresses or skirts as an automatic part of being properly dressed for school regardless of uniforms, which Mom did experience, and plenty of girls in my generation wear pants that wearing jeans isn’t a masc thing.)

I still remember the ass on campus who ‘joked’ about how his cock could fix butch lesbians, and at the time, I was the only butch lesbian within earshot, so it definitely raised my personal awareness of potential danger from rape. {Did he specifically and directly threaten me, personally? No, but rape jokes aren’t funny when only a year or two later there would actually be someone attacking women on campus. Joking about any sort of sexual assault on a college campus isn’t exactly funny.}

I also remember how comfortable it was to wear my grandfather’s hand-me-down work clothes – 70s era jeans, in particular – while working in the E Shop. I also used to wear his long-sleeved overshirt – where he worked on one patch, his name on the other – when it wasn’t too hot, but an oversized men’s t-shirt that didn’t rid up in the back, wasn’t sheer, and allowed for full arm movement was a staple. (Some of these clothes also survived my time in the Paint Shop, so they definitely looked lived in.) Work boots. My carabiner with my keys (in addition to my shop key, my dorm was old enough that I needed a general dorm key and a room key). Multitool (with knife). Working as a techie was hell on my body in a physical sense, but how I dressed felt right.

Stone

While I had tangentially read about stone butches when trying to figure out how to Google the questions I had about butches when I was younger, I didn’t really connect stone to what I was trying to figure out. I didn’t really think about it until I stumbled upon Xan West’s WP, specifically What Is Stone?:

I am interested in talking about stone in a way that does not assume it is attached to specific gender identities. I think stone identity can be useful for and accessible to a wider range of folks if we stop assuming that it is tied inextricably to specific genders. I want folks to be able to access the idea that they might be stone, because I think it can be a really helpful framework.

I might find it easier to connect stone with butchness, but I think that poking at this long enough turns up a connection with stone and other genders. I can pull out quick tidbits that jump out from West’s post, but honestly, prodding around at to what extent stone helps to explain some aspects of myself is big enough that it might deserve its own post for thorough chewing:

[…]

B. Limits on touch/penetration/nakedness

C. Being a sexual top

[…]

F. Sexual orientation – pleasure is centered on another

In the process of trying to Google something about Stone Butch Blues, I wound up finding a post by Coyote at The Ace Theist where the book is mentioned – Tapping at “Stone”: me & a stone (a)sexuality:

“With that said, conceptualizing a simultaneous stone & ace identity becomes easier when you remember some of the specific subgroups that exist within that diversity of experiences I mentioned, including:

This isn’t to say that ace = stone, and there’s a fair bit about the ace specific complications around focusing on pleasing a partner because it’s not uncommonly suggested that an ace person should compromise and have sex with their partner. However, there are areas where the differences get a bit gray and hazy if you will.

[…] the help of the wayback machine can confirm two interesting details here: 1) “placiosexual” was defined according to the person running that blog as “when one feels little to no desire to receive sexual acts but expresses interest/desire in performing them on someone else” and also that 2) they described placiosexuality as “within the asexual community.”

It’s hard to look at that definition and not see an echo of stone. […] I think a lot of stone folks would object to being considered ace, and that’s fine by me. But the existence of multiple people who use the “placiosexual” label and consider it to be ace-related suggests to me an existing tendency to read asexuality and stonelike tendencies as not just compatible, but naturally related and in coalition with each other.

I’ve explained in older posts about how I came to gray-asexuality, and I’ve found it easier to call myself ace when trying to explain certain situations and reactions (even in recent posts), but I can’t help but to think that this isn’t quite clear cut as that. My gut says that I’ve been using ace as a relatively more well-known shorthand for what might actually be more of a stone experience, but I think I need to let things percolate and prod some more.

[1] When I tried to go looking for a list of pages or chapters to avoid while writing up the review, I found other thoughts on the book or general warnings, so I made a point of trying to include what I could remember and easily refind (tracking all of the allusions would be a longer list).

Trigger Warning(s): Rape (Feinberg gives a warning before the story starts). Specifically, an incident of “corrective rape” from members of the football team in high school (Ch 4, pg 39 – 40) and allusions of rape from police officers after raids on bars against a variety of men and women (off-screen, in a sense) before and after the main character experiences it (Ch 5, pg 65 – 66).

Ghosts of Hypomania

Me, reading over old typed entries I wrote in 2015 (Part I) and part of 2017 (Part II), and softly whispering: wtf

Context: I wrote Part I from January to March in 2015 after a mental health episode. It helped me to work on self-realizing and self-accepting mental health issues that I’d been trying to ignore in the lead up to a drop-in therapy session on campus. At the time I was working with accurate self-knowledge and research I’d done into what was possibly going on (seasonal depression aka seasonal affective disorder / S.A.D., probably winter type). My premise was to draft out a bunch of posts and put them into a ‘journaling about my mental health’ tag on my personal tumblr (tag never created).

While I did a little updating in the document, I never did post any of the drafts to tumblr as posts, and I also never wrote anything beyond my spring semester of my Junior year [Part II]. This might seem like a wasted effort now in 2018, but it’s a rather good summarization of my history with being a bit Mentally Fucked Up, which dates back to at least high school. For those not around to witness the live descent into varying degrees of depression, suicidal ideation, and Very Self-Injurious things from my Senior year, a good summary of that is in “Just keep burning”.

Part II was never finished, but I do have the best notes of how fluoxetine (fall semester, Senior year) and bupropion xl (spring semester, Senior year) went compared to me foolishly not writing down notes at the time (clearly, neither worked very well given what was also going on that year). Why bring this up now when this is all depressing backstory? While at the time my depression seemed to have a seasonal flavor to it, I’m not sure that’s actually what was going on. Hidden away in Part I:

“Hypomania (Or those three days I don’t bring up to anyone because I don’t know how to describe them)” [Written: 1.24.15]

Sometime in the spring of my 11th grade year, and proper spring mind you, I had a period of three days where I believe I had a hypomanic episode. I honestly don’t bring this up to anyone because it’s only ever happened once, and I’m not even 100% sure it would be considered hypomania. I went from the numbness that had set in after not killing myself, which made it feel like some part of me had still died despite my body going on, to not-numb. I had this idea for a story and ALL the ideas for how this world worked, and it was vitally important that I write it down.

It’s not uncommon for me to let things percolate mentally before writing something down, but with this idea, all these explanations and details were coming so quickly that I thought I’d forget them if I didn’t write them down right then. I had all of this energy, and I couldn’t stop fidgeting if I wasn’t working on writing this idea down. I was pacing and irritable in a class period where I had the time but not the means to write down the idea, and I just really only wanted to focus on this idea. The third day wasn’t quite as bad as the first two, and then the idea wasn’t quite as important and I didn’t feel such a strong urge to work on it. I settled back down into apathy, but it still seemed like an improvement compared to numbness left over from the depressive episode.

This served as the inspiration for a poem I wrote in my Sophomore year spring poetry workshop:

“A warm, windy spring day after a harsh winter.” [Written: 3.14.14]

The warmth of the sun

burns dendrites and axons

into winds whipping

at tornado force speeds

not unlike

the chemical mix that

giddies the senses

into a channel of inspiration

that must be transcribed.

 

These rapid fire thoughts

must be caught with

graphite and chiseled into

petal-delicate paper

not unlike

how the stars slip through

the sieve of stretching hands

that happily burn and singe

their feathers into phoenix ash.

 

The phoenix ash warms the heart

into a race to finish

this explosion before the rain comes

and the wax wings melt

not unlike

the neurological signals that

override the circadian rhythms

and propel the mind into

the short-lived high phase.

/End of entry/

Can I definitively, 110% prove that I experienced a hypomanic episode? Eh, I think that’s the most succinct way to describe it in hindsight, but I’m still a bit hesitant after being off with self-diagnosis in the past. Regardless, no matter how it’s labeled, there are times when writing is tied up with being Off. As much as it’s a bit surreal (dare I say, painful) to admit that something isn’t quite right with my connection and ability to write at times, I can’t avoid that whatever-it-is is flaring up right now.

Wibbly-wobbly, gendery-wendery

Late night contemplating of gender with my shadow selves

Part of why I hung onto pigeonholing myself into being a binary trans man is that I didn’t really know what else I could be, and the confusion was more scary than the dissatisfaction at not feeling comfortable with just being a trans man (because I thought I had to be FtM in order to be trans). It took more learning about the trans community and who all feel under this umbrella, and I ran into an umbrella for those who aren’t female or male all the time, nonbinary, and a bunch of specific names for gender identities.

Because I do not identify with the gender I was assigned at birth based on my genitalia, I am trans. I fought hard to accept that, and I will always claim that first.

220px-transgender_pride_flag-svg (Trans flags wiki)

I don’t identify as solely a man or a woman all of the time, so I eventually claimed nonbinary (AFAIK it’s a more acceptable umbrella term than genderqueer – even though genderqueer was first used in this manner – because not everyone has reclaimed queer).

120px-non-binary_pride_flag (Nonbinary flag) | tumblr_o29e9q7od71qdz3q6o1_500 (Genderqueer flag)

It really tripped me up when I was first questioning my gender that I had fleeting moments of feeling one way then another, but I eventually started to realize that I’m genderfluid.

120px-genderfluidity_pride-flag-svg (Genderfluid flag)

I kept running into all of these lists with these gender labels I’d never heard of, and I could conditionally identify with quite a few of them, but I never could identify with just one all of the time. I found it more confusing than helpful until I started to accept some degree of genderfluidity. While I can grasp at some internal feelings and perceptions, I don’t consider any of these moments that could warrant a specific label to be present long enough to justify detailed sharing with others or official claiming.

Moments (not a complete list) with example colors

  • “Both [M+W] to point of neither”
    • I’ve used comparisons to purple
  • Occasionally more masc / femme
    • Shades of purple towards blue / pink
  • Not on the binary (emphasis on the Otherness of above “neither”)
    • Green (not on the blue – pink binary at all)
  • A neutrality or sense of not being able to specify
    • Gray, hazy or blurry if unable to specify
  • Gender doesn’t matter or not able to internally detect a gender
    • Note: Specific to episodes / fluctuation of depression
    • The whiteness of a blank space

Range of label names possible (not exclusive for each option)

  • Genderqueer, bigender, nonbinary (outside of umbrella usage), androgyne
  • Trans masculine, butch / femme, demigender (demiboy, demigirl), genderflux
  • Genderqueer, nonbinary
  • Neutrois, agender
  • Some type of neurogender (gender is specific to neurodivergence / mental health)

I have nothing against people who want to use multiple labels and feel comfortable with using a specific label instead of nonbinary and/or genderqueer, but I don’t want to have to match up moments with a wide range of names for any particular one moment. I’m honestly not very good at on the spot detection (esp on a daily basis) and don’t want to get into “what” I am now with someone if I change up my presentation and get read as more of something. I know the wide range of options can help someone name their experience and find others with that gender experience (community is important), but right now, I don’t feel like finding the exact perfect label(s) will actually help me or help most people understand me.

Regarding the ‘most people’ bit, I’m not trying to sound 2edgy4u. I have family who don’t even seem to accept trans identities as an actual thing and struggle with understanding binary trans people. Even with the stereotype of ‘being born in the wrong body’ that the media loves, I don’t think they actually understand how being trans is different from drag (this is based on actual comments they have made). I honestly am bracing myself for my family to not understand and reject that I’m trans and nonbinary, full stop.

Frankly, quite a few people I’ve encountered just don’t think about gender identities or voluntarily look into ‘niche’ topics like all the possibilities under the nonbinary and genderqueer umbrella unless they’ve questioned their gender or are trans. Perhaps I’m expecting too little of some, but I’ve been relieved when someone has understood trans and nonbinary as umbrella terms. I feel like I’m just waiting for the completely oblivious non-relative to equate trans people and drag performers, and I’m honestly not always prepared to go into teacher mode.

In sum: Still trans. Nonbinary → Genderqueer + Genderfluid. I am a nonbinary trans person who is genderqueer with some genderfluidity. Outside of situations where I need to remain closeted, I prefer they / their pronouns.

Tumblring

I just haven’t quite been in a “proper format and effort for WP” writing mood a fair bit of this year. Ripple effects of shadow work changes, People finally getting around to Leaving, lots of ‘radio silence’. My grandfather’s cancer diagnosis and passing (as written about already). About six weeks after he passed, my Great Aunt passed away suddenly.

{It was the last night she was house-sitting for her daughter, who returned in the morning to find that she was on the floor. There were rumors of falling while packing up to go home, having a heart attack, or a stroke, but I’m just removed enough that I didn’t have to deal with death certificates and stuff with definite answers. We can hope she passed relatively painlessly and quickly, at least.}

Then very quickly after that, Thanksgiving. For the first time in my living memory, both of my uncles showed up to my grandmother’s and we had to deal with cousins bringing boyfriends / girlfriends (extra people! plus my step-aunt and step-cousin! so much social exhaustion). I can’t say it was the worst Thanksgiving I’ve ever experienced, but it’s just been more bland, utterly mundane stuff that doesn’t really merit a public blog post, y’know?

So, why am I sharing all of this now? On any given night, I typically go to one – if not both – of my primary tumblr accounts where I can vege, reblog something to a sideblog, maybe consider a post on a main blog. But it’s a bit like this right now:

*sigh* A content guidelines policy change starting 17 Dec, in a nutshell. I don’t necessarily want to break down the specifics in this particular post, but instead of addressing actual problems that they didn’t adequately moderate for in the past (porn bots, pedophiles, child porn), someone decided they’re just getting rid of all NSFW content. Based on a shitty algorithm that’s been catching SFW queer, (I believe) chronic pain, and frankly completely random posts with a special side of wtf because of the mention of “female presenting nipples”. Historical sculptures, saint imagery, and other art have been flagged, but there’s also been issues with how this is defined in relation to the trans community (non-sexual, post surgery pics, f’ex) and what makes “male presenting”  nipples okay.

This is the absolute opposite of what would’ve actually helped. Most NSFW blogs made a point of opting into the ‘NSFW’ flag, didn’t go looking for minors, and were alright with [hypothetical] measures to verify the account wasn’t a bot. Whether it was a sex worker just trying to earn some money or someone’s personal hobby account, most porn wasn’t hurting children (literally or metaphorically). An update to allow users to flag an account as a porn bot and some tweaks to the tagging system so NSFW tags were automatic (instead of needing to have users opt-in into using them) would’ve done more.

But now, we’re facing a loss of sex workers, queer friendly porn, sex positive porn, sex positivity in general, BDSM communities, and an unknown amount of Fandom loss (fanart will most likely be hit first). I’ve reblogged some consent and 101 stuff that’s kink related (#Fifty Shades of Don’t Be Abusive), but I *think* my sideblogs and main blogs will survive past the 17th, unless something queer, non-sexually kinky, or fanfic related lands me in hot water. (Or a random SFW post gets flagged.) Some people are rather blase about it, but it’s very surreal to think that blogs I’ve put years into (I think the oldest were started in 2012) and blogs I’ve been following for years (I remember reblogging the first posts for a now established community resource) may be gone.

I was a wee baby fic writer and didn’t have such an embedded online presence when Strikethrough and FF.net went through their big purges, and I’m still not sure if I lost content in a DA purge or not (but I think my account is still there?). I’ve lived through online hits before, but this is my first one that’s potentially going to dig in and hurt as it rips through the web. (People are dusting off older sites, backing up blogs here to WP, and looking into alternative sites, so it isn’t “just a tumblr thing”.) And it’s not easy trying to come up with how to explain what I’m feeling to non-tumblr people. It’s not my only social media platform, but some of the others – FB is a good example – are very much connected to my irl life and I need to carefully moderate who sees what to maintain a public image. It’s like needing to get dressed up to leave the house Monday morning, and tumblr is like getting to lounge around in pjs on a Friday night.

I know I need to think through the logistics of backing up certain blogs. There’s Adulting resources, knitting, Fandom, polytheistic + pagan + pop culture pagan, BDSM, language learning, and polyamorous posts among other topics. Do I want to transfer [certain] tags and sideblog shrines here? Should I look into Dreamwidth? I technically still have a LJ, but I haven’t touched it much after the Russian transfer thing went down (concerns of effecting queer content). I still have some time to think and plan, but I just really wasn’t prepared for something that’s been more stable and constant in my life to implode like this.