0730

I wish I could make something
That would make people cry
From love and from heartache
From the sheer size
Of emotions inside them
Without knowing why.
Just knowing, “this did it”
“This made my tears fly.”

I guess I don’t relate
The way others do.
What I find profound,
They seem to think is taboo.
What I find droll,
Are the things their brains stew.
I miss feeling
Like I have a clue.

Other people are boxes
With buttons to press.
I know the combinations
I learned them in class.
But it doesn’t feel real.
Manipulation is crass.
So I curl up inside me
Because that seems best.

I’ll continue to make things
Where I like the style;
Things I’ll find later
When I’m cleaning out piles
Of garbage and trash, where they belong
Even though they make me smile.
Because the truth is, I’m someone
And my tears are worthwhile.

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0630

Sneezing
is pleasurable
once or twice.
But three times?
ACHOO!
I sneeze at you.

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0530

Sometimes I cry
when I feel good.
Sometimes I cry
when I feel bad.
Sometimes I cry
because I don’t feel

I don’t know which I prefer.

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0430

Rolling
Rolling Rolling
Rolling Rolling Rolling
Rolling

Road trips
Life trips
Once now again
I’m busy y’all.
Sorry?

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0330

Blow it up
Set the world alight
Turn what’s wrong into right
By starting anew
Eat some pizza
Cry your tears
Call a hookup
Read up on peers
Spread your legs
To assuage your fears
If you don’t think
It doesn’t come true
If you don’t know
You’ll be able to do
Something
Drink up
It’s coming

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0230

Can’t wait to leave.
All that I’ve gained is
Lost
In the shuffle of the things I’ve packed or
Forgotten
Or would
Rather
Not remember
In the first place.
After I go home, I’ll think about it more.

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0130

I sip cold red wine
from a plastic tumbler.
I drink diet coke
like it was water.
I exhale smoke
and inhale slaughter.
My life is all but sane.

I kiss strangers
but shy away from friends.
I study
but it doesn’t pay dividends.
I sometimes wonder
whether I’ll make amends
for all that’s been spent on me.

I play too much
and should know better.
I drink often
but wish I were wetter.
I spend money
though I’m a debtor.
Life is a chain letter.

Continue reading

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A Holiday Message to my Trans Siblings and Queer Cousins

Dear sibs and cousins,

In this time of darkness and cold (everywhere in the continental USA except parts of Florida and Texas), I just want you to know that you are loved. You are worthy. “You fulfill your purpose just by being” as a former professor of mine once said.

I know that this time of year can be quite difficult, especially for those of us used to large family gatherings and loving environments. Many of us must enter one (or more) of these gatherings, hiding some aspect of who we are in order to gain access. Many of us are denied access entirely for living our truth. Many of us remember fondly (or not so fondly) going to the house of an extended family member and rituals of presents, food, gratitude, love.

And for all of us, even those who do not have those memories, I hold such a depth of love in my heart.

I have nothing that I can truly say to make this time of year easier. All I can say, sibs and cuz, is that I see you as you are. I acknowledge the wonder in me of who you are. I hold love for you and the person who you are.

Never forget that through the bonds of kinship-by-circumstance, you have a sibling or a cousin who is firmly in your corner and who firmly loves you for your complexities.

Happy Channukah (or whatever holiday you prefer or just happy ‘the days are starting to get longer now’),

~Fluffy

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Bereshit – בראשית

Introduction:

I’ve decided to start a sort of “Torah Study” regular entry. Every Saturday (or close to it) I’ll sit down and read the Torah portion, or Parsha, for that week in the original Hebrew with the aid of a dictionary. Afterward, I’ll write down my thoughts. Some weeks may have more than others. I will try to remember to tag and categorize them all properly so that it’s easy to see them all if that’s of interest. Please remember: I’m no rabbi or religious authority. These are my thoughts, based on my readings.

Note:

For my readers who may not be familiar with it, I use the term Hashem here as a stand-in for “God.” Literally, Hashem means “the name.” In Judaism there’s a loosely (depending on your denomination I suppose; orthodox folks hold it in much higher regard than I do) held belief that it is impossible for us to know, let alone pronounce, the true “name of God” and to try is a sort of sacrilege. Anyone remember the third commandment? Likewise, in prayer we use the moniker “Adonai,” or “my lord,” as a stand-in for parts that display yud-hay-vav-hay (יהוה), which is the present masculine form of the verb “to be” (there is no neutral form in Hebrew). Many Christians will recognize the anglicized pronunciation of this word (“Yahweh” or “Jehova”) as “the God Jews worship!”, however, as I’ve been told by multiple rabbis it is less of a name for Hashem and more of a callback to when Hashem met Moses and said “I am that which I am.” That said, because this was the layperson’s (non-clergy-member) “name of god”  we don’t use it nowadays out of respect, though there were instances that suggest that Hashem didn’t bar ALL use of this moniker with the third commandment, just “incorrect” use. This theological background is also part of why modern Hebrew simply doesn’t use the present form of the verb “to be” and instead implies it in conversation.

I will also use singular They pronouns. I’m queer. Get used to it.

Without any further ado:

Bereshit – בראשית

This week’s Torah portion is the very first, bereshit “in the beginning.” Almost everyone I’ve ever met knows the story. In the beginning, there was nothing and Hashem set out to create, well, everything. They did so in six days, accomplishing specific tasks, and on the seventh day rested because They’d finished the scope of the work that they set out to complete. Finally, they consecrated the seventh day as a day of rest forevermore.

Right?

Well. That retelling is sweet, but I found what were some surprising differences from the side-by-side English translation I used after reading it in the original Hebrew.

Continue reading

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Bipolar Disorder is not a Pendulum

I did something herculean today: I did all of the work I needed to do and then some. To most people this is nothing. They don’t feel accomplished by doing the bare minimum. For someone with bipolar disorder, the bare minimum can grow into a monstrous task that threatens to overwhelm us, often without warning. I sometimes worry about making commitments too far in advance because I regularly go into states where I find it difficult to feed myself, let alone deliver a multi-page report on top of all of my regular work.

One of the hardest parts of bipolar disorder is that when a mood swing hits, I almost never know what I’m going to get. For the first time in a while, I landed on across-the-board depression. Typically I experience hypomania or positive-affect depression.

Bipolar disorder is not a pendulum, manic to depressed, but a giant wheel of fortune. Depending on your current situation in life some slices may be larger than others. Some medications completely remove certain slices entirely. Others will affect their size. There are things every bipolar person can do to ensure that the best option is as big as possible. After a long enough time playing the game intentionally, you can even get a feel for how to spin the wheel to ensure you land on a more desirable option.

But even if you get good at “playing the wheel,” you’re going to spin it wrong sometimes. There’s an element of chance that your skills, your medications, your introspection will all escape and you’ll land on what’s worst for you.

And what’s worst does depend on the individual in question! I prefer to be depressed; my emotions are more manageable in depression, and I have more consistency of productivity. On the flip side, I know folks who much prefer mania in general; they enjoy the fast pace and strong emotion.

But that wheel is fickle, dear reader. And sometimes what we prefer is the smallest slice available. Often the point of therapy becomes increasing the size of that slice as much as possible, as consistently as possible through various means.

Despite everything I’ve noted, however, there is still a serious preference in clinical psychology to consider bipolar disorder a bipolar scale. “It’s in the very name,” after all! But the talk of a base-ten system for emotions with a baseline of zero being the end goal is a dangerous dilution. It makes the bipolar experience seem manageable and means that the clinician doesn’t have to think as carefully about the condition. The reality is that chasing that “zero-base-line” often makes things worse and can make simply surviving as bipolar difficult.

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before, but there are at least two levels to the experience of bipolar disorder: the emotional or affective side, and the physical side. While most people understand bipolar disorder to be either one or the other, it is a combination of those and often more. You don’t just “feel sad,” you can get physical symptoms of exhaustion. You don’t just “feel happy,” you can get physical symptoms of anxiousness. And these things can happen regardless of how you feel emotionally.

The term hypomania refers to the experience of an emotional depression and a physical mania. Hypermania relates to both emotional and physical mania. Depression refers to both emotional and physical depression. They don’t really have a term for emotional mania and physical depression, so I use “high affect depression” which works better than nothing.

There are, of course, multiple types of bipolar disorder; all of them experience mood swings, but the extent to which they experience mania dictates type. Type I refers to people who have experienced at least one mania in their lifetime. Type II refers to individuals who haven’t experienced a manic episode. Cyclothymia is a related mood disorder; it’s essentially the mood swings without either of the physical states (so mainly the affective side of bipolar disorder absent the physical side). Additionally, there is the moniker “rapid cycling” which can be tacked onto Type I or Type II; generally, this means that the physical side of the mood swings happens at least four (often more) times per year.

More recently they’ve added the type “Mixed Bipolar.” This is my type. At first glance, this type suggests that someone can experience depression and mania at the same time or (more regularly) in rapid succession. Most discerning readers, I know you’re now wondering “but wait, you said before this is a function of all bipolar types,” but I want you to think deeper. Mixed bipolar, as a type, indicates that someone can experience a hyper and depressed mood, or a hyper and depressed physical state at the same time or in rapid succession.

I find it useful to conceptualize my experience of bipolar disorder with four tiers; the affective, the physical, the microswing/mood, and finally the macroswing/pattern. These all intersect, of course, but the microswing level is how quickly and often my actual mood changes (as opposed to my current emotion) while my macroswing looks at how much overall energy it takes to exist (as opposed to how much I have access to).

Think of the affective/microswing and pattern/macroswing dichotomies as cost vs. tax. No matter what I’m paying both, but the tax is calculated differently (and is more steady) than the cost. I can sometimes be tricky and avoid paying the tax… but it might come back to bite me in the butt come tax season (when that macroswing shifts). I’ll give an example:

Before Friday, I was in what I conceptualize as a hypomanic depressed mania. To break that down: I had a low affect, mania, depressed mood, and high physical energy. Typically for folks that conceptualize this on a two-tier system, that’s what hypomania is. However, in the past, I’ve had hypomanic hypermania, or a low affect mania, elevated mood, and high physical energy. The main difference between these states is that while my affect is still generally low and negative, my internal sense of emotions is tempestuous and cycles quickly. That is, while I still generally seem “sad” because I don’t express emotion as quickly or visibly, I may experience anger, sadness, joy, and then depression again in very quick succession without acting on any of them.

And then Friday came around. I spun the wheel, like I do every morning, and watched in horror as the arrow bounced on a peg. It could have landed on what works best for me, that hypomanic depressed mania, or on full blown depressive depressed depression (what I call D3). A part of myself shriveled up inside as it tossed over to D3. All of this work, I thought, my exams next week, I cried. I found it difficult to get out of bed, to go and do even the simplest things.

And here I am, today having spun the same wheel with what looks like an ever increasing slice of D3. Because that’s how it works for me; I get comfortable in one state and my mood swings are sudden and often without warning. They don’t just happen overnight; sometimes I’m called up from the audience at random. Sometimes I’ve done something special to earn (trigger) it.

But despite it all, I managed to do work today and be proud of it. I managed to look this great big monster in the eye and say “alright. IF this is how it’s going to be, then we need to have a talk” and negotiate. I’ve managed to ensure that I’ll be able to survive.

Please, dear reader, understand how miraculous that is. Understand how lucky, not special, I am. Love the people in your life with bipolar disorder even if they lose that fight. It may not look like much to you, but every battle that I win is a minor miracle.

And never forget, I’m not battling my illness, I’m not battling my brain or my body, I’m not even battling the world. I’m battling society’s expectations that I function like a person without bipolar disorder. And that, dear reader, is fucking metal.

Posted in Identity, Personal Psychology, Psychology, Writing | Leave a comment