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

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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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Rolling Rolling
Rolling Rolling Rolling

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

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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
Drink up
It’s coming

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

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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’),


Posted in Essay, Gender, Orientation, queer, QUILTBAG | Leave a comment

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 Essay, Mental Illness, Psychology | Leave a comment

Feeling Single Sucks

Maybe it’s selection bias, but I’ve read so many articles on how difficult being single is that it almost feels like a fun cliche. I can feel the editor salivating at the prospect of all of the hits from single people who will agree, and partnered people quick to remind us single folks it’s our fault or that being partnered is hard too.

As always, dear reader, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Being single is pretty rad. Regardless of if you’re poly (a friend’s ridiculously high-quality blog on navigating poly relationships, communities, landscapes, etc.), monogamous, or otherwise it can be a helluva fun adventure. You don’t have to be strong or support another person through times that are difficult for them. You don’t have to make someone else’s problems your own. You can hog the bed. You can treat yourself to an extra drink or dessert instead of going halfsies on a date. You can be entirely beholden to no one; no sinks on your time and no responsibilities to making someone else’s life decent or better by your behavior. Self-care becomes less an imperative and more a matter of course.

I think there’s a false equivalency that we all fall back on, this idea that we don’t fill our lives when we are single. There’s just some empty hole that we put away in the corner and ignore, like a missing piece of furniture. Surely, we shouldn’t be dedicating that time and energy to finding a replacement piece. Goodness knows, the right coffee table only comes along when you’re not looking for them. But also, if you don’t put yourself out there and visit some furniture stores, maybe browse around amazon, how will it find you? You can’t acknowledge that hole of time and space; you must live your best life you can with it sitting there in the corner.

The truth, however, is that we fill that space with a different piece of furniture or art (family/friends, cycling, rewatching past seasons of The Mindy Project and iZombie and crying, etc.) or we look to replace what was there before (a new relationship). By directing energy into other aspects, we are constantly reminded of our singleness. By directing energy into finding partners? Even more so.

Being single is pretty awesome. Feeling single sucks.

And this is the distinction that’s important.

I’ve been functionally single for some few years now; I’ve gone on a few dates with some people, but mostly I’ve spent the time hooking up or having lackluster first dates that end in a mutual ghosting. I’ve filled a lot of space with other things. I volunteered/studied overseas for five months, I’ve been teaching, I’ve been in performing ensembles and doing research and academic writing. For a while I filled that space up completely; I didn’t leave space for other people and unsurprisingly ended up being emotionally and physically unavailable for potentially significant situations. On the flip side, I’ve been very hurt by making myself available and being rejected continuously.

And both of these situations make me feel single. Not lonely, though I’ll admit to feeling that regularly in conjunction, but single. It’s a distinct feeling that we don’t have a word for, or at least not one that I’ve come across.

It’s not just being alone, but being told (implicitly, explicitly, accidentally) that we’re not worthy of dating. It’s being told to “wait” until our lives are more capable of handling a partner; meanwhile, other folks in our situation are dating or even getting married. It’s being told that it’s totally worth fucking us but not dating us. It’s being treated like an experiment for someone else’s sexuality and having them balk at the notion you’re looking for something with an emotional connection. It’s being told “I’m looking for what you are” and then having that person completely ghost, evanescing into the ether. It’s being approached by total strangers who will tell you the reasons why they would never date you, unprompted (yes, really). It’s being told “I can’t believe you’re single, you’re such a catch!” by well-meaning family and friends. It’s being given advice from people who have never been single for much longer than a year since they were teenagers or people who haven’t been single since before the smartphone was invented. It’s being told that you must love yourself (research says: this has no discernable bearing on your ability to find partners or to have good relationships) by someone who struggles with crippling self-esteem which they get support for from awesome partners. It’s seeing the eye-rolls when you discuss how lonely you are or how much you wish you had a partner or more. It’s hearing “being in a relationship is hard too…” said, followed by all of the problems you’d love to have.

And these are messages and experiences that many single people bump into while single for a long while, particularly if their dating pool is consistently shrunk due to things like queerness, fatness, transness, ugliness/unattractiveness, poly, poorness, ability et cetera. Don’t mistake it; these are value judgements from ourselves as well as from others.

Society has ingrained within us (even the poly people in the back) that being single is all well and good, but being incapable of not being single is abhorrent. Abominable. Disgusting. Horrific. [Insert your adjective here]. Our entire system of life is set up with the assumption that we will have children (and, hence, a partner because who is a single parent besides, uh, lots of parents) who will take care of us as we age, or at least a partner with whom we can save up with for old age. It’s more than just “it’s better not to be single,” it’s “how will I literally survive if I remain single?”

This puts a lot of existential terror on the prospect. That’s part of why being single sucks so much; it’s an “objective” measure of “failing” at life and what’s your prize? Derision, judgment, debt, and death.

Posted in Essay, Sex and Relationships | 3 Comments