Lessons in Recovery

“I know from the way you stroke my hair, the way you talk to me, the way you look at me, that you really love me,” Chérie said to me yesterday as we laid in bed.

That made my heart melt. As someone who constantly feels like I’m never enough for anyone, it made me realize just how my girlfriend – and also others – see me. Just from the things I do, and the things I say to her, she could tell that I cared about her greatly.

Although my school life has been a huge mess lately, being with Chérie has brought a different kind of clarity and stability to my personal life – this has made it a lot easier for me to deal with the distressing situation that school has become.

I was lucky enough to have gotten the weekend off from work that I was able to spend almost a week with my beloved at her apartment. Her family even invited me for Thanksgiving and I got to meet her parents, and some extended family. Although nerve-wrecking because this was the first time meeting them, I also settled in comfortably without much difficulty shortly after. It was the kind of ease that I never got from meeting my ex’s family.

I was supposed to leave for home tonight but I found that I couldn’t. I had been crying the whole day today because I didn’t want to leave. The pain of separation from Chérie for the next 2 and a half weeks was great and unbearable. I am glad that she’s strong enough for both of us to not cry with me because that would have made it even harder.

I finally decided on a compromise – I would leave at 5am tomorrow morning instead, to make it in time for my shift at the MAC. This has given me a few more precious hours with her. My friend, El, told me that though it’s hard, it must also be a great feeling knowing that there is someone amazing I could look forward to seeing. She’s right. I never looked at it from that perspective because I’ve always just been so used to seeing life from gray-tinted glasses.

The changes that Chérie has catalyzed for me in my life has been so drastic that I really just can’t imagine life without her anymore. I know that I am so much better than I was just a month ago. Even S has noted that several times – telling me how proud he is of me and of the changes I’ve made in my life.

Last session, he asked, “Do you think you could’ve done the same a year ago? Maybe even 6 months ago?”

I shook my head as soon as the words left his lips. “No! No way!” I responded almost immediately. “I couldn’t have done this a year ago… Not even 6 months ago. I feel different. And I can see that I have come a long way…”

“You have!” S said, smiling. “I’m so proud of you!”

His words made me smile. It made me feel proud too – I am proud of myself for how far I’ve come. I know that he and I have done a lot of hard work – he would also often remind me that most of the hardest work was done by me – but I also know how much Chérie has helped catalyze things for me as well.

Most of the hardest work in my recovery happened over the course of a year and a half with S. However, not even a week after I met Chérie, I had managed to take all the groundwork that S and I have laid down and made leaps and bounds of progress. It’s amazing just how one person can make a difference in your life.

Despite that, I am still struggling with many more things – there are days when I still wish that my marriage had worked out; that I didn’t have to struggle as a bisexual person; that I didn’t have to struggle with understanding my faith and the judgments I’ve had to deal with; that I didn’t have to feel so insecure about myself and what I have to offer. It’s just that despite the struggles, I am able to work past them – with Chérie by my side, I am able to let myself see the positives that she sees of me. She’s able to help me accept who I am, and learn new skills to cope with life as a non-neurotypical person.

The last 5 and a half weeks that I’ve been with my girlfriend have been the best time of my life – not only have I been able to learn to value myself more , I’ve also learned that it’s much easier to go through difficult times when you have someone to help you. Through it all, I’ve also learned that it’s okay to still struggle and that recovery doesn’t mean that everything is 100% fixed.

I’m thankful for this amazing woman in my life. I am sad that in just a few hours I’ll be packing up to leave, but I also know that like El has said, I have someone incredible to look forward to seeing again in a few weeks’ time.

National Coming Out Day 

This morning, I woke up with a sense of dread. I was dreading my decision to “come out”. 

It’s National Coming Out Day today and I had made the decision to come out. And at 7.55am, I sat down with my Chromebook, took a deep breath and started typing. I had only 5 minutes because I had to leave for school at 8am. 

Here was what I wrote (these are screenshots from my Facebook):

I’ve gotten 27 likes and 11 love reactions from my Facebook.. I’ve also gotten 12 incredibly positive comments. 

One of them that really stuck out to me and validated me was this message from someone I had never met in person before: 

“The sun and the moon is still in the right orbit, and that’s when you know coming out is as normal as it can get. You will always be you.”
I’ve not heard from any family members yet so I don’t know how that will go. I wish I had the courage to actually verbalize this through a phone so that I can call my parents and tell them “in person” but I can’t. I already have social anxiety over phone calls so this would’ve been even more nerve wracking. 

I have to say though, I’m glad I did it because I can now stop pretending. I can stop wishing that I was “normal” or fit in. I have also found through this experience who has my back! 

I’m probably going to have more emotional responses tomorrow after I speak to S (because somehow talking to S always makes me more connected to my feelings and more ready to be vulnerable whereas when I’m on my own, I can’t feel things fully) so I’ll definitely update. 

At the moment, I feel calm and like I can finally allow myself to be myself. It’s a pretty good feeling! 

Monday Blues

Today has definitely been a rough day.

I had one of the worst falls in my experience of skateboarding. I was distracted for just a split second and had leaned backwards a little too much which caused my heavy backpack to pull me backwards. As I fell on my elbow, almost all of the force was directed to it. The backpack absorbed a lot of the impact as well which made it so that only a little part of my hip was hurt as well. I was glad that my laptop didn’t break.

The good thing about all this was the fact that the two guys who were walking behind me rushed up to help – one of them was quite polite. “Are you okay, ma’am?” he’d asked as I pulled myself off the hard brick pavement. I told them that I was okay – even though the only reason I got back up so quickly was just because I didn’t want to be laughed at for falling in a high traffic area because the pain was so jarring that I actually needed some time to recover from it.

As I type this now, my right arm is complaining, while the scrapes on my arm and elbow still burn. My wrist hurt as well because the bottom part of my palm had braced myself against the ground as I fell – I should have known better than to have braced myself though.

So it felt good to have 3 different people rush up to me to make sure I was okay – the third person was a girl who had retrieved my runaway skateboard. It was nice to know that people still care and that I’m in a campus with people who really care and are conscientious of everyone else.

So physically, I’d hurt myself – the only good thing was the fact that it had happened before the last class of the day. Otherwise, I’d have had a bad time going through the day. When I got to class, I decided to wipe my arm with my left hand. As I did so, I smeared blood all over my left palm. I hadn’t realized it but my arm was pretty scraped up and the bleeding took a few minutes to stem.

I was also extremely sleepy. I fell asleep in every class I was in. It was annoying. I had also received poor grades for my Calculus test and I was very frustrated because this is my second time taking this class – I should be better at it, not getting worse! I am definitely not motivated in school at all – besides that, I also don’t have the energy or focus to finish my work. It’s like my brain’s had enough and it doesn’t want to cooperate anymore.

I feel stupid, unworthy, and lazy. I feel convinced that I am going to drop my GPA again because of how poorly I’m performing in school. Today, I beat myself up and told myself that I am not going to succeed. Today the stronger side of me was not present to convince myself otherwise so I was depressed for much of the day.

It doesn’t help that exhaustion and sleep deprivation makes it even harder to be stable emotionally.

To make things worse, my classmate had asked me if I watched a certain TV show – when I said that I haven’t, she asked if I’d watch TV. When I responded “no” to her again, her eyes grew wide as she tried to fathom how someone can survive in this world without TV’s… She then said to me, “So you don’t watch TV, you don’t do anything fun at all! Man… Your life sucks. If I were you, I don’t even know what I’d do. Aren’t you stressed? If I were you, I’d totally be stressed…”

“Yes, I am stressed. I’m stressed all the time. Haven’t you wondered why I’m always so edgy?” I said, feeling my irritation creeping up. I wanted to say, ‘No shit, Sherlock’ but bit my tongue.

I was a little hurt by the insensitive comment about how my life sucks. I didn’t think it was helpful at all for me to have heard that. Although I knew that they didn’t mean anything nasty by their comment, it was still hurtful – especially since that is my reality. Daily.

Then during the end of the last class that I had for the day, one of the classmates that I’m most close to, had asked me why I was at the LGBTQ+ center. He’s a conservative Christian.

He said, “Why were you at the LGBTQ+ center? What, are you batting for the other team now?”

I wanted to explain to him that I do indeed struggle with same sex desires and that I’ve become more and more cognizant of my feelings and attractions. Still, his question caught me by surprise – I went with my gut instinct and go-to knee-jerk reaction. I lied.

I told him that I just had a quick question that I needed to ask the Director. He didn’t seem to buy it but he dropped the subject. His question though made me think. It made me think about the uncertainty that I still feel over my sexual orientation. It also made me still feel guilty and unworthy – it was the usual religious uncertainty that I’ve been grappling with since I was young.

He told me that he doesn’t believe that people are born gay but rather our brains get used to the idea of being one thing or another – that  homosexuality is a choice. I then explained to him that I struggle with my attraction to women. He was surprised that I would tell him that because I seemed like a conservative Christian like he is.

I explained to him all the struggles I had to deal with and all the pain and struggles that the LGBTQ+ community has had to deal with. I told  him that no one chooses a life like this. Especially not when we live in a conservative state like Indiana where you could still legally lose your job if you were in the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

It was an interesting conversation. He didn’t end up being swayed by my arguments but at least, I was able to stand up for myself and disagree with his opinion. I also pointed out the fact that today was World Mental Health Day. I told him that the way Christians (some, not all) have approached homosexuality is also the same as how they approach mental illnesses. That is to say, they don’t. I was told by someone that I wasn’t praying enough or that I didn’t have enough faith back when I first revealed to them that I suffer from mental illnesses.

It was a triggering conversation for me. I felt good to know that everyone is allowed to have an opinion and that they’re not silenced for expressing it but it was also bad because I thought about my salvation and my faith issues again.

The only positive thing that had happened to me today was the fact that my college had organized a Mental Health Awareness Day event and they had dozens of vendors from organizations like The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Mental Health America (MHA), and American Society for Prevention of Suicide (ASFPS). I spoke to a lot of people at that event and made contacts. I told them that I was a Peer Educator and that I’m part of the group that creates the programs for mental health related topics. I excitedly shared my passion for mental health advocacy with the volunteers. I was told by all the different organizations that they do want to collaborate with us and that they would be happy to have me be a part of their organizations. I had a great time just hearing about all the different ventures and resources that were available for people. I was also inspired to come up with a bunch of ideas of what the mental health team could do next semester. Going to the event also really just affirmed to me that I am really passionate and excited about the topic of mental health. It fired me up again to be a great Peer Educator!

Note: I was falling asleep while writing this and may have written gibberish or nonsensical sentences. If I did, I do apologize. It’s been a long day.

Thoughts from Therapy #86 – Self Punishment

Note: As usual, this is a long one – usually the posts titled “Thoughts From Therapy” are going to be really long doozy posts to read.

S’ expression was worry and/or concern almost the whole time through our session today.

Hey, I’d be too if I were the psychologist and my client comes in and the first thing they tell me after I ask them how they are is, “I’ve been very suicidal this last week because things have gotten worse for me…”

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Eventful Day

It has been an eventful and moderately overwhelming day – both for good and bad reasons.

I woke up this morning and discovered that I was low on both Zoloft and Strattera. I was very tempted to let them run out and just quit my psych meds cold turkey. I don’t think that would’ve been a great idea but I’m just sick of taking the medications that I don’t feel like are working. I was contacted by an old co-worker who was worried for me – she suggested that I seek help from an inpatient facility to help me cope. I thanked her for her kindness and unexpected messages because I hadn’t talked to her in maybe a year and a half. The fact that she cared enough for me to reach out warmed my heart.

My day started proper with my first Peer Educator duty of the day where I had to sit in on a presentation done by one of the Office of Health and Wellness Promotion (HWP)’s Assistant Directors. The topic was “Alcohol and Personal Choice”. As it was a presentation that I hadn’t seen before, I was very attentive through it all.

As I listened and learned, I also felt guilty for my drinking last Friday when I was feeling extremely disappointed, and depressed. This was because the presentation was about making healthy choices such as limiting drinking to less than 4 drinks per day and a total of 7 drinks per week (for women) or 14 drinks per week (for men). Last Friday, I had consumed 3 drinks and a shot of cinnamon schnapps (which tasted terrible btw) in an hour with an empty stomach. The result was a drunk me relatively quickly.

I made the worst decision ever to drive home. I was convinced I was okay. Somehow, I managed to park my car straight, and shower without falling down and killing myself. By the time I got to bed, I had actually just collapsed without realizing that I had fallen asleep until 2am when I got up abruptly because I needed to pee. The next day, I realized what I’d done and realized how easily I could’ve been arrested for DUI as well as how easily it could’ve been for me to cause someone harm. I was very regretful of my choices.

The presentation was definitely an eye-opener for me and I resolve to – if I even drink – to never drink so much so quickly. I was after a Peer Educator so I need to practice what I preach. I’m just glad that I get a second chance to never repeat this mistake again.

After the presentation, I was supposed to go to the Cube, where the office for the HWP Peer Educators’ was located. My office hours were from 11am to noon. As soon as I reached the Cube, I got a text from one of the Lead Peer Educators that I could skip my office hours today to help one of the other Assistant Directors (we have 3 ADs) with tabling. So off I went to help her set up the table – we were at the Campus Center to promote October as Domestic/Relationship Violence Awareness Month (yes, I’m aware that October is also Mental Health Awareness Month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and National Coming Out Month).

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It’s On Us to Stop Sexual Violence!

I pasted a sticker on my skateboard to promote the campaign to stop sexual violence on campus and in the community. I figured that with how I carry my skateboard everywhere, it’s a good way to raise some awareness.

I had a good time tabling – I always do – because I not only had the opportunity to speak to the Assistant Director, but also another Peer Educator and be able to connect with people who stopped by the booth. It is one aspect of my job that I really enjoy.

Doing my job as a Peer Educator really makes me happy because not only does it make me forget all my woes for a while, it also allows me to help people with theirs. I realized today that I’m only happiest when I’m doing something Peer Educator related lately.

After my Peer Educator duties, I had to go to the MAC to perform my Mentor duties there. It was extremely busy at the section that I had to tutor at so it was hard not to get a sore throat by the end of my 3-hour shift. I was exhausted – socially, and emotionally by the end of it. Tutoring is always an exhausting affair because sometimes you could be dealing with students who have no clue what you’re talking about or students who have a hard time grasping concepts. I do enjoy helping people solve problems though so that is definitely one aspect of tutoring that I enjoy.

In the middle of the MAC shift, I went outside to the courtyard to find the Westboro Baptist Church members spewing hate towards the LGBTQ+ community and the establishment of an LGBTQ+ Center. They were there to protest the Center.

I’m proud to say that my university was not only prepared (they put up metal barriers around the area where the protestors were), the staff and faculty were also there to prevent students from engaging in the hate-mongers by forming a human shield between students and protestors. The CAPS staff were there as well to provide psychological aid and counseling if needed. I was so impressed by the staff and faculty because of how much they care for the students. They voluntarily stood outside in the sun to protect the students.

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I was very surprised by how many people showed up as well in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. I didn’t think we would fill up the huge courtyard but we almost filled all of it. While the WBC protestors were screaming their hateful words, the students had a dance party instead – the speakers were blaring loud music and it drowned out the protests.

As there were only 7 of them, you could barely even see them in the sea of people. I was saddened to see 2 children amidst the protestors. I wondered what they were being taught. While I agree with Biblical teachings and getting children acquainted with the Bible, I can’t say I agree with teaching hate to children. It’s so disgusting.

While the counter-protest in the form of the dance party by the students was going on, the whole place was just abuzz with energy and movement. I looked around and realized that it was like I was back at the Pride day again back in May. It really looked and felt like a Pride kind of event. Unbeknownst to the WBC protestors, their action had made all the LGBTQ+ community and allies come out together and have a good time. It was definitely an unexpected win in my opinion.

I spent about 10 minutes finding some of the people I know, taking photos, taking selfies, and talking to people before I resumed my shift at the MAC. It was a good event – what was supposed to be a negative event turned into a very positive one.

I was also able to meet the Director of CAPS at the LGBTQ+ Center. She was there to provide CAPS’ support. I introduced myself and told her that I wanted to thank her for the services that CAPS provide. I thanked her for all the hard work that CAPS is doing and how all the staff that I’ve ever met are very professional and have been really helpful. I told her how much I utilize the services and how I’m glad that CAPS exists. I told her that I didn’t know how much thanks she and CAPS get but I wanted to make sure that at least I say something. She told me that people don’t often thank them and that it’s rare to hear a note of gratitude but that she appreciates getting them all the same. She thanked me for bringing my thoughts to her attention and she seemed genuinely pleased that I had stopped to talk to her. Despite having been at CAPS for a year and a half now, I had yet been able to talk to the Director herself so I felt honored that I was able to do so today.

On a less than stellar note, I wrote an email to the management of the new restaurant that I had just joined about 3 weeks ago. I told them in my email that I was unable to continue employment with them because I am struggling too severely with depression and suicidality. I told them that even being around the work environment gets me down. I made it explicit that I would be suicidal every time I was at the restaurant. I apologized for letting the team down, for not finishing my shifts, and for not providing ample notice.

The truth is, I was just done with the place. I was done with all the management issues and how little the managers care about the employees. Besides not caring, they were also uptight about a lot of things – for me, they were upset with my dyed hair so I had to dye it back to my natural black.

When they told me that I had to do that, I was livid. I didn’t like them ever since then. I felt like I had lost a part of me when I dyed my hair back to black. I felt upset because the stability that I’m trying to rebuild for myself came crashing down when I lost the ability to express myself. For days, I felt uneasy because my hair was solid black. It is strange but somehow, my mental wellness depended on how I looked or felt on any given day.

Anyway, I hope the management team understands my restrictions and can forgive me for the immediate resignation. Somehow, I can’t see them being very compassionate. I could imagine them judging me and gossiping about me. I’ve never quit a job without giving ample notice before. And I’ve certainly never quit a restaurant after just 4 weeks of working there.

The negativity, whining, backstabbing, and gossiping that happens among the staff of the restaurant is definitely very annoying to deal with. I didn’t need to add more drama in my life – I already have enough to write a book with. I hope the management team doesn’t call me. I contemplated calling them and giving my resignation that way instead but the thought of calling someone and talking to them on the phone made me sick to the stomach. My anxiety was definitely acting up a lot and I didn’t think that I’d be able to speak on the phone without crying very hard. That was definitely a hard part of my day today.

Overall, I am spent. S and I will have a lot to talk about tomorrow.

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Representing the MAC, and the Office of HWP while also promoting mental health advocacy.

Love Bug

I’m struggling with the fact that someone I met on a dating site has expressed that they think that I’m attractive and that despite the fact that we have a connection that in my opinion is genuine, I don’t hear from them often enough. 

We’ve never talked on the phone or Skyped or anything like that. We’ve only been texting all this time. 

I’ve known them for 5 weeks now. But usually, I’m the one sending all the messages and I hardly ever get replies. 

I’m trying not to be the anxious, paranoid, stalker-y person that I can be but I do know that they’re still on the same dating site we met on and that. Sometimes, it makes me wonder if their feelings for me are real because in my perspective, someone who cares enough about me will make the time to talk or message even if they’re extremely busy. So, in my perspective, the fact that they still get on the dating site and with the time they used to do that, they could’ve texted me but didn’t, really makes me feel unsettled. 

Also, I don’t know to what extent I’m just obsessing because of my anxiety and to what extent are my uncertainty and insecurities founded. 

The worst part is how much I care about them and how much I want something in my life to just go right. I’m sick and tired of every single waking moment because of all the pain I’m in. I just want something good. 

This person makes me happy in ways that I never thought I could be – whenever I do hear from them of course but they manage to put a smile on my face every time I get their message. 

So, on top of my overwhelming schedule, new job, inability to catch up in class, lack of time to do homework and assignments, inability to focus, pain from the divorce, workload on campus as well as outside, and inability to digest the things I’ve learned, I now have the distraction of liking a person and getting the typical butterflies in the stomach type reactions whenever I hear from them. 

And it’s just so distracting. At the same time, while hopeful and really praying for a better time for myself, I’m also a little cynical or maybe just hyper cautious. I’m trying not to invest so much. I think I’m justified to feel that way, right? 

Words of Affirmation 

There was an event at the Multicultural Center today. As I stood at a booth and listened to the person elaborating on their organization, someone at the LGBTQ booth stopped me and said in an excited voice, “Oh! You don’t know me, but I know you!” 

I was surprised. 

They continued, “Yeah! You write a blog right?”, to which I replied, “Yes. I do. Are you talking about my blog about mental health?” and they said it was, referring to my blog – this blog!

She then said, “You’re amazing! I heard you speak once and you were so inspiring!!”

Wow. 

WOW!

It was definitely an ego boost and also tells me that people are reading and finding my blog. It makes me very excited to know that despite the pain and suffering, that there is someone out there that can relate as well as benefit. 

I definitely didn’t expect this boost in my day!