Category Archives: ranting and raving

mental illness & isolation

I wonder what the world would be like if we could talk about mental illness the same way we talk about physical illness.  Not that I’m convinced that these are neatly separated categories, but it is a useful basic distinction.

Imagine if you could walk into a party and say, “don’t hug me, I’ve been suffering from traumatic flashbacks all day & I can’t take being that close to another person right now.”  Like you would if you had a cold — you’d say “don’t hug me, I have a cold & don’t want to pass it along.”

If you say you have a cold, the other person might mostly ignore it & move on, saying that they hope you feel better.  Or they might be moved to offer some sort of sympathy or help — “oh no, that sucks — let me give you some tissues & soup and a get well soon card.”

But what would they say if you tell them you are sorry for missing their party, but you couldn’t leave the house because the panic attack was too intense?  What would they say the tenth time you tell them that?

The lack of ability to talk about mental illness is an extremely isolating phenomenon.  Mental illness is just as prevalent as physical illness, but we have to hide it.  We have to make excuses for missing events & reacting to things in less-typical ways because to tell the truth is considered shameful.  We are not supposed to reveal that our parents tortured us, or that we’re not over the horrors we saw in war, or that our genes are messed up & we can’t be happy.  We are not supposed to be vulnerable to abuse, or admit that it happened, or that it had an effect on us.

I don’t believe people are bad.  I have an almost endless supply of faith in the potential redemption of every person.  I am almost always willing to believe that someone does not mean to do harm.  And yet I don’t see the kind of compassion in the world that I think we need to have for other people.  Mental illness does not always manifest as a diagnosis in the DSM.  Sometimes it’s temporary or situational — something terrible happens that overwhelms our sense of self & our capacity to relate to others.  That seems like something we should be able to see & recognize in other people, not something we should punish & sweep under the rug.  Even when these situations arise out of events that are societally acceptable, such as losing a spouse or other close person, we still struggle with extending compassion & understanding.  We don’t even have a system for letting people know that we’re grieving a loved one, and once we’ve named our grief, others feel awkward & don’t know how to respond.

I wish we could talk about mental illness as easily as we talk about physical illness.  I wish that there were better ways to incorporate the reality of mental illness into our public lives, instead of hiding it away because we are supposed to feel ashamed.

whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

than to blog.  that is the question.

or maybe it is really just that i swing wildly back and forth between wanting to pour my heart out here, in positive and negative realms, and wanting not to expose myself.  the fear of my distant associates finding me here holds me back, and the pain-in-the-arse-ness of the passworded post keeps me from that route right now…sigh.

in lieu of a) suspending my blog and b) writing reams about the latest wounds with salt in them, here are some random bullets greg-style:

  • i brought home a gorgeous loud musical instrument, which forced me to completely rearrange my room to fit it in.  i will have to obtain mute pads before i can play it but i am SO HAPPY.  i got a good deal on craigslist.
  • i had an awful run-in with straight culture this past weekend — an evil straight dude basically came on to me with his wife IN THE SAME ROOM.  GROSS.
  • i had a terrible femme fashion moment — due to the pouring rain i had succumbed to the dreaded temptation to wear my sneakers to my new employee training, which culminated in lunch at the faculty club.  i’m happily munching my grilled cheese sandwich when all of a sudden the dean of my [former] graduate school walks in and sits at the table next to us.  this is a person who has a high opinion of me, and even higher expectations.  AND I WAS WEARING SNEAKERS WITH MY WORK CLOTHES.  epic fail.  i tried to hide my face but she was on the side of me that has less hair (i’m parting my hair on the side these days) and so all i could do was try to hide my feet under the table & hope she didn’t notice me.  i’m calling this a lesson learned for good.
  • i’ve been re-connecting with the music scene here in boston and going out more, and it feels so so good.  i feel like i lost sight of how much i love going to rock shows and watching people make music.  a main motivation for having just made my extravagant and awesome purchase is to bring it home even more personally and have an opportunity to do it as well as watch.  yay.

i think that’s all, folks.  stay tuned for bi-monthly angst and updates ❤

when i rule the world

all workplaces will have the following:

1.  tea/coffee stations, where you can boil water, make tea, and access various products which one might like to add to one’s tea.

2.  child care facilities, that will be staffed partly by paid attendants and partly through volunteer labour from the parents who use it.  these volunteer hours will be taken from the parents’ workdays and paid at their regular rate.

3.  a nap room, which can be signed out for up to 1/2 hour once per day by any staff member.

4.  an anger-management room, which will be soundproofed completely and contain an assortment of items like bouncing balls, a punching bag, a few free weights, etc.  this room can also be signed out by any staff member for up to 15 minutes.

5.  gender neutral bathrooms, where each stall is private and lockable, and there is a main area for sinks & hand-drying facilities.

6.  windows with access to natural light.

happy monday, everyone.

omg it’s totally october.

hi everyone.  it’s been…a month.  i’ve written lots and lots of stuff, been to new york and back, been to washington dc and back, and am off to montreal in a hot minute…but i haven’t been here.

well i’ve been here in my head, thinking about things i want to write and tell you, thinking about things i could say about my life, or the weather, or i could write more about my feelings about apples, or i could write about how it’s almost pomegranate season.  or i could write about how i was struggling with hard emotions last week, and every week.  and so i don’t write at all.  i’d rather cuddle with you.  or sit on the couch side by side as we surf the web randomly and point out funny pictures or read snippets of interesting articles to each other, being irritated a little because it’s distracting but liking the camraderie of the moment.  i’d rather take a walk in the mist with you and talk about your life and my life and the intersection of race and poverty and gender and sexuality.  i’d rather watch a movie with you in a dark theatre with a big bucket of popcorn with real butter.  i’d rather cook you dinner.

given that i’ve never met most of you, and the ones i’ve met mostly don’t live nearby, these things won’t happen tonight.  so i’m writing something down to say hello and remind myself that i exist in this space, that this space exists for me.  i told M today that i would consider moving to nowheresville [she is sending off job applications, and i dread the interview request issuing from the middle of nowhere the country] if she sets me up in a lovely house with a studio so i can be a writer.

i surprise myself with my audacity.  i’m not a writer, i’m a 32 yr old with a lot of angst and delusions of grandeur.  but i’d like to be a writer, in an airy studio with floor to ceiling windows covered in white gauze curtains, overlooking rolling greenness with a misty pond in the distance.  maybe a neighbor will have a picturesque horse who hangs her head over a fence and takes apples from me when i’m out for my afternoon yoga walk.  i suppose i could let my hair grow, and be a hippie femme with flowing garments and a pagan stone circle out in those fields…or i could keep my shorter hair and my urbanness, always on the edge of out of place…

but my life always intrudes, there’s always something pressing to do.  organizing that has to happen.  work to be done.  a paycheck to be gotten.  groceries to buy, relationship to process and clarify and sustain, friendships that need love, cats that need feeding.  writing isn’t prioritized — it rips itself out of me when i’m distressed, as a tool of clarification.  rarely do i give it my full attention.  it is there for me when i need it, but not when i want it.  i sit sometimes in the time allotted to ‘write’ and look over my blank page at whatever pretty view i’ve arranged for myself, lost in the moment and disconnected from the words in my head.

sometimes the world intrudes too.  i wrote a post but i put it on facebook, because i thought it would reach more people that way.  i posted it to my friends and networks, instead of just my usual circumscribed list of people who i actually like.  i wrote about how too many young people are dying, and it’s our fault.  that we are responsible for their deaths and should be actively working to prevent them.  it was meant as a guilt trip, but the only feedback i got was people who do so much already thanking me for posting it.  with the lone exception of my little sister, who is the best and strongest straight ally i know, who said she would try to do better.  i want her to do that.  but what i really want is the straight and clueless assholes who share this world with me to get going and make it safer for me.  because if it’s safer for me it will be safer for the beautiful young people who would rather die than face this homophobic horror movie.  and i miss each and every one of them.  it is breaking my heart.

coming out day is coming up.  i’ll try to write my usual plug for coming out.  in solidarity with queer youth in general, check out the blog at http://www.kickedoutanthology.com/ and consider sending in a message of solidarity.  i’m working on mine now.  and write to me.  hold me accountable for writing to you.  i miss you.

glad that’s over…

i think i could have guessed, deep in my unconscious, that two days in the car with my older sister might prove to be a less-than-optimal combination…..

my visit to DC was what i would call ‘trying’.

my older sister was in a funk, which manifested itself in an absolute absorption in the book she was reading.  as in, when it got to be the time the three of us had agreed on for leaving, she was still lying on the couch, unshowered, reading her book.  when reminded that it was time to go, she would sigh heavily and say ‘i know, i know, i’m getting there’.  then continue reading.

it honestly went beyond frustrating and into funny.

then the fourth of july pool party happened, at my little sister’s straight ex-mormon friends’ house.  latent homophobia lurked just underneath the surface of the conversation, in ways that it would be impossible to explain to my sister without enrolling her in a six-week consciousness-raising endeavor.  she is very close to this couple, and with good reason.  they have been steadfast, loyal friends to her.

and homophobia, especially when people know to hide it, doesn’t really come up when you’re straight people hanging out in straight contexts.  it lurks subtly in conversations, when a former roommate is pronounced ‘…creepy…and probably gay.’  right?  that’s an ‘and’ there, not a ‘because’.  and yet, do you think that word would have been so frequently used if the former roommate hadn’t been presumed gay?  if the roommate had been a straight woman, and had had an unfortunate crush on the husband of this couple, would that have been creepy?  or would the wife of this couple have been jealous, or angry, or pitying, or any number of other reactions that wouldn’t have involved disgust and revulsion?

and it didn’t help me feel more comfortable when my sister chimed in with, ‘and [husband] is the straightest man alive!’

well, probably not, all things considered.  most men aren’t 100% straight, as anyone who knows anything about men who have sex with men knows.  vastly high percentages of straight men are perfectly willing to be sucked off by another man.  and why the protestations and affirmations?  my entire family uses this kind of language; one friend is ‘so straight’, another is ‘straight as an arrow’, another is ‘the straightest person alive’.  even my sisters are ‘really, really straight’.

that’s fine, i refer to myself as ‘really gay’, or ‘super queer’.  but i think when this kind of affirmation is used over and over, it reveals a certain panic that is underlying.  my family didn’t use that language before i came out.  why?  because they weren’t worried about it.  they didn’t think about gay people.  the more it comes up, the more they have to assert how straight they are, and their friends.  it’s not about gay-bashing; i don’t think my little sister would tolerate outright hate speech.  although, i don’t know.  i don’t think she would bring me into contact with friends of hers that participated in it, but she might continue hanging out with them.

another priceless moment was when my older sister said that she is annoyed by people using foreign languages to communicate with each other here in the US.  she thinks if you are here to live you are obliged to learn english with no delay.  you ‘can’t be part of society’ if you don’t speak english, also it inconveniences her if she’s trying to communicate with someone and they don’t speak good english.

at this point the top of my head almost blew off, and i had trouble remaining in my seat and not throttling her.  i wonder how long it would take her to learn a new language if she endured massive privation and danger to cross a border, landed in an extremely marginalized community that spoke her language when she got there, and had absolutely zero resources to ‘learn the language’ once there.  also once there facing massive discrimination and economic hardship, and [since this is the norm] managing to put some of her meagre earnings aside for her family back home.

gee, i wonder why so many immigrants don’t speak english so well?

and, obviously, if you really feel that strongly about it, the ONLY WAY to respond and save your self-respect is to 1. volunteer as an esl teacher and 2. donate money to organizations who teach esl.

but, instead, she’s enjoying her $8000 tax credit for buying a yuppie condo and is happily planning a two-week, several thousand dollar trip to hawaii.

ok, i will stop ranting now.

so glad you stopped by for your weekly dose of invective…sunnier FG times coming soon, in which i will introduce you to my amazing porch garden.

xo