Friday, January 6, 2017

Prozac and Me: A Love Story



As you know, I broke my arm at the beginning of last summer, so I spent a lot of time Rear Window-ing the internet. Like all of my LGBT friends, I shared a million sorrows and liked a million rainbows for the Pulse shooting victims. I paid brokenhearted witness to the grisly murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. It was a bloody, broken summer for everyone.

Around the same time, my landlord decided to landscape the weedy side yard I loved so much, wiping out my forget-me-nots and all of the jillions of wild purple morning glories. Coming home to a starkly pretty and mulched yard instead of the overgrown area I liked to keep in pleasing chaos should not have been a big deal, but it was. I tried to let the weeds grow back, but the landlord sprayed them with weed killer. Because she owns the property and they are weeds.

I marched and vigiled for the murdered people all summer, and I went back to canvassing as soon as I could, but I couldn’t move on from the morning glories. I transplanted them as soon as they popped up, enlisted the cute neighbor in re-cultivating them, bought a new trellis, and bought seeds upon seeds upon seeds, but it all seemed hopeless, I couldn’t stop checking vigilantly to see if the weed killer had come, if it had encroached on the green space I’d just started to cultivate. It seemed that the weed killer was the law of the land, the only thing true, and I felt helpless against it.

I wrote to my (very kind, thorough, and attentive) landlord about it and she predictably (and as nicely as possible) said that it’s her property and she’ll use weed killer if she needs to. Perfectly reasonable, but I couldn’t stop myself from seeing hate in her landscaping choices, from feeling that she was trying to force me out along with the lost weeds/flowers. Her email came the night before my 42nd birthday and resulted in me crying on the floor and insisting that the world was trying to push me out.

I have suicidal ideation once or twice a year, when I ruminate too far and can’t climb out of deep depression fast enough. It never goes as far as planning or action, but the “I have to die” thought does come. More often, I have the feeling that I don’t exist, wasn’t supposed to be born, or that I have to erase my personality completely to be loved. It usually passes within a few hours when I stop talking about it.

After poor Amy calmed me down and I had a pleasant birthday doing voter registration in Wissahickon Park, I realized that if I was going to cultivate a life, if I was going to hang on to the work and connections I’d already accomplished, I was going to need help. I felt too raw and defensive to try talking to a new therapist, so I took my primary care doctor up on a years-ago offer of a prescription. Since I was a teenager, I’ve stubbornly refused to be medicated for depression, but I realized that my brain was not going to be able to help me on its own.

And it was like a miracle. I’m still sensitive, defensive and insecure, but I have new resourcefulness and hope. Sometimes, for seemingly no reason, joy surges out of me in laughing bursts and I feel closer to the best version of myself. After a year or so of dressing invisibly and forgetting about the possibility of romance, I started to feel pretty and feminine and inclined to get dolled up like I used to be.

But I still didn’t understand depression’s toll on my life until a couple of weeks ago. I was talking to my peer counselor at William Way LGBT Community Center (CALL THEM! They are amazing and you can have eight weeks free counselling per year, in person or by phone.) I was making 100% of a problem out of 5% of information, filling in the other 95% with self-defeating worst-case scenarios. Once she helped me realize that math, she simply said “That’s depression.”

Oh.

I never really saw it that way—depression is the weed killer. It tries to destroy whatever I’ve managed to cultivate and even tries to un-happen wonderful things that have totally already occurred! I always saw the sadness as inextricably linked to the rest of me, and in some ways it is, but it’s such a relief to see it as something that’s separate from me, something that can be treated.


So treating depression is my main theme for this year. I’ve signed up for counselling at Women Organized Against Rape and I plan to attend their support group as well. I want to be generous and kind and loving and understanding toward myself, and of course I’ll keep taking the Prozac as long as insurance exists. Thank you for coming with me on this ongoing journey to serotonin. I couldn’t do it without your loving support.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Ten Pretty Pictures from 2016



Pennsylvania Primary Day!

My favorite spot at Rosemont College
A Weaver's Way rainbow
Oswego Fourth of July Parade

My other favorite spot at Rosemont.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Gratitude List for 2016 (Brought to You in Part by Prozac)

Depression is a superpower. Because I have to fight hard to see the good in order to survive, this damaging, heartbreaking year still looks like my best one yet—even with getting hit by a car!

1. I’m grateful that I had Hillary Clinton with me in my heart every day. Her courage helped me to stand up to the biggest bullies in my life and pushed me to fight for my ideals. Fighting for her was fighting for me, for all of us. She married me to the premise that women are people and that LGBT people deserve equal rights and equal respect. She faced so much ugliness, gaslighting, horror, and humiliation and stayed herself throughout it all—working hard, doing her homework, having a plan, and standing up for those who need it. She and my wonderful campaign organizers and fellow volunteers made me into a better, stronger, and more hopeful person, and any future good I get to do will be thanks to them. Working on the campaign made me more connected to my neighborhood, my country, the world, and myself, and I hope to cultivate and honor that connection for the rest of my years.

2. I’m grateful that I fell in love this fall. It didn’t work out, but he’s a good sort, and something that doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal profoundly changed me. He got me writing a million paragraphs (and one poem!), kept me company through my election work, made lots of art with me and the library kids, and reminded me what it’s like to feel beautiful and sparky and ridiculous with someone. I remember the day I went ahead and let myself feel it: I drew stars all over the paper he’d given me to read and gave him an A+. Oh yeah, and then there’s the music—what if Frank Ocean hadn’t found his way into my heart? The most exciting thing is that even though the love is unrequited, I can still enjoy it—the love itself feels like a companion, even separate from him, and it keeps me warm and hopeful most nights. I think I’ll owe my future loves partly to him.

3. I’m grateful for retracing my steps and reconnecting with dear friends whom I briefly lost to divorce grief. It’s so heartening how friendship can just stay there and wait for you to be ready for it, how these reunions sometimes feel like no time has passed. I’m lucky to have so many generous and reliable hearts in my life.

4. I’m grateful for Hamilton, especially getting my niece and nephews obsessed! I got my four-year-old nephew a “Not throwing away my shot.” T-shirt for his birthday. My niece and I bond over our love of Lafayette (Well, he IS everyone’s favorite fighting Frenchman!) (Did you know he’s currently on black-ish? Merry Christmas to me!) I’ll never forget the drives to the comic shop belting out the king’s song, or the drive back from apple picking belting out everything. As a bonus, it seems like Hamilton might be one of the things holding our nation together, so yeah, I’m pretty glad it exists.

5. I’m grateful that I got to march for the Pulse victims, for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, for reproductive rights, for religious freedom, against the evil Nazi president elect. It’s a good thing I like marching, because it seems like it’s time to do a lot more of it.

6. I’m grateful that I got to thank John Lewis, Hillary Clinton, and Cecile Richards for their work. Also very grateful that I didn’t faint when I met John Lewis—his handshake was so warm and his “Thank you for your work” was so humbling that I’ll feel fortified by it for years to come.

7. I’m grateful for my neighborhood. In Mt. Airy, you can staple a watercolor to a phone pole and it just stays there! That’s how loved and safe and curated I feel.

8. I’m grateful for my jobs. All three are rewarding, relaxed, and fulfilling. I’ve gotten to make so much art and friendship and happiness at the library, help so many students at the bookstore, and create a warm and productive bond with my tutoring student and his family. I’m especially grateful for my Lego Day playlist, for singing “Lean on Me” and “Shine Bright Like a Diamond” and “Love on Top” and “Everything is Awesome” with the kids and feeling like the luckiest person in the world, like a goddess surrounded by beautiful treasures, because that’s exactly what this year let me be.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Bye November, Hope for December

November was a month that included a panic-inducing election, a near-relationship-thing that (predictably, it seems) turned to heartbreak, and an almost-total Thanksgiving fail in my part. I hope I can get unlost in December, I'll do my best.