May 2018
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icon: "hopeful (close-up photo of me wearing cat-eye makeup, jewels on my cheek, and a violet glitter goatee. I'm gazing off to the side with a hopeful smile.)"

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living alone again! a shocking quiet / return of the ghost / tidying & organizing

icon: "exuviate (photo of a dragonfly with shimmery green wings after its last metamorphosis, standing next to its previous exoskeleton)"

Sunday night was the first night I got to be home since Serenity (housemate) finished moving out and cleaning up behind themselves and it was WORLDS quieter. Not of physical noise, but of mental/emotional noise. The quiet felt almost shocking, like when the power goes out. I felt like I was in a hotel, or like I was sleeping in an empty house without even furniture. My house felt clean, open, and full of space -- despite the fact that my living room is still a clutterbomb from my returned things after Topaz' move.

I was subconsciously worried that I didn't actually need to live alone for a while, or that it wouldn't be a significant difference because Serenity did try hard to be unobtrusive. I was worried that maybe I was making it up, maybe I was just being uselessly picky. Now I feel validated, and happy that I knew this would be good for me even though I had no proof. I'm delightedly anticipating a decrease in my overall cognitive and emotional strain, from the sense of rest I can get now from going home.

Weirdly I have heard the ghost moving around again, and Kanika has started breaking into the room where it stays again. They didn't do that for almost the entire 2 years that Serenity was here -- at least not when I was home. The door to that bedroom stayed shut. Now I keep shutting it and finding it open again, and last night the light was inexplicably on (I never turn it on) -- most likely Serenity turned it on and I just didn't notice the first 3 times I passed it, but I would have thought I'd notice since it was dark and there is a large gap between the door and the floor. It creeped me out a little but I dismissed it. If it is a ghost, it's got no ill intention, or Kanika wouldn't be friends with it.

I've been helping Topaz with various cleaning projects and they offered to come help me clean and tidy my living room this week which will be SUCH a relief as tackling it alone is just something I haven't motivated to do, at all. Once I have it tidy I can do an allergy clean regularly and hopefully host hearts and crafts sometimes. I've only just been able to start doing big cleaning and tidying projects, having stored up enough spoons. So many days when I get home I am just so wiped from work that feeding myself dinner and occasionally soaking my feet is about all I can manage. But having a tidy space that is all mine and all tidy is going to help so much.

I don't remember if I posted about it, but I organized my closet (the clothes at least) and put some things in canvas boxes on a wire cube shelf outside the closet, and I have done a lot better about putting away clean clothes and planning out work outfits since then. It's so good to for me to plan ahead with outfits because otherwise I end up slapping together something in the morning and it's not something that feels like self-decorating. If I have to wear clothes I want to be thoughtful and creative about it. Side note: I need so many more clothes now that I have to wear a different outfit every damn day, which I usually sweat in while walking to the bus. Luckily my thrifting magic has kept that from being too dreary.

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my prosopagnosia makes it really important to have photos of people I love

icon: "disassociative (a digital painting of a stylized person in profile with wide open screaming mouth and arms up with palms spread wide. Head and hands flow into strands like blood vessels)"

For most people, faces are stored in the brain as a single piece of information, and when they see a familiar face they instantly know who it is. Memories of human faces are actually stored in a specialized place in the brain, and there is evidence to suggest that lesions in that part of the brain may cause prosopagnosia (face-blindness), or at least contribute to it. Whatever the reason, I don't have the ability to recognize faces as a whole.

I can remember an individual feature but each one is stored separately. So I have to scan a face for eye shape (upper lid, lower lid, length, width), nose shape/size, lips shape, eyebrows, jawline, cheek shape, coloring -- each piece running though every stored feature and filtering out people who don't match the features met so far. To put it another way, where your average person sees "8" I see "1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1" only it's much harder because each piece has so many possible shapes. The idea of recognizing an adult by their child photo is so unfathomable to me, because all the features have changed size at least and everything looks different.

I always have to put effort into recognizing people. It usually takes at least three filtering steps before I realize who it is, and that takes more time when it is out of context or when it has been a long time since I have seen someone because I store features by how soon and in what context I expect to see them. I have gotten good enough at my work-arounds that it is not often that I talk with someone for more than 15 seconds without realizing who that is, but that's partly because I am using their voice and movements to help me place them. this is true whether the face is familiar to me or notCollapse )

This is part of the reason I find unusual faces so attractive; they are easier to place so it gives me a sense of relief, which I feel every time I see them. I also love faces with sharp delineations of their features and people who habitually wear eyeliner and/or have dark eyebrows because I don't have to mentally trace the outline before I scan my memory for that feature. Conversely, I get irrationally irritated when more than one person has the same "unnatural" hair color, especially if they have similar skin coloring. Why are you fuckin up my cheat sheet?! I want no more than one blue-haired person in my life at a time okay? ideally everyone I cared about would look completely different from everyone else I cared about even at a distance of 500 feet.

This inability to see faces as a whole can be hacked in one way: photos and sometimes videos. Because they get stored in my brain as a whole image, I can remember them better than a live face. I am better at recognizing celebrities than most people because I've never seen them live, only on a screen or page. It has happened quite often that I see an actor playing a minor character for the second time in a very different role, and I will figure out where I remember seeing them while the non-prosopagnosiac next to me is completely surprised that it is the same person even though they had the same exposure that I did.

This memory hack makes it really important to me to see photos of people I love. As I told a friend recently, it makes people feel more real to me. I had a crushing moment about 2 years ago when I realized that part of the reason it was so difficult for me to feel secure in being loved was that I can't pull up an image of someone smiling at me lovingly, so even though I knew it had happened, it felt like it never did. When I talked about it with Topaz 2 years ago, they finally got why I always wanted to take photos of them, and they started sending me photos of themself. I definitely think that a big part of why I feel so loved by them is that they do this.

Still, they don't like being looked at and they are uncomfortable with me taking their photo. The other day I was cuddling with Topaz and started trying to take a photo of them, but couldn't get one that worked, so kept deleting and trying again. They got self-conscious and hid their face and asked why I was taking "so many" photos. I told them that I didn't have any photos of them making that face so I was trying to capture it, and they asked "what face?" I said "that 'I love you' face." They then tried to let me take the photo but the feeling had been interrupted and the face was different. I feel really sad now that I couldn't capture it because even the blurry impressionist memory of it is gone.

Part of the reason I always felt so loved and connected and real with Hannah and Kylei was because we took photos of each other all the time and they were comfortable enough with a camera that when I went to take a photo, that act didn't change the feeling of the moment. I could actually take photos of them in a particular emotion without it vanishing in front of the camera. Then we would look at our photos together, so I had visual memories of connecting with them. My memory is deeply terrible; to have memories of my life, I have to study. Without photos or journal entries, I have nothing to study, so the memory is just lost. Most of my experiences are lost to me within a week.

It feels so unfair that other people don't have to ask permission before storing a face in their memory, but I do because I can only do it with a camera. It feels so unfair that others don't have to disrupt the experience in order to create a memory of it.

I think people who can pull up visual memories of people acting loving towards them have no idea what a gift it is to have that mental evidence of love. It took me years to even be able to get the impression of Topaz' face that I use to feel loved: a corner of one eye crinkles in this particular way when they are feeling charmed by me. I can pull up a blurry impressionist image of this and the feeling of the rest of their face is there even though I can't imagine it. I cling to that tiny fragment of face memory with all my might.

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such freedom in no longer needing to be needed

icon: "wild (me with vivid violet hair standing in a forest, viewed from above with my head tipped back and a wide, wild grin.)"

A friend of mine was describing their feelings about being a support and it reminded me of this post: fear of love being taken away if I'm not comforting & helpful / my worth / who I am vs what I do and I realized that finally, FINALLY, after years and years of struggling with this compulsion, I have it under control. It's still there, to some extent, but I can tell it no.

And really Topaz gets all the credit for that, because they went in with me on a hiatus of our relationship and then still loved me after I hadn't given to them for a month and a half, and that taught me that I can be loved without being needed. And in the time since, when I have said that I need time for myself or said no to a request for help, they have been supportive -- not perfectly but so often that it averages out to them having a positive response when I say no to something they want me to do. And if I can value my needs without fearing losing my closest person, then I can observe my other connections in that light and know that they should support me in valuing my needs as I support them in valuing their needs.

This gives me a freedom beyond what I can describe. Being needed is a kind of burden that I always thought was the sacrifice one must make to be close to another person. To be able to be at the most profound level of closeness I have ever experienced, without either of us expecting the other to meet most of our needs in general, or any one of our needs in particular -- even our greatest needs? I wouldn't have even imagined it possible. I'm so grateful.

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Evelyn is back in my life (perhaps)

icon: "artless (a painting of a nude person in sun-dappled shade, unselfconscioualy pulling off red stockings. They have a soft round belly and breasts that slope down)"

So when Saleena died and I started thinking about the people I didn't want to miss the chance to connect with, I emailed Evelyn a very short message saying that I hope life is going well for them, and then a few days ago they replied and asked to hang out. I said okay and gave them options and they chose this past Wednesday. I then put it out of my mind as much as possible so that I didn't fret or get my hopes up -- I think subconsciously I was expecting them to cancel. But they didn't!

They came over and we talked for about 2 hours. It was a meaningful conversation though uncomfortable in several ways. I initially asked them what they valued about me and they talked about my integrity and justice-minded-ness and how they wanted to create a project for social change with me. I told them that their response worried me as I feel like they are interacting with me like I am an idea and not a person. They responded "that is a fair concern" which was both reassuringly honest and dismayingly fear-affirming.

I said I am not looking to start a big project right now as I am in need of a rest period after years of financial trauma and lots of loss, and I don't know how long I need this rest period to be but I am guessing at least a year. What I want to create right now is a web of connections which are mutually nourishing, healing, and growthful. I added that I don't find it nourishing to be admired or to be an inspiration to others. They listened and seemed to take in what I was saying, and they apologized for not being nourishing when we were together before.

They expressed that they didn't feel disappointed or distressed that I don't want to start a project with them right now, which is good but that left me again with no answer about what they are looking for (I don't think they know). They said they didn't want to make promises and I emphatically agreed that I don't want them to make promises. That was part of the problem last time: it was part of the reason I got so hurt and I think that the pressure of those promises was part of the reason they just disappeared. I do however want to know their desires and whatever factors they are aware of that influence the experience of those desires (so I said this).

They asked me if I consider them trustworthy and I said I trust them not to intentionally hurt me, and to try to avoid hurting me by anything I specifically mention as hurtful but I don't trust them to know what is hurtful and not do it without me mentioning. I didn't mention it at the time because it didn't occur to me but I also don't trust them not to cut contact, which is something I find hurtful and I know they are aware of that.

They asked if I think they are a reliable source on their own self and I said no. I think to be that, one has to practice self-awareness daily and when you are in crisis, many times you cannot be self-aware: for survival you have to shut down to your own thoughts and feelings. And I think they have been in crisis as long as I have known them. They were unsurprised that I said no, but taken aback by my reasoning as they hadn't thought of themselves as in crisis but on reflecting, think that that is probably true.

We talked a lot about managing the impulse to give the people we love whatever we think they want, even to a damaging extent. I touched on How Loss of Alone Time, Constant Caretaking, & Medication Stigma Almost Killed Me and how constant caretaking without sufficient rest is damaging for caretaker, caretaken, & the relationship... "it is ultimately damaging for the person who is being taken care of. Coming to depend on someone for your needs and then having that ripped suddenly away when they run out of ability is profoundly destabilizing and terrifying, and it is inevitable because no one has infinite energy or the ability to give endlessly without being nourished enough to refill. If you love the person you're caretaking and you want to help them the most you can, you MUST take care of yourself. Otherwise you are setting them up for a really, really awful crash (and setting yourself up for the same)."

They talked about how they felt that part of the problem last time for them was getting distracted with sex, and I couldn't relate because I know I wouldn't have wanted sex if I didn't feel emotionally connected, but I understood that they probably had a different experience. I told them that I wanted sex and romance with them but that I could turn those desires off if they wanted, and they said no. We talked around it for a bit and I felt like they were hinting at wanting a nonsexual relationship but weren't admitting it even to themself, but the more we talked about it the more I felt like that was the case. So I told them that I wanted to be romantic but not sexual with them at least for a while -- if they liked that idea -- and they enthusiastically said yes.

Later we talked about it more and they clarified that they do in fact want to be nonsexual with me (I was relieved for them to be direct with me) and they also want to be romantic. I do think it would be a good idea to keep sex off the table for a while because sex tends to make me impatient but I'm a bit concerned over definitions because the line between sex and romance gets muddy for me. Especially when it comes to kissing, as I can and have had orgasms purely from kisses. To maintain a non-sexual demeanor will require putting some really strict limits on romantic stuff. It's easy to do when the other person doesn't want sex because then I just don't want it. It's much MUCH more difficult when the person is ambivalent.

Then this past weekend Quinn hosted hearts and crafts and Evelyn attended. I felt as awkward as an eel on land, but later I realized that a lot of that was fear that Quinn wouldn't want to be my friend anymore if Evelyn and I were dating. But Quinn felt, if anything different, more warm and friendly than before. Hearts and crafts is so important to me and I feel really protective of it. I want everyone to stay feeling wanted and belonging (which I hope they feel now) and so I'm definitely not ready to introduce any new people to it. I sent this to Evelyn:

btw, you had mentioned wanting to attend more hearts and crafts, and I said I need to check with people which is true but is not the first step. Right now I feel wary of how things may develop or falter between us, and I'm very protective of hearts n crafts. I'd say it's my second most important relationship right now, after Topaz. So I need to feel like I can depend on the me-you connection before I am comfortable asking for everyone to expand the group. I'm fine with you attending whenever Quinn hosts but other than that I want to wait, because the idea of us-ness crumbling and that poisoning h&c is horrible. Does all that make sense? I am worried that this will hurt your feelings but I want to be totally honest and open with you.

They responded saying, in gist, that they understand and support my choice, and I thanked them and added that I do very much want them to be part of it, but I can't risk hurting my people by proxy again. In the past I have encouraged my friends to invest in people and then had to watch them suffer when the people I vouched for hurt them. Before I even passively encourage people to invest in someone now, I need to ask myself if I have proof that this person is more likely to be net-positive for my friends rather than net-negative. And if I have no proof I have to wait.

It is EXTREMELY weird to be the more-cautious one for once. I'm always jumping in the dark water and THEN checking for leeches but this time I'm doing a careful sweep with one limb and inspecting it as I move from spot to spot.

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human deaths that have affected me

icon: "distance (two hands (from a brown person and a white person) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

How has death touched your life, and what lasting impact has it had?

I've been lucky enough that no one who I was very intimate with has died. But the deaths that I have experienced all touched me with this singular feeling: a wish that I had reached out more while they were still here.

Other than relatives who I didn't have any real connection to (biological grandparents), my first loss from death was in March 2012, when Carol died. I knew Carol from the six months I lived at Serendipity, when we often attended the same family dinner. We hadn't been close then or been in touch after I left Serendipity, but Carol had made me feel included and cared about and as a proxy parental figure that meant a lot. I felt sad but grateful to have had the short time to know Carol.

My first lose of a close connection to death was someone I met through livejournal, Laura (musicandmisery). Laura died April 2, 2013, and I found out through facebook, which I was grateful for because there was no way for me to learn about it through livejournal and the idea of just never knowing is horrific. It was a shock to me because Laura was so young and we hadn't been in good contact for a year, so I didn't know what was going on (I think health problems?). Laura's sister friended me on facebook afterwards and we sort of vaguely interact here and there -- I think for both of us it's a kind of connection to Laura.

I had had Laura on my short list of people to meet, but I never had anyone to go with nor the guts to try and plan a trip to New York alone -- and even if I had managed that I wouldn't have had the money before it was too late. I still ache over that missed opportunity because Laura was really special to me. I can't explain why mostly because my memory is terrible, but it feels like we just felt the world in the same way. We both are the kind of person to cry at human kindness, even between two people we don't know and can't really relate to, and twice as much between other animals. And that's not something I have often had in common with people. I think if we had lived near each other we would have spent lots of time together.

We also have the same birthday, so every time our birthday comes around I think of Laura. And there was this mega-adorable little kid on MasterChef Jr season 5 who reminded me SO MUCH of Laura in smile and spirit that I cried. A quote from that kid: “You gotta stay focused, you gotta stay true to yourself and you gotta cook your heart out!”

Then in February 2016, there was Vanessa, someone I met in college who I felt admiration for and wanted to be friends with, but I never got up the courage to really express that, and then she died. I learned this when I went to her facebook with the goal of reaching out and saw the wall filled with "gone too soon" messages. I felt really overwhelmed with "why didn't I reach out sooner" then. Vanessa was also very young, in her early 20s still I think.

Then March 27, 2017, Topaz' Papaw died. (his funeral was actually on the same date that Laura died) He had lived a full life and was in failing health so it wasn't a surprise but he was someone I felt a deep and intuitive connection with and I felt so sad that I had never tried to connect on more than a friendly-stranger level. Shortly after I met Topaz' family I hit the lowest point of my life so it took a while before I could even think about connecting with strangers, and after that I felt it wasn't allowed because I'm used to everyone being bloodist (saying that family isn't yours unless you are related by blood), and by the time I felt like I was allowed, he wasn't able to connect on a mental level due to Papaw's dementia. I feel like there was a sliver of time when I had a chance but I didn't realize it and I hate that I didn't realize it. I felt so grateful to at least be able to connect in our own unspoken way though.

Then November 26th of 2017, Topaz' Memaw died. She was a fierce and accomplished person who fought for an equal rights amendment and wrote a book about her life. I admired her and wished I had had the chance to connect with her more. Her dementia progressed on a similar timespan to Papaw's but was more external and had a lot of emotive aspects to it, so it was harder to handle. But it was so sweet and she was so supportive of me and Topaz.

When I first met Memaw, Topaz told her that we were partners and she was openly and comfortably supportive -- she later forgot, but knew that we were best friends and expressed strong support for that as a valid kind of family, which meant just as much to me honestly. There isn't societal oppression of best friends, but all my life I have felt that my greatest loves were treated as unimportant because they weren't romantic nor blood-linked nor legality-linked, so I have deep personal feelings of being marginalized in that way. I felt like Memaw saw us in a very true way whether she remembered we were romantic or not. I wished I'd had the chance to get to know her before dementia put the possibility out of reach.

On March 28th, 2018, Saleena died. They're someone I saw at least twice a month from summer 2009 to spring 2011. After that we drifted, but I always meant to pick up again. I had wondered about how Saleena was and how their life was going several times in the months before they died and I regret thinking "I'll have plenty of time." Saleena was near my age so I never expected her to die so soon.

At some point during the past decade two of my aunts died, but I saw them only a few times in my life and never really had a chance to connect with them. They never reached out and I didn't either. Last year or maybe the year before, my last biological grandparent died but I never had any connection with her either, so I did not care.

I'm not including deaths of other beings, but trees, cats, and fish have also left little scars on my heart, usually with the same wish that I had made more time for them. You'd think with this constant refrain I'd reach out to people all the time but I still procrastinate constantly.

Doing this prompt has made me realize that of all the deaths that impacted me, most of them occurred in the same calendar week - between March 27th and April 2nd. and two more happened right before that in the same season. I suddenly have more understanding of why late March through April has been hard for me the past few years... I also broke up with Kei-won-tia in 2015, had a hiatus in my most important relationship in 2016, and broke up with Evelyn in 2017 all in that same time period. I'm feeling a little more self-compassion about my lack of productivity in the past 2 months now.

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inexplicably bad at life right now, frustrated and confused by it

I've not been good at things for the past few weeks and I don't know why, but fb's "on this date" thing has me aware that I was also in a bad way like this last year. It's not SAD I don't think because I have been outside enough, and it has been warm often enough. Maybe it's just that last April I was really intensely sad and stressed and my body is remembering that. But everything has been hitting me so hard.

I haven't been able to motivate to do things. My living room is full of random crap from Topaz' move (some things I had left there but mostly stuff I inherited or stuff I am holding on to for Topaz). My upstairs hallway looks like a closet exploded on the floor. I haven't managed to plan my outfits for work and I have hardly done any writing or reading on LJ. What the fuck happened?? I was doing SO WELL for a while. Now I'm just barely keeping up with normal things.


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Relationship update post: topaz, allison, quinn, sande, anika, kylei, serenity, saleena, aurilion...

icon: "analytical (a close-up photo of my eye in bright sunlight, showing the green and grey and roots-looking patterns)"

I had a terrible crash last tuesday where I realized that I don't have any real friends at work and I have no idea how to make friends with anyone. I want to be here for a decade and this makes me feel doomed to spending most of my waking life for ten years feeling like an outsider, which sounds fucking awful. I have to figure out how to make a connection with someone who is part of the fabric of the place. I am terrified of trying and then learning for sure that no one wants to be real friends with me, but it's better to know I have no chance than to feel tortured by my own cowardice. So I have to reach out again.

The day after I wrote that paragraph I had a pleasant conversation with the person at work that I feel most comfortable with, and they sort of sideways made plans for us to eat lunch together this week, and were just kind and friendly and made me feel not so alone. So I am feeling a little more hopeful. If I can be real friends with them, that will make me feel like I belong. And I just really like them and want to be friends.

My relationship with Topaz is better than ever. The other day I saw a romantic scene in some show and suddenly remembered that I used to feel sad whenever I saw scenes like that because I always felt like I loved others with my whole being but that no one ever loved me back like that. It has now been so long since I felt unloved, unnoticed, unvalued, unappreciated, that I forgot that I used to have that feeling. Even when Topaz is caught up in their own stuff they take time to be there for me. They have developed habits that make me feel loved.

One example is that I feel really loved when someone brags about me in front of others, because it feels like the opposite of being ashamed of me (which was how I felt for most of my marriage). I told Topaz this a few years ago and they started doing it here and there and it has turned into an unprompted, natural expression. The other day I tidied their kitchen and made them dinner because they had had an awful, dreadful week, and they told their mom about it and their mom brought it up and thanked me for being supportive of them. And in that case, they hadn't even told their mom in order to make me feel loved but just because it had become normal to them, through practice I guess. I love that they have developed habits of expression out of love for me.

Also our sexual relationship has been wildly and beautifully intense lately. It feels full of fresh possibilities because there is still so much we have yet to explore, and yet the things we have done before are so fucking satisfying and nourishing that we do new things less often than we repeat. It's like a favorite restaurant where everything is good and you're excited to try something you haven't had, but also your favorite is so damn good that you have to get it at least every other time! (also new things require a lot more activation energy, so we are more able to do the repeat things) I'm really looking forward to Topaz being out of school for the summer, so more things are within our realm of possibility.

Allison and I had an intense conversation recently about some things in their life that are draining them. They apologized for discussing an emotionally heavy topic but of course I told them no need to apologize, that I feel pleased to be trusted with their difficult thoughts and feelings. We reaffirmed that we want to be in closer contact and have been trying to develop more of a habit of texting.

I asked if I could go to the a local annual art festival with Allison and their spouse and they said yeah, so I met up with them on Sunday. I had a lovely time walking around with them, but afterwards I worried that I didn't improve their time there and that maybe I was messing up their romantic time. And more so, I fret that maybe I made them uncomfortable discussing money -- I offered to pay for part of a thing (because I couldn't afford the whole thing) as a birthday present and they didn't really respond. Belatedly I realized/remembered that my attitude toward money is unusual and that people have been offended or even had hurt feelings by my attitude before, and I texted them to ask and preemptively apologize. They sent me a quick "no don't worry" but they're dealing with some other life stuff and haven't gotten to fully respond yet.

This also made me realize I don't think Allison and I have had any real argument for like a decade, and I don't know how they'd react if I hurt or offended them. I think mostly it's because we have extremely similar values and communication styles but now I worry that we won't weather a disagreement because we don't have practice. But at the same time I feel like we finally got past the "too polite" stage where I wouldn't discuss my worry that I upset them, and that makes me happy.

[quinn and sande, hearts and crafts]
Quinn left snapchat which is a choice I can respect but also feel sad about, because we did connect on most days through that app and I'm not sure if there is another way to connect with them so regularly and so easily. They have been coming to our hearts n crafts gathers pretty often though, which pleases me greatly. Sande also has been coming to hearts n crafts, and though I haven't seen them otherwise, I feel like they are present in that way.

At the last hearts and crafts, one person was low on funds and gas and didn't think they could come, and another (or maybe two others) offered to send them gas money. And both expressed that they'd been dealing with shit but felt the need to have that creative, communing time. I finally felt the click I had been hoping for, where this thing has finally grown a life of its own. It's like when you can finally put a seedling in the ground outside and you don't have to worry that it's gonna die if it gets too hot or if it rains too hard. I feel like I don't have to worry so much, that others have become invested in making this happen.

It was also the first time that Topaz was able to come, which made me extra happy because I had been hoping they would join but they were worried about allergies. We rotate locations and I think probably Topaz will not always be able to come, but I plan to give my house a good allergen scrubdown soon so I hope they will be able to come for a few hours without a problem.

[kylei and anika]
I haven't actually spent time with Kylei in a while, but we got a snapchat streak of almost two months before we lost it! I know that might not seem like much but for someone like me who has prosopagnosia, seeing a face in 2D every day allows me to have a better emotional grasp on the existence of a person and it automatically makes me feel closer. I cannot bring a face to mind but I can bring up an impressionistic version of photo of a face to mind (the brain stores these differently, at least for me). So to me, it means a lot. I am glad to have this way of connecting.

Anika and I have also been snapping fairly regularly and I feel more connected in that way, though we have drifted from our original writing goals. I hope we can get back on track with that, because I really enjoy it.

My relationship with Serenity has been strained for a long while now because I have been needing to live alone but they couldn't find another place for a long time. They finally found one that sounds absolutely perfect for them in every possible way, and I am so happy for them both because they deserve to have a living situation that fits them perfectly (my house is wrong for them in so many ways) and because I hope that with that strain gone we can reconnect, after the flurry of moving settles. And I just crave the rest of being truly alone.

With several friends I don't know if the people we are still lines up. I have become so much less spirituality-minded in the past year and that is a huge part of life for several people. I just... am not even sure what to do with that.

I just don't care about the idea of magic that is bigger than what I can do. I think I used to be really invested in it because I wanted a chance to not feel powerless, but really that is always an illusion. Everything a not-rich, not-famous human can do is tiny and our only hope is in getting many people to do the tiny things. And there are no spiritually rich people who somehow have more invisible power; you can't pray a lot to get more sway over the world. I invested in that idea because I wanted to be that, but it doesn't exist. It is a fundamentally fucked up and very capitalist idea.

Among other connections... Saleena, an old friend of mine died a few weeks ago, unexpectedly. I met them in 2010 and had a huge friend-crush on them for like two years but they were too busy for me and I was too full of self-doubt to be overt with my friendship overtures. Then I moved into a different social circle and rarely saw them, but still wanted to be friends. I just never really followed through on the effort and then they died. I started feeling more anxious about the people I am currently disconnected from, feeling sad at the idea that they might die before we ever really had the chance to know each other. Some I have no way of contacting. I hope that I do get that chance.

It used to be that Aurilion was one of those people that I hoped to eventually reconnect with. I last reached out to them with a text that just said "hey" about 8 months ago, but rather than them responding, their spouse called me and left a threatening voicemail telling me to leave them alone. My first reaction was to feel worried that Aurilion was being kept from connecting with their friends, because that angry voicemail creeped me the fuck out. Then as time went by I just started to get disgusted that Aurilion would allow their spouse to talk to me like that.

I can imagine what happened very clearly. I sent a text and Aurilion got it while with their spouse, who read it and got jealous because Aurilion cheated on them with me a few years ago (while telling me that they were broken up). The spouse reacted angrily and Aurilion defended themself by saying that they didn't want to talk to me but that I just wouldn't stop bothering them. The spouse demanded their phone and called me, leaving an angry voicemail. Aurilion framed this controlling behavior as love and then used me as a scapegoat so they could be the helpless maiden in need of rescue for a few weeks or months and feel loved by the "protective" behavior of their unaffectionate spouse.

Of course, I'll never know if this is true, but considering that I reached out MAYBE once a year before that, the reaction was so disproportionate that it was either that Aurilion lied to their partner or their partner is massively controlling, or both. Whatever the case, if Aurilion thinks I'm gonna try again after they pulled that shit, they can think again. They are not a child and they are responsible for not reaching out to me after that. They are a clever person good at hiding who is perfectly capable of reaching out to me privately.

I've realized that when it comes to romantic relationships, I am vulnerable to people who need to be adored. I get caught up in admiring them and enjoying their enjoyment of how much I admire them, and I feel like they are giving something to me by enjoying it, but practically speaking they aren't giving anything. It is easy for me to confuse what is essentially a solo experience for a true give and take. When I look back for actual evidence of care from these people I see none or very little on their part.

This was definitely true with Aurilion. I used to feel so baffled about why they would abandon me because I assumed it was something I did that they didn't like and I couldn't figure out what since I hadn't done anything new or unusual for me, but now I realize that it was because I stopped doing something. Whenever they were feeling low they would get back in touch for an easy ego boost, and then when they felt better or when I stopped being 100 percent adoring and started challenging them, they'd dump me again. The moment I stated a need or set a boundary for what I would give is the moment they'd vanish, because they were flat unwilling to expend effort on my behalf.

My definition of love is a variant of bell hooks' definition:
love is a willingness to spend effort -- without repayment or reward -- in order to help a living being grow, heal, and/or be nourished.

Which means, by my definition of love, that Aurilion has not been loving to me since we were first together. I am pretty sure that in the past 8 years they never even thought about my growth, healing, or nourishment, except as a means to something that directly benefited them. That was a pretty sobering realization. And I think it has been true of a number of people whom I have loved.

It explains why my relationship with Topaz is so far above and beyond what other relationships have been for me. We both seek these things for each other passionately, and want to spend all the effort we can spare on helping each other.

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artificial and/or alcohol-carried smells /my coworker went out of their way to accommodate me

People who wear a truckload of perfume or body spray, or use hyper-scented soaps & personal cleansers upset me SO MUCH. I would rather someone spray themselves with urine instead of perfume -- that is how gross it is to me. It really overwhelms me and feels like as much of an invasion as if they stuck their fingers up my nose. I'd rather be hanging out with an effluvia-trailing farter than a floral-chemical-doused person.

I really do hate that I am so sensitive now that that absolutely is a deciding factor in whether or not I can be friends with someone, but it definitely is. I just can't want to be in the same room with someone who wears loud smells. I got a fancy reusable breathing filter mask which looks very futuristic-thief, and I'm keeping it in my backpack now for when clueless or terrible people decide that their right to dowse themselves in scent trumps my right to breathe.

Speaking of which, I feel super terrible for judging my coworker for not keeping their word about not wearing perfume. It turned out that they did indeed stop wearing it and the real problem was their deodorant. I found out because our office got re-organized and now our desks are close together, and after a few days I couldn't stand it anymore and I sent them a message asking them again to stop wearing perfume.

They told me that they haven't worn perfume in months, and I expressed confusion and asked if they wore a spray deodorant. They said no, that they wore roll-on, and I asked for the brand so I could look up ingredients. As I suspected, it contained alcohol (usually just present in sprays) which when combined with a scent almost always gives me trouble as it helps the scent float in the air. They offered to stop wearing it to see if that helped and I said yes please. Then they stopped wearing it and I had no more issue! SUCH RELIEF. I honestly want to hug them and give them presents every time I think about it.

I feel so guilty and mean for thinking they were lying to me, when they have given me no cause to think they would lie. It's just that when they said they would stop wearing perfume, the smell didn't go away but it did improve, and it didn't occur to me that it could be that they stopped wearing one allergen but were wearing a second different one, especially since they smelled very similar (I'm guessing they were always competing smells that seemed to me like one smell). I'm also so so relieved that it isn't a hair product or other thing that they can't do without. It is such a relief to come into the office and be able to breathe freely.

connecting: , ,

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realizing that christianity and other "one true" religions rely on magic tricks for legitimacy

icon: "contemptuous (my face with bold cat-eye makeup, with a disgusted expression: eyebrows drawn together and down, eyes wide, lips curled up in the middle and down to the sides in an exaggerated frown)"

I've been watching "the Path" (which is terrible, 2 out of 5 stars, do not recommend -- if you do watch, skip the first 2 seasons as they're so boring I skipped and fast-forwarded through them) and the main character is having a crisis of faith because the leader of the religion might not have done a miracle. "What if this is all just a story someone wrote?" Which seemed so beside the point that I was like "why are you fixating on a magic trick? why does that matter if the moral code is good?" and then I realized that ALL the religions who follow some singular individual rely on a magic trick to validate them.

People don't follow Jesus because they think the teachings help them to be a more compassionate and ethical person -- they follow Jesus because "he proved he was the son of god" by "rising from the dead." A more logical explanation was that he was in a coma for 3 days and then woke up -- unlikely, but it happens! even if he was actually dead and then alive again, how the fuck does that prove anything at all about the value of the moral code Jesus espoused? It doesn't, that's how.

And if your entire belief system is based on a miracle, then as soon as someone else does a better one what, you're gonna switch? If some alien shows up and starts healing people's cancers by biting them you're gonna develop a new moral code around biting people?

If your whole belief system is based on taking some ancient people's word that someone did something that seemed magical, that is completely irresponsible and a TERRIBLE way to choose how to live your life. The same as it would be if some modern people said someone did a magic trick. That's basically relying on an appeal to authority (logical fallacy) as your justification for your moral code. It's using an inherently unreliable event (a miracle is only a miracle if it is not repeatable by other people) as a foundation for your actions in life -- why on earth would you do that??

When I identified as a Christian -- as a TEENAGER -- I remember people asking me "what if there really is no god, no heaven, no hell, and you spent your whole life like this?" and I said to them "then I used these teachings to live a better life, to be a better person!" The existence of a magical being wasn't the fucking point! I liked the things Jesus taught and I agreed that love was the most important and highest moral law through which a person can figure out the best choices to make.

It honestly boggles my mind to realize that most of the people who call themselves christians would stop doing so if it was proven that Jesus never rose from the dead. How can you base your morality on a completely unprovable story -- that is inherently amoral, for crying out loud!!! if Jesus rose from the dead, that wasn't an act of kindness or bravery or generosity, but a morally neutral act of self-preservation. And it is certainly not a better miracle than making one person's lunch feed a huge crowd. Why isn't that the miracle that gets its own holiday? I'll tell you why -- because it comes with a fucking MORAL that people should SHARE or else god does no good.

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ADHD stuff: ambient noise is draining and sleep is VITAL

icon: "overwhelmed (the character Keenan from "Playing By Heart," with hands over their face covering their eyes and head tilted back)"

I ordered some noise-protection earmuffs so that on ADHD overload days I can at least block out the worst of stimuli. With my CAPD, sound always takes effort to process, even passively hearing it if there are any words in the sound or any chance that someone might talk to me (so whenever there are people around, especially at work). The earmuffs will also be a cue that I can't hear people, so a person looking at me will hopefully be more likely to try to get my attention in a non-verbal way rather than just assuming I am ignoring them. I will be carrying these with me in my ever-present backpack, so I can use them for protection from bus noise too.

Last week I was in ADHD overwhelm all day Thursday and Friday, and on Thursday it was bad enough that I lost speech for a while. Then on Monday I called in to work because I woke up feeling just incapable of functioning. I went back to bed and slept for another 7 hours. After that, Monday night I went to bed a little closer to on-time than usual, and when I woke up for work Tuesday I didn't feel groggy or terrible.

Suddenly I realized that last week was a whole string of "just this once" 4 and 5 hour nights. My ADHD is super affected by sleep and I know better, but I can get away with missing 2 hours once a week so I do it sometimes. Apparently I let that "sometimes" turn into "constantly" without realizing.

It's a terrible cycle: lack of sleep makes everything take twice as long, including winding down after work, so when I didn't get enough sleep the night before I am way more likely to fail at getting enough sleep next time. So I really need to be very strict about bedtimes at LEAST every time I sleep at home.

After realizing this I re-activated my browser blocks on netflix, hulu, and facebook after 8:30pm. That should hopefully give me enough time to do some productive stuff and get to bed on time. (I get up at 5:30am most days so I need to be in bed by 10:30)

And after one day of doing pretty good with going to bed on time I started trying to talk myself out of my bedtime. Why are you like this, brain?? it makes everything worse and you know this!!!

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what ADHD overload is like for me: tangled brain, unable to speak, hyper sensitized, clumsy, inept

icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

I realized the other day that people who are not on the A-spectrum (Autism, Aspergers, ADHD) probably have no idea what it is like to experience brain overload, so I want to try to explain. When I am dealing with ADHD overload, all these things are true:

[trying to think is painfully difficult and focusing is worse]
Trying to think at all is like trying to think with a massive headache; it takes a deliberate effort and it feels like a strain that almost hurts. Trying to focus my thoughts feels like when I haven't eaten for many hours and delicious food smells keep wafting by-- every single time, my attention is pulled away. But it's happening with every little sound or movement.

[everything is too loud]
Also, all senses are heightened and not in a good way. Things I normally wouldn't even notice become so loud and annoying they make me want to scream -- the sound of paper sliding as someone turns the page of a book feels like someone scraping dull blades across my skin. I get deeply upset by an uncomfortable chair, hot room, or any smell. All I want is for the stimuli to STOP.

[uttering words is a struggle and sometimes impossible]
Trying to speak, trying to utter words feels like trying to jump when I have been walking for so long that my legs feel shaky and it takes a constant effort of will to make each step. Opening my mouth and coordinating my tongue with my thoughts feels like lifting my arms after I just carried something too heavy for way too long. It just feels like so much work that I can't do it. I can think a string of words but pushing them out is nearly impossible. Sometimes when I do manage words they come out garbled and they always are short, labored phrases.

[and I cannot do anything right]
Trying to to do things feels like when I haven't slept for so long that all my muscles ache and I am moving slow and dropping things. I'm clumsy and constantly fucking up and every time it happens I want to cry and scream. And it just keeps happening no matter how careful I am or how much I am used to doing it perfectly.

So when I say I am having an ADHD overload day, it doesn't only mean that I am extra scatterbrained and forgetful -- that's actually the least bad of the symptoms. It is like having a bad cold, but cognitive (thinking) rather than respiratory (breathing). I love my ADHD brain with all its daily quirks -- except when I am in overload.

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finally reclaiming my assertiveness

icon: "strong (a photo of me in warm light with my hair down around my face, staring intensely into the camera in a defiant mood)"

I have become more assertive again since getting on the right meds for my anxiety (starting last October I think). I wasn't expecting this but it really highlights how much my reaction to danger is to become meek and obedient. I had mourned the loss of my assertiveness without ever being able to put that into words. I just felt like I had become a coward, when being scared had never stopped me before. It's not that I consciously made different choices (except that I couldn't get myself to initiate social stuff) but that things I would have done literally stopped occurring to me as possibilities.

[recent examples of assertiveness]
I first noticed this a few weeks ago when I met up with a stranger from OKC. First, when I made a mistake and showed up at the wrong place, I accepted their offer to come to me and didn't worry further about it. I didn't compulsively offer things that I didn't have the energy to do. Then when I reached my limit of the social I could manage for the day, I asked for the check, then paid, said goodbye and left despite the fact that they seemed disappointed. I didn't even apologize or offer a long explanation, didn't feel guilty or try to manage their feelings; I just did what felt right.

Another example is week before last, when Topaz decided to take an impromptu vacation trip last week and wanted me to come along for at least part of the time. I said no because trips like that take a lot of work for me, mentally, and I need time to prepare before and recover after, and I have been stressed out for 2 solid months and need down time. I don't find trips relaxing in general and it would have drained me more than it nourished me -- BUT I could have done it. I know my boss would have let me go even though it was last minute, and I have the vacation days saved up. Even though I could have shelved my needs and gone, I didn't.

[one or two years ago I would have reacted very differently]
To be fair, in both cases they were very respectful and literally zero pressure, but for a long time even if the other person was perfect I would feel a need to sacrifice my needs for their wants. With Topaz I would hold back telling them my desires so that I could just accommodate their desires without considering mine. Two years ago and maybe even a year ago, I would have felt too guilty to say no, because it wouldn't actually damage me to do it and for a really long time I couldn't draw a boundary unless it was literally for survival. I couldn't assert my needs and would just hope that the other person took my mild expressions of discomfort as a firm no. I don't think that is part of my personality at all but purely a reaction to abuses I endured and the constant pressure from society in general to be other than I am.

But this time, not only did I say no, I hardly felt any discomfort doing so. I feel like I have reclaimed a very important part of myself. This also impacts my romantic/sexual self in that I am more confident in asking for what I want, and I don't get overwhelmed with fear and self-doubt when faced with rejection. More importantly, being rejected doesn't carry over and color the next chance, and this is true both for individual moments and for people in general.

I feel less likely to fall for anyone who doesn't treat me as the incredible person that I am. I look back a year ago and see myself trying to convince Evelyn that I was worth their time, and I feel sad for past-me that I was so lost that I could feel like it was okay for me to be in a relationship that made me feel like I had no magic and no appeal. I'm not going to do that again. If someone doesn't make it very clear that they are really fucking into me, and tell me why, I'm not spending time on them in the hopes that eventually they will acknowledge my worth. And my true, assertive self is quite confident in saying that "I'm not worthy of you" does NOT acknowledge someone else's worth at ALL. It just passive aggressively pushes them to validate yours. I won't allow people to say that shit to me any more.

[family and work people]
I think a big part of the reason I have been able to reclaim my assertiveness is that about a year ago, Topaz realized that trying to get me to act a certain way around their family was keeping me from being able to connect with their family, and they stopped trying to do that and told me to be myself. I've been slowly reclaiming myself around their family and that has been healing for my relationship with myself.

My coworkers have also been affirming me as my unique self since I have been working there, to a steadily increasing degree. Last July I came out to them as non-binary and they responded kindly for the most part (some just didn't really react). Since then they have been pretty good about using gender-neutral pronouns and being more inclusive in their language (i.e. not saying "ladies and gentlemen"). I feel respected and to some degree even understood.

I'm having less anxiety about talking to strangers. This is huge, since this is always the thing that is hardest for me. I think I am starting to feel like my thoughts and feelings are valid in general, and people can and will want them. I don't know how many years it's been since that was true. I think going through my social justice awakening essentially alone and watching people lose interest in anything about me was really damaging to my social coping skills. And then shortly after that, trying to connect with a group of queers and trans people who just had no interest in knowing me, for some reason I still don't understand. Before that it honestly never even occurred to me that people wouldn't want to connect with me if I wanted to connect with them.

I've been realizing that my ability to not notice what people think of me is a superpower. I had this memory of my dad at my birthday party when I was little - he dropped a popsicle on the floor and picked it up, then told my little 6-year-old friends that they've probably never seen anyone do what he was about to do, and ate it. Looking back I can see that he said that to stave off self-consciousness. I wouldn't have thought about how someone else would react to me doing something like that. I have licked my plate in public, or wiped up sauce with a finger and licked it, without even thinking about how people would see that. I will adjust my underwear in public. I do all manners of odd things in front of people because I really just don't think about it -- and when I do think about it, I don't care (unless my brain chemicals are off).

It is genuinely and significantly damaging for me to be around people who get embarrassed by me. This breaks my superpower and not just in the moment. The more it happens the more it breaks me, because my truest self is always unselfconscious and direct, and when I put on a mask of respectability, I wither. I temporarily lose the ability to even realize my own emotions or know what I want, and it takes time to heal every time I do it.

When I betray my true self by pretending to be a more acceptable version of myself, I lose connection with myself. I must remember this is a grave sacrifice never to be taken lightly, and never to be done often.

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after 17 days away from facebook, I've decided not to read my feed any more

icon: "distance (two hands (from a brown person and a white person) just barely apart, facing each other palm to palm)"

Last night I ended my 17 days of not looking at facebook, and I feel pretty good about it. Initially I had only intended a week, but at the end of that week I got nervous about logging back on to a flood of notifications (since I have set up post notifications for at least 20 people, most of whom are very active) and didn't feel like logging on. So I decided to see how long it took before I had more desire than anxiety, which was another 10 days.

It was actually quite difficult for me for the first week or so. At first it was simply the habit, without which I didn't quite know what to do with myself. Then I started to feel adrift and disconnected. When I shared this on snapchat and someone asked me why I thought I was feeling that way, I realized that facebook had become my central location on the internet, in the way that livejournal used to be for me.

By central location I mean it's the place where everyone I know has an account (or at least 99% of people I know) where I can go to be around people I like without spending a bunch of effort. It feels very not-static and I think that makes it seem like people are more present. Since there is a fairly constant flow of updates, I could go there and feel like someone was talking to me, without feeling like I had to talk back or else hurt their feelings. I turned to facebook whenever I got lonely or had a moment of high stress that I wanted distraction from. But the updates were largely impersonal or superficial, and they didn't nourish me.

It became this button I pushed to try and get food, which dispensed one cracker every 40 pushes. That's how it became addictive and just really bad for me. I remember reading about how randomly dispensed rewards are more effective when training a pet than giving a treat every single time. And I don't know if that is true in general, but it is true for me -- the times when I don't get the reward I try again more quickly and with more investment in the outcome, because I need to get proof that the reward is not gone forever, that I CAN make it happen.

I really don't want to get back in the habit of opening my phone and refreshing or scrolling through facebook all the time. I bookmarked most of the people whose updates I subscribed to, and when I am next on my computer I will delete my notifications. Instead of reading notifications I'll just manually check the people I care most about -- I'll miss some things but that sacrifice will be worth the time I get back. I won't be able to check everyone, since some of the people I like the most post a lot of links and videos which are very bad for my ADHD and I'm just gonna have to go without.

My thinking patterns themselves change when I am not falling into that reloading-addiction loop. I think this is why even though this past week was draining to the utmost, I wrote several posts! Instead of scrolling through facebook, I checked my lj flist, and when I didn't feel like reading, I easily shifted gears to writing. Moving from reading LJ to writing is easy because my lj friends inspire me with their openness and meaningful sharing and I feel nourished, but moving from scrolling facebook to writing almost never happens, because I just get more intimacy-hungry and start looking for some other form of distraction.

Since I couldn't check responses or reactions to my microblog-type posts, I didn't feel like posting to facebook so that urge all shifted to snapchat, which has actually become really important to me. I have a daily reminder to post a snap -- an alarm that opens up the app. It helps me to take more photos and to think more about recording bits of my life. I have a few people who send me their photos directly, which I enjoy very much since otherwise I would miss them half of the time. I really like having more daily contact with people whose very existence makes me happy. I really like sharing tiny immediate moments. I save every snap I make as long as I don't forget, so it works as a daily record.

My takeaway from 2.5 weeks away from facebook is that it's really only good for me if I use it to share. It's not good for me to ever check my news feed, even the stripped-down one, because it sets off my ADHD and like 90% of people post almost zero original content. It was how I was getting my news and my awareness of what's going on, but I'm gonna have to rely on work for that instead (luckily someone usually sends out a company-wide alert when there is some evil legislation in the works as far as health and access goes) or maybe subscribe to some pages that only send out notifications of things to resist.

Basically my relationship with facebook has changed radically in the past few weeks and I'm feeling happy and hopeful about shifting my habits and investing where I actually want to! Which is mostly LJ, right now.

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How to get up in the morning when you have ADHD or SAD: 11 tips that worked for me, with both

icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

These tips are not for everyone! some are only possible with certain privileges. I'm sharing in hopes that some parts of this will help people with a similar brain and life to mine.

1) plan your bedtime and train your body to a set sleep schedule.

[possibly the most useful but also least accessible tip]This is possibly the most useful but also least accessible tip because you need to have a life that allows for this sort of regularity, so not everyone can do it. I did this by spending a month going to sleep at a set time using the supplement melatonin, and waking up exactly 7 hours later. You don't have to use melatonin, but it helps because it makes it easier to get up after 7 hours (or 7.5, or 8 if that suits you better).
Important notes on the use of melatonin: you only need 300 mcg (micrograms) which is a third of one mg (milligram), per night. Do not take more than this! It will not help to take extra and it can seriously mess you up, since it will make your brain think you don't need to make your own any more. Also, do not take it daily for more than two months or it can make you suicidally depressed. I don't know why but it had that effect on me and when I looked it up I was not the only one. To be safe, I wouldn't take it daily for more than 30 days in a row, and after that I wouldn't take it more often than once a week.

2) put your alarm clock/phone far out of reach from the bed.

[otherwise turning it off is too easy]
If it's next to you, it's way too easy to turn it off or snooze it without ever fully waking up. If I do that, it will make everything else fail, so it's really important.

3) put everything you need in the morning next to your alarm.

[For me, this is my meds, glasses, hair tie, and water bottle...]
For me, this is my meds, glasses, hair tie, and water bottle. The meds I need to take in the morning I put in a bottlecap (to keep my cat from turning them into toys) on my desk so that I don't even have to open my eyes to take them because I can tell by feel, and I don't have to count or anything.

4) do everything you can do to get ready the night before, especially annoying or stressful tasks.

[The more chores you have to do when you wake up, the harder it is to get out of bed...]
The more chores you have to do when you wake up, the harder it is to get out of bed. I gather together my outfit for work, including socks and underclothes and shoes, and put them all next to my bed. I put everything that I need to take with me (wallet, extra phone charger, etc) in my bag or in an extra bag next to it. I pre-make any food item I'm taking and put it in a grocery bag in the fridge so that all I have to do is open the door and grab the handles of the bag -- I don't have to check to be sure I got everything. I fill my water bottle and make sure my pill box is stocked and my contacts bag has lenses in it. If I plan to bring a drink in the morning, I prepare it the night before.

If you like fresh coffee/tea I would recommend that you set out the cup next to all the fixings, grind the coffee or unwrap the tea bag and put it in, make sure the pot has plenty of water, etc -- so that you have the least number of things to do in the morning. Make sure your keys have a home and are in it so that you don't have to look for them in the morning. I recommend a hook next to the door because otherwise it is too easy to put them down without thinking about it and lose them on the way to the door.

5) set a pre-getting-up alarm 20-30 minutes before the real one and turn on the light when it goes off.

[if you have SAD this is a good time to turn on a sunlight lamp...]This can be just your room light, or if you have SAD this is a good time to turn on a sunlight lamp and lay in bed with the lamp about 10 inches from your face. Either way, the time in the light will help to signal your brain to wake up and it will put you in a lighter sleep that is easier to get out of.

6) if you are caffeine-tolerant, get low-dose caffeine pills and take one with your first alarm.

[amazingly helpful especially if you are unmedicated for your ADHD...]This is amazingly helpful especially if you are unmedicated for your ADHD. It takes about 20-30 minutes to kick in, so it sort of slowly wakes you up like the light does.

7) if you have sensitive blood sugar, eat a small handful of crackers/bread/simple carbs with that first alarm.

[This helped me almost as much as the caffeine]This helped me almost as much as the caffeine. It wakes my body up and also sets my metabolism going so that I actually get hungry, which is good because my hunger drive is much lowered by my meds.

8) if you have a smartphone, get an app that allows for gradually increasing sound and custom alarm tones, and make the sound something that is not startling.

[I used to use the most annoying ringtones in an effort to wake myself up, but it was not as effective as a gradually increasing gentle alarm...]I used to use the most annoying ringtones in an effort to wake myself up, but it was not as effective as a gradually increasing gentle alarm. It made me wake up angry and it made me more likely to turn the alarm off entirely because I couldn't stand the sound. There was also literally no reward for getting up quicker, whereas with the gradually increasing gentle alarm, I can avoid being annoyed by the sound if I get up quick -- and that is rewarding. I use ocean waves or thunder as my first alarm, and then use a babbling brook as my second alarm. I set it to take 2 minutes to reach full volume on the first alarm, and 1 minute on the second.

9) on days you don't have an obligation to get you moving, use extra steps with the second alarm.

[I use Alarm Clock Extreme Free, which has an ]I use Alarm Clock Extreme Free, which has an "answer math questions" setting. My second alarm on off days is the only one I use this setting for, but it's really necessary because otherwise I will just keep snoozing forever. If you don't have a smartphone or don't like this idea, you could put an alarm clock in the next room so you have to do more walking. I'm sure there are other ideas I haven't thought of.

10) if you take ADHD meds, take them with your first alarm on off days.

[it is so easy for me to get lost in my phone while in bed and not get up for 2-3 hours]This is a really important tip for people like me, because it is so easy for me to get lost in my phone while in bed and not get up for 2-3 hours, if I haven't taken my meds. On work days I have to get up and get ready but I am not as respectful of my own needs as I am of work's needs, so I need my meds in order to keep from losing a huge chunk of the day. Also important is keeping a food bar or other easy nutrition in my bedroom for getting up on off days because I usually procrastinate eating until after it has majorly flared my ADHD.

11) if you are sensitive to cold, make sure your bedroom is warm enough, and warm your clothes/shoes if possible.

[for me, being cold is HORRIBLE]I don't know if this is true for others with SAD, but for me, being cold is HORRIBLE. So even when it is not really cold enough to warm the whole house, I use a oil space heater in my bedroom and I put my shoes as close to it as possible without touching. This makes it a lot easier to get up because putting my feet in warm shoes actually feels good. When I remember, I will drape my clothes on the heater too but that's dangerous if you do it for more than 5 minutes so I can only do it when I am going to literally not stop looking at the clothes until I take them off of the heater. Another thing I've done is sleep with a warm robe under the covers next to me, and when I wake up I put it on under the covers as a way to transition out of bed.

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my dad is actually doing a pretty good job being respectful lately

icon: "shock (a gif of the character Mick from Moonlight making a shocked/confused face, with eyebrows going up and then scrunching together. in between repetitions is a white screen with the text w t f)"

[last spring my dad made an agreement with me which established boundaries and respected my needs]Early spring last year my biodad, who owns the house in which I live, threatened to kick me out if I couldn't pay an unreasonable amount of rent, so I told him I was going to move out as soon as possible. After he tried to rent it to my cousin and she flaked out, he seemed to come to his senses since the house is not in rentable condition to any unrelated person. He sent me an email with a proposal of me covering the house expenses. I proposed some amendments on the methods and included that they can't come visit without at least 2 weeks notice, they can't go through my stuff, etc and he agreed. I also said that they need to respect my need for calls to be scheduled, and they have mostly done that, with the exception of my birthday. While it is not a pleasant thing for me to get an unscheduled call ever, I can understand and forgive the impulse there.

He also included this, in the hyper-formal fashion typical of his writing:

"Also, I have given careful thought to your name.  [Your maternal grandfather] was faced with the prospect that one of his daughters decided not to use her birth name and replaced it with a name of her choice.  Her birth name was [birthname] and her newly chosen name was [chosen name].  Mr. [maternal grandfather] honored her decision and called her [chosen name].

     I am no better than [maternal grandfather's full name], my kinsman and father, and I will follow his example, if required.  If you ask me to refer to you as James, I will honor your request.  Simply ask.

     My name, however, is [M], to the whole world except my children.  I request that my children refer to me as Daddy or Dad.  You only have one daddy and his days are numbered.  This is my request."

So I agreed to call him Dad, which I hadn't ever done (I went right from "Daddy" to his first name). I feel doubtful that he respects my name when talking about me to others, but I'm trying to use "Dad" more in my head so it doesn't feel so weird and uncomfortable.

He came in town to visit a relative who is sick (someone I don't know) and before planning that trip he asked if he could stay at my house. He did a great job of checking in and not using pressuring or controlling language, so I said yes, and I offered to take a day off to spend it with him.

He finished his trip to the sick family member and his longtime mentor and arrived at my house on Sunday. He bought himself some groceries before arriving, and we sat on the front porch to have dinner together. He asked if it was okay to reheat meat in my house (I'm a vegetarian) and I said yes -- amazed that he thought to ask, and that it seemed like a real question. We had dinner and a thoughtful conversation -- which was a little one-sided as he talked a LOT but listening takes less work for me most of the time so I was okay with it. When he seemed to not listen I pointed it out and he paused and listened.

Yesterday was the day I took off to spend with him, and it was a good day, overall. We had breakfast together, went to a park I love and took a long walk, and then went to dinner. I gave him a book about trees that I had been thinking of mailing him, and he actually looked at it and smiled and said he thought he would enjoy it. Love of trees is one thing we share, though he cannot let the subject pass without emphasizing that he is fine with cutting trees that need to be cut because they lean dangerously or whatever. Every. Single. Time. we talk about trees he says that. I get it, okay? I'm not about to criticize you for loving then too much so enough with the preemptive defensiveness! I feel for him about it though.

When we got back we loaded up the paper recycling for him to take in his truck, and while I know he wanted to complain that there was so much cardboard (he thinks its dirty to keep it around) he didn't complain or pressure, and even verbally assured me that he didn't want to do anything but complete the chore for me. In the past he would have said "this has got to go. I'm going to load it up, come help me." So he was doing remarkably well with being respectful.

We talked a lot which was so exhausting because he twists himself in knots sometimes to avoid saying things which don't actually need to be avoided, and he is stubbornly wrong about almost anything to do with social justice. But I finally said something that got through yesterday when he was talking about how he doesn't trust or like cops and how they're assholes to him and he thinks its not about race.

I told him that maybe the cops who harass are all assholes who would prefer to treat everyone like shit, but they expect, looking at a white man, that there is a greater chance of him having powerful friends. An asshole cop still doesn't want to get in trouble so he is going to take out his shittiness on the people he guesses as the least powerful. Dad told me "you just said something powerful there" and agreed that that would be a consideration for cops. I thought to myself "not any less powerful or true than the other things I have said but somehow this didn't get caught on your defenses."

This is why I talk back to privileged ignorance every time I have the chance. This was like the third time we had the same conversation in one day, and I tried something slightly different and this time I got through. There are little cracks in everybody's privilege that can bring understanding, but the only way to find those cracks is to push against their privilege over and over and over in different spots.

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friendzy March 2018

icon: "effervescent (a cartoony gif of neon multicolored bubbles bouncing chaotically and occasionally falling to the bottom)"

friendzy banner
[long description]

A cartoon drawing of a smiling person in a dress holding a pink flower and standing in a grassy field. Two fluffy white clouds and two red hearts float in a blue sky behind the person. Text on the image reads: "'i wish it were spring' friending frenzy"

"i wish it were spring" friending frenzy!

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taking a week hiatus from reading facebook

icon: "ADD-PI (two electromicroscope photos of crystallized acetylcholine, overlaid & warped in several ways)"

So I decided to take a week-long break from facebook and literally less than 10 minutes later I automatically went to load it. I had already completely logged out and told fb to forget my device, so I didn't ruin my intention, but I can already tell that this is going to be both a struggle, and hopefully enlightening.

I don't think my posting to fb makes my life worse in any way, but checking my feed does. I have stripped it down to just good people but it's an ADHD/anxiety trap no matter what -- even when I have JUST scrolled through for an HOUR and then closed it I will open it again without thinking. I just get stuck and I waste my life. Topaz will occasionally get frustrated with me or worried about me because sometimes it's like a compulsion and I have to put my phone in another room to stop looking at fb.

So far (it has been a day and a half) I have realized that I use fb to self-soothe when I am feeling stressed, because it is an effective distraction when there is a lot I haven't seen yet. But it is not at all effective when I have checked it recently, which is most times when I look at it. So I'd say more than half the time I open it and scroll through looking for new content and don't find any but keep looking anyway. It is a really bad first step for coping with stress, because it usually doesn't help yet prevents me from trying something else.

If I can reclaim my time and get more writing done by not reading facebook, then I may restrict myself to only using it when I am at my computer. That way I can still keep up with people occasionally but not get automatically snared. At this point that new rule is looking very likely. The real test will be when I next ride the bus without being able to check facebook.

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my effusive verbal affectionateness feels lost to me

icon: "kissy (a photo of me outside in soft light, blowing a kiss)"

I was looking through old emails from 2007 the other day (trying to find contact info) and came across gtalk conversations with someone I was close friends with back then. Here's a bit from March 2007:

transcript of a chatCollapse )

This was my normal with close friends. I was highly effusive and constantly expressing affection and admiration. The person that I had this conversation with I was never in a romantic relationship with, yet we shared intensely affectionate expressions of love as a constant in our friendship. To an outside observer I probably seem really trusting now, but I am SO WARY compared to my natural self.

[experiences with ex-friends which broke me]
I feel like Ava, Kei-won-tia, and to some extent Aurilion and Evelyn broke something in me. Ava was someone I passionately adored and loved profoundly, who lied to me in profound ways and then cut me off completely when I called them on it. Kei-won-tia was someone who I thought shared my values, who I felt strong resonance with, and later I learned that they believed none of what they said and lied to me. They intentionally tricked me into loving who I thought they were. Aurilion told me over and over how important I was to them and how "this time I won't run away I promise" followed by them cutting me out of their life the second it got difficult. Evelyn did much the same, though for even shorter bits of time.

I feel wary of speaking of anyone with admiration for fear that they will reveal that everything I love is only a carefully created manipulation, or is a rug about to be snatched from underneath me. I would never have thought that people could keep up a facade for months on end but now I know better. Multiple people have done this to me. Now honestly I am suspicious of anyone who seems to agree with me on everything. I wait to see if they stay agreeing when they're mad at me, or if they express the same things when there is no prompt related to me. I can't bring myself to believe that they mean it independent of me unless they already expressed it before meeting me and I can find proof of that. The people who wounded me most were people who pretended to be changed by exposure to my words.

More recently, Cass and Heather both betrayed my trust and made me feel a fool for investing in them. I now have a great fear that people I love will trust the people I praise and then get hurt by those people. I don't want to enthuse over someone only to watch them harm my closest people. At the same time I desperately crave an interconnected web of friends, so I yearn to have my people invest in each other. But I won't be the vector of harm again if I can help it. I can vouch for Topaz and Allison but everyone else I'm unsure of, everyone. No matter how much I love them or how much I'm willing to trust them, myself.

My effusiveness is further withered by disuse and discouragement. For at least 5 years I haven't been close to anyone who is comfortable being complimented even a little bit, much less with the enthusiasm that is natural to me. Topaz allows it but disagrees with me every time, though they have at least become gentle in their disagreement. (and to be fair, we are effusive with each other and Topaz doesn't disagree with my expressions of love, only my expressions of admiration) Evelyn reacted to my effusiveness with discomfort or rejection, multiple times. Most people react with disagreement, embarrassment, by saying that other people disagree with me, or by telling me things they don't like about themselves.

Worse, some people react as if I am hitting on them, which is uncomfortable and upsetting for me because it shows such deep misunderstanding of me. If I adore you, that doesn't at all mean I want to have sex with you, and if I want to have sex with you I am not going to try to talk you into it with flattery! good god!

And it is difficult when I don't even know anyone else like this anymore. When they were in a self-love-focused place, some of my old friends had this effusiveness in them as well, and we could reflect each other in an ever-growing glow of adoration and just as importantly, acceptance and appreciation of that adoration. Can I even express how amazing it was to be able to say "I love this part of me" and have them look at that part closely and love it just as well, and express it even more than I had? To feel that my self-love wasn't just tolerated or envied or distance-venerated but actively, vibrantly, joyously supported and enjoyed! And even more so, to give that self-love support to others and watch the exquisite unfolding of new layers of selfhood in them.

They also had that way of seeing people truly and that almost irrepressible urge to express the delight of knowing. They also trusted me and took my emotion-words as truths. It felt so good to be so fearlessly affectionate. It felt so good to have my words taken with both hands, kissed, and put in a sacred place, rather than pushed back at me with a disgusted face.

I am still effusive with a small handful of people but it seems impossible to access with newer friends. I think about my current friends and I know there are at least 5 people who I have met in the past few years who past-me would have been SO effusive towards, but current-me is not. I'm waiting for some future safety that will never come.

My effusiveness was one of my favorite things about me and it crushes me that that part of me is so damaged and I have no access to it.

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goals update for January: lots of success! I'm amazing myself!

icon: "satisfaction (a graphic of a notebook with a photo taped to it: inside the photo is a gif of the character Beth from the show Moonlight, grinning and scrunching their nose and nodding. on the bottom of the photo is written "yessss!")"

[my goals short list]
1. More LJ!
2. Host more gathers. 
3. Work on my journal-book! 
4. Make some fractals! 
5. Be amazing at work. 
6. Be in nature more. 
7. Maintain and develop my relationship with Topaz. 
8. Strengthen my local connections.
9. Strengthen my long-distance connections. 
10. Keep life records.
11. Make new friends. 
12. More physical exertion & stronger muscles. 
13. Be more active with art. 
14. Touch more people and connect intimately with people. 
15. Invest in my home and self-decorating.
16. Reach out first. 
17. Do activism. 
18. Witness more art and write about it. 

I edited them slightly because number 14 and 15 were very similar so I combined those and made a new number 15, because it is a goal I have been working towards which is also important to me.

January successes:

1. More LJ! I had my longest streak in at least a year, 11 days, and I posted an average of every other day. I'm really getting back in again! I was worried I would never manage it.

2. Host more gathers. It was only one gather which was only me and one other person, but still definitely progress! And I did a lot of work on my crafting stuff organization, which gets me closer to being able to host more.

3. Work on my journal-book! I have decided to include my life timeline on this one, which was the thing I worked on this month. I created the event pieces for 2006 and the first half of 2007, and I attached them to the pages. Describing them would be a LOT of typing so I don't think I will post them, at least not in detail. I may take an overview photo.

5. Be amazing at work. I had my performance evaluation and earned full marks, plus praise on my interpersonal skills (which honestly I would not have expected since I can be so clueless, but apparently my empathy shines through). I feel like I am really making great contributions and I think everyone on the team wants me here.

7. Maintain and develop my relationship with Topaz. We started going swimming together once a week, which has been a great time for us to play and talk and simply share space in a place that is relatively stress-free. We can put aside the other responsibilities because they are impossible to do at the same time and because we are being productive by exercising our bodies. The pool where we swim is heated (otherwise HAHA AS IF I would swim in winter!) and it has a "lazy river" with a current. One of our exercises/games is running through the water while the other person holds on to us and gets a ride. The extra current makes it way more fun, and it is still a workout to try to go faster than the current!

8. Strengthen my local connections. I hosted a hearts and crafts gather and attended one that Allison hosted, which together was spending time with Quinn, Allison, and Sande. I also had an 11-day streak of snapchatting daily with Kylei, which was a lovely way of connecting, and have been snapping pretty regularly with Quinn and Jackie.

9. Strengthen my long-distance connections. I have been snapchatting with chillychilly22, bunnika, and a little with Adi (mostly me sending stuff). I have been reading my lj friends list more regularly and I'm starting to feel close with some new-ish friends, which is exciting!

10. Keep life records. I have been doing my daylio twice a day every day this month! and I also saved my dreams a number of times. mega fail on writing down my best/worst/weird but I will try again.

11. Make new friends. I added a bunch of new people on LJ and I think some of us will become real friends!

12. More physical exertion & stronger muscles. I achieved my activity goals 16 times! Very proud of that and I am starting to feel much stronger, and it takes longer for me to get worn out. I still sweat a ton but it takes more exertion before I start sweating. Most days my activity is a brisk 1.5 mile march while carrying about 20 pounds in my backpack. I may add ankle weights starting next week just to increase my lower leg muscles.

I've also been swimming once a week with Topaz -- we play the sleigh-pulling game I mentioned and also I generally just keep moving the whole time I am in the water, which is about 70-90 minutes. I like to do this thing where I spin around in the water without touching the bottom and without my head going in, which is both fun and challenging. I have already noticed significantly increased strength in my core from that! Afterwards I am ravenous but also feel good in every part of my body. I love that about swimming! It is the only exercise that easily uses my whole body, yet I never feel exhausted in a bad way after. I just feel relaxed and sleepy, like after a great massage.

13. Be more active with art. I have been posting photos and fractals on instagram, with image descriptions. It has been very rewarding!

15. Invest in my home and self-decorating. I've done a lot with this! I made my bathroom acceptably tidy and clean, and organized a good 75 percent of my craft stuff. I got some more baskets so I should be able to have it all looking very neat the next time I attack it. I had a lot of craft stuff at Topaz' which still needs sorting, but it should be easy now that everything has a potential home.

I've been keeping my room relatively tidy and I even FOLDED MY CLEAN CLOTHES and put them away. I made a hanging rack for my winter scarves because they are too heavy for my light-scarf rack. I re-organized my clothes so that it is easy to create outfits, and I have been self-decorating (putting together an intentional, creative outfit) every day since I did that (as opposed to just grabbing something work-appropriate). It makes me feel good to self-decorate and soon I plan to take photos of my outfits (on me) and share them.

16. Reach out first. I have been pretty great about this, but I need to set a limit because after a certain number of times of me reaching out and not getting a response, I feel unvalued.

17. Do activism. My activism this month was mainly writing about consent violations, vaccines and anti-autism attitudes, and my sexual identity, but another significant part was writing image descriptions on my instagram. I feel passionate about making visual art accessible to people who are blind or who have low vision, and I think that sharing my art in an accessible way is a good way to push the culture toward that. I also have instagram post to my work facebook, where all my biofamily and family-in-love are, and I hope to increase awareness of the need for a described internet this way.

Goals I missed in January:
4. Make fractals.
6. Be in nature more. 
14.  Touch more people and connect intimately with people. 
18. Witness & write about art.

I'm gonna try to do at least a little more of these this month. I'm reeeeeally hoping that my car doesn't cost too much to fix, so that I can buy Chaotica for rendering fractals without the program crashing.

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I'm forever shit at comments, sorry / stressed out about my car

icon: "giving (two cartoon figures: one fills in a heart with red marker on its chest while the other watches. Then the other points at it and "...?" appears as a thought above it. The one with the heart on it smiles and glomp-hugs the other, who looks startled, then blushes and hugs back. The first one pulls away again and the heart has been copied onto the second one's chest. both smile. image repeats.)"

Well I lost my streak but I'm gonna try again because it was really good for me. I got a bunch of stuff posted that had been half-finished for a long time and that felt good. And 11 days is the longest streak I have had in a REALLY long time. But I remembered that part of why I don't post every day is that there's this horrible paradox where if nobody comments then I feel invisible, but whenever people comment and I don't reply I feel guilty. But I also want to read and reply on my flist and I usually don't have time for both.

So, often I don't post because I have built up too much guilt about not replying to comments. I'm just going to have to accept that I do this, and until I get enough programming knowledge to make an app (that doesn't suck) for reading and replying on LJ, I will just have to warn people: I suck at replies and am only slightly better at commenting on other people's posts. I wish I was better but it is a mental thing that I don't seem able to control. It's related to my ADHD -- because it reloads the page after every comment, each one feels like a context switch, and context switches wear my brain out SO BADLY.

My car worked for a good three days after the last examination before it went out. I have been taking lyft to the bus stop every day, and while I'm grateful that I can do this and that I know how to handle myself when I don't have enough money, it is very stressful. Worse is that Jeff -- my mechanic who I have been taking my cars to for a decade and a half -- is now semi-retired and I couldn't get in touch with him when I needed to move my car from where it had been sitting in a friend's carport.

So I asked for recommendations from locals and picked the nearest one and talked with them. They seemed decent so I had it towed to them. Then they did not check out the part I said was the problem, quoted me a price that was easily $70 over what it should have been, and informed me after the fact that they were gonna charge me $50 for glancing at my engine. I was furious, but felt helpless because I don't know that anywhere else would be better, and I was literally about to give them the go-ahead when Jeff finally texted and begged me to call him. I did, and he recommended me someone else and offered to pay for another tow (because he felt bad about being out of touch when I needed help), so now I'm waiting to hear back about that.

I feel a lot better with Jeff helping me find someone else to trust. And Jeff knows that my car is vulnerable to unethical mechanics because I have my politics clearly written on my car (literally, with paint), and he assured me that this new guy will treat me right (he referenced that the new guy had grown up in a very non-conservative part of Atlanta). He thought about something that I would be worried about and reassured me without me even having to ask.

When I thought I was going to have to find a new mechanic on my own, I felt just hopeless about it, and I realized fully how lucky I am to have a mechanic who listens to me, respects me, and treats me as a friend. Jeff is a straight cis white man over 50 who puts most white men (including young or gay or trans white men) to shame when it comes to respecting people. And Jeff has told me to call him if I am ever stranded and need a ride (and he means it). I feel so lucky to know him.

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why it took me 3 decades to claim my identity as queer, non-binary, and demisexual

icon: "queer (the logo for Transcending Boundaries Conference overlaid with the words "genderfree, queer, + trans / never a 1 or 0")"

do you consider your own sexuality fluid? If so, how has it changed over time? Regardless, how did you come to discover and embrace your sexual identity(ies)?

I think my sexuality has always been the same, but my experience and understanding of it has evolved. When I was a teenager, I was so restricted from knowledge about sexuality that I identified as straight despite the fact that I had more than twice as many sex dreams about girls as I did about boys (and I didn't know any other kind of person existed). It literally did not occur to me that I could be anything other than straight, because I wasn't lacking in crushes on boys. I don't think I even heard the word bisexual until I was in college.

How is this possible? Well, I was in private christian schools until 4th grade, when I went to public school for one year before being homeschooled 5th to 10th. The internet was still a toddler (google didn't exist until I was in ninth grade and didn't become really useful until a few years later), my house didn't have cable tv, and I wasn't allowed to socialize outside of school, except with people who lived as restrictedly as I did (and even with them, only once or twice a month). I had only books to teach me about relationships, and there were no queer people in them.

I think it was actually Angelina Jolie who taught me the concept of bisexual and the concept of genderfucking, via quotes people shared about Jolie on livejournal. "Honestly, I like everything, boyish girls, girlish boys, the heavy and the skinny." Reading that quote was my first time relating to anyone who expressed attraction! and still, there are very few who feel this way, because even among people who don't identify as monosexual, most people don't consider genderfucking people or fat people to be attractive. We look "weird" or "wrong" to the average person due to sexist and cis-sexist assumptions.

It was a few years after I learned what bisexuality was that I came to identify as bisexual, because I was strongly influenced by the popular cultural myth that unless you had experiences with men and women, you couldn't identify as bisexual. I would guess that at about age 21 I learned that bisexual people exist and at 23 I began identifying as bisexual. At about age 25 I learned that non-binary people exist and changed my self-label to queer to make it clear that I liked non-binary people too. This was before bisexual people queered the definition of bisexual to its current meaning of "attracted to people of 1) my own and 2) other genders."

A few years later, age 28 I realized that I was trans and non-binary, which further complicated my sexual identity as most ideas of identity start with who you are -- for instance men who are attracted to men are called gay while women who are attracted to men are called straight. Fortunately, "queer" is an umbrella term that always means "not hetero" and otherwise can mean pretty much anything.

Despite identifying as bisexual and queer since age 23, it took me until age 30 to feel sure that I was right about my identity. Even though I had had a number of romantic and sexual relationships with non-men, there's this attitude among mainstream gays that until you've done certain sex acts or had 'primary' relationships with people who were assigned the same sex as you, you don't 'count' as queer. The sexuality-policing heterocentrism is as common and intense among binary gay people as it is among binary straight people. We should be able to claim our identities without having to perform, just like straight people who have never had sex do. But it is a struggle.

It was a few years after I began identifying as queer when I learned what asexual meant, but like with bisexual, I came across a very restrictive definition and it took a while before I even learned the word demisexual. I had to work up my courage to claiming that label as well, because while it is true that I need to feel emotionally intimate to begin to feel sexual attraction, I had a period in my life where that wasn't always true, so I had to deconstruct a binary to claim my demisexual identity. I was 30 when I finally claimed this part of my identity.

When I was a kid, a teen, and a young adult I didn't know what I was, because I didn't have words for it. Once I learned the words, in every case I had to unlearn the shitty gate-keeping definitions in order to claim my identity. When you think you are cis, straight, and allosexual (having an average or high sex drive), society will never pressure you with "are you SURE?" or "but WHY are you that way?" -- you just get affirmed as who you are. If you are not those things (especially if you are trans), you have to be more sure than you have ever been because people will question you and invalidate you constantly.

As you can tell by the fact that it took me three decades to learn who I am, representation is vital. I have seen trans people on tv now but they're never asexual, rarely non-binary, and usually straight. Maybe two characters that I have seen in my life are queer and non-binary (Vex from Lost Girl and Nomi from Sense8) and that is only a guess as their identity is never mentioned and they use typical gendered pronouns -- and both are shown as highly sexual. If I had ever seen a character like me on screen I would have instantly known "that's me!" but instead I had to fumble in the dark and each time I found a part of my identity it was taken away several times before I got a permanent hold on it. If I had had an example, that would never have happened.

Straight, cis, allosexual people should have their identities questioned at least by their intimate people (parents, best friends, lovers) to help them understand themselves and to increase their empathy with people who are not like them. Queer, trans, and asexual/demisexual people should be questioned less often in general and NEVER by non-intimate people. The same as you wouldn't ask someone who you're not intimate with about what they discuss in therapy or what they like in sex, you don't ask them why they identify the way they do. That is demanding a vulnerability from them that you have not earned the right to ask. If you feel like you need to know their why in order to accept their identity as legitimate, that's due to your ignorance and cis-sexism and you need to do some serious self-examining.

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on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.