July 2018
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I think we all need the experience of being fully loved

icon: "interconnectedness (two bald purple-skinned people in the ocean: from Joan Slonczewski's "Door Into Ocean")"

Disclaimer: the ideas in this post are just my own philosophical musings, not facts.

For most of my life I felt constantly hungry for love. Even while someone was being loving to me I would feel desperate for more. It wasn't until I was 27 that I even had one moment where I was receiving love and felt satisfied and like I didn't need more -- would enjoy it, but didn't need it. And it wasn't until I was 33 that I ever had that sensation on a regular basis.

I have this theory that until a person reaches a saturation point with loving nourishment, they can never feel relaxed or secure in any of their relationships. This one experience is so pivotal that it is like a stage of development, and a human's life perspective is profoundly changed once they have this experience. Parents are supposed to give this experience to their kids so that their kids can then enter adulthood ready to meet others as equals. Instead most parents don't, and most people enter adulthood still desperate for love, wanting to get without having to give, feeling like there is never enough. Like starved children we snatch at any nourishment offered and many times spill it everywhere.

People who felt fully loved as children often can't relate to feeling insecure or needy without logical cause. These people are put off by the expression of those feelings, thinking of them as irrational or silly, but I think feeling "full" of love is a real human need as powerful as the need for food or air. For me at least, having food in my hand is not comforting when it is not going to fill me and I doubt any more will ever come. We scarf it down as quick as we can so we have our hands free to grab the next scrap. Or we "save" it for when we will need it more, which is a day that almost never comes.

There are so many harms that can spring from this. Perhaps the biggest is that people who have never experienced saturation (I will call them hungry, for lack of a better word) are willing to accept all manner of ill treatment along with love because they are starving. It is ridiculous to expect people who have never had enough food to ever eat slowly or turn down crappy food.

In the same way, it makes no sense to expect people who have never felt fully loved to ever be satisfied with an easy amount of love, and it makes no sense to expect them to be able to say no to people who offer love as an appetizer to abuse. So many hungry people raised by abusive or selfish parents have absolutely no way to tell what is real love and what is bribery.

Many times we choke out our opportunities for real love because we get so desperate and cling so hard. We can delude ourselves, magnifying small kindnesses and minimizing all negatives to try and trick ourselves into feeling nourished; this prevents either person in the relationship from learning and growing. We can lose ourselves, becoming so desperate for the other person to keep loving us and not leave us that we compromise more and more of who we are until we are just a reflection of the other.

The worst part is that often, someone has to have experienced saturation themselves to be able to give it to someone else. A hungry person can't purely focus on nourishing someone else because as you feed them a part of you watches jealously, wishing you were the one getting that care.

I recognize it so easily now and it always makes me ache and feel an urge to throw out my whole life and dedicate it to making this person feel loved. But I can't do that, and it wouldn't be a good way to spend my life, pouring myself out endlessly for people who literally can't give back. That's not remotely sustainable.

Other than meeting one of those lucky ones who got saturated with love in childhood, I think we can only hope to find someone who wants to get love in the way we are inclined to give it, and wants to give love in the way we want to get it. I think other than basic ethics, this is the number 1 most important thing in a relationship.

I'd advise my former self to ask, first and foremost, as a precursor to close friendship and/or romance, "think of the three closest people in your life. What do you think they get out of their relationship with you? how do you bring them nourishment and joy most often? most easily? most happily? and on the other hand, what actions of others make you feel nourished and contented?" and then I'd consider whether I could feel nourished by the same things, and if I could nourish them in the way that works best for them.

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magic / spiritual energy is focused emotion

icon: "spiritual (a photo of a snow leopard with (edited) violet eyes staring straight into the camera)"

How do you view the energies of the world? Do you believe in the healing powers of such things, for example? How do natural energies affect you? How do the energies of people affect you?

I'm interpreting this question as being about the spiritual energies of things rather than their measurable energies. It is an interesting question for me right now because I am sort of transitioning from one view/belief to another, and my answer is very different than it would have been even last year.

I think that emotions are a kind of energy. In the literal sense, adrenaline comes from emotion and can give a body more power than it should logically have. But beyond hormonal surges, emotions have a power over the mind which has power over the body and this can transfer in a way that seems magical and is inexplicable. I think that only creatures which have emotions can be affected by this energy; in my opinion this includes any creature with memory and the ability to make decisions.

I don't think there is magical power outside of emotion. I don't think objects have the power to do anything unless a sentient being gives them that power using emotion. So if natural energies means places in nature, stones, plants, etc, having powers to heal someone without emotion, then I do not believe that.

When it comes to things like prayer for healing, I think it can be a powerful way to focus emotions, and those focused emotions can heal a person. If nothing else, a belief that you will get better will soothe your stress, which makes it easier for your body to heal. Or simply being distracted from your illness by displays of love from people can also soothe stress, even if one doesn't believe in prayer.

I feel that a place in nature which has been left to itself for long enough has an emotional sense of interconnectedness with itself. That feeling makes me feel rested, nourished, and safe, and I am healed by those emotions, so I find protected natural places to be healing. However another person entering that space who finds such places to be unfamiliar and full of danger would not at ALL be healed by it; that interconnectedness might feel like a giant flashing keep out sign. It is my emotional response that heals me, not the place itself.

The same goes for objects like stones. They are not inherently anything, but if someone likes the way a particular stone makes them feel, then it can be healing for them to have it around. Stones are not more capable of healing than plush toy animals -- maybe less.
Emotions are magic, but they only work on beings that have memory and the ability to make decisions, and they only work on the micro scale. So you cannot pray for a better world and expect any kind of result, but you can pray for more confidence and get it.

But I do think sometimes when we pray or do spellwork for things, we actually end up getting them in a round-about way. For example, praying for a new job and because of this focus and hope, becoming more observant to notice opportunities and more courageous to follow through on them, and due to to that observation and courage, getting a new job. I definitely use crafted phrases, repetitively spoken, to help focus my emotions to bring me closer to my goals, and I have had astonishing successes that I would have thought laughably impossible.

The reason that testing things like prayer and magical spells always falls apart is that part of the scientific method is to remove the chance that emotion is swaying the results, but the thing works on emotions, so you can never reproduce it in an emotionless way. The placebo effect is literally the same thing as prayer: emotion causing an effect on the mind and/or body. The placebo effect is real, proven over and over: sometimes people get better just because their mind is convinced that they should. I don't think this is an unimportant fact, though of course it cannot be relied on and is no substitute for verified medical treatment.

[emotions have the most effect on humans]
As for the emotions of people, affecting each other's emotions is the main power that our emotions have. One can walk near a stranger who is very upset and pick up that emotion without even talking to them; emotions are often contagious. I do small rituals to deliberately remove emotions I picked up from someone else, or to re-align my emotional self with a person who I am trying to connect with.

I consider it a kind of attack to be angry at someone and stay near them physically while feeling and thinking about that anger. I consider it bad consent at best to be around someone and think about them sexually when they have not consented to that. I consider it a kind of attack to be wanting something from someone that they don't want to give and feeling sad about it and stay near them physically while feeling and thinking about it.

I don't broadcast anger or sex or sad at people and I don't allow people to do it to me if I can help it. Affecting people with your emotions is a kind of manipulation and it's not okay. Some aspects are inescapable, but at the very least, when the negative emotion is at its peak you should warn people and give them the choice to avoid you if that is what they need. Choice means that if they avoid you during that peak, they do not have to deal with fall-out afterwards. If one kind of choice gets punished, it is not a real choice.

To try to sum up this jumble: There is no magic but emotion, which is the power in prayer and spellwork. Emotion has power only on emotional creatures, only on the micro level. We have the ability to influence others with our emotions and we have the responsibility to be ethical with that power.

Edited to add, for clarity: I don't believe in or advocate prayer or positive thinking as a method of any kind of problem-solving. I just think that the mind has a lot of power for change within itself, and humans are HIGHLY affected by emotions.

I think this mostly has a chance to hurt us, which is why it's important. Like, there is this idea that for instance, someone saying something that hurts your feelings is no big deal if they didn't do it on purpose, but it IS a big deal and it can cause a ripple effect in your mind and body. And being exposed to trauma has a real impact on the mind and body even if the trauma is not to you or someone you know. Etc.

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working out in a skirt: the ongoing saga

icon: "bloodcurdling (photo of me w wide-eyed snarling wild expression wearing "Red Queen" makeup: searingly red lips, darkened pointed eyebrows, black eyeliner, deep red & black eyeshadow accented with gold & silver, and black-outlined silver hearts & diamonds with red shadows on my cheeks)"

Every time I go to the gym, I am by far the fattest femme there and usually the fattest person, as well as the only one in a skirt. I feel like I am doing important work because if I was not me, and I saw someone my size and shape doing weight training in a skirt, it would encourage me and make me feel like I belong and like it is okay to be there. I want other femmes and fat people to feel empowered to take up space in a gym. Yesterday I did have a femme person come up and compliment me on my skirt, which made me happy. I'm worried that I gave them a "back the fuck off" look before they said that though because staff members keep on bothering me about it.

On my second visit to the gym one of the workers came and told me I couldn't work out in a skirt. The skirt fell to slightly below my knees: definitely long enough for "modesty" without being so long that it might create risk of tripping, and stretchy with no buttons or zippers to get caught on anything. I probably got an "I will FIGHT you" look on my face because it got my anti-discrimination hackles up. I was thinking of all the femmes who wouldn't feel able to talk back and would be effectively banned from weight training by this sexist bullshit, and all the people who don't have workout-specific clothes and can't afford to go buy them.

I asked to talk to their supervisor and when two tall barbie and ken people came over (seriously I was like "what is this, a surfer movie?") I said "this IS my athletic wear: I only wear skirts" (the worker was silent, probly embarrassed). Then ken said "well you can't have your midriff showing because of our rules about no skin on machines due to sweat" so I said I would pull my skirt up higher to cover the 1 inch strip of my belly that was showing, and did so. Then I returned to my workout.

It was a bullshit thing to enforce on me because many people in the room were wearing tiny shorts that were basically underwear and sleeveless racerback tops where their whole shoulderblades showed: they definitely had more skin touching the equipment. The worker who initially told me my skirt wasn't athletic wear didn't mention to the supervisors that that was what they meant, so we didn't even discuss that. Which was lucky for them cause I was ready to spend the whole night arguing.

Then the next week (last week) a different worker came over and told me I couldn't wear a skirt, and then called down their manager (2 steps up heirarchy wise), who I had the same argument with. They told me it was in the policy and I said no, skirts aren't mentioned (fact) and every argument they made I refuted but they kept on saying that it's against policy. Finally something seemed to get through and they said that I should email them and they would look in to getting the policy changed. This show of respect broke my self-illusion that this issue didn't affect me personally and I lost the ability to speak and left as quickly as I could because I knew an anxiety meltdown was imminent.

I went to the locker room and sobbed for a while, struggling to calm myself. Two people at different times talked to me and asked if they could help, and I said no it's anxiety and I just need to gather myself and focus on breathing to calm down. I was touched that they expressed concern and them asking what they could do reminded me of what I could do (breathing) so it did help indirectly.

After I gathered myself I went out to the weight room again and asked for the email address of the manager, they gave it to me and the following day I sent this (the binary language is so that there is less for them to argue with):

[long email]
Good afternoon [managers name],

You spoke with me yesterday and invited me to email you with my concerns after one of the staff interrupted my workout to tell me that my clothing was not acceptable.  Despite there being no mention of skirts in the policy (as defined here: [link to policies] ), my wearing a skirt has resulted in staff interrupting me multiple times to discuss whether or not it was acceptable.

My inclination is to just obey because I just want to work out in peace and it is very difficult for me to deal with these confrontations with staff.  But I can't in good conscience do that because this unspoken -- yet rigorously enforced -- skirt policy disproportionately affects women, particularly poor women. 

To restrict femme clothing and require pants or shorts excludes women who

1) do not own pants or shorts other than work pants (jeans / khakis / zippered pants) and can't afford to go out and buy them;

2) are modest and thus uncomfortable with displaying their legs all the way up to the crotch;

3) have body dysmorphia or dysphoria which make the exposure of pants a prohibitive barrier;

4) are religiously devout and wear skirts as part of their religious practice;

5) are fat and have a difficult time finding shorts/pants which fit (skirts are much easier);

and most likely women in additional situations which I can’t readily imagine.

You said that it was a safety hazard because my skirt might get caught in machines, but this is not true.  I am happy to try out every type of machine in the room while you watch so that you can see what I know from years of wearing skirts: as long as they are at least 8 inches above the ankle, it is practically impossible for them to get caught in the spokes of an exercise bike wheel. Skirts that are approximately knee-length do not get in the way of working out. There is no valid safety argument here, particularly given that loose pants are not banned and fabric around the ankle is far more likely to get caught in a machine.

In an environment which is already highly masculinized, putting additional financial and emotional burdens on women will result in women not participating; they will be excluded by default.  A no-skirts policy is plainly discriminatory. I propose that the clothing policy be amended to state that skirts worn must be at least 8 inches above the ankle to keep them from getting caught in any machines.  That should cover any actual safety issue while also making it clear to staff that any skirt that is shorter than mid-calf is acceptable.

I hope to hear back from you very soon on this matter.

[my name and workplace]

Then I went in to the gym and spotted the manager, who nodded and waved me over to follow to their office, which I did. They then said they had been expecting an email, and I told them that I just sent one a bit ago, so they read it while I sat there so that I didn't have to say it all again. They were nodding a lot while reading (I watched out of the corner of my eye) and afterward they said that they totally agree and that they have made religious exemptions before so it is not an absolute rule. They said they will take my name off it for anonymity and send it to the director and get it discussed and that until it is settled I can wear my usual skirts. Then they gave me their card and went and talked to the workers so that no one would bother me.

I had initially interpreted them in a very negative light but now I'm realizing that that might have been due to my anxiety. I think they genuinely do agree that it is the right thing to do and will advocate for it. I hope this policy gets changed but I am pretty sure their bosses are old white men who want to discourage women from working out, so we'll see. I have title 9 (anti-sexism mandate) in my corner since this facility receives federal funds (I didn't mention it in the email because I was trying to be less hostile in tone).

If they end up not changing the policy, I'm gonna get a bunch of skorts and femmme the fuck out of them with fabric paint.

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I have my first ever gym membership and I'm doing weight training!

icon: "burn baby burn (a photo of me silhouetted dancing in front of the effigy fire at my first burn)"

Last week I went to the gym and did weight training for the first time in over a decade -- and after that day I decided to change my work schedule slightly so that I would have more time after work for working out, and set up paycheck deductions for my first ever gym membership. I went three times last week and twice already this week, each time spending about an hour.

I am lucky that my gym is literally a 3 minute walk from my work, and that I have a 1.4 mile walk to the bus stop and hate the trolley (which is the other option besides walking). It's easy for me to get started and once I am started it is hard for me to stop because rapid context switches are so unpleasant for me. Working out has become a normal part of my work day.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy weights -- so much more so with the very fancy weight stack machines at this gym! I love pulling and pushing against the resistance of weight, when doing so doesn't hurt my hands. Free weights are just so horrible on my hands.

My gym has like 14 weight stack machines, half of which are for arms and shoulders. (these are machines where you push or pull while sitting in a certain position, and the machine resists using suspended weights, which you can easily adjust) Each machine is designed to focus on a specific set of muscles. This is perfect for me because I can change machines quickly enough that I don't get bored or lose count. I do 3 sets of reps on each machine that I like, and try to keep the weight low enough that I can do all the machines but high enough that it's not too easy.

I'm excited about developing more muscle! I am already able to increase the weight on some of them (partly because I started out below my absolute max so that I could get more of a sense of momentum). One of my favorite things about my body is how fast I build muscle. I was worried that now that I am older that wouldn't be true anymore but it still is -- I can already see a slight but real difference in my arms! I can't wait to see more definition in my back and shoulders too.

I feel like I am moving into my body in a way I haven't since I took bellydance lessons in 2004. I think I had to do the walking regularly for a while first, both to get more stamina and heart health, and to get comfortable with how much I sweat. I have never before been okay with getting sweaty, but I have ALWAYS sweated a lot and easily so it had always been a barrier to exercise. Now I'm okay with it. It's still a little annoying but not horribly frustrating.

I feel much more myself when I am strong -- that was the one part of my old body that I missed. I had to have a gap in my work outs though because originally it was fueled by self loathing. Now, it is fueled by self love: I am not going to be mean to my body or try to make it do things when it says no. I'm listening, and working with it.

I'm actually feeling grateful for that anxiety attack because I dunno when/if I would have started weight training if not for needing strong physical activity as medicine. I am so glad that I broke that barrier.

connecting: ,

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new LJ goal: brevity

I have over 25 work-in-progress posts on my phone because I get so nitpicky perfectionist about them and when they are 2 sentences from done I end up leaving them for like a month. I also have a weird block about not posting things until they get a certain length, and I make most of my posts too long. So I am going to try to break them up more and hopefully this will result in me posting more often.

connecting: ,

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months of regular aerobic exercise are changing my body

(Most of this was written at the end of April, but is still accurate)

So my new activity levels have been changing my body, and I dunno how to feel about it. I like the difference in how I feel but am really weirded out by the difference in how I look. I can see a difference but it is very hard for me to tell, visually, how it is different except that my belly and inner thighs are "looser," less dense. My belly seems smaller but also like it pokes out more. I think my waist is narrower but my lower belly is more pokey (which is a shape I really like, as I associate it with strength). I also noticed that there is less fat around my ribs, which weirdly makes my boobs more pronounced when I am naked.

I don't like feeling like I don't know what is going on with my body, so I tried weighing myself and I have gained. I know muscle weighs more than fat, and I can see the increased muscle in my butt, lower legs, and shoulders, but it still was disturbing because I have not varied... [cn/tw: talk of weight/size with specific numbers for lbs/inches]

...more than 7 pounds from my normal 212 in like... 5 years. Currently I am about 230, averaging the last 2 weights I took while approximately the same size. It just seems sudden and shocking and it's really new to me. From 1996 to 2000 I stayed the same weight (I was heavy as a young teen and then starved myself for years). Then from about 2000 to 2013 I gained about 5 pounds per year, and then I stayed about the same for 5 years. I have never experienced a 10 change in a year, ever.

I finally pulled out the measuring tape and took my chest, waist, hip, and thigh measurements and if I did them right, there's an inch less on chest, waist, and hip, and a quarter inch more on my thighs. I had taken my measurements a few months ago to order from eshakti, so I had the old measurements to compare to. I was really disbelieving that I could have changed that much while still looking the same and feeling the same in my clothes, until I realized that I was using a tighter notch on my mi band (which I lost, sadly) which is a quarter inch difference. So now I am pretty sure that it is that much difference.

It's really weird to have my body change shape like this. I honestly wasn't expecting it. I started doing the daily 1.5 mile primarily because I am worried about the effects that my ADHD meds have on my heart, and some daily heart rate increase for at least 30 minutes is the best way to strengthen your heart (or so says the internet). I was just hoping to get overall increased stamina and for my body to be less hyper-reactive to exertion, and for my ankles to stop swelling up.

And I have certainly gained these things! on days when I have gotten enough sleep, it is not even difficult to make the walk any more, even though there is a very long steep hill near the end (I still hate that part though!). I still sweat a lot, but it is more like a cup of water instead of a pint, and I cool down much much faster after stopping. It used to take me about 15-20 minutes and now it takes less than 5 minutes (as long as I am hydrated enough and not in a hot room w stagnant air).

I do think that taking glutamine and serine (two amino acids which help counteract cortizol*) has helped my body and brain recover a lot from the years of stress. I know that my brain and body both suffer when I don't eat enough, so even though I consider it an annoying chore, I take it seriously now. I aim to eat three meals (rather than my usual 1 snack and 1 meal), to have some fresh or frozen fruits and/or veggies, and to eat something at the beginning of each day. I found some dry cereal that I don't mind eating like crackers, and I have that in the morning (it counts as food! it's high protein and low sugar). Lunch is hard because it takes so much planning ahead, but I had a real lunch several times this week. I have gotten back into making smoothies and have had one for dinner most days when I'm home.

*Cortizol is a hormone that your body produces in reaction to stress and/or low blood sugar. It is meant for emergency use only so when you live in daily survival stress for a long period of time, it can wreak havoc on your body. One of the things it does is prevent you from using stored energy reserves (fat). This is how you can actually gain fat by restricting calories. If your body thinks you are starving, it will save everything it can. Many times when people get stressed they gain fat, and when they are less stressed they will lose it again; this is in large part because your hormones have more control over your body than you do.

connecting: , ,

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so I had a nervous breakdown last week -- 3 day anxiety attack

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)"

My anxiety has been increasingly intense for at least a month, maybe 2. I haven't been able to eat without forcing myself, I lay awake for at least an hour when I try to go to bed, and I feel worried all the time and easily cry. Last week it all came to a head and I basically had a breakdown.

For over 72 hours I felt like someone who is afraid of flying feels right before they board a plane, though there was nothing scary happening. I kept feeling scared enough to cry but there was no threat! I turned everything over in my head trying to find what could have caused it but there wasn't anything. It felt like torture, and I couldn't bear to think of living that way every day.

I couldn't work, could hardly stand to be alive. (So grateful to have a job that allows me to take sick time at my discretion, and gives adequate amounts!) I couldn't control my thoughts at all and even writing my 2 sentence daily summary was way too much. I was having to consciously remind myself to stop holding my breath, which I do when something is too intense physically and apparently also when I am so anxious it hurts.

I finally wondered if my meds had stopped working -- which made sense considering the appetite and sleep symptoms which are usually fixed by my anxiety meds. I looked at the bottle to see the manufacturer and it was the same one that I thought was giving me less-effective adhd meds, and then I googled the name of the manufacturer and the name of my adhd meds and my anti-anxiety meds came up, with people saying that the quality is sometimes just shit!

That made me feel that my suspicion was valid, so I went to my pharmacy and talked to a tech who ordered a different generic for anxiety, but it wouldn't arrive for days. I had asked a similar question before but gotten a wrong answer (that they didn't have any other generics). Monday it finally arrived and when I picked it up I talked to the senior pharmacist who helped me get some of the other manufacturer meds to tide me over until my insurance will cover it again, and also found me a different generic source for my adhd meds.

Today is my third day on both (though only 2/3rds of my usual anxiety med dose, because I don't have enough to last me otherwise) and I think it is better. I am still pretty anxious and my brain is still trying to divebomb at every little thing but at least I can mostly breathe. I'm desperately hoping that within a week I can feel normal, at least my normal. Basically it was like I went off my meds even though I was taking them, and mirtazapine is one of those that is VERY BAD to stop cold turkey. it also apparently needs to be kept at even temperatures, so possibly I got a batch that went off.

In addition to that, I had run out of my serine supplement, which I take to counteract cortisol. I had thought I noticed a small positive effect but now I am thinking it had a much stronger impact as time went on. I plan to be more careful to maintain that one.

Also in the days leading up to my breakdown I had not been getting as much activity as before, and I realize now that exercise really helps with my anxiety. At the worst points it was literally the only thing that helped. Even cuddles and sweet attention didn't help as much, and literally nothing could distract me enough to escape the feeling. So since I realized that last week I have been getting at least 30 min of activity every day, more on most days, strenuous intensity on most days. Thank fuck I have finally come to terms with my sweatiness and thus it is not a barrier to working out any more.

Edit: after posting this, I actually had a good night with no huge anxiety spikes in it! SUCH RELIEF.

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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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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.