Existing

You know that feeling when your crush remembers your name? Or asks about something important to you? That fluttery, happy feeling, that voice in your head yelling “Oh my gods, they know I exist!”

Or maybe you get that feeling when you meet your idol and they show interest in what you’re talking about. Or when anyone important to you shows you that they know you’re there. They’re aware. You have made an impression, no matter how small.

Now imagine the feeling you get when the opposite happens: you’re ignored, pushed aside, dismissed. It’s a sinking, awful feeling, isn’t it? Like an anchor dragging your heart down to your stomach.

You don’t exist to them. You didn’t make an impression. They are not aware of you at all, nor your brilliance or your individuality.

You have been erased.

I ask you to imagine these feelings because they are two feelings I deal with very often in relation to my gender identity — and more often than not I deal with the second one. Most days my gender identity is erased, and I am left with that sinking feeling, and a horrible decision: do I correct the person who just misgendered me, or do I let it slide? A decision that is very rarely easy.

There are few situations I find myself in where correcting someone is the easy and best path: they will accept it, apologize, and be sincere. They will accept me not being binary.

More often, I know that correcting someone, or asking for more gender options on things like survey forms, will lead to a rolling of the eyes at best; a screed about “Why do you people have to make everything so PC all the time?” or, perhaps, violence at worst.

I usually choose not to correct people face to face. I let it slide. Most people see me as a heterosexual, cisgender woman and I let them think that, even though it’s wrong on all counts. For the most part it’s a microaggression that slowly wears down at my mental health, causing me to question my very existence and worthiness on a daily basis — though there are some areas of my life where “being a woman” is okay, and doesn’t hurt me mentally. I don’t know why those areas exist, but they do, and I don’t want to ignore their existence in this post.

Passing as a cishet woman is safe for me in many ways, but unsafe in others. It’s a balance I have to strike, and mostly I choose to let people continue to erase me. At least face to face.

But when it comes to forms I have to fill out for various reasons, I ask people to give me more options than “male” or “female”. Why? Because I rarely get any personal response from the form-makers — I send an email, hope they see it, and go about my day. It gives me a sense of accomplishment even if I have no proof I’ve made any difference; I have made a small stand for my continued visible existence; I have fought back against the erasure I face every day.

Today I got some proof that this works. I don’t know if I made this change happen or if it was a bunch of us trans*/non-binary folks, but it did happen, and it made me happy.

I filled out the Volunteer Survey form for the Vancouver International Writers’ Fest today – the festival I volunteer at every year. When I got to the gender section, this is what it looked like:

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 3.41.06 PM

Four multiple choice options PLUS a place to fill in a different answer. Prefaced with “I identify as:”, not “Other”.

I was immediately filled with elation. That first feeling I described above? I am floating on a cloud of it.

I exist.

I matter.

I made an impression.

And this is a big deal, when I mostly deal with the second feeling I described. The first feeling is such a rare occurrence when it comes to my gender identity that when it does come, it’s almost overpowering.

So, thank you VIWF. Thank you for listening, and thank you for giving me a small space in my life that said, very clearly: You exist. We have noticed you. Here is a place where you can proclaim your existence and have it be validated.

-Katje

My 400th Post

This is my 400th post at this blog, through all the various permutations and evolutions it’s had.

You read that right. This is my 400th post at this blog, through all the various permutations and evolutions it’s had.

I feel like I should have something momentous to say for this occasion, but I really don’t. So instead I’m going to introduce myself again — some of you have been around for a while, but some of you are new readers, and might wonder who this crazy person is you decided to follow.

Katje in a nutshell

  • First, I am an actual nut. By which I mean the words crazy and nuts are used to marginalize people with mental health problems, I have mental health problems, and I reclaim those words as my own. I blog about mental health and illness on occasion.
  • I’m fat. I mean, this is obvious from pictures of me, but you should know I prefer the term fat to any of the “nice” euphemisms used for fat people that actually serve to promote fatphobia.
  • I’m 27 and I live in British Columbia, specifically the southwest quadrant (often seen as part of the Pacific Northwest by United Statesians). I realize the climate here is the mildest out of all of Canada. I am still going to complain about the snow and ice and cold weather in winter.
  • I am disabled. This is something I struggle with, because I wasn’t always disabled. I’ve been disabled with my spinal injury for almost exactly 2 years, though the injury happened in 2009 (backs are funny things). I try to stay positive for my own mental health, but it’s difficult, and I often have bad days.
  • I’m engaged to a man known as the Ogre. You will see me mention him here quite a bit. He’s 6’6″ and built like a mountain. When I first met him, my nickname for him was Fezzik. He is amazing, and I’m not quite sure it’s possible to love someone as much as I love him — yet somehow, I do.
  • Though I am socially-classed-as-woman and I am engaged to a man, I still ID as queer, and I am still genderqueer. I also don’t consider our relationship to be heterosexual, though he does, and these two views can exist together in harmony. Identity is a complicated thing, especially when we must negotiate our own identity with how it interacts with the identity of our loved ones.
  • My pronouns are zie/zir though I’m more concerned people get them correct when typing than when speaking. I’m still adjusting my speech patterns when I talk about myself in the third person; so long as I have difficulty with my own pronouns in spoken language I can’t expect anyone else to be perfect. For pronunciation, just think she/her with a z sound instead of a s or h sound. (zee, zur)
  • Unless I’m putting 100% of my attention on cooking, the chances of my burning my food or ruining it some other way are about 98%. I tend to get distracted by the computer, or other things, and always forget about whatever I left in the pan/pot/oven.
  • I’m better at not burning my baking, though cookies are still my Everest.
  • For Grey’s fans, I can give you my personality in a nutshell: I am a combination of Izzie Stevens and Cristina Yang. If you’re not a Grey’s Anatomy fan, then you’ll just have to figure out my personality from my blog. Sorry.
  • I adore chocolate and hazelnut together. My dream is to someday have a house with a pantry entirely devoted to a lifetime’s supply of Nutella, just for me.
  • I love junk food as much as I love home-cooked meals full of vegetables and good, lean meats. Just, in general, I love food. Unfortunately I’m more likely to eat processed crap, because it takes less time and energy to prepare and cooking takes a lot of spoons out of me.
  • You should know what spoons are; it’s a term I use a lot.
  • I’m a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, because friendship IS magic and I am basically Pinkie Pie.
  • I watch entirely too much TV. I regret nothing.
  • I both crave change and dislike changes to my routine. I solve this by dying my hair weird colours, or painting my nails a weird colour, or changing my blog theme…to a weird colour. Basically I look for ways I can create change that don’t actually screw up my life and it satisfies the restless wanderer in me for a short time.

I think that gives you a pretty good idea of what I’m like. For the rest of it, you’ll just have to stick around.

For those of you who have been here since the beginning: thank you, and I hope I’ll see you when I hit 800 posts.

-Katje

Mental Breakdowns, Medication, and Optimism

I keep questioning myself on how open and honest I should be on my blog. Sometimes I think I should share everything, hold nothing back, and just be myself. Other times I think I should keep as much private as possible — only show the good sides, only have positive, uplifting things to say. I’ll admit, that opinion is heavily influenced by most ‘blogging advice for writers’.

It’s wrong, though. At least, it is if you’re blogging about your life.

My phone alarm just went off with a certain theme from Doctor Who. It’s an 11th Doctor theme, and generally plays when he’s racing to save the day and you just know he’s going to succeed. This is also Ogre’s ringtone, but my phone didn’t play it because he was calling.

It played it to remind me to take my Zoloft.

I took my meds again yesterday, after being off them since December. Today, I took them again — a complete 24 hours later. On time, correctly. For the past three and a half months, I’ve been functioning pretty okay without my meds, and I stopped taking them because I was throwing up after swallowing the pill (that hasn’t happened again, so I may have just had a mild flu, or something). So I didn’t really see the need to start up again. I was doing okay.

That obviously changed. Had a mental breakdown this week. Was on the verge of another, until I took my Zoloft. Then I was a few feet back from the verge, but it took until this morning to really kick in.

The Zoloft didn’t fix the problem, but what it did do was calm the anxiety that was clouding my thoughts and give me a chance to breathe. And then I was able to see the source of the problem — which, again, not a fix, but I’m now very far back from the edge of any more breakdowns, which is better than I was doing a few days ago.

Still not entirely stable. Slowly getting there.

This is all related to Spring Mysteries, by the way. While there I had a pretty profound experience, and it was good. It started me on the road to healing. I forgot, of course, that when you get a bunch of poison expelled from you that little bubbles remain, and can erupt. I forgot that a large, or perhaps small and just very strong, part of my brain is dedicated to making sure I don’t heal: it’s the part of my brain that lies to me, that tries to sever what little support I have, that convinces me I’ll always be broken and worthless.

Medication, at this point, really helps in shutting that part of my brain up.

I’m not going to get into specifics about what the mental breakdown was surrounding. Suffice it to say my brain lied, and tried to cut me off from my support system, but I persevered and did not give in. With a bit of help from Zoloft, of course.

And today I made the decision to blog about it. To talk about my mental illness publicly, while I’m still not wholly stable. I’ve done this before, but not really like this. I’ve never blogged while I was this unstable. Or if I have, I haven’t been able to talk about that instability with any sort of optimism.

Today, I can do that. I can talk about my instability with optimism, because it’s temporary.

I am going to get better.

I will probably never be 100% healed, and I may always need medication of some sort (whether or not Zoloft continues to work for me). That’s fine. I just want to get to a point where I can go a week, month, year without trying to push everyone I love away from me. 

It’s doable, because my optimism has now reached the same level of tenacity and stubbornness as my mental illness, and I am one tenacious, stubborn bastard myself.

I am going to get better.

And no one, not even my asshole brain, is going to stop me.

-Kat

PS. The past few days have given me a possible memoir title: A Series of Mental Breakdowns. Funny, y/y?

Eating Disorders and Losing Weight (trigger warning: disordered eating, mental health issues, fatphobia)

I suppose I’m continuing in a somewhat depressive vein, here, but it needs to be said.

I’m a fat-positive activist, and I believe in HAES — Health At Every Size. Fat people are still people and should be treated like human beings, instead of like second class citizens or monsters who live in catacombs below the opera house. Which, yeah, is how we are treated.

There are also different levels of fat, and if you’ve never been above 200 pounds you have no idea what it’s like to be 330 pounds (just like I have no idea what it’s like to be above 400). There’s a different set of oppressions for each level: under 200 pounds can be seen as socially acceptable fat, whereas the higher you get, the more you get slotted into “deathfatty” and seen as an animal. There are very few clothing options the higher up on the scale you are. If you’re a size 14 and you’ve never been higher than a size 18, you may be considered fat by society, but you still have no idea what it’s like to be a size 26, 28, 30, 40.

Now that that’s all said.

I am fat as fuck and hot as hell. And I’m okay with that. But my health is suffering. Because I don’t eat as well as I should, and exercising is painful. Part of this is related to health problems that have nothing to do with my obesity (chronic back pain, for one). But losing extra adipose tissue would also help these health problems get resolved. At least to a point where I’m not in pain every single minute of every single day (is there such a state of existence?). This is not true for every fat person; it’s true for me — so I’m not going tell you that losing weight will help you get healthy, because fat is not an indicator of general well-being and I’m not a fucking doctor. (Pro-tip: all you people who are so concerned about my, and other fat people’s, health, aren’t doctors either. So stop lying to us; we’re fat, not stupid.)

So I want to lose fat and gain muscle. I also want to eat healthy and exercise.

But I keep on running into road blocks.

Last summer I tried to do this. I tried to count calories, and exercise. Almost immediately I fell into a death spiral of anorexia nervosa and binge eating. As soon as I start counting calories, I go from eating a healthy amount of food to eating almost nothing each day. I looked at my measures of calories per day and realized what was happening — I’ve gone through anorexia before, and it was much worse than it was last summer. Fat anorexics do exist, and I’m sick of hearing “anorexic” as a synonym for “thin” because it erases us.

Continue reading “Eating Disorders and Losing Weight (trigger warning: disordered eating, mental health issues, fatphobia)”

Depression (trigger warning: suicide, self-harm, ableism)

There’s something quite insidious about depression. It prevents me from doing anything I want to quite often. In fact, it is only by forcing myself quite strenuously that I am writing this at all, and the fact that I misspelled strenuously and had to use the spell-check in Firefox to fix it made me almost upset enough to want to stop writing altogether, curl up into a little ball, and die.

Depression has no reason. I should be friggin ecstatic right now, but instead about 2 hours ago my boyfriend had to talk me down from a pill overdose.

I don’t say this for attention. I don’t normally tell people these things at all. But something occurred to me, in the murky depths of how shitty I’m feeling at the moment, and it’s this: there are other people in the same state out there. Other people who may read my blog. Who may not talk about it either. And who may, like I have tried to do so many times, finally succeed at leaving this boa constrictor we call the mortal coil.

Please don’t.

Continue reading “Depression (trigger warning: suicide, self-harm, ableism)”

Everyone Needs to Laugh

I’ve found a new comedian to watch and enjoy.

This is good, because I have had/am having an incredibly stressful week. We are talking more stress than I have ever felt in my life; this is bury-you-alive, crush-your-bones-to-dust stress. On top of school and work, emotional triggers surrounding past assaults have been battering at my senses, making me alternately livid, tearful, numb, or just insane.

So thanks be to Hal Sparks, who actually made me laugh about something I usually never laugh about. (Along with, well, everything else. Parts 1 and 3 are also must-sees.)

Trigger warning for use of the word rape. It’s at the very end of the video, so you can watch until about the last two minutes or so and avoid it.  It’s not a rape joke; this whole segment is about how the words we use, as a society, are really fucked up and essentially meaningless — specifically “unsweetened tea”, “non-smoker”, and “date-rape”. I’m in complete agreement with him about the last one, and he says it in a way that can make you laugh.