All posts by endlessemma

About endlessemma

My research examines representations of sexuality and space in black women's writing, focusing on the 1930s-1950s. In a secondary line of research, I have examined interracial homosexuality in black literature and history. Teaching Interests: Sexuality Studies, Writing and Identify, African American Literature, Gender Theory, Feminist Methodology.

On letting the state in

There are a few things that the state is good at. Mental health care is not so much. Don’t get me wrong – I am quite happy that there are community mental health agencies that handle the mental health needs of those of us without private insurance or deep pockets. But there is still a huge donut hole of coverage where the normal “I need therapy once a week and a psychiatrist visit every 6 weeks” leaves off, and the more acute “I am seriously struggling to get by and keep myself safe” begins.  There is little they can do that is right away that isn’t a crisis prevention service.

I am fairly sure that I can keep myself safe. I don’t need to crisis plan in that way. But I do need to stop feeling this bad. I need to be able to get through a work day without crying and feeling awful. I need to not hurt enough to make it worthwhile to stay safe.

Right now I’m getting safety check in type calls. They are aimed at helping me figure out if I need to go back to the hospital. The thing is, I am not going back to the hospital. Honestly, I’m just not going back there. So this removes most of the utility of these calls.

I keep feeling like my signals are crossed or something. I am not communicating what I need correctly, or I am communicating to the wrong people.

 

Updated to add — there is something truly sadistic about making people who have demonstrated they don’t have the mental capacity to navigate bureaucracies have to navigate those bureaucracies in order to get care.

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Boring

It’s the start of fall squash season and I’m still suicidally depressed. I still wake up crying most days. Today I have two butternut and two acorn squash to cook for lunch/dinner at work, and I’m still crying.

I feel like I’m trapped in one very painful moment in time while the world moves through at normal speed.

For every recurrence of depression in adults, it gets harder to treat.

I haven’t found a medicine that makes these days bearable.

I have a posted of Georgia O’Keeffe’s Brooklyn bridge hanging on my walls, along with all my other queer paraphernalia.  My cat is showing me all of his toe beans.

I am still crying but I have squash to cook.

Medications and “Side” Effects

A lot of psychiatric medications were initially created to do something else.  A lot were not intended to be taken every day.  For most of these drugs, even the doctors that prescribe them do not understand how they work, only that they do, sometimes, with some people.

Most of these drugs come with serious side effects, the most common being the euphemistic “sexual side effects” that range from decreased desire to the inability to achieve orgasm.  Of course, for most people with serious depression, feeling like you want to die is a bigger damper on your sex drive than any medication could ever be.

I’ve been on and eventually off of all the following drugs: prozac, paxil, lexapro, zoloft, celexa, effexor, cymbalta, bupropion, abilify, latuda, mertazapine, trazadone. I’m now only on trintellix.  Some of these worked for short periods, others for longer, some not at all, and still others completely knocked me out so that I couldn’t feel suicidal but also couldn’t feel anything due to being a zombie.

“Working” is also not like when we say other drugs are “working.” There’s no blood test (yet) that can be done at home several times a day to determine whether your serotonin or norepinephrine is higher or lower. In fact, I don’t even know if “higher” and “lower” are the correct measures for these things. Mental illness is uniquely measured by the symptoms rather than the causes. The pills may or may not lead to a lessening of symptoms. I’m still not sure if that means that the illness is getting “better.”

When I start crying for little to no reason, I mentally check to see if I’ve taken my meds today. But I have very little faith that taking them will help.

Things that have been proven to help: good books, a clean apartment, cats, sunshine, exercise, stretching, time with lovers.  I can usually get at least two of these things per day. Maybe I should start thinking about them when I begin to cry.

Gender and Mental Health

I went to see “Girl, Interrupted” when I was 16, fresh out of my own stint at a psych ward and looking for hollywood to help me glamorize what was really a pretty boring experience.  The film was set in the past, although historical thinking wasn’t it’s strong suit, it created a kind of genderqueer mythography about the hospital.  Housing a collection of girls who were interrupted in their quests to be different – there was winona with her teenage rebellion from school, a lesbian who wasn’t able to be out and proud, an anorexic woman who wanted to stay a child, and the sexy sociopath played by angelina jolie.

My first hospital featured few sexy sociopaths, no clea duvall, and overall little gender nonconformity.  But then again, I don’t remember a lot of it because of the tiny black holes made by shock therapies.

As an adult in a psych facility, you are allowed very little gender. Or, at least, very little gender performance.  No makeup, no clothing with buttons or ties, def. no high heels, not even shower gel or conditioner that smells like girl. Everyone does art time together and we all visit the gym together to shoot basketballs to pass the time.

Overall, this synchs with the “sex is between your legs and gender is between your ears” philosophy of gender (which has lots of issues of course). When you’re on a psych ward, what’s between your ears gets relabelled in terms of compliance and functioning.  did you take your meds? how did you sleep? are you crying all the time? these are the important questions… and yes, these questions are the same for men and women, for both and neither.

Reclaiming the hospital as a queer space is somewhat problematic also because of the extreme monitoring of all bodily functions. (i mean ALL). There are tons of hierarchies and lots of badness and overall just a lot of time. But no gender.

 

Where do feelings come from?

When I was a lowly undergrad, I volunteered at a peer counseling hotline. We had extensive training that makes all other job training I’ve had look like playtime at okay corral. One of the things we were never supposed to say on a call was “how did that make you feel?” because one of our prime directives was “nothing makes you feel. Your feelings come from you.”  At the time, I got around this rule by saying something like “how did you feel after that happened?” or “what did that feel like?” and by openly mocking this rule to friends outside of our office – “hey hey! nothing makes you feel anything. these feelings are your response!” (yeah i wasn’t the most belly showing coworker, even then). It didn’t make sense to me that someone could dump you, or you could get rejected in some other way, or some attack could happen, and you were still wholly responsible for your feelings. I was young.

There’s some kind of magical (or at least intricate) process by which we take the events of our life and turn them into feelings.

After my not very bad week, I came to work today and immediately started crying. What happened? Honestly, nothing. Nothing happened… well, nothing caused the feelings.

Last week in therapy my therapist suggested that, like my last not very bad week, perhaps life didn’t have to be painful. That just maybe we could go about our days and not have horrible pain in our bodies and minds becuase of the world around us and how we interpret that world.  That seemed completely foreign to me. The world is horrible. How can we not feel horrible? But… organizing, doing nothing, reading, writing… none of those have seemed to impact either the horribleness of the world or how I feel about it. So what is the cause? Is it all in my head? Yes, no, and yes and no.

 

A Surprisingly Not Awful Very Bad Week

Last week my partner in crime went away to a huge festival (named pensic) where they took the kids and dressed in “garb” and carried money around in a leather pouch and observed battles in the company of others who like to do these things. Because this vacation involved other people and groups of other people who join in medieval role play, and because it involved sleeping outside in tents, I declined to join them.

Before they left, I made several contingency plans for things to do if I got really really sad and lonely. I didn’t have to rely on any of these contingencies!

When I went back to therapy on Monday, my therapist observed that I looked amused and surprised by how well my last week had gone.  I do find it slightly amusing and very surprising when I’m not suicidal. I think most people who struggle with long term health problems or mental health issues develop this capacity to be pleasantly surprised by ordinary functioning.  I haven’t cried yet today. In light of the world we live in and where I was emotionally a few weeks ago, that’s good news. At the same time, we are aware that normal functioning isn’t something to be surprised by – so we remain a little apart from it, as if it is someone else’s life that is converging on ours.

Knowing someone – my partner – who spends most days not crying and doesn’t quite understand the range of struggles I deal with internally, I do understand that wanting to live isn’t this hard for most people.  But it has always been this hard for me. So the not wanting to die is a nice change, not something to count on for sure, but a pleasant surprise.

Don’t hurt the dragon!

My cats are the reason that I’m still here. I know that sounds “crazy.” I usually don’t tell psychiatric type people this because of how it sounds. But, the thing is, my cats are old, they aren’t well suited to change, and they don’t bond well with new people. Basically in a shelter to adoption situation, they’d be doomed. I tend to forgive them their accidents – eating too fast and then throwing up on the carpet, etc – because they are animals that don’t know better. They can’t learn. They don’t have the ability to think “remember last time I ate this fast and it made me throw up? let’s not do that again.” to the extent that they have thought processes at all, it’s more like “food, yum, eat eat eat, oh no!”

i imagine that Daenerys’s dragons have similarly limited thought processes. they hear the command and they breath fire. In the GOT series, we very rarely get “good” characters who don’t kill and don’t reap the benefits of murder. Like my cats, the dragons have no conscience, they aren’t *supposed* to obey any kind of social contract. They are simply doing what they’re instincts tell them to do. Eat until full. Breathe fire. Sleep. Fly around looking menacing.

I would forgive my cats anything. I would also forgive the dragons anything. I know that this is misplaced solidarity. I know that there are human people in my life who love me and would care a lot if I killed myself. I know that their pain would be much more than my cats (who would end up okay, because I have good friends who might step in and at the very least a great humane society in my town that rarely kills animals for space, only for severe and unremediable behavior or health issues). But my heart goes out to the wounded dragon, it seems unfair that he would be hurt, and my heart would go out to my cats if they’re designated human servant left them.

Perhaps this is because I don’t expect dragons, or cats, to help their humans think of better solutions to life’s problems (be them horrible depression or usurpers to the throne). I expect the humans in my life to think of better ways. I guess I should admit that I’m pretty angry at the people in my life for not being there for me in the ways they can. Even though I haven’t given them instructions, even though there’s mostly nothing they can do, and even though there are a few who have come through for me.

In conclusion, don’t hurt the dragons. It’s not their fault. But it’s probably not people’s fault either.