Dear Clarity

Dear Clarity,

I love you and the kids with all my heart. Nearly all of my energy over the past 20 months feels like it has been dedicated to healing you and the kids. It’s been rewarding and satisfying to watch your growth. It hasn’t been sustainable or healthy for me. As it continues it also doesn’t seem healthy of helpful for any of us.

I got to watch the littlest child come out of her shell, watch middle child emerge from the boy she was, watch the oldest begin to verbalize his emotions in a way that few adults can. And, of course, watch you grow immensely as you shed years of trauma and break through old patterns as you begin to remember the real you. You all are hardly the people I met, it makes me cry tears of overwhelming joy and hurt to think about it. I think I can confidently say there isn’t much I would trade for that.

All the while I have pushed and pushed myself to do my best, better than my best to show up for all of y’alls healing. This has caused me to deteriorate. Suicidal thoughts and self harm was nearly gone from my life but has now reemerged and is stronger now than it ever has been. I spend hours some days unable to move as I collapse on the ground, feeling like there is someone standing on my chest. Irritable, depressed and apathetic, I’m starting to see the kids trying to avoid me, trying to get away from my angst. I am starting to see this not only as unhealthy for me, but unhealthy for everyone involved. As I snap at you, as I distance myself from you, as I am unable to show any love towards the 4 people I love so much. Instead I feel myself growing increasingly irritated with you, and increasingly view y’all as burdens.

As I take a step back I realize just how overwhelmed and stressed I am. I step back and realize how unhealthy this is and how I have immersed myself in your family’s world to the point I feel like I have almost ceased to exist. This isn’t a new struggle, it’s an old one that’s tied in with being trans. It’s a clinging I did and still do to other people and getting lost in them and their problems.

I can’t do it anymore, I can’t do this anymore. I wanted to be everything you needed to help you grow and get better, I wanted to want to be a caregiver, a parent, to have 3 kids and a dog. I wanted to want all of these things I was given and all of this security. But I don’t, I just want me, I want my life back and I want you to be in it, but not be it.

It’s not about holding out for the next time we move, or the next routine we develop, or that break through in therapy or that new job. It’s about me needing to be Jenny, a person that has only existed in name for 4 years. I am not ready to be a parent. I’m not ready to have 3 kids a wife and a dog. I have so many dreams of my future and what it looks like. This life feels suffocating and I don’t want to have people I love so dearly feel like they are just burdens suffocating me. I want them to bring joy and desire to see them, I want to have glee playing with and seeing y’all. This is something I haven’t felt in a long time.

Now, I’m sure you want to talk logistics now that I got my feels out, you want to understand what I’m even asking for. I don’t have a solid grasp on a healthy and thoughtful way to make this transition work for everyone but I know what my soul needs and I need a break before I can plot out long term logistics, otherwise I’d be planning based on my current desires to be around y’all. My end goal is to be an auntie and a nanny at times. I love you all so much I can’t imagine being happy not seeing y’all.

I know I’m going to be needing days instead of hours. I know I desperately need to heal to feel like a person to have time to connect with my people. I don’t want to disappear. I want to step back and become less involved. I think that would be the healthiest thing for all of us. I don’t have a timeline, but I do know I want to live elsewhere within this year.

I hope you understand how much this has torn me apart thinking about how I do and don’t want to do this. But I know in my heart that this is what is the best for me and what i have to do. I think this will also be great for y’all though it’ll definitely be hard at first but it’ll allow for a lot of much needed growth.

I want to talk more about this and can whenever you’d like. I was hoping to share this info last Monday at our group therapy since that didn’t happen I had to write it out. I will always love you in a way in a way I have never felt before.

Love, with all of my heart,

Jenny

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Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Someone I’ve been going on dates with has really changed my perspective on darkness. Her name is Beanie and she’s a very socially awkward person who love the outdoors and is super cool, really easy to talk to and makes me feel super safe. We talked about making art prior to our first date and she very much appreciated my artistic style of repetitively writing words hundreds of times. On our date she told me that since we talked she had made a piece that expressed her understanding of what was at the root of everything for her, rejection. Instead of choosing to make art to a dark theme such as rejection she decided to make something about the opposite, embrace. This is the opposite of what I do, my art is filled with darkness, dark themes and horrible energy.

I brought this up on our second outing and I talked about how enthralled by darkness I feel like I am. She said she understood and that she often used to think about more dark thoughts but worked to retrain her brain to use more positive thoughts processes. This was the first time I really acknowledged how infatuated with darkness I am. It’s all around me. As I write this I’m sitting in my room surrounded by dark art I’ve made, art about suicide, cutting and self-hatred, and as I write this I’m listening to Hurt by Nine Inch Nails. I’m crying so hard from the pain I’m putting myself through, through the darkness I’m peering into I can’t even read why I’m typing, I hurt, I am staring into the abyss and it is staring back.

I have been seeing this meme a lot and had to use it when I saw this version of it.

I have been seeing this meme a lot and had to use it.

Why is this happening right now? Why am I doing this to myself. I’m happy I had a good day today, I feel good about today. I spent the whole day working on the garden I even got to hang out with Jamie all day. I feel like it was a rewarding, fulfilling day, but it didn’t take much for that to change. I watched a darker episode of Rick and Morty, the last episode of Season 2. It finishes with a sad scene and the song Hurt by NIN. Now I can’t stop listening to it. Now tears are covering my face.

Why do I do this to myself? Why is it that every once and a while I need to cry like this? Why do I need to torture myself like this? I stare into the darkness and tell myself I deserve this, I need this. I look at my suicidal thoughts, at my self-harm thoughts, or just think about being molested and how it leaves me feeling unsafe and out of control and I just wallow in this hurt. For some reason I need that “old familiar sting,” for some reason I think I need to balance the joy with pain.

As I look at how I feel, how I treat myself I suddenly feel myself calming down and slowing my tears. It doesn’t last though, in the next breathe I think of cutting myself, I think of administering raw pain just to keep my sorrow going. I don’t deserve this period of pain, but part of me disagrees, part of me thinks I’ve been too happy this week, part of me has to bring me down. Why? Why is it that when Beanie talked about not wanting to follow negative thoughts did I found that idea ridiculous? I told myself that is where good art comes from, that is what gives you perspective, that is where so many realizations happen, I’m a nihilist, that’s where I live in darkness and sorrow, but why?

I know why. I know a bunch of reasons why, I wish I didn’t. I do it because I need to torture myself, because sometimes I don’t deserve to feel good. I know this is true, because it hurts unbelievably to write this, to say this out loud. I love darkness because self-imposed darkness is safe. It guards me from all the other darkness that has been committed on me. My darkness is more powerful then theirs and therefore I don’t think about the way they hurt me, I think about the way I hurt me. I torture myself to have power, to have ownership over myself. I torture myself because I’m afraid of others hurting me.

This explains so many habits, why when I fall down I go deep, very deep into a black hole of darkness. I have these shrines, these trophies around my room to this darkness, to this powerful, this unbelievably powerful entity, darkness and self-hatred. Because no one can hate you more than you hate yourself. Or as Chuck Palahniuk puts it in Invisible Monsters, “When we don’t know who to hate, we hate ourselves.”

Suicide is it Just a Coping Mechanism?

Suicidal thoughts, I’ve been plagued by them for years. I first felt them in 2008, my sophomore year of college, since then they have become a regular part of my life. The idea of not having suicidal thoughts is unfathomable, I mean what thoughts do you have when you’re really stressed? But after staring them down via art I’ve realized how hollow they are, how they are just decoys to distract me from the real fears I have. This had left me feeling relieved and light but with the knowledge that now I have the real boss ahead to fight.

The piece that helped me explore suicide is called, “Suicide Note.” It’s text in the shape of a building, on the right side it says, “Jump to freedom.” and the left side has a story about the time I got closest to actually jumping off. Finishing the piece was very difficult, I got half way through my first attempt with the help of whiskey and then didn’t touch it for a month before starting over. During the second attempt I took my time, I carefully drew the outline, I slowly wrote the text, taking breaks to distract myself from the theme I was staring at. The story I wrote is an embellished version of a flashback I wrote in my journal in 2012 to a time I realized I actually wanted to jump off a parking garage. Prior to that I would simply go to the top of parking garages and look down and everything would become real, this time the idea of jumping is what became the most real.

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If you click on the picture and then on the next page click again it again you should be able to actually read the story.

The story at first argues that my suicidal thoughts were just a coping mechanism, but then it ends with the time I scared myself by actually wanting to jump. I showed it to Spaced and she liked it a lot, though she disagreed with my conclusion. She pointed out that my fear of jumping made it clear that I didn’t want to do it, that from her vantage point this was also coping. I had just needed a even more real coping mechanism than simply staring over the edge and having my fear of heights kick in. I needed to actually hold my life in my hands because when you are feeling completely powerless what act is more powerful than saying to yourself, “I have control over something, I can take my life.” I wasn’t ready to delve into these thoughts at the time, I was crying out the reality that I just stared suicide in the face and I think I won.

Since then I have started having self-harm thoughts, when I get overwhelmed my mind goes to cutting myself and how scary that is. It was really not good after I watched the Perks of Being a Wallflower. I loved the book in freshman year of college and read it at least 6 times. I related a lot to Charlie and being a wallflower, but I forgot the major theme of the book he is realizing he was molested as a kid. This was very triggering and I spent the whole movie crying and then immersed myself in the movie culture afterwards: driving through the tunnel he drove through (it’s filmed in Pittsburgh), rereading the book, listening to the music from the movie on repeat (namely Asleep by the Smiths), and thinking about cutting myself. I talked to Spaced that night and she said I give this stuff too much power, suicide, cutting, n’at.

She’s right, I do. I do it because my mind finds those things and freaks out about me possibly cutting myself or jumping off a building instead of what I’m really worried about, essentially it’s misplaced fear. So I looked straight at thoughts of cutting myself and realized how hollow they are, suicidal thoughts held weight, I’ve had those for years and needed to work through them but cutting myself was completely hollow, it was a substitute for suicide but without the personal connection. Then I looked and it was glaringly obvious what I was afraid of. I sighed and admitted that I still haven’t accepted that I was molested by Diane, it fucks with me too much, it wrecks my history and takes away too much from me. I know it happened I know it’s true I believe it, but I haven’t accepted what that means.

That’s my current journey, no more distractions, no more getting caught up in worrying about killing myself or cutting myself. I’m not actually scared of doing either and I have a support network that is fucking amazing, both in Pittsburgh and beyond to support me in actually dealing with my shit. Knowing and embracing the fact that I was molested, possibly for several years, that’s scary, but it’s something I can handle. Remembering that I just got past suicidal thoughts that have haunted me for years, that’s a good feeling. That’s just the momentum I need to take on my next challenge.

So happy to have grown so far and to be strong and ready to grow more. I must pause and be humbled by my support network and by my progress. Looking back I am reminded that 2015 was the best year I’ve lived, and 2016 is looking like it’s going to be so liberating.

I Lost it and My Roommate Made Me Stay There

[NO BACK STORY]

Saturday afternoon:

I’m feeling really worked up and don’t know it. I go on a bike ride and end up suddenly feeling, feeling sane. My thoughts had been racing all day but I hadn’t minded it, now my mind is clear. I sit down on a bench and start reading In the Dust of This Planet. Sleepiness rolls over me and I finish the next page before laying down my head. I close my eyes, shortly afterward the world begins to shake. I let it. I feel my thoughts, my feelings and just let what happens happen. Twenty minutes later I wake up and bike home listening to Sylvan Esso. Nothing seems real.

A copy of a copy of a copy. The world is far away, just like the narrator describes in Fight Club.

I bike home.

Along the way I dash in and out of traffic, I’m mostly safe, but safe like you are when playing frogger – you obviously don’t want to die, but it’s not real. It’s only half real to me, I’m only half there.

To bring myself down I scream Could I Be by Sylvan Esso.

It only furthers the rift. The world isn’t real, but I know it is.

Two blocks from home a women is walking her dog, the dog is peeing. I look at her. She looks at me. She smiles. She’s real, I’m in the real world. I continue biking and she disappears. That moment is gone forever, just like how reality feels right now.

I make it home. I see my roommates and I make it clear to them that I’m crazy. I refuse eye contact, now they aren’t real either.

In my room I finish listening to Sylvan Esso’s album while lying in my bed trying to take a nap. Instead thoughts start badgering me, memories start coming at me, Diane starts trying to molest me. “Get the fuck away from me!” I yell, “Leave me the fuck alone.” The thoughts are trying to get me to do things I know I don’t want to do. They are trying to take things I like and exploit them to make me do harmful things like cut a upside down cross into arm. “Get the fuck away!” I yell.

My thoughts are racing again and my perfectly organized room starts to get to me. I throw off the covers and run over to my dresser. Pulling out two drawers I throw them on the ground kicking around the clothes that fall onto the floor. “Almost enough,” I think. Then I go over to the bookshelf and toss all the fiction and spiritual books on the floor. Success.

I begin listen to The Weakerthan’s song Watermark on repeat. Now I know what I have to do.

I run down stairs and slam onto the floor as I slip on the wooden floor. Laughing hysterically I get up and run to the basement. I find the lavender paint, some painting equipment and sheepishly bring it upstairs, hiding it so my roomies don’t see it. I again refuse eye contact, I’m in another world and cannot be brought back, not right now.

I scamper upstairs once I find everything and begin my project. Two song lyrics are inspiring me.
“We sit and watch the wall you painted purple.” – Weakerthans
“Paint the black whole blacker.” – St. Vincent

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“It’s just lavender, it needs to be darker!” I think. So I run downstairs slipping again on the floor and falling down. I get back up and grab brown a black paint and return to my project. Blending the lavender and brown I get a nice dark color in the center. Building the circle bigger and bigger I switch the song on repeat to The Strangers by St. Vincent. I’ve waited 3 years for this moment. I grab the black paint a tub to stand on and begin painting the title of this piece: “Paint the Black Hole Blacker.”

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The black paint isn’t as black as I’d like, it’s to thin. I keep putting more and more on and realizing the paint is running. “Yes!” I scream as I see the amazing look the running paint gives to this piece. I keep painting more and more, bigger and bigger. I add more brown, I begin splattering brown, black, lavender all over it. Just what I’ve always wanted, It’s done.

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I show it to my roommates and they are not sure what to think. They are fearful, excited, happy and concerned. The new one, Da Hottie, sides with crazied happiness, the feeling I’m expressing. Jamie sticks with concern longer, but eventually gets happier. They both take pictures of it and Jamie begins sharing it. My friend Von begins expressing concern, simply texting “shit” as a response to seeing the picture that Jamie sent them.

After a little while of laying in my room alone basking in the glory of this piece and the feeling of being crazed Jamie comes in. They sit partial on me and ask, “Why is Von worried about you?” I pause and realize I’ve finally been caught, and am relieved. As we start talking Jesse helps me realize I am not losing it, I am not caught, I am free, I have gained something from this whole experience. I have been trying to paint this on my wall for years. I always resisted it. Now I’m becoming more impulsive and more real, more aligned with the true me.

I haven’t lost anything I gained this painting on the wall. I sit with that a while, Jamie leaves and I keep sitting with it. I lay down and try to take a nap, listening to music and relaxing I realize that I need to leave, I need to run. I pack up my stuff and get ready for some sort of outing. I go to leave and Jamie stops me. They ask me where I’m going, why I’m going and when I’m coming back. I can’t answer any question but I still want to leave. I say I’m anxious, and hungry and just need to get out of the house. They ask how they’ll know if I’m safe. I say I just will be, and that they can call me and I can call them.

After a protracted fight about whether I should run or not Jamie reluctantly gets me to stay. I stay with my pain and crazy and tell them what has been going on in my head. I stay with my feelings and am forced to acknowledge what is going on, forced to treat my body with respect, forced to be present. They force me to face my pattern of running and to be with myself.

I eat some food and I find a quote of where I am:

Only now are you going your way to greatness. Peaks and abyss, they are now joined together for all things are baptized in a well of eternity, and lie beyond good and evil.
-Nietzche

The Pile of Shit in My Room

I’ve lost my mind many times. The number of times I’ve felt like I’ve gone crazy is innumerable. I tried to let out my crazy to show it, but inevitably policed it a bit. No need to have lasting damaging effects on my life from loosing my shit, right? Wrong I was freaking out because something was wrong and not letting myself act insane didn’t let myself acknowledge of fix this problems. What seemed to be just an impulsive crazy desire was more. I still regret not following through on some of my impulses.

I’ll give an example to elaborate upon this. When I was in Philadelphia I was obsessed with St. Vincent. One of the notable songs was The Stranger with it’s epic lyrics, “paint the black hole blacker.” I was so tempted for weeks to paint a large black hole over my bed, wanting to paint it darker and darker, larger and larger each day. I didn’t though. I was going to move out in a few months so why paint your room when you are planning to move out? In fact I didn’t even hang up the Ralph Steadman posters I bought for the same reason.

I was holding in my insanity, keeping up my facade of having it together. About two weeks ago I decided what is the point in holding it in? I’ve felt these impulses thousands of times before and resisted them each time. No more resisting. I am letting the crazy out fully for all to see. My first urge was after being haunted by the song Watermark by The Weakerthans, in the last post. I was driving home from backpacking for a couple of days and felt the urge paint one of my walls purple, “We sit and watch the wall, you painted purple.” It was an insatiable urge and I knew I had to do it, I had to this time.

The following day night after not buying purple paint I realized I had to act. I took most of my possessions and dumped them in a few piles in my room. I then went back to my closet and dresser and pulled out everything. I dumped everything on the floor in my room. Then I talked to my roommate about how crazy things are and how you just need to let it out and not care. I told him the phrase myself and other nihilist or post-nihilist friends say, “don’t care,” over and over again (the phrase is even the new cool thing to say in my house). I started acting very impulsive and self-concerned. It felt good I have always cared far to much about others and what they are thinking or feeling.

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I went to sleep with my closets empty and nearly everything I owned in piles making the floor impossible to see; and I felt good about it. It took me the next 4 days to clean up this pile of shit and I realized I needed to do this. I need to stop pretending I’m someone I’m not. I have always been a facade. I had to be before because I was living as a boy when actually I was a girl. But now I don’t I need to let go of all of the things I carry around out of habit. These aren’t things I like, they are things I thought I liked.

To make sure I didn’t keep those things I tried on every piece of clothing and made sure it was mine. I made sure I wanted it. It felt good. In the end I got rid of 3 large tubs of stuff, 2 of clothes and one of book and things. I decided to paint a wall in my room to finally make this room I’ve lived in for 2 years mine. I also am getting rid of some of the things on the walls and putting up stuff that is me. This is going to be my room and I’m going to stop being the person I’m supposed to be. Instead I’m going to be and look crazy just like I am.

#onemoreepiphany

Mayes for District 7

Sorry y’all. I’ve been working on La’Tasha Mayes campaign for District 7 the past 16 days and have had little time for much else. To catch you up to speed, I finished my union organizing gig on May 1st, two days later I was the field director for La’Tasha Mayes campaign for city council. And 16 days later was election day. Now it is a few days after election day and I’m finally taking it easy.

The union organizing of home care workers went terrific. I was promoted to a lead fairly quickly which was a cool privilege and fun to do. Being lead entailed briefing and training folks in the morning, checking in with folks and debriefing folks at the end of the night. The job ended up turning from a 9:30am to 8:30pm gig to a 8:30am to 9:30pm gig. We were in blitz mode and can’t say I breathed much. I did even have time to think about my demons and feel uncomfortable with myself and now I’m a much happier person for that.

We ended up winning the union, with 89% of home care workers voting in favor of having a union. The whole thing was a pleasure to be apart of, taught me so much and re-entered me into the world of activism and propelled me into my next job, field director.

And after my glorious 2 days off that included sun bathing in my back yard and a going to a parade I began my next job, field director of La’Tasha Mayes campaign for city council (who if elected would’ve been the first openly black queer woman who is a city council member and the first time 3 out of 9 city council positions were filled with people of color). This job entailed being the main person that deals with volunteers in every respect. I reached out to them, I trained them, I wrote the phone banking and door knocking scripts they wrote, I was their everything.

This job was hard to figure out at first as I reworked phone banking scripts, tried to hire paid door knockers and figured out my candidates positions on different issues and how to best explain them to volunteers. After a week I fell into the job and embraced the role. I talked to a few different organizers, who were volunteering, about my work and was happy to get their approval of my work and happy to talk organizer with them. I’ve organized for 5 years of my life and I didn’t realize I learned a whole other language. The way you communicate with people and run things is much different. It’s a world where small differences are huge where saying “please” makes you sound pitiful and saying “thank you” makes people you say it to feel they are helping you instead of feeling ownership over the movement.

In the end I kicked butt. I and must say I owe it all to the volunteers and door knockers, I contacted only a few voters, they did all the work. This is how I know I did my job right. My job is to inspire, educate and open the floor so other can do the real work. The job is essential for making the campaign work, but without so many passionate volunteers inspired by La’Tasha there wouldn’t be anything.

At the end of the campaign I knew I had done just about my best, I was proud for turning that campaign up! The vote came in election night and it was what I expected, but actually, no, it was much better. She got 35% of the vote, 1,400 votes. I have 537 confirmed “yes” votes for of our contacted folks, our goal was 2,000. She started late, hired me super late and still got a good grab of votes.

At the celebration party she was happy and so where all of the volunteers. Probably happier than the “winner’s” party. She was cheered in as though she was victorious and gave her victory speech. Thanking everyone and what I didn’t realize until this point, was how important I was. She got to me and just kept going on about how essential I was and how she had wished she had hired me earlier. Then the bar started chanting my name. I had rocked that campaign, in a really good way. And everyone wanted to know what was next for me.

One of the organizers I respected and confided with to told me she couldn’t wait to see what campaign I worked on next and wanted to work with me in the future. I realized that this, this is what I am good at, this is my passion and this is my career track. I love campaigns and I cannot wait to see what I’ll do next but it will probably be a policy campaign, world I’m not going away. I have just found my passion. And when La’Tasha Mayes runs again, because she certainly will, I will probably find her by my side organizing volunteers and working my tail off to get her in office. Can’t wait to see where the world is going to take me but it’s going to be awesome.

Lights On!

I’ve been in the dark for years. I was in the dark about who I was, what I wanted to do with my life, even my sex. But now the lights keep turning on. All of a sudden I can look back upon my dark path and see that I somehow managed to go as straight as possible despite the darkness. Now that the lights are on I can make a more conscious effort in who I am and where I am going. Now I can finally see and become the person I’ve always been trying and meant to be.

Obviously finding out my real sex, a woman, has made me feel much better about who I am. It also helped me resume a journey I had started long ago. In college I began to slowly explore my gender, but more importantly I also started exploring what I believed in. I went to a bible study to learn about what other thought of god. I started conceptualizing myself as god and sought out my true self. I thought about the meaning of so many things, from why trash is valuable but has no value to patriarchy and capitalism.

Finally one of the last things I took on was monogamy when I found myself seeing two people at the same time. None of us were ready for that, and it led to me not taking on any new battles for a while. To make a really long story short after a few months of tension I had a mental breakdown and was left with the more loyal and vanilla of the two, Smiles. I stopped exploring my gender and the world around me and slowly drifted into bad habits, and nihilism.

But now my spirit is free and so thirsty for knowledge. I have grown so many new understandings of how the world works, especially with the help of my two spiritual roomies, Jamie and Cha. I have begun meditating each morning. I have begun reading about mindfulness, meditation, and buddhism. I have finally begun bettering myself and am working to enlighten myself and my spirit. To love myself for who I am and love others and become a truly compassionate individual.

Before I was stumbling in the dark feeling out objects and trying to figure which way to go. Now that the lights are on I can see my path and see that I have been going the right way the whole time. I majored in anthropology to expand my world view. I was an activist to act upon my knowledge and expand my power and confidence. I was a nihilist because I had to and I saw the same darkness so many others have. I have been trying to make sense of my world and understand my surroundings every step of the way.

And now I know that counselling is the field I want to get into. I want to better myself and learn to empower others to do the same thing. Self-empowerment, something I’ve been obsessed with for years is finally a real thing I can do for myself and eventually for others. And every day that passes I feel myself closer and I feel better about who I am. There is still a long journey ahead but I’m so eager to embark upon it.