Honey

When I was in 1st grade my mom brought home a kitten, her name was Honey. The moment I set eyes on Honey I wanted to pet, love, and hug her. There was just one problem, the cat hated me.

The first time I tried to pet her she hissed at and scratched me. It turned out my mom adopted Honey from a home with kids who would chase and harass her. I was around their age so I guess I reminded her of them.

Over the years there wasn’t much improvement. Our relationship was very one sided. I’d feed her, do high pitched animal talk at her, i’d give her treats, and she just wanted to be hateful. She peed in my bookbag and shoes more than once. I suspected the cat had a personal vendetta against me. Up until the day she died when I was a sophomore in college the number of times she tolerated me petting her could be counted on one hand.

Still, Honey had a special place in my heart. One day she went out on the windowsill of a window on the second floor of our house and fell. I was worried about her but Honey didn’t care. While she was recovering under my mom’s bed, I peeked under to check on her and she hissed at me. She was in bad shape but still had the energy to say, “get away from me.”

When I was in high school Honey’s health started to deteriorate. She wouldn’t eat or drink much, she started using the house as her litter box, and her fur became dry and patchy. The vet said this was just old age and there was nothing he could do about it.

I was home from college one summer when Honey died. We had a new cat named Muffin who didn’t get along with Honey so we had to monitor their interaction and keep one in the basement at night. One night Honey was in the basement and the next morning my mom couldn’t find her.

My mom came to me and just knew Honey had died but couldn’t face finding her body and asked me to do it. So I went down into the basement and looked. I found her under the washer peacefully curled up as if she were napping.

A couple of months later I had a dream about Honey. It may seem harsh but I had disposed of her body in a dumpster. My mom told me to take care of it and I wasn’t sure what else to do. Anyway, in this dream, the dumpster was in an endless meadow on a warm sunny day. Honey jumped out of the dumpster, looked at me, and ran off into the meadow looking healthy and agile.

I don’t really believe in the supernatural anymore but my mom believes that was Honey’s way of saying goodbye and letting me know she was ok. At the time, I believed that and it gave me closure, a closure I still feel.

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That’s Life

I’m in one of my moods right now. That mood is listening to Michael Buble. Something about him just soothes and inspires me. In addition to his amazing voice, there is a passion to him that few modern singers can match at least in my opinion. One of the songs that really demonstrates this is his rendition of That’s Life.

Listening to that song a couple of minutes ago really spoke to me as I’ve had a trying time this passed year. There were periods of achievement and progress followed by periods of stagnation and hardship. But in retrospect, that’s life.

See, I used to think that because I have a mental illness, my periods of struggle were more than just life stuff. It was a horrible curse that was not part of how life works because I’m in the extreme minority of 2% of people that suffer from schizoaffective disorder. But the truth is some people have to deal with serious illnesses and that’s part of life.

It hasn’t stopped me from experiencing everything else that people experience.

Just like everybody, I have periods where everything goes as planned and when the universe feels determined to shit on them. I’ve loved and lost. I’ve succeed at jobs and been fired. I’ve had everything I wanted and lost everything I’ve worked for. I’ve had people who have come into my life for reasons, seasons, and possibly a lifetime. I’ve had trouble pursing my goals and passions seriously.

I’ve rode high in April and been shot down in May. I’ve been up and down and over and out. And each time I found myself flat on my face, I’ve picked myself up and got back in the race.

That’s Life

Life is hardship, success, pain, love, pleasure, loss, gain, misery, darkness, light, it can be every adjective in the dictionary. And no matter what, the important thing is to keep trying, keep going, against all odds, when all you want to do is stop. Rest, but get back in the race. This doesnt mean the capitalist rat race, but living life however you define it.

Mental illness doesn’t make me special, it’s just part of life, just the hand I’ve been dealt and it’s my job to play my hand the best way I can, that’s life.

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Passions or Distractions

Over a year ago I went through a really bad depression. Bad to the point of letting my life fall apart. My mother, who really misunderstands mental illness, made a comment about something that occurred during my depression. She said “You care about all these things but you don’t take care of yourself.” She told me the things I was passionate about were distractions from my real life.

The things my mom thinks I care too much about, are politics and social issues. I care about and debate about issues such as: transphobia, stigma, homophobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and ableism. This is partly due to my minority identities but also in part due to my beliefs as a humanist. I believe everyone deserves respect and freedom to live without having their human rights violated. Politically I tend to be liberal, in case you couldn’t guess.

Anyway, when I was in my deep depression and was plotting to kill myself, one thing never went away, my caring about social issues. I quit my job and felt horrible but I still kept up with these issues talked about them with people online. But what would have happened if I didn’t have this passion. This passion about caring about how others are treated? What would have filled my days and kept me alive in between the pain and the misery? The truth is, without these passions, I probably would have went through with my plans.

While there is probably some truth to the idea that spending time online debating people can be a distraction from my life, it is not and has never been something that has stopped me from living my life. I mean before I quit my job, I would read about and debate these issues all day. When I woke up, during my commute, before bed. Its by no means the only thing I do online but it is a part of it.

These issues that are distracting me are my passions. I eventually want to go into some sort of advocacy work and this is laying the groundwork for that. Debating often reveals my blind spots or gaps in my knowledge. It allows me to reflect on what I believe and why. It allows me to see other perspectives and grow.

The internet gives me a space to indulge things I am passionate about. And when I am in the darkest places of my mind it gives me a reason to keep going, to prove those assholes wrong if it’s the last thing I do.

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I’m Now Older Than You

Awhile ago I wrote a blog entitled Father’s Day When Your Father Is Deceased. In that blog I explored my feelings of grief for my father as I never really had as an adult. I observed how my grief transformed as I reached adulthood, well recently, these feelings transformed again.

I recently came out of months of depression and i’ve been baseline, maybe even a little overly happy the past few weeks. The other night while taking a shower, it occured to me how silly it was that I ever considered suicide. In that moment, everything I want to achieve in the decades to come, all the years I have left(god willing), hit me like a train. I had never felt this way before and it was totally new to me. After I had that moment of clarity I remembered its almost the anniversary, the 22nd anniversary, of my father’s death. Not only that, but I am now older than he was when he died, just before 30.

After realizing how much life I have to live, I started to realize how much life my father lost. My grief is transforming from what I lost to grieving for what he lost. My father was smart and ambitious, he could have achieved so much more than he was allowed to in the short period of time he was alive. I don’t know what his hopes and dreams were, but if he didn’t achieve them, it hurts me that he never got a chance to realize them.

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I Guess I’m A Danger To Society

Earlier this week President Trump rolled back some Obama era protections intended to bar mentally ill people from obtaining guns. This caused a lot of people concern because the mentally ill are, I am, seen as violent, unstable, and untrustworthy.

A few years ago I took an active shooter preparedness course created by FEMA as part of a workplace safety training. In this training we were given warning signs that someone may be a danger to the workplace and I exhibited pretty much every behavior.

These behaviors were:

  1. Paranoia
  2. Mood Swings
  3. Unexplained Absences
  4. Depression
  5. Social Withdrawal

I experience all these things as do a lot of people with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc. These warning signs seemed to me to be describing symptoms of mental illness rather than actual characteristics of past shooters.

Let’s take a popular example, the Columbine high school shooter. He didn’t experience any of the listed symptoms. He was being bullied and, in my opinion, his flight or fight mechanism expressed in an extreme way and he went on a shooting spree.

Or how about the more recent church shooting at a black church by a white supremacist. He hated black people and he expressed that hate by killing. None of the symptoms listed by the FEMA training exhibited.

But based on the common perceptions of the mentally ill not really based on anything but stigma people view me as a danger to society. The truth is I am far more likely to hurt myself or be the victim of violent crime than I am to perpetrate one. I thought about killing myself for months at a time but never once even had a fleeting thought about killing another human being.

This fear of the mentally ill is irrational, unfounded, and part of the reason so many of us find ourselves isolated with no support system.

So, this will probably be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t care what Trump did because it wasn’t going to solve the problem of gun violence anyway. The mentally ill are not the problem. Given that this is largely a male behavior, it likely has more to do with issues such as toxic masculinity. Men feeling like they are fighting for some cause, having their perception warped and feeling like warriors.

Lets focus on fixing men, not punishing and stigmatizing the mentally ill.

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Dear Socially Anxious: Put Down That Cup Of Joe

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I am a big coffee drinker. The moment I wake up my mouth is already watering thinking about a sweet, creamy, strong cup of joe. I’ve been told and read, many times that coffee is bad for people with anxiety but I never understood why, so I just took it as a suggestion. Also, my anxiety can be variable and most days if I don’t have a trigger, for me that might be something as simple as interacting with someone I don’t know well, I dont feel particulary anxious and am mostly baseline. My baseline is slightly anxious but I’m used to it.

Anyway, I started doing some reading and it completely changed my perspective. I’m reading a book about happiness that likens our subconscious to a wild elephant with our conscious minds on top as the rider trying to control it. The elephant, he says, is a product of evolution and reacts to situations without our conscious mind registering it. When we see something that upsets the elephant, it can color our reality.

He boils this down to like or dislike reaction. When we perceive something that in the past threatened us, we react before we are conscious we are even having a reaction. This is because a part of the brain called the Amygdala monitors incoming information and before the more intelligent part of the brain can process there is no threat, excites our fight or flight mechanism. One example would be seeing a rubber snake on the ground. Initially, if you dislike snakes, your heart rate would shoot up and you would be ready to run before the rational part of your mind realized it wasnt a real snake.

The author says the dislike mechanism is so powerful and overwhelming because early in our history being aware of and able to react quickly to threats meant survival.

My curiosity was piqued when I learned about the Amygdala and it’s function and I started to wonder if coffee affected it and surprise, there is a possibility it does. In a study done, it was found that caffeine increased activity in the Amygdala especially when shown angry faces and assessed them as threats more than those who did not have caffeine. What this means is the Amygdala processed these faces as threats and caused more anxiety than they would without the caffeine consumption. As someone who is already socially anxious and sees threats in social situations where there may be none present, it would probably not be beneficial to increase that threat assessment and anxiety by drinking coffee.

So if you are socially anxious, put down that cup of coffee, it is most likely making things worse for you.

The study I referenced can be read here.

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A Resentment I Carry

My father died twenty-two years ago this month. I was just a kid in 2nd grade and his death was a total shock to me, when it didn’t have to be. I didn’t have time to prepare to try to make peace with it and I carry around some resentment because of that.

When he went into the hospital months before his death I was told he just had a bad cold. We talked on the phone but I never went up to physically see him. He never wanted me to see him in the condition he was in apparently. I didn’t know it at the time but my dad suffered from a serious disease that did not have great treatments back then. My parents may have thought they were protecting me but I was never prepared for his death, I just came home from school one day and was told he passed or more accurately that “god called him home.”

I’m not sure if things would be different had I known how sick he was and that he could die, but it bothers me that they just allowed him to be ripped from me unexpectedly when they knew death was a very real possibility. I was blindsided, I was confused, and angry. They all had time to prepare themselves. His family had come from out of town to be with him in the months and weeks leading up to his death, my mom of course had plenty of time with him, this did not happen overnight.

The fact that they all got a chance to say goodbye, to somewhat brace for what was to happen, while I was just left to be hit by the grief tsunami with no warning is something that bothers me now as an adult. My mom said I wouldn’t have understood but I have read articles about this and they suggest you prepare children its the past and I can’t change it but its something that has been on my mind.

Maybe it would have been easier if I could have hugged him one last time or even said goodbye while he was still living and not to his body after he’d already passed. I understand their reasons but I don’t accept them and so this is a resentment I carry.

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