I feel like people grow up learning that doctors and dentists and such are authority figures, because as children we are small and they are adults and specialists and it breeds an unhealthy mental relationship. If you ever are belittled, or don’t feel safe or listened to by a medical professional, you need to advocate for yourself. You can get other referrals. You can fire them. They are not your superiors because they went to school for a long time. YOU are the expert on your symptoms. You are a goddamn grown human being with worth and value and they are too. You are EQUALS. Remember that. You are not inferior to someone with more education. Your sickness doesn’t affect your inherent worth and value and shouldn’t affect your treatment.
I think I deeply underestimate the effect of pain on my mental health.
Oftentimes that pain will lead me to seek out medical care.
That medical care will fall short in myriad ways.
The most damage is done when I am treated like I do not know what I am talking about(which I do, it’s my body and I’m a smart cookie).
They go on to not listen or ignore symptoms.
Ultimately, ineffective treatments and I have wasted hours, expending myself mentally and physically, with nothing new tried, no answers, no treatments, no referrals, no belief that it would improve, a whole mess of micro aggressions, and worsening pain.
I was writing my suicide note in my head while driving home.
I wasn’t worth listening to. I wasn’t worth respecting. I wasn’t worth treating. I was a drain on the system.
A creature of pure torture and it wasn’t going to get better.
Because I will always be the person that writes “LOL” when a form leaves 8 spaces for you to put your medication list.
Because I will need multiple specialists who for some reason can never coordinate their blood work requests.
Because the combined costs for the surgeries I will need to no longer squirm like a child at a funeral just at the idea of being in my body exceeds that of most suburban homes.
Because I have wanted to die as long as I can remember, and only regular therapy, medication monitoring, inpatient hospitalizations, and the occasional emergency interventions keep it from happening.
There’s so many stories lately about resuscitating addicts. Someone mentioned a “three strike rule,” where they’d no longer administer emergency medication.
So where does that come in with suicide? How many times do you wake someone up with a smile and tell them they aren’t worthless and sit beside them coloring and chatting as they stare off in to space and beg the universe that JUST ONCE someone would have thrown up their hands and said “well I guess they weren’t worth saving after all.” How many times do you say hello and goodbye to the staff that all knew you anyway before the EMT blacklists your house?How many interventions does it take until when a patient says “I’m worthless,” the reply is, “Well, you’ve met your mental health value quota so, yeah, you’ll have to find some worth somewhere else in life. ”
The mental health system is slow, toxically still full of stigma, and prey to every -ism.
But here I am still.
I was past three strikes years ago, folks.
I thought a line should go in my suicide note- “In lieu of flowers, please send letters to local hospitals and your congressmen.”
I came up with some clever lines. Even some stuff about the selfishness of suicide.
Because it’s not. It’s not about you, and you’re being arrogant if you think that. If anything, it’s selfish of you for wanting to keep someone who is suffering that much around, just so you can feel marginally better.
Things like that mindset guarantee I’m not pleasant to be around, I’m pretty sure I don’t have all that many friends, mostly acquaintances.
Profound mental illness, it turns out, is uncomfortable.
I hide behind biting sarcasm a lot. It’s actually the shield that bites back.
Then I got to thinking about family. Ain’t that a can of worms.
I thought about the funeral. It’d probably be at the church I grew up in and was chronically awkward in. The one that was 400 people that met in a pole barn when I was 2 and vomited on someone’s shoes and will never live down. I was there as it expanded. As it moved. As it kept rejecting me socially. I was there for the newest addition, millions upon millions of dollars raised. I toured it it when it was scaffolding, sheets of plastic and exposed concrete. I watched as it stretched a video outreach across the globe and my father would occasionally do some paint touch up work on the pastor’s massive boat.
Somehow non-denominational is its own particular denomination. Whodathunkit, it has some very traditional and conservative mindsets.
I knew that without a legally changed name and gender marker, I would be deadnamed among my family until we were all dirt.
And when I came out as pansexual I was told that “a line has been crossed in the eyes of God” if I would ever touch a woman.
And when I came out as transgender I was told that “this was an exploration” and “I will find a revelation.”
“God loves her more than we love her.”
You can change if it’s supposed to cut or be supportive depending on what you emphasize.
My dad had said in the session with my therapist that I have an “emotionally built feminine psyche” and that “guys don’t deal with these emotions.” He figured that a part of my transition goal was to get over trauma through that reasoning. He also said he has nothing but compassion for those that are internally conflicted, which I have been for a very long time.
He challenged me to find one person who was truly happy having done this, 10 years out, figuring that anyone who was transgender would just be so conflicted that they’d never really improve their lives.
Months later my mother was teary eyed when she asked me if I thought I was still saved.
She said “I have to hold onto the thought that you might still be in heaven.”
I wondered at the hellfire that was currently eating her alive, fresh and meaty and ripe, right on this plane of existence.
I thought of all this while I plotted my suicide note. The idea I could be so wrong, so broken that I would be cursed to brimstone and damnation had such a hold on her heart. I fumed.
I spewed. You know, in my head.
Then I craved. I wanted someone to read the note at my funeral. Read the note at the church I was raised in.
I wanted someone to tell them that this is not the gospel. Christ’s blood was spilled so no more has to be.
I got home.
I took some medication.
I pet fuzzy animals.
I relaxed on the bed.
I felt a little bit better.
Then I got angry.
Angry enough to do some good.
When you are low enough that you’ve almost stopped feeling bad, stopped feeling anything, you can find angry.
You can tap into it.
I realized that no one is going to do my advocacy for me.
I may already be fighting hard.
I will have to fight every damn day.
And it will keep hurting.
But I can’t give up and leave my mantle for another, they must carry their own.
I have to be vulnerable.
I have to do it myself.
I have to tell my story myself.
I have to live long enough to improve MY life myself.
To show who I am.
To prove it.
Maybe only to myself.
There was an incredibly powerful exercise that I did once in a group session with other alcoholics and addicts. It was about the first step-admitting you are powerless. It was recommended by one of our peers, who said his sponsor guided him through it. He gave us all an index card and told us to number one through ten, leaving two lines for each number.
Then he said “I want you to think of ten of the worst things you did while you were drinking, and write them down. Leave an empty line.”
Our leader, Bob, was feeling sassy, so he timed people. The first person completed his in 27 seconds. Others needed to think a little harder. I was in the middle of the pack.
Then he gave us the key for the exercise.
After every statement, we had to write “and still I kept drinking.”
We had to confront the fact that not only did we facilitate these terrible experiences, we chose our demon again. And again. And again.
So for me it would start out a bit like:
I broke a goddamn toilet, and still I kept drinking.
I was sleepwalking naked, and still I kept drinking.
I let the horses out in the middle of the night, and still I kept drinking.
And so on.
It occurred to me recently that this same method could be modified a bit for other situations. I thought of my parents, the spiritual abuse they put me through, and how I’d keep crawling back to them.
So here’s another list. Yeah, it’s different, because the first reflects more personal choice rather than something being done to or with you. It was still a key moment for me to process this list, though. I think it’ll help give me strength.
1. They taught me how to tie a noose when I was really young*, and still I gave them more chances.
2. They told me I was getting fat, and still I gave them more chances.
3. They had me work for the family business in a shop from an incredibly young age, and still I gave them more chances.
4. They made me write pages from the Bible every day to improve my handwriting, until I developed carpal tunnel, and still I gave them more chances.
5. They held me to such high standards that it was impossible to ever succeed or feel like I could be good enough, and still I gave them more chances.
6. They stayed close with my exes even though it made me uncomfortable, and still I gave them more chances.
7. They put down my perfectly healthy dog unexpectedly without telling me while I was away in the hospital, and still I gave them more chances.
8. They left bible pages open about raising godly children after finding a dildo at age 16, and still I gave them more chances.
9. They guilt tripped me for how I was making them feel by choosing to live in my car rather than with them during a complicated time, and later gave me a mattress shoved behind a couch as a bedroom, and still I gave them more chances.
10. They refused to let me see a therapist or get medication for my depression, then insisted on a Christian counselor when it became court mandated after my first institutionalization, and had him perform an exorcism on me, and still I gave them more chances.
It was a pretty frequent pattern that I’d get sick of them and run off, or end up in a mental institution. But I always crawled back, and was always made to feel broken and wrong.
The last couple weeks, I kept getting little barbs from my Mom that indicated that she knew about the transition although I hadn’t had the guts to come out directly to them. Things like telling me how I was the feminine version of my dad, or how girly looking my hair was coming along to be, or how “a girl can dress up pretty and wear makeup and heels and have fun but when a boy does it it’s weird.”
It got to the point that I just walked out the door and left their property after she said something like that. Stopped talking to her. I texted her and said if she wanted to talk, I was meeting with my therapist and she could join, so she did.
She claimed she didn’t have a clue about the transition. She said that when she looks at me she sees “a very confused young person.” When my therapist gave me a chance to express how I was feeling, all I could come up with for a minute was “tense,” and she jumped in saying “And I’m devastated.” Not only did she continue to deadname and misgender me after we explained my wishes, she actively tried to correct my therapist and fiance when they were using the right ones. She asked my fiancé if he was okay with this, and after contorting her face in disgust when he said yes, asked “WHY?!?!” When he explained that his love had nothing to do with my gender, she said “Wow, so anybody can do what they want if they love ‘em.”
There’s another therapy session scheduled.
I added to the list number 11. They invalidated my choices about my gender and sexuality.
Any chances from here on out are to be supervised by a professional.
*It actually wasn’t until very recently that I realized this was fucked up. I mentioned something about it in passing on Facebook and a number of friends jumped in saying how gross that it was. I had been under the impression it was fairly normal, like a Boy Scout thing or whatnot.