TW: graphic self injury imagery and some very bad ideas
Trying to decide where to spend Christmas. It’s horrble.
I have to go through thinking about what happened every single year. If I don’t think about it, how can I be sure I’m making the right choices? Endless ruminating and crying in the shower, because I have to think about all the things my folks said and work out if they are forgiveable, if I made a mistake, if I should stand my ground, or what, and all that topples me into an unhappy place where I tell my dad I am tired because I spent the last 48 hours with my partner at the emergency ward, and he immediately launches into a rant about how he’s concerned about the people I am spending time with, and never, ever asks my partner’s name, occupation, why they were unwell, how long we have been dating, or anything else; or having the pair of them explain how disappointed they are – over and over in my brain for as long as the Christmas period lasts. Add in to this mix that thinking about how my parents have reacted to my exes inevitably means thinking about my ex, and my entire survival strategy is underpinned by never thinking about my ex because it turns me into a damp paper towel so quickly. Thinking about either my parents or my ex can wreck my day, but both makes it catastrophic.
There are just so many factors.
Will going home give me leverage with my folks? Or will it just make them think that they can act like whatever and it’ll always be OK because family?
What effect will it have on my mood and health before, during and afterwards? Will I be happier knowing I am, or am not, going home?
What effect will socialising with no-one but my queerphobic family and my most beloved ex for six days have on my brain and behavior? (last time, I threatened to kill myself in my current partner’s living room because, after a holiday at home, I was viscerally reminded of how much I loved my ex; and my partner spent new year’s eve talking me down. This is a strong contender for the worst thing I’ve ever done to another human being.)
Will making a decision NOW protect me from the consequences of a month of trying to decide, or will it just start a different kind of rumination?
Will enough of my friends be here that I will not feel miserable Dec 23rd-Dec 27th?
What are the odds of me trying to hurt myself on Christmas day because I am miserable and have no support network a) at home, away from my friends, or b) in the city, but with all my friends away? Which one offers the worse odds?
What do I say to them, whatever I decide? Do I keep it casual, or do I try and make things OK again? Do I state why I am or am not coming home for Christmas? Do I lie about my fabulous other plans?
If I do go home – what do I say? I tend to keep a pretty tight radio silence on what i am doing, because no, you are not allowed to selectively decide which parts of my life you are interested in, and if your interest in me includes telling everyone I am single, then why would I bother being honest about anything? Is there any point in being home, only to answer everything in monotone?
Probably other things I can’t think of right now.
Lots of unhelpful contradictory tumblr posts going around, saying it’s OK to not go home over the holidays and to prioritise your wellbeing; others saying it’s OK if you do, feelings are complex, don’t feel bad. I understand you have solidarity with whatever I decide, but what I really want is help with the decision making process. And yet. I mentioned the dilemma to one friend, and they suggested just going home for a few days. I was pretty pissed off with that idea. I mentioned it to another friend, who started trying to help plan how I would do Christmas away from home – and that didn’t feel like good advice either.
The fact is, there is no good solution here; and I’m frustrated with my friends because the solution I am looking for is “your parents accept you and are not uncomfortable or awkward at all and treat you like a normal person, so why wouldn’t you go home for Christmas?”. Or possibly “we have an entirely secular society, there is no socially mandated family time, so you can go on neglecting this issue forever.”
I think, in my heart, I do not want to go back. I want to keep running. I am just extremely scared of being entirely on my own for a week, with everything in the city closed. Spending my birthday alone was horrible. I’m not good at alone. And it sets a very scary wheel in motion. My family are too passive aggressive, repressed and set in their ways to demonstrate they are OK about my sexuality. By not going home the one week where I pretty much have to, I am acknowledging that things will never get better, and that’s rotten food for thought in the festive season.
I just hate Christmas for creating this entire situation, every single year.
A friend leant me a coat on a quasi-permanent basis, a lovely charcoal masculine thing; and I’ve been hiding my hair under a baggy hat because it is C O L D here, and I pass guys I keep catching sight of myself in shop windows and thinking “damn, who is that fine dapper individual? Who am I kidding, it’s still me”.
I need to get a hair cut. I can do this. I look exceptional. I’m going to get a soft v-neck pullover in a fey colour, and an Annemarie Schwartzenbach haircut, and I am going to rock out.
(and feel despair and longing when I want to be a pretty princess. But I’ve always idolised the tragic 20s femme man look, so perhaps it will merely enhance my beauty?)
Disclaimer: I’m just speaking about me in this post.
I spent this morning looking down at my hairy legs.They looked suddenly like my dad’s knobbly knees in board shorts on the beach: not a nice look.
I don’t really like them. I mused on this, and wondered if I should shave them. But I didn’t like having shaved legs either, and I don’t think it would look good now.
I think what I like about not shaving my legs is not thinking about it. I don’t have a preference between shaved and unshaved legs on myself – it doesn’t impact how I feel about my beauty, my identity or anything else. But the act of shaving does. The act of shaving puts the binary right back onto my body, because it’s a thing one does to make a body feminine. The same is true of make-up.
I know no decision is a decision, but it’s one I don’t have to think about, vs one that I do.
Procrastination anxiety is…
…when the postman delivers not one but three “your parcel is at the depo” leaflets, and you weigh up the excitement of being sent 3 presents vs the stress of having to get them (making time, going to new places, talking to strangers etc etc), and you decide on reflection having presents isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I have started putting “automatic programs” in my head, that run in response to occurences, to help me cope with the things. The Chumblies is one of them.
I have some fairly significant trust problems. I have started measuring these in Chumblies, a term I have borrowed from Doctor Who fans. My partner went away for a short week, and it broke my brain. I whined to a mutual friend that he had called twice in that week from abroad, texted at least once a day, and since coming back had visited twice and made plans for later in the week, and do you agree that he probably doesn’t love me really? At least I am self aware about my uselessness. But the phrase that leapt to mind was “four chumblies”.
Many of the original Who episodes were destroyed in the 60s; periodically, one is rumoured to have been found. The fans adopted the Chumblie as the unit of “trust in rumour”. For example: “There’s no way your grandmother is using one as a doorstop. I’m at one chumblie right now :(” or “OMG THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING, my chumblies are off the scale!!!!!!!”.
Chumblies are not an accurate measure of fact. There is an objective answer to which episodes are surviving, though we do not know it. Instead, chumblies what your capacity for trust in what you hear and see. In this example, my level of trust – my chumblie number – had very little to do with the reality of what my partner felt, or even how he behaved. It was an entirely independent thing – I was paralysed with anxiety, but logically should have interpret that much contact as a pretty devoted person.
Since then, I’ve been internally testing my Chumblie count around my relationships regularly. It is doing a lot of good. When I am scared, I turned into a cornered tiger – very defensive, frequently cruel, quite emotionally shut down and generally not putting in any effort (because my pride won’t permit me to be kind towards someone who may be stringing me along.) A low Chumblie score is a warning for me that I need to monitor my behavior, and double check any beliefs before I act on them. If I am at 7 or less chumblies, I’m tripping over a bad edge. I might start thinking irrational things and act accordingly. Mental health practicioners tell you to be aware of your thoughts and feelings, but I find assigning numbers to things – even vaguely – is a great way to assess them. Out of ten? Two. Much better than trying to catch flitting thoughts and abstraction.
Measuring “How much trust do I have?” is easy compared to “Is my person going to leave me?”. The latter question has so many factors, including how I am behaving, how he is behaving, patterns of untrustworthy people in the past, me trying to assess my paranoia and anxiety, trying to make wise choices for me, and kind choices for him, and all while trying to be a Fun Person To Date. It’s an impossible question to reason through without four hours and a large piece of paper. A Chumblie check is purely about how I feel – easy enough to monitor, just go with your gut instinct – and actions I can be in control of (I can’t control my awful exes, my boyfriend’s feelings, my paranoia etc. I can control how I behave in response to these specific feelings of fear – this can be asking for reassurance, or giving up on a date and going home until I feel nicer)
It also requires some level of self awareness. How do you tell the difference between chumblies and red flags? You really can’t. Sometimes you’re scared because there are things to be afraid of. When you’ve got anxiety, it can be pretty hard to tell the difference. The chumblie count is only useful for managing irrational fears – in this case, the belief that I will be imminently abandoned and then I will be alone forever because I am a horrible human being. This is a self-evidently incorrect opinion, and there are concrete, beautiful things my partner does which reassures me on a long-term scale that my relationship is a safe one. So perhaps the first step is – if you are scared in your relationship, to honestly interrogate why that is, possibly with a checklist of abusive relationship qualities.
I think you could use the chumblie count in other ways though. If you get panicky on public transport, checking in might let you know it’s time to get off the bus and do breathing exercises. I think you could manage a phobia with it. The key is – identifying an irrational overreaction which you have in particular scenarios, and then assigning numbers to how strong your belief is. Once you have a solid measure of your belief, you’ll know whether you need to take extra care around your behavior or not.
In a sense it’s like spoons. Making concrete the abstract feelings of life.
I’m pretty excited about LGBT representation in Young Adult fiction at the moment.
I’ve been writing a series of posts on books with gay or trans themes aimed at young people. But in the perfect world, these books would not exist – instead, all books would be diverse and we wouldn’t need Special Issues books.
However – I’m discovering a lot of books I wouldn’t expect have surprisequeers in. The new Percy Jackson book features an existing character coming out of the closet. Michael Grant’s Gone series has a lesbian couple. Woweee! These are two of the most popular books for kids at the moment!!
The times they are a changin’ ^_^
(and last night I was reading a fandom tumblr with a bee in their bonnet about Harry Potter, and how over 7 books and over 100 characters, everybody was straight in canon. Being reminded of that is like looking at a different world.)