Being sane is a full-time job. 

I am trying to keep conscious track of people who I think hate me, who turn out not to have done so (the total this week so far is 3, though that number represents a far larger number of panics and wibbles in between.) I hope that each time I wibble in future, I can remember my total number, and that will set against the number of people who have done the slow-drop-secretly-hate-you thing. 

Now I am listening to my grandma and grandad try to resolve a slightly awkward, slightly tense situation, and trying to remember that I’ve never heard either of them get angry, that this is a safe house and nothing is wrong, but not entirely succeeding.

If you’re not living on the edge

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I am bored of medical professionals telling me I am wasting their time/telling me I am insufficiently in danger to access any mental health services; and then saying if I am in trouble, it’s very important I attend A&E or phone Samaritans.

I just…when I take time off work to see a doctor, that’s me reaching out for help? If the only result of me rehashing my neuroses with a stranger again is a referral back to my GP, why would I expect them to give a fuck at A&E? If the result of an hour-long consultation is that I need no additional help, and that you think I am managing my own health rather well, then why would I take up valuable space on a crisis line? My problems are so self-evidently small.

I wish docs would trust their patients better, and outline in advance of a consultation what they are looking for. It strikes me that I could have saved today’s doc a lot of time if she had cut straight to the crucial question (“Are you planning to kill yourself this evening? If not, we literally do not have a shit to give about your wellbeing or safety at any future date.”), without my entire backstory first. If the doctor who referred me had specified this was what she needed, I wouldn’t have taken up space on her rosta, taken time off work, or put myself in a position where I feel more isolated from help.

I’m just…sorry I am insufficiently suicidal? I’m coping now, or at least the nurse tells me I am; but I want a plan in place when things get bad. I want more from my life than going directly home and sitting on Tumblr, because that is the only way to numb out the pain. I wasn’t self harming last year, and now I am – and I feel like if I’d had some decent care any time in the last, y’know, six years, I could have arrested that slip. And these feelings are brought on by despair, but the less and less I believe in a cure or medical intervention, the truer “I will never be well or happy” feels.

Don’t tell me I’m doing really well – I haven’t seen all your other patients, I’ve only seen myself lapse into the worst three months of decline and I’m scared and want some help with that. Give me homeopathy, I don’t care. Just – don’t make me go through my problems, tell me you will not help, but in the same breath expect me to reach out for help from other doctors.

Sure I’ll call the Samaritans.

Therapy that works

…you guys Dialectical Behavior Therapy is the best thing ever. I am two pages in to the book (god forbid that I could have accessed this on the NHS any time in the last five years!), and it is already brilliant.

It is, in many ways, opposite to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. CBT encourages you to doubt your depressive thoughts and interrogate them. DBT, on the other hand, encourages you to trust your feelings, feel validated, and not be constantly asking yourself how you feel and whether you should be feeling it. Two opposite therapies, but I think the strongest therapy would combine elements of both. 

For now, at least though, I think trusting my gut is a really valuable thing to practice. I am an abuse magnet because I defer to whatever the people around me say, even when it has no basis in reality. I don’t know what I want. I am constantly in a maelstrom of emotions, yet bad at identifying where they come from or what they want me to do. The gut has it. 

Queer Books for Kids: Non Fiction! (part 4)

Welcome to a super special post on Queer Books for kids/teens/Young Adults.

I am reviewing LGBT books for kids/YA – the index of other reviews is here. Looking just for nonfic? Here is my non fiction tag.

QUEER: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens

by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke

9780547687322_p0_v1_s260x420This is a teen survival guide written specifically for LGBT people – coming out, dating, gaydars, communicating, surviving abuse, sex and so on. It’s pretty awesome, and filled with a lot of right-on advice. I spotted essentially nothing I disagreed with.

Much queerteen advice overlaps with straight advice – this includes safer sex and the signs of an abusive relationship. However, this book does a nice job of discussing specific queer issues which, I think, most straight folk wouldn’t consider. This includes:

  • the dangers of a totally queer friendship group and hating the straights
  • intraqueer hating
  • the dangers of dating (predatory?) older folk due to isolation

I feel like these are uniquely queer issues, issues that a straight author blithely writing “be yourself! being gay is normal!” would not pick up on.

For gay, lesbian and bi teens, this is a brilliant, wonderful, affirming and sensible book. It deserves a home in every library, school or otherwise.

You knew this but was coming, though:

This isn’t a great trans book. It’s inclusive to an extent – it mentions trans people throughout - but contains very little useful info. It treats coming out as trans and coming out as gay as identical experiences – uncertainty, bullying, and being yourself! It doesn’t touch on the greater prejudice trans teens may face – my gut feeling is that coming out as trans is a whole different ballgame in terms of keeping yourself safe and affirming your identity. It also does not discuss uniquely trans issues – this book does not contain the word “dysphoria”, nor anything about hormones, gender therapists, legal documents. Anything which would not also apply to a cisgay is not in this book.

In addition, it advises that trans teens disclose their gender history to potential partners before things get physical. This sounds like really sensible advice, but in reality – this is a complex and contentious issue in the trans community. I feel like this is the advice given by someone who has never been in this situation would give. I feel like most trans people would discuss it with far more nuance and with sensitivity to what a complex decision this is, even if they also came to the conclusion that disclosure is best. Simply saying “tell your partner first!” ignores the reality of how people might view their own gender or history, and ignores the increased risk of violence/murder directly after telling someone. There is no trans author on this writing team as far as I can tell (I gather they are a gay man and gay lady), and the book sorely needs one.

I only have one other gripe: it fudges its treatment of kink/bdsm. Simply by not using the word “kink” or BDSM. It vaguely intimates that some people are into unusual stuff, like dressing up as animals or wearing high heels; and that it’s important to communicate with your partner if that’s your bent. But I feel like if you’re going to mention the topic, you should be comfortable enough to use those words. You need the words “kink”, “fetish” and “BDSM” for google if you need to learn more. I see no benefit in not using those words – it’s literally to the detriment of the reader, hampering their access to information.

Playing with ropes, knives or other potentially dangerous objects can cause serious injury.

You’ve got 100 words to write about kink, and you choose to throw that in there? No info about how to do those things safely; no words to google, or places to find out more. You literally throw ropes and knives at the novice reader as options, with zero context. I think BDSM has a place in any book about sex/sexuality, including ones for teens, and it requires more than this feeble paragraph. Ditto with the poly para, which does not use the word “polyamorous”. If you think either poly or kink sounds like a good idea based off those paras, you are literally going on a post-it note sized square of information, with no signposts to find out more. Bad call!

SUMMARY

YES for every library; YES for your LGB teens. For trans teens, it’s perhaps better than nothing and much info will still be relevant, but you should be aware this is not trans specific and Tumblr is still your best bet.

Waves

Self harm prevention tip 58 is:

Start going swimming weekly with a supportive friend who reacts to self harm the way you want them to react.

Regular exercise helps your mental health.

Also. I can’t talk about anything right now. I don’t trust anyone, even people my logic brain says can be trusted. I can often squeak out some general thoughts about my feelings, but I can’t talk to anyone about the harm or other impulses at the moment. Which feels dangerous to me. But I have had appalling experiences with folk who have said “yes, trust me, I will support your mental health!” until I trusted them, and then thrown it all at me down the line, and I simply can’t make myself that vulnerable and trusting again – not for the time being.

But swimming is a good, low pressure scenario where recent self harm is relevant; and tbh, sex is another. I should be able to start open, honest dialogues with Team Me about my problems instead of passively relying on activities where I get naked. But that is far, far too challenging at the moment. Instead, it creates a space where I have to either surprise-flash my new cuts to my friend, or have a pre-emptive conversation, and that’s the right kind of pressure. It means people get to check in on me, without me having to initiate it. And yeah, don’t do this with people who aren’t equipped and happy to get involved in your health, but with people who are – it is such a relief.

Vision

Also, I need to deal with my perception.

I can’t imagine more than two weeks ahead. This isn’t really a suicide thing, it’s not like I intend to be dead by then. I simply can’t make plans in more than two week chunks – it feels fuzzy and uncertain; people may not like me in two weeks time; how will I know how I will feel about things on the day? I am pretty good at predicting the cycle of my moods over the next two weeks, but I get nervous planning for week three. What if I am too sad that day? What if EVERYTHING is wrong and I can’t move?

(it’s like the weather. The previous day’s reading allows me to plot the likely next movement of a storm front with a fairly high degree of accuracy – but too far in the future, there is simply no data to go on)

I haven’t had very many experiences where I’ve made plans and they have been spoilt by my mood. Maybe one daytrip, ever? I got through a two week family holiday while going through pill withdrawal immediately after a breakup, and it was one of the best hols in my life! But I am terrified of them all the same.

Anyway, this is a problem in my perception.

My other problem is the existence of people. If I don’t see people, they stop existing. This operates on a two week cycle for regular friends, and more frequently the more I like someone. (People who are at a distance? No chance whatsoever unless they communicate every day. Long distance relationships are the worst.)

By stop existing, I mean an odd combination between:

  1. I start believing that they hate me
  2. As a result, I start blocking off their bit of my heart, not calling myself, and waiting for them to get in contact to demonstrate that they do care, and getting angrier and angrier when they do not.
  3. Wanting someone to make that effort makes me really vulnerable and exceptionally desperate for their affection
  4. …but I demonstrate that need by getting colder, yelling at people, brushing them off
  5. …because by that stage what I need to feel happy and trusting is a total and superlative demonstration of love, something huge and forgiving.
  6. (which is hard to communicate, especially because I am fortunate to be surrounded by consent-aware darlings, so when I am all don’t touch me leave me alone go away, no one grabs me in a massive hug and holds me until I stop trying to push them away, or redoubles their attention because that would be creepass behavior towards a person whose body language and behavior is saying “fuck off”.)

All very unhealthy, but at least this makes sense. Maybe someone who hasn’t called, hasn’t called because they hate you and, for some shitty reason, have not let you know about this. What worries me is the nonsensical ones. The mornings where my sweetheart goes to the kitchen and, in the intervening ten minutes, I start freaking out that he hates me, and then am all prickly on his return. I don’t understand how it can happen so quickly. Or that one time he was about five minutes later than expected coming back from the shops, and by that point I was already working how I would cope with being single because I was convinced – utterly convinced – he was never going to return.

I don’t know how to handle this level of nonsensical batshittery in my own head. But both problems seem to be linked to a really limited, blinkered, almost infantile way of perceiving the world. Like the way that little kids might not understand the dog being dead today means the dog will be dead forever; or thinking that because their parent has left them at school, they will never return. I’m not sure if that analogy helps, however. One of my shrinks said I should go inside and “forgive my inner child”, and it’s that level of woo that the analogy leads to.

If I could see further ahead, I think things would be clearer. I have worked out that I am an impulse self harmer, which is good knowledge because – by and large – if all the dangers are out of my immediate area, then I’ll shut down until it passes. I think this is also related. I can’t see further ahead than the moment I decide to hurt myself, because I believe that feeling will never end; I can’t see further ahead than my boyfriend being out of the house, because that momentary knowledge that he is not here extends to fill up forever; I can’t imagine three weeks ahead, I can only experience now, and now, and now, and believe that is all there will ever be.