Try Again

Content note: mental illness, eating disorders, suicide, cutting, slight spoilers for To the Bone

I have not watched 13 Reasons Why. I am not going to. However, I think Netflix may have succeeded in what they were trying to do with 13 Reasons in To the Bone. It’s a look into mental illness that hurts. It’s not glamorous. It’s not melodramatic. It’s very matter of fact. I can’t speak from the perspective of someone with an eating disorder, but I can speak as someone who lives with self destructive compulsions. I can’t honestly say whether or not I recommend the movie, but it did something for me.

I could see myself in Eli. Her family was messed up, but trying. She carried guilt because they had to live with her. She went back and forth between half hearted compliance and outright defiance when it came to treatment and getting better.

Nearing the end, I honestly couldn’t tell if she was going to live or not. Would the treatment stick this time? Would the good maybes win out over the bad ones? It didn’t say. It was very Next to Normal in that way. But she tried again. And that’s all we can do.

It’s stories like this that keep me up at night. These stories force me to look at myself and actively decide if I’m going to try again.

This year has sucked. I was clean for a while. I didn’t cut until nearing finals. I started medication in April. At the time it felt like admitting defeat. And then I wondered how I made it this long without them. Then one month I let my refill lapse.

I was ok the first day. The next I didn’t get out of bed until 9pm. It was the first time in over a year that I was seriously and actively suicidal. I was about to do it, when I got a text. Just a random, “thought of you, I love you,” no reason, text.

I still cut. I was already bleeding, so why stop. I still cut deep. But first, I moved.

That wasn’t the last time. Either that I cut or that I was on the edge of going too deep in the shallow end. Fighting forever feels unsustainable. I’m tired. I just want to be done.

Being suicidal is the haunting of the finish line. It’s the obsession over bad “maybes:” “maybe I’ll die” and all the ways that could come about.

Being hopeful is a whisper of the wind in a branch barely within reach. It’s the good “maybes” piping up: “maybe you’ll live” and what that could mean.

Living is a lot scarier than dying.

Living means trying again.

And again.

To anyone concerned, I’m taking steps to make the trying– less trying… I am back in therapy, I’m building a support system, I’m taking my medication, and I’m making more art. I’m doing my best. Maybe eventually it’ll stick.
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A Letter to My Hair

Dear Hair,
What the quiff?!
We’ve been together for all these years and this is how you repay me? Is it because I cut you off?
I’m sorry about that.
Everyone attributed it to “the gayness,” but you and I both know that had nothing to do with it.
Well, maybe it had something to do with it. But that wasn’t the main reason.
You and I have been through a lot.
Those bangs that mom kept giving us until we were old enough to say “for god’s sake stop!”
That terrible center part that I thought was sensible and normal.
The miles and miles of luscious and heavy braids.
I guess it was the updos and buns that really marked the beginning of the end.
You were up and out of the way.
I could take you down when I needed comfort, but most of the time you were tucked away.
The decision to cut you off was hard, and I hope you know that.
I needed to forget, and you wouldn’t let me.
You reminded me of a place I escaped and never want to go back to.
But you were also my comfort and crutch.
You know how stubbornly independent I am. I needed to try to live on my own.
Of course, that isn’t a thing I can really do, because you’re just as stubborn as I am.
Which is why I’m writing you tonight.
There is no need for all this excitement.
I know you’re there, you don’t need to stand up and wave for me to see you.
If I give you some mousse will you calm down? No, it’s not chocolate but it’ll have to do for now.
Oh, hey. Thanks for being there.
See ya around,

P.S. Sorry for all those years I didn’t know conditioner was a thing.

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Refuse to be Deleted

This is a time when our nation is ripe. Art and media are important for telling stories that teach us things, but we must learn the lessons. It’s time to stop reading about revolutions in books like the Hunger Games. Watching Star Wars doesn’t make you a member of the resistance.

Things are changing.

But they won’t change unless we make real actions. Call your elected officials; send emails; tweet. Vote in local elections and meet your representatives. Protest and start conversation. This morning I woke up and didn’t feel like doing anything but staying in bed. The Women’s March on Washington sister event in Kansas City was today, but after a long, emotionally draining and restless week, I was tired. Then I realized that if I didn’t go to the march and be a part of the change, I would regret it. This was the kind of event that I’ve often looked at in history books and wished I could be a part of.

I assessed my spoons, came to the conclusion that I had the right ones, and went. Not everyone who wanted to march was able, whether for reasons of mental health, handicap, personal safety, jobs, distance, or transportation. If you wanted to go to a march and couldn’t, I went for you because I have the privilege to be able to. Do not feel ashamed because something you couldn’t help got in your way.

After contemplating what to write, I made a sign that says “refuse to be deleted,” with the bisexual flag colors, in reference to the lgbt and civil rights pages being deleted from the White House website. Bi and other non-monosexuality erasure makes us feel invisible and invalid, and this action was exemplary of the whitewashing of minorities that has happened throughout history. I only had one piece of cardstock, so I chose an issue that I and many of my closest friends deal with on a daily basis. There were other issues that I wanted represented, and was so glad to see signs for every single one of them. There were also signs that I didn’t agree with, such as ones with cissexist messages implying that genitalia makes someone a woman. But even still, the energy of the day was brilliantly positive. There was diverse representation of all manner of religions, skin tones, nationalities, genders, sexualities, ages, abilities, economic statuses, and everything in between. The organizers and speakers were proactive about avoiding the white-feminism that drowns out the voices of minorities; most of the speakers were queer or people of color.

Feminism isn’t just for females.

Feminism is the idea that femininity is valuable and equal. It isn’t just for people who identify as femme, but the idea that men and masculine people can exhibit and enjoy feminine things. This means supporting all people and destroying the binary mentality of one or the other. Coming up with a new term or calling it “egalitarianism” to get rid of the association with white-feminism is disrespectful to history. These marches have been going on for over a hundred years, and though they’ve been flawed, have a rich history of making the world a better place. Signs held by older women that said things like “Why am I still protesting this?” and “I’ve been there, and I don’t want to go back” punctuate this.

The organizers expected between 500 and 1,000 people to come to this event. Instead Kansas City showed up with at least 10,000. I walked past the park where the rally was held after everyone had left, and found it cleaner than I’ve ever seen in this city. The marchers were peaceful and respectful to one humans and property alike. I’ve heard some people say this wasn’t a protest it was a march, but I think that devalues and delegitimizes protests. This was a protest. It was also a rally. It was a city and a nation and a world coming together to say we are tired of being treated this way and we are ready for change.

I am a woman. I am bisexual. I am mentally ill. I am a survivor. I am a young person. I am an ally. I am also flawed and privileged. I am many more things, and I refuse to be silent.

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Drowned in Moonbeams, Strangled by Her Own Bra

2016 is both the year that won’t end and the year that’s gone by too quickly, taking far too many people with it.

It seems that we’ve been grieving someone or someones for the entire 12 months– Oh wait. It’s been a painful year. Water access is political. I know people who’ve lost their lovers and their siblings. Entire cities have been destroyed and refugees are still seen as a threat. My Papaw died in February. It’s a scary time to be queer.  We remember individuals killed by hate crimes. We remember the Pulse shooting. I have friends who used to frequent that club. So many of our icons are dying and those who don’t approve of us feel safe to act on their violent thoughts.

Claiming them as “our icons” doesn’t quite feel right to me. So many of these musicians were a part of the awakening and self acceptance of many of my peers who grew up outside of the conservative churches I was a part of as a teenager. My LGBTQ family was deeply hurt by the loss of David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and others; I looked them up after their deaths to find out who everyone was talking about. But there was one death that put me in tears instantly. When I woke up and read that Carrie Fisher had died I– stayed in bed and ached and sobbed.

Star Wars feels like one of my only connections to normalcy.

Star Wars is one of my few ties to pop culture that has been a constant throughout my life. I watched the original trilogy as a kid and Attack of the Clones was one of the first movies I saw in theaters. Princess Leia has long been my favorite princess character. She’s brash and witty and knows what’s what. I could go on about how great the character of Leia Organa is and what she means as one of the first female role models in science-fiction, but there have been plenty of people who’ve done that. Carrie Fisher, the human, is who I look up to most.

She was open about her struggles and talked about them in a blunt and honest way. Some are saying that she was killed by the aftermath of heavy drug use, but that’s short sighted. If anything, Carrie Fisher was killed by her mental illness and the things she did to feel better. I’m not excusing drug use as good coping. I am saying that mental illnesses are serious, and when they are left untreated those of us who have them develop unhealthy ways to cope. Addiction, to a substance or an action, is often one of them.

That’s what made her such a meaningful role model. She lived through pain and didn’t give up.

Carrie got help and worked at finding what worked. Perhaps one of her most admirable aspects, to me, is that she never really did “get better,” yet she didn’t let that get in the way of living and making her own life. The things that she did with that life are similar to many of my own aspirations in several ways. Working in entertainment and show business is fast-paced no matter what branch you’re in, and she was in so many. She did that while her brain was attacking her. Tears came again when I read her quote about following dreams while mentally ill:

Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.

Knowing that Carrie Fisher was a person gives me hope. When the world is as crazy and dark as it is right now it’s hard not to let hopelessness creep in. The temptation to give up is strong sometimes. But then, when I’m able to be receptive (I’m not always), reading about people like Carrie is just enough push to get me back to hope. She didn’t have struggles and do amazing things anyway. She had struggles, and was knocked down by them, and overcame them, and did amazing things.

Thank you Carrie. Thank you for being so big of a person. Thank you for showing us your weird and your kind. Thank you for all that you’ve left here and all that you inspire us to do.

Thank you for showing us that monsters don’t have to win.



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Organic Living

Anyone who knows me well has heard me talk about A Wrinkle in Time. I’ve probably urged them to read it, re-read it, or go on to the rest of the series. I’m a shameless fangirl and Madeleine L’Engle is my favorite author. I have a t-shirt with the original cover of Wrinkle; My first tattoo is a quote from A Swiftly Tilting Planet. Last year I was given a copy of her book A Circle of Quiet. It’s a difficult book to describe; it’s part memoir, part think piece, and all in all beautiful storytelling. Identifying distinct themes is a bit easier, although those are abstract as well. In reading her thoughts about creativity and the self, I feel like we would have gotten along. There are, of course, things that I don’t agree with, but even my disagreement kind of fits in with the main theme of living authentically.

L’Engle uses the word Ontology to describe her focus on existence and being authentic the summer she wrote the book, and it describes what I have spent the last two years working on. Not long after the start of my first semester at community college, I decided that I was done trying so hard.

This might sound like giving up, but it wasn’t. I didn’t stop trying to do well in my studies; I stopped trying to be perfect. It was killing me. I stopped trying to follow a set of expectations and priorities that I didn’t put in place for myself. I decided to live organically. To do this meant to allow myself to just exist. After spending so much time actively trying to believe a set of rules and philosophies that I grew up with, this wasn’t easy. My blog mini-series “Pieces” depicts a good part of that narrative; I started coming to grips with my childhood, becoming aware of my mental illness, and realized that I’m bisexual.

This isn’t an easy thing to do. Removing the expectations put on me by others means forming (realistic) goals for myself, which is something I’m still learning how to do. I jokingly call myself a “recovering type A personality,” but it’s accurate. The week before Thanksgiving I got overly competitive in a game of street hockey and gave myself a sprained ankle that still isn’t healed because I didn’t give it time. Professors and advisors have told me that this drive to be perfect and not make mistakes is what’s holding me back from learning some things. When you combine this with depression and anxiety, the number of unfinished projects and blog drafts that sit waiting for publishing because I can’t get them perfect is– pitiful. This post has been on the drafting board for 6 months, and posting it at all is nerve wracking. What if there’s something in here that’s wrong? What if I disagree with something at some unknown point in the future? What if it’s too long and no one actually wants to read it? Then I’ll have to apologize or clarify, and move on.

Allowing yourself to live is a long process, it would seem. Allowing yourself and your creations to be imperfect is necessary. When you start working towards that, it hurts. But, as you gradually let things go you begin to develop a taste for freedom.

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Pokémon Go Figure

The world is a scary place right now. It’s always been scary to a degree, but this past month has been especially bloody and fear ridden. News coverage is a perpetual stream of updates on terror attacks and hate crimes. It’s beyond the “if it bleeds, it leads” adage. There doesn’t seem to be much else to talk about. To let this constant stream of darkness inhabit your mind would be overwhelming; we have to find other things to occupy our time with when we can.

In the middle of all the hate, a game has brought a little happiness back to the world. I’m talking about Pokémon Go.

This little (er- ok, it’s pretty big) game has brought common ground. Yet, there are people bashing it. Not only that, some are circulating the idea that Pokémon is demonic. Again. This went around when I was little during the first wave of popularity, and is the reason I’ve had to learn the lore from scratch now. My mom has tried to tell younger homeschooling mom’s that it was ridiculous when they believed it then and it’s ridiculous now, but people are often reluctant to listen. While this may seem like a small thing, when compounded, the little things I and others raised in similar environments weren’t allowed to do build up to create a feeling of outsiderness. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried because I just want to relate to normal people for once. Having this game has given me an activity to do with my peers.

While this game has stirred up feelings, it has also given many of us a chance to reclaim some childhood. But we aren’t the only ones who have benefitted.

There are many people who find interacting, or even getting out of the house, an insurmountable task. Tumblr is abuzz with narratives of people with mental illness finding the motivation to get outside. Well-meaning friends and relatives will often tell someone with depression or anxiety to “just get some fresh air” or “get out of the house,” but these illnesses leave you drained. When the prospect of getting out of bed is overwhelming, the idea of taking a walk is incomprehensible. For some, this game has provided motivation to do things that help our mental and physical health. The game is designed in such a way that you can’t really play efficiently without walking. Different Pokémon are found in different places, so you’re probably not going to find a water type in the middle of a subdivision unless you have a lake nearby. One of the best ways to collect some types of Pokémon is to hatch eggs. You do this by walking. It’s not that we don’t know that fresh air and exercise can help with mental illness; it’s that sometimes that illness takes away the ability to seek those things out.

This morning my facebook feed was graced with the appearance of this image. It’s the mother of a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, telling about how her son has found connection through this game. The comments have other people with ASD talking about how it has helped them socialize. Go ahead and click the link, first hand experience is more meaningful than my reiteration.

Pokémon Go has brought people together. Families are going on outings. People are making friends.

From the writing studio where I work, you can see a Pokéstop. You can also reach it with your phone, which is awesome because the nearest one to my house is a 10 minute drive away. Just in the first week after the game’s release, there have been so many families with small children, and some with older teens, out hunting Pokémon together. I don’t know about you, but a family all being engaged in the same thing isn’t something I see all that often. Not on this scale, anyway.

Sure, there have been incidents. People have done stupid things. But before you talk about “how stupid it is” and “it’s just a game,” take a minute to think. Even with the seeming division of team rivalries, Pokémon Go is doing a lot more good than bad, and I don’t think it could have come at a better time.

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Find Someone to Carry You

13087701_1686045468317112_2959808285696922649_nIn deep, intimate moments I’ve often lamented to myself, and anyone who would listen, that there are no more great frontiers.  Sure, there are places with unknowns. The ocean is larger and more terrifying than any land mass. We don’t even know where the expanses of space end, or if they ever do stop expanding. But the era of the everyday man grabbing a bag and a vessel and leaving to explore parts unknown, are over. Now to find new things you have to go to school for years and then be sealed in pressurized metal box. I live in Kansas City. The Santa Fe, Oregon and California trails all cross here. It’s covered in the Railroads that later criss-crossed the land. Now we have major highways and interstates that all intersect in what was last stop of civilization before the emptiness of the frontier. But I missed that. I was born hundreds of years too late.

Last Sunday I woke up. And then Monday I woke up. Tuesday. Wednesday. I keep waking up. And I can’t wake up from what must be a nightmare.

“On any given weekend night I know where some of my closest friends will be. They will be at the gay club down in westport, having a marvelous time. Others drive the uber cars that get called to take people safely home after a night out. We may be in Kansas City right now, but these victims are still our family. My first reaction to events like this is to gather everyone I love and keep them safe, but you can’t live that way. Instead, let’s stand together. Let’s mourn the loss of *so* many lives. But do not stand down. As long as we stand, or sit, or even have to curl up to be held by another, but do not hide, the darkness cannot win. I know those of you I didn’t mention by name are likely still asleep and haven’t heard the news. Sleep peacefully while you can. Stay safe, my friends.”

That morning I wrote. I didn’t stop writing until I went to bed at 3:30 the next morning. I wrote about my family. It is not just our home, but our sanctuary and church that was attacked, invaded and violated.  I wrote to my family. We are hurting and reeling and needed each other. I wrote until I ran out of my own words, and then I shared the words of others until I didn’t have energy to do that.

“When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, you find someone to carry you.” – Firefly

“Please, friends, be gentle with each other. We are all hurting. We are angry. Personally, I want to punch something or someone really hard, repeatedly, for an extended period of time. But I’m not going to because that wouldn’t be good for me. If you disagree with someone, please don’t react even slightly severely. If you have the energy to do that, you have the energy to simply comfort and offer silent support. We are hurting and scared. We are a family united by love, but today we are also united by intense grief and righteous anger.”

That night I went to a friend’s house and watched The Martian. I didn’t really care about any movie, I just needed to get away and be distracted. The movie and its distraction ended and I fell apart in the arms of my friend.

Tuesday night and Wednesday morning I ran out of words. It wasn’t just not being able to speak or articulate clearly. There were no words in my thoughts. The spinning and spiraling of my mind that usually has a constant chatter of words and phrases was just a swirl of lights and noises. That kind of numbness was new. Words have always been a refuge, and that day they abandoned me.

“He’d have you all unravel at the sound of screams but the revolution is comin’.” – Farmer Refuted, Hamilton

There was a post circulating among some in the LGBTQ community, of a series of tweets written by an older lesbian who had fought through the AIDS crisis. She mourned, “this wasn’t supposed to happen to you.” The generation of queers before us fought long and hard for the rights and respect that we now have, however little those may be. They quite literally died so that we could have a sliver of safety. 103 people were slaughtered and maimed in a gay bar. That kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen anymore. And yet, some of us were painfully unsurprised. We could see the pressure building. While being gay may be more accepted by the general public, there are still many of us whose identities are denied and even vilified.

Monday morning I woke up with Farmer Refuted stuck in my head and a realization at the forefront of my mind. We don’t need new frontiers. We aren’t done with the old ones. There is still work to be done to civilize our world and make it a safe place. Revolution is coming. I stopped in the office of one of the advisors to ask a short question, but stayed for an hour. This advisor happens to be a black woman. We talked about the correlations between people who refuse to be understanding of both of our families. We’ve both had that lovely phrase “all lives matter” thrown in our faces in an effort to redirect the conversations about our pain.

We must stand together. Love wins.

There is much work to do. But for now, let’s take a minute. Take care of yourself. Grieve the dead. Hold those you love. There will be time for action. When that time comes, don’t just talk about the problems, doing something. It’s becoming more apparent how much our lives actually depend on it.

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Balance as Productivity

A few weeks ago I worked backstage for a musical my sister was in. It was the first time I’d worked a show big enough to be in a theater that had headsets, and since I was the only theater person in a backstage full of soccer moms, the stage manager put me on headset and grand curtain. This meant I was the person who had to open the curtain, tell the people in the booth when we were ready for the next scene, and relay any messages to the actors and crew. It was amazing fun, and I got to better taste what bigger productions look like from the tech perspective. The experience as a whole was great, but there was one person backstage whom I could not bear to speak with. This father was a pastor and, like most of the parents in this production, lived in one of the most well-to-do parts of the metro area. There were many reasons I didn’t get along with him, not 20151217_150328least of all being his incessant condescension and talking over me, even though I was executing directions from the stage manager.

Thursday was opening night, but also my best friend’s college graduation, so I took both shows off to be with my school friends one last time before so many of us left for university or got distracted with summer activities. The group met at Culvers for lunch and then went to a nearby park to play catch and climb on one of the coolest jungle gyms in the area. When I got back to the theater Friday morning I went to my post to do my pre-show checks and was met with a question of “Did you have a fruitful day off?” Not a “did you have a good day?” This man was asking if I had a productive day. He had, at other times, suggested that I get a summer job or go on a missions trip. I responded that I would be back at work when the summer term started at the beginning of June. An in between time of rest was evidently unacceptable to his obviously more learned and enlightened sensibilities.

This incident is exemplary of our obsession with raggedness. Everyone must be busy all the time. You are expected to always be in top condition. When asked “how are you?” the response is nearly always a cursory “fine, thanks.” If sadness is shown, it’s often out of place. It’s acceptable to be maddeningly busy; a hectic day is more desireable than a peaceful one. I’m glad to notice this tendency changing and people being more open to sadness, or simple ambiguity and neutrality. However, this has given space for another problem.

It’s cool to be introverted. It’s fashionable to not like people. We have t-shirts that say things like “Go away” and “Ugh. People.” There are innumerable blog posts and articles about the struggles of being an introvert in an extrovert oriented society. And that is certainly a struggle. Being expected to be socially active when you don’t feel like it is unreasonable. There is nothing wrong with needing alone time or wanting to avoid social interaction. Some people need less than others to feel balanced. That’s great. Honestly, I envy them. It’s when this acceptance of the one becomes rejection of the other that the problems come up. There’s a stereotype that introverts are more intellectual and bookish. They are the ones who will spend hours curled up with a book or off in a corner pouring their hearts onto a page. This is unfair to everyone. What should an introvert who isn’t academic do? Are they a failure? Or those of us in my position of being an extrovert, who loves people, but also adores the smell of books and rain, and the thrill of finishing a piece of writing. There are so many inbetweens of introvert and extrovert. Polarized stereotypes leave a lot of people out.

Relying on people is very hard for me. I want to be independent and self-sufficient. Yet, living like that is unsustainable. Everyone needs support, extrovert, introvert or some variation of ambivert. One person can’t fulfill all roles needed to care for a human. Realizing that I am an external processor was arduous. In a time when grumpy cat is one of the most popular memes and venting is seen as attention seeking, being a person that needs and loves people is scary.

So here’s a proposition: Instead of deifying one temperamentality or another, let’s idealize a balanced soul. Rather than bragging about how little sleep we got or how many cups of coffee we’ve had, let’s talk about what self-care practices we’ve found helpful lately. Finding balance isn’t easy; let’s congratulate each other when we have a moment of harmony. It’s much easier to get a to-do list done when both your body and being are energised.

When asked if I had a “fruitful day,” I simply responded yes. My day spent relaxing and just being with people I love was productive in one of the most fulfilling and lasting ways.

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You Comin’ Blondie?

I have a confession to make. I love those stupid personality quizzes. The ones that tell you which element is represented in your soul (always fire, btw) or what kind of food you are (usually something I don’t like that much), but my favorite ones are Disney related. Disney princess quizzes, to be exact. Based on your favorite color and where you would put your dream house, they can magically decipher which princess you are most like. It’s wonderful. I’m to the point now where I take those to see how accurate they are, because it’s been verified by nearly every quiz and several of my friends, that I am actually Rapunzel. She is creative, gets excited about little things, usually barefoot, and has a fantastic love of lizards and unconventional use of housewares.
Rapunzel by Hannah-Alexander

It’s not just because of the personality aspects that I relate to Punzie. I strongly relate to her story, which you could argue helped shape her personality. While I wasn’t literally locked in a tower, I was fairly isolated growing up. Even when I was around other kids, I didn’t fit in very well. Also like Rapunzel, I learned to entertain myself (see also: “When Will my Life Begin.“)

And then there’s Mother Gothel. Rapunzel was gaslighted and brainwashed my her mother figure for her entire childhood. Her sense of reality was skewed. Her sense of what “love” is was skewed. She had to get out and learn what the world and relationships were supposed to be like. Allowing myself to be vulnerable and exposed to new experiences has been painful and scary; I’m still not always sure that the potential is worth the risk.

Near the end of the movie something terrible happens. But it’s the most wonderful thing that could have happened. Rapunzel is freed from her hair, and in that, her bondage. The best changes are often the most frightening ones.

I have always had long hair. By the age of 15 it was all the way down my back and I could almost sit on it. It was thick and soft. The most frequent compliment involved its shine or a new style. It was so admired that I grew to subconsciously associate all of my beauty with my hair. All my value was in my hair. It was the only thing about my body that was of worth. Sound familiar?

My hair had always acted as a security blanket and shield from the world. I hid behind the fact that it let me blend in or be different, depending on how it was styled. Other times I literally hid behind it. It was a common occurrence that I would leave my hair down so it could obscure in my face. Next week will mark a full year since I got my hair cut short, and the last time I had it professionally cut. While there is sometimes a lot of regret that follows  body alterations, that didn’t happen this time. It felt good to be free from such a long held crutch. Cutting my own hair has been another freeing step. It gives me control and a safe outlet for any destructive energy. You would think that taking that energy out on my hair would lead to some really bad haircuts, but it has worked pretty well this far. Maybe it’s my tendency to hyperfocus when I’m feeling out of control.

There are times when I crave long hair. It was fun to play with. It was comforting. It reminded me of a time before I was disillusioned, and for a while, I could slip back into ignorance. That ignorance is so appealing, sometimes. I miss living in the darkness and having no idea what it looked like to pull back the blinds. In some ways it made the darkness more tolerable. Now I have to live with the knowledge of what lies in the dark, and there’s no magic song to sing that can light it up. After all, the hair has been cut. But now I can see that light can come from other places.

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Pieces: Dishonesty by Omission

Anniversaries are important to me. Every now and then I go back through blog posts and read what I wrote a year ago on a certain date or time of year. This spring semester has been full of that kind of nostalgic activity. My Papaw died at the end of February. Looking back and remembering how genuinely sweet and gentle of a man he always was helped bring peace. But not all of my reminiscing has been as tranquil. When I wrote the first blog post about my childhood I hadn’t come to grips with how far reaching the indoctrination of that stifling, poisonous environment was.

While I started opening up about my mental health struggles and eventually seeking help to deal with them, that wasn’t the only aspect of my life that was exposed last March. It was one year ago that I began coming out as– not straight. This probably won’t come as a surprise to most people; I haven’t been very secretive about my sexuality, but I haven’t ever actually come out. The exact terminology is a bit fuzzy, IMG_20160307_134641and the way I identify varies. Sometimes I’ll say biromantic lesbian, but more often the term bisexual seems fitting. Exact labels don’t really matter to me, as they change as a person grows. I like girls and feminine people almost exclusively and the general public really doesn’t need to know more than that. I would say they don’t need to know at all, but there’s a problem with that and it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately.

Invisibility is incredibly painful.

Not only is invisibility invalidating, it’s isolating. It isn’t good for me to be left to my own devices; they can be pretty nasty. Much like keeping my pain and past hidden left me feeling imaginary and craving realism, being completely in the closet didn’t last long. I started figuring out my feelings and it became obvious that hiding that part of myself indefinitely was not a viable option. When I first started going to meetings of our campus LGBT club I snuck in, careful that none of my friends saw me. Gradually, those meetings and other events became the majority of my social life. One year later, I’m the vice president of that club where a confused and scared Annie first found acceptance as a queer girl. I could, and probably will, write more about this process, but that’s not what this blog post is about. I want my self to be known for the same reason I blog at all. I share so that others can know they aren’t alone.

This year has been my hardest one in memory. At times it feels like I’ll collapse under the pressure and stress of resurrected memories and ideologies that have nearly literally killed me. Like so many other parts of myself, my self inflicted scars are more visible now. When you are taught from infancy that you deserve death, it is hard to come in as an adult and feel that you deserve not just life, but a happy one. Rewriting those recordings isn’t as easy as swiping a magnet over the tape.

Yet, when I look back at those writings from last year, I can see how far I’ve come in so short a time. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m not as scared of relationships and have allowed myself to be more open to being loved. With that openness and love and support, has come a newfound hope and, dare I say, happiness. And it feels good.

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