Why anxiety has destroyed so much of my life

Last year I was still calling myself the Retro Witch. I had a catchphrase that went along the lines of I lived, “where chaos resides” or something to that effect. I was pretty fixated on chaos. Of course this was before I discovered I was bipolar, I knew my brain was often quite cluttered.

Today I sat here looking at this empty writing prompt with around three or so topics brewing in my mind. The chaos or clutter of my mind was too much for me to get anything organized so I decided to write about what it is like having so much clutter, or background noise as it feels like, inside my brain.

I hear people all the time say they just want to get some “peace and quiet” but I never understood that. When I am alone with my thoughts, whenever it is too quiet is when my brain gets cluttered. That is when my doubts and fears come to the forefront of my brain.

In addition to bipolar disorder, PTSD and borderline personality disorder, all of which I have written about extensively, I also suffer from general and social anxiety disorder, severe. I have been diagnosed by multiple mental health professionals as such.

Anxiety is difficult to explain. With BP I know I have racing thoughts. With BPD I understand I have difficulty regulating my emotions. With anxiety everything feels intense. Couple this with the other disorders and I am a person with a lot of difficulty fitting a coherent thought inside my brain. More often than not my thoughts are like a flash of jumbled images all pounding their way into my frontal lobe simultaneously demanding attention.

Today I watched a video on 12 things people with anxiety do. I quickly discovered I do all 12 things. I want to talk about some of the issues that my anxiety causes me.

First is the emotional distress. Most people are aware that anxiety means distress. This is the picture people tend to have when you tell them you have anxiety. They figure it means you stress out easily. Which is true I certainly do stress easy. However the part that I don’t discuss is how intense these feelings can be. With anxiety I have intense fear of rejection. I am often so terrified of being rejected I won’t even bother putting myself in a situation where I could be told no. You can imagine how stressful applying for jobs can be for me. I am putting myself in  situation where I expect to be told no repeatedly. It is emotionally draining on me.

Deeper than the fear of rejection is the feeling of abandonment and inadequacy. These combine into a singular mesh of intense fears that are often overpowering.

Here is an example. If I send someone a text message I sit and count the seconds until they reply. I get so anxious waiting for a response I will shoot off a dozen texts to multiple friends in the hopes that any one would reply right away. The longer it takes to get a reply, the deeper the pain is. It’s a very real pain. It feels like a mixture of rejection coupled with abandonment, inadequacy and shame. At first I feel the anxiety in my gut. Why aren’t they replying? I must not be good enough. Oh no I am bothering them. I feel bad for being a pest. I quickly apologize for sending a text then I wait even more anxiously for their reply which either never comes because I figure I offended them or they reply with it’s okay I was busy, working, etc., to which I feel guilt and shame for disturbing my friend because I feel unworthy of their time and attention in the first place. All of these cycle through me in a matter of seconds. By the time someone does reply, even if it was mere seconds, it causes a sense of relief to wash over me. I feel less tense and suddenly worthy of my friends time.

The same thing happens whenever I call someone on the phone only it is magnified by the fear of rejection the longer the phone rings unanswered. I try not to take it personally but whenever I call someone if they don’t pick up right away I assume I am bothering them and then guilt plus shame sink in. If they do answer their phone I promptly apologize for bothering them which usually nets me a stern reprimand which further causes more anxiety as I feel I let them down.

Even when a friend does everything right. They answer my text immediately with affirming messages, agree to call me quickly and then proceed to all me right away, I still feel anxious those brief moments between initial text to answering the call. Once I get a friend on the phone I dip into guilt. I feel like I was a bother to them. I promptly apologize again to which I get another stern it’s okay stop apologizing and then we converse as needed. Before the conversation ends I will have my internal clock inside tell me if the conversation went long enough to satisfy my emotional needs. In the event that takes place I will end the call satisfied my friend is still someone I can count on and that our interactions enriched their life as much as it does mine.

But if any step of the way doesn’t go as planned the anxiety takes over. I feel a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Sometimes I would rather avoid the pain of the entire process than risk actually receiving the reward of a positive social interaction so I can often go days without saying anything. Sometimes I can’t muster more than hi.

Let me break down how important hi is for me.

I have written about how difficult it is for me to make connections with people. I have a limited space for friends in my brain. Once I have filled my friend slots I cannot accept any more without pushing someone else away or neglecting someone. This is because the anxiety once again kicks in. I feel like I am not capable of keeping tabs on too many people. It becomes an obligation to reach out, to say hi and check in on my friends. As time goes on I have to determine which friends I can count on to answer my initial hi with some sort of response. Sometimes I am too emotionally drained to go through the process of interacting. I don’t want to send a text to initiate a conversation as the prospect of said conversation sounds exhausting. Again remember the above process. Sometimes I want to avoid that process entirely but still let my friends know I am thinking of them. This is when I send a single word text, hi. In those instances not only do I not expect a response back, most of the time if I get a response I will feel threatened. This is difficult to explain. You see if I am feeling lonely I will reach out to all my friends and request a phone call or voice chat. Once I have exhausted the previously mentioned cycle of reaching out, rejection etc, I land in a place where I just want to say hi so they know I was thinking of them but I don’t want to start a conversation. Sometimes I will say hi with the expectations they will be glad I said so but it doesn’t go any further.

Then there is the hi, how are you doing? If I go beyond a simple hi which is like a tag we’re still friends code, into the how are you doing, now I am expecting a reply. Again anxiety will kick in the instant I hit send. The longer it takes to get a reply the deeper that anxiety cuts me. However if I send how are you doing I am expecting a response. In this instance I have determined we’ve not interacted enough lately and I desire, crave or feel the need to connect. Sometimes, most of the time really, I am satisfied with a good and you? Sometimes if I get too many responses right away that too will cause me even more anxiety. So when I say hi I don’t expect a response. If I ask how you are doing I kinda do hope for something but not much. This leads me to my next trap, are you free?

Sometimes I am incapable of initiating a conversation. I will say Hi and leave it at that. This is my way of showing my friends I still care. But sometimes I will desire conversation so strongly that the longer I go silent the more intense the pain of rejection feels. This is the most difficult emotion to manage because this is where I become annoying to most. I will be so desperate for a call I will message as many friends as I can with the hopes just one will reply back in the affirmative. I won’t typically care which friend it is as long as I have someone’s voice to sooth me on the other end. This is when the anxiety can take its toll. Some times life get’s in the way. People get busy, sick or have to work. Sometimes I mentally understand they can’t call me right now but emotionally I feel betrayed by their lack of urgency. Sometimes in my desperation multiple friends will respond and I find myself juggling too many conversations. This leads to more anxiety where I feel not only I panicked my friends for nothing but also that I am now taking on too many social interactions thus draining my supply of spoons faster than I otherwise would.

Then there is the urgent I need someone to talk to right away. It is rare I will send this message. It comes after an intense emotional trauma or distressing event has already put me into panic mode. Sometimes this is when I suffered loss recently, am facing a new hardship or overpowering negative emotions bog me down. Sometimes the pain these emotions cause me will be so intense that I shut down. In those instances I don’t want my friend to call me just to tell me it’ll be okay. These are the most difficult messages to decipher for my friends because I can often feel such intense raw emotional distress over the tiniest things that when I text urgent in that moment it felt like the most important thing in the world but once we talk it out I feel like a doofus for having been distraught over something so trivial.

This brings me to my final state of anxiety. I feel hopeless and just need to talk. IN this instance the actual conversation itself is irrelevant I just need to hear your voice, any voice will do. When I am in this state I have already gone through all of the steps of anxiety causes above. I have broken down and cried multiple times. This is when I feel such intense pain from my anxiety that I am willing to risk ending the friendship to nag my friend or guilt them into giving me attention right now immediately. This is the worst state of mind for me to be in because it could be a very real distressing situation with pressing need for assistance to a perceived crisis that only exists in my mind. If it is the latter I can become quite irrational in my pleas for help. This is the state of mind where I lose the most friends. They become so mentally exhausted by my intensity they cut me off for their own benefit. This returns me to a state of feeling rejected, betrayed and inadequate all over again. I will mourn the friendship, feel intense emotional distress for a few days then as suddenly as it all began erase that person from my memory and move on. This is callous but it is how I survive. My heart is fragile. If I get to the point where I have lost a friend and I know there is no mending the relationship without further trauma I walk away. I let that friendship end.

I hate it when this happens. I see it happening when it starts. I watch myself unfold right before my very eyes yet am incapable of doing anything to stop it from happening.

Remember when I said when facing rejection I have intense emotions, those will often devolve into intense anger my friend didn’t bother to care enough about my pain to respond in a timely manner. Again this is irrational but it takes over. If I get to this point I am likely to end the friendship over a single instance of betrayal, even if it is entirely fabricated in my mind.

This is what I suffer with. When I wake up every day I find myself in an immediate state of anxiety. I remain there until I finally get tired enough to go to sleep then I feel it throughout the sleep cycle which usually manifests as intense nightmares. This is my life.

The long path to discovering my ace side

It’s almost time for Pride month to begin. Like every year since coming out I am going to be doing a lot of reflecting on my own queer identity throughout the month. While I am doing that I have to keep one thing in mind, I am in a loving, committed queer relationship with a woman I am absolutely over the moon for. I have to make sure she is a part of my musings this year. 

That’s kind of the whole point of being queer in the first place isn’t it? Finding that special someone to love no matter what. For me I started going down the path of letting myself accept I was gay by slowly opening the door to being bisexual. I figured I was like the girl in Chasing Amy, and incredibly problematic LGBT movie from the 90s that was seen as totally woke in its day. The lesbian in the movie tells a story how she opened the door to women because she didn’t want to miss out on meeting the right person. I thought that was what I wanted to find anyone to love me so I opened the door to queer love. 

But as I grew in my understanding of sexuality and gender identity I came to realize I was living a lot of lies, layered upon layers of lies. I had to examine myself more deeply before I was able to peel back the layers. It was during this time of self discovery I learned sexuality is not a choice, but it can be fluid, much like gender identity. It took me a while to lock it down. Even today I am still discovering new things about myself. 

What does this have to do with my girlfriend? Well once I realized I was trans I had to determine if I was gay or bi. Eventually I came to the conclusion I was an asexual biromantic transgender queer woman. That’s the most I could narrow it down. I figure that describes me pretty much to the t. However it was my girlfriend who helped me see some of this. You see she is also ace and hearing her story helped me discover how ace I was myself. 

Last year I wrote an uncomfortable article confessing deeply intimate details of my sex life. I did this because I was caught up in the kink at pride argument which led me down a path of exploring sexual orientation more closely. Over the course of the next year I took a deep look back at my life and realize how incredibly uncomfortable the whole idea of sex made me. 

Here is a confession that builds upon last years peek behind the curtain into my soul. I am a virgin by choice. The whole thought of getting naked and rolling around in bed with another person grosses me out. I tried to justify this over the years with my ultra conservative religious right upbringing being the basis for my staunch anti sex stance. However I came to realize even after I left the throes of Christianity behind to explore paganism I continued to have feelings that would be considered sex averse. I already knew I was touch averse so I figured it was just a part of that. 

Getting to know myself through the lens of a romantic partner has helped me find who I truly am inside. It took me a while to admit I was ace. Even at first I said I was probably bisexual or biromantic but I wasn’t ready to plant my flag in the ace community quite yet. It wasn’t until a full year on HRT made irreversible changes to my ability to perform sexually when I realize I was actually quite relieved to no longer have the burden of that unwanted desire on my back. I chalked it up to hormones. I figured this was the case as once I changed hormones and things stopped working as before I sighed a deep sigh of relief. I was glad to finally be free from the pressures of sex.

I don’t mean to sound like everyone has to follow the same path as I did to be ace. You certainly don’t. It also came to my attention being ace is a spectrum. Some are further along than others and that is quite okay too. I determined I am quite adverse to the idea of sex as well as all discussion of the topic. I have always found it an uncomfortable topic to discuss. I am also disgusted by seeing other people engage in the activity. I am not drawn to pornography at all, it really grosses me out. Again I thought it was my religious upbringing that made me despise it but now I see I am not against others enjoying themselves in whichever consenting manner they mutually agree upon. I just don’t want any part of it be it the discussion or anything further. While my girlfriends views are her own and I dare not speak for her, I can honestly say being in a loving relationship with a queer woman that does not contain the pressures of a sexual component has been quite fulfilling and very rewarding for myself. I love being asexual as much as I enjoy being transgender. It is just a part of who I am.

Ode to G1 Megatron

There has never been a toy that has messed with my psyche more than the original Generation One Transformers Decepticon Leader Megatron. The toy is a mixture of plastic and metal that transforms from a robot into a very realistic looking handgun. It is a specific handgun, a Walther P-38 as it says on the side of the gun. 

I don’t want to write about the controversies surrounding the toy. Instead I want to talk about what this particular sculpture means to me. 

It starts with the Transformers cartoon. When I was a kid I was obsessed with the Robots in Disguise that were More Than Meets The Eye. I had comic books. I had story books. I had Find Your Fate Books. I had Toys. I had rubber stamps. I had note books and binders with pictures of them on it. I had playing cards and trading cards and everything else. When I say I was into Transformers I mean I was really into Transformers. I still am to this day in fact. 

I remember it was the cartoon versions that I was most drawn to. I watched that series faithfully. I used to flip through the channels late at night praying I would come across episodes of that cartoon. I would rent VHS tapes of episodes from the video store just to get my fix. I loved that series. One aspect that stood out to me was Megatron, the Leader of the Decepticons. He was the chief bad guy. The central figure that drove the plot of each and every single episode. He was the mastermind of the evil forces of the show. He was also a staple of my life.

We moved around a lot as kids. I was quite often finding myself in a new house, in a new school with new friends on a regular basis. There was little in my life that remained constant except Megatron was always on TV leading the Decepticon forces in some scheme or another. Truth be told I always rooted for the bad guys. I do in wrestling and horror movies too. I don’t know why. 

Megatron is a cold, calculating military leader obsessed with obtaining ultimate power. He is not only obsessed with military and political power but also electricity. He goes out of his way to horde all energy sources for his army while denying all others access to those same sources. He is also pretty ruthless in the series. 

That being said the fact he was such a regular staple of my life is why he remains a large influence in me to this day. It was 1994 when I got my first Megatron toy. It wasn’t the classic gun this article is about, rather it was Hero Megatron from the Generation Two toyline. That version turned into a tank. Now this was before I had easy access to the internet, long before I discovered alt.toys.transformers.classic.moderated where I could discuss all things Transformers related. I had no clue as to why they changed him from a kick ass gun to a lame ass tank. Looking at it as an adult a military leader that turns into a tank makes more sense than turning into a hand gun that has to be wielded by your least loyal follower. Talk about a serious flaw in cartoon logic! 

Once I was an adult I went on to ebay and bought myself an original G1 Megatron. I was a little surprised by it. I don’t know if it was a combination of fuzzy childhood memories mixing sources together but I always pictured the toy looking much different than it really did. For some reason I thought it was a white and black plastic rifle not a silver and black metallic realistic looking toy gun modeled after an actual gun! I was equally disappointed and intrigued by this new development. 

Putting the emotional conundrum of destroying my misremembered childhood memories, I quickly became enamored by this toy. I learned everything I could about the history of the toy. I researched variants and reissues available in countries outside of the U.S. I even started collecting other versions of the character simply because he continues to fascinate me to this day. Still, I keep coming back to the original. 

There came a time in my life when I needed money more than I needed toys. I ended up selling my entire Transformers collection to a single reseller for a fair price. It took me an entire decade before I would start buying toys again. It didn’t take long before I dropped the absurd amount of money necessary to bring this toy home. I won’t say how much I spent on it as that is not important. I can say I could have easily bought an entire months worth of groceries for that amount of money and then some. 

Today I sit here admiring the toy I never owned as a child. Even though mine is in well played with condition I still cherish it like a treasure. I don’t have a whole lot in my life at the moment. However one thing I do have is an original, authentic, functional Generation One Transformers More Than Meets The Eye Decepticon Leader Megatron Walther P-38 U.N.C.L.E. Special. The holy grail of toys as far as I am concerned. At the very least a valuable treasure to me. 

How I learned to survive, myself

The invisible disability. That’s what I’ve been told I have. A mental illness that prevents me from functioning like a so called normal person. I don’t wanna write about everything wrong with the word normal, rather I wanna talk about the invisible disability and what it means to my life.

When I was 7 years old I was sent to the principals office for “transforming” on my desk at recess. From that point on I was pulled out of class each week to sit with a therapist who was trying to figure out what was wrong with me. As a child I never understood the games we used to play. All I knew is it got me out of class away from the bullies and I couldn’t be happier during those times.

They never figured out I had bipolar back then but I am sure it was there from the start. I had a wild temper. I was easily distracted. I went from feeling like a lump on a log to feeling like I could take on the whole world and back again without any warning. Over the years I learned to live with my mental illness without treatment. I survived. Even my therapist as an adult called me a survivor. It wasn’t the bullies I survived though, it was myself.

Being bipolar does often cause me to participate in self destructive behavior. This is what I mean by I survived myself. Not just the suicide attempt of which there were many if we’re being honest. I survived my own tendencies. I got into fights. I drove recklessly. I drank a lot. I was a break dancer. I went out of my way to seek danger. That is when I had the energy to do so. Most of the time I was holed up in my bedroom incapable of finding even the slightest motivation to socialize. More often than not I stayed in my room playing with my toys or playing video games.

I write about the invisible disability because you can’t see bipolar disorder like you can being blind or being in a wheelchair. It’s a disability nonetheless. I don’t fully understand how it works. I only barely learned I have it a few short months ago. Since that time I have researched it quite extensively through reading articles and books as well as watching YouTube videos by others who have it or medical professionals who talk about it. I am becoming all to familiar with this disease. It is just that, too, a disease.

I have to come to terms with my reality. While the mental illness does explain a lot of my abnormal behavior, it doesn’t excuse it. I have to own up to my mistakes like anyone else. When I hurt someone I have to tell that person I am sorry. There are a number of people I have hurt over the years I have never been able to say sorry to, one of them is myself. I have to learn not only to forgive myself for the things I did, but to apologize to myself for having done them in the first place. In order for me to heal I have to recognize the mistakes I made were not entirely my fault the result of symptoms of a disease I never knew I had nor understood before.

Today I write a letter of apology to myself. Nobody will ever read it. I will not even save it to my hard drive but delete it upon completion. I do this not because anyone told me to but because I owe it to me. I need to learn to heal from the scars of my past. In part I need to let go of the things I did to me. Believe me as much as I have hurt others, and there are plenty of others I have hurt, nobody has been hurt by my self destructive behavior more than I have. I write this letter on my own accord as a way to find forgiveness for the pain I inflicted on me. It’s the least I can do for the survivor I have become.

My brief history with mental illness

I have been through a mental health diagnosis or two in my lifetime. I have tried many different methods to cope along the way too. Obviously the two most common treatments for mental health disorders are medications and psychotherapy. I have my share of good, and not so good, experiences with both. Today I am on the cusp of trying something new. Before I do I want to share some of my story.

My first diagnosis was at age 14. I had a therapist tell my parents I was a nerd. They needed to buy me a computer That wasn’t her official diagnosis but it was the word she used to describe why I was different. She said I lacked common sense but I made up for it with strong passion, whatever that nonsense was her solution was for my parents to remove me from the state I was in. Looking back on it I don’t think she had my best intentions at heart. I think she was tasked with getting me, a so-called trouble maker, out of the way.

My second attempt at therapy resulted in a host of words being thrown at me. They ranged from Borderline Personality Disorder to General and Social Anxiety disorder along with Severe depression. Of course I was a closeted transgender queer woman living in rural Nebraska so I had other issues boiling up mind you. She chose to treat the depression and social anxiety under the belief, or so she told me, those were the things ailing me the most. We tried medications for the depression, SSRI’s, and talk therapy along with group activities she sanctioned and administered.

Both of those experiences were awful for me. The SSRI’s made me suicidal. I tried several different ones before giving up entirely. But what happened next is what sticks out in my mind. She organized a meet up with other patients of hers who also have social anxiety at a Halloween party. I was told to mingle. To talk to other patients. I sat there at a table by myself the entire night listening to the corny music the DJ played. Then it happened. My first psychotic episode I can recall. I began hearing voices. I began seeing what I believed were spirits. The room began to spin out of control. I left. I ended my therapy cold turkey saying I never wanted to experience anything like that ever again.

I have had my share of psychotic episodes since. Mostly I either hear voices, have racing thoughts or sometimes experience extreme paranoia I am being watched by evil spirits. Sometimes out of the corner of my eye I see a woman smirking. Sometimes I hear laughter. It is the laughter I hear the most. The voices, when I do hear them, are incoherent. They aren’t tangible thoughts per se just random gibberish. Mostly whispers. They are rare but when it happens I cannot sleep for days.

I have had three separate psychiatric professionals tell me I have PTSD. One listed it as chronic on her diagnosis chart. I have been told that whatever trauma I suffered, mostly complex by their accounts according to my testimony, are what triggers my other ailments. Trauma. My mother has asked me what trauma I experienced. When I tell her she often scoffs that wasn’t so bad. I know, get over it I’ve been told my entire life.

Then they added bipolar disorder to the mix. Finally I had answers. I had a reason for why I was the way I was. No longer were they just treating symptoms, manifestations of my broken psyche but now they had a name for my illness that could be treated. Finally I had words to describe the things I have always felt. This was the first time in my life any treatment a professional had tried seemed to be working. For the first time in my life I feel better. I feel stable. I feel like I am not a victim of the universe rather a survivor. A warrior. I feel stronger at the same time more vulnerable than ever.

Having a name for my illness was a start. It also affected the treatment they tried. Things have been improving ever so slightly from before when I was shooting in the dark. I no longer sit alone, afraid of the sounds I might hear in that darkness, the sights I might envision out of the corner of my eye, nor do I fear the darkest recesses of my own soul nor what it will show me when I slumber. I understand myself better now.

The day I stabbed my best friend in the back

His name was Jacob. I was in 6th grade. I had just moved to a small town in Kansas called Miltonvale. Don’t try to find it on a map, there’s nothing to see but dusty old memories better left in the past.

My 6th grade year was pretty amazing for the most part. Day one I sat at the “cool kids” table; i.e. the nerd table; but I lucked out I made 5 of the best friends you could ask for that first day of class. There was Treff, the chubby nerd with an arm for football and a passion for Sega. There was Daniel, a chubby nerd who played D&D and practices witchcraft. There was Patrick who lived in the country but had a Super Nintendo and lorded it over us Sega-owning peasants. There was me on the end, the dork with an unhealthy Transformers obsession. Then there was Jacob. He was the Spider-Man geek who also liked Sega and Power Rangers. Okay truth be told we all had Power Rangers and Sega in common. Heck we even had the Power Rangers video game *on* Sega!

Each of these boys, and a few others, make up a tale in my memories not far off from the glory days presented in the cult classic Stephen King flick “Stand By Me,” sure we didn’t have a quest to find a dead body to unite us but we were united nonetheless.

Through the thick of it all Jacob became my best friend. He lived on the far side of town, near the High School. In 6th grade he would ride his bike to my house to meet up. From there we’d bike down the road to grab Kimberly and ride together as a unit to the elementary school nearest my house.

The following year we went into 7th grade Jacob, who lived across the street from the campus mind you, still rode his bike all the way to my house to bike to school with his best friend. Except we’re getting ahead of ourselves in the story. Let’s back it up a bit shall we.

What stands out in my memories regarding Jacob was how unashamed he was of who he was. While Treff succeeded in transitioning to cool kid by joining the football team, I took a much darker and bloodier route to get there. I got my first taste of it when Sarah from California moved to town. She was the new, exotic flower from the far off land of California. This was Kansas mind you we were easily impressed by outsiders. In a story for another day, let me assure you it is worth telling, she ended up “going out” with me the remainder of the school year. This is central to the story. She was the first wedge that came twixt Jacob and myself.

The day she walked into our classroom the nerds instantly fell enamored. The so-called cool kids aka jocks/bullies, they weren’t impressed as California was land of the hippies. As a practicing witch among a pool of fellow practitioners I, too, became taken under the spell Sarah cast upon us that first day. Unfortunately Jacob was also taken for this girl as was Daniel. Treff never fell for her spell. She chose me of the three and it tore the group apart during the early days of the so-called courtship. Alas the budding romance to be, my first mind you, ended with a kiss. The day, last day of school no less, she landed a kiss on my cheek the other kids began making fun of me. I slipped into my old habit of telling them off, to which she became instantly angry saying I was ashamed of her. We broke up by the end of recess.

As the school year came to a close and my relationship with a girl came to an end, Jacob and I were thrust into the throes of summer side by side, best friends inseparable. Or so you would have thought. I ended up in summer school, as did he. Not because I flunked or anything but because mom couldn’t afford a baby sitter so my sisters and I were all forced into that as well as other day camps to occupy our hours each day. There were only three of us “boys” in that summer class. Jacob, me boy presenting, and Corey. The only thing you need to know about Corey was I had a crush on his sister Ashely and he was one of the jocks/cool kids. Being stuck in summer school together the three of us bonded somewhat. Thus we would unite, him, Jacob and myself at the swimming pool after school.

This is where things turn south. The bully of the class, his name was Jared Guy, a name I will take to my grave, showed up to the pool one day. He noticed his buddy palling around with two bona fide nerds he reminded said friend his place in the social hierarchy which meant he had to ditch us nerds. Not one to miss an opportunity Jared agreed to let me hang with him and become one of the cool kids, for a price. That price was I had to stab my best friend in the back.

I won’t go into details but I lured my friend out back behind the pool and with a crowd of onlookers cheering me I beat his ass. He walked away in tears, nose bleeding swearing he would get revenge. I sat there in shock. What have I done? I thought to myself. With the bully firmly planted himself on his perch having destroyed a perfectly good friendship I snapped. I turned my rage towards him and wrapped my hands around his neck. I had a tight enough grip the lifeguard hopped the fence, tore me off the kid and called the cops. I was banned from the pool the remainder of the summer.

I wish I could tell you my friend and I never saw each other again. I wish I could tell you he moved far away and I never heard back. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you the rest of the story as difficult as it was to relive in my mind.

The betrayal fresh in my mind but worse, the cops called to bring my parents down landed me in all kinds of hot water. Upon fishing the truth out of me my mother shamed me in ways I never thought possible. I felt about as tiny as an ant turd. She dragged me over to my former friends house to force me to apologize. Not having any of it hearing her sons side, the other mother rejected my sorry and told me to hit the bricks.

I walked over there on my own accord the next day. His step dad opened the door with a stern get lost and a slam in my face. Jacob saw me and crawled out the window to the back yard. He grabbed me by the arm and asked why I did it. With tears rolling down my cheeks I said I wanted to be cool. I begged him to forgive me. I begged him to be my friend again. In a twist of luck, no fate perhaps intervened, he agreed. We spent the rest of the summer inseparable as if nothing had ever happened.  Like I said 7th grade rolled around and he demonstrated his loyalty to me, his best friend, by riding halfway across town on bike to my house just so we could continue our tradition of riding to school together, despite his house being literally across the street from the middle school to which we were imprisoned that 7th grade year.

I look back on my life with a pile of regrets tall enough to smother a horse. This is one of the few that sticks with me. The betrayal felt ten times worse after he so quickly forgave me. Of course he was one of those holly roller Christian kids and I was still converting to Christianity sorta so that may have played a hand in it. Either way I have learned over the years not to take my warm, fuzzy memories at face value. Every time I shine a light bright enough to tear through the fog of nostalgia I see the truth. In nearly every story I built up in my mind with a so-called happy ending I always find myself smack in the middle of being the villain.

I looked him up a few years ago on Facebook. He said he remembered me but quickly said the past is in the past. I knew right then he never forgot. How could he. I carry the weight of this and a dozen other similar tales on my shoulders. Today I feel a little lighter getting this pack of bricks off my chest.

Why I hate being told to take my meds

“Take your meds” or “Have you taken your meds today?” These are two thoughts I get from other people all the time. It’s no secret I have been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, I talk about it a lot not to mention anyone that has met me can pretty much figure it out. However the most frustrating thing is for people to make comments regarding whether or not I’ve taken my meds for the day. Let me explain.

I have mood swings. That is a part of bipolar disorder. The thing is, everyone gets mood swings especially transwomen on HRT. Nobody tells a transwomen have you taken your estradiol today if she goes off on a random crying tangent, do they? Of course not. The thing is being bipolar is only a small part of who I am. I have other diagnosis too but I don’t let those define me either.

I have a complicated history with medication. Before I was diagnosed bipolar my earliest diagnosis was border line personality disorder with social anxiety and general depression. At the time I was in counseling I was in a dark place buried under the depression. My doctor prescribed me a host of anti depressants, mostly SSRI’s, none of which helped me. The doctors were treating only the symptoms I had expressed at the time. Because I did eventually come out of the depression the SSRI’s stopped working as intended I was having suicidal thoughts, inability to feel anything at all and complete loss of libido. These things were not things I was okay with at that time.

Getting off the wrong medications was a good thing for me. It meant I was free to feel again. I never recognized the manic episodes as such partly because I didn’t have words for it, also because mine manifested mostly in the form of anger. I burned that anger as fuel for all the different life ventures I tried from my DJing to videos, breakdancing and everything else. It took me a whole other decade before I was diagnosed properly. It took a comprehensive testing session that dug deeper into my brain than any doctor ever had before. Once I had a word for my troubles, bipolar, nobody I told was surprised. Even my mom said she assumed as much.

I had a pretty terrible experience with meds being on the wrong ones. I tried to kill myself, I made threats that landed me in hot water with the police, I was even kicked out of college and thus the college owned apartment where I lived at the time. I nearly found myself homeless. If my aunt and her husband at the time hadn’t taken me in I might have been homeless.

Whenever someone suggests I should take my meds or asks me if I have it offends me deeply. It’s something I will handle in my own way, on my own time. What I mean by that is I know how my meds make me feel. It is my decision to take them as directed, or to skip a dose so I can trigger mania. Why would I want to do that? Because the way the meds make me feel. Sometimes I feel dead inside. There are times I would rather feel manic than feel dead inside.

The other reason it bothers me is because it’s not everything about who I am. Sometimes I just get full of energy. Just because I am happy and bubbly doesn’t mean I am manic. Sometimes I have high energy just because I am having a good day. I shouldn’t be judged for having a good day no different than I shouldn’t be judged for having a bad day. I can take my meds as directed and still act loopy for a day, I’m a big old dork after all sometimes I just wanna goof around.

There is another reason it upsets me whenever someone inquires into my meds, it’s none of your business! I take 12 pills a day. Some of my medications conflict with others. While I know what the instructions are, I also know I have had conversations with my doctor. Missing a dose can actually be a good thing if it helps balance me out. That’s between me and my doctor.

There is one final reason I despise this line of inquiry. I don’t like being told what to do. It sounds childish but it’s true. Whenever someone tells me to do something even if it is the right thing to do and I was going to anyways as soon as someone tells me to do it I shut down. I refuse to do it then. While my bipolar disorder gets a lot of attention from those who know me and are close to me, it’s not the whole picture. I also suffer from PTSD. I am constantly on edge. I am in fight or flight mode literally 24/7. Even when I am a sleep I am rolling around in bed hyper aware of my surroundings. Part of where my PTSD comes from is being bullied. Therefore I get defensive naturally whenever I feel attacked. This isn’t a symptom of bipolar disorder. This is a symptom of my PTSD, again something my doctor is aware of. I do not take medication for PTSD, nothing more than just anxiety meds.

I can’t calm down. I am never at rest. The quickest way to get me into defensive mode is to tell me to do something I already know I should, or sometimes decide I don’t want to do for whatever reason. At the end of the day it’s nobody’s business if or when I take my meds.

To be perfectly honest there are days I just forget. There are also days I miss a dose on purpose for my own reasons. There are also days I put it off but take them eventually because guess what being bipolar does make me kinda scatter brained. Sometimes I just forget. Even with reminders in my phone. Trust me I take them when I need to. If I forget or I chose not to, either way it’s my business not yours.

Coming to terms with my conflicted southern identity and what it means

I live in Texas. I grew up in Kansas. I was born in Idaho. I went to college in Nebraska. My sense of self identity has never been tied to a single place. Whenever people ask me where I am from I often say “everywhere, and nowhere at the same time.” I am not just saying I am not from anyplace, but rather the places I am from all constitute nowhere on a map.

I write this with a heavy heart. I write it with all the confusion of my past just ever so slightly clearer. I write this knowing it will confuse some, anger others and alienate more still. Yet here I am pouring out my own situation for the whole world to read, or at least the 12 or so who read this blog.

While I grew up in Kansas there is something you oughta know, Kansas is a state itself with as much of a cultural identity crisis as my own. Technically Midwestern geographically in the West, socio-politically Great Plains, culturally southern. How is that possible you ask? And what do I mean by these statements?

If you’ve never lived in Kansas you’ve never fought with your neighbors over whether or not it qualifies as a southern state. It does however, regardless of geographic locale, qualify as southernish. What I mean by that is complicated.

First southern and Confederate are not equal terms. While much of what we consider Southern Culture today stem from, or have roots in, Confederate Culture, they are not identical. That being said Kansas was an interesting place in regards to the overall slave story. Legally a free state, but technically a slave state too. It’s complicated just look up “Bleeding Kansas” to get an idea. It’s largest city isn’t even in it’s own geographic borders, Kansas City, which does actually spill into Kansas despite being in Missouri.

Why am I talking southern culture if I was a damn Yankee? It’s complicated. Before coming to Texas I never thought of myself as southern. I did, however, know people who tried to convince me Kansas was. Now Kansas as about as Midwestern as it gets while being truly it’s own thing. It shares a lot in common with the Wild West too. Kansas is unequivocally  country. Yet I don’t want to equate country with Southern either. I knew in my mind Kansas was in the Midwest but in my heart, it feels very southern when you live there. Having now lived in Kansas and Texas I can tell you they’re more alike than different.

That alone doesn’t make them southern. Again I don’t mean to make this complicated but a quick Google Search “Is Kansas Southern” will turn up countless articles debating the issue. It’s not as cut and dry as the Mason-Dixon line after all. I am not trying to equate Slave state and Free state to mean Southern and Northern either. There were slave states fighting on the side of the Union and Free states fighting on the side of the south. The civil war was absolutely fought over slavery but it wasn’t as cut and dry as North means slaver is bad south means Slavery is good.

SO what makes it feel southern when it ain’t? Culturally speaking Kansas is the Great Plains. It’s farm land. There are some ranchers in the southern and western parts of the state and it’s big cities have industry, hell the state is even an oil producing one. It’s got all the cultural earmarks of a Southern state. It has the southern hospitality down for the most part. People there by and large are deeply into country music. They are largely ultra conservative. I don’t have an answer. This isn’t an essay on is Kansas southern just an expose on the reality it feels quite so if you’ve ever lived there, there are those who claim it is and it has strong ties to the South culturally and economically speaking.

Where do I fit in? I never felt southern but at the same time I kinda did. Then I moved to Texas. I never felt out of place. I am a white country girl after all. I bleed small town. I cry whenever I get on Interstate 635 in Dallas. Cry real tears. I don’t consider myself a southern girl, per se, but my parents sure were hillbilly adjacent growing up. We never really had an identity our own either as a family. If you asked my mom she’d say we were Midwestern. Here is the thing though, the arguments for is Kansas the south are often repeated by Northerners trying to argue it ain’t the Midwest or West either. Geographically it is smack dab in the middle of the country.

I don’t want to equate country with southern either. They’re similar but unique in a lot of ways. It’s more like a feeling you get. I lived all across the Western United States from Kansas to Nebraska, Idaho, Nevada and Texas. I can tell you they each have their own feel. Kansas and Nebraska are culturally more alike than different yet the two states are as different as night and day. Nebraska doesn’t want anything to do with the South, Nebraskans are allergic to the idea of Souhernism. Not Kansas. Depending on what part of the state you are in you could mistake it for being Kentucky, Missouri or even Texas. It has rolling hills. It has desert. It has forest.

I have gotten off track. That was the point. Do I consider myself southern today? I don’t know. I consider myself an American but so do Californians and they very much ain’t southern. It’s not about lines on a map or U.S. Census data. It’s about the people. Kansas ight not think they are southern out right, I can assure you there are many who long to be considered such. I grew up in that camp if we’re being perfectly honest. I longed to move to Texas in my younger days. Never thought I would but a lot of Kansas do desire that for some reason. If you read your history books you will discover the two states have strong ties to one another.

My southern identity is as in flux as any aspect of my identity. I firmly identify as from The West. I can make a claim to that all day long. I was born in Idaho, went to high school in Nevada, drove through California cuz I was bored once. I feel very Western in my blood. Texas is a part of the West. Kansas is a part of the West. I never once doubted my Western heritage in this context Western United States.

I can’t help but wonder if Country/Western just feels Southern in a lot of ways? Again like Southern isn’t automatically Confederate, Western isn’t automatically country. They’re twined in ways I can’t describe, but completely their own thing. You can live in the rural parts of New York and consider yourself country folk. I’d be right okay with that.

I consider myself 75 percent Western, 25 percent Midwestern, 10 percent Southern, 90 percent small town, 25 percent country and 100 percent American. Don’t worry about the math, there’s overlap in some of these it’s not a recipe it’s a weird concoction I made up in my brain. Truth be told I don’t know who I am most days largely because if you look where I came from it’s hard to say I equals X. Consider me a very southern girl from Kansas.

How I remember Gilbert Gottfried

Some remember him as the voice of the bird from Aladdin. Others that weird comedian that seemed to pop up everywhere in the 90s. As for me I remember Gilbert Gottfried as the host of USA Up All Night. It was a schlocky TV series where he and a co-host would watch B horror movies as part of a mock Saturday evening horror party. It was pure entertainment.

I discovered my love and appreciation of b movies watching that show. Don’t get me wrong, saw Aladdin in theaters too, I remember all those annoying TV appearances and commercials he would pop up in. The man was an icon of my youth. It’s just the way my brain works, how I remember people sometimes.

I guess this isn’t really an expose on the life of an iconic entertainer. I’d rather save that sort of tributary writing to those more well versed in his body of work. I was affected by the news nonetheless thus here I am writing what  can about it in the only way I know how.

By unpacking my personal memories of an pop culture icon following their passing away I can reflect on the impact they had on my own life. Did I mention my love of B movies comes from this man? It goes beyond just that though. I used to rush home from school to catch the weekday afternoon airings of Aladdin the animated series. Oh and you can bet your booty I was right there along the rest of us for his appearance in Saved by the Bell Wedding in Vegas. Still, it goes back to USA Up All Night for me. Why?

We grew up mostly in small, rural towns or often out in the country far from a video store, far from the reach of cable tv. It was a rarity for us to live in a populated enough town to have a cable company when we did get that rare luxury I would latch onto all its offerings like a bee on honey. USA Network was like WGN in that we often lived in small towns that barely offered the most basic of cable packages. USA was among those channels we had access to growing up. Disney, HBO, Discovery, even Sc-Fi as it was known then were channels you had to either pay extra for, or live in bigger cities with better cable companies.

The unbeaten path is where I venture most of my life. I was a huge fan of horror as a kid. Any opportunity to watch a horror movie, be it a VHS rental or a late night cable broadcast, I took it. USA Up All Night was one of those shows that spoon fed me additional horror content at a time when my options for access to the genre were fairly limited. Thus the memories that stand out to me are watching flicks like Sorority Babes in the Slime Ball Bowl o Rama, a flick Gottfried aired one of those late nights.

That’s what is was to me. That shrill voice introducing me to schlocky horror flicks I would not have otherwise experienced. Hell it was even one of those late nights I got to watch my, then, favorite Elm Street film The Dream Child when it aired on the program. Now truth be told he wasn’t the only host, but he was the one who stood out in my memories the most.

Say what you will about the man I’ll say this, he’s going to be remembered in different ways by different people. You might remember him as an obnoxious parrot. I remember him as this weirdo that showed me horror movies when I was supposed to be in bed.

What the Transformers Autobot Blaster meant to me and why he remains important to this day

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Blaster was a Generation One Transformers action figure that turned into a radical “ghetto blaster” boom box stereo. Like his Decepticon counterpart, Soundwave, he accommodated small robots that transformed into micro cassettes. (Photo by Stephanie Bri)

Blaster is one of those Transformers I wanted really bad when I was a kid. Between him and Soundwave I was really into the whole concept of them turning into a tape deck that could house transforming tapes. I thought it was the coolest gimmick back then. I was finally able to get my hands on a Blaster action figure when I was in 6th grade. I remember trading a bunch of G.I. Joe and TMNT toys I never played with for him along with a few other pieces of Transformers. I was super happy to finally have one.

My memories of that particular Blaster were short lived not to mention somewhat tainted. I don’t remember exactly what happened to him. If memory serves me correctly I think I traded him and other toys for Sega Genesis carts, but I can’t be too certain of that. What I am certain of is the joy I felt for the brief period of time I owned one of those figures.

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Blaster stands tall for an Autobot. At nearly 8 inches in height he towers over the vast majority of other Transformers figures released around the same time. (Photo by Stephanie Bri)

I didn’t own a lot of Transformers when they were new. Even as a kid I bought or obtained most of my toys second hand. Usually I would get toys via trades with other kids or else whatever I came across at thrift stores. – Stephanie Bri

When I was growing up I was really into Transformers more than anything else. Even as obsessed as I eventually became with Star Wars, I was doubly interested in Transformers. I was always on the hunt for a new toy. I didn’t even care if it was just broken piece of a figure as long as I got more toys to add to my miniscule collection. I didn’t own a lot of Transformers when they were new. Even as a kid I bought or obtained most of my toys second hand. Usually I would get toys via trades with other kids or else whatever I came across at thrift stores.

Blaster was the first cassette type Transformer I ever owned. For that reason alone this toy holds a special place in my heart. Like the one from my childhood I bought this one used in well played with condition. I often buy my toys as cheap as I can but going for the ones that were well used by their previous owners. Since I fully intend to play with my toys even as an adult I don’t mind buying them in that state.

Blaster, like his Decepticon opposite Soundwave, remains among the toys I spend the most time paying with. As a former DJ and broadcast journalism major with an affinity for radio these two robots appeal to me on multiple levels. I can’t really describe how significant this exact toy is to me. It’s more than an action figure to me, it was a symbol of the creative freedom I learned to express through music.

When I was a kid I took my toys with me everywhere. They were my friends. I even took them to school in a duffle bag as well as on field trips. I distinctly remember one such field trip I went on with a church group where I sat upstairs by myself playing with my toys instead of joining the other kids. I remember one of the girls noticed I was alone so she came over and asked if she could play with me and my toys. I said yes reluctantly. I told her the names of all my robots. The one I held onto the most tightly was Blaster. I didn’t mind sharing my other toys except him. He was special to me.

To this day this is the third Blaster Action figure I have ever owned. Accordingly I have never owned one with a functioning tape deck mechanism nor complete with all it’s weapons and accessories. I don’t care. I just love the figure. He isn’t a piece of plastic to me. He is a childhood friend who has remained loyal to me all these years. I love him the same as my real life friends.