a squeeze to the heart

Linked in emailIn my inbox this morning was an invitation from Linked in, asking me to check for new contacts. I clicked, just to see, because it’s an important tool for networking with other professionals. As I scrolled through the contacts they recommended for me, one squeezed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Continue reading

a frustrating day in the office

It’s a frustrating day so far.  Nothing has happened that is terribly tragic. There has been nothing that I can’t handle. I just feel stressed up to my eyeballs and beyond.

There are reasons for the feelings of stress, some better than other — as if any feeling is more or less good than any other.  Feelings just are.  Feelings happen to us, and we have little control over when or how they will happen.  Once we recognize the physical and emotional symptoms of a particular feeling, then we can learn how to control our response to it. But feelings themselves are neither good nor bad.

So I feel stressed. Physically, I feel jumpy. My senses feel raw, as if my eyes and ears and tongue and nose and skin have all gotten abraded, rug-burned. Every thing that even comes near — doesn’t even have to make contact, just come close enough to be sensed – startles me and makes me jump.

I thought terribly uncharitable and self-righteous things about the co-worker across the room who plays music out loud in a cubicle environment. I fantasized about throwing his things out the window, leaving passive-aggressive notes, asking his manager to say something. Finally I just IMed him. “Hey, I’m reaching sensory overload. Could you maybe switch to headphones, please?”  He turned it down. That helped a lot. But I’m still stressed and jumpy.

I spent some time on a Zentangle, and that was good. But then I noticed emails coming in with questions I needed to respond to. And teammates needed to ask questions, and decisions needed to be made, and I had to quit treading water and jump back into the flow of work again… when what I really want is to float on my back for a while, closing my eyes, feeling the sun warming my skin,  knowing that the water is holding me up and supporting me, feeling that the world is giving me everything I need in that moment.

For now, I hold that image in my mind and heart – hear and feel and smell and taste it – until I need to start swimming again.

an open letter on behalf of my transgender wife, who is too polite to speak up

Dear one,

I am very disappointed in the email you sent to K last night.  I write not because she asked me to, but because she will not speak up on her own behalf.  I write because I believe you are a better person than the anger and spite in your email. I write because I believe you love K and want to have a relationship with her. I could be wrong, but I hope I’m not.

Fifteen months ago she shared with you something intensely personal and intimate, that she finally had come to understand who she was — who she was, not he.  Do you know how difficult that conversation was for her?  She loves you, and she respects you, and she admires you.  You matter to her a great deal, and your continuing love and good opinion matter to her.  But you didn’t respond to her, didn’t engage with her in conversation of any sort, not even to say “I don’t understand this, and I don’t agree with it, and I think you’re wrong.”  Just nothing. You rejected her.  You rejected someone who had shared with you an awareness that took decades to develop, an awareness so intimate that it is in the bedrock of her identity.  You think you are ignoring one flaw, but the truth is that you are rejecting her entire person, her entire identity, her entire self.

After months of continued silence and rejection, K sent an email to you yesterday, attempting to reconcile your relationship. She asked you to pray for my mother, who will undergo a surgical procedure in the next couple of months.  You responded with passive aggression, in a way that K would know exactly what you meant, even though you didn’t use the actual words.  You think you can call yourself innocent — “Well, I certainly didn’t say those things. I can’t help what he reads into them!” — but the truth is that this manipulation is unhealthy and unhelpful.  It is no less painful to K that you used a precisely aimed dagger instead of a broadsword in your needless attack.

What you did is an act of anger and abuse that is beneath you.  I said I’m disappointed, and that is true. I’m also angry as hell. And the real crux of the matter, the really important part?  This is not about you.

Let me say it again:

THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU.

It isn’t. K’s identity as a woman has nothing whatsoever to do with you.  Nothing.  Period.

This doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to feel uncomfortable or to struggle with her journey.  This doesn’t mean you can’t be confused or angry.  It doesn’t even mean you can’t disagree with the idea that the gender of one’s mind and heart and spirit might be different from the gender of one’s physical organs.  And it doesn’t mean that you can’t decide to just abandon your relationship with her forever.

What it means is this: You are not entitled to be a manipulative, passive-aggressive, abusive bitch to my wife.  You are not entitled to attack her with surgically-precise, “perfectly innocent” words.  You are not entitled to act with such rage and spite for someone who has made herself vulnerable to you at such a deep and intimate level, for someone who loves you and trusts you to love her.

When you commit these actions, you will experience consequences.  K’s love and admiration for you continue to tarnish and blacken.  K’s support of you dwindles further each month you continue to reject her with your silence. K’s relationship with you becomes what you have made it: rubbish, tossed aside without care or regard.

If that’s what you wanted, then congratulations! You got it!  But if you doesn’t want this — if even the smallest part of you loves K and wants to have a relationship with you — then you will need to begin a path of reconciliation with her, confronting your own anger, and doing the hard work of journeying with her.  It may not be easy, but I promise you, it’s worth it.

With love,
hedwyg

good friday

A woman walks, her head hunched,
her coat clutched tight,
on this warm April day.
Her shoes have holes; her coat is tattered;
chapped lips hide her toothless gums;
her words malformed,
she mutters, mutters, mutters.

This April day, so warm, so bright
the Christians meet inside gray stone
hearing the story of a homeless Jewish guy–
always white, always clean,
no matter what he does, no matter whom he touches–
arrested, killed, for saying too much;
he preaches, preaches, preaches.

Sunlight filters through the windows,
throwing rainbow colors onto stones,
thick gray stones dividing pretty Anglo pristine corpus
from muttering toothless homeless woman.

Forgive them, Lord;
they know not what they do.
Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.

this is not an april fool’s

When I realized I’d missed my appointment with the psychiatrist, I tried to call the office to make a new appointment.  I tried several times a day, every day, for two weeks, but never got through.  This wasn’t a complete surprise to me, as the practice has a terrible phone system that everyone there hates.

In 1997 I was diagnosed with depression.  A few months later, on January 1, 1998, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type II, which is often described as a milder form of the illness, though it really isn’t – it’s just different.  During the first two months of 1998, I was hospitalized three times, the third time following a suicide attempt.

This came to mind as I was trying to reach my doctor’s office.  What if it had been an emergency? What if I was on the verge of suicide again and needed help? What if the hospital was calling to ask about my history and meds?  I gave up with the phone, and I hit my insurance company’s website to find a different doctor.

I saw the new psychiatrist last week, and he’s a CNP rather than an MD, so it’s much easier to get onto his calendar at short notice.  Naturally he asked for history of diagnoses, so I listed them out in sequence: Depression, Bipolar 2, Depression, Dysthymia, and Depressive Mood Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. Then he asked the fun question: which one of those felt the most right to me? I hedged. I didn’t want to have to speak it out loud, so I said, “I’m not sure.”  It wasn’t quite a lie, because I’m not–and can’t be–100% sure.

The real truth is that I think I have Bipolar 2, even though I’ve been trying to avoid that diagnosis for years.  “Oh, the depressions were just from abuse” and “Oh we only documented one hypomania, but it might not have been real. I’ve always been a high achiever.” You know, covering it over.

So he coded me as Mood Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. I guess it’s okay for now. See, my meds for chronic pain include an anti-convulsant that I took as a mood stabilizer for several years over a decade again.  I’m already on 2/3 of the BP2 cocktail I used to take: SNRI, mood stabilizer, anti-psychotic. I had a love-hate relationship with the anti-psychotic. Actually, it was more of an okay-loathe relationship. It blunted the edge of the horrible suicidal fantasies that would move in and take over all available space, and then all space I was trying to use for anything else. They were awful, and the slightest gap would let one sneak in and hijack my brain. It was good to have some relief from them, but it came at the cost of all creativity. I lived in a sort of mist for the years I was on the anti-psychotic, and I was so pleased once I weaned off.  It took about six months after that to get myself back.  I’d missed me.

So yeah. I’m pretty sure I have Bipolar II.  Even more, I suspect I have a rapid cycling form.  By “pretty sure,” I mean “about 90% sure.” And by “suspect,” I mean “think, with about 60% certainty.”  Damn, damn, damn.

For now, I’m on my meds and I’m watching things.  It hasn’t been too awful so far.  If you are a praying sort, I ask you to hold me in your prayers, with all who struggle with brain disorders.

on work

Choose a job that you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

This is supposed to be inspiring, I guess, but it leaves me cold.  Because you know what? Every job has some part of it that is work, that is a slog we trudge through to get back to the fun parts.  And different people find different parts of the job to be work.  This musician may love to spend hours practicing but dread performing, and this teacher may love reading and grading essays but loathe math tests, and this software engineer may adore planning and designing and architecting but be almost completely unable to actually build the product.

So I call shenanigans.  Choose a job that you’re passionate about, with people who are supportive and fun, and help each other with the parts that are work.  Yeah, you’ll have to work.  Everybody has to work.  It’s part of the human condition. But you may be lucky enough to trade “works” with that strange coworker who loves math tests but hates grading essays.

probably not teh awsum skwad

We use Google Hangouts at work a lot.  With employees and partners working around the world – and with all of us being geeks – real-time chat is essential.  Even cooler, Hangouts keeps the history of all your chats, and you can even give a name to your Hangout and use it later.

The CTO of my company divided our technical department into three teams, hiring one manager and promoting two (including me – squee!).  The three of us, plus our Project Manager, started up a Hangout.  We used it a lot, sometimes for questions, sometimes for quick confirmations, sometimes for venting.

Eventually I said, “We really need to name this hangout.  Probably not Teh Awsum Skwad.”  Then I saw the message that said the Hangout had been renamed.  As you might expect, the Development Manager named the hangout “Probably Not Teh Awsum Skwad.”

Now, I use PNTAS all over the place.  It shows up in my calendar, on my timesheets, even in conversation (the way you’d say “pentas,” as in the plural of the prefix penta-).  Every time I write or type or say PNTAS, it makes me smile.  Because truly, we’re probably not Teh Awsum Skwad, but we sure are working our asses off to get there!