gender, sexuality, identity

gender: For a moment today I felt 100% like a girl. The moment came upon me unexpectedly, since I had been unhappy about my long hair since it grew out. The recognition came to me while thinking about Mother’s Day and how I once heard that a girl couldn’t respect a man that didn’t love his mother. At that moment, I had to agree. It was a burden to be sexual and female and although girls don’t choose to be female, that burden is theirs to carry. The weight of that realization made me realize how fragile it was to be a woman. In no way did I believe it was easy to be male in society-the weight on their shoulders to be independent and unfeeling is so great-yet it had been a long time since I’d really considered what it meant to be female. I’d been identifying as feeling agender in my mind for quite some time.

 

sexuality: Slowly this too has been something that’s been slipping my mind; I’ve been in a heteroromantic relationship for three months now. I think of myself less as bi/having gay feelings, having had asexual/aromantic feelings, or forgetting that I’m in a relationship, although they never go away. Having not experienced romantic feelings towards anyone prior to being in a relationship, I pondered what it meant that  I now felt like someone’s girlfriend more often than not. I realized that other people, too, weren’t sure what it meant to be a half of a whole, whatever their orientation was, and how silly I was to have like I was the only one who questioned relationships. Whatever form relationships took, they were hard work and unpredictable. I felt scared and out in my comfort zone, even though it was what I wanted. But what scared me most was that the female-straight side of me was as a part me of me as the agender-single side, as weak as it sometimes felt: I’d never be happy not satisfying that side of me.

 

identity: Life and identity is one big puzzle that we’re given a life time to solve, and I feel no more closer to seeing the big picture from all the pieces than I was before. But now I see that it’s okay to not understand what it’s all about, because it’s the enjoyment of the journey that counts. No matter if my hair is long or short, if I feel feminine or masculine or agender, or if I never label how I feel ever again or find the perfect label, I will be a puzzle. The pieces have already been given to me and I need all of them to be whole. Maybe one day, one day I’ll see what the picture really was, but for now, I understand that isn’t the point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Medication is Not the Easy Way Out

This is probably pretty obvious anyways, but let’s face it, as I told my friends today that I was pursuing a prescription for antidepressants, I met with a few awful comments. As I was having feelings about how I’d be better off dead already from the way my depression interpreted the stigma to mean “medication is for truly messed up people”, I was speechless. How was medication the easy way out or a sign of weakness? There was no easy way out. [And, I do believe, suicide may be the hard way out for people with intractable depression that makes then feel completely inhuman. Conversely, who is anyone to deny those that have extreme depression medication if those medications could help them feel their instincts to live again?]. Choosing to live is always hard, because life is not easy, just infinitely, quizzically rewarding.The pain that I had been dealing with nearly constantly for three weeks was making me so tired of life I was confused what I went through the day for. I think it was the cognitive changes recruited through therapy. But  nothing warranted the cloud of pain in my head that were it swapped with an open bodily wound, would make no difference in the nature of the pain. In the moment, my mind would certainly would rather die than live with it forever. Yet the brain is plastic, ever changing and never in one place forever.

Continue reading

What Counselling Taught Me About Honesty and Medication

“This is not a weak brain; this brain is strong and resilient.”

Yes, I only want to blog about art and the outdoors and positive mental health progress as asides. But lately, I haven’t been able to think about art. I would like to get back to art ASAP and here is how this will help me do that.

IMG_2536

Fragile but beautiful cups 

*If you are suffering from depression right now, and have gotten to a point where you’re simply denying how much pain you feel through other means everyday, seek help now. Thinking positive thoughts and faking till you make it sometimes just isn’t enough. Seek help.

~

I’ve thought and written so many things about depression, none of them good. But what I never did was talk. For some reason-and now I know because I simply didn’t have the language to describe why it hurt so much-I could only think about it. I never meant to shut anyone out. But now I see that’s what people feel, because I know myself how much it hurts to feel a friend shut me out. Nothing hurts more than that. I know the people who helped me think I didn’t trust them enough, because I’ve been on the receiving end, too. But the opposite is true: it’s that just having them by my side was the only way I could stand touching that pain that I told no one, not even myself.

 

I used to think depression was just losing enjoyment in what you loved and feeling numb and wanting to die. But the depression I feel is a very different thing: after working with a counsellor for a year, I feel a wide range of emotions, and I see how my feelings have a shape and root. But while I still enjoy the things that I do, even more so, and even though I don’t want to die, I am not depression-free. Counselling helps me nurture the side of me that withers when I don’t know how to deal with depression. But what it can’t do it take away enough of that pain when it gets too much. For that I’d need to lose parts of my memory permanently or, god forbid, medication.

Continue reading

Being Asexual/Aromantic is Like Being A Unicorn

heart_smallThis a reminder that sexuality is fluid, and that you’re not alone. There is always the possibility of meeting that special someone at a special point in your life that will make you “go gay for them”, not because you never realized you were gay, but because everyone’s sexuality is fluctuating based on relationships and not artificial categories. I’m still waiting for someone to make me sexual, by the way. EDIT: Strangely enough I was right; being in a relationship “unlocked” my sexuality (what is known as demi-sexuality.) This in no way invalidates the feelings I had prior to my relationship, as if my boyfriend had not approached me, it is possible I’d be “asexual” for much longer-theoretically forever if I never met anyone that liked me or that that I liked back. 

 

I’ve never been hit by lightning, but the closest thing I’ve come to it is when I realized I was asexual/aromantic.

 

IMG_0298

According to the internet, a black ring on the middle right hand finger is a symbol of asexual pride.

A lot of people have commented to me:

“You’re so naive.”
“You’re so innocent.”

“You’re immature.”

“You’re modest.”

I had heard it all before. Up until last week, I didn’t think much about it. I always thought that because art and words and nature and sensations were so much more interesting than relationships, I just naturally gravitated to speaking about those things instead of romance and sex. That wasn’t weird; that was me. It was something that as I grew up I loved more and more about myself.

I had always thought of myself as special because of the special feelings those things gave me that sex and romance didn’t. It was fine that I was different; I was luckier because I had these special feelings that other people didn’t. I wanted all my life to find someone who cared about art and things more than romance like I did. I never did.

As I grew up, my friends wanted to date. I never did. I wanted to spend more time with them doing artistic things, or talking about that abstract, higher spiritual connection, the idea of which made me feel intensely good.

I wasn’t a special unicorn and there were other people like me.

It was by accident that I learned my uniqueness had to do with my sexual orientation. My friends and I were discussing random things, as usual. I had been out as a bisexual for one month (demi for maybe two weeks), and it was only natural that I engaged in conversations with boys about girls, except that what I wanted was different. As usual, my dreams and desires were different-cuddling, touching, out away from society in nature, not caring who saw our intimate moment. While I admired their ideals of the female form, I just wanted to be with someone, irregardless of their body, irregardless of words and kisses.

I had an aha moment: I didn’t want sex. My end goal, if I were to envision utopia, stopped short of sex. In fact, sex would ruin it.

Continue reading

Things Counselling Taught Me About Art

The single most important thing I learned is that your art is not defined by your life. (https://lawnchairair.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/vow/: I wrote this after a very scary panic attack that continued to impact my life for months, confused about how to turn my negative, fearful feelings around.)

That’s when I realized how important art was to me. I had been bugged by the thought of art as wish fulfillment and emotional catharsis (Last year, I forayed into Photoshop compelled by the image of a snowboarder riding the wall of the Lonsdale loop, which expresses both my limited experience and how I limited my vision to my experience.) The idea made me feel angry and jaded, because it made me think of all that I didn’t have, but it was really a reflection of my inability to overcome mental blocks than a true expression of what I thought about art. After all, I knew for sure that I hadn’t created anything that made me feel as if I was creating genuinely and originally for a very long time. When I stumbled upon the helpfulness of counselling and having a public blog (as a opposed to a private journal), I rediscovered that art is the expression of visions and ideas; while the best artists are invisible, they incorporate their identity into the photo but codifying it in such a way that it is inseparable from art. Art is creation that belies life, not just pretty turns of phrases or pleasing images (a feeling that makes the world seem boring and trite when you aren’t able to overcome mental blocks of any kind). And moreover, you don’t need to write or draw or create based only on your life experiences-you don’t need to even know something to create something with it. All you need is an attraction on a deeper level and general understanding and love for your craft to incorporate that element of the thing which speaks to you. That’s what makes art unique. That’s why a million artists can look at a sunset and paint it a million different ways. Because you aren’t replicating something; you’re creating something new out of your understanding and attraction to an inspiration.

Counselling has been instrumental to this. Although I sought to improve my emotions, what I really found was that emotions weren’t something I change. What did change though was the perception of the hold I saw emotions had on my life. Counselling peeled that back, lessening the haze from overpowering firing of emotions and allowing me to hear the quiet tune of outside sources of inspiration. It eradicated the fog of emotions that had always hovered over the blank canvas in my mind when I wanted to make something and instead of having my thoughts train wreck, directed by emotional lows and highs, I parked my train of thought and set to work without its distracting rumble. I have rarely, and only in certain periods of my life, really created without mood disorders. These times I can pinpoint clearly in my mind because they were the times I was most proud of my creations.

Another thing counselling has helped me do is broaden my perception of people. I don’t know how true this holds for everyone else, but only understanding people similar to you, or being able to identify with only certain types as a result of limited empathy or thought about the wide range of human emotions is one way that we fail to connect with broader humanity. Although we might use our highs and lows and map them onto other people’s lives, the only true way to understand is to get multiple perspectives of one’s own emotions and generalize that multilayered approach onto the unmappable, but fathomable realm of human experience. Everybody hurts the same way, even if their situations are extremely different from yours. A highly trained and successful person, brother, mother, 80 year old grandma in South Africa or Canada or Iran, all hurt the same-as evidenced by the non discrimination mood disorders have on all peoples and our ability to universally understand original texts. And because that hurt is so universal, there is no reason for you to have to write about your own family struggles just because that’s the kind of hurt you know-that hurt can also be applied to any of the above people with the same genuineness because we all feel the way. Art is art because it includes; if it excludes everybody then one needs to work on their craft. But no one doesn’t have the proper life experience to make art.

I rambled on. But in writing it I articulated some ideas that I hadn’t even been sure of. Good things can really come out of life even in trying times-not as a result of mood disorders or hardships, but as a result of perseverance. It hurt when I couldn’t produce art, but to regain it reminds me that even if mood disorders can’t be erased, they can be a very small part rather than a consuming one.

 

 

Whistler

lift_pictureAfter Whistler I can definitely appreciate the apres “lifestyle”. I long scoffed at the party-harder-than-you-ski, buy-even-though-lift-tickets-made-you-broke culture of vibrant ski towns like Whistler. And it’s no wonder that I stuck to my guns for so long-I thought they were out of my budget. Well, a night full of lights and $5 dinner at a local and tourist haunt later I was hooked on crazy notion that to understand a crazy culture you must live the culture. And that living that culture in itself is a life – one too wacky and too wild to live vicariously.

We hit the easiest slopes but in no way were they diminutive-they snaked down from near the top of the mountain (Easy Out) to the very bottom, where crowds thinned out. Higher up I saw that lines at lifts were longer, probably all the more advanced skiiers and riders waiting their turn for fresh pow. The high tech RFID gates, operating with radio frequency chips to read chips in cards in our pockets, heightened the grandiose experience. After sorting out rentals, we found out that a 3pm last-lift time wasn’t enough. We forwent lunch and took a last lift up to wind down the mountain nearly 45 min later.

During this time, I had a lot of time to contemplate how hard it is to have fun while going slowly on flat ground but also the value of suspending old friendships. I was enjoying the slopes with my high school friends, a dream I had since I graduated a few years back-now it was finally happening. What did I think? Well, for one we were no longer at the same level, but on the other, I wished that we had gone harder. I wasn’t being my crazy-self-best, because I didn’t have adrenaline pumping through my system, and I expect my friends were focussed on picking their way elegantly down a world class mountain. But although we were on various levels of aptitude, the experience was the same: we were together on a mountain, doing something that was technically a treat, even though now it was more of a same-old for me.

Unfortunately, the 3PM last lift came around too soon and we sped down the long, not-too-fast section back to Whistler village. On a best friend’s recommendation, we hit El Furny’s, a character-filled restaurant and pub with $5 food. If I wasn’t already enamoured with the price, I was smitten by their portion sizes and quality. We all ordered different things but we were all satisfied with our choices. Best of all, the restaurant was populated by mountain creatures of all manners coming out of the cracks as the night descended and revived skiers and weary travellers that were dragging their feet. There was of course an over representation of folks who had came out banged up after the day, overdressed folks (in Macklemore like fur no less), underdressed folks (just kidding-not that we saw anyways) and spirited music.

Love it or lump it.

*The focus of the day was to take photos of my friends; I focussed very little on landscape shots

peak2peak2slopedetail2

Continue reading

counselling/breaking the cycle

This was how I started when I wrote freely:

I said I don’t have depression, but probably I do. I just don’t know what it is anymore.

I’ve just gotten so good at masking with anxiety. Nothing will change my skewed perception of reality except me and I haven’t figured out yet until now that I can choose to importance to place on events in my life. I need to admit that to counselling so we can work on that.

It’s like when I was younger and had just started snowboarding and thought it doesn’t matter if I want to do it now because my future self felt assured that I’d be happy about it.

But I’m no longer that person, just living minute by minute, second by second. I just want to escape the pain that I feel. 

I lose something every time I go out without my parents’ permission. It’s an expensive habit. Losing segments of memory to avoid feeling guilty and losing things that I’ve somehow pinned my guilt and depression onto. Thinking I can physically throw away the physical representations of my very non physical and very real illness.

It’s debilitating. I didn’t chose to forget things. When I was twelve my parents told me I was worthless when I lost just one item and repeated it to me for years and I’ve believed them. So now I forget things to get rid of that guilt for proving them wrong, that I can keep ahold of things, feelings, grades, everything…

I never made the choice to be someone who loses things. I just felt them slip away and fell when I tried to grab them. 

I chose to love by listening and was hurt by it. I didn’t chose to get hurt. I’m tired of never loving to avoid being hurt again. 

I only filled out anxiety when I applied for special accommodations but depression is the one thing I fear the most. I fill the silences with anxiety and hope I find meaning through reaction instead of inaction. That makes me think I’m going backwards or not moving at all. How can I still be depressed or anxious if I’m working on it, have been working on it once every two weeks for three months? 

I hope my future self is glad I put the work in to not be depressed and be a nearly-normally functioning individual with bouts of irrational moods. I want my future self to be proud that I put in the work that I do in the moments when I’m unsure I matter. When I’m sure I messed up and disappointed everybody. I want my future self to be assured that I’ll be happy about putting the time into really convincing myself my feelings may be real, but that doesn’t mean they are true.

 

Because they aren’t true.

 

See how that changed? I shifted my emotions when I stepped back.

 

And that’s an example of my actually writing out thoughts and then making an effort to become conscious of what I’m feeling and asking “Is what I’m thinking true?”

It’s an example of breaking the cycle of self perpetuating thoughts.

If you look back at journals that I used to write, thoughts never ended on a note of closure. This is because I lacked the proper tools to stop errant reactions to thoughts. They self perpetuated not out of their own weakness but because you need to structure to your reactions to your feelings as much as you need structure to your life. This might come normally for most of your life but when it doesn’t know that it is just a skill that can be learned that has multiplying results. You can’t not benefit from breaking the cycle of any life impacting emotional reactions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Depression/Anxiety

Alright. Let’s try this again.

The discussion on living with depression and/or anxiety.

First of all: it’s healthy if this makes you cry. Crying is both hard with depression and overcrying is easy with anxiety.

No matter how long you have depression or anxiety though, its greater devastating effects are not a reflection of your personality.

Contrary to common sayings, we cannot change our thoughts. They come up to us out of unconscious, much the way stories and art do. But what we can change is how we react to out thoughts. Say we are predisposed over time through our surroundings, previous reactions and actions to think negatively. These negative thoughts aren’t the target, and changing them often leads to suffocating, burying, and ultimately repressing our utmost sadnesses. That’s wrong. The remedial reaction is to acknowledge these feelings, to feel them, as deeply as possible, and to finally hold them at an arm’s length and say, This feelings are real, but that doesn’t mean they are true. Feeling blue? Allow yourself to feel blue, and contrarily, you will not feel extremely depressed but relieve some of that fear from repressing unwanted feelings and finally feel better than you have, feel normal again.

 

I also found that being “messed up” is less conductive to creative work than I originally thought. I think that’s because the prevalence of mood disorders among creative people is so great that we mix the chicken with the egg. Creative people are highly in tune with fluctuations in emotions (hence their ability to depict them), so it’s easy to get sucked into these emotions and mix those lows and highs and consequent creative lows and highs with each other. Also, art is a way creative people deal with negative events in their lives. A depressed or anxious person will create better art after they’ve gotten counselling or other types of help.

 

Basically, have hope. You are worth so much more than your mood disorder says you are.

 

Elfin Lakes Yet Again

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It’s time to let the sleeping dogs lie.

I’m not sure what resulted in it, but last year, instead of wanting to go new places, I just wanted to revisit the ones that personally challenged me. My brain wasn’t at peace. I wanted to sleep easy at night.

Like a smattering of rainbow coloured rocks, my mind was all over the place, yet stagnant in one spot. I thought I might make progress, but really I wanted stunting myself. I was afraid, even though in my mind the mantra was face your fears. I was not facing my fears. My fears were that I wouldn’t be capable of tackling new stuff if I had already fallen behind on the stuff I’d already attempted. I had shortcoming I had to make up for. In that way I lost sight of myself.

Still, the mind is a world as well as a galaxy. It couldn’t exist undisturbed in its own microcosm forever. My cousin came over. I realized how boring it was when I showed her around the same places I’d been, to always stick to the same place. Two weeks ago when I led a group of people to Elfin Lakes who were there for their first time, I felt the heaviness of being the only one who had already been there 4 or so times. There was newness waiting for me as it was waiting for them. Why didn’t I go get it? What was the point of capturing a moment that had already happened and I have already become accustomed too, other than out of fear?

Yes, I have anxiety; anxiety is not an excuse. I have the medicine to save me, and that medicine is action, courage. Who would I be to sit there, suffering, when the medicine is right next to me? Without belittling how hard it can be, I acknowledge how hard it is for everyone all the time to try new things.Hard is normal. Fear is normal. Paralyzing fear of any hardship is not normal. This is what anxiety is and although people might look at my multiple trips to Elfin and say, Wow, persistence, it’s more like Wow, time to move on. And it is. It is time to move on.

We found our way to Opal Cone, played Cards Against Humanities with 10 people, drooled when we saw mountain bikers come up, and saw the sunrise. Everybody brought drinks and shared chocolate and dinners, even though it wasn’t in the trip agenda and by the end of the night it had all disappeared. Only one person froze from an inadequate sleeping bag. It was too cushy of a campsite is my only real complaint. Seriously. That might be my problem. Not being very fit but finding accessible campgrounds too cushy. I need the wild.

Thanks to all the amazing people that made this trip a big one.

IMG_3732 (1)

Pre-Trip Post: Wedgemount Lake Revisited

That’s crazy. It’s been 10 days since I’ve posted (and that last post was so half hearted.) I’m a journal writer and everyday that I don’t write/think about writing a journal is a day I’m not plugging into my emotions and going to sleep knowing I understand something a little better.

Still, it’s been busy, so even if I did process everything, it’d take a long while to slowly digest everything. My life has been really sedentary, and also predictable. There hasn’t been any adrenaline rush chases, no hikes with interesting strangers, no escapes by myself into the woods. These formed a big part of my spiritual life, so what of being deprived of these things? For one, I supposed it still possible to pursue this lifestyle, since I’ve alternated between staying home and completing work and staying home and staring tiredly and blankly into a computer; for another, it’s really hard to be calm after a great day meeting new people and settling down sometimes. Or maybe not. Anyways the fact still stands that for the 1.5 months since school started, my life has been predictably sedentary with the same people and not at all like my life before, where I chased the unpredicted.

Why have I been doing that? Well, I’ve been trying to be more successful at school. News flash: It’s not really working. I’ve crapped up some marks, royally. I’ve only gotten one good mark (Damn.) So what have I been doing with the 100’s of hours that I’ve been at home, when I’m not at school or in transit and without a job? Well, I’ve been trying to calm down with some success. In the process, I’ve inadvertently not reflected much, or felt flat most of the time that I did. I felt excited for maybe so few times that I can count it on one hand. Anyways: what did work: just slogging through work, contentedly. Keeping up the morale and just doing it. What hasn’t worked: caffeine. Lack of sleep. Trying to work through my emotions at 1 am instead of 8pm. Am I still the same person? At the end of the day, that’s the question that resonates within me and scares me the most. I don’t want to be some highly efficient but unfeeling machine that has emotions but not spontaneous and volatile ones. I am spontaneous and volatile and in repressing them, I’m making them even more volatile to self express as they please.

Anyways. I thought I had my eggs in one basket at the beginning of the term. It’s now halfway through; the real tests are about to come. I’ve not read most of my course readings; I will be tested on these in a few days and I only have 2 of those days to study. Wish me luck. If I’ve made it, I can do it. But tomorrow: Wedgemount Lake. At Rock Party I scarily lost all motivation to move and didn’t rock climb. My limbs were limp and heavy simultaneously; the lack of spontaneity and deadness of reaction (I tried so hard to be more “stable”) put me in death lock. So here I am; regaining that spontaneous fervour that I hate for ruining my plans but apparently can’t live without. I am more stable when I’m unstable. Now let’s see how I attack next week, which will be the crucial defining week of my life: Literally everything about this year rests on my performance next week.

Oh, perhaps I should actually mention Wedgemount: the third backpacking trip I went on last year that I survived due to pure adrenaline. The hike up was hard, I recall, but not bad because I had done the grouse grind that week (whereas the only exertion I did this week was run 30 seconds to catch the bus). But the scramble up Mt Cook? That was brutal. I lost all motivation like I did on that rock I was climbing and I felt depressed beyond belief. Now how can one destroy that feeling? Maybe you can’t. Maybe the only thing you can do is make enough meaning in your life to embrace every single challenge and fear. But here’s my time to try it again and see if I got any braver. Maybe next spring I’ll go climbing again (right now I’m too afraid of being depressed like I did climbing Rock Party) and it won’t be depressingly hard, either.

And there was a bite in the air a few days ago. I remember last year when I wrote a post; I skipped class to go to grouse. I wouldn’t do that now. Why? Not because I don’t value the chill in the air, but because that part of my spontaneity was destructive or disruptive. I didn’t do well at all last term, and moreover I always spent that time by myself. It was like I was running away and I did feel guilty afterwards. Eventually. It was awesome and cool and lovely to be able to run away from adult responsibilities but everything has a time and place. The more I ran away (even if I enjoyed myself) the less I would be suitable to hold down a job and not resent the work day, etc. In fact, I actually did learn that through my unpaid internship. As crappy as being unpaid is, I owe everything to it: it helped me sit down and be calm and be normal. Being a functioning person is essential to using those academic skills you learned in class and the only way forward to future days where you can just take the day off work and enjoy it when the weather has something to offer.

I’m happy to be twenty one. I’m happy I haven’t screwed everything up yet and am still here to fix what I did.

PS It’ll be cold up there. In writing this pre trip I noticed that I feared a lot less about food or gear and thought more about the experience. I do worry about gear but by context I know the trips that I do are so low-level hardcore that I didn’t worry about my abilities. With a calm head on your shoulders and the essentials, you’re bound to be okay on such a short trip. It’s like a walk in the park, just longer and harder.