A life worth living, pt 2

Tonight I auditioned for a play. I have never been in a play before. Regardless of whether I get the part, it went really well. The play is about loneliness in the LGBTQ community. The judges responded well, and I felt elated afterwards. This is making me think I might want to try acting and/or public speaking again.

It’s funny how you can be shy but still love having an audience.

Working on DBT skills was a little difficult today. I was doing really well yesterday when working at Joey’s company. I did a repetitive task, for several hours, just losing myself in the activity. Today I was more distracted, but that’s OK. I am impressed that I really threw myself into acting, without dissociating.

I do think my people skills are getting better. My friend told me the other day at coffee that I seem much more present. That meant a lot.

Anyway! That’s all for tonight. Peace.

A mental health post

It seems like I am always acquiring more mental illness labels. This time, it’s psychosis. Of course, it was drug induced. I was smoking marijuana daily. But I think I was still smoking less than a lot of people do. I think I have a predisposition. I read today of a schizophrenia spectrum. I find that really interesting.

I have exhibited some traits of schizophrenia throughout my life. It got really bad this summer, with a combination of pressure and marijuana over-usage. My official diagnosis was, again, Depression with Psychotic Features. It’s a bit embarrassing to talk about, but a lot of it centered on the release of the movie England is Mine and Morrissey’s new album, Low In High School. I avoided these things for a while, because I think I had a subconscious sense that Morrissey is a trigger for my psychosis. I wonder if other people experience this… It makes sense, because so much of his work is about mental illness. But its always been kinda weird, how I have felt like he was singing to/ for me. Other people describe this. I guess it was more like, he was singing an opera of my life. Like our experiences were linking up.

I fall into a line of thinking where I believe he and I are spiritually related. And this summer, when my life and relationship was in flux, there was the new album. And a movie, which I was quite convinced was informed by my books.

I remember, at it’s worse, I was very high, standing in my room with my partner. I had just played “I Wish You Lonely,” I believe. And I said, trembling, “I think he read Refuse, and I think he liked it, and I think it influenced him. And I think he wants to meet me. And I think I am going to finally be in a band and my books will sell and I am going to be rich.”

This wasn’t what prompted my partner to suggesting I be hospitalized. It was when I announced I was leaving, and I wouldn’t say where. We called my doctors. Everyone agreed I needed to be hospitalized….except me. I thought everyone was overreacting. I was also being pretty abusive and accusing others of being crazy.

All through hospitalization, I still held out hope that Morrissey and his band and people were coming for me. I also believed I was on the government watch list…and something to do with Chelsea Manning…and that they would be helping my family and I flee the U.S.

I still believed I was going to meet Morrissey when I went to see him perform in Philadelphia. My friend had bought my front row tickets, and I was going to try to give him Refuse for the third time. I wrapped it and included a neclace. Unfortunately, Morrissey cancelled.

I still was convinced this had something to do with me.

My anti-psychotics were raised. I started to see how foolish I was being. I realized how horrible and paranoid I had been about people in my life. I also lost a great deal of my creative drive.

What is it about Morrissey’s music that has this weird effect on certain people?

I have now accepted that there was no plan for us to meet up. But the malady lingers on. Not psychosis. Depression. Unemployment. The meds make me sleep way too much. I attend classes that are supposed to help me, and I think they are. “Mindfully living with depression.” “Dialectical Behavioral Therapy” ( a more Buddhist, feminist approach to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Maybe even “Help with Employment” eventually. I am lucky that my partner has supported me through all this.

I miss marijuana on a daily and nightly basis. It’s like grief. It made me happy in a way that I hadn’t experienced since childhood. I hope one day, I can smoke again in a safe, controlled way.

Now, my days are mostly empty. This is the most I’ve written in awhile that I’ve felt pretty good about. I’m still in Ithaca. I have shelter. I have food. I have my cats, and some crappy old instruments, a computer, and notebooks. I have some friends that I am trying to get to know better. It looks like we will be here for awhile.

I enjoy yoga. I’m not drinking or smoking. I’m also going to addiction related programming.

I lost my therapist and got a new one. This was hard, but probably for the best. I had come to see her as more of a very close friend. Still, I grieve the loss.

I’m not really able to get into any project. I’m hoping that changes soon. I’m trying to lessen my negative self-talk about being a burden for my family, etc. It doesn’t fix anything. It will get better in time.

I am having lately some horrible conundrum of gender identity. I begin to feel I want to be feminine and lay off T some, and dress differently. But then it switches. Call it DID, being bigender…I don’t know. It’s saddening.

Anyway. This is a blog entry. I feel good getting it out. It makes me hopeful more will come soon.

Ithaca, New York

It’s been four whole months since I wrote on this blog. A lot has happened. We are no longer full-timing in our RV. In fact, Serenity is in Florida with Joey’s dad currently. So what happened? Well, after 9 months away, Joey was really missing our friend Erica who lives in Syracuse. I was also feeling lonely and drawn back to the east. I was feeling the desire to settle somewhere, and maybe part-time RV if we could make it financially feasible. We cut our Pacific Northwest exploration short, and hope to get back someday. We cut across the country, from Oregon to Washington to Montana. We pretty much just drove and slept. The Montana mountains and forests were pretty. Then it was on to North Dakota. The Badlands were also visually intriguing. I saw another buffalo when we stopped one night. It was all a blur, because we traveled cross country in about a week. Minnesota turned to Wisconsin to Indiana to Ohio without much excitement. Then we were suddenly back in New York State, and that was weird.

We ended up back on the west side of Syracuse, staying in Erica’s mom’s driveway. It was a stressful few weeks. Joey had to set up his tent and workshop in the front yard. I felt really lost. It was great seeing Erica and other people again, but everything felt really uncertain and I felt a little trapped. I knew very quickly that I didn’t want to be in Syracuse. Joey was starting to get really depressed, and he still is. The constant stress and work of travelling apparently held it off for him, but now it’s front and center. I was also struggling. We were looking for places to live, maybe for 6 months, in the general Syracuse region. I saw my therapist. I vented a lot about the difficulties of RV life and my fears for the future. I casually mentioned how I wished we could move to Ithaca, because that was probably our best option as queer, trans, and aspie people in Central New York, and I had some internet friends who lived there. My therapist asked me why I hadn’t told Joey this, and I realized I should. He was like, “That’s funny, I was thinking the same thing.” So we started searching for apartments.

We’re about an hour and a half south of Syracuse, but it’s a completely different world. It certainly isn’t perfect. It’s a very white, artsy, hippy, liberal college town. It’s still Central New York. But I feel way safer here, and there are resources. I have a new therapist who is queer and great, and an advocate for my disabilities, and it’s all free. I started a queer writer meetup group and I feel like I’m making some friends and slowly building community. Community seems really important to people here. And there are a lot of trans people. Actually, I feel happier here than I did anywhere else so far.

I realized I need people in my life that I see regularly and who I care about. More than just Joey and Drew and the cats. It’s not enough just to meet passing strangers and do readings in cities once a month. If I’m ever going to live my life to the fullest, I have to get close to people. I’m a lot better than I was when we left Syracuse. I feel like I’ve clarified my boundaries. I’m still super anxious around people, but it’s getting better. I think Ithaca is a good fit.

It’s funny, because my original plan was to go to Ithaca College. I was 17 or 18, and I thought it would be perfect for me. My dad communicated that it was too expensive. I was not a great high school student so I didn’t get aid, and this was before he left on disability (or whatever happened. Early retirement? I’m not sure.) Anyway, I got pretty much no financial aid. I was a traumatized kid too focused on trying to survive and transition to really care, so I let my dad handle most my college finances and decisions (for better and mostly worst). I went for SUNY Purchase, and eventually dropped out. And hey, I never would have written my first book if I hadn’t gone there. And I got more familiar with New York City…a little. Beyond that, I’m not sure I got anything positive out the experience. I can’t help wondering what would have happened if I went to Ithaca from the start. The queers I’ve met here have seemed stable. Of course, I’m older now. But it’s interesting to wonder about.

We have a tiny apartment we can’t really afford on the Southside of Ithaca. It’s quite convenient to the Commons/Downtown area, which means I can bike places. We’re near a Wegmans. I can go to cafes, which is where I am today. I signed up and got a scholarship to take two classes a semester at the Community School of Art and Music. The queer writers group meets once a week. I am biking distance to water falls (which are mostly dried up from drought) and a swimming spot on Cayuga Lake. My needs are being better met. Joey’s business is doing better, even if he is really depressed. My book sales are pretty much the same.

Tomorrow I have an appointment my lawyer and advocate to talk about DSS and the stupid internal hearing for “intentional fraud” that I’m going to have to probably go to. They want $3,000. It’s total bullshit and bullying. I did nothing wrong. I will be glad when the meeting is over, and gladder when I just have SSI and don’t have to even deal with this. It’s been super stressful for me. I also have to see about getting foodstamps and temporary assistance while I’m here in Tompkins County. I have a meeting for that tomorrow too, which my advocate is also coming to.

Anyway, we have the apartment for a year. I really don’t know what’s happening. There’s been some talk of moving to Canada. I don’t know how serious that is, or if I really want it. But we are here at least until next summer. We may take a winter RV trip if we can.

I’ll post again when I’ve got something to say. There have been trips to the Adirondacks, New York City, and Buffalo that I have not covered. Oh well. Until next time. Thanks for reading my thoughts.

Catastrophes averted (Southern California)

This month can best be described as “catastrophes averted.”

First, my reading in San Francisco went great. After that, and a second reading in Oakland, we headed south to Wilderness Trails RV Park, in Menifee. We stayed there for two weeks. The first week we met up with a friend Joey made in Arizona. And then…Mittens went missing.

Mittens is our tortie/calico/polydactly kitty. She is usually more timid and serious than Snowflake. She always looks grumpy, but she is a healer. She is drawn to people in pain and soothes them. She’s also incredibly intelligent. She got off her leash at night and went missing for three nights. We put up flyers and handed the out all over the campground. People were very nice and helpful- we were actually surprised. We made friends with a woman, her 16 year old son, and their dog, who searched as hard, if not harder, than we did. When we finally found her, she was in the RV storage area, hiding under a rig that looked a lot like ours. Same year and model. I’m telling you: smart kitty.

I’m still thrilled to have her back. With all the strays and coyotes around, after all that time I really thought she was gone. It was horrible. She is a member of this family. I couldn’t imagine pulling out of the park without her.

After that, we planned to boondock in the Santa Barbara mountains. First we visited family in Santa Barbara. When we headed into the hills, the roads were not good. The forest ranger website said they were…but they were not. They were steep and covered in rocks, with no way to turn around for miles. Our engine gave out on a particularly steep incline. We managed to get it to start again and up to a safe area, where we left the car and many belongings, to reduce weight. It looked like it might storm, which would have been very hazardous, so we took the RV back down the hill and into Carpinteria. Drew has an aunt there, and we parked on the road by her apartment.

The next week was a mess of getting the RV repaired, retrieving the car, staying at motels, having the cops called on us (long story), dealing with insurance, and general hectic days.

But, we have our home back and it works fine. The step got busted, beyond repair. Everything else is fine. Now, we are at a park in Acton once more. That’s north of Los Angeles. We are still hanging around here until my conference at the end of March. Then we are getting to Oregon as soon as possible. We are all ready to be done with California for a while.

It’s been 6 months on the road, by the way, and nearly a year since I started this blog. Not bad.

 

California at last

Currently camping/staying in: Morgan Hill, Paicines, soon San Francisco…it’s complicated. But we are in California! Yes.

I started writing this entry as a reflection on my life since I’ve been with Joey. We realized early in our relationship that we wanted to move out west. So did his son, Drew. I wanted to give you a sense of what we had to get away from in Syracuse…but I’m realizing that would take another whole book on my part. Suffice to say, Syracuse was slowly killing us for multiple reasons. We had our best friend and family-by-choice, Erica. And while that was huge…we still had to leave. The original plan was to get to California. The idea for the RV came later (though it had been a longtime dream of Joey’s, one that he had almost actualized in his previous marriage).

And so, here we finally are, in California. I suppose I could say “back in California.” I spent a lot of my childhood school breaks in San Diego, because my dad traveled for work. I also lived out here a few years ago, on my own (see my most recent book, Show Trans). But for the most part I’ve been an upstate New Yorker all my life. We travelled from coast to coast. Within a week I swam in the Atlantic and Pacific ocean. It’s pretty mind boggling.

There’s an Instagram feed on the side of my blog now, if you want to see pictures. I’m finding that’s way less hassle then trying to insert them in these text entries.

Since I’m not going to reflect on how we got here– not at this time– I am going to focus on the here and now, and just what that is. Well, first actually, I will give a brief list of what has occurred the past week or so. We traveled to Jerome, AZ one evening, briefly: an artist colony in the hills. We stayed at a Cracker Barrel en route. We spent one night off of Ventura Highway, waking up to an empty beach on a weekday for sunrise. That was amazing. That’s when it all really hit me that I am here and this is life.

There has been a lot of low times. A lot of stress. I still feel depressed, often. This has been hard work. It is not a full-time vacation. And we are not rich, or even really secure yet…

But the cats seem happy. Drew has wi-fi. I’m in California. Joey’s about to have surgery in San Francisco on the 20th, which is both stressful as hell but going to be so good for him in the long run and make his life easier.

And I’m sippin’ coffee and vaping in my camp chair, putting off a little longer my plans to make today productive if possible. It’s 9 am here, and skies are blue and the air is perfect. Yep. This is the life for me.

The Southwest

The past few weeks have been a blur. That’s sort of cliché to say, but it’s accurate. I can’t believe how far we’ve travelled. We went from Syracuse, down through the southeast, and then headed west. We’ve been through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and now Arizona. We’ve been doing a lot of boondocking, over-nighting in Walmart parking lots and such to save money, but also staying at some lovely parks.

Some of the more memorable moments would have to be:

  • Swimming in the warm ocean waters at Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Virginia in mid September. I love bodies of water and swimming so, so much. I’m trying to find a way to swim several times a week.
  • The wonderful audience I had for my reading at the LGBT Center of Hamptons Road in Norfolk, Virginia. It was a support group for trans folks and I read an except of my first book about the struggles, limitations, and ultimately beauty of human connection at a trans support group. So it was pretty perfect. People loved it, and I sold a lot of books. Then we stayed for the group. It was a much more positive experience than I had in Syracuse at such groups. It was really good for both Joey and me, I think. We sometimes lose our hope for community.
  • Staying at a camp in North Carolina where we had to literally be the only campers without at least one confederate flag on our RV. Yikes.
  • Things started getting really, really beautiful awesome when we arrived at Caprock Canyon in Quitaque, Texas. That’s when it started to feel like the West. They have a herd of buffalo there! I seriously fell in love with them. They were…adorable and ferocious herbavores. I. Love. Them. The canyons were also beautiful as hell.
  • At Caprock Canyon we were able to go out into the canyons and find the perfect spot to view the lunar eclipse. You can read my partner Joey’s story about that here.
  • Albuquerque was pretty cool. We stayed in the parking lot of a casino for free. But they had good gluten free and veggie options for us at local grocery stores.
  • Joey and I jumped in “the Blue Hole” which is a very small but deep swimming hole in New Mexico. The water was super cold and clear. It was fun.
  • Last night we stayed at Meteor Crater RV Park in Arizona, and now we are at another park, south of Flagstaff. It’s beautiful here too. Tomorrow we are going to find rivers and swimming holes.

Let’s talk about my state of mind. How am I feeling? Good question, self. I feel like I’m finally living a life I want. I used to always wake up every morning, feeling like today wasn’t the day. Like I was waiting for something to make me happy. I don’t have the feeling so much anymore. That’s seriously profound for me.

I’ve struggled a lot with mental health, as a trans/queer survivor of repeated sexual, physical, verbal and emotional abuse throughout my life. That struggle has included a lot of depression. I don’t feel depressed right now. I’m having some PTSD stuff still. Nightmares. Flashes of unpleasant childhood memories. Things piecing themselves together, slowly. I’m still very shy and anxious around people outside my family and my cats. I’m even anxious around Drew a lot of the time. But I feel like I’m living something worthwhile. There’s a lot of practical stuff that needs to be done, so I haven’t had all that much energy for creativity. I say that, but it’s not exactly true. I’m just hard on myself. Still, I feel like these adventures will inspire wonderful things. Art. I have to be patient with myself.

On a side note, I’m actually making more money from booksales than ever. The future is ever unpredictable, but I think it’s gonna be alright. This is surprisingly an affordable way to live so far. I’m privileged to have Joey, who can afford to make some investments upfront. That’s been the key. But it’s seeming to work out so far, for all of us. I’m not losing money.

Bottom line: I’m happy and hopeful. Pictures forthcoming. What I’d really love is to just install a stream of them from my instagram show up on the main page, and then use these entries for text . Maybe there’s a widget for that. I’ll investigate.

Anyway. The stars are out. The air is warm but arid and pleasant. Goodnight, readers.

Buffalo, NY

We are now staying in Western New York, not far from Buffalo. This RV park we ended up at is kinda awesome. I definitely prefer this to the last state park we stayed at. It’s definitely kitschy, but unpretentious. There is a petting zoo, and a small lake with swimming and canoe rentals, a mini golf course. It’s been an amusing stay, with the background sounds of the occasional goat or donkey. We are also near a firing range, so the occasional gunshot goes off.

Quick quote: “I just realized something. Goats are kind of like dogs that don’t lick you.” -Drew

People here drive weird old trucks and golf carts around. There’s a redneck vibe, and I definitely got a weird looks from people when Joey and I walked the cats this morning. But no one has been outright hostile.

I have wifi! I worked most of the morning. I’ll probably go skateboarding and for a dip in the lake again soon. I’m feeling pretty content. This is still a big adjustment, but so far I am happy.

Supposedly “LGBT-friendly” campsites are (gasp) just catered to wealthy cis gay people!

Gross…. I’m doing research on “LGBT” friendly RV stuff, and all these camps are so sex-segregated and really just “LG” friendly. It’s all like GAY MALES ONLY. GAY FEMALES ONLY. Probably because most people who RV have a lot of money, and are not most certainly not trans. I think I’ll stay away. Though it would be amusing to raise hell at some of these “adult males only/clothing optional” places.

Isn’t there anywhere two demisexual trans guys can stay with a gender-not-identifying teen and two cats? (Ugh, that is an over simplification of my identity, but will suffice for now and for the sake of the sentence). Oh right, they are just called campsites. Sigh. The irony that “safe spaces” are usually less safe for me and my family never ceases smacking me in the face.