What Changed?

Every time my mom tries to seriously inquire about my mental illness, she always asks this question in some form or another.  What happened?  What caused this?  Why aren’t you the same hard-working, successful person you were before?

I never really know how to answer this question because to me, nothing has ever changed.  I may present differently than I did back then, I may not appear as successful as I was, and I may not appear to be putting in the same amount of effort that I did back then, but in reality, much of that was actually the facade.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve displayed BPD symptoms.  I remember feeling depressed as early as 4th grade; I first realized it in early middle school.  Anxiety wasn’t far behind, and really started in full effect starting in high school.  Intense and unstable mood swings were always the norm – the number of emotional outbursts I had in just elementary school are more than enough to count on both hands.  Impulsive behavior was pretty common, too.  I can remember very distinctly being scolded by the principal in 1st grade for doing stupid shit just because in the moment it seemed like a good thing to do.  Distorted self-image was definitely present back then, as well.  And suicidal thoughts?  Well, that definitely started in late elementary school, and they’ve only gotten more prevalent since then.

“But you always had good grades, had a good work ethic, and rarely got in trouble.  What happened to that?”  Well, honestly, that isn’t really true.  The good grades and work ethic were more because I had nothing else.  If I didn’t do well, I was punished.  If I behaved poorly, I was punished.  When you grow up being as scared to death of punishment as I was (thanks to paranoia and anxiety), you don’t really have much of a choice other than to toe that straight edge.  Combined with the fact that there was basically nothing to do anyway as well as not having access to any meaningful social life outside of the school environment, it wasn’t like I had any other way to assuage the constant and persistent boredom.  Reading, schoolwork, television, and the scant few video games were all I had, and oftentimes everything on TV was a rerun and I’d played every game I owned so many times I could play them in my sleep.

The stakes were way lower, too.  If I didn’t do some of my work, it didn’t matter because my grades were so high that most of the time one or two assignments couldn’t affect it much.  Failure just meant that whatever I was doing was over.  Yeah, too much failure led to bigger consequences, but pretty much everything was too easy to fail anyway.  Not to mention little risk meant little to worry about.  My biggest problem has always been that I was risk-averse to the point of inaction.  When almost nothing had a negative consequence, I was much more willing to go along with doing anything.

It didn’t hurt that I somehow managed to stumble into the best support groups I could ever get in both grade school and college.  My friends were just as messed up and dysfunctional as myself, and because of it, we understood each other and really pushed each other forward.  Yeah, suicide was always on my mind, but I could actually talk about my feelings to those around me and we were all feeling the same fucking way.  And when everyone understands and accepts it, it’s a hell of a lot easier for the group to deal with it as a whole.

At this point, the fear of failure alone is enough to paralyze me.  Each minor disappointment continues to chip at my will to move forward.  Each rejection throws me into another whirlwind of negative emotions.  And with the support groups I had when I was younger all but gone, everything only gets worse and worse.

And so you ask what’s changed?  To me, absolutely nothing.  I’m still the same directionless, unmotivated, exasperated, depressed, and terrified girl I always have been.  It’s the world around me that’s made it so obvious.

Back to Square One

A few weeks ago, I found a new job working in a kitchen.  I’d finally made the break I had been looking for!  I loved every minute of it, the pressure, the hard work, the rush, every last bit.  It was stressful, but I knew it was what I wanted to do and that I could do it.

That all went out the door when I had a panic attack during my shift last night.  I was inconsolable for a solid continuous hour before finally somewhat calming down, but I still haven’t recovered.  I’m nervous, twitchy, panicky, and have been crying on and off all day.  And considering my history with these kind of events and the severity of this one, I don’t foresee this changing for at least a few days.

The worst part?  It legitimately wasn’t the job this time.  I was willing and able to do the work, and I loved it.  For the first time in my life, I was making money in a way that was making me happy.  But none of that mattered in the end.  It’s the same result as before, just at a much faster pace.

This is awful.  I’ve thrown away yet another opportunity that’s passed my way because of mental instability.  This was going to be the one, the chance I needed to finally be happy with my career, my location, and life in general.  And my broken brain decided to ruin things again.

But I have at least learned something. I’m the problem and nothing else.  Not my location, my environment, my family, who I’m with, what I’m doing, or what’s going on.  Yeah, any and all of those things can alleviate or trigger the issue, but in the end, it’s all in me.  It’s my brain, my instability, my illness.

So  where does that leave me?  I’m back to no job, no working medication, and little to no support system.  I need to do something, but I’m not sure how to start.  I’m lost, broken, and confused with no real indication of where to go from here.  I guess at least it can’t get much worse than it is?

It’s That Time Again

I’m back to being depressed with no hope for any betterment.  It’s now been nearly five months since I moved out here, and I still have no job even after going back to trying the software industry.  I’m completely out of money and woefully out of opportunities.

I just don’t know what to do at this point. I don’t even know what’s wrong.  I try following my dreams, and life destroys any and all chances at them.  I try something I’ve done before, and it’s like that opportunity has already completely dried up.

And, of course, I can’t help but think that it’s primarily because I’m trans, which only makes my self-doubt and depression worse.  Was transitioning the right thing for me to do? Was this destined to happen no matter what?  I just don’t know any more.

But if there’s one thing I do know, it’s that I can’t take this for much longer.  Having no money, no job, and no local support is going to kill me one way or another.  Something’s gotta change, and soon.

Why Can’t I Just Give Up?

I’m done.  I don’t want to live this shitty life any more.  I want more than anything to no longer exist.  I’m sick of it all, and I want it to be over.

So why don’t I just end it?  Suicide is so easy.  All I’d have to do is pop a bunch of my sleep meds and never wake up.  It’d even be painless.  No downside at all.

But I can’t.  I just can’t  get myself to get up and grab them, no matter how ready I am.  I can’t.

Why?  Why can’t I just end this tortuous existence that is my life?  It has no meaning, no purpose, no direction, no point.  It’s in everyone’s best interest if I didn’t exist anymore.  After the funeral and the mourning is over, it isn’t like a single thing in anyone’s life will have changed.  I’m basically already dead to my family, and although my friends would miss me, not much would really change without me being there.  Hell, I’m not sure even my boyfriend would really care in the long run.  At least with me out of the picture, there’d be one less person to worry about, one less pile of baggage to deal with.

My life has never had use, and it never will.  I might as well end the suffering now.  But I can’t.  And I probably never will.

No Point

It’s 1:30 in the morning on a Wednesday here.  I haven’t yet attempted to sleep tonight, and I probably won’t for at least another hour.  But it’s okay because I don’t have to even wake up tomorrow, let alone do anything else.

Three months ago I quit my shitty software job in Indiana to move out to California and live with my boyfriend’s family.  I left the software industry to start on what I see as my true calling in life, cooking.  More than anything, I want to learn how to be a truly great cook, open a restaurant, and actually be happy with what I’m doing with my life.  I was going to get some experience in an actual commercial kitchen environment, save up some money, and maybe go to culinary school.  My boyfriend was going to get a great job somewhere in the area, too, and between the two of us, that restaurant was going to quickly become a reality. I was going to go places, do things, be who I truly wanted to be.

And three months later, I’m no closer than I was when I left Lafayette.  I haven’t been able to get a job despite numerous interviews, and my boyfriend hasn’t even been that lucky.  I got into culinary school, but I can’t pay for it without  either of us having jobs.  My transition has been put on hold more than once because I couldn’t afford the medication.  And every day my bank account gets smaller and smaller while I still attempt to pay for the life I thought I wanted.

Three months with no glimpse of a future is hard.  Every day I wonder whether I actually made the right decision.  Was it actually worth it to leave?  Or should I have just lived with the constant depression and stress pushing me closer to the edge?  At least then I could sometimes afford a way to make myself forget about the problems.

I wonder if maybe my parents are right.  I’m deluding myself into believing there is some happiness that I can attain from pursuing my dreams.  Life just doesn’t work that way.  I should have just stayed with that plan to have my wife and two more kids than necessary in a neighborhood of good, law-abiding, god-fearing bigots going to a job that sucks my soul out bit by bit every day.

But no, I just had to be “happy.”  I had to listen to what my mind was saying about myself.  I had to go and throw away all that I had, my intelligence, my faith, my manhood.  All because of some stupid hopes and dreams that will never actually be reached.

It’s 2:11 AM on Wednesday morning, and I’m still not thinking about going to bed.  There’s no point.  Because tomorrow will be the same regardless of when I wake up.  The same disappointment, self-loathing, anger, emptiness, and lack of direction I’ve felt for the last few months, and really, the last few years.  And I don’t see any end to it, either.

Maybe I just won’t go to bed tonight.  At least then I won’t have to feel that empty hope from the start of a new day.

Signs

Fatigue. Feelings of worthlessness. Pessimism. Insomnia. Irritability. Loss of interest in activities. Overeating. Persistent aches and pains. Persistent feelings of sadness. Thoughts of suicide. These are several of the symptoms of clinical depression.

Sweating. Hypervigilance. Racing thoughts. Fear. Sense of impending doom. Trembling. These are several of the symptoms of an anxiety disorder.

I have been presenting a vast majority of these symptoms since I was in grade school.   And for just as long my immediate family has ignored or berated me for those symptoms instead of constructively dealing with the problem.  Whenever the symptoms overtook me, I was yelled at for being lazy,stubborn, annoying, useless. Never once did they even consider treatment. And the couple times I broke, lashed out, and made a cry for help, they reacted with denial and anger, completely ignoring the problem, responding with violence, or trying to throw me out of their lives.

And that’s the main reason I’m constantly angry at my family.  They had twenty years to help me figure out how to deal with my problems, but instead threw me aside when I got to be too much to handle. And now that I’m out on my own and struggling to figure out all this depression and anxiety and gender stuff by myself, all that pent up anger and frustration that I held in out of fear for my life is coming out.

Anxiety over wearing clothes typically worn by their sex.  Wanting to take part in activities typical of the opposite sex. Preferring to play with the opposite sex. Feelings of severe distress at the physical changes of puberty. Hoping that their genitals will change. Persistent fantasies of being the opposite sex. Isolation and rejection from peers in social interaction. These are several of the symptoms of gender identity disorder.

Symptoms I displayed but mainly hid while I was growing up.   Symptoms I would have shared had my family handled my other issues better.

Sick of it

I don’t write this blog for anyone but myself.  I use this as a medium to vent my own frustrations and detail my own personal struggles.  I only put it out there for others so that you all can see what’s going through my brain.  It’s my way to show you what I’m going through, what I’m dealing with, what I’m thinking about, what I’m struggling over.  Because written word is the only way I can find to effectively communicate it all after years and years of having to suppress my deepest feelings.

And every time I write a post like the one I did yesterday, I get some angry, condescending note from someone else in my family.  They want me to stop writing my feelings out.  They want me to show some respect for them.  They want to guilt trip me either for themselves or on the behalf of others.

I’m sick of it.  I’m sick them seeing it as personal affronts and taking offense to it rather than actually making the changes I want to see out of them.  I’m sick of having to write the same crap over and over about my family because they can’t be assed to actually care about how I feel.  I’m sick of seeing them continue to sit on their high horses, completely ignoring my own emotions.

This blog isn’t something full of sunshine and rainbows meant to make everyone feel better about themselves, and it isn’t ever going to be. Furthermore, the blog is going to continue to be much of the same until I feel safe and comfortable, which I don’t amongst my own blood relations, let alone the rest of the world.  If you want me to stop bitching about my family, then fucking do something about it.  Accept me.  Understand me.  Try to learn.  Stop being self-righteous pricks.  Treat me like the person I am, not the person you want me to be.  A majority of the rest of the world has.  And if you can’t, then grow some skin or get out.

I’m an Ungrateful Person

All my life I’ve been told that I’ve never been grateful for anything I’ve ever gotten.  I only care about my family when it most benefits me.  I’m never satisfied with anything I’m given.  I can’t see the good in anything.  I’m never happy with anything or anyone.

Well, for the most part,  that’s completely true.  I’m pretty ungrateful of most of what I’ve been given.  But really, what do I have to be grateful for?

My education?  Sure, my four years at Rose-Hulman were some of my best.  Almost all of my closest friends come from that time period.  But now that I’m out, those four years hang the heaviest on my head.  Those four years turned into a ton of debt, three years of extra wasted time trying to get into an industry I never should have had people push me into, and an endless supply of anxiety, sleep issues, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies from trying to deal with the pressures of the workload.  All for a little piece of paper that I’m probably never going to have use for again.

My family?  Okay, so they’ve mostly supported me financially for most my life.  But their ideals and pressures are what pushed me into the predicament I’m in now.  They were the source for that constant pressure to be a successful son with his wife and two and a half kids living in Suburbia with my engineering job working 80 hours a week for $100k a year.  And along with that came the feelings of disappointment and contempt any time I strayed even a bit from that pipe dream, even if it was what was actually making me happy.  Oh, and don’t forget the demands for me to be civil and interested in their lives when, aside from a select few, they’ve never really been civil or interested in mine.

My life?  I’ve been contemplating whether that’s actually been any good since its inception.  And although sometimes things seem to be getting better, this fifteen-year battle with depression continues to make me second-guess whether all this has been worth it.

So really, what do I have to be grateful for?  The things I do like about my life I’ve almost entirely gotten on my own.  And what I haven’t has come at such a great cost.  I mean, I guess I’ve at least learned what I don’t want with my life.

A Chance To Start Over

As many of you know by now, I am currently preparing for a major shift in my life.  I’ll be moving to California, where I will be attending classes in culinary arts and hopefully working as a chef.  It’s a huge change from being a software engineer in Indiana, but it’s one I’m ready to make and try to make work.

Some of you may be thinking, “Why?  You’ve got a great degree and a great job in a great field.  Why give up all that?”  Well, honestly, it isn’t all that great to me.  Turns out after four years of college and three years in the industry, it just isn’t something I see myself doing until I retire.  The day-to-day stress of going to work and being productive for eight hours is tearing me apart.  And at the end of the day, I don’t even feel like I’m making any slight bit of difference.  Don’t get me wrong, I like programming, and I like software architecture, but there’s so much more stuck in my mind that I just don’t have time or energy to get out.  Software work is draining my ability to be productive and, essentially, my ability to be alive.

You see, what a lot of you don’t see or choose not to see is that I’m slowly dying working the nine-to-five office job.  The pressure of succeeding in an office environment day after day is stressing me out and making my anxiety much, much worse.  I’m always so afraid of doing something wrong that will end in a complete meltdown of my way of life, which is only making the stress worse.  The stress and anxiety then give me insomnia and kick my depression into high gear, which then lead to more stress and anxiety because I’m even less productive.  Not to mention my sleep cycles getting completely out of whack, leading to me getting up later and later, which only helps to feed the cycle.  And if I continue this way, I will most definitely either commit suicide or cause an accident resulting in the death of myself or others.

My most recent suicide scare over New Years really made me realize that this was where my life was going.  I decided I needed to change something, and I needed that change now.  So, when the opportunity arose to move across the country without being homeless, alone, and poor, I grabbed it.  Plus, I can get away from one of my biggest fears:  being transgender in Indiana.  I won’t have to worry so much about discrimination, transition paperwork, or bathrooms, so all those worries will be off my mind or greatly lessened.

Really, this move is a way for me to turn over a new leaf, to figure out how to live before I figure out how to die.  This isn’t me running away from anything or acting out some childish impulse.  Rather, if anything, I’m running toward my problems.  I’m accepting that what I’ve done so far isn’t working, and I’m going to try to figure out what does work.  I’m going to get out of my comfort zone, meet new people, learn new things, and live like I never have before.  And hopefully when I look back at this time, I’ll know I’ve made the right choice.

Why I Can’t Be Wrong

I have a really hard time with being told I’m wrong.  A rejection is as bad as being told I’m about to die.  It takes my entire mental capacity to keep from breaking down after being told no.  Criticism destroys my psyche.  Corrections are personal attacks directed at my heart.

Some would say I’m an entitled brat because I can’t handle it.  That mommy and daddy gave me everything, and so I can’t deal with something not going my way.  I must have not been disciplined well when I was little.  Or maybe I’m just another immature snowflake that can’t be told I’m wrong or it’ll hurt my special snowflake feelings.

But really, my problem comes from the opposite.  I can deal with the criticisms.  I recognize I’m not infallible.  I can see what’s wrong, and accept the truth.  No, my real issue isn’t a problem with rejection, it’s a problem of self-worth.

My self-worth has always been directly connected to my ability to be right.  When I was growing up, my family had a constant focus on success.  It was the only thing that received any notice.  If you did as you were told, followed the rules, got good grades, and stayed involved, you were loved and shown attention.  Otherwise, you had no worth.

My sister got through this relatively easily by being a social butterfly.  She was in tons of extra-curriculars, played a few sports, was active in the community and the church, and got decent enough grades that my parents didn’t worry about it with everything else she was doing.

I didn’t get it so lucky.  I didn’t have the work ethic or the discipline to do sports, being bullied in elementary school ended up making me somewhat of a social recluse, and I was never really religiously-minded.

And so, I was left with one thing to prove my worth.  My grades.

Through high school, this wasn’t much of a problem.  I made nearly straight A’s.  Ended up as salutatorian of my class.  Was often the teacher’s pet.  Was often the lynch pin of the academic team, often bringing in the top scores of the team.

But any time I was wrong, especially when it came to personal interests, it was always a severe issue.  A slip-up as minor as even a B in a class was a problem.  I was yelled at or worse for literally every mistake and poor choice I made.  I can’t count how many times I was basically told I was only allowed to keep my hair long and play video games because my grades were good. My dad tried to throw me out of the house twice in high school for the audacity of having mental breakdowns and standing up for my feelings.

And then came college.  I struggled through college for a number of reasons, but mostly because of my untreated depression, still-unnoticed dysphoria, and an emotionally abusive relationship that only strengthened the idea that I was worthless if I didn’t meet unreachable expectations.  My grades tanked after my freshman year because of years of unmanaged mental issues and constant pressure from home.  And, of course, to top it all off, it turns out I was heading toward a future I didn’t really want because I was trying to meet the expectations of those around me.

At this point, I was basically just trying to survive amongst the world falling apart around me.  And I retreated to the only thing that had been constant since I was young:  my ability to be right and the fear of being wrong.  Being right was the only thing that gave me worth, so if I just constantly tried to avoid being wrong, then I would always be right.

And so I developed anxiety.  And the constant fear of my life being destroyed because of a mistake bred anxiety about making any decision at all.  And insomnia from having so many things to handle at once.  And more frequent bouts of depression from being constantly sleep-deprived and worrying about my impending doom.  And OCD to remember, organize, and process all my anxieties.  And suicidal thoughts because even if there’s nothing after life, it still has to be better than this.

So now I’m stuck with all this bullshit combined with my depression and some childhood trauma and my dysphoria.  I’ve got a nice little cocktail of mental problems that makes me nearly unemployable in a typical workplace environment with experience and a degree only useful in that kind of place and medical bills and student loans  that are only affordable with that kind of job.  All because I didn’t know I was oh so wrong when I was just trying to be anything but.