Mostly Narrative Freewriting #6: Self Image

I remarked to my favorite Maternal cousin the other day that I was still getting used to being seen as desirable by my Sweeties. Meds have caused some weight gain, and I’ll be on them for a bit longer, it seems. But that doesn’t matter to them. It’s wonderful yet hard to accept.

In my last post I talked about giving the voice that tells you to harm yourself a name and fight it like a bully. That’s a tip I learned at the turn of the century when I frequented the forums of an support group for Eating Disorders. I was 26 and a mere 2 pounds away from mandatory hospitalization when I finally got into therapy. I weighed 103 when I was 14 and that freaked me the fuck out. So I cut out meat to make it easier not to eat. That lasted until college, when I finally had some control over my life.

It took a dozen years to get diagnosed because I wasn’t your stereotypical anorexic obsessed with looks. It was all about control. Growing up, there were only two things I really had control over–the state of my room and what I ate. My room was a mess and I didn’t weigh over 100 pounds until years after I moved out. Oddly enough, the messiness thing lingered even when I was eating like a normal, healthy person. Let’s not digress about that today though.

Until I hit 40, I never really felt like I could be accepted for who I am. Everyone who loved me seemed to not like something about me that they would point out often. It made me feel like people were doing me a favor by loving me, so I should let those people control me. I didn’t kick that bad habit until after Kevin died. I had a clean slate, and there were many things I swore “never again will I tolerate this behavior.”

Now that I’m halfway through them, I’m still working on accepting that I’m loveable for who I am at this moment in time. My Sweeties are unconditionally accepting and supportive of me yet are frank with me when the situation merits it. It’s a great thing we have, and I’m really lucky.

Ah yes, the voice thing. I named my eating disorder Calvin Ferguson, the nemesis of the Ghostwriter Team, which were characters from this show that was on PBS on Sunday nights. I was a couple years older than the normal demographic for the show, but I still enjoyed it. Calvin was the Snidley Whiplash type of villain–it was clear you were never to sympathize with him. I figured that was a fitting name for that voice that told me I’d feel better the longer I went without eating. It really helped with recovery, and I started eating like a normal person. My Calvin popped up after the first couple years of Kevin’s illness. I had to admit that I had that problem again, as that was probably a source of the oodles of the nearly 3 dozen migraines I had that same year. Calvin was admonished as much as possible.

These days, I will enable myself to easily eat when I know I’m prone to start restricting. At the beginning of quarantine, I ate a lot. Then I didn’t eat much until after I went back to the office. I like making my lunch because it’s cheaper than going out to eat all the time. Plus, I don’t blow half my lunch acquiring it.

It’s funny, I still her Calvin sometimes. Only now his voice sounds like Kevin’s. He loved to refer to my shape or my room as “piggy.” I was a reasonable weight for my body type and age. Just some bloating or weight gain from being on meds. “Don’t eat so much at night.” (Heaven forfend I make too much noise in the morning when you’re sleeping in the morning!)

Oh, I could go on, but I’m not going to. I’d rather shift my mind back to the part where my Sweeties find me desirable and loveable just the way I am. We’e got our space and we all can just live honestly for a change. It really has worked wonders for my self image. I know what they say is true, and I’m starting to see what they see when I look in the mirror.

If You’re Suicidal, Read This

So, you’re contemplating killing yourself. Indeed a tough decision. However, there’s a few things you should know before make your attempt.

Before I continue, I know there are several common reasons people contemplate suicide. I’d like to address a few of them.

If you suffer from a mental illness or are healing from trauma, let me try to encourage you to keep living. That voice that keeps telling you that you’re so much of a burden that it’s time to end it all is a motherfucking liar. No, really, it is. You’re suffering from a disease or disorder. That voice wants to destroy your sense of ease. It wants to make you feel horrible and think you’re worthless. Do people tell you you’re a wonderful person? Are you noted in your little corner of the world for being good at something? All those complements are TRUE. You’re getting them because you’re worthy of them. Yeah, we’ve all got haters, but you really can’t please everyone, can you? The ones who love you truly care about you and would miss you deeply. If you die, all your pain is going to be scattered around to people you’re close to and others whose lives you’ve touched (and you know you have because they tell you). Anyone who is a survivor of someone else’s suicide is going to be genuinely triggered. You’re going to open up a wound for that person. To me, that’s selfish.

Suffering from mental illness and got triggered from someone else’s suicide? Boy, do I feel ya. That’s precisely why this post exists. Someone I worked with on and off for a couple years killed herself a few days ago. I’m sure the voices in her head were just too loud because life circumstances were making them hard to ignore. I’m sorry she got to that point. But she had people who would have seen her through the darkness. Her death made me realize people need to know these things.

Shared pain is lessened if the person is around to be helped. Reach out to people who say they love you and tell them that you’ve got this damn voice in your head that’s trying to get you to harm yourself. I guarantee you they will want to help you live. Sure, nobody has a magic wand that will solve all your problems, but they’ll help you tell that damn voice to shut up until it silences. Please get it through your head that helping a loved one is much easier than mourning them. You owe it to everyone who says they love you to give them a chance to help.

Now, I will address the terminally ill. Yours is a much different situation. I will never tell another human being they need to keep on suffering just so they can let the disease take its course. Western Society really needs to accept death as a natural part of life and allow an adult to opt out of prolonged suffering. Until then, get as much as you can out of life for as long as you can. Try to minimize the trauma to your family, please.

If you’re chronically ill and are only going to get worse, that’s similar to the above. Share your feelings with your loved ones. Be honest about how you’re feeling. You’re more than your illness. Those who love you know that. They will also know when the illness has stolen your essence. That’s what helped me when my husband killed himself. I knew how miserable life was for him, and I accepted that he should be the one to say when he’d suffered enough. It still hurt like hell when it happened, and six years later it still hurts sometimes. Not everyone can reach that level of acceptance quickly–you need to give them time. It took me a couple years before I even tried to accept the illness had truly destroyed him.

Finally, we’ll address the “I don’t know how to deal with life right now” type of suicidal feelings. Usually this happens because of a huge change in life circumstance that isn’t a terminal illness or a chronic mental illness flares up.

Has your life as you know it changed and all you can think about is death because a relationship of some sort ended any number of ways? I get it, the feels are too much and you don’t know how you’re going to continue living without something or someone that was a major part of your life until now. You gotta come up with a better reason. Change is scary as hell, but it’s not insurmountable. I was a little suicidal at 20 when I broke up with my high school sweetheart after 5 years. I could not imagine life without him. We’d planned so much. I’m so glad I stuck around and got over him. I’ve had a quarter century of life since then, and it’s been quite a ride.

Don’t want to face the consequences of your evil actions because you finally got caught? You’re a fucking coward in addition to being a deplorable human being. Just make sure you own up to your dirty deeds before you kill yourself, if you must. Leave your victims with some closure, at least.

With the exception of evil people and the terminally ill, there are reasons to keep living. Name that damn voice in your head and fight it like the bully it is. Share the name with your people and tell them when the bully is around. They’ll have your back. People want to prevent your funeral. Living well is the best revenge to those who hurt you.

Stick around, if at all possible. Reach out to someone before you make your decision. You really do owe it to those who love you. And you do matter in this crazy world.

Surviving Amour Fou #3: Amour without Fou

Kevin’s birthday is August 10th. Made plans to visit a friend, as I requested the day off.

Some may find it hard to believe that I still see Kevin as my soulmate. Well, he was. It was a bond like no other. When it was good, it was really really good, and when it was bad, it was horrendous. I knew that a few years into it, and yet I couldn’t walk away. My soul called out to this man. I’m not gonna deny it. It’s like that old Jackson 5 song, “Never Can Say Goodbye.”

Were the last 7 years hard? Hell yes. It’s over and I can’t change those years. I’ve allowed myself to grieve and feel all the complicated emotions that resulted from those 18 years of my life. So yeah, he was my soulmate, and I can miss him deeply at times even though he hurt me on levels no other person has. Ya gotta take the Fou with the Amour sometimes. But it’s a choice, and I’m glad I had those years with Kevin even though they really sucked sometimes.

Am I in a way healthier relationship now? Yes. By leaps and bounds and in ways beyond my wildest dreams. We’ve got an apartment now! To be where we can be our better selves in our own controlled environment that isn’t shared with any outsiders. This is a huge thing, and it’s wonderful! We’ve got a couple of fish tanks. I finally have a small school of neon tetras. Some of the housewifey stuff has definitely kicked back into gear, but it’s not much in the grand scheme of things, and I’m not doing everything. I love doing dishes in the morning before work. I love being able to blast music while taking a shower in the morning. I haven’t been this autonomous in a very long time.

It’s a little odd to have all of these pieces of furniture in the same place: One piece of the bedroom set I used to have as a kid, the Ikea coffee table Kevin got right after we met, a couch that my Mom got from my Aunt, a table from my Mom, and a footlocker from my Dad. Good, though, because all of this is who I’ve been up until this point. We’re starting from scratch, really, so we might as well use what we have or other people don’t need. Besides, my strengths in the relationship have more to do with numbers than aesthetics.

Having this new home is a wonderful thing. I feel so much more relaxed generally. I have a lot more space and freedom to do what I want and not feel like I have to censor parts of myself. But it was a necessary tradeoff to start working towards the present day, and I was fortunate to even have the opportunity in the first place.

Queer Eye has rubbed off on me–I took advantage of a great deal and got new clothes for thrift store prices. It enabled me to have a better work wardrobe. I’m so happy, though I need to set up a good ironing station or get better with the steam iron.

Started watching Avatar: The Last Airbender. I wasn’t the target audience when it first aired, so I missed it completely. I’ve seen Korra before, but it’s been so long that I’m going to have to watch it again. Great universe done very well by good ol’ Nickelodeon.

Oh, what a lucky nerd I am. 🙂

Black Hole Sun: The Song That Changed My Life

Picture it, 1994: Southern California

I hear this song on the radio, and I saw the video. Immediately loved it. It was soothing at a rough time in my life. 1994 was not an easy year for a whole number of reasons. This song was like a drug–it would take me away from my problems for 5 minutes and 18 seconds. I actually bought an import CD single of it. I think I ended up selling it on ebay or it’s hidden in a box somewhere in storage.

On March 1, 1996, the band The Moog Cookbook was shooting a video for their synth version of the song “Black Hole Sun.” Kevin was “location manager” for the day, as the locations were at Remote Control Studios, in front of a very large Moog modular synthesizer he’d spent the past few years assembling; and Mutato Muzika, the lime green building on Sunset Blvd. The original plan was to film in front of the legendary TONTO system, which was housed at Mutato at the time. That didn’t work out, but the building was a decent alternative for two guys wearing space suits.

After all that shooting was done, Kevin went home, fired up his computer, and logged into AOL. He found a message board for the band Devo, and made a post about his visit. I saw it and looked up his profile. His quote was “Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity.” I was into quotes back then, so I emailed him and simply said “I like your quote.” He replied, and he became a big part of my life for the next 18 years.

In August 1996, I went to Lollapalooza at Irvine Meadows. Chris Cornell stood alone on stage and performed “Black Hole Sun.” I only watched him a little bit because I was too busy dancing like a hippie on acid, happy that I got the chance to dance to this song live.

It’s always been, and will remain, one of my favorite songs ever.

Surviving Amor Fou, #2: Music

I’m sitting here listening to The Beatles album Let It Be. Much like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, and Suzanne Vega’s 9 Objects of Desire, this album reminds me so much of Kevin that I’ve actively refrained from listening to it until now. I don’t know what changed my mind.

In this case, we listened to this on the way down for me to meet his father and his stepmother (technically–the marriage happened when Kevin was in his 30’s), a month after I moved in with Kevin. We had little jokes that involved this album. You know, those jokes you develop over time with someone you’re close to. That stuff you can never quite convey properly to the rest of humanity. The little things that start to become painful once that person dies.

This album reminds me of so many good memories, which are a bit on the bittersweet side right now. It’s hard to think of what we used to have because it’s gone. I picture so many things in my mind’s eye while listening to this album. The apartment where we lived, his ’67 Mustang Fastback, the cats. . . So much laughter, so many very early Internet videos, hanging out with friends. . . I was so young back then. I had no idea how long I’d have with Kevin. I knew back then we’d lose all the cats, but I thought we’d start a new group of them in my 40’s. I could never have guessed that he would be dead six months after losing the last one.

That life has been over for 6 years. The good life was pretty much done six years before that. Yet listening to this album still evokes memories of that time. I’m quite happy that it’s not emotionally painful. It’s still great music and I may try to slowly put some of these songs into playlists.

The one song that I have been able to listen to is For You Blue. It reminds me of my Sweetie. But we don’t have Amour Fou, thankfully.

Another New Normal

I remember years ago, the “New Normal” for me was being grateful for the gift of a wheelchair so Kevin could go out without having to walk around.

These days, it means spending a lot of time in my room. I’m fortunate to have been working from home for the past 8 weeks. I love my company, because they’ve been on top of the pandemic situation and slowly rolled out the necessary precautions since late January. This is the kind of steady job that I’ve always wanted, but was convinced for years that it was a bad thing to want. Funny how that goes sometimes.

I’ve been writing fiction again! My problem has always been completing a story. I get too many ideas about key scenes and don’t go back to fill in the gaps. So, I’m taking a different approach to it. I’ll let people check it out once I have my content organized.

Stumbled upon the SiriusXM channel 1st Wave about a week ago, courtesy of the TV service that gets beamed to the house. My inner teenager is digging hearing songs that I haven’t heard in like, over a quarter century! I’ve been using my Google Play account to build a playlist out of the songs I don’t want to forget. Even some of the DJ’s are the ones I listened to back then! My “Spring 20” Playlist also has a bunch of different stuff I discovered when making my own custom “radio stations” on Google Play based off of a single song and noting what I enjoy. Jazz fusion, New Wave, and Motown, mostly. It all mixes together fine in my mind. Branching out a bit in music is good. I’ve discovered and re-discovered a lot of good songs.

Much like when I grew up here but for much different reasons, I can’t go anywhere. I do take an occasional drive, especially now that the weather’s nice enough to drive around with the top down! I don’t want to offer my thoughts on the current situation. Well, I do want to go on record saying that while it is a drag to have to stay home all the time, and masks are a little awkward, it’s a lot better than being told what to do with my uterus. Plus, technology nowadays has made it much easier to get things delivered and to stay in touch. And yeah, with my “pre-existing conditions”, it can get very depressing to be away with my loved ones, but we’re all still alive and want to stay that way! I don’t want to focus on all the stuff I can’t do. I have it better than scores of my fellow Americans. I can’t take that for granted.

I also enjoy being able to get up a half hour before work, because it means I have more time after work to relax and enjoy myself. Then again, I’ve never really been a morning person. If I didn’t have to stick to a normal work schedule, I’d so be a night owl. I miss those days.

So does this count as having written about the current Pandemic for future generations? 😉

Another 20 Year Milestone

On April 26, 2000, I got my tubes tied. I had to fight like hell to get it. Everyone saw this unmarried 20-something of Mexican descent in LA County who did not want to have children. They laughed at me. They tried to get me to get a psychiatric evaluation. They kept telling me I was too young and that I would change my mind in 10 years and then where would I be? Quite annoying. Even on the operating table before they put me under, they asked me if I was sure. I said I was. I knew I wouldn’t regret rendering myself sterile. I was right.

Now that I’m a widow, I know getting my tubes tied was a good decision. I can’t imagine trying to parent a fatherless child while I’m grieving as well. Heck, I’m glad there were no cats left that had to accept the loss of such a great Cat Daddy. Plus, depression runs in both my family and Kevin’s. We didn’t want to pass that trait along to another human being. (Not to mention the child would have an increased risk of suicide!)

Oddly enough, after Kevin died, I was told a few paternal aunts were under the impression that Kevin forced me to get my tubes tied. (Yeah, because a relative’s first concern after hearing her niece’s husband died should be the niece’s fertility status!) They were informed they were wrong.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that childfree women actually enjoy sex more after sterilization, either theirs or their male partner’s. Childfree women who aren’t sterile often fear pregnancy the way some people fear death. Personally, the thought that all that fun could result in having to get an abortion put a little damper on the act. My Catholic upbringing taught me that only abstaining from sex until marriage was the only way to avoid getting pregnant, because birth control has a failure rate. (I was also taught that condoms were useless because some STD’s could still get through.) That stuck in my head, and was part of what prompted me to get my tubes tied in the first place. Plus the fact that my maternal family is quite fertile, and my Grandma got pregnant while on birth control.

So here I am, in my mid 40’s, still grateful that I’ve been able to forego hormonal birth control for two whole decades. It’s saved me quite a bit of money over the years, especially considering I didn’t have health insurance for many years on end.

To any woman in her 20’s who doesn’t want kids, you probably won’t change your mind, especially if you’ve known since you were a kid that you don’t want to be a Mom. Fight for your life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness! I did, and it’s still one of the best things I ever did for myself.