challenge · diversity issues · experience · friendship · inspiration · life · society · truth · Uncategorized · writing

On being oppressed and problematic at the same time

I am a queer woman. I am not always unproblematic.

I am a white female middle socioeconomic status college student who identifies as pansexual. I hold some privileges, and lack others. The reason I’m writing my truth is that I want people to understand that just because you belong to an oppressed group doesn’t mean you never participate in that oppression. Black cops kill innocent black kids. Women argue against the rights of sex workers. Gay and lesbian folks are often transphobic. We’re all socialized in the same society, so not one of us is immune to the biases that are ingrained in our culture. That’s why it’s impossible and pointless to call someone racist or not racist, sexist or not sexist, homophobic or not homophobic. We all have the capabilities to think in oppressive ways, even towards ourselves; however, what matters is that you learn to stop this thinking before it starts and actively resist oppression. I learned from the brilliant Beverly Tatum that most people are either actively or passively racist. To most, passively racist people would not be considered racists because they don’t wield Tiki torches or publicly harass people of color- but this is not the case. Passively racist people consist of a majority of the population, and this mindset includes behaviors such as laughing at racist jokes, locking car doors as a person of color passes outside, not trusting people of color in high up positions, and not dating people of color. Passively racist people may have POC friends, may have voted for Obama, and do anything they can to not be seen as racist. But it’s not that simple. I used to be passively racist as well, and I didn’t see a problem. I was internalizing all of the things society told me about people of color, but I wasn’t directly harming anyone, right? It took me getting to college to realize that you can be racist without realizing, that it’s not simply a matter of racist or not racist, and that to really not be racist you must be anti-racist. You must work actively every single day to address your implicit biases and work against what society tells you about people of color. This can be incredibly challenging. Most people, especially liberals, would never consider themselves to be racist or have racist tendencies, and that’s a huge problem. Unless you live in a different country that was never colonized and doesn’t operate under white supremacy, you have racist tendencies and you must do all you can to stop them. This includes educating yourself on racial oppression, reading the works of POC, unpacking your implicit biases and noticing every time you fall into them, listening to the experiences of POC, joining the movement for equality as an active participant in fundraising, marching, and advocating, and taking any comments of how you’re problematic seriously and changing yourself accordingly. It is a tough process, but it is necessary if we will ever build a formative enough nation to ensure equal rights for everyone.

The fight continues on all fronts, and I’m writing this post to admit that, although I am a progressive social justice activist I still make mistakes. I still internalize my own oppression. I only recently recognized the oppressive thoughts I’ve had about women and queer folks, which is bizarre considering I identify as both. But that’s how oppression works. It’s sneaky. I only recently decided to openly talk about my sexuality, and still am struggling to be more open about it. Why am I scared to come out about being queer? Because I’m scared of the stigma. Being pamsexual in a hetero relationship, I’m someone no one really would consider queer. They either think I’m confused, or experimenting; I’m not gay enough to be included in queer spaces but I’m not straight enough to feel comfortable in straight spaces. It’s a weird feeling. There’s a lot of discrimination within the queer community. Biphobia is a huge issue. I saw a meme that said if a man is bi they consider him actually gay and if a woman is bi they consider her straight but confused, because no one can accept a sexuality that doesn’t revolve around men- and that really stuck with me. I’m nervous to be open about my sexuality because people have only seen me with men and I fear they’ll think I’ve been hiding something or I’m actually just straight. Just because I’m in a hetero relationship doesn’t mean I’m not queer. I feel like I have to somehow prove my queerness, like post a photo kissing a woman, just so people get it through their heads that queer people come in all shapes and sizes, and, yes, you can know someone your whole life and never know they’re queer. I am learning to be less problematic. I’ve always secretly and silently felt some discomfort towards masculine lesbians and trans women and I’m unpacking why that is. I believe it’s due to my underlying lifelong fear that I would be stigmatized as severely as they are. I resent their confidence despite their oppression. Deep down I want to dress more masculine sometimes but fear being categorized as a masculine lesbian, even though I know this isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. The bias comes from the messages I’ve been exposed to: women should be feminine, but I know this isn’t true and I am working to stop believing this.

As a woman, I’ve messed up too. I’ve judged women for being attention seeking, for the way they dress, for the way they talk and act, and for embracing traditional gender roles. I’m a feminist, and I’ve still fallen into the pit of sexist thinking. This is what I mean when I say no one is immune. It’s how you handle it that matters. I’ve learned to question my automatic thoughts if they support oppression and get them out of my head. I’ve learned that there are many people in these communities who support their own oppression and do great harm to themselves unknowingly. Unlearning what society tells you is a process, but we all need to start now. Wherever you do and don’t hold privilege, learn how you can be less problematic. Just because you don’t hold privilege in an area doesn’t mean you’re not problematic at times! All oppressions are interconnected, so we must address all our biases against all groups of people (including non-human people).

I know how exhausting and defeating living under this system is, but we must take personal responsibility to do the work to take this system down. You will make mistakes, but if you take all feedback from others to heart and improve, you will be helping create a more equitable world. Don’t be afraid to admit you’ve been problematic; this is a lot more genuine and helpful than denying it. Sitting on the sidelines and staying silent won’t do anything for social justice- use your various privileges to amplify the voices of oppressed folks and actively join their efforts. I’m proud to finally embrace another aspect of my identity and I will continue learning about systems of oppression and becoming a better activist every step of the way. It’s not a matter of being problematic or not; as humans, we all are at times. It’s a matter of making amends for any harm you may have caused, learning better, and doing better, and doing your absolute best to be the least problematic you can be. As an activist, that’s all I demand, and I hope you demand that from yourself, your peers, and your communities as well. Let’s turn everyone from passive supporters of oppression into active advocates for social justice.

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experience · friendship · inspiration · life · positivity · Uncategorized

What music means to me- “It Feels like we Only Go Backwards”

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I was at a weird time in life. That’s nondescript, since most of my life, and I imagine, most of most people’s lives, is confusing, strange, and peculiar. I had never kissed anyone, and here I was hanging out with my best male friend past midnight, in his dad’s apartment, alone. He thought smoking cigarettes made him cool. He didn’t care about much, a result of his constant depression. But he did care about music, and he showed me a song I will never forget. It was probably the first time someone ever projected a music video onto their TV for me (maybe the only time). He cared about me, and made me some sort of vegan concoction with random foods he found in his dad’s kitchen. Tame Impala’s most famous song burst through the speakers and the psychedelic graphics mesmerized me. Was this love? I stayed longer and longer at his apartment, waiting for the moments of day to blend into night, and our friendship to transition into something more, naturally. We sat outside, complimenting each other and hoping someone would make a move. The stars urged us on, but we were caught up in music, and smoke, and fear. And something holding us back. I was left with something that night, and it wasn’t a kiss or a new relationship (I wouldn’t get either of those for another year). It was a song, defining a moment, defining a time in my life when not a lot was certain. I was full of feelings, and everyone around me was too. My best male friend poured his heart out to me, gave me love, but also emotionally drained me of any love I had to offer. Eventually our friendship waned, like the moon that night. It changed, and I changed a lot. I don’t let fear dictate my decisions anymore. I haven’t talked to him in years, but I sure hope he has changed too. If he had stuck in his youthful ignorance, allowing limitations on who he could be and what he could achieve, wouldn’t he just be going backwards? This song will forever remain dear to me- a reminder to live every moment fully like I did that night, but reach much farther beyond that- clutching deep meaning like my comfort, but embracing my illuminating future as my guiding force.

 

This is part of a series of posts on the most meaningful songs to me. Stay tuned for the next song!

challenge · experience · inspiration · life · love · poetry · positivity · self help · society · truth · Uncategorized · writing

let’s not figure things out

Don’t ask me what my plans are

I’m still figuring them out

I’m still rearranging the ideas in my brain that dictate how I live my life

Convincing myself that each day it is okay for the future to change

I am not a liar for never doing those things I said I would

Because they turned out to not be what I wanted

It is okay for my idea of love to change from one to many

It is okay to see where everything goes before committing

Giving precedence to my mind’s health and the nourishment of my soul

It is okay to live according to the sun’s rising and falling

Following my natural impulses like an awakened cavewoman

Because all too often we ignore our impulses and follow the lead we are expected to

To convince others we are successful, we are where we are supposed to be

But maybe where I am supposed to be on a Friday afternoon is crying in the bathroom

Because my heart is bursting with love

And all of the feeling has returned to my body, all of the bliss that others bring me has boiled up,

And spilled over,

And I’ve spilled over,

Reminding myself I am human, not a people-pleasing machine

I am more than my ability to make others happy

I am more than the physical connection or listening ears I provide

I am a being simply because I am being,

My being does not depend on my utility to others

I am not just a tool for accomplishment,

Whatever that means to society

My idea is different,

More feeling comfortable and confident wherever I am,

Spending my time just how I would like to, and not how I feel obligated to

I believe in the inexplicable beauty of love.

Let’s not define things,

Let’s not stress or worry, or force our anxiety to act up

By convincing ourselves we need to do more, be more, live more

Let’s honor the place we are now and continue on the path that brings joy to our face

A warmth creeping up the corners of the lips, reaching out through the limbs of the body

Enabling us to love, naturally, freely, without obligation

Let’s not figure things out right now.

It’s better to live in this uncertain moment, and worship its divine possibility.

advice · challenge · experience · inspiration · life · self help · society · truth · Uncategorized

Getting Real about derealization

I know what it feels like to be dead while I’m still alive. I’ve lost my sense of self and connection to this world more times than I can count. I want to share my story in case anyone out there has experienced the same thing, and we can support each other.

As long as I can remember I have experienced depression. I grew up in a very chaotic, stressful, upsetting, and damaging environment and I cried myself to sleep a good amount of it. I was constantly surrounded by emotional abuse, whether between my parents, or my other family members, and it turned me into an adult with a strong outer core, but a crippling mess on the inside. I have never fully processed everything I heard and saw as a child, and because of it I have anxiety about random things like spending money and loud noises, recurrent depression and loneliness, and a fear of abandonment. The year I turned sixteen was the worst year of my life, as my mom was forced to leave our house and she moved far away with her boyfriend at the time. I was lost, heartbroken, and an emotional wreck. My older sister was always at her boyfriend’s house and my dad worked at night, so after I came home from school I cried a solid six hours daily, collapsing on the ground and struggling to breathe while my dog stood by my side in confusion. I could barely sleep, and every night I laid in my bed praying an airplane would crash through the roof and kill me. Luckily I was too scared to kill myself, but several times I tried to choke myself and scratch my arms bloody. I had too much pain deep down in me, and no one to talk to, as my sister was never home, my dad and I had a broken relationship, and I didn’t feel like I could go to my friends for support. I suffered in silence, and I regret that everyday.

When I moved away for college, I felt like I was pushing away all of the family problems that were waiting at home, but whenever I came home for the weekend they came back. My family relied on me as their emotional backbone, and every problem had to go through me before getting resolved. As a result, I lived under extreme stress and when I had to go home, I often sobbed either on the drive there or back. Added into that was the fact that I received no financial help from my family since I was sixteen, so the $40+ in gas to come home gave me a mental breakdown. I have worked so hard since I got my first job at sixteen, but my money has dwindled away so I could buy the necessities like food and school supplies that my friends’ parents all provided them. I grew angry towards my family, for cursing me with financial and emotional instability and I knew I had lasting mental health issues from the years of untreated pain. When I was bullied by my first-ever roommates in college and contemplated dropping out of school, I finally sought help from the free counseling at school. It was nice to talk to someone, but overall I do not feel like these services provide anything revolutionary. The next semester was better, and I stopped the services.

My sophomore year in college was the worst of my college years for mental health. Because I have two majors, I had a 19-credit semester and an 18-credit semester, and those coupled with my numerous involvements on campus meant I left my dorm at 8am and did not return until 10 or 11pm Monday through Thursday. My roommates were often laughing and enjoying themselves when I got back and had yet to start my homework. My sleep suffered, and I did not feel like myself. I spread myself way too thin, and I learned my lesson. It was also in this year that I stopped smoking weed after a traumatic incident where I got too high, had a panic attack, almost called 9-11, and felt high for weeks after. I think this may have triggered the main topic of this post, derealization and depersonalization (DR/DP). This year I again sought out counseling services for the tremendous stress I was dealing with, and I also asked to do an assessment for bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety, of which the tests determined I had none. I tried to talk to my counselor about DR/DP, but she told me it was all in my head. I felt invalidated and tried to pray it away.

My summers have involved traveling for the past three years now, and that is always good for me, because being in my dad’s house on breaks brings my depression back full force. Old family pictures feel awkward and unfitting, and our large house filled with old things no one cares about and not enough love to go around brings me to the brink of sadness. My relationship with my parents is a lot healthier now, but for me nostalgia is like a ton of bricks dropping on me: it has weight, and it comes with a lot of pain. Things were decent when I was really young, but most of my memories aren’t positive. Every time I travel to a new place, I feel DR/DP for a while, until I’m adjusted.

My junior year I spent the first semester abroad, which was incredible, but I was also in a committed relationship, so it was very difficult at first. I was too attached to my romantic partner, and found myself hyperventilating and bawling my eyes out for the first month, until I made myself numb about it. The second semester I came back and thought the pain of missing my partner would be gone, but my attachment intensified, like I wanted to keep him close so that would never happen again. I became distant with many of my friends from before I went abroad, and my only source of happiness was my boyfriend. I sought a counselor for codependency, and he gave me some techniques for grounding and ways to create a healthy relationship. I continued to struggle with DR/DP, and didn’t even bother to mention it to this counselor.

This brings me to today. I have been stuck in this episode of DR/DP for over a week, which happens quite frequently and which I have never been able to defeat. It defeats me. DR/DP makes me feel like I am high, but worse. There is no joy, there is no love, there is no happiness. Bodily sensations like pain, having to use the bathroom, and hunger seem distant, and I can ignore them if I want. I would starve myself when I’m in an episode, but I fear I’d get too sick and throw up. The worst part about it is that life doesn’t stop. I have to go to work, keep plans with friends, drive places, etc. even though I feel like I’m asleep.The only thing I want to do when I’m like this is sleep. I could stare at something all day. I’m not myself at all. I can’t smell, taste, or feel emotionally or physically. It is, in an essence, being dead. I imagine it is worse than death though. There is no meaning to life when I’m in this state. Sometimes it lasts for days, sometimes for weeks, but it always comes back and there’s nothing I can do to make it go away.

I’ve sought online support, and it has helped validate this and let me know that many, many other people go through this too, but I have yet to find a professional who can help me. School counselors are either unknowledgeable or unqualified, and everywhere else is too expensive. DR/DP is caused by extreme anxiety, or a traumatic panic attack, and it could be both for me. Recently I have dealt with anxiety more than ever before, and panic attacks for no apparent reason. My mind is a dark and twisted place, and I cannot figure it out. I tried to seek help in Los Angeles, but because my health insurance isn’t from this state, I couldn’t get free counseling. I don’t know where else to turn. Mental health services should not be this hard to come by. People die slow and painful deaths due to mental illness, and if this continued to go untreated, I will be in the same boat. I have so much passion for life, but having an unexplained and untreated mental illness takes every ounce of passion out of me and convinces me I am a machine that lives my life on autopilot. That’s the reality of derealization and depersonalization. It sucks the life from you. My DR/DP is worse than my depression and anxiety combined. It’s like living in purgatory with no way out but to silently suffer. I have only dared to tell a few people about this, because I’m scared many will think I’m insane. Even a counselor thought i was over exaggerating. But I’m tired of having to pretend like everything is okay when I talk to friends. I want to help end the stigma of mental illness by being completely transparent about my lifelong struggles with emotional instability. This won’t help it go away, but it will give me a sense of freedom to not hide what I go through on a daily basis. That’s too exhausting, and not fair to myself.

I truly hope I can find some treatment for anxiety, which will hopefully cure my DR/DP. There are many success stories online, but everyone is different, and I’ve been going through this so long that I have no hope. I will keep looking though, and I hope everyone suffering inside does the same. Don’t give up on yourself just because it feels like everyone else has given up.

If anyone thinks of me differently now, then they must accept the fact that this is the real me. We can’t pretend to not suffer, because it encourages other people to stay silent too, and suffering in silence is self-destruction. If someone can’t accept that lately I have had more days with panicking, crying, numbness, confusion, and sadness than without, then they can’t accept me wholly.

If anyone out there is going through something similar, don’t hesitate to reach out. We must care for each other in this society that treats mental illness like a burden.

 

Rapper Logic has opened up about his struggle with derealization disorder.

challenge · experience · friendship · inspiration · life · love · poetry · positivity · self help · society · support · truth · Uncategorized · writing

Lifted

Some would say I’m floating on a cloud

Because convention means nothing to me

I will save every penny

So I can afford to live my fantasy

Every day is a brick to build my dream house

And I am tired of hearing that

My youth dictates my naivety

That all of my experiences amount to nothing

Because I don’t have a trail of debts following me

That life will suddenly catch up to me

And I will find myself in your shoes.

But with all of the intentional decisions I have made-

Why do you think I will suddenly lose my autonomy

And forsake all I have worked for

To live a life of safety?

There is nothing within me begging for comfort

I force myself into discomfort so that with squirming I grow

I scare myself straight so that nothing may scare me

I experiment with life so that I find what feels right

Trusting my instincts in the path that I take,

And knowing that nothing is enough to be the end of my fate

Nothing is so threatening that I will succumb

To the societal forces that drive others numb

There is no living on a cloud when you come to accept

life is built from dreams when you take concrete steps

towards passion and purpose and a generous path

in which you unfold with joy and others can laugh

sharing in how life rarely goes as planned

but if you continue seeking better, in a paradise you’ll land

with contentment and success in the deepest sense

not a pawn in the mundane game, but forever blessed

embodying the living in life and accepting nothing less

than the fruits of your labor and lovingness

for all aspects of living a life of cold truth

that may pain you to follow but to which you must commit

that’s why I’m vowing when I’m young to never submit

to the easiest path of instant gratification

my dreams are worth more than an occasional vacation

I will build my dream life so there is no need for escaping.

challenge · experience · friendship · inspiration · life · love · poetry · positivity · self help · society · tips · truth · Uncategorized

On forgiveness

There is more to be earned from forgiveness than from bitterness.

I was once a burning-bridges type of human

The one that feels the sting of rejection and malintent

And cannot forget it.

And cuts ties to reduce the persistent pain.

But I have learned there is much to lose from not forgiving.

Even if I have loved more, given more, been more for the other person,

They may still have something genuine to offer

It is enchanting: the power of pushing away what has proven difficult

But what bewitches me more these days is the idea of not how others can improve

But how I can improve, for one

Doling out more chances for imperfect humans

To provide some sort of shelter for us both

Sometimes the strongest bonds are also the most volatile

And other times, if a mountain of energy is gifted for little to no return

It is time to let them go.

But one should know

Only after trying, really trying,

To form something real-

Because deep below the surface, profoundly, within all of us, exists

A desire to connect and an obscured ability to do so

So maybe all our comrades need is a reminder

That the effort is worth it

That their humanness means something to you.

experience · inspiration · life · love · poetry · positivity · truth · Uncategorized

breaking in half // sustaining this flame

When I think of you I break in half because you are not here to share the minutes and hours

You are not here to share the seconds between moments, where the indescribable happens

You are not here to share this bed and frame my head with yours

In your absence, I feel no touch, no kiss, no embrace to which I surrender

Nothing enchants me quite like these memories, I hold in my cerebrum like the antidote to all pain

Our passing moments, each day the ones I have forsaken to leave you crumble me into pieces

I struggle believing I could go on this way forever, in your absence

Missing your real-time emotions and laughter and energy and vibrancy

You are a light that feeds my soul, nothing compares to your hand I can hold

Nothing can replace your body, our love in a space and a time that is defined

Nothing can erase the heart palpitations the image of your presence brings

Sustaining this flame, I wait until I have my soul in full form again.