Spreading the Wealth

Welcome back, everyone! Whether you are a first time reader or a seasoned veteran of Putting Down the Rope, I’m happy you’re here. This post started as a way for me to blow off some steam, and then it morphed into something beautiful and productive. I hope you get something out of it, just as I did.

 

To catch you all up, life has been pretty good for me over the last few months. I’ve found a group of friends I consider family here in Nashville, I have an amazing partner (who I still wake up next to feeling unbelievably lucky that I found him), I moved out of my parents’ house and now live in a part of town that I love with some really awesome roommates. Life has been good.

But we all know that mental illnesses exist, even in the happiest of times. Sasha (remember her?) has snuck her way back in and has been pointing out all of the unhappy parts of my life. Since she started doing that, all of the bad things have just seemed to pile on, one after the other, and now I find myself at the bottom of a pit, staring up at the rays of happiness that seem so far out of reach now. We all know that I write to process and vent, so here it goes…I hope you missed me.

Due to my depression, I stopped taking the medication needed to maintain the health of my liver. (For those who don’t know, I have auto-immune hepatitis, which means that my immune system really doesn’t like my liver and tries to kick it out of the Vital Organs Club.) For the last few years I have been in remission, while still requiring consistent and constant care to make sure I stay that way, as my disease is not curable. I learned last week that I am no longer in remission, and will have to have another liver biopsy to figure out the severity of my condition and decide how intense my treatment will be. Treatment that involves medication with heavy side effects…side effects that I didn’t handle too well last time I was on them.

In addition to this fun news, my boss recently informed me that, because I didn’t qualify for an intermittent leave of absence (basically designed for people with chronic health issues), anytime I call out of work due to my illness it counts against me. Which has been happening more and more because of my chronic GI issues, too. To top it off, I have a cold. Aren’t I just the picture of health?

Since I’m not able to work at my current job without being punished for having chronic illnesses, I’ve been looking for a new job. Not only that, but I have been searching for other work that will be more aligned with what I want to pursue as a long-term career. After years of tossing the idea around, I’ve finally decided that I want to pursue my dream of becoming a therapist. Which means grad school; another excessively expensive endeavor. It’s difficult to find a job in this field, however, without already having a Masters or an undergraduate background in psychology or social work. And the jobs I do find that don’t have any crazy prerequisites, I don’t land interviews for because I’m too young or don’t have enough relevant experience. After being turned down for jobs I was really excited about, my pit seemed to deepen. After all, for the longest time, my career was the root cause of my happiness. I was passionate about my work, I was ambitious, and constantly searching for the next big thing I could be a part of.

However, I do have a light down in my pit. My partner tosses matches down for me to light so I don’t feel so alone in the darkness. But I’ve realized recently how heavily I rely on those matches to provide me comfort, and it isn’t fair to expect one thing (or one person) to be the sole source of happiness in me. I used to be full of happiness, from all different sources. Whether it was theatre, writing, photography, poetry, spending time with friends, etc…I usually had at least one thing outside of my personal relationships that sparked joy in me. But moving home disrupted a lot of that happiness. I had to start over, find new friends, find a new passion. Theatre in Nashville is obviously very different than theatre in Los Angeles. Suddenly, the career path that I had been working towards since I was a kid was pulled out from under me. Suddenly, I had to find all new friends. I was used to moving and having to start over, but those transitions were often aided with school, or jobs, or a house full of 20+ roommates. I didn’t know what to do now that I was an adult living with my parents in a brand new city where I didn’t know a single person outside of my family. When I moved home and got my emergent mental health under control, I started going out to photograph local concerts and discover new bands, meeting people along the way, but not many I was keen on spending tons of time with.

And then one day I helped out a friend, someone I hadn’t gotten to know too well yet, and our friendship clicked. It took some time, but we started spending more time together. Some six months later and here we are, the best of friends, and, as it happens, very much in love. As someone with a track record for screwing up relationships, I tried vehemently not to get involved with him. But when my brain realized my heart was involved, it all went out the window. So, now I am in a relationship with the most wonderful man I have ever known.

When we first started seeing each other almost half a year after we met, my happiness was palpable. At this point I had found a couple close friends, all who noticed and pointed it out to me, but that didn’t erase my other problems. I still had no career path– I wasn’t working towards anything, and had settled on a job that I liked fine, but wasn’t a long-term career by any means– and my depression had sapped my creativity. I didn’t want to acknowledge my depression because people in happy, healthy relationships didn’t have depression…right? Yeah, everyone reading this knows just how wrong that is. But my ignorance shoved the desire to deal with my mental illness out the window. Which, as these things tend to do, came around to bite me in the ass once my partner and I decided that, for the health and strength of our relationship, we needed to spend more time away from each other to maintain our individuality outside of the relationship. I agreed, but as soon as we spent days apart, my mood dropped noticeably. I didn’t understand why, as I was 100% on board and perfectly ok with our plan. I didn’t want us to become absorbed into one another. I had always been a strong, independent person. So then why was I falling apart when I willingly spent time away from my partner?

Well, it’s hard to find your own sense of self when you still feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you. I lost myself when I moved home, and when I met my partner, I hadn’t found all of myself yet. It’s a weird feeling not to have a path in life…I had one for so long until I didn’t, and only then did I realize just how much stock I had put into my career and following my dreams. Hell, I can’t complain. I did the damn thing! I got my degree in theatre, I moved all the way across the country and worked at all of the places I dreamt of working at. But dreams can change. My last job on a theatrical production was when I was the most unhealthy. I had major depression, I was self-harming, I had an eating disorder that I hadn’t addressed or even acknowledged, and I had no money. All of this had started causing burn out, and I no longer enjoyed going to work like I used to. To this day, I am unsure if I will ever work in theatre again. It was difficult for me to step away, without knowing where I was going next.

All I’ve ever known is ambition; chasing my dreams, no matter how wild, or seemingly impossible. When I had to face the fact that my dreams were fading, I had nothing to replace them with. And when I was forced to leave the state I had fallen madly in love with, I felt even more lost. While I have found my home in Nashville, I still find myself picking up the pieces of myself that broke when I fell apart two years ago.

But it’s not all bad. Sasha loves to remind me that it is, but in writing this I am confident that it’s not. After all, I’ve found a new dream. Who’s to say that I can’t pursue this dream just as fiercely and unapologetically as I did with theatre? Sure, it will be hard, but so was crawling my way into the professional theatre scene in Los Angeles! I can do this. Even when my diseases and disorders and emotions tell me that I can’t.

I am learning to spread the wealth, not put so many eggs in one basket. If I put all of my joy and happiness into my new career path, I’ll become exhausted before I know it. If I put all of my happiness into my relationship, I will become codependent (and I really love this boy, so I’m not about to screw that up). If I put all of my happiness into my friendships, I will fall apart when my friends get busy with their own lives and careers and relationships.

Life is hard as hell. We all know it. I know each and every one of you reading this has dealt with some pretty heavy stuff. Maybe you are right now. But as my mom says, things can turn on a dime and life gets better, easier. Don’t put all your stock into one aspect of your life. Feed your soul– all of it!–  because your soul has many compartments!

 

Who knows how long or often I’ll blog…but it’s nice to know that I can always come here to process and learn more about myself (and hopefully help others who are struggling with similar issues along the way). I’ve shared a lot of my journey on this website, and I’ve worked through a lot of really difficult stuff for everyone to see. If this post does anything, I hope it reminds those who struggle with their own mental illness that even if life is going great, mental illness can creep in and try to disrupt that. Just know that it doesn’t make you weak. You are stronger than you realize. You got this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

No One Deserves to Disappear

I feel invisible. If I disappeared tomorrow, no one would notice. No one would care even if they did. I’m not special. There’s no reason to remember me.

This is what I tell myself. I tell myself this consciously and subconsciously, and I have for years. And the thing is, I desperately want that to change. I try to do things that I hope people will notice. I post on social media. I go out and socialize. But at the end of every day, a part of me whispers that it wasn’t good enough. “You are still invisible,” it says. “No one cares about you.”

I wanted to write this because I was listening to a song yesterday that really resonated with me. It’s a song I have heard many times before, but last night  it felt like I was hearing it for the first time. Here are some of the lyrics that stood out to me:

“No one deserves to be forgotten. No one deserves to fade away. No one should come and go and have no one know he was ever even here. No one deserves to disappear.”

In therapy lately, I’ve been working through my feelings of invisibility. When I was a kid I was bullied, and that changed how I saw myself in the world. I didn’t have a lot of friends as a middle schooler. In fact, I used to walk the track with my math teacher at recess because I didn’t have anyone else to hang out with. People always told me when I was a kid that I was so mature for my age, and I chalk that up to having more adult friends than friends my own age. I wasn’t cool. I wasn’t popular. I still feel that way.

“When you’re falling in a forest and there’s nobody around, all you want is for somebody to find you. When you’re falling in a forest and when you hit the ground, all you need is for somebody to find you.”

It’s hard for me to accept that I may never have the life I desire. I want to be seen so desperately. I don’t want to constantly measure my life based on how many people follow me on Instagram, or like one of my photos, or comment on meaningful Facebook statuses. I want to feel that if I fall in a forest, someone will come find me.

“Even if you’ve always been that barely-in-the-background kind of guy, you still matter. And even if you’re somebody who can’t escape the feeling that the world’s passed you by, you still matter. If you never get around to doing some remarkable thing, that doesn’t mean that you’re not worth remembering.”

I constantly feel like because I have nothing remarkable to offer the world, no one cares about me. I often feel talentless, and I constantly compare myself to others based on what I see of them on social media and out in public. I can’t figure out what I lack that other people seem to have. I don’t seem to be too different from my friends, and yet they are loved by so many, have a large social media following, and seem to have it all together. Even when I don’t want to, I find myself turning these thoughts over and over in my brain…what did I do wrong? What am I missing?

Listening to that song last night, I realized how true the sentiment of the musical, Dear Evan Hansen- where the song comes from-  is as a whole. The message is that no matter how invisible you feel, you are not alone and you don’t deserve to disappear. It’s interesting because I’m working on believing this myself, and at the same time, I believe it so strongly for other people. I want others to know that they are not alone and that their lives are worth it. It is just so hard for me to flip that on myself. But I’m starting to work on that.

I’d love to hear from others who feel similarly, or who found this post relatable in any way. I tend to do well on “islands of misfit toys,” finding that I can get close to those who come from similar backgrounds. And I’d love to be surprised; my therapists are always saying that there are more people like me than I realize. I’d love for them to be proven right.

Feel free to comment, send me an email, a message on social media, anything you like. I’d love to hear your story.

“You are not alone.”

California, I’m Coming For Ya

After a few horrible days of mourning the loss of Southern California in my life, I have decided to do something about it. In session today, I made a plan with my therapist on what I need to do in order to get back to California.

I’ve got myself on a one-year plan.

Hopefully in one year I will be back in either Los Angeles or San Diego. I plan on getting a job, saving up my money, and getting healthy so that I won’t just be able to live in SoCal, but I’ll be able to thrive.

My goal for 2019 is no self-harm. I made a list of coping skills that I plan on practicing this year and beyond. I want to return to CA with no new scars as of right now.

Some exciting news is that part of my plan involves applying for graduate school! I’ve made the decision to go back to school for mental health counseling, and I’m terrified and so excited to see where this journey will take me.

I also plan on figuring out ways to incorporate the SoCal vibe into my current environment as some added motivation and comfort while I wait. I’m lucky that I’ve found somewhere I call my home, while it’s unfortunate that I discovered it after I left.

California, I can’t wait to get back to you!

Happy New Year!

Yesterday was a hard day for me. I found myself missing California more than I have since I moved back to Tennessee. While I know I should be celebrating that I survived the hardest year of my life so far, I can’t help but wonder where I’d be if I had stayed in LA.

Though I am sad, I now know what my goals for 2019 are: find my way back to Southern California. I know I want to be in a better place when I return, so I’m going to fight like hell to live in accordance with my values of independence and ambition. While I recognize it may not happen this year, I will still focus on what I need to do to get back eventually.

TW (next paragraph only): self-harm

One of my goals of this year is no self-harm at all in 2019. Getting that tattoo was a big deal for me; I haven’t self-harmed since, nor have I wanted to. I mentioned to a friend that getting that tattoo was the best thing I could’ve done because it provided me with enough of the sensation SH would give me, but instead of a scar it gave me something beautiful. I was scared I would regret getting my first tattoo, but in fact, I feel quite the opposite. I can’t wait to get my next one. Another goal I have for 2019 is whenever I feel the urge to self-harm, I transfer one dollar into my tattoo fund. Because I now know of a more productive way to mark up my body.

In 2019 I want to spend more time on photography, the blog, and getting healthy. I want to work towards grad school, and not let my fear of what others think impact the decisions I make. I want to follow my heart and my gut; no one else can tell me what I feel in my own gut.

2019 shows a lot of promise for me. It gives me the opportunity to start fresh and really work on myself. I grew so much in 2018- it was easily the hardest year of my life so far. And look at me! I survived! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for me this year, and I am so grateful to myself and my friends, family, and mental health professionals that I am still alive to see this year. I am so glad I have the chance to continue my story.

Happy New Year!

 

My Story is Not Over

Well, folks. I took a leap.

Last night I got a tattoo. My first tattoo!

I couldn’t wait to share this with you; this is something I’ve wanted for a long time and thanks to some Christmas money, I was able to make it happen! Merry Christmas to me!

Many people have heard of Project Semicolon; the organization that was founded to prevent and raise awareness about suicide. The movement began by explaining “a semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.”

Obviously, the idea of Project Semicolon means a lot to me, as someone who has struggled with self-harm and suicidality for quite a while. I’ve had close friends of mine attempt suicide, and I know of far too many who have succeeded in their attempt. I am lucky that I am still alive, and when I relapse in self-harm it helps to remind myself that my story has not ended, but instead, a new chapter has begun.

This is why I got the semicolon tattoo. Because I have chosen life. I have decided that my story is not over.

The other night I was watching A Star is Born, *spoilers ahead* and one of the characters mentions a suicide attempt at the age of thirteen. That’s when I knew I had to get the tattoo, because far too many end their lives before it even begins. It breaks my heart, even as someone who struggles with the very same thing. I remember when I was in the hospital for self-harm and they brought in a very young girl who had just attempted. All I wanted to do was get out of my bed and go give her a hug and tell her that her story is not over. As Lady Gaga says, it gets better. It sure as hell doesn’t seem like it a lot of the time, but I promise that it does.

I got the semicolon on the arm that I’ve bruised and cut…the arm that has the most scars, that has seen all the battles I’ve started with myself.

I am so grateful to be alive. That is what this tattoo represents for me. My decision to keep fighting.

 

IMG_7986

Just Your Friendly Neighborhood Reminder that Gender is a Construct

Do you feel like binding your breasts today? Cuz I do.

What about painting your toenails? Me, too!

This is just a friendly PSA that gender is fluid, and just because society tells you that men have to dress like men and women have to dress like women, you don’t have to abide by that.

Wear heels, or boxers, or chest binders (please be safe), or makeup, no matter your gender identity! Wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident.

I need to hear this every so often, and I believe you should, too.

Love always,

K

Introducing #DBTDay

Hello everyone!

I’ve fallen off the wagon of my #MentalHealthMonday posts, so I decided to revamp that, and add something new!

Once a week, I will explore a DBT skill on the blog! For those who don’t know, DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and is used by many treatment centers and therapists across the country. It is a cognitive behavior therapy developed by the extraordinary Marsha Linehan, Ph.D.. As its name suggests, DBT is focused on dialectics; balancing opposites, and using “both-and” ways of thinking rather than “either-or.”

There are four sections of DBT: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness. Each section offers unique skills to help you stay in the present moment, tolerate stressful situations (without making things any worse), manage intense emotions, and communicate effectively in relationships.

In an effort to raise awareness about DBT, and increase my own personal use of the skills, I will strive to post about one skill per week. If anyone has heard of DBT and would like to request a particular skill, or if you are interested in any of the four models mentioned above, just send me an email from my Contact page.

I can’t wait to refresh my memory of DBT; these are skills that saved my life. I hope they will have some effect on you, too.