Five Years

I completely missed it when I posted last week, but on Friday, Accidental Fudge turned five! For five years I’ve written and posted a blog almost every week. That feels like a pretty big accomplishment.

Accidental Fudge started as a blog to document my gender transition. I had enough weird and amusing anecdotes in my first month on testosterone that I thought it would be fun to share them with the world. And that was great, to start. It quickly became apparent, though, that there wasn’t going to be a “here’s a weird thing I’ve noticed about my gender” moment every single week. The blog pretty steadily evolved into me telling you all about how my weeks were going – a brief newsletter of sorts. That’s also been great.

Every time the blog is another year older, I think it’s worth pausing to reflect on whether this is still something I want to invest my time in. While I often feel like I don’t have anything of value to say, I do still enjoy the challenge of coming up with something each week. And I love hearing from those of you who comment (either here or on Facebook or in person). It reminds me that I’m part of a much larger community than I sometimes realize.

So thanks, Accidental Fudge readers, for your support. Here’s to five years, and here’s to at least one more!

I’m writing this post on Thursday morning from my armchair at home, rather than from the bus. I have been feeling increasingly crummy every day this week, and this morning I finally woke up feeling definitively sick, so I’m going to work from home and keep my germs to myself.

So, this is going to be a short post today, because my brain is pretty foggy. Usually when I’m feeling like I have nothing to talk about, I go for some sort of list post. So…let’s go with three things I’m grateful for today:

  1. I can work from home. My boss told me I could just take an actual sick day if I wanted to, and I know that I technically can…but I’m almost out of sick time and I have to save my vacation time for Christmas travel. I’m glad to be in a position where it’s possible to do my job remotely when my body doesn’t feel up to commuting.
  2. Things are going better with my family. We’ve worked through the most recent round of hurt and seem to be closer to being on the same page, which feels nice.
  3. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here yet, but thanks to the adjustments that were made to my med regimen over the summer, my anxiety is much better controlled. So much so, in fact, that I’m able to drink regular coffee again! It had been about two years since I’d been able to handle that much caffeine. As I sit here and sip my coffee this morning, I am grateful for that.

Coming Out

Hello, dear readers! This blog post is going up late today, because I did not write it yesterday and also because I stayed home from work today to catch up on sleep and fight off the headache I woke up with.

I’m also not really sure what to write about this week. They still haven’t caught the perpetrator of the two shootings in our neighborhood that I talked about last week, so we’re still a bit on edge, trying to figure out how to navigate our neighborhood in a way that feels safe right now. Also, on a national level here in the US, things are pretty overwhelming right now. (If you’re a US citizen and haven’t checked your voter registration or haven’t registered to vote, do so now. We need everyone to show up and vote in November. Voter suppression is a serious reality in a lot of places right now, and voter rolls have been purged in some states as a part of that, so check your registration even if you know you were registered before.)

We did have the lovely experience on Monday of seeing our friend Heather Mae play a show in our neighborhood. We got to spend a while before and after the show catching up with her and hanging out, and that was great. Go check out her music if you’re not familiar with her stuff – she’s fabulous!

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day, and today is National Coming Out Day. So I think to close this blog I’m going to combine the sentiments of those two days and tell you a little bit about myself that you may or may not know:

I am queer. Queer is a label I’ve chosen because it represents so much of who I am. It describes my orientation – I’m attracted to all sorts of people of all sorts of genders. It describes my gender – I was assigned female at birth, but realized in my mid-twenties that that didn’t fit; I’m now living and presenting in such a way that I’m read as male by the world at large, but in my heart of hearts I really don’t identify with binary gender at all. Queer also describes my brain – I have Bipolar II Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, both of which I was finally diagnosed with 9 years ago, and which I’ve been medicated for ever since. A few months ago, I had to seek out a psychiatrist to get my meds adjusted – I was manic and anxious as hell for a solid month. It was miserable, and I still don’t know how I managed to get anything done during that time. Since getting my meds adjusted, I’m feeling much more capable of handling all of the anxiety that comes from life right now.

I choose to be out and proud about all of these intersections of my identity, but I can make that choice because I live with a great deal of privilege. I have safe, nurturing spaces where I can be myself. Not everyone is so lucky. If you’re struggling with whether or not to come out today, remember that your safety comes first, and that your identity is valid regardless of how public you are with it. I see you; you’re real. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. May we all work toward a world in which “coming out,” whether it’s in regard to sexuality or gender or mental health or anything else, doesn’t carry so much weight and fear with it.

Fears

Friends, it’s been a week. And while I try to largely focus on the silver lining on this blog, I need to be honest with you – this week, there are several things I’m feeling scared about.

The obvious one, on a US-national politics scale, is that it’s looking likely that Brett Kavanaugh (who’s been accused by multiple women of sexual assault and who is clearly temperamentally unfit for the job) will be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. It’s horrifying. (John Oliver’s take on all this is on point and wonderful. Long, but worth the watch.)

In local-to-me news, two men in my neighborhood were shot in the head with the same weapon over the last few days. One was an older gay man walking his dog around 10am, and the other was an orthodox Jewish man walking near the lake late in the evening. Yes, I live in Chicago, but this feels different from past instances of gun violence in our neighborhood, which have historically been either gang-related or connected to muggings. There’s no telling at this point if these homicides were specific hate crimes or the result of a more generally misanthropic hate, but I admit I’m worried about how gay I might look walking down the street.

The world is often a terrifying place these days. I’m trying to look for bright spots to push back the dark. So here are some happy things that happened this week:

  • We went with friends to see Cameron Esposito on Friday. It was exactly what we all needed.
  • A couple we’re friends with had their baby on Saturday, which has inspired me to knit some baby things. They knit up so quickly!
  • I went to the dentist. This is generally not a happy statement, but it was the first time I’d been since moving to Chicago six years ago. No cavities in these teeth!

I’d love to hear how you’re pushing back the darkness this week, friends. (Or if you’re not, I’d love to know what I can do to sit with you in the dark a while.) Hang in there.

Follow Through

This has been a long week already, and I’m glad it’s almost over – work has been frustrating, and I’m super ready for a vacation. Thankfully, we leave for Song School in just over a week!

On a personal level this week has been an exercise in follow-through. A fellow Song Schooler on Facebook organized a songwriting challenge for this week in preparation for school, and I decided to join in – writing a song a day for seven days straight. I know that I can do this, because of all the writing I did in February. But it’s still a challenge. I’ve been having trouble with mornings for a couple of months, and my evenings are often full, so I was definitely nervous leading up to this week. So far, though, I’ve managed to get up at my first alarm every morning this week and sit down to write.

I didn’t finish the song I started this morning (in fact, I think I’m going to set it aside and start fresh with a different idea after work today), but if I do manage to finish a song today, I will have hit my 2018 songwriting goal. For the whole year. On August 2. Each of the past two years I have written 20 songs. I decided that this year I’d be outrageous and set a goal of 40 songs. I’ve written 39.

It is a weird and wonderful feeling, following through on a goal all the way to completion. This is not something I’m super familiar with. A lot of my plans are hatched when I’m hypomanic (hi, Bipolar II brain), and they fall apart when I come down, which is really defeating. The fact that I set what felt like a totally ridiculous goal that I’d have toil at all year and probably wouldn’t actually achieve, and that now I’m going to hit it two thirds of the way through the year…it’s pretty unbelievable.

I don’t know that I’ll be able to repeat this in future years, but I’m not thinking about that yet (or, at least, I’m trying not to think about it yet). I’ve been fortunate to have the time in my schedule this year to make writing more of a priority, and I’ve worked hard to actually write on a regular basis (with the help of classes at the Old Town School, in particular). It feels good. And I’m looking forward to coming away from Song School with some fresh inspiration to keep going.

This is one of those weeks where I feel like I don’t have a lot to say. I’m less down than I was last week, but still rather out of it. So let’s keep this one short and sweet. Here’s a list of three things that have made me smile this week:

  1. Nerdery. Last weekend I spent many hours with fellow nerds playing DnD. Before I went to each of the two games, I was feeling pretty blah. But I’m so glad I went! Few things make me as happy as collaborative storytelling with friends.
  2. Music. On Sunday, my partner and I participated in our songwriting class’s end-of-session showcase. These showcases are always fun and always make me appreciate the songwriting community we’re part of.
  3. Friends. I’ve had a lot of reminders this week that I have a great support network holding me up. I’m grateful for all of the people who stick by me even when my brain is misbehaving.

Down

I’ll be honest with you, dear readers: I’m not feeling great. I’m currently being paid a visit by the Depression Monster. While nothing in my life is logically all that awful, there have been enough hard things lately (not to mention the dumpster fire of global issues in the news) to trigger a downswing in my Bipolar cycle.

The good news is that my recent med adjustment seems to be helping: I’m not particularly anxious. The bad news is…well, I’m depressed, and there’s no anxiety to distract from that. I have to grapple with it head-on, and I’m out of practice with that.

I know that my brain will even itself back out in the end. This current space is just a hard one to occupy, especially when the whole world feels like it’s burning.

Which, I guess, is all to say: hang in there, friends. I know I’m not the only one struggling. Hold your loved ones close and prop each other up. None of us can do this alone, but together, we’ve got a fighting chance.

Progress

Yesterday, I finally had my psychiatric appointment to discuss adjusting my meds in an effort to better manage my anxiety. And I’m pleased to say it went well! The psychiatric nurse practitioner and I talked about my past diagnoses and mental health history. Based on that, he gave me a couple of options that we could pursue, and respected my choice between those options.

Thankfully, the first step is simple: I’m just increasing the dose of one of my meds. If I feel in six weeks or so that that’s helping, then that’s where we leave it. If I’m still feeling like I need more help, we’ll look at adding an anti-anxiety medication to the mix. I’m hopeful that this first adjustment will be sufficient, and while I feel a little silly for taking so long to pursue this, I’m mostly just glad to have a plan. I’ve also finally come down from my most recent bout of hypo-mania, so I feel like I’m in a more stable spot to work out of, which is nice.

Here’s to (hopefully) better anxiety management!

Allergies and Optimism

I think I’m finally coming down from my most recent swing into mania. The frenetic activity in my brain has slowed (it never really ceases), and my anxiety has dropped from One Step Below Panic Attack back to Background Hum, at least most of the time.

This week, it really feels like spring is here and summer is right around the corner. I know it’s still spring because even though it’s been quite warm, there is pollen everywhere, which is making my head feel fuzzy and my sinuses cranky. But it’s hard to be too mad when everything’s finally leafing and blooming and alive.

I’m still planning to meet with a psychiatrist next week about a potential med adjustment. I’m still nervous, but I’m also glad I’ve gotten to the point where I’m doing something about the anxiety instead of just drowning in it.

All in all, even though it’s been a weird week, I think things are looking up. The weather has me feeling optimistic. I’ve had lots of reminders that I’ve built a really solid support network, and I’m so grateful for all the awesome people in my life that make the good times better and the hard times livable.

Anxious All the Time

My brain, at its best moments, could be described as “quirky.” Generally speaking, I know how to work with my mental quirks. I have systems in place to keep them from turning into anything more serious.

Possibly my least favorite of these quirks is the ever-present hum of anxiety in my head. I’ve frequently described mania as feeling like I have a head full of bees. They’re generally very busy, and sometimes something happens to make them particularly agitated, and they sting. That descriptor applies double for anxiety, really. Except instead of generally peaceful regular honey bees, anxiety bees are like killer bees, which will follow whatever upset them for an absurd distance compared with most other bees.

Metaphors aside, I’ve been really struggling to keep my anxiety under control lately. My usual coping mechanisms are falling short. Nothing seems to make much of a difference anymore.

This isn’t a new problem, exactly: I’ve noticed the frequency and severity of my anxiety increasing over the past couple of years. But I think we’ve finally hit critical mass for what I can reasonably manage on my own.

At the advice of my therapist, I got a referral to a psychiatrist from my doctor. I’ve been on the same doses of the same medications for about nine years; maybe it’s time for a change.

I was supposed to have an appointment today, but unfortunately, the doctor had to reschedule. Thankfully, I only have to wait a couple more weeks. I am nervous – messing around with meds can be a traumatizing process. But I’m hopeful that it’ll be worth it in the end.