So yesterday, I learned too late, was World Bi-Polar Day.* Today is Trans Visibility Day. What a significant couple days for me. Obviously, these aren’t the sum and total of the identity that is me, but they are both large parts of me.
Being Bi-Polar has been one of the defining attributes of self for a large portion of my life. That’s why I choose to call it BEING Bi-Polar, not having it. I was diagnosed VERY early (aged 13) after three years of going to doctors for aggressive symptomatic behavior (as opposed to the preceding worrying behaviors which didn’t require medical intervention). I don’t really remember a life without this. And I don’t mind BEING Bi-Polar. I’ve learned to love the depth and breadth of feeling it allows me. Is it easy to manage? Not always. In fact, it’s often very difficult to manage. But I’ve gotten to the point in my treatment and my life that that difficulty is worth the result: a healthy, stable mind which is still allowed to feel atypically, sans medication.
I will NOT always be able to be off medication and I am NOT ashamed of that. It took AGES AND AGES of work to get to that point and it takes MOST of my mental capacity to maintain it. I almost went back on medication when I got married, because the shifts in my life and where I needed to be spending my mental energies nearly sucked away too much capacity. The timing is mostly non-coincidental, intimate relationships are HARD, yo (a good hard, though), but my Lupus diagnosis came just a couple months before the wedding entirely coincidentally, and that is a HUGE brain-capacity suck. Thankfully, I have a loving, giving husband who gives back as much as I have given (and sometimes much more) and who made up the difference in the lost mental oomph. His support is vital to my health and he is my staunch companion as I navigate a world that is a glut of emotional overload.
To my dear, dear friends who may be struggling with their mental health alone: GET. HELP. Do not do this on your own. Further, get PROFESSIONAL help. Your friends and family will be an invaluable support as you navigate the inner and outer minefields, but professionals WILL give you tools your friends and family cannot. You need a full tool box, whether those are therapy tools or medication tools. A good professional will hear your wariness to use one or the other and find a way to help you that fits your needs. And if you’ve quit on therapy and/or meds and have no idea how to go back – just go. Professionals are not there to judge you, they’re there to help you.
And to those brave souls who still struggle after getting help: Don’t stop. You’re doing so much good. You are excellent. And while this may not end, I firmly believe it WILL get better as your work continues.
To all of you: Stay at it. Stay with us. And be as visible as you like. You are under no obligation to expose yourself to society if you are uncomfortable doing so. You are also under no obligation to hide yourself, just because society wants you to. Screw expectation. Take care of yourself. You have a community who is here for you, if you need it.
And, of course, now to being trans.
It took me a LONG time to identify as trans. A LONG time. I was worried about appropriation, as I’m not binary trans and because I’m not at all interested in physical transition (for reasons I keep meaning to write down and never actually get around to doing so). Also, the denotative definition didn’t feel like it fit at all. But, despite those hesitations, I’ve clung to the Non-Binary banner from the moment I learned the term. It’s mine. That’s me. That is where I see myself. And, of course, now I fully identify as trans because I’ve come to understand some things about the term, about myself, and the connotative definition (as well as reminded myself of the power of connotative definitions, especially for marginalized communities).
It took me even longer to identify this way to other people. That’s not a surprise. It’s not a concept society is invested in educating people about–even with more binary trans visibility–and it. is. exhausting. to do the education myself. Some days, it is WAY easier to let people mis-gender me than it is to try to educate or fight pre-conceived notions of the “right” way to do/see gender (hint: history probably says you’re wrong if you think there’s *a right* way to do/see gender . . . science, too). But, I have been coming out, slowly but surely. I’ve chosen pronouns that make me happy, titles that don’t make me flinch (Mx. for an honorific, Zizi for an adult sibling of a parent, Mer for my parental title), and read a LOT in preparation for the days I have kids (S. Bear Bergman has been a lifeline). My husband has done a lot of the discussion with friends and family for me, so that I can come into a situation with the basics covered. I have an excellent partner in life. And, frankly, a pretty excellent life.
I am visible. I am here. And, while I may not always be up for the conversation, I am generally willing to have the conversation about both being Bi-Polar and being trans. While education can be exhausting, it’s important to me, for the survival of my own self and of the many transpersons who don’t have the levels of support and love I have.
To my precious friends and family in the trans community: You are just that: precious. You are here against so many odds, and though they may be stacked against you, you are a fighter. I am proud of you. And, if I may be forgiven for repeating myself, I beg you to stay at it. Stay with us. And be as visible as you like. You are under no obligation to expose yourself to society if you are uncomfortable doing so. You are also under no obligation to hide yourself, just because society wants you to. Screw expectation. Take care of yourself. You have a community who is here for you, if you need it.
Happy World Bi-Polar Day and Trans Visibility Day. Because, you know what? It is a gloriously happy thing to be me.
*The reasons for that is a posthumous “diagnosis” of Vincent Van Gogh (who was born on March 30th), which I think is some SERIOUS shenanigans (seriously, even with records from his doctor, this is nothing more than a GUESS), but objections to the choice of day and person to stand in for people with Bi-Polar as opposed to A DEFINITIVELY DIAGNOSED PERSON aside, I like the practice of having a day.
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