you don’t have to be good

Hi, friends.

I almost wanted to skip writing this week, because my depression has been awful. But I’m trying to be better about self-care. Not writing equals potential self-combustion for me this week, so…here we are.

I imagine I’m not the only one who’s had a rough week. Every week seems to bring some sort of awful, nauseating new thing brought on by the Trump administration. It’s hard to even catch all the bad news without missing something.

I’ve been most effected by what went down at Standing Rock over the Dakota Access Pipeline and the rolling back of protections for trans youth in schools. Both of those things kinda hit us at the same time among other things. Still don’t really know how to respond; everything just hurts. So if any of you reading this are struggling with all that happened, I wanted you to know you’re not alone.

What I wanted to write about this week was an intro to some posts on purity culture. Honestly, I don’t think I’m ready yet. I’ve been working on some thoughts for almost the entire month and…it’s just been too much. That probably means I have some personal work to do on that front before I write about it in more detail. This will be a bit of a rambly post but I’m thinking a lot of interconnected things. (as per usual?) I spent some time reflecting on Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, which helped me get through this week. (if you haven’t read it, you need to; trust me)

So, since I can’t write about what I wanted to yet, here’s what I can write about: purity culture and ableism. I’m having to deconstruct a lot of shit. That’s where I’m getting stuck with where I’m at currently in life. I hit puberty about the same time all my chronic illness issues started. They may not seem interrelated but let me explain.

Only two years ago, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and arthritis. That was a diagnosis long coming since the symptoms for the first disorder started when I was 12. That was sort of where my body image issues began. I was in constant pain and going through puberty at the same time. If you can imagine that…yes, it was awful. I knew my body was changing, and I hated that my body was always in pain. Thank God I didn’t have a way to process “the gay thing” until much later because it would have been too much.

Anyway, because of my perception of God as this angry God, I thought something was wrong with me that needed to be fixed. On top of that, unbeknownst to me then, I was socially awkward and struggling to adapt to how all my peers were developing emotionally and physically. Because…literally only a year ago, I realized I probably have Asperger’s. It’s been one of those weeks where I’m more aware that it would help to be formally diagnosed. Being the square peg trying to fit in the round hole is finally getting to be too much without letting people around me know I need them to understand all this.

But I don’t even fully understand because I’ve been trying to adapt to this world my whole life. For those of us on the autism spectrum, this world was not built for us. But…we don’t need to be fixed. Different isn’t bad or wrong. It’s just different. Ableism makes no room for different. It’s not interested in accommodating or accepting any difference. Only conformity to a “norm” we can’t seem to measure up to. And it makes me feel like I’ve somehow done something wrong or that I’m not good enough to fit in. Or not worthy to be loved for who I am. But that doesn’t mean I can’t belong or that I’m not worthy of love because I’m autistic or because of the chronic pain that at times prohibits my interactions with the outside world.

In case you’re wondering how all ableism fits into fundamentalism…the answer is way too much. They’re all about conformity and different does tend to mean wrong. “different” should be “fixed” or “healed.” Prayed away, so to speak. I’m here to tell you, a disability is not a moral condition. A Disability. Is. Not. A. Moral. Condition. Nor is it a sign of weak faith.

God is not here to fix you because you are not broken. Your depression doesn’t make you broken or less than. Your anxiety doesn’t. You name it, disabilities are not conditions that mean you are less than. Just because someone/an entire group of people/society at large treats you as less than, doesn’t make you less than. (and if your intersectional feminism doesn’t include the disabled, I’ve just named several good reason why that matters that you be more inclusive)

things I’m trying to deconstruct this week on that note:

I am not a burden (even when I feel like one)

I am worthy of love (even when I feel unworthy)

Not everything that goes wrong is my fault.

I am not crazy because I’m different

I am not broken…nor do I need to be fixed.

I do not have to be good.


This one’s for the cynics

Ok. Let’s talk about Valentine’s Day, ya’ll. Because this holiday is hella complicated. I used to LOVE Valentine’s day as a kid. It was all about celebrating love for friends and family, and obviously lots of chocolate.

But when it took on a more romantic quality as I got older, I started hating it. Yesterday, which was Galentine’s Day (see Parks and Rec…) on the other hand is a holiday I can get 100% behind.

It’s just…this holiday comes with a lot of baggage. To be honest, I don’t hate Valentine’s Day because I’m single. I’ve been single since I came out as gay to my last boyfriend, and I’ve been in three relationships that spanned over a Valentine’s Day. And being in a relationship on Valentine’s was one of the most stressful things in the world. So. Much. Pressure. I mean, yes, all the chocolate and occasional flowers and/or stuffed animals were nice. But…if you’re going to have a day celebrating love, it probably helps if you can love your partner as a whole person and not have to pretend for the other person just to make this one day special. When deep down, you know it’s all a sham. And the other person knows it too.

So yeah, now I’m super cynical on Valentine’s day. But. This time around I can say it’s my first where I’m more true to who I am. And that’s 10 times better than the stress or having a relationship where you know you’re not being yourself. Valentine’s Day has been painful in the past, but hopefully moving forward, it can be celebrated in the way it should be. Whatever your feelings are about this holiday, just know you’re not alone and you don’t have to cave to the pressure. Seriously. Don’t base your worth on whether you’re in a relationship or not. Eat chocolate and watch Netflix. It’s much better to be happy with who you are and not who someone else wants you to be.

Safety and Home

It would be nice if I could have my existential crises at reasonable hours of the day, but that’s not usually how that works for me.

Just a life update before I get started:

So, today was most likely my last day of class for this semester and I don’t know how to feel. Basically, financially, things are bad and my mental health has been suffering way too much due to that and parental issues. It doesn’t mean I’m giving up on grad school. Just…not something I can do right now. Good news is, I did just get a part-time job, so yay. Good things are happening despite that setback. This should give me more time to devote to writing projects (and the possible book I want to start working on), and I was also offered a paid internship at the church I’m attending. That place is awesome and I’ve found a safe place and safe people there. Which leads me to what I want to talk about today (tonight?).

This week’s post is an extended look at what it means to have a safe space. Or…specifically, what does it even mean to be safe? I really struggle with defining what safe is because I’m so used to feeling unsafe. And confusing it with safe because it’s the current norm. But, I’ve always related and equated feeling safe with love. And the concepts of home and family. Until I had to redefine what that looked like upon realizing I grew up in an environment that has never been entirely safe for me as a queer, disabled female. I’m slowly working on redefining what that looks like.

A few books that have been helping me through this are Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and All about Love by bell hooks. Mostly going to look at bell hooks, because she does great work on discussing what love is from a perspective of having been in abusive situations. She uses Erich Fromm’s definition of what love is as a starting point: “the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own and another’s spiritual growth.” What strikes me about this definition is the mutuality of it. Not just loving someone else, but recognizing in order to love someone else, you must nurture your own growth as well as the other person. It takes a conscious effort and isn’t something that happens without choosing it.

It’s these two paragraphs that I’m still mulling over though:

“When we understand love as the will to nurture our own and another’s spiritual growth, it becomes clear that we cannot claim to love if we are hurtful and abusive. Love and abuse cannot coexist. Abuse and neglect are, by definition, the opposites of nurturance and care…

For most folks it is just too threatening to embrace a definition of love that would no longer enable us to see love as present in our families. Too many of us need to cling to a notion of love that either makes abuse acceptable or at least makes it seem that whatever happened was not that bad.”

Just…damn. I don’t even know what to do with this yet. And then she says a few pages later: “Remember, care is a dimension of love, but simply giving care does not mean we are loving.”

Of course, I’ve grown up in what I’ve always perceived as a very loving family. We are very affectionate and say “I love you,” a lot. And yet…while there have been plenty of times where I felt loved, there’s also been that feeling of not feeling safe or at home with my own family. I think bell hooks gets it right here. My definition of love has been dependent upon trying to see my family as loving and the emotional/spiritual abuse I experienced as “not that bad.” And honestly, what makes this hard is that I know my parent’s intentions have been good. However, never intending harm does not negate that harm was caused. I mean, I felt the need to hide that I was going to therapy because of that feeling that I was not safe to disclose that information among other things going on in my life.

So…that’s what love is. And if love is what makes me feel safe…that’s not something I’ve truly experienced much up to this point. It’s revolutionary and new for me to embark on this journey. To be safe is to be loved, and to be loved is to be cared for in such a way that all involved are nurturing each other’s wellbeing.

I think this means defining home and family for myself at least too. To be safe is to be loved and to be loved means to be at home with those who make you feel safe–like family should be. What I’m learning about home and family now is that I’m having to choose who I make my family since my physical family isn’t what it should be. That means finding people who make me feel at home and safe. Hoping to figure all this out more but this is where I’m at for now.

Self-Care and Safe Spaces

(content note for suicide and emotional abuse)

It’s a mad world out there. So, especially after the insanity of the past few weeks politically, I figured I’d take some time to talk about self-care (and why the hell it’s so hard). Full disclosure: I am terrible at self-care. This is for many reasons–mental illness being one of them–related to fundamentalism and how I was taught to handle my emotions/mental health. Otherwise known as, why I’m so fucked up and bad at eating enough, taking care of my physical and mental health, etc.

I’m going to talk about two concepts that were actually completely foreign to me until about two years ago: Self-Care and Safe Spaces. I heard self-care for the first time and immediately realized it was something I had been missing most of my life. Because I had always been taught to put yourself first was selfish, and you lived to serve others and God…yourself last. (ya know…JOY…Jesus, Others, You. I know. it’s a sneaky Sunday School thing)

I am here to tell you: It. Is. Not. Selfish. It is not selfish to take care of yourself or take time to yourself when you’re overwhelmed or need breaks from the harshness of life. Self-care for me has been about being more self-aware. Aware of how I’m feeling, checking in with my body and emotions and knowing when rest is needed. Because, if you don’t take care of yourself, how are you supposed to resist an oppressive government, or take care of other people in your life. I don’t often believe this, but it’s true. And acknowledging negative emotions or that you’re not doing well isn’t wrong either.

Here’s what happens when you’re taught to ignore your own needs and put others’ needs first. You implode on yourself…or explode when things get to be too much. Story time! I grew up hearing that I  couldn’t trust my feelings.  which leads to ALL SORTS OF BAD THINGS. But moving on…because of this, I learned simply not to feel anything at all. I numbed myself emotionally to the point of not crying for 2-3 years in high school. Literally, I stopped expressing outwardly any negative emotion, and it was the worst. This is probably where many of my trust issues began honestly.

Not only did I learn not to trust myself and what I was feeling. This taught me not to trust other people in my life either. By the time I got to 20, I really was primed to explode if something didn’t give. I had NO safe spaces. There wasn’t any safe place or safe person to turn to. I was in the midst of my first and most abusive relationship and came the closest to killing myself. Even when I told my boyfriend that night how suicidal I was, he ignored my calls. I got so desperate I called a friend who was 3 hours away. And while she was there in a way that no one else was, she made me feel guilty for feeling the way I was feeling. She did not understand how I got myself to that point or how I could be so selfish to want to end my own life.

I can’t stress enough the importance of community and safe spaces for folks with mental illness and in abusive situations. Safe Space…as in judgment free, compassionate, safe, home. Home for those who have been estranged from their home and family. Safe spaces are again, a new concept for me. It wasn’t until halfway through college that I had a group of friends. And they were truly there for me and had to constantly remind me that they were friends and were safe, because I had a hard time believing people existed in the world who loved me for who I was. I was so used to hiding my emotions and inner demons.

What helps keep you safe is knowing you’re loved. Not for who people want you to be, for what you can do for them, or for who you pretend to be.  But for who you really are as a whole person. So whatever the things are that make you YOU, find those people who see you. Find those people who make you feel safe. Find those people who make you feel at home.

I’m thankful to have found a few people and spaces where this is true. Where I am safe. Safe. That word is such a beautiful weighty word for something we all need. Tonight, I hope you’ve found those places and those people. If you haven’t, just know that I am a safe person you can reach out to. No one should feel unsafe or unloved and I will do my best to help undo that in whatever way I can if this is the case for you. Don’t forget: take care of yourself; you are loved and needed in this crazy world.