Why Boundaries Matter

For years I couldn’t feel anger. I was so used to stuffing it down inside myself, that I only ever took my anger out on myself. At the partial hospitalization program I’ve been attending, they talk about how anger is a secondary emotion, how it is usually the result of some other emotion. And that makes sense to me, because I think for me anger is usually secondary to hurt. For years I couldn’t feel anger, I just felt the hurt and at times betrayal. Then I went through a lot of trauma specific therapy and all the anger that I’d suppressed for years came flooding out. It took a lot more therapy, but I eventually got to the point where I can feel anger without being afraid of losing control. I began to be able to experience big emotions or fluctuations in emotions without them taking control of me. And then this past autumn happened.

I knew my partner was polyamorous when I met her. I was aware of this but kind of filed it away because we were living in a really rural town for years where dating prospects were pretty slim. Then we moved back to the Boston area, but my mental health was such that she didn’t seek out other romantic partners. But over the summer and early fall, it became clear that she was interested in potentially dating other people outside of our marriage. I had a lot of fears about going forward with her dating, mostly the usual things like “What if she decides she likes this new person better than me? What if she leaves me?” that came up many times in therapy as I processed this. And over time I began to believe that she meant it when she said she wasn’t going anywhere. But then she told me who she wanted to try dating and I just had a bad feeling about it not just because of the worries I mentioned above, but also because the person she was talking about, I’ll call her C, had given me a bad feeling when we met.

I love my partner and I wanted her to be happy, so I said okay, even through these bad first impressions and neither of us could really tell if I was uncomfortable with Miss Insecurity because she generally sent off warning signs in my head or if I was just going to be uncomfortable with anyone my partner was dating. So I said okay and their relationship began. And it was awful. For six weeks, C managed to not just manipulate my partner but also acted in ways that were borderline abusive towards me. She continually started conversations with me online and then ghosted on them after I responded, sometimes not replying for a full week. She tried to make me help her process her feelings of jealousy and upset when I tried to set boundaries with her. She patronizingly tried to explain to me how relationships worked and how I was being a bad partner. She used guilt to try to manipulate my partner into spending more time with her when my partner genuinely couldn’t due to scheduling constraints that didn’t work with C’s constant travel plans. C had jealous fits that I wouldn’t expect out of someone who’d been having polyamorous relationships for twenty years. When my partner had to occasionally turn down invitations for dates, she got upset that I got to see my partner all the time when in reality there were weeks where my partner and she spent more time together than the two of us did living together.

I spent the first few weeks of their relationship feeling very isolated and alone. I tried to set boundaries as a way of protecting myself and C took my setting them out on me. She made everything about her feelings and told me I was bad at relationships. I felt like I couldn’t tell anyone what was happening because C made me feel like the only reason I was struggling was because I was bad at polyamory. She told me that I shouldn’t talk about the issues that she and I were having with my partner, essentially trying to take away the one person I could talk to. I felt like I couldn’t reach out to mutual or non mutual friends because I was internalizing her message and was afraid they would judge me harshly. I spent the last few weeks of their relationship an anxious wreck every time my phone vibrated because I was afraid it was C trying to start shit with me again. I had trouble sleeping and meeting obligations because I was trying to deal with this alone.

But then I just couldn’t do it anymore, not alone. I started talking to friends who were also in polyamorous relationships about what was actually happening and they were horrified. One friend who knew C through other channels responded by e-mail that they’d heard that my partner and C were dating and that they felt “a moment of both horror and deep love for” me because they had also had bad experiences with her as well. Other friends told me how they were horrified by the way that C was talking to me because being polyamorous themselves they would NEVER had talked to their partner’s partner this way. Person after person, friend after friend share their horror stories of dealing with C. I finally started to feel less alone. I wasn’t happy that my partner was still in this relationship because of the ways it was affecting me, but at least I wasn’t alone in my feelings anymore.

I had refrained from talking about any of my problems with C because I didn’t want other people to have to pick a side and I didn’t want to damage her relationships with mutual friends. I tried to be the bigger person. I continued to treat her with respect even though she didn’t extend the same back to me. Even months after the breakup, I limited my discussions with mutual friends to protect her. And really that was the thing that made my partner finally end this toxic relationship. She was contacted by a mutual friend who said they wanted nothing to do with me anymore because C was trash talking me behind my back, lying about things I had said or done and framing them as her feelings so no argument against them could be made. That was the last straw. My partner met up with her to break up. C failed to mention she was drunk and the breakup took until after 3 AM because my partner had to wait for her to sober up enough that she’d actually remember the conversation in the morning. Yeah, it was a three hour breakup.

So why am I bringing all of this up now? Because C is still, unsurprisingly, bad at boundaries. And this is still, perhaps just as unsurprisingly, affecting my life. I am angry at her behavior, I am anxious of the way she may treat me after the next conversation that she and my partner have about respecting boundaries. I’m anxious that she’s going to try and turn our mutual friends against me as she has in the past. I’m angry that months after my partner broke up with her, that boundaries are still continuing to be violated. I was talking to a mutual friend last week and her reaction was that it sounded like we had both been hurt by this relationship. And I wish I’d had the strength to tell her that it wasn’t just that we’d both been hurt. That C had been actively manipulative and toxic and abusive during the six weeks she and my partner were dating and that it went beyond not inviting us both to the same gathering. I wish I’d had the strength to not just shrug and agree. I don’t know where to go from this point, but I need to figure something out because right now every time I see her face, I’m a ball of fury and hurt and recognizing that anger is a secondary emotion doesn’t make me feel any less angry by the situation.

A Familiar Holding Pattern

After Amelia’s death in January, the depressive episode I was in got worse. I waffled about going back to the partial hospitalization program (Triangle) that I attended in June because it felt like maybe my depression wasn’t bad enough to warrant me being admitted to it and besides what if there were other people who needed the services more than I did. Yeah, I apparently have imposter syndrome about accessing mental health care. But that was what I was thinking, distorted or not, and after some gentle pressure from both my psychiatrist and my therapist, I gave in and got my therapist to call and schedule an intake for me. That was about a month ago.

Even though I felt shitty about taking up space in Triangle, I went in for my first day on February 19th. I was trying to push those thoughts aside and just focus on recovery when I read a statement online that wound up being the destabilizing event that my brain had apparently been waiting for. I wound up not really sleeping much that Monday and felt pretty crummy heading into the PHP the next day. I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d read and the implications for what could happen and my thoughts just spiraled into despair. I made it through the first couple groups that morning and then just couldn’t make my brain stop. I asked one of the clinicians if she had a minute and followed her through the back hallway into her office. She was so kind to me and all I could think was what if it was me this time. What if the thoughts running through me took control and I didn’t make it home that night. We talked for maybe ten minutes. Well, she talked and I sobbed. I wound up meeting with the psychiatrist I’d been assigned to and she wound up sectioning me to a nearby ER to be evaluated for an inpatient bed. The irony of being terrified of taking someone else’s much needed spot in the program and winding up being transported across the city by ambulance to spend a week on a locked inpatient unit was not lost on me.

The hospital was okay. They were really lacking in structured activities, so I spent most of my time hanging out with other patients and playing with art supplies. I started another journal and probably filled half of the notebook before I left, mostly to get thoughts out of my head and also because I was just bored. The hospital psychiatrists made a bunch of changes to my meds. There were some not great moments, patients having meltdowns and breaking furniture, the guy who tried to commit suicide on the unit minutes after I’d been taken to my room, the guy who literally ignored me all week but who would sit at the table across from me and flirt with the women there as if I were invisible if I tried to continue being involved in conversation with the women I’d just been talking with. He’d go so far as to talk around me, change the subject of the conversation, or depending on who was around, switch into Portuguese so I couldn’t interject. But things were pretty okay. I found camaraderie in some of the other patients. I burrowed under the occupational therapy department’s weighted blanket that they loaned me.  I gambled with the hospital kitchen, trying to order as many non-water beverages on my meal trays as possible and seeing what they’d cross off. (I think my max was one cup of hot water for tea, one cup of hot water and no sugar added hot chocolate mix, a cup of diet ginger ale, and a diet cranberry juice.) I felt pretty safe and supported.

I wound up celebrating my 35th birthday while hospitalized. I wasn’t really looking forward to my birthday because Amelia’s memorial was scheduled for the following day and it just felt weird to celebrate something after what had happened. My partner came by for a visit that night and brought me a slice of cake, with two other friends which I was not expecting at all. I missed the memorial, of course, which was felt complicated. I tried to distract myself that day, reading over the pamphlets on grief that the interfaith chaplain had given me, hanging out eating way too much no sugar added sorbet and playing games that I continued to suck at and lose. We marked the passing of time by waiting for our next meals, having long forgotten what we’d ordered by the time it arrived. I drank a lot of tea. I was discharged after a week, and referred back to Triangle the next day after spending a night getting much better sleep in my own bed.

The meds change has been interesting so far. The psychiatrist I saw in the ER increased my evening antipsychotic dose because he felt that would help with the ruminating thoughts that were keeping me up at night and added a sleep med. The inpatient psychiatrist I saw discontinued one antidepressant I’d been taking and lowered the dose on another because she though it might be making me more anxious. She also started me on a mood stabilizer which has mostly been making me drowsy during the day. I hear this side effect most likely will pass with time and I’m starting to feel a bit more alert this weekend, so I’m hoping it will eventually be fine. I am noticing that when my mood drops during the day it isn’t dropped as fast or as low so hopefully the med will do what I need it to do after we figure out the right dose for me. I actually woke up feeling really good this morning, even if it didn’t last throughout the day. It’s way better than I felt three weeks ago, or even a month ago. I’ll just have to wait and see what comes to pass.

 

Old Made New Again

Fifteen and a half years ago, I got my first tattoo with my ex. It was a very simple design, a Japanese kanji for courage, based on a tattoo my ex had in the same location on his wrist. I don’t remember much from getting the tattoo except that it was relatively painless and quick and I began telling people that it was a reminder to myself that I had courage.

Fifteen years was a long time ago. I’ve grown since then, though I might still need that reminder, but I’ve had regrets for a long time. I didn’t like that I had tattooed myself in a language that I didn’t speak, in a style that was appropriated from a culture that I’m not a part of. I regretted the reminder of my abusive relationship on my body. I just couldn’t figure out how to turn the kanji into something else though, since it was black ink in a pattern that I couldn’t draw into something else.

I’ve had a great appreciation for dinosaurs for a long time. And I’ve identified with them strongly for the past years, especially with Tyrannosaurus Rex. What started as an inside joke about how I am really a tiny dino blossomed into my adopting this as part of my identity. No, I don’t think I am actually a dinosaur, but I enjoy playing the part sometimes. So when it came to trying to figure out what to cover this tattoo with, I decided that it would be great to put a dinosaur in it’s place. I couldn’t figure out how to design it myself though, so I reached out to a local tattoo artist to see what he could come up with.

I was a little nervous going into the shop yesterday for my appointment, because I hadn’t actually seen the sketches he’d drawn yet and had no idea what things might look like. I knew that I could walk away without getting the tattoo if I didn’t like what he had come up with, so I wasn’t worried about getting something I didn’t like, but I was really hopeful that he would design something I’d fall in love with. He did not disappoint.

The dinosaur snakes its way from the outside of my forearm, covering the old tattoo seamlessly, and branches out around the outside of my arm. My only complaint with this tattoo is that it’s impossible to get all of it in one photo. The shading work is brilliant. I can’t express how much I love this tattoo. It feels appropriate to have something that fits in line with my identity rather than a foreign symbol that made me cringe every time a stranger asked me about it. It feels like a reset in some ways.

I’ve been so engulfed in depression lately that laying on a table feeling that familiar stinging sensation as the tattoo artist transformed my arm was comforting. In the same sense that self injury has been comforting in the past, the pain felt like a release that I had long been needing, except this pain didn’t come with feelings of shame and regret as self injury often does. My partner who came with me kept commenting that I just looked blissed out for the most part, probably because I was high on endorphins. But it was good. I needed this.

I’m starting again in the LGBT partial hospitalization program that I went through over the summer tomorrow morning. I have a lot of feelings about getting help, mostly shame for needing help, for not being strong enough to get through this on my own. I know that this is my own internalized shit and that it’s actually a strength that I’m not giving up and fighting this, blah, blah, blah, but it sucks all the same. However, there is one brilliant thing* that does not suck that is easy for me to see and since it’s still really sensitive, it’s easy for me to feel. That is a thing that I can bring with me tomorrow when I go to my program, which will be with me the entire time. And I love it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that even though things really suck right now, this experience has been a light in the dark and I really needed that right now.

Image – Four photos stitched into one, showing four different angles of my right forearm with my new dinosaur tattoo

*I just want to mention that another brilliant thing in my life is my close friends and family and partner who have all been providing me with a lot of necessary support

Where Do We Go From Here?

My friend and upstairs neighbor committed suicide a week ago and it feels a little like a bomb has exploded in the center of my community. Watching my friends struggle to process the news and dealing with complicated feelings all while trying to make sure that my friend’s partner is well supported has been… difficult. Amelia and I weren’t all that close of friends, especially in the last few months or so, but hir death echoed like a shockwave across the community. I feel responsible for us not having been closer friends and at the same time, I’m not sure what I could have done differently.

As a survivor of childhood sexual assault, it is a challenge for me to be around overt displays of sexual behavior. I have a feeling some of my friends consider me to be rather prudish about sex, but it’s just really complicated for me. Even when it is modeled in healthy ways, it feels unsafe or at the least deeply uncomfortable for me to be around people who are being really flirty and aggressively sexual. Amelia often made me feel triggered in this way. Watching hir relationships with people often left me feeling vulnerable in a way that made me feel unsafe. I had planned on trying to set some clear boundaries around the specific behaviors that made me feel unsafe, but I also didn’t want to cause hir more distress when ze was already so overcome by depression so this conversation was never able to happen.

Now I have regrets. I regret that this conversation was never able to happen because it makes things feel unsettled, unresolved. And now instead of mourning for the loss of a friend, it feels like I lost a friend who could have been a much closer friend if it weren’t for my hangups around sex and sexuality. I regret that I was unable to be a better support for hir when ze was still alive because I was afraid of being triggered. I regret keeping my distance as much as I did because I was trying to protect myself. And I feel deeply alone in all of this because it feels like everyone else’s relationships with Amelia were much simpler. I feel like I can’t say “I miss Amelia but our relationship was difficult at times and it’s complicated” without coming across as a giant asshole.

My therapist reassured me yesterday that I’m not a giant asshole, but somehow having someone who gets paid to listen to me tell me that doesn’t dissolve those feelings. Of course she says I’m not an asshole. It’s part of her job to help hold me together. I don’t know how to resolve my feelings around this. I feel deeply guilty and angry and oftentimes very alone. How do you get support from people who you’re afraid are going to judge you harshly, even as you feel you probably deserve it? Is it possible to have imposter syndrome when it comes to grief?

And if that weren’t enough to deal with, I’m also struggling with the guilt I have over the realization that a few years ago, I could be the cause of all of this grief in my loved ones. There was one day back in 2012 where I had a plan in place. I was ready to die and all I needed was for my partner to leave for work and leave me alone in the apartment. I had made up my mind and the only thing that kept me from dying that day was my partner seeing something in me and knowing that I needed help immediately. She didn’t go to work that day. Instead we went to the emergency room and I signed myself into a locked psychiatric unit for a month. But I can’t stop thinking about what would have happened if she hadn’t realized where I was. She would have come home from work and it would have been too late. But when you’re in that mindset, when you’re ready to die, the consequences of your actions don’t register. I know that for me, I wasn’t thinking in that moment of anything except ending my pain in the only way I knew how.

So how do I move from this guilt, this anger at myself, into a place of healing and moving on? I know it has just been a week, but this feels like the longest week I’ve ever had. I feel stuck in my grief and alone with my guilt. How do I let people in without inappropriately centering the conversation on myself? It all just feels like some horrible dream from which I can’t wake up. How do I be a better support to the people I care about so that this doesn’t have to repeat itself in the future? How do I be a better person to myself? If only I had all the answers.

(Image description: A photo of my right wrist with a tattoo of a semi-colon nestled between a sinus EKG rhythm)

Brain Weasels

Depression walloped me yesterday. I had a short case of the sad and lonelies on Sunday afternoon, but getting out of the apartment for a bit and being around other people helped. Monday night I was supposed to go to chorus rehearsal but instead I sat at home medicating the anxiety that popped up late morning. So when I woke up yesterday feeling that sense of doom hanging over me, the darkness enveloping my brain, all I could find the words to say was that I felt “bad” inside.

Because that’s how it feels inside my head and body. A sense of something dark deep inside me that is growing sinisterly. Last week when I saw my psychiatrist, I mentioned that my sleep had been really off for a bit, but I had just come back home from a trip to the west coast and we both kind of chocked it up to my brain having difficulty adjusting to the time change. And I was optimistic that things would improve soon, once I got over the jet lag, I would bounce back. Except that’s not what happened.

I went through the motions yesterday. I got exercise riding my bicycle seven and a half miles to my weekly therapy appointment. I went to therapy and was honest with my therapist about how I felt. I forced myself to eat three times. I went to Tai Chi. But every single step that day was forced. Nothing came easily. My therapist reminded me that depression does this, makes everything feel impossibly hard. I feel like I’m carrying a huge weight alone, uphill, in a blizzard. I can’t see where I’m going, I’m cold and lonely and tired, and every step feels harder than the last.

Today I met with a friend to get groceries for dinner. I took the bus a few miles into the next city over from mine, walked through the aisles of the grocery store trying to find ingredients for dinner tonight and tomorrow. I bought the box of dinosaur-shaped macaroni and cheese to eat someday when my appetite returns because it was cute and hey, dinosaurs! I paid for my groceries and got back on the bus to go home with my two light-ish bags and I felt a tiny bit better. The company helped and I was being productive. Then I realized I’d forgotten to do something minor yesterday when my brain was fuzzed from depression and immediately started to catastrophize. “You are a horrible person.” “Everyone hates you anyway.” “What’s the point in trying?” my brain told me on a loop. I unwisely got on the internet and looked at the state of the world and felt powerless and angry and bad. And then I apologized to a friend for my error and corrected it so it no longer existed. My friend was very kind and told me how not a horrible person I was. My cat sat in my lap. I lay on our beanbags under my weighted blanket. And you know, things still suck, but they suck a little bit less.

And that’s the way life goes. I’m trying to practice radical acceptance that as a person with recurring severe depression, this is just a part of my life. To acknowledge that the dark times are going to come and eventually fade away and brighter days will come. And even though I may not want my life to exist this way, I don’t have total control over this and my life is still worth living. I have people who care about me. I am loved. And even if I didn’t manage to get my laundry done today, I did enough and that counts.

(Image Description: Me lying reclined on two brightly colored beanbag chairs, under a weighted blanket with polka dots on it. I’m reading a book – So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo – with my cat lying near me)

An Anti-Humbug

Four Year’s ago, I was sitting at a table in a locked psychiatric unit drawing non-stop, wishing desperately that tomorrow would be just any normal day and not a holiday that had driven me to suicidality. The how’s and why’s of that are a whole post of their own though. That year I would spend Christmas among twenty or thirty other patients, a handful of staff members and a “special” hospital food feast. It was glum and depressing and while the staff went above and beyond to make it as decent as they possibly could, receiving a wrapped weekly planner didn’t do much to brighten my mood. Seriously though, the staff was amazing. They even gave me a small wrapped gift to give my partner that day so I would get to give her something. The point I’m trying to drive home though is how bleak and hopeless things felt at that time in my life and how powerless I felt to confront that.

It has been a long four years filled with growth, progress and set-backs but this Christmas is starkly different. This year, for the first time in 17 years, I am traveling to celebrate Christmas with the older of my two younger sisters. I’m not sure who out of the two of us is more excited. For weeks I’ve been shipping little stocking stuffers to her house because that is a family tradition that she’s kept. We’re arriving in California slightly after 10 PM on Christmas Eve since that was significantly less money than flying out earlier in the week. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and we’ll unpack stockings that I can’t wait to fill tonight and go play DND with my sister’s friends and I’ll get to spend the day with her, rather than an hour away from home, inpatient and suicidal like I did in 2013.

There are a lot of things that I attribute this change to. A shit ton of hard trauma therapy for one. Different meds. Some repairing of family relationships. Some healing wounds. I don’t think any of just one of these things would have made all the difference without the others alongside it. I feel pretty damn grateful for my partner, my supportive friends, my mental health team.

I have a lot to be thankful for this year and as we head into 2018, I’m trying to retain a sense of hope that the challenges I’ll face in the upcoming year will be things familiar enough that I can cope to overcome them. It different enough that I still grow as a person. The state of the world feels pretty bleak and I’m easily overwhelmed if I read too many news stories, but I’m hoping things can still change if we don’t give up. Even if it sometimes feels like I gave up a long time ago. This year I’m celebrating Christmas with my sister in California. That’s pretty hard to top.

Let’s Do This

There’s a white supremacy rally happening across the river tomorrow. I’m going with a group of friends to join the counter-protest early in the morning. We’re meeting two miles away and then marching to the common. I’m having a lot of anxiety about tomorrow. I’m worried that things will get violent. I’m worried that I can’t guarantee the safety of myself and the people I love. I’m worried that I could possibly be arrested if things get out of control. But I feel even more strongly that I need to be there tomorrow. I need to show up and stand up and fight back against all of this bullshit because what will happen if people don’t? I’ve got my buddy for the protest. I’ve got a contact person who will be expecting me to call and check in at a given time and can start a search for me if need be. I’ll have the numbers of my contact person and the National Lawyers Guild written on my arm in case I need them and don’t have access to my phone.

I was heartened to read today that nearby churches are opening their doors to the counter-protestors tomorrow, some offering to stay open all night if need be. I’m heartened to see that 15,000 people have RSVP’d on Facebook to show up to the counter-protest and another 30,000 marked themselves as being “interested”. I hope they all show up tomorrow morning. I’m grateful to know that these people will have my back tomorrow if I need them to. And I hope that there won’t be violence tomorrow, but I feel like I’m as prepared as I can be if there is.

Let’s do this…

(Image Description – Myself wearing a black t-shirt which reads “White Silence = White Violence. Black Lives Matter”)

Just Another Practice Run

About six months ago, I started having an increase in anxiety symptoms. I have panic disorder with agoraphobia and so sometimes, I just get really anxious for reasons that I’m not aware of and, if I don’t succeed in using coping skills to deal with the anxiety, can progress into having a panic attack. So I started wanting to avoid things that I normally enjoy and was procrastinating on a lot of important tasks. About four months ago, the anxiety skyrocketed seemingly out of the blue. I couldn’t leave my house, I was dependent on prescription anxiety meds to survive the days, I basically spent entire days underneath my weighted blanket to keep my skin from crawling. And then the depression hit. It started off as a subtle shift from the extreme anxiety I was having with my mood beginning to change and then hit me like a train.

I saw my mental health providers and decided that even though it was early on in this depressive episode, I’d seek out intensive treatment with the goal of preventing it from continuing into something darker where I might become actively suicidal again. I picked a PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program) in a program designed for queer patients, meeting for five group therapy sessions per day. The people at Triangle were great. The mixture of patients was really well suited to my needs and after a few days of silently nodding and snapping my fingers when I identified with something someone said, I began to feel comfortable enough to open up to the group. And gradually, with structure and group sessions and a medication change, I started to feel better.

I’ve been at home full time for about three weeks now and while things aren’t 100% better, I feel like I’m on pretty stable footing. I started volunteering once a week with an organization that does important work that I feel makes a difference in people’s lives. Even though it’s usually just one day a week, it’s made me feel a tiny bit productive and I feel like I’ve gotten as much out of the relationship I’m forging as they might be getting from me. I haven’t really felt this way since I started with OCEMS (Ouray County EMS) in Colorado years and years ago. Life has changed and I’m adjusting to the changes in my own crotchety, skeptical manner. But I am adjusting.

Tomorrow I leave for a four day camping trip in rural Maine. I’ll be spending time with friends that I’ve known for over a decade now, many of which I haven’t seen in years. I have to admit I’m a little anxious about the trip, regardless of my excitement for it. It’ll be the first time going on a trip without Aria since I went to Philadelphia four years ago. I get anxious when riding as a passenger in a car on highways because of the speed and this trip involves several hours of highway driving. And I’m anxious about meeting new people, of which there will be many. I’m managing by reminding myself that I have the friends I know already to feel comfortable around, and that I can medicate myself in the morning before we leave to help with the car anxiety. I am really looking forward to hanging around with a bunch of friends lakeside, getting to use my tent again, bonfires, and sitting around in the sun in a pair of shorts and no shirt.

I’m packed, except for last minute things like my cell phone and my alarm is set for 6:15 tomorrow. The only thing left to do tonight is stop worrying so I can fall asleep. Hah. If only it were that easy, but you know what I mean. It’ll be a good trip and I just need to keep reminding myself of that until it happens.

Adoption Update

Last April I was excited and nervous to announce that my partner and I were in the early stages of trying to adopt a baby. I’ve been very aware of how long ago that announcement was and how silent I’ve been on the process. Some of this has been because it was suggested to not be too vocal about the process at our adoption workshop, but more has been because of the challenges this process has brought so far. When we attended the adoption workshop back in April, things felt like they were moving along smoothly. We’d had two visits with our home study social worker, we were signing on with the agency we’d chosen to work with for placement. Everything was very positive. Of course, things didn’t continue in that way.

The original paperwork we filled out for the home study required disclosure of any prescription medication and hospitalizations. Because I am on psychotropic medication for the management of my mental illnesses, the home study agency required letters of recommendation from both my therapist and psychiatrist. Originally, the instructions for these letters was very vague in what the social worker was looking for and my first letters were rejected for not being detailed enough and for implying but not outright saying the exact phrase “I am in support of this adoption”. Our social worker offered to let my providers write a second round of letters, but there was an issue with the second letter that my therapist wrote which sent up red flags within the agency and my psychiatrist was told by the lawyer at the clinic where she works that she was not able to answer specific questions pertaining to my ability to parent or use the specific language required. After clearing up the issues with my therapist’s second letter, which had resulted from a miscommunication between her and the social worker, our social worker said she could write yet another letter but did not follow through on her offer to reach out to my therapist again to clear up any confusion. My therapist wrote a third letter with the guidance of my partner and myself and it was submitted a couple of weeks ago. I was waiting to hear back from the social worker about the last letter when we got the first major bad news.

Yesterday, we received an e-mail from the Independent Adoption Center, which we had chosen to do our placement, that they were filing for chapter 7 bankruptcy and closing all of their offices immediately. The e-mail cited the declining number of domestic adoptions happening in the country and the increase in number of families trying to adopt a child as a reason for them shutting their doors. Apparently the money they have at this point will go in a court appointed trust and after their debts have been paid, all the families that had signed on with them, more than 300 last time I looked, would be contacted to submit claims as to what they felt they were owed. It sounds like if there is money left over, there will be some process of divvying it between families, but I don’t imagine there will be much returned of the $15,000 we’ve paid them. This news was devastating. My partner lost her job three weeks ago, money has been tighter than usual, I used a chunk of my savings to pay for the final agency payments to IAC. It looks very unlikely that we will be able to sign on with another agency any time soon. After all of the initial excitement, our hopes of starting a family in the next few years were effectively ended.

Then I got a call from our social worker about the home study this morning. Unfortunately, my psychiatric history is pretty extensive and includes seven inpatient hospitalizations from 2012-2015, three of which were for a month or longer. I had to report them because leaving them off of my paperwork would have been fraud and easily discovered if the adoption agency requested copies of my medical records. Because of this, the social worker and the agency she represents felt that I had not been stable long enough for them to take the recommendations of my therapist and psychiatrist and find in our favor. Our social worker offered us two options. The first was that we could continue the home study and have a negative outcome. The second was that we could stop here, not complete the home study and wait until I had a longer period of stability, at which point we could start another home study in the future and not have this current home study impact our ability to adopt. I had been expecting this from her because she’d discussed it with my therapist a couple of months ago while waiting for the third letter. When I asked her how long of a period of stability they were looking for though, she told me five to ten years of consistent therapy and no major hospitalizations. At this point, I have been stable and out of the hospital for two years and some weeks. With this recommendation, the earliest we can hope to start another home study is three years from now and I could still be told that they want to wait closer to ten years at that point.

So that’s where we are. Our placement agency is bankrupt and I’m too crazy to pass a home study right now. It feels pretty hopeless and bleak. I keep having dreams about parenthood but the reality of that happening feels impossible. I’m trying to stay positive. Tai chi class last night helped give me a solid 90 minutes where I was completely focused on what I was doing, which helped. But still, I feel like the rug was jerked out from under me. I’m alternating between completely numb to very angry and sad.

So yeah, it’s been a week already and it’s only Wednesday.

Anti-Immigration Protests

Friday, the president signed an executive order banning people from Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Iran from being admitted to the country, even those with green cards and visas. On Saturday evening, I was browsing Facebook when I came across an event at Logan Airport, protesting the detention of passengers by Customs and Border Patrol. My partner and I immediately headed to the airport to join the protest. Our shuttle bus to the airport had maybe two people on it who were heading to the airport to catch flights. Everyone else was headed to the international terminal to protest. When we reached the midway point on the shuttle trip, where they switch the buses from overhead power to gas-powered engines, a supervisor came onto the bus, had a short word with the driver and then asked if there were any passengers headed to Terminal E (the international terminal). He then told us that we would have to walk from the nearest airport terminal because transportation to Terminal E had been shut down due to the protest. As he finished his short speech, he said “And I hope you have to walk through the whole airport!” At first, my partner was unsure if he was being critical of the protest, but then realized that he was saying that he hoped there was a mass of people walking throughout all the terminals carrying signs protesting the detention that was currently going on.

As we walked through Terminal C to our destination, we passed people who had arrived through the international terminal who were making the opposite trek as us. Many of them made positive comments about the protest and thanked us for joining. One guy gave me a high five. Of course, there were a couple people, able bodied white men of course, who complained bitterly of having to walk through the terminal because of the “damn protest”. When we reached Terminal E, there were probably about 400-500 people gathered there, speakers passing around a megaphone, the crowd repeating what they said so the people at the edges could hear what was going on. More and more people continued to pack in behind us. The state police were present, occasionally asking us to move back from the path from Customs and Border Patrol to the exit so that passengers could get through, but otherwise not saying much. There was a loud cheer when it was announced that a federal judge in the state had issued a stay of the president’s executive order, but quickly a reminder came through that we couldn’t stop protesting until all passengers who had been detained were released.

Elizabeth Warren was present and had made a speech before we arrived. Sometime after the announcement of the stay, Marty Walsh, the mayor of Boston, also made a speech. The protest continued as detained passengers were slowly reunited with their families. When the last detainee was escorted through Customs and Border Patrol by the mayor there was a tremendous energy and lots of cheering. After someone announced that there were buses waiting outside to take us back to the train station and asked us to remain peaceful as we exited the airport, my partner and I made out way outside to cram onto a very full shuttle back to the subway to take us home. Again, the bus was mostly full of protestors. I was exhausted but felt like we had made a difference for the night.

The next day, we headed to Copley Square with our neighbors to the immigration protest being held there. The subway station at Copley Square was shut down, so we walked from Park Street to get there, following a continuous stream of people headed to the protest. We got as close to Copley as we could, packing in with the other people who had gathered before us. I heard estimates put the crowd at 20,000 people that day. At first I couldn’t really anything or see what was going on, but as the crowd changed, I was able to get a spot on the stone wall where we were and then I could see above the crowd into the square. The energy was high that day, filled with people chanting and holding up homemade signs.

Since then, I have heard too many accounts of airports throughout the country refusing detainees to meet with lawyers even though federal court orders have been issued ordering them to do so. People have been detained for long periods of time, children separated from their parents for hours. A five year old boy was separated from his mother because he was deemed to be a risk to the country. An eleven month old who was still being breast-fed was separated from her mother for hours. A mother and her two young children were detained for twenty hours without being given anything to eat. And a woman who had lived in the US since 1995 and had a green card was turned away from a terminal in Iraq. She had become ill during her family’s trip. Her son says she knew, as she was being taken back to the hospital in Iraq, that she was going to die. She died a day after being refused the ability to board a plane back to her home.

I’d never been to a protest before Saturday night. I’d always been too scared to go out with everyone else. Scared of violence, of the risk of getting arrested. I don’t know what changed on Saturday to give me the courage to go to the airport, but something happened and I couldn’t stay silent any longer. It was exhilarating though. My usual phobia of crowds didn’t overwhelm me, even while packed into the airport terminal with hundreds of other people. Maybe it was the collective purpose, the fact that everyone there was there for the same reason I was, but I didn’t panic and my anxiety level stayed manageable. Even the shuttle ride back to the train station and the train home on Sunday didn’t bother me when in the past crowded transportation has caused major panic. So while I don’t know what exactly allowed me to engage in the protests this weekend, I plan on continuing to raise my voice in the following weeks and months. This upcoming weekend there are more rallies I plan on attending and I’m excited to be present.

A protester holds a sign during the protest at Copley Square as protesters gathered in opposition to President Trump’s executive order temporarily halting immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries.(Jesse Costa/WBUR)