jerkbrain

Sometimes I am afraid…

Sometimes I am afraid that my genderqueer identity is just rooted in misogyny. Or at least in running away from it.

Sometimes I think I identify as genderqueer because I hate what it means to be a woman in this society. Sometimes I think I identify as genderqueer because women are at high risk of being raped, and I do not want to belong to a group that is vulnerable in that way. Because being a woman means being sexualized everywhere you go. Being a woman means always, always being the subject of other people’s judgments on your appearance, and having those judgment reflect directly on your worth as a person. Being a woman means you cannot escape objectification, means that you are considered unworthy, less-than, and only-good-for, in so many ways.

Becoming a woman, for me, meant even that my father began sexualizing me, in small ways that made me uncomfortable but that I could not speak against because of subtlety.

Of course, being a woman means many other things, too. Good things, wonderful and meaningful things. Women are smart and strong and creative and often pure badass. I know this. And when I am not wallowing in self-doubt, I realize that the reason I feel less connected to those aspects of womanhood is quite simply because I am not a woman.

And yet, sometimes I am afraid that I do not identify as a woman anymore because I am not strong enough to proudly wear a label that carries so much weight. Womanhood was too much of a burden for me to bear, and so I left it behind.

This post kind of needed a cuteness break.

This post kind of needed a cuteness break.

Sometimes I am afraid that I hide behind genderqueerness.

Sometimes I am afraid that I am nothing but a coward.

And then again, I know that this is not the whole story. It’s not as if declaring myself genderqueer has stopped much of the rest of the world spending much of the time perceiving and treating me as a woman. It’s certainly not a magic protection against the threat of rape. It simply allows me to maintain a psychological distance from some of the microaggressions that regularly target those perceived as female; I am immune to suggestions that I am not doing womanhood correctly, or that I am not a real woman, simply because I am not one. I am not trying to be a woman, and so it doesn’t matter whether I am doing it correctly, you see. Though of course, the suggestion that womanhood can be done “wrong” is bullshit in the first place. But still, most women feel the sting of the suggestion, and fear the repercussions of transgressing one time to many, even if they simultaneously see through the misogyny of it all. And I don’t, not anymore.

There are ways in which I miss it, sometimes. Expressing solidarity with women is more complicated as a genderqueer person, in part because I have claimed for myself some small islands of immunity from misogyny. I cannot simply add my voice to the oh-so-important collection of women’s voices and stories anymore, I add only (“only”) the perspective of one who was raised as a girl, and is usually perceived as a woman. But I am not one of you, of them, not any more. And I experience this shift as a loss.

And anyway, I know that being a genderqueer person in this world carries its own burdens, its own weight. It’s not as if I am somehow carefree now. I am simply facing new challenges than the ones I used to, ones that to me do not seem so daunting or unsurmountable.

But then, this is, perhaps, part of what makes me genderqueer in the first place. The shape of the identity, this role that I have cast myself in, it fits me, it feels doable and correct.

Because the thing is, for me gender is very much a contextually constructed thing (by which I mean *my* gender specifically, as I know not everyone experiences gender identity in quite this way), and my identity is, in fact, constructed by the all the fears I have mentioned here, in addition to many, many other things. It is the sum total of many of the ways I navigate the world, and how I understand myself and my place in the society in which I find myself. More than anything else, it is who I am, here and now, and that is inevitably informed by all of the things that have affected me in my life.

And I am ok with that, most of the time.

But sometimes I am afraid.

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I am also afraid of putting these fears into words, because I know that some people will take my doubts as an excuse to not take my identity seriously, that it will make my genderqueerness less real or valid or worthy of respect. But that’s part of why I am doing it. There is a great need for us to problematize the narrative of gender as we know it. The born-this-way narrative works for a very many people, both trans and cis, but not for everyone. And it shouldn’t matter whether I was born this way or not.

I don’t know what I was as a kid; I really didn’t give gender much thought at the time. What I do no for sure is that this is the way I am now. This is *who* I am now, and who I may have been yesterday or last week or a year ago isn’t a relevant consideration in whether my identity is worthy of respect today.

Jerkbrain Double-cross

y-u-no-work-brainIt’s the holidays, and I am a retail worker, so I’ve been plugging along in a general state of near-exhaustion for the last few weeks. I managed to nearly seriously injure myself on Boxing Day on more than one occasion, including falling down one of our sets of rolling ladder-stairs (I work at a warehouse outlet store, mostly in the warehouse part) and bruising my thigh super badly. So my body has been pretty beat up, is what I’m trying to say. And I’d been achy and cranky for days on end.

But yesterday was meant to be a lovely, relaxing day with my hubby. Sundays when neither of us are working are great! The entirety of our plans for the day involved getting groceries, and heading out to pick out yarn for a knitting project I’m going to do for him. Stuff that’s fun, that I enjoy doing!

And yet.

After breakfast, I wanted to shower before we went out. But before I could do that, I really, really needed to just flop down on the bed. You know, just for a minute. No reason, I just felt like it, ok?

When I got back up, and started pulling together clothes to wear after showering, it became clear that my desire to be flopped down on the bed was far more insistent that I had realized. Basically, my brain started yelling at me: “Holy fuck what do you even think you’re doing? You can’t do this right now. Why are you trying to do things?!?!?!? Stop it!!!”

This is a pretty common feeling I have, and I can sometimes fight through it when there’s shit that just plain needs done. But today was not one of those days, and though I was fully aware of how ridiculous this whole thing was (jerkbrain wasn’t even giving me made-up reasons why it wasn’t worth it to try to get up! It was just telling me not to. Lazy, much?), and even put up a little bit of mental resistance (the equivalent of shouting “No, you stop it!!!” back at my jerkbrain) I gave in and flopped back down on the bed.

Eventually, I did overcome the malaise, though. And eventually, showered and dressed, we made it out of the house for our planned excursion to the yarn store. Yarn was successfully bought!

And then.

As we were wandering through the shopping centre, trying to figure out which exit would most efficiently get us to the next stop on our route, I was overcome with physical exhaustion. We had to find a bench for me to sit on.

And it was only at this point when a bunch of things came together for me. I’d been achy. And cranky. For days on end. When I’d been at work on Saturday, I’d actually thought I was starting menstruation early, the aches were so generalized and shitty, but the menstruation part of that process had never materialized.

My brain had been telling me not to leave the house. And I’d told it to shut up. But it had been right.

The part of me that I had thought was the rational part, seeing through my depressed jerkbrain’s (really rather half-hearted, now that I think about it) attempts to keep me from doing things I wanted to do, was actually my jerkbrain, talking me into ignoring my very real need to rest. Because I was very obviously sick wih some sort of winter bug, and probably had been for days, but I hadn’t let myself even consider that as a possibility.

I spent the rest of the day with a mild fever and achiness. And thankfully, I have today off work as well, so with any luck I will actually be able to recover. But yeah, I am apparently not as good at identifying what impulses are stemming from my depression as I thought I was.

On Not Committing Suicide

semicolonToday is World Suicide Prevention Day. I’ve been dithering about whether to actually post this, but it seems appropriate now. This is about one of the reasons that I am alive today.

This isn’t going to be a post about general long-term management strategies with depression, or even my list of short-term methods for dealing with depression in the moment. I think that writers better than me have said everything I could possibly have to say about those topics.

What I wanted to talk about here is a sort of last-ditch defense system. It’s about what happens when whatever coping strategies you may employ have all failed you, and you find yourself absolutely in the grips of depression. And your jerkbrain has taken over, and everything it tells you is making perfect sense, and is totally correct, and it’s even convinced yourself that you would be better off dead.

It’s about what kept me from committing suicide through my late teens and early twenties, when I didn’t have coping mechanisms, not really, and I had suicidal thoughts on a fairly regular basis. I actually made a suicide attempt when I was sixteen; this is about what happened after that, and I why I never tried it again.

And it’s a simple thing, really. The reason I haven’t attempted suicide again is that I promised I wouldn’t. I didn’t promise myself, of course. That wouldn’t have done me any good, because I would have absolved myself from that promise when it came down to it.

I made the promise to the person who, at the time, was the most important person in the world to me; my first love. When I told her about my suicide attempt, she made me promise that I wouldn’t do it again. And when I made the promise, I wasn’t sure if I meant it, or if it was something I really had any say in. But I made it anyway, because I didn’t know what else to say, really.

But the thing that I found, as the years passed, even as she broke my heart, and we both moved on with life and found love in other places, that no matter how hard my jerkbrain fights to convince me to just kill myself (Just do it. Life is too hard. It’s so much work, all the time, just being alive. And it never stops being exhausting and painful. And it’s always going to be this way, you know. It never gets any easier. So you might as well just stop.)

No matter what it has to say to me, it can’t tell me that I didn’t make that promise. It can’t argue me out of it, as long as I insist on clinging to it. And it’s a tiny, almost meaningless thing, but it’s what has stayed my hand many, many times. It doesn’t make me feel any better, and it doesn’t make my life any easier, but it ensures that my life will continue beyond that moment, and eventually, I always find my way out of that hole, and am grateful.

It doesn’t even really matter that I haven’t seen or spoken to her in probably half a decade, at least. Of the few things in my life that I am sure of, I know that at one time she was the most important person in the world to me, and that I made her a promise. And the only way I have left to honour the love we once shared is by keeping that damn promise, and so I will.

It’s not even a question anymore. It’s just the way things are. And because I have this one solid thing to cling to, this one tiny sliver of reason to keep on leaving, that has nothing to do with myself, and therefore can’t be unseated by my internal monologue, I am still alive today.

 

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I’m not really sure if this is an experience that other people will find useful, and I don’t know how generalizable this anecdote is to other people, but it’s one way of approaching bare survival that I’ve found immensely valuable, and if it’s useful to even just one other person, than I’d be glad to have it out in the open, and so that’s why this is here.

And if you are feeling suicidal right now, and have found yourself here for whatever reason, please reach out to someone. Call a suicide hotline in your area. It doesn’t matter if it feels silly, or if you don’t know what to say to them, do it anyway. It certainly won’t make you feel any worse than you already do, right?