Posts Tagged ‘Mental Health’


Lounging Minds Want to Know

8 June, 2011
High Anxiety (album)

Image via Wikipedia

As I have gone through life the place where I feel the most anxiety has shifted. (Well, technically the place I feel the most anxiety is in my body, but that’s a technical quibble and we’ll just go with physical location in a broad sense of the word.) As a student, it was often at school but when I hit my teen years it was at home. Later it became the job site and as a teacher it has often been the classroom. Lately, however, it has been the teacher’s lounge. And we’re talking serious anxiety here. Palm-sweating, stomach-twisting, lunch-losing anxiety. Just walking in the room is enough to set my teeth and the fine hairs on my neck on edge. The reason? When I walk in there I no longer feel like a whole person and that experience is indescribably disturbing. It’s like existing in two world simultaneously, one with oxygen and one without; you never know if your next breath will fill your lungs or cause them to collapse.

Over the last several decades I have grown accustomed to feeling one thing and being perceived as something else. I have also gotten to the point where I am no longer caught off guard by someone actually referring to me by the proper pronoun (feminine pronoun). What I am not used to, is the strange new gender middle ground I exist in. Some still see me as and refer to me as male, some see me as male but refer to me as female, some see me as female but refer to me as male, and still others see me as female and refer to me as female. When I step through the door of the teacher’s lounge at lunch I am stepping into a world where all four possibilities assail me simultaneously and render me a quivering mass of nerves with a tremendous case of social phobia. I’ve actually slated writer’s club meetings every day this week during lunch, just so I can avoid feeling that anxiety–an anxiety that has been slowly eroding my self-esteem.

This, of course, makes me appear stand-offish and only serves to further alienate me from colleagues who already see me as having flipped my lid.



Caitlin on Myth, Fiction, and Legend

22 May, 2011

Attempt One:

“It is Saturday. The temperature is in the seventies, the sun is out and shining, the lawns and trees are green, there is a light, pleasant breeze blowing  south to north. In short, it is delightful. No, it’s more than delightful, its brilliant. Unfortunately, I am not outside enjoying this respite from rain but am inside packing boxes. With only a week remaining and a number of odds and ends and a kitchen left to pack, I do not have the time go outdoors, no matter how much I might like to–and I would like to; though I am taking sometime to enjoy how nice it is while I click-click-click away on the laptop keyboard.  I shouldn’t blog; I should focus on the task at hand, but I can’t focus on it.  It’s painful. A dull aching pain in my chest, like having just walked into an I-beam sitting at chest level only this ache is not physical; it is mental. And its cause? Photographs.”

Attempt Two:

“I came across a book of photos my Mom put together for me. Photographs of my family and myself at work around the house and at leisure. I flipped through the photos. Looking at them fills me with nostalgia for those times, the sweetness of those days captured on photographic paper while the mundane events are lost to the fog of memory.  I hesitated as I held those photos, unsure where to put them. Not what box to pack them in, but in my new home, my new place. I’m not going to want photos of who I was visible in the bachelorette pad, it will lead to questions and feeling the need to justify and explain myself.  I don’t need to explain myself or justify my choices.  I do, however, because I have respect for those around me and I want our transition as pain-free as possible. The problem with pain is its unavoidable nature. Struggle against it, rage against the dying of the light, but it will come to you just the same. It is a natural and unavoidable part of the universe. It’s all part of the natural order of things, which makes me wonder–”

Attempt Three:

“I shoved my laptop aside in frustration.  This is too pleasant, too neat and clean and squared away. What I feel today is raw and jagged and will cut deep leaving a nasty scar if handled wrong. I cried looking at those photos because of the conflicting emotions they stirred in me.  They were not nice emotions.  The word nostalgia is polite and shallow attempt to express the pang of loss and the ache of what has gone before and can never be again. But even that is not quite right, because there is also a part that is angry.  Part of me hates the photos as I hate all–”

The Raw Truth:

I don’t know how to start this. There is no poetry or flowery prose. Words are too plotted and planned. They betray the intimate emotion, the raw energy of the moment. What I want to say is simply: I am sorry.  I am sorry to all of you. For what I have done to you. I am the little boy-girl in the dark basement in Omelas. The one Le Guin wrote about; the one who must suffer for the residents of Omelas to know perfect pleasure. For thirty years everyone could be happy because I kept a dark secret buried inside me.  I was making myself miserable and ill, but the people around me could be happy. They didn’t know this was the condition for their happiness, but I did. Then I did something horrible. I let the boy-girl out of the basement and gave the kid what the kid needed for happiness. On the surface a kind act, a humane act, but in doing so I ruined paradise for the citizens of Omelas. I made everyone around me miserable by becoming myself.

Perhaps overstated a bit, perhaps not. It depends on who you talk to. But I know what I see and what I see makes me feel very selfish and very guilty. From those who do not approve of my choices I expect to see anger and resentment, but it is what I see in the dark corners of the eyes of those who support me that hurts so perfectly and completely. Buried beneath the support and well wishes–which are genuine, I do not doubt them–is a sadness. The sadness born of loss and grief as everyone mourns for the person they used to know. And now I think to myself, what gives me the right to pursue my happiness if it is at the expense of everyone else’s happiness.  What have I done to my friends and family?  I have survived thirty years of living counter to my perceptions, emotions, and understanding of myself; why can’t I play the role another thirty years and let everyone else be happy? Who am I to place my needs, my happiness, above everyone else’s. Someone must either be a rare, influential individual or a self-absorbed egotist to place their personal happiness above the happiness of the community. I am not that special. Am I that selfish?

I am afraid I am. I cannot stand misery any longer, but my happiness means hurting those I care about and that leaves me with a ragged hole in my chest. The Pandorica, the box-like cell containing the universe’s most dangerous criminal and outlaw, opened; she is out and everyone knows about her existence. It’s too late to put her back in that box because now everyone knows she’s in it. If I managed the trick, some people would easily return to the bliss they felt before it opened.  But others lost themselves and lost their peace when the Pandorica opened. They are the ones who walk away from Omelas; they are ones who could not be happy knowing I was miserable and that makes my selfish act of telling them I was miserable as horrific as it is. To those I have hurt, I apologize.

Superman and his alter ego, Clark Kent

Image via Wikipedia

But there is a B side to this album. The idea that people are heartbroken over the loss of A. A was a construct, an image. A was larger than life, the Übermensch. He was illusion supported by a feminine self. The human qualities in A were me, Caitlin.  Those qualities still exist in me because I could not be who I am without them. They are a core essence, the reality. So, why then mourn so deeply? To see the pain of loss in people’s eyes leaves me feeling like Clark Kent who longs for connection with a woman who is in love with a costumed version of himself and cannot see the real essence in him, Clark, the farm-boy from Kansas, the real person, the real hero. That’s not to say I am a hero. I’m no more a hero than I am a criminal, but the reality I face exists within these stories of  “a visitor from another world” and “a mad man with a blue box.” And although mere words cannot contain the energy and power of my emotions and the sorrow I feel at the mass number I have injured a mythos can, because, after all, aren’t we all a bit myth, a bit fiction, and a bit legend.