I THINK THEREFORE I BLOG
DEPRESSION: UNCONVENTIONAL OPINIONS
This was originally published on November 10th, 2015. I have better tools for keeping myself underwater since this post. I also have deep empathy for those going through the worst of the disease; and want to remind anyone reading that this is not medical advice. If you have access to good resources for folks living with mental illness, please contact me and I can add them to the website.
So my food choices this morning: I’ve had yogurt with rasberries, one cup of coffee, a mocha, then two quesadillas, then sushi, then another mocha.
I have a bit of a headache now, but my energy isn’t particularly low.
Food, I’m sure affects my Clinical Depression; but I don’t believe it’s the root cause. I think when the soul stuff gets lost or completely disappears from your life, there’s an evolutionary mechanism that’s going to send an unbearable warning signal. I believe we need to feed our souls as much as our bodies which means to me that my yoga must not only make me physically stronger but allow me to roll around and feel all the feelings. So I guess what I’m saying is the root cause of the flavor of Clinical Depression that I suffer from is: 1. Disconnection from Soul Stuff, 2. Homophobia, and 3. A Deep Desire for Human Connection that is not Happening in the Way I Anticipated It.
I almost did not mention number three, but I actually feel ready to do so. Because my pills are working and I think it’s becoming actually a big old problem in a society that values individuality like it’s diamonds.
I guess I don’t know how I feel about nutrition. I know our soil itself has fewer minerals than it used to; that I’d like to grow my own food slowly, over time. I guess I tell you that nutrition isn’t the answer because if we lived in a black or white society (sometimes it really feels like we do) and someone could decide my next decision would be an A or B decision, and said, A. Either go in the van with the musicians who only eat fritos and vodka (I would hope first, they would also say, “You do not have to be good…. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves”) or B. Go to the vegan-silent-farm-ashram; well, I’d definitely chose the van with the musicians.
We all have our own form of healing, is what I’m attempting to articulate.
I know myself well enough that being at a vegan-silent-farm-ashram if it was my last year to live would be wrong right now.
I’ve heard a lot of, “Well, have you tried these natural supplements.” “Well, I went gluten free, and then…” The same feedback that seems twisted around the body of a snake that may or may not be poisonous because it depends on his intention. The worst part for me is many different people have given their unsolicited opinion about my anti-depressants. And it’s annoying because I have a disease; and it’s not like I’m taking drugs that make me happy; it’s like the metal-head-rush of negative-scary-thoughts has slowed down to a pace where I can fight back.
And the reason this has sucked is because I feel an immediate need to puff out my chest and defend myself that I don’t think would be required of me if I had a seizure disorder. Or diabetes. And also I guess it’s annoying too because I’ve tried exercise; I speak my mind; I volunteer; I talk to homeless people; I have quite brilliant ideas about how to fight the Mind of Depression that I will be sharing with you. I could get on board with the regular chard vegan wraps if they came with the specific Human Connection That I Need, and that only I can define (as you must also do, define).
And I guess amidst all the laughter and the doubts that I get from people, I know that when a beautiful scientist broke my heart in a way where I thought I wouldn’t get up, I went and danced and it felt like poetry dripping from my arm pits, and I felt alive (and being just alive with poetry dripping from your arm pits is a really, really good feeling), and then after, a very sweet, gentle woman placed her hands on my shoulders and just held them down and let me cry. And all this happened in a safe space with people I had been building trust with for years.
A mushroom vegan burger topped with kale will never replace that. Or hold a similar place in my health pyramid.
I guess what I would say if you have a lover or a friend who gives you the cuddles you need or you have that human connection and your soul stuff is on tract, sprinkle some carrots on top please. Add some parsley. Blend in with lemon, but if you want to tell me that for one hot minute, my cure is to spend more money on supplements I can’t afford, I’m going to say, bring ‘em to my house, hand ‘em to me for free, and I’ll take them when I see fit, thank you very much.
As for your prescription if you also suffer from Depression, I recommend following your gut. Maybe you need anti-depressants or maybe really good nutrition is your thing, but I am going to argue that there is a soul element. The soul must be fed, so please go feed it! And be kind if you don’t know how your soul wants to be fed yet.
Let us practice being kinder to our own minds! Thanks for reading Dyke Yogis,
EXCUSE ME WHILE I PROCESS THIS INTERNALIZED HOMOPHOBIA
This was originally published on my old website Black Sheep Yoga on December 31, 2015.
Playing my guitar tonight I realize there’s 8 beats to call out but my foot is sometimes at 7 and sometimes at 6 1/2.
My foot is always more concerned with the side story.
It observes its own latent beat. Perhaps this is too crass or too poorly said, but aren’t the latent beats in fact the songs? And without them everything would be really bad pop music?
If you were to set your body in motion at 4/4 time all day you’d probably turn into a manic determined militaristic jumping bean; we are meant to dance 6 ½ in the 8 sometimes. In fact, we find the beat only to break it apart? To find the stories buried beneath it?
Anyways, I’ve been thinking a lot about Internalized Homophobia and Depression. One thing I’ve noticed is that I had to quit nursing school; and publish a pretty public coming out post to let the flood gates draw back and release All the Flavors of Pain. I can tell the Flavors of Pain are rather complex because I can only handle them slowly in small doses with plenty of gentleness and compassion. And they are like latent beats; they are absolutely there but you have to slow down and pay attention to see them.
It’s like Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave where a bunch of men are chained facing a wall and can only see the shadows on the wall. What’s significant is the men are staring at shadows, but because they have been staring at those shadows their entire lives they think that the shadows are in fact reality. But reality involves more than the reflections that the sun casts on objects. And in some ways, we are all chained and facing a wall; and unable to see the truth. Or to put it another way, however brilliant we are in one area of our thinking, we are probably lacking in another, and that is part of being human.
It takes a big mind and a more open one to see that Internalized Homophobia happens because Straight Well-Intentioned People Everywhere Enforce Homophobic Standards Without Even Realizing It. An example in point, “How come you don’t like men? Do you like men? What do you think of men?” We live in a society that privileges heterosexuality and masculinity, and it is inherent in the questions we ask and the questions we don’t ask.
I don’t bring up Straight Well-Intentioned People to scare anyone into politically correct silence. In fact, there’s another complex piece I’d like to write that examines the realities of racism, sexism, and all other–isms with the room to understand that all human beings everywhere suffer and all deserve compassion. Meaning, being politically correct is not going to rid a well-intentioned person from working with his or her own suffering. It’s just that as we become stronger, we really should be taking more Diversity into the picture. And this requires being humble; and that I would argue is a feminine virtue (oh, and an underpaid one too).
I am not the thought police; and I don’t think anyone should be arrested for their thoughts. I think we should be encouraged to look at where we are missing information; and where we are being lazy; and where we are simply accepting mainstream values because they are presented in simple packages.
As someone who came out at 18 and has been out for 15 years, I still am processing internalized homophobia. I’m not immune to being told I should adopt (people don’t say or assume straight women would prefer to adopt, but they do assume lesbians would Prefer to Adopt); or to being informed by a straight women about how women are in bed (how gentle we are like schoolgirls, excuse me!).
I recently came to the conclusion that my big wonderful healing will happen at its own pace thank you very much; and it will continue to make straight people uncomfortable because they’d like me to be done with all this nonsense. Because having a pretty bold, intelligent queer woman still carrying so much homophobia in 2015 must mean that we still have work to do.
Statistics remind me that Straight Well-Intentioned People Everywhere Enforce Homophobic Standards Without Even Realizing It.
And so you should know a couple of really important things. From the age of 10-24, LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to and questioning youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight people. In addition and this is worth really focusing on here, 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicide ideation. About 20-30% of LGBTQ people abuse substances compared to 9% of the general population. One of my biggest complaints about the yoga community is that there has been a huge drive to promote veganism without looking at actual human suffering. Most of the yoga teachers I know who are queer or who behave queerly have chosen not to emphasize their queerness; this, interestingly enough, happens to be amongst very economically successful teachers.
I have been out of the closet for 15 years (I came out at 18, and then again almost every single week after that and sometimes five times a day because coming out of the closet doesn’t happen once); and yet the Internalized Homophobia still Pops Out In My Own Damn Insensitive Words and In My Own Head All The Times. The Flavors Are Complex; being portrayed over and over as fat and kind of slow and stupid and poorly dressed on tv really sucks. Having straight people explain how lesbians have sex to me is annoying (and more revealing of how limiting linear sex may be when you just think that sex is everything up to penetration-climax-now-its-over). People praising Ellen DeGeneres to me is annoying because it assumes that we have things in common; and is a reminder that there’s simply no one else that comes to mind.
For a long ass time, I thought this Internalized Homophobia was my exclusive doing. Which made it worse. But then I looked around at my life; my yoga teacher is straight; my dance teacher is straight; the scientists I admire who taught me biology and microbiology are straight; the big yoga teachers I know who are queer females do not talk about it (and I consider that problematic); and there has yet to be a song written by a woman about a woman that makes me fall to my knees like a Johnny Cash song.
We are small; we are in the crevices; we write for Small Presses; and get to make less money; and get to be told to get over our Internalized Homophobia. We, queer women, have a lot to say; and we are able to, say, think out of the box because in order to love ourselves and survive we've had to step up to the plate and Be Brave.
So I’m here hoping that you are going to keep reading; and not run away because what I’m talking about is somewhat uncomfortable. I’m hoping as I grow more honest and work harder my audience grows rather than shrinks. I’m looking for the brave ones. They are my people so hopefully you are amongst them.
Thanks for reading Dyke Yogis,
THE COMING OUT POST
This was originally published at the Manifestation Station on June 23, 2015.
I wanted this to be eloquent and researched with facts and figures to legitimize my pain. I wanted a weekend of three days to write this post to y’all but it can’t wait any longer. I’m in a 14 month program at Johns Hopkins University for nursing; and I’m being inundated with information and rules and patients with cardiovascular disease comorbid with obesity that beg some real empathy, the kind of empathy that everyone deserves and is lacking in our fast-paced system.
I thought at one point that yoga could heal it; or that I didn’t need therapy; or I didn’t need support; or my ingrained homophobia would just poof disappear. Because it seems so antithetical to be carrying around this deep shame when so many states and people are starting to finally realize that we aren’t child molesters.
And for the record, I used that term on purpose. I’m sick to my bones with the fact that even a teeny, tiny or maybe a bigger portion than I know associate me and the LGBT people I know with people who do awful things.
I am gay. I’ve toyed with the word bisexual because my sexuality is somewhat fluid, and I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in 10 years or so; and it just seems so nice to have a partner who can impregnate you, and then have a child who resembles you both.
But really I’ve toyed with word bisexual to avoid the bigoted stuff that lesbians face in large. The stuff that doesn’t go away if you chose to love the same gender.
For example, I’m sick of knowing that some people I love would rather have straight children than gay children; and that our bigoted society allows a lot of room for gay people to exist as long as we aren’t too loud or too demanding. I’m sick to my bones with opening a book and having my fear confirmed; LGBT people have four times a higher rate of Clinical Depression than our heterosexual counterparts. Of course we do, we’re survivors.
I’m sick of being invisible.
I’m sick of the search for the gay gene; I know that idea makes some people more comfortable, but what really is wrong with just two grown people of the same gender loving each other?
I’m really sick of having to prove that I’m just as moral and just as good as <em>the most moral straight person</em>.
The reason this got me for so long is that I’m not the most moral, puritanical gay person. But here’s the thing, driving drunk, as I’ve done is wrong. It’s wrong. You can point your finger, you can get angry, but being told over and over that, “I’m not judging you (your homosexuality) Renee; God will judge your sin,” is wrong on an essential level. There are things we know if we sit quietly long enough and everything settles and our eyes get soft. And I know that equating homosexuality with sin is wrong.
I’m not vanilla.
This, is where I get really sarcastic. While I have no problem getting on my knees and looking into the eyes of a homeless woman with AIDS who is so lonely I can feel it pull at my eye sockets and the muscles in my neck; I have also slept around, and snorted coke; and done reckless things that involve cars. I have driven naked. I have shouted fuck you at my entire family for an extended period of time.
I know what it’s like to have darkness.
And I sure as hell know what it’s like to need forgiveness.
And good God am I sick of having to be held to a higher moral standard because I’m gay.
Because I know who I am deep down inside. I’m one of The Good Ones.
I’m someone who has survived sexual assault; years of my own alcohol-shade-to-fade-from-bigger-pains; serious Clinical Depression; semi-offensive statements about LGBT people and really, really offensive statements; and perfectionism. And instead of letting any of these things kill me, I have made art; I have learned modern dance and opera singing; I have gone to India by myself and walked up to little towns despite the ice alone; I have forgiven the Christian girl in the Himalayas who told me my gayness was a sin; and mostly, I have tried to listen when people are desperate to be heard. And if there is something I am thankful for amongst the shivering, sweaty, nighty Clinical Depression and the crying out to “Dear God, Dear Buddha,” if there is something I’m thankful amongst a decade of occasional “I’d rather not be gay,” I’m thankful that I’ve discovered that I am capable of extraordinary feats of forgiveness, and love and generosity; and I’m thankful for knowing what it’s like to be deeply misunderstood.
Thanks for reading Dyke Yogis,