Breakfast

I have a love-hate relationship with breakfast. For starters, I am not a morning person. At all. No really. Not at all. So when I get up I don’t want to do much of anything except go back to bed.

I also have always been challenged by the small amount of choices for breakfast. There are eggs and toast and pancakes and French toast and bacon and sausage and juice and coffee, etc. While I do enjoy most of these foods, I rarely have them all in the house and don’t want to cook them. Those of you who read my cooking entry will realize I don’t like to cook. But when it is morning I REALLY don’t want to cook. This is why far too often why my breakfast ends up being a cup [or 2 or 3] of hot coffee.

You know what I do love? Going out to breakfast. There are several breakfast places in the area that are excellent. I love scrambled eggs, over easy eggs, omelets, bacon, sausage, orange juice, cranberry juice, coffee, V8, hash browns, home fries, toast, a fresh fruit cup, English muffins and French toast. I order some yummy combination of the above and then realize that I like breakfast. It is being at home with few choices that I hate. And if I go out to breakfast, I have usually showered and woken up more and so am in a less crummy mood. Going out for breakfast is always a delight and I always come away full and satisfied.

One thing I have been doing at home of late is eating soup in the morning. I got this idea from a former colleague and really like it. Soup is warm, filling and satisfying. As silly as it sounds, I had to get over the fact that most people don’t eat soup in the morning. I think I have had to come to terms with the fact that you can eat whatever you want in the morning. We are so indoctrinated into the notion that you only eat certain things in the morning. But that greatly limits what is available to eat for the morning, especially if you don’t have those foods in your fridge or pantry.

So I have eaten soup in the morning and lots of frozen meals like cheese lasagna, Amy’s Indian food dinners and, of course, pizza! Pizza, warm or cold, makes a wonderful breakfast. I am writing this in the late morning and am deciding to have breakfast and am leaning towards hot soup, though I do have a few eggs left to eat.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or so we are told. I don’t agree with this cliché and think there is no meal that is “most important.” It all depends what you eat and how many nutrients you get from your meal. But even that is too limiting. I reject the notion of “healthy food” because it means that other food is, by definition, “unhealthy.” Often people have very little choice in what they eat and should not be chastised for eating “bad food.”

In conclusion, my favorite breakfast is one that I eat out and get lots of yummy choices for breakfast. Barring that, I like to eat non-traditional things for breakfast like soup. I hope you find delicious things to eat for breakfast. Or just enjoy some coffee. Or nothing at all. It’s your choice!

 

Haircuts

The most accurate thing I can say about haircuts for me is that they have been inconsistent. I have never had a stylist for more than a year or two at the most. I cut it differently and get different colors. What I want to talk about in this entry is working through my desire to shave me head.

When I was in Bowling Green towards the end of my stay there, I shaved my head one summer. It felt liberating but I didn’t really own it. I often covered my head with handkerchiefs, hats and wigs. If I do it this summer I do not want to succumb to that. But I understand why I did it because I have lived in such conservative communities that they don’t understand why a “transgender woman” or more accurately non-binary trans-feminine person, would want to get rid of their hair. To be feminine means to have longish hair.

I want to shave my head because I hate my hair. It is thin and getting worse. I want to feel cooler in the summer. I want to not have to mess with it through blow drying and styling it. I want to challenge what it means to be trans-feminine. If I wear a wig it will be easier to put on. I want to challenge what it means to be transgender and what it means to be a human being.

When I was an undergrad there were so many queer and feminist women that shaved their heads. I loved it. Some still do, but I don’t see nearly as many. I think a woman shaving her head is exercising her agency. She may or may not mean to make a statement, but I believe she is definitely making a statement against heteropatriarchy. The beautiful woman with long, lustrous hair stereotype needs to be ground into dust. Women are beautiful regardless of the length of their hair. In a way, a woman with a shaved head is giving her two middle fingers to sexism, misogyny and patriarchy.

Because I am so inconsistent when it comes to hair, I could not maintain a shaved head, anymore than I can maintain one single haircut or hair color. But I can do it from time to time. And I can try my hardest to be unafraid about it. But I know there will be people that don’t understand, or will have questions, or that think I have cancer, or that think I am de-transitioning. I will try to be gracious and patient with these questions. At any rate, I won’t let anyone stop me!

People should be able to wear their hair however the hell they want. Any color, any style, any length. And this should not conflict with their profession, their community or their gender self-determination. Hair length does not determine gender identity. I think hair can be fun and people can explore their identity through their hair. It can be a major mode of self-expression, much like piercings or tattoos. Unfortunately, our oppressive cis-heteropatriarchy wants to police and punish hair self-expression. We must resist this tyranny and proudly sport whatever the fuck hairstyle [or lack thereof] that we want. There is pleasure in resistance and in rebellion and it makes whatever hassles you have to face more than worth it.

 

Eating Out

I absolutely love to eat out. I love it SO much better than eating at home.

Cooking for me is absolute hell. I burn things. I break thing. I drop things. It is a veritable disaster. I am frankly amazed when I hear people talk about how cooking is relaxing for them. From purchasing all the ingredients, preparing them and cooking them and doing all the clean-up, I find nothing relaxing about it but see it more as an ordeal.

Everything about eating out is preferable. You get to sit a comfortable booth. Have someone courteously come up to you and ask you what you want to drink. Then look a huge-ass menu with so many choices of what you would like to eat – way more than in the average home food pantry. Then you get to state your preferences and wait a short while your food is prepared. And then presto – a steaming plate of delicious food is on the table in front of you. This is not even counting appetizers and desserts, which make the experience even better.

Now I grant you, this is an idealized experience. There can be lots of glitches in the eating out experience. Bad service, bad food and bad ambience are the first things to come to mind. But despite these misfortunes, I would still rather eat out than face the sheer horror of home food preparation and all the rage that goes with it. Making food puts me in a bad mood for some reason, maybe because I know I can’t do it. That leaves me with pasta and frozen meals to eat at home.

I do not mind eating out alone in the slightest. Some people would not be caught dead eating alone, but it has never bothered me at all. Perhaps because I have lived a life beset by isolation, eating alone is just one more example of my aloneness. I usually work on my computer, read or listen to music. Sometimes I people watch. It’s hard to say how often I eat out per week, but it is probably 4-5 times a week. This doesn’t bother me either, but it does bother my wallet. Eating out is expensive and seems to be getting more and more so. I do know it is all about balance and I need to pick my eating out restaurants carefully both for price and for quality. Since you are paying so much you deserve a good meal.

I also love trying different types of cuisine. It is cool that you can go to different restaurants and try different ethnic cuisines. I have tried many, but among my favorite are Thai, Ethiopian, Himalayan, Indian and Italian. There are also some amazing Asian fusion restaurants and street food restaurants that have excellent food. I even like fast food, take-out and delivery, or even buying pre-made food in a supermarket and taking it home. Anything besides home-made food, even if it is the third pizza delivery of the week.

Now to be sure, as the adage goes, there is nothing better than a homemade meal. I agree with that as long as it is cooked by someone else. Occasionally I get a homemade meal by my parents and am very grateful for it. But mostly it will continue to be eating out and frozen dinners, and I am okay with not learning how to cook, and eating in my own unique way.

 

 

Simon

Obituary for Simon Ryan (circa 2006- August 27, 2012)

I obtained Simon in June of 2007 in Toledo, Ohio.  I had seen him on one of those web sites that offer rescued animals.  When I picked up Simon, he was literally like a rag doll.  It was like he was just a shell of a dog.  They did not know much about his history, except that he came from a puppy mill.  It was obvious that he had been abused or treated very poorly.  They had given him the non-descript name “Fluff.”  I named him Simon after the singer Simon Lebon from Duran Duran.  When he came home, it was a struggle in a lot of ways.  He would literally go and hide—in closets, behind boxes and crates, in corners and under blankets.  He was terrified.  He was literally afraid of his own shadow.  When I tried to walk him, it was obvious he had never been walked on a leash before.  He struggled with his potty training.  But despite all this, he was one of the sweetest, cutest creatures you could ever imagine.  For those of you not familiar with the beautiful Bichon Frise, they are pretty, white, fluffy dogs.  They have a beautiful soft coat.  Over time, Simon became comfortable sitting in my lap.  He learned to walk on a leash and loved going for walks.   He eventually would take a treat from my hand.

Simon really came alive when I adopted my second dog Jamaica a year later.  Jamaica is a black daschound mix with a white tuxedo stripe on her neck.  She is an easy going little gal and quite the opposite of Simon in many ways.  When I first got her she escaped through a broken door at the back of the house.  Luckily, when I called animal control I was able to get her back right away.  Simon wagged his tail and just beamed when she came back into the house.  He had made a best friend.  Simon and Jamaica liked to play together and go for their walk together.  They would often sit together on the chair or couch and both would sleep with me in my bed every night.  They got loose one other time and ran around the woods being little hellions.  Simon must have gotten into the pucker brush because I was picking them off of him for a week!

Simons saw me through the end of a four-year relationship, the successful defense of my dissertation and the awarding of my doctorate, and my move from Ohio back to New Hampshire.  He was one of the sweetest and most gentle little guys I have ever known.  He was also brave beyond measure, given the reality of his harsh background.   There will so many things I will miss about him I probably cannot name them all, but here are some: I will miss our walks together.  He loved to lift his leg and pee on every tree, fire hydrant, and pole imaginable!  He also loved to sniff around and explore.  He loved to bark at other dogs when we came across them on our walk.  I will miss his cute little high-pitched bark more than you can imagine.  I will miss seeing him and his sister sitting together, playing together or grooming each other.  I will miss seeing him do his little happy dance before I placed the plates of food down for him and Jamaica to eat.  I will miss saying “time for a walkie!” and seeing Simon get all excited.  I will miss seeing his excitement when I came home from work after a long and trying day.  I will miss the little puppy kisses Simon gave me on my hand many times when he sat with me or lay with me in bed before going to sleep.  I will miss his excited barks when grandma came to get us to go to her house for the day.  I will miss the tail wagging and happy expression when I came home from a trip when traveling out of town.  I will miss the curious and prolonged looks at me and wondering what he exactly was thinking about.  But most of all I will miss the cuddles, the time spent sitting together and me petting his soft, white coat, giving him a kissy on his cheek.

I don’t know if Simon will ever know how much he meant to me.  He was giving, loyal and sweet beyond measure.  He was also a pack leader when we walked, a gallant prince and a little gentleman.  He was a true innocent, giving much more than he received in his short life.  I will never have the same relationship with another dog ever again; he was that special.  I will miss so many things that I started to take for granted.  It was a wake-up call for me to never take these things for granted.  It was a wake-up call that I need to stop and appreciate what I have because we are never guaranteed tomorrow.

Simon got a raw deal in life.  He got a raw deal because he began life being forced to breed for another person’s greed and being treated like an object in the process.  He got a raw deal because he died tragically at the age of 6 ½, going downhill incredibly quickly and leaving this earth much sooner than other dogs of his breed.  I hope in the five years he was with me that he found some happiness, peace and solace.  I know he gave me so much, and he was brave right up until the end.  The day before he died when we cuddled for the last time, I told him I was so sorry he was sick.  He looked at me with a knowing expression and slowly closed his eyes, letting me know he understood.  Simon, it may not have been everything you dreamed of, but you done good during your time here.  You are a veritable little canine hero, and you will forever have my undying gratitude, affection and love.  You have done your work now, little bud, and now you can run free forever.  I will see you on the other side, when you come bounding up into my loving and waiting arms.  RIP Simon I will love your forever and think of you always.

Hospitalizations

I have been hospitalized four times in my life and partially hospitalized one time. They have all occurred in less than 2 years of time.

One hospitalization and the partial hospitalization were for mental illness and they happened last summer [2017]. Two other hospitalizations in 2016 and 2017 were for medication-induced pancreatitis. The last hospitalization was for a diabetic foot ulcer in the fall of 2016. This also included a PICC line, a lot of at–home nursing care and a long healing time. I had to go on medical leave from work which was really hard for me to do.

I am not a fan of being in the hospital. There are a lot of rules and regulations and a lot of boring down time and prohibitions from leaving the floor, “for your own safety.” Hospitals can feel like prisons, right down to the horrible institutional food. Privacy is a constant issue and there were always people coming in and out of my room. My absolute favorite was when the overhead light came on at 5 AM and someone came to draw blood from. I had earned the title of a “hard stick” and so taking multiple sticks was the norms. Me, not a morning person, being flooded with light and then having a needle repeatedly stuck in my forearm was not my idea of a fun time. Then there was the time they would not let me take a shower and told me to take a bath in the sink only.

In the mental hospital we could not have any of our stuff. They went through our suitcases with a fine tooth comb. Everything was seen as a source of potential harm and as something you could use to hang yourself with. A little string with lovely origami that a woman sent me was seen as a source of potential harm. They took it and then did not return it to me when I checked out. I literally got it in the mail about 2 months later. No phones except for a tiny phone booth I could not fit in and very little computer access. I can see why they did the limited phone and computer access because they wanted people invested in their recovery. I went to various talks and workshops throughout the day and found them moderately interesting and helpful. Thanks to my insurance, I was only allowed to stay a week even though I needed more time. From there, I went into a partial hospitalization program.

The partial hospitalization program was from around 9-2 or 3 every day. There were about 12 of us that sat around a big table and were lectured to my several staff members. It was hard to make connections with other patients because they were constantly coming and going. The psychiatrist was absolutely useless and did not help me one bit. The social workers/nurses like to talk a lot and there was not a lot of engagement. I found it minimally helpful but did appreciate the emphasis on self-care. Unfortunately once I finished the program and had to go back to work most of my self-care went out the window.

As far as the mental hospitals, both in-resident and out-patient, they were a little bit helpful while they were going on but when they send you back into the world it is a different story. It is hard to transfer the skills to an outside life where all the stress and difficulties return with a vengeance.

Someone once asked me: which is harder – the mental or the physical health problems. I thought about and realized I didn’t even need to think about. Mental problems are harder hands down. When I had pancreatitis and a diabetic foot ulcer, they fixed me up. They essentially cured me. Now, I have the possibility of both returning. But I have confidence that they can fix it quickly or take a longer length of time. There is no fixing mental illness. There is no cure. Man of us relapse constantly. To be honest, I would not wish severe depression on my worst enemy. I could picture additional hospitalizations in my past and dark thoughts of self-harm. With depression you often have to take it one day at a time and even one minute at a time. While the hospitalizations taught me some things, they do not cure the future. I do not fear future hospitalizations; I fear that they will continue to leave me in a vulnerable state where by I continue to struggle mightily in an interminable battle for my very life.

I wish I could end on a more positive note, but as my friends know, I am all about keeping it real! If you have depression and have been hospitalized, I would love to hear your experiences. Feel free to DM on Facebook.

 

Suicide

Suicide is an epidemic. Between completed suicides and attempts, we are talking a huge amount of people in the U.S. and around the globe. To be honest, I don’t want to write this entry, because it is too close to the bone. I have been depressed for the past 3 weeks and have had suicidal ideation. Please don’t worry if you read this. My therapist and psychiatrist are both aware and I have a safety plan in place. Despite all that, I, of course, hate having those feelings. I wish I never had feelings to self-harm. But it isn’t really the kind of thing you can control. It is like depression, it just casts a dark shadow over your life and invades your thoughts in such a shocking manner.

I had a very close friend who died by suicide a couple of years ago. I will write more about her in a future post. When I opened my computer and looked at my messages I was shocked to discover that there was a message from her father telling me she had taken her life. I cried and cried and damned the world. She was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She was always so concerned with how everyone else was doing. Some of the best people on the planet are the very ones who die by suicide. They are sweet, sweet, sweet and this sweetness makes the people around them think they are doing just fine. But we all know how to wear the mask. Some of us will have suicidal thoughts for the entirety of our lives. This is terrifying and makes me wish for a magic bullet to take away these dark and ominous thoughts.

My own suicide attempt was in my early 20s and was linked to the use of psychotropic drugs and alcohol. I mixed a bottle of Paxil with a bottle of Vodka and passed out. Amazingly, I woke up the next morning, vomited, and was otherwise okay. I was also mad that the attempt did not work. I wanted off of this planet and I had the typical feeling that I could not even get a suicide done right. Although I have had so many thoughts of suicide since then, I have never made another attempt. But I have come very close.

I have no words of advice for other people contemplating suicide. Of course I would say “Don’t do it” but that is the easy part. The more difficult part is trying to explain to someone why their life is worth living. It is hard for another person to explain this to someone. I almost think it is something that the individual needs to figure out. Sure, others can give hint and ideas, but it ultimately comes down to the individual deciding what makes it worth being here. It is also about pain: how to identify it, how to manage it, how to overcome it. People go through so much pain and it seems so overwhelming. This is why people need to reach out. There is nothing more important than reaching out to a professional, a friend, a family member or a suicide hotline. In closing, I would like to say something very simple to my readers: you deserve to be here. Your life has value and the time you have on the planet is preordained. Don’t end it prematurely, because the best may be yet to come.

 

Napping

Before I write this I am going to take a nap.

Ok, I’m up.

I love napping and do it whenever I have time. Admittedly, part of it is due to depression. Part of it is due to exhaustion. Part of my exhaustion comes from depression. Part of my depression come from exhaustion. The two go hand in hand. Naps are usually during days off from work. There is simply no time when I am working. Naps make me feel more calm, tranquil and less anxious.

I think we are made to feel shame about napping. In this capitalist society, so we are supposed to be working every moment. We get to sleep at night, often for less than 8 hours, but napping during the middle day is often characterized as laziness.

Now, to be sure, some of my naps are likely too long. I wish they were 1-2 hours but they often go for 3-4 hours. But who gets to decide what is or is not too long? Napping can feel like an escape. But sometimes that is exactly what I need. My depression can often feel unbearable. Sleeping is a way to escape this pain for a few hours.

Napping is luxurious. It is like eating when you want and what you want. Napping is giving into your body. If your body is saying I am tired, it is time to give in and let it sleep. But this is not how the capitalist framework works. The capitalist framework is all about work, work, work. In this way, napping might be seen as a form of resistance to this framework.

I have a very specific framework when it comes to napping. I create a cocoon like environment to help me relax and to sleep. I close the drapes to make it darker. I light a stick of incense, usually Nag Champa. I light a candle, often to a Saint. Lately I have been lighting a candle to Saint Dymphna who is a Saint of mental disorders like depression. I turn on my little wave machine to listen to soft waves and I also turn on my little boom box to play New Age music. Then I rearrange the pillows and blankets so that they are comfortable. My dog Jamaica sleeps with me so she has to scratch around the blankets to make a comfortable little nest for herself. Then I put on my CPAP mask. Then it is time to sleep. Sometimes I’m able to fall asleep more easily than others. A lot of it depends on my frame of mind and how much anxiety I am feeling. If I can’t get to sleep I just breathe in the incense and listen to the waves and the music or gaze at the candle that burns. I rest, which is the next best thing to napping. Nothing feels better than when I go to sleep quickly and have a sound and nightmare-free slumber.

Napping is wonderful and I can’t say enough good about it. I think it keeps me more sane and I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a way to feel more rested or as one method to combat depression or anxiety. I find afternoon and early evening naps work best, like between the hours of 3-7 pm, but other people will find other times that work for them. Naps are a great form of self-care and one that all people should consider if they are looking for some relief from tiredness or strong emotional feelings.